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Of Eagle Lions and Benders; Book One: Water

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Prologue

Water. Earth. Fire. Air.

Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony, protected by a team of twelve beings; Voltron. Voltron was the legendary defender, made up of five Paladins, their unique steeds known as Eagle Lions, the Avatar, and their spirit guide. It was said that when they all came together as a team, there wasn't a force in either the Spirit World or the Living World that could beat them. For years, the people lived in peace, travelling to all nations with no quarrel.

Until the Avatar died.

Avatar Roku had been loved by all, except for his family. Roku had been second in line to the Fire Nation throne. But he had been Avatar as well, and his family resented him for his influence and power over the world. What was one small nation compared to the power that Roku wielded?

It had been said that Avatar Roku had died from poison. Many whispers claimed that it was his brother, Sozin, of the Galra dynasty. Sozin bad always been jealous, and their theories were only proved when Sozin started launching attacks on the Earth Kingdom.

Voltron without the Avatar was strong, yes, strong enough to defeat an army. But the Paladins and their Eagle Lions were not strong enough to take down a nation as powerful as the Fire Nation. After land was conquered in the Earth Kingdom, Sozin targeted the Air Nomads, hoping to destroy the new Avatar before they could come to power.

Meanwhile, Alfor called all of the Paladins together to announce his plan. Alfor was the leader of a group of Air Nomads more dedicated to combat, called the Alteans. They lived on a small island by the name of Altea and it had been them to capture the last five Eagle Lions and keep them safe, using their amazing and ancient abilities to help others. In fact, Altea had borne the final member of Voltron twenty-five years earlier: an Airbender woman by the name of Allura, Alfor's daughter. Allura had already mastered airbending and had been learning how to waterbend from the Blue Paladin when the Fire Nation had started attacking the Earth Kingdom. She had not been ready to stop it, so Voltron had been sent out in her stead and failed. Now, the Fire Nation was attacking her people, but Allura still was not ready.

"Father!" Allura begged in the secret chamber that was the conference hall, "You must send me! I may not know all elements, but I am strong in the two that I do. I must help our people!"

"No," Alfor said sadly, placing his hands on his daughter's shoulders, "You cannot go out there. We must bide our time, keep you safe until it is the right time for you to resume your training."

"What about Voltron?" Allura cried, "What happens to them?"

The Paladins and their Eagle Lions stood in the shadows, whispering restlessly. This was not their conversation.

Alfor shook his head, "I must send them away. Sozin plans on taking them, making sure that Voltron can never be formed again. He may kill the Eagle Lions, or use them for his own evil deeds. I cannot let that happen."

"No!" Allura tried again, "We must try! We need to form Voltron!"

Alfor smiled sadly and then spoke softly, "Oh, my beautiful daughter. If all goes well, we shall see each other soon. Rest in peace."

"Father," Allura tried once again, but weaker. She could feel her eyelids shutting, the world fading to black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 1- The Discovery In The South.

Lance was not having a particularly good day.

He crouched behind a large piece of ice, praying that the seal lions hadn't noticed him by now. Lance had never enjoyed hunting, even when it hadn't meant life or death. Ever since most of the able-bodied men and women had left the village to join the war against the Fire Nation, things like hunting, cooking, building, and other things had fallen to the terribly small population. Lance was one of the few boys his age in the entire South Pole, not to mention the fact that he was a Waterbender and good with a bow. Lance was often given chores where his abilities would be more useful and it made him feel good, like he was needed. But he really did hate hunting.

He hated being by himself, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by ice and sky and sea and deadly animals waiting to either kill or be killed. Not to mention Lance being a generally sensitive person overall and really disliking killing something for his own gain. Sure, it kept the village from starving, but Lance hated having to take something's life. It didn't matter that he was good at it.

He almost missed when the other children had accompanied him, but they had slowed him down too much. Lance had loved the company of his friends and family, being a rather social person, but they had made too much noise, been too clumsy, too in awe of his waterbending. Yeah he liked to show off, but not at such a crucial time like this.

Lance peeked around the ice to make sure that the pack of seal lions were still there. Yup. A big pile of juicy flesh napping in the afternoon sun. Lance hid back behind the ice, his bow carved from bone clutched in his left hand. He pulled off the glove on his right hand with his teeth, dropping it to the snowy ground.

Without the fur-lined glove, Lance's fingers already started to feel cold. Better to get it over with.

He took a breath and drew his bow, turning to aim past the ice and at a particularly fat seal lion.

"I'm sorry," He breathed, and then he fired.

The arrow whizzed through the air and hit his target with a loud noise, scaring the rest of the pack. The seal lion which he had shot sat up, screaming. Lance cursed himself and the way seal lions curled up, making it near impossible to make a single lethal shot. He fired another arrow, silencing the creature. By then, the rest of the pack was panicking, trying to dive into the water as fast as possible. Lance picked off a few more in the chaos before something caught his eye.

Lance had previously thought that the mound of seal lions had just been particularly large, unusually taller than normal. But something from the middle of the mound stirred and stood up. Something big, blue, and very, very dangerous. Lance's jaw dropped as he took in the sight of it.

It was easily three times as tall as any seal lion, big enough for a very large person to ride comfortably, but Lance doubted that anyone would want to ride it.

The creature resembled a huge cat; a lithe but muscular feline body, four legs that ended in paws complete with claws that could have probably torn Lance to shreds in a second, a long tail with a tuft of fur at the end, and a feline face with cat ears. The thing also had giant bird wings sprouting from its front shoulders, each one longer than Lance was tall. There were also feathers mixed in with the fur, more concentrated around the head and face.

But the weirdest part about the animal was that it was blue. Not a soft blue, so it could camouflage with its wintry backgrounds. No, the thing was a dark blue, about the same shade as Lance's dyed coat. He had never seen such a creature and he allowed himself a moment to appreciate its beauty.

Then he let himself notice how much meat it had on its bones. The fur would be enough to make blankets for the whole village, the wings provided feathers, ever so rare in the South Pole. And the bones would have been strong too, with such a huge creature.

Lance silently apologized to the creature and himself, not wanting it to hear him. Then he knocked another arrow and drew his bow. He took a deep breath, aimed, and fired.

Suddenly, the creature whipped its head around and...Lance wasn't sure what happened next. One moment, the arrow had been flying towards its target, the next, suspended in clear, jagged ice that had encased the arrow.

Before Lance could contemplate the situation, the thing turned. And it looked right at Lance.

Lance was completely still, afraid to move or breathe. He was sure that the creature could hear Lance's heart, it was pounding so badly.

Then the animal began to prowl towards Lance.

Lance shuffled backwards, terrified to break eye-contact. That's what you did with a polar bear dog if you were unlucky enough to come across one: maintain eye contact until you can do something else. So that's what Lance did, but far more terrified than any polar bear dog could make him, which was saying something.

Lance thought abut turning and running, to make it somewhere safe. But where? There was nowhere to hide. Nothing to climb. He doubted he could outrun the thing. Sure, he was fast and agile, but the thing was taller than his house, not to mention the wings.

When the creature started running, Lance knew he was screwed.

But he got up and ran anyways, trying to get as far away from the thing as possible. Maybe if he led it back to his sled, it would be distracted by his day's kill and leave him alone. Of course that would mean that Lance would be down two quivers of arrows, an extra jacket, mittens, half a dozen seal wolves, three fish, a boat, and a sled. But hey, it was better than being mauled to death.

Suddenly, the thing pounced, flying impossibly high and landing on Lance, pinning him to the icy ground and knocking the wind out of him.

Lance managed to somehow turn around to stare at the beast it's very sharp teeth bared in a snarl. He looked in its shimmering yellow eyes and then-

Lance was ripped away from his body. He saw warriors of all nations, all elements, riding this creature and others just like it. He saw battles and bending and peace and death and happiness and love and friendship. Words popped into his mind. 'Voltron', 'Eagle Lion', 'Voltron', 'Avatar', 'Voltron', 'Paladin', 'Voltron'! Then he saw himself, dressed in clothes that would ensure hypothermia in the South Pole but nonetheless Water Tribe, riding the Eagle Lion. Alongside him on the other Eagle Lions were people whom he had never seen before: a large Earth Kingdom boy, a small Swamp Tribe kid, a good-looking Fire Nation boy, and a similar-looking man, also from the Fire Nation. There was also a beautiful Air Nomad woman with silvery hair and a huge white animal with six legs and arrow shapes in its head, the woman's eyes and tattoos glowing. A thin man also from the Air Nomads was behind her, wielding a sword.

And then it stopped. Lance didn't know how much time had passed, but the blue thing-no, Eagle Lion was still on top of him. After a moment, it huffed in disappointment and got off, sitting on its haunches a few feet away. Of course their Paladin would be the one trying to kill them. She was supposed to be the friendly Eagle Lion, too.

Wait. That hadn't been one of Lance's thoughts. Of course it wasn't, stupid. They were connected now-

"Stop!" Lance yelled at the Eagle Lion, getting to his feet. The creature looked, no, felt hurt. Lance sighed, "Okay, look, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I tried to kill you, I really am. I swear I don't like hunting, despite what you may think, but I have to help my friends! And I'm sorry I yelled at you."

The Eagle Lion cocked her head to the side, a little confused by Lance's apology. She thought him kind. Perhaps not a terrible Paladin, after some time.

"Okay," Lance said, trying for a friendly tone, "In order for this to work, whatever this is, you gotta let me know what's going on. Am I hearing your thoughts? What's with that?"

No, that wasn't it. Lance wasn't hearing her thoughts, more her ideas. Not specific words, but Lance could understand well enough. And yes, their emotions were connected.

"Wow," Lance said, "That is...really cool and really weird. But I gotta ask; why?"

It was because Lance was her Paladin.

"Sure, okay," Lance said, reluctant to ask what the heck a Paladin was. He was sure that he had heard it somewhere, in a story involving Eagle Lions and the Avatar, but he couldn't remember the details. Then Lance had a thought.

"What's your name?" He asked.

The Eagle Lion shrugged (can they do that? Sure, why not?). She didn't have a permanent name, it simply changed with her Paladin.

"So you don't have a name and I get to name you," Lance said, hearing her confirmation in his mind, "Hmm, I gotta think of a good one." He thought for a moment, wondering what to call a giant mythical creature that was- "Blue!" He said excitedly, "I think I'll name you Blue!"

Blue cocked her head again, contemplating the name. Blue, they both thought, it was nice and simple. Blue agreed.

"Yeah!" Lance said excitedly, starting toward the Eagle Lion. She stood up.

"Oh man," He gushed, going back to retrieve his mittens, dropped arrows, and the dead seal lions, "Wait until the village sees you! They're gonna flip! Not only did I bring in a good day's haul, but a magical flying cat beast! Take that Sokka! For saying I only goofed around with my waterbending. Ha!"

Lance was ecstatic as he dragged a couple of the seal lion carcasses after pulling out his arrows. He looked at Blue, who was watching him with intrigue.

"Hey Blue," Lance called and the flying cat perked up, "Mind grabbing me those last couple seal lions?" Lance nodded at the dead animals, "It would be a big help."

Blue nodded and happily trotted over to the animals, licking her chops. Lance could tell what she was thinking.

"No eating them!" He yelled. Blue turned and pouted at him. Apparently she could pout, "I'm serious. These aren't just for me, they're for the entire village. I'll find you something to eat on the way back."

Blue grunted and grabbed the animals by the tail, dragging them after Lance. He noticed that they left bloody tracks where they dragged the dead animals. It would have been a problem if a pack of polar bear dogs showed up, but Lance doubted that they would come near Blue. Now that he was aware of it, she resonated a fierce energy that warned animals to stay away.

Soon they were back at Lance's sled. On the sled was a small canoe, carrying his kill for the day. He had covered it with a tarp scented heavily with smoke to keep predators away. He dropped his kill and pulled it off, putting the new meat in with his other scores. Blue followed, looking greedily at all the meat. Surely Lance didn't need this much.

"No," Lance said sternly, pointing a finger at Blue who pretended to look innocent, "This isn't near enough. Winter's on its way and without our best hunters, we need to stock up what we can. And now I have you to deal with, so I'm going to have to go hunting a lot more often." He sighed. He didn't like hunting, did he?

"Nope," Lance said, smiling sadly at Blue, "Hate killing things. But it's for the good of the village, y'know? Besides, I only ever take what I need."

Blue believed him. She also liked his morals.

Lance smiled and then frowned down at his sled. It hadn't been hard getting it to where he was, but that was before he had plopped in five seal lions. It was going to be heavy to carry. Oh, how he wished that the warriors who had left had at least left them a few wolf hounds. They were strong and quick, perfect for pulling sleds and hunting. But they had taken them off to war, leaving the village silent of howling and barking.

Blue picked up on his thoughts and stood between the poles where he would have hooked up the wolf hounds. Lance raised an eyebrow at Blue.

"You sure?" Blue nodded and Lance shrugged, "Okay. Thanks buddy." Blue just snorted and let Lance hook her up to the sled. As he hooked her up, Lance felt her soft fur mixed with equally soft feathers. It was smooth and silky, the way he tried very hard to get his hair to be (he actually achieved it, believe it or not. His beauty routine was rigorous, but it was worth it). Once he was done, Lance tentatively scratched behind her ear as thanks and Blue purred in delight. Then she took a few tentative steps forward. When she realized that it wasn't heavy for her in the least, she trotted, making it hard for Lance to keep up.

"Wait!" He wheezed and Blue stopped, "I'm a little tired," Lance said, "I've been hunting all day. I'm not asking for a ride or anything, but could you please go slowly?"

Blue nodded happily and continued at Lance's pace. Whenever he saw spare game, he knocked an arrow and shot it, softly apologizing each time. Blue found this intriguing, but didn't ask. She also stopped patiently to let Lance put the new meat into the canoe and then continued. He even gave her fox rabbit, which Blue ate happily and messily. They were silent, each thinking their own private thoughts.

When they started to get close to the village, Lance turned to Blue with an uneasy smile, "Hey, Blue?"

Blue looked down at him skeptically. Lance laughed nervously and continued.

"I don't want everyone to freak out, so, um, how about you wait on this hill, okay?"

Blue looked at Lance and then down the slope of the hill in front of them. At the bottom sat a small village made of ice and snow. Maybe two dozen people milled around, heating fires, doing laundry, cooking food, and other chores. None of the buildings were made of blocks, but rather as if the ice had simply frozen in place like that. Obviously it was the work of a Waterbender, as were other buildings and what seemed to be a watchtower. It looked out towards the icy sea, glistening in the sun. It wasn't perfect and it wasn't smooth or pretty, but it was sturdy.

"I mean," Lance continued, "After everything, everyone's kinda high-strung so anything different kinda scares them so I gotta introduce them to you first before you meet them or things could get dangerous and I don't want that because you seem like a pretty cool cat and you could be a lot of help around the village and I know the people will love you, especially since we don't have the wolf hounds anymore and yeah it'll be hard to feed you but we could do it an-"

She would wait.

"Oh." Lance looked up at Blue and smiled nervously, "Sorry, I do that a lot. Uh, so um, yeah, just, uh, wait here, okay?"

Blue nodded and laid down, putting her head on her front paws and curling her wings in.

Lance nodded and started down the hill, mumbling, "Yeah, okay. Yeah, it's alright. It's all good. Gonna be okay. It's okay. Yeah."

When he entered the village, it was his oldest sister who saw him first.

"Lance!" She said teasingly, leaning back from the fire she was trying and failing to start, "You're back late. And where's your kill? Don't tell me I've been trying for twenty minutes to start this fire for nothing!" She laughed to show she wasn't mad but went serious when she saw Lance's nervous demeanour, "What's wrong?"

"Uh," Lance said nervously, tugging at the piece of hair that hung down to his chin, "Can you help me round up the village? I need to tell them something important."

Within minutes, the villagers crowded nervously in front of Lance. He looked out and saw mostly women, plus people too old, frail, or young to fight in the war. They were terrified. Lance took a deep breath.

"Okay," He started, trying for a winning smile, "So before I get yelled at, I do have today's haul, I left it guarded by a friend."

"A friend?" A local village boy about Lance's age snorted, "What kind of a friend? We're in the middle of nowhere!"

"Yeah," Lance laughed nervously, "That we are, Sokka, but miracles do happen. See, I met my, uh, friend, down by the ocean where the seal lions sun. I snagged a few and she kinda appeared and she's scary but she's perfectly harmless, well, she's not but she wouldn't hurt anyone here because we're friends. So, uh, just don't freak out, okay?"

Nervous whispering broke out among the villagers. Had Lance gone crazy? Where would he have met someone in the South Pole? And if he had, was he stupid? Only a moron would have brought a suspicious stranger to their village unless they were in dire need. Lance did some moronic things, but he wasn't stupid.

Lance caught his mom's worried look and gave her a thumbs up before turning to the hill where Blue laid and calling out to her.

"Hey Blue!" He yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth, "You can come out now! Just, I dunno, try not to be too scary?"

There was silence and Lance huffed in annoyance.

"Okay, well, I get that, but you could at least try here, Blue. We're kinda in the middle of a war here, so excuse us for being a little paranoid."

After another moment of silence Lance turned back to his friends and family, knowing he looked crazy, "She's on her way down!" He declared, sweat dripping down his neck despite the temperature being well below freezing.

Soon the villagers spotted a small speck making its way towards the village. As it got closer, everyone realized that it was pulling Lance's sled behind it but moving at a steady pace, even downhill. In no time at all, the people of the South Pole stood in front of a big blue Eagle Lion with eyes far too smart for any animal.

"Lance," Lance's mom's shaking voice cut through the silence, "What is that?"

"Oh!" Lance said as if the Eagle Lion were a fish he had seen, "This is Blue. She's an Eagle Lion, and I guess that I'm her Paladin. Whatever that is."

"A Paladin, you say?" A crinkled voice spoke up from the back. People parted to let Lance's grandmother, known as Gam Gam to the village, step though. When she arrived at the front, she stared in absolute awe at Blue, still strapped to an old Water Tribe sled.

Gam Gam's smile was watery and she had tears in her eyes as she reached a hand up to the nose of Blue. She stopped, about an inch from Blue's skin. After a moment, Blue moved her head forward into Gam Gam's shaking and frail hand. She laughed and began to cry, happily mumbling incoherent words.

"Mother," Lance's mom stepped forward but stopped when Gam Gam hugged Blue and she started nuzzling back, "Mother?"

The entire village was in shock. Gam Gam was a source of energy; barking orders from where she was forced to sit on her chair in the community igloo all day, thanks to the pain in her legs. She told amazing stories about heroes long gone, wars won by good guys, and the Avatar saving the day. Up until that moment, that's all that they had been; stories. There weren't such things like Eagle Lions. Voltron was a myth, cooked up by desperate people to end the war. It was a fake hope to cling onto, to believe that some bigger force would make things better in no time at all.

But here was one of the five famous Eagle Lions, nuzzling their matron fondly and claiming their only Waterbender as her Paladin. In that moment, everyone realized that Gam Gam's stories were not stories, but history.

"After all this time," Gam Gam said sadly into Blue, "So many years have passed. I wasn't even born in time to live in the days of Voltron and I thought I would never get that chance. And here I am, crying into the Blue Eagle Lion!" Gam Gam laughed and Blue snorted as well, purring as she continued to nuzzle the old lady.

"And Lance!" She said suddenly, peeling herself off the Eagle Lion to crush her grandson in a hug, "Oh, my little Lance! You're the first Waterbender in the South Pole in almost fifty years! And now you're a Paladin! The Blue Paladin!" She laughed again, ecstatic at what her life had become.

"Uh," Lance wheezed, having some trouble breathing, "Blue Paladin? What is a Paladin, anyway?"

Gam Gam stopped and suddenly let go, glaring at Lance. Dang, Lance and Blue thought, she could switch emotions fast.

"Lance McClain," Gam Gam said dangerously, "Haven't you listened to my tales?"

Blue looked at Lance and he could feel her asking, Yeah. Did you?

"Ah," Lance said nervously, tugging at his hair again, "Well, I did, but they sounded pretty fake so I just kinda forgot them...."

Gam Gam smacked Lance lightly upside the head, just enough to show that he should have listened better. Blue seemed to be grinning.

"Lance!" Gam Gam said with frustration. Then she sighed and smiled, "Oh well. I guess it's time for one of my stories anyway. Store that food away and feed your Eagle Lion, Lance. Everyone else, shut down for the night. Then meet in the commons."

About an hour later, everyone was seated in the common area, nestled inside an igloo big enough to comfortably fit their entire population, plus those who went off to battle. Everyone was turned toward Gam Gam in her chair, sat behind the huge firepit. The flames danced and made weird shadows and shapes across the old woman's face. Lance was positioned directly across from her, comfortably leaning on Blue, who flicked her tail back and forth and kept her eyes on Gam Gam. She liked Gam Gam. She almost wished that it was her that was Blue's Paladin, she had spunk! But no, she was too old. Lance would have to do.

"Hey!" Lance protested as people found their seats. Blue gave him a plain look, "I'm gonna be a great Paladin!" Blue gave a doubtful snort. Lance pouted and crossed his arms, shoving his hands inside his coat.

"Everyone," Gam Gam spoke. Her voice wasn't particularly loud, yet everyone quieted to listen, "Because of today's events, and because my grandson can't remember a word I tell him-" She shot a glare at Lance who blushed accordingly, "I shall tell you all the tale of Voltron."

The entire building was silent, save for the crackling of the fire. Even Blue knew to be quiet.

Gam Gam smiled and sat back, starting to get into her storytelling mode, "When I was a little girl, our village matron would tell us the stories from the days of glory. Back when wars were short and rare, when Avatars were treated as deities, and Eagle Lions flew in the sky. I never had the pleasure of being alive during those times, but perhaps I do now." She hummed for a moment, wondering how to continue.

"Many years ago, there were a group of Air Nomads who called themselves the Alteans. They practiced Air Nomad beliefs, traditions, and culture, but what separated them were their combat skills. Most Air Nomands knew that Air was a powerful element. It is hardly seen as such thanks to the gentle nature of the Air Nomads. But the Alteans saw potential. They became their own entity, am extension of the Air Nomads. They remained spiritual, but they also became the combat force of the Air Nomads.

"They made a reputation as peacekeepers and diplomats, like most Air Nomads. But they had a certain force to them, the same force that is present when the Fire Lord walks into a room. The world respected and loved the Alteans and all Air Nomads. But this was during the days of Voltron.

"Voltron was a team, a legendary defender of the worlds. It was compiled of five great beings known as the Eagle Lions (Blue purred proudly), their Paladins (Lance smiled proudly), The Avatar, and their spirit guide. There was hardly a time when all but twelve members were present. When a Paladin passed on, the Eagle Lion found a new charge. When the Avatar died, the next was born and along came their spirit guide in time. The team known as Voltron was loved and respected by all.

"All but the last Avatar's brother, Sozin. Sozin was jealous of his brother, Roku. Not only was he after Sozin in line for the throne of the Fire Nation, but he was also the Avatar and thus the figure point of Voltron. Sozin wanted his power to spread like his brother's did; across the world. He wanted to turn the world into the Fire Nation, to rule it all. But he couldn't do that, so long as Voltron existed.

"Some say it was Sozin's luck for Roku to drop dead. Anyone with a brain knows that it was Sozin's hand that filled Roku's cup with poison. And while Voltron scrambled to find and prepare the new Avatar, Sozin struck. He launched his navy to capture the Earth Kingdom and later did the same thing to the Air Temples, but with the intent to destroy the Air Nomads and Voltron for good. But while he was striking down the Air Nomads, the leader of the Alteans devised a strategy. He would scatter the Eagle Lions across the globe, commanding them to remain hidden until the time was right. Then they could search for their Paladins. The Altean leader also locked away the Avatar and her spirit guide before he led a charge into battle, during which he and every other Air Nomad, was killed.

"But there is a prophecy, a telling of hope to those who are desperate for it. It is said that the Avatar remains locked away in sleep somewhere on the island of Altea, awaiting the Paladins to wake them and reunite Voltron once again!"

It was silent after Gam Gam had finished her story, as it often was. Most times, a Lance would have payed attention for the drama, the way she told it, rather than the facts. Before, they had all been fake. Gam Gam's stories had been a source of entertainment for Lance, not history. But he knew then that he should have paid attention.

"Lance," Their matron said, looking at her grandson fondly but speaking with force, "Rise."

Nervous and pretending to be confident, Lance stood up, followed by Blue, "Yes?" He tried to sound brave.

Gam Gam smiled, "My dear grandson. You are a rare Waterbender, a builder, a hunter, a brother, a son, an uncle, a grandson, and a flirt." There were a few snickers around the room. Lance blushed, remembering every single one of his flirtation attempts with both guys and girls of his tribe, "And now, you are a warrior, a Paladin of Voltron. Yesterday, you were a boy. Today, you are a defender of peace. What will you do tomorrow?"

Lance and Blue exchanged a quick mental conversation. They had talked as Lance had put his gear away and Blue ate her meal. Lance knew what he had to do, and he wasn't sure whether he was terrified or excited. Perhaps both.

After a moment, Lance took a deep breath and mustered all of the confidence he could, "Tomorrow, I must leave to find the other Paladins. Blue tells me that the other Eagle Lions have begun their search as well. After we find everyone, we'll head to Altea and awaken the Avatar. We will end this war!" Cheers erupted from everywhere and Lance had never felt so good. He was on his way to becoming something more, something bigger than he could have ever hoped for. And his village was cheering him on, believing in him. Lance drank it all in, making sure to remember that moment forever.

Suddenly, Gam Gam threw something into the fire to make it pop loudly, startling everyone into silence. The matron leaned back in her chair and everyone sat back down except for Lance and Blue.

"How will you find these Paladins?" She asked with a raised eyebrow, "Do you know where they are?"

Lance spoke slowly and carefully, "No, I don't. But Blue here," he started rubbing her head fondly, "Well, she tells me that once we get going, I'll be able to sense when another Paladin is nearby. They'll feel it too and we'll meet. It's a lot of guess and check, but Blue says that fate has always favoured Voltron. She thinks that we can find the others in no time, so long as the other Eagle Lions do their jobs."

Gam Gam nodded sagely, "Very well. What do you need for this trip? How can we help you? Do you need a boat?"

Lance beamed. His family and friends were offering help, sending him off to his destiny.

"I'm good for the boat," Lance said with a smirk, "Blue says she can fly for days on end. I will need some food, cooler clothes, medical supplies, weapons, and a saddlebag for Blue, to put it all in."

Gam Gam smiled, "Is that all?"

"Oh!" Lance said, "And my beauty creams and products. I can't go anywhere without those!" Then he winked and his grandmother chuckled.

"Very well," She said, "We shall prepare for you tonight. You leave in the morning. In the meantime, get some rest. You have life ahead of you."

Yet an hour later, Lance found he couldn't sleep.

He laid in his sleeping roll all nice and warm and comfy, but he tossed and turned. He couldn't fall asleep. Sometimes it happened to him; he was just too excited about nothing to sleep. But this time was different. It was different because when he woke up, he would get dressed and say goodbye to his home for who knows how long, maybe forever.

Lance hated sitting still. He wanted to move and do things and be productive and just so something. It didn't help that everyone else in the village was bustling about, preparing for him and his fantastic journey. There was no way that he was sleeping.

Lance heaved himself out of his roll, pulling on his thick coat and boots. As he stood up, Blue groggily lifted her head. He patted the top of it.

"It's fine," Lance said softly, "Just wanna see my friends. Get your sleep, you need it more than I do."

Blue's response was lowering her head and going back to sleep.

Lance smiled. Sure, Blue was certainly weird and a little much, but so was he. Lance had a feeling that he and Blue would become great friends.

As he walked around the dark, bustling village lit by campfires, he waved at everyone and they smiled back, congratulating him on being a Paladin of Voltron. He would miss his tribe.

After a while, he came upon his youngest sister, seven years his senior. She was knelt down by an outdoor fire pit, sewing cloth together to make a functioning saddle and saddle bag out of their traditional blue cloth. It looked good.

"Hey sister," Lance greeted. Anita beamed up at him patted the ground beside her as an invitation.

"Hey brother," She was positively beaming. Anita was always happy, "So, you excited?"

Lance laughed, "Of course! I'm gonna be a legendary defender! I'm gonna fight alongside the Avatar and take the Galra Empire down! Maybe even fight Zarkon myself!"

Anita laughed, "I bet you will! But aren't you scared?"

Lance laughed, nervously this time, and watched her work, "Well, yeah. I've never been away from home before and now.... Now I'm going on some giant quest all around the world to take down the Galra Empire. It's not gonna be easy."

Anita sighed and put down her stitching, "Lance," She said softly, looking at him with worry in her face, "This war has been going on for a hundred years now, and the Avatar has been asleep for almost as long. Assembling Voltron isn't going to be easy, and it's the least of your problems. Although we wish it dearly, no one expects this war to be over in a day, just because some Water Tribe boy was chosen as a Voltron Paladin. But we're rooting for you." She smiled at him, "And not just our little village, the whole world. Maybe not right now, because they don't know you exist, but they will soon. All nations will cheer your name as you fly around on Blue."

Lance nodded, "I do like the sound of my name being cheered."

Anita snorted, "Of course you do."

"Hey!" Lance said, suddenly excited, "Do you think that being a Paladin will finally get me a date?"

Anita burst out laughing and Lance didn't know whether to be hurt or laugh. After a moment, she composed herself again.

"Ah Lance," She said, pretending to wipe away tears, "You're gonna flirt with the people you're gonna save and no one will know what to do with you."

Lance grinned and hugged his sister, who returned the favour immediately.

"I'm gonna miss you," He mumbled.

"I'm gonna miss you too," Anita sniffled, "And as much as I want to spend the night talking to my baby brother, you should probably say goodbye to everyone else."

"You're right." Lance sighed as he let go of Anita and pretended not to notice her tears.

"Ugh," She complained as Lance stood up, going back to sewing, "How am I gonna handle my kids when their favourite Uncle Lance is out saving the world?"

Lance shrugged as he walked away, "You'll just have to survive."

That night, Lance went around to everyone in the village, talking to them briefly and saying goodbye. There were a lot of tears on both ends, but Lance wasn't embarrassed. This was his family and they were proud of him. He was petty proud of himself too, actually. He was gonna save the world.

When morning finally came, the entire village stood by the place where the ice met the sea. Blue was rested up and saddled up, ready to go. Lance was saying his final goodbyes as Blue played with some of the little kids.

"Here," Gam Gam said, handing him a couple of heavy pouches that jingled, "We gathered what we could. It's not much, but it might suffice."

Lance opened one bag and noticed that it was Water Tribe money. A lot of money.

"I can't take this!" Lance protested, handing the bag back to Gam Gam, "This is everyone's money."

"Oh please," The matron waved the bags away, "It doesn't mean anything to us. We haven't used real money here since before I was born. Trust me when I say you need it a heck of a lot more than we do."

"Wow, I...I don't know what to say...." Lance said softly. Then he smiled at Gam Gam and hugged her, "Thank you."

"You're welcome, Lance," She said softly. Then she pushed him away, "Now go! We weren't up all night for nothing! Get as much daylight as you can! Get out of here!"

Lance smiled and saluted as he called Blue. The kids ran back to their parents and everyone watched as Lance added the money to the bags and mounted Blue.

"I'll see you all when the war's over and I've saved the world!" He yelled with a grin, waving all the while.

Then he leaned down and whispered to Blue, "Hey, can you go easy on me? I've never flown before."

Blue nodded and Lance sat back up, grinning and wavi-

Then Blue launched herself into the air, nearly throwing Lance in the process. He barely managed to hold on and yelled all the way as Blue ascended into the sky and flew away.

After a moment of silence, Lance's oldest sister spoke.

"The fate of the world is in that boy's hands. We're doomed."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter 2- A Discovery In The Earth Kingdom


Hunk was happy as he slammed his fist into cold stone. Being an Earthbender, the rock split easily apart, two clean halves, right down the middle.

"Good job son," His father praised from behind him as he used his earthbending to make a mosaic out of coloured stones which Hunk had already cut.

Hunk grinned at the praise and continued chopping the stone in half, creating square tiles out of the marble. After a while, he could feel someone coming down the stairs.

"Hey, Mom," Hunk greeted as his mother entered the room.

"How did you know I was coming in?" She asked curiously.

"It's that psychic sense of his," Hunk's dad said.

Hunk laughed and moved the tiles onto a pile, "Guys, I've told you, it's seismic sense. It's just a form of earthbending that lets me feel the earth, y'know?"

Hunk's mother shook her head and helped her husband arrange the mosaic, "I've never understood seismic sense."

"But wasn't Grandma an earthbending teacher?" Hunk asked, picking out a yellow stone and chopping it into diamond shapes.

Mrs. Garret shrugged, "Well, yes, but even she didn't quite understand this seismic sense. She told me that only the strongest of Earthbenders can develop that skill, and it takes years to do so.... It's amazing that you were born with it!"

"Yeah," Hunk said, "Amazing."

The truth was, he hadn't been 'born' with seismic sense. He had been born with earthbending. It was because he had spent so much time with the badger moles that lived in his family's quarry. They had been the ones to teach him how to see with his feet, not with his eyes. Hunk didn't want to tell his family the truth, lest the badger moles were discovered by someone from the Fire Nation....

"Oh, Hunk," His father said, "After you're done that, would you mind collecting some new stones? We're getting low. There's a list on the storage room door."

"Sure!" Hunk said, excited to see the badger moles. They were his only friends in the village. When he was very little, the caves near his village had been taken over by the Fire Nation as their base and they started colonizing Hunk's town. But the badger moles that had lived there had been forced out and had found refuge in the Garretts' quarry. Hunk had gotten lost in a tunnel once, and they had helped him. He was the only one that knew that they were there and in return for keeping them a secret, Hunk learned earthbending from the original Earthbenders.

The badger moles didn't need food or anything at all really, just to be kept secret, and they were smart enough to hide whenever someone other than Hunk showed up. Hunk just liked to visit them and see how they were, make sure no one saw anything. The Fire Nation had already taken so much from the village, they couldn't take the badger moles too.

Once Hunk was done cutting the stone, he put them in a separate pile and grabbed the wagon and note form storage before heading out to the quarry.

He tried to keep a low profile as he strolled through town, which wasn't exactly easy. Hunk was a big guy, and even if his family hadn't been the richest merchants in the region, he would've been noticed.

Hunk took note that more Fire Nation troops had been sent in. Almost twelve years ago, the Fire Nation had attacked their village. With most of their protectors off fighting, the town had been forced to surrender quietly. Sure, the troops were rough and kinda mean, but they weren't terrible. If you did what they said and spoke politely, they didn't cause any trouble. They had beaten a couple of people who spoke back and tried to stand up, but they had never killed anybody. Hunk didn't like his village being occupied, but it could have been a lot worse.

When he reached the gate leading out of town, the guard at the door wearing Fire Nation armour called to him.

"Halt!" He commanded. Hunk stopped where he was, "What is your name, where are you heading, and what is your intention?"

Hunk's palms got sweaty, like they always did when he had to come in contact with a guard. He told himself that he had nothing to fear, so long as he was good and polite.

"I'm Hunk Garrett, sir" Hunk said politely, "I'm going to my family's quarry, just to grab some supplies."

"Let him go," The officer on the other side said gruffly. Hunk recognized him, he had been in the village when they had first attacked.

The younger guy nodded and opened the gate with a sneer, "Sure you can carry all the rocks, fatty?"

Hunk ignored the younger officer and walked through the gate. The newer officers tended to make fun of the locals, which was annoying and sad but everyone had relatively gotten over it. Hunk was used to people in armour calling fat. It wasn't exactly false, and he wasn't ashamed of it. He knew he was built bigger and although a fair bit was muscle, he was perfectly happy with his chub. No Fire Nation officer could change that.

When Hunk finally arrived at the quarry, about a kilometre off the main road that merchants and travellers used, he set down his wagon and looked around him.

From where he stood, he could see the holes in the mountain near his village. They were full of precious metals waiting to be harvested, and before the Fire Nation attacked, Hunk's home had been a prosperous mining town. But when they arrived and took over, the locals were kicked out and the mines claimed in the name of the Firelord Zarkon of the Galra Dynasty. Most people had packed up and moved, searching for work elsewhere. Most of the population had become well-off Fire Nation families settling in and selling their services. A plus of this was that fresh produce from the Fire Nation was almost always guaranteed, and a fair few doctors had settled. If it weren't for the guards keeping a close watch over the locals, the people wouldn't have been bothered.

After a while of thinking, Hunk noticed that the badger moles hadn't shown up to greet him. They could sense it was him, and often poked their noses into the sun to say hello. He tried using his seismic sense to see if what they were doing below, but they were so far down that they blurred together.

"What...?" Hunk started to ask himself, until he felt something move under the ground.

It wasn't the wider sweeping motions of the badger moles, and they were too far down anyways. Hunk could see the outline of what seemed to be a very large type of cat creature, but with wings. He could feel it moving along the tunnels, as if searching for something.

And then it looked up.

Hunk stood completely still, unsure of what to do. There was no way that the thing below had seen him. No way-

And then the thing lunged upwards, the ground erupting in front of Hunk.

He stumbled back and used his bending to shield himself from the debris. When the dust cleared, his jaw dropped and he stumbled backward before tripping over on a rock, landing hard on his butt.

The thing before him was a lot taller than Hunk, with wings that spanned several metres. The thing was built like a stronger feline, like a sabre-tooth moose lion, but stockier. The thing had claws as long as Hunk's hand and its fur was riddles with feathers.

It's fur.... The entire beast had a bright yellow plume. Not the golden sheen of a lion wolf, but yellow like the sun. It's feather's were a mix of gold, white, and bight yellow, and it's eyes were a reflective yellow as we-

Before Hunk could look any further, he was torn away. He saw himself riding the great beast, flying alongside others on the same animals, but different colours. There was a Water Tribe boy about his age, two Fire Nation people who looked awfully familiar, and a Swamp Tribe kid. Behind them was obviously the Avatar, a beautiful Air Nomad woman on her flying bison, a skinny Air Nomad man wielding a sword. Then he saw flashes of battles with different people, but they were all riding the same beasts. Words popped into his mind, mostly those from stories of heroes, but one kept popping up. Voltron.

Hunk gasped as he was thrown back into reality, unsure of how much time had passed. He stared in awe at the beast before suddenly understanding.

"You're an Eagle Lion?" He cried, clutching his hair in his hands, "The Yellow Eagle Lion? Wait! Does that mean I'm your Paladin? Oh no, oh noooooo...."

Hunk had grown up with the stories of Voltron. It was whispered behind closed doors to those seeking hope. Tales of Voltron promised liberation from the Fire Nation. But the Paladins, Eagle Lions, Avatar, or their spirit guide hadn't been seen for almost a hundred years. Many thought them lost.

And yet, here was Hunk, having a mental breakdown as the Yellow Paladin in front of his Eagle Lion.

"If I'm the Yellow Paladin, who's gonna help my parents?" Hunk asked aloud. He was really starting to panic now, "And do I have to fight? Oh gosh, will I have to fight the Galra Empire? The Fire Nation? Firelord Zarkon? I can barely earthbend to cut rocks, I can't fight people! No, nuh-uh. Sorry, but you gotta find yourself another Paladin."

Up until that point, the yellow being had been quiet and stoic. But when Hunk finished, it seemed to frown.

There was no way that she could find another Paladin. Hunk was chosen by fate to be hers.

"What was that?" Hunk yelled again.

Paladins and Eagle Lions were connected telepathically. They couldn't read each other's minds, but they could share thoughts and emotions.

"Whoa whoa whoa!" Hunk put his hands in front of him in a stopping gesture, "This can't be, this can't be happening right now. It's a dream. It's all a dream, Hunk, so time to wake up."

It wasn't a dream.

"Stop that!" Hunk yelled at the Eagle Lion. She looked hurt.

"Aw man, I'm sorry," Hunk apologized, "It's just, this is super weird. I wasn't even sure Voltron even existed until now. You guys have been gone for so long, why is that?"

They had to stay away. The Fire Nation turned into the Galra Empire had been looking for them and the Eagle Lions had been forced into hiding. Only recently had they started to be able to sense activity between their Paladins and the other Eagle Lions.

"Okay," Hunk said, crossing his legs and his arms, "Okay okay okay. So, what now? You, I dunno, hide here while I train or?"

No. They needed to leave as soon as possible. Hunk was ready enough to be able to survive and he would grow stronger through his journeys. The time to act was now.

"Oh." Hunk pondered his options for a moment. He could refuse, force the Eagle Lion to choose someone else. He could live the rest of his life peacefully and take over his family's business as the war raged on without him.

Or....

Or he could go with the Eagle Lion and meet up with the rest of the Paladins, find the Avatar, and save the world.

Hunk sighed. He knew what the right choice was, but he wasn't sure if he was brave enough to chose it. If he accepted his role as Yellow Paladin, he would be in constant danger, always running away from enemies. But it would get the nasty Fire Nation guards out of his home, give the mines back to the people....

Hunk sighed again as he stood up, dusting himself off and walking over to his cart.

"Alright," He said as he hefted it, pulling it into the entrance that led into the tunnels underground, "I'll go with you, but I need to tell my parents. They won't tell anyone, I promise. But I do have to collect some stone or the guards will be suspicious."

The Eagle Lion nodded and padded after Hunk down the tunnels, watching as he used his earthbending to repair the damage that she had caused and collect certain rocks from the list. Hunk tried to go quickly and soon returned to the top. After a second, he had a thought.

"Wait here," He told the Eagle Lion before he bolted back down the tunnels.

He used his seismic sense to find the badger moles, curled up with one another. When he entered, they lifted their noses to sniff him.

"Hey guys," He huffed, "I'm sorry I can't stay long. In fact, I'm leaving. For a long time, and I don't know when I'll be back, so until then my parents are gonna look after you guys," Hunk smiled encouragingly, even though he knew that they couldn't see it, "You're gonna be in good hands. I'll see you guys when I get back!" Then he waved and ran back where he came from, emerging from the tunnel huffing and puffing.

"Is there going to be a lot of running involved?" Hunk wheezed.

The Eagle Lion only snorted.

"By the way," Hunk said, straightening up, "I never did get your name."

The Eagle Lion's name changed with her Paladin.

"Oh, uh. Okay, cool," Hunk said, "So I get to name you? Alright, how about Rocky? Does that sound good? Since I found you in a quarry?"

The Yellow Eagle Lion considered for a moment before she admitted that she liked the name.

Hunk grinned, "Rocky it is, then. So, uh, Rocky," Hunk said as he picked the handles of the cart back up and started climbing the hill, "You stay here. Stay out of sight and I'll be back tomorrow and we can leave then, alright?"

That was fine with Rocky.

Hunk smiled and waved as he walked away from the quarry. As soon as it was out of sight, he allowed himself another small breakdown because holy crap he was a Paladin.

When he arrived at the gate, he kept himself composed.

"Halt," The younger one from earlier said, "Who are you, where are you from, and what is your intention."

"Relax," The senior officer commanded, "It's the chubby Earthbender, back from collecting his rocks." Then the man looked down at him, "What took you so long?"

"Oh!" Hunk said. He hadn't realized that he had been gone for such a long time, "Well, I uh, I ran into an armadillo bear but I managed to chase it off."

Hunk hoped that they would believe him and they did. He almost sighed in relief when they let him pass. After that, it took everything in him not to run home.

When he finally got to his house, Hunk carelessly dumped the cart into the storage and ran to the front where his parents were.

"Mom! Dad!" He yelled.

His parents were just finishing up the mosaic from earlier and started when Hunk yelled.

"What?" His mom cried, rushing over to him, "Is everything alright? Are you hurt?"

Hunk shook his head, "No, I'm fine. But there is something very important that I need to tell you right now."

"Can it wait?" Hunk's dad asked, "We're almost finished the mosaic. We can talk then-"

"No!" Hunk yelled again, "It's urgent!"

His parents exchanged worried looks before Hunk's mom spoke.

"Okay sweetie, let's talk."

"Okay. Um, you might want to sit down for this."

After his parents were seated nervously in their chairs upstairs, Hunk started fiddling with his shirt.

"Alright," Mr. Garrett prompted, "You've got us. What's up?"

Hunk took a deep breath and spoke very quickly, "So I was at the quarry getting some stones, right? But then I noticed that all of the badger moles were hiding deep below ground, by the way, there are badger moles that live in our quarry and they're the ones that taught me seismic sense. Anyways, so they were deep below and I noticed that something else was in the tunnels and it came out and it was the Yellow Eagle Lion and it claimed me as its Paladin and I don't really wanna go but it's the right choice and so now Rocky, the Eagle Lion, is sitting in the quarry waiting for me to return so that we can find the rest of Voltron and take down the Galra Empire and Zarkon himself. So I really need to pack tonight and leave when I can."

"What?" His parents cried.

Hunk took a deep breath and started again before his father interrupted him.

"No, we heard you the first time. But you were chosen as a Paladin?"

"Uh," Hunk said with a nervous smile, "Yes?"

"Well this is wonderful!" Hunk's mother declared, "Our baby is going to save the world! He's a Paladin!"

"But what about the shop?" Hunk offered. He thought his parents might have been a little more mad.

His father rolled his eyes, "Please. We're all Earthbenders. We may not have your seismic sense or whatever, but we can survive. What we'll really miss is your cooking."

Hunk laughed nervously, "Thanks Dad, but what about the badger moles? They need to stay there because they were kicked out of the mountains."

Hunk's dad shrugged, "We'll take care of them. I'm guessing they're supposed to be a secret?" Hunk nodded, "No problem, then. We'll keep an eye on them."

Hunk sighed in relief. His family was going to be okay. The badger moles were going to be okay. Everything was going to be okay.

All night, his parents helped him prepare. They packed enough food, money, and water to last about two months. They also packed spare clothes and a bedroll. When they weren't looking, Hunk stuffed a few family drawings into the large bag that would hold everything that belonged to him.

As dawn was breaking, Hunk shrugged on the very heavy bag and turned to his parents.

"You know you can't tell anyone about this, right?" Hunk

"Of course," His mother assured him.

"You remember your reason for leaving?" His dad asked.

Hunk nodded, "Aunt May's sick, and you sent me off with medicine."

"Good." His father nodded in approval before pulling something out of his pocket, "Here. I want you to have this."

Then Hunk's father handed him a knife. It had a leather sheath and hilt, and when Hunk pulled it out, it glittered. Hunk turned it over, staring at the blade in awe, "Is this...?"

"Yup," Hunk's dad said proudly, "That's diamond, hardest substance there ever was. Now, don't lose that knife. It's a family heirloom and impossible to replace. Read the inscription."

"Made in the Fire Nation?"

"The, uh, other side, Hunk."

"Oh, right." Hunk's cheeks flushed with embarrassment as he turned the knife over, "Never give up. Cool."

"You bet it's cool," Hunk's dad said with a smile, "Now come here and give your family a hug before you go."

Hunk smiled and embraced his parents, drinking in the moment, "I'm gonna miss you guys so much. I promise that I'll come back as soon as I can."

"Not before you save the world," His mother mumbled into his shoulder, "My little boy, off to fight. We're both so proud of you."

"Thanks guys," Hunk said softly, enjoying the hug for a little longer. He never wanted to let go, not ever. A voice in the back of his head pulled at him, telling him that someone else could become the Yellow Paladin, someone else could fight in a war that Hunk had nothing to do with. Hunk could stay with his family in his home and take care of the badger moles and tolerate the rude guards. They had never meant any real harm to Hunk. As soon as he left with Rocky, he Fire Nation would be out looking for him, and he doubted that they would politely ask for Rocky and leave when Hunk said no. He wasn't sure how long it would take to even find all of Voltron, let alone end a war that had been going on for a hundred years. Oh yes, a part of Hunk very badly wanted to stay at home. It was safe here and fatal out there.

But what would happen then? Who would the Yellow Paladin be? Rocky had said that she had chosen Hunk because fate had already chosen him. He was meant to be the one to help save the world. It was his destiny to be a part of Voltron. No, the consequences of denying Rocky's claim were too great. Hunk Garrett would go to war.

So he squeezed his parents tightly one last time and whispered, "I love you both." Then he released them with a confident smile and strode out the door and down the lane. He kept up an air of confidence all the way up to the city gate. The guards had been different from the day before, both of them new. The one on the left raised an eyebrow.

"Who are you, where are you going, and what in Sozin's beard are you planning to do at this time of day?"

Hunk shifted a little nervously under the guards' harsh gaze, "Well, I'm Hunk Garrett, and my Aunt May is sick and neither of my parents can go because they have the business to take care of, so they sent me."

The female guard nodded and opened the gate for Hunk, "I hope she fares well."

Hunk nodded and said, "Thanks," as he walked through the gate. It took everything in him not to sprint to the quarry and leave already, before any more doubts changed his mind. He could still return, tell the guards that he had forgotten something, or he was too scared to go alone. He would look stupid, but surely it would have been better than dying at Zarkon's hands.

No. Hunk would not be swayed. He had made his decision to accept his role as the Yellow Paladin and he would do just that.

When he finally arrived in the quarry, he slid down into the bottom, softly calling for his Eagle Lion.

"Rocky!" Hunk said, "Hey, I'm here now."

Hunk could suddenly feel the earth stir beneath him and once again Rocky popped up from beneath the crust. She purred and nuzzled him, happy to have her Paladin back to her.

"Hey, girl," Hunk said happily, "I've got everything I need, ready to go?"

Of course she was.

Hunk smiled, "Alright, so I brought my walking shoes, even though I usually go barefoot...."

Did Hunk really expect them to walk?

Hunk blinked, "Uh, yes?"

Rocky shook her head and bent down, an obvious invitation to mount up.

"Oh," Hunk said softly, pulling his bag over both shoulders and climbing onto the Eagle Lion's back. It was like riding an ostrich horse, but with more fur, feet, teeth, and bigger wings. Rocky prompted him to wrap his arms around her neck. It hurt when people pulled on her fur.

Once Hunk was nice and settled, Rocky expanded her beautiful yellow wings. Then, with one powerful flap, they pushed off the ground and up into the air, spiralling up to the sky.

It took everything in Hunk to remind himself not to let go, not to scream, not to fall, not to look, not do anything. Hunk had never liked riding and although Rocky wasn't so bad, he also had never liked heights. Being an Earthbender, Hunk liked being close to the earth.

When they levelled out and Hunk opened his eyes, he saw that they were just below the clouds. Hunk shivered and carefully pulled out a thicker jacket, wrapping himself in it.

As Hunk turned around to close his bag, he noticed his village in the distance. Just a small collection of stone houses surrounding a large one, his home. Hunk kept staring until it was out of sight. When it was long gone, Hunk turned his eyes back to the front and steeled himself for what was to come. There was no turning back now.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 3- A Discovery In The Swamp Tribe

Pidge missed her family.

The young Swamp Tribe child sat on the roots of a tree dangling above the water, kicking her feet back and forth across the surface. It wasn't fair. The Swamp Tribe had always minded their own business. Most people didn't even know they existed, which was fine with the Tribe. But about a year ago, that had all changed.

The Fire Nation had been expanding deeper and deeper into the Earth Kingdom, especially after they had failed to conquer the great city and capital of the Earth Kingdom, Garrison. Explorers and Firebenders had been seen not too far from the Swamp, taking over a small village. So, the warriors from their Tribe had gone to keep the Fire Nation away from their home, to divert them and make sure that they would never find the swamp. They had been successful, but almost everyone who had gone had been captured. Only one managed to escape to deliver the message to the rest of the tribe. Many had wanted to go out and get them back, Pidge included. But all of their strongest warriors were gone, leaving the Swamp defended by rookies, old people, and children.

Pidge bitterly remembered the day that she had found out that their father and brother had been captured. There were rumours, terrible rumours, about what the Fire Nation did to their prisoners of war. Pidge wanted to get hEd family and the rest of her tribe back. Ever since then, Pidge had been training every day, trying to practice her waterbending. Pidge was amazing at bending the water in plants and mud, which were no doubt effective, but her skills with plain water were iffy at best. Perhaps it was because Pidge didn't have the right teacher. After all, all of the Waterbenders in the Swamp Tribe used their abilities for practical things like cooking and boating. For most Swamp Tribe memners, they didn't feel the need to fight. But Pidge was not most Swamp Tribe members.

She took a deep breath and stood up, deciding that her break was over. SHe needed more practice if she was ever going to rescue her family and the rest of her tribe.

Pidge walked over to a pile of limp swamp grass and a wooden mask. The mask wasn't pretty or special, it just had two eye holes and a hole for a mouth. It was more intimidation than anything, plus it shielded Pidge's eyes better and let her breathe.

Pidge started moving her arms in circular motions, lifting the plants and the mask. The plants followed the Waterbender's will, swirling around her until Pidge was shielded by armour made of grass. HEr hands and feet were tied to the limbs, but other than that the grass didn't touch Pidge. There was about a foot of space between flesh and grass. In the early stages, Pidge had tried to make the grass encase her body like true armour, but she had had trouble breathing. This was easier, plus it made Pidge look a lot bigger and scarier.

Pidge splashed around for a few minutes, trying to find something to practice on. The catfish gators were good prey and they tasted good too, but there weren't any to be found. Pidge found this odd, as that part of the Swamp was usually teeming with the things. She started to feel a little on edge. There wasn't much in the Swamp that could scare off cat gators, especially if they were in a pack. Pidge hoped that they had merely moved on to another spot. The gators tended to do that when the seasons changed, and the weather had been getting colder.....

Still, Pidge felt uneasy. She was strong in their bending, but would she be strong enough against a real threat? The vines hiding Pidge from sight wouldn't do much good against fire. Sure, they could put it out, but if a Fire Nation army suddenly popped out of the bush, Pidge and the rest of her village were done for. Pidge doubted the latter, as the Swamp was very much alive. Everything was connected, part of one big centre tree. The Swamp was a very spiritual place and it did not like intruders. If it felt threatened, it alerted the tribe.

As Pidge carefully moved around, the plant feet gliding over water and solid ground, she started to hear a noise. Now, in the Swamp, there was always noise. Bull frogs, cat gators, all kinds of insects and birds, plus odo noises that seemed to come from the Swamp itself. But this noise was different. It sounded a little like the noise a cat gator made when stalking its prey; a deep, feline growl that seemed to go on unendingly. Pidge was really starting to feel nervous now and decided to train closer to the village.

Suddenly the thing showed itself.

It was long and lithe, with muscles rippling under fur riddled with feathers. It had four legs, sharp teeth and claws, and huge wings that looked double Pidge's height. The animal was also a soft green, making it difficult to see in the underbrush. It's eyes glowed yellow like fireflies, staring right at Pi-

Suddenly, Pidge wasn't in the swamp anymore. They were sitting astride the beast in front of them, flying through the sky. Among them were other creatures that looked the same with different colouring. Pidge recognized a big kid probably from the Earth Kingdom, as well as two boys obviously from the Fire Nation. Pidge didn't recognize the clothes that another boy, a skinny man, and a beautiful woman wore. The boy's were blue like his steed. The others were wearing orange and yellow. Alongside them was a great white beast with brown arrows in its fur. It also had a huge tail and six legs.

After that, Pidge was flooded with information. There were wars, friendship, death, and birth. There were names, too. Like Voltron, Avatar, Paladins, Eagle Lions.....

Pidge was suddenly thrown back to reality. She stumbled and the swamp grass around them fell. Pidge tumbled into the murky waters. Thankfully, they were only about two feet deep. Pidge scrambled and started running towards the village. She wasn't  sure what she had just seen, but she knew that it couldn't be good. Sure, Pidge knew about the Avatar, but that was just a legend. Voltron had been a whisper and no one in their tribe knew what it was. Pidge knew they were somehow connected to the Avatar, but it was still just stories. Whatever that beast had been, it was far too dangerous for Pidge to handle, at least by herself. Perhaps if she got the rest of the tribe-

Suddenly, Pidge was knocked to the ground by a very heavy force. Huge paws held Pidge down, but the claws had been retracted. Pidge could hear the thing snarling.

Oh, Great Tree, I'm gonna die I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die and no one will be left to rescue everyone and Mom will be so sad I'm gonna die I'm gonna be eaten alive.

No, they weren't going to die.

Pidge paused in her panic. That hadn't been Pidge's thought.

Of course it wasn't. It was the Eagle Lion's.

Pidge froze. She had been struggling under the weight of the Eagle Lion but now she was completely still. How could that thought have been the Eagle Lion's?

Because they were connected. Pidge was to be her Paladin. They shared thoughts.

Okay, Pidge thought, This is weird. Really, really weird.

Of course it was weird! Voltron hadn't been seen in almost a hundred years! Did Pidge's people even know about Voltron?

"Not really," Pidge admitted out loud. She couldn't believe it. She was having a conversation with a legendary beast, "We're not exactly people people. Outsiders are weird to us, so we don't know much about what goes on outside the Swamp."

That seemed fair enough. And if Pidge promised not to run away, the Eagle Lion would get off of her.

"Only if you promise not to eat me."

It was a deal.

The feline creature hopped off of Pidge's back, allowing her to move. Pidge sat up and turned around, sitting cross-legged on the mushy swamp ground.

The two creatures considered each other for a moment. The Eagle Lion was not overly large. Still significantly larger than Pidge, but not as large as other animals. She was pretty, her coat a soothing green colour. But she still looked like she could tear a person in half in one swipe of her claws. Yet there was something about the Eagle Lion that seemed far more intelligent than any other animal, even humans.

Pidge was not impressive-looking either. She was small with tiny limbs and mousy, messy hair that had leaves sticking out. But there was something in her eyes that screamed intelligence. They were analytical and quick. The Eagle Lion knew that Pidge was the right one.

"About that," Pidge said finally, "What happens now? You said that we were connected and that's why we have the mind-thing, but what are we supposed to do? Obviously we have something to do, otherwise you wouldn't need me. And I have a feeling that this something that we're supposed to do is important."

The Eagle Lion smiled. Yes, they were connected. Pidge was the Green Paladin of Voltron. Their job was to keep the peace between all peoples, between all four elements, between both spirit and living.

"Well you didn't do a very good job, didja?" Pidge quipped.

The beast frowned. Three crucial members of their team had been sealed away. And the remaining Eagle Lions had been commanded to wait until their Paladins were ready. It wasn't their fault that their Paladins wouldn't be prepared enough to start the journey for a hundred years!

"Okay, fair point," Pidge agreed, "But what journey? What's the purpose of Voltron? What even is it? I don't know anything about it."

The Eagle Lion seemed a little offended that Pidge knew nothing, but it was best to explain. So, Voltron was a legendary team made up of five Eagle Lions (the last in existence), five Paladins for each Eagle Lion, the Avatar, and their spirit guide. Soon after the war started, however, the Avatar, their spirit guide, and a councillor to aid them had been locked away, as well as the Black Eagle Lion. The task at hand was to find each Paladin, get them together, and release the rest of their team before taking down the Firelord.

"Take down the Firelord?" Pidge echoed out loud, "Is Voltron really that powerful? To destroy the Galra Empire?"

Oh, absolutely. Given enough time, Voltron could beat any foe. They were the ultimate force.

Pidge thought for a moment, a new thought popping into her head, "So we could take down Firelord Zarkon and the Galra Empire?"

Yes.

"That means that all of the captured prisoners of war would be released?"

Most likely, yes.

"I'll do it," Pidge said with certainty. The green Eagle Lion was a little surprised. Didn't Pidge want to take a day or so adjust to it? Being a Paladin was not an easy thing.

"I don't care," Pidge said, "My brother, my father, and most of my tribe were taken prisoners by the Galra Empire. If being the Green Paladin will get them back, I'll do it."

It wasn't the motivation others would have had, but it was motivation nonetheless. So, what would Pidge name her?

"Name you?" Pidge asked, "Don't you already have a name?"

She had a title as the Green Eagle Lion, but her Paladin chose her name. It strengthened their bond.

"Okay," Pidge said, "I think I'll call you....Rover."

Rover. It was not a bad name. The Eagle Lion could get behind Rover, she had been given even worse names before. Rover was cute, she liked it.

"So what now?" Pidge asked again, "Should I tell my mom or the village about this? Do I have to keep it a secret?"

No. It was probably a good idea if they informed people. It would inspire the people to know that Voltron once again flew through the skies.

"Alright," Pidge said, grunting as she got up, "To the village then." Pidge walked behind Rover to pick up the mask. The swamp grass could stay there; there was plenty everywhere else.

That was impressive. It was rare to find Waterbenders so talented as to manipulate plants.

"I'm not that talented," Pidge said with a shrug as Rover fell into step with her, "I'm not very good at manipulating actual water. Mud and plants I can do well."

Rover nodded. Either way, it was a useful skill to have.

"It is," Pidge agreed, "The plants can act as armour and weapons. In a place like this, I can control pretty much everything. I'm literally in my element."

The two continued conversing about the pros and cons of plantbending until they reached Pidge's village. It was a collection of tree bark huts with grass roofs hung up in the trees. Bridges spanned between the huts in the trees, making it look like one huge house made up of a lot of rooms. Many people in green clothes milled about doing chores. On the swamp's floor, there were campfires and boats. It was a lively and unique place.

"It's so that they don't sink in the mud," Pidge said as they continued towards the village, "The ground here is so soft, we need to keep them in the trees."

Rover nodded thoughtfully, staring at the houses. It was a smart idea. Not only did it stop the houses from sinking into the muck, but it kept predators away as well.

"Exactly," Pidge agreed, "And on top of that, it kind of represents our belief system. In the Swamp, every tree is connected to the one Spirit Tree. We try to be like that; connected to the natural world around us. In my village, everything is connected."

They finally arrived at the bottom of one of the trees holding the houses. Some people down below sitting around a fire stood up when they saw Pidge and Rover.

"What is that?" One cried, reaching for a blade.

"Hey!" Pidge warned, "Rover's friendly. She's an Eagle Lion. I'm gonna help her stop the war."

About an hour later, everyone had congregated in one huge house in the middle. There were lots of tables and chairs and food, with at least a dozen doors. It was round, like the rest of the houses, with no corners. The rest of the village had patiently listened to Pidge's story until she had finished.

"So you're telling me," The villager from earlier who pulled out a blade spoke, "That that thing-" they pointed at Rover, "Is going to stop the war and free the prisoners?"

"Well," Pidge said with a smile, "Not alone! Like I said, Rover says that she's part of a team of powerful people. Once we get everyone together, we can take down Zarkon, destroy the Galra Empire, and bring back our people!"

Pidge was expecting some cheers, but everyone looked nervous. They shared anxious glances and their eyes kept darting to Rover.

"Pidge, honey," Pidge's mom finally spoke up, "I think it's wonderful that you were chosen to be a, uh, Paladin and Rover seems very...smart. But it's too dangerous. No matter how strong Rover might be, you're still just a kid."

Pidge frowned. Ever since their warriors had been captured, the Swamp Tribe had lost their courage. A literal saviour had been dropped into their laps, but they were too afraid to take a chance.

"But what about Rover?" Pidge demanded, gesturing at the Eagle Lion beside her in the centre of the room, "She's an Eagle Lion of Voltron!"

"She can stay here and help out," Another villager said, "We need all the hands, or, uh, paws we can get. She's strong, probably a good hunter. Those wings look strong enough to fly, too. Rover would be a big help. And if they need to go off to do Voltron or whatever, well, she can go on her own. There's no need to take an innocent kid like you."

"I don't think you understand," Pidge tried again, "I'm her Paladin. The Eagle Lions need their Paladins in order for Voltron to work. Rover can't just go and find another one! Until I die, Rover and I are tied together!"

It was silent for a moment before Pidge's mom spoke again. Softly, this time, "Pidge, I'm sorry, but you can't go. It's too dangerous. We can't lose another member of our family. Besides, your place is here with us. Our roots are in the Swamp. We should not leave our home that has worked so hard to protect us."

"Protect us?" Pidge cried, "It didn't protect our warriors who went out to defend the Swamp! It didn't do anything when they were captured by Fire Nation!"

"Don't speak out against the Swamp!" A female tribe member cried, "It's blessed our warriors with victory and brought us a new helper. The Swamp provides!"

With that, the rest of the village decided that the meeting was over. Pidge would not be going off on some dangerous quest to fight the Firelord himself. She was barely fourteen and only just getting a hold of her abilities. Rover could go off if she wanted to, but Pidge was staying.

Pidge was not staying.

Pidge had been training for almost a year in order to leave and get her family back. Miraculously, a magical, mythical being that promised victory had found and bonded with Pidge. She was the Green Paladin of Voltron. Pidge was not going to stay in her small village and use Rover as transport and a hunting cat.

No, Pidge was going to leave and no one was going to stop her.

Pidge waited until well after high moon to make sure everyone was asleep. She was sure that no one was awake. It was dangerous at night and they were so far away from any village that they didn't need lookouts. Their animals and the Swamp were lookouts enough.

Silently, Pidge grabbed the bag that had been ready to be packed for months. Ever since her family had been taken, Pidge had been preparing for the day when she would leave and free her family, along with the rest of the Fire Nation prisoners. Training, packing, organizing; Pidge had made sure to bring everything she needed. Pidge was more than ready to start her quest. But one thing she hadn't been prepared for....

In Pidge's fantasies, the entire village would rally behind her, wishing Pidge and the others good luck. The Swamp Tribe should have supported Pidge, but instead, she was heading out alone except for Rover.

So as not to worry her mother, Pidge left a note on some bark written with a burnt piece of wood: Gone to find family. Come back with them, promise.

As she was leaving, Pidge took one last look at her house. It was small and simple with only a few mats for beds, but it was home. She saw her mother's sleeping form and Pidge felt a stab of regret. If she left, then hEd mother would have no family left at all. Pidge shook that thought out of her head. The entire village was there, not to mention a sister and a brother. Pidge's mother would be fine, so long as Pidge made it back alive. Which she would, with her stolen warriors in tow and victory on her shoulders.

Pidge fled out of the door and quietly whistled for Rover. She suddenly and silently dropped down from the branches in a spray of leaves, her yellow eyes glowing in the dark.

"Come on, girl," Pidge said as she mounted up with a huff, "We're leaving."

And just like that, Pidge had taken to the skies, determined to form Voltron, destroy the Empire, topple Zarkon, and, most importantly, bring her family back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 4- A Discovery by The Fire Nation

Keith was brooding.

Well, according his half-brother Shiro, he was always brooding. Keith didn't agree. Besides, he had his reasons to think.

Three years ago Keith had been banished and shamed by his father. The only way that he could bring back his honour would be if he captured Voltron, a feat many thought impossible. His older half-brother Shiro, crown-prince and war hero, had opted to go with him. He had offered many people many answers as to why he did, but Keith was never sure what his true motive was. He didn't care though, it was good to have someone he actually liked on their ship.

Keith glared at the open ocean, a heavy fog settling over them. He had never much liked the ocean. It was too big, cold, dark, and it was just a bunch of water. As a Firebender, Keith hated water.

"Good morning," A familiar voice said from behind Keith. He didn't have to look to see that it was Shiro. As the older brother walked up beside Keith and leaned on the railing, he grunted in response. As Shiro looked out at the ocean, Keith looked at him and frowned.

Five years ago, when Shiro had been twenty and Keith had been twelve, Shiro had lead an army to conquer the great Earth Kingdom city of Garrison. It was supposed to have been a hard-won victory, a great day in Fire Nation history. But that hadn't happened.

Shiro had gotten hurt badly during a battle and was forced to return to the capital after losing his arm and half of his troops. After Shiro had come back, their father, Firelord and Galra Emperor Zarkon, had ordered him to be taken in by the Druids, a shady group of Firebenders who were loyal to the royal family. After a few months, Shiro had returned with a fully functioning metal arm that was powered through his ability to generate lightning. He had also received a shock of hair turned white from constant stress and a string of bad memories and mental problems that no one dealt with. Keith wanted to help, but he didn't know how. He wasn't exactly a perfect specimen of health either.

Still.... Even before he had been handed off to the Druids, Keith knew Shiro had been different. Quieter, more nervous than before. After he had returned, he was almost always silent and analyzing, searching for any sort of threat. Too often had normal occurrences happened that left Shiro standing completely still with a look of absolute horror on his face. Everyone knew that Shiro had seen some bad things during his time as a General, but he refused to talk about it, even to Keith. The only things he would say about the subject were warnings, and only to Keith. "Don't believe what they tell you", "They're not the good guys", "They're tricking you", stuff like that. Keith knew that if Shiro had said that to anyone but him, he would have been dishonoured and thrown away.

"So," Shiro said after some silence, "What's the plan?"

"We've gotten reports from locals of a giant red beast with wings hanging around some islands nearby. It could be an Eagle Lion of Voltron."

Shiro sighed heavily and turned to look at his half brother, still leaning on the rails, "But it also couldn't be. This part of the Earth Kingdom is mostly jungle. There are lots of weird creatures in there, I'm sure a big flying red animal is one of them."

"But what if it is?" Keith demanded, standing up straight and turning towards Shiro, "I have to check every lead, no matter how unlikely it could be."

"Keith, neither Voltron nor the Avatar have been seen for a hundred years. Our father, grandfather, and great-grandfather couldn't find them. What makes you think we will?"

"Because their honour didn't depend on it!" Keith yelled. Shiro frowned. He stood up properly and folded his hands inside his sleeves.

"Keith," Shiro tried again, "I know that your honour is your main reason for this, but you can't forget the others, and what the consequences will be."

Keith huffed and turned back to the ugly sea.

During his three years of banishment, Keith had learned that Shiro's harsh accusations of the Galra Empire were true. He wasn't technically allowed on Fire Nation land, but he could visit the colonies with no problem. After a few times docking in colony ports, Keith started to notice some similarities. People who were obviously Earth Kingdom seemed poorer and dirtier than people who were obviously Fire Nation. Those in charge of the ports were Galra, and Galra soldiers prowled through the streets. More often than not, Galra in authority had been rude and unfair, the rich and powerful ones pompous and cocky.

Once when they had docked at a small port town taken over by the Fire Nation and claimed in the name of the Galra Empire, Keith and Shiro had been wandering through the marketplace. They had happened across four guards beating a frail old man. Keith's vision had tunnelled and before he knew it, he had disabled three of the guards. The fourth one had been their commander and had started to try and arrest Keith before Shiro had intervened. The two brothers soon found out that the old man had been accused of stealing when in fact he had not. Shiro had used his influence to ensure that the three whom Keith had disabled were dismissed, while the old man was given a pardon and an official apology.

After that, Keith learned to see the Galra Empire for what is was: an evil parasite trying to infect the whole world.

During their travels, the brothers had come up with a plan. If Voltron ever did show itself (Keith was sure, Shiro was doubtful), they would take the team under the guise of kidnapping. In reality, they would be bringing the Galra Empire's worst nightmare right to them. With Voltron's help, they would destroy the Empire and bring peace to the world once again.

The only problem was that Voltron didn't want to be found.

Keith didn't want to admit it, but Shiro was right: Voltron had disappeared for a hundred years. The had been some rumours about large, strange new animals flying around, but they were far and few between. Many people assumed that Voltron had been destroyed alongside the Alteans and the other Air Nomads. Perhaps the Eagle Lions still roamed after all those years, but the Paladins, the Avatar, and their spirit guide had been lost forever. At least, that's what most people said.

Keith didn't believe it. He couldn't.The only way that he could return home and regain his honour would be to come back to the Palace, the entirety of Voltron tow. That had been made very clear to him. He scowled and thought about the day it had all happened....

"Is your arm hurting you?" Shiro asked softly.

"Huh?" Keith had kind of zoned out, he hadn't even noticed that he had grabbed his right arm, "Oh, no. Just thinking."

Shiro hummed thoughtfully. Keith let go of his arm, embarrassed that he had been caught in a moment of weakness.

"I think I need more training," Keith said, stepping away from the railing, "If the reports are true, then we could be dealing with the Red Eagle Lion, the Guardian Spirit of Fire herself. I need to be prepared."

Shiro considered him for a moment before shrugging and walking back towards the door that led belowdecks, "Alright. I'll be back with the others in ten minutes."

An hour later, Keith was sweating and breathing hard. There were plenty of Firebenders amongst their crew, which was good, as Keith tired them out very quickly. Like Shiro, Keith was naturally very good at firebending. It just came to him, and he picked up new moves quickly. However, he was having some trouble with a new set of moves that involved a lot of twists and turns. Yeah, he was agile, but he couldn't quite move his body that way. After the fifth time, Shiro stepped in.

"You have to move with the flames, Keith," He advised kindly. Shiro had been his firebending teacher while they were travelling. Keith was thankful, as Shiro was considered a master Firebender, "And you have to have control of the fire."

"I do!" Keith protested. Shiro shook his head.

"No, you are controlling them, but you have no control." To demonstrate, Shiro moved into a simple bending position and backed away from Keith. He pushed his left hand out in front of him, flames sprouting from nowhere. They raced towards Keith and he was suddenly reminded of his father and the terrible sensation of being burned....

And then the flames stopped inches from his face. They dispersed and he could feel their heat, but he wasn't hurt.

"That's control," Shiro said with a small smile, "You have power, but it's not much use if you can't harness it properly."

Keith nodded and began the set again.

A couple of hours later, Keith was in his room. He had showered and was sharpening his sword on his bed when he heard a knock on his door.

"Come in," He said. The metal door squeaked and opened. Keith hated the doors in the ship. The frames were inches above the ground to keep water from sloshing into other areas, the doors had turns for handles and one could be locked in one from the outside. Also, it was dark and cramped and metal. It wasn't like Keith had never liked the dark, but it was too stuffy. He hated the ship and he hated being banished.

Shiro stepped through the door and gave him an uneasy look, "We're docking soon. You might want to come topside."

Keith slid off of his bed with confusion. There was no need for him to be above decks when they docked.

But as he climbed the stairs and entered into open air, he saw why.

As they were coming into port, he saw a slew of other Galra ships. They were easily identifiable from the normal Fire Nation ships; the Galra were a striking dark violet colour, while the Fire Nation's design was simply red. The Galra ships were also larger and more weaponized. Keith travelled on a Galra ship, but it was rare to see them in such small ports. All of the other boats docked were fishing and recreational boats, with a couple of Fire Nation boats for soldiers. Keith suddenly felt very small and remembered how much he hated docking at Galra ports; he had been given a comically small ship, it was barely half the size of a normal Fire Nation ship, let alone a Galra one. It was painfully obvious how out of his league Keith was.

"What...?" Keith started, unsure how to finish his own question. There was no obvious reason as to why Galra ships would have been present. From what Keith knew, the town was small, bordered by the sea on three sides and a dense tropical rain forest on the fourth.

"I'm not sure," Shiro admitted, folding his hands inside his robe sleeves, "But I don't like it. The Galra shouldn't be here, and they could complicate things."

Keith frowned at the Galra ships as they pulled in and docked, people rushing around them. Keith didn't like the idea of Galra soldiers being there at all. With any luck, the one leader that Keith hated wouldn't be there. Maybe it would be one of the tamer leaders, one of the stupid ones. Then they could be left alone in their search for the Red Eagle Lion.

Keith did not have any luck, as he found out. When they were safely docked and they left the ship, the two brothers heard a familiar cocky voice greet them with contempt.

"Well, well, well," Sendak's voice sneered from behind them, "Who do we have here?" Keith ground his teeth and clenched his fists, both he and Shiro with their backs turned to Sendak.

Shiro plastered on a kind smile and turned around to face the approaching military leader. Keith took a breath and tried for a neutral expression, turning around to face Sendak as well.

"Captain Sendak," He said kindly and bowed politely, "What a surprise to see you here."

"It's Commander Sendak now," He corrected proudly. He bowed slightly to Shiro, "What a pleasure it is to see you, General Takashi, a true war hero."

"A retired General," Shiro corrected happily.

"What are you doing here of all places?" Keith asked as calmly as possible.

"Well," Sendak said with a lazy roll of his flesh hand, "I was in the area when I heard rumours of a red beast prowling these lands. I thought I might try my hand at hunting, maybe even see if I could catch myself an Eagle Lion for dinner." His smile was withering and it took everything inside of Keith to not punch him then and there.

It was common knowledge among the higher-ups that Keith was on a quest for Voltron. This was unsurprising, as most of them had been present when Keith had been handed his quest and humiliated by his father.

Also, it would not have been smart to start a fight with Commander Sendak, especially in the middle of a busy port.

Sendak was a large man, taller and wider than Shiro with large ears, a sharp nose, and huge sideburns. He wore the red and violet armour of a Galra soldier and it matched his arm. His left arm was like Shiro's, a mechanical prosthetic. But his was very different from Shiro's model. Sendak's was a lot larger and showier, and it ran on flames, not lightning. Sendak couldn't produce lightning like Shiro could, so it wasn't as powerful but it was bigger and stronger.

"I thought you didn't believe that Voltron still exists?" Shiro asked politely.

Sendak sneered at him, "I don't believe that they will be found easily, is all. But who knows what lurks in these forests? Which begs the question; why are you here?"

Keith kept his voice calm and neutral, "Restocking."

"Ah, yes," Sendak said, "They do have some lovely fruits here. But you might want to be careful, Prince Keith-" Keith cringed at his title, "-You are dangerously close to Fire Nation borders."

"I am well aware," Keith said in a clipped tone.

Sendak smiled again, "Good. Well then, perhaps you could come and enjoy some tea, yes? I would love to hear of your adventures and your search for Voltron."

"It would be our pleasure," Shiro said with another smile, "Would you happen to have jasmine tea? It's my favourite."

"Of course," Sendak said, "Please, follow me."

Sendak walked in front of them, leading the way through the crowd of travellers, locals, soldiers, and merchants. Off to the side near an inn, he had a tent set up. Inside, it was decorated lavishly. The walls were thick red cloth violet accents, the colours of the Galra. There were decorative spears lined up along one wall, with large, cushioned chairs and a mahogany table. Torches burned brightly and gave the tent a warm but ominous feeling. On top of the table was a black tea set. Commander Sendak invited Shiro and Keith to sit while he made them tea.

"So," Sendak said as he poured their tea, "Any luck in your search?"

"Unfortunately, no," Shiro said and he happily accepted his tea and sipped it peacefully. He truly did love his tea.

"Ah," Sendak replied, "That is unfortunate. And you don't have any leads? At all?"

"None," Keith said bitterly as he stared at his cup of tea. This was a massive lie. Lately, they had heard many reports of many things; a great yellow beast seen in southern Earth Kingdom mines, a blue animal flying to the south, a green flash seen dashing between trees in forests in the centre of the Earth Kingdom, and now, a red cat-like animal prowling the jungle.

"Hmm," Sendak hummed thoughtfully as he sipped his own cup of tea. Shiro and Keith shared a quick glance. Sendak was bad news and it would be even worse if he learned about any Voltron leads.

"Did you know," He said after a moment, "That these jungles are home to underground magma stores?"

"We did not know," Keith said curtly.

"How interesting," Shiro said, "Are there any springs nearby? We haven't exactly had a chance to stop and relax while we've been at sea."

"I'm sure there's a spa here somewhere," Sendak said loosely, "In town, perhaps."

"Well that's wonderful," Keith said, putting his barely touched tea back down on the table, "We should go and see for ourselves, right Shiro?"

"What's the haste?" Sendak asked with a dangerous lilt to his smile.

Before Keith could reply, a Galra soldier entered the tent and, after a quick bow, addressed Sendak.

"Commander, we have interrogated their crew as you asked. They said that they were following a lead on what is believed to be the Red Eagle Lion and it has led them here."

Sendak turned and smirked at Keith, "I knew it." Then he turned to the soldier and barked his order, "Prepare the men and the weapons. We leave in one hour to hunt for the Red Eagle Lion and capture it in the name of Firelord Zarkon. Vrepit Sa."

"Vrepit Sa." The soldier bowed and left quickly. Sendak was smiling proudly, but Keith was raging. He could feel the wood heat up beneath his hands where he clenched the arms of the chair. Shiro sipped his tea, watching them over the edge of his cup.

"Voltron is my quest!" Keith shouted, standing up so quickly that his chair fell over.

"Voltron is far too important to be left in the hands of a teenager!" Sendak yelled back.

"It is not your place!" Keith cried.

"Who are you to say?" Sendak quipped, "You are just a banished prince with no honour. You have no power, no allies. Your own father doesn't even want you!"

"That's not true!" Keith yelled, lashing his foot out and upending the table, "I will return to my father with Voltron and he will welcome me with honour."

"If your father actually wanted you," Sendak said, smirking and deadly calm with an edge to his voice, "He would have let you return by now, Voltron or no. You're just a disgrace, a failure to the Fire Nation and the Galra Empire."

"That's a lie!" Keith yelled again.

"And you have the scar to prove it."

"Would you like one to match?" Keith yelled into Sendak's face, getting right into his face.

"Is that a challenge?" Sendak seemed to find it amusing.

"An Agni Kai," Keith confirmed, "At sundown."

Sendak chuckled and backed away, "Very well. It's too bad your father won't be here to watch me humiliate you, but I'm sure your brother will do."

With that, he walked out of the tent, leaving Shiro and Keith alone.

"Keith," Shiro asked in disbelief, "Do you remember the last time you duelled a master?"

Keith gripped his right arm, "I'll never forget."

Not an hour later, Keith and Shiro were in the jungle, wandering and searching for the Red Eagle Lin.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Keith asked as he avoided a low-hanging branch, "I can't be late for my Agni Kai."

"And I can't let an Eagle Lion fall into Sendak's hands," Shiro replied, "You won't be late, and even if you are, I would far rather have you late to a duel than down a Voltron Eagle Lion."

Keith grumbled at Shiro's simple logic but followed him into the jungle. Sendak was certainly right about the magma store, it was very hot in the jungle and both Keith and Shiro could feel the fire below them.

"I can't stand him," Keith said as he swatted a branch away, "I don't get how you can act so calm when he's around. He makes my blood boil just by being in the same room."

"That's because you're already hot-blooded," Shiro said with a small smile, "And my patience is from practice. I've been surrounded by politics all my life. It's kind of rubbed off on me. Remember what I always tell you, patience yields focus."

Keith grumbled as he recalled how different Shiro's upbringing was from his, despite having the same father and growing up in the same palace.

Shiro was almost nine years older than Keith at age twenty-five and his mother had been Zarkon's first and favourite wife. As Zarkon's oldest (and at the time only) son, he had been educated in politics, foreign policies, war strategies, everything boring about being a leader of a nation. Shiro had taken it all in stride. But, when he was eight, his mother had died and Zarkon took on a new wife: Keith's mother. A year later, Keith had been born. He had been taught in advising and battle. He was destined for the Druids before he had been banished.

"Hold on," Shiro said, stopping suddenly and holding up his hand, "Quiet."

The two brothers were silent. Keith was about to ask what they were waiting for when he heard it; a low growling sound, like an animal warning an enemy.

Shiro looked at Keith who nodded, and the two continued quietly.

Soon, they reached a clearing. It was a dry and dusty spot where the magma rose close to the surface. It was safe to walk on, but it was extremely hot. They wandered into the clearing, listening for the noise.

"It's gone," Keith said, turning to face Shiro who was on the other side of the clearing.

Shiro shrugged, "I know we followed it here bu-Keith look out!"

Keith whirled around just as a red splotch sailed gracefully over him, landing between him and Shiro.

"Shiro!" Keith cried. The beast and Shiro were circling each other, staring each other in the eye. The beast made sure to keep between Shiro and Keith.

The beast...

It was exactly like the stories had said. It was easily taller than Shiro, but it was long and lithe, it looked fast. It had sharp teeth and claws, as well as massive wings. Feathers coated the wings and dotted the blood-red fur, the feathers more concentrated around the face. The Eagle Lion was absolutely terrifying and beautiful.

It kept eye contact with Shiro and it almost seemed as if it were concentrating. Keith felt an odd pull, drawing him towards the animal. He ignored it as best he could and ran towards the Eagle Lion, yelling, "Hey, leave my brother alone!"

He waved his arms in a circular motion and sent flames flying at the animal. The Eagle Lion merely swatted them away with its wings, barely sparing Keith a glance.

"Hey!" He tried again, racing to the front of the animal's vision. He stood between it and Shiro, and the animal wasn't happy about it. It kept moving around, trying to see around Keith. Oddly, it wasn't attacking, but it did seem very annoyed.

"Knock it off!" He cried, trying to get the animal's attention. It shot a glare at him and for a moment, just a moment, their eyes met and-

Keith was transported to the stories that he had been told since his childhood. The stories of the Paladins and the Eagle Lions of Voltron, of the Avatar and their spirit guide. He saw a lot of faces that he had seen in textbooks and old tapestries. But new ones showed up too. He saw himself riding the Red Eagle Lion alongside them. Shiro was on the Black Eagle Lion, a Water Tribe boy on the Blue, an Earth Kingdom boy on Yellow, and a child with clothes that Keith didn't recognize astride the Green Eagle Lion. Among them were a skinny man with orange hair, a woman with dark skin and silver hair, both dressed in Altean clothes. Among them was a beast that Keith knew was a flying bison.

In a moment, the visions were gone. Keith stumbled back and distantly heard Shiro shouting his name.

The Red Eagle Lion shook her head violently, as if trying to get thoughts out of her head.

No! That wasn't right! He wasn't supposed to be her Paladin! There was a mistake! The other one! The bigger one!

Hold on, those weren't his thoughts. But he recognized the words from his history classes. He also remembered that it had been said that Eagle Lions and their Paladins had a mental connection and could share thoughts.

"No!" Keith yelled out loud, pointing at the animal in front of him, "No! I'm not your Paladin!"

"What are you talking about?" Shiro demanded, standing beside his brother.

"She says I'm her Paladin!" Keith cried. Shiro stared at him, then at the Red Eagle Lion, slowly putting two and two together.

"Keith..."

He was not her Paladin! The other one was far more suited to be one! Why did he have to be her Paladin? No! She wanted the tall one! He was the better one!

"Of course he is!" Keith yelled, "Make him your Paladin, not me!"

"What?" Shiro cried, but he was ignored.

Keith didn't understand! He was her Paladin, no matter what she thought! Nothing could change that fact. Destiny had chosen Keith for her, not him! Besides, he was destined to be the Black Paladin, not Red. She saw that now. She didn't like it very much either, but they couldn't change it. Which was absolutely unfair, as the Black Eagle Lion always got the best Paladins.

"Argh!" Keith groaned angrily and rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes. He sank down onto the ground, ignoring the heat rising up beneath him.

"What's going on?" Shiro demanded, kneeling beside Keith. The Eagle Lion was sat on her haunches, staring at them from a few metres away.

"I'm the Red Paladin of Voltron, apparently. And you're supposed to be the Black Paladin."

Shiro was silent for a long moment before speaking.

"Okay then."

"Okay then?" Keith cried, looking at Shiro in bewilderment, "We're Paladins! Do you have any idea how much this messes things up?"

"Of course I do," Shiro said, trying to remain calm, "But we can work around this."

Oh, by the way, they both had to accompany her to find the remaining members of Voltron.

"Seriously?" Keith yelled at the animal. She remained grumpy-looking.

"What?" Shiro tried again. He hated being left out of the loop and Keith's telepathic connection with his Eagle Lion was doing just that, "What's happened now?"

"We have to go and find the rest of Voltron," Keith grumbled, glaring at the animal.

"Okay," Shiro said, trying his best to remain calm. He wasn't afraid to admit that he wasn't entirely sure what had just happened, how it had happened, or what they would do next. He did know that they needed to remain calm, "Okay. We can work with this."

"How?" Keith cried, staring up at his brother in fear. Shiro was suddenly reminded that no matter how grown up Keith tried to act, he was still a teenager, young and unsure of the world. Sure, Shiro was still young, but he was an adult, he had faced war. He had more experience in life than his brother, which led Keith to look up to him.

"How are we going to do that, Shiro?" He yelled again, "The plan was to find Voltron and take them to father to destroy him! How are we supposed to do that if we're Paladins?"

"Well," Shiro said calmly, "We've already found a fourth of Voltron. We just have to find the other six and we'll have everyone. As for us being Paladins, well, we can find decoys to pretend to be their Paladins."

"Could that work?" Keith asked incredulously.

Shiro shrugged, "Who knows? We have time to figure it out. Just because we've found two Paladins and an Eagle Lion doesn't mean that we'll find the rest of Voltron in a week. We can perfect the plan while we're searching for the rest of the team."

Keith took a deep breath and stood up, Shiro following his actions.

"You're right," Keith said, looking at the Red Eagle Lion. She remained unmoved and seemed unimpressed with the whole scenario. He turned to her, "What's your name?"

She did not have a name. Her Paladin chose it for her.

"What did she say?" Shiro asked.

"She says that I have to choose her name," Keith said, "Every Paladin chooses their Eagle Lion's name, I think."

"Huh," Shiro said with a smile, "Cool. So what are you going to call her?"

Keith thought for a moment, unsure. The animal sat in front of him, waiting expectantly. Finally, he decided.

"Zuko," Keith said, "I think I'll call her Zuko."

Shiro nodded, "I think it's a perfect name."

Zuko thought it was a good name too. She had had better, but Zuko wasn't terrible.

Keith and Shiro stood there for a while, staring at Zuko while she stared right back. The two brothers were allowing themselves to revel in the fact that they were Paladins. Even though few would admit it, when most Fire Nation children learned about Voltron in their schools, they wanted to be a part of it. Travelling the world and fighting evil with mythical beings was tempting. Now Keith and Shiro were living that childhood fantasy.

As they were standing in silence, Keith raised his hand to shield his eyes against the setting sun.

The sunset.

"The Agni Kai!" Keith yelled, suddenly remembering.

"We won't have time to make it," Shiro said, looking at the sun falling beneath the trees, "It took us hours just to get here and we don't even know the way back.

Back to the village with the rest of the humans?

Keith looked back at Zuko, who still looked unimpressed.

"Yes," Keith said quickly, "Can you take us there? It's important!"

Of course she could take them there. Her wings weren't just for show.

She stood up and spread her wings fully, letting them bask in the glow of the setting sun. Keith would have more time to appreciate them after his Agni Kai.

Keith mounted up in the space between the wings and neck with Shiro cramped behind him.

"Are you sure about this?" Shiro asked nervously. He had never been a huge fan of heights....

"Yep," Keith said with a grin and mentally spurred Zuko into action.

She flexed her wings once, twice, before taking off and soaring above the treetops.

It was like nothing Keith had ever felt before.

He could see the world spread out below him, feel the wind whipping through his hair. He realized that he loved the feeling of flying, loved it. He preferred flying to staying on a ship any day. He needed open air and that was what he had.

There?

Keith looked down below at the small village, the people looking like ants.

"Down there," Keith pointed to the docks, "The small purple one."

Zuko had not known that they were Galra. She wasn't exactly happy about it.

"We're good," Keith promised, "We like the Fire Nation, not the Galra Empire."

Zuko could appreciate that.

"Oh yeah," Keith said as they slowly descended towards their ship, "Don't attack anyone on our crew or anything, alright? And we'll bring you food when we get back. But, uh, lay low I guess?"

Eagle Lions did not typically lay low.

"Isn't that what you guys did for like, a hundred years?"

Touché.

"This mental conversation is really weird," Shiro commented, his hands gripping Keith's waist tightly and eyes focused on Zuko's ears, "To me it just sounds like Keith talking to himself."

"I probably sound crazy, don't I?" Keith asked, but there was a smile to be heard in his tone.

They landed on the deck of their boat and the few crew members still aboard froze in shock as the great beast touched down.

They had barely touched the ground before Keith and Shiro slid off. Keith raced belowdecks to change while Shiro remained with Zuko.

"No one touches her," He commanded, "Keith has tamed an Eagle Lion of Voltron. No harm will come to you, so long as you leave her alone. Understand?"

The crew stuttered their comprehension. Shiro knew that he could be perfectly frightening when he so wished, but he didn't wish it very often. Although, the Eagle Lion probably helped.

After another minute of the crew nervously eyeballing Zuko, Keith returned, clad in a red vest, arm bands, and pants suitable for an Agni Kai. His scar on his right arm was clearly visible but everyone knew better than to say anything.

The two brothers quickly made their way to where the Agni Kai was held, making it there just as the sun was falling past the horizon.

"You're late," Sendak growled. He was clad in the same uniform, but the purple and red colours of the Galra rather than simple red, "I thought you wouldn't show up."

"You wish," Keith snapped. Shiro grabbed his arm and led him down to the far end of the area where they would duel. A command was called out and both dropped to one knee, their backs to each other.

"Remember your basics," Shiro urged.

Keith nodded as another command was called. Both he and Sendak stood up, shrugging off their vests to reveal bare chests. Keith was made painfully away of how skinny he was. He was built, certainly, but Commander Sendak was a grown man with many more years experience than him. But Keith would not lose.

The two faced each other, both in fighting stances. For a tense moment, they paced back and forth, nothing happening.

Then Keith got impatient and launched fireballs at Sendak, hoping to unbalance him. Unfortunately, Sendak merely bent the flames to move around him. It seemed as though they hadn't affected him at all. Keith was not happy about this.

He kept throwing fire at Sendak, but he just swatted it away. After a few seconds of this, Sendak starting throwing his own fire back at Keith, but it was more powerful and hotter. Sendak kept pushing forward, pushing Keith back. He was trying to keep his stance, he was, but after a particularly strong blast, he found himself on the ground and looking up at Sendak. He stood over him with a nasty grin plastered on his face. He pulled back one hand and punched it forward, flames extending from his body.

For a moment, Keith was frozen. He was reminded of the day he had been banished, of the sight of flames rushing towards his body, the feeling of helplessness. He also remembered how he had vowed to never let that happen again.

He turned on his side, twisting his body and kicking his feet above him, flames sprouting from his body. Sendak was pushed back and Keith sprung to his feet. It was his turn to push his opponent, and that's just what he did.

He came at Sendak mercilessly, throwing flame after flame. He remembered how Shiro often told him to aim for his opponent's roots. If their stance was unstable, their bending was weak. Keith pushed harder and harder, shoving Sendak back and aiming for his feet, forcing him to change his footing, making him unstable.

When Keith saw Sendak stumble, he put all of his strength into one blow. The force of it knocked Sendak to the ground and Zuko stood over him, poised for one last attack.

"What are you waiting for?" Sendak growled. It was obvious that he knew he was defeated.

Keith pulled pack and punched flames out of thin air.

But they didn't hit Sendak.

The ground beside his right ear was smouldering and steaming. Keith got off of him.

"Next time," He said, "I won't miss." Then he turned his back and smiled at Shiro, who stood by the sidelines beaming at him. Then his face changed and before Keith could question it, Shiro was moving.

Shiro had seen Sendak stand up and move towards Keith. He recognized the stance he was in and he knew the Commander well enough to know what he was planning to do. So Shiro quickly stepped in between the military leader and his brother. Sendak raised his leg and pushed his foot out, flames extending from his limb. Shiro bent the flames and grabbed Sendak's foot with his metal arm. Shiro glared before twisting Sendak's leg and throwing him onto the ground.

"Is this how the great Commander Sendak acts in defeat?" He asked in an acidic tone. He shook his head, "Even in exile, my brother has more honour than you." With that, he bowed sarcastically and stuck his hands inside his sleeves, "Thank you for the tea. It was delicious. Vrepit Sa." With that, he turned and started walking away, Keith following him.

Once they left the compound for the Agni Kai, Keith smiled up at his brother.

"Did you really mean that Shiro?"

Shiro smiled back at Keith, "Of course. I told you, jasmine tea is my favourite."

Keith continued smiling to himself.

When they boarded the ship, they found their entire crew nervously preparing for leave, eyeballing Zuko who was sunning lazily on the top of the control tower.

Keith whistled and she sat up. When she saw the two of them, she stretched lazily and then flew down to meet them, obviously in no big hurry.

"Hey girl," Keith said fondly, scratching behind her ears as she let him pet her, "I won my Agni Kai."

That was a big shock. She had rather hoped he would lose.

"You don't like me much, do you?" Keith asked with a smile. He felt great, and not even the idea of setting out to sea again or his grumpy pet could change that.

Well, it wasn't that she didn't like him. She was just a little slower at getting comfortable with her Paladins than everyone else.

"I see. Lucky me," Keith said, scratching her again. While he continued to talk with her, Shiro commanded that the crew be ready to set sail soon.

Two hours later, Shiro, Keith, and Zuko stood at the bow, watching night settle over the ocean.

"Where to?" Shiro asked Keith.

Keith pointed in a direction, "We head southeast. Two Paladins are there."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Blue And Yellow

Lance felt like he stuck out like someone from the Water Tribe in the Earth Kingdom. This was probably because he was someone from the Water Tribe in the Earth Kingdom.

It had been just over two weeks since Lance had left his home in the South Pole. As soon as he hit good, solid land where trees actually grew into forests, he knew he was terribly over dressed.

He had known that the world north of him was warmer, but he hadn't known how much. After Blue had touched down in an actual forest, Lance started getting far too hot. He quickly realized that his fur jacket would be too hot, as would his fur boots and pants. He had searched through his bags to find cooler clothes, which he was thankful for. He was much too used to the cold of the south and found it very weird to be wearing so little. It was certainly nice to not have to bulk up, but it was definitely odd.

But no matter how weather-appropriate he was dressed, he still felt eyes following him. Lance's logical side told him that it was just people glancing his way and moving on, but it certainly felt like everyone judging him. Sure, Lance loved to be the centre of attention, but all of this felt too unwanted.

He tried to forget about it and walked like he knew what he was doing, which was a lie. Two weeks he had been away from home and in two weeks he had eaten about half of his food, travelled to the south of the Earth Kingdom, and wandered through forests (which he found fascinating, by the way. Ice and trees didn't exactly go together so he was happy to see green for once). He hadn't found any sign of another Paladin or Eagle Lion aside from a slight pull in his stomach calling him northwest. Heck, he didn't even have a map! Which led him to why he was bothering with a town.

He had spent most of the two weeks flying, but when Blue did have to land, they made camp deep in the forest or by bodies of water, far away from people. Lance knew the dangers of showcasing an Eagle Lion. From his understanding, many people thought that Voltron had been destroyed for good. It wouldn't do well to prove them wrong lest they catch the Fire Nation's attention. So Lance had asked Blue to remain hidden in the forest which she happily agreed to. She would contact him if something happened, but Lance knew that probably wasn't a problem. She was most likely hunting.

And Lance was hunting for a Paladin and a map.

The pull in his gut had urged him to stop in this town which Lance had learned was mostly a hub for travellers. He took that as a plus, thinking that if the entire place was dedicated to travellers, there was bound to be at least one shop selling maps.

As Lance walked down the street, admiring the little shacks and shops and people, he saw a shop advertising maps.

"Bingo!" He said with a smile and walked over. The shopkeeper was a middle-aged man with pale skin, sharp eyes, brown hair, and a clean-shaven face. He was dressed in Earth Kingdom garb.

"Can I help you?" He asked with a smile that looked genuine but Lance felt it was fake, "Would you like to buy a map, perhaps?"

"Actually!" Lance grinned, "I would. How much?"

"Twenty gak."

Lance wasn't sure whether that was cheap or not for a map, but he needed one so he decided to take the offer. He rooted around in his pocket and pulled out a small pouch of money (he may have been naive, but he was smarter than to carry all of his money on him at once). He counted out twenty and held it out to the man, "Is this enough?"

The man's eyes widened and for a second he looked delighted, but it was gone quickly and replaced by anger, "Water Tribe money? Seriously?"

"Uh," Lance said warily, "yes?"

The man scowled, "Water Tribe money is worth next to nothing. Twenty in Water Tribe equals to about a hundred in Earth Kingdom."

"A hundred?" Lance squeaked. He looked down at the pouch and change in his hand. He had thought that the amount of money that his village had given him was a lot, but apparently not. Was he willing to spend so much money on a map? Did he really need it? If something as small and simple as a map cost so much, what would something like food and medicine cost?

Suddenly, someone large appeared next to him, also dressed in Earth Kingdom fashion. For a second, Lance thought that the person would beat him up, but they only glared at the shopkeeper.

The person beside Lance was a boy about his age and about his height as well. He had skin that was a little darker than Lance's with black hair and large brown eyes. He was wearing an off-white, long-sleeved shirt with a standing collar and stitches over his heart, as well as a brown and yellow vest. His pants were patched and brown, held up by a brown wrapping of fabric, the same type of fabric that he had tied around his forehead. But the boy didn't appear to be wearing shoes and Lance wondered whether or not that was normal for the Earth Kingdom. He didn't look like much, Lance observed.

Lance realized that the pull that he had been following since he left home felt stronger than ever, like he was right where he needed to be all along.

This boy was a Paladin.

Hunk had been looking for food when he had spotted the Water Tribe boy.

It had been almost two weeks since he had left his home and he had already eaten all of his food. It wasn't a huge problem as his parents had given him a ridiculous amount of money and inciting his name at any bank was sure to get him more. Still, he didn't like that he had wasted all that food. Well, it wasn't wasted, but it definitely could have been preserved for longer. It wasn't Hunk's fault that he was a nervous eater and being on a quest to save the world tended to make one nervous.

So, with his stomach grumbling, Hunk had gone into a traveller's town to see what he could find to eat. He had left Rocky to play in a ravine with lots of caves. He was a little worried about her, but she had promised to call if anything happened.

That was when he had seen the boy.

It was not an oddity to see people in strange clothes in towns like this. Nomads in all colours and styles came from all over, not to mention different fashions from different parts of the Earth Kingdom and the rare Firebender. But it was extremely odd to find someone from the Water Tribe, or what he assumed were such. The boy had skin a little lighter than Hunk's with messy brown hair kept up in a short warrior's ponytail, loose pieces of hair escaping it and framing his face, along with a piece of which hung down past his chin, kept together by a little bit of blue cloth. He wore a blue tank top with white and light blue triangle accents and a brown hood lined with white fur. His pants were a dark blue and tucked into brown boots. Around his waist was the hide of some animal, probably the same animal that had supplied the hood. He also had odd wrappings on his arms: on his right, cloth with the same colour scheme and patterns as his shirt ran from his middle finger to halfway up his forearm. Another wrapping of the same type was around his bicep. On his other arm, the wrapping ran from his forearm and ended at the same place where the other did. And around his neck was a thick, square necklace that seemed to be made out of bones. It was a fashion he had never seen, but Hunk had a feeling it was Water Tribe from the colours and the fur.

Hunk knew from his studies that the Northern Water Tribe was thriving, but they didn't get out much. His books had said that they preferred to keep to themselves, that outsiders were dangerous. He didn't know much about the Southern Tribe, though. He knew it was small and it had no Waterbenders, as they had all been taken away years and years ago. So he was definitely surprised to see someone from the Water Tribe. He wasn't surprised to see that they were getting swindled.

The boy seemed to be trying to buy a map and the man selling it to him was obviously pricing it far too high.

Normally, Hunk would've walked right on by. If wasn't that he didn't care, he did, but he was bad with confrontations and too nervous to try. But a feeling in Hunk's gut, the same feeling that urged him to land in that specific town for food, was pulling him in the direction of the boy. So, Hunk took a deep breath and followed the feeling.

He stood next to the boy, whom he could feel staring at him. He felt an odd sensation, like something had clicked. A part of him told Hunk that he had just found another Paladin.

"Excuse me," Hunk tried for polite but he thought he sounded too nervous, "but how much is a map?"

"Twenty," The shopkeeper said with a smile that Hunk had seen a million times in the markets where his parents sold their wares. Hunk had to admit that twenty was perfectly reasonable for a map, so he wasn't sure what the problem was. He turned to the boy, who seemed to be blushing? He ignored that and spoke to him.

"Hey, do you not have enough?"

Lance stared at the other boy for a moment, trying to comprehend. He was very cute, and he was standing a little too close....

"Uh," Lance stumbled over his words, "I think so, but I don't want to spend so much...."

Hunk looked down to see that the boy was holding Water Tribe money.

The shopkeeper clicked his tongue in mock sympathy, "It's the exchange, I'll tell ya. Water Tribe money is worth maybe five times less than Earth Kingdom money. Six for Fire Nation."

The water boy seemed to deflate. Hunk frowned and turned to the man behind the counter.

"No it's not."

For a moment, the man's smile wavered, "I beg your pardon?"

"I said, it's not," Hunk tried for confidence, "I don't know whether you know this, but Water Tribe money is worth like, three times as much as Earth Kingdom money."

Lance couldn't believe his ears. Water Tribe, worth more than Earth Kingdom? Not possible.

"Surely you're mistaken," The shopkeeper said, their smile gone.

"I'm sure I'm not," Hunk said.

"What do you know of foreign exchange rates?" The man sneered, "You're just a petty traveller."

Lance had to admit that the man had a point. The boy's clothes seemed ordinary and a little tattered. Lance definitely appreciated his help and was overjoyed that he had found another Paladin (especially one so attractive and cuddly-looking), but he didn't think that such a simple thing as a map should be this much trouble.

"You know what," Lance piped up with a polite smile, "It's fine, I can just-"

"No," Hunk said stubbornly. He would not let a fellow teammate get pushed around by some swindling shopkeeper. Although he didn't really want to, he pulled out the card that signified him as Hunk Garrett; a green fabric card etched in gold, bearing his name, his family name, and the family crest, a flying boar. He slid it across the table in a manner so that way the other boy couldn't see. Hunk could tell that he was trying to get a look, but he angled his hand and body to hide it.

When the shopkeeper saw it, his eyes widened. Hunk knew that he was ridiculously rich and he also knew that pretty much everyone else knew it too. It was uncommon for a wealthy household to be without a piece of Garrett work, be it floor tiles, doors, ceiling designs, garden decorations, or mosaics, the Garretts catered to all types of stone masonry and almost everyone in the Earth Kingdom, even some in the Fire Nation, knew of the Garretts and their talent.

"M-my apologies," The man said, bowing so quickly that he hit his head off of the counter. The Water Tribe boy chuckled a little bit and Hunk couldn't help but smile, "I had no idea, I mean, in those clothes, not to say that there's anything wrong with them, but-"

"Hey man," Hunk said easily, hiding his family crest back in his pocket, "It's no big deal. Just give this guy here a map."

The boy looked at Lance and for a moment, he was frozen. He had no idea what had just happened, but it was pretty darn cool. Then Lance realized that he was supposed to pay, so he counted out the new amount and handed it to the shopkeeper. The man took it and handed him the map he had asked for in the first place.

"Thank you for your business," He said, bowing again but missing the counter this time, "Safe travels."

"Thanks," Hunk said with a smile and turned away. After a moment, the boy followed him.

"Thank you," The boy said, tossing the rolled up map from one hand to another, "That was pretty awesome."

Hunk shrugged, "It was nothing. You looked like he was tricking you, so I thought I should help."

The boy laughed, "Yeah he was! I almost gave him all my money too!"

Hunk raised an eyebrow, "Really? For a map? What about food?"

The boy shrugged dramatically and started swinging the map with his arms, "I've never had to worry about money before, we don't use it where I come from. And as for food, I can hunt and cook for myself. I don't like it much, but I would rather do that than waste money on food."

"But is it wasted if it's spent on food?" Hunk asked with a smile. The boy smiled too before stopping in front of him and sticking out his free hand.

"The name's Lance," He said with a smirk, "But you can call me anytime."

Hunk snorted and shook his hand, "Is that supposed to be a pick-up line? Because it's not very good."

"Uh!" Lance scoffed, "I'm wounded by your words. It was a great pick-up line, thank you very much!"

Hunk laughed and continued walking through the street, Lance keeping pace, "No, it really wasn't. Besides, you're not really my type."

"Ah," Lance said easily, going back to fiddling with the rolled up map, "I see. So you're straight?"

Hunk shook his head, "No, not really. I guess gender just doesn't really matter to me? I don't know but I don't really care."

Lance nodded, "Cool, I can appreciate that. I like ladies and dudes, so it's twice the fun."

"And how often do your flirts work?"

Lance grumbled, "To be fair, the only practice I've gotten is from my neighbours. But you know what they say: practice makes perfect!"

"Yeah, I'm sure. Juts don't practice on me, alright?"

"No promises."

"Fair enough," Hunk said, "So, you're a Paladin?"

They had both felt it, but neither was quite sure how to address it. The Paladins were wanted, after all. It wouldn't have been the best idea to shout it out. But Hunk decided to probe, see what happened.

Lance grinned proudly, "Yup! I'm the Blue Paladin! You?"

Hunk sighed in relief, "Yellow."

"Cool!" Lance said excitedly, "So are you a Bender? An Earthbender? Because I'm a Waterbender."

Hunk smiled and nodded, "Yeah, I'm an Earthbender. I'm not afraid to say that I'm pretty good at bending. What about you?"

Lance stopped playing with his map and pouted, "I'm the only Waterbender in my tribe, so I've never had a teacher to, y'know, teach me."

Hunk stared at him, "So you're self-taught?"

Lance shrugged and started playing with his map again, "Yeah, I guess so. We had some old scrolls left over so I learned from those and just kind of made up my own moves."

"That's impressive," Hunk said, "I learned from my teachers and from the badger moles near my house so-"

"Badger moles?" Lance asked in awe, "What are those?"

"Oh, well," Hunk tried to think of a way to explain them, "They're big and I mean they're huge. They're brown with black and white stripes and they have weird noses and huge claws that they can earthbend with...."

Hunk and Lance continued chatting about their local wildlife and how different it was. They were both equally terrified at some of the animals. Lance prayed that he'd never ever run into a sabre-tooth moose lion while Hunk wished that he had never heard the words "polar bear dog".

As they were walking and talking, Lance stopped and stared in awe at a booth. When Hunk looked at it, he saw that it sold musical instruments and sheet music.

"Are these for music?" Lance asked softly, still entranced by the wooden instruments.

Hunk frowned, "Yeah. Do you guys not have this kind of stuff?"

Lance shrugged loosely, not taking his eyes off of the shop, "A little bit. There aren't exactly a whole lot of materials to work with, so we don't have a whole lot of variety. I've never seen instruments like this."

Hunk looked at Lance, at the shop, then back at Lance.

"So buy one."

Lance looked at Hunk in shock, "No, I can't. The money-"

"You've got plenty of money," Hunk laughed, "And I kind of know how to play a little liuqin. Not a whole lot, but enough to teach you one or two songs."

"You would do that?" Lance asked, his eyes and smile wide. He had never seen such instruments, they all looked so intricate and big. He wondered what they sounded like.

When Hunk smiled back at him as confirmation, Lance's grin grew. He picked out what Hunk had called a liuqin; an instrument with a long neck, four strings, many ridges in the wood, and an oddly shaped body. Lance had no idea what it was, or what the sheet music that he bought said, but he loved it.

When he strummed the strings, they let out a sound that Lance had never heard the likes of before. He barely knew the name but he was determined to learn.

As Hunk purchased food for the two of them, a warm, crispy meat that Lance had never had, he gave pointers and told Lance where to put his fingers. By the time that they had passed the shops, Lance could switch from an A, to a G, to an F, to a C, and then to a B with no problem at all.

"You're really good at this," Hunk said as he happily munched on his meat on a stick, "Soon enough, I'll run out of things to teach you."

"Really?" Lance asked with a smile as he strummed another chord.

"Sure! I mean, you've got the hands for it." He gestured with his stick at Lance's hands cradling the instrument, "They're long and thin, perfect for music. Mine, not so much. They're short and square, which is perfect for earthbending, so I'm happy."

"Your hands are perfect, just like the rest of you," Lance said with a wink and a smirk as he strummed a tune.

Hunk rolled his eyes and groaned, "Come on man. I bought you food and now I'm gonna teach you music, something that I hate. In exchange, can you not flirt with me?"

Lance pretended to think for a moment before smiling and sticking out his right hand, "It will be torturous to keep my comments about someone as attractive as you to myself, but, in exchange for food and music, it's not a bad deal."

Hunk took Lance's hand and they shook on the deal. They both seemed satisfied and continued walking away from the town.

After walking a few moments in silence broken only by their feet, the distance sounds of the village, and Lance's liuqin, Lance spoke up.

"So, like, I won't flirt with you, but I can flirt with other people, right?"

Hunk sighed, "Yeah, I don't really care, so long as it doesn't get us into trouble."

"Well, you're in for a heck of a ride," Lace said with confidence.

Hunk laughed, "Speaking of which, where is your ride? I left mine in the canyon on the other side of the town, but it looks like it runs all the way to here so...."He trailed off, unsure of what to say next.

"So your Eagle Lion can come here," Lance said. Then he pointed to a cluster of trees, "I hid Blue in there. She hasn't said anything to me, so I'm kind of assuming that she's still in there. Hold on, lemme call her-"

"Wait!" Hunk said, grabbing Lance's shoulder, "We don't want people to see the Eagle Lions right?"

"Right...." Lance said with a smile, "Of course, how silly of me. Do you know if the canyon runs into the forest? Because we can get both of our Eagle Lions in there."

Hunk let go of Lance's shoulder and looked at the canyon. Then he closed his eyes and tried to expand his sight beneath the ground, using his seismic sense to feel the tremors and changes in the earth.

After a couple of seconds, he opened his eyes and turned back to Lance, "Yeah, it stops a little ways behind the tree line, but Rocky should be able to get enough cover."

"How did you do that?" Lance asked in awe.

"Uh, do what?"

"That thing!" Lance gestured with his instrument and the map, which he had tucked under his arm, fell to the ground. He hardly noticed, "You just closed your eyes and didn't move, were you, like, meditating?"

"Sort of?" Hunk scratched his chin absently, "It's something called seismic sense. It basically allows me to see with my feet, feel the earth beneath me."

"That's amazing!" Lance gushed as he picked up the map, "Where did you learn that?"

"The badger moles."

"Cool!" As they walked towards the forest, Hunk mentally called Rocky and told her to meet them in the woods, they would find her from there. Lance continued to gush about Hunk's seismic sense, asking him questions and going on about how cool it was.

"I wish I could do something like that," Lance admitted, "With waterbending, it's pretty straightforward, I don't think that there are any separate branches. Except for healing, maybe."

"Wait, you can heal people with water?" Hunk asked as they passed the tree line.

"Yeah." Lance shrugged, "I'm not like a doctor or anything, but I know the basics. It's mostly just from old scrolls and splicing it from Gam Gam's ways."

"That's pretty handy," Hunk said with a smile, "We might need that some day."

"I hope not! I'm not exactly good at healing."

Both boys laughed as they walked deeper into the forest. Well, if it could even be called that. Hunk decided that it really wasn't large enough to be called a forest, more like a group of trees.

"Blue's over here," Lance said, walking off the path and to the left, towards the canyon. Hunk followed and they both ducked to avoid branches.

As they entered a sort of clearing, Hunk saw what must have been Blue taking a nap in the space between the trees.

"Hey!" Lance greeted happily. Blue lifted her head to look at Lance and Hunk.

Oh good. Lance had found the Yellow Paladin.

"Aren't you so proud of me?" Lance teased. Blue rolled her eyes.

"Man," Hunk commented, "The telepathy thing really is weird from an outside view. Anyways, it's nice to meet you, Blue."

Blue yawned and stretched before standing up and padding over to the boys. She nudged against both of them, demanding to be pet.

When both boys complied, Lance noticed that Hunk seemed to be a bit confused.

"What is it?"

"Oh, nothing," Hunk said, staring at Blue, "It's just...I thought that she would be a bit bigger."

"Bigger?"

Before either could say anything, they heard the beat of giant wings coming from the canyon. Blue perked up and started purring louder, walking away from the boys and towards the canyon. There was a loud thud and heavy footsteps followed by a large yellow beast appearing beside Blue.

Lance's jaw dropped.

He had thought that Blue was huge, and she was, no doubt about that. She was easily taller and bigger than even the biggest polar bear dog, which was saying something. But the Eagle Lion that Hunk had called Rocky.... She was massive. She was easily twice Lance's height and had more muscle than Blue.

"Holy...." Lance trailed off, unsure how to finish his statement.

"Sorry," Hunk apologized, "I kind of thought they were all this big?"

Lance stared at Blue and Rocky as the two engaged in a game sort of like tag. Really, now that he looked at her properly, Rocky wasn't that much bigger than Blue was. Enough to tell, yes, but not that much.

"Don't apologize, bro," Lance said easily, "It's cool. Come on, let's figure out what we're going to do next."

Soon the four members of Voltron sat around the map which Lance had unrolled and pinned down with a few rocks. He had put his liuqin and money into his saddle bags and Hunk had done the same with his money. Hunk and Lance sat against the bellies of their peacefully sleeping steeds, trying to create a course of action.

"So here's where we are," Hunk said, pointing at the map. Lance had a twig burned at the tip and used that to mark the place with a circle.

"This is the South Pole," Lance said, making a circle around his home.

"I kind of knew that," Hunk said and pointed at a different part of the Earth Kingdom, "This is my town." Lance made another circle, "Here, here, and here are all powerful Fire Nation colonies. I sort of come from one, but the older ones I hear are pretty different. I say we might want to stay away from them."

"Got it," Lance said, making Xs over the spots where Hunk had pointed. Then he jabbed his pencil at a spot in the Earth Kingdom; three circles around each other, "What's that?"

"That's Garrison," Hunk said, "It's the largest and safest Earth Kingdom city, maybe in the world. It's got three walls to protect its people. They say the walls are impenetrable and only one man has ever gotten close to taking the city."

"Who?"

"His name is General Takashi Shirogane, the oldest son of Emperor Zarkon," Hunk almost whispered the name, as if afraid to summon the General himself.

"How far did he get?" Lance asked. Being from the South Pole, he didn't exactly know a whole lot about the world north of him. He knew that there was a war initiated by the Fire Nation that had lasted a hundred years now, but he didn't know details like names and foreign events. All of his information came from Gam Gam's stories and the rare messages from their tribe members fighting abroad.

"He got all the way to the second wall," Hunk said, pointing at the middle circle on the map, "When he was halfway through tearing it down, he was ambushed. He destroyed the enemy, but not before he had lost half of his men."

"Wow," Lance said. The General sounded like a powerful and terrifying man. Lance prayed to the spirits that he would never, ever have to face him.

"But that's not all," Hunk said with a frown, "Instead of calling for reinforcements, he just packed up and left. Took all of his soldiers and just walked away from what could have been his victory. We were happy, of course, since if Garrison falls, it's only a matter of time before the rest of the Earth Kingdom does too. But everyone was so confused. Takashi Shirogane was a prince, heir to the throne, and a fearless leader. Why would he have just quit and gone back home?"

"Does anyone know?"

Hunk shook his head, "Nope. He hasn't been seen in years. I have no idea what's he's doing now. Probably commanding troops from the capital, like a coward."

Lance hummed and stared at the map intensely. Hunk observed that the other boy was obviously thinking about something.

"What?" He pressed.

Lance frowned down at the map and fisted his hand, resting his chin on it and staring thoughtfully at the drawings while his other hand twirled his writing utensil. After another moment of thought, he spoke.

"So this Shirogane, he's like, super powerful, right?"

"Yeah," Hunk said slowly, "I mean, I would think so since he's heir to the throne and all. Why?"

"Because," Lance pointed at Garrison, "A man, born into a powerful and aggressive country, growing up knowing nothing other than war and politics, is sent out into battle. A lot of things can happen, but two things are most common."

"What?" Hunk asked.

"The first is that they choke," Lance said, turning to look at Hunk with a serious expression, "They realize that war is nothing like they thought it would be. They panic and they run home with their tails between their legs, making complete fools of themselves."

"But General Shirogane didn't choke," Hunk said with uncertainty, "He made it all the way to the second wall before turning around. So that's not what happened to him, right? I mean, he spent like a whole year laying siege to the city!"

"Nah," Lance said, back to staring at the map. He had switched out his utensil for some water, making it take shape and move absently, "I don't think so. I think the second thing happened to Shirogane."

"And.... What's that?"

Lance turned back to Hunk, "He realized something. Something that he hadn't been taught before he marched off. No. I don't think the General choked. I think that about the time when he was ambushed he realized something. I'm not sure what exactly, but it was drastic enough to make him want to stop fighting a war in his father's name and return home."

Hunk was silent for a while, mulling Lance's words over in his head. To be honest, he had never thought much about the General or his army. Hunk had hardly thought about the war itself at all. Sure, he kept up with the events and what was happening and all that, but that was mostly from school and what his parents' clients told him. Hunk had always thought of himself as detached from the war. The closest it had ever come to him was in the form of colonization, but that had been so long ago that Hunk couldn't remember and it wasn't so bad, really.

"You sure know a lot about war," Hunk commented, "For someone who doesn't know a whole lot about the war."

Lance suddenly tensed up. He realized that he might have let too much slip. He shouldn't have said anything about the General, not like he mattered anyways. Hunk had said that he hadn't been seen since his famous siege. He was most likely chilling in a huge palace back in the Fire Nation at the heart of the Galra Empire.

"Haha, yeah, funny how that works, isn't it?" Lance said nervously, rolling up the map, "Well, would you look at the time? It's getting pretty dark, don't you think? I think we should get going and fly off to find another Paladin, hide out, make camp for the night. I think that's a wonderful idea."

Hunk was skeptic about his new friend's sudden change in attitude but decided not to say anything about it. Instead he just sat up with a groan and gently shook Rocky awake.

"Yeah, I think so too. Apparently there's a forest not too far from here. We can definitely make it before sundown if we fly."

"But aren't we already in a forest?" Lance asked as he loaded the map into his saddlebag.

"This doesn't really count as a forest," Hunk said as he grabbed a coat. Flying was cold, "It's really just a bunch of trees."

"Isn't that what a forest is?"


About two hours later, the boys and their steeds were curled up in their blankets and bedrolls around a fire deep in what apparently were "real woods".

"Wow," Hunk said as a Lance fanned the flames, "I didn't think you would know how to make a good fire. I'm kind of impressed."

"Please," Lance scoffed proudly as he sat back against a purring Blue, his bedroll gathered at his waist, "If I can make a fire in the South Pole, I can make a fire anywhere."

"Maybe you're secretly a Firebender," Hunk teased, "Then you'd be the Avatar."

Lance snorted, "Nope, no way. It's bad enough being a Paladin, I don't think I could handle the responsibilities of being the 'bridge between the Spirit World and our world', the 'keeper of peace', 'master of all'. Nah, I can get with being a Paladin."

Hunk chuckled in agreement and snuggled against Rocky's head, who nudged him in return.

For a little while, the two stared at the crackling flames, listening to the night sounds. It was peaceful and quiet. Hunk had almost forgotten how much he loved camping from when he went with his parents.

Then Lance sighed and stood up, walking over to his things. After some rummaging around, he pulled out the liuqin and sat back down.

"How about some music, Hunk buddy?" He asked with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.

"What if someone hears us?" Hunk worried.

"Psssh," Lance waved his hand dismissively, "No one's around. And if they do hear us, they'll think it's a couple of travellers, which we are. Now, let's see." Lance strummed a couple of chords, "I don't know any songs made for this instrument, but these notes should be okay. Hold on."

Then he started to strum a single note in a pattern, one-two...three, one-two...three.

After a couple of strums to build an atmosphere, Lance opened up his mouth and sang, keeping up the strumming at a constant pace. The singing started out low, long and interchanging. Then Lance steadily climbed higher, making loops with his voice. It reached a high point and Lance hit it perfectly. Hunk's jaw dropped.

The song was mostly vowels in a language that Hunk couldn't understand. He was sure that he had never heard it before, but it sounded nice. The way Lance sang it, it sounded eerie, lilting, like it was floating.

And Lance's voice. Hunk wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but this surely hadn't been it. Lance had a beautiful, smooth voice that carried sound perfectly. The song was so pretty it was soothing, but it was too exciting to be a lullaby.

Lance continued to sing in an odd language and strum the single note in the same pattern for a few more minutes. He had his eyes closed so he couldn't see Hunk's expression, which he was grateful for. Hunk was absolutely hypnotized by Lance's voice. He recalled his mother singing him soft lullabies, but Lance's voice was nothing like that.

When Lance neared the end of the song, he played some notes on the liuqin that sounded a little like a water bird calling. His voice softened and got lower, repeating words and becoming shorter. He went back to strumming pattern, his voice fading. Once he was done, Lance opened his eyes and smiled at Hunk.

"So, uh, yeah."

"That was amazing!" Hunk said with a grin, "I didn't know you could sing like that! And that language, I've never heard that! Is that your first language?"

Lance laughed, blushing slightly. He was thankful that it was dark, "Aha, well, thank you. And no, that's not my first language at all. We speak the same as everyone else, we just use that for our music."

"So what was the song saying?" Hunk asked excitedly.

Lance shrugged, strumming chords absently, "I dunno. Not very many people know what the words actually mean. I have no idea myself, I just think it makes it sound so much nicer. Gam Gam knows the words, but she told me they're mostly just vowels and sounds."

"Wow," Hunk said, very impressed, "Are all of your songs like that?"

"Mostly, yeah," Lance said, "We have other stuff too, though, but it's all pretty different. What about you? What's your music like?"

"Our music is actually a fair bit like the Fire Nation's," Hunk said as he wrapped his blankets tighter, "Most of our songs tell stories."

"That sounds awesome." Lance smiled and yawned, setting down his instrument, "You'll have to teach me sometime. But for now, it's sleep."

"Agreed," Hunk said, lying down with his head beside Rocky's. Lance had snuggled the rest of his way into his blue bedroll with the same patterns that were on his clothes. It had a hood so Hunk could only see Lance's face. He was nestled against Blue's belly.

"Hey Lance?"

"Mm?"

"What was the name of that song? Do you know?"

"Northern Spirit. Now go to sleep."

"Alright. Goodnight, Lance, Rocky, Blue."

"Goodnight, Hunk, Blue, Rocky."

Goodnight, Paladins.

 

 

Chapter Text


Blue, Yellow, and Green.

Pidge was not having a good time.

The outside world was nothing like the Swamp, which Pidge had expected but nonetheless found disorienting at the least and terrifying at the most.

Pidge had learned harshly that money indeed existed, and she did not have any nor did she know how to use it. It had happened when Pidge had decided to try outsider food, since she didn't know how to hunt very well.

Pidge had marched right into an Earth Kingdom village and up to a shop on a road advertising food. She had politely asked for some meat but had been taken aback when the woman behind the counter had said, "That'll be ten."

"Ten?" Pidge had asked, "Ten what?"

"Money!" The woman had said angrily, "You need money to buy things."

"Oh," Pidge had said, "I don't have any money. Maybe I could trade you something instead?"

The woman had only turned Pidge away, rather rudely, she thought.

Since then, Pidge had made a little bit of an effort to avoid towns and people. She didn't need outsiders getting in the way of her quest, plus Pidge didn't understand outside customs. They were too complicated.

Pidge and Rover had tried to remain hidden, whether in forests, above the clouds, or in tunnels. Both Pidge and Rover liked forests and places where there were plants better, since they could be more effective there.

For food, Rover had supplied most of it. Pidge had always had trouble starting fires, but now she had no one to help her. Rover felt bad, but there was nothing she could do. The Red Eagle Lion was the Guardian Spirit of Fire, she would have been able to help had she been present.

But Rover did share her kills with Pidge. SHe were careful about what she ate and at least tried to get some heat on the meat before she ate it so as not to get sick, but Pidge didn't know how long she could keep it up.

To be brutally honest, Pidge was grossly unprepared.

Pidge didn't want to admit it, especially since she had spent so much time packing and repacking, training and preparing. But Pidge had been so focused on finding her family, she hadn't thought about what she would do before and afterwards.

Pidge was very tempted to go back home to her village in the Swamp and be loved by her tribe. But that wasn't an option. No, Pidge had vowed to return only when she had gotten their family back, and she would do just that.

If she survived long enough in the wilderness.

Pidge hoped to find the other Paladins soon, for many reasons, the most important being that the faster they were all gathered together, the sooner Pidge could find her family. Of course, there where other reasons. Logic told Pidge that at least one of the Paladins would know how to attain food, be it hunting or through money, Pidge didn't care. She was sick of almost raw meat and unprepared meals.

But most of all, Pidge was lonely. She had spent her entire life in a community where sticking together was the most important aspect of life. Pidge had never been alone in the Swamp, not really. In the village, there was always someone, there were always animals in the swamp, and the Swamp itself was a sentient being, keeping watch over them. Pidge had spent her entire life surrounded by other things and now, she was completely and utterly alone. Pidge missed being able to talk with people and laugh with them, to play pranks and dance and even argue. Pidge felt so much smaller without her community around her.

Sure, Rover helped a lot, but she wasn't perfect. Rover and Pidge got along very well, actually. But Pidge was longing for human interaction, to have an actual, verbal conversation with someone, even if they weren't from their tribe.

Rover had told Pidge that if they followed the feeling in her gut, she would find the other Paladins. But Pidge had been following it with no luck for almost three weeks. Two weeks ago, the direction in which the feeling had been pulling Pidge towards changed. Pidge got the feeling that at least two of the other Paladins had found each other and were now trying to find Pidge. That made Pidge feel a little better, knowing that she wasn't alone in their search. There were people out there looking for Pidge, just as Pidge was looking for them.

But at the moment, Pidge was nestled in the woods by a little pond. Pidge felt better near water, since she wasn't completely helpless. She nestled close to Rover who was eating her kill. Pidge tried cooking it over the fire, but it was barely more than smoke.

Suddenly, she felt something. Pidge and Rover both sat up straight, staring up above them. They had both felt it, Pidge knew. It was the tugging in her gut, but it was stronger than ever. It was drawing Pidge towards the other Paladins, and they were close. But, they were flying overhead and it was was dark. Pidge wondered if they felt the same thing, but they couldn't risk it, she had to go and see them. But Pidge was wary about flying up to meet them. Sure, it was dark, but it was also a full moon and a town was just past the forest. Two Eagle Lions flying around was risky enough, Pidge couldn't risk a sighting.

No. Pidge was going to bring the Paladins to them.

Lance and Hunk flew above the forest, using the light that the moon generously provided to see as they soared above the treetops.

"You feel that?" Lance called to Hunk. He gripped Rocky tightly and refused to look anywhere but at the horizon. Lance had quickly learned that Hunk didn't do so well with movement.

"Yeah," Hunk said, laser-focused on the town on the horizon, "There must be another Paladin nearby. Maybe in the village?" Hunk was hopeful. He hadn't seen a proper bed or really even a meal in ages. Maybe they could stay at an inn and hide the Eagle Lions....

"No," Lance said, shaking his head, "I don't think so. Remember when we met? It was weak right up until we actually came in contact with each other. So they've gotta be really close. I think they're below us?"

"Below us?" Hunk squeaked, glancing down at the tree tops, "I dunno Lance. I don't think a forest at night is a great idea."

"Why not?" Lance scoffed, "We're Benders, Paladins of Voltron with our Eagle Lions! What could possibly- HOLY!"

Blue swerved and Lance held on tight as a green thing shot up out of the forest and tried to grab for him.

"What was that?" Hunk cried. Rocky stopped and hovered in the air, trying to sense where it was coming from, "I told you the forest at night wasn't a good idea!"

"Hunk, watch out!"

Hunk cried out in surprise and avoided another green thing, which appeared to be a vine.

"Lance, it's a plant! The plants are attacking us!"

"Don't be ridiculous!" Lance yelled back, "I'm sure it's just- AAAAAAH!" He cried as a plant wrapped around Blue's leg and started pulling her down. He bent the water out of his container and sliced the tendril, surprised to see that it really was a vine, "The plants are attacking us!"

"I told you!"

"Shut up and help me!"

The four tried to fight off the vines until one grabbed Lance around his chest and pulled him off of Blue.He yelled as the vine pulled him down into the forest, watching as Blue, Hunk, and Rocky dove after him.

When he looked down at the ground, he saw the reflection of a pond. In desperation, he waved his arms wildly, hoping to create a waterspout or something. He managed to bring the water up to him and absorb his impact, cutting the vines along the way. He landed in the water with a tremendous splash and a haze of bubbles. He blindly kicked his way to the surface and gasped for air, finding it hard to breathe.

He was used to the cold, but he hadn't ever gone swimming in cold water. His lungs seized up and his limbs went numb. He paddled to the edge and pulled himself out, gasping for air and trying to get warm. He bent the water off of himself in an attempt to make himself warmer, but it didn't help a whole lot.

Blue landed beside him and started nuzzling him.

Was he alright?

"I'm a little chilly," Lance said with a smile, scratching under her chin, "But I'm still alive."

"Aw, man, Lance!" Hunk cried, hopping off of Rocky as she landed and running over to him, "I thought that when those vines grabbed you, you were done for!"

"Nah," Lance said with a smile, "Takes a lot more than that to take down Lance!"

Hunk laughed and offered his hand, which Lance gladly took. He easily hauled Lance to his feet and the two stood close together, their Eagle Lions flanking them.

"So what do you think did it?" Hunk whispered, suddenly very aware that they were in a possibly haunted forest.

"Dunno," Lance whispered back, "But whatever it is, we can take it." Then he got into what he hoped was a fighting stance and bent some of the pond water into a puddle in the air.

Hunk was less sure of his abilities, but he got into a defensive stance and closed his eyes, using his seismic sense to probe. Then he felt something; a small body accompanied by a large animal much like Blue and Rocky.

Before he could warn Lance, the two beings stepped forward into a patch of moonlight where both boys could clearly see them.

The first and most noticeable was the Eagle Lion. It was much like their own, but a fair bit smaller and with a green coat. Her Paladin was small, maybe coming up to Hunk's shoulder. SHe had messy light brown hair with leaves sticking out of it, large brown eyes, and a petite physique. She wore a simple green shirt that covered her shoulders and green pants that went just past her knees of the same shade and texture. Strapped onto her shins and forearms were pieces of bark, held down by vines.

"Uh, hello," The gill spoke nervously, "I'm Pidge, the Green Paladin, and this is Rover. I'm guessing you guys are Paladins too?"

The two boys in front of Pidge exchanged a glance, but Pidge was too busy looking at their Eagle Lions. Both of them were significantly bigger than Rover, the yellow one being the biggest. Pidge had thought that the other Eagle Lions would have been the same size as Rover, but apparently not. Pidge wondered if Rover was the smallest, and if the others were even bigger than the two new Eagle Lions.

Finally, the blue boy let the water fall back into the pond and stepped forward, offering his hand, "I'm Lance, and this is my friend Hunk. My Eagle Lion's Blue, his is Rocky. Nice to meet you, Pidge."

Pidge wasn't sure what to do with the hand. After all, she still wasn't used to non-Swamp customs. Warily, she stepped forward and grasped the hand. The boy, Lance, moved their hands up and down. The one called Hunk stepped forward and did the same thing, although he seemed really nervous about it.

"Okay," Hunk said, wringing his hands, "Now that we've all met, I say we find a nice place to stay the night and get far away from here."

"I second that," Lance said, walking towards Blue, "Come on, Pidge."

"Wait," Pidge said, "Why are you leaving? What's wrong with here?"

"Uh," Lance said sarcastically, "Did you happen to see the giant murder vines?"

Pidge frowned, "Yeah, I did. That was me."

It was silent for a little while as Hunk and Lance processed what they had just heard.

"WHAT?" Lance and Hunk both cried at the same time. Then they both started rambling.

"That was so cool!" Lance gushed, "Oh man, how did you do that? You just made the vines go whoosh and swish and it was so awesome! Was it bending? I've never heard of a Plantbender before! That was wicked! Wait, where are you from? Are there a lot of Plantbenders? Is there a way I can learn?"

At the same time, Hunk was rambling nervously, "That was terrifying, man! We were just flying, minding our own business, when Bam! you come out and attack us. Was that really necessary? I mean, we totally could've just come down or you could've just flown up to us or something. That's it, I'm scarred. Scarred for life. I will never look at plants the same again."

"Hey!" Pidge cried, shutting the both of them up, "How about we make camp and then talk?"

That sounded like a good idea.

Within an hour, the three Paladins huddled around an impressive fire while the Eagle Lions flew overhead, using the darkness to hide them.

"That's impressive that you can light a fire so easily," Pidge said as Lance stoked the flames.

He shrugged, "Well hey, when you live in a place that's like 90% ice, you learn how to build a fire in the worst conditions."

"Hmm," Pidge hummed thoughtfully and stared at the flames. Hunk and Lance shared a glance before Hunk cleared his throat and Pidge looked up.

"So, um," He ventured, "Could you maybe, like, answer some questions for us?"

"Oh, yeah, sure," Pidge said, folding her knees and hugging them, "I'm from what we call the Swamp. It's just one big swamp and there's a whole tribe of us. We keep to ourselves mostly, so not many people know about us."

"And the vines?" Lance prompted.

"I'm a Waterbender. I can bend the water that's in plants and mud, but I'm not so good with actual water. What?"

Lance was grinning like a fool, "You're a Waterbender? I am too! Oh man, this is awesome! I've never met another Waterbender before!"

"Really?" Pidge asked, "There are plenty where I'm from."

"Yeah," Hunk added, turning to Lance, "I thought that there were tons of Waterbenders."

Lance shook his head sadly, "No, they were all taken away by the Fire Nation years ago. I'm the last Waterbender in the South Pole. The last one happened when I was just a kid. They took one of my uncles. I have no idea what's happened to him."

"I'm sorry," Pidge said, "I know what that's like. The Galra Empire took my family away too."

"The Fire Nation ruined my village," Hunk piped up lamely, smiling softly, "Looks like the Galra Empire has wronged all of us."

"Just more motivation to take Zarkon down!" Lance said bravely.

"Yeah!" Hunk and Pidge agreed. The three of them laughed, enjoying the others' presence.

The three of them sat and stared at the fire peacefully, listening to their steeds fly overhead and the sounds of the forest, the fire crackling. Soon, a low growling escaped from Pidge's stomach to add to the noise.

"Sorry," She said, "But do you have anything to eat?"

"Sure do!" Hunk said happily. He sprung up and walked over to their bags just a little ways away from the fire. After some digging around, he pulled out a bag of dried meat and tossed it to Pidge.

"It's pig chicken," He said as he sat back down.

Pidge barely managed a thanks before she was tearing into the meat. It was dry and hard to chew, but it tasted good.

Lance laughed, "Well, you're hungry!"

Pidge didn't bother being embarrassed, "I haven't eaten a whole lot lately."

"What?" Hunk asked.

Pidge shrugged as she tore at the meat, "I don't know how to hunt and I underpacked. I thought I would have found you guys sooner."

"Well fear not," Lance said proudly, jabbing a thumb at himself, "Because you are in the presence of a master hunter!"

"I thought you said that you didn't like hunting?" Hunk asked.

"I don't," Lance admitted, "But it's necessary and I'm the only one who knows how to hunt and prepare the animal."

"But I know how to cook it," Hunk argued.

"And I know how to eat it," Pidge said.

The three of them laughed. Then they settled down and continued to stare at the fire.

"So," Pidge ventured, "What now?"

"Well," Lance said with a shrug as he poked the embers, "I guess we continue the search for the other Paladins. Blue tells me that in order to wake the Avatar, her counsellor, her spirit guide, and the Black Eagle Lion, we need to get the rest of Voltron assembled. Something about ceremony something or other."

"And then we take down Zarkon?" Pidge asked eagerly.

"Okay, uh, hold on a sec." Hunk leaned forward towards Pidge, "Look, I don't know about you, but I'm certainly not ready to face Zarkon! Heck, I've been avoiding anything Fire Nation as best as I can. I mean, yeah, we'll definitely try to stop Zarkon at some point, but we need time to prepare!"

"But stopping Zarkon is a priority, right?"

"Look, Pidge," Lance said carefully, "I want to stop the Galra Empire as much as the next guy, trust me, but we need to form Voltron. After that, it'll be a piece of cake."

Each of them could tell that the others had a slightly different opinion on directly attacking Zarkon, so they decided to leave it be for now.

"Alright," Lance said with a groan as he stood up, "How about some music, huh?"

"Music?" Pidge asked. She knew that her definition of music was probably different from others. They used a lot of string instruments and drums for their songs, along with foot stamping and yelling. Pidge wondered what Lance's version of music would sound like.

Lance returned with his liuqin and plopped down by the fire.

"What's that?" Pidge asked.

Lance smiled, "A liuqin. It's a musical instrument and it adds to the song. Here..." Then he started strumming different chords softly, but with a moderate tempo and a calm rhythm.

"Hey, lookit us," He started in a sweet, melodic voice that Pidge had not been expecting at all, "We're Paldins, adventurers, travelling the world."

Pidge looked at Hunk, who was smiling softly and peacefully. He caught Pidge's eye and grinned. He obviously had heard Lance sing before.

"Oh, woah, we're looking for our teammates oh, woah! We're looking for the Red Eagle Lion and her Paladin, oh woah. Once we do that, we can free the rest of the team and form Voltron, oh, woah. But until then, we're just three Paladins, adventurers, travelling the world."

Then he started to hum along with the tune, swaying as he played his instrument. After some time, he finished and grinned at his friends.

"Nice," Hunk said, "Is that a new one?"

"Yeah," Lance said bashfully, plucking a string on his instrument, "I know it doesn't rhyme, but I'm working on it. What'd you think, Pidge?"

"Eh, it was alright," Pidge said with a teasing smile. Lance stuck out his tongue in retort.

Quietly, the three Eagle Lions touched down and nuzzled up to their charges. Hunk pulled out his knife and it glinted in the dying firelight.

"Wazzat?" Lance asked sleepily.

Hunk smiled, "It's a dagger my father gave me before I left. It's an old heirloom."

"Nice," Pidge said with a large yawn.

"I'm gonna go ahead and say that that's our cue to go to sleep," Hunk said, stifling his own yawn, "Night guys."

"Night."

"Goodnight."

And so the six fell asleep by a dying fire, each one step closer to forming Voltron and defeating the Galra Empire.

 

 

Chapter Text


Imprisoned.

Pidge and Hunk set up their camp on a flat bed of rock by a small stream. They were in the middle of a dense forest, and their Eagle Lions were playfully chasing each other through the trees.

As Hunk was laying out his bedroll, he spotted Lance walking towards them, his hunting bag in hand.

"Hey," He called, setting down his roll. Pidge sat up from her spot on the rock and they both met Lance at the edge, sitting down.

"Whatcha got?" Pidge asked.

"Well," Lance said happily, rifling through his bag, "I have quite the variety here! We got some round nuts," he pulled a handful of nuts out, "Some oval nuts, and some nuts that, uh, might just be rocks? I'm not sure."

Pidge and Hunk exchanged a glance before Pidge crossed her arms.

"No thanks."

"Oh, come on," Lance protested, "There isn't anything in these woods!"

"Uh huh," Pidge said doubtfully, turning to Hunk, "You said it yourself; you're the master chef. Think there's anything you can do?"

"Hmm," Hunk took one of the nuts that was probably a rock and examined it, "I don't think so. Also, I'm like, one hundred percent sure this is a rock." With a shrug, he tossed it over his shoulder. As it landed, they all heard a sudden boom! as if something heavy had just crashed into the ground.

The Eagle Lions stopped playing and the three Paladins looked at each other. Tentatively, Lance picked out another nut and let it fall from his hand. As it hit the rock, they heard the sound again. Boom! They all yelped in surprise. Pidge looked up to see that all three Eagle Lions were staring off in the same direction.

"I think it's coming from over there!" She said, pointing at the animals.

"Yeah, I can definitely feel some movement," Hunk said nervously.

"Let's check it out!" Lance said, getting to his feet and running off in the direction of the noise. Pidge quickly followed.

"No!" Hunk protested, running after them, "You do not run towards a suspicious noise! You run away!"

The Eagle Lions decided to stay back and guard camp. They would hear their Paladins screaming or something if they got into any real trouble.

Soon, the three Paladins found the source of the noise.

It was a young girl about their age, large and stocky, bigger than Hunk. She was wearing traditional Earth Kingdom clothes; a green dress with yellow stripes and shoes. She had a dark complexion to match her dark hair, which was cut very short. She wasn't wearing any jewellery aside from a very large pair of metal earrings.

She was in the middle of a small ravine, the walls about eight feet high. There were large boulders strewn about, and she was moving them from place to place with a loud boom every time one hit home.

"An Earthbender!" Lance said excitedly. The three were hiding behind a large rock, peeping over to look at the girl.

"Maybe we should talk to them!" Pidge suggested.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Hunk said nervously, "I mean, what if she's not friendly? What if she's with the Fire Nation? I think we should be careful, approach her with cautio-"

"Hey there!" Lance yelled. He had come out from his hiding place and waved eagerly. The girl dropped her rock in surprise and turned to gawk at them, "I'm Lance, and these are my friends! We're Benders too!"

The girl looked absolutely terrified. She took a couple hesitant steps back before she ran off, twisting her arms and bringing the wall down to block where she had just come from.

"Nice going, Lance," Pidge snickered as she and Hunk walked over to Lance.

"Hold on a sec," Lance said, "She's gotta be running somewhere right? Maybe there's a village?"

"With food!" Hunk said happily.

"That means no nuts for dinner!" Pidge grinned and the two of them raced after the girl. Hunk didn't care if it was potentially dangerous, he did not want to eat strange nuts.

"Hey!" Lance called after them, "I worked very hard on those nuts!" He paused for a moment before shrugging and following them, "Eh, I hate them too."

They followed the girl's trail all the way into a small Earth Kingdom village. It did indeed have a market, and they happily purchased some nice cooked meat. As they wandered through the town filled with people with earnings, hairstyles, and complexions similar to the girl's, Hunk saw the girl amongst the crowd.

"Look," He nudged Lance beside him, and both he and Pidge turned to see what Hunk was looking at. As they watched, the girl slipped into a house.

"Shay!" Shay's brother scolded, turning around from the kitchen counter, "Where have you been? You're late!"

"Sorry," Shay said shyly, "I was out..."

"Well, whatever it was, it does not matter. You should return to your chores-""

"Uh, hello?" Hunk entered slowly, the other two flanking his sides, "Hey, you're the girl from the forest!"

The young man at the back of the room raised an eyebrow at the girl, who looked like she had just been backed into a corner.

"I, uh, I do not know these people," The girl said, wringing her hands.

"Sure ya do," Lance said easily, "You're the Earthbender!"

The young man gasped and before they could ask, he and the girl were shutting their windows and doors. It wasn't until every opening had been closed did he found on her.

"Shay! Did they see you Earthbending?"

"Raxx, you cannot believe these people!" The girl, apparently Shay argued back.

"It does not matter!" Raxx snapped back, peeping out through a space in the shades, "Were there others? Did anyone else see you?"

"No," Hunk said quietly, feeling the need to step forward, "It was just us. There wasn't anyone around."

"I did not ask you," Raxx snapped.

"Snap," Lance whispered to Pidge who nodded in return.

"You know the rules!" Raxx said angrily to Shay, who looked rather ashamed and nervous, "No Earthbending! It is forbidden!"

"Whoa whoa whoa," Hunk said, stepping between Shay and Raxx, "No bending? You can't do that! Bending, it's a part of who we are."

"I do not care," Raxx spat back, "Shay cannot bend because if she is caught, she will be taken away."

Before anyone could say anything more, there were three loud, abrupt knocks at the door.

"Open up in the name of Zarkon!"

"Galra!" Lance whisper-yelled, "Act natural!"

When Raxx nervously opened the door, the Galra soldiers stepped inside and stared at the inhabitants.

A large Earth Kingdom boy with no shoes was stuffing his face with fruit, a Water Tribe boy was grinning a rather fake grin at them, and a small girl in green was leaning on an unsealed barrel. The lid flipped and they got doused with water, but hardly moved their position.

"What do you want?" Raxx asked, trying to be polite.

"Taxes," The man in front said with a nasty grin, "It's time to pay up."

"Taxes?" Raxx repeated, bewildered, "But we paid you yesterday!"

"Well, you know," The guard said sneakily, moving his hands and creating a small, moving ball of flame, "Fire. It is so difficult to control. It would be a shame if it were to get out of hand."

Raxx looked like he wanted to say something, but after a moment, he deflated and walked to the back of the room and retrieved a small wooden box. He opened it up and took nearly all of the money out and dumped it into the man's hand.

"You can keep the bronzes," He said with a smirk as he threw them over his shoulder and walked away, slamming the door behind him.

"Uhh," Lance said slowly, "What just happened?"

Raxx sighed and leaned back against the counter, Shay coming up to him and resting a hand on his shoulder.

"The Galra have been here for years," Raxx said sadly, "I don't know how long, just that I was very little, Shay not even talking yet. We tried to fight back, but they rounded up all of our Earthbenders and took them away, our parents included. Ever since, they've been terrorizing our village, demanding taxes that raise every month in return for not burning down our homes." Raxx gripped the side of the counter, "It was not a blessing when Shay revealed herself as an Earthbender. I know the soldiers are suspicious, but they do not know for sure. We have to be so careful."

"That's terrible! Isn't there anything we can do?" Hunk asked.

Raxx laughed bitterly, "Ha! Unless you can defeat a legion of Galra soldiers, there is nothing."

"I'm sorry about that," Lance said warmly.

"Thank you," Shay said with a smile, "If you mind me asking, what are you doing in town?"

"Oh, well, we're travelling," Pidge said quickly.

"Then you are mad, travelling in these times," Raxx said bitterly.

"Do you have a place to stay tonight?" Shay asked softly.

"Well," Hunk said, "There's a spot in the forest where we've set up camp."

"The forest is not kind at night," Shay offered, "But we are. We have a barn where you can stay tonight. My grandmother can make you her homemade soup."

"Does it have nuts in it?" Pidge asked.

"Really?" Lance cried, throwing up his arms, "Enough about the nuts!"

Later, as Pidge and Lance were setting up in the barn, Hunk was taking a walk with Shay in the woods by her house.

"I don't remember my parents," Shay said sadly, kicking at stones in her path, "I do not remember anything from before the Fire Nation came. My grandmother is not a Bender, so she raised us. But she is old, and my brother must support us." They stopped at a cliff and sat down, looking at the valley riddled with mine shafts below. Shay picked up some rocks and moved her fingers, making them spin and twirl above her hand, "Since they were both Earthbenders, I feel connected to them. When I Earthbend, it is like I am talking to them. Without my bending, I have nothing."

"I'm so sorry," Hunk said sadly, "My village was taken over by the Galra too, but they're not as strict. And about your parents, I kind of get it. I mean, I had to leave my family behind so I could go on this journey. This dagger is all that I have of my family now." Hunk pulled the weapon out and unsheathed it, showing it to Shay. She picked it up gingerly and admired it, "There's an inscription on there."

"Made in the Fire Nation?" She tilted her head in confusion.

"No, no. Turn it over," Hunk said with a laugh.

"Oh." Shay did just that and read the other inscription, "Never give up. And is this, is it really made out of diamond?"

"Yeah," Hunk said wistfully, gently taking the dagger back and sheathing it, "My father gave it to me right before I left. It's an old, old family heirloom, from way back before the war, when my family travelled and did business there. It's kind of my only connection to them but..."

"But it is never enough," Shay finished sadly. They stared at the sun as it was starting to set. After some time, Shay stood up with a sigh and helped Hunk up, "We should head back. The soldiers have a curfew and we cannot stay out after dark. We can get back faster if we cut through the valley."

"Gotcha," Hunk said, following her down a steep path.

As they were walking, Hunk sensed an instability in the earth.

"Hold on," He told Shay, grabbing her arm, "Something's not right, we need to be careful."

Before she could ask, they both felt a slight tremble in the ground, followed by a yell and the sound of rocks falling. They shared a worried glance before thy both ran towards the source of the noise.

They arrived at an old mine shaft, partially caved in. Trapped underneath the sagging roof was an old man from the village.

"Help me!" He gasped, holding out his hand. Hunk and Shay both ran to him, Shay grabbing his hand and trying to pull while Hunk used his seismic sense to asses the situation.

"Shay, I need you to help me," He said after a moment.

"No," Shay cried desperately, "I cannot!"

"Shay, it's unstable!" Hunk argued, "If I try to move it alone, the whole thing could collapse. I need your help."

Shay pursed her lips in thought before glancing around her, making sure that nobody was around. Surely the old man would not tell anyone, in exchange for his life.

"Okay," Shay said as she got up. She and Hunk took matching stances and focused on the rock in front of them. With a few quick motions, the rocks were sent flying back into the tunnel. Shay stood and stared in shock at the hole that was the mine shaft while Hunk walked over to the old man and helped him up. He didn't say anything, instead, he just cowered and ran away. Hunk shook his head and walked back over to Shay, placing his hand on her shoulder.

"That was very brave of you," He said with a smile. Shay smiled back.

"Thank you," Shay said shyly, "But we really should be getting back."

Later, Hunk was sitting in the barn, untying his headband while Lance and Pidge got ready to sleep. They had somehow managed to sneak in their Eagle Lions, who nestled comfortably among the hay, which the barn was full of.

"I'm telling you," Hunk said proudly, "It was so courageous! Shay's pretty awesome, you know."

Lance and Pidge shared a sly glance before Pidge smirked at Hunk.

"Ooh, someone's got a giiiirlfrieeeend."

"It's not like that," Hunk argued, flushing deeply, "She's just an Earthbender that I admire very much."

"Uh huh, sure," Lance said with a roll of his eyes, "Whatever you say."

"Okay guys," Pidge said, "We should really get to sleep. We have to get up at dawn tomorrow."

"Dawn?" Lance cried, flopping onto his sleeping roll, "Can't we sleep in?"

"Nah, I agree with Pidge," Hunk said, "This town is crawling with Galra, we don't wanna be spotted."

"True," Lance admitted, tucking himself into his roll, "I would rather not eat a fireball for breakfast."

"Better than those nuts," Pidge snickered as she snuggled up against Rover.

"Goodnight!"

The next morning, Hunk stepped out of the barn and stretched with a loud yawn, scratching his chin absently. As he looked at the dawn, he noticed that there were two people standing beside Shay's house. When they turned, he saw that it was Shay's grandmother, crying, and Raxx, looking downright furious.

No, Hunk thought.

"Shay's been taken!" Hunk cried, running back into the barn as Pidge and Lance were packing up. Both immediately stopped what they were doing and straightened up.

"What do you mean?" Pidge asked, walking towards Hunk.

"The old man," Hunk explained quickly, "He ratted us out as a thanks for saving his life. He didn't recognize me, but he knew Shay. It's all my fault, I'm the one that made her do it!"

"Hey," Lance said carefully, placing a hand on Hunk's shoulder, "This isn't your fault at all! You had no idea that the old man would snitch."

"So what are we going to do?" Pidge asked.

"I'm going to get her back," Hunk said matter-of-factly.

"Oh, so you're just going to waltz into a Fire Nation prison?" Pidge crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow.

"No," Hunk said, "I'm going to let them capture me."

"Yeah, because that's a great idea," Pidge snorted.

"Hunk, listen buddy," Lance said, "I get that you want to get Shay back. I do too! But we can't just break into a Galra prison, we don't even know where it is!"

"That's why I'll get captured!" Hunk explained, "They take me and you guys follow me on the Eagle Lions."

"That's....actually not terrible," Pidge admitted, "If we stage a fight around some soldiers, then they're bound to take you in."

"I don't like it," Lance crossed his arms, "A lot of things could go wrong with this."

"I don't care!" Hunk cried. Then he sighed and looked at his teammates sadly, "Look, guys, it's my fault that Shay was taken away. I'm the one that insisted she help the old guy, and it's my fault she's gone. I have to get her back, and her parents too if I can. It's the least I can do. And isn't that our job anyways, as Paladins of Voltron, heroes of the world, defenders of the universe?"

"Don't pull the hero card on me," Lance threatened, "It'll always work." Then he sighed, "Alright, fine. But you've only got twelve hours. After that, you're done."

Hunk grinned, "Understood."

Later, Lance and Hunk waited by the working mines, knowing that the guards would soon come by.

Pidge was laying in wait behind a large boulder, keeping a lookout to warn the boys. The Eagle Lions prowled in the woods and in the mines, ready to step in, in case something went wrong.

"They're coming!" Pidge called, ducking back behind the rock and out of sight.

As the soldiers marched around the bend, Lance and Hunk very dramatically walked into each other.

"Hey!" Lance protested loudly, "You watch where you're going!"

"You watch where you're going!" Hunk yelled back, sounding a little fake, "I was walking!"

"So was I!" The guards looked from Lance to Hunk, not bothering to intervene, "You got in my way!"

"Oh, I'm sorry!" Hunk cried, "I was distracted by your big ears, they're huge! I mean, look at them! Elephant owls use them to make nests!"

"Hey, back off!" Lance yelled. Then he leaned in and whispered, "No, seriously, back off, dude."

"Oh, sorry," Hunk said, leaning in so their foreheads touched, "What if I don't wanna?"

"Then I'll make you!"

"Oh really?" Hunk stepped back and got into a simple fighting stance, "Well, I'll show you, Earthbending style!" And then he punched his arm up, lifting a large piece if the earth, and kicking it at Lance, but making sure it wasn't anywhere near him.

"That boy!" The leader yelled, the man from Shay's house, "He's Earthbending!"

"I'll hold him!" Lance said, grabbing Hunk's hands and pinning them behind his back as he whispered inti his ear, "Your twelve hours start now. We'll follow you on the Eagle Lions."

And then the soldiers had him and tied his hands, leading him away. He glanced back at Lance and felt his heart climb into his throat. What was he thinking? He was allowing himself to be captured by Galra soldiers and taken to a prison where he couldn't use his bending. And for what? To save some girl he had barely known for a day?

No, he would not back out of this. How dare he even think of it! Shay and her family had helped them, and it was Hunk's fault that she had been captured. He would make sure to get her out, along with her parents. Besides, the Eagle Lions were following Hunk and if anything went wrong, they would leave immediately.

Still, he was a little more than nervous as he was loaded onto a small boat and forced to dress in brown rags over his regular clothes, his hands still tied as they rowed him out to a cargo ship which would carry them out to their island prison. Hunk kept a sharp eye out for any sign of his friends, and he saw them, flashes of green, blue, and yellow in the sky, a Water Tribe boy lost in the mass of the crowds, a small body clad in green hiding amongst the fishermen. They were quick and easy to miss, meaning nothing to anyone not actively searching for them. But for Hunk, they were reassurance. He could do this. He would find Shay.

Finally, they arrived at the prison: an iron rig in the middle of the ocean. Hunk's heart sank. If something went wrong, there was nothing he could do. He wasn't much of a fighter, but his bending would be useless. There wasn't a rock or even a pebble in sight. His stomach clenched in fear, or perhaps it was the rocking of the boat. Either way, Hunk was starting to have second doubts. He didn't even have his dagger on him, lest they confiscated it. He was completely vulnerable.

When they docked, they were all lined up. Everyone's hands and feet were shackled and they rubbed against the skin. Then, a tall, thin man with a wicked smile stepped out of a room. He was dressed in the Galra military uniform, but it had more patterns and seemed to promote authority. He paced in front of the Earthbenders and began to talk in a taunting voice.

"I am Haxxus, your warden. But do not think of me as your warden, more as your host. You are my honoured guests. Simply respect me and my rules an-"

Suddenly, an old man on Hunk's left started hacking and coughing. Haxxus turned and glared at the man. When he stopped, Haxxus walked over and kicked his leg up, catching the rope that bound his hands and slamming it to the ground, the old man falling with it.

"It is rude to interrupt my welcome speech!" He yelled angrily, "Were you raised in a barn? I would expect nothing more from Earthbender scum!" Then he turned to one of the many guards standing at attention, "One week in solitary will teach this pig some manners."

Before Hunk's eyes, the old man was hauled to his feet and dragged away. Hunk watched in horror and anger and turned back to Haxxus, whose wicked smile only grew.

"As I was saying," He continued as if he had only been interrupted by something small, like a bird calling, "Follow my rules, and we'll get along just fine."

Then the prisoners were led into an open yard where their ropes were cut. Hunk rubbed his red wrists and tried to calm down, which he found hard to do. He was in a strange place where his Earthbending was useless, the warden was a psychopath, and he was alone.

"Hunk?" A familiar voice asked. Hunk turned and smiled when he saw Shay standing there, looking at him with confusion. She looked the same as when he had last seen her, except she was dressed in the same brown rags he was.

"Shay!" He cried. He ran forward and hugged her excitedly. After a moment, she hugged him back, "Oh man, you have no idea how happy I am to see you!"

Shay pulled back and smiled, "I feel the same. But, why are you here? You were captured as well?"

"Kind of," Hunk said, scratching his chin sheepishly, "I let myself be captured so I could come here and rescue you."

Shay's smile faded and her shoulders slumped, "A very kind and brave thought, but foolish as well. Come, let me introduce you to my parents."

Then she grabbed Hunk's hand and led him to a corner of the iron yard where a group of adults were sitting together. Hunk and Shay sat down to two of the oldest, a man and a woman who were built just like Shay. The woman had Shay's eyes and nose, but the man looked more like her. Both of them had the same complexion, as well as the large metal earrings. However, like Shay's grandmother, they had had two sets.

"Hunk," Shay said with a smile, "These are my parents."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Hunk said with a smile.

"The pleasure is all mine," Shay's father said, "To meet the man who got my daughter captured."

"Father!" Shay scolded.

Shay's mother laid a hand on her husband's arm, "He may have gotten her here, but he is here too."

"Yeah!" Hunk said, "I came to rescue you guys. So, what's the plan?"

"The plan?" Shay's father asked with a frown, "What plan?"

"You know," Hunk said, gesturing to the walls around the yard, "The escape plan. You guys have one right? So what are we doing? Sneaking out at night? Staging a coup?"

"We are not doing anything," Shay's father said, "Now here, eat before we are sent inside."

He handed Hunk a plate of what looked like mud and Hunk took it. It didn't smell or look good.

"It is not grandmother's soup," Shay said with a wary smile, "But it is food. Trust me, it tastes better than it looks."

Hunk took a wary slurp and almost gagged. It tasted like mud too.

"That being said," Shay giggled, "It still does have a bad taste."

Hunk smiled at her before turning back to her parents, "So you really don't have a plan?"

"Look around," Shay's mother said sadly, gesturing at the rest of the prisoners, "Does it look like we can succeed?"

Hunk looked and saw people from many different types of villages, but they all had the same look. They were miserable and hopeless, they had completely given up. Most of them were adults, the youngest maybe sixteen. It broke Hunk's heart.

"Isn't there something we can do?" He tried.

Shay's father shook his head, "There is nothing, and you have gotten yourself captured for naught."

Hunk frowned, "We'll see about that." Hunk stood up and grabbed a nearby pot and ladle. He located a table at the front of the yard and walked over to it.

"Hunk!" Shay whisper-yelled, "What are you doing?"

Hunk only smiled back at her before climbing up into the table and banging the pot and ladle together loudly. All idle chatter stopped as everyone turned to look at Hunk.

"Fellow Earthbenders!" Hunk cried, ignoring the ball of fear in his stomach, "You do not know me, but I know you! For years, I have been rocked to sleep with stories of courageous Earthbenders fighting for what they believe in! I grew up with stories of fellow Earthbender warriors, fighting against the Galra Empire! We are a stubborn people, and we should not let these people take what is rightfully ours! I can tell you that Voltron is back, and searching for the Avatar! The Eagle Lions and their Paladins have appeared and Voltron will save the world! The hope that we have waited so long for is finally here! It's here and giving you a chance, and I say we take that chance! Who's with me?" Hunk thrust his fist in the air, expecting applause, some cheering, any acknowledgment that they had heard him at all.

Above, on the catwalks where the guards patrolled the yard, the warden watched. A guard stepped forward, crossbow ready.

"Wait," Haxxus commanded with a knowing smirk, "The humiliation will be punishment enough."

Much to Hunk's dismay, the people slowly turned away from him, ashamed and afraid. He dropped his hand and felt his confidence fade, being eaten by the knot of fear growing steadily in his stomach. He hung his head and stepped off of the table, walking back over to Shay and her family.

As he sat down, Shay shot him an apologetic look and laid a gentle hand in his shoulder. Her mother looked at him with pity while her father scoffed bitterly.

"I told you," He said coldly, "Some of us have been in here for decades. We have lost all hope. The entire rig is metal, and the best that we can do is wait for the war to end and maybe see our families again. If Voltron really is back, like you said, that is more than enough for us."

Hunk didn't speak and didn't even bother to eat, stuck in his thoughts.

When night fell, the rest of Hunk's team flew in under a cloud cover maintained by Lance. It wasn't the best, as there weren't any other clouds, but it was better than nothing. As they flew over a watchtower, a guard noticed and saw a few colours in the cloud. Perhaps nothing but...clouds didn't have tails.

"Hey, hey wake up," A soft voice said, jostling Hunk. When he opened his eyes, he saw Pidge's face about an inch from his.

"Wha-" He was silenced by a finger on his mouth. Pidge gestured for him to follow her, which he did.

Lance and the Eagle Lions were waiting by the base of a watchtower, carefully avoiding sight.

"Okay," Lance said, "Let's go! Where is Shay and her family?"

Hunk looked back at the cold, foreboding prison and steeled himself for what he was about to do.

"I can't leave. We have to help."

"What?" Lance cried. A searchlight slid past them and they all ducked, Lance lowering his voice, "No, no, no! We gave you more than enough time, your twelve hours are up! Get Shay and let's go."

"I'm not leaving!" Hunk said stubbornly, "I am not leaving these people when they need our help."

There are soldiers approaching.

The Paladins looked up to see small, dark shapes on the catwalk in their direction. They heard voices, but couldn't make them out.

They are saying "what's that" and "I saw something earlier". They suspect us, they see us.

"We need to move," Pidge said, "I don't care what we do, but we need to do it soon."

Hunk and Lance glared at each other, both unwavering.

"Ugh!" Lance threw up his hands in frustration, "Fine! We'll stay!"

"Yes!" Hunk cried. They all ducked again as the searchlight glided over them. They told their mounts to hide nearby and they obeyed, flying off beneath the rig. The three Paladins scrambled to find cover by some crates.

"Great!" Lance cried once they were relatively safe, "Now we're stuck here. What now?"

"I'm not sure," Hunk admitted, "These people.... I know they can do great things,they just need someone to help them help themselves. If only we could get our hands on some earth, then we might have a chance. But there isn't any."

"Maybe there is," Pidge said, pointing to one of the rig's many smokestacks, "Look, smoke. They've gotta be burning something right? Wood wouldn't make sense, so they're most likely burning coal."

"Pidge, that's genius!"

Meanwhile, the two guards who had been patrolling the catwalk had gone to the warden.

"Tell me again, exactly what you saw."

One soldier took a shaky breath and tried to speak steadily, "Well, sir, I can't be quite sure, but I believe I saw three Eagle Lions. The Blue, Yellow, and Green ones, it would seem."

Haxxus glared at the ocean and thought about the news. That young boy had said earlier that Voltron had returned. That and the sighting of three Eagle Lions, creatures that hadn't been seen in a century, could not be coincidence.

"Bring the boy to me," Haxxus demanded, turning back to his men, "I need to question him."

"But sir," The older man spoke, "I'm sure it's just a coincidence. We wouldn't want this to get out to the prisoners, it wo-AH!" Before he could finish his sentence, Haxxus threw him into the waves and turned to the other man.

"Bring me the boy," He related, "Wake the captain, tell him to get the guards."

"But," The man said sheepishly, "That was the captain."

"Then find someone whom I haven't thrown overboard!" Haxxus cried, releasing a wave of fire. The guard squeaked and scrambled off to follow his orders.

A few hours later, as the day broke, Hunk and Pidge stood by a ventilation shaft.

"Let's go over the plan," Hunk said nervously, "Just...to make sure."

"Okay," Pidge said, staring down the shaft, "So, we know that the coal is kept in a big heated room with a bunch of ventilation shafts to let the air flow."

"Yeah, that's right," Hunk affirmed, "And Lance has managed to close all of them except for one. This one."

"Correct." Pidge nodded, "When we give Lance the signal, he'll use his bending to push it all to the top where the Earthbenders can use it!"

"Brilliant!"

"Freeze!" A voice called. Hunk and Pidge looked up to see Galra guards running towards them, fanning out and trapping them all on sides, weapons aimed. Both of them got into their fight stances, but neither could do anything. They were powerless.

"Now Lance!" Pidge cried, but nothing happened. She cried again. Nothing happened.

"Well well well," A sly voice drawled as Haxxus stepped forward with a nasty grin, "Look what we have here. Another little guest." Pidge glared at Haxxus as did Hunk, "I know that you're connected to Voltron. So, how about we go quietly and you don't suffer too much, hm?"

Hunk noticed that a crowd had gathered. The prisoners stood away from the commotion, but looked on with worry and curiosity. Hunk saw Shay and her family among them.

Before he could answer, a deep rumbling started to shake the rig. After a second, the shaft behind Pidge and Hunk exploded with coal riding a giant waterspout. Pidge waved her arms and created a hasty ice shield to cover them from the falling mess. Lance could be seen on top of the waterspout, and allowed it to decrease slowly, depositing the coal in a large puddle behind the shaft. He landed on top of the pile, grinning, soaking wet, and completely covered in soot.

"Hey guys!" He said, putting his hands on his hips proudly, "Sorry that took so long, a little heavier than I thought it would be! Hunk, now's your chance!"

Hunk nodded and picked up a lump of coal, moving to stand next to Lance to be seen.

"Earthbenders!" Hunk cried, feeling brave, "This is your chance! This is coal, earth! You can bend this, you can fight back! Your fate is in your own hands!"

Just like before, there was nothing. Shay stepped forward, but her father put a hand on her arm, stopping her.

"Foolish boys," Haxxus smirked, "Did you really thing that these broken scum could help you? How about you come down from there before we remove you?"

Hunk ignored his words, staring in defeat at his fellow Earthbenders. His trance was broken by Lance casually leaning on his shoulder and Pidge standing on his opposite side, arms crossed.

"Sorry," Lance said casually, "No can do. I'm afraid we should get going, actually."

"Seize them!" Haxxus cried, running forward and throwing fire at them, Lance used the water to block it, but it was turned to mist. Before Haxxus could attack again, something hit him in the back of his uncovered head. It had hurt, but hadn't damaged.

He whipped around to see Shay glaring at him, twirling lumps of coal in her hand. She flicked her wrist and the coals sailed towards him, nailing him just above the eye. It left a shallow cut.

"Get them!" He cried as guards rushed towards her.

"No!" Hunk yelled, running towards her.

But her parents got there first. They used their bending to create a wall of coal. Soon, the others joined in too, Earthbenders against Firebenders, prisoners against guards.

Lance whistled and in seconds, three large, brightly coloured animals landed and started to aid in the fight, breathing ice, tackling soldiers, bending the coal and the water. Each Paladin fought alongside their Eagle Lion, their movements mirroring each other. After some time, Lance jumped onto Blue and soared above the battle, pinning enemies to the ground but not wounding them. Blue kept any spears, arrows, or fireblasts away from them.

Pidge and Rover bent the water, tripping their enemies and breaking their weapons, blocking their attacks. Water by itself was not their strongest suit, so Pidge reached into one of her saddle bags and pulled out a long string of vine. She dunked it in the water, allowing it to absorb the moisture. Once it had, she bent the vine, wrapping it around the guards' legs and flinging them around.

Hunk had retrieved his dagger from Rocky and used it alongside his bending. He blocked a fireball, parried a spear. Rocky used her weight to tackle the enemy. She also bent the coal with movements of her tail, wings, and legs. When she roared, the coal swelled up and covered a good dozen soldiers.

In a matter of minutes, all of the guards were locked away in different cells, their weapons thrown into the water. The Earthbenders piled onto the different ships, captained by those who spent years at sea. They were anchored leagues away from the rig, should the guards escape their cells.

Hunk stood on board one of the ships, talking to Shay and her family.

"I was wrong about you," Her father said warmly, "You did a great thing in helping us."

"Just trying my best," Hunk said with a sheepish smile. Shay's mom hugged him before the two walked off to talk about their route, leaving Shay with Hunk and Rocky.

"Come back with us," Shay asked, grabbing his hands eagerly, "With you, it will be much easier freeing our village, and we can free yours too!"

"That's a nice thought, but I can't," Hunk said, holding one of her hands and using the other to pet Rocky, who sat on her haunches beside him, wings furled, "You mission is to free your people. Mine is to find the rest of the team."

"Is that, I mean," Shay said nervously, looking at Rocky, "Are you guys really Voltron?"

Hunk looked over at a nearby ship, where Lance and Pidge were goofing off, the Earthbenders warily petting the other Eagle Lions.

"Yeah," Hunk said proudly, smiling at Shay, "Voltron is coming back. We've got the six of us, and we're searching for the rest of the team. It's not much now, but we're doing pretty okay."

"You're doing better than okay," Shay assured him. Then she leaned over and pecked him on the cheek, "That is our way of saying thank you. You've saved my family, I hope you see yours again soon."

"Ah, well," Hunk stuttered, "Thank you, but that's unlikely. At least I still have my dagger." He reached for the diamond dagger at his hip, but found the sheath empty. He panicked and looked, seeing that the latch had come undone, "My dagger!" He cried, searching the ground frantically, "I've lost it!"

Back at the rig, Keith glared at the mess in the main yard. A riot had broken out, allowing the prisoners to escape. He and Shiro had been sent a message of the event and had decided to take a detour to search for clues. Keith inspected the coal and the remnants of the fight while Shiro questioned the guards and Zuko prowled the catwalks.

Keith bent down and picked up some green things on the ground. When he examined them, he discovered that they were leaves and pieces of plant. He frowned. The rest of the mess made sense; coal left in unusual shapes by Earthbenders, scorch marks tattooing the metal, surely left by Firebenders. But what were plants doing in the mess?

When he stood up, a flash of light caught his eye. He walked over to it and picked up a diamond dagger.

"Made in the Fire Nation," He read aloud. Then he turned it over, "Never give up. And this, it looks like a name. Garrett?" He turned his head and whistled at Zuko, who came flying over and gracefully landed next to him. She nuzzled the dagger, sniffing it.

It had the essence of a Paladin.

"Alright," Shiro said as he strode over, sliding his hands into his sleeves and standing beside Keith, "So the guards here say that they saw three giant animals, some actually said Eagle Lions. Most of them say that they were green, blue, and yellow, but others are saying there was a purple one too, and a pink one." Shiro shook his head, then noticed the dagger, "What's that?"

Keith grinned up at him, scratching Zuko's head happily, "A dagger, a very precious one, I would think. It belongs to someone named 'Garrett', and Zuko says it's a Paladin's dagger."

Shiro smiled, "I guess we should do our best to return it then, huh?"

 

Chapter Text


Rolo, Nyma, and the Freedom Fighters.


"Admit it, we're lost."

"We are not lost!" Lance snapped back at Pidge. He turned back to his map and frowned down at it. The three of them had been following the feeling in their guts for direction, but they had no idea of where they had been going. About an hour ago, Hunk had suggested that they land and try to figure out where they are.

"I think we're somewhere in the Western Earth Kingdom," Hunk said, looking around him at the forest, which was beautiful in the late autumn air. All of the ridiculously tall trees had shades of violent reds, "The geography seems about right, and I think we passed over a Fire Nation colony on the way here."

"Is it safe?" Pidge asked Hunk, scratching Rover under her chin.

"Safe?" Hunk echoed, Rocky snuffling at his hand.

"Safe, as in, is it safe to travel through here?" Pidge clarified.

"Uh, well..." Hunk said nervously, glancing at the map that Lance was still pouring over while Blue poked over his shoulder, "I don't know. We passed what was obviously Galra territory back there, so I don't know how far they would have expanded. Why?"

"Because we're starting to run low on food. And someone," She shot a glare at Lance, "Refuses to hunt."

Lance's head shot up and he scowled at Pidge, "Hey! If you want food, then get some yourself!"

"I would if I could, but seeing as you're the only human in the group that can hunt..." Pidge argued.

Lance grumbled in annoyance and looked back the map, fiddling with his writing tool. They had been travelling for weeks, with almost no idea of where they were going. He wanted to know, he needed a plan.

"I say we take a walk through the woods," Pidge offered, "See if we can find anything. Besides, it gives us more cover than flying."

"That sounds fair," Hunk said with a shrug, "Lance, have you figured out which way we're going yet?"

"Uh..." Lance stared at the map and the pointed in a direction, "That way. That's west."

"So let's go west," Pidge said, already walking in that direction. The rest followed her as they all walked through the forest.

After some time, they came to a clearing of sorts, where great metal basket traps hung in the trees, holding small animals captive.

"Traps," Lance said sadly.

"You thinking what I'm thinking?" Hunk said, licking his lips.

"Eat them!" Pidge said at the same time Lance said "Release them!"

"Really?" Pidge asked with a raised eyebrow.

Lance just shrugged.

"Well," Hunk said rolling up his sleeves and approaching the traps, "I'm with Pidge on this one. I say we cook 'em up. A nice forest like this, there should be some wild herbs."

Before anyone could do anything, Lance drew out some water from his pouch and bent it, cutting the ropes on all of the traps and freeing the animals trapped inside. Blue seemed to chuckle, but Rocky and Rover looked as dismayed as their Paladins.

"Come on, man!" Hunk complained, slouching up against a tree, "I got all hungry just thinking about eating them."

"They were already caught!" Pidge cried, "Why would you let them go?"

"Because I don't like traps," Lance said, bending the water back into his pouch, "I don't think an animal should spend the last bit of its life scared and trapped, waiting for death. When I kill animals, I kill free animals."

Pidge and Hunk grumbled their anger, but there wasn't much they could do. Lance was the only one that could hunt. Yeah, the Eagle Lions could too, but their kills always came back mangled and really gross.

Lance bent over one of the traps, inspecting it.

"This is Fire Nation," Lance said. Hunk and Pidge exchanged a glance.

"How do you know?" Pidge asked.

"Because there's an old Fire Nation ship by my village," Lance said, trying to untie the rope, "Way back when, we raided it. It was stuffed full of booby traps, but our warriors got some good weapons and stuff. We still have some things, like pieces of armour. I recognize the ironwork."

"So let's go in the opposite direction," Hunk said, kind of nervously.

"I say we fly away," Pidge said.

"No," Lance said, standing up and facing his teammates, "We have to continue walking in the same direction."

"Uh, quick question; why?" Hunk asked a little nervously.

"Wouldn't it be safer to fly away?" Pidge pointed out.

"Yeah," Lance admitted, "But in broad daylight? Those guards at that prison definitely know about us, and I wouldn't be surprised if they've already sent out messages to all their little friends. The world knows about us now, so it's easier to keep a low profile."

"So why can't we go in the opposite direction?" Hunk asked, pointing behind him, back the way they had come.

"Because the village is there," Lance stated, "Hunters always lay traps outside of their base. For these to be out this far, there's probably a camp back that way. Going forward is the safest."

"Whatever's safest, man," Hunk said with a shrug. Lance pulled out his liuqin and started singing cheesy songs as they travelled.

Hunk, Pidge, and Lance laughed and continued walking on their way loudly, their Eagle Lions following them. They were so loud, in fact, that they didn't hear the Galra soldiers until they stepped through the brush and right into their camp.

The soldiers had been in the middle of their down time. Eating, chatting, betting, playing games. But they all froze and stared at the beings that had stumbled upon their camp.

It was completely silent as both parties stared each other down. The Paladins had never actually come into contact with an entire Galra regiment, and they weren't quite sure what to do. The soldiers were in the same boat. They slowly recognized the giant feline animals from textbooks, art, tapestries. They noticed that each beast had one human to match, each with colours....

"So, uh," Lance said nervously, slowly backing up, "Terribly sorry to interrupt, but if you don't mind, we're just going to be on our merry way and-"

"Those are Eagle Lions!" A man with a thick beard said, obviously their leader, "And they're Paladins of Voltron! Get them!"

"Good job, Lance," Pidge snarled.

Lance ignored his teammate in favour of bending out his water and attacking his enemies. The rest of the team followed.

Pidge bent tree roots to wrap around ankles, and vines pinned soldiers to the ground. Hunk used his bending to screw up the footwork of the attackers, keeping them from having a decent form for their own bending. Lance slashed back and forth with his water, slicing weapons in half. Meanwhile, the Eagle Lions pounced on soldiers and knocked them out quickly. Soon, all of their opponents were either knocked out or tied up.

As the Paladins caught their breath, they heard rustling in the foliage. Suddenly, about two dozen people appeared from the forest, jumping down from trees and climbing out of bushes.

The Paladins and their Eagle Lions went on the defence, but a tall, thin man with silver hair and brown eyes stepped forward with a smile. He was handsome with a lean build and long under lashes, and wore a patchwork of different cloths, with small bits of armour covering his chest and shoulders, a bit of straw in his mouth. He wore a thick vest and loose pants, with wrappings up his waist to his belly button and up his arms to his elbows. He also had a brown cap with goggles that covered the tops his ears and the back of his neck. His ears were pierced with small golden triangles. His comrades were dressed similarly.

"Hey, take it easy," He said loosely, "We're on your side."

The members of Voltron exchanged wary glances before Lance stood up straight, bending his water back into his pouch. He smiled and walked over to the man, sticking out his hand, which was taken and shaken.

"I'm Lance," He said, then gestured towards his team, "The big one's Hunk, the little one's Pidge. And our Eagle Lions are Blue, Rocky, and Rover."

"I'm Rolo," Rolo said, "And these are my freedom fighters."


"So..." Hunk said as they walked through the forest. Rolo had offered to show them his base, "You guys just, like, fight the Galra?"

"We do what we can," Rolo said easily, "We steal, sabotage, that kind of stuff. We've actually been meaning to jump that camp for days now, but you guys beat us to it. I guess I should thank you."

"Oh," Lance said cockily, "It's nothing. Just doing my job."

"Aren't we all?" Rolo smirked, "We're here."

The group stopped and looked around them. They were beneath very tall trees, the tops of which were hidden by leafy canopies. Before they could ask, Rolo whistled a quick note to the tree and ropes were dropped down. Freedom fighters started grabbing them and tugging, being lifted up into the leaves.

"Cool!" Lance cried, grabbing onto one and yanking it, being ripped through the air, "Whoo-hoo!" Blue flew up after him.

Rolo offered the rope to Pidge and Hunk. Pidge grinned and said, "No thanks," before bending branches and vines to lift herself up into the tree. Rover followed her, jumping in branches and clawing up the tree.

"Impressive," Rolo said, grabbing hold of the rope, "You wanna try?"

"No thanks," Hunk said, patting Rocky, "I've got my own ride."

"Suit yourself." Rolo shrugged and was yanked up. Hunk climbed onto Rocky and they lifted off.

Hunk didn't like Rolo.

I don't trust him, He thought back at Rocky. He was getting better at the whole telepathy thing, I can't put my finger on it, but something isn't right.

When Rocky broke through the canopy, Hunk had to admit that he was impressed. Above the leaves was a small village in the trees, with bridges spanning gaps and little wooden huts built between branches. Lance was running across bridges excitedly with Blue, and he heard Pidge tell someone that this place reminded her of her village.

"This is so cool!" Lance suddenly tackled Hunk from behind as he got off of Rocky, almost toppling him, "It's like, a tree village!"

"We try our best," Rolo said, chewing on his piece of straw, "It's completely secret, impossible to know about it if you don't already know. Come on, we're gonna have dinner and I think you should meet everybody."

Not too long after, they were all seated around a very long table covered in food. Most of it, Hunk recognized. Other dishes seemed foreign to him.

"Everyone brings their own touch to the table," Rolo said proudly, "We all pitch in."

Lance gasped and reached for a wrinkled piece of food, "Are these sea prunes?"

"Yup," A pretty girl with blonde hair and eyes that were a mix of pink and purple said from her seat at Rolo's right. She had slightly pointed ears and a pretty face. Like all of the freedom fighters, she wore a patchwork of cloths that made up a tight crop-top with shoulder pads, along with baggy pants tied at her waist and ankles. Her long blonde hair was styled into dreadlocks, each one ending in a blue band. A large, thick band sat on top of her head, giving her hair even more volume. Silver and blue bracelets sat on her wrists and upper arms.

"My grandmother was from the Water Tribe," She said happily, passing around the plate of shrivelled food, "She gave me some of her jewellery and recipes before our village was attacked."

"That's awesome!" Lance cried, getting up and sitting down next to her, "I mean, that you have Water Tribe heritage. It sucks that your village was attacked. I'm from the Water Tribe too, by the way. Southern Tribe."

"Grandmother was from the North," She said with a smile.

"Cool," Lance said dreamily. Then he seemed to snap out of it and grabbed her hand excitedly and kissed it, "The name's Lance, by the way."

The girl giggled. Hunk and Pidge exchanged annoyed looks.

"I'm Nyma," She introduced herself.

"She's my right-hand man, so to speak," Rolo said, stabbing a small dagger into a piece of meat, "The two of us and Beezer started this whole thing."

"Beezer?" Hunk asked with a raised eyebrow.

Before he could ask anything else, something landed on his head.

"Agh!" He cried, reaching up and trying to pry it off, meeting soft feathers and sharp claws, "Get it off, get it off!"

Rolo whistled and the thing flew off of Hunk's head, gliding to land on Rolo's shoulder. Their end of the table was laughing at Hunk's little misadventure. Hunk felt his face darken in embarrassment.

"This is Beezer," Rolo said, reaching up to scratch the thing under its chin. The thing, Beezer, apparently, had a long, thin body that was a metallic grey in colour. It had four legs and two wings with a long tail, as well as a beak. It's body was covered in feathers, bright blue ones framing the face and long white ones sticking out of the crown of the head.

"Beezer's an iguana parrot," Rolo said fondly, "We rescued him from one of those Fire Nation traps and nursed him back to health.

"Wow," Pidge breathed. She was staring at Beezer in awe. Rolo noticed and shrugged his shoulder, pointing at Pidge. Beezer seemed to nod and then flew over to her. Pidge squeaked in excitement and started petting Beezer and playing with him.

While Pidge was playing with Beezer, Lance was flirting with Nyma. When he looked away, Nyma and Rolo exchanged a look. Hunk didn't like that look.

Suddenly, two kids came up to their end of the table.

"Rolo!" One said excitedly. They were small, with large hair and red stripes on their cheeks, "We finished doing inventory."

"Good job, Smellerbee," Rolo said with a smile, "Anything notable?"

Smellerbee smiled up at the other kid, a tall, Earth Kingdom boy with a large hat and a quiver of arrows. He didn't speak.

"Five barrels of blasting jelly," Smellerbee said proudly, "Along with all of their weapons and supplies."

"Good work guys," Rolo said. The two kids nodded and left, sitting down at the other end of the table. Once they were gone, Rolo turned to Hunk, "We've got big plans. And, I have to say, that was some pretty impressive bending back there. Unfortunately, we don't have any Benders with us, but we get by. So, why were you guys attacking those Galra soldiers? Is it true that those are Eagle Lions? Are you guys really Paladins?"

"Uh, well, yeah," Hunk said, scratching his chin, "We're Voltron."

"Voltron?" Nyma cried out, loud enough for the table to hear. Suddenly, it all fell silent and everyone tuned their heads to look at Lance, Pidge, and Hunk.

Lance grinned and jabbed a thumb at his chest, "Yup! You're looking the Paladins of Voltron!"

A million questions broke out at the table.

"Are you really?"

"Are those Eagle Lions?"

"Have you fought Zarkon?"

"Are you all Benders?"

"Why are the Eagle Lions so bright?"

"Where are the others?"

"Where is the Avatar?"

"Do you know where the Black and Red Eagle Lions are?"

"Uh," Lance said, standing up and raising his hands for attention. It quieted down, "Yeah, we're really Paladins, yes, those are our Eagle Lions, no, we haven't fought Zarkon, yeah, we're all Benders, I have no idea why the Eagle Lions are bright? And uh, no, we don't know where the others are, we're looking for them."

"But you have to have wonderful stories!" Nyma said excitedly, grabbing onto Lance's arm. He blushed and grinned.

"Of course we do! We've only just started our journey, but man, we did some awesome things! Hold on." Lance paused and whistled up to Blue. She stopped playing and flew down, landing right behind him. She still had her saddle bags on, with the liuqin strapped to her side. Lance took it off and sat down, clearing his throat.

"I think the best way to tell a story, aside from Gam-Gam's drama, is through song!" He played a couple of chords really quickly. The people at the table laughed and leaned in, ready to listen.

Lance cleared his throat dramatically before strumming a couple of quiet, peaceful chords.

"Now," He said in his normal speaking voice as Rocky and Rover touched down as well, landing beside their Paladins as Blue curled up around Lance, "This story starts long, long ago," he switched to song.

"Oh way back, a hundred years ago, when the old winds did blow,
There was a team of heroes! Voltron, they were called,
Beloved, respected, enthralled.
Twelve beings there were, and quite odd too!
Eagle Lions and Paladins of Black, Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue!
Then there was the Avatar, leader of them all,
helped by their spirit guide.
For evil, Voltron was their downfall.

But, a hundred years now, the world did have to bow,
To the Galra Empire, respected and feared for their fire.
Voltron was force to hide, sneak and sleep, and their time they did bide.
Until a mere few weeks ago, the Eagle Lions did show!
First in the north where it's cold and harsh, then to a quarry, and then to a marsh.
So now, the Paladins and their steeds are travelling the world,
Once all are found, Zarkon from his throne he will be hurled!
Yeah, Voltron!"

The table broke out in uproarious applause and Lance bowed extravagantly. Nyma leaned over and said something to him that Hunk couldn't hear, but Lance blushed furiously with a goofy grin on his face.

After some time, Rolo stood up and held his hands out for silence. Without a word, the table obeyed.

"Alright," He said with a sly smile, "I gotta say, that's hard to top. We have half of the team of legendary defenders with us, so a nice warm round of applause for our guests!" The table burst out into cheers again, but fell silent when Rolo raised his hands, "Alright, alright. On our end, thanks to Voltron, we finally managed to raid that Fire Nation camp. We've gotten our hands on a lot of good supplies, and I'm sure we can find something to do with them. Speaking of plans, what's yours?" Rolo turned to Hunk. Nervously, Hunk stood up.

"Well, uh, right now, we're just doing our best to find the rest of Voltron. The Avatar, their spirit guide, their advisor, and the Black Eagle Lion are all still locked away. In order to free them, we just have to find the Red Paladin and Eagle Lion, and the Black Paladin."

Rolo nodded, "Alright. So, uh, what brings you here?"

"We're lost," Pidge piped up, scratching Beezer under his beak, "We made the mistake of letting Lance tell us where to go."

"Hey!" Lance cried indignantly, "I'll have you know, I'm one of our best navigators in my village!"

"Isn't that because all of your navigators left?" Pidge smirked and Lance just glared at her.

"Anyways! " Lance said, "The Eagle Lions told us that we're naturally drawn to the others. And I mean, it's worked so far. So I guess we're just relying on our guts and dodging the Galra whenever we can."

"I see," Rolo said with a smile that Hunk did not like very much, "Well, you are welcome to stay here as long as you want. All we ask in return are a few favours. Just a sabotage here and there. All in the name of freedom."

"Sure!" Lance said happily.

"I don't see a problem with that," Pidge said with a shrug. Then Hunk's teammates turned to him.

Hunk sighed, "I guess."

"Then it's settled," Rolo said, "Voltron will be staying with us. Down with the Fire Nation!"

"Down with the Fire Nation!" The rest of the table cried. Some people went back to their food while others drifted off.

Rolo and Nyma shared a look before Nyma laid a hand on Lance's arm.

"How about I show you where you're staying? We always have a few extra spaces."

"Sure!" Lance said happily, scrambling to get up. Nyma gestured for the others to follow her, so Pidge, Hunk, and their Eagle Lions rose as well. They followed her over a series of bridges and into a farther branch of the hideout.

"Here are a few huts for you guys." She gestured at three empty huts, "You are welcome to make yourselves at home."

"Done!" Pidge said happily, darting into the nearest hut, quickly followed by Rover. Beezer squawked indignantly and fluttered onto Nyma's shoulder.

"So," Lance sidled up to Nyma, "Want to help me get comfortable?"

Before Nyma could say anything, Blue whacked Lance in the back with her wing, making him stumble.

"Hey!" He complained as Blue bit his waist ornament and pulled him towards his area, "C'mon, man!"

Soon, it was just Rocky, Hunk, Nyma, and Beezer. He looked at her awkwardly as she scratched Beezer.

"I trust you can make yourself comfortable?" Nyma asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Yeah, thanks," Hunk said coldly, stalking off into his room with Rocky.

Why was Hunk being so rude?

Hunk sighed and thought back to Rocky, I'm not trying to be, I just really don't trust them. I'm not quite sure yet as to why. I mean, I didn't like those looks they were giving each other at the table, like they were planning something.

Perhaps Hunk was being irrational. The freedom fighters seemed perfectly fine. Although, to be fair, Rocky was not the best at 'humans'.

Hunk snorted and set his stuff down.

After some time, the rest of his teammates made their way into his space. They all sat facing each other and leaning against their Eagle Lions (they were really warm and comfy, okay?).

"This is so great!" Pidge said excitedly, "Its almost exactly like our village in the Swamp! Sure, this isn't as sturdy, but it's the same idea."

"Don't get too comfortable," Hunk warned, "I don't know if I trust these people."

"What?" Lance raised an eyebrow, "Hunk, come on, man. These people are helping us! They're letting us stay here and they're feeding us food."

"And they're fighting against the Fire Nation," Pidge pointed out, "So they can't be that bad."

"I don't know, guys," Hunk said, crossing his arms, "Did you see the looks Rolo and Nyma kept giving each other?"

"People look at each other, Hunk," Pidge said.

"No, I mean, like they were planning something. Something not good."

"I think you're being ridiculous," Lance declared, "These are good people, I know it."

"Like you know Nyma?" Pidge smirked, "I saw you flirting with her."

"Wha- well, I," Lance started to flounder before sighing and smiling weakly, "Think she's buying into it?"

"Nope," Both Hunk and Pidge declared at the same time. Then Hunk sighed.

"Look, guys, I'm just saying that we should be cautious, okay?"

Pidge shrugged and got up, Rover following her lead, "Whatever you say, Hunk. I'm going to check this place out more."

Once they had left, Lance yawned and stretched, getting up as well, "I'm tired, think I'll go to sleep. Good luck with the suspicions, buddy." With that, he and Blue were gone.

Hunk decided that he should sleep too. As he laid down, he couldn't stop the feeling of unease, like something was wrong.

Meanwhile, in Rolo's hut, he was going over a homemade map of the local geography, drawing lines and making calculations. It would be more effective now, with those barrels of blasting jelly. And now that they had Benders with them....

His thoughts drifted to the Benders. Naive, the lot of them. He was quite let down, to be honest. He expected Paladins to be smarter. The Eagle Lions, he could understand; they were animals, even if they had thoughts, they couldn't quite grasp all human concepts. For him, it was good that the team was so trusting. He would need that trust, and Nyma had done a wonderful job of building that. Damn, Rolo was glad he had Nyma. He loved her like a sister and they were very close, but he was always grateful for her people skills. Without any word or plan, she had simply gotten the Paladins to like and trust her, already constructing a relationship with the blue one, Lance. Sometimes, Rolo almost forgot how blunt and rude she actually was in secret.

"If the fate of the world is resting on the shoulders of those idiots, I'd consider us dead," Nyma announced as she entered his hut without permission.

Almost was the key word.

"They could be helpful," Rolo offered, setting down his writing utensil and playing with the bit of straw in his mouth as Nyma sat down on his hammock.

"They better be," She scowled as she scratched Beezer, "Lance's flirts are terrible. He literally told me that he was homesick for the Water Tribe, but lovesick for me. I almost got sick all over him. This better be worth it."

"I'll make a note of that," Rolo said. Then he leaned forward and laced his fingers together, resting his chin on them, "Say, how close are the Paladins and their Eagle Lions?"

"From what I hear, exceptionally. They can share each others' thoughts and they're hardly more than ten feet from each other." She narrowed her eyes suspiciously, "Why?"

"Just wondering what to do about the bounty on our heads." Rolo smiled and leaned back in his chair, tucking his arms behind his head, "So, what do you think about the Paladins, other than they're naive?"

Nyma blew a puff of air out of her mouth, "They're not so bad, really. I mean, they're good people and they're just trying to save the world. Lance is the worst; he goes on and on about the Water Tribe and how great it is, and he asked me a million questions about the Northern Tribe, as if I would know. Then there's Pidge, the small green one. She's excitable too, but I think it's because this place reminds her of her village. Apparently there's a tribe in some swamp."

"Interesting. Go on."

"Those two trust us well enough, but Hunk, the big one, he doesn't. He's suspicious of us."

Rolo smiled, "I guess that we'll just have to fix that, won't we?"

The next morning at breakfast, Rolo approached Hunk.

"So," He said loosely, reaching for a plate, a piece of straw still in his mouth, "I need your help for a mission."

"Why?" Hunk asked warily, eyeing Rolo up.

"You're an Earthbender," Rolo replied, "It always helps to have a Bender. And, no offence to your buddies, but I think that you would be best for this mission."

Hunk looked at Rolo's sincere face and shrugged, "Alright." He still didn't trust Rolo, but he wasn't about to give up an opportunity to observe him.

A few hours later, six freedom fighters including Rolo and Hunk were hidden in the huge trees. Rolo had informed Hunk that they were waiting for Galra to come through. Hunk stood above Rolo on a taller, thicker branch. They couldn't see very well because of the foliage so Hunk reached for his dagger. His heart clenched when he remembered that the sheathe was empty.

"Hey," He quietly called down to Rolo, "Toss me a knife."

With a confused look, Rolo took a blade from his belt and tossed it up to him. Hunk caught it and stabbed it into the tree, wrapping his hand around the hilt firmly.

"What are you doing?" Rolo asked.

"It increases vibrations," Hunk said, squeezing his eyes shut to try and get a better sight, "With my bending, I can see things like this. Hold on, someone's coming."

"How many?"

"Just one, I think it's a man, he's alone."

"Perfect," Rolo said with a smirk. With a flick of the wrists, he drew out two long, thin blades curved at the ends. He called out a signal that sounded like a bird chirping. A similar one replied.

"Be ready," He warned Hunk.

Hunk nodded and pulled the dagger from the tree, clutching onto it and waiting. He almost wished that Rocky was with him, but they couldn't risk bringing her along.

Soon, a figure clad in red entered the clearing. Hunk saw immediately that the man was hunched, bald, walked with a cane, and had a scraggly beard.

"Wait!" Hunk called down to Rolo, "False alarm, it's just an old man."

However, Rolo ignored him and jumped down, startling the man. The others followed his suit, surrounding him. The old man frantically looked for an escape, but there was none. Rolo quickly used his blades to sweep the man off his feet and take his cane away. The old man started to get to his feet, but the big one, Pipsqueak, planted his foot on his back and forced him back down.

Rolo stood over him, his blade raised. Hunk snapped out of his reverie and jumped down, using his bending to both absorb his landing and unstable the others. Rolo glared at him.

"That's enough, Rolo," Hunk said, "This guy's just a helpless old man."

"He's Galra!" Rolo argued before turning to the fighters, "Take his stuff." With a nod, a small child known as The Duke reached down and yanked a purse off of him. Rolo grinned and kicked him once before running off and motioning for the others to follow him.

Hunk glared after him as he bent down to help the old man. As he handed him his walking stick, he heard Rolo calling out to him.

"Hunk, let's go!"

Hunk shot one last look at the feeble old man before running off, following Rolo.

When he returned, he marched right to his cabin, packing all of his things.

"Hey," As he, Pidge, and their Eagle Lions entered, "Heard you were back. How was the miss-what are you doing?"

"Packing," Hunk declared, "We're leaving."

"What? Why?" Lance cried, "This place is awesome!"

"Yeah," Pidge agreed, "We don't need to leave, at least not anytime soon. Why do you want to go?"

"Because I don't trust these people," Hunk snapped, shoving a comb into his bag and standing up to face his friends, who didn't look convinced, "And I'm the only one that sees this! You just want to stay here because it reminds you of your home!" He gestured angrily at Pidge, who looked offended, "And you just want to stay here so you can flirt with Nyma!" He waved his hand at Lance, who scoffed.

"Dude!" He complained, "While those reasons are true and rather valid, there are other reasons. This is a safe place for us to hang out while we search for the other members of Voltron."

"And," Pidge interjected, "These guys might be able to give us information and supplies. Why do you want to leave so badly? What could have possibly made Rolo seem so distrustful."

"Oh I don't know," Hunk replied sarcastically, "Maybe because he beat and robbed a helpless old man!"

Pidge and Lance shared a look before Lance crossed his arms, "I want to hear Rolo's side of this."

Not too long afterwards, the three Paladins stood in Rolo's hut with him, Nyma, and Beezer resting happily on Pidge's shoulder.

"Yes, it's true," Rolo admitted, "But did Hunk happen to mention that the man was Galra?"

"No," Pidge said icily, "Hunk conveniently left that part out."

Hunk glared from his spot, resting against the tree trunk, arms crossed. Rolo sat on his bed beside a nightstand while Nyma stood beside him, Pidge and Lance facing him.

"It doesn't matter," Hunk said, standing up and walking up to Rolo, staring him down, "He was a helpless old man! He wasn't even armed!"

"You sure about that?" Rolo asked as he pulled out a Fire Nation dagger and stabbed it into his nightstand, "This was found in his person. He was an old man alright, an old man sent to assassinate me. Look," He said, twisting a little circle on the hilt and pulling it out to reveal a vial of purple liquid, "There's even a compartment for poison. You helped save my life, Hunk."

"I didn't see any knife!" Hunk insisted, "And the guy couldn't even walk without his cane, let alone try to kill you."

"Ever heard of a ruse?" Rolo asked with a raised eyebrow.

Hunk glared at Rolo. He knew he was lying, he knew it. But there wasn't much he could do. Rolo seemed to be a very good liar and he had cornered Hunk. Frustrated, he stormed away.

"Sorry about Hunk," Lance said, jabbing a thumb in his direction, "He's just a little too paranoid about, well, everything."

"It's completely understandable," Rolo said easily, "And now that I've got you guys here, there's something I need you gust to help us with."

"Sure," Pidge agreed.

"Well," Nyma said, a worried look on her face, "There are whispers of a raid. We have reason to believe that the Galra twin nearby knows of our whereabouts. We didn't want to believe it, but with this assassin...."Nyma shook her head sadly and hugged herself.

"Hey," Lance said softly, walking over to her and putting his arms around her, "It's okay. What can we do to help?"

"There's a water reserve not too far from here," Rolo explained, "If there is a raid, we'll need enough water to put out the fires. We haven't had any way to fill it up, but now that we have some Waterbenders, it's a different story."

"So you want us to fill up the reserve?" Pidge asked, "I'm not sure another this.... I'm good with plants, but with actual water, that's a whole new skill set."

"I'm sure you can do it," Rolo said confidently, "I'll show you guys what I mean tomorrow morning."

"Sounds good," Pidge said as Beezer flew off of her shoulder and onto Rolo's, "C'mon Lance, we bette go find Hunk."

Lance nodded before stepping back from Nyma and grabbing her biceps comfortingly, "You alright?"

"I'll be fine," Nyma promised, "Now, go and find your friend."

Lance beamed and jogged out of the tent, followed by Pidge. They waited a moment after thy left for them to be truly gone before Nyma grabbed the dagger and threw it at the wall close to the door.

Rolo chuckled, "Aw, somebody's in love."

"I swear," Nyma growled, "I like him less and less every time he opens his mouth."

"He was just trying to comfort you," Rolo grinned at her.

"I'm just glad it's his Eagle Lion we're taking."

"I do feel a little bit bad," Rolo admitted as he scratched Beezer under his beak, "They're good people, and they are kind of supposed to save the world."

"May I remind you," Nyma said pointedly, "That stealing from the Galra is punishable by death? And we've done a lot more than just steal. If we want this bounty off our heads, we need a good trade, and what better trade than an Eagle Lion? Besides, if they're as strong as the myths say they are, then they can get that animal back just fine."

"Huh," Rolo said, "You're right. Maybe they're not that good."

"What the cheese, man?" Lance complained as he, Pidge, and their Eagle Lions followed Hunk into his hut.

"There was no knife!" Hunk insisted angrily as he turned to face his friends, "I would have seen it."

"Rolo himself said that he kept it concealed," Pidge pointed out, "It's possible that you might not have seen it."

"And it's possible that you two are blind!" Hunk cried, "I saw Rolo beat and rob an old man and act like it was nothing. And I know that there's something wrong with him. I don't trust him, why can't you guys trust me on this?"

"Hunk," Lance said, placing a hand on Hunk's shoulder, "Of course we trust you. We just think that your judgment is a little...clouded, is all. It happens to the best of us."

"What are you talking about?" Hunk asked, "If anything, I think my judgement is the clearest here."

"You're jealous, my man," Lance said with a shrug.

"I'm not jealous."

"Are you sure?" Pidge asked, crossing her arms, "Lance has a crush on Nyma, this village reminds me of home, and you've got nothing from this. Maybe you're jealous that we both get something out of this?"

"I'm not jealous," Hunk insisted, shrugging Lance's arm off.

"And you're saying that we're the blind ones here?" Lance asked, obviously hurt, "Whatever. You can leave if you want to, but I'm staying. I guess we'll meet up later or whatever." With that, he stormed out of the hut. Pidge hesitated for a moment before following him. Hunk turned and glared at his bag.

The three Eagle Lions shared a look. Had any of their previous Paladins fought this much? Surely they had.

Late that night, Hunk paced his space anxiously. There was no way he was sleeping, he just couldn't. He needed to prove to Lance and Pidge that Hunk was right, then they could leave. But how would he do that?

Maybe if he went to sleep, he could figure that out in the morning.

"Not helping," He complained to Rocky, who was curled up with her wings over her head. She lifted one up and seemed to glare at him.

If she didn't get any sleep, the world could end.

"It's not that drastic," Hunk pointed out.

Whatever. The point was that Rocky was a huge magical beast that needed her sleep. And she couldn't sleep if Hunk continued to pace.

"Sorry," Hunk apologized and Rocky seemed pleased with it. She nodded nice and flopped her wing back over her face. Hunk smiled then turned to the opening in his hut and crossed his arm as he stared at the trees.

Suddenly, he heard voices, and one stood out.

"Let's go," Rolo called out quietly. Immediately, several freedom fighters grabbed onto ropes and glided down to the ground where a cart full of barrels waited. They started to ouch it away form the hideout and out of sight. Hunk hesitated for a moment before running off and following them.

It was still dark out, but thanks to his seismic sense, Hunk could see just fine. He could also hear perfectly when someone carrying a torch tripped and went a little too close to the barrels.

"Watch it!" Rolo hissed, "That's blasting jelly! Do you want to get us all killed?"

"Sorry." It was The Duke who had tripped and he looked very upset. Rolo sighed and took the torch from him with a soft smile.

"It's okay, just be careful, alright? I'll carry this."

The Duke nodded and the party continued on their way, Hunk close behind.

What could they do with blasting jelly? Hunk wondered. They had already taken up the Galra camp and it as almost impossible that another would have been set up so soon.

Finally, they arrived at the bottom of a long drop, at the base of a dam. Hunk watched from the bushes as kids took the barrels and placed them along the dam.

Okay, Hunk thought to himself, They're going to blow up the dam. But wh-oh. Oh no.

Hunk looked downstream and in the distance, he could see a cluster of flickering lights. He remembered the village they had flown over when they had first come to the forest, and the direction from which they had come.

Rolo was going to flood the village.

"Whatcha doin'?" Smellerbee's voice taunted from above him. Hunk shot up and was pinned to the tree by them, a knife at his throat. He noticed Longshot calling to Rolo with their bird signals. Hunk shifted his feet and moved his arm to unsettle the earth beneath their feet, pushing Smellerbee away from him. He ran off towards the camp, knowing he had to warn the others....

Suddenly, something sharp caught his ankle and Hunk fell to the ground. He picked himself back up, only to be pushed back down, caught at the end of Rolo's blade.

"Hunk," Rolo said with that easy smile of his, "Nice seeing you. What's up?"

"You're going to flood the village?" Hunk cried in anger, "Why?"

"It's a Fire Nation village, inhabited by Galra scum. They need to go."

"But what about the people?" Hunk tried, "The mothers, fathers, children! They've done nothing wrong!"

"It's a price of war!" Rolo yelled back, "A war that has gone on too long. I'm doing what needs to be done."

Hunk glared at him and decided that he had talked for long enough. He twisted his arm which pulled Rolo's leg into a hole in the ground and used that to get up. Rolo caught his shirt but Hunk ran anyways, letting the fabric rip. Rolo chased after him, nicking him with his blades. He couldn't do anything if Rolo was on his tail.

So Hunk turned and punched a fist through the air, causing a rock to fly and smack Rolo right int the face. He used that distraction to get away, disappearing into the night.

Nyma quickly found him. He was bleeding a little bit, just from a small cut on his forehead. Nyma pulled out a spare piece of cloth from her side bag and dabbed at it.

"Great," She grumbled, "What now?"

"We have to work quickly," Rolo said, waving Nyma off and standing up, "He won't get anywhere in these woods, he has no idea where the camp is from here. It's almost dawn; we need to get back to the camp. We need to complete our plan."

Meanwhile, Hunk sprinted through the woods, tearing his way through the brush. He had to warn them, he had to warn them, he had to warn them.....

A few hours later, Rolo and Nyma woke Pidge, Lance, and the Eagle Lions up. They all sat on a wooden platform amidst the scarlet leaves.

"Where's Hunk?" Lance asked when he noticed that his teammate was not present.

"Went out on a scouting mission with Smellerbee and Longshot," Rolo explained, "Something about deciding to trust us a little bit. I'm guessing you guys talked to him?"

"Yeah," Lance said happily, "We did."

"Well, I'm glad it worked. As for you two, we need to fill up the dam."

"Great!" Lance said excitedly, "Blue and Rover can help us out an-"

"Sorry," Nyma shook her head, "The Eagle Lions can't go with you guys, too obvious. You guys need to do this without their help. Actually, they should come with me."

"Where are you going?" Pidge asked.

"There's a cave not too far from here. When the Galra shows up, we can't have them seeing the Eagle Lions. They'll try to capture them and do anything to do so. It's safer to keep them hidden. I promise to protect them."

The Voltron team members shared glances and telepathic conversations. Rolo and Nyma tried to look unbothered, but it was kind of eerie how their expressions changed and their movements seemed to match words that weren't there. Finally, they seemed to reach a conclusion.

"That'll be out of our telepathic range," Pidge said, "So we can't alert each other if something goes wrong. But we trust you."

"Thank you," Nyma said with a kind smile, "That means the world to me."

"You should get going," Rolo suggested as Beezer fluttered to Nyma's shoulder, "We want this done quickly."

She nodded and stood up, walking away with the Eagle Lions following her.

"As for us," Rolo said as he stood up, quickly followed by Lance and Pidge, "We should head to the geysers. Come on."

Not too long after, the three found themselves at a mostly dried riverbed riddled with holes that speed steam.

"There's an underground spring here," Rolo explained, "I need you guys to get the water to come up and flow down river and into the reserve."

"I don't know," Lance said nervously, tugging at his piece of hair, "I've never bent water I couldn't see..."

"And I'm not very good at bending normal water," Pidge added.

"I know you can do this," Rolo said confidently, putting a hand on both of their shoulders, "You're Voltron."

Pidge and Lance looked at each other before nodding and walking over to the first geyser. They stood opposite each other, and tried to focus on the water beneath them. It wasn't very far down and they could sense it. They both tried to focus on it and in sync, they raised their arms and closed their eyes. Then they started moving their arms in slow, steady wave patters up and down, up and down, up and down.

Rolo watched as a column of water slowly rose out of the hole. It wasn't symmetrical or pretty, but bubbly and messy, but it was working. Once it was far enough out, the two Benders pivoted and bent the water into the stream bed, producing a powerful gush of water.

"Impressive," Rolo admitted, "Now, you guys finish that up. I'll check on the dam."

"Sure," Lance said, "When we're done, we'll meet you there."

"Actually," Rolo said, turning away, "It'd be best if we met back up at the hideout."

"Sure," Pidge said. They both turned to the next geyser and resumed their task as Rolo made his way back to the dam.

A little while later, Pidge and Lance bent their sixth stream of water into the riverbed, which had now become a full and rushing stream.

"I think that's good," Lance said proudly, "And I'm not just saying that to be lazy. Let's go meet up with Rolo at the dam!"

"But didn't he say to meet him at the hideout?" Pidge asked.

"Yeah," Lance admitted with a shrug of his shoulders, "But he'll still be happy to see us."

"You forgot the way back, didn't you?"

"Yup!" Lance chirped happily, following the river downstream towards the reserve. Pidge rolled her eyes and followed, but not because she didn't know the way back either. Of course not, don't be ridiculous.

Soon, Lance and Pidge arrived at the cliff beside the dam. They looked down and noticed dozens of barrels at the foot of the dam. The updraft carried their scent and Lance recognized it.

"Fat," He said slowly, "It's animal fat."

"Why would they put animal fat at the bottom of a dam?" Pidge asked.

"Dunno," Lance admitted, "But I do know that when mixed with the right stuff it makes...blasting jelly...." Slowly, the two Paladins realized what was going to happen.

"We have to go!" Lance yelled, grabbing Pidge's arm and backing away from the edge, "We have to do something!"

"You're not going anywhere."

The two whipped around to see Rolo land from a tree, his twin blades out.

"You're going to blow up the dam and flood the village!" Pidge yelled, "Aren't you?"

"Yes," Rolo said, "But you have to understand, that's a Galra village."

"But there are innocent people," Lance argued, "People who have no business being in this war! They don't have to die!"

"It's a price I'm willing to pay," Rolo shrugged, "Guys, I had hoped you would understand. The Fire Nation took your families, ruined your homes. I knew Hunk wouldn't, they only-"

"Where's Hunk?" Lance asked harshly with tears in his eyes.

"Where is our friend?" Pidge demanded, "Where are our Eagle Lions?"

"It doesn't matter," Rolo said, advancing towards them, "Because you won't be seeing them anytime soon."

"No!" Lance screamed, bending water at Rolo, which threw him back against a tree, "Pidge, get down there and stop them!"

"On it!" Pidge bent the weeds and vines from her bag and started bending them to carry her down the cliff. But Rolo snaked around Lance and grabbed the bag with his sword, and pulled it back up. In order to keep the vines, Pidge had to allow herself to be pulled up, otherwise she would fall. The vines retreated back to her bag, which Rolo was holding.

"If you want your leaves, come get them!" He taunted before using his swords to pull him up into the branches. Pidge cursed and bent the branches around her, quickly pursuing him.

Rolo raced through the trees, swinging from branch to branch while the same branches carried Pidge. Rolo cut a branch, causing Pidge to lose her pace. But she quickly bent other branches to lift her up and face Rolo.

"Give me back my bag," Pidge held out her hand, "We can still save these people, Rolo."

"Come and get it," Rolo snarled.

"I don't want to hurt you," Pidge snapped at him, "But I will if I have to."

"I would like to see you try."

Pidge clenched her fist and spun around, causing a tornado of leaves. She wasn't as strong without he vines, but she could make due with leaves and branches.

Rolo stumbled and struggled to keep his footing, slashing at the leaves. They surged against him and pushed him back. He cursed as he dropped the bag on the branch, pulling out his other blade and attaching it to the other. He slashed it around and created a windmill of sorts, pushing the leaves away.

Suddenly, the leaves stopped and Rolo looked up to see that his opponent was gone. He snatched fit he bag at his feet, but it was gone as well. He cursed and flew through the trees back to the cliff where Pidge was soaking the vines in the stream a little ways away from the reserve.

"Hurry!" Lance urged, on the lookout for Rolo, "You have to stop them!"

"I have to soak these," Pidge explained impatiently, "If they dry out, I'm done for. Lance!"

Lance whopped around as Rolo landed. He had barely touched the ground before Lance was practically throwing water at him. Rolo barely had time to gasp for breath as Lance bent wave after wave at him, using the nearby stream as his weapon. He backed Rolo up against a tree, still pelting him with water. When he was trying to catch his breath, Lance made a pushing motion with his hands and exhaled slowly, his breath becoming visible as the temperature dropped and the water froze Rolo in place. He struggled to get free, but it was no use.

"Where is Hunk?" Lance demanded, advancing on Rolo, "Where are our Eagle Lions? Was Nyma in on this? Were they all?"

Then they all heard a bird call, a whistle and two tweets. Rolo lifted his head and replied back with a similar pattern.

"What was that?" Lance demanded, reaching for his dagger, "What did you just do?"

"It's too late!" Rolo said with a grin.

Pidge and Lance turned and watched in horror as a flaming arrow soared out from across the ravine and landed at the bottom of the dam. There was a split second where everything was silent before an explosion ripped through their ears and the dam blew, sending forth a tidal wave that utterly demolished the village.

"No," Lance whispered, falling to his knees. Pidge stood above him, completely dumbstruck.

"Heya, long time no see!"

Everyone's heads snapped up as Hunk rose from beneath them on Rocky, Blue and Rover close behind. Lance and Pidge ran and hugged their steeds before crushing Hunk in a hug.

"Hunk, ya big lug!" Lance said happily.

"What happened?" Pidge asked.

"Well," Hunk said with a smile as he pulled away to look at them, "I found out about the dam last night, but they caught me. I couldn't go back to you guys, so I went to the village to warn them."

"They believed you?" Lance exclaimed.

"Nah," Hunk grinned, "They thought I was a spy. But someone vouched for me, the old man who Rolo beat and robbed recognized me and got everyone to trust me."

"But what about the Eagle Lions?" Pidge asked

"Turns out," Hunk said, "That Nyma was planning on taking Blue as a bartering tool all along. Rocky told me that she tricked Blue into a trap and dosed her in some sleeping potion. The others managed to get away so they came and found me. Nyma left Blue in a cage for the Galra, but while I evacuated, the Eagle Lions freed Blue."

Lance clenched his fists and rounded on Rolo, "You wanted to kill Blue?" His voice was scarily calm.

"It wouldn't have killed her," Rolo argued, "She's the Guardian of Water, she can't drown. We aren't dumb enough to kill an Eagle Lion?"

"But you're dumb enough to hand her over to the Galra?" Lance cried.

"Look, I'm sorry," Rolo said, sounding defeated, "We just wanted our bounty gone. I really hope you guys win, I really do."

Lance turned his back to him, "Goodbye, Rolo."

Then the three of them mounted their Eagle Lions and flew off, making sure to avoid both freedom fighters and any villagers.

Once they were safely away, Hunk spoke.

"You know, I was always suspicious of them."

Lance sighed, "We know."

"Like, when they were talking, I thought to myself, 'They're scheming, I just know it! And then they beat that old guy-"

"We know," Pidge said irritably.

"But when I saw them with the blasting jelly, it just all made sense! I knew they were going to do something bad, I knew it all along! But would you guys listen to me? No. You guys were too caught up with-"

"We know!" Lance and Pidge shouted. Lance sighed again before speaking.

"We're grateful Hunk, we really are. You saved our lives and plenty of others. You did good."

"Thanks," Hunk replied happily, "But I knew he seemed a little too interested in the Eagle Lions-"

"We know!"

 

Captain Zhao scowled down at the numbers before him.

He had been the one in charge of the battalion stationed at that miserable Earth Kingdom village when it had been wiped out by the dam. He and his troops had erected an emergency campsite on high ground, and he was in the central command tent by himself, looking over the damages.

He was grateful that the young Earth Kingdom boy had helped them, but a small part of him wished that he had stayed. At least then, he wouldn't have to worry about all this paperwork, not to mention sending it in to Command.

He was so lost in thought, he didn't notice anyone enter until he heard a young man's voice say, "Hello, Captain."

Without looking up, Zhao snarled back, "I don't have time for whatever it is you want, especially for a rookie."

"Oh," the kid sounded mildly amused, "I'm sure you can make time for me, as I am no rookie."

"What in Sozin' bear-" Zhao looked up, frustrated, only to be surprised by who was standing in front of him.

It was one other than General Takashi Shirogane.

"G-general!" Zhao cried, standing up quickly and bowing hastily. Shirogane seemed amused, "Please, forgive me, I had no idea, I-"

The general held out a hand and smiled, "Please, I take no offence. I was just wondering if you could tell me what happened here?"

Zhao straightened and frowned, "A tsunami is what happened. There's a blasted group of kids hiding somewhere in those woods. We've sent in our best, but we've never been able to find them. A few days ago, they blasted the dam and flooded the village. If it hadn't been for one of them, we all would've died."

"Interesting," Shirogane nodded, "I'm sorry to hear that. But, and this may be strange, did you happen to see any Eagle Lions or potential Paladins?"

"You're serious?" Zhao asked with a raised eyebrow. Then he sighed and shook his head, "There have been rumours.... And the day the dam broke, my men, they said that they had found the Blue Eagle Lion caught in our traps."

"I find that highly unlikely," Shirogane said, not unkindly.

"I did too," Zhao affirmed, "We've all heard the stories, and they've been surfacing again. A creature as powerful and smart as an Eagle Lion wouldn't be caught by our traps."

"I agree," The general nodded, "And what happened afterwards?"

Zhao shrugged, "I don't know. I was on my way to see it when I was stopped by an Earth Kingdom boy. He was the one who warned us about the dam."

"I see," The general said, "And could you tell me what he looked like?"

Zhao scoffed, "Does it matter?" He cleared his throat awkwardly when he saw Shirogane's serious expression, "Yes well, um. Let's see, he was tall and wide, very largely built. He had brown hair, dark skin, ratted clothes, and he wasn't wearing any shoes. He wasn't very remarkable."

Before anymore could be said, someone else entered the tent without permission. Zhao made to scold the young boy in high-class armour, but stopped himself when he saw the magnificent red beast that followed him.

"That's-that's, he's-"

"My brother, Keith Kogane," Shirogane said firmly.

Zhao felt the need to mention the fact that Keith was in fact, a Paladin, but decided against it.

"Shiro," The younger brother addressed his senior without manners, "They were here, but they're gone now. Have been for days."

"You know this for sure?" The general asked his younger brother, who scratched the Eagle Lion under her chin as she glared at him. It was making Zhao uncomfortable.

"Yeah, trail's getting cold. I can feel them getting away."

"Whole lot of good this connection is doing," Shirogane said with a smile before turning back to the captain, "I would like to thank you for your time, Captain Zhao. I will make sure that relief efforts will come as soon as possible. Vrepit Sa."

Zhao thanked him, returned the salute, and bowed as the three left his tent. Awestruck, he plopped down into his seat.

That had been more than odd.

Chapter Text

 

Five Paladins And Four Eagle Lions

Keith concentrated on his breathing in front of the shrine. The candles were lit, his eyes were closed, he was seated comfortably, and Zuko was purring softly in the background. Keith was meditating, trying to find a centre balance. He twitched as he heard a knock on his bedroom door and Zuko perked up.

"Yes?" He asked patiently. The door opened and Shiro entered, but Keith was still trying to meditate.

"Hey Keith, I've got some news, but I don't think you'll like it."

"Whatever do you mean?" Keith asked, obviously trying to remain calm, "I am sure it is nothing."

Shiro found it entertaining that Keith thought he could fool him.

"The trail's gone cold again."

"What?" He cried, his eyes snapping open as the candles' flames shot up. Zuko chuckled and went back to sleep. Keith glared at her before standing up and snatching a map from Shiro's hands.

"I don't get it," Keith snarled as he glared at the map marked with all of the places the other members of Voltron had been, "They should be getting closer to us, not farther away!"

"But look at the map," Shiro pointed at different parts where the others had appeared to change coarse, "These are all Galra settlements. I don't know about you, but I know that if I was fated to be the downfall of the Galra Empire and the Galra knew, I would stay away. Look, it seems as though they're circling back around. What about your gut?"

"My gut?" Keith asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Yeah," Shiro confirmed, "You know, the feeling that's pulling you in their direction?"

"What about yours?"

Shiro shook his head, "It's there but it's...weak. I can only feel it if I really concentrate. I think it's because I haven't met my Eagle Lion yet."

"Fair enough," Krith admitted before blowing a stray strand of hair out of his face, "I'm trying to focus on it more, that's why I'm meditating." He jerked his head in the direction of the shrine, the candles still lit, "It comes and goes. I asked Zuko, but all she would tell is that it's a natural feeling and can't be helped."

"Maybe it changes when the others change their course?" Shiro offered. Keith shrugged.

"I have no idea but-t!" He yelled, grabbing Shiro's shoulders as Zuko stood up, ears perked up and staring at the ceiling, "They're nearby, very close. We have to catch them!"

"I really don't like this!" Hunk announced nervously as they flew over the water. They had all decided to try flying over the ocean since it covered more ground and it was cloudy so no one could see them. Not that there was anyone around to do so. Pidge was fine with it and flew steadily while Lance had a field day, flying close to the waves and soaring back up again. Hunk clung to Rocky like a lifeline.

"Relax, Hunk!" Lance yelled back as Blue brought them so close to the water that Lance could feel the stinging spray on his face. He had really missed the sea breeze in his hair, the sight of never ending water, the pure smell of salt and water. It reminded him of home, when he would venture out to where the ice met the sea and he would practice his bending. The tang of ice was gone, but as the wind whipped through his clothes, he was reminded of winter winds that never ceased.

"Easy for you to say!" Hunk cried, breaking Lance out of his reverie and flying back up to fall in line, "You're in your element! There's not a rock for miles!"

"There aren't any trees either," Pidge pointed out, shouting to be heard over the rush of the wind, "But you don't see me complaining."

"But the earth has always been a constant, man," Hunk said, glancing down at the steely blue waves and immediately regretting it, "It's always right there, beneath my feet."

"It's still there," Lance offered, "Just really far down."

"Too far."

"Hunk, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to get used to it," Lance said, "The world is like, ninety percent water."

"It is?" Pidge asked, her eyes wide, "Rover says it is. Why is there so much?"

"No clue," Lance shrugged, "But I am not about to complain!" With that, he let out a loud whoop and dove down below the clouds and towards the sea. As he broke the cloud cover, he suddenly saw a large ship. It was too far away to make out any details, but he recognized the design. And then, he felt the sensation that he had felt with Hunk and Pidge, the feeling of being in the right place at the right time, "Oh no," he complained before pulling Blue back up into the clouds, "I've found another Paladin," He announced.

"In the middle of the ocean?" Pidge cried.

Lance nodded, "They're on a Galra ship. It's right below us."

"We have to go and rescue them!" Pidge decided, already aiming Rover down, but she refused. They needed a plan.

"Blue says we need a plan," Lance said.

"Rover says the same thing," Pidge agreed, "Hunk, what's Rocky saying?"

"That this is a terrible idea!" Hunk yelled, "We can't just go and attack a Galra ship! Taking down their camp is one thing, this is a whole other level!"

"What about the Earthbender prison?" Lance reminded him.

"We had hundreds of Benders to help us!" Hunk cried, "Guys, we can't do this!"

"We have to!" Lance cried. Before they could argue any further, their Eagle Lions swerved out of they way as a huge fireball flew past them and out of sight.

"Looks like they know we're here!" Lance yelled before diving down, closely followed by Pidge. Hunk swallowed and looked down.

"This is a really, really bad idea." Then he followed his teammates into battle.

The first thing they were all aware of was how fearful the ship was.

It was made of a black iron and laced with red and purple trim. It was all sharp angles and sleek edges, looking like it could cut through ice. Dark smoke poured up of its stack and great balls of fire were launched from the deck.

And for each Paladin, it brought back a bad memory.

Pidge was reminded of uniforms made from the same styles, marching too close to her home and taking her family away. Hunk saw the ships at ports and the sailors that harassed anyone and everyone. Lance remembered the fleet that had come with black snow as their only warning, taking his uncle away from him.

They were kids, and they were scared.

But the Eagle Lions were not. They had been around for millennia and saw no difference between man's inventions. This ship was nothing to them, but they could all sense their Paladins' fear and feel their memories. They had to take charge.

Blue swooped down close to the water, willing the ocean to swell up behind her and unbalance the ship, rocking it back and forth. Meanwhile, Rocky and Rover landed on the deck and started ploughing down soldiers, cutting a path to the door that led below decks, where they could sense the two remaining Paladins and the Red Eagle Lion.

Suddenly, the door burst open and two Fire Nation men stepped out, followed by the Red Eagle Lion. All members of Voltron felt the click, as if everything was right.

Distracted, Blue didn't notice the net until she and Lance were wrapped in it, engulfed by the water. She could breathe, but Lance did not have lungs made for water and struggled to find any sort of air. Blue tried slashing through the net, but it seemed to be made of solid steel.

Hunk and Pidge were pulled from their mounts, kicking and thrashing. The Eagle Lions lunged for their Paladins, but they were soon wrapped in chains and brought down, muzzles placed over their mouths. Pidge and Hunk were tied up and thrown to the ground as their Eagle Lions were bound to the bow. Some soldiers hauled the net containing Blue and Lance onto the deck. Lance was wheezing and gasping, coughing up seawater that stung every part of him. Blue tried her best to shield him with her own body, but the net weighed heavily on her. The Galra chained her easily and muzzled her, tying her up with the other Eagle Lions. Lance was tied up too, still gasping for breath. He was thrown down next to Hunk and Pidge.

"Lance!" Hunk cried, scooting over to him, "Hey man, are you okay?"

"I'll be fine," Lance croaked, unsure whether that was true. All he could hear was rushing water, he couldn't see anything but filtered sunlight, and he swore that he felt the icy water filling up his lungs. Not again, not again.

"Guys," Pidge warned as the two men who had stepped out from belowdecks came forward. The three of them sat up, bound at their hands and feet. To be quite honest, they were kind of surprised by their appearances.

The taller and obviously older one had long, think black hair that went down to his back. Half of it was pinned up in a tight bun adorned with a small flame ornament. He had a white streak which looked odd but definitely didn't make him any less attractive. He was very tall and very well built, which was obvious even with the luscious red robes covered by a breastplate. He had smaller eyes that were a very dark colour and a scar across his handsome face. He had his arms crossed and hidden in the long sleeves of his robe and he watched with curiosity.

The shorter one looked a little bit like the taller one, but his eyes were large and a striking violet colour. His hair was short and pulled up completely into a tight bun like his elder's. He wore armour similar to the other soldier's, but his seemed a little more decorative, and it didn't have a spot of purple in it, all red and gold. The only word to properly describe his appearance was, quite frankly, pretty. Although anger had distorted his features a little bit. Beside him stood the Red Eagle Lion, looking completely unperturbed by the events that had just unfolded. She had something around her neck; a knife wrapped in leather, it seemed, hung from a rope.

"You're a Paladin?" Lance snarled, his voice raw and hoarse thanks to his throat.

"No, I merely tamed an Eagle Lion," The younger one said with a plain look.

"Yeah, no. Eagle Lions can only be tamed by their Paladins," Lance said with a shrug, "So there's some news for ya."

"Guys," Hunk warned, "Be careful, these people are Keith Kogane and General Takashi Shirogane."

"Who?" Pidge asked.

"You really don't know who we are?" The older brother seemed amused by their ignorance.

"You seriously don't know?" The younger one seemed annoyed.

"Hey," Lance snarled, "I grew up at the South Pole and her hometown is a swamp cut off from the rest of the world. Sorry we're not bowing down to you."

"You should be!" The younger'a temper flared and the older one cleared his throat, but the other ignored his warning. He stepped closer to Lance and towered over him, but Lance didn't waver, "I am Keith Kogane, second son to Firelord and Galra Emperor Zarkon, Red Paladin of Voltron. This is General Takashi Shirogane, heir to the throne. Are you afraid yet?"

Lance smirked, "Should I be? Oh, and since we're doing introductions, my name is Lance, Blue Paladin, that one's Pidge, she's the Green Paladin, and he's Hunk, Yellow Paladin. Now that we're all nice and acquainted, why don't you let us go, hmm?"

Keith continued to glare at the Water Tribe boy who had introduced himself as Lance. Obviously he was infuriated by the boy's audacity, but Shiro found it entertaining. Shiro and Keith had grown up around servants and people constantly lowering themselves in their presence. Shiro had grown tired of it over the years, but Keith had never had any reason to dislike it. And in the middle of the ocean, he grasped at any control he had. When people didn't do exactly as he said, he could become....agitated.

"Keith," Shiro warned. Keith glanced back up at his brother and backed away, scowling.

"Take the prisoners to my chambers," Keith ordered nearby soldiers, "Leave the Eagle Lions. Touch them, and you answer to me. I'll know if you do." As if to prove his point, Zuko growled and snarled as the guards dragged their human prisoners below decks. She followed after them, making sure they weren't doing anything too bad with the Paladins.

Once they reached Keith's room, he turned to the guards and spoke to them.

"Leave us," He ordered.

The guards looked at each other and then at Shiro, who nodded in confirmation. Keith hated how he didn't technically have any real authority but it also made him thankful for his half-brother.

The guards bowed and left after throwing the Paladins on the very hard floor of Keith's room. Once they had left and the door shut after them, Keith strode over to Zuko and plucked the knife from her neck, pulling the rope off of her. Then he stoop up and unwrapped the dagger, revealing it to be made of diamond.

"Hey!" Hunk cried, trying to get up and falling over. He wiggled so he was glaring up at Keith, but he was still lying on his belly and tied up, "That's my knife! Give it back!"

"I will," Keith said, walking over to him and sawing away at his ropes, "If you'll just be patient."

"That's funny, coming from you," Shiro teased. Keith shot a glare at him before finishing the ropes. He gave the knife back to Hunk and moved onto the Water Tribe Boy.

"Why are you doing this?" He asked as the other one untied the little green girl.

"You'll see in a minute," Keith said as he hacked through the ropes. His hands and feet were now free, as well as the rest of the Paladins. He rubbed his wrists tentatively and shot a worried glance at his teammates. Keith smiled warmly at him and he smiled back.

Then he punched him right in the nose.

Keith yelled out in surprise and fell backwards, clutching his nose. He could feel blood dripping through his fingers and he wondered if his nose was broken or not. He climbed on top of him and tried to pin him down. On impulse, Keith kicked out his legs and swung around so he was on top and the two began to wrestle.

"I'm trying to help you!" He yelled as he pinned the blue boy. In response, he kneed him in the gut and he wheezed, "You're making this very difficult."

"Really?" Lance huffed, "Because it's pretty easy for me."

Meanwhile, Hunk and Pidge teamed up against General Takashi. Pidge was using a candlestick from the shine to try and hit the General, but he kept dodging her attacks while Hunk tried to get him with his dagger. Neither were very skilled in their weapons and it was obviously easy for the man to keep sidestepping.

"Please," He asked patiently, "If you would just listen to us-"

"You've captured us and tied up our Eagle Lions," Pidge snarled, "You're traitors to Voltron!"

Zuko sat on her haunches on Keith's bed, watching the whole thing with detached interest.

"Some help would be nice!" Keith called out to her as he was pinned against the wall, turning around to switch the positions.

Zuko was busy communicating the other Eagle Lions. It would prove helpful if they knew what was going on. Chains were effective, but they wouldn't hold forever.

"Thanks so much," Keith mumbled.

Suddenly, Hunk saw an opening and went for the General's right arm. He slashed down hard with his knife, only to be stopped with a loud noise that rang throughout the cabin and make Hunk's teeth vibrate.

Startled by the noise, everyone went completely still.

Shiro seized the opportunity to talk to the Paladins.

"Please," He started off, "We don't want to hurt you. We released you from your bonds so that we could talk peacefully."

"So why are you fighting us?" Pidge asked, standing in a defensive stance.

"You attacked us!" Keith cried, letting go of the boy and standing up, glaring at the one who called himself Lance, "Besides, did you see either of us use our bending?"

Lance narrowed his eyes suspiciously, "True, true."

"Your arm..." Hunk whispered, looking fairly terrified and clutching his dagger, "I thought they were just stories...."

"Stories?" Pidge asked, "What stories?"

"Sometimes, I wish they were," Shiro said sadly as he pulled back his right sleeve to reveal an arm made entirely of metal. It clicked and whirred a little bit as he moved it, but it seemed to function perfectly normally and it looked like he was just wearing a very odd, tight sleeve, "I lost my arm when I tried to conquer Garrison. While I was there, I learned many things about the Fire Nation, the Galra Empire, and exactly what it did to the world. My brother learned those things as well. The Galra Empire has ruined our country and is trying to ruin the world. It spreads like a parasite, destroying everything it touches. We want to stop it just as much as you guys do."

"He's telling the truth," Hunk said. Everyone turned to look at him and he scratched his chin nervously, "When people lie, their heartbeat changes and I can feel that. It's tricky with metal, but it seems pretty steady."

"See?" Keith demanded, glaring at Lance, "We're just trying to help."

"I would appreciate it so much more if you hadn't almost drowned me," Lance snapped, crossing his arms angrily, "Thanks for that, by the way."

"It was the only way we could get you onto the boat without suspicion," Shiro offered, "If we invited you on, would you have come?"

"Fair enough," Pidge amended, "So, what's your plan?"

"Honestly," Keith admitted, "We're not sure yet. Our first step was to find you guys and figure it out from there. By the way, where's the last one?"

"The last what?" Lance asked rudely.

"The last Eagle Lion, genius!" Keith spat back. Sure, he had almost drowned the guy, but he hadn't. Why was he being so difficult? "Isn't it with you?"

"Uh, no," Pidge said warily, "It's with the rest of Voltron. Everyone here is all that can be without going to Altea."

"What do you mean?" Shiro asked, "We thought that the Black Eagle Lion would be with you."

"No," Hunk said with a shake of his head, "They're trapped somewhere in Altea along with the Avatar, their spirit guide, and their advisor. We have to all go and free them."

"Hold on," Keith said angrily, "So you mean to tell me that all nine of us have to go to Altea in order to get the rest of Voltron?"

"Yeah," Lance said, "I thought that would be pretty obvious. Didn't your Eagle Lion tell you?"

"Evidently not," Keith hissed at Zuko. She opened one eye at him.

Keith had never asked.

"Unbelievable!" He cried, throwing his hands up in the air.

"This does change things," Shiro said thoughtfully, folding his arms back into his sleeves, "Our original plan was to find decoys for ourselves and bring you guys in under the impression that we captured you. That would take you right to Zarkon himself, but we can't do that anymore."

"Why not?" Lance asked.

"Because you guys made it pretty obvious that I'm a Paladin," Keith snapped, "Our father would never let us get anywhere close to him. And on top of that, we have to find a lost civilization and free the rest of Voltron. Maybe we could've gotten away with capturing you guys, but the Avatar? Forget it."

"We're just going to have to think of another plan," Shiro offered, "Does anyone have any ideas?"

It was silent for a moment before Pidge spoke up.

"We could kidnap you."

"What?" Keith asked rudely. She glared at him but Shiro smiled at her.

"Pidge, was it?" She nodded, "I think we can make that work."

"How?" Keith asked, "You're Takashi Shirogane, war hero and crown prince. How are three inexperienced kids with nothing to bend going to kidnap you?"

"Four," Shiro said, his smile disappearing, "If we include you."

"What?" Keith asked again.

"No, that makes sense!" Hunk spoke up excitedly, "You're the younger brother right? We could play it off as jealousy. And the crew doesn't know that he's the Black Paladin."

"Yeah!" Lance said enthusiastically, "Keith Kogane, jealous brother, kidnapped the crown prince as a bargaining chip and forced him to join Voltron, helped by three awesome and very good looking master Benders." Lance winked and crossed his one arm, the other resting on top with his thumb at his chin and his index pointing.

He was met with blank glares.

"I cannot wait to spend endless hours with you people," Keith grumbled, "So, what are we going to do?"


An hour later, as the guards were warily patrolling the deck and keeping an eye on the Eagle Lions, they heard yelling from belowdecks. After a moment of hesitation, a few rushed towards the door. Suddenly, it flung open and the Paladins marched out, each holding something that they could fight with.

The three that they had captured were in front. The Water Tribe boy was holding the water in the air while the green one clutched vines from their bag. The big one gripped a dagger that glimmered in the sun. Behind them came Keith Kogane, holding a knife to his brother's throat and dragging him along. Following it all was the Red Eagle Lion, the cage which held all of the ship's messenger hawks in her mouth.

"Halt!" The most senior officer called.

"Help!" Shiro commanded, "They're trying to kidnap me!"

"Release the General," The officer ordered.

"You're going to tell that to a Paladin?" Keith asked with a smirk, "Cute. Zuko, now!"

With a roar, Zuko dropped the cage, leaped over everyone's heads and landed next to her comrades. She ripped off the latch that held them down and freed them as they tore through their muzzles. In seconds, they were fighting off soldiers as their Paladins mounted them. Shiro struggled, but only enough to make it look convincing. Once he was safely on, they all took off into the skies, the cage once again in Zuko's mouth. Fireballs were launched at them and they dodged.

"Are they trying to kill me too?" Shiro complained.

"Father wasn't exactly generous when he gave us the crew," Keith said through gritted teeth as he concentrated on flying.

"Yeah," Shiro admitted, "But I liked the cook. He knew just how to make my duck."

"We're openly betraying our homeland and you're worried about cooking?!"

"You're openly betraying our homeland," Shiro reminded, "I'm just an innocent who was captured."

"How can you be so calm?" Keith complained as they dodged a fireball.

"I'm finally getting off that damned ship," Shiro said, "Don't pretend like you aren't happy about it."

"I do hate boats," Keith admitted with a smile. Together, the team flew off and up into the sky until the Galra ship was a speck of black in a vast canvas of blue.


Zuko was getting tired, and she felt that she was carrying more than her fair share.

"Okay, okay," Keith said to Zuko before turning to the others and yelling to be heard over the rushing of the winds, "Can we land?"

"Is there a place to?" Pidge asked. Lance looked disappointed at the questions, which Keith thought was stupid.

"Yeah," Hunk said eagerly, "There's land just below us. Let's stay there for a little while."

"Fine," Lamce complained as the rest of the team flew down and landed on a small patch of beach that was bordered by sharp rocks and tall, steep cliffs. They all dismounted and stretched before facing each other.

"So," Pidge began uncertainly, "That went surprisingly well."

"They aren't the most competent crew," Shiro admitted with a smile as he stretched his flesh arm, "They take orders, but they surely aren't good enough to serve under a proper command."

"Aren't you guys a proper command?" Lance asked, leaning against Blue and crossing his arms, "I mean, aren't you princes?"

"None of your business," Keith snapped.

Lance raised us hands in surrender, "It was just a question, dude. Or am I not worthy enough to ask such things of you?"

"No, you're not," Keith snarled at Lance before turning away to root through his hastily packed bags.

Lance, Hunk, and Pidge all exchanged nervous looks. Shiro walked over to them and cleared his throat.

"You'll have to excuse my brother," He said kindly, "He's not a fan of the sea. By the way, you can all call me Shiro." He stuck out his robotic arm and Lance glanced down at it. He looked at it for a moment before smiling and taking it, shaking it firmly.

"Nice to meet you, Shiro," He said as Shiro shook hands with the other two, "So I've gotta ask, what are two princes doing on a second-rate boat in the middle of the ocean?"

"That's a story for another day," Shiro said, glancing back at Keith who had pulled out the marked map and was looking it over, "But we were trying to track you down, which we have been successful in, evidently." He shot a glance at Hunk, who had sat down and was clutching his head, apparently zoned out, "Is...he alright?"

"Hunk?" Pidge asked, glancing back at him. She smiled up at Shiro, "He'll be fine, he just needs a moment to take everything in. By the way, what are those?" She pointed at the very large cage containing five red and brown birds with Galra harnesses on them.

"Those are messenger hawks," Shiro explained.

"How do they work?" Lance asked. Shiro frowned.

"You really don't know?"

"Hey man," Lance said with a shrug, "Like I said before, my hometown is literally the South Pole. We're surrounded by ice and not much else. Pidge here grew up in a swamp separated from the rest of society. We're both kinda cut off from the outside world."

"Oh, fair enough," Shiro admitted, "Anyways, the hawks have harnesses in them that carry messages to certain locations. They're our only means of communication in the ocean, and they can find their way anywhere if you show them on the map."

"So why did we take em?" Lance asked.

"It's so that the rest of the crew couldn't warn anyone about the betrayal, right?" Pidge asked, "It gives us more time before people will notice that something's wrong."

"Yeah, that's it," Shiro said proudly, "It really wouldn't help if word got out too quickly."

"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!" Keith cried from where he was standing with his map. He crumpled it up and threw it behind him before kicking a loose rock into the sea.

"What?" Shiro asked, walking over and picking up the map, carefully straightening it out again.

"We're pretty much on the opposite side of the world of where we need to be!" Keith complained. He strode over and jabbed a finger at a point near the large, southern bay of the Earth Kingdom, "This is where we are," He said angrily. Then he jabbed his finger at what used to be Altea, part of the Southern Air Nomad territory, "This is where we need to be!"

"It's not that far," Lance commented, peeking around Shiro. Keith glared at him.

"He's right, for once," Pidge said. Lance elbowed her and she swatted his shoulder absently as she stared at the map, "It might have taken you guys a lot longer to get there, since you had to stick to the water and maneuver around land. But the Eagle Lions are faster than your boats, and we don't have to worry about going around anything if we're flying."

"How long do you think it'll take?" Shiro asked.

"Two, maybe three days, if the weather is good," Lance said, running calculations in his mind, "But with more members of our party we'll need to stop and get food, plus we'll need to be even more careful than before since we have you guys with us so...." Lance closed his eyes and started muttering, his fingers moving as he did calculations on them, "Maybe like a week, if all goes well, which it hardly does."

Keith yelled in frustration and threw his hands up. He picked up a rock and threw it into the water. Then he turned back to the others, "Let's not waste any time! Let's get going!"

"Keith," Pidge said, "We've been flying all day, and the six of us for even longer." She gestured to Lance and Hunk, who was still on the ground being carefully watched by Rocky, "I think we should make camp here and rest while we can."

Keith looked like he wanted to protest but Shiro rolled up the map and walked over to him, placing his flesh arm on his shoulder, "Keith, we're all anxious to get going, but Pidge is right. We need to stay for the night. We've got a good head start on the crew and we took the hawks. We're about as safe as we can get."

Keith sighed, staring out at the water. He didn't like being in school a tiny island; it was more like a rock and just large enough to make camp comfortably.

"Fine," He relented, "But we're out of here first thing in the morning."

"Agreed," Shiro said with a smile, "So how about we set those hawks free, huh?"

The two walked over to the cage and kneeled down next to it. Shiro took the lock in his robotic hand and crushed it.

"I guess you could say that that thing sure is handy." Lance said with a smart as he stood over the cage. A pebble came sailing from Hunk's direction and nailed Lance in the back of the head. "Ow!" He cried out and shot a glare at Hunk, who had now started building a fire pit.

"What did I tell you about bad puns?"

"Not to use them," Lance answered, "But that wasn't a bad one, it was great!"

"Uh, I beg to differ!" Hunk argued.

"C'mon buddy," Lance said with a dangerous smirk, "You're my friend! I wouldn't put you through that kind of punishment!"

Another pebble came sailing at Lance but he dodged it with a "Ha!" However, Hunk moved his hand and Lance suddenly slid sideways. Unbalanced, he fell on his butt, hard. Hunk and Pidge laughed, and Shiro seemed chuckled quietly.

"What do you want?" Keith asked Lance, who had now stood back up and was rubbing his butt mournfully.

"I wanted to send a message," Lance admitted. He pulled a rolled up piece of paper from his waist ornament and presented it to them, "We all have families who are probably pretty worried about us. I think it would be really nice if they had some way to communicate with us."

Keith gnawed on his lip, obviously weighing the probabilities of the letters getting intercepted.

"It's not like I would give away any crucial information," Lance said quickly, obviously picking up on what the brothers were thinking, "Just simple stuff like who we've got with us now, how we're doing, anything cool we did, junk like that."

"I don't see why not," Shiro said, "How about this; you, Hunk, and Pidge each take one and write a letter, then send it to your homes. That way, they can keep it until they need to send a letter to you."

"But how will the messages get back to us?" Lance asked.

"The birds are very good at finding their way back to their owners," Shiro explained, "They will always come back to you."

"Cool!" Lance said with a grin. He looked down at his paper and started twirling it in his hands, "I should probably revise this then. Gimme a few." With that, he walked off towards Blue and started rooting through his bags. He told the others what Shiro had told him, and they did the same.

"They could get intercepted," Keith pointed out.

"So what?" Shiro said with a shrug, "It's not like there'll be anything useful in the letters. And I know how it feels, to be away from your family for so long. You crave any sort of contact...."

"Shiro," Keith said quietly, clutching the map a little harder in his hands, "How are we going to pull this off? It won't take long before word gets out that you've been kidnapped, and it's not like people don't know who you are."

"They know my name, not my face," Shiro said, placing a hand on Keith's shoulder, "Most people recognize me by my scar and hand. Hiding in plain sight is our best option right now."

"Yeah," Keith said with a sigh, "You're right."

A while later, once the sun had fallen and the hawks had been sent away, Voltron said around a large, central fire with everyone's tents set up. A medium-sized animal was roasting on a spit over a fire, while smaller pieces sat cooking in the embers. Hunk hummed absently as he poked at the food. Pidge leaned against Rover and played with a few vines. Rover tried to paw them and Pidge snatched them away, letting Rover catch them every now and then. Shiro and Keith were propped up against Zuko, poring over the map and marking any Galra settlements. Lance lounged against a purring Blue as he summed and tuned his liuqin.

"You know," Lance spoke up after some time, "That was the last of our main food supply. We're going to have to land soon and hunt."

"That can wait," Keith said dismissively.

"Maybe you can," Hunk spoke up, "But I know I can't, and I'm certain the Eagle Lions can't either."

"It won't take long," Lance promised, "There's plenty of forest around this area, so there's usually some good game. Do either of you happen to know how to hunt?"

Shiro nodded, "I know basic survival skills. I've never been great at hunting, but I can manage."

"Good, so you'll help me then," Lance said, strumming a chord.

Keith snorted in disbelief, "You hunt?"

"Do I hunt?" Lance mocked, "I shall have you know that I am the best hunter of my tribe!"

"I thought you were the only hunter in your tribe," Pidge pointed out. Lance stuck his tongue out at her and she laughed.

"Seriously though," Hunk said as he turned the spit, "Lance really is the source of our food. Without him, we would have to survive off of nuts and berries. And there's only so much I can do with nuts and berries."

"Hey guys, don't bash the berries," Lance argued as he started strumming a tune absently, "We didn't exactly have those back home. They're so sweet and juicy, I like em!"

"Yeah but you can't eat just berries," Keith said, "There's not enough nutrition."

"Says the guy who ate nothing but variations of eggs for three days straight," Shiro said with a smirk.

"They have protein!" Keith argued, "I was trying to bulk up!"

"Ah hahaha!" Lance laughed loudly, doubling over and clutching his instrument.

"It's not that funny," Keith grumbled.

"It's pretty funny," Lance admitted, pretending to wipe away tears as he straightened up.

"Whatever," Keith said, eager to change topics. He noticed Lance's liuqin and nodded at it, "Where did you get that? It doesn't look very Water Tribe."

"That's because I bought it when I first met Hunk," Lance explained, strumming a couple of chords, "He taught me some notes."

"Yeah right," Hunk snorted as he handed out the food, "I knew a couple notes and taught him the basics. He's pretty much self-taught."

"That's pretty impressive," Shiro said as he bit into the meat. He hummed happily, "And this is amazingly cooked."

"We're a talented group," Pidge said as she dove into the meat, "Hunk can cook, Lance can hunt and sing, and I can fit into small spaces."

"Truly a force to be reckoned with," Lance grinned as he ate his food. Everyone laughed and continued eating, silent except for the sounds of chewing, the lions purring, the waves crashing, and he fire crackling.

After some time, once everyone had finished eating, Lance picked up his liuqin and started strumming again. He started humming along too, and the others fell silent. It was soft and sweet, like a lullaby. And then he began to sing.

It was smooth and calm, like watching stars or the ocean waves fade in and out of the shore. Lance strummed his instrument in a calming, steady pattern; one and two-three, one and two-three. The words were in another language, one that Keith and Shiro had never heard before. Hunk and Pidge recognized it from one of the first songs Lance had sung for them. Slowly, his voice faded out until he was humming again, keeping the strumming pattern. With a graceful end, it all fell silent. Lance had played the entire thing with his eyes closed and once he had finished, he opened them and grinned.

"Pretty cool, huh?" He asked cockily. Keith snorted and rolled his eyes. Shiro jabbed him playfully with his elbow.

"That was beautiful, Lance."

"Not as beautiful as you," Lance said with a wink. Hunk and Pidge groaned while Shiro was a little too shocked to do much. Keith however, was not pleased. He glared at Lance and balled his fists. He started to move but stopped when Hunk started speaking.

"We were so close," Hunk complained, poking the fire, "So close to having a nice moment."

"It was just a compliment!" Lance argued, but he didn't sound very convincing, especially since he was still grinning, "Can't I compliment someone, man to man?"

"That was not a compliment," Pidge pointed out, "And you know it."

"Uh, what?" Keith finally spoke up.

Hunk sighed heavily as he stoked the flames, "Lance is aggressively bisexual. Emphasis on aggressive. He'll flirt with pretty much everyone. And the only reason why he stopped flirting with me is because I taught him how to use that thing." He gestured to the liuqin as Lance shrugged helplessly.

"I flirt with attractive people. Is that a crime?"

"To some, yes," Keith mumbled under his breath. Thankfully, only Shiro heard him. He laughed loudly and poked a metal finger into Keith's back, their message for not cool, talk later.

"It's been a long day for all of us," Shiro said, "And I think it's a good idea to leave as soon as we can, maximize daylight. So how about we call it a night?"

"Agreed," Hunk said with a yawn as he stood up. He scratched Rocky under her chin and she sleepily trundled after him into his little rock hut that he had made.

Pidge stood up and walked over to her tent; a lopsided thing that seemed to be made of large leaves sewn together, held up by a series of twigs and branches. She waved goodnight as she and Rover walked inside, the curtain acting as her opening falling into place to hide her from sight. Lance stood up and stretched and Blue did the same, both with a large yawn. Lazily, Lance flicked some ocean water onto the fire, dousing it completely. He and Blue made their way to a simple blue tent, kept up squarely and properly. There was a part between two flaps that acted as a doorway. As Lance entered and Shiro and Keith made their way to their lavish red tent, Lance turned to them and smiled.

"Goodnight guys. And welcome to Voltron."

 

Chapter Text

 

The Waterbending Scroll

"What?" Hunk cried, panic flooding into his voice.

What had been discovered of Voltron flew through a mountain range, soaring peacefully above the clouds. Or at least, it had been peaceful before the Black Paladin, Shiro, had told his team some critical information.

"Hunk, you need to chill out, okay?" Pidge said.

"Chill out?" Hunk yelled, "Oh yeah sure, okay I'll chill out. It's not like we have less than a year to find the Avatar and the rest of Voltron, have them master all four elements, and defeat Zarkon and his army. Yeah no, I'll just chill!"

"Look, I know it's not the best situation-" Shiro began before he was cut off by a loud laugh from Hunk.

"The best situation! To me, the best situation would be to have the Avatar with us, mastered all four elements, Zarkon is defeated, and I'm surrounded by food and solid ground. So no, it's not the best situation."

"Hey, big man!" Keith called out from Zuko, where Shiro was perched behind him, "None of us are happy about this, but we've got to work with what we have. So I suggest that you take a breath and calm. Down."

"And I suggest that you leave him alone!" Lance argued, flying over so he was in between the two Eagle Lions, "Hunk's a nervous guy and if he wants to deal with this news by ranting about it, let him!"

"Thank you Lance!" Hunk yelled gratefully. Lance made a face and gestured back at Hunk, as if to say you see what I mean?

"Look, guys, we're all a little tired," Shiro said, trying to break up the tension, "So how about we find a safe place to land and make camp there. We can rest up and then discuss it further."

The others agreed and soon, they had found a nice spot by a small waterfall which drained into a large pool. Once the camp had been set up, Lance, Pidge, Hunk, and their Eagle Lions were playing in the water while Keith and Shiro went over a map and tried to figure out where they were. Zuko had found a nice rock to sunbathe on.

Soon, those in the water got into a splash fight with each other. They laughed and played in the fresh water and kept splashing each other and their Eagle Lions. Lance waved his arms and sent a small wave cascading into Hunk.

"I feel kind of cheated here," Hunk laughed, pushing his hair out of his face, "An Earthbender in a splash fight with two Waterbenders."

"Technically I'm more of a Plantbender," Pidge pointed out.

"And I'm not really that good at waterbending," Lance said, "I only know from what I taught myself, which isn't much."

"Hey guys, can you come over here?" Shiro called over to them. The others obliged and climbed out of the water. They stood in front of the map, careful not to drip on it.

Keith glanced up and immediately looked back down. Everyone was positively indecent. Hunk just had his regular pants on and had discarded everything else, Pidge had taken off her bark armour as well as her shirt, leaving her in loose pants and tight chest wrappings that seemed to be made of a very thick type of leaf. Lance though, was the worst. He had kept his necklace and earring in place but all that was left of his clothes was a white wrapping that was a cross between a diaper and a loincloth. It only covered what was necessary and left everything else open, which Keith was extremely uncomfortable with. How could Lance be so flippant about his body? Sure, where Keith came from, men usually only covered from their waist to their knees when swimming which wasn't a whole lot different, but it still covered more.

"Please put on some clothes," Keith growled, careful to tilt his head in a way that the others could not see his very red face. Shiro did though, and Keith could feel him smiling.

"Why?" Lance asked, putting his hands on his hips and cocking them out to one side, "I'm not doing anything wrong."

"Just put something on!" Keith snapped, not looking at him. Lance scoffed and rolled his eyes, walking over to where he had dumped his clothes and shrugging them back on. He tossed Hunk and Pidge their shirts which they pulled on. Once they had been sufficiently dressed, they gathered around the map again.

"We're here," Shiro said, pointing at a spot in the Earth Kingdom, not far from where they had met Shiro and Keith, "We've managed to put some distance between us and the Galra, which is good, but we still want to lay low. Keith and I need to pick up some supplies since we didn't have a whole lot of time to pack. Thankfully, there's a large market not far from here. We could walk no problem."

"It's not the friendliest place," Keith warned, "I would be careful."

"Oh please," Lance scoffed, "I'm sure we can handle it."

"Uh huh," Keith said skeptically, "Well we should get going-"

"Like that?" Lance asked, pointing at Keith's outfit.

"He's right," Shiro said, standing up and helping Keith up, "We should change."

"What's wrong with my clothes?" Keith asked defensively. He and Shiro were wearing the same clothes that they had been when Shiro had been "captured" by Voltron. They were very militaristic and obvious.

"I don't think it'll be a good idea to walk around in armour, it'll be a lot easier to recognize us," Shiro explained before turning to the others, "We'll just be a couple of minutes." Then they went into their shared tent.

Once they had entered, Keith turned to Shiro and hissed, "Why does he have to be so annoying?"

"Lance?" Shiro asked with a smile.

"Don't look at me like that," Keith said with distaste, "And yes, Lance. Why can't he ever say things politely? Or just do things without a million questions?"

"I don't know," Shiro said, rooting through their packs for casual clothes, "But he kind of sounds like someone else I know." Shiro tossed Keith his clothes with a smirk.

"I'm not like him. I wear actual clothes when other people are around."

"Maybe it's his culture," Shiro suggested as they both got dressed, "He did mention that his tribe was very small and tight-knit, and he's probably been travelling with the others for a while now. It's probably not a big deal to him."

"Well it is to me," Keith grumbled.

Shiro frowned and walked over to him, putting a hand on Keith's shoulder. Keith focused on his belt.

"Keith," Shiro said in what Keith liked to call his Dad Voice, "We're not in the Fire Nation anymore. We saw how everyone reacted when Lance flirted with me. They don't care, and you know I don-"

"Let's just drop it," Keith said icily, shrugging away from Shiro's hand to shove on his boots. Shiro wanted to say more but he knew it was best to just leave it.

A beat passed after the two had entered their tent before Lance turned to the others.

"Can you believe!" Lance cried, throwing his hands in the air dramatically as the others put on the rest of their clothes as well, "Why does he feel the need to get so defensive? I only asked a few questions!"

"Maybe it's his culture," Hunk offered as he tossed Lance his fur waist piece, "I know where I come from, people aren't as loose about the body."

"Why?" Pidge asked as she strapped on her pieces of bark. Even though they had been swimming, there were still a few leaves trapped in her hair, "It's just a body."

"I don't know," Hunk said, "But where you guys come from is kinda different. You're all close with each other, not so much with us. So maybe the Galra are just uncomfortable with nudity."

"Well that's helpful," Lance joked, "Next time a Galra soldier's after me, I'll just flash 'em."

The three laughed and Shiro and Keith came out of their tent. Shiro had long grey pants and sleeves underneath a set of red robes lined with gold and tied with a gold belt. He wore simple red slippers and when he folded his arms into his sleeves, you couldn't even tell that one of them was metal. Keith meanwhile dressed more brightly, with red pants and a tee shirt covered by a long black vest with gold trim that stopped above his knees. His pants were tucked into gold and black shoes that matched his top robe and it was tied at his waist with a belt, a sheathe with a knife at his hip. Black wrappings climbed up both of his arms, woven between his fingers and disappearing into the robes. Both of them had kept their hair up in their original styles, but had removed any ornaments.

"We ready to go?" Shiro asked. The others agreed and grabbed their money and started to head out. Keith was the last one as he picked up his empty travelling bag and was followed by Zuko.

"Uh, Keith?" Shiro asked when he looked back.

"Yeah?"

"I don't think it's a good idea to bring Zuko."

"Oh. Right." He turned to Zuko and scratched between her ears.

She wanted to go. She liked markets.

"Sorry, can't. You'll attract a lot of unwanted attention. You gotta stay here."

Zuko growled and stalked off back to her rock here she plopped down grumpily, very pointedly facing away from Keith.

The others laughed and continued their way to the market. Once they got there, they realized that Keith had been right; there were mean-looking people everywhere and many gave them rude looks and glares.

"Does anyone else feel targeted?" Hunk asked quietly as he stayed close to Lance.

"Relax, Hunk, they're just looking for potential customers," Lance said confidently.

"Maybe they wouldn't look at you as much if you hadn't brought all of your money with you," Keith suggested, gesturing at Lance's large and jingling money pouch.

"Well I'm not the one wearing golden robes," Lance argued.

"Alright," Shiro interjected before they could get started again, "Keith and I are going to go to a few shops to replace what we left behind. You guys can look around and we'll meet back at the camp by sunset. Agreed?"

"Wait we're splitting up?" Hunk asked, clinging onto Lance's shirt.

"It'll attract less attention," Pidge said, "I mean, rich Fire Nation travelling with a ratty Earth Kingdom kid, a Water Tribe kid, and a Swamp Tribe kid? Not the most common of groups."

"Pidge is right," Shiro said, "Like Keith said, this place is dangerous. We don't want to attract any unwanted attention."

"Okay cool, so we can just do whatever we want?" Lance asked eagerly.

Shiro frowned, "I wouldn't say tha-"

"Okay cool bye!" Lance yelled, dragging Hunk away and Pidge following after. Keith looked up at Shrio and scowled.

"If anything happens, I blame Lance."

"I feel like that may be fair. Come on, let's see if we can find a Lotus Tile." Shiro gestured for Keith to follow him, and he did.

"Why do you need that tile again? We don't even have the game! And if we did, there isn't anyone besides myself that knows how to play it."

"It's good luck," Shiro said simply.

Lance, Hunk, and Pidge had already put a fair distance between themselves and the other two and were looking around eagerly. Well, Lance jumped from shop to shop ogling everything, Pidge was interested but didn't touch, and Hunk clung to Pidge's shoulder as he nervously glanced from mean-looking shopkeeper to mean-looking shopkeeper.

"Hunk, come check this out!" Lance said excitedly. Naturally he had stopped by a weapons-maker with several piercings, many scars, and an eyepatch. He glared at them and showed several missing teeth. His shop advertised many swords, spears, and other such things. Lance picked up a longbow carved from wood and held it up, "Hmm, do you have any more bows?"

"Lance," Pidge reminded him, "You already have a bow that you barely even use."

"Yeah but it's old, this one's cool!" Lance said excitedly, "Hmm, it doesn't have any carvings in it, but I could do that myself.... What's the poundage on this thing?"

"Too much for you, kid," The man said impatiently, "It's too much to handle. Do you even have any money?"

"Pfft," Lance laughed as he pulled out his pouch still full with Water Tribe money, "Do I have money?"

"Is it Earth Kingdom?" He asked.

Lance's face fell, "Uh....no. Is that a problem?"

"It's either gotta be Earth Kingdom, Galra, or Fire Nation. Won't accept nothing else."

"But isn't Water Tribe money worth like, a ton?" Lance tried.

"If Water Tribe's all you got, I suggest you beat it, kid."

Lance frowned and looked at Hunk, "Hey buddy, can I-"

"No," Hunk said firmly. Then he grabbed Lance's arm and looked up at the mean-looking shopkeeper, "So sorry, we'll just be leaving now." The man glared after them as they walked away.

"Hunk!" Lance complained.

"Lance, I'm not lending you any money so you can go and buy a weapon. Besides, I don't trust any of these guys. Keith said-"

"Oh 'Keith said' this and 'Keith said' that! Keith's not always right you know!" Lance yelled.

"Dude, you barely know the guy," Hunk said.

"I think it's a little unfair to judge him so harshly," Pidge pointed out.

"May I remind you that he tried to drown me?" Lance cried, "That was a little unnecessary!"

"You're a Waterbender," Hunk said, "Besides, you were fine. And it was all an act anyways so who cares?"

"I do," Lance said indignantly.

"Okay fine, you don't like Keith," Pidge said, obviously annoyed, "But he's a part of our team so you're going to have to deal with him."

Lance huffed and stared ahead. Pidge and Hunk sighed and shared a look. This would be fun.

They continued walking and found themselves at a port. They marvelled at the different types of boats and came across a wooden one with red fanned sails. Out front a man with slightly pointed ears, patched skin, and ratty clothes, grinned and tried to get people's attention.

"Fire Nation! Earth Nation! Water Nation! So long as your inclination is bargaining, come on by!" He yelled. Then he spotted the Paladins and walked over to them, "You there! Yes, you!" He yelled, beaming a friendly smile.

"Uh, yes?" Lance asked. Hunk hummed in disagreement and tugged Lance's waist ornament as a warning but Lance ignored him.

"You look like experienced travellers! Perhaps you may be interested in exotic curios?"

"What are curios?" Pidge asked with a tilt of her head.

The man thought for a moment before shrugging, "I'm not entirely sure, but we've got em! Come on in!"

Pidge and Lance looked at each other before shrugging and following him in. Hunk nervously walked after them, feeling more than uncomfortable as he felt the Earth disappear and turn to wood. Soon they entered a dimly lit shop that had very many odd items from all over the globe. Hunk noticed a stone monkey statue with ruby eyes that seemed to follow him.

As Lance looked around, he found a holder for scrolls. One in particular caught his eye. The end of it was a blue seal with the Northern Water Tribe crest on it. Curious, Lance picked it up.

"Amazing, isn't it?" A man with a deep voice said. He had stepped out from a back room and offered them a tray of weirdly shaped blue...things. He was very wide and had a belly but also some obvious muscles. He had slightly pointed ears like the other did as well as some side burns and a goatee, "Free samples?"

"Free? Food?" Hunk asked. He walked over to the guy and looked at him skeptically before picking up a blue thing and popping it into his mouth. He hummed thoughtfully as he chewed it before swallowing.

"Good, but I would suggest adding some salt and a little bit of peach. Odd combination, I know, but trust me it'll work."

The big man raised an eyebrow, "Really?"

"Uh huh," Hunk said, "Or you could cook it a little more and you could just add some orange zest to it. Either way it would taste a lot better."

"Hmm... I could use you in Vrepit Sal's kitchen."

"Uh, what?" Hunk asked.

"Vrepit Sal's," The man confirmed, "Where we bargain, trade, and cook. I'm Sal."

"I see...." Hunk said slowly. Meanwhile, Lance and Pidge had been looking at the scroll, which was revealed to be a teaching scroll. And it taught waterbending.

"Excuse me," Pidge said, taking the scroll from Lance and walking up to Sal. He saw what was in her hand and beamed.

"I see you've taken a liking to it. I do say, we got it for a really great price up north."

"Yeah," The guy from out front smirked, "The great price of nothing at all." Then he chuckled.

"Hold up," Hunk said, "Boats, questionably obtained rare artifacts, and seafood? You guys are pirates!"

"We prefer high-risk traders," The thin man said with a wicked smile as he pulled a knife out and started playing with it.

Pidge clutched the scroll, "How much?"

"Sorry missy," Sal chucked as he slid in behind a counter, "But that's already spoken for. A wealthy Earth Kingdom lord is willing to pay two hundred golden gak for it. And unless you can top it, it's not for sale."

"Pidge, can I talk to you for a second?" Lance asked loudly before tugging her away and whispering.

"Look, I've dealt with traders like this before. Well, Anita has, once. Anyways, the trick is that they always want to haggle. Watch, and learn." Lance winked before sidling up to the counter and scratching his nose.

"So, what do you say to the price of....ONE COPPER GAK?" His voice had turned gravelly and he sounded like a stereotypical pirate.

Sal looked a him for a moment before bursting out into laughter, "Hahahaha! Sorry kid, don't haggle on items this rare. The price is two hundred golden gak."

"Okay then. How about....TWO COPPER GAK?"

"Kid," Sal warned, "It's not as funny the second time."

"Lance," Pidge warned, "Can we please get out of here? I don't think we're welcome anymore."

Lance looked and saw the suspicious looks and Hunk's nervous demeanour.

"I second that motion!" Hunk said loudly, "Let's go, okay?"

"Alright," Lance sighed. The three of them left the ship and continued walking. As they hit the boardwalk Lance sighed again, "Man that scroll would've been really useful."

"Well it's a good I stole it," Pidge said cockily, smirking up at Lance as she showed them the scroll hidden in amongst the vines in her side bag.

"Pidge!" Hunk yelled. They both shushed him and he lowered his voice, "Pidge you gotta give that back!"

"Why? By the time they figure out it's missing, we'll be long go-"

"There are the thieves!" They heard Sal's voice yell. They looked up to see him, the thin knife man, and other pirates swing down and land on the docks.

"Run?" Lance suggested.

"RUN!" Hunk yelled as he started sprinting away. Pidge and Lance followed, racing through the twists and turns of the markets. Lance glanced back and saw three of the pirates chasing after them. They rounded a corner and Lance froze a puddle into ice, causing one of the pirates to slip and fall. The other two leapt over him and continued chasing them.

They turned a corner and raced down it. Suddenly, a short, chubby merchant pushing his cart full of cabbages took up the path.

"Get up of the way!" Lance warned. The man just looked up and cowered when he saw then running at him. Lance ducked between the kart and the wall and Pidge did the same but she used her bending to hurl a couple of cabbages in their follower's faces. Hunk bent the Earth to push him up and over the cart. Then he turned and used his bending to make the Earth rise up and violently push the cart away from him, knocking down the pirates.

"My cabbages!" The man cried.

"Sorry!" Hunk yelled back as he sprinted after his teammates.

"You will be sorry!" The man yelled angrily, "Varkon will get you next time!"

The three continued racing blindly through the streets. But they made a wrong turn and came to a dead end.

"Shit," Pidge swore, "Turn around before-"

"Before what?" Sal drawled. He pulled out a large sword and the thin man wielded two small knives and had more strapped to his belt. Others had other equally dangerous weapons.

The three got into bending stances, although their chances weren't great.

"Give us back the scroll," Sal demanded.

"We don't have it," Pidge said.

"Yes, you do," Sal said, "Give it to us, and we'll leave you alone."

"We already told you," Lance defended, "We don't have it!"

"I guess we'll just have to take it from you then!" Sal yelled. He lunged forward but was punched squarely in the jaw by a metal hand and crumpled to the ground. The others turned and stared at the two newcomers.

"Seriously?" Shiro said, slipping his hands back into his robes. His and Keith's arms were laden down with sacks of what appeared to be a successful shopping trip, "We leave you guys alone for five minutes."

"Pidge stole a scroll!" Hunk yelled. Pidge and Lance glared at him and he smiled sheepishly, "Aha, sorry."

"You did what?" Keith cried.

"I prefer to think of it as high risk trading," Pidge tried.

"Aha!" The man with the knives yelled, "So you admit it!"

Keith pulled out his knife and made to cut him but he parried and the two started fighting each other. Shiro swept the other's feet out from under him and then knocked him down.

"We'll discuss this later. Let's go!" The others nodded and raced out of the alley. Keith bent fire in the man's face and ran off with the others.

Soon they were out of the market and at their camp, panting heavily from the run.

"So you thought it would be a good idea to pirate a rare object from pirates?" Shiro said, looking down at Pidge with a disapproving face and tone.

"It's a Waterbending scroll," Lance defended, stepping between Shiro and Pidge, "She took it because well, we're not exactly masters. She's great with plants and stuff but she doesn't really know expert moves. And I was self taught, I don't know much."

Shiro looked at him for a moment before sighing, "Nothing we can do about now. We should be safe here." Then he turned away and set to building a fire.

Keith frowned at them, "You realize you could've put us all in danger, right?"

"Hey man," Lance said defensively, more so than with Shiro, "Back off. Shiro let it go, why don't you?"

"Because you were almost killed," Keith said, stepping forwards, "If we hadn't saved you-"

"We didn't need your saving!" Lance snapped, taking a step closer as well.

"Really?" Keith said, stepping closer, "Because it seemed to me that you guys were backed into a corner by bloodthirsty pirates."

"We were right where we wanted to be!" Lance cried, moving forwards so he and Keith were touching foreheads. The two glared at each other before Pidge stepped in and pushed them apart.

"Look guys, it's been a bit of a crazy day. We were in a scary market, got chased by pirates, we're all a little stressed out. So how about we take it easy for a little, okay?"

"I'm one step ahead'a ya," Hunk said, flopping down on the ground by the fire pit, "Man, being chased by pirates really makes you hungry."

"Yeah but you're always hungry," Lance joked.

"Touché," Hunk agreed before sitting up and rooting through the bags of food that Keith and Shiro had bought, "Man, this is some spicy stuff, not gonna lie. I can take it, but I may have to turn it down a little bit. Maybe if I add some lemon....."

"Do whatever you want," Lance said, opening the scroll, "I'm gonna take a crack at this. Pidge, do you mind holding this up?"

Pidge nodded and walked over to the edge of the water with Lance. She held up the scroll and peeked over the top as he scanned it.

"Let's do this move," He suggested, pointing to one of the lines on the scroll, "It says it's called the Water Whip. Huh, looks easy enough. I just gotta do this...." He concentrated on the movements and tried to copy them. He formed a ball of water and then bent it out into a long ribbon, then tried to whip it. It snapped and smacked him in the face.

Pidge and Hunk snorted, Shiro smiled, and Keith rolled his eyes. Lance glared at all of them.

"It's a hard move," He defended, "I've never tried something like this before."

"Well, it's almost kind of like snapping a vine," Pidge offered, giving the scroll to Hunk and walking to stand beside Lance. She bent some water and copied Lance's movements from before, but her whip snapped successfully.

"How?" Lance cried.

Pidge shrugged, the water splashing back into the river, "I dunno, it just makes sense."

Lance frowned, "I thought you said that you weren't good at normal waterbending?"

"I'm not," Pidge said, "But it's mostly because I prefer the vines. If I really wanted to, I could learn it properly, but I'm happy with plantbending."

"I see," Lance said sadly. Then he remembered that he was in front of his team and perked up, "Oh well! I'll just try until I get it right!"

"Good luck with that," Keith snorted. Lance glared at him before looking at the scroll again. He attempted the whip and it fell apart at the final step.

"I can do it!" Lance said, trying and failing again, "I can do it."

"I'm just, going to leave this here," Pidge said warily, leaving the scroll on a stump by the water. She and Hunk exchanged a look before leaving to find other things to do, leaving Lance to his bending.

"Argh!" He cried after some time, "Why can't I do it?" The water that he had been bending had splashed all over him in what might have been the most pitiful attempt.

"Maybe it's because you're so tired," A kind voice offered. Lance turned around to see Shiro standing behind him, "You've been at this for hours."

"What?" Lance asked, "No way. The sun hasn't move- oh." He had looked up to see that the sun, which had been at high noon when he last checked, was now starting to sink behind the trees.

"I get it," Shiro said, walking up to him and placing his flesh hand on Lance's shoulder, "You want to get it right. But you have more important things to worry about right now, like eating and getting some rest. Besides, a break might be good for you."

Lance nodded wordlessly and grabbed his scroll. He took a long look at it before sighing heavily and rolling it back up. He turned and saw Shiro holding out his metal arm.

"Wha-?"

"You don't need to be tempted," Shiro said, "Give me the scroll."

Lance looked at the scroll, Shiro's arm, the scroll, his Fire Nation robes, the scroll, his scar, and finally back to the scroll. Everything about Shiro's appearance screamed 'enemy' to him. He was obviously from the Fire Nation, he wore luscious red robes, had very obvious battle scars, as well as a metal arm that could no doubt crush a man's skull. But his attitude towards everyone had been nothing but kind, yet firm. Almost fatherly, which Lance found amusing, as Shiro couldn't have been more than ten years older than him.

Finally, Lance gave him the scroll, which Shiro tucked into the sleeve of his robes.

"Good. Now, let's go eat."

When the two arrived at their camp, Pidge and Hunk grinned at Lance.

"Did you get it?" Hunk asked eagerly.

"No," Lance admitted.

"Not surprised," Keith said. He sat by the fire, sharpening a small knife he had, "Your form was terrible. You need to stabilize yourself more."

Lance glared at him, "I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm a Waterbender, and you're a Firebender."

"But we're both Benders," Keith pointed out, shooting him a sharp glance out of the corner of his eye, "By the way, weren't you supposed to hunt for food?"

"Oh," Lance said, suddenly remembering that they didn't have a whole lot of food, their party was larger, and Keith and Shiro had only meant to buy what couldn't be hunted like spices and fruits, "Well it's not a problem, I can go out and hunt for some now. I'm good at hunting in the dark so-"

"Don't worry about," Keith said with an edge, "I took care of it."

"I-you, wait, what?" Lance asked, shocked at what he was hearing, "You went hunting?"

"It's not that hard," Keith replied, "I mean, it's basic survival."

"But...." Lance was trying to get a handle on what was being said, "I'm the hunter."

"Lance," Keith said sharply, sheathing the knife and walking over to him, "This is a team and we all gotta pull our own weight. We can't rely on one hunter who spent all day goofing around."

"I wasn't goofing around!" Lance replied, indignant, "I was trying to get better at bending! Last time I checked, that was kind of important!"

"Then why haven't you gotten it yet?" Keith asked.

"Well," Lance shouted, "I'm sorry that I don't have a team of masters teaching me like you did! Unlike you, I didn't have anyone to learn from."

Keith and Lance glared at each other before Keith sighed and rolled his eyes, walking back to his spot by the fire and stoking it, "Whatever."

Lance huffed and stormed away to Blue, ignoring Hunk and Pidge's worried looks.

Keith meant nothing by it.

"Sure he didn't," Lance grumbled to Blue as he scratched behind her ears.

Keith was his teammate.

"I don't really care at the moment," Lance said as he mounted her, "Come on, I need a breather."

"Lance, wait!" Hunk called as he and Pidge ran over. Rocky and Rover perked up from where they had been dozing off and watched carefully, "You can't go, what if someone sees you?"

"Relax," Lance said, "I'll stick to the forest. I just need to clear my head." And just like that, he was off and flying into the sky.

"I'm going after him," Hunk said as he turned towards Rocky. Pidge stopped him though.

"No," She said, "Lance is a good flyer and he and Blue aren't stupid, they'll be fine. If another one of us goes, it'll be more obvious. Besides, Shiro'll be back from checking the perimeter any moment, we need to cover for Lance."

Hunk nodded and glanced over at Keith, who had watched the whole thing in silence. Zuko plodded over and curled in behind him, staring at Rover and Rocky. Evidently, the three were having a conversation that they could not hear. Hunk and Pidge decided to follow the example.

"Hey," Hunk said as they sat down beside Keith.

"Hey," He replied warily. It was painfully obvious that they were still new as a team and Keith had never been great with people to begin with.

"Listen," Hunk started, "Lance can be cocky."

"And obnoxious," Pidge added.

"And rude," Hunk admitted.

"Flirty," Pidge pointed out.

"And he may do stupid things," Hunk said, "But he's not stupid, and he's just trying his best. We all are, man."

"There's a reason why he was practicing that bending all day," Pidge said, "We've all had teachers to show us what to do and built on that. I had my villagers, Hunk had the badger moles, and I'm sure Lance wasn't lying when he said that you and Shiro had professionals teaching you your bending." The fire flared and Keith stared angrily into it, "But Lance had nobody. All of the Benders in his tribe were taken away and didn't leave much behind. Lance is self-taught."

"So what do you want me to do about it?" Keith asked, not rudely.

"Just, like, lay off him a little bit," Hunk suggested, "He'll figure it out."

Keith nodded and they all jumped when they heard twigs snap. Shiro stepped out of the bush and into the clearing and smiled.

"Nice to see you're all getting along," He said before looking around the camp and frowning, "Where are Lance and Blue?"

"They're uh, they...." Hunk and Pidge looked at each other and then at Keith, who shrugged helplessly.

"They went fishing!" Hunk said.

"Fishing?" Shiro asked, then he shook his head, "He's probably practicing that move again. I want to lay low in case the pirates try to follow us down the river. He shouldn't be by the water. I'm going to get him."

"Did he say fishing?" Pidge asked loudly, "He meant hunting! Yeah! Hunting."

"But we already have food," Shiro said suspiciously, "Why would he go and get more? I thought he hated hunting."

"He does," Hunk confirmed, "But he wasn't sure whether he had enough and he wanted to make sure that we did."

"Oh, okay then," Shiro said with a shrug. Then he turned and walked into his tent.

"I can't believe that worked," Pidge said once she was urge that he couldn't hear her.

"Same here," Hunk sighed in relief as both he and Pidge plopped down, "Being a General, I thought he would be more suspicious."

"You'd be surprised," Keith said, "When it's super serious stuff he can almost always tell if someone is lying. But once Lotor and I stole all of the pastries from the kitchens for a big dinner and got sick. We made up a sickness and blamed the theft on the vermin. Shiro didn't have a clue. Still doesn't."

"That's awesome," Hunk laughed.

"Wait," Pidge asked, "Who's Lotor?"

"He's my brother," Keith said with distaste, "Shiro and I are half brothers; his mom was Zarkon's first wife, mine was his second. Lotor's my full brother and he's a year or so older than I am."

"Yeah I've heard about him," Hunk said, "Isn't he being trained in succeeding your father and Druidism?"

"Yup," Keith said as he stabbed a log in the fire, "He's the middle child so he's Shiro's successor. But if nothing happens to Shiro, he's bound for the Druids, just like me."

"What....are the Druids?" Pidge asked.

"They're bad," Hunk said as he shivered, "Parents use them in their stories to get children to behave. Stuff like 'go to bed or the Druids will cast a spell and put you to sleep forever' and 'don't go wandering into the woods or the Druids will find you and take you away'. Mine always used to tell me that the cookie jar was enchanted by the Druids so if I took one I would be sick for a week."

"They're a lot worse than that," Keith said curtly, "They use a mix of magic, science, and bending to....get results. They're a secret organization and they've been around for as long as the Royal Family has, maybe even longer."

"You said this Lotor guy was being trained in it," Pidge started, "Just like you...."

They stared at Keith and he sighed, refusing to take his eyes off of the crackling fire, "Every time the Firelord has more than one kid, whichever one is not designated heir is trained in Druidism. Well, we don't learn actual Druidism until the heir is coronated and then we're sworn in. Until then we just learn their history and code, stuff like that."

"So what is it?" Pidge asked.

Keith spares them a quick glance before returning his attention to the fire, "I don't know."

Pidge and Hunk looked at each other. Keith had, more or less, willingly given them the information they'd asked for and seemed fairly knowledgeable about such things, but he was suddenly clamming up. Pidge had heard old, very old whispers of dark things going on in the secrecy of "Druids", but it seemed as unrealistic as flying magic cat-like beasts. Hunk had heard many things about the Druids, most of which he believed could be traced back to Galra soldiers trying to intimidate his fellow villagers. He knew very little of the Druids, and most of said information had come from Keith. But he didn't like any of it.

And then Lance landed in the clearing and hopped off of Blue.

"Hey guys," He called, obviously in a much better mood than when he had left, "Whats up?"

"Not much," Hunk replied, making room as Lance squeezed between him and Pidge, "Keith was just telling us about the Druids."

"Yikes," Lance said and made a face, "My Gam-Gam always tells stories about them to freak us out."

"Same!" Hunk said excitedly, "Aren't they freaky?"

"Yeah," Lance agreed, "Apparently we were attacked by them once, but that was before my mom was born. No idea why, but they were the first ones to start taking our Waterbenders."

Keith gripped his stoking stick and remained silent while the others chatted. He knew exactly what the Druids had wanted with the Waterbenders, and it almost made him sick to his stomach. He glanced at Lance and wondered if he was capable of doing what the Druids had hypothesized. Surely not. As.....loud as Lance was, Keith had a feeling that he wasn't a bad person. He would never do it.

Once the sun had set and the meat was cooking, Shiro came out of his tent, holding the map. He saw Lance and greeted him.

"Hey Lance, how was the hunting?"

"Hunting?" Lance asked.

Hunk coughed loudly and Pidge nudged Lance.

"Yeah, when you left with Blue? You went hunting, remember?"

"Oh. Oh, yeah!" Lance said, suddenly clueing in, "Yeah, wasn't much. Nothing actually. Didn't bring back a single thing. Guess I need to adjust my bow."

"Well you should do that now," Shiro suggested in a tone that meant 'it's a suggestion that you have to do', "Before you forget."

"Right," Lance said.

Some time later, once they had all eaten and Lance had 'fixed' his bow, they all went to sleep. Halfway through the night though, Lance was tiptoeing across the camp and to Shiro and Keith's tent.

Everyone was fast asleep as Lance rifled through Shiro's bag that he had left outside his tent. He was praying that he hadn't put the scroll in the tent, because that would make everything a lot more difficult.

Then, Zuko walked out of the tent and yawned before staring at Lance. Both stared each other in the face, not moving or blinking. They were equally surprised at finding the other up and about. Finally, Zuko glanced down at Shiro's bag in Lance's hands. Lance smiled sheepishly.

"I'm trying to practice that move," Lance tried, "I just have to get this right."

Zuko nodded her head and moved away to quietly scratch her nails on a tree. Obviously she didn't care and Lance continued until he found the scroll in Shiro's sleeve, which he had left to hang.

"Gotcha," Lance whispered excitedly and moved to the riverbank.

Meanwhile, a little ways upriver, the pirates from the market were sailing down the river, accompanied by two metal Galra boats. On the leading one stood Sal and Sendak.

"Why don't we search the woods?" Sal asked.

"You said that they stole a waterbending scroll, yes?" Sendak asked.

"Yeah...." Sal replied.

"Well, they've got to put it to use. Thus, I believe they are somewhere down this river."

"Smart," Sal admitted, "But our deal still stands, smart guy?"

"Yes yes," Senda,said, "You can take your scroll back and any theft against the Galra that has so far been committed will be pardoned. All we ask for is the three kids and three animals."

"Three?" Sal asked, "Hold on, there were five, I think."

"Five?" Semdak asked, growling slightly, "You said that three kids ran away and stole your scroll and they fit out description."

"Yeah but there were two more that you hadn't mentioned," Sal explained impatiently, "Both of em were Galra."

"Could you describe them?" Sendak pressed.

"Didn't get a good look at em," Sal admitted, "But the one had a metal arm. Gave me this." He gestured to the large bruise that was blossoming on his cheek, "It was like yours, but smaller."

Sendak glanced down at his metal left arm. Shortly after losing the Agni Kai to the banished brat, he had briefly returned to the Fire Nation to have his arm replaced with a better one. Given his status, the Druids had agreed that it would be useful and granted it to him. It was significantly larger than Shiro's, and stronger too. It glowed with purple Druid runes and Galra symbols, marking the makers.

"Not many have arms like mine," Sendak said thoughtfully, "Could you tell me anything else about these two Fire Nation?"

"Yeah, the big one had a scar across his nose," Sal said, making a cutting motion, "The small one had a knife, and purple eyes."

"Interesting," Sendak pondered. He wondered what those two would be doing fighting pirates in a market. Suddenly, they perked up as they heard frustrated yelling and water splashing.

"Argh!" Lance yelled, throwing the water back into the river after what seemed like the millionth time, "Why can't I get this? It's not hard! It's ball, wave, whip! Ball, wave, whip! Ball, wave, wh-ARGH!!" He threw the water back down and crossed his arms. Then he looked back up at the moonless sky and sighed, "Maybe I should call it a night."

Suddenly, he had a very strong longing for home. He missed the support of his friends and family, the important role that he played, how everyone looked up to him and admired his skills. But he mostly missed his family and his home. The cold of the ice, the warmth of the fire, songs sang by everyone, goofy competitions, the shared grief. He missed his food and his culture and his people. Lance wanted to go home.

Lance sighed again and rolled up the scroll, deciding that he may as well go to bed before he made himself too upset. He turned away from the water and was suddenly grabbed by the front of his shirt. Before he could cry out in surprise, a hand clamped over his mouth and others pinned his arms behind his back. A gag was stuffed into his mouth and his hands were tied. He thrashed and kicked, hitting a dark shape in what he assumed was the groin. He couldn't see, it was all shadows. And then a glowing purple arm appeared in front of him, illuminating Galra armour and a cruel face. The man grinned down at him wickedly before Lance was hit on the head, and everything faded to black.

A little while later, Lance blinked awake and lifted his head. He started to panic when he realized that he couldn't move, and soon realized he was tied to a tree. He looked and saw that he was surrounded by the Pirates from earlier, along with some Galra soldiers. He noticed the large man with the strange purple, robotic arm. When he noticed that Lance was awake, he grinned.

"Glad to see you're up."

"Let me go!" Lance cried, struggling against the bonds.

"Not until you tell me where the others are," The man snarled as he approached him. He bent down and sneered at Lance, speaking quietly, "I know you're a Paladin. Tell me where the rest of your party is, and I won't hurt you."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Lance denied.

"I think you do," The man said, straightening up. Lance became aware of a quiet and electric hum coming from the man's arm, "We've been following you, every step of the way. We found your descriptions, and you seem like a young Water Tribe boy with a fur waist wrapping, blue eyes, and jewellery. So, last time: tell me where they are."

"How about you jump in the river instead?" Lance spat.

"You have to understand," Sendak said, a little softer this time, "The Fire Nation simply wishes to expand the Galra Empire and teach the rest of the world our knowledge, to unite everyone. Isn't that what Voltron means, to fight for peace and unity?"

"Peace and unity is what Voltron protects," Lance agreed acidly, "But that's not what the Galra Empire wants. So screw off, I'm not telling you anything."

"Fine," Sendak snapped. Then he turned to the pirates, "Search the woods. They're near here somewhere."

"No deal," Sal said, crossing his arms, "You said that you would give us back the scroll if we helped you find the kids. We're done, so give us the scroll."

"I wonder," Sendak said dangerously, pulling the scroll out with one hand and holding it over a fire in his flesh palm, "How expensive this must be?"

"No!" Sal cried, the pirates stepping forward as if to grab the scroll.

"Ah, very expensive then," Sendak said with a smirk, "Well if you want it, then I suggest you do as I say."

The next morning, everyone was starting to wake up and prepare for the day's travel when Blue bounded out of Lance's tent, obviously agitated.

"Blue?" Hunk asked as he cooked the meat for breakfast, "What's wrong?"

Anxiously, she went back inside the tent and stuck her head back out. Curious, Pidge and Hunk followed her. When they looked inside, they found that Lance was not in his tent.

"Where did he go?" Pidge inquired.

"Probably to go practice his bending," Shiro said irritably, going through his clothes from the day prior, "The scroll's gone."

"Idiot," Keith said from his place by the fire.

"But he should've been back by now," Hunk said, "And Blue seems really upset. We should try to find- wait, do you guys feel that?"

"Feel what?" Pidge asked.

"There are people coming towards us," Hunk said nervously, closing his eyes to concentrate, "About a dozen. They're close."

"Let's move," Shiro commanded, "Take down Lance's tent. We need to get out of here and then we'll go and find Lance."

"No," Hunk argued, "We have to stay. What if Lance comes back?"

"Blue will be able to find him," Shiro said, already rolling up Lance's sleeping roll, "We'll find him, but not if something bad happens to us. Let's go!"

Hunk and Pidge shared a look before they packed up Lance's tent. Keith covered the food and put out the fire.

Once everything had been packed, Shiro and Keith mounted Zuko and took off. Blue took off as well, frantically searching for Lance. She knew that something had happened to him but didn't know what, only that it wasn't good.

Hunk and Pidge were about to mount up as well, but Hunk felt the tremors in the earth again, much stronger.

"They're here!" He cried. He and Pidge hurried to get on Rocky and Rover, but suddenly the pirates from the market burst into the clearing. Pidge managed to take off, but a net caught her before she could get very high off of the ground and she was yanked from her seat. Rover roared and plants erupted from the earth, wrapping around the ankles of their enemy. But they weren't strong and the pirates hacked away at them easily.

Meanwhile Hunk and Rocky were bending the Earth and fighting. Hunk hurled rocks at the nimble one with the knives but he kept dodging. When Hunk wasn't looking, another pirate snuck up behind and threw a net over him and yanked it, knocking him off of his feet. Rocky growled in displeasure but took off to join the others in the sky. They hovered there before flying off over the forest.

"What were those?" The guy with the knives asked, shoving his weapons away.

"Don't know," Sal said as he squinted off in the direction which they had flown, "But I'm sure they would catch quite a price..... But right now, let's get these punks to those soldiers. We need that scroll."

Not long after, Pidge and Hunk were brought before Sendak, who was still keeping guard over Lance. The two Paladins had their hands tied behind their back.

"Lance!" Hunk cried.

"What happened?" Pidge asked.

"I'm so sorry," Lance apologized, "I snuck out to practice some bending and they caught me. It's all my fault."

"No it's not," Hunk tried.

"Yeah, it kinda is," Pidge said. Hunk shot her a look and Lance looked down at his feet.

"Alright, chat's over," Sal said, "We brought the kids, now give us the scroll."

"Hold on!" Lance cried, his head snapping up, "You're really going to trade three Paladins for a scroll? One, I could get. Two, if you were stupid. But three? Seriously?"

"Lance...." Hunk warned, "I would shut up now."

"Yeah," Pidge snarled, "Like, right now."

"Wait, are you guys really Paladins?" Sal asked.

"Oh yeah," Lance said with a shrug, "I'm the Blue Paladin, he's the Yellow Paladin, and she's Green. Our Eagle Lions' names are Blue, Rocky, and Rover, respectively."

"Lance!" Hunk and Pidge yelled.

"They're lying!" Sendak snapped, "Hand them over!"

"Do you really wanna hand over three Paladins?" Lance said, "Think of how much money the Firelord will give you. You'd be set for life. "

"Forget it," Sal yelled over to Sendak, "You can keep the scroll. We're taking the kids."

"You'll regret saying that," Sendak snarled, getting into a fighting stance as did the rest of his soldiers. His arm glowed brighter and hummed louder.

"Will I?" Sal sneered. Then he and several of his men pulled out little orbs and threw them. They exploded on impact, creating a massive cloud of smoke, impossible to see through. The soldiers were blinded and the pirates rushed in. Hunk stomped and bent the earth to send his captor flying but stumbled and fell into the smokey fray. Pidge elbowed her chaperone in the stomach and then kneed them in the jaw, knocking them out. She ran in after Hunk, trying her best to dodge enemy attacks from all sides.

Meanwhile, Sendak and Sal duked it out off to the side, away from everyone else. Sendak wielded his arm as a weapon while Sal used a long, curved sword. They hacked away at each other, each attacking viciously.

"You traitor!" Sendak cried.

"I'm loyal to no one," Sal snarled back.

Lance was trying desperately to get loose form his bonds, but the ropes were too tight. He was happy that his plan to pit the two group against each other had worked, but he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do now. Suddenly he felt someone hacking away at them.

"Wha-"

"Shh!"

"Oh," Lance said, disappointed, "It's you."

"Would you rather I left you?" Keith growled as he sawed through Lance's ropes with his knife.

"No," Lance grumbled.

"I know you took the scroll last night," Keith accused.

Lance hung his head again, looking at his blue boots, "I'm sorry. I just wanted to practice."

"Whatever, we're here now," Keith said, unsure of how he felt. Lance was apologizing, and it sounded as though he really meant it. Thankfully, he cut through his ropes and was given an excuse to do something else, "Done," he announced, "Get Hunk and Pidge. Meet us by the boats, they're downriver."

"Aren't you going to help?" Lance asked.

Keith shook his head, sheathing his knife and backing away into the foilage, patches of light and dark dancing across his face and making his eyes look two different colours, "No, we can't be seen. Meet us by the boats." And just like that, he was gone.

Lance huffed, "Drama queen," before dashing into the fray.

"Hunk!" Pidge cried, staying low to the ground to avoid getting hit, "Hunk, where are you?"

"I'm here!" Hunk yelled back. He had his eyes closed so he could feel where everyone was and sidestepping attacks, "Follow my voice!"

"I can't!" Pidge yelled, "I can't find you!" She was a little scared. She couldn't see, she couldn't fight, and she was surrounded by enemies.

"I'm right HERE!" Hunk yelled loudly. He felt the dirt in the dust kicking up and the smoke, and he bent it out of the way, revealing himself. He opened his eyes and saw that all of the attackers that he had been dodging were staring right at him. He bent the dust back up and felt sweat dripping down his neck.

"On second thought," He squeaked, "I'll find you."

"Hunk!" Lance yelled, weaving in and out of the fight, "Pidge!" It was too loud to hear and too dirty to see. He cursed and then screamed when a dagger landed right in front of him. He grabbed it quickly and used it to parry any wayward attacks. He continued yelling.

"Hunk! Pidge! Where are you guy- oof!" He splayed his arms sideways as he tripped over something on the ground.

"Ow, fuck!" A familiar voice cursed loudly.

"Pidge!" Lance said happily. He scooted towards her and suddenly was able to see the annoyed look on her face, "Man, is it good to see you. Hold still, lemme cut these..." Then he began cutting through Pidge's ropes. Not a second after they had fallen away when Hunk found them.

"Guys!" He said happily.

"Hunk buddy!" Lance beamed as he moved and cut Hunk's bonds. Then the three ran out of the fray and down river. When they came to the boats, they found Shiro and Keith there as well.

"We need to get this into the water," Shiro said, shoving against the pirate's ship.

"But it'll take a team of rhinos to move this thing," Keith complained, panting heavily.

"Or two Waterbenders," Pidge said, turning to Lance, "Remember that wave movement you showed me? We can use that to pull up the water!"

"Great idea," Lance agreed. The others stood back as the two started bending, making pushing and swaying motions back and forth with their arms, their wrists moving delicately. Sure enough, the water was coming up onto the bank and soon engulfed the hull, pulling it into the waves and setting it afloat.

"Get on!" Shiro yelled. The others scrambled up the rope ladder. Shiro followed after Lance last and called up to him, "Good job there Lance, and great thinking Pidge."

"Thanks!" They called back happily. Soon everyone was on the top deck and Shiro took the helm.

"Where are the Eagle Lions?" Hunk asked Keith.

"They're in the woods," He said, "They're following us until it's safe to come out."

"And remind me why you couldn't help us fight?" Lance asked as he crossed his arms.

"The Galra don't know that we've betrayed them," Keith said, pulling on a few ropes and lengthening the sails, "We would like to keep it that way. Now, help me with this."

Lance rolled his eyes and walked over to the ropes. He went to untie them, but he wasn't sure which ones to touch.

"Can't you go any faster?" Keith demanded as he jumped onto the roof of the hutch in front of the helm that lead belowdecks while Lance, Hunk, and Pidge were on the lower top deck, towards the bow.

"This wasn't made in the Water Tribe!" Lance snapped back.

"Well, you better figure it out!" Pidge yelled, running up to stand by Shiro and looking over the bow, "Because they're following us!"

Sure enough, the Galra soldiers were hot on their tail with their weird mechanical boats that looked more like cubes than boats.

"Hunk, help me!" Lance demanded, but Hunk was busy hurling over the side of the boat. He sighed and ran forwards, hearing a rush of water and seeing a sudden drop, "There's a waterfall!"

"Of course there is!" Hunk cried dismally before throwing up again.

Suddenly, the boat came up beside them and the pirates leaped onto their vessel. Pidge and Lance bent the river water onto the boat and washed some of the pirates overboard, leaving puddles on the deck. One pirate stood up and advanced towards Lance, his knives drawn. Lance bit his lip before steeling himself and bending the water and whipping the man's face, sending him toppling overboard.

"Hey!" Keith commended from his spot on the roof, "You did the water whip!"

"Yeah I did!" Lance said proudly. He grinned up at Keith and saw the thin one with the knives sneaking up in him, "Behind you!" He warned.

Keith whirled around, fire blossoming from his hands as he started to fight the man.

More pirates attacked them and Pidge and Lance pulled water from the river to fight them, rocking the boat in the process.

"Could you guys maybe be a little gentler?" Hunk cried out, still too weak to do anything but say over the rail.

"Priorities, Hunk!" Pidge yelled back.

Meanwhile, Keith was locked in combat with the knife man.

"That's an interesting blade," He said as he parried Keith's attack and blocked it with the flat of his blade, "That one in your sheathe. I can tell by its shape that it is very intriguing."

"It's just a blade," Keith snapped, whirling around and bending fire at the man's face, but he side stepped. He didn't like that the man had noticed his most prized possession.

"An old one," He commented with a smirk, "I've only heard rumours of such blades. And if the rumours are true...."

Keith didn't like where this was going at all and straight up punched the man in the face, which he hadn't been expecting. Keith kicked him overboard and jumped down and ran over to Shiro, who was wrestling with the wheel.

"The current's strong," He told Keith, "And it's getting shallower. We're going to go over soon, look!"

Sure enough, the sound of rushing water had multiplied and a very large, steep drop could keep be seen in front of them.

"Lance, Pidge!" Shiro yelled, "Use your bending to stop this boat!"

"But how?" Pidge asked.

"Push and pull," Lance suggested, "It should work."

So the two stood in the middle, their backs together and pushed and pulled the waves, working in sync. Gradually, the ship started to slow down and turn until it was parallel with the drop, stopped by two whirlpools.

"We're doing it!" Lance said excitedly.

"New problem," Keith yelled from the stern, "Galra on our trail!"

Right behind them was the Galra ship, on a head-on collision course. It rammed them and started to push the ship sideways. Yelling and grasping for any hold, the Paladins slid down and gathered on the edge, now starting to be lapped up by water. They stood at the very edge of the waterfall, looking down at the deadly drop.

"Jump!" Shiro commanded as he leaped as far away from the boat as he could. A moment's hesitation later, the team followed, felling all the way.

"We're gonna die!" Hunk sobbed.

Suddenly, the Eagle Lions swooped in and caught their Paladins, Rocky catching both Hunk and Shiro. Then they flew away, following the river to the ocean.

Sendak stood on the banks of the river, watching the animals fly away. It was no mistake that there were four beasts instead of three, and one was distinctly red. He wondered what Zarkon would think.

Once they had reached open water again, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.

"Well that was an adventure," Pidge admitted, glancing back at the trees.

"Guys, I'm sorry," Lance said, "I was so caught up in the bending, it would have never have happened if I had been more careful."

"You're right," Shiro said and Lance lowered your head in shame, "So you know to be more careful?"

"Yes," Lance said. Shiro smiled.

"You'll be needing this then," He said, holding up the scroll. Lance beamed and flew closer to Rocky.

"How did you...?"

"It got lost in the fight," Shiro explained, "Landed near the trees and I picked it up. Now, have you learned your lesson?"

"Yes," Lance said confidently, "Stealing is bad."

Shiro tossed it to Lance who caught it and grinned, "Unless it's from pirates. And really, I'm not the one who stole it."

"Snitch," Pidge teased, "And I've learned my lesson too, by the way. Positive reinforcement works on Lance."

"Hey!" He protested as they all laughed and flew towards the Avatar and their next adventure.

 

Chapter Text


The Road To Altea

Voltron had camped out on a small island in the middle of the sea. It was at the foot of a dormant volcano where there was lots of lush vegetation. The island wasn't big at all- just a small volcano and a flat with a few trees. They had created a central fire and decided that it was warm enough to do without the tents and had just rolled out their sleeping bags. They had found sticks from the small forest and used them to cook bits of meat. Hunk had bent them rocks to sit on close to the fire and they laughed and joked.

"Needless to say," Lance finished his story, "I discovered never to tickle a seal lion, the hard way."

"Who would even think of that?" Hunk asked through his laughter.

"Sokka," Lance said, "I was dared by him, remember?"

"That reminds me of the time when I was dared to go into the old mines," Hunk said with a shiver, "It was dark and cold and man I was scared. But I used my bending right? So even if it was pitch dark I could see just fine. And I just decided to stay there for a little while and they all had to come in and get me. I used Earthbending to shake the floors and stuff and scared them pretty badly. I convinced them that I ran into a rock spirit and now the whole village thinks the mines are haunted."

"Damn," Lance said proudly, "I didn't know you had it in you!" Hunk shrugged sheepishly and turned over his meat.

"We don't really get a whole lot of visitors in the Swamp," Pidge spoke up, "Mostly just wayward travellers and traders and stuff. But we like to screw with them if they screw with the Swamp."

"What do you mean?" Shiro asked.

"Well I mean, even outsiders say that they feel like the Swamp is different," Pidge explained, "It's a spiritual place and it's very much alive. You wouldn't cut off the legs of an animal so why would you cut the vines in the Swamp?" Pidge shrugged and inspected her meat, "Matt and I used to go and scare travellers with our bending. We would cover ouselves in vines and swamp moss and we each had our own masks. We liked to chase them out and sooner or later they would stumble upon the village. By then, we would drop our vines and everyone acted like they had no idea what the travellers were talking about." Pidge laughed, "Probably one of the many reasons why we don't get visitors."

"Oh that's cruel," Keith said with a smile.

"Not as cruel as you were towards the teachers," Shiro shoved Keith's shoulder with his own and smiled, "You always questioned them about everything and anything. They dreaded having to teach you, especially if you were with Lotor."

"Hey," Keith defended, "I actually wanted answers. Lotor just wanted to piss them off and bring me down with him."

"Whatever you say," Shiro said breezily. Keith made a face at him and then turned to his comrades.

"Oh man, my uncle used to pull the best pranks," Lance said with a laugh, "Froze our feet to the ground, built little snow monsters to scare us, stuff like that. He really knew how to use waterbending. I wonder where he is now...."

"Did he go off to fight?" Pidge asked.

Lance shook his head, "No. He was taken by the Fi- Galra, sorry, when I was young. I have no idea where they took him, but that was the last time any Galra were seen by the South Pole."

"He's probably still alive," Shiro said after a moment, "They have special prisons for Waterbenders. The conditions are less than good and water is obviously limited, but chances are he's alive in the Fire Nation somewhere."

"Really?" Lance asked, hope blooming in his voice and on his face, "You're sure?"

"Fairly," Shiro said slowly, careful of his words, "The Galra don't like to kill other Bender prisoners."

"Why?" Pidge asked.

"The Druids like to experiment," Keith said bitterly.

"What about my family?" Pidge asked suddenly, "They were taken by the Galra, about five years ago. Waterbenders, in the Earth Kingdom, know anything about that?"

Keith and Shiro exchanged a quick glance before Shiro spoke again, slowly, again.

"Chances are, they would be in the same type of prison," He said, "But all of those prisons are deep in the Fire Nation, not far from the Capital. And they're heavily fortified."

"I see," Pidge said thoughtfully, the gears turning in her head.

"What about you Hunk?" Shiro asked.

Hunk laughed nervously and scratched his chin, "Nah, my family's just quiet Earthbenders running a business. Rich Fire Nation people actually buy our mosaics and stuff."

"I knew I recognized the name 'Garrett' somewhere," Shiro said, "We have a bunch of your stuff in the palace gardens."

"Huh," Hunk smiled, "Weird. I mean, I'm sure we would've shipped stuff to the Firelord but I never thought about it too much until now. Weird how that works huh?"

"Definitely," Shiro agreed, "From what I hear, my mother always loved your work. She ordered most of it, from my understanding. She would've been happy to hear that I met you."

"Oh well," Hunk said happily, "Next time you see her, tell her thanks."

Shiro smiled sadly, "Aha, well hopefully I won't see her for a long time. She died when I was very little."

"Oh," Hunk said, embarrassed, "I'm so sorry."

"No, it's okay," Shiro assured, "I didn't know her well since she died soon after I was born. She's more of a memory than anything, really."

"I know how that feels," Lance said, "My dad left when I was pretty young, not long after my uncle was taken. He and all of the warriors in our tribe left to fight in the war. I don't even know if he's alive or what... To be honest I try not to think about it," Lance laughed a little nervously, worrying that he'd over shared.

"Man, I don't know what I would do if my parents left," Hunk said, "I mean, they must be worried sick about me right now. Yeah, I sent them that hawk and the letter, but that was like, weeks ago. None of our families know what's up."

"Mine didn't even know I left," Pidge admitted, "Well, I'm sure that they figured it out the next morning, since I snuck out in the middle of the night. I left a note, but that's it. My mom would have woken up and found me gone, a stupid little note in my place...."

"Well hey," Shiro offered, "At least you're not actively trying to cover up your disappearance so that way you can't be a traitor to your nation."

Everyone laughed and then slipped into a comfortable silence, broken by the wind, the crackling fire, the snores of the Eagle Lions, and the crash of the waves.

"You know," Lance said softly after some time, "A couple of months ago, if you had told me that I would be the Blue Paladin of Voltron, searching for the Avatar in order to take down Zarkon, I would've laughed in your face. But now, here we are. Four Eagle Lions, two Fire Nation princes, a rich Earthbender in rags, a Swamp girl who can control plants, and the last Waterbender of the Southern Tribe." He laughed and shook his head, "I dunno, life is just kinda crazy sometimes." He laughed again and honestly, it was one of the purest sounds the team had heard. It was just soft and easy-going, peaceful.

Keith's heart skipped a beat and he noticed the way the flames danced across Lance's tanned skin, how his eyes crinkled a little when he laughed, the firelight creating a halo effect in his hair.... Lance often made funny faces and over acted, but he really was good-looking.

Keith noticed Shiro smiling at him knowingly and glared at him, "What?"

"Nothing," Shiro said, not even bothering to hide his smile.

Keith glared at him again but decided to drop it.

"Hey, Lance," Hunk said after a moment.

"Yeah?"

"Remember when Keith first captured us?"

"How could I forget?" Lance snorted, "I almost drowned."

"About that," Hunk said slowly, "You were like, really shaken up by that. Like, a lot."

"Well, considering the situation I felt it was reasonable," Lance pointed out, "Do remember that we were being captured by Galra and again, I almost drowned."

"Yeah, but that's the thing," Pidge said, "You normally would've shrugged it off, but you were still in shock until Keith and Shiro spoke to us."

Lance looked around his friends at the campfire and sighed in defeat, looking down at his hands on the stick, "Fine. You've got me. I'm afraid of drowning. There, I said it. Laugh."

"Why would we laugh?" Keith asked, genuinely curious. Lance raised his head and an eyebrow.

"I dunno, maybe it's because a Waterbender is afraid of drowning?"

"Why?" Keith asked.

Lance sighed again and shifted, staring into the flames, "When I was younger, I was out with my uncle, practicing waterbending by the ocean. When he wasn't looking I ventured off and started to play with the water on my own. I don't know how, but I somehow ended up beneath the ice, trapped in the freezing water. I couldn't breathe, couldn't see, could barely even move it was so cold. I thought I would die there, I really did. I still remember the water filling up my lungs, feeling like I was turning to ice. Luckily, my uncle found me and bent the water out of my lungs, saved my life. I spent a good three days by the fire, and I didn't return to the water for weeks. So, there you have my sob story."

"I don't think it's a sob story," Shiro said, "You went through something traumatic and you're dealing with it
I think you're pretty brave, since you still go to the water."

Lance shrugged, but he was blushing a little, "Yeah well, I'm a Waterbender. I can't let my fear get the best of me."

"Well said," Shiro commended. Then he stood up and stretched, "Well, I'm going to bed. Good night guys, get ready for an early morning."

They bade him goodnight and chatted quietly for a while. Then, once he was sure Shiro was asleep, Lance spoke to Keith.

"So," Lance said as he inspected his meat, "What's up with Shiro?"

"What do you mean?" Keith asked.

"I mean," Lance said, gesturing with his stick, "What's up with him when he, y'know, freezes up? Like, he'll just stop in the middle of something, like a normal conversation and he'll just...zone out. Not often, but like I was talking to him about my bow the other day and he didn't hear a word. And he has this kind of feel to him too, like he's seen things."

Pidge and Hunk nodded in agreement. Keith sighed. They were a team, and they would have found out eventually,

"It's because he has."

The others shared worried glances. Lance set his meat down on a stone and leaned forward, elbows on his knees.

"What do you mean?"

Keith took a deep breath and the others leaned in closer to hear his story. He hadn't even started and Lance looked like he was going to fall off of his rock.

"About five years ago, Shiro became a General and led an army against Garrison. His goal was to break down the walls and conquer the city. He got all the way to the second wall before half of his troops were slaughtered. They had walked right into an ambush. Those that had survived didn't come out perfect either. Many people lost many things. Eyes, arms, legs, sanities. Shiro was one of the more fortunate ones. He returned minus one arm and with a lot of scars. He keeps them covered up well enough, except for the one on his face. He hates it.

"When he came back, people called him a hero. He had gotten further into Garrison than anyone had ever done before. Everyone praised him for his military tact and might. But Zarkon took one look at Shiro and sent him off to the Druids. Shiro had already been on the edge, but his time with the Druids is what broke him."

Keith clenched his fists, remembering how he had thought that his father had done something good for his brother. Keith hadn't known then how bad the Druids really were, despite studying their practices. He thought that they were used for good, but what they had done to Shiro....

"When he came back, Shiro had a new arm, but he was different. He was quiet. He jumped at sudden noises, refused to let anyone touch him for a long time, and turned down every offer to train or spar or fight. He'd spend hours and hours just training and keeping himself in shape. I can't count how many days he's gone without sleep. He still does it, too. Some say it's the military training. I know it's the stress and the memories. He'd warned me, too. After he came back, he told me, told me the truth about the Galra soldiers. He said that they were murderous, evil. The towns that they conquered didn't flourish under Fire Nation rule. They withered and died under the careful watch of the Galra. I hadn't believed him until we left."

"And the hair?" Pidge asked softly, "Is that how he got it? From his memories?"

Keith nodded and stared hard at the fire, "Yeah. Doctors said that his combined time with the Druids and in war had been enough stress to turn some of his hair white. That's not even the worst of it; you should see what they did to his head." Keith laughed bitterly and the flames sparked a little higher.

"The worst of it?" Hunk prompted.

Keith shook his head, "Shiro doesn't like people knowing this, but he has...episodes. They're like when he freezes up, but they're even worse. When he freezes, he just kind of forgets where he is and he's thrown back into battle, but his body doesn't move. When he's in one of his moments, he thinks that he's in a battle again, but he can move. It's like he was thrown back in time. He can be kind of dangerous and it just really takes a toll on him. Afterwards, he has to be by himself. Sometimes, he starts doing something like drawing a knife, setting something on fire, or crying without realizing it. He's got nightmares too. Bad ones. He's gotten better since we left. I think the palace life really messed with his head. Being away from political life really helps him calm down, I think that's what messes with him the most. That's why I had to take his seat during a war meeting and...."

Keith suddenly felt the heat of his father's flames again.

"What?" Lance asked, voice soft. Keith was a little surprised by Lance's sincerity and gentleness, but he was grateful for it, "What happened?"

Keith took a shaky breath and the flames stuttered. The others pretended not to notice.

"One day, Shiro had a particularly bad episode a little while before a big war meeting. He couldn't miss out on it, but he wasn't stable enough to sit in on it. I offered to go in his place and report back to him afterwards. After some arguing, he finally agreed. So I went, I explained my position, and I listened. I was just his stand-in, I wasn't supposed to say anything." Keith clenched his hands together tightly, "But they were going to send in rookies, kids, to be slaughtered as a decoy. Our own people, and they would kill them. I spoke out against the General that had suggested it. In doing so, I had dishonoured him and thus challenged him to an Agni Kai. But I didn't know that I wouldn't be fighting against some old man. No," Keith laughed bitterly again, "By speaking out in my father's war council, I had dishonoured him. I had to fight my own father in front of an audience."

"What did you do?" Hunk asked quietly.

"What do you think?"

"You fought?" Pidge asked. Lance shook his head.

"No, he surrendered."

Keith nodded, "I surrendered and apologized. I was on my knees, crying like a child. He told me that I had dishonoured myself and the family. To regain my honour, I would have to find and capture Voltron. For my punishment...." Keith shrugged his left arm out of his sleeve, giving the other Paladins a full view of a burn scar that they had only caught glimpses of before and which was usually covered in black wrappings.

The imprint of old flames curled upwards from his wrist all the way to his shoulder, stopping right by where his heart was. The skin was darkened and red, cracked in some places. It was harsh and angry, the way that many perceived Zarkon to be.

It was silent as Keith's teammates took in the horrible sight. They were disgusted, but Keith wasn't surprised. It was an ugly scar, made by an evil man and a father that hated him. It marked the dishonour Keith had bestowed upon himself and his family.

"Does it hurt?" Lance asked slowly. Keith was a little shocked by the question and it took him a moment to reply.

"Sometimes, yes. I can still use it, though."

"Does it hurt now?"

Keith looked at his arm and considered it. There was always a dull itch there, but occasionally, like when it was too hot or too dry, it would burn all over again. In such a humid place, it did sting.

"A little bit," Keith admitted, "But it's not bad-"

"Hold on."

Lance stood up and went to his tent. He was gone for about a minute until he came back with his water pouch.

"What are you-" Keith started to ask, but Lance interrupted him when he plopped down beside Keith.

"Making it not hurt. Gimme your arm."

Lance opened the pouch and bent the water out of it. Lance took Keith's hand, careful not to touch the burn, and started moving the water to completely engulf his arm, Lance controlling it with his hands. The water glowed a slight blue-green, like the sea near Ember Island. It was very soothing and Keith could feel the pain and the itching ebbing away.

After a moment, he asked, "Better?"

Keith nodded, "Yeah, actually. Since when can you do that?"

Lance snorted, "Please. I may have been the only Waterbender in my tribe, but there were some techniques passed down. Plus, I spent a lot of time with the healers in our tribe when I was first learning how to hunt and use weapons. I picked up a few tricks and just kind of put them into my waterbending. There, it shouldn't hurt or itch."

Lance took his hands and the water away.

"Thank you," Keith said after a moment, looking at his arm. He was right; the itch that Keith had gotten used to over the years had disappeared completely. The dull pain that had been bothering him ever since the humidity had crashed around them was gone as well. Lance sure liked to goof off, but he definitely seemed to be a half-competent healer.

Lance shrugged easily and bent the water back into its pouch, "Hey, what are friends for?"

Keith smiled and noticed Pidge and Hunk giving each other strange looks.

"What?" Keith asked them as he shrugged his robes back on again.

"Oh, nothing," Pidge said with a smile that did not absolutely mean 'nothing'.

"Whatever," Keith said in a grumpy tone, "It's getting late and we need to get up early. We should all go to bed."

"Whatever you say," Hunk said with a knowing smirk as he stood up and walked over to his sleeping roll. Pidge followed and the two soon fell asleep next to their Eagle Lions. Lance remained behind to help tidy up as Keith put out the fire.

"Hey, uh, Lance?" Keith started once the fire had truly died. Lance looked up, his eyes widened with question. His eyes were very blue, although the irises were big on the dark night. Keith almost forgot what he was going to say before he cleared his throat and looked away, "I uh, wanted to apologize."

"For what?" Lance asked.

"For almost drowning you, when we first met," Keith explained, still not looking at Lance, "I mean, I know I didn't technically do it, but I didn't stop it and it was still one of my men who did it, so I'm sorry."

It was quiet for a moment and Keith was sure that his face was red. Then he felt Lance's hand on his shoulder and looked up to see that he was smiling down at him. Keith had never really noticed, but Lance was a couple of inches taller than him, which was odd to him. For some reason, he thought that he was taller.

"I get it," Lance said with an understanding smile, "I do. You were just doing your best to save your hide and also capture us. It could take have been the best situation. I'm sorry that I've given you such a hard time about this."

"So..." Keith said tentatively, "Are we good?"

"Yeah, we good," Lance said confidently, smirking at Keith, "But I still believe I'm a better flyer."

"As if," Keith replied with a smile, "I'm way better than you."

"Whatever fans your flame," Lance said as he clapped Keith's shoulder and walked over to his sleeping roll, yawning and stretching as he did. Keith watched him for a moment and then turned to the dying embers. He plopped back down on his rock and sighed heavily. He felt Zuko approach him and nuzzle his face. Absently, he reached up and scratched her cheek.

Something was bothering Keith?

"Yeah," Keith admitted quietly.

And was Keith going to share what was bothering him?

He sighed, "If you really think it's necessary."

Absolutely. For their bond.

He sighed again and stared at the embers, black but still glowing red.

"I think I might like Lance."

Wow. Shocker.

"Hey," He protested, "Anyways, I don't really have a problem with it, except that, well, it's Lance. But.... Back in the Fire Nation, everyone's still rather conservative. They like the old ways and they don't really want to change. That's not really my business, that's Shiro's. But that means that they don't really like anyone that's different than them. Anyone that's not Fire Nation is an outsider and everyone who isn't straight is wrong."

Does anyone know?

"Shiro does," Keith replied, "He found out when we were walking the palace grounds together when I was little and I told him I was picking lilies for a serving boy I liked." Keith laughed, "I was so stupid. Thankfully, Shiro kept an eye out for me. He didn't care that I was gay and he's been the only person to support me. He taught me how to hide it from everyone else. Not because he thought it was wrong, he's totally cool with that stuff, and I'm pretty sure Shiro had a crush on my sparring tutor back at the palace, but that doesn't matter. Shiro's looked out for me over the years. He's made me feel safe and I'm grateful, but he couldn't always protect me. My father hates me enough already, I don't know what he would do if he found out."

But Keith wasn't in the Fire Nation anymore.

"I know." Keith's voice was exhausted, "But, that's stuff sticks. I don't think that things between us could ever work out, and even if they did, I would have to return home eventually. What'll happen then?"

Zuko did not know. But that didn't matter. Keith could figure out his feelings and what the consequences might be at a later time. But right then, they had to worry about finding the rest of Voltron, taking down the Firelord and restoring balance to the world.

"You're right," Keith sighed as he got up, stamping on the flames to make sure that they were really out. He double checked, knowing fully well how dangerous fire could be, then decided that it was dead. He made his way to his bedroll and Zuko curled up by his head. He stared up at the stars before falling asleep, wondering what tomorrow would bring.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Altea and The Avatar

The sun rose behind the volcano, casting a long shadow over the Paladins. Shiro blinked awake and sat up slowly, stretching his arm. He winced as he stretched the part where metal met flesh. Sometimes in the early morning it was pinched by the metal, but the pain wasn't strong. He stood up and finished his stretching, looking around at the others with him. They were all asleep and curled up with their Eagle Lions. Shiro felt a pang of excitement- everyone knew they were close to Altea. If all went well, he would be waking up the next day with the Black Eagle Lion beside him. He would be lying to himself if he said that he hadn't been feeling a little jealous seeing Keith with such a strong connection to Zuko. He wondered what it would be like to be sharing your thoughts and feelings with another being, to be so intimate with something so powerful. He was excited to find out.

But he wouldn't be able to do that if he just stood there. So he gently shook the others awake and they all got ready for the day of travelling.

Except Lance.

He was fast asleep in his roll. Shiro had woken him but he seemed to have dozed off again. Pidge and Hunk walked over to him and Hunk nudged him gently.

"Come on man we gotta get up."

"Nope," Lance complained groggily, rolling over in his fur-lined sleeping roll, "Don't wanna."

"But we're gonna see Altea!" Hunk tried.

"Altea can wait ten more minutes."

Pidge and Hunk exchanged an exasperated look before Pidge saw a stick on the ground and picked it up with a smirk. Hunk was confused for a moment but then grinned evilly.

Pidge stood over Lance and moved the stick in swiggly-patterns on top of his roll.

"Hey Lance," She said, "I think there's a snake in your roll....."

Lance's eyes snapped open and he sat up, hopping around in a panic, his bedroll trapping him up to his neck.

"Get it off! Get it off! Help help!" He cried before he tripped and landed face first in the dirt. Everyone laughed and he scowled as he crawled out of his roll. His hair was sticking up in many directions like Pidge's and he tried to fix it, "You're all terrible, terrible people and I don't deserve this misfortune."

"Alright drama queen, let's go," Shiro teased as everyone went back to packing their stuff.

"I'm not a drama queen," Lance grumbled to Blue who seemed to find the prank rather funny.

He kind of was a drama queen.

"I'm wounded," Lance said dramatically, flopping onto Blue's back and laying the back of his hand on his forehead, "I don't know how I'll be able to go on."

Yep. No drama at all.

"Whatever," Lance joked as he lifted his legs and tumbled backwards over Blue. He tugged a feather playfully and she nipped at him. He laughed and moved to clean up his stuff.

Not long after, the team was in the air and flying south above the clouds.

"I wonder what it's like," Hunk said dreamily, "We learned about the Air Nomads in school and we saw some paintings, but I wonder what it looks like in real life."

"You learned about them?" Pidge asked excitedly. Hunk nodded.

"Yeah, but not a whole lot. The Galra regulated our classes pretty strictly, so we were only shown one painting of each temple, and I don't think I learned anything about Altea. All I know is that it's a branch of Air Nomads. I don't know why they're different though."

"Maybe it's like the Swamp Tribe and Water Tribe," Pidge suggested, "Who knows?"

The two continued chatting excitedly as they flew, but Lance flew behind them and in front of Zuko, who carried Keith and Shiro. The two were talking quietly, and Lance couldn't hear what they were saying, so he flew in closer.

"What're you taking about?" He asked.

"Nothing," Keith said rudely. Shiro gave him a disapproving look but since he was behind Keith, he didn't see him.

"Then why are you whispering?" By then, Hunk and Pidge had noticed and were listening but still faced forward, trying to pretend they didn't hear.

Keith opened his mouth but Shiro sighed in defeat.

"It's fine," He said with sadness and what seemed to be shame, "They would've found out eventually."

"Found out what....?" Lance tempted.

Shiro's face hardened and he looked at each of the Paladins and spoke up so they could all hear him, "Nearly a hundred years ago, when the war first started, the Galra raided the Air Nomads. They killed every last one of them because the next Avatar would be born into the Air Nomads. They wanted to kill the Avatar before they could cause trouble. It's never said whether they actually did, but everyone assumed that since the Avatar hasn't made an appearance. Some say the cycle was broken, and there isn't another Avatar, and there never will be."

It was silent for a moment before Pidge spoke up.

"That's crazy. We wouldn't be flying to Altea if the Avatar wasn't still alive. Without them, Voltron wouldn't be enough to stop Zarkon."

"Yeah!" Hunk agreed, "And look at these mountains!" The group had entered a large mountain range with tall peaks breaking the cloud cover, "There's no way that troops could I get up here. These mountains are way too steep, and half of them are covered in snow. No way Firebenders could get up here."

"Maybe it's true they did wipe out Air Nomads," Pidge offered, "But you guys don't know about Altea, they were different."

"Maybe," Shiro said, but he seemed really doubtful, "Well, let's try not to worry about it too much. Let's just get there and we'll figure it out from then."

Hunk and Pidge agreed and continued to talk about what it would look like, with their Eagle Lions describing to them what they remembered, but they hadn't returned since the war started.....

However, Lance seemed troubled. Keith noticed and the two shared a look, but neither knew what to say. Lance was too scared to ask a question, and Keith was worried that if he said something, it could end badly. So nothing was said.

After some time of flying, the members of Voltron came to a large central mountain surrounded by a circle of other mountains. From the central peak rose a tall white structure. It was curved forwards, like a claw, and very sleek. On the sides of the mountain, there were four structures identical to the centre, but they were smaller and each was placed in a cardinal direction. There were paths spiralling up the mountain, leading to all they different structures. The Paladins stared in awe at the unique structures, but when they got closer they saw they were not as perfect as they had originally thought.

The buildings had large scars and scorch marks, mostly towards the bases. There were parts where the material seemed to be fading and crumbling and plants had overgrown much of the paths and small buildings that were scattered around the mountain.

The Eagle Lions were sad. This was their home in the material world, and it had fallen into disarray. It felt a lot lonelier than it had a hundred years ago. But they were finally home, and for that they were grateful.

They all touched down at the bottom of the trails on the main mountain. Everything was overgrown, vines covered in leaves and small pink flowers crawled up walls, and hundreds of wildflowers had grown between cracks in the walk way, paved with a strange smooth material. Everyone dismounted and continued on foot, staring at all the structures.

"These things look like houses," Shiro said, running his flesh hand down the surface of a smaller building. It was identical to the other towers, but it was a lot smaller. It had a large blue panel made of a weird substance. He tapped on it lightly and it echoed and sounded almost hollow. Then he tapped on it a little harder with his metal hand, and it made the exact same noise.

"I've never seen material like this," Hunk said as he examined the house, "It looks almost like marble, but it's completely plain. And this blue stuff...."

"It looks like ice," Lance commented, "But ice doesn't make that sound."

"Are there buildings like this in other places of the world?" Pidge asked curiously.

Keith shook his head, "I've never seen anything like it."

Shiro continued to examine the blue substance and then stepped back. He considered it for a moment before pulling back his metal arm and punching the material as hard as he could. It rang with the same noise, but louder and it echoed across the mountain top. The Paladins covered their ears and the Eagle Lions recoiled and growled in distaste. A flock of birds in a nearby tree startled and flew off.

"What the heck was that?" Lance cried.

"I wanted to see what would happen," Shiro replied calmly, looking at the blue stuff and his arm.

"Well it made a noise," Lance observed.

"But that's it," Pidge said, leaning in closer, "It didn't even crack, not a single mark."

"Seriously?" Keith asked. He looked and saw that she was right, "That's not possible. I've seen Shiro's arm bend solid steel, it should have something."

"But it doesn't...." Hunk noted. Then, out of curiosity, he pulled out his diamond knife, "Stand back," He warned everyone. They did and covered their ears as well. Hunk raised the blade with both hands and brought it down with all of his considerate strength.

It was silent.

And then the material shattered.

It sounded like a thousand tiny cracks in the ice all breaking apart at once, but it had a higher note, and it sounded almost pretty. Then the blue stuff simply evaporated into blue and green sparkly orbs that floated for a second and then disappeared. The Paladins all stared in awe.

They didn't think that any Altean technology would've survived.....

The Paladins looked at their Eagle Lions and knew they had all thought the same thing.

"Altean technology?" Pidge asked excitedly, "What does that mean?"

The Alteans were so connected to the Spirit World, they had been able to bring in elements from that world and work them into their construction.

"That's amazing!" Hunk said and he and Pidge immediately descended into quick chatter.

"What are you guys talking about?" Shiro asked, and Keith remembered that he couldn't hear the thoughts in their heads.

"Apparently Alteans used spirit stuff in building things," Keith said.

"That is interesting," Shiro said.

"Hey guys!" Lance called and they all turned to see he was inside the house, "Come check this out!"

The others followed his voice while the Eagle Lions sat outside. They had seen Altean houses hundreds of times, but they did not want to see them now.

Inside the house was dark. It was tall and had two floors. The first had chests, storage, a small area for cooking and a divet in the ground that seemed to be a table. The second floor had no way up, it was just a ring around the edge of the inside and was open in the centre. They could see beds on top but not much else. Hanging from the ceiling was a large clear crystal with a blue tint to it. It was suspended by a thick silver cord that wrapped around the crystal in curves and swirls.

"It looks like they were in the middle of dinner," Shiro said as he crouched down by the table and looked at the plates that were dirty, but had been set, "Or at least about to eat."

"That means they had food!" Hunk said excitedly and opened a cupboard. It released a cloud of a sickly sweet odour and he closed it immediately, his face a little green, "Nope. Altean food is not good after a hundred years."

"Small wonder," Keith said as looked around.

"We should get going," Shiro decided, guilt suddenly starting to weigh down on him, "The Avatar's waited long enough."

The others agreed and left the sad house alone. They continued up the path and looked around, but they began to grow uneasy. The birds whom Shiro had startled earlier seemed to be the only signs of life on the mountain. It was eerily quiet and it made the Eagle Lions nervous as well. The Altea they were used to was filled with life; this silence was deafening.

Until Hunk's stomach growled loudly.

Everyone paused and looked at him and he smiled sheepishly, "Sorry, I haven't eaten in a while. Do you think we could find food?"

"We're the first outsiders to be on Altea in a hundred years," Keith said with a hint of annoyance, "And you're just thinking about food?"

"Hey," Lance said, throwing an arm around Hunk, "He's a simple guy with simple needs."

Keith rolled his eyes and Hunk and Lance high-fived once his back was turned. They all continued and soon the uncomfortable silence settled in again.

After some time they arrived at the base of the tallest structure and suddenly realized how huge it was. Their Eagle Lions were about the same height as the Altean houses, but they looked like ants next to such a huge tower. The Paladins all stared in awe but were startled when the Eagle Lions began to roar.

"Uh....." Hunk said nervously, "What was that about?"

A split second later, a section of the white material started to rise and slide behind the panel above it. It rumbled loudly and shook the ground. The Paladins stumbled and tried not to fall, unsure of what was going on. After a few seconds, the panel lifted completely, leaving a gap in the tower that had to be ten times as tall as Rocky was. Light flowed through, creating long shadows despite the time of day. It was dark inside, and Shiro cautiously stepped forwards, the rest following him. Inside, they saw intricate swirling patterns on the floor and a grand staircase that split into two halfway up.

In the centre of the floor was a giant mosaic in a circle and bordered by white, red, green, and blue tiles. The mosaic depicted the five Eagle Lions flying around a central figure, their ethnicity and gender indeterminate. But their eyes glowed and the four elements swirled around them. The others stared in awe and carefully stepped on it. It hadn't faded much over the years, and was in near-perfect condition. When they had all stood in the circle, light blue flames lit themselves in lanterns on the walls around them, lighting the castle around them. The flames danced across the mosaic and brought it to life, while the lights showed smaller, more detailed carvings along the walls. They were simplified, but they were obviously of the Eagle Lions and Voltron. The Paladins awed at the art before noticing that the lanterns on the stairs were starting to light up one by one.

"I think we're supposed to follow them," Lance said. Everyone shared a look before walking together as a group.

"Hello?" Hunk called out tentatively. They followed the lanterns up a tall spiralled staircase and into a long, narrow hallway that seemed to lead into the peak of the mountain.

"Hello...." Hunk yelled again. The lanterns continued down the hallways and got thinner, so much so that the Eagle Lions were squished and walked single file.

"Hello!" Hunk called one last time before they reached a door made of the same white material as before, and with a different mosaic. This one showed a strange symbol- a pure white thing with a triangular head and a long thin body. Along the body were blue markings, as well as on the head. The head, at the bottoms of the triangle, had long blue and white tails flowing from it, and there were two long white tails streaming from the body. Surrounding the images were flames, rocks, waves, and wind streams. They were all suddenly certain that behind this door was the rest of Voltron.

Then, as one, each of the Paladins put a hand to the door. They didn't know what compelled them to do it, but they did. The door slid upwards and out of view, revealing a massive, circular room that was plain and empty, except for the giant iceberg in the middle of the room.

The temperature was freezing and everyone's breath was misting in the air. They suddenly wished that they had dressed a little warmer and shivered slightly in the cold. But that was nothing compared to what they saw.

The iceberg was almost perfectly round, and it looked like currents had frozen into place. Sitting suspended in the ice were four beings- the shape of a man, his back arched and body limp, curving with the ice; a large shape, curled as well, but it had six legs and a big tail, and it looked larger than any of the Eagle Lions; the shape of what seemed to be an Eagle Lion, but larger and with a mane; and the centre figure- a person sitting cross-legged, their fists meeting in front of them, the backs of their hands facing outward. They had long flowing hair that spread like a cloud in the iceberg and tattoos of arrows on the backs of their hands, their cheek bones, and a large one in the centre of their forehead. They seemed to be the source of light, as their tattoos were glowing a fierce blue light, the same shade of blue as the weird doors of the Alteans' houses, as well as the lanterns.

"This is it," Shiro stated in awe. His eyes were trained on the Eagle Lion, and he felt something in his chest, like something was stirring inside him.

"I just want to point this out to everyone," Hunk said, "We're in an Altean temple, facing the rest of Voltron. Just thought it needed to be said."

"How do we get them out?" Pidge asked, examining the ice but not touching it, "I'm afraid that if we use firebending it could hurt them, as would waterbending and even earthbending."

"What if we just knock?" Lance suggested, tapping on the ice. Everyone jumped as the Avatar opened their eyes, which were also glowing. The light grew brighter and stronger and the Paladins backed away. The ice slowly began to crack, starting at the top and fissuring down with loud snaps. When a fissure appeared in front of the Avatar, the ice reached its breaking point. It shattered and the Eagle Lions protected their Paladins from any flying shards. The light became blinding and they had to look away.

After a moment the light subsided and they all slowly looked up, their eyes adjusting. A bright beam was shooting out of the centre of the ice and out a hole in the ceiling they hadn't noticed before. Soon that too subsided and the Avatar appeared on top of the jagged ice.

She was beautiful and terrifying.

She had skin even darker than Hunk's, but was a little shorter. She was tall and thin, and had long, white, pouffy hair like a cloud. Her ears were pointed and long, which looked weird but also...didn't. She wore a long orange tunic that went to her ankles, with a swath of red fabric draped across her one shoulder and flowed down in front. Her fabrics were cinched at the waist from a woven belt and she wore bracelets of the same material on her wrists. She wore thin brown boots under the tunic that seemed to be made of some frabirc, not leather.The colours of the fabric contrasted with her brown skin and stood out like a beautiful flower in a dark field.

But the thing that made her terrifying was the glowing. The clear blue light came from her eyes, as well as tattoos. She looked ethereal and powerful, like a divine being.

Soon the glow faded and the room was lit by the lanterns. The Avatar closed her eyes and slumped forward. Everyone rushed forward, but Lance was the only one who caught her. She stumbled to her feet but clung to him for balance, looking up at him.

Her eyes were brilliant and like nothing they had ever seen- they were a beautiful blue, richer than the colour of the light, and tinted with pink and violet. She blinked them groggily and spoke softly, as if trying to use her voice after a long time of silence.

"Who- who are you?" She asked. Her voice had a soft lilt to it, an accent they had never heard, "Where am I?"

Lance's face was beet red. He had this gorgeous girl in his arms and he didn't know what to do. But he quickly remembered himself and smirked.

"The name's Lance, and you're right here in my arms."

The Avatar seemed unbothered by Lance's flirt (the other Paladins were internally groaning). Instead, she looked at Lance's shark-tooth earring hanging from his left ear.

"You have....a tooth in your ear?" She said with an air of disgust.

Lance frowned and started to argue his defence, "Hey I'll have you know that I'm very fashion for-AGH!"

Cutting him off, the Avatar seemed to regain her strength and grabbed Lance by his ear, twisting him around. With ease, she forced him to the floor and pinned his arm behind his back, leaving him on his knees and whimpering a little, tears of pain in his eyes.

"Who are you?" She demanded the rest of them. Her eyes fell on the Eagle Lions, "Where are the Paladins? Where is my father? How did you get here?"

"Hey," Shiro said soothingly, stepping forward a little, "It's okay. We're the Paladins now. The Eagle Lions brought us here to you."

"But, that can't be," She said, releasing Lance. He flopped on his face and Keith and Pidge snickered. She turned around and jumped into the tall iceberg, disappearing from sight. The Paladins shared a glance before scrambling up after her.

When they reached the opening, they gaped down and saw the beings within. The Avatar was tending to a man with soft orange hair, a thick moustache, a pale complexion, the same pointy ears, and similar clothes. But their attention was drawn to the beasts.

The giant being that had been entrapped in the ice above the Avatar was even bigger up close. It could have seated them all comfortably, and had a mouth large enough to swallow Pidge whole. It was covered in coarse, shaggy white fur with a brown arrow on its forehead, much like the Avatar's. The arrow continued in a long line down the length of the animal's body, making small lines at the top of each of the legs and reaching to the end of the tail, where it had two horizontal lines and ended. The tail was large and flat, with lined skin underneath that ran the length of the underbelly. The animal's face had no hair, and had white skin around large brown eyes. It had a purple nose, small fluffy ears, and long, upward pointed horns.

Beside that odd animal was the Black Eagle Lion.

He was just coming to and standing up slowly. His coat was a sleek black with a huge puffy mane that looked like it held stars and small galaxies. Red, blue, green, and yellow nebulas drifted in and out of the mane. He was a good metre taller than Rocky and almost as heavily built. He had long, thick claws and wings bigger than any of the others that were a slick black but shimmered a thousand colours. He lifted his head towards the Paladins and they saw a splotch of white on his mouth and nose, and he had red and blue markings around two-toned eyes, one yellow and the other gree-

Shiro was ripped from his body and thrown into a battle. But this wasn't one of his moments, he was riding on the back of the Black Eagle Lion, his hands tangled in her starry mane, her wings spread out and soaring over the sea. To his left were Pidge and Hunk on their Eagle Lions, with Keith and Lance to his right. Behind him flew the Avatar with the orange-haired man flying on their great beast. Voltron was together, and they were unstoppable.

"She's a girl," Shiro stuttered.

The others turned to him in confusion and Lance spoke sarcastically.

"Yeah, it's kinda hard to mistake her for a dude. Hair, eyes, dress, what else could she be!"

"What? No, not the Avatar." Shiro shook his head and gestured at the Black Eagle Lion, who was nuzzling the sleeping beast, "Her. The Black Eagle Lion is a girl."

"But....she's got a mane? Don't these kind of animals only have manes if they're boys?" Hunk questioned.

Pidge shrugged, "Who knows? Maybe she thinks it looks cool."

"So," Keith asked his older brother with a smile, "How does it feel to be a Paladin?"

Shiro smiled down at the Eagle Lion, "Pretty good."

"Hey!" They all turned at the sound of a man's voice, accented similarly to the Avatar's. He had a yellow tunic with a red collar and belt, long, loose, yellow sleeves, red pants, brown boots, and a red sash that went from his right shoulder to his left hip and ended there. But unlike the Avatar, he didn't have any tattoos, and his eyes were a startling violet with blue tint, "Who are you? What're you doing here?"

"We are the Paladins of Voltron," Shiro answered confidently, standing up a little straighter, "We've come to awaken you and reform Voltron."

The man's face was confused for a moment before understanding dawned. But the Avatar frowned and spoke in confusion.

"But that can't be," She argued, standing up and the other following her lead. In her hand was a long wooden staff, "What happened to the other Paladins? I don't understand how you got here, or how you found the Eagle Lions, but there must be some mistake!" With a gust of air she touched down on the edge of the iceberg, a point just in front of Shiro, and jabbed him lightly in the chest with her staff, "This isn't right."

"Look," Shiro tried patiently and kindly, "We don't know what happened to the old Paladins. Chances are, they're all dead."

"You lie!" The Avatar snapped. The others could see that she was confused and angry, and didn't know how to react, "The Paladins cannot be dead."

"But you've been missing for a hundred years," Shiro said, "I don't know where any of them are, and it's been a long ti-"

"Wait," She said, shaking her head and looking at him again, leaning in close, her beautiful eyes piercing, "What did you say?"

"That you've been missing for a hundred years?" Shiro prompted.

The fire in the Avatar's eyes went out and she started to slump.

"A hundred years...." She mumbled. She turned and sat down, sliding down the ice. She landed next to the man, who hugged her silently.

The Paladins shared a look of confusion and sadness before Shiro took a deep breath and started to carefully make his way down the ice. After some time, the others followed.

"Hey," Shiro said softly, kneeling down. The man with the orange hair looked at him carefully but didn't speak. The Avatar lifted her head and Shiro was surprised to see that her eyes were dry, "What're your names?"

"Allura," The Avatar said, "And this is Coran, my advisor."

"Allura, Coran," Shiro continued in a soft tone, "My name's Shiro. This is Lance, Hunk, Keith, and Pidge. Our Eagle Lions brought us here to free you."

"I suppose we should thank you," Coran said with a smile.

"Do you remember how you got in there?" Pidge asked. Allura looked at her before standing up with Coran and shaking her head.

"The last thing I remember is talking with my father...."

"Your father?"

"King Alfor of Altea," Coran said before speaking directly to Allura, "Your father orchestrated this. He put you into a deep sleep and activated the Avatar State while the Paladins of old sealed us away. He knew it was the only way to protect you, to save Voltron. He did not know that we would be here for this long...."

Allura sighed sadly, "I guess he's gone now, isn't he?"

"But we're here," Coran said, "And we have Voltron once again."

At that moment, Allura didn't really want Voltron. She wanted her father, even just to say one final goodbye. But she knew that wasn't possible. She took a deep breath and pushed the thought away. She had been training her entire life to one day rule Altea, and then trained to lead Voltron. She would deal with her baggage later.

"So you're the Paladins," She said, trying for a smile, "It's nice to formally meet you."

"The pleasure's all mine," Lance flirted, grabbing Allura's hand and kissing it with a wink. Pidge elbowed him and rolled her eyes before extending a hand to Allura.

"I'm Pidge," She said as she shook the princess's hand (it took everything in her not to blush and think about how pretty her eyes were), "Don't worry about Lance, he's just goofing around."

"Hey!" He protested, but he was ignored.

Hunk beamed and shook Allura's hand, "My name's Hunk, it's nice to meet you princess, uh, Avatar, um...."

Allura and Coran laughed good-naturedly.

"Allura is fine," She promised and Hunk smiled.

Keith extended his hand to Allura and shook it.

"Keith," He said simply. Allura nodded and finally started to notice the clothes that he and Shiro were wearing.

"You're Fire Nation," Allura said with a frown.

"Yeah....so?" Keith prompted.

"The Fire Nation did start the war," Coran said thoughtfully, tugging on his moustache, "If I do recall correctly. But I'm sure that's old news."

"Unfortunately," Shiro said sadly, "It's not. Our great-grandfather started it, and our grandfather and our father continued it. But we plan on stopping it."

"Wait," Allura said suspiciously, "You mean to tell me that you're Fire Nation and Galra?"

"Yeah," Keith said defensively, "Not all of us are terrible. Did you miss the part about us trying to stop the war?"

"He's right," Coran said softly to Allura. She frowned and didn't say anything, but she didn't need to as a loud, low, almost growl ripped through the chamber.

All of the Paladins jumped. Lance, Hunk, and Pidge all gripped onto Shiro, who had started into a defensive position. Keith had drawn his knife and they were all turned towards the source of the noise.

The Black Eagle Lion and the.... thing had been so quiet that they'd almost forgotten them. But when the giant beast had yawned, it had scared them. Meanwhile, Allura and Coran were beaming and the other Eagle Lions stood at the top of the iceberg.

"Mouse!" Allura said happily, choosing to forget the seriousness of the situation for a moment. She leapt and flew through the air and landed on the beast's giant furry forehead, giggling and sniffing the fur, "Oh, you're so tired aren't you? After a hundred years of sleep I would think you would be a little sleepy!"

The beast yawned again and Allura laughed. It was a pretty sound, full of joy.

"Uh," Hunk got the courage to ask, "What's that?"

"This is Mouse!" Allura said happily. She turned around and spun in the air, landing gracefully, "She's my flying bison!"

"Right," Keith said sarcastically, "And this is Shiro, my flying brother."

"Well you've been flying around on the Eagle Lions for some time I presume," Coran pointed out, "Flying bison shouldn't be that unbelievable."

"Good point," Shiro agreed. The Black Eagle Lion made her way over to him and he smiled as she nuzzled his head.

"Ah, you're the head of Voltron I see," Coran said.

"The...head?" Shiro asked.

"Yes, you're the leader, the figure point!" Coran said excitedly

"But, I thought that was the Avatar?" Pidge asked. Coran shook his head and tugged on his moustache.

"Oh, no no no dear Paladins! The Avatar is more or less the powerhouse for Voltron! They keep Voltron strong and together! Voltron on its own is powerful, yes, but it's nothing compared to the might shared by the Avatar!"

"So what're you supposed to be then?" Keith asked, "Why don't you have tattoos? I thought all Airbenders had them."

"Ah, well that's because I'm not an Airbender," Coran replied knowledgably, "I'm what they call an "Air Acolyte"- an Air Nomad who cannot bend but studies the culture, history, whatever such specialized field."

"And.... What's your specialized field?" Lance asked.

"Everything!" Coran said proudly.

"It's true!" Allura said with a smile, petting Mouse, "He's the smartest man I've ever known and he's my father's closest advisor."

"That's probably why he chose you to go with the Avatar," Pidge realized.

"Yes," Coran admitted, "Alfor did not know how long it would be until the new Paladins would come and he could not guarantee that he would be alive to greet Allura, so he placed me with her as a guide and counsellor."

"Come on," Allura broke in, "Let's go see the rest of Altea!"

The Paladins exchanged glances but said nothing. What was there to say? So much had been left out about the Alteans, even in Fire Naction history. They had no clue what Altea was like before the war. So they said nothing.

They all climbed out of the iceberg and helped lead Mouse out as well, keeping an eye on all six feet to make sure she didn't slip. They moved her towards the door but she sat down and yawned again.

"Mouse doesn't like tight spaces," Allura explained, "She'll be fine here while she wakes up. And the hole up there is big enough for her to fly out. Now come, and follow us!"

Allura and Coran led them out of the room and through the vast space. The Paladins noticed that the lights burned brighter when the Avatar passed and wondered whether they were tied to her.

"So what have you decided to name your Eagle Lion?" Allura asked Shiro, who was walking beside her.

"Oh," He said, glancing back at the animal, "I think I'll name her Iroh. It's a male name, but I've always liked how it sounded. And I had a very kind firebending master named Iroh."

"A good name, then," Allura agreed. Then she frowned, "It's odd. Usually these halls are filled with light and sound. But it's so dark and quiet."

"Princess," Shiro started carefully, "When we arrived, there was no one here. We managed to get into one of the houses, but it was empty. And no one's seen an Air Nomad since the war started...."

"I see..." Allura said sadly.

"They must have moved," Coran said smartly, "We are called the Air Nomads for a reason! While our temples are our homes and places of worship, our people would not be entirely against moving to safety. Even the Alteans would be willing to leave if they knew everything important was taken care of. Besides, I'm sure you saw the mountains! The only way to reach Altea is through the air, and same with most of the Air Temples!"

"See?" Allura said, perking up a little, but it seemed as though she was more trying to convince herself, "I'm sure they've just moved."

Shiro decided to remain silent. Perhaps she was right, but he doubted it.

When they stepped outside, the Alteans' faces fell.

"It's so....lonely." Allura commented. She lifted an arm to an empty area overgrown with grass, "That's where the bison would graze. And there, with the flowers, that used to be a field of wild berries, always filled with lemurs. Over there was where I always used to play when I was a little girl." She lowered her arm sadly.

"We'll rebuild it once the war is over," Coran promised hopefully, "We'll find the others and fix it up, no problem at all!"

Allura smiled and nodded and the Paladins felt a pang in their chests. They all knew that it was very unlikely, but they didn't want to pop their bubbles.

"This way!" Allura said excitedly, leading them toward an area with tons of flat wooden spikes that varied between height and had blue striped painted on the top. On two ends of the field were wooden rectangles with a grey and blue circle in the middle, "This is the place where my friends and I played hours of airball!"

"Airball?" Pidge asked, "What's that?"

"I'll show you!" Allura said excitedly. They had arrived at the field and she grabbed a ball that was lying near one of the posts. It was made out of wood and had curves all though it and was completely hollow, "But I'll need someone to play with!"

"I'll do it!" Lance said excitedly. He walked up to the princess and winked, "I promise to go easy."

Allura smiled and rolled her eyes. Then she spun and leapt into the air, jumping higher than possible, gently landing on a pole. Lance just climbed it and after a little bit of trial, managed to balance himself with one foot on one pole and his other on another pole. He carefully picked his way to stand in front of what seemed to be a goal.

"All you have to do is bounce the ball between the posts and score a goal!"

"Seems easy enough," Lance joked, "How about a wager? I win, you give me a kiss?"

Allura laughed, "Alright. But if I win, you kiss Mouse."

Lance hummed in thought for a moment then nodded, "Yeah seems fair. Alright, let's do this."

Allura smiled and threw the ball straight up, sending it spinning up in the air. It came back down about an inch above her hand, whistling as she bent the air through the grooves. She rolled it across her arms and back and without even touching it, spun on her pole and threw it at Lance, bouncing off of seven poles before it caught Lance square in the stomach and sent him flying at the goal. The blue circle spun and Lance flew through it while Allura laughed. He landed in a heap in a puddle with a loud oof! Everyone laughed as Lance grumbled to himself.

"You kind of deserved that," Keith said as he offered his hand. Lance rolled his eyes with a smile and stold up on his own.

"Whatever."

Keith opened his mouth to reply but stopped when he saw what Lance had landed by. Seeing Keith's face, he turned and gasped softly.

Not three feet from where Lance had landed were remains of Fire Nation armour; red plates, some spear heads, and helmets.

"They really were here..." Lance said softly.

"We have to tell them, they deserve to know."

"No!" Lance protested, glancing back at the others then looking at Keith with shock and grabbing his arm, "We can't. It'll destroy them. Their people, their culture, all gone. It's bad enough that everyone they've ever known is dead, let them believe this, just for a little bit."

Keith frowned in disagreement but Allura waved them over and they decided to drop it for the moment. When they came back to the group she beamed at them.

"Come on! I have someone I want you to meet!"

She led them around back behind the large white structure and up a path, leading to a large garden clinging to the side of the mountain. By this time, the Eagle Lions had flown off and started playing on the mountain and they could be seen every now and then.

The garden seemed to be once carefully looked after, but now it was overgrown and messy. There were little areas boxed in with small wooden fences, but many of the plants had simply grown over the fences and invaded other areas. Tall weeds sprouted up between the lines that created a path on the ground. In the centre of the garden was a life size wooden statue of a man in his late forties. He had long hair tied in a low ponytail and a beard as well. He wore clothes very similar to Coran but had a flowing cape and a breast plate, and he had the same tattoos as Allura. He sat cross legged and had his left hand raised slightly, palm facing forwards,  holding a chain with the Altean symbol- four swirls connected in the centre. In the other, he held a pointed spear with cloth tassels dangling from the point and it stood upright. The tassels danced in the wind, and they appeared to have been a bright orange, but they were faded to a dull colour and frayed badly.

Allura and Coran put their fists together and in front of them and bowed before the statue. Allura turned to the others and smiled.

"This is my father, King Alfor of Altea. I would like to think that he was the greatest leader Altea has ever had." She turned back to her father and remembered a moment that felt like only yesterday, but in reality happened a century ago.

Allura sat on her windowsill, her arms resting on her knees as she looked out of the hole in her wall at the Alteans going about their lives below her. The air was filled with sounds of laughter and life and she thought about how they could all be in danger, how she would soon be responsible.

She heard a knock at her door and turned to see her father poking his head in. She sighed and turned back to the world outside.

"What's the point in knocking if you're just going to enter anyway?"

Alfor chuckled as he entered her room and sat beside her, "Fair point." When Allura didn't say anything, he cleared his throat and began again, "Listen, Allura, I've been meaning to talk to you. About the war, and your status as Avatar." Allura turned her head to face him but remained quiet, a signal for him to continue, "Not only are you tasked with keeping the balance in the world, but you are also to take my place as leader of Altea. You will have a heavy weight on your shoulders, but you do not have to pick it up just yet. The war still remains in a small section of the Earth Kingdom and there is still a chance that it will die out soon enough."

"But what if it doesn't?" Allura asked, "What if the war continues for a thousand years?"

"Wars don't ever last that long, my dear," Alfor comforted her.

"That's not the point," Allura said, switching her position so her legs dangled out of the window, "I won't sit idly by while the world is consumed by flames. I want to help. But I don't know what my priorities should be if it comes to a choice- My duties as Queen of Altea or my duties as Avatar? And the Avatar before me is twenty five years dead, so there's no one to help me."

"I don't know the answers to all of your questions...." Alfor said slowly, "But I do know one. In the Avatar Sanctuary, there'll be someone there to guide you. But not yet. You will go when you are ready."

"But when will I be ready?" Allura urged, "I've already mastered airbending and I'm learning waterbending! When will I be ready?"

"You will know," Alfor assured, "But right now, you are still my daughter, and I will do whatever I can to protect you from this world."

Allura remembered the conversation and entered the door that stood behind her father's statue.

"Where are you going?" Shiro asked as they followed her.

"To the Avatar Sanctuary," Allura said, "There's someone I'm ready to meet."

"But who?" Keith asked, "It's been a hundred years, there's no way they're still alive." She ignored him and he glared at her back. Lance fell in line with Keith and whispered to him.

"D'ya think we should tell her? About what we found?"

Keith continued glaring ahead, "Might be a good idea. We shouldn't tug her around like this."

"I know I know," Lance agreed quietly, "But still. These were her people, her family. It can't be easy to hear they've all been murdered by the Fi- Galra, sorry."

"She'll find out eventually," Keith whispered, "May as well get it over with."

"But what about you?" Lance asked, "And Shiro? How do you think they'll react when they find out it was not only your people, but your family that killed them?"

Keith kept silent. He knew that their reactions would probably be less than positive, but it still needed to be said.

"We're here!" Coran announced excitedly. They had arrived at a massive, circular wooden door with a weird design. It was two large horn-shapes that were connected with tubes that tangled and wove an impossible pattern on the door, with three giant, blue curved shells dispersed.

"This is the Avatar Sanctuary," Coran explained proudly, "These doors can only be opened by two simultaneous blasts of air, accomplished only by a master Airbender."

"What's in there?" Pidge asked.

Coran opened his mouth but then closed it and frowned, tugging at his moustache, "I don't entirely know, to be quite honest. The contents of the Sanctuary were closely-guarded secrets, and only the highest monks, the current ruler of Altea, and the Avatar knew what was inside. Now, there's not a single living person who knows...."

"That's about to change," Allura said with a grave sort of confidence. She closed her eyes and took a step back, breathing in deep as she made a pushing motion with her hands. She opened her eyes and turned on her heel, then thrust her hands outward, creating two almost horizontal tornadoes from her hands, spinning into the tubes. It created a great bellowing sound, like a very low, very loud tsungi horn being blown. One by one, the blue shells flipped and revealed their opposite side to be coloured red, and the noise changed to a higher pitch each time. Soon, the winds stopped and Allura took a step back, finished with her bending. Slowly, the doors creaked and swung open, revealing a large, dark chamber that seemed to be carved right into the mountainside. For a moment, everything was silent and tense, everyone waiting to see what would happen next.

The silence was broken when Lance leaned in close to Hunk and whispered loudly, "Is some thing supposed to happen?"

"I think so," Hunk whispered back, just as loudly, "But I don't know if we have to wait any longer...."

"Are we even sure this is the right place?" Lance asked in his loud whisper.

"Yes," Allura said, tense and annoyed, "This is the right place. And we can all hear you."

"Oh," Lance whispered, then cleared his throat and spoke normally, "Oh. Cool. So what now?"

"I guess we go in," Allura suggested, striding forward with what she hoped was confidence and trying to get her eyes to adjust.

"Here," Shiro said, suddenly beside her, a small flame in his open palm.

"Thank you," Allura said, eyeing the flame and its wielder warily. She did not know whether to whole-heartedly trust the Galra, as they had been the ones to start the war, and she presumed they were responsible for the migration of her people, who seemingly had disappeared. She worried about what another explanation might be for the missing Air Nomads, but she did not dare let herself think it. If she did, she did know whether she would ever forgive the Galra among her.

When everyone entered the room, lit by Shiro and Keith's flames, they saw that the entire room was filled with statues. And they didn't remain on the floor, oh no. The walls of the chamber were carved in a slight spiral pattern, going up and up and up, so high that it was too dark to see. The ones on the walls faced the centre, while the ones on the floor faced the doors, as if waiting to greet visitors. And each one was a different person, although none of them seemed to have anything in common.

"Who are all these people?" Shiro asked.

"I don't know," Allura said carefully, looking around at all the faces, "But I feel like I know all of them..."

"Look!" Lance said exitedly, "this one's from the Water Tribe!" He gestured to a statue of a petite women with a caring face and a wolf's head hood on her head, dressed in Water Tribe garb.

"And this one's from the Earth Kingdom," Hunk pointed to the next one, a tall, broad man with a scowl.

"She's Fire Nation," Shiro said, gesturing to the one beside Hunk, who was a woman with long hair and a kind face.

"And this one is Air Nomad," Allura said, "Water, Earth, Fire, Air. That's the Avatar cycle. I think these are all of my past lives."

"Really?" Keith asked with a raised eyebrow, "Every single one of these guys used to be you?"

"Well, sort of," Coran said, tugging on his moustache, "You see, the Avatar is linked to the Spirit World through the spirit called Ravaa. The two are forever tied together, thus allowing the Avatar power over all four elements, and keeping the cycle going. As soon as an Avatar dies, another in born into the world, in the next place of the cycle. There can not be more nor less than one Avatar in the world because of this."

"Cool!" Hunk said excitedly, "We never really learned about the Avatar, since the teachers never thought we should learn it."

"Maybe that's why the Druids could never recreate an Avatar...." Keith said. Shiro turned back and caught his eye, quickly shaking his head, but Allura had already heard him.

"The Druids did what?" She asked with a dangerous tone, turning around.

Keith frowned, "Apparently, soon after the war first started, the Druids tried experimenting with their magic to try and create their own Avatar to fight for the Fire Nation. It didn't work."

"A good thing too!" Coran said cheerfully as Allura narrowed her eyes at Keith and turned away to continue looking at the statues, "Imagine what chaos that would be! And maybe another reason why it didn't work was because Allura was still alive! In order for a second Avatar to be created, if that was even possible, it would have to happen at the exact moment of an Avatar's death. Now that's truly intriguing.... Truth be told, I always did admire the knowledge of the Druids, albeit I was rather sceptical of their methods...."

Meanwhile, Allura had reached the centre of the room, the end of the spiral. There seemed to be only enough room left for one more statue, and a part of her vaguely wondered what would happen after she got turned into a statue. But she was mostly focused on the final statue: the likeness of an old Fire Nation man with long grey hair and elegant robes. She stared into his eyes and saw them flash and she lost herself in...she wasn't sure. Before she could think too deeply, someone was shaking her shoulder.

"Princess?" Shiro's voice was laced with worry as he shook her out of the trance, "Princess, are you alright?"

"Yes," She said shaking off his hand, "Thank you."

He frowned down at her, not offended by her rudeness but rather hurt by it and instead turned to the statue in front of them, "Who's this?"

"Avatar Roku," Allura said plainly, "The Avatar before me."

"How did you know?" Shiro asked, "There's no writing."

"I just....did." Allura said in a misty sort of tone.

"So that's what he looked like...." Shiro said in awe. Allura turned to him and frowned.

"He was Fire Nation, even Galra royalty. And there are no paintings of him, nothing of his likeness?"

Shiro shook his head sadly, "He was pretty much erased from history. All we know for certain is that he was Galra royalty and died in his prime. The history books say that he was very private."

"That's not true," Allura said defensively, "I'm not sure how, but I know that's not true. Your nation is feeding you lies."

Shiro finally turned to look her in the eyes and she was surprised to find that his expression was pure...sadness, resignation even.

"I know," He replied in a tone that weighed heavily on her heart.

"Hey, guys, look!" Lance said excitedly. Everyone turned and saw a small monkey-like creature with white fur patterned with brown, as well as large ears.

"Be careful," Keith warned, "It could be dangerous."

"But it's so cute!" Lance argued, "I wanna knit him a parka!"

Allura laughed and tried to forget the sadness in Shiro, "That's just a lemur! They're friendly."

She stepped towards it and bent down. Just when she was within arm's reach, the lemur sniffed and lifted off of the ground and spread two flaps of skin as it glided through the air.

"Hey!" Allura protested in joy, laughing as she raced after the creature.

"Wait for me!" Lance yelled, bounding after them with Hunk close behind. Pidge sighed and followed as well as Keith, leaving Coran and Shiro in the room.

Allura raced along, feeling the wind in her hair, slapping her face. The Paladins were chasing after her, quickly gaining. Hunk stood in front of her, blocking her path.

"Ha!" He said, thus creating a game, "I've blocked you now!"

Allura only laughed and kept running, but ran along the walls and then the ceiling, making a sort of roundabout around Hunk and kept sprinting. She turned back and called, "You've gotta be better than that to catch an Airbender!"

She saw at the end of the hallway was a balcony off a sheer cliff and she jumped off, her legs together and her arms out. She felt the wind tearing at her clothes and she felt free, oh so free. Just for a little while she could ignore these responsibilities and the sadness that weighed on her.

The others reached the balcony, gasping for air.

"Now what?" Keith cried. He too had gotten into the game of chasing Allura.

"Get on," Hunk said confidently, bending a platform out of the rock of the cliff. All four hopped on and seated themselves, "Hold tight," Hunk warned as he sped them down the cliff side.

Soon Allura was approaching the ground. She wound herself up tight in a ball and then spun, creating a bubble of air below her and gracefully landing on her feet. In front of her was a structure covered in dead vines and torn fabric. She recognized it as the place where the council sat and discussed public matters. In the summer it would be covered in grape vines and flowers, but it was winter, and therefore it was dead and covered with snow.

And there by the entrance was the flying lemur, cleaning itself patiently. It looked up at Allura before bounding inside. Allura laughed and followed it, pushing the curtain aside.

"Silly lemur," She chastised, but her smile quickly dropped when she saw what was inside the structure.

"Hold on tight!" Hunk warned as they approached flat ground.

"You already said that!" Keith snapped.

"Then hold on tighter!" Hunk suggested, bracing them for impact. Pidge bent vines around them to keep them all in place. When they hit the flat ground, they catapulted as a single unit and landed in a large bundle of snow, laughing joyously.

"Where'd Allura go?" Lance asked, looking around him, "That was awesome, I hope she saw it!"

"Aw, Lance has a crush on Allura," Pidge teased. Lance bent a bunch of snow on her head and they laughed, dusting the snow off and making their way towards the tented area.

"She must be in there," Hunk suggested.

They all agreed and entered, but stopped when they saw Allura on her knees, facing a mound of skeleton soldiers, still in their Galra armour, and a skeleton with it's back to the wall, wearing the same clothes that the statue of Allura's father had worn.

"Allura," Lance said quietly, moving forward to comfort her, "I'm so sorry. We should've told you. Come on, let's get out of here." He went to put his hand on her shoulder, but he noticed the tattoos on her hands were glowing. "Allura...?" He prompted warily. Suddenly, a burst of air escaped from Allura, so powerful that it sent Lance flying and he landed several feet away.

"Lance!" The others called, rushing to him.

"I'm fine," He insisted, wincing when he moved, "Allura!"

"She's dangerous," Keith said, heaving Lance's arm around his shoulder as Hunk did the same on his opposite side, "Try and take cover!"

They found shelter behind a stone jutting out from the ground. The winds around Allura grew and she became the centre of a hurricane, the winds turning and wild. She was lifted into the air, hovering, her back to them. She was in a crouched position, with her legs apart, knees bent, and her hands were in fists in front of her. Her white hair whipped and cracked in the winds.

Meanwhile, back in the Avatar Sanctuary, Coran and Shiro were looking at the statues and admiring them.

"So," Shiro said, trying for conversation, "You've really never been in here before?"

Coran shook his head as he passed between statues, "No, no, dear boy. This used to be reserved only for Altean royalty and Avatars, perhaps a very accomplished monk for maintenance or other such things."

"But aren't you a monk?" Shiro asked.

Coran laughed as he admired the last Altean Avatar, a broad and big man with a flowing, curling beard, "No. You see, Altea isn't like the other Air Temples. The people here study spiritually and such, but more of a scientific point of view. The spirits are our allies for power and protection and peace. And while I certainly am well versed in spirits, not so much spiritually. In fact, there are very few monks in Altea."

"I see," Shiro said, "We never learned much about the Alteans, or even the Air Nomads to be honest."

Coran sighed, a hint of tiredness in the breath of air, "History is written by the victors, after all."

Shiro's eyes widened, "Wait, you-"

"Know that the Alteans, and most likely Air Nomads, were wiped out by the Galra?" Coran smiled sadly, "I am not the greatest scholar in Altea and advisor to the king for no reason, boy. I suspected as much from how you all acted, and when I saw how desolate this place was..." He sighed again, "I was hoping to be wrong, but the more you speak of how little you know of Altea and our air brethren, the more I am certain of the demise of our culture."


"Coran, I'm sorry-" but before Shiro could finish his apology, the Avatar which he had been looking at, Roku, had changed. The eyes suddenly glowed a bright blue, the same colour that Allura's eyes and tattoos has been when she had come out of the iceberg. Then the Avatar next to Roku lit up, and the Avatar next to her, and so on and so on until the light raced down the spiral and up the walls, lighting up the entire room.

Coran and Shiro looked at each other in fear and bolted out the door.

In several parts of the world, the same phenomenon was happening.

In the Northern Water Tribe, an almost perfectly circular ice building lit up blue and shot a beam of light into the sky, surprising the caretakers of the shrine. In the Earth Kingdom, a long, low, sturdy shrine was bathed in blue light, reaching for the heavens. In the Fire Nation, a tall, fiery red temple did the same. Inside, the attendants called to each other and scrambled.

"Send word to Firelord and Emperor Zarkon," One of the senior attendants called, "The Avatar has returned!"

Shiro and Coran ran through Altea, barely noticing how all of the crystals inside the houses had suddenly turned on, making Altea glow dully. They finally arrived where the others were and took cover behind the rock.

"What happened?" Coran yelled over the noise.

"Allura found her father's body," Hunk yelled.

"Then she went nuts!" Lance cried.

"She's entered the Avatar State," Coran said.

"No shit!" Keith snapped loudly.

"What's that?" Pidge asked.

"Nothing good," Shiro replied before turning to Coran, "We need to get her out of it."

"Agreed." Coran nodded, "Shiro, come with me. I need you to protect me while I calm her down."

Shiro nodded in response and he stood in front of Coran, using his metal arm to shield his face. The winds around Allura were now hurricane-force and it took immense strength for them to walk through them.

Finally they got to Allura's front and Shiro felt great fear when he saw her face.

Her eyes and her tattoos were glowing and he could sense power, but not necessarily in the ethereal way he had when Allura had first stepped out of the iceberg. Her face was now contorted with rage and her hair, which had looked like soft clouds on a warm spring day, was now whipping about like clouds in a storm.

"Allura!" Coran yelled up to her, "Allura can you hear me?"

Everything remained the same.

"Allura please, I'm here!" He cried.

"What's wrong, why isn't it working?" Shiro yelled to be heard over the winds.

Coran shook his head, not taking his eyes off of the Avatar, "I'm not sure, but this is the first time that Allura put herself into the Avatar State. The only other time she has been like this was when her father and I provoked it so she could preserve us in the iceberg."

"I'll try to calm her down," Shiro suggested.

Coran clapped his hand on Shiro's shoulder, "Please bring her back to me."

Shiro nodded solemnly then looked up at Allura.

"Princess!" He called, "I'm sorry! My people, my family, were the ones that killed yours. They have destroyed your culture, your home, your family. And I'm sorry, so sorry. But we're here together now. We've got Voltron now, we have hope. We're not much yet, but if you want we can be your new family now."

"Allura," Coran tried again, "I'm still here, Voltron's a little different but it's still here. We can go forward together, as our own little family." Then he reached up and grabbed Allura's hand in his. Suddenly, the winds died down and Allura floated to the ground. She was still in the same position as she had been in the air, and she was still in the Avatar State. Her hair was floating gently in the wind that still remained. The rest of Voltron watched from behind the rocks.

"Allura," Coran said, laying a hand on her shoulder, "I'm here, I'm here."

"We're all here," Shiro, comforted, putting his flesh hand on her opposite shoulder. Suddenly, the glow faded and she crumpled into Coran's arms, tears leaking from her eyes.

"So it's true," She wept into Coran's chest, "If they found this temple and created so much destruction, the others didn't have a chance. We're the last of the Air Nomads, and I'm the last Airbender."

"Shh, Princess," Coran comforted, "I know, I know." Then he fixed Shiro with a look of sad thanks and smiled weakly. Shiro smiled back and suddenly, he felt someone grab his flesh hand. He looked and saw the Avatar had grabbed it, still weeping into Coran's chest. Shiro gripped it tighter as the other Paladins approached and started touching her in their own way of comfort.

Lance knext down and ran his hands through his hair, the way he did when his nieces were sad. Pidge sat behind her and started drawing circles on her back, the way her mom did when she missed her family. Keith put a hand on her shoulder awkwardly, unused to comforting people. Then Hunk came and knelt in front of her, squeezing them altogether in a hug, the same way his family did when they were mourning.

Soon, the Eagle Lions and Mouse came, sensing the sadness. The Eagle Lions bowed their heads in respect while Mouse trundled over and licked them all with her large tongue. They all laughed and complained and Allura lifted her head, wiping away her tears.

"Thank you," She said in a watery tone. She cleared her throat and disentangled herself from the human pretzel as they stood up. Shiro smiled and offered her his metal hand to help her up. She looked at it warily, but took it nonetheless. He helped her stand and she looked around her, seeing her new family. She smiled weakly, trying to make herself feel better. It was like placing a single wrapping over a gaping, deadly wound, but it was a start. She didn't have time to mourn- she was the Avatar, and war was ravaging the world. She cast a look at the Galra with her, but they seemed trustworthy enough. She could give them a chance.

Sometime later, Allura was standing in front of Roku's statue while the others prepared for the journey onwards. When she heard Coran enter, she spoke without looking away from Roku's stone eyes.

"I thought there was supposed to be someone in here to help me. But how can anyone in here help me if they're all statues?"

Coran stood beside her and looked at Roku, "I'm not sure, Princess, but I am sure that you'll find a way."

Allura hummed thoughtfully before turning and walking out of the sanctuary, Coran following behind her. When they had exited, she spun and pulled the air towards her, the doors swinging shut slowly. Just before they closed, Allura saw Roku's eyes flash, like he was watching her. Then the great wooden doors shut with a bang and the shells turned blue again, sealing the Avatar Sanctuary. Allura and Coran walked out, ending up on a back staircase that was open to the air. They watched as the sun started to set on Altea as the others scavenged for food and other supplies to take on the journey. Suddenly, the lemur from earlier scampered up the railing and jumped onto Coran's shoulder, munching on a peach.

Allura laughed and Coran petted the lemur, beaming, "I think I'll call you Momo."

"You're keeping him?" Allura asked with a smile. Coran grinned at her.

"You all get your pets, I get mine!"

Allura laughed, "Fair enough." She looked out at Altea and the mountains again, her smile fading, "Coran... We're all that's left of the Air Nomads. And for Altea, there's Voltron and not much else. Everyone, everything, is dead."

"It's true," Coran said sadly, "But we've got a new family now. They're...strange, and new, and inexperienced, but they're Voltron, and Voltron has always been close. I'm sure we'll be fine, Princess."

Allura hummed and nodded before descending the staircase to meet the others.

"So," She said when she approached them. Pidge and Hunk were packing up while Keith and Shiro were looking at a map of the world, and Lance was standing near a fire hawk, reading a scroll, "What's the plan?"

"We were thinking of going North," Shiro said, pointing to the map with his metal finger, "You have yet to complete your waterbending training, right? So we'll head North so you and Lance can get a proper teacher. Then we'll have to go to the Earth Kingdom and find a teacher there, but I can teach you firebending along the way..."

"Whoa," Allura said, "That's so much to do! I want the war to end as early as possible, but there's no need to be in such a rush. We should plan more carefully."

"I'm afraid we don't have the time, Princess," Keith said, "We have until the end of summer."

"What?" Allura cried, "But, winter's just begun, that's no time at all! Why are we in such a hurry?"

"I know," Shiro said, rolling up the map, "But there's something called Sozin's comet."

"Sozin's comet?" Coran asked, "But that's not due for another hundred yea- oh. Oh dear."

"What is Sozin's comet?" Allura asked, starting to get irritated.

"It's a comet that my great-grandfather used to start the Great War," Shiro said, "It comes on the last day of summer, and it's said to increase the powers of Firebenders to an unstoppable amount. Now, I'm not sure how exaggerated it is, but my father plans on using it to take over what he hasn't already. I don't know his exact plan, but I would guess that he would attack the Earth Kingdom, his biggest problem."

"So I only have half a year before the Firelord destroys the world?" Allura asked and then sighed in exhaustion, "To the north?"

Suddenly Lance spoke up, in a dark tone no one had heard from him before, "South." Then he threw his scroll down and marched away.

"What's up with him?" Keith asked. Hunk bent down and picked up the letter, reading it out loud.

"Dear Lance, we hope this gets to you. We're not sure how this whole messenger hawk thing works. We're all happy to hear about your adventures with all the others, they sound so exciting!

"We know you said not to use this unless it was an emergency, and we wouldn't send you this if something hadn't happened. We're so sorry Lance. Galra soldiers showed up about a month after you left, demanding for the mother of the Waterbender. They found your mom and, there's no easy way to say this Lance, they killed her in front of us all. Then they left, as suddenly as they came. We don't know why they did it, maybe as punishment, or maybe to stop anymore Waterbenders from being born, we don't know. But she's gone Lance.

"By the time you get this, we'll have held her funeral. We just wanted to tell you. Please continue with your quest, we know how important it is. And know it's not your fault-the Galra are cruel and merciless. They were bound to attack us at least once more. Please go on and save as many people as you can, because we cousins save her.

"With all of our love and prayers, the Southern Water Tribe. And, uh, I can't read this bit."

The others looked at the letter and saw some weird squiggles; ᓈᒻᒪᒃᑦᓯᐊᕆᑦ and ᓇᒡᓕᒋᕙᒋᑦ.

"Nasmmaktsiarit and nalligivagit," Lance said in his cold tone by a rock outcropping, his back to them, "It means good travels and I love you." He turned around, a steely look in his eyes as they overflowed, tears dropping down his face, "We're going South."

 

 

Chapter Text

 

A Hero's Welcome

For a moment, it was completely silent. The news was so sudden, so serious, it was shocking, especially from Lance.

Shiro snapped out of it first.

"Lance," He tried, "We're sorry for your loss, and we understand that you want to mourn her, but we can't go to the South Pole. We have to head north."

"The South Pole is a day's fly," Lance argued, "And I need to see my family! It's my fault that she's dead!"

"No, it's not," Hunk tried, stepping forward. Lance took a step back and Hunk frowned, staying where he was, "Look man, you couldn't have known this was going to happen."

"But she was killed because of me," Lance argued, "The least I can do is apologize."

"Lance," Shiro said firmly, "We're not going."

Lance gaped and looked around for help, but saw none. He scowled and turned, leaping onto Blue and soaring off. For a moment, everyone thought he was heading South by himself, but instead he headed east and disappeared behind a mountain.

The tension in the air could've been cut with a knife.

"What're we gonna do?" Pidge asked, looking up at Shiro.. He looked around at everyone's faces and sighed.

"I'm not sure."

"Maybe we should go," Allura suggested softly, "It's been a long time since I've been South. Since I've been anywhere, really. I think it'll do people good to know that the Avatar is back."

"Plus!" Coran added, "Our winter supplies are quite lacking. Allura is fine as she can heat and cool herself with breathing ("What that's so cool!"), but the rest of us need to bundle up! The North is just as cold as the South, and I'm sure the South will be willing to lend us some utilities."

"I've never even seen snow before!" Hunk cried, his hand shooting up. He flushed a little at his own outburst and continued shyly, "Lance talks about it a lot, it seems fun."

Shiro looked around at everyone and shrugged, "I guess the only real problem we have is time. If we don't stay long, I don't see why we can't go. Someone should go tell Lance."

"I will," Keith offered. When no one objected, he climbed onto Zuko and soared off after Lance.

"Is he.....?" Allura trailed off.

"Yes," The remaining three Paladins responded simultaneously.

"Does Lance...?" Coran prompted.

"No."

"Ah."

Keith soared over the mountains, flying low and dodging trees that hung off sheer drops.

"Lance!" Keith yelled, hoping for a response that he did not receive. He kept calling until he noticed a large, bright blue splotch nestled between two peaks.

"Lance," Keith cried as he landed, dismounting Zuko and approaching his teammate, "I've been looking all over for you."

"You found me." Lance was sitting on the edge of a cliff, a sheer drop into clouds. He was staring at the setting sun and refused to look at Keith. Awkwardly, he sat down beside Lance. It was silent save for the wind rustling the trees. Keith wondered why he had volunteered. He was really bad with emotions.

"So," He said at last, "We uh, we're going South...."

Lance raised an eyebrow skeptically, "Really?"

Keith nodded, "Yeah, uh, everyone saw how much this meant to you, and we needed to get some winter supplies and....yeah...."

Lance smiled and looked back at the sunset, "That's.... Really nice of you guys."

Keith hummed and kept looking at Lance. He looked sad but calm.

"So," He tried, "How ya holding up?"

Lance shrugged, "It doesn't feel real. I mean the letter says she's dead so she must be but.... I just can't see her as dead. If she'd been sick or dying when I left, I guess I would feel it more. But I can't believe she's gone." His voice cracked up and Lance bit his lip, closed his eyes. It didn't stop the tears from falling, "And it's my fault."

Oh no, Keith thought. He was really bad at comforting people. He very awkwardly put a hand on Lance's shoulder.

"It's not," He offered. Lance was sniffling now, "I mean, the Galra would've gone back after a generation or so to make sure there were no more Waterbenders. And if you had stayed, then you would've been captured. But you couldn't have stayed, because the world needs Voltron."

Lance sighed, "Yeah.... That's true I guess. Still. It hurts. I feel like my family is slowly slipping away. First my uncle, then Dad, now Mom..... And my entire family is back at the South Pole."

"I kinda know how you feel," Keith tried, "When Shiro was gone, I was really lonely. I mean, yeah I had Lotor and Haggar and Zarkon, plus all the staff. But I still felt kinda lonely. Okay, wait, that sounds bad. I mean- why are you laughing?"

Lance was indeed laughing, wiping away his tears, "You really suck at comforting, you know that, right?"

Keith huffed and crossed his arms, but he did feel better knowing that he had made Lance laugh, "Whatever."

"Thanks Keith," Lance said. He was smiling weakly, but his eyes were stil watery, "You did kind of make me feel a little better."

"Great," Keith managed a smile and stood up, offering a hand to Lance, "You wanna head back?"

Lance's smile faded and he drew his knees to his chest and looked back out at the sunset, "Not yet. I think I just need a little more alone time."

Keith nodded and climbed into Zuko. He glanced back at Lance one last time and wished he could help him more.

You are doing what you can.

"I know," Keith mumbled, "But I just don't know how to help him."

Returning home will be enough.

"I hope so."

Keith landed and told everyone what Lance had said.

"Understandable," Shiro said sadly. Then he looked at Allura, "Princess, should we make camp here for the night?"

Allura shook her head, "It's best not to stay here. We'll finish packing up and Coran and I will salvage what we can from the castle. Lance should be back by then."

After the sun had set and everyone had gotten what they needed, Blue landed softly.

"Don't bother getting off," Shiro called out as the others mounted, "We're taking off, we can keep flying until we reach the South Pole."

Lance nodded and spoke quietly, fiddling with his jewellery, "I just wanted to say thank you."

Iroh trotted over and Shiro leaned down, clapping a hand on Lance's shoulder. He offered a kind smile and spoke, "I understand how it feels." Then he took off and the others followed suit.

As they flew away from Altea, Allura and Coran stared at it until it disappeared from their vision.

"It'll be alright, Princess," Coran insisted. He sat upon Mouse's back, on her huge flat saddle. Allura rode on her head, clutching a rope tied between her horns.

"I know," Allura said sadly, "But I can't believe it's gone."

"We'll rebuild it," Coran said hopefully, but it sounded forced even to himself, "There's still us, and if we're still alive, Altea isn't really gone."

"Yes. I suppose so...."

Hours later, as the sun was starting to rise above the sea, Hunk pulled up to Lance and yawned.

"Good morning. How you feeling?"

"Fine."

Hunk narrowed his eyes and leaned closer, noticing the bags under Lance's eyes.

"Did you sleep at all last night?"

Lance shook his head, "I couldn't. Too excited to see home!"

"Lance," Hunk said quietly, "Look we all know how you feel. It's okay to be upset."

Lance shook his head, "No, yesterday was selfish. I'm glad we're going home, but we have don't have much time, and we might be wasting it here."

"Hey man," Hunk argued, "You heard Shiro, we need to get supplies from there. If we're going to the North Pole, we need to be prepared."

"I guess so..."

Hours later, when the sun was high in the sky, Lance grew more excited. He still wasn't talking much, but he was fidgeting in his seat and his smile had returned.

"You excited to go home?" Pidge asked Lance with a smile.

Lance nodded, "Yeah, it'll be nice to see everyone. I've missed the place."

"I feel that," Pidge agreed, "I miss my home too. I think you'd like it."

"I'm sure I would." Suddenly, Lance stiffened and turned backwards to look at everyone, "Look, there it is!"

Below them was a long stretch of ice, with large crevices and hills. Nestled at the bottom of one was small village with rounded ice structures.

Far down below, Anita sat with her daughter mending clothes and teaching her how to sew. The past week had been hard, but everyone was starting to get back into the groove of things. That was one of the great things about their community; they stuck together through thick and thin, and could bounce back even after the worst of times.

But Anita noticed that her young daughter was lagging and seemed distracted.

"What's wrong, sweetie?" Anita prompted.

Her daughter stopped working but wouldn't look her mother in the eye, "When's Uncle Lance coming back?"

Anita sighed and picked up her daughter, cradling her in her lap, "Oh Kya," she said softly, "I miss Uncle Lance too, but he's got an important job to do. He might not be back here for a long time." Or at all, a voice in her mind whispered. She dared not speak it, Kya was already so distraught about the death of her grandmother.

"But you sent him that letter," Kya looked up at Anita with big, watery grey eyes. Anita hugged her closer.

"I know, but Lance isn't coming. We sent him that letter so that way when he did come home, he wouldn't be surprised by bad news."

Kya suddenly looked up and smiled, "Lance is coming home!"

Anita shook her head, "No, Kya, I already told you-"

"Look!" Kya insisted, pointing upwards, "Uncle Lance!"

Anita turned around and her jaw dropped when she saw several large beings in the sky descending on the village, one of them unmistakeably Blue.

"Lance," She whispered, tears pricking her eyes. She gently took Kya off of her lap and ran to where they would land, yelling loud enough for the whole village to hear, "Lance! Lance is back!"

People poked their heads out of their igloos and chattered in excited confusion; "Lance is back?" "Really?" "Lance!"

Voltron landed on the outskirts of the village, watching as a horde of people ran towards them.

"Lance!" A thin woman with dark wavy hair and a complexion lighter than Lance's ran forward. He dismounted Blue and greeted the woman with open arms as she crashed into him. He took a step back and righted himself.

"Hey, Anita," He said with a smile, "You seem excited."

"Not as excited as me!" A little girl with long brown hair and bright grey eyes crashed into Lance's leg and clung tightly.

"Is that my niece Kya?" Lance cried, "What're you doing down there?"

"Niece?" Pidge mused.

Anita disentangled herself from Lance, who scooped to pick Kya up, "Yeah!" He said happily, "Anita's my older sister, this is her daughter, Kya. I can't wait for you guys to meet everyone!"

Sure enough, about two dozen women, children, and old folks in thick blue parkas like Lance's rushed towards them, all of them excited to see Lance.

"There he is!"

"Man is it just me or have you gotten shorter?"

"Nah, the Eagle Lions make him look small, he's definitely gotten taller."

"Wow and I thought Blue was big!"

Meanwhile Lance was being attacked by every being under the age of ten, all yelling excitedly. Suddenly, a hush fell over the crowd as they made way for an old woman, her back hunched and eyes crinkled. Lance stopped and set the kids down gently. The two came face to face, Lance looking uncertain, the woman showing nothing.

Then she smiled and Lance did too, tears falling from his eyes. The two hugged and Lance spoke.

"Im so sorry, Gam-Gam."

She pulled back and smiled softly, laying a hand on Lance's cheek, "No need to apologize. No one could have known this would happen. She will be missed dearly, but she'll never truly leave us. We should celebrate her life. Your mother wouldn't want you to mourn. So, why don't you introduce us to your friends?"

Lance wiped the tears from his eyes and pulled back, "Sure Gam -Gam. Guys, the big guy here is Hunk, he's an Earthbender! The yellow Eagle Lion is Rocky!"

"Hey," Hunk waved.

"The small one with leaves in her hair is Pidge, she's a Waterbender like me, but she bends plants too! Her Eagle Lion is the green one, Rover." Pidge grinned.

"The one with the weird hair is Keith, he's a Firebender, Red Paladin, Zuko's his Eagle Lion." Keith nodded.

"The guy with the wicked arm is Shiro, Firebender as well and Keith's older brother, Black Paladin, Iroh's his name." Shiro smiled and waved at everyone.

"The guy with the orange hair is Coran, he's Altean, the Avatar's advisor. The big fluffy thing is Mouse, the Avatar's Spirit Guide, a flying bison! Really! And, last but not least," He sidled up to Allura and slung an arm around her, "This beautiful lady here is none other than Avatar Allura, Princess of Altea!"

Allura ducked from under his arm and then smiled at the people before her, "It's so good to meet you all!"

"But I'm sure it'd be better if you had actual clothes on," an older woman teased, "Let's get you kids properly dressed!"

There was little protesting as the villagers scrambled to find clothes that would fit everyone. Hunk, Shiro, and Coran all fit into old parkas that belonged to the husbands and borthers that hadn't needed the warm clothes when they went north to fight. Pidge fit into one of the kids' parkas, much to her displeasure. And Keith was given one of Lance's spare parkas, since they were similar in build.

As they put theirs on, Shiro noticed Keith's red cheeks.

"Aw," He teased, "You're blushing."

Keith's flush deepened and he turned away, "Shut up. It's cold." Shiro chuckled to himself but left it alone.

The only one to complain about the parkas was Allura.

"Really," She insisted to a group of women about her size, "I don't need one! I can heat the air around me with my breathing! To me, this feels like a fresh summer day!"

"Princess, I don't care how warm it feels," Lance's older sister said, "You're wearing a parka."

Not long after, Allura was grumpily bundled in a light parka, which was too much for her.

"It's nice to see the people of the Southern Tribe haven't changed much!" Coran chirped, "Water is the elememt of change, but these people are as close-knit as ever!"

"Stubborn too," Allura grumbled as she tugged at the parka. It was very beautiful, a pretty blue with white fur and tribal designs. But Allura hated thick, confining clothes. And even though it was lighter than the parkas the others wore, she could feel the stale air trapped beneath the fabric. She made to take it off, but Lance's sister passed by and gave her a knowing look. She scowled and left it on.

"You made these?" Pidge asked in excitement, her and Hunk admiring the igloos.

Lance shrugged, "Just a couple. It takes a while to build them, and it's easier to fix any cracks with waterbending."

"So you can turn water into ice?" Pidge asked.

"Oh, uh, yeah!" Lance said, "It took me forever to figure it out. But it's super helpful!"

"You didn't figure it out, Uncle Fernán did!" Teased a taller, thicker-set woman whose skin matched Lance's. She approached with a covered woven basket tucked under her arm. She smiled widely and spoke in a teasing way, "What took you forever was to actually do it yourself."

"Lira..." Lance complained with dark cheeks.

The girl, Lira, just laughed, "Just because you're a Paladin doesn't mean I can't tease you," She turned to Hunk and Pidge, "I'm Edelira, but you can call me Lira, everybody does. I'm Lance's oldest sister."

"Nice to meet you," Pidge grinned, then eyed the basket, "What's in there?"

Lira pulled off the cloth top and showed them a heap of purple things.

"Sea prunes!" Lance said excitedly. He ran forward and made to grab one but Lira slapped his hand away.

"Hey, watch it. These are for the feast."

Hunk's eyes widened, "Feast?"

"Of course," Lira said, putting the cloth back in place, "Voltron visiting our little village, Lance coming home. We deserve a feast."

Suddenly Lance gasped, "Will there be a singing contest?"

Lira grinned, "You bet, and I'm going to finally beat you."

"Yeah, okay Lira," Lance laughed, "You haven't been able to beat me once."

"Yeah but while you've been out saving the world, I've been back home practicing. And I would show you just how much better I am, but I have to help with the feast."

"Yeah you're just dodging," Lance teased, "But do you need help preparing?"

Lira rolled her eyes, "The feast is for you and your friends, you're not supposed to help." With that she stuck out her tongue and turned away, heading for a long low structure in the centre of the village.

"What is this contest?" Pidge asked.

"Oh," Lance said, tugging at his long strand of hair, "It's an old tradition of ours. Basically two people stand close together and sing until the other laughs, runs out of breath, or just stops. Whoever beats the most people wins. I usually win."

"That's great! When's the feast?" Hunk asked.

Lance pointed towards the sun getting lower on the horizon, "We usually have these things when the sun sets, so it won't be too long now. You know, we're super lucky. It's not often that we have feasts, since most of our hunters are gone and food isn't exactly easy to find around here. It's a pretty big deal if we're having a feast. Of course, it's definitely something to celebrate when I'm around." Lance grinned smugly and Pidge punched him playfully.

"Don't forget that the rest of us are here too."

"What do you guys eat here anyway?" Hunk asked, "I've never had authentic Water Tribe food before."

"It's really good," Lance assured, "We've got Arctic hen, blubbered seal jerky, five flavour soup, kale cookies, seaweed noddles.... And best of all- sea prune stew."

"Sea prune stew?" Pidge asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Yeah it's so good!" Lance said excitedly, "It's so thick and juicy, you guys will love it."

"Sounds different than what we eat," Pidge said, "But I guess that makes sense, since we don't exactly have the same climate."

"Mm it all sounds delicious!" Hunk said, rubbing his hands together excitedly, also because he was cold, "I can't wait!"

Once the sun went down, everyone who hadn't prepared the feast made their way to the central hut and sat down at a long bench carved from stone. They sat on the floor on cushions and chatted loudly. Voltron made their way in last, Lance cheerfully greeting and joking with everyone as he and the rest of his team made their way up to the head of the table, led by Anita.

"Shiro and Allura, as leaders of Voltron, will be given the seats of honour," She explained cheerfully, "Each of you on one side of Gam-Gam."

"Man you guys are lucky," Lance said, "Those are the best seats!"

"Yup!" Anita confirmed, "The rest of you guys can sit near the head of the table too, as honoured guests."

They reached the head of the long table and found their seats. Allura on Gam-Gam's left, Shiro to her right. Coran sat down closest to Allura at the corner with Lance beside him. Keith sat on the opposite corner next to Shiro, with Hunk and Pidge beside him.

The din of the hall came to silence as Gam-Gam raised her glass. Everyone turned to her as she spoke.

"It has been many years since Voltron was last seen assembled and almost as long since an Air Nomad has been seen, let alone two Alteans. Yet our small, humble tribe is graced with the presence and power of Voltron. Although we have suffered a devastating loss recently, may she rest in peace, we move forward in our lives and look for the good. The war has been hard on every nation, but now that Voltron is here, we have some chance of peace. We thank you for joining us." Gam-Gam looked at Allura and she nodded, raising her glass as well.

"We are new to each other, and I am not yet fully educated in the four elements, but Voltron is back, and is here to stay. We will do anything in our power to bring peace and help wherever we can. Our strength grows more every day, and with your help we will grow even stronger, and take down the Galra Empire!"

The tribe cheered loudly until Gam-Gam raised her glass again, "Now, no more talk of war and peace. Let us feast!" Everyone raised their glasses in unison and drank, before clamouring for the food.

"Ah, I remember when I first came to the Southern Tribe," Coran said wistfully as he sipped some five-flavour stew, "Mind you, it was a very long time ago, but the food still tastes just as good and the people are still the same."

"Yeah," Lance agreed, "They're pretty good. We've been through a lot y'know? And man, I think the last time we feasted like this was the night before our soldiers left. Course, it was a lot louder then. Now it seems almost quiet without them here."

"Now that you mention it," Coran said, "The hall does look bigger than I remember.... Did you add onto it?"

"Might've," Lance said as he tore a piece of seal-jerky, "But it's probably because there's less people. All the able-bodied warriors left, which was about half of our tribe."

"And you're really the only Waterbender?"

"All of our Waterbenders were taken by the Galra," Gam-Gam said as she sipped soup. She was speaking to Allura, who had asked about what had taken place in her absence, "Lance and my older son were the last ones. My son was the last one taken and now that Lance is with you, we have no Waterbenders. Which isn't as bad as it sounds. Lance has been a big help, even if he is a goof, but we've learned to live without bending. It seems safer that way as well. If any more Benders are born, I'll fear for them and their family. The Fire Nation wants to be rid of us."

"This is true," Shiro said, leaning in, "But as far as I know, there isn't any more focus on your home."

Gam-Gam narrowed her eyes suspiciously at Shiro, "My grandson manetioned that you and your brother are Firebenders, and you look Galra."

"We are from the Fire Nation," Shiro said, "And our blood is of the Galra dynasty, this is true... But we want the Empire to fall just as much as you do."

Gam-Gam nodded, "And you say you have Galra blood?"

"Yes," Shiro spoke slowly, "Zarkon is our father. Keith and I are from different mothers. As the eldest, I am heir to the throne."

"I thought you sounded familiar," Gam-Gam said, "You're General Takashi Shirogane, the one who spent 600 days attacking Garrison?"

"This is true," Shiro admitted, "But when we were ambushed, I lost most of my men and my right arm. On our return back home, I realized what the Galra Empire truly was- a disease, destroying everything it touched. And please, I'm happy with being called Shiro."

"Well, Shiro," Gam-Gam said with a smile, "I'm happy that you have seen the truth."

"And it only took me losing an arm to see it," Shiro joked, waving his metal arm. Gam-Gam smirked into her cup and Allura looked at Shiro with uncertainty. She still wasn't sure how she felt about Shiro and Keith. She more or less believed that Shiro was telling the truth. He was the leader of Voltron for a good reason. But Keith... He was rough and rash, which fit the Red Eagle Lion, but she also knew that it fit Galra. He hadn't given a reason as to why he was fighting against his family either.... Allura tried a bit of the sea prune stew and almost gagged. She made herself swallow and pushed the dish aside quietly.

Towards the end of dinner, when dishes had been eaten and put aside, Lira jumped up onto the table.

"I challenge Lance! Sing with me!"

Lance grinned and chuckled as he got out of his seat and climbed onto the table, "Oh, you're so gonna lose."

"Wait until you guys hear this," Hunk said to Allura and Coran, "Lance has an amazing voice."

"Really?" Coran said, "This should be exciting!"

Lira and Lance grabbed each others' arms and stood close while the tribe cheered and teased. Then both began to hum and the hall fell quiet. Voltron leaned forward, exciting to hear how Lance would sing....

And then they did something weird.

Lira made a strange, low noise from the back of her throat and repeated it twice more. Lance responded with a higher noise, matching pace and rhythm. The way he did it almost made it seem like he was saying "uh oh" melodically. Lira started changing the pace and sound of her noises and Lance soon changed his to compliment hers. It sounded weird and eerie, and nothing like singing.

This continued for about a minute or so, Lira setting the pace and Lance meeting her perfectly. They started to speed up, getting faster and faster, swaying with the rythm. Now both were making guttural sounds, then getting faster and higher-pitched, the hall clapping in time with the noises. It came to a stop when Lance started to smirk and Lira laughed, effectively breaking the song.

Both started to laugh as the hall applauded and Lance bowed obnoxiously.

"Yes, your hero is still the reigning champion!"

"Uh...." Pidge said warily as she clapped, "What just happened?"

"It's throat-singing," Gam-Gam said, "It's one of our oldest traditions. It's a competition, a game. One person sets the pace, the other matches it. Whoever breaks the song first loses. Lance is quite good at it."

"I can see," Allura said with a smile, "The last Blue Paladin, Blaytz was his name, he was from the North and he often told us of this type of song, though he himself never performed it."

Lance then returned to his seat, flushed, out of breath, and grinning.

"Man that sure makes you light-headed!" He laughed.

"That was not what we were expecting," Shiro said with a smile, "But pretty impressive."

"Yeah do you guys not have throat singing?"

"This is our first time seeing it performed," Allura said and Lance laughed again.

"I guess it can be pretty shocking if you don't know what to expect."

Then, Anita jumped up on the table holding something large and blue. It was round, a bent bone made into a circle with blue cloth stretched by the bone. She held a large stick in the other, wrapped in blue cloth. Then she started to bang on the underside of the drum in a rhythmic pattern, moving in circles as she did. The hall began to chant and sing in sync, keeping time with the drum. Then another girl joined Anita, and then another. The three dancers moved and created music in harmony, the loud drums almost being drowned out by the voices. Soon, the song ended in a final bang and everyone cheered.

During the cheering, Allura leaned closer to Gam-Gam and spoke to her.

"Thank you for the feast and the music, we are honoured to be here."

"We are honoured to have you," Gam-Gam responded, "How long will you be staying?"

"That's the thing," Allura said nervously, "I'm afraid that we can't stay much longer. Lance and I must find a proper waterbending teacher in the North, and I still have yet to master three of the four elements. This war needs to be stopped as soon as possible-"

"Before summer's end," Shiro interjected, "We must stop Zarkon before fall, or we may not be able to stop him at all."

 "Yes, so we need to hurry. It was Lance that insisted that we stop here, so he could visit you and mourn. We were also hoping that maybe you could spare some supplies for our journey?" Allura smiled hopefully.

Gam-Gam sipped her drink and then spoke, "It saddens me to see my grandson leave so soon to somewhere so dangerous, but I understand it must be done. This war is a dark thing, and it's time for Voltron to shed some light." She sighed, "We will give you what we can, which sadly is not much. Winter is soon upon us, our hunters are scarce, and our food dwindling."

"The feast...?" Allura started.

"Was a very rare celebration," Gam-Gam said firmly, "Fortune has not looked kindly on us in a very long time. It seemed a blessing when Lance was chosen as a Paladin, and we could not be prouder, but it has hurt our village. He was a strong presence, and his family feels his absence. He was also one of our best hunters and healers. Things only got worse when his mother was murdered by Galra scum. Lance's return was something we needed, the feast as well. I have not seen this village so cheerful in months. I knew that we had enough food in storage to be able to have this feast, but it may mean carefully rationing what is left. So yes, while it grieves me to see my only grandson go, we will do whatever we can to aid you. Stopping this war is more important than an old woman's happiness, I know this."

Allura took Gam-Gam's hand and smiled softly, "Thank you. We are eternally grateful."

After the feast, everyone helped clean up while Shiro and Allura announced that Voltron would be leaving in the morning. Gam-Gam added in, saying that whatever they could spare was theirs.

Lance felt his heart shrink and he looked down at the plate of dried seal he was carrying. He had missed his home so much and he had been so happy here, now they were leaving again. When it quieted down, he made his way it to where the ice broke off into the sea. The sun was well gone and a crescent moon hung on the sky. There were a million stars above him, and he recognized old constellations.

"Hey."

Lance turned at the sound of Keith's and sighed.

"Oh, it's you."

"Hey, we were just wondering where you were," Keith said defensively, "And why are you all the way out here? It's dark, how can you even see anything?

"Put out your fire," Lance said, "It's not even that dark. The stars light the way."

Dubiously, Keith quenched his flame and looked up, shocked to see the amount of light in the sky.

"So many stars...." Keith mused.

"Think the light in the cities drown them out," Lance said wistfully, "But when you're out here, you can see them perfectly.

"The Fire Nation Capital is always lit," Keith said, standing beside Lance, "We hardly see any stars, since there are always fires burning. But it has its own beauty without the stars. Once the war's done, we should go to the Fyre Festival."

Lance smiled but it quickly faded, "I don't know if I want to leave here."

"What?" Keith cried, "What do you mean?"

"I've missed this place, and I think they need me here," Lance explained.

"Don't be ridiculous! They don't need you!" Silence fell with the blow and Keith's eyes widened, realizing what he had said, "Wait-"

"No!" Lance yelled, rounding on him and stabbing a finger in his chest, "You wait! I'm not being cocky or showy when I say that they need me here, I'm being honest. You didn't notice, because you're just a Galra outsider, but my people need help. All of our good hunters, fighters, protectors, they're all gone! With me off adventuring, they don't have a single Bended! If the Galra did come here, there'd be no one to stop them! People have died in Galra attacks, my mother was murdered! I may not be much, but I'm the only protection these guys have! The food stock is the lowest I've ever seen, animal tracks are getting too close to the village, a village full of elderly, women, and children! And I get it, if we stop Zarkon the attacks will stop, I can protect my people, send our warriors back home. But how long will that take? This war has been raged for a hundred years and even though Voltron is finally here, we're not even close to ready! We have a matter of months before everything comes to an end. What if we fail?"

"That's why we need you!" Keith yelled back angrily, "You're a Paladin, and Voltron isn't complete without you! We can't stop Zarkon unless we have Voltron. Maybe we're weak and still learning and yeah we don't have a whole lot of time, but we can't do it without a full team."

"I know that!" Lance cried angrily. He plopped down in the snow and scowled at the inky black water, "I feel like I'm being pulled in two completely different directions. I know that Zarkon can't be taken down without all of Voltron, and I know that I'm a part of this..... But I also know that my family is in danger, and I was the one who was supposed to protect them. I can't abandon them like this."

Keith lowered himself down to sit next to Lance, looking at him carefully.

"You're not abandoning them," He tried, "And besides, you've got bigger things to do. And by ending this war, you'll help them in the long term. Something that I learned early on from life as a Galra is 'short time pain, long time gain'. One of the biggest teachings in the Druids. I've had it hammered into me since I was little, but it is a fair point. Maybe this tribe won't do so well in the time it takes us to defeat Zarkon. Some of them could get hurt.... But in the end, you'd help save them for good."

"That's... Actually a pretty good point," Lance admitted. Then he smiled at Keith, "Thanks man."

Keith looked at Lance smiling, the millions of stars reflecting in his pretty eyes, and his heart skipped a beat. He turned towards the sky quickly, his face heating up despite the freezing cold.

"No problem."

They sat in silence for a while that was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable, simply a state of being. Then, something changed. Lights flickered in the sky, first a small green whisper, but it quickly expanded to waves of blue and green, even some purple.

"Wha-what is this?" Keith asked, somewhere between amazing and scared.

"The Southern Lights," Lance said with a grin, "Man I sure missed them. Isn't it beautiful?"

"Yeah," Keith agreed, enchanted by Lance's smile, "It sure is."

Meanwhile, Allura, Coran, and Shiro were dis cussing their plan.

"This is more dire than I first thought," Coran said, "We were not present when Sozin started the war, but word travelled quickly. People told of Firebenders flying through the air and propelling enough fire to burn down a forest in one go. Now I'm sure some of it was exaggerated but..."

"We cannot let this happen," Allura said firmly, "And it seems that we are in the middle of autumn, which gives us just under a year..."

"I believe we can do it," Coran said, "Allura mastered airbending at a young age, and is already incredibly connected with the spiritual realm! So now we need to travel north and find a teacher for her, Pidge, and Lance."

"What do the Galra think of you?" Allura asked suddenly, "Do they know you are Paladins?"

"They know Keith is," Shiro answered, "But they do not know I am, and as far as they know, Keith kidnapped me and I'm a prisoner of Volton, but only a few know that much. If the Emperor found out that we had both turned... Well we would soon become his first priority."

"Understandable," Coran said, then gasped and looked up, "Oh look! The Southern Lights! Aren't they beautiful?"

Shiro and Allura both looked up and smiled at the lights, deciding to bask in the peace for the moment.

The next morning, Lance felt a very strong sense of déjà vu. Once again his family had gathered what they could for him and were preparing to send him off, but this time he wouldn't be alone. Any spare parkas and clothes that hadn't been needed were given, as well as bits of seal jerky and any extra money they had found in the time Lance had gone. All of Voltron waited at the outskirts of the village as his tribemembers helped them pack.

"So you think you can come here, take our shit, then leave us?" Teased Lira. Lance turned and smiled sheepishly at her as she openned her arms.

"What can I say? I'm a busy man."

"I can see that," She said, stepping closer. She shook her head, "You, you've always been my baby brother. The one I had to look out for, protect. You're such a scrawny thing too, we didn't think you could handle the cold. Even when I found out that you were a Waterbender, it didn't change the fact that you were still so small and weak. And even though I know you'd be out hunting, it didn't really sink in how much you grew up. And now.... You really are off to save the world, huh?" She looked at the rest of Voltron and chuckled, "To be honest kid, I didn't think that you could do it. You took off screaming and clinging to Blue and I thought, damn, the world's gonna end. But then you came back here with the rest of Voltron, even the Avatar. You really are a hero, kid."

Lance grinned and could feel tears pricking his eyes. Lira rolled hers and smirked, spreading her arms.

"Okay crybaby, c'mere." Lance stepped forward and they hugged as Lance fought back tears, "You're a man now, but you're still a little kid. Don't change too much while you're gone, okay?"

Lance pulled back and wiped his nose, "Okay, you got it."

He turned to leave but Lira called him back, "By the way, is Shiro single?"

Lance laughed loudly and then replied, "Yeah, yeah he is. But he's waaaaay out of your league. And besides, how's your husband?"

"Knowing him, flirting with some random Earth Kingdom girl." Lira shrugged with a smirk, "Terrible flirt that one is, and I love him for it. Now, get going before Zarkon takes over the Spirit World too."

Lance grinned and saluted, jumping onto Blue. Everyone else had mounted and when Allura saw that he was ready, she spoke to the Southern Water Tribe.

"Thank you, everyone! I'm so glad to see that you're still staying strong together, and remember, Voltron is back to bring peace and prosperity!"

The tribe cheered and Allura signalled the others to take off. They nodded and took to the skies, flying off amongst the clouds.

"You know," Lira said to Anita, "He looks way more impressive now."


Lance kept an eye on the village until it was well beyond sight, hidden beneath the clouds. Finally he sighed and turned forward again, wiping his eyes.

"You okay man?" Hunk asked, flying closer to Lance. Pidge did too, ready to offer comfort.

"I'm good," Lance said with a laugh, "And I think they are too."

Keith looked back and he and Lance made eye contact. Lance smiled, and knew that everything would be alright. He had his team, he was flying through the skies with his new best friends, and his family was safe at home. The war still raged on and lives were lost every day; Lance had a job to do. But he know that once he did that job, he had an amazing home to return to.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Warriors of Arus

Sendak sat at his desk in his cabin, growling down at the array of maps and notes, his arm buzzing loudly. He was completely sure that Keith Kogane was travelling with Voltron, perhaps with his brother the General in tow. But he had no proof, just a glimpse of a Red Eagle Lion and the words of some pirates.

Three loud knocks on his door worsened Sendak's mood.

"It better be important," He growled.

"Uh, well, Commander Sendak..." One of his navigators spoke from behind the door, "We can't seem to find Voltron."

"What?!' Sendak cried, rising from his desk and throwing open the door, "What do you mean you can't find them?"

"Um, sir..." The Galra soldier unrolled a map of the south nervously, exes made where Voltron had been spotted, dotted lines drawn to mark their path. It seemed like the paths had no rhyme or pattern, "These members of Voltron seem to be masters of evasion!"

"You have no idea where we're going, do you?" Keith asked Coran grumpily.

Coran had elected himself navigator, since he had the most experience travelling. But that may not have been completely true, or he was out of practice. They had stopped when they needed to, but Coran seemed to have trouble figuring out where they were at times.

"I know it's near water!" Coran called out, a map in his hand. It wasn't of the world, but rather of the Southern Hemisphere. He sat on top of Mouse while Allura steered and the others flew alongside them.

"We must be getting close then," Keith said with an air of sarcasm.

"Hey," Lance objected, "Give him a break! Besides, I don't mind being near water for so long."

"Speak for yourself," Hunk said nervously, "I don't like this very much...."

"Sorry," Coran apologized, "I am a bit rusty. When the war first started, Alfor instructed me to stay in Altea and lead in his absence. I did use to be an incredible navigator! But after a hundred years, maps become dated, stars move.... I'll get my bearings back. Oh look!" He cried out suddenly and with excitement. He pointed to an island with a large bay and forests covered in snow. Because they were still fairly south, they all wore their South Pole gear, minus Allura.

"That's where we want to go!" Coran said.

"Is that where they are?" Allura asked.

"If my migration charts are correct, then yes!"

Allura grinned up at him then looked down at the island as they descended, "I've never been to this island."

"Hmm," Coran said thoughtfully, looking at the map and then the island growing closer, "I feel like it's familiar, but the map doesn't have a name."

"Yes," Allura agreed, "It does feel familiar.... Like an old home...."

"Princess," Shiro spoke up, going up to her, "Sorry to interrupt, but why are we stopping here? We already made a pit stop yesterday."

They had then landed on the beach by the large crescent-shaped bay and everyone dismounted and were stretching.

"He's right," Keith agreed, "If we continue at this rate, we won't reach the North Pole until spring."

"But Mouse is tired!" Argued Coran, sliding down from the saddle, "Aren't you girl?" Mouse showed no signs of fatigue. Coran elbowed her lightly, "Aren't you, girl?"

Mouse then yawned very loudly.

"Yeah," Keith said, "Real convincing."

"But it is hard to argue with a ten-ton magical beast," Pidge noted.

Suddenly, there was a huge splash in the bay. Everyone turned and saw a red and yellow koi jump out of the water. Only it wasn't a normal koi- it was as tall as the island's tallest tree and the head was as wide as Mouse was tall.

"What is that thing?" Lance cried.

"It's an elephant koi!" Allura said happily, undoing the belt at her waist and throwing her red sash down. Then she reached down and yanked off her robe, revealing long leggings under her boots. She yanked off her boots and leggings clumsily, grinning all the way.

"Uh..." Shiro cleared his throat and was blushing furiously, along with Lance, Hunk, and Pidge, "What are you doing Allura?"

Allura turned around and grinned. She had a red chest wrapping and red underwear, but that was it. She was tying her hair into a tight bun with a leather band.

"Well, I'm going to ride the elephant koi!" And before another word could be said, she ran off into the water. "Cold!" She cried gleefully when she was waist deep. But she took a breath and then dove in completely.

"Is she crazy?" Keith yelled.

"Not at all," Coran answered with a laugh, "This used to be a common sport! There used to be great schools of koi around Altea but they migrated. Many people of all nations practised this. Look!"

They all watched as one of the elephant koi broke the surface. Allura seemed so small compared, but she was clinging on to the fins on top of the koi, shouting joyously. She waved to shore and the koi jumped, plunging back into the water.

"That looks so cool!" Lance cried, "I wanna try it!"

He started to take his clothes off as well, despite the cold. But suddenly a metal hand gripped his wrist. Lance looked it in surprise and saw Shiro peering into the water.

"Something's not right. Look at that shadow."

Sure enough, there was a long shadow in the water trailing behind the koi. It was far too big to belong to any of them. Suddenly, a great head broke the water and snatched a koi, swallowing it whole.

"Allura!" Coran yelled, "Get out of there!"

Allura thought she heard noise and turned to see her friends jumping and waving. She waved back and then was suddenly thrown from the koi.

She landed in the water roughly and broke the surface, gasping for air. Her friends on the beach seemed to have gotten more frantic and so she gave them a thumbs up to let them know she was okay. She started paddling back to shore when she suddenly heard one of them scream her name, too much fear in their tone.

Allura looked behind her and saw a massive stretch of fins that were as tall as an elephant koi itself. Allura screamed and pushed herself up over the water and started running, using her airbending to propel her. She soon reached the beach but could not stop herself and collided with Shiro. The two tumbled and ended up a twisted pile of limbs.

"What was that thing?" Pidge cried, watching as the fins slid beneath the waves.

"I don't know..." Coran muttered as Shiro and Allura disentangled themselves.

"Let's not stick around to find out," Hunk said nervously, wringing his hands, "So let's head out, hit the road, get going. Please?"

Suddenly, they were ambushed by a bunch of people in green dresses and armour. They wielded golden fans and painted their faces white. Their lips and eyelids were painted a bright red, with sharp black eyeliner. Everyone moved into their positions and stood by their Eagle Lions, Allura guarding Mouse. Coran clung onto Momo nervously.

A man in the same dress but with golden, curled horns on his forehead grabbed Lance and pinned him, holding a knife to his throat. Blue growled in anger and the warrior spoke.

"I am Klaizap!" He said, "And we are taking you to our village, Galra scum!"

Shiro and Keith glared but Allura stepped forward.

"Please," She tried, "I am-"

"Tell it to our leader," Klaizap barked angrily, tightening his grip on Lance, "Come with me, now! And put on some clothes!"

Reluctantly, the human members of Voltron raised their arms while Allura dressed swiftly. Klaizap nodded to the warriors and they started to tie them up. Keith started to move his hands slowly but Shiro noticed and shook his head violently. They had a quick conversation with their eyes and Keith sighed in annoyance as one of their warriors tied his hands behind his back.

"No bending, pretty boy," A female voice hissed in his ear.

Keith jerked away and growled, "Not your pretty boy."

"What should we do with the animals?" One of the warriors asked Klaizap as he tied Lance up.

Klaizap looked at the animals, who were bristling and poised to attack. He gave one final tug on the ropes and Lance grunted. The blue beast growled and dug her claws into the dirt.

"It's okay Blue!" Lance assured hopefully.

Klaizap left Lance and approached Blue, who continued to growl. He stretched out his hand carefully, almost reaching her snout. Blue let out a sound somewhere between a feline snarl and a bird-like scream, then snapped at Klaizap's hand. He pulled back quickly and took a few paces backwards.

The other warriors drew golden fans and suddenly became far more wary of the animals.

"That thing damn near took your hand off!" Someone shouted. With the matching uniforms and makeup, it was hard to tell boy from girl.

"No," Klaizap said, "If these really are the Eagle Lions, they're smarter than that. It was a warning." He turned to his warriors and spoke loudly and with command, "Don't touch the animals! They can do what they want. It's the spies we need."

Then he grabbed Lance and started leading him to the village, the others following. After a moment, the Eagls Lions, Mouse, and even Momo followed along.

"Hey," Shiro whispered to Allura, "What are we doing?"

"I don't want to have to resort to violence," She whispered back, "From what I've heard, the world has too much of it. I'm hoping to pull through with diplomacy and gain allies."

Before Shiro could reply, his captor poked him with their fan and he pulled away from Allura, nodding appreciatively.

"Stop scheming," One of the warriors threatened, "Or we'll throw you back to the Unagi."

Soon they exited the forest and came to a small village. It had two rows of wooden houses with thatched roofs and a tall, steeped building at the far end and in the centre of the rows. Closest to them and opposite to the main building was a pole about ten feet tall, with a statue of a harsh-looking woman in the same outfit as the warriors, but with Klaizap's horns.

"I know her...." Allura mumbled.

Villagers came out of their homes, looking at the new faces. They all wore thick, blue, wool parkas along with boots and thick pants. But unlike the Southern Tribe, they weren't decorated. A short, fat man with a long beard and a curved staff stepped forwards as the captors were lined up. The Eagle Lions prowled around, but didn't go much further than their Paladins. Mouse yawned and plopped down, Momo on her head.

"We captured these trespassers on the beach," Announced Klaizap, "It seems that the Eagle Lions are with them, as well as some Air Nomadic beasts. But we believe they are Galra spies!"

The old man looked at them angrily and spoke with a booming voice, "The island of Arus has stayed out of the war thus far, and we have no plans on changing that."

"Wait!" Allura cried, a grin on her face, "Did you say that this island is named for Arus? I know her!"

"Bah!" The leader cried, "Avatar Arus was born here over four hundred years ago, and died here as well, centuries past! How could you possibly know her?"

"Because I'm the Avatar!" Allura said happily.

"Nonesense! The last Avatar was an Airbender, and they all disappeared a hundred years ago! You're just an imposter. The lot of you are imposters! Throw them to the Unagi!"

The townspeople began shouting at them angrily. Allura decided that she had had enough and jumped upwards, using her bending to propel her skyward. She turned and used the air to slice through her bonds. She somersaulted over the statue of Arus and landed gracefully, her arms outstretched.

There was a moment of shocked silence before cheers erupted from the crowd and the warriors cut the bonds on their captives, apologizing for the violence. One man from the tribe was screaming louder than others, and so excited he started foaming at the mouth before passing out.

"The Arusian Warriors' job is to protect the island," Klaizap explained as he untied Lance, "We only want peace and visitors are rare. We thought you might be spies."

"It's alright," Lance assured has he rubbed his wrists, "To be fair, two of us are Fire Nation, but we're all working together to take down Zarkon."

"If you trust them, so do we." Klaizap smiled and Lance grinned back.

Meanwhile, a little girl from the village ran to the docks where a fisherman was loading his boat.

"Did you hear?" She asked excitedly, "Voltron is on Arus!"

Later, as the fisherman was handing baskets to a fish merchant on the mainland, he repeated the news. The merchant then told one of his buyers what he had heard. In turn, Sendak's chef presented him with the fish and news he had gotten from the merchant.

"Arus?" Sendak growled, "Ready the rhinos! Change course for Arus!"


Meanwhile, some Arusians were applying fresh paint to their statue of Arus, slowly starting to make her look brighter, almost brand new. Mouse was being brushed by some villagers while the Eagle Lions were playing with some children. Allura gazed at it happily as they were served treats by Arusians in their central building.

"Aw yeah!" Hunk said excitedly, "Dessert for breakfast!" He grabbed an orange coloured cake and bit into it, "Mmmm, Lance, you gotta try this."

Lance grabbed one and ate it happily, agreeing that it was delicious. Even Momo, who had taken to perching on Coran's shoulder, ate some fruit cakes greedily.

"I am happy to see that you are enjoying our food," The Arusian leader said with a smile, "Please, make yourselves at home here."

"That is very kind of you," Shiro said, "But unfortunately we need to leave soon."

"Yes!" Coran agreed, "Very tight schedule, defeating Zarkon, learning all the elements, restoring peace and balance."

"But," Allura interjected, "We have more than enough time to form an alliance."

"Avatar Allura," The leader said with a bow, "I would be more than honoured to be aligned with you. Arus is willing to help you with whatever you need."

Allura brightened, "So you'll join the fight against Zarkon?"

"Ah," The leader bristled and looked away from Allura, "Anything but that, I'm afraid."

"But you said...?" Allura started.

The leader sighed heavily, "We are not completely isolated on this island. We trade goods, meet with merchants. The news of the outside world has not gone unheard. Everyone here knows the destruction brought by the Galra. Husbands and brothers taken from homes, forced to fight. Villages pillaged in the middle of night, Benders sent off to special prisons... I do not wish such misfortune to befall my people."

"I understand," Allura tried, "But you can't expect Zarkon to just leave you alone, can you?"

"He's intent on conquering everything," Shiro spoke up, "Your island may be small and peaceful, but that doesn't matter to him. He wants the whole world to be part of the Fire Nation under his reign."

"Don't think I don't know who you are," The leader said, narrowing his eyes at Shiro, "I've heard tales about a General prince who almost broke through Garrison only to return home. A General with white hair and a metal arm, with his exiled younger brother. I know who you are, Takashi Shirogane."

"This is true," Shiro said carefully, "But I'm a part of Voltron for a reason. My brother and I want to take down our father just as much as you do."

The leader stared at him for a moment before turning to Allura, "If you trust these Galra, then we shall as well. We'll keep an eye on them though."

"If it makes you feel safe," Allura said, "Please, what about the fight?"

"Avatar Allura, we can offer you food, shelter, healing, and anything else you require. But I will not send my people to die." With that, he bowed and left the room.

Allura huffed in displeasure.

"It's alright, Princess," Coran said, placing a hand on her shoulder, "I'm sure we can talk to him again, try to change his mind."

Allura nodded, "You're right. Maybe if I speak to his people, they'll vouch for me!" She stood up and made to leave.

"Good idea," Shiro said, standing up as well, "Maybe I should come too. The Avatar and the Head of Voltron together might gain some favour."

"I appreciate the idea," Allura said with a weak smile, "But you heard their leader. They're more than wary around you and your brother. Maybe if they warm up to me first, they'll be more accepting." She grabbed her staff, walked out of the door, and down the stairs to the outside.

"Understandable," Shiro nodded, "What should we do in the meantime?"

"Maybe we should just stay here a little longer and enjoy the food!" Hunk said, stuffing another cake into his mouth.

"I second that!" Lance spoke up happily.

"I might go out into the forest and see what it's like," Pidge said, "My vines are getting a little worn out, maybe I can find some more."

"I think we should stay here," Keith interjected, "Shiro and I, I mean. We may be wearing Southern Tribal clothing, but we still look Galra. We should at least lay low."

Suddenly, Allura came running back up the stairs, face flushed.

"Princess..?" Shiro asked.

"What's wrong Allura?" Coran had worry in his tone and he went to inspect Allura.

"I'm fine, really," She said, even though she seemed to have trouble finding her words and her face was beet red, "Just a few marriage proposals."

"What!?"

Allura laughed sheepishly, "Quite silly, I'm sure they don't mean anything by it. But uh Shiro? Maybe it's best if you come with me after all."

Shiro chuckled to himself and followed Allura out the door.

When they came to the exit, more than a dozen boys, ranging from thirteen to twenty, perked up when they saw Allura and started cheering for her. Many had flowers. She stepped outside and they swarmed. Shiro was shocked and thrown to the back of the crowd, being forced to push through.

"Please marry me!" A man about Allura's age yelled. He had a bouquet of lacy white flowers, "I picked these for you! They're quite rare, sweet, and enchantingly beautiful, just like you! Please say you'll be mine!"

"Oh well that's very kind," Allura said, face flushing and words failing her, "But uh, as Avatar I have a duty first to my team and-"

"Okay folks, give her some breathing room!" Shiro yelled, now beside Allura, "Break it up! Come on now, that's it, back up!"

"And who are you, exactly?" Asked the guy with the white flowers, "Avatar Allura and I were in the middle of something!"

"I'm Shiro, and I'm the Black Paladin of Voltron. Now, the Princess wishes for a peaceful walk an-"

"Princess?" Someone from the back cried, "I didn't know she was a princess!"

"You dolt!" Someone else yelled, "She said that at the beginning! A real princess! Surely the most beautiful there ever was!"

They started up again and the guy with the flowers starting spouting nonsense about how Allura was the princess of his heart.

Shiro rolled his eyes and spoke quietly to Allura, "Hang onto my hand, alright?"

Allura nodded and grabbed his flesh hand. Shiro then brought his metal forearm to block his face and started pushing through the crowd. People were complaining and yelling at him, but soon they got through, the crowd now at Allura's back.

"Hey!" The flower dude complained, "You can't just take her!"

"And you can't just swarm her like that!" Shiro yelled back, "Airbenders need their air, and you weren't giving her any." With that, the two turned around and started briskly walking into town.

"You alright, Princess?" Shiro asked.

Allura was still flushed but she was managing to calm herself down, "Yes, I'm fine thanks to you. I don't know if anyone has ever received so many marriage proposals!"

"I don't know...." Shiro had humour in his voice, "When I came back from Garrison, I got a hero's welcome. From the time I stepped foot back in Fire Nation to when I got to the Druids, I got like half a dozen marriage proposals every day."

"Wow!" Allura said with a giggle.

"Yeah." Shiro shrugged and smiled, "Most of them weren't from the girls. A lot of them were from their families. Arrangements and all. I mean, marrying your daughter to the heir to the throne and a respected war hero is a pretty good move. In my country, people believe that you should always marry higher up, and there's no place higher than the throne. Except the spirits of course," He handed hastily, "But no one is about to marry one anytime soon."

"So did you accept any?" Allura prompted.

Shiro laughed and shook his head, "No. My father wanted me to, to create another heir and all that, but he wasn't overly invested since he already had three. My mother has been dead a long time, and my step-mother is... Often preoccupied. So it was up to me, and I wasn't exactly in the right state of mind to be marrying anyone, let alone make a politically correct marriage." Shiro looked ahead as they passed over a bridge, over a small stream, "I left a few of them unanswered actually.... I thought maybe it was time I got married."

"Why didn't you?" Allura asked softly.

"I wasn't mentally stable," Shiro admitted, "It got worse when my father decided to send me to the Druids. They gave me this arm." He clenched his metal fist and stared at it thoughtfully, "Along with a lot of bad memories. Whatever was left of my sanity was shattered with the Druids. The stress was so great that my hair turned white. When I came back from them, recovery was my priority. Then Keith got banished and he couldn't go alone and I needed to get out...." When Shiro noticed Allura's concerned face he laughed awkwardly, "Sorry, Keith says I tend to ramble."

"It's fine!" She assured hurriedly, "I just... Well it's kind of upsetting. You had your life ahead of you. You could've gotten married, succeeded the throne, lived an easy life."

Shiro shook his head, "Despite the pain, I'm glad it happened. The war and the trip home opened my eyes to the truth of the Galra. When I came back from the Druids, it opened Keith's. We realized that the Galra weren't searching for peace through unity, but absolute sovereignty, a dictatorship. Besides, I'm here now, with you." He smiled down at Allura and when they both realized what he had said, they started to blush, "I, uh, I mean Voltron. Here with you and Voltron. Yeah."

"Well," Allura said, fighting the blush for what seemed like the millionth time that day, "I'm glad you're here with us. And... With me."

They had come to a wooded area with a small waterfall tumbling into a pool. They stopped walking and Allura looked up at Shiro with a smile which he happily returned.

"Oh! Avatar Allura!" A voice called, causing Shiro and Allura to spring apart. Facing the waterfall was an older man with paint by his feet and an easel in one hand, a brush in another.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry," Allura said, "We didn't see you there! We didn't mean to interrupt-"

"No, no!" The man assured, setting his tools down and approaching her, "It's nothing! Actually.... This setting would be perfect!"

"Perfect?" Allura raised an eyebrow and looked at Shiro, who shrugged. She looked back to the old man, "For what?"

"If it please you," He started, "I would like to paint you. To commemorate when the Avatar visited Arus."

"Oh!" Allura said, pleasantly surprised, "Of course! Would you like the rest of the team or...?"

"No offence intended," The man said with a bow, shooting a nervous glance at Shiro, "But.... Arus is known as the home of the Avatar. We understand that you are a part of Voltron, a mighty team! However, this island is dedicated to an Avatar specifically so..."

"It's all good," Shiro assured, "I'll go get some food for us, okay?" Then he crossed back over the bridge and into the market, searching for something to eat.

"Now, if you could just stand there, yes, right in front of the waterfall.... Perfect! Now, hold your staff upright and smile- beautiful!" The artist sat and held up his paper and brush and started to draw her. He put the paper down and saw that one of the village men had come to stand beside Allura. She looked mildly uncomfortable and he had already drawn her face, so he could work around the new prop. He put his paper up again and continued to draw her. He looked back for a reference and saw three more men had joined. Allura's smile was pained. He sighed and worked on the waterfall, too shy to say anything to the boys. When he put the paper down again, a whole crowd had gathered around her. He sighed and put his tools down, walking away.

Everyone around Allura giggled and started getting even closer to her. Getting far too uncomfortable, she jumped up into the air and glided with her glider to the nearest tall tree. She grabbed onto it and scrambled to the top, where the boys below called up to her, but couldn't reach her.

Shiro retuned with steamed bean buns for all of them and passed the artist on the bridge.

"Oh, I got one for you too!" Shiro offered a bun to the man and he smiled gratefully before his face turned sour.

"The Avatar has some fanboys that make it hard to paint."

Shiro sighed, "I'll take care of them."

The two turned and walked back to see Allura clinging to a tall tree, staff in hand, and a gaggle of boys at the base of the trunk.

"Hey!" Shiro called. Most of them turned, eyed him with disinterest, then turned back to Allura. Shiro huffed in annoyance and started elbowing his way through the crowd until he reached the front. The guy with the lame proposal from before still had his flowers, although they were crumpled and kind of wilted.

"Oh," The man said when he saw him, "It's you. What do you want?"

"For all of you to leave the Princess alone!" Shiro demanded, "What will it take?"

"Fight me!" The man yelled, loud enough for everyone to hear, "If you win, we'll all promise to leave Allura alone."

"Look man," Shiro said in a voice that was just....tired, "I don't want to fight you, it's not going to end well. Just leave her alone. Please?"

"Look at him, he's scared!" Flower Guy said, "Big ol' Galra General afraid to fight me? I'm not even an Arusian Warrior!"

"I'm not scared to fight you," Shiro deadpanned, "I just really don't think it's a good idea."

"Well if you won't fight then I count as forfeit, and I win. Wanna know what it means when I win?"

Shiro sighed, "What?"

"I get to go on one date with Allura."

Suddenly, there was a shower of snow as Allura leapt from the tree, cartwheeled in the air, and landed gracefully on the ground. She turned around and pointed her staff to where Shiro and Flower Guy were and the crowd parted.

"If that's what at stake, I'll fight you myself."

"What?" Flower Guy blurted.

Shiro rushed over to Allura and spoke to her quietly, "Princess, what are you doing?"

"They already love me," Allura told him, "If I win, then they'll leave me alone. If I lose, I go on one measly date and suffer. But it would look very very bad if a Galra General were to suddenly get into a fight with the locals."

Shiro nodded appreciatively, "Good thinking Princess." Shiro backed off and stood next to the artist, who had picked up his easel again.

"Now this is something to paint," He said eagerly, brush ready.

The crowd of boys quickly went to stand and watch by the waterfall, leaving Allura and Flower Guy facing each other.

Flower Guy grinned cockily, "Now how am I supposed to win a fight against the Lion Goddess?"

"Lion Goddess?" Allura raised an eyebrow.

"Of course," Flower Guy shrugged, "We believe that the Avatar is the leader of Voltron, and in many places the Avatar is respected as a deity of sorts. You are the Lion Goddess."

"It is no matter," Allura said, holding her hand out in front of her, her staff half behind her as she crouched lower, "I am ready whenever you are."

Flower Guy grinned, but his sweat was visible, despite the cold and lack of activity. He ran forward, lunging at Allura. As he came at her, she pivoted and pressed her arm against his back, using his force to push herself away and to unsettle his balance. He stumbled, but he didn't fall. Turned around and his cocky grin was wavering.

"Do you wish to stop?" Allura asked innocently, "I would rather if you just left me alone."

"And I would rather go on a date with you," He said with flair.

Shiro rolled his eyes and saw that the artist was furiously sketching their poses and when they moved too much, he started again.

"I want to capture the moment," He told Shiro as he drew, "If I draw half of it, I'll remember the other half."

"Impressive," Shiro said, before turning back to the fight. Flower Guy had advanced on Allura again. He started swinging with his fists, but Allura dodged easily, pivoting on her feet and spinning left and right. Watching it made Shiro dizzy, he wondered how she did it.

Suddenly, Allura saw an opening and swept her staff under his feet, causing him to fall and land on his back. Before he could move, her staff was at his throat.

"I believe I win."

 

Meanwhile, the other Paladins were just wandering around the town, greeting the villagers that weren't chasing after Allura. They had even managed to drag Keith with them. Coran was back at the main building, looking at maps and stuff they had. He said that he wanted to see if he could gain more information on what had happened when they were under.

"You know, we should probably pack some supplies," Lance suggested, "There's a market here somewhere."

"Good idea," Hunk said, mentally taking inventory, "We're good for meat for a little while, plus we got all that seal jerky..... But we're running low on fresh produce. If they have some fruit maybe I can dry some out and that'll last longer.... What do you guys think?"

"You're the food guy," Pidge said with a shrug, "Keep us fed, we're good."

"True," Hunk admitted. Then they noticed a long, low building near the forest, like a dojo, "Hey, check it out!"

They all approached and saw the Arusian Warriors practicing inside, led by Klaizap. They were practicing with their fans, moving gracefully. When they reached a position with one fan flared and guarding their heart, the other closed and stretched outward, Klaizap yelled.

"Hoorah!"

"Hoorah!" The rest cheered back.

"You know," Lance said, "We need something like that."

"Like what?" Hunk asked, "Synchronized fighting?"

"Cool, but no. I mean like a cheer. How about..... I say 'Vol' you say 'tron' Vol!"

He looked at Keith expectantly and Keith awkwardly spoke, "Uh... Voltron?"

"No, no no no no." Lance frowned and shook his head, "The instructions are in the cheer. When I say 'Vol!' You say 'tron!' Vol!"

"Vol....tron?"

Pidge and Hunk snickered and Lance sighed, "Ugh, we'll work on it."

"Paladins." They turned at the word and saw Klaizap bow to them.

"Oh, sorry, we didn't mean to interrupt," Hunk said, "We were just watching."

"No no, it's our pleasure," Klaizap said happily, "Come in, come in."

They followed him inside to see the dojo. It had bamboo floors, thick walls, a large closet with weapons and uniforms and paint, and there were several Arus altars and tapestries.

"This is so cool!" Lance said with a grin. Then he spied a cute Warrior and winked, "But not as cool as you."

It was hard to tell with the face paint, but it almost seemed as though they were blushing. Lance stepped closer and they giggled.

"Hey there, beautiful."

"Oh, uh, well.... I'm a, uh, I'm a boy...." The Warrior stammered.

"Oh!" Lance cried, then smirked again, "Hey there, handsome."

He giggled again at Lance and the two started flirting more.

"He's quite...liberal," Klaizap mentioned to Keith, "Of course, Arus herself was known to be a lover of both men and women, so here we are more than accepting, but I understand that it is different out in the world. I am glad to see that he is free to be who he is."

"Yeah," Keith agreed, "Back in the Fire Nation, they're not so happy about it. Old ways and all that...."

Klaizap looked at him oddly for a moment before speaking, "You and your brother said you were Galra, not Fire Nation, yet you look it. I would have guessed you were a colonial, but it seems you were born in the Fire Nation."

Keith clenched his hand into a fist and stared at the black wrappings on his right arm.

"Shiro and I are Zarkon's sons."

"Oh." Klaizap looked really surprised at that, "And you're fighting against him? I mean, I knew that Shiro was a General, but a prince..."

"Heir to the throne, actually," Keith said, "And Shiro's most known for his attempt at Garrison, so people in the far reaches know him more as a General than royalty. And our father is evil, he needs to be taken down."

Klaizap nodded appreciatively, "I agree."

"So why don't you join the fight?" Keith asked him.

Klaizap sighed and looked at his Warriors. Hunk and Pidge were awing at the artifacts around the room and happily listening to them explain history while Lance was flirting up a storm.

"Our duty is to protect Arus at any cost, to carry on her legacy. See these horns?" Klaizap pointed to the golden horns on his forehead, secured in place by a silky green headband that the others wore, "These are the exact same horns that Arus herself wore. They're passed down to each leader of the Arusian Warriors, and they have been passed down to me. I command the elite, the protectors of our island. But I must bend to our leader."

"You mean the old guy?" Keith asked.

Klaizap nodded, "Yeah. I wish to join the fight against Zarkon, as do some of my comrades. But our leader firmly believes that we need to stay and protect the island, despite its strict neutrality. We must do as he says. Yet Arus wouldn't have let him stop her. She believed she was the highest power, and her rule as absolute. If she thought someone was bad, they were bad. If she believed they were good, they were good. Arus took her destiny into her own hands. She even managed to live for two hundred years. Some legends say she fought Death each time he tried to take her and won each time, only dying when she thought she was ready." Klaizap laughed weakly, "I cannot even fight our leader."

"Maybe Arus took charge of everything, but you're not her. Besides, I'm sure you're doing what's right."

Klaizap smiled, "You're alright. For a Galra."


Coran sighed as the leader turned him down again, shutting the door to his chambers in his face. He had tried for almost two hours now to get Arus to join the fight. Yet their leader would not budge and was becoming increasingly annoyed. Coran decided that it was a good time for a break, maybe let the other man mull it over.

"Come on Momo!" Coran said to the lemur on his shoulder, "We should see how the others are doing."

Coran walked outside to see Allura doing push-ups with a rock on her back. Shiro was standing nearby, counting out loud for her. The group of boys from earlier were still gathered around, but at a safe distance. Flower Guy stole glares at Shiro in between ogling at Allura. Shiro saw Coran and waved as Coran walked over.

"How's the negotiations? Fifty-five."

"Not good," Coran admitted, "He just doesn't want to listen. He's quite stubborn."

"Well, we'll just have to be more stubborn. Fifty-eight."

Coran hummed in agreement as Momo flew off his shoulder and onto the rock on Allura's back. It must've added a good five pounds, but she didn't seem to feel it, just kept going and Shiro kept counting.

"What're the glares for?" Coran asked, nodding at Flower Guy.

"Challenged me to a fight over Allura. Sixty-three. Allura took my place. Sixty-four. Beat him, now he's mad at me. Sixty-five."

"I see. She's got quite the fan club, hasn't she?"

Shiro snorted, "You have no idea. Sixty-seven."

Allura went down, then up, drew her right arm over her back to pet Momo, then kept doing push-ups with her one hand. The boys around her started cheering her but Shiro spoke up.

"Make sure to keep your back straight. Seventy-one."

Allura nodded and straightened her spine, making her push-ups more rigid.

"Where are the others? Seventy-three."

"Oh, they're wandering about the village, seeing what they can. All the animals are being well taken care of, I can assure you that."

"I know, passed the Eagle Lions playing hide and seek with some kids. Seventy-six. Mouse was being used as a slide. Seventy-seven."

Allura pulled up her left arm when she reached the top of her push up and let herself fall, then pushing out a great breath and pushing herself back up with air, going up and down.

"Eighty. Keep your knees straight, Princess. Eighty-one. You need to work the quads too. Eighty-two. Good job."

"I'm afraid we will have to leave soon," Coran told Shiro in a defeated tone, "Their leader grows more frustrated the more we convince him.... Perhaps it is best that we take their offer and leave them in peace. We need to get going soon too, or else the Galra may be on us again."

"This is true.... Ninety. We can't do everything, so maybe we'll stay until sunset. Ninety-one."

"Yes, good idea. I'm sure the Galra forces are closing in on us. I was looking at the sky and noticed some clouds moving up from the south, so that will help too."

"So it's settled. Ninety-nine. We'll leave tonight at dusk. One hundred."

Allura sighed and let herself collapse in the ground, breathing heavily. Momo leapt off of her back and started nuzzling her face playfully, to which she giggled. She turned around and sat up, the rock sliding off of her back. She sat cross-legged, petting Momo in her lap.

"Oh! Hello Coran! How're the negotiations?"

Coran frowned and twisted his moustache, "I'm afraid they're not going. I keep trying but all I'm getting in return are closed doors."

"Maybe if we stay a little longer," Allura suggested, "He'll come around."

"We can't stay," Shiro said, "We've already been here longer than we should be. The Galra are in hot pursuit of us and we want to avoid any fight we can. They don't even know you're alive, which is also a key factor. We're leaving at dusk."

"But..." Allura turned her head to look at the renewed statue of Arus in the distance, "I feel like I'm drawn here..."

"It's probably because this was your home in a recent past life," Coran suggested, "Shiro's right, we need to leave soon."

"Princess," Shiro started, but was cut off when Allura stood up straight, Momo jumping off of her lap. She spoke with authority and gave him a stubborn look.

"We need to stay one more night. FI'll our supplies, rest up, raise morale, whatever we can. I say, as the Avatar and Princess of Altea, that we stay."

Shiro and Allura had a silent staring contest that seemed to span ages. Even her fanboys had gone silent, a little shaken by what was taking place. Who would back down? The Galra General? Or the Avatar?

Shiro closed his eyes and sighed, "We leave at dawn. No later."

Allura grinned and hugged him happily, "Yes! Thank you Shiro!"

Shiro awkwardly put his arms around her, aware of all the glares being directed at him. Allura quickly pulled back and turned to Coran.

"Now that I have the favour of the villagers, maybe we can convince their leader to help!"

Coran agreed and the three started making plans for an alliance and how to present it.

Lance wandered around the village, knocking about aimlessly. The Arusian Warriors had needed to resume to their training and invited the others to stay. Keith had, eager to learn more about their fighting. The rest had declined and gone their ways. Pidge had disappeared into the forest while Hunk had scurried off to the market again, mumbling about what dishes he could make with what foods were available. He found himself by Arus's statue where the animals were being relentlessly played with.

Lots of people were gathered around the Eagle Lions and Mouse, playing and awing as if it were a petting zoo. The animals didn't mind though, since they were getting scratched and petted. The ground was practically rumbling from all of the purring. When she noticed Lance, Blue perked up and mewed.

"Hahaha, look at you guys," Lance said, moving to squish Blue's giant face in his hands, "All pampered and lazy."

"You're the Blue Paladin, right?" Lance turned at the sound of a feminine voice and saw a pretty girl with curly brown hair and soft blue eyes.

"Indeed I am," He said with a smirk. He let Blue's face go and scracthed under her chin, "This is Blue."

"Yes, she is qutterly blue," The girl agreed, scratching behind the ears, "What is her name?"

Lance laughed, "No no, her name is Blue. I named her that because she was the prettiest blue I had I ever seen. Of course, I don't think so anymore."

"Why's that?" The girl asked with a tilted head.

Lance grinned, "Because now I've seen your eyes."

The girl blushed deeply and giggled, "You're quite a flirt, aren't you?"

Lance shrugged with a smirk, "I admit to my crimes. No one is perfect, you know. My greatest flaw is my irresistiblity to men and women both."

"You're irresistible to them, or they to you?"

"Yes."

The girl giggled again and other girls noticed who she was talking to, walking over to join the conversation themselves. Lance noticed and puffed out his chest a little bit more.

Pidge was feeling the vines in her hand, debating letting them soak for a little while. She was walking through the market place and saw Hunk buying some fruits. She put her vines away and walked over to him as he put his wares in the basket.

"Whatcha got there?"

"Just some fruit," Hunk said with a smile, "I'll make some juice then dry the fruits out so they'll keep longer."

"Smart," Pidge said with a nod of her head, "I just grabbed some more vines. Did you happen to see Shiro at all?"

Hunk hummed as he held two squashes in his hand, debating one over the other, "Yeah, he said that we're leaving at dawn."

Pidge groaned, "Ugh. I hate mornings. I wish there was a drink that would just wake you up. Even if it was black and bitter I would drink it."

Hunk laughed and shielded his face from the setting sun, "I can appreciate that. Did you see Lance at all?"

Pidge shook her head, "No. He might be in the square with the animals. I saw a bunch of girls playing around there."

"Then he's probably there. We should pack up now so we can leave quicker in the morning."

Pidge agreed and they came to the square where a crowd of girls and some guys had gathered around Lance.

"Hey," Pidge tapped someone on the shoulder, "What's going on?"

The guy whom she had tapped turned around and grinned, "The Blue Paladin is gonna ride the Unagi!"

"Is he now?" Hunk asked dangerously. He used his large body to push through the crowd and Pidge followed after him. They came to the centre and Lance smiled at them before he saw Hunk's face.

"Hey guys," He tried for casual, "What's up?"

"You're riding the Unagi?"

"It's going to be so cool!" A girl squealed.

"No one has ever done it before," Another gushed.

"Has anyone told you you're more beautiful than even the most extravagant of flowers?" He asked the other girl. She flushed and shook her head, "Well, there's a first time for everything."

"Lance you'll get yourself killed!" Hunk said angrily.

"I'll be fine," Lance replied easily, "Now, to the beach!"

The crowd around him cheered as he led them down to the water.

Hunk and Pidge followed, deciding that if their friend was going to die, at least he would have his team witness him.

They got down to the beach and Lance looked out to the water. There were some large ripples but other than that, no sign of Elephant Koi or Unagi.

"You said that it's most active at dusk right?" Lance turned to someone beside him who nodded. Lance grinned and started to strip until he was just in his underwear. Many whistled and blushed, but Lance just winked and ran into the water, diving straight in. He resurfaced and waved.

Pidge and Hunk stood towards the back of the crowd, Pidge on Hunk's shoulders.

"Hey guys. What's going on?"

They both turned at the sound of Keith's voice and saw him walking towards them.

"I was just going for a walk and then this crowd appeared. You know what's up?"

"Lance is riding the Unagi." Pidge stated, "How much do you wanna bet that he dies?"

"Aren't you going to stop him?" Keith asked.

Hunk shrugged which almost threw Pidge off. She smacked his head and he swatted at her, laughing.

"Anyways," He said, "We kinda already tried. If he wants to make a fool of himself, let him. We're here if he needs us."

"But Pidge is the only Waterbender here."

"Technically," Pidge said, picking a leaf out of her hair, "But.... Plants."

"So we're just gonna let this happen?" Keith asked.

"Yup." Was given to him in unison.

"We're not gonna tell Shiro about this?"

"Nope."

"Gotcha."

Lance was pretty far out into the bay, where the ripples had been. At the moment he was just treading water, but nothing was happening.

"Hey! Dumbass!"

Lance looked up and saw a figure in the back of the crowd wearing a parka from the Southern Tribe, hair tied up. It was Keith.

"Get out of the water before you die!" He yelled at him.

Lance just laughed. Suddenly, he felt something moving under him. Something a lot bigger than he had first thought.

"Get out of there!" Chorused from the beach as a huge head broke the waves and towered above him, twice as tall as any tree, and it was barely the neck.

It was oily black with a grey underbelly, the sea draining off its body like waterfalls. The giant fins that they had seen earlier were on the top of its narrow and long head.Two long black whiskers trailed down from its snout. It's eyes glowed an evil green and its gills were yellow. It was easily large enough to swallow an elephant koi whole.

Lance decided it was time to leave.

He started paddling towards the beach, using his bending to aid him, but he soon found himself being lifted out of the water. Beneath him was a mass of oily scales and spikes as tall as he was. The Unagi lifted its tail partially out of the water and Lance considered jumping before he saw how far down it was. Suddenly the Unagi screeched and spewed a powerful torrent at Lance.

He quickly used his bending it create a shield in front of him and he clung to a spike. The shield quickly broke and he was almost pushed off, but the water stopped at the last possible second. Lance breathed a sigh of relief then started when he heard the Unagi screech again. Its head lashed out towards Lance and he jumped, catching one of the whiskers in midair.

The Unagi sensed him and started thrashing around, Lance clinging to the whisker for dear life.

"I've got to help him!" Keith cried, throwing off his parka and wading in with the rest of his clothes. It was damn cold but he steadied his breathing and tried to warm himself like Shiro had taught him.

A few made moves to go in but Pidge cried out "Wait! Look!" and pointed towards the mouth of the bay.

A huge Galra ship was making its way towards the island. It was going slow because of the Unagi, but moving forward nonetheless.

"Everyone!" Hunk yelled, "Back to the village! Keith!"

Keith turned in the water and saw where Hunk was waving. He shot up a quick flame to let him know he saw and kept paddling. The others on the beach raced back to the village to warn everyone else.

The Unagi screeched again and Lance just couldn't hold on any longer. It flung him towards Keith where Lance actually skipped in the water and then landed on his back, the air being knocked out of his lungs. He felt himself sinking but found he couldn't move. His heart was beating faster and he suddenly went into a panic, arms and legs thrashing for the surface. He felt something connect and his heart almost stopped, but he saw the violet eyes and red clothes and calmed down.

Keith helped him to the surface where Lance gasped for air. The Unagi was still on their trail. Keith braced themselves and shot a stream of fire out of his hand, burning the Unagi and propelling them towards shore.

A couple of powerful strokes and he felt his feet touch the bottom. He kicked until he was able to stand up and haul Lance to shore, hiding in a bunch of large rocks.

The Unagi screamed one last time and slunk below the waves as the Galra ship chugged by. It would only be a couple of minutes before it hit shore.

"Come on Lance," Keith said as he held Lance in his lap, but he didn't seem to be responding. Worried, Keith put his hand over his mouth and nose. He wasn't breathing. He checked his pulse in his neck- thankfully his heart was still beating. Be if he couldn't breathe, it wouldn't be for long.

His best guess was that there was water in Lance's lungs. In that moment, he desperately wished that he was a Waterbender. But he wasn't, and he had to help Lance. He had to think fast.

There was water in his lungs.

Coughing violently could expel that water.

He knew how to induce coughing.

He reached into his shirt, his hand finding a secret pouch near his heart. He pulled out a couple of small, dried, red peppers. They were the spiciest food on earth and every Fire Nation person carried them for many reasons.

He crushed them in his hand and focused heat in his palm, starting to cause the peppers to smoke and secrete a very strong odour. He buried his nose in his shirt and shoved his hand near Lance's face. The smoke wafted up his nose and he started coughing immediately, water spewing out of his mouth.

"Hey...Keith?" Lance's voice sounded just as one might think it would after swallowing and then hacking up sea salt.

"Yeah?"

"Don't ride the Unagi. Not fun."

Keith sighed in relief and with a smile, "I'll take note of that. Wait... Did you hear that?"

"What the fu-" Lance started to speak before Keith slapped his hand over his mouth (the one without the peppers) and shushed him. Lance grumbled but otherwise remained quiet.

They were hiding in between large rocks and Keith's head was slightly tilted. Enough to see the path to the village in front of them, craning to try and see where the Galra were. They had certainly beached, he heard the cranking of the ramp.

Lance looked up at Keith, still in his lap. With the way his head was turned, his hair caught the setting sun just right, making the black look almost violet. His skin glowed with seawater and his eyes were also a soft lilac in the sunlight. He was kind of pretty.

Wait.

Any further train of thought was quickly derailed when the sounds of Komodo rhinos came from the beach. Soon several were marching down the path.

Keith glanced to see who was leading and saw a giant arm glowing purple.

"Shit. It's Sendak."

Lance raised his eyebrows and squeaked, but nothing else.

Keith waited until the procession was out of earshot before taking his hand off of Lance's mouth and sighing.

"That was too close. You good?"

Lance nodded and sat up.

"Yeah,thanks for saving me back there."

"No problem. Now," Keith started to stand up, "let's get back to the village and kick Sendak's ass."

"Whoa whoa whoa, cool your jets!" Lance said, pulling him back down, "You can't just go in there! You can't be seen, remember?"

"Well what do you propose we do?" Keith asked sarcastically.

"Sneak in trough the forest," Lance said, "Maybe you can cause some chaos among their ranks while they're fighting."

"That.,. Is actually a good plan..." Keith said begrudgingly.

They both stood up and made their way into the forest, hoping everyone had gotten the warning.

"Give us the Avatar!" Sendak yelled as his troops thundered into the village. "You can't hide forever!"

Suddenly, the Arusian Warriors jumped out from their hiding spots on roofs and in bushes. A few knocked out a couple soldiers while others engaged in fights. Klaizap leapt at Sendak, but he was violently thrown by his prosthetic arm.

"You think these pathetic kids you call warriors can stop us? Show us Voltron! Show us the Avatar!"

"I'm right here!"

Everyone turned to see Allura standing in the middle of the road, her staff in hand. Sendak grinned and launched fireballs at her, but they were quickly blocked by her staff. Then he launched his arm forward, connected only by a strying of violet energy, and made to snatch the staff out of her hands.

But Allura saw it coming and dodged, just fast enough for it to get swatted out of the way. SHe made a move to get it, but soon Sendak towered above her on his steed.

"You're a pretty one," He said with a nasty grin, "Why don't you just come quietly?"

Allura only scowled at him. Then she noticed two fans lying nearby her. She quickly picked them up and spun around, using them to create a great gust of wind so powerful it knocked Sendak off his beast and there him theight a house. Allura dropped the fans and grabbed her glider, tossed it into the air with wings expanded, and grabbed hold, flying towards the town hall.

"Get inside now, everyone, quickly." Shiro and Coran were guiding people inside the main hall when Hunk and Pidge met up with them with more villagers.

"I think that's everybody," Pidge said.

"What about Keith and Lance?" Hunk asked, wringing his hand and biting his lip, "Last we saw they were in the bay...."

"Blue and Zuko are fine," Coran assured, "So their bond is not broken, Keith and Lance are okay."

"We're here!" Lance and Keith came through the brush, both soaked and covered in scratches and bruises.

"What happened?" Shiro demanded before changing his mind, "Nevermind, it doesn't matter."

Suddenly Allura came flying towards them, grief in her face. She landed quickly and started speaking with force, "Paladins, we must unite. Now that we have Voltron together we can defeat them! We must fight!"

"Allura we can't," Shiro replied, his voice heavy, "We haven't fought as a team nearly long enough, let alone with you. Sendak and his legion are all elite, they were trained to take us down even at full power. We can't fight them, not now."

"Well what do you suggest?" She cried angrily, "Look what we brought to this town that helped us! What I brought. If only we would have left sooner, it's all my fault."

"No," Coran said firmly, "It's not your fault."

"Coran is right," Shiro said, "And we can't worry about that now. We need to leave. If we do, then Sendak will too. I know him; this village couldn't be any less important, all he wants is us. Right now, it's our only option."

It was silent for a moment, save for the cracking of fires and sounds of fighting in the distance. Allura sighed.

"Alright."

"I'll go to Klaizap," Keith said, "He's the leader of the Warriors, he can relay the message. Where are the animals?"

"Behind the hall," Coran said.

"Take Zuko and stay to the woods," Shiro told Keith, "We're going to fly about the far side of the island and meet you there."

Keith nodded and ran off, whistling for Zuko. She ran after them and soon both disappeared in the trees.

"The rest of you, let's move out!"

"Klaizap!"

Klaizap turned at the sharp hiss of his name. He was hiding behind a house, trying to find an opening to attack Sendak again, but he could feel a bruised rib.

"Keith?"

The Red Paladin stepped out of the woods and Klaizap grinned.

"Man, it's good to see you guys. These Galra are too powerful, we need your help."

Keith knelt beside him and shook his head, "We can't, we're not strong enough just yet. We need you guys to hold them off just long enough to see that we've taken off. After that they'll leave."

"How can you be sure?" Klaizap demanded, "How do you know he won't burn our village to the ground first?"

"Because Shiro served alongside Sendak," Keith said, "We both know him well enough that we're his top priority. If he sees Voltron leaving, he will too."

"Okay." Klaizap nodded and leaned forward quickly, kissing Keith on the cheek before pulling back, "Go, we'll hold him off."

Keith nodded, trying to ignore the burning in his face. He ran back into the woods and climbed onto Zuko and they took off.

"There!" Sendak pointed to the sky where six unmistakeable animals were flying away, "It's all of Voltron in one place, we must follow them!"

When Keith met up with them in the sky above the bay, Shiro noticed his face.

"You okay? Your face is kinda red."

"It's the wind."

Shiro shrugged and flew back to even with Mouse, Coran and Allura on her back.

Allura was staring sadly at the island, the statue of Arus engulfed in flames still visible.

"You did the right thing, Princess," Coran said, putting a hand on her shoulder.

"He's right," Shiro agreed.

Allura scowled before standing up and running off the back end of Mouse, diving into the wager below.

"Allura!" Coran yelled.

Shiro aimed Iroh and dove down but Iroh roared in protest as the Unagi shot up out of the water. Allura stood on its head, holding the two tendrils in her hand. She seemed to direct the Unagi to face the village and yanked back, hard, on the whiskers. The Unagi sprayed its jettison of water all over the village, effectively soaking Sendak and putting out the fires.

The Unagi screeched and Allura jumped off, grabbing Shiro's hand as he lifted her onto Iroh's back.

"Holy crow!" Lance said excitedly, "That was awesome!"

"She just grabbed the Unagi!" Pidge chimed in.

"And bam yanked on its whiskers and put all the fires out!" Hunk mimed pulling on reins.

"It was pretty cool," Keith admitted.

"Good thinking, Princess," Coran said as he helped Allura back onto Mouse.

"It was stupid and dangerous," Shiro said before cracking a smile, "Good job."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Winter Solstice Part I; The Spirit World.

Voltron flew above the clouds peacefully, basking in the smooth flying and quiet air.

"Those clouds look so soft, don't they?" Lance mused as he laid on Blue's back.

"Yeah," Hunk said dreamily, "Like you could jump down and land on a big fluffy pillow."

"Why don't you try it?" Pidge teased. Hunk snorted.

"You're hilarious."

"I'll try it!" Lance said excitedly, sitting up suddenly. Before anyone could protest, he leapt off of Blue with a loud whoop and disappeared through the clouds. Blue dove after him and in another moment the two resurfaced above the fluff, both soaked.

"Turns out," Lance said, droplets falling from his hair, "Clouds are made of water." He twisted his arms and the water twirled off of him, falling towards the ground far below.

Allura chuckled but her smile quickly faded when she turned back to look where they were flying.

"What is that?" She asked, just loud enough for everyone to hear. They flew in line with her and saw, in a break in the clouds, a large mountainous forest with a huge black strip, burned from parts of the trees all the way along the river into a huge jagged line.

"It's like a scar..." Allura said sadly.

Silently and unanimously, they decided to check it out. When they landed, puffs of ash and dust rose from their feet. It seemed like everything was grey, with charcoal spikes all that remained of trees.

"Listen..." Shiro said quietly, "It's so silent, like there's no life anywhere." He then noticed Allura staring at the ground. Her back was to him and she was a few feet away, but he could tell she was distraught, "Princess?"

Suddenly, Pidge spotted some footprints that she recognized.

"Galra!" She called out in anger, "Those savages make me sick! They have no respect for-"

"Sh!" Hunk said, looking at Keith and Shiro anxiously. Shiro seemed not to notice, but Keith scowled, kicking at the ash.

"Ah. Sorry," Pidge flushed.

"It's fine," Keith said grumpily, "It's stupid that they would just burn it down like this."

Allura suddenly fell to her knees, puffs of ash rising around her.

"I can't believe this," She said with despair, "All these trees, all this life, just gone. How could someone do such a thing? How could I let is happen?"

"You didn't let it happen, Allura," Coran said calmly, "This has nothing to do with you."

"Yes it does," Allura argued sadly, fingers tracing in the dust, "It's the Avatar's job to protect nature. But I don't know how to do my job."

"That's why we're going to the North Pole," Shiro added, "To find you a teacher."

"Yes, a waterbending teacher," Allura pointed out, "There's no one who can teach me how to be the Avatar. Father told me that Avatar Roku would help me...."

"The Avatar before you?" Lance asked, "But he died, like, a hundred years ago."

"Yeah," Hunk added, "How are you supposed to talk to him?"

"I don't know..." Allura admitted.

The Paladins and Coran looked at each other. None of them knew how to get in contact with any other Avatars, nor did they know anything about teaching one.

Then, Rover came over and nudged Pidge. When she looked at her, Rover swiped the ash away with her paw, revealing a few small brown nuts, which Pidge recognized. She grinned and nodded at Rover as she scooped them up.

"Hey, Allura," Pidge called, directing attention to her, "You ready to be cheered up yet?"

"No," Allura said miserably. She flinched in pain as something small and hard pelted her in the side of her head.

"Pidge!" Shiro chatsized.

"How is that cheering me up?" Allura demanded with a scowl.

"Look," Pidge said, throwing another nut, but this time gently. Allura caught it and looked at it dubiously.

"Yes, an acorn. So?"

"They're everywhere," Pidge said, "And every one of them is going to be a big oak tree someday. That means that the forest will grow back, and anything that lived here would come back too."

Allura smiled down at the acorn in her hand then back up at Pidge, "Thank you." She stood up and turned to face the rest of Voltron, "I do feel a little better now."

Suddenly, Keith pulled out his knife, looking at something past Allura's shoulder. She turned around and saw an old man walking towards them.

He was clearly Earth Kingdom, wearing tattered green robes and a long wool shawl. He had long grey hair and a beard, and used a gnarled walking stick. As he approached them, it became obvious that he was no threat.

When he came close enough, he spoke with a voice like old leather.

"I saw the animals flying in the sky and thought it could not be possible...." The old man spoke with a tone of slight urgency and great awe, "But here they are, and here you are. And those markings..." He turned to Allura and stared at her with wide eyes, "Are you the Avatar, child?"

Allura smiled and nodded at the man.

The man's face lit up with hope and he reached forward, grasping her hand, "My village desperately needs your help!"

"What's wrong?" Allura asked. The man pulled his hand away and started walking back the way he had come.

"Our leader, he will explain to you," The man promised, "Please, follow me."

"What should we do?" Keith asked Shiro, "I don't know if I trust him."

"He sounds pretty desperate," Shiro mused, "We'll follow him. And if it turns out to be a trap, we can fight our way out."

"Sounds like a plan!" Lance said happily as he jogged after the old man, who had gained some distance. The rest followed, with the animals behind. When they entered the healthy woods, the Eagle Lions dispersed amongst the trees.

Coran was walking beside the old man, with Momo on his shoulder.

"Quite magnificent creatures," The old man said, "I never thought I would live to see them."

"Yes, the Eagle Lions are quite a sight," Coran agreed, "It's a shame they've been in hiding for a hundred years, but Voltron has returned."

"A sign of hope in these trying times," He mused, "Everybody could do with a little more hope."

Soon, they neared the village and passed through the entrance.

It was a small village, with a tall stone wall surrounding it. It had only one entrance that faced the forest. In either corner by the gate were two watchtowers. Well, one full watchtower to the south and the remains of one in the north corner.

There were four rows of brown stone buildings with curved green roofs. The row on the left wall seemed to food and supply, the two middle rows houses, and the far right row barns. At the far end, opposite the gate, there was a large building created with redwood, a large and curved green roof as well. This was obviously the main hall.

But there were damages aside from the destroyed tower.

The first house on the left and the first storehouse were almost completely destroyed, only timbers and stones remaining.

The old man led them to the main hall. It was roomy and held two dozen people, who were obviously this villagers seeking shelter.

When they entered, a tall man with clean green robes and a tight bun on top of his head stood and walked towards them.

"These young people are Voltron," The old man said, "And she is the Avatar." He gestured to Allura, who smiled nervously.

"So the rumours are true...." The man bowed the Earth Kingdom way- right hand into a fist and the left resting on top. Allura followed suit.

The man stood backup and smiled, "It is the greatest honour of a lifetime to be in your presence."

"It's nice to meet you too, sir," Allura smiled back. It soon faded, however, as she looked around in confusion, "So.... Is there something I can help you with?"

"I'm not sure," The man said, biting his bottom lip.

"Our village is in crisis, and she's our only hope!" The old man said to the leader before turning to Allura, "For the last few days at sunset, a spirit monster has come and attacked our village! He is Hei Bai, the Black and White spirit."

"Do you have any idea why it's attacking?" Shiro asked.

"No," Their leader sighed, "We do not know. But, each of the last three nights, he has abducted one of our own. We are especially fearful because the Winter Solstice is soon approaching."

"What happens then?" Hunk had a slight tremor in his voice and his hands were clenched, held close to his chest.

"As the solstice approaches," The elder explained, "The natural world and the spirit world become closer and closer, until they overlap, and the line between the two becomes blurred completely."

"If this Hei Bai is already wreaking havoc," Coran thought aloud, "Then there's no telling what'll happen on the solstice. Any barriers holding him back could disappear."

"So..." Allura prompted, "What do you want me to do, exactly?"

"Who better to resolve a crisis between our world and the spirit world than the Avatar herself?" The elder responded, leaning heavily on his cane and pointing at her, "You are the great bridge between humanity and spirits."

"Aha, yes," Allura said nervously, "That is certainly me."

"Princess," Shiro said, placing a hand on her shoulder, "Can we talk for a moment?"

Allura nodded and excused herself as they all went outside. Once the doors shut, Shiro turned to Allura.

"Princess, you seem a little unsure about this."

"Yes," Allura admitted with some frustration, "That might be because I don't know anything about the spirit world."


She watched as the Paladins shared looks and it angered her.

"Well, it's not like there's anyone to teach me!"

"What about Coran?" Pidge pointed out.

"Ah, negative, number five!" Coran responded cheerfully.

"Five....?" Pidge echoed.

"Yup! I have you ranked by height!" Coran said, stretching his arms to her height and then demonstrating it, "Anywho, I am well versed in every subject that was studied on Altea, plus a few more! But I am unfortunately nowhere near a monk or a mystic, merely spiritual technology. That was what Altea focused on. Our fellow Air Nomads were concerned with spirituality, which is why every Air Nomad was a Bender, but Altea followed the science of it all, which is what gave us our high tech. Very few Alteans would have considered themselves spiritual."

"But what about training as the Avatar?" Keith asked.

Allura rubbed her arm anxiously and didn't quite seem to meet their eyes, "I wasn't told until fiv- uh, rather I was told when I was twenty, not long ago."

"Twenty?" Lance gasped.

"Isn't the age for the reveal of the Avatar sixteen?" Shiro asked.

Allura nodded, "Yes, but with the war brewing, they did not think it safe to make any public searches for the Avatar. The next reincarnation was Air, so the monks believed it would be an Air Nomad who would be Avatar. There were whispers of a boy, but they could not prove it was him. It was years before they thought to check Altea, and by then my father was already training me to become the leader of Altea after him. Even when it was revealed that I was the Avatar, he decided that I needed to put my responsibility of Altea first."

"So...." Pidge prompted, "Can you help these people?"

"I have to try, don't I?" Allura said with a sheepish smile. Suddenly, Momo jumped from Coran's shoulder to Allura's, who giggled and pet the animal, "And perhaps whatever I have to do will just....come to me?"

"I know you can do it, Princess," Lance assured with a wink.

"Yeah," Keith sighed, "We're all gonna get eaten by a spirit monster."


It was almost sunset.

Allura stood outside the hall in front of the door, staff in her hands. She stared at the entrance to the village, leading into the forest which was quickly growing dark as the sun was getting lower. As the doors shut with finality behind her, she looked back. She took a breath and tried to calm herself down. She could do this. She was the Avatar. With some confidence she walked down the steps and began calling out nervously to the spirit.

"Hello? Spirit?" Her voice seemed too loud in the silence, "Can you hear me? This is the Avatar speaking. I'm here to try to help....stuff?"

The rest of Voltron watched from inside the hall, peering out of windows nervously.

"This isn't right," Lance protested, "We can't just sit in here and cower while she waits for some spirit animal. Why don't we take the Eagle Lions and fight it off?"

"I think there's more than just fighting it off," Shiro replied, watching Allura move toward the entrance, "Besides, we don't know how Hei Bai will react if he sees the Eagle Lions."

"He's right," The old man added in, "And if there's anyone who can save us, she can."

"She still shouldn't have to face this alone," Lance huffed.

"She's not alone," Hunk comforted him, "If things go wrong we'll be here as back up."

Lance hummed in disagreement.

Meanwhile, Allura had made her way to the gate. The sun finally disappeared behind the trees the sky began to darken more.

"The sun is set!" Allura called into the forest, "Where are you Hei Bai? Spirit? Um...." Allura then had an idea. She spun her staff above her head and planted it in the ground with a flourish, holding one hand out in a stopping motion as she raised her voice and tried her best to sound like a queen, "I hereby ask you to please leave this village in peace, in the name of the Avatar and Altea!"

There was a moment of stillness, where nothing seemed to move. Allura waited, but there was no reaction.

"I guess that's settled then..." She said to herself. She shrugged and started walking back to the main building.

Unbeknownst to her, a large being started to come into form. It was at first just a mere shadow, but quickly became solid.

It was taller than the houses and lumbered on four massive legs, while two smaller ones dangled at the front, just behind the forelegs. His shoulders as well as his back were black, including his hind legs and the small arms that dangled. There was a large white circle on each of his shoulders and a round white spot that covered almost his entire back. His face was white with two small triangular spots almost like eyebrows. Two long black striped covered his face where his eyes would be, and there were small triangles, white this time, but bigger as well. Hei Bai's front legs and underbelly were white, and he growled, showing off large, razor-sharp teeth.

At the noise, Allura slowly turned around, her heart plummeting into her feet when she saw the monster.

"You must be the Hei Bai spirit!" Allura tried to sound friendly, and even offered a smile, "I'm the Avatar aneed I would like to help!"

The spirit seemed completely uninterested, as it zipped by Allura in a silvery light and a blur.

"Hey!" She protested, running after the beast as it tore down the damaged house, smashing it to bits. He then turned and swiped at another, tearing down one wall in one go. Allura landed on the roof and opened her mouth but Hei Bai zipped by again. He landed at the still standing watchtower and screeched. It was a terrible noise that grated on the ears, and a bright white light was produced form his mouth that blew down the watchtower easily. She continued to run after him and shout, but it was obvious that she was being ignored.

Meanwhile, the people in the town hall watched in fear and anxiety.

"The Avatar's methods are...unusual..." The leader commented. He stood bedside the humans of Voltron. The animals were inside, except for Mouse who was in the back.

"It doesn't seem too interested in what she's saying..." Lance observed, "Maybe we should help her?"

"No!" The old man protested, who hobbled up beside them, "Only the Avatar stands a chance against the Hei Bai."

"But we're Paladins," Pidge argued, "Can't we help?"

"Yeah!" Keith agreed, "Get our Eagle Lions, drive it out!"

"I am afraid that this problem is not solved so easily," Coran spoke up, twirling his moustache in a knowing way, "Even from my limited knowledge of spirits I can tell you that spirit problems aren't solved with violence. If a spirit is angry, especially one related to nature, it's for a reason."

"The Princess will figure out what to do," Shiro affirmed, hoping he was right.

"Please!" Allura called out to Hei Bai as he continued destruction, obviously searching for another person to take, "Would you stop destroying things and listening to me?"

Hei Bai was still not listening and she groaned. Why did it have to be so hard?

She hopped on some barrels and scrambled onto the roof of an undamaged house, hoping to be even with Hei Bai. His back was turned to her, obviously not interested in the least.

"I'm just trying to do my job as the spirit bridge!" Allura complained, getting more and more frustrated, "Excuse me! Would you please turn around?"

Angry now, Allura took a deep breath and yelled loudly, "I COMMAND YOU TO TURN AROUND NOW!"

Hei Bai paused for a moment and Allura felt hope. Then he whipped around faster than should have been possible and smacked her off the roof, sending her flying through the air. She landed on another roof on her back and she slid down onto the ground, her back aching like mad.

"That's it!" Lance announced angrily, pushing through to the doors, "She needs help!"

Before the others could do anything, Lance rushed out into the street, stringing his bow as he ran.

Hunk moved to follow Lance but something cold grabbed his arm. He looked and saw a metal hand grasped around his bicep, and Shiro frowning down at him.

"It's too dangerous."

"But Lance!" Hunk argued, "He-"

"Ran off and I'm going to get him," Shiro said, letting go of Hunk's arm and moving towards the doors.

"Stop!" The old man cried, stepping in front of Shiro, "You cannot go out there!"

When Lance had his bow strung he nocked a blunt arrow and aimed for the hindquarters of the monster. He shot, but the arrow bounced right off, not even catching the attention of Hei Bai as he looked over Allura.

Lance cursed and ran over to Allura, bending water out of his pouch.

"Are you okay?"

"Lance?" Allura cried as she stood up, "Go back! What are you doing?"

"I'm here to fight for you, Princess," Lance said with a smirk and a wink.

"But I don't want to fight unle- LANCE!"

As she was speaking, Hei Bai zipped over and grabbed Lance in one of his small arms and then disappeared into the forest. Allura threw her staff in the air in front of her and it expanded to her glider. She leapt up and caught it, flying into the forest after them.

The rest of Voltron ran to the gates, but didn't go any further. All of their Eagle Lions were saying the same thing; We cannot intervene.

"Why not?" Keith snapped at Zuko, "He's our teammate!"

"We need him," Hunk agreed.

"The Eagle Lions are right," Shiro spoke up, trying to calm everyone down, "We don't know what'll happen if we step in, it could make things a lot worse. This can't result to violence."

Unreluctancly, the Paladins agreed on inaction, but watched the dark forest with a close eye.


"Allura!" Lance called as he saw the princess zooming between the trees. She kept trying to get close, but it was too tight. She cours 'the grab Lance, she had no room for her glider.

"I know!" Allura called back, "I'll go up ahead and look for a spot to try and reach you!"

Without waiting for his response, Allura soared up above the trees and watched Hei Bai race through the forest headed towards the scar. She followed closely and when the two burst from the trees she flew down close to Lance, reaching for his hand.

"Hang on, Lance," Allura assured. They both had their hands stretched out, reaching for the other. Allura finally moved down close enough to grasp his hand and Lance grinned at her before fading and disappearing altogether.

Startled, Allura stumbled in the air and soon went tumbling in the ash, losing control of her glider. She hit the ground hard and blacked out.


Suddenly, Allura sat upright and cried out, "Lance!"

She looked around at her surroundings. It was deep night, which meant that it was hours after sunset. She startled when she saw several round things encircling her, but her eyes quickly adjusted and she soon saw they were round statues of some kind of bear. She stepped forward and turned around, looking at the statue whose base she had landed at.

It also appeared to be a bear with markings similar to Hei Bai's. The creature was standing on its hind legs and looked out, front legs hanging in front. Something was sitting on top, something with a large white tuft, but Allura couldn't tell what it was because of the dark. Allura looked at it for a moment, feeling like it had importance....

Then she remembered Lance, and felt immensely guilty.

"I failed...."

Dejected, Allura grabbed her staff and started the walk back to the village. She didn't quite feel like flying at the moment, and dreaded returning with every step.

Shiro watched as dawn broke over the forest as he leaned against the front gate of the village.

"I'm sure they'll be back soon."

Shiro turned at the sight of Coran, who held a warm bun in his hand. He offered it to Shiro who took it, but didn't eat it.

"I know..."

"You should get some rest," Coran suggested.

Shiro shook his head and held the warm bun in his hand. It had raisins in it.

"I'll wait here for them. I can't sleep anyways, don't worry, I'll be fine."

"Lance is in good hands," Coran assured, his smile wavering slightly, "I would be shocked if Allura returned without him."

Allura had just emerged from the forest and heard the two speaking. At Coran's words she sighed heavily and shuffled forward. Her feet seemed too heavy to lift, as well as her heart.

"Shiro?" Allura started, unable to look him in the eye and instead looking at his feet, "Coran.... I lost him."

"The sun is rising," Coran offered hopefully, "Perhaps they'll return soon."

Allura's head snapped up and she looked at Coran in confusion and anger, "What do you mean?" She demanded, "I'm right here!"

She waved her hand in front of Coran's face in anger, but froze when she saw that her hand was slightly clear, as well as having a blue colour. Curious, she went to touch Coran's face, but her hand went straight through. She gasped and yanked her hand back, looking at it in awe.

"I'm in the spirit world...."


Some time later, Allura plopped down with a heavy sigh beside Shiro, holding her staff upright as she stared into the forest. Shiro had hardly moved a muscle, still leaning against the gates, stanching for any development. Allura wondered how he could be so still.

"So it's official," She said to him, even though previous attempts had told her he would not hear, "I'm in the spirit world. I can't touch anything, and I'm not sure how to get back to my body. My, I don't even know how I got here. But I promise Shiro, I'll fix this. Like they said, I'm the bridge between the worlds, yes? All I have to do now is...well, figure out what I have to do. But once I do that it will be no problem!"

Shiro smiled as Iroh and Mouse made their way over to him, closely followed by Coran with Momo on his shoulder.

"Hey guys, what's up?" Shiro asked.

"Mouse has been following Iroh around all day," Coran said with a laugh, "I think she's a little lonely."

"Oh, don't be lonely!" Allura cried, jumping up and making her way over to her bison when she suddenly remembered her predicament, "But... You probably can't see or hear me either."

Then Allura's eyes slid over to Iroh where she stood by Shiro's side. Her two coloured eyes bored into her.

Curious, Allura moved to her left and watched as Iroh's eyes followed. She moved again and Iroh still followed her.

"Can you...see me?" Allura asked, to which Iroh nodded.

"Of course!" Allura said happily, "You're a guardian spirit! Oh, this is wonderful! Can you please tell the others that I'm in the spirit world, and I think that Lance and the others were taken here too. I'll find them and come back, somehow."

Iroh nodded and looked at Shiro for a moment before his face broke into an expression of surprise, "Really? Where is she? Is she here?"

Iroh nodded her head in Allura's direction and Shiro turned. He couldn't see her, but his eyes were looking in her direction and that was enough.

"I know you can do it, Princess."

"Sure you can!" Coran jumped in, looking absently. She giggled at their enthusiasm, "And hopefully soon, Blue has been feeling rather, well, blue since Lance was taken."

"I'll do my best, but I don't know how long I'll be. It'll be okay, so get some rest!"

Iroh relayed her message to the others and Coran led them away. Shiro turned back and smiled in Allura's direction before following Coran into the village. She smiled as she watched them go but soon that smile faded.

"What am I supposed to do?" She asked to no one in particular. Then she turned to the sky and put her hands on her hips, "Avatar Roku, how can I talk to you?"

Naturally, there was no answer. Allura had expected this but sighed in defeat. She was about to turn away when she noticed something coming from the forest. It was a blue object of some source, floating above the ground and approaching her.

"Lance?" Allura asked hopefully, squinting at the thing. When she looked closer, she realized that it was a great blue dragon, flying right at her, "That's not Lance!" She cried.

She grabbed her glider and leapt off the ground, hoping to outfly a dragon. However, she wasn't in the air for even a second when the air failed and she landed on her face. Confused and frustrated, she stood up and sliced her hand forward, a simple airbending move. But no bending occured. She tried another time before she hit a rather dire realization.

"I can't bend in the spirit world...." Allura turned and watched helplessly as the dragon loomed ever closer. She considered running, but she knew she wasn't very fast without her bending, no way could she escape a dragon.

Before a decision could be reached, the dragon had approached and landed with a flourish in front of her.

It was a massive beast, its great square head as big as Iroh's, with powerful jaws. It had a large wide nose, large eyes with horizontal rectangular pupils, soft feathers around its face and on its jaw, almost like a beard. It had full lips, two curved horns on top of the head, and two long tendrils like whiskers hung from its face. Its body was long and twisted with giant leathery wings in the middle and ending in a whip-thin tail with a little tuft of fur. It had four short legs with talons that dug into the earth as well, truly a fearsome beast. Its head was held high as well, marking it as proud.

"You wouldn't happen to know where Lance, the Blue Paladin, would be? Would you?" Allura weakly tried.

The dragon reached forward and pressed a tendril to Allura's forehead, who was rather nervous. It touched the very top of her arrow tattoo and a vision appeared in her mind.

In it was the dragon, but instead of the spirit blue he appeared in, he was a deep red, as red as the robes which the man on his back wore. The man who rode him... Was Avatar Roku! It was unmistakable with the long grey hair and the chiseled, wrinkled face.

The tendril pulled away and Allura beamed.

"You're Roku's spirit guide!" She said happily, "Just like Mouse is to me! I need to save my friend, but I don't know how. Is there any way I could talk to Roku?"

The dragon lowered his head beside Allura, an obvious invitation for her to mount. She agreed and climbed on, seating herself behind the head of the dragon. She grabbed on his horns and held tight as he took off gracefully. She started flying away and looked back at the village, where she could just make out the colours of Mouse and the Eagle Lions.

"I'll be back, I promise," She turned back to the dragon, "now, take me to Roku, please."

The dragon agreed and zipped across the sea, faster than should have been possible. Soon, a dark crescent-shaped island appeared, with an oozing volcano at the peak. At one end of the island, untouched by the lava, was a large pagoda at least a dozen stories high. It was red and gold, the bright colours of the Fire Nation before the Galra Dynasty. The dragon flew through the main opening and twirled, heading straight for the cieling.

"Wait!" Allura protested as they were about to collide with the solid material.

But they didn't. They passed right through, completely unharmed. They appeared in an elaborately built room that was empty save for a beautiful golden statue of Roku in front of dainty flames. Allura dismounted and moved to inspect it.

She expected to feel power, some sort of connection, yet she felt nothing. She turned back to the dragon.

"I don't understand... It's just a statue of him, how is that supposed to help?"

The dragon outstretched its tendril again and while Allura prepared for it, it still shocked her.

It was a quick image of a great comet blazing through red skies.

The tendril pulled away and Allura opened her eyes.

"A comet? Could it be Sozin's comet? Is that what he wants to talk about? When can I talk to him?"

The dragon lowered his head, revealing a beam of light through a single window. The light was right next to Roku's head. The tendril reached forward once more, but Allura was prepared for it.

This time, it was a longer vision. She saw the temple they were at, shifting between night and day. The vision moved to the room they were in. With the passing of days, the light moved around the room, making its way toward points marked on the floor. Finally, the light hit Roku, where the kanji for "solstice" was marked on the floor.

"Of course!" Allura said happily as the dragon pulled his tendril away, "It's a calendar! And the light will reach Roku's statue on the solstice, which is when I'll be able to talk to him. Oh that's wonderful! But.... What about Lance? I need to do something about him now, I just can't wait that long."

The dragon nodded and lowered his head again, so Allura climbed on. They flew away, passing through walls. As they did, Allura looked back at the island that was very quickly disappearing from her vision. No one in Voltron would like where they would have to go.

Soon they were flying over the forest once again. They arrived over the scar and Allura saw the statues, which they flew straight towards. There was something bright on top of the statue, and as they got closer, Allura realized it was her body. Her eyes were closed and she sat in a meditative position with her staff in her lap, but her arrows were glowing. She flushed, realizing that's what she looked like in real life....

Suddenly, she realized what was about to happen and screamed as her anew the dragon spirit collided with her body. There was a quick, odd sensation of settling in, like diving into warm water. She opened her eyes and saw that she was solid again.

She hopped off of the statue and turned to really look at it. Closer and in broad daylight, she realized that the statue did have a remarkable resemblance to Hei Bai in markings and build. Deciding on something, Allura started digging around in the ashes. After some time, she deemed herself satisfied and opened her glider with a flourish, flying back towards the village.

The rest of Voltron was standing by the main hall as people began to herd in, as it was reaching dusk.

"It's been a whole day," Hunk worried aloud as he paced back and forth, fiddling with his hands, "Lance has been in the spirit world a whole day and so has Allura! What if they're stuck? What if they never come back? What if they're lost? What if-"

"Hunk, buddy," Keith interrupted, "Calm. Down. It's going to be fine."

"I'm sure Lance and Allura will be back soon," Pidge agreed, "But.... The spirit..."

"If Allura doesn't show up," Shiro interjected, "Then we do our best to fend it off. We didn't want to resort to fighting, but that may be just what we have to do."

"Shiro is right," Coran agreed, "The spirits need diplomacy, but, well, our diplomat isn't here. And none of you would work, of course."

"But we're guardian spirits or whatever," Keith protested, "Right?"

"Ah!" Coran said as he twirled his moustache, "The Eagle Lions are guardian spirits, you are merely Paladins! You don't hold much spiritual significance aside from your ties to them. Even the Eagle Lions aren't technically spirits, since they gave up immortality to live in our world. Spirits like that tend to become less popular with others...."

The others were contemplating what to do when Pidge spotted something in the sky.

"Look!" She cried out, "Allura's back!"

She soon landed and Coran ran to hug her as Momo climbed on her shoulder. The animals, who had been wandering around, saw and soon came over. Mouse started snuggling up to her, promoting laughter from Allura.

"Yes," She giggled, "It's nice to see you too."

"I'm so glad you're back Princess," Shiro said with a bright smile.

"Where's Lance?" Hunk asked.

Allura's smile quickly faded and she felt an iron hand around her heart, "I'm afraid I don't know.... But I think I know how to do this. I just need to help Hei Bai an-"

"Avatar!" The old man saw her and grabbed her hand, "I knew you would come back. Will you save us?"

Allura nodded as the sun started to get ever lower in the sky.

"Alright," Shiro spoke up in his commanding voice, "It's getting late, everyone inside. The Avatar knows what she's doing." As people turned and went inside, he spoke quietly to her, "You can do this Princess."

Then he turned and followed the rest into the main hall, leaving Allura a little more confident than before. She marched to the gates and awaited Hei Bai again. Once more, the sun set, and once more, Hei Bai did not appear.

Remembering the last night, Allura turned and started to walk away. Sure enough, Hei Bai appeared behind her. She turned around to speak but he was already gone, destroying another house. Then he ran towards the hall, figuring out where the people were. Allura saw her chance and used her bending to pick up her speed. She vaulted onto Hei Bai's back, used it as a spring board, and pushed herself to fall gracefully in front of his face.

As she did, she laid a gentle hand on his forehead, where his spiritual energy was greatest. She felt a glow and saw Hei Bai fade, revealing the shape of a giant black and white bear. Hei Bai froze and Allura floated down in front of him, landing on the steps to the hall.

"You're the spirit of this forest," She announced, realizing it in the capacity, "I understand now. You're upset and angry because your home was burned down. I know exactly how that feels, and when I saw the ashes and what they had done, I was upset and angry as well. But my friends gave me hope that the forest would grow back."

Allura took an acorn out of her pocket and showed it to Hei Bai, "This is an acorn. My friend told me it would grow into a great tree, and there are tons of acorns where they burned. It will be a forest once more."

Allura placed the acorn on the ground below her and took a step back.

Gingerly, Hei Bai picked it up and looked at it, before tuning around and walking away. As he did, his form melted into that of the panda, a far more benign appearance.

At the gates of the village, bamboo sprung up behind Hei Bai and he disappeared. When the bamboo reached its full height in a matter of seconds, those who had been taken emerged from the bamboo, dazed and confused.

The villagers rushed to embrace their loved ones. Lance stumbled out last and Voltron ran towards him. They were beaten, however, when Blue pounced on Lance, pinning him down and licking his face.

"Hey!" He laughed, shoving her face away playfully, "Easy there, Blue!"

No sooner had Blue gotten up and allowed Lance to stand, when he was tackled by a crying Hunk.

"Hey buddy," Lance wheezed, being lifted off the ground by the force of the hug, "Glad to see you, but can you put me down? They don't have bathrooms in the spirit world!"


The next morning, the humans of Voltron as well as Coran stood in front of the main hall. The town was behind them, saying goodbye to the animals, while the leader and the old man stood on the steps of the main hall.

"Thank you, Avatar," The old man said with a wide smile, "I wish there was some way we could repay you for what you have to done to help our people."

"You could give us some supplies," Keith suggested brashly. Shiro shot a pointed look at him, to which Keith stuck out his tongue.

"We do need stuff," Pidge quietly agreed.

"It would be an honour to help you prepare for your journey." The leader bowed and the old man nodded his head as Voltron returned the favour. The two went off to gather supplies as Voltron turned to each other.

"I'm proud of you, Princess," Shiro said with a smile, "You figured this out all on your own."

"Actually," Allura admitted, "I did have a little help. When I was in the spirit world, Roku's spirit guide came to my aid."

"Is he a dragon?" Lance asked excitedly, "I'd heard he rode a dragon."

"Yes," Allura said with a laugh, "A very fearsome but kind dragon. And there's something else... I found a way to get in contact with Roku, or at least his spirit."

"That's great!" Coran cried, "Now your questions can be answered!"

"A little creepy," Hunk admitted, "But good, I guess."

"There's a temple on this crescent shaped island," Allura explained, "I think it's dedicated to Roku, or at least Fire Nation-born Avatars. The top room acts as a calendar and on the solstice, the light hits Roku and I can talk to him then."

"But," Shiro spoke up, "The solstice, it's tomorrow. We have to leave immediately, where is this island?"

"That's the thing," Allura said nervously and with a timid smile, "It's actually in the Fire Nation."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Winter Solstice Part II- Avatar Roku

 

“C’mon Mouse!” Allura huffed as she tugged on her sky bison’s reins, trying to get Mouse to obey.

 

It was the middle of the night and Allura was doing her best to be quiet. Voltron was still in the village it had saved form Hei Bai, and most of its members were celebrating Lance’s return. Allura had snuck away, knowing what she had to do.

 

“I’m sorry Mouse,” Allura said sadly, “But the others can't come to the Fire Nation, it’s just too dangerous. And if something happened to them…”

 

Mouse growled and Allura plopped down in defeat, her back to Mouse.

 

“You can’t go to the Fire Nation, Princess.”

 

Allura looked up and saw Coran as well as Voltron, the old man, and the village leader.

 

“The world can’t afford to lose you.” Coran bent down and put a hand on her shoulder, “I can’t afford to lose you.”

 

Allura sighed, thinking maybe she should just leave it….

 

….but then she remembered the comet.

 

“I have to talk to Roku about my vision of the comet, and this may be my only chance! I have to!”

 

Allura stood up and jumped on Mouse, sat in her usual spot on her huge neck.

 

Hunk, Lance, Pidge, and Keith ran in front.

 

“Allura, there’s no point!” Pidge cried up to her.

 

“She’s right,” Keith agreed, “We already know about the comet, that it’ll come by the end of the summer.”

 

“Yeah, so what else is there to know?” Hunk said with a shrug.

 

“...A lot..” Shiro spoke up. The others turned to him in surprise. He sighed, “Look, I’ve tried to do research on Sozin’s Comet but, well, the accounts are skewed. Some say it gives Firebenders the ability to fly, others that they turn into dragons. The only thing we know for sure is that Sozin used it, and Zarkon plans on using it too, but that’s about it. If Roku has more info…”

 

“Shiro,” Lance cired dismally, “You can’t be serious! This is the Fire Nation we’re talking about.”

 

“I know,” Shiro said, “My homeland. I know it better than you do, for sure. And I know the island you speak of.”

 

“Shiro,” Allura called down to him. He looked up and saw the desperation in her eyes, “Whether Roku has information for me or not, I need to go. This may be my only chance to speak with him. I need this. And I’m going whether you say so or not.”

 

Everyone, even some villagers who had shown up, looked at Shiro with a politely interested expression. Who would back down first? Avatar or Paladin?

 

Finally Shiro shrugged, “Well, it seems important, so let’s go and stop wasting time.”

 

After a pause, everyone scrambled to get ready. Soon, everyone was mounted and the village gathered outside to see them off.

 

“Here,” The leader said, handing Allura a package, “This will sustain you on your journey. Now go, you don’t have much time.”

 

Allura smiled, “Why thank you, I-”

 

“GO!” The leader barked and Allura nodded sheepishly.

 

“Mouse, yip yip!” She cracked her reins and soon Voltron was off once more.

 

The village stayed out to watch before heading back into what was left of their homes. Their leader did too, but found he could not sleep. After some time, he decided to go for a walk, wondering how they would pay for the damages.

 

He had barely stepped outside before he was met with a wall of metal surrounded by a faint purple glow. He gasped and stepped back, taking n the soldier with the massive arm.

 

“Couldn’t sleep?” The man asked with a sneer, “Tell me, have you seen the Avatar lately?”


Voltron flew through the skies as it started to go from blue to pink.

 

“Can’t we go any faster?” Keith complained loudly as Zuko flew well before everyone else.

 

They had been flying for almost a day straight, and they had had little rest at the village.

 

“Well,” Keith argued, “You’re doing fine.”

 

That was because Zuko was the fastest and the most agile of the Eagle Lions.

 

“Course,” Keith complained. He sighed and directed Zuko back to the rest of the group.

 

Far below them, Admiral Sendak was well on his way after them. He stood at the bow of his ship, searching for his prey through his telescope.

 

“Shiro,” Keith spoke quietly as he flew closer to his half-brother, “I’ve been thinking…..”

 

“Yeah,” Shiro agreed, already sure of what Keith was thinking, “Fire Nation. Home.

 

“We haven’t been back in three years.” Keith’s tone was wistful.

 

“Keith,” Shiro warned, “I know, but it's dangerous. You’re a traitor to the throne, to the country. If you’re captured, there’s nothing I can do.”

 

“I guess I better not get captured then,” Keith replied with a smirk.

 

“Hey, Princess Allura?” Lance called, looking below them, “We’ve got trouble!”

 

“Yeah!” Hunk agreed upon seeing the massive ship, “And it’s gaining fast!”

 

Suddenly, a fireball was launched from down below, flying towards them. It stank as it flew by them, making their eyes water with the stench of burning fat.

 

“We need to fly faster,” Keith yelled, “Get out of their range!”

 

“We would, if not for one problem!” Allura yelled back, wiping her eyes, “Look!”

 

Sure enough, below them was a two-layered blockade of ships. There were dozens of massive Galra battle cruisers in each line. The first layer went north while the second went south, very, very slowly.

“If we fly north we can go around it,” Hunk suggested nervously.

 

“We don’t have time!” Allura yelled back.

 

“So what do we do?” Lance cried.

 

“We run the blockade.”

 

“Princess are you crazy?” Pidge yelled. She saw the determined look on Allura’s face and knew she was not to be stopped.

 

“Paladins,” Shiro yelled, “Form around Allura. Lance, Keith, you’re on the right. Pidge, Hunk, left. I’ll fly in the front. Do whatever to you can to protect Mouse.”

 

They sound off their agreement as they flew into formation. They were getting closer and closer to the barricade, the one Galra ship hot on their tails.

 

Far below, Sendak took his face away from the eyeglass and smirked.

 

“Right into my trap..”

 

“Commander Sendak!” One of his men stood to attention, “What will you have us do now?”

 

Sendak watched with glee as a wave of fireballs exploded from the ships and into the sky, all aimed at Voltron.

 

“Fall back,” He commanded casually, “Stay out of range of the fireballs.”

 

“Look out, here comes the first wave!” Shiro warned to his team.

 

Fireballs were launched through the clouds and they did their best to avoid them. The Eagle Lions were the defense of Mouse and her passengers, doing what they could to keep them safe. Iroh roared, creating a whirlwind strong enough to propel fireballs coming from the front. Rocky slammed into them, fast enough to keep the flames off of her and sending the danger away. Blue iced them while Rover roared, covering them with plants and making them too heavy to continue to fly. Zuko meanwhile roared fire, reducing them to ashes. The Paladins did all they could to lend their strength to their steeds and hold on for dear life.

 

Soon, the first wave was over and they were that much closer to crossing over into Fire Nation territory. They flew higher into the clouds, hoping to lower visibility. Suddenly, a sound like a thousand elastics snapping at once pierced their ears.

“Brace yourselves!” Shiro warned as the second wave bombarded them.

 

They were impossible to see and they did their best to dodge. One fireball came out of nowhere and hit Blue straight in the chest, knocking her unconscious. She began to fall, Lance still on her back, screaming.

“Lance!” Allura yelled. She dove after him, alongside Keith and Zuko. The rest of the team wasn’t far behind.

 

“Blue!” Lance cried as the ocean approached him fast, “Blue please wake up, Blue! Please Blue, not like this, please!”

 

“Lance!”

 

Lance turned his head at the sound of his name being called. Beside him, Keith was diving on Zuko.

 

“Let go!” He cried, outstretching his hand.

 

Lance took a breath and launched himself off of Blue, letting himself be caught by Keith. He was pulled up onto Zuko and watched as Mouse dove and caught Blue with her tail.

 

“Thanks buddy,” Lance sighed as he clung to Keith.

 

“Don’t thank me yet,” Keith replied, trying to ignore Lance’s hands on his waist, “we’ve still gotta get through this.”

 

Voltron was now low to the water, flying straight at the blockade. The ships saw their path and they were closing in to make a wall

 

“Pidge!” Lance yelled, “Help me bend a wave! We need to separate those ships!”

 

“She can’t hear you,” Keith said, “I’ll get Zuko to tell her.”

 

“Okay. What did she say?”

 

“Hold on I’m listening now! She says, uh, what kind of wave?”

 

“Kinda like a v shape?” Lance responded, “We need to split those ships!”

 

“Okay, okay,” Keith complained as he relayed the message, then listened to the response, “She says okay.”

 

Lance nodded and steadied himself with his legs before letting go of Keith. He started moving his arms in smooth motions, creating a wave that followed, and then went ahead of them. Pidge was doing the same thing, and soon the crests of the two waves met, creating a wedge. It grew as it gained momentum, enough to stall the ships and push them apart.

 

Sensing their opening, they flew for it. Suddenly, one last fireball was launched, straight at Allura.

 

“Princess!” Shiro yelled. He had flown off to the side to flank Hunk, leaving her front open.

 

Allura launched herself off of Mouse, extending her leg, creating a large amount of air pressure. The fireball was about to hit her and she kicked, releasing the pressure and causing the rock to explode. The force of it sent her flying back, crashing into Mouse, but landing safely.

And just like that, they were through.

 

After they passed the ships they soared high above the clouds, finally able to catch out breath.

 

“We made it!” Lance whooped.

 

“Yeah, into the Fire Nation,” Hunk complained, still clinging to Rocky.

 

The sky was beginning to fade into light shades of orange and pink by the time the crescent island was within their sights. They landed on a small beach that was out of sight.

 

“It’s all obsidian,” Hunk commented when they dismounted, “There must have been a huge eruption to cover everything like this. Oh hey Lance, how’s Blue?”

 

Blue had been let off of Mouse’s tail and was lying down in the sand, with Lance kneeling beside her and petting her. He stood up at Hunk’s question.

 

“She’ll be fine,” He said with a smile, “she says that she wasn’t hurt badly, just knocked the wind out of her. A little rest and she should be good.”

 

“That’s good,” Shiro said, “But we should keep moving, it’s almost sunset.”

 

The others agreed and started making their way to the pagoda, following the oath carved into the volcanic rock.

 

They had reached the base of the pagoda and his behind a large rock. The animals had stayed on the beach, but ready for danger.

 

The pagoda was huge, all gold and fiery red, gleaming in the light of the fading sun. It was beautifully detailed with patterns of flames and dragons, but…

 

“No guards…” Keith said, “This is a temple sacred to the Avatar and the Fire Nation, why no guards?”

 

“I don’t like this….” Shiro said, “Something is wrong here, but I don’t know what.”

 

“Well, cover your faces and let’s go,” Allura said, standing up, “We’re running out of time.”

 

They all stood up and followed Allura, Shiro in the back. He was wearing his travelling robes, as well as a dark and ratted cloak he had found at a market. He also pulled a tight dark cloth up to cover his face up to his scar. He had also covered his metal hand in wrappings.

 

They entered the pagoda, surprised to find it empty inside as well.’

“There’s no one here…” Pidge wondered aloud.

 

Hunk knelt down and pressed his palm to the floor, trying to feel for vibrations. If there was anyone in the pagoda, he would know.

 

“Guys,” He warned, “There are a bunch of people coming, but there’s no one else. But…there’s something else...the mountain, it’s hollow.”

“Hollow?” Keith asked.

 

Suddenly, a group appeared behind them. There were about a half dozen men, no younger than forty and no older than sixty, all wearing fancy red robes. The sleeves ended at their shoulders and then halfway up their calves, obviously designed to combat the heat of the volcanic island. They also all wore tall red headpieces that ended in spikes, sort of resembling those of a dragon.

 

“We are the Fire Sages,” The oldest man said, stepping forward and establishing himself as their leader, “guardians to the temple of the Avatar.”

 

“That’s great!” Allura said with a smile, “I am the Avatar!”

 

“We know.” The old man spoke and suddenly all of them moved in sync, punching the air and sending blasts of fire at them.

Allura swept her staff in front of them, bending air and dissipating the fire. Another sweep and the Sages were down.

 

“Go, go, go!” Shiro yelled, urging them down twisting hallways.

 

Allura waited a moment, knocking them down once more before following her team.

 

“Once she’s contacted Roku, there’s no telling how powerful she will become!” The leader shouted angrily, “Split up and find them! Find them!”

 

Allura came face to face with her team when they met in a side tunnel.

 

“Follow me!” She cried as she barrelled past.

 

“Do you know where you’re going?” Keith asked.

 

“Not at all!” Allura zipped down a side tunnel and yelped before appearing and running past them, “Wrong way!”

From where she had come, a younger Fire Sage appeared, about the same age as Shiro.

 

“Wait!” He called out, but they did not listen.

 

Voltron turned and bolted in the opposite direction, trying to find a way to Roku. It was especially hard to navigate the small and twisting tunnels with such a small group, and they were thankful the Eagle Lions were not with them.

Suddenly they reached a dead end with no escape. They turned and got ready for a fight.

 

“Please!” The young Sage panted, “I don’t want to fight you! I’m a friend, and I know why you are here.”

 

“You...do?” Allura prompted.

 

“He’s lying,” Keith growled.

 

“He’s not…” Hunk whispered.

 

“You wish to speak to Avatar Roku. I can take you to him.”

 

“How?” Lance asked, suspicious.

The Fire Sage smiled in a friendly sort of way and turned one of the rectangular red wall sconces to reveal a button the size of a palm hidden before. He pushed on it and bent fire into it, shooting a trail of smoke through the button and around the outline of a hidden door. A slice of the wall lifted up, revealing a staircase carved into the rocks, descending into red. It didn’t exactly look welcoming.

 

“Time is running out!” He urged, “Quickly now!”

 

Allura took the chance and went first, followed by Shiro, Coran, and the rest of the team. The Sage came in last and once he passed, the door slammed shut.

 

They had thought it would be dark, but everything was cast into a soft red glow, lit well enough to see. Momo squeaked anxiously on Coran’s shoulder.

 

“Please,” The Sage said, leading them down the stairs with a fire in his palm to make it easier to see, “follow me.”

 

Having no other choice, Voltron listened.

 

“My name is Shiyu,” The Sage said, hoping to break the silence.

 

“My name is Allura,” She responded with a smile, “and this is Hunk, Lance, Pidge, Keith, Shiro, and Coran.”

 

“Shiro?” Shiyu asked, “That name almost sounds familiar.”

 

“It’s a common name in the capital,” Keith said quickly.

 

“I see. I have heard rumours that you kidnapped your own brother?”

 

Keith opened his mouth but Shiro grabbed his arm, pulling down his covering.

 

Shiyu smiled and turned back to the front, “Clever, General Shirogane. I truly did not recognize you.”

 

“That’s good,” Shiro says, “We want to have ties with the Fire Nation and especially our father, just in case.”

 

“You will have to confront him someday,” Shiyu said with a sigh.

 

“This place is weird…” Hunk mumbled as they entered a massive cavern deep below. They were next to a lava field, deep into the volcano, “These caverns weren’t made naturally.”

 

“They were not,” Shiyu confirmed proudly, “Avatar Roku created these caverns when he called this place his home.”

 

“Did you know him?” Allura asked eagerly.

Shiyu laughed, “No, no, that was a hundred years ago, I’m only thirty.”

 

“Ah, my apologies,” Allura blushed, hoping it was hidden by the red glow, “I’m not quite used to the whole 100 years in ice thing.”

 

“Understandable. However, my grandfather knew him. Many generations of Fire Sages  have guarded this temple long before me; we all have a strong spiritual connection to this place.”

 

“Is that how you knew we were coming?” Pidge asked.

 

It was starting to get quite hot as they walked uphill beside a flowing river of lava.

 

“Sometime ago,” Shiyu started, “something amazing occured. Avatar Roku’s statue- it began to glow.”

 

“That must have been when we were at the Air Temple,” Coran remembered, “When Allura entered the Avatar State, all of the statues there started to glow as well.”

 

“Yes. But at that moment, we knew you had returned to our world.”

 

“If this is a temple dedicated to the Avatar, then why did the Sages attack us?” Keith prodded, an edge to his tone.

 

Shiyu sighed sadly, “Things have changed… In the past, the Fire Sages were loyal only to the Avatar. When Roku died, the Sages eagerly awaited the next Avatar to return, but it was not in their lifetime,”

 

“They were waiting for me…” Allura looked into the lava sadly, wondering how many Sages had waited, arms open, only to die before she was awakened?

“Ah, don’t feel bad!” Lance said, grinning at her, “You’re only a hundred years late!”

Pidge elbowed Lance and Allura cracked a smile. He winked at her.

 

“The Sages lost hope you would ever return,” Shiyu continued slowly, “When Firelord Sozin begann this war, my grandfather and the other Sages were forced to follow him. I never wanted to serve the Firelord, only the Avatar. When I knew you were coming, I also knew I would have to betray the other Sages.”

 

“Thank you.” Allura said fondly, grabbing Shiyu’s free hand, “for helping us.”

 

Shiyu smiled at her, “It is my duty and my honour to serve the Avatar. Now please, this way.”

 

They followed him up more stairs (“More?!” “Hunk, chill”), spiralling up into the red mist.

 

“These stairs lead to the sanctuary,” Shiyu explained, “Once you’re inside, wait for the light to hit Avatar Roku’s statue. Only then will you be able to speak with him.”

 

Allura nodded, preparing herself for what might come next.

 

They finally reached the top, which abruptly ended in a hard flat surface. Shiyu pushd on it, shoving it out of the way and letting light stream in. Allura jumped up and ran towards the doors while everyone else filed out of the concealed exit, looking around the grand room. It was massive, what seemed to be a huge antechamber. It was decorated with elaborate red patterns on the wall, and the ceiling was held up by obsidian pillars, carved to make it seem as though great black dragons climbed them. And in front of them was a door.

 

It was golden and extravagant. In the centre was a three-pronged flame, and five dragon heads with ruby eyes and gaping mouths came off of the door, seeming about ready to breathe fire at any intruders. Allura stood in front of the door, confused and scared.

 

“Oh no, no no no,” Shiyu muttered, “The doors, they’re not supposed to be closed…. The elder Sages must have ordered them to be shut when they heard that you were coming.”

 

“Can’t you just open the door with firebending?” Pidge asked, “Like from before.”

 

“It’s not that simple,” Shiyu said, wringing his hands, “Only a fully realized Avatar is able to open this door alone. Otherwise, Sages together must open this door with five simultaneous fire blasts into the mouths of the dragon.”

 

“Maybe we can help,” Shiro offered, “I can do two blasts. I can also use my breath, but

I don’t know if that would work.”

 

“I can do two blasts as well,” Keith interjected, “But not at exactly the same time.”

“They have to be precise…” Shiyu shook his head sadly, “I have never been a very strong Bender, and I don’t think we can do this with just us three.”

“Hey, guys!” Lance called over from where he stood by the doors, “I think I might have an idea.”

 

“What is it?” Shiyu asked desperately.

 

Lance slung off his shoulder pack and started rifling through it. He pulled out a few strips of animal skin and grabbed a wall sconce.

 

“This is a trick my dad taught me,” He began to explain as he fashioned a pouch with the skin, pouring the oil from the lamp into it, “I seal the oil in an animal skin casing, you guys light oil-soaked twine, and BAM!” He held up the pouch, “Fake Firebending!”

 

“That...might actually work!” Shiyu said with a smile.

 

Lance and Pidge made the other four and then placed them in the mouths of the dragons.

 

“I’m sure that the Sages will hear the explosion, so as soon as the doors open, you rush in!” Shiyu told Allura. She nodded and followed as everyone his behind columns, hoping to be protected from the blast.

 

“It’s almost sunset!” Coran yelled, noticing the low light, “We need to do it now!”

Shiyu nodded and stood beside the door. He flicked his wrist carefully and sent a small blast from his finger, lighting all five twines in one go. He then ran behind a column and covered his ears.

 

After a tense moment of waiting, there was a loud BOOM! Smoke filled the area and Allura rushed in, running towards the door.

 

But when she put her hands out, she felt metal. She pushed it and when it didn’t move, she hit it. Nothing.

 

She yelled in anguish and whipped around, dissipating the smoke with her bending.

 

“It didn’t work!” She cried. She slashed at it with ehr bending again and again, but it made no difference,”Why! Won’t! It! Open!”

 

“Princess,” Shiro cried, grabbing her arm, “there’s nothing we can do.”

 

Allura glared at him then sighed, relaxing, “I’m so sorry I put you all through this. FOr nothing.”

 

“I just… don’t get it….” Lance said sadly as he inspected the mouths of the dragons, swiping a finger on the inside and seeing the soot on his finger, “That blast was just as good as any firebending I’ve seen.”

 

“Lance!” Hunk cried with a grin, “You’re a genius, buddy!”

 

“How is he a genius?” Pidge asked, crossing her arms, “His plan didn’t even work. Not in the slightest.”

 

“C’mon man,” Lance complained, “Hunk may be delusional but let me have this.”

 

“You’re right, his plan didn’t work, but it looks like it did!” Hunk seemed really excited.

 

“I am sorry, but did the definition of genius change during the last hundred years?” Allura asked grouchily.

 

Hunk noticed Momo playing in the mouth of one of the dragons.

 

“Guys, this is gonna work.”

 

“Quick!” Shiyu yelled as his fellow Sages ran up the stairs, “The Avatar has entered the sanctuary.”

 

“What?” The Elder asked, “But how is that possible?”

 

“I don’t know,” Shiyu admitted, “but look at those scorch marks! And down there, her shadow!”

 

The sages looked down and did indeed see a shadow move under to door, which was impossible, unless…

 

“She’s inside!” The Elder yelled, “We must open the doors, and quickly, before she can contact Avatar Roku!”

Allura watched from the top of one of the pillars, sliding down silently, ready to make a break for the sanctuary.

 

All five of the Sages got into a uniform stance and shot five balls of fire into the mouths of the dragons. They watched as the mouths closed and lifted upward and the three-pronged flame divided into six. The doors started to swing open, a red glow emitting from the room.

 

Momo sat in the entrance and sneezed. Aside from the statue, there was nothing else in the room.

 

“A lemur!” The Elder gasped, “He must have crawled through the pipes, we’ve been tricked!”

 

Everyone except for Shiro and Allura dropped down from their hiding spots while Momo flew at the Elder Sage and Shiyu took down the Sage closest to him.

 

“Now, Avatar!” He yelled. But there was nothing.

 

“Now’s your chance, Allura!” Keith shouted as he sparred with a Sage. Once again, no response from her.

 

Then, Allura emerged from behind the pillar, Sendak holding her arms behind her back as she struggled to get out of his grip. The rest of the team were engaged in their own fights except for Shiro, who remained unseen.

 

“Close the doors,” Sendak growled, “and quickly!”

 

Allura knew that this was now or never. She twisted, sending Sendak flying over her shoulders. She ran for the doors, but two Sages blocked her way. She growled and leapt, turning in the air. She used the Sages’ heads as springboards, her hands propelling her into the room just as the door shut.

 

“She made it!” Lance cheered happily. Then he was dragged and tied up with chains to one of the columns, along with the rest of Voltron.

 

Suddenly, there was a brilliant blue glow from inside the doors. It momentarily blinded everyone, then faded away. It had begun.


Allura stood inside the room, which was aglow in red. Allura noticed a carved flame above one of Roku’s hands that was bathed in a red light.

 

“The light hits the statue and I talk to Roku,” Allura said to herself, “so why isn’t anything happening?”

 

Outside, five Sages stood outside the door and sent wave after wave of five blasts, yet the door refused to budge.

 

“Why isn’t it opening?” Sendak yelled, “Why has it been sealed shut?”

 

“It must have been the light,” the Elder Sage panted as he wiped sweat from his brow, tired form the firebending, “Avatar Roku does not want us inside.”

 

Meanwhile, Allura was starting to panic inside the room. She knew it was getting closer to sunset and saw the beam of light moving upwards; she was almost out of time.

 

“Why isn’t anything happening?” She cried, “I don’t know what I’m doing! All I know is airbending and how to be a good queen… I don’t know anything about leading Voltron, or being the Avatar...Please, Avatar Roku...talk to me.”

 

Then, the beam of light hit a spot right above Roku’s nose, where a third eye would be, and his eyes started to glow red. Suddenly, a thick fog came from nowhere and encased Allura, making it impossible to see past her own hand. Yet oddly, she found herself unafraid.

 

The fog passed quickly, and ALlura found herself on top of a high mountain, in the range that looked like Altea. In front of her stood Avatar Roku.

He was old, with wrinkles and long silver hair to match his beard that went down to his chest. He was wearing royal robes, from the fashion before the war. On his head was a small bun, much like Shiro’s style,  pinned with an elaborate two-sided flame, with a golden pin in between. He smiled, wrinkles forming around warm brown eyes.

 

“It’s good to see you Allura, what took you so long?”

 

Allura found herself staring at her past life before she remembered herself. She bowed with utmost respect.

 

Outside, Sendak was flying into a rage as more of his troops arrived, still unable to open the door.

 

“Why did you help the Avatar?” He demanded of Shiyu, who had been tied u alongside the Paladins.

 

“Because it was once the Sages’ duty. It is still our duty.”

 

“Your duty is to your Firelord and Emperor,” Sendak yelled, “the Avatar is our greatest enemy. You are a traitor to your nation, and it will have all been in vain.”

 

Sendak grinned and looked at the doors, turning his back to his prisoners.

 

“The doors may be sealed, but one way or another, sooner or later, the Avatar has to come out.”

 

“I have something very important to tell you, Allura,” Avatar Roku said, his voice smooth and wise, “that is why when you were in the Spirit World, I sent my dragon to find you.”

 

“Is it about that vision?” Allura asked, “The one about Sozin’s Comet?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What does it mean?”

 

“What do you know?”

 

Allura frowned, “Well, I know that it gives incredible power to Firebenders, and Sozin used it to start the war. I also know that it’s coming again at the end of the summer.”

 

“So you do know,” Avatar Roku said sagely, “but I must warn you- this comet makes Firebenders stronger, more so than you can even imagine. I’m sure you know Zarkon plans on harnessing its power to end the war once and for all. If he succeeds, the Avatar, even all of Voltron, won’t be able to restore balance to the world. Everything will be bathed in fire and blood. I cannot express how vital it is that you defeat the Firelord before the comet arrives.”

 

“But I’ve barely even started learning waterbending yet!” Allura protested, “Not to mention earth and fire…”

“Mastering the elements takes years of discipline and practice. But if the world is to survive, you must do it by summer’s end. You cannot defeat Zarkon until you unlock your true potential as Avatar, as well as the rest of Voltron.”

 

“Stand ready!” Sendak commanded as troops filed into position in front of the doors, “When those doors open, unleash all of your firepower!”

“How is Allura gonna get out of this?” Lance worried.

 

“How’re we gonna make it out of this?” Keith shot back.


“What if I can’t master all of the elements in time?” Allura worried, clutching at her hair, “What if I fail?”

 

“I know you can do this Allura, for you have done it before.” Roku glanced at something past Allura, but when she turned, there was nothing there, “The solstice is ending and we must go our separate ways.”

 

“But I won’t be able to come back to the temple!” Allura cried, “What if I have questions? How will I talk to you?”

“I am a part of you,” Roku responded with a smile, “when you need to talk to me again, you will find a way....”

 

The two closed their eyes and they saw the navy at the dock of the temple, Sendak waiting on the other side of the doors,

 

“A great danger awaits you at the temple,” Roku said in her mind, “I can help you face the threat, but only if you are ready.”

 

Allura took a breath, “I am ready.”

 

Suddenly, the blue light came back and the doors started to open, dust billowing out in clouds. Everyone watched, entrance and in fear. Voltron and Shiyu knew what the light meant, and looked away.

 

“Ready!” Sendak yelled.

 

“No, Allura!” The team cried.

 

The light dissipated and the sanctuary was completely black, save for two glowing blue eyes high off the ground.

 

“Fire!”

 

An entire battalion unleashed their fire into the sanctuary. It gathered into a flame tornado, which compressed into a ball of spinning flames.  It suddenly broke apart, revealing Avatar Roku standing in the centre, bending the flames around him with ease. He sent the fire back at the soldiers, knocking off their feet. The flames spread throughout the room in one massive wave and melted the chains off of Shiyu and Voltron, but not hurting them.

Suddenly, the ground began to shake and people started to run, panicking.

 

“Avatar Roku is going to destroy the temple!” Hunk realized with panic, “We need to get out of here!”

 

“Allura’s still in there!” Coran cried.

 

Avatar Roku then lifted his hand and swiped it down, creating a fissure in the ground, all the way to the volcano. He raised his hand and lava shot up right out of the top of the pagoda.

 

Soldiers and Sages raced down the stairs while Voltron huddles together behind a column, waiting for it ot be over, for Allura.

 

Avatar Roku lowered his head and pushed his hands down gently into his finished position, drawing on final breath. The sun has set, and the solstice is over.

 

Dust was sucked into a vortex where Roku stood, replaced by Allura. The glow from her faded and she fell to knees. The others rushed to her and helped her out.

 

“Wh-where’s Shiyu?” She asked groggily.

 

“I don’t know,” Coran admitted, “but we need to leave now!”

 

They started to make their way to the stairs, but saw lava quickly rising and covering the way down. There was a massive hole in the wall that overlooked the ocean. They all stumbled as they felt the pagoda lean. It was falling.

 

“Guys!”

 

They all turned at the sight of Shiro with the rest of Voltron hovering outside the wall.

 

“The only way out is this way, let’s go!”

 

Everyone jumped on their respective steeds and flew away, watching as the pagoda collapsed, engulfed in flames.

 

Down on the docks, Sendak was ranting to his prisoners.

 

“No Avatar, no Voltron, nothing! All I have to show for my troubles is a bunch of traitors!”

 

“But sir,” the Elder spoke up, “Shiyu was the only traitor, we live to serve Firelord and Emperor Zarkon.”

 

“Save your stories for him,” Sendak snapped, “as far as I’m concerned, you’re all guilty! Take them to the prison hold.”


As they flew away, Allura watched the pagoda burn. She wasn’t sure why, but she felt tears on her cheeks.

Chapter Text


“Behold, the Earth Kingdom city of Omashu!”

 

Coran spoke with grandiose as he lead them over the snowy hill, gesturing widely to the city in front of them.

 

The thing looked to be carved out of a mountain, the entirety made of a sand-coloured stone. There were four peaks, one in each cardinal direction. The east and west were fairly tall, and of equal size. The southern peak- the one closest to them- was the shortest, while the northern peak was the height of both east and west on top of each other. The entire city was ringed by a large circular wall, parapets standing at equal distances along it. A long, winding path over a misty abyss was the only obvious entrance to the city, which, even from their distance, they could tell it was intricately made.

 

“I used to always come here when I was younger,” Allura said fondly, “the last Geen Paladin, Queen Trigel, was the queen of Omashu. She had a daughter a couple of years younger than me, Bumira.”

 

“Wow,” Lance awed, “they sure don’t have buildings like this in the South.”

 

“Even compared to Fire Nation architecture, it’s impressive,” Keith admitted.

“I’ve heard it has a very large market, it would be a perfect place to stock up,” Shiro said, “but I think we need to be careful.”

 

“Disguises?” Hunk asked, “Do we all really need them?”

 

Shiro shook his head, “No, probably not. Just Keith, Allura, and I. We’re the most easily recognizable.”

 

“But Omashu is peaceful,” Allura protested.

“That was a hundred years ago,” Pidge reminded, “we don’t know whether it’s changed or not.”

 

“It’s not occupied by the Fire Nation,” Keith said, “but you never know.”

 

“Alright,” Allura sighed.

 

Soon they were on the path to Omashu, doing their best to ignore how narrow the path was.

 

For safety, they had agreed to leave Mouse and the Eagle Lions behind, but Momo was tucked inside Coran’s shirt. Keith and Shiro wore darker clothes that were plain and green, in the style of Earth Kingdom travellers. Shiro kept his lower face covered as well as wore a hat, keeping his hair up in it. Keith just put his hair in a bun, but some strands in the bottom were missed. Allura wore a long cloak with a hood over her face, her hair in a tight bun. She disliked the need for disguises, but tried not to let it get to her.

 

“You guys are going to love Omashu!” She said happily, “The people here are the friendliest in the world!”

 

“They were very kind people,” Coran agreed, “and Altea had very strong trade relations with them. Truly, a gracious people.”

 

Suddenly, they heard shouting from up ahead.

 

“Rotten cabbages? What kind of slum do you think this is?”

 

At what appeared it be the entrance to the city were three guards, as well as a short, fat man with a cabbage cart. The man who had been yelling was a guard, and he tossed the cabbage in his hand aside angrily. Then, he stomped down on the ground and punched, rocks exploding upwards, sending the cart flying over the edge.

 

“My cabbages!” The man yelled in lament, watching his wares tumble into the abyss, “Varkon will get you for this!”

 

The rest watched the exchange and it made them all a little nervous. Perhaps Omashu was not as welcoming to travellers as they thought.

 

“Just keep smiling!” Coran assured as he strode forward with confidence, the rest following with varying degrees of surety.

 

When they got close enough, the guard who had been yelling earlier came forward and lifted a large boulder from the ground, hovering it over Coran’s head in threat.

 

“State your name and business.”

 

Coran scowled at him and huffed angrily, “My, how rude! I remember back in my day, Omashu was more than open to visitors! Now I come anywhere near the city gates and I’m being interrogated! Is it so wrong to see one of the Earth Kingdom’s marvels? Excuse my innate curiosity as a scholar!”

 

“Sir,” The guard sighed, letting the boulder fall away, “please just calm down. Just tell us your name.”

 

“Coran Hieronymus Wimbleton Smythe.”

 

“Er...right. And who are…”

 

“I’m his niece,” Allura said, grabbing onto Coran’s arm, “and these are our friends. We’re just travellers and we were in the area, thought we might visit the city.”

“Well, you look like a responsible young woman,” the guard said, “I expect you to keep an eye on your senile uncle here, as well as the other members of your party. Enjoy Omashu.”

 

“Thank you, we will!” Allura said with a smile as they passed between the guards. Shiro was last, and the guard grabbed his upper arm.

 

“Wait a minute, I need to see your face.”

 

Everyone stopped, hearts pounding. Surely the guards would recognize Shiro, and then they would all be screwed.

 

“I-I have a scar,” Shiro said, dropping his voice and making it raspy, “Fire Nation attacked my village. I do not like to show people.”

 

The guard looked at him for a moment before letting him go.

 

“Alright, I’m sorry to hear that. Just be careful.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

The other two guards then moved the earth, opening a hole in the wall. It split down the middle and slid sideways, as did two other layers. Once it was fully open, they passed through, holding their breath for the guards to stop them. When they made it through and the wall closed behind them, they breathed a sigh of relief.

 

They stood on the edge of a balcony that overlooked a drop into the city. The cityscape scrawled everywhere, slides with cargo shooting by, weaving in between buildings, each of which were topped with curved green roofs. People wandered around wearing traditional Earth Kingdom clothes, snow dusting the ground around them.

 

“What you see before you is the legendary Omashu delivery system,” Coran started, twirling his moustache, “It consists of miles and miles of tubes and chutes. Earthbending brings the packages up, and gravity brings them down.”

 

“Cool, so they get their mail on time,” Keith mumbled.

 

“They do get their mail on time,” Allura agreed, “but my old friend Bumira found a better use for the chutes.”

 

Allura remembered when she was younger, when she would accompany her father on his trips to Omashu to play with Bumira.

 

She didn’t look anything like royalty, always wearing play clothes. Her knees were always scraped, teeth missing from her misadventures, and a look in her eyes that told everyone that she wasn’t all there.

 

“Look around,” Bumira said one day as they stood on a balcony overlooking the city, “what do you see?”

 

“A mail system, of course silly.”

 

“Instead of seeing what they want you to see, you gotta open your brain to the possibilities!” Bumira grinned, showing off her missing teeth.

 

“Uh...a package delivering system? I don’t know!”

 

“No, it’s the world’s greatest super slide!”

 

Allura giggled, “Bumira, you are a mad genius!”

Bumira had laughed then, her obnoxious, snorting laugh that only accented the crazy look in her eyes.

 

Sometime later, Allura, Pidge, Lance, and Keith all got into a cart, moving to the top of a slide.

 

“It’s too bad Hunk and Shiro didn’t come,” Pidge said as she got in, careful not to offset the cart on the edge.

 

“Cart only seats so many,” Allura said, sitting in the front, “plus we need someone to cover us for Coran.”

 

“Where did he go anyways?” Lance asked, watching as Keith got in. When Allura suggested doing this, he really only went so he could be closer to her, but it looked like he was going to be stuck behind Keith.

 

“Some museum or other.”

 

Keith scoffed, “Figures. Lance, you getting in or not?”

 

“You know,” Lance said as he stepped in, looking over the edge into the very far drop down below, “when you first suggested this I thought it would be fun, but now I’m having second thouAAAAAAAAA!”

 

As soon as Lance had sat down, the cart had gone forward, sliding down the steep chute. Keith and Allura whooped in excitement, loving the thrill. Pidge was having second thoughts and clung tightly to Allura, while Lance screamed in horror.

 

They continued to race down and eventually came to a point where two chutes began to merge. Beside them was a cart carrying spears, all facing forward. Lance hoped they would end up behind it but nope, when the two merged they sailed in front, the weapons closing in fast. Lance noticed they were getting far too close and yelped, ducking down.

 

“Allura! Spears!”

 

Allura glanced back and grinned, “I’m on it! Everyone lean left when I say so!” She wobbled the cart a couple of times, trying to get momentum. After a moment, she yelled “LEAN!” They did, and found themselves shooting off the side of the side of the slide, freefalling.

 

They glided through the air, sailing off of a roof and soaring away.

 

Nearby, a training platoon was at the ready.

 

“Men,” their sergeant said, “you’ll be going off to combat soon. It is crucial that you be prepared for anything.”

 

Just then, the four of them flew by, giving the platoon a glance at their faces.

 

The white-haired woman and the dark-haired boy were grinning like madmen, the small girl and boy with short hair screaming in horror.

 

They sailed through and crashed through a stone fence, roaring over a flat section of the delivery system and knocking over a cart, which blocked the way.

Somehow, miraculously, they landed in another chute and continued on a relatively safe path.

 

“Allura!” Lance cried, “Do something!”

 

“Use your bending!” Pidge yelled.

 

“Oh yes, great idea! I can make us go even faster.” She sliced her hands in front of her and they burst forward. Keith started shouting fearfully too.

 

They were coming to a transition part where it was flat. Below, a cart waited. They screamed, knowing that if it wasn’t moved they would crash. Thankfully, the bender down below pushed it out of the way and those in the cart sighed in relief. However, immediately after, another cart was brought up, so they screamed. They couldn’t stop themselves, so they crashed head-on with the package, sending them off the route and knocking the other cart over, where more quickly began to pile up.

 

The cart they were in skidded on a flat surface and burst through a fence, falling straight down. They were thrown from the cart, but Allura used her bending to pull them all in together, creating a pocket of air around them as they fell.

 

Down below, Varkon stood back to admire his cabbages, “Finally! Now I can set up shop and sell my wares in the great city of Omashu!”

 

Suddenly, the sound of people screaming caused Varkon to look up, leaping out of the way as a stone cart crashed down on his vegetables, with four teenagers landing ungracefully beside it.

“My cabbages!” He cried in anguish, picking one up from the debris, “Varkon will make you pay!!!”

The commotion had drawn about a dozen or so guards who quickly surrounded them. Allura’s cloak had fallen off somewhere along the ride, and one of the men gasped.

 

“She’s an Airbender! We must take her to the queen.”

 

Hunk watched from the crowd as his four teammates were taken away, their hands bound.

 

“Ohhh man this is not good,” he muttered to himself, “Shiro and Coran are not gonna be happy about this…”

 

“Not happy about what?”

 

Hunk yelped and turned around to see Coran holding a basket of fruits and vegetables, Shiro standing behind him.

 

“And what’s all the commotion?”

 

“Uh…” Hunk said, trying to think of something to say. He took a glance at Shiro, who only narrowed his eyes in suspicion, “So the others might have been taken captive and brought before the queen?”

 

Allura, Keith, Lance, and Pidge were pushed to their knees when they had been escorted to the throne room. It had a few windows and overlooked the city, and on the wall were sconces that held glowing green crystals. At the far end of the room facing them was a tall, earthen throne, over which hung a tapestry of Omashu. On the throne sat a woman who looked like she was as old as the city itself. She had a long, angular face that suggested that she had once been beautiful but now sagged and wrinkled. She had silky straight long, silver hair that went past her chest. The robes she wore were luscious, all emerald and bronze-coloured, with matching rings adorning her fingers. On her head was a crown that, in a word, was sturdy. It was square and bronze, nothing flashy at all. She was regal, but she unsettled them. It was her eyes, a striking green like the jewels in her crown, yet they held something dangerous. The way they shone told them that she was not quite sane.

 

“Your majesty,” a guard said, bowing before her, “these juveniles were arrested for vandalizing city property, travelling under false pretenses, disrupting postal delivery, and the destruction of er, cabbages.”

 

“Off with their heads!” Varkon stood to the side, stomping his foot and yelling angrily, “One for each head of cabbage!”

 

“Silence.” The queen raised her hand and Varkon stopped, listening to the queen’s commanding voice, “Only I may pass down their judgement.” She stood up then and looked each of them in the face. One of the boys wore Earth Kingdom clothes, but looked Fire Nation. He glared at her. His spirit was impressive. Beside him was a small girl with light brown hair, leaves stuck everywhere and wood on her limbs. Her smile feigned innocence, which was entertaining. The other boy was beside her, obviously Water Tribe. He looked down, ashamed. Admirable. And the last one was a woman with flowing white hair, bearing markings and clothing that were identical to those of Altea. She too looked ashamed, but had the bravery to look the queen in the face. She looked so much like...could it possibly be…?

 

“Throw them…” the queen glared down at them and they all looked up at her expectantly.

 

“Hold it!” Came a familiar voice. Everyone turned around as the throne room doors were thrown open. A ginger-haired man with clothing similar to the white-haired girl’s strode in angrily, followed by a meek Earth Kingdom boy and a tall man who kept his face covered.

 

“I understand that a hundred years ago, Omashu held an “open-door” policy,” Coran started, “and that visitors did not have to state their name and business. True that this was before the war, but as a neutral and peaceful state, Omashu must-”

 

“Omashu must not do anything,” the queen said coldly, shutting down Coran with a lift of her hand, “I am the dealer of justice, and nothing you do can change that. Now, as I was saying- we shall deal with these ones adequately. Throw them-” she grinned down at those on their knees- “a feast!”

 

Later, they all sat at a long stone table. Allura and Coran were at the head, Shiro and Keith to Allura’s right, the other three at Coran’s left. Momo sat on the table, eating fruit happily.

 

“The people in my city have gotten fat from too many feasts,” the queen said as servants laid a large cooked bird on the table, “so I do hope that you enjoy your chicken without skin.”

 

“What the quiznak is that supposed to mean?” Lance whispered to Hunk, who shrugged and ripped off a leg.

 

“Dunno,” he said through a mouthful, “but it tastes good.”

 

“I don’t like this,” Keith mumbled to Shiro as the queen settled down, ripping into her own meat viciously, “something about this is not right.”

 

“I agree,” Shiro said quietly, “I do not like the look in her eyes.”

 

“Honoured guest,” the queen spoke suddenly, “why don’t you take off your mask and eat? There is nothing to hide here.”

 

“I am in training,” Shiro responded cooly, “I may only eat at dusk and dawn.”

 

“Quite honourable, albeit a foolish way to train. You need food to gain energy. So tell me,” the queen said, directing her question at Allura, “where are you from?”

 

“Uh…” Allura said, scrambling for something, “I am from...Lemur Island. Yes.”

 

“Ah Lemur Island. I do hear that the parties there are quite...swinging.” The queen then laughed hysterically at her own joke, while Hunk and Lance did their best to smother their laughs. Suddenly, the queen launched her drumstick across the table, right at Allura. Coran moved to stop it and missed, but Allura held up her hands in defense, instinctively creating a small air shield, suspending the meat in midair. The guards around the table gasped in shock, but the queen just smiled, as if she had just won a bet.

 

“We have an Airbender in our midst,” she announced, “and not just any. You are the Avatar, yes?”

 

Allura gasped and stopped her bending, letting the meat fall to the table with a clatter.

 

“That must mean that your companions would be the Paladins, yes?” The queen gestured around the table, “What do you have to say for yourselves?”

 

“I-I am sorry,” Allura stammered, trying to think of something to say, “I used to play in the chutes when I was little, I thought it would be nice to do it again. I never meant to cause any damages.”

 

“That means nothing to me.” The queen waved her hand dismissively, “I’ll be keeping you and your party here for the night.”

 

“You can’t keep us!” Keith yelled as he stood up, slamming his hands down on the table, “Let us leave!”

 

“Lettuce leaf?” The queen chuckled as she ate a leaf, crunching it loudly.

 

“We’re dead,” Hunk mumbled, “this girl is crazy…”

 

“Tomorrow,” the queen said, suddenly cold again, “the Avatar must face three deadly challenges. For now, the guards will show you to your chamber.”

 

“Um, your majesty?” One of the guards asked nervously, “Which one? The good one or the bad one?”

 

“The refurbished one,” the queen replied.

 

“Wait so the new one?”

 

The queen sighed, “The one that used to be bad until we refurbished it. The new one! Honestly, we really should number them….”

 

The guards seized the team and led them down a labyrinth of halls until they came to a plain wall. The guards opened a hole in it using earthbending and shoved them into the room, closing the wall behind them.

 

The room was...nice. It had plain walls that the rest of the city were made of with white plants in sconces that glowed brightly. There were three large beds surrounding a table with fruit, and from the ceiling hung lush green hammocks. There were small vents high up, allowing for a pleasant breeze.

 

“I have to admit this is nice,” Lance said as he poked at a canopy, “maybe we should have been taken prisoner here before.”

 

“We’re still prisoners,” Shiro reminded him, “Hunk, any way you could get us out?”

 

Hunk shook his head, “Nah man, there are guards all around us, no way I could make an opening without them noticing. Plus, we’re crazy deep underground. There’s a huge tunnel system and it’s kind of making my seismic sense hard to use for long distance.”

 

“So we’re stuck here!” Keith huffed.

 

“Maybe not…” Pidge said as she stared at the air vents, “the vents...they have to lead somewhere outside, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Hunk said, “but if you think I’m going to fit that, then go join the queen in the loony bin.”

 

“No, I’m not crazy,” Pidge scoffed, “I can’t even fit through there on a good day. Momo, however, can!”

 

“Brilliant idea!” Coran cried as he snatched up Momo and held him up to the vents, “Go, find the Eagle Lions! Get us out of here!”

 

Momo tried to push himself in but got stuck when his belly got through.

 

“Hunk, can you widen it?” Keith suggested.

 

“I could, but it looks like it’s the same size all the way through- I can’t reach that far and no way Momo is fitting like that.”

 

“And by the time he digests, it’ll be morning,” Allura sighed as she leapt up to one of the canopies, snuggling herself in with the blankets, “I guess I better get some rest before the trials tomorrow.”

 

“You sleep, Allura,” Shiro said, “we’ll try to figure something out. Worst comes to worse, you’ll face the trials, but I’m sure you’ll do well. Just get your rest.”

 

Allura felt guilt in her chest, hating that she couldn’t do anything but sleep. She wanted to help, but since she had jumped into the canopy, she had realized how exhausted she was. Soon, she fell into a restless sleep.

 

Sometime after, when the flowers on the wall had dimmed, a noise woke Allura. She sat bolt upright and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, shapes moving below her. She soon saw that it was her friends being taken by the guards.

 

“No!” She leapt down and sent a gust of wind holding what looked to be Shiro, but it was quickly blocked. She landed and rocks grabbed hold of her feet, trapping her. She struggled, but could do nothing as her friends were taken in the dark. Right before they closed the door, they released the rock around her feet. She lunged forward but crashed into the wall. “No!” She cried again, punching it. It hurt her hand a lot and she gripped it, biting her lip as she fell to her knees.

 

“I feel so useless…” she whispered to herself, “what kind of Avatar am I? Father, why wouldn’t you let me learn? Altea is gone and no longer needs a queen, but the world needs their Avatar. They need me. My friends need me. You needed me.”

Allura allowed herself to weep, tears falling on the bloodied knuckles. She cried herself to sleep then, and dreamt of flying alongside her father.

 

“Wake up, Avatar.”

 

Allura jolted from the spot on the floor and wiped her eyes, standing up straight. Two guards faced her.

 

“Where are my friends?” She demanded.

 

“They were taken,” one guard said, “and they are safe. The queen decreed that if you succeeded with the tests, they will be returned to you.”

 

“And if I fail?” Allura dared to ask.

 

“That is for the queen to decide. Your staff?”

 

Allura leapt up into the canopy she had slept in and threw it at the guard like a javelin. He caught it and glowered at her, “That attitude will not be tolerated.”

 

Allura leapt down and bowed low, speaking in a cold, sarcastic tone, “My most sincere of apologies, my liege.”

 

The guards scoffed at her but didn’t say anything else, leading her back to the throne room. The entire time, she searched for her friends, but to no avail.

 

When they entered the throne room, Allura did not bother to hide the frown on her face. The queen sat on her throne, haughty as ever, wearing the ugliest robes Allura had ever seen.

 

They were a dreadful orange and a fearfully bright yellow, certainly a mockery of Air Nomad colours. They drooped and lumped and looked awful.

 

“Good morning, dear Avatar,” the queen said kindly, “I trust you slept well?”

 

“No. However the refurbished chamber was lovely.”

 

“Sarcastic, aren’t you?” The queen grinned, “Entertaining. Now, your trials are to begin soon, but first, I would like your honest opinion of my outfit.”

 

Allura could not find it in herself to be diplomatic, so she spat out, “It pains the eye and seems to be a mockery of my culture, and it makes you look like a shrivelled whale-shark.”

 

The queen laughed then, great guffaws that did not suit her regal appearance. After she caught her breath, she smiled at the Avatar, “Oh, how right you are! I have to say, I did not expect you to pass your first trial.”

 

“This was one of the trials?” Allura asked, feeling a spark of hope.

 

“Oh, dear me, no. This was merely an aptitude test. The other trials have yet to begin, and will be far worse.”

 

Allura lost her temper then. She ran forward, creating a massive wind and pushing it towards the queen. She hardly seemed to notice. Allura moved, but was caught by the guards, rocks pulling her to her knees.

 

“This is foolishness!” Allura yelled, “Let me and my friends go! Do you have no interest in the fate of the world?”

“Hmm.” The queen seemed bored and leaned her chin on her palm, “I did fear you would say that. So, I decided to give a couple of your friends a souvenir.”

 

A wall to the left opened up, revealing Keith, Shiro, and Lance. Shiro’s mask had been torn off and he was held down by three guards, all of whom seemed nervous. As Allura watched, the guards slipped a ring on each of their fingers, the guards for Shiro taking care to put it on his flesh hand.

 

“Those rings are made of gematite,” the queen explained, “also known as creeping crystal. By nightfall, they will be completely encased. Not enough to kill them, but enough to keep them simple and immobile in the time it takes to hand them over to Zarkon.”

 

“What?” Allura cried, “How can you do such a thing?”

 

The queen shrugged, “The banished prince has had a bounty on him since he kidnapped his brother, and the brother- infamous General Takashi Shirogane- has an even bigger reward. The Waterbender, however, is a different story. I know the Druids are enchanted with them and took all the Waterbenders from the South. They drive a high price for one to do more experiments on. I will become far wealthier, and my kingdom can reach some sort of peace with the Galra.”

 

“You monster!” Allura yelled, watching as the crystal encased a finger of each of her friends.

 

“In a war, everyone’s a monster, child. So, either do what I say or suffer the consequences.”

 

Allura scowled and then bowed her head, “Fine. I’ll do your stupid trials.”

 

The queen smiled as she stood, “I expected as such. For the record, the rest of your friends are safe; I would not be so foolish as to diminish the entirety of Voltron. Come, I’ll show you to your first challenge.”

 

Two guards opened a place in the wall for the queen and she started walking, somehow making the hideous robes look regal. The rocks around Allura released her and she got up, following the queen. Keith, Shiro, and Lance were pushed after her.

 

“Are you alright?” She asked them.

 

“We’re fine,” Shiro assured, “they just moved us to another room. Hunk, Pidge, Coran, and Momo are alright and they’re working on a way out.”

 

“Good.” Allura sighed in relief, “And the crystals?”

 

“Uncomfortable,” Lance said, fidgeting with his as it creeped up his second finger and thumb, “but not terrible. It’s almost like wearing tight gloves.”

 

“What about you?” Shiro asked, “Did they do anything to you? What happened with your hand?”

 

Allura flushed and hid her knuckles, “I got into a scuffle, it’s fine, I’m not hurt.”

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know what the first task is?” The queen asked, not looking back, but forging on ahead in the twisting tunnels. Even as a child with Bumira, Allura had had great trouble navigating the tunnels, as had her father and the rest of the paladins, including Queen Trigel.

 

“I would, actually.”

 

“Good. Well, I misplaced a rather important key- it’s to a chest that holds Queen Trigel’s crown. It is very precious to me.”

 

“So you lost the key and want me to find it?” Allura asked.

 

“Oh no, I know exactly where it is. To ask you to find such a thing would not only be challenging, it would be impossible!”

 

“But you said you misplaced it.”

 

“Exactly.” The queen turned and grinned at them, her crazy green eyes glinting in the light provided by the glowing flowers and crystals. Up ahead, rushing water echoed through the tunnels, “I put it in the wrong place; thus, I misplaced it.”

 

“I...see…” Allura said, not sure if she did.

 

Soon, they arrived at the mouth of a massive cavern which plunged above and below them, on a ledge surrounded by a stone fence. Stalactites dripped from the ceiling into the stalagmites down below. In the centre of the cavern was a waterfall, coming from a hole in the rock. It plunged straight down and very loudly, echoing in the cavern. At the base of the waterfall was one large stalagmite, on top of which stood a ladder.

 

“So what am I supposed to do?” Allura asked.

 

“The key is there.” The queen pointed to the waterfall and if Allura focused, she could see the key, dangling from a thin chain in the middle of the waterfall.

 

“She has to grab that?” Keith cried, “It’s impossible!”

 

“It’s not impossible,” the queen assured, “and I know the Avatar is more than qualified enough to get it.”

 

“I’ll do it.” Unable to bear the sight of the crystal creeping up her friends’ hands, she leapt off the railing, allowing herself to float gently down to a stalagmite. Then she leapt to the next one, and the one after that, making her way to the waterfall. When she was close enough, she plunged into it, propelling herself upward until she was able to grab the first rung. But the water pouring down on her was too strong, and she was running out of breath quickly. She wished she knew waterbending more than ever as she grasped a couple more rungs. But her finger slipped and the water continued to push down on her, flushing her out. She kicked sideways on the rock, pushing herself out and grasping the nearest stalagmite.

 

“Oh yes,” the queen mocked from above, “try the ladder again, I’m sure that’ll work.”

 

Allura huffed and leapt up, jumping from the stones and using her bending to send her flying upwards, catching herself between two stalactites. She started at the rushing water, calculating how far up she was, how powerful the water was. Then she took a deep breath and launched off, spinning in the air to create speed. She plunged into the water above the chain and made to grab it, but the water was too strong. It pushed her down and out, sending her flying towards the rocks. She latched onto one and gasped, dispelling the water in her throat.

 

“Do hurry up,” the queen called, “I’ve rather missed seeing that crown, and I’m growing impatient, as are the crystals.”

 

Allura saw that the crystals were creeping up to their shoulders. She steeled herself and looked at the chain. It was weak and she was surprised that it had lasted so long in the water. It looked as if any amount of pressure could break it.

 

That’s when she had an idea.

 

She leapt across the stalagmites until she was across from the balcony. She sliced through the air, cutting off the top of a rock. She used her airbending to lift it up and hoist it on her shoulder. She took a deep breath and threw it, then spun and pushed a strong wave of air after it. The rock sailed through the waterfall and snapped the chain, snagging on the chain. It crashed into the rock right above the queen’s head, the chain dangling in front of her face. She seemed unbothered by the rock that almost impaled her, smiling even.

 

“Good job, Avatar,” she said, “you’ve passed the first trial.”



Soon, the group found themselves in a large enclosure. There was a circular pen sunken into the ground, the walls ten feet high. There were large bales of hay and vegetables, as well as a pool that was large enough for Allura to comfortably swim in . Over in the corner was a huge hutch, seeming to be filled with large fuzzy blankets.

 

“My dear pet Flopsy can be a tad difficult,” the queen began to explain, “I would like you to fetch her for me.”

 

“As you wish,” Allura grumbled. She cast a worried glance at her friends as the crystals began to encase their sides and hips before she leapt down into the pen.

 

“Flopsy?” Allura called, searching for anything that could relatively be a Flopsy, “Hello, Flopsy?”

 

Suddenly, Allura noticed a small animal. It was short and tubby, with long floppy ears and soft fur.

 

“I’m guessing that you’re Flopsy,” Allura said with a smile, leaning down to pick up the animal, “C’mere girl.”

 

But Flopsy ran away and Allura sighed, of course this wasn’t going to be easy.

 

“Allura!” Lance cried.

 

She turned in confusion and saw a huge monster towering over her. A Saber-tooth rabbit tiger. She shrieked and ran away from it, chasing down Flopsy.

 

“Flopsy!” She cried, “It’s okay, I’ll keep you safe!”

 

The monster creature bounded from behind her and landed in front of Allura, between her and Flopsy.

 

“Flopsy, no!”

 

She leapt up and somersaulted in the air, landing behind the animal. She watched as Flopsy ran, right towards a small hole in the wall.

 

“Augh, come on Flopsy!” Allura complained. She dashed after the creature but it disappeared in the hole. Allura slid to a stop and bent down, reaching her arm in, “Flopsy!” She complained, “We need to go.”

 

The giant rabbit creature behind her turned and bounded towards her. Suddenly, she realized that it only reacted when she called for Flopsy.

 

As it bounded closer, she braced herself and yelled, “Flopsy, stop!”

 

Dust erupted from the sandy ground and the animal stopped, right in front of Allura, tongue dangling from its mouth and tail wagging.

 

“Flopsy!” Allura said with a sigh of relief. She reached up and started petting the creature. She smiled as it thumped its hind leg loudly, obviously pleased.

 

“Good Flopsy!” The queen called. Then she whistled and Flopsy turned away from Allura, running up and climbing up the wall to see the queen. She flopped over, belly up.

 

“Oh who’s a good wittle monster? Who wikes bewwy wubs? You!!!!” The queen cooed, rubbing Flopsy’s belly.

 

Allura huffed and leapt up, landing in front of her friends. The crystals now encased half of their body, creeping evermore.

 

“Are you alright?” She asked.

 

“Other than the crystals slowly encasing my entire body and the threat of being experimented on,” Lance said then grinned, “I’m great!”

 

“Lance,” Shiro warned before turning to Allura and smiling, putting his hand on her shoulder, “We’ll be fine, Princess.”

 

She nodded and then approached the queen.

 

“I am ready for the final test.”



Sometime later, the queen led them into a great battle chamber.

The walls, like the pen before, were high up and the floor was sandy earth. There were hundreds of stands, but they were all empty. It was a darker room, and Allura hated the smell of musk and underground. The crystals on her friends started to grow around their heads and legs, limiting movement.

 

“Your final test is a duel,” the queen said formally, “And, as my special treat, you may choose your opponent.”

 

Two figures stepped out from the shadows then, each menacing in a very different way.

 

One man was incredibly skinny, with scars mauling his face and being quite literally armed to the teeth, as he held a knife in his mouth. The other figure was a man who was wearing a loincloth and arm guards, wielding a giant axe that she doubted even Hunk could lift.

 

“Point to choose.”

 

“So you’re saying…” Allura said slowly, “that whomever I point to… I fight?”

 

“Precisely. Now choose wisely, Avatar.”

Allura thought carefully, her finger unsure of where to go, “I...choose..you!”

 

Allura’s hand was at the queen, who only started to cackle, which formed into a terrible laugh.

 

“Wrong choice!” The queen threw off her garish robes to reveal fitted leather armor, leaving her arms bare to see that she was absolutely shredded. She stomped her foot on the ground which sprouted a rock at Allura’s feet, sending her flying into the ring. She managed to spin in midair and land safely, but the queen jumped off the balcony and landed, causing a wave to roll across the ground, unbalancing Allura.

 

“You thought that I was just a little old lady,” the queen mocked, regal and crazy as ever, “but I am the best Earthbender you will ever live to see.”

 

“You know what? I would far prefer to fight the man with the axe,” Allura said. She had been trained in all forms of weapons combat, but not much against Earthbenders.

 

“You cannot go back on your word in my domain,” the queen said, “and you might need this.”

 

A guard tossed Allura’s staff into the ring and she leapt up to catch it, opening it as she did. She flew through the ring, hoping to keep some distance between her and the queen.

 

But, the queen was strong. She launched rocks at Allura with no hesitation, barely giving her a chance to dodge them.

 

“How typical of an Airbender,” she mocked, “avoid and evade. But I thought the Alteans had more guts than that!”

 

She then launched a massive boulder into the ceiling, causing it to break apart and rain rubble down on Allura. She managed to block it but was forced to close her glider and stumbled to the ground. No sooner had she touched down when another massive rock came sailing towards her, which she only just managed to block.

 

“I am getting bored, dear Avatar,” the queen trilled, “how will you fight Zarkon like this? You can’t evade me forever!”

 

The queen then began to move in a zig-zag pattern, rocks erupting at Allura’s feet and forcing her to run, tiring herself out. She jumped up, tucking her staff under her arm, and creating an air scooter. She sat on top of it, zooming towards the queen. But she sent a hail of small rocks towards Allura, too small to dodge. One caught her cheek and she could tell that it just missed her tattoo there. Warily, she stopped the scooter and put a hand to her face, coming away with small droplets of blood.

 

Allura yelled in anger and then ran up the wall, slashing her staff and sending a slice of wind towards the queen. She erected a wall and hid behind it, ducking low as the top was sliced off.

 

“That could technically be counted as attempted regicide, you know,” she said with a smile, “how rude of you.”

 

Allura landed and started panting, tired by the fight, but it looked like her opponent had more than enough energy to spare. She pushed over her slab of rock and more rolled underneath it, creating a small mound. She pushed down on the slab, creating another wave and sending it towards Allura. She leapt up, but the queen was ready. She bent another rock to smack Allura out of the air.

 

She hit the wall but pushed off and rolled on the ground, coming up standing.

 

“You think that some distance will keep you safe?” The queen called out. Then she got into a position that looked as if she was about to lift something very heavy. The edge of the balcony started to rumble and crack, slowly coming away as the people on top hastily backed up to a safer place.

 

Allura saw what was going to happen and started running around in a circle, creating a vortex as the dust swirled around her. The queen threw the massive hunk of rock at Allura, but it was caught in the vortex and simply careened out, sailing back towards the queen. She gasped and split it in half, saving herself.

 

As soon as she did, Allura came from behind it and slashed down with air, slash after slash, pushing the queen down until she was on her back.

 

“Well done Avatar,” the queen said with a grin, “you have fire in your heart left over from old Roku.” Then she did some weird writhing motion and disappeared into the sand, coming back up where Allura’s friends stood. She scowled and leapt up, seeing that they were almost completely encased in the crystal. She turned to the queen.

 

“I passed all of your tests, now let us go home.”

“Of course, once you answer one question.”

 

“What?” Allura cried angrily, stepping forward. The guards blocked her, “That’s not fair! You said that you would release all of us if I passed your stupid tests!”

 

“Oh dear, what is the point of a test if you do not learn anything from it?” The queen said, shrugging back on her regal green robes, given to her by a servant, “It’s an easy question. What is my name?”

 

“Seriously?” Allura yelled.

 

The queen chuckled, “Do hurry, your friends are almost out of time.”

 

Allura turned to her friends then, fearful.

 

“How am I supposed to know her name?”

 

“Think about the challenges,” Shiro suggested, “maybe they were all part of some riddle.”

 

“Maybe her name is Hunk,” Lance suggested.

 

“Why would you think that?” Keith asked, squirming as his crystals kept creeping.

 

“Maybe it’s a common Earthbender name,” Lance said.

 

“You’re an idiot.”

 

“Enough,” Shiro snapped, “Princess, there must be something.”

 

“Well… I got a key from a waterfall, retrieved a pet, and fought a duel.”

 

“What did you learn?” Shiro prompted.

 

“Everything was different than what I had originally thought. For each task, I had to act differently from what I normally would… I know it! I know her name!”

 

Allura then turned back to the queen triumphantly.

 

“I solved the question the way that I had to solve the tests. As you said to me many years ago, I must open my mind to possibilities. Bumira, you are a mad genius.”

 

The queen started laughing then. Not her usual cackle, but a snorting laugh that made her seem even more crazy.

 

“You got it!” Bumira said, moving to embrace Allura which she gratefully accepted, “My, how I’ve missed you. You haven’t changed a bit.”

 

“Being stuck in an iceberg for a hundred years in the Avatar State will do that,” Allura replied with a smile, but iti turned into a frown, “Bumira, I thought we were friends. Why would you do all this?”

 

“Walk with me, Allura,” she said. Then she clenched her fist and the crystals exploded, freeing the others, “By the way, gematite is merely rock candy that grows. That’s why I couldn’t have Coran or the Earthbender trapped in it. And that Swamp girl, well, I know the Swamp people, and they will eat anything.”

 

“Oh, of course!” Allura said, “I remember eating it as kids.”

 

“That’s right. Now, as to why I did all of this, there are a few reasons. The first being that I greatly enjoy messing with people. The second being that the Alteans, may they rest in peace, were a group that- while brilliant- were trapped in one way of thinking. You have a hard journey ahead of you. You must not think like an Altean, but take a little bit of wisdom from each mindset of each nation- think outside the box.”

 

They had arrived back into the throne room, where the other Paladins were waiting anxiously.

 

“Allura!” Coran cried as they rushed forward to check on the rest of their team. There was a fair bit of fussing, people wondering what happened, are they okay?

“They put us back in the room we slept in,” Pidge said, “and not too long ago, they came to get us. We had no idea what was going on!”

“It’s alright,” Allura assured, “the queen is an old friend.”

 

“Not a very good one,” Hunk mumbled.

 

“Who is she?” Coran asked.

 

“It’s Bumira!”

 

“No! But, that would make her over a hundred and twenty years old!”

 

“I’m still plenty young,” Bumira said as she sat down on her throne. A soldier came forward with a rusted box and knelt before her. The queen took the key that had been retrieved from the waterfall and put it into the lock, opening the box. She removed her crown and placed it on one of the armrests on her throne. Gingerly, she reached into the box and took out another crown. One that was very familiar to Allura. The crown bore the same colours as her regal robes, delicately made and resembling vines woven together. Two spikes stood up over her ears, decorated with rubies and intertwining gracefully. She put it on her head and smiled.

 

“The crown of Queen Trigel,” Coran said in awe.

 

“Yes, this is my mother’s crown,” Bumira said, “before she died, she instructed me to hide this crown away until Voltron was reformed. Even if this crown would not see the light of day for generations, it had to be hidden. It is a symbol of hope to my kingdom, to the world. Queen Trigel’s crown shall be worn once more, her legacy bounding forward in more ways than one. I have to thank all of you, for allowing me to be able to wear this crown as my mother once did. Who, pray tell, is the Green Paladin?”

 

Pidge stepped forward, somewhat nervously, “I am. My name is Pidge, of the Foggy Swamp Tribe.”

 

“Are you a Bender?” The queen asked.

 

“Yes. I’m a Waterbender, but I mostly use plants.”

 

Bumira grinned, “Oh, my mother would’ve liked you very much. You will carry her title well, as will I.”

 

Pidge flushed and bowed, thanking the queen.

 

“Before you leave, is there any way I can be of service to you?” Bumira asked.

 

“There is one thing I ask of you,” Allura said with a grin.

 

Not long after, the city watched in awe and confusion as an Airbender and their aged queen raced through the city, zooming by in a stone cart and flying from chute to chute, their crazed laughing echoing through the city.