Plating was meticulously scrubbed clean, soaked in solvents that ran down each edge and curve in clear drips. With a soft rag, the drips and drops were rinsed away, leaving the spotless reflection of the bearer in its wake. Waxing came next, accompanied later with a scentless conditioner that would protect plating and wiring from rust. In small, shallow circles it was rubbed and smoothed into a flawless sheen.
"Welcome home my lord Prime. I trust your returning voyage was pleasant?"
The entrance hall of the palace echoed with the pleasant voice of a welcoming service bot. Sentinel Prime stepped in as the grand doors shut behind him, pushing the hood of his weathered cloak to his shoulders and nodding to the mini-bot at his side.
"Yes it was, Tailgate. Thank you."
When the mini-bot held out his servos, the ruler gratefully shed the woven copper covering and handed it off. He flared his shoulder plating, letting the cool air in to soothe his wiring.
"Sire, you've returned home!"
The joy radiating from his youngest son's EM field was so potent he could feel it from across the room. The weary blue optics of the elder Prime quickly brightened, and as he turned away from the door, he caught sight of the fiery red and orange mech at the top of the palace stairway. His silver lip plates curled up as Rodimus bounded down the steps, all courtesy protocols abandoned. Deep-chested laughter that rolled from his intake soon was derailed by a grunt when the young mech threw himself into his creator's arms, squeezing him tight.
"One of these cycles, you'll snap these worn limb struts of mine, Rodimus. Your strength grows with every passing klik!"
With a haughty huff, the young mech squeezed his creator one more time before pulling back.
"All the more reason to hug you harder every time you have to leave!"
Sentinel laughed once more at his son's proclamation, patting him on the shoulder and wrapping his EM field around him. The touch of youth and rebellious energy could've physically sparked as it weaved around him, and with it he felt drawn back to life.
"Hey now, how come no one bothered to tell me you were home? I would've prepared a celebration!"
Both mecha turned towards the new voice echoing from the stairway. Rodimus merely snickered at his older brother as he jogged down the stairs.
"Because you would've invited half of Cybertron to the party and left this place a mess before sire even walked through the door."
Jazz's field quickly flipped into annoyance, and he flicked it at his sibling without sympathy.
"Aw come on you know the last time that happened it wasn't my fault! It was supposed to be a small musical festival!"
"Which turned into a smash party after one of your friends decided to break out the high grade and call in the seekers."
The older mech threw out a servo and shoved his young sibling, which only drew a snort as their fields tugged and batted against each other. Sentinel only sighed, his smile only growing at the sight of his second creation.
"Come now, Jazz. I need no celebration when you are here. You are the music to my audials."
At his creator's loving compliment, the white and black mech's visor brightened. Quickly forgetting his sibling's dispute, he hopped to the elder Prime to engulf him in a hug.
"It's so good to see you sire!"
Their fields weaved into one another, enjoying the long sought familiarity. When they parted, Sentinel took up his creation’s servos.
"And you as well. Do not worry, I'll be expecting a returning performance from you after dinner tonight."
The Prime winked an optic at his son, who bashfully averted his optics before his plating fluttered in excitement.
"You got it!"
With that he let his creation's servos go, smiling contently at the both of them before looking up to the staircase once more.
"Now then, where is your eldest brother? I'm sure he must have heard tale of my arrival by now-"
"He has, my Lord Prime."
At the sound of an old mech entering the hall, all three mecha looked away from the stairs. Instead their attention was drawn to the western corridor, leading in from palace library and its balconies. In strode the imposing figure of Alpha Trion, weathered red plating contrasted by his purple cape and easily towering over all. At his side followed the eldest son of the Prime, showing effortless grace as he moved beside the elder.
Sentinel's spark swelled as he met that gentle cerulean gaze for the first time in a decacycle.
Immediately, the young Prime's optics lit up. Without pause he removed the data pads he'd been carrying under his arm, handing them to the elder accompanying him before continuing to the entrance. Stopping a few paces short of his creator and siblings, he stooped in a royal bow, EM field poised and dignified.
"Welcome home, sire."
At their father's side, Rodimus huffed in amusement, leaning to whisper "show off" into Jazz's audial and earning a light smack in return. Behind the red and blue mech, Alpha Trion nodded approvingly.
"Well done, Optimus."
With that said, he suddenly turned a hard stare on Jazz and Rodimus.
"Now if only your brothers would heed their greeting lessons instead of swamping their Lord."
Under his scrutiny, Jazz quickly averted his gaze and pretended to be occupied with the floor. Rodimus flinched and awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck, subtly side-stepping behind his sibling. Sentinel laughed once more, waving a servo at his advisor and mentor of his sons.
"Let them be, Trion. I've been gone long enough, formalities can be excused for the time being."
As he spoke, he turned to Optimus, leaning down to take ahold of his son's servo and help him rise once more. Like the sun overhead, the young Prime's optics glistened with emotion. Sentinel watched them as he lifted his other servo to tenderly cup his creation's faceplate.
"You will soon put me to shame, my son. You hold yourself with all the elegance and sophistication of your carrier. Mark my words, when the time is right, you will make for a fine leader."
Optimus' field wavered at the mention of his and his brothers' other creator, unable to hold back a light gasp as the Prime gathered him in a hug. He immediately fell into it, pressing his field against the solid presence of the elder.
"I've missed you."
Sentinel felt the purity of his eldest's care and love flow through his field. At long last, after so much time traveling the different city-states of Cybertron, he was home.
"I've missed you too, Optimus."
Wisps of the white veils fluttered with the incoming breeze. Like precious jewels, they shimmered in the sun's rays, casting a diamond-like reflection glittering over the floor. Soundlessly they writhed around their ethereal bearer, gliding weightlessly behind as he walked.
"Ah, you've finally made it, my dear creations."
Sentinel spoke, looking up from the report he'd been reading with a raised metal brow and an amused grin as Jazz and Rodimus burst into his chambers. Optimus, who been reading his own data pad in a cushioned seat by the far window, was familiar enough with their 'grand entrances' to not pay it any mind. Their chest plates heaved, and they panted heavily from having sprinted through the palace to meet with their father at the time he'd designated. Jazz was the first to find his voice once more.
"We extend our apologies sire! We would've been earlier, had Rodimus not forgotten to finish the history assessment Alpha Trion gave us to hand in next cycle."
The older sibling glared at Rodimus, who huffed as he threw his arms up.
"I thought Alpha Trion said it was due in two cycles, not one!"
"You were supposed to mark down the due date when you got it Roddy! How did you get two out of one?!"
Sentinel sighed tiredly as they fought, fond exasperation flooding his field as he held up a servo to silence them.
"Mistakes happen, my sons. It cannot be avoided. But that is why when they do, we must seek to correct them to the best of our ability. Is that understood?"
Finally bringing their ventilations under control, they both acknowledged their creator with a nod and simultaneous "Yes sire." The elder Prime's smile widened, and he took the chance to beckon them closer with a wave.
"Come now, my creations. Please sit with me. Optimus, won't you join us as well?"
Side-eyeing each other with similar curiosity, the young royals walked forward to settle on the couch across from their sire. Similarly, Optimus pulled his attention away from what he'd been reading, shutting off the data pad and placing it in his subspace. Rising from his corner of the room, he made his way towards the rest of his family, glancing over at Rodimus when his youngest brother furrowed his metal brows at him.
"Wait, were you here the entire time?"
Jazz was quick to level a flat look at his brother. Optimus, in turn, raised a brow at him quietly. Then, in a rare show of humor, hummed as he lowered himself on the cushion beside Jazz.
"Of course I was. I wouldn't have seen the scraplet on your ped if I wasn't."
"Ok fair enou--wait what?!"
Rodimus leapt off the couch, flinging himself backwards as he tried to grab ahold of his legs and rip off the sharp-toothed vermin that was surely chewing at him. When he stood still for more than a solid moment and realized there was no scraplet on him, it was his turn to level an unamused glare at his sibling.
"Oh very funny, Optimus. Ha ha ha, absolutely hilarious."
The eldest of the Royal family merely watched him with innocent optics, while next to him the second eldest was trying valiantly not to burst into laughter. Snickers still escaped through the digits enclosed over his intake. Even Sentinel couldn't help a small chuckle at the display. But he soon collected himself, clearing his intake to get each of their attentions.
"Now that we are all gathered, there are important matters which I'd like to speak with you about before any more time passes."
The vocal inflections of their sire’s tone lowered in reference to the discussion ahead. Each of the three sons recycled their optics at it. He did not use that kind of tone with them often. Rather, he used it in the formal meetings and gatherings occasionally held in the palace when he was home. Rodimus’ curled lip plate thinned, and Jazz’s snide smirk fell away.
"You know well that Iacon is one of the most prosperous city-states of Cybertron."
Instantly, the three of them nodded.
"Well, yeah of course, sire. The academy and the Hall of Records has led us to be a center of knowledge for the entirety planet."
Jazz reiterated slowly, recalling their past cultural lessons. As he spoke, Optimus nodded in agreement before pitching in.
"We owe the attainment of these records as well as the building of the academy to our allies, however. Without their aid, our prosperous age at this point would not have been possible."
Sentinel listened patiently to both of his sons as they spoke, inclining his helm once when they finished.
"That is correct. And as such, you understand that we take great responsibility in harboring these alliances with the rest of the city-states. I must travel great lengths each vorn to assure fellow city-state leaders of our continued trust and support."
The Prime’s shoulders stooped, as if the weight of his words were physical. His EM field suddenly swirled with guilt as he met the gazes of his creations.
"I know it is as hard for you to be left alone as it is for me to endure it. Since your carrier passed onto the Well, it can only have been harder. I only hope you know how regretful I am to have put you through it."
As he spoke, his sons recycled their optics in surprise once more, glancing at each other with a long-shared grief that at one time, they dared not speak of in front of their sire. He was, after all, the leader of Iacon, and had important matters to attend to beside their own emotional stresses. But that did not mean he didn’t care, and they knew it.
"... Aw sire, you don't need to worry about us."
Jazz began, staying seated where he was but stretching his field out to share warmth with his creator. Rodimus quickly grinned next to him.
"Yeah, I mean, look at us! We're doing pretty good so far! Jazz and I get along much better than we used to, and Optimus usually keeps us in line."
The youngest Prime chirped, earning a small, saddened smile from their sire. Optimus’ spark flared at the sight, and he rose from where he sat next to his brothers. Crossing the space between them, he kneeled in front of the elder and gathered his worn servos.
"Do not grieve for us, sire. We understand what you must do to ensure continuing alliances with the rest of Cybertron, and for you we endure."
Sentinel found the warm and gentle gaze of his eldest, and felt it soothe his aching spark. He took in a deep vent, squeezing Optimus’ servos gratefully. After another klik passed, he nodded to him in signal that he was fine, and his son respectfully backed away to retake his seat. As he walked back, the elder Prime spoke.
"Be that as it may, I am sorry to relay to you that these past few trips I’ve taken haven't been as successful as they have in the past."
All three of his sons were taken aback. Their sire rarely ever spoke of his trips to the other city-states unless directly asked. In those instances, it was rather to describe what the rest of the world was like to the young sparks that had never seen it. Rodimus tilted his helm curiously at the abrupt change in the conversation.
"What do you mean?"
The ruler of Iacon heaved a burdened sigh. If it had been up to him, he wouldn’t be having this conversation with the beings he treasured most in this world. Growing as they were, they were still so young, and he would’ve given anything to shelter them from the cruel world they would soon enter. But there was no choice, and he forced the words from his intake.
"Three of our allies: Praxus, Crystal City, and Kaon recently questioned the sincerity of our trust pacts and were not so easily swayed back into favorable opinion. Kaon came close to declaring war on us."
Instantaneously, all three of his son’s fields recoiled, a similar fear running through them like a flood of acid through the wastelands.
"War?! Why?! What did we ever do to them?!"
The youngest exclaimed, confusion battling the fear within him and turning his field into a mess of emotions. Optimus, like an immovable stone amidst a stormy sea, straightened as he composed his field and swept it out to calm his brother.
"Kaon is a naturally violent and distrustful city-state, Rodimus. Past offenses against them by other city-states have led them to build up their military and cut off all ties to the rest of the planet. As of the present, they only hold three official trust pacts, Iacon included."
Three helms turned towards the speaker, who couldn’t meet their optics as he corrected his eldest creation’s statement.
"They now only hold one pact, with Iacon, which is on the verge of being redacted."
Rodimus tried to rise, wanting to comfort him. But Optimus reached over and grasped his servo tightly, his field whipping around him disapprovingly. When the young Prime glared incredulously at his sibling, Optimus only shook his helm, quietly showing him that now was not the time. Before it had been a matter of familial grief, this was different. These were matters of official Iaconian business and should be treated as such. Rodimus grumbled and sat back down, subtly leaning back into Optimus’ servo that tenderly stroked over his backplates.
"Isn't there anything we can do to regain the trust of these city-states? To avoid the loss of lives and energon-shed?"
It was then that the elder Prime finally lifted his helm, meeting the optics of his sons.
"There is, and I'm afraid you won't like what I'm about to ask of you."
Jazz and Rodimus exchanged an incredulous glance, before the middle sibling spoke out first.
"What can we do? We can't negotiate for peace! I can't even get my history assessments completed on time!"
Optimus vented quietly, his field wrapping around his siblings so tightly they had no choice but to look back at him. His cerulean optics bore into their sparks, pleaded with them to hear their sire out. This was clearly hard enough for him to do without their protests, they owed him the chance to speak this one request and be heard. With that understanding spread between them, they quieted and looked back towards Iacon’s ruler. Optimus politely spoke for all of them.
"We will do everything in our power to aid you in avoiding war, sire. As your sons, we swear it."
The elder Prime could only thank Primus for his eldest’s compassion and grace to him. After this, he did not know whether it would last. With another deep vent, he straightened himself to make the proclamation official.
"... I proposed to each leader of the city-states that we strengthen our pacts through bonding unions. They accepted."
Following his statement, silence filled the room. Jazz furrowed his metal brows and Rodimus blinked, both of their fields filling again with confusion. Optimus, however, withdrew his field completely out of reach of his siblings as his optics darkened and his lip plates thinned. He pulled his servo away from around the mecha at his side, and they glanced at him in bewilderment, wondering if he knew something they didn’t.
Rodimus was the first to break the silence.
"... Uh, what does that mean?"
With the unending patience of a weathered leader and creator, Sentinel broke the silence next.
"It means, Rodimus, that I am asking all of you to bond with the leaders of each city-state to avoid war."
Silver bands held the veil to its bearer's wrists, looping beneath his arm strut to reach up and attach to his shoulder joints, elbow joints, and back plates by silver magnets. Each magnet shone with the pristine glint of a polish and drawn upon them was the crest of Iacon's royal family: the ancient Matrix of Leadership.
"He can't seriously expect us to go through with this!"
Jazz, who’s helm rested atop the knees he’d drawn up to his chest, watched silently from the end of his berth as Rodimus paced in front of him. His younger brother’s field flared and whipped about in anguish and anger.
"Bond?! With mecha we don't even know?! It's outrageous!!"
The middle sibling would’ve agreed, had he possessed the voice to do so. But there was nothing left for him to say. It had all been released in retaliating shouts and denying screams at his sire before he’d stormed out of the room. It was un-Prime-like of him, disgraceful and absolutely insolent. What would Alpha Trion have said? What would Optimus have said had he even spoken?
Whatever it was, he didn’t care. There were many things he would’ve done for the sake of his city-state. This was not one of them. But it’s not like he’d been given the choice to refuse.
“Never once before this did sire ever breach the subject of bonding! It was the one thing we were never even allowed to speak of! And now suddenly out of the blue, he wants to give us away to these leaders who don’t even trust him!”
At the harsh reminder, Jazz inaudibly flinched, momentarily turning his helm away from Rodimus to instead stare at the door. It was open a crack, something he numbly remembered shouldn’t be so because his younger brother had closed it on his way in. The answer as to why, soon came to be a cerulean gaze peeking through the small crack, watching him and Rodimus. He watched solemnly as Optimus’ gaze focused on him, and they met each other for a solid klik.
“—not to mention the blatant fact that he expects one of us to bond with the leader of Kaon!! You heard what Optimus said! Whichever one of us he chooses may as well just forget the bonding and put a blaster to their spark. He’ll surely just want our helm on a pike!”
Cerulean blue optics shuttered. Jazz knew his older brother well enough that it had come to the point he could listen no more. In the blink of an optic, Optimus was gone, the door silently clicking closed behind him. If his reaction was anything to go by, then Jazz already knew which of them would be bonded to Kaon’s ruler. Curling in on himself further, he buried his helm in his knees and choked on a sob as his spark broke.
He didn’t want to be the eldest.
With great care, the diamonds were applied to their faceplate. Three in the shape of teardrops were placed beside the optics, rounded ends pointed towards the audials. Around the edges of the jaw, tiny and circular, five more were placed in linear fashion on each side. At each end of the helm crest, traveling beside the center ridge of the helm, more of these rounded gems sparkled as they became the bearer’s ornaments.
The gardens of the palace were a quiet place of peace, where the energon vines climbed so high they claimed the columns of the balcony. All around the winding pathways did these vines and crystals glow, providing a guiding light to the garden’s only occupant.
When he could not focus enough to read his favorite legends, when he could not find sanctuary in the library, Optimus always came here. Sometimes he wandered aimlessly, content to let his processor drift as the glow of life surrounded him. Sometimes he found a dead end, spread a thermal blanket over the ground and simply lay back to watch the stars.
This cycle, he did neither.
This cycle he walked swiftly among each path, following the twists and turns to reach the other end. If anyone heard his steps, he did not care. There was no beauty in the affliction he felt, no delicacy in the toiling emotions of his field. There were points he’d broken into a run, whether to reach his destination faster or to escape his own fate, he did not know. But he ran all the same, abandoning royal protocol where no one would see.
Near the end of the great palace gardens a fountain stood in the middle of five connecting pathways. Draped and wrapped in glowing vines as it spewed dark oil, the structure was as regal and omniscient in the night as it looked grand in the day. Optimus slid to an abrupt halt when he reached it. Silently, he stared at it for a few moments, acknowledging the ancient relic that had been in these gardens so long even Alpha Trion had once wandered by it as a sparkling.
Time seemed to slow in those moments. With careful, hesitant steps did the eldest son of the Prime continue around the fountain, nervous energy tangling into his field as he walked beyond the ancient structure. Behind it, he ducked underneath the lone arch overgrown with luminescent crystals.
For the first time in a long time, he gazed upon his other creator.
Upon her pedestal she still danced, just as he remembered. She stood on one ped, the other raised and bent behind her as her arm struts stretched out and up at her sides. Helm tiled up towards the stars, an eternal smile was etched into her faceplates. Beneath her, the plaque made from her metal and etched with her runes still glowed a deep shade of blue.
The epiphany of elegance. The jewel of Iacon. The consort of the Prime.
Optimus vented shakily, approaching her statue as coolant welled in his optics.
He whispered, gazing at her stone body. He recalled how she’d looked when she twirled and waltzed in the palace halls, her laughter so full of light and joy it used to fill every corner.
“… I know I promised you that I would not return here again, not unless it was dire.”
Without pause, he kneeled at her pedestal’s side, staring at her plaque as his vision grew evermore blurred and distorted from tears.
“Three of our allies have turned against us. They threaten to break the pacts, Kaon means to declare war-!”
He gasped as he spoke, finally feeling the coolant slip from his optics and stream down his faceplates.
“Sire intends to have all of us bond with each leader to solidify trust through union… If it were only me, I would take on such responsibility without thought.”
Cold stone met his shoulder. Optimus hadn’t even realized he was now leaning against her.
“But, Jazz and Rodimus… They’ve only just become adults, they’re still so young with so much to learn! I’ve tried to look after them, teach them like you asked, but there’s only so much I can do!”
Crumbling against the pedestal, the young Prime’s helm met the carved stone with a small clunk.
“… I won’t be there to take care of them much longer, carrier. And I fear that my union to Kaon’s leader may be my last cycles alive.”
For a long time after, Optimus could not speak. All of the pain he’d held back for so many vorns spilled over and flowed through him. He choked on the sobs that wracked his frame, shaking as he clutched his chest plates in agony.
When he finally regained enough control, the young Prime lifted a servo and placed it over the plaque, the metal beneath cold and lifeless, but familiar.
“If I can find no solace in life any longer… I will find solace in that I will see you again soon in the Well.”
With a final sigh, Optimus let his servo fall away, turning to rise and leave his carrier’s final resting place in peace.
Glimpsing up at the pathway before him, he suddenly found himself in front of the old mech whom had mentored him and his brothers since their sparkling cycles.
“M-My Lord Alpha Trion!”
He stuttered, momentarily frozen stiff in shock. The old mech simply watched him, expression unreadable. Embarrassment quickly welled in his field and he stumbled to his peds, trying viciously to wipe away the coolant streaks littering his face with his arm strut. Clumsily he bowed, trying to pull in his heavy and sorrow-soaked field.
“Please excuse my momentary lapse of manners! I was just about to return to my chambers for recharge—”
The elder mech interrupted him, and he quickly closed his intake, bowing his helm shamefully. How long had his mentor been standing there? How much had he heard? Most likely, enough to criticize him for the rest of his life cycles. Regret swelled in his spark, cursing him for abandoning protocol instead of getting the rest he would need to face these next few cycles.
Ped steps came closer and he tensed, waiting for the lash or the verbal discipline he’d received when he disobeyed protocol as a sparkling. Instead, he felt two digits placed under his jaw, lifting it so that he met the deep worry within his mentor’s optics.
“Your lapse is excused, Optimus.”
Optimus recycled his optics, feeling more coolant slip down his plating. He mentally cursed it, his optics once again averting in embarrassment. But Alpha Trion did not comment on it, merely lifting a thumb to wipe away the wet streaks. The gesture startled him, and he forced himself to not jerk away, instead staring with wide optics. It was the kindest gesture he’d ever received from the old mech.
“I believe you had the right idea, however.”
Alpha Trion’s servo suddenly fell away as he looked around at the crystal vines underneath the stars, humming admiringly at their view.
“The gardens are quite lovely this cycle. I thought I’d take a late night stroll to appreciate them.”
The young Prime’s optics contracted, instead coming to favor a raised brow as confusion and light suspicion dotted his field. Alpha Trion never stayed out this late, that he knew from vorns of experience. After the sun fell, he always walked the palace halls once before retiring to berth, always taking a klik to stop by his and his brothers’ chambers to look in and be sure they were in recharge.
Optimus had not been there tonight. He was sure that Alpha Trion must’ve walked the library before coming here.
His thoughts were interrupted when the elder then held out an elbow towards him.
“Won’t you join me, Optimus? I could use the company.”
Glancing silently between the elder’s elbow and face, his field swirled with indecision. About half a klik later, he finally found it in him to speak.
“But… Pardon, my lord, but shouldn’t we retire for recharge?”
He asked timidly. Alpha Trion hummed in acknowledgement of the question, nodding as he thought about it. However, in the end, he merely shook his helm at he gazed at the young mech beside him.
“I do not believe I am so ready to let such a rare opportunity go to waste. Nor do I think you’re ready to return to your chambers yet, are you?”
Stilling where he stood, the young Prime was so taken aback by the question that protocol was abandoned again in favor of thinking it over. And truth be told, he already knew the answer.
“… No, I do not think I am.”
He spoke quietly, averting his optics once more. Not a moment passed by before he suddenly felt the all-encompassing, comforting field of his mentor surround him. When he looked up once more, he found the elder’s soft smile pointed at him.
“Walk with your old mentor tonight, Optimus. I have the feeling we won’t receive this opportunity for much longer.”
This time, he only hesitated for a moment. Then, he grasped his mentor’s elbow, letting himself be led away from his carrier and into the sanctuary of the gardens.
Step forward, step lightly. Shoulders back, optics up, look straight ahead. Hold oneself with poise, bow to another with respect, walk amongst others with dignity. Within closed chambers, the bearer practiced their movements, unwilling to falter under any and all circumstances. Remember the greeting, rehearse the greeting. Speak fluently and quietly. Hold oneself tall no matter the reactions to be received.
“You called for me, my Lord Prime?”
Sentinel turned around from where he watched out the window, watching absently as his advisor approached.
“Yes, I did.”
He spoke, his gaze dropping away and returning to the window. Stopping a few paces behind him, Alpha Trion looked out as well, eyeing the mini-bots and servants who went about their business below. Patiently he waited, feeling the Prime’s rigidly constraint field and knowing, like his eldest creation, he’d need a moment to return to the present.
“… Did I make the right decision, Trion?”
The old mech turned his gaze upon Iacon’s ruler, who in turn looked to him. His optics were pained and lost, reminiscent of the cycles following the loss of his consort.
“Was this the right thing to do?”
Alpha Trion thought upon his question silently for a moment, before rotating his gaze back through the window.
“I cannot judge a decision without seeing it’s full consequences, my lord.”
The Prime whirled on his advisor in a flare of short temper.
“Then judge it based on the consequences you have seen! Give me an answer Trion!!”
He snapped, his sharp bark slicing through the hall. Alpha Trion did not react at first, leading the Prime to stop and recollect himself, intaking a few long vents.
“… I am sorry, Trion. Please pardon my loss of temper.”
A klik of silence followed, one Alpha Trion only broke when he knew the Prime was calm once more.
“You worry for your creations. It is to be expected.”
Sentinel nodded wearily, rolling his shoulders to keep them from falling forward under the weight of his responsibilities. He was taken off-guard when his advisor spoke once more.
“I believe, that for the well-being of our city-state, you made the right choice… But for the well-being of your family, you could’ve made better.”
The old mech stated in utmost honesty, not about to let his own opinion be thrown to the wayside either. Sentinel barely withheld a huff of indignance similar to those of Rodimus.
“The Lords of Praxus and Crystal City were ready to smash the very data pads containing our pacts! The Lord of Kaon held me at gunpoint when I argued! What other choice did I have?!”
Alpha Trion stated it with such absoluteness that it caught the Prime off-guard, causing him to stare at his advisor with wide optics.
“You were given none, and therefore could offer your creations none. Whether or not they’d been involved in the situation, union was the only option any leader would’ve accepted in their stead. The only way they wouldn’t have to through this, is if they’d been born to regular citizens.”
Realizing he was right, Sentinel’s expression fell to indifference, and he hummed to acknowledge his begrudging agreement.
“Jazz and Rodimus. They are still so young…”
“They are smart mecha, Sentinel, and will learn the ways of their new city-states. Each leader will be courteous of their consort’s background and will see to it that they settle into their new role. It is the demand of tradition.”
Alpha Trion stated plainly, reminding Iacon’s ruler of what he already knew to offer some semblance of comfort. He was then surprised the EM field beside him went rigid once more. When he looked, he found Sentinel’s expression had considerably darkened.
“Kaon will only follow tradition if it so pleases them.”
He grated out, also reminding the advisor of what he would already know.
“Their lord is insufferably hard to please and easy to anger. None of my sons deserve to be bonded to that monster, especially not Optimus.”
With the mention of the eldest’s name, Alpha Trion was instantly subjected to the memory of his kind student, crumbled at the base of his carrier’s statue and waiting for death. His shoulders dropped by a minute fraction, an action the Prime did not see. Closing his optics to silently compose himself, he only spoke when he knew he would not waver.
“My Lord Prime, I firmly believe that if there was anyone who could soothe the Lord of Kaon’s temper enough to be reasonable, it would be Optimus.”
Sentinel’s dark anger faded as his advisor spoke, and when he gazed upon him once more, he found nothing but sincerity in the other’s optics. A pair of compassionate and loving cerulean optics came to the forefront of his processor, and he smiled minutely.
“My Lord Prime!”
Tailgate’s voice flittered through the hall behind them, and both mecha turned from the window to see the mini-bot sprinting towards them, panting as he bowed low.
“Pardon me, my lords! But the leaders of Praxus, Crystal City, and Kaon are arriving! Their ships are landing as we speak!”
Sentinel Prime and Alpha Trion exchanged a knowing glance before Iacon’s ruler nodded to the mini-bot.
“Thank you, Tailgate. I will be there momentarily to greet them. Please see to it that the entranceway is cleared for us.”
“Yes my lord!”
The mini-bot quickly acknowledged before bowing and sprinting away once more. The Iaconian ruler heaved a great sigh, glancing at his advisor with a pinched expression. Alpha Trion almost smirked in amusement at it.
“You heard the mini-bot, my Lord. Go greet your guests.”
This time, the Prime did not withhold his annoyed huff.
“Don’t lecture me, Trion. I’ve been through enough of your lessons—”
A loud shout suddenly shattered the quiet of the palace interior. Both elder mecha jumped and looked up at the stairway, surprised to see Rodimus sprinting from one end of the second floor’s hall to the other.
“What?! Why are you shouting?!”
“HAVE YOU SEEN MY POLISH?? I CAN’T FIND IT!”
“I don’t fragging know where you put your polish!! Don’t you dare think you’re using mine!!”
Simultaneously, Alpha Trion and Sentinel exchanged wary expressions, listening as they launched into a full-blown argument, accompanied by something fragile crashing beyond their line of sight.
“THAT WAS NOT ME!”
“Oh for the love of Primus, why don’t you just go pester Optimus about it?! I’m sure he’ll know where it is!”
There was a heavy pause before the youngest Prime’s voice picked back up.
“OH YEAH GOOD POINT! RACE YOU!”
“Hey wait a klik—That’s mine!! Rodimus give me back my sapphires! RODIMUS!!”
Another crash echoed over the stairway, and Alpha Trion could only sigh in frustration as the youngest Primes ran back across the second floor, one of them bent on murdering the other. Sentinel smiled sadly at the display, already knowing how much he was going to miss it.
There came a knock at the door of his chambers, catching the bearer’s attention.
“HEY OPTIMUS! HAVE YOU SEEN MY POLISH??”
Rodimus’ yell pounded at his audials.
“Roddy, for the love of Primus, stop shouting! And give those back!!”
Jazz’s voice followed, not as loud but far angrier. Optimus stopped himself from rolling his optics, focusing instead on adjusting the silver band around his wrist strut.
“I have not seen your polish, Rodimus. However, if you promise not to break the container, you can use mine.”
He spoke evenly. From the other side of the door came a whoop.
“Sweet! I’m coming in, where is it?”
Neither of his brothers wasted time bounding into his chambers, Jazz grumbling as he stuck the sapphires in his servo to the edges of his visor.
“On the shelf. It’s the clear bottle.”
Rodimus swept by at a jog, the trail of his gold and red veils whipping behind him. Rubies dotted the edges of his faceplates, with one especially large jewel put over his chest plates. It was striking, borderline-obnoxious in decorations, and undoubtedly Rodimus. Jazz, meanwhile, had decided on teal and blue veils sweeping over his shoulders to counter his colors and accent his visor, with sapphires looped in swirls over his audials and faceplates. Flamboyant, but fashionable and fitting Jazz in every way. Optimus couldn’t help the small smile that crossed his faceplates as he watched them from his corner in the room.
“Jazz, Rodimus, you look rather dashing. I am impressed.”
Both of his brothers paused, unused to compliments from their eldest sibling that had raised them up to this point. Jazz bashfully blushed, turning on a heel to properly look at him.
“Aw thank you Op—Oh my Primus…”
Jazz halted where he stood, his visor lighting up bright as he stared at the red and blue mech. Rodimus, who heard his brother’s exclamation, spun around from where he’d just grabbed the polish. When he locked optics with their eldest sibling, his jaw dropped.
Optimus asked with a raised metal brow, swiveling to face them, his white veil shimmering around him as it followed. After staring for a solid klik, Jazz reached a servo under Rodimus’ hanging jaw and snapped it shut without looking. It snapped the youngest out of his trance, and he bounded up and down.
“YOU LOOK INCREDIBLE! HOW DO YOU LOOK SO INCREDIBLE?!”
“Are those diamonds around your optics?!”
They both swamped him, marveling at the way he’d prepared for their meeting today with their destined partners. At their excitement he smiled, but simply shrugged as he finished fixing the silver crest and veil magnetized to his elbow.
“Kaoni tradition favors diamonds for decoration. I decided to follow a theme of silver and white, as their city-state finds most of it’s profit from mining elemental metals.”
Recycling their optics at him, Rodimus snorted and crossed his arms over his chest plates.
“Only you would actually do research before picking out what to wear. I think my colors are great, so I’ll show ‘em off!”
The youngest Prime spun and struck a pose to prove his point. Jazz rolled his optics at him in exasperation.
“I will not miss your annoying aft when this is all done and over with.”
He then turned back to his elder sibling, gathering the other’s servos in his own.
“You look absolutely dazzling, Optimus. If you don’t knock that fragger from Kaon to his knees, he’s obviously not Cybertronian.”
It was Optimus’ turn to be bashful, his field flushing shyly before wrapping around his brother affectionately.
“Thank you, Jazz.”
Jazz flashed a sideways smile back. Over by the shelf, Rodimus pretended to retch.
“Ugh, get a room guys! All this mushy brotherly love is making me sick!”
He whined, making the others laugh.
That’s when another knock sounded from outside the door, effectively silencing all three of them.
“Optimus? It’s Alpha Trion, may I enter?”
Immediately, Rodimus adamantly shook his helm, pleading his eldest sibling to say no. Optimus tried not to laugh as he replied to their mentor.
“Of course. Please come in, my lord.”
As the door opened, he found himself subjected to the heated glare of his brother, one that he returned a raised brow at seamlessly. When Alpha Trion closed the door behind him, their expressions leveled. The old mech hummed as he looked them all over.
“So this is where you two troublemakers retreated to.”
He muttered, glancing between Jazz and Rodimus pointedly. The youngest Prime huffed.
“Hey! I couldn’t find my polish! Optimus let me borrow his!”
“And Roddy stole my sapphires!”
Glancing back at the eldest Prime in the room, all the old mentor received was a helpless shrug of red shoulders. Humming once more, he scanned over all of their appearances, nodding to himself.
“Well, you all cleaned up nice. Your suitors should find you aesthetically pleasing, at the least.”
“Geez. That’s cold, mech.”
Jazz stated irritably, earned another pointed glare.
“Address your elders properly, Jazz.”
With that, Alpha Trion sighed, pinching his nasal ridge in two digits before lifting his helm to speak to them once more.
“I’ve come to inform you three that city-state leaders have arrived. They’re in the hall at the bottom of the stairwell, waiting on your entrance.”
At once, the mood in the room shifted. Alpha Trion felt it like the way a cloud would shift over the sun, any lingering joy turning to apprehension, gloom, and fear.
“… They are?”
Jazz questioned quietly, receiving a single nod in return.
“Which means that you are expected in the hall.”
The elder spoke with finality, turning back on a heel towards the door.
Rodimus inquired next. Alpha Trion sighed shortly.
In total, eight mecha stood at the bottom of the stairwell. Sentinel stood in the middle of them all, conversing quietly with the leader of Praxus and his advisor, whose door wings twitched as they talked. To their left, and listening in from their distance, stood the leader of Crystal City with his own advisor, who managed to look crankier than Alpha Trion. To the right, standing the farthest away, were the leader and advisor of Kaon. Neither of them looked particularly pleased as they convered with one another. Wandering between all of their legs, Tailgate carried a tray of energon cubes, offering them politely.
Rodimus slowly pulled back from where he’d peeked around the corner to see them, looking back at his brothers with frantic optics.
“Ok, but seriously, there’s a bot down there with two giant blades attaches to his back! Please tell me I’m not being paired off with that one!”
He whispered loudly. Alpha Trion resisted the urge to slap a servo over his faceplates.
“Hush, Rodimus. You’ll see soon enough. Here, you’ll be first.”
Alpha Trion held out his elbow to the young Prime, whose stare turned incredulous.
“Wait a minute, why am I first?! And why do I have to be escorted??”
Jazz and Optimus exchanged optical glances as their mentor sighed and prayed for patience.
“Because you are the youngest, Rodimus. When multiple creations of one’s royal family are to be bonded, it is customary that the youngest be presented first. And, if necessary, have an escort. As your mentor, I deem it necessary.”
Leveling a frustrated glare at the old mech, Rodimus grumbled under his vents as he grabbed his elbow.
“I hate this.”
“Hush and remember to keep your shoulders back and optics up.”
Before their youngest sibling could get another word out, Alpha Trion walked out to the stairway. Huddling against the wall, Jazz and Optimus peeked out as they reached the top of the stairs, attracting the attention of all mecha below.
“Ah, here they arrive!”
Sentinel proclaimed proudly, stepping away from the door-winged mechs to stand at the bottom of the stairs.
“Well then, my son, why don’t you join us?”
The Prime beckoned, nodding once to Alpha Trion. Rodimus barely vented where he stood, and when the old mentor began to descend the stairs, his brothers could see how rigid and anxious his movements were. He almost stumbled a little over halfway down, from their vantage points both of his brothers froze, only releasing the air they held when Alpha Trion kept him upright. Clearly, he’d been right, Rodimus definitely needed an escort.
“My fellow lordships, may I present to you my youngest, Rodimus Prime.”
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, the youngest Prime bowed his helm in respect to the rulers surrounding him. It was most quiet and well-behaved his family had ever seen him. For a long moment, nobody below moved, and the silence in that moment was as deafening as a crowded room.
But then, the lord to the far left stepped forward, the blades on his back glinting as he eyed the young mech curiously. Alpha Trion stepped away as he stepped forth, causing Rodimus to finally look up in brief startlement. When their optics locked, the leader’s lip plate curled into a small smile, and he bowed to him.
“Greetings Rodimus, son of the Primes. I am Drift, Lord and Leader of Crystal City.”
Rodimus’ expression morphed into something that somehow combined incredulousness, fear, and wonder all in one. It was a surprise that he was even able to respond.
“… Hi—I, uh, I mean—!”
He stumbled, almost feeling Alpha Trion’s optics glaring holes into his back.
“… I am honored to meet you, Lord Drift.”
With that he bowed, managing to do so without losing his balance. Looking up again, he was relieved to find Lord Drift didn’t seem to mind his slip up. If anything, he seemed charmed by him.
From their vantage point at the top of the stairs, Jazz snickered and chortled.
“Looks like he got Lord Blades anyway!”
He leaned back against the wall, trying not to give himself away while Optimus merely shook his helm with a smile.
“Now then, I’m sure your siblings can’t be far behind. Jazz? Come on now, don’t be shy!”
His name was called, and the entirety of his joy fell away. Looking back at Optimus, he silently pleaded for help, whether it be any advice he had left to give or simply throwing him out the window to avoid this meeting. In response, his brother smiled reassuringly at him, pushing him forward towards their sire’s call. Jazz tip-toed to the edge, peeked out once more, and then puffed a deep vent. With his shoulders rolled back, he stepped out into view, walking to the rail before turning and descending. Optimus could only silently praise him as he kept a tight hold to keep himself from falling, his normally free-going field restrained tightly by anxiety. Below him, the sturdily-built white mech from Praxus watched with rapt optics as Jazz reached the bottom of the stairs, his door wings flicking.
“I present to you my second eldest, Jazz Prime.”
The lord said it carefully, as if he were tasting it. The blue-veiled son immediately lifted his helm as the white door-winged mech approached him without pause, as if afraid another would be first to claim him. Watching him with guarded optics, Jazz tensed where he stood when the lord took his servo and bowed low.
“It is a delight to meet you, Jazz of the Primes. I am Prowl, lord and leader of Praxus.”
He purred, his door wings folding back as he placed a kiss on the back of his servo. Jazz could only smile bashfully, dipping into a polite bow to show his respect for the title.
“You honor me, Lord Prowl. It is a delight to meet you as well.”
Prowl’s smile only widened, and as he gathered both of Jazz’s servos into his own, his brothers knew that they’d already hit it off. Sentinel’s spark warmed at the sight of it, taking solace in that Jazz would most certainly be happy, before he turned towards the last lord. A raised, skeptical optical brow was thrown in his direction, clearly unimpressed by what he’d seen so far, and Sentinel fought down the wave of anger that welled in his spark. Throwing on a fearless smile, he inclined his helm in apology.
“As much of a delight it has been to see all else, I know you’ve waited long enough, my lord. In thanks for your patience, I present to you my eldest: Optimus Prime.”
A flash of panic whipped down his spinal strut, but he quickly dismissed it, shuttering his optics and pulling in a small vent. Step forward, step lightly. Shoulders back, optics up, look straight ahead. Hold oneself with poise, bow to another with respect, walk amongst others with dignity. Cerulean blue optics opened once more, and he set his shoulders straight as he strode into view, falling into a controlled pace. As he stopped at the top of the stairs, his white veils fluttered around him, catching another of the sun’s rays to cast him and the diamonds on his face in light.
Sentinel looked up once before doing a subtle double take, his optics widening with awe and pride as he took in his eldest son’s ethereal appearance. Jazz and Rodimus shared a small smirk with each other as they gazed upon him, if not a little a jealous that he would always be the most graceful out of the three of them.
The lord of Kaon, unlike Sentinel Prime, was not so subtle in his reactions. As Optimus descended the stairs with a servo skimming the rail, he watched from the corner of his optic as the enormous silver war-frame stepped forward. Armor-bulked arms dropped from where they’d been crossed over a massive chest, and with a small prickle of nervousness he caught glimpse of the cannon built into his right forearm. The lord’s helm sported sharp points extending beyond the chin, but the danger of those points deeply contrasted the slackened expression he now portrayed. Brilliant crimson red optics showed no malice nor anger in that moment, and the unconsciously opened jaw showed, in a humbled way, how taken aback he’d become.
Harboring hope that this was a good reaction, Optimus halted at the bottom of the stairs, looking into the crimson optics of the lord with stolen confidence. Kaoni tradition ruled, after all, that bonded partners should always be able to look each other in the optic.
He must’ve noticed this, for after half a klik his expression smoothed out into one accompanying a small, absent-minded smile. When he walked forward, Optimus matched his footsteps, determined to show confidence as well as an acknowledgement of the lord’s culture. With their continued isolation, not many understood it. They met in the middle their chosen path, and only then did the Kaoni leader look away from his face, optics instead trailing over his veils and crests that adorned him.
“… White and silver… A fine choice of shades to ornament oneself with.”
Off to the side, Jazz and Rodimus recycled their optics in confusion. He hadn’t even introduced himself yet. Wasn’t that the way it always went? Optimus, however, took it in stride. Kaon only followed tradition if it so pleased them.
“Simplicity proves to be beauty in a world of chaotic colors… Your city-state admires the elemental metals as its high-ranking products of trade, does it not?”
The Kaoni leader’s helm whipped back up to meet the optics of the mech before him, crimson optics briefly flicking to the sparkling diamonds once more. Optimus felt the rough EM field around the lord echo with hints of shock. And if he dare mention it, awe. After another moment, the silver war frame collected himself enough to nod in affirmation.
“Yes, it does… How kindly considerate of you to acknowledge our customs with such propriety.”
The statement came off of his glossa sounding all the more surprised, if not the slightest bit suspicious that this was all in good intentions. In response, the young Prime looked up into his optics, abandoning courtesy protocol to open his field and brush it against the other and show his sincerity. Kaonians were more open to exchanges through their fields, after all.
“All ways of life upon Cybertron are sacred to me, my lord. I feel it a harsh insult to dismiss the vital customs of one’s culture simply because we do not know them.”
It was like flipping a switch. At his show of open honesty and compassion, all traces of suspicion disappeared. What remained, instead, was the return of that absent-minded smile and the awe that swirled in his field.
“Wisely spoken, and well put, Optimus Prime. I suppose in observance of such, I should take this time to consider yours.”
Then, in compliance of Iacon’s ritual and in the dignified manner of the ancient rulers, the Kaoni leader took a gentle hold of Optimus’ servo within his clawed digits and fell onto one knee. Crossing his other fisted servo over his chest, he bowed his helm in a show of reverence.
“Greetings to you, Optimus, son of the Primes. I am Megatron, Lord and Leader of Kaon.”
With utmost care, did he press a kiss to the back of his servo, his sharp denta sheltered behind his lip plates. As tradition now demanded of him, the eldest son of the Prime bowed himself low in a show of his respect.
“I am honored to meet you, Lord Megatron.”
He spoke softly as those crimson optics rose to meet his.
“And I,” Megatron rumbled, rising once more to stand so close their frames almost brushed, “am enchanted to meet you.”