Story Twenty-Four - The Blade of Marmora
Keith grinned from his seat in the Red Paladin chair. He was finally going home. Ulaz was standing near his kit and had a comforting hand on his shoulder. Keith nuzzled his hand and softly purred to his Papa.
Keith grinned wider. Apparently, the Blades were still using the security protocol Lotor had come up with after he had been nearly kidnapped.
Shiro looked at Keith, who nodded and leaned against Ulaz. "Open a hailing frequency, Coran. We are the Paladins of Voltron, sent here by Ulaz."
A couple of ticks passed before the automated reply came. "Three may enter. Come unarmed."
"Why would they insist on coming unarmed? Shiro, this doesn't feel right," Allura commented.
"We've come too far to turn back now," Shiro replied.
"They just sent us a route to the base, but we'll have to move quickly. Because of the solar flares, it's only open for another varga. Then, it'll be closed for two quintants," Coran put in.
"They're gonna close it for two years?" Hunk asked.
"Two days," Pidge corrected.
"Oh," Hunk said.
"So, any thoughts on who's gonna join you on this little mission? I'm thinking things may get a little hot, so you're gonna want someone who can stay cool," Lance inquired.
"You're right. Keith, you're coming with me along with Ulaz," Shiro decided.
"Keith's a hothead! He's probably going to shoot first and ask questions later! And they're not going to be able to answer his questions because they'll be dead!" Lance got in Shiro's face.
"We haven't severed Zarkon's link with the Black Lion," Shiro started explaining while moving Lance back out of his face. "So, it has to stay here. And the Red Lion can withstand the heat from that sun. So, yes, it'll be Keith and Ulaz."
"The course to the base will be quite treacherous, to say the least. You're walking a razor's edge between the gravitational pull of the black holes and the sun. One false move and you'll either be stretched into infinity or burnt to a crisp," Coran warned.
Keith was excited to be piloting his Papa and his mentor through the extremely dangerous route home. It had been a long two deca-phoebes, but he was finally going to see whoever was home. He hoped his entire pack was there, but in his heart, he knew not everyone was there. They were in a war after all. He landed the Red Lion outside on the asteroid. Red Lion let her three passengers out before she powered down.
Keith tensed slightly when the lift activated and two Blades came into view. His breath caught in his throat as he recognized both of them. It was Antok and Taulol! He couldn't take it any longer and ran towards them, yanking off his helmet in the process. He let out a whine before he reached them, which caused Antok to grab Keith and pull him close. "Kit?"
Keith nuzzled his largest pack member, tears coursing down his cheeks. "I can't believe I'm finally back! I missed you guys so much!"
Keith felt weight against his back and purred to his surrogate aunt. "Kit, it's been so long! I was against sending you away two deca-phoebes ago."
"I wasn't fond of the idea either, but Lotor convinced me."
"Imagine our surprise when Ulaz told us he made contact with you and that you were in space."
Keith grinned. "Can we go in? I want to see everyone who's still home."
Antok shifted his hold on Keith and put him up on his shoulders. "Hold on, kit."
Keith twisted around and looked at Shiro. "Come on, Shiro. Let's go."
"What's going on, Keith?"
Keith couldn't blame Shiro. He hadn't told anyone about being raised by the Blades. He had figured it wouldn't end well. When they had encountered Ulaz, the truth came out, and, to Keith's surprise, the only one who reacted negatively was Princess Allura.
"Shiro, Keith has told you that he was raised by the Blade of Marmora. These two are members of our pack," Ulaz spoke up. "Antok and Taulol. Now, let's go inside. Our leader, Kolivan, is expecting us."
Shiro slowly followed the three Blades and Keith into the lift, which carried them into the base. When Antok walked into the main hall, Keith was still perched on top of his shoulders, grinning cheekily. There were gasps from the Blades they passed, but Keith wasn't entirely interested in their reactions. He wanted to see Kolivan's reaction to his reappearance after two deca-phoebes. Fortunately for Keith, the trek to the dais didn't take long thanks to Antok's long legs. He heard Kolivan's breath catch in his throat, and his mask disappeared as he approached his second-in-command. Antok knew what his oldest friend and leader wanted and lifted the kit from his shoulders, setting him down between them.
"Keith? Kit, is that you?"
Keith reached for him. "Dad!"
Kolivan grabbed Keith and tucked him against his chest, nosing his hair. "Kit, you're finally back."
"I missed you so much!"
Kolivan held Keith out to get a good look at him. "You are still short, kit, but what are you wearing, and where are your stripes?"
"I am a Paladin of Voltron. I had to hide my stripes when you sent me to Earth, and I just got used to hiding them."
Ulaz came up behind Keith and put his hands on his shoulders. "Leader, I believe it's time for Keith to take the trials. He will pass and make us proud."
Keith looked from Ulaz to Kolivan. "Can I?"
Kolivan took one look at Keith and knew he couldn't say no. "Of course, kit."
Keith was nervous as he entered the room, armed only with his mother's knife. A singular Blade rose from the floor with his mask covering his face.
"Surrender the blade." The Blade drew his sword and brandished it. "You cannot win." He twirled it around until it was downward facing.
Keith drew his knife and held it in his right hand, forward facing. He charged first, and his attempts to hit his opponent with his knife were blocked twice in a row. He kicked and then slashed at him before flipping the knife around, it now rear facing. Keith tried two punching slashes (which were blocked by the Blade's sword) before the Blade grabbed his wrist and elbowed Keith in the face and shoved him away by pushing on his chest. Keith stumbled and fell but rolled back up onto feet. The Blade rushed at him and attacked him six times in quick succession with Keith blocking each of the attacks. The Blade feigned a slash before he kicked at Keith and landed a blow with his sword on his right shoulder (between shoulder blade and neck), causing him to cry out. A kick sent him tumbling end over end before Keith stood up and stabbed forward, and the Blade grabbed his arm and twisted him around until he was bent forward with the Blade's sword at the side of his neck. "Surrender the blade and the pain will cease."
"I won't quit."
"Then the pain continues." He released Keith, who fell to his knees. He stood up and turned to face the Blade. "You are not meant to go through that door." He was clearly gesturing at the door in the rear of the room. With a wary glare at the Blade, Keith dashed past him and into the next room. He stood with the knife held out in front of him, ready to defend himself against whoever showed up next.
Regris and Krolia entered the room through the floor with their masks on. Krolia's eyes narrowed as she saw a fresh wound on her youngest kit's shoulder. He was injured! She fought the urge to growl. She was going to kill the Blade in the first room if she got her claws on him. Everyone in the organization knew Keith was her kit, just as everyone knew that Regris, Lotor, Ezor, and Acxa were also her kits.
Keith rushed forward, intending on fighting these two Blades. He was hoping to defeat them, but the battle was short lived as the one with the tail tripped him and pinned his legs while the other one pinned his arms. He fought as hard as he could, trying to get them off when he heard someone say his name. "Keith."
He looked at the Blade pinning his arms and saw the mask disappear, revealing his mother's face. "Mom?"
His eyes traveled down to the Blade pinning his legs and saw his eldest brother's grinning face. "Regris?"
Krolia and Regris released their hold on Keith, allowing him to get up. Keith caught the look in his mom's eyes and realized that she was staring at his cheeks, specifically the spots where his cheek stripes were. However, they were still hidden under the foundation he had used when he got to Earth. Krolia couldn't help the whine that left her throat at the sight of the bare cheeks.
"Mom, it's okay." He hurriedly wiped his cheeks with the sleeves of the uniform, revealing his stripes. "See? I still have them and still remember everyone." He quickly tucked himself under her chin in a very familiar manner. "I missed you so much, Mom."
"I missed you, too, kit." Krolia nosed Keith's hair. Regris slid in next to his brother and wrapped his tail around his waist.
"Hi, Regris. I missed you too," Keith purred.
"Oh, by the way, Mom, thanks for lending me your blade. It was comforting to have it with me." Keith backed out from under his mother's chin and flipped the knife around, handle facing Krolia, to hand it back to its original owner. "Take it."
Suddenly, the insignia glowed before the glow spread to the entire knife, and then, it elongated into a short sword. Keith's eyes widened in shock before he chirped.
"Congratulations, my kit. You've awoken the blade. It's yours now. You're officially a Blade."
"I am? I passed the trials?"
"Yes, and now, I must go talk to the Blade you first faced."
Keith made a questioning noise. "Mom, please don't kill him."
"Don't worry, kit. I won't kill him, but he'll wish I had."
Regris tugged Keith out of the room and towards the med bay. "You need to get this treated." Regris looked up at who was in the med bay. "Ulaz!"
Regris hurried over and hugged Ulaz. He may not have been as close with Ulaz as Acxa and Keith, but he still missed him. Keith came over, nuzzling his Papa. Ulaz didn't realize Keith was injured until Ulaz had gripped Keith's shoulder, prompting his kit to hiss.
"Keith, what-?" Ulaz immediately let go of the kits and inspected Keith's shoulder, finding the injury quickly. He recognized that it was from a luxite sword and was incensed that a member of their organization harmed their kit.
Keith recognized the look on Ulaz's face. "Don't worry about it, Papa. Mom's already taking care of it."
"All right, kit." Ulaz nodded and set to treating his kit's injury.
"HOW DARE YOU?! THAT WAS MY KIT YOU INJURED!" Krolia roared.
The other Blade struggled in her grip but couldn't find any purchase as Krolia had him pinned to the wall a few feet off the ground by his neck. Her grip was making it hard to breathe. "Please. I-I didn't k-know."
"LIAR! EVERYONE KNOWS KEITH!"
"Krolia, stand down. Ilun didn't know. He came to us a few quintants after Keith left on his mission," Kolivan intervened. "Put him down."
Krolia none to gently dropped Ilun to the floor. Ilun rubbed his neck, trying to get feeling back into it. Kolivan approached Krolia, passing Ilun on the way. He paused and patted Ilun on the shoulder. "Do not injure anyone else going through the trials. Take the rest of the quintant off to recover."
"Yes, leader. My apologies." Ilun bowed and left as Kolivan made his way over to Krolia.
"What is the matter, Krolia?"
"When I saw Keith without his stripes, it brought back memories of that horrid nightmare I had."
Kolivan tugged Krolia closer and tucked her against him. "It's okay, Krolia. Keith still has his stripes and his memories of us. Your nightmare didn't come to be. Now, let's go see our kit."
Krolia let herself be led to the med bay, where not only Ulaz and Regris were crowded around Keith, but Antok, Taulol, and Shiro were there. Shiro was trying to get close to Keith but was continuously blocked by Keith's pack members. Keith could see Shiro was worried about him. He chirped, gaining everyone's attention. "Can one of you step back and let Shiro in? He's worried too." When no one moved, Keith turned to Regris. "Please, Regris. He was like family when I was on Earth. He watched over me."
Regris could tell how much this human meant to his brother and stepped back, using his tail to bring Shiro to Keith's side. "Thanks Regris."
"Keith, are you okay?"
Keith smiled. "Yeah. It was just a little cut-" Keith was cut off by a few growls. He ducked his head as the adults of his pack disagreed with his description of his injury.
"That was no mere cut, kit. A few inches deeper and it would have cut through a muscle!" Ulaz corrected.
Keith purred to his Papa. He was such a worrier; something he missed while he had been on his mission and consequently shot into space. He saw Krolia edging her way closer and chirped. "Mom!"
Taulol backed away, allowing Krolia to get close enough to her kit to pick him up. Keith wrapped his arms around her neck and nuzzled her. Krolia licked his cheek stripes causing Keith to purr again. Krolia looked at the assembled members of her pack. "I refuse to be separated from Keith again. I will be returning with him, Ulaz, and Shiro. Regris, you can come with us if you'd like."
"Hold on," Shiro tried to interject.
"We are coming as well," Kolivan spoke up, motioning to himself and Antok. "We have a plan to take down the Empire but we need the assistance of Princess Allura."
Keith knew that Allura wouldn't be pleased with that many Galra on her ship, but he couldn't bring himself to care. Almost his entire pack were going to reside in the castle, and that made it all worthwhile.