Princess Allura stood on her balcony and gazed out over the landscape of her planet contentedly. She was weary after a busy day of preparations for the big event to come, but her excitement outweighed her sleepiness, and even at this late evening hour she found it hard to lay down for another night’s sleep. Especially since tomorrow was the big day.
Nanny had been positively frantic for the past few weeks, heading the preparations and making sure everything was done perfectly. Today had been especially full of activity as last minute arrangements were made. The entire castle personnel had been on alert for the past few days, well aware of Nanny’s attitude and well prepared to heed to whatever errand she sent them on. Allura’s four teammates had been particularly sensitive of Nanny’s sharp commands and imperious air. There was no arguing with her now. Even Lance had to back off.
Allura smiled at how obedient her friends were being. Nanny had sent them running around on various jobs all day, and they hadn’t had a moment's rest. But she knew they were only doing it for her, and she appreciated it. And she hoped she could express her gratitude towards them before tomorrow’s celebrations began.
Allura released a contented sigh before she tore her eyes off the view and returned back to her bedroom. She sat down at her dressing table, picked up her silver-handled brush, and started combing her long, thick blond hair. As she stroked, she peeked at herself in the mirror, trying to pick out any differences in her face. It looked the same as it always had. She certainly didn’t look any older.
Allura stopped brushing to stare at herself fully and shake her head at her reflection in disbelief. There was no denying it - her life was going to change when tomorrow came. Though the Castle had always celebrated the princess’s birthday in the past with a grand celebration, this one would be different. Because this time, Allura would become an adult. Which also meant she would retain complete rule over Arus, and would no longer be under the direct supervision of both Coran and Nanny.
Allura was of two minds about this. She looked forward to becoming an adult finally, since the age of 20 was the age of adulthood on Arus. And she also looked forward to having the freedom to make decisions about her planet without requiring the advice and consent of Coran. Coran would no longer be her guardian, and Nanny would technically no longer be her nursemaid. Of course, they would both stay on and continue with their duties. Coran would remain the royal advisor, and Nanny would remain the Castle’s head nurse. Allura would not only have the freedom to make her own decisions, but also the freedom to do as she pleased in and out of the Castle.
On the other hand, Allura valued the roles both Coran and Nanny had played in the past. Though they would still be playing them to some extent, Allura felt as if they were being pushed aside for her. She felt both happy and sad that she had outgrown them, and couldn’t help but worry about how they were feeling. She knew they were both feeling a little depressed about her growing up. The three of them had grown so close since Allura’s parents had died that they had become a substitute family. Allura just hoped that Coran and Nanny didn’t feel too bad about seeing her become an adult.
Allura’s sympathy for her two caretakers was overlapped by her excited anticipation of the day to come, however, as she found her reflection smiling widely back at her. She couldn’t help feeling just a bit proud of herself that the day was finally here. She had been looking forward to it for so long. At first, it was just to get away from Coran and Nanny’s rules. Then it was so she could prove to them that she could take care of herself. Now, Allura felt it was time that she finally took a firm grasp on her planet and her people and be the ruler her father wanted her to be.
Only in the privacy of her room could Allura display her excitement. She didn’t dare do it in front of the others for fear of appearing childish. And her day of adulthood was not the time to be acting childish. She had managed to keep herself composed and demure in front of the others, but her beaming face shone through now.
Restless, Allura stood and went back to her balcony. She had tried to go to sleep an hour ago, but found she could not. And she felt no more tired now than she had then. Allura looked down at the darkened blue lake in front of the Castle, and the reflection the moon made on the calm water. As an idea overtook her, Allura smiled to herself, then snatched her robe on her way out the door.
She was outside minutes later. Slowly and quietly, Allura strode to the water’s edge and gazed across the lake to the forest beyond. Normally she would not venture out without alerting the guard or bringing someone with her. But Allura didn’t feel like alerting anyone. And she felt safe right now, even though she was alone. A warm breeze swept out over the lake and wrapped around her, strengthening her feeling of security. She closed her eyes, a small grin on her face. Even though her birthday wasn’t until tomorrow, she felt free. At least for the moment.
Startled, Allura’s eyes flashed open and she whirled around at the voice behind her. It was a familiar figure that approached her from the direction of the Castle. As soon as she recognized him, Allura relaxed and greeted him with a calm smile, one he returned. She turned back to her vigil over the lake as he stepped up beside her, crossing his arms and looking at her speculatively.
"You’re up late," he observed.
"I couldn’t sleep," she admitted.
"Excited about the big day?"
Allura couldn’t help but grin.
"Maybe a little," she acceded.
Lance grinned widely.
"So," he asked, "what do Arusians do when they become adults?"
"Things they wouldn’t do when they were children," she replied.
"What do Terrans do when they become adults?" she asked.
"Lots of things," Lance admitted, "Any of which Coran, Nanny and Keith would all kill me for telling you about."
Allura laughed lightly.
"It can’t be that bad," she reasoned, "What about you? What did you do when your 20th birthday came?"
"On Terra, the age of adulthood in 18," Lance told her, "And I went out and got drunk."
"Is that all?"
Lance hesitated, scratching the back of his head.
"That’s all I can say," he said evasively.
Allura decided not to push it.
"What did Keith do?" she asked before she could stop herself.
Lance formed a wry smile on his lips.
"Keith accepted a mission into deep space on his 18th birthday," Lance replied, "But Sven and I had a party waiting for when he got back."
"Did he get drunk too?" she asked.
Lance shook his head.
"Nah," he replied, "Keith doesn’t drink."
Lance then turned to her, shaking his head.
"Hey, what are we doing talking about Keith and me?" he asked, "You’re the birthday girl."
"Woman," Allura amended with pretended arrogance.
Lance gave her a mock bow.
"My apologies, Highness," he told her formally, grinning as he did so.
"You are forgiven, Lance," Allura allowed, giggling as soon as she said it.
Lance smiled at her in amusement. Allura immediately remembered herself and regained her "adult" composure. This made Lance laugh. Allura glanced over at him questioningly.
"What are you laughing at?" she asked, feeling tempted to join him even though she didn’t know what was so funny.
"You," he told her, "You’re trying too hard. All day you’ve been holding back, controlling yourself. It’s OK to be excited, you know. No one’s going to think any less of you."
Allura sighed and leaned her head against his shoulder.
"I guess maybe I don’t want to disappoint anyone," she admitted, "Especially Coran and Nanny. They’ve given so much to make sure I was safe. And they’ve spent so much time teaching me and helping me grow. Now that I’m going to be an adult, I don’t want to let them down."
Lance put an arm around her and squeezed encouragingly.
"You have nothing to worry about, Princess," he assured her, "You haven’t let any of us down once. And I for one think you’re fully capable of handling whatever comes up after tomorrow."
She smiled and placed a hand on his back.
"Thanks, Lance," she told him.
"Just promise me one thing, Princess," he asked her.
She looked up at him.
"If you ever feel like smiling or laughing or looking excited at all tomorrow," he told her, "don’t hesitate, OK?"
"OK," she promised.
* * *
Lotor stabbed a large slab of partially raw meat with his knife and gnawed absently at it with his sharp teeth. A group of scantily clad women pranced about in front of him in a Drulian exotic dance. The Prince of Doom sat alone at his long, fully laden dining table since no one else on Planet Doom was worthy of dining with him, his father being away.
Lotor frowned as he felt the presence enter behind him. He knew who it was and he did not care for her company right now.
"What do you want now, witch?" he asked, irritably.
"Do you know what day it is tomorrow, sire?" Hagar asked him.
"The day I feed you to my genghal beast?" he asked.
"If you paid any attention to the Arusian calendar," Hagar told him, "you would remember it is the Princess Allura’s 20th birthday tomorrow."
Lotor’s eyes lit up at the mention of his beloved’s name, and he turned around to look at his witch.
"So," he said, "my dear Allura becomes a woman tomorrow. This calls for a celebration. Something special, I think."
Hagar grinned evilly.
"Just what I was thinking, my Prince."
"So you already have a plan, Hagar?" Lotor asked.
"Indeed I do," Hagar replied, "If you will please come with me."
* * *
In Hagar’s lab, the witch hovered over a thick old tome, running her gnarled hands over the browned, aged pages. Lotor stood boredly nearby, his arms crossed, his impatience showing clearly on his face.
"I found this old book hidden deep within the vaults under the palace," Hagar informed him, "It contains some very interesting secrets."
"And what secrets would they be?" he asked.
"Secrets that may just be the undoing of Voltron," Hagar replied.
Lotor leaned in closer.
"I’m listening," he said.
"According to this text," she told him, "Ages ago, four robotic beasts were created in the form of wyverns by an ancient Drulian race. They were created in order to destroy Voltron."
"So what happened?" Lotor asked.
"They were defeated," Hagar admitted, "and buried on a planet in the Yanou Galaxy."
"So why even bother mentioning them?" Lotor asked abruptly.
"Because," she replied, "With your modern technology and my powers we can improve upon the wyverns and give them enough power to destroy Voltron."
"Are you sure of that?" he asked warily.
"If I wasn’t sure, I would not have called it to your attention," she told him.
"And I assume you plan on using the wyverns to interrupt Allura’s birthday celebration," Lotor guessed.
Hagar cackled, closing the book and turning to him.
"I couldn’t think of a better way to rain on her parade," she affirmed.
* * *
Allura wrung her hands nervously. She stood in a small foyer, waiting for Coran to come and fetch her for the ceremony. Besides the fact that Allura was apprehensive about the ceremony, she was also tired from lack of sleep the night before and she was afraid of yawning in the middle of it. For the sixth time, Allura smoothed her long, snow-white gown and raised her hands tentatively to her hair, making sure it was still in place.
Allura paced the small room, going over the ceremony in her head, making sure she knew everything she had to do and say. It was tradition to make a big deal out of any young person coming-of-age, especially the royal children. Allura didn’t really need everyone to make a big deal out of her, but she greatly appreciated the support of her people, hundreds of which had gathered around the Castle for the ceremony.
A noise behind her startled Allura from her thoughts, and she turned, expecting to see Coran. But it was Keith who entered through the door and approached her, hands behind his back. She took a good look at him, utterly impressed. He was dressed formally in his black and gray Galaxy Garrison uniform, medals and badges gleaming over his left pocket. His unruly hair had also been neatly combed. He looked incredibly handsome, and older than his 22 years.
"Are you ready?" he asked her.
She gave him a nervous smile.
"I guess as much as I’ll ever be," she said.
He gave her a reassuring grin, lighting up his dark eyes.
"You’ll do fine," he assured her.
He then proceeded to look her up and down, and Allura blushed under his gaze. He then stepped forward so they were in arm’s reach of one another.
"You look incredible, Princess," he told her.
Allura smiled, pleased.
"Thank-you, Keith," she replied shyly.
"But," Keith added, "there’s something missing."
She looked up at him in puzzlement.
"Missing?" she asked.
Keith brought his hands out from behind his back, revealing a small velvet pouch. He held it in one hand and opened the tiny drawstrings with the other.
"What’s that?" she asked curiously.
"This," Keith said, opening the pouch and spilling the contents into his palm, "Is your birthday present."
Allura looked down at the gift, her mouth opening and eyes widening in awe. It was a beautiful piece of jewelry. The dainty gold chain held a small amulet with intricate carvings on each side of Terran symbols. There were also small, sparkling jewels around the gold disc that added to its beauty.
"Oh my," Allura breathed, staring at the gift, "It’s beautiful."
Keith was pleased by her reaction and held up the chain with both hands.
"It’ll be even more beautiful on you," he told her.
Allura immediately turned, lifting her hair away from her neck and hiding her blush. Keith complied with her actions and gently placed the chain around her neck. As soon as it was clasped, Allura let her hair down and turned back around, her eyes lowered to view the amulet against the bare skin over her collarbone.
When she looked up at Keith, she saw a strange, gentle glint in his eyes as he looked down at the amulet. He seemed both happy and sad at the same time. Keith then blinked and shook his head, and then the look was gone. He smiled down at her.
"It looks good on you," he said.
"It’s beautiful," she repeated, "I love it, Keith. Thank-you."
He just nodded. Allura glanced back down at the amulet, turning it over in her hand and examining the symbols.
"Where did you get this?" she said, not recognizing them.
"It comes from Terra," he told her, "The symbol stands for peace."
She looked back up at him, then moved forward and embraced him. Startled, Keith hesitated, then placed his hands lightly on her shoulders.
"I’ll wear it everyday," she promised.
Keith squeezed her shoulders, her words meaning more to him than she knew. Allura then released him from the embrace and stepped back. His hands fell to his sides. Allura then looked down at her gown, moving to smooth it down once again.
"Oh, is it wrinkled at all?" she asked fussily.
"It’s fine," he told her.
The door to the chamber opened again, and this time Coran stepped through.
"Allura, it’s time," he told her.
Their eyes met, and Allura could see Coran looking at her in obvious approval. She shot him a wide smile, one that he returned heartfully, then moved to take his arm. Coran gave her hand a squeeze as they left, Keith following close behind.
* * *
The ceremony was going smoothly. As soon as she stepped out onto the balcony overlooking her people gathered outside, all of the anxiety left the Arusian Princess, and Allura felt nothing but joy and contentment at seeing how happy her people were for her. With the Voltron team standing to her right, and Coran and a few members of the Castle guard standing to her left, Allura stood before her people, prepared to give them the speech she had prepared weeks ago.
As soon as Coran was finished addressing the people, he stepped back to allow Allura to step forward and address them herself. He gave her an encouraging smile as they passed, one she returned with warmth in her eyes. As she reached the decorated railing and looked down at her people, a respectful hush fell over the crowd. They all waited for her to speak, not one wanting to miss a word. Allura felt herself smile in love for these people.
"Dear citizens of Arus…" she began.
Before she could even begin her speech, the Castle alarms suddenly cut off her words and sent a surprised chill through her. At first everyone froze at the sudden shrill sound. But after only a split second hesitation, Keith and the others began to move.
"Let’s go team," he ordered, beckoning them back into the Castle.
Worried for her people, Allura hurried to join the others while Coran stayed behind to speak with the gathered people, keep them calm, and give them directions.
Hurrying through the corridors behind the others, Allura bounced on one foot and then the other as she quickly slipped off her shoes since they were very bad for running. She managed to keep up with the rest of the team as they raced for Castle Control. Once they arrived, Keith didn’t waste any time.
"What’s going on?" he demanded of the crew there.
One of the men at the control panel immediately turned to reply.
"Enemy aircraft descending on the planet, sir," he reported, "Four ships flying in fast!"
That’s all Keith needed to know. He nodded, then turned to the others.
"To the Lions!" he told them.
One by one the five Voltron Force members rushed to their individual tubes down to the cockpits of their Lions. Within moments they were established in their ships and in the air.
"I should have known Lotor would try something today," Allura stated with annoyance in her voice.
"Don’t worry, Princess," Lance said confidently, "We’ll take care of ol’ fang-face in time for the festivities."
"Yeah," Hunk agreed, "No way Lotor is cheating me out of all that good food!"
"Hey guys," he said, "I think Hunk’s hungry enough to take on these ships all by himself!"
"I have a feeling that’s not the case, Pidge," Allura told him in a quiet voice, her eyes glued to her viewscreen.
They all looked ahead to catch a first glimpse of their opponents. All of them stared in awe and surprise.
"What are those?" Hunk asked.
"Look like big ugly birds," Lance replied.
"They’re not birds," Allura told them with a sinking feeling in her stomach.
The four ships that came at them were each twice the size of the Lions and shaped in the form of wyverns. They looked incredible, and very powerful. Keith was instantly wary.
"These guys look like they mean business," he warned the others, "Stay on your toes."
"Don’t you mean ‘paws’, Keith?" Lance asked.
Keith ignored him.
The four wyverns and the five Lions met in Arus’ upper atmosphere. Lance immediately rushed in and fired his Lion Torch at the first wyvern. But the stream of Red Lion fire didn’t even char the wyvern’s tough exterior. The enemy ship retaliated, sending a ray of yellow energy at the Red Lion from its tail.
Lance grunted as his Lion was struck and propelled into a second wyvern, which in turn grabbed the Lion with its sharp claws and began digging in. Red Lion was stuck in its grasp.
"I gotcha, Lance," Hunk told him.
Yellow Lion rushed in and launched itself at the wyvern, landing on its back and digging its jaws into its thin neck. The wyvern screamed and let go of Red Lion.
"Thanks, big guy," Lance said, regaining control of his Lion.
Hunk yelled as a third wyvern attacked, swooping in to scratch Yellow Lion across the back with its claws. Yellow Lion let go of the second wyvern and regrouped with Red Lion. Keith, Allura and Pidge were meanwhile fighting the other two wyverns with little more success.
"Voltron Force, regroup!" Keith commanded.
The five Lions disengaged from the four wyverns and gathered together. The enemy ships did the same.
"All right, guys," Keith told them, "Lion Blitz Attack!"
All five Lions then dove at the wyverns together, firing missiles and laser beams in all directions. The wyverns were each hit and propelled back.
"Good work, team," Keith told them, then continued without missing a breath, "Now, Rip Claw attack!"
The claw digits on each of the Lions separated and shot at the wyverns, digging themselves into the armor and finally damaging the beasts. As soon as the attack was over, the five Lion pilots watched as the wyverns retreated.
"Yeah!" he exclaimed, "Bye-bye, ugly birdies!"
"Don’t celebrate yet," Allura cautioned, "They weren’t destroyed. That means they’ll probably be back once Lotor and Hagar repair them."
"The Princess is right," Keith agreed, "Let’s head back to the Castle for now."
* * *
"Imbecile!" Hagar accused angrily.
"It’s not my fault they’re not good enough!" Lotor told her with equal irritance, "I told you they wouldn’t work!"
"That’s because you didn’t give me enough time to power them up!" Hagar told them, "You sent them out at half their power! If you only had a little bit of patience…"
"Enough excuses," Lotor commanded, "Just give them the power they need, witch!"
"And do you promise to wait until I’m finished, this time?" she asked.
Lotor glared at her.
"Just hurry it up," he said, stalking away.
Mumbling to herself, Hagar proceeded with her incantation.
* * *
The five Voltron Force pilots gathered in the royal vaults at Allura’s request. The four men stood and waited while Allura searched the vast library for the book she was looking for. Lance ran a finger along one of the wooden shelves, making a mark in the gathered dust. He wiped his finger off on his uniform, shaking his head.
"Geez, Princess," he said, "Anybody ever dust down here?"
"Occasionally," Allura replied absently, inspecting some shelves a few rows over.
"Occasionally?" Lance repeated.
He blew sideways on one of the shelves, unsettling the dust and sending it straight at Pidge, who then proceeded to sneeze noisily. The sound echoed through the large chamber.
"Nice aim, Lance," Pidge said sarcastically, rubbing his nose and waving away the dust.
Keith just rolled his eyes at his friends.
The Voltron Captain immediately heeded the Princess’s beckons.
"Yes, Princess?" he asked, walking over to her.
Allura pointed up at an old, large brown leather text sitting on the top shelf beyond her reach. Her eyes were raised to it in determination.
"Could you reach up and grab that for me?" she asked.
"I don’t know, Princess," Lance spoke up, joining them, "That book looks awful big. Maybe we should get Hunk to…"
Lance trailed off as Keith reached up and lifted down the book with one hand, giving Lance a look as he turned and handed it to the Princess. Allura took it with both hands and laid it down on one of the tables. The others all gathered around her as she opened it and carefully turned the pages.
"I remember my father telling me of a story when I was a child," she informed them, "It was about a battle ages ago between Voltron and four wyverns."
"You mean just like the ones we fought today?" Pidge asked.
Allura nodded, not taking her eyes off the text.
"You think these are the same ones Voltron fought hundreds of years ago?" Lance asked skeptically.
"What happened in the battle?" Hunk asked.
"I don’t remember much," Allura admitted, "I’m hoping this text holds what we’re looking for."
As she turned the next page, they all looked down at the hand-drawn picture of the four wyverns that they had just fought only an hour earlier.
"Guess they are the same guys," Lance said.
"This is it!" Allura said triumphantly, reading the old Arusian text, "It says here that the Drule empire built the wyverns over five hundred years ago in order to beat Voltron. They were designed to be just as powerful as Voltron, made with similar technology."
"So does that mean they can transform into a giant robot like our Lions?" Pidge asked.
Allura shook her head.
"No," she replied.
"So how can they be as powerful as Voltron?" Hunk asked.
"The four wyverns have some sort of link," Allura told them, reading, "They were built to work together as a team, to protect each other and attack as a unit. Apparently Voltron had a hard time defeating them."
"How did it happen?" Keith asked.
"Together, the four wyverns are virtually invincible," Allura said, "Voltron managed to weaken one of them. That caused the others to soon follow. Once that was done, they were easily defeated."
"So if they were destroyed," Lance asked, "how can they come back to attack us now?"
"They were buried on a barren planet in the Yanou Galaxy," Allura told them.
"Let me guess," Lance said, "Lotor and Hagar decided to un-bury them, wrap them all up in a nice package and send them here as a birthday gift."
"Chances are, Hagar has somehow made the wyverns more powerful than they were back then," Keith said.
"But we took care of them," Hunk said, "And we can do it again."
Keith shook his head.
"Our victory was just a little too easy," he said, "My guess is they weren’t at full power when they attacked. Next time they’ll be coming back even more powerful. Which means Voltron may be less of a match for them now than he was five hundred years ago."
"That’s thinking positive, Keith," Lance said with sarcasm.
"Hagar wouldn’t resurrect the wyverns unless she felt sure she could give them enough power to defeat us," Allura said, agreeing with Keith.
"So does that mean we just give us?" Lance asked knowingly, a sparkle in his eyes.
"Of course not," Allura told him sternly, "It just means that we have to be prepared."
"Which means we need a plan," Pidge said.
Allura closed the book and turned to them.
"Guys," she told them seriously, "we can’t let Lotor win. We have to defeat those wyverns. I won’t have him intruding on the happiness of the people of this planet."
"Don’t worry, Princess," Lance told her confidently, cupping a hand to his ear, "If my ears aren’t deceiving me, I can already hear the wheels turning in our Captain’s head."
They all turned to Keith, who had been scratching his chin and staring unseeingly at the floor. He looked up at them all, blinking, then squared his shoulders, casting a glance at Lance.
"You have a plan already, Keith?" Allura asked.
"Actually, I do," he admitted.
Lance grinned in triumph.
"Let’s go up to the War Room," Keith told them, leading the way out.
* * *
"Unfortunately, there’s no structural weaknesses in the wyverns since Hagar improved them," Pidge told them all. He pointed at a diagram of one of the wyverns on the wall monitor in the War Room. It had been taken from the Lions’ sensor readings during the battle earlier that morning.
"That means we’ll have to separate one of the wyverns from the rest in order to destroy it," Allura continued, "That’s the hard part."
"It’s also where Keith’s plan comes in," Lance said with a smug grin, "with a little improvement from me, of course."
Coran entered the room then and walked up to the Princess.
"The people are now safely gathered inside the Castle," he told her, "I just had a chance to review the battle earlier. Are they…?"
"It’s the wyverns," she told him, "Lotor and Hagar brought them back."
Coran looked none too pleased.
"Alfor told me about them," he admitted, "He himself thought it was only a matter of time before our enemies discovered them and resurrected them."
"Have no fear, Coran my man," Lance told him, standing to put a hand on the older man’s shoulder, "The Voltron Force has a plan to eradicate those ugly pests."
Coran still looked worried.
"Just be careful," he warned, "Voltron had a very difficult time defeating the wyverns all that time ago."
"Voltron will defeat them again," Allura assured her advisor with royal conviction.
Coran looked at her for a moment, then nodded, a small grin on his face.
"I believe you," he told her.
Coran then stepped back and started to leave.
"I will let you resume your battle strategy planning," he told them, leaving.
* * *
On toPart Two