Black Paladin Week Day 6: Duty/Choice
‘Paladin,’ said the shadowy priest before him. ‘You must choose, or both lives are forfeit. The Prodigium will have its prize. The quintessence of a paladin of Voltron will sustain our planet for Deca-Phoebs to come.’
In front of him, Pidge and Keith hung by their feet over a broad and smoking pit. Both were beaten and bloodied, Pidge unconscious and with half her uniform torn free, and Keith with his right arm dangling at a horrible angle. He bled freely from his nose and mouth. His hair was stiff with it.
‘Shiro,’ he said, weakly. Desperately.
Shiro pulled at the iron-cast arms holding him in place. They were utterly surrounded: comms dead, Hunk and Lance light years away with Olio and Matt, and the castle ship in the cold atmosphere far above them. The black bayard burned against Shiro’s thigh, but with his hands restrained he was powerless to do anything.
The room shook as the planet gave a great, shuddering sigh. The amassed guards screamed in terror, throwing their arms towards their leader, beseeching him: solve this, make the sacrifice. They’d wanted all three paladins thrown to the Prodigium, a gargantuan beast upon whom the Prodigiers had built their society. But Shiro, ever diplomatic, had bargained: his life so the others could go free. But the priest had denied him. He was “impure”. His arm would not please the beast. Better the flesh and bones of his comrades.
The planet-beast howled and a great cloud of mist rose up from the hole. Keith screamed, his skin scorching red. Pidge stirred where she hung.
‘Choose!’ cried the priest. ‘Or I will cut them both free!’
‘No…’ Shiro’s eyes darted between them both. It was impossible. Impossible. Arms restrained, comms down, comrades broken, strung up like dead calves. ‘No…’
‘Shiro…’ Pidge called, her voice fluttering with terrified confusion. ‘Keith?’
Again, the room rumbled violently. Debris shook loose and fell on the shoulders and heads of the priest’s guards.
‘Choose!’ roared the priest.
‘Shiro?’ Keith was reaching with his good arm, his torso bending to bring him just one inch closer to Shiro. His eyes shone like opal, bore into the back of Shiro’s skull. Please, they said. Please.
Pidge was struggling now, whimpering with horror and helplessness. ‘Keith? Shiro? Keith? Keith?’
‘Paladin!’ the priest was livid. Spit flew from his mouth. ‘You will choose now or I will cast them both into the flames of eternity!’
‘Shiro!’ Keith called. His left hand shook, straining for Shiro. His eyes said please, please, please, please. But he couldn’t help him. He couldn’t–
A sound tore itself from Keith’s throat, and in the same moment came a sudden weightlessness at Shiro’s thigh. A bolt of purple lightning shot across the room: the black bayard. It flashed in Keith’s left hand.
‘No!’ cried Shiro.
But the blade was swift and true.