Title: Imagine Knowing
Warnings: ANGST. (Would you believe it? Honest!) Mentions of death of a canon character.
Disclaimers: Not mine, no money, not much point in lawsuits. WEP holds those rights! (Dang it!)
Summary: In a moment of introspection, Sven finds himself looking back ... and wondering.
Author's Notes: This has been completed by request in honour of randi's birthday! *tosses confetti* Yay! Ironically enough, it was originally inspired by her Lo/Sv piece written as a consolation for me when computer hassles struck yet again (and the name of which escapes me AGAIN!! *groans*) ... so, the circle goes round!
Secondary notes: I'll give you one guess what one of my past employment experiences was. ^_~ Bear with the guide, please ... she answers a lot of questions left otherwise hanging!
Aust spellings and grammar prevalent.
A soft sigh escaped him as strong, familiar arms drew him close, back to chest against the large man who's bed he shared. Idly, Sven wondered how he had come to this, and allowed himself a rueful smile even as his eyes drifted shut; it had not been the first time the question had posed itself over the years, and it was likely not to be the last.
The smile grew wistful with the gentle nuzzling just behind his ear. Tilting his head to allow greater access to those softly roaming lips, completely enjoying the sensation in spite of being so recently sated, it struck him as curious how men of their age could still be so ... well, so active. Then it was all forgotten in the delicious haze of the other man's knowing touch.
A solid knock at the outer door split the mood in two; the warm presence at his back turned stiff and unyielding, and the interloper was demanded to enter with a sharp, barked command.
Sven sighed, unheard through the harshly whispered derision and contrite apologies that followed.
Politics. It would always be politics first. More than four decades, and Sven still knew full well that he would forever be delegated second place to that.
It was strange, the pang of disappointment that struck him at that thought.
Cool air iced down his naked back as the bed was efficiently vacated; he turned a slightly blurry gaze to watch his partner as he moved, both fascinated and appalled at himself for that long-lived vice.
Sliding from the bed and striding, still naked, across the room to where his page waited with a robe, Lotor managed to cut a commanding, regal figure nonetheless. With his white hair cropped just below the shoulder-line, yet still thick and abundant, and his muscular body showing only the vague signs of loosening with age, the King of Doom continued to exude a powerful masculinity.
Yes, the years had treated Lotor far kinder than the man deserved, in Sven's opinion.
Long entrenched habit had Sven halfway out of bed, himself, before Lotor turned and pinned him with a stern glance.
"Stay. You'll need the rest, anyway," was the brief, familiar command.
Then Sven was left alone with his thoughts.
He could recall with startling clarity the sickening revulsion those few words had brought him in those early days. Now, though, he couldn't quite remember if that feeling had been directed at Lotor ... or himself.
Himself, most probably, he mused. In spite of his resentment towards the other man, he had been unable to resist succumbing to the mindless pleasure the devil had persistently imposed on his reluctant body.
Strong, vein-lined hands raked through hair almost as white as Lotor's. Blue eyes turned murky by time stared unseeing at the brocaded canopy of the King's bed.
Sometimes, he still hated the man for inflicting that previously unknown awareness on him. Hated Lotor for forcing him to confront a part of himself he had preferred to deny. Small minded, maybe, but he'd been happy in his delusions of absolute heterosexuality.
Perhaps such pettiness should be well and truly beyond him by now, at his age ... then again, perhaps not. The enmity he and Lotor shared had merged well with the physical attraction over the years, lending a peculiar overtone to their otherwise uncomplicated 'relationship'.
Relationship? Could it even be called that?
He stretched out on his back with a tiny groan, using the action to work the stiffness from several of his aging joints. That in itself was one of those perverse ironies of life.
From the moment Sven had heard his fate being sealed - that Lotor had demanded the right to withhold one particular prisoner as a form of security in exchange for freeing the others, and that the Alliance had allowed this - he had imagined his life span would prove to be remarkably short and distinctly unpleasant.
He had certainly never imagined this endless, year in, year out half-life of part servitude, part luxury, part ... well, there was the problem, right there: what was he to Lotor, anyway?
He should stop thinking about this; he was starting to get a headache.
Absently he massaged his forehead with his left hand, but although the ache subsided, his introspective meanderings insisted on continuing.
It was just that one question that wouldn't quite leave him alone, now it had finally occurred to him. After so many years, he still didn't have a clue what Lotor wanted with him.
A tiny, wry grin snuck up on him. Apart from the obvious, that was.
He stretched again and winced a little. He had to remember that time was catching up with him. Convincing 'His Majesty' of that fact might be a little trickier, however. Then again, he had managed to convince the contrary Doom King to consider even trickier concepts in the past.
The past. Was that where the answers lay? Perhaps if he went back to the beginning, he might be able find some semblance of understanding.
Ah, yes ... the beginning. The question there was, where was that exactly?
Romelle. Yes, it had started there. A harmless visit with her cousin, and a chance for him to spend time with his old team mates. A picnic, the Arusian Princess had suggested. A pleasant occupation for a pleasant, sunny afternoon.
Had they grown complacent, in light of the struggles of the new King Lotor had to hold onto the kingdom that threatened to dissipate with his father's demise? At the time, none of them would have said so ... and they were to be proven so horrendously wrong.
Prison cells; dark, dank, mind altering places. He could hear their voices, all of them, even now. Had they only known that Lotor was more interested in bait and barter tools against the Alliance than punishment, they might not have been as scared. But, as it was ...
He never did get the chance to see them again, not properly.
His eyes blurred as he recalled being dragged out into the stone hallway; of seeing his friends and his lovely Princess being manhandled in the same callous manner as himself, to be taken in one direction while he in another; the lingering shouts from Lance, with empty promises of rescue; and then the silence.
That long, tortuous silence.
Now thoroughly disturbed by his restless thoughts, Sven dragged himself unsteadily from virtually the only bed he had known since those days. Shaky hands tugged a dark robe into place, its opulence as unnoticed through familiarity as preoccupation.
He didn't want to remember the pain of that time ... of having his hopes, his dreams, his love torn from him by an autocratic Princeling-come-King and an indifferent Alliance council who considered the denial of his freedom to be within the grounds of 'acceptable loss' to ensure the end of the Doom aggression.
He didn't want to think of her.
His feet found their own, subconscious pattern in a stiff, awkward pacing - another unwelcome reminder of age catching up with him.
Had he loved her? Once, he'd been certain of it. Nights spent in forbidden pleasure, days in peaceful, loving companionship ... oh yes, in many ways, Romelle had been his first real experience of love.
So, when had that changed?
He knew it had. Knew that, at some stage, that flush of emotion had subsided to a pleasant memory, but he could not quite pinpoint when.
Damn! His right leg just would not move ... what was wrong with him? Old age, he grumbled to himself yet again. God, but he was getting maudlin!
His hand fell on the back of the ornate chair at Lotor's private desk to steady himself, and a tri-fold picture frame perched at the far corner caught his eye.
On the right, Allura laughing with her dashing husband, once the Captain of Voltron - a snapshot from an Alliance function long ago that seemed both at odds with the imposing concept of the Doom monarchy, and yet strangely right for Lotor to have all the same.
In the centre, a semi-official photo from some Alliance meeting or other. Lotor, seated carefully and holding himself with a regal bearing that belied his ruthlessness; Sven standing respectfully behind and to the right, hands clasped behind his back. Both gazed forward with a directness that, Sven now realised, had intimidated many a fainthearted man in their time.
It was as an official portrait as would ever be found of the King and ... his concubine, Sven guessed. He was hesitant to label himself so, and yet the evidence seemed irrefutable.
Ah, yes ... and, on the left, the instigator of all this introspective pondering: Romelle. In her arms, a lace-swathed infant, and to the right of the picture, her tall, handsome Consort.
He blinked, then recognised that moment he was searching for: the moment his love had begun to die.
He still wondered, as he had at the time, if Lotor had taken malicious pleasure in informing him of Romelle's marriage to some unknown Polluxian noble mere months after her release from Doom. Had the pictures left on the desk been meant merely as proof, or something more sinister? Regardless, it had hurt. Painfully so.
The harsh pain hadn't been over with, either. Another blow came the day this particular photo had been forced upon him, barely six months later. The proof positive, as Lotor had sneered scathingly, that his 'pretty little Princess' was well and truly over him.
Sven frowned, dark and troubled. His grief that day drove him to relinquish every last inhibition holding him back. Lotor had been victor in more ways then one.
Could he have really given himself to his 'master' so ... heedlessly? Surely, he couldn't be recalling that reckless rutting with any kind of clarity. Could he?
And yet, deep within, he knew: that had been a turning point. One of many.
He cast his eyes dispassionately over the frozen images yet again, unaffected yet somewhat disquieted by his lack of feeling. An odd whimsy, this photo frame. The King and his Concubine, framed by their respective pasts.
Was that all he was? A concubine? A glorified whore? Or something more ... dignified? If only he could be sure!
From outside, construction sounds caught his attention, and he paused in his pacing to glance out the window. From this angle, part of the long-defunct robeast arena could be seen clearly; a platform was being hastily built, slave workers swarming over the structure like insects over carrion.
Sven suddenly realised why Lotor had been so insistent on dealing with this matter immediately. Governor Narark's corrupt abuse of the citizens and slaves of Zelas Four had finally caught up with the treacherous old bastard: there was to be an execution tomorrow.
Sven, for one, would not be sorry to see it. He had spent far too long working Lotor around to his way of thinking for all that work to be undermined by one dishonest governor. If left unpunished, one would become many, and the work of years would unravel before his very eyes.
Perversely, he was almost looking forward to the event.
Initially, the death penalty Lotor demanded of any who went against Crown edicts was a compromise Sven was forced to accept with a foul taste in his mouth. However, he had eventually learnt that one cannot change the inclinations of both King and Country in a single lifetime, and found a semblance of peace in this understanding.
Was that when this easy acquiescence had become his life? Could that be when he had begun to let go of the old life, and move towards the new, regardless of the strictures?
Ironic, if it was. It was a view he had taught Lotor to adopt in the first place.
His gaze returned to the desk, and a picture sprang to mind as clear as the daylight he rarely witnessed these days. Somehow, he could even smile fondly at the memory ... strange in itself.
A young King, tense, irritable and frustrated with his own inability to manage his kingdom as he knew he should; a disenchanted bed-toy, bitter at being abandoned by the military directors who should have cared more, and ever-so-slightly shaken by a hidden fear of his master's temper ... a temper he knew all too well.
Who would have thought that, together, they could rebuild a peaceful empire between them?
Then again, when the bed-toy learns how to charm the fierce master, anything could be possible.
It had taken little to discover that Lotor liked a certain coyness in his personal slaves ... unobtrusive, even demure touches that seduced rather than threatened; still did, as a matter of fact. In spite of himself, Sven's quick, practical mind enticed him out of the dark melancholy that threatened to absorb him a second time, and into a direction he had never anticipated.
If Earth had abandoned him ... then he would abandon Earth with equal detachment. The time had come, he had decided, to embrace the subjects of his master's kingdom, to whatever he could do to improve their lot. Earth, the Alliance, Lance, Romelle ... with all their broken promises, they could all just go to hell!
It gave him a long-missed purpose.
Night after night, he would find the Doom King at this desk, pouring over reams and reams of documents with a tight scowl as he tried to walk the fine line between the Alliance accord and his own dictatorial nature with a finesse he sorely lacked.
It had been an easy game to use Lotor's weakness against him.
A touch, a caress ... the tender tuck of silken hair behind an ear as he leant in to huskily whisper a genuine sounding, 'What's wrong?'
An unbidden, slow massaging of muscles that had cramped from tension; the gentle, firm touch easing both the stiffness from the shoulders and the words from the King's lips as Sven murmured carefully formed expressions of understanding and guidance.
A gentle kiss of appeasement.
These were the tools of his trade: the industry of reformation.
He never offered instruction, not even a suggestion. Just the mindful structure of ideas phrased so that his lover could accept them as though Sven had merely confirmed Lotor's own thoughts.
The delicate dance of regal politics.
His lover? Was he ...?
Yes, Sven suddenly realised with surprise. Somewhere along the way, the lines had become indistinct, at least within the boundaries of this room.
At some stage, a quiet affection had wormed its way into his heart. As unobtrusively as he, himself, once would ease into his master's embrace and onto his lap - to better seduce the King into accepting views so radically opposed to his own - this soft feeling had invaded a space he swore would remain untouched again for eternity.
'Do I love him?' he wondered in amazement.
He turned to look across at their massive bed, all rumpled and dishevelled from their activities; in truth, as much a marriage-bed as any with a legal seal.
'Could he love me?' The unsuspecting thought dazzled him for a moment. It was a concept that had never even occurred to him.
The outer door to the Royal Apartments crashed open, jolting him from his astonished reverie. The Master had returned.
Sven swallowed heavily as Lotor appeared at the doorway, his expression of a stunned animal cornered in flight. A tiny smile of welcome came unbidden, as did the slight quickening of his heart, and Sven realised in bemusement that neither of these things had been for the first time.
Certainly, his King didn't look surprised. Just ... weary.
"Narark was difficult?" he heard himself ask.
He hadn't even noticed he was speaking until the words were out, he was so caught up in trying to answer those two questions: do I ..., does he...?
Carefully, he prised himself from his seat on the window ledge, wincing as that damn leg gave way again, and limped with determination towards his waiting monarch.
"You could say that," Lotor grumbled, then fixed him with a brusque glare as Sven slid into his one-armed embrace. "What's wrong with your leg?"
Sven smiled, self defacing and off hand. "Just been sitting too long." Carefully, he curled his hand into the lapel of Lotor's jacket and glanced at him beneath lowered lashes with that coyness he had long perfected. "I suppose I should get more exercise, hmm?" His shy, knowing grin completed the silent invitation.
Lotor continued to stare at him with that odd, assessing gaze. "Perhaps not. You sound tired. I'm guessing you didn't rest at all, did you?" he demanded bluntly.
With another rueful smile, Sven tucked himself into Lotor's side, lay his head against one solid shoulder, and snaked his arms around the other man's waist. "You know I don't rest well when I'm alone," he murmured, hoping to get his way. He wanted to know, dammit ... once and for all!
A half snort, half laugh gave him his reply, and he smiled a smug smile. He, too, had his triumphs in this arena over the years.
"You need a sleeping draught," Lotor hedged, desire mixing with irritation. "Not a quickie in the afternoon."
"You're what I need ... not some damn draught." The huskiness in his voice surprised him as much as his words and, from the look of wide-eyed astonishment on Lotor's face, his lover had been just as startled by this announcement.
Sensing victory at hand, he smiled up into those deep, golden eyes - scant inches from his own - and an imp of mischievousness added a playful new glint. "Besides, it's early evening, not afternoon."
He sighed into the mouth that claimed his with a restrained ferociousness, relaxing into the embrace even as Lotor lifted him into his arms, and carried him to their bed.
One thought wandered through his mind as he was carefully laid onto the dishevelled covers.
'Do I love him?'
Lips nibbled up the curve of his throat, finally arriving to capture his own in a kiss of gentle passion. A wave of tender affection rolled through him, and finally he knew. 'Yes! Hell, after all this time ... I do love him!'
Then broad, familiar palms traced a firm pattern of ownership on his torso, and uncertainty shook him.
'Does he love me?'
Was this tenderness love? Or the claiming of a prized possession? He just didn't know!
And then, it no longer mattered. Only the well-travelled path to gratification remained, until he was left panting in its wake.
Then, as he was rolled into an inescapable, intimate hold, he could feel against his cheek the unsteady breathing of his lover and the thrum of a racing heart, and his own heart skipped another beat.
Four and a half decades, and he had finally accepted the idea.
An uneasiness rattled him, a sudden awareness of his mortality. Was that what all this introspection had been all about? The prodding of his subconscious mind to accept what he had stubbornly refused to confront, yet again, before it was all too late?
But what if his love wasn't returned? Could he survive another unrequited passion, and remain intact?
Did it matter?
No, he decided. He wouldn't let it. For better or worse, as the old vows said, this was where he was, and this was how he felt.
He had to tell him.
Lifting his head from its cradle against Lotor's shoulder, he opened his eyes ... and winced. Hard.
He thought he heard Lotor say his name, but the fog from this blinding headache left him confused and uncertain.
Although, he clearly heard the King yell a demand that someone fetch the court surgeon.
"I'm ok ... it's just a headache. Don't worry about it." Stabbing, sharp, almost debilitating, perhaps, but just a headache all the same.
He tried to lift his hands to massage it away, to find that only his left one obeyed with any ease.
Rubbing that spot above his left eye again, he felt some of the ache fade a little, and he began to relax. Carefully, he managed to ease that lid open, only to find himself face to face with a scowling Lotor leaning over him.
"Really, I'm ok ... don't worry," he said softly. At least, he thought that was what he said, but even to his own ears it sounded ... odd.
"Hush!" Even in that one command, Sven noticed that Lotor's voice shook slightly, instantly aging him.
'I love you...'
'... but do you love me?'
Careful hands framed his face. "Don't talk ... they'll be here soon."
He tried to nod, but another stab, sharper this time, made him gasp, eyes wide with fright and pain. Then a cry escaped his lips, and his back arched as yet another agonising shaft speared his temple. He tried to grab at Lotor's shoulders for support, but it was only his left hand that managed to dig in fiercely.
Those wonderful strong arms, the broad hands that had brought him oh-so-much pleasure over the years, both now eased around him to subconsciously provide the support he had weakly looked for. And all he could do was lay there, limp and motionless ... and frightened out of his mind.
His terror was clearly mirrored in his lover's face. He could see Lotor's lips moving, but could hear nothing. And yet, some distant part of his mind that continued to function recognised the words as a mantra of soft pleas for him to hold on.
'What's happening to me?!'
Trembling, he continued to stare into an expression that seemed far, far too old for the man he had watched walk away from the bed earlier that day. Fear, agony, and that unnatural weakness robbed him of any ability to reassure, to utter the words he was now so desperate to say.
Again, that distant sliver of awareness kicked in. It noticed the tremors in the arms enveloping him, the slight hitch in each shaky breath his lover took, the intense sorrow in those shadow-filled eyes of gold that glimmered brighter than they ought, even as Lotor slowly shook his head in disbelief.
He had the answer to his question.
'He does love me?'
He arched sharply again, the stabbing taking on a rhythmic quality that scared him witless.
"NO! Don't you dare leave me! I'm not ready for you to leave me, so don't even consider it!"
He heard that, very clearly. It was so typically Lotor: a heartbroken plea caged as a demand. And yet, Sven still loved him.
'Oh God! No! It can't be too late! Please..not just yet!'
The last thing he saw as the pain exploded behind his eye was the rush of tears of an old man who many assumed was incapable of such intense despair.
The last sound was his name cried out hoarsely, the emotion, the grief clearly evident in that one, bitter wail.
Then, with one final shaft of agony, darkness claimed him ... forever.
" ... And now, if you'll all just follow me, we're about to enter the much older, pre-Alvian section.
"As some of you may know, the Doomian dynasty we are about to encounter is unique in a number of ways; the most prominent being that, in spite of spanning several hundreds of years, only two monarchs reigned.
"Unlike some of the ideas recent theorists have speculated with, the fact remains that its founding monarch, the Bloody King Zarkon, is known to have lived for what many regard as an unnaturally long life span, which was likely to have been enhanced by either scientific or occultic means ... and was not, as some would have it, a some secretive father/son hierarchy like some comic book heroes that will remain nameless.
"Indeed, King Zarkon had only one son, and it is with he that we begin the tour of this sector.
"Now, history has painted, in many contemporaries' opinion, a rather dark picture of King Lotor, however certain facts do remain even to this day. Undoubtedly, Lotor was an extremely complex individual, who's reign is literally littered with a mass of contradictions and inconsistencies. But, if we were to look at the surrounding culture of the day and the various factors involved, we may just gain a slightly clearer perspective than what bland history provides.
"King Lotor's reign began some four hundred and fifty-six years ago, when his father passed away rather suddenly, shortly after the accidental death of the woman known as the 'Witch' Haggar. Little is truly known about the time prior to this, but we are fortunate enough that a wealth of information from personal sources and peers of Lotor's court has remained mostly intact.
"Now, Lotor apparently recognised somewhat swiftly that his position within the Empire his father had 'built' was not as solid as an incoming Monarch would like. As his father had conquered and subjugated the majority of his Empire by brute force during a time when Galactical resistance was low, he had been able to keep hold of a large percentage mostly through sheer fear and oppression.
"Lotor was not so fortunate: there was the Arusian Defence System, Voltron, to contend with - which had consistently beaten his forces during the Arusian War that, at the time, still raged - as well as an increased awareness of the actions of the Empire in the Galaxy Alliance itself, thanks to a number of their pilots being involved in the Voltron project. And so, this is where he became very, very sly.
"Launching one all out attack when Arus least expected it, Lotor somehow managed to capture four of the five Lion pilots of Voltron, as well as the Polluxian Princess, Romelle, and her escort.
"The only one who remained unscathed from this attack was the Princess Allura of Arus herself ... an act many considered abnormal at the time, given that Lotor had pursued the Princess relentlessly when he had been merely the Crown Prince.
"As it turns out, she had been left behind for a very particular purpose. She was intended to sway the Alliance in the direction of Lotor's 'requests', driven by her emotional attachment to the pilots she considered her friends.
"It transpired that Lotor had never intended to actually harm the pilots, but rather to use them as a bartering lever with the Alliance . And ... it worked.
"By offering the release of the pilots and Princess Romelle as a 'goodwill gesture', and in the signing of a cease fire and a non-aggression pact with the Galaxy Alliance, and Arus and Pollux in particular, Lotor managed to secure a certain level of official recognition for the Empire within the Alliance.
"Furthermore, in agreeing to completely abide by the Sentient Being's Rights as laid out in the Kastian Convention, he gained a charter of non-intervention in Empire affairs by the Alliance. This in itself is quite significant, as this clearly paved the way for his successor to fully integrate the Doom Empire into the Cerulean Empire, and therefore the Alliance proper, as we saw earlier in the tour.
"Now, while the anti-Lotor camp maintain that this is clear evidence of the man's ability to deceive and manipulate to his own ends, and the pro-Lotor side insist that his actions show a far greater sensitivity to regional matters than is attributed to him, history itself suggests that his motives were far more pragmatic.
"In his own words, Lotor expressed a disgust at what he termed his father's 'wastefulness' when it came to the Empire's slave holdings. As far as he was concerned, King Zarkon had become so accustomed to having a never ending, ready supply of slaves thanks to the constant influx from his ongoing conquests of new worlds, that he had no need to preserve his slave base through proper care.
"Starvation, overwork, neglected injuries, chronic infections and abuse were the most common causes of death in the slave population during Zarkon's time, with the average life span expected to be no more than two or three years after enslavement.
"Thanks to the non-aggression pact, Lotor now had to work with a finite supply of slave workers. As the Sentient Being's Right's bill allowed at the time for some forms of 'slavery', based on cultural circumstances and providing that these people were appropriately cared and provided for, Lotor was actually within his rights to deny the majority of his slave population their freedom. It's interesting to note that this section of the bill has since been recanted.
"To fulfil the requirements of the Kastian Convention, Lotor placed trusted 'Governors' in every sector of the Empire, backed up by an intricate spy network that he had instituted while still Crown Prince ... and with the consequences of abusing their position rather dire: a public execution was often the preferred method of punishment. However, it did lead to an extremely efficient and remarkably uncorrupted form of government, which later was fully developed into the system of government we enjoy today.
"These Governor's roles were to ensure adequate housing, food distribution, reasonable workloads, appropriate levels of health care, and a solid grounding in educational basics for the entire slave populations. Slaves were allowed to marry, unusually enough, and any children of the union - while still belonging to the Empire itself - usually remained within the family circle until adulthood. Also, there was a court system to hear out slave's complaints, and slaves were even given the right to express concerns where decisions impacted greatly on their lives.
"Lotor is said to have remarked that, 'When all a person's basic needs are filled, then the hungry desire for freedom lessens - why strive for 'something better', when what you have exceeds your expectations?' Intriguingly, in this case he has been proven right, as during his reign very few revolts broke out.
"It is because of such pragmatism that the lines between good and evil became so blurred in Lotor's case. Was he a heartless opportunist, wielding his power and skill in manipulation as adroitly as he once did his laser sword? Or a reformed character, deftly guiding a perishing Empire into a position of safety and security for his people?
"The main argument against Lotor in this instance is his steadfast and completely stubborn refusal to abolish slavery. Especially given that, by the latter years of his reign, the Empire was in such a sound position, both fiscally and diplomatically, that allowing slaves their freedom would have caused little or no disruption to the state of the Empire.
"However, those who argue for Lotor's inclusion in the ranks of the 'purely evil' conveniently forget that slavery was eventually dissolved, even if it was a mere four years before the monarch's death.
"So, which is it? Was Lotor's tyrannical position on this one issue an example of his true, hideous nature? Or was it more likely to be closer to an aberration, as some modern historians believe?
"It is quite possibly the cause of this 'aberration' that we find lying here, right next to him.
"This is the sepulchre of Sven Bjornsonn, commonly known as 'the unofficial consort' ... or as some wits would have it, 'the wife that never was.'
"Sven, in and of himself, is a unique character in his own right.
"Formerly the fifth pilot of the Voltron Force, he and Lotor had a long and somewhat ... chequered history. From the sketchy records remaining from King Zarkon's time, historians have surmised that Sven had been somehow injured and/or captured, and imprisoned on Doom early after Voltron's re-entry into the Arus-Doom war.
"Anecdotal evidence from the Arusian and Polluxian courts suggests that, after a brief, albeit violent encounter with the then Prince of Doom, the former Blue Lion pilot went missing in the extensive tunnels and caves that span out from beneath the area once known as 'the Pit of Skulls', and which these tombs partially consist of.
"Further anecdotal evidence makes mention of a 'wild man' living beneath the surface of Doom, who assisted and was in turn rescued by the abandoned Princess of Pollux. Although we cannot be certain, it is likely that this man was, indeed, Sven Bjornsonn. The only thing we know for certain is that he met and is believed to have fallen in love with Princess Romelle while on Doom.
"So, why is this significant? Sven was Romelle's 'escort' on the fateful day that Lotor attacked Arus, and was also taken away into captivity. And this is where the lines of peace and war become entangled.
"Lotor made one abnormal request of the Alliance: that he would be allowed to retain one prisoner, of 'relative significance', to ensure that neither the Alliance nor the Arus/Pollux confederation retracted their agreement to the treaty. Without this one important inclusion in the proceedings, Lotor threatened to completely withdraw from all peace talks and drive the entire region into a long-lasting, bloody war, from which few could survive.
"There is still much speculation over whether or not he would have acted on these threats, given his later commitment to ensuring prosperity and relative harmony for his people, but at the time his own history was as tainted as his father's ... and so the Alliance agreed to sacrifice one man's freedom for the good of many: Sven.
"For the next forty-six years, until his death, Sven remained exclusively at Lotor's side. Whether this was by choice or by Royal Command is uncertain, although the latter seems the most likeliest. Court whispers regarding the full nature of their relationship abounded, with little true evidence to go on. Only two things were certain at the time:
"One: From the day of his release into Lotor's hands until the day of his death, Sven rarely left the confines of Lotor's apartments, except on occasions when the King was required to travel. Then, he was obliged to accompany him everywhere.
"Two: Lotor never married, never fathered a child, in spite of the vast harem of women at his disposal. It was commonly known that his 'appetites' were being satisfied elsewhere.
"All this speculation came to an abrupt halt when, at close to age sixty-five, Sven passed away from a massive stroke. It was then that the true nature of the relationship between master and slave became evident. And also how Sven acquired both his unofficial title, and his less-than-respectful nickname.
"As court medical documents are registered with the Alliance by agreement with the participating monarchies, a full transcript of the physician's findings are readily available. The attending medic on this occasion described the following:
"Upon being summoned by a somewhat agitated member of the Royal Guards, the doctor entered the Royal Apartments at 6:38 pm , to encounter a most unexpected scene.
"Both men, he initially noted, were completely naked, and the .... evidence as to the sexual nature of their union was, to quote the surgeon, 'irrefutable'. However, this supposition was to take second place to the reason for his call.
"Two things were immediately apparent. Firstly, that the King's concubine was already dead, and likely beyond saving. And, secondly, that the King himself was in complete, near-hysterical denial of that fact.
"As the doctor's own words describe with extraordinary clarity the scene before him, I'll leave it up to him. And I quote in part ...
"'The King sat, devoid of clothing, his personal slave - also similarly unclad - apparently cradled in his arms. [...] His Majesty was rocking slightly. Initially, I had assumed His Majesty was trying to sooth Bjornsonn, until the man's unnatural stillness became evident to me.
"'It was then that I attempted to ascertain whether or not Bjornsonn had, indeed, passed away, as I suspected. However, it also became very clear that the King was suffering from a state of intense shock, and that I had not one, but two patients on my hands.
"It was at this time that I chose disregard my personal concerns for safety and administered a tranquillising drug to His Majesty. It took affect quickly, and I was able to ascertain that, yes, Bjornsonn had deceased, that the likeliest cause of death was a massive cerebral haemorrhage, and that death would have been nearly instantaneous. There was no hope for revival.'
"Clinical words, true, but succinct nonetheless. And King Lotor's grief adds just another sample of proof of their romantic relationship on an ever growing pile.
"The final seal on the nature of that relationship is right before us.
"Sven is the only known slave or servant to ever have been buried in a Royal Vault anywhere in our known galaxy. He is certainly the only man to be allotted a position of high respect next to a reigning male monarch. That Lotor went against harsh tradition and had Sven entombed in the place usually reserved for a consort speaks volumes in itself.
"It is extremely notable that King Lotor, a man who at the time of his lover's death was in the peak of health, passed away within four years of Sven's own passing ... and I can see the realisation on some of your faces already. Yes, Lotor did abolish the slavery laws immediately after Sven's death.
"Many surmise that he merely ... pined away.
"Now, if this was not enough to convince the casual observer of the deep emotions, however displaced, that Lotor felt for this man, then I have one final illustration regarding this complex monarch's regard for his 'consort'. And I would invite you to step back towards the far wall between the old and new chambers to better see it.
"As I said earlier, Lotor had sired no heir of his own ... so, who was he to leave the Empire to?
"He swore to the last that, if he had any say in the matter, no child of the Arusian bloodline would assume his throne ... and, yes, I am aware of the irony there, considering it was through his successor that Arus and Doom would become united through marriage, and thus become the foundation of the Cerulean Empire of today, but he was not to know this. And so, he was left with a quandary.
"Of course, having been through the more recent catacombs ... and, one would hope, having been taught the immense significance of this particular man to our history at school ... you already know who succeeded him: Prince Alvian, son of Princess Romelle and, allegedly, Prince Consort D'neal.
"Ah! You noticed I said, 'allegedly'! There is a reason for this ... just as there was a reason for Lotor to choose him, although few are aware of this.
"History would long regard Alvian's appointment as Lotor's successor an unusual one, perhaps even that of an old King turned slightly 'dotty'. After all, King Bandor still sat upon the throne of Pollux and, although in his late fifties, had a relatively young wife, one young son, an infant daughter and another child on the way ... the succession of Pollux's throne seemed clear, and Alvian was unlikely to be a part of it. Surely Bandor would have been preferable.
"Little was anyone to know that, by the end of the first decade of Alvian's rule, all bar Romelle - as you know, given the title of Queen Mother after her son's succession to the Doom throne - would fall victim to a virulent form of the plague that swept through the entire city.
"However, I do digress. At the time of King Lotor's passing, Bandor sat firmly on the throne, and Alvian was regarded as little more than a serious-minded, almost bookish prince who was not expected to advance too far in royal circles. The best that was hoped for was a good marriage, and even that had become doubtful as the Prince approached his early forties.
"Then, the announcement of his ascension to the throne of his mother's former enemy came ... and the rest, as they say, is history.
"Since we have all seen so much since we toured through the Alvian section, I'll give a quick re-cap, just to put us in the right frame of mind ... but for what, exactly, I won't say just yet!
"We all recognise, now of course, that Alvian proved to be one of the most adroit and practical minded monarchs in any recent history. He took what Lotor had begun, and evolved it into one of the most the wonderful, egalitarian monarchies known anywhere.
"In the process, as we all know, Alvian went on to marry the young Elena, granddaughter of Lotor's once 'beloved' and his equally hated rival, Queen Allura and her Prince Consort, the former Captain Keith of Voltron. The new King of Doom then easily absorbed the Arusian Monarchy into the Empire when Elena's elder brother and Crown Prince, Keilal, died in a tragic riding accident, and then, naturally, also assumed the throne of Pollux upon the death of Bandor and his family, completing the Cerulean Empire
"And yet, in spite of a virtual glut of power, King Alvian remained a man noted for his intense integrity and sense of justice, and was well known for his uncanny ability to empathise with anyone, regardless of station.
"Is any of this significant to us, here in King Lotor's presence? It most certainly is ... and it all comes back to who, exactly, Alvian's father was. It also lends a certain credence to the long-held theory that many of Lotor's 'inspirational' innovations, mentioned earlier in regards to the rule of his Empire, had a little ... help.
"Court rumours run rife, of course, but few ever dared to formally challenge the idea that Alvian was not actually D'neal's son. His birth, if you noticed, was listed as 'premature' by five weeks, and yet he displayed the appearance of a full-term infant. And so, naturally, rumour whispered that the Polluxian Princess had found herself in a ... delicate condition, shall we say? ... and, thus, was forced to marry as soon as possible ... the impoverished D'neal seemed an ideal candidate.
"Rumour was confirmed, yet again on a deathbed ... and this time, it was Lotor's.
"Fading fast, and becoming rapidly annoyed by the bombardment of legal questions regarding his choice of heir as well ... at least, as they say! ... Lotor is alleged to have stated, 'Through my own selfish desires, I denied him his son ... if my heir could not be ours, at the very least, it should be his. I owe him that much. Maybe then I'll be able to look him in the eye on the other side.'
"A statement considered at the time to be almost as peculiar as his choice of successor.
"However, no one had a chance to question him further. A short few hours later, and the last true King of Doom passed away quietly, with less fuss, less bother, and less disruption than he had caused throughout his life.
"And so the controversy raged. I think most of you have guessed by now, but if you're not certain, take a close look at the effigies marking the graves of both Sven and Alvian, who you can see at the end of the corridor at your right. I think you'll all agree that there is a marked resemblance between the two.
"However, a few years back, special dispensation was granted in order the settle the matter once and for all, and a genetic scan was performed on samples of both Sven and Alvian's DNA. They were conclusive: Alvian was, indeed, Sven's son.
"It is only now noted that many of Alvian's finer qualities closely mirrored those Sven was known to be admired for. It seems fitting that he was to continue was most now regard as his father's work in the Empire.
"Many now view Lotor's choice of successor to be his final act of attrition to a man he had grown to love more than a mere pawn or possession. And, finally, his last remarks make sense.
"As a final, bittersweet note on this extraordinary tale, only one word was said to have passed the lips of King Lotor with his final breath: the name of a consort he could never recognise. Sven.
"A romantic story, don't you think?
"A lady once remarked on this tour, 'imagine knowing someone loved you that much.' I, for one, can only hope I'm so fortunate. And I see there are one or two of you who feel the same way.
"Now, let us travel further back in time, to discover the true hideousness from which King Lotor sprung from ... the time of Bloody King Zarkon. Walk this way, please ..."
~ Owari ~