After telling Bandor that Avok would be joining us to the beach, I went to my bedroom and changed into a one-piece bathing suit and a matching terry cover-up. The sky blue halter-necked suit plunged to the waist in the back and was cut high on the leg.

Moments later my brothers and I met in the hallway. Avok was wearing dark green trunks with a white stripe down each side. Bandor was clad in navy blue trunks; around his neck slung a white towel.

Avok drove us in the family car to Dagmar Beach, our favorite because of the blue-violet tones of the ocean and the gentle roll of the surf. A stone staircase led to the beach, which was partially screened out by the blooms of tropical trees, like red tulip trees, orange and fuchsia bougainvillea and lavender blue jacaranda.

Bandor ran off toward the water, while Avok grabbed his surfboard and headed toward the waves. I was content to sunbathe, leaning languidly back in a canvas chair. But later on, I joined my baby brother for a swim and then we sat cross-legged at the shoreline.

Avok returned just as Bandor was opening the picnic basket.

“Your timing is perfect,” I said, handing him a towel. “How was the surfing?”

He dropped on his knees next to me. “Good for beginners. Boring for me,” he replied with a smirk.

False modesty wasn’t a trait of the Rommedalh men, I thought, suppressing a giggle. The picnic lunch turned out doubly delicious given the sunlit perfection of the weather and the calming effect of the sea. We had cheese, smoked salmon; fresh baked bread and grapes, accompanied by white wine.

Bandor then remarked that he was looking forward to his presentation before the senate. He had turned sixteen a week ago, and as sign of his passing into adulthood, a white, ceremonial tunic like Avok’s would replace his clothes. I forced myself to smile. I was happy because it meant he could accompany Avok in his campaigns if he wanted to. But I had taken care of him since he was four years old, and letting go was hard. He wasn’t my baby anymore, I thought sadly.

I eased myself onto my stomach and began to question Avok about his own plans after defeating Voltron.

“I’ll stay on Arus to make sure that our distant relatives and their supporters leave for good.”

“We’re going to miss you,” I admitted softly. “You have stayed with us for more than two months.”

He smiled warmly at me. “You can come with me if you want to, I’m sure father won’t mind.”

“What else did you find out about those Arussians?” Bandor asked him while reaching for another bunch of red grapes.

After taking a sip of wine, he replied, “Not much really, they seem to be very protective of their Princess.”

“As it should be,” I commented, winking at him.

Bandor grinned wickedly at me. “I bet she’s ugly, that’s why they don’t show her around.”

“Bandor!” I scolded him. “How can you say that!”

“Calm down, Mother Mel!” Avok laughed, raising a placating hand. “His observation may have some merit. Don’t be so hard on him.”

I glared at him. “Don’t encourage him,” I ordered. But he just continued laughing at me. He enjoyed teasing me about how I speak with ‘the naturalness and affection of an experienced mother’, quite accustomed to taking care of our younger sibling.

He placed his glass on the sand and reached for a piece of bread. “At this point, I’m only interested in their robot and defense systems. Maybe we could used them to improve our-”

The beeping of his comm unit interrupted him. “Bandor- I told you to turn the blasted thing off,” he said, gazing up at him warily.

Bandor swallowed a grape, and smiled sheepishly at him. “Sorry, I forgot.”

“Yeah, right,” Avok said, reaching for the device from the picnic basket, and pressing the SEND button.

“Rommedalh here.”

“Milord, His Majesty King Cova requests your presence immediately.”

“We’ll be right there, Rommedalh out.”

Avok dropped us off just in time for me to shower the sand from my hair and change into a blue gossamer gown. I was in the hallway when Bandor dashed out of his bedroom at his usual break-neck pace and went downstairs to the conference room. I followed at a slower pace, trailing my fingers over the carved oak railing.

Father and Avok were sitting at the table. Father glanced up from the computer printout he was reading and said, smiling, “Sit down, my children. I’ve got great news.”

“What is it, dad?” Bandor asked.

“Zarkon has decided to listen to our plan regarding Voltron. We’re leaving tomorrow at 0700.”

“So soon?” I blurted out.

Dad raised a gray eyebrow at me. “Romelle, they took almost three months to grant us an audience.”

“But couldn’t you find another way to conquer Arus-“

He cut me short with a shake of his head. “No, child. This is the only way.”

Avok leaned forward and gazed at me. “Please Romelle, don’t worry. I’ll be careful.”

I was not reassured by his words. I still felt uncomfortable with the idea of Avok turning into a robeast; more so after that nightmare that I had last night. Madam Kora had told me that dreaming of falling into a pit and being hurt meant great sorrow and misfortune. But I couldn’t confess to them that I was frightened because of a nightmare. So I straightened my shoulders and tried to force away my fears. “Forgive my lapse. I’ll ask the staff to prepare for our trip.”

“Thank you, Romelle,” father said, with an approving look.

They began to discuss the upcoming meeting, and I slipped away from the room. The castle steward tentatively approached bowing and bobbing his head, already listing the things that needed my attention.

I went to sleep that night listening to the waves lapping below, and wondering about Prince Lotor. Although I had read reports about him and his planet, I had never met him personally. That would soon change though, as the whole family was finally going to planet Doom. Avok’s warning to not become too friendly with the Prince of Doom came into my mind. I had promised to keep a safe distance from him. But he was a prince after all. He couldn’t be all that bad…could he?

To Chapter Five
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