The Highwayman

by JoAnn

Thanks go to Zoe, for cutting the chaff.

Beta’ing credits go to Zoe and Forest. {beam}

Disclaimer: WEPownsVoltron. May they put out tapes that actually *work*.

Warning: Not happy. And I’m apparently regressing -- I’m doing the shifting first person POV. Some liberty was taken with the appearance and gender of the principals. {snerk}

The Highwayman
Lyrics: Alfred Noyes
Music & abridgement: Loreena McKennitt
Voltron Fanfic by JoAnn

There is a legend in these old, old hills. It is an ancient tale of tragedy and love. When the moon is just so, and the wind is just right…


The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor
And the highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding,
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

Staring out into the moon-gilded darkness of the night, I sigh. A hand falls softly on my shoulder. “Lancer, he’s not worth waiting for.”

Twisting about, I look up, pure stubbornness in my eyes. “How can you say that? He’s daring to do what everyone only dreams of!” Meeting Father’s dark eyes squarely, I refuse to shake. I found out long ago that if I just kept my cool, Father could deny me nothing. “And no matter what you do to dissuade him, he still comes to me.”

Sighing softly, Father’s eyes soften. Pushing his shaggy black hair out of his eyes, he smiles, humoring me. “As you will.” Turning away, he disappears into the shadows as silently as he came, leaving me to await my love.

He’d a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Heart pounding, I breathe deeply both in exertion and excitement. Perhaps today is the day that the landlord will finally give in to his only son’s wishes. Thinking of the pale silky skin, dark eyes, and soft brown hair, I shiver with desire. Looking down, I check my appearance carefully. Nary a crease or a wrinkle, every bit of silver polished bright, I nod silently. I am the epitome of a heroic highwayman.

Brow creasing, I wonder. Perhaps, if the landlord is shown proof of my prowess to exhort riches, he will allow us to properly meet…

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Watching from a high window, I carefully sharpen my knives. Shuddering at the slowly growing raucous noise, I look down. There, before me is a caricature of a proper highwayman, too gaudy and bright by far. No grass stain, or sweat mark, or dirt track. And greeting him is my foolish, romantic son, with stars in his eyes.

Lance is so like his mother in looks and spirit -- even to his taste in men. Old memories rise in me, of a brown-eyed, brown-haired innkeeper’s daughter, who dared meet me by the moonlight. Swallowing hard, I push back the grief that wells up inside. All I have left of her is our son. And he is not going to waste himself on this incompetent fool.

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by the moonlight,
Watch for me by the moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

Amber eyes glowing in the moonlight, white-blond hair flowing down his back, my love’s handsome face is everything I ever dreamed of in a lover. Calling quietly up to me, confidence in every tone, I can feel my body heating up with every word my love speaks.

“I have a plan! There’s a rich merchant coming this way. I’ll take his gold, and it will prove to your father that I am worthy of you.”

I can’t help but laugh, though my love’s desire to please Father touches me. “I doubt there is anything that could make Father accept you. But I love you, and that is enough acceptance for us both.”

The smile he gifts me with is worth any reaction Father might have to my words.

“Just come back to me, love.”

“I will. By moonlight, if not by daylight, even if Hell should stand between us.”

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand
But she loosened her hair i’ the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its wave in the moonlight, (Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

Snorting quietly in derision at the ‘highwayman’s’ ringing declaration, still I smile at the sweet picture below me. Lotor stands tall on his well-trained steed, reaching upward. Even as he does this, my Lance leans over the casement and reaches down as far as he can. My son’s hand is captured by Lotor, brought to his cheek, kissed, and released. Lance fair swoons. Managing to stifle my reaction to their dramatics, I watch as Lotor swirls his cape and gallops off loudly.

Perhaps now, I’ll have peace for a few days.

He did not come at the dawning; he did not come at the noon,
And out o’ the tawny sunset, before the rise o’ the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching,
Marching, marching
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

Out of the sunset, rhythmic footsteps echo from the long shadows. Pounding at the inn-door, their leader bawls. “In the name of His Majesty King Alfor, open your doors!”

The heavy doors forced open, too many soldiers push impatiently past me, muskets at the ready. With much of the soldiers’ attention trained on me, all I can do is stand helplessly behind the counter, pass out the ale, and do my best to look harmless. Rage building in me, it takes all my control to wait while the soldiers destroy my inn and harass my son as they hustle him out of sight and into his room.

Checking the slant of the sun, I clench my teeth, and pull out my most potent ale. If I can just get them drunk enough, perhaps all will be well.

But for what they have already done, I pray for the Dark Lady to claim their souls.

And I hope that Lance doesn’t do anything foolish.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of the knelt at the casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window,
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through the casement, the road that he would ride.

Battling, punching and kicking, Lance is no match for King Alfor’s men.

Captain Hunk smiles cruelly at the boy. He orders him tied and gagged -- and left where he can helplessly watch his love ride to his death.

Swiftly deploying his men so that every possible route to the inn is covered, he smirks and strolls over to enjoy the sport with the landlord’s pretty son.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
“Now keep good watch!” and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say -
Look for me by the moonlight
Watch for me by the moonlight
I’ll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

Leering at the bound boy, enjoying the helpless rage boiling in those huge dark eyes, Hunk caresses Lance’s cheek insultingly. Small eyes widening in unholy delight, he takes a musket from a passed-out soldier, and props it in Lance’s helpless hands. Pointing at the boy’s chest.

“There now, my sweet.” Reaching out, Hunk mockingly caresses the boy’s trapped body. “Watch well, for us, for your lover-boy!” Strolling out, Hunk swaggers, taking a long pull of his ale, uncaring of the horrified look left behind.

She twisted her hands behind her, but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness and the hours crawled by like years!
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it!
The trigger at least was hers!

Desperately staring at out the sliver of road I can see, I fight the ropes that bind me. But for all that they are drunken sots, they know how to tie ropes well. I can barely move my wrists, and my fingers are already numb. Still, I fight, hoping the sweat and the blood will slick the ropes enough to loosen them, to get free to warn my love.

But all I manage to do, as the moonlight begins to cross the hills, is twist a finger free enough to reach the trigger of the musket the captain bound to me in jest.

Tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs were ringing clear
Tlot-Tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up straight and still!

Stiffening, eyes widening, I tremble. I can hear him coming; the ring of his steed’s iron-shod hooves is distinctive. Don’t they hear them? Maybe, maybe I can get myself completely free before they realize…

And then, suddenly, the drunken layabouts are moving rapidly and with precision. Muskets are being loaded, even as a few of them eye me suspiciously.

Frozen in fear, I hold very still. Inside, I’m screaming. Stay away! Can’t you feel the trap?

Father, do something. Now. Please?

I don’t want to die.

Tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment! She drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him with her death.

Shaking inside, I can see that the soldiers are almost ready. Some are even aiming, awaiting only the Captain’s orders, to turn my love into a bloody mess on the white-washed road.

Taking as deep a breath as I may, gagged as I am, I taste for the last time the sweetness of life.

Father, forgive me.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know she stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!

Throwing my head up, I saw frantically at the reins at the sound of the musket-shot. The soldiers must have marked my coming! Attacking the merchant stirred up a great deal more trouble than I expected. Biting my lip, I give myself a moment to stare at the inn, before turning and galloping away. Break this one promise I may, but at least I’ll be alive to court my love later. By Luck’s gift, one of the soldiers must have misfired.

Not till the dawn he heard it; his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Walking carefully into the tavern, searching for information, I’m congratulating myself on my disguise, when a tan and white blur suddenly grabs me by my collar, pinning me against the wall.

Black eyes bore into me, colder than winter ice. An emotionless voice cuts my soul into ribbons. “My son gave his life for yours.” One scornful glance up and down tells me exactly who he thinks got the better part of that bargain. “You’d best spend it wisely.”


Snorting, his very casualness underscoring the horrifying reality, the landlord eloquently turns his back on me, reaching for wine.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky
With the white road smoking behind him, and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were the spurs i’ the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When the shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

Maddened by grief and rage, I leap back on my horse, and charge toward the inn. Pulling my rapier out, shrieking incoherently in rage, I race down the road, white dust puffing out behind me.

I don’t notice the ambush until it is too late.

Pain and fire catch me unaware and fling me broken to the ground. Wet blood leaks out from me. All I can see is the bright sunlight and a cloudless blue sky. All I can hear is the mocking laughter of the soldiers at my stupidity.


Moving too calmly through the shattered remnants of my inn, I methodically clear the rubble until I can reach into the furthest recesses of the storage room.

Gently pulling out the old leather armor, the well-kept brace of throwing knives, and the fighting staff, I close my eyes.

In my mind, I can see three graves, two fresh and one old.

Pulling on the armor, my face is stone, my plea a harsh whisper. “Dark Lady, grant me your blessing.”

Still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon, tossed upon the cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding,
Riding, riding,
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Though there were none to name it so, the day the last highwayman died, is the day that King Alfor’s men, and therefore his reign, were marked for death.


It is said, when the moon is just so and the wind is just right, at night by the old inn, one can hear the tlot-tlot of hoofbeats of a highwayman coming to meet his love.


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