It felt strange when she transformed into She-ra. That first moment, a flash and a heavy weight bearing down on her very soul. Adora didn't know what she was seeing but felt everything. Every sound of the animals — insects buzzing in the bushes, birds singing and flapping their wings from what felt like miles away, carried by the wind. The most notable sounds came from Bow and Glimmer, their hearts beating rapidly. It was as if she could feel every presence near her without even looking. Oh yeah, and she couldn't ignore the giant bug that had tried to kill them.
Adora couldn't come up with anything smart-sounding in her head to describe the feeling. Confused and somewhat disappointed in her lack of poetic language, she admitted in her mind that being She-Ra felt like being a punching bag — not in a way that meant she was being punched all the time. A punching bag was the closest thing she could compare her— no, She-Ra's body to. She-Ra had a punching bag body; punching bag arms and legs. Large and strong, but also heavy and slow. Adora, at first, felt uncoordinated and smothered, astonished that the hand that wasn't hers could still grip the sword.
Immediately after that she tripped — either from shock or the lack of practice with significantly larger limbs; she didn't know — and became herself once again. Adora took in a few deep breaths, a pounding in her head that she hadn't even realised was there fading away. She was in control again.
Glimmer, the Princess who had captured her, confiscated the sword after a mini tug of war session with Bow, her "friend", as the referee, eying Adora as if she was a contagious disease that needed to be cured. Thankfully she stopped because she and Bow hid from the gargantuan spider monster, which had recovered from its mild state of shock upon seeing She-Ra.
Oh yeah. That thing. Adora had completely forgotten about it for a few minutes. A silly mistake like that could cause her death on a battlefield, and it'd been years since she'd done so. What would Shadow Weaver say if she saw Adora standing with that lost look on her face? She would be disappointed and Adora would burn with shame.
Still, what would Shadow Weaver do to Catra if she made a mistake like that? She would probably be really—
Catra. Adora needed to get back to her after she found out more about the sword.
"Do it again!" Bow shrieked, snapping Adora out of her thoughts, suddenly out of his hiding place with the sword in his hand.
"I don't know how!" Adora replied, taking the sword and staring hard at it. She was lost. Stupid. That could get her killed, too. Did that transformation melt her brain or something?
Shit. Was Adora going to become just like one of them? A dumb, sparkly Princess? She shook her head in an attempt to wake up her dazed mind as if it would rid her of the sparkles slowly oozing and sparkling along her insides.
"Just run!" Glimmer yelled, dashing past them with surprising speed. The other two followed but Adora quickly overtook them, stopping as the ground came to an end, leaving a moderate drop in front of her. Unfortunately, Glimmer and Bow couldn't stop running in time and pushed each other, and her, off the edge.
Adora was crushed by the pair. Groaning, Glimmer picked up the sword that had slipped from Adora's grasp as they unsteadily rose. Thankfully, the spider had been crushed by boulders but unfortunately it was still alive and was rapidly crawling free.
The trio ran to a door with strange writing on it. While Bow and Glimmer had a quick argument on what to do, the spider crawled closer and closer to them. "Eternia," muttered Adora, reading out a word, and the door split open.
"What the—" Bow began but Glimmer dragged him in, Adora following. Poor Spidey was left outside.
Everyone let out a collective sigh, forgetting about their distrust for a moment as Glimmer produced a light from her palm. Then it came back.
"So, Horde soldier. How did you read the First Ones' writing?" Bow calmly asked with a hint of suspicion, as if he was a parent questioning his child on why they had come home so late when he already knew the answer.
"What do you mean? Are you Princesses illiterate or something?" Adora snapped, her eyes flicking to Glimmer at the last part.
Glimmer glared back at her but kept her voice level like she was talking to a child. "No. That word you just read is from a language that hasn't been spoken for over a thousand years. Now tell me. How did you read it?" She got closer to Adora in an attempt to intimidate her.
"I don't know, okay! You think I wanted this to happen? You think I wanted to be—" Adora almost choked on those next words, "a Princess?" She rose and took a step forward, their difference in height making Glimmer recoil slightly, her other hand moving to the sword. Good. "Princesses are all monsters," she growled, daring Glimmer to look away from her eyes.
"You're the monsters!" Glimmer suddenly shouted, leaning forward as if she was getting ready to attack.
Bow stepped between the two. "Woah, you guys need to chill!" he warned. "Glimmer, she saved us, don't you think—"
"I don't care! Do you know what the Horde has done? How many people they've massacred? How many villages they've burned to the ground? You said Hordak's doing what's best for Etheria, but tell me— tell me how it's helping anyone!" Glimmer exclaimed, her facade crumbling as tears sprang to her eyes.
Adora almost felt guilty. Almost. But steeled herself. Of course rebelling wasn't helping anyone. The Horde was bringing order to Etheria and stopping those Princesses ruling over everyone like tyrants. Etheria needed one ruler only. One ruler who could restore order and peace: Hordak. How could the Princesses be against that if Glimmer said they weren't evil? If they didn't want all those deaths to happen then they shouldn't have started that rebellion.
"I didn't save you. I was trying to get the sword," Adora said to Bow.
Glimmer wiped her eyes. "Whatever. Let's just take her to my mum. She'll know what to do," she muttered, talking as if Adora wasn't standing right in front of her.
After a creepy hologram lady, who Adora assumed was some other version of Light Hope, went psycho on them and self-destructed, Glimmer, refusing to give Adora the sword, decided to teleport all three of them out of the temple. Then they almost fell to their deaths and were saved by Bow's arrow. Glimmer then tried to hide the fact that she had exhausted all her power and needed to "recharge." Obviously, Bow being Bow, noticed that and exposed it to every living being in the forest, including the Horde soldier.
Adora honestly didn't think it was a big deal. Recharging. Was that a thing Princesses did? It made them sound like robots. If Adora was ten again she would have added that theory next to the other ones stored far away in her head with all the other now insignificant memories. The Princesses were lizards, extra terrestrial beings, demons and all that lot.
Adora looked back on times when she and Catra would giggle about their far fetched conspiracies. Still, none of those were as bad as real life. The Princesses weren't horrid looking creatures. There was nothing visibly "wrong" with them. They were bright and beautiful on the outside, but cruel and manipulative inside.
She remembered stories the older and experienced soldiers of the Horde told the cadets. Fights they'd had with the Princesses, their soldiers and the rest of the rebellion's forces. Mystical, dark magic. Ruthless grins. Laughing like it was all a game. Horde soldiers mercilessly slaughtered, disfigured or haunted for the rest of their days.
Another time she remembered was one of Shadow Weaver's frequent lectures.
A training exercise. When a young Adora saw the holographic person hurt on the floor, her first instinct was to help. Immediately after her hand passed through their shoulder everything turned red and the holographic face flashed a wicked smile, and the next thing Adora knew was that she was on her back. The other evil holograms disappeared.
Strange. Usually training would continue for longer.
"Wow. She seriously messed up," a voice, probably Lonnie's, commented from a metre away.
"Yeah," Catra added, Adora recognising her voice right away. She didn't really have to, since Catra was leaning directly over her and blocking everything else out, but she was barely registering anything she was seeing.
She died. She'd been killed by a princess. The red "X" on her armour felt as if it was burning, branding itself into her skin. She failed. She was a failure. Adora sat up, her heart thudding inside her like heavy footsteps.
Shadow Weaver entered the room, her presence immediately chilling the cadets from the inside.
"It— It wasn't me!" Kyle blurted out.
"Yeah, for once," Catra muttered, ears twitching as she turned her head to face him, though Adora didn't know what look she was giving Kyle. Judging by his face after, though, it wasn't a kind one.
Adora scrambled to her feet. "I'm so sorry!" she cried, standing with her back straight, arms at her sides. "It was a mistake! I won't do it again—"
"Everyone else may leave," Shadow Weaver said, though it sounded like an order.
While the other cadets started to trudge away, Catra hesitated. For some odd reason, she looked scared. Why? She hadn't even done anything wrong this time. Adora was the failure, not her.
Shadow Weaver's disguised gaze still radiated enough frost to frighten Catra away and the two were finally alone.
Why was Adora shaking? Shadow Weaver had never yelled at her or insulted her like she did with Catra, so why was there such a growing sense of terror bubbling inside her, ready to overflow, as if she was a wounded animal staring into the eyes of a predator? She didn't know. She felt a sudden pain in her head and squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, before forcing them open.
"It's all right, child," Shadow Weaver assured her, tucking a stray strand of Adora's hair behind her ear and cupping her cheek. Shadow Weaver's deep voice seemed to be caressing her entire body, but she shook the feeling away.
I can't move.
"You're not mad?"
"I knew one of you would try to help that defenseless Princess. That's why we put her there."
Shadow Weaver wanted her to fail that exercise? Why?
"I wanted to teach you all, especially you, Adora, a lesson," the woman said as if reading her mind.
A lesson. Those words didn't ease her panic.
"What's the lesson?" Adora asked after a few moments of silence.
Shadow Weaver leaned down to be able to make direct eye contact. Her eyes almost looked completely black when Adora stared through the eye holes. She suppressed a shiver.
I can't look away.
"Never trust a Princess. No matter what. No matter how nice or sad or hurt she is; never let your guard down. A Princess will always betray you in the end. End them before they end you."
The red gem on Shadow Weaver's mask seemed to glow. Dark. Why was it getting darker? She wanted to get out. Run away. Something felt familiar.
"Adora!" Bow yelled, clicking his fingers in front of her face and jolting her out of the past.
"Why are you still here?" Glimmer asked her.
"Aren't I your prisoner?" Adora questioned back.
Glimmer snorted. "Bow and I are hardly royal guards. You could've ran away."
"Glimmer. She stood there for like, five whole minutes. I don't think she can run anywhere," Bow whispered to her.
"I could," Adora retaliated.
"Then why didn't you?"
Adora thought for a moment. She didn't know anything about her past other than the fact that she didn't know anything about it. She wouldn't lose anything from explaining that. "I don't know who I am. I mean, who I was. Who my parents were. This all feels familiar," she sighed. "I have to find out."
"Glimmer's mum knows all about that First Ones stuff. If you want, we could ask her," Bow spoke up after an awkward period of silence.
"Who?" Adora asked.
"The Queen of Bright Moon."
Adora tensed up for a moment, but once she realised there was no danger she relaxed slightly. "The dictator and leader of the rebellion," she mumbled. "She would execute me if she ever saw me."
"Wow. You've never actually met a Princess before today, have you? Do I look like the type of person to support a dictator?" Bow asked and Adora looked him up and down. "Glimmer's mum isn't some monster. You saved us, so it won't hurt her to listen. We could try, you know? Just stick with us," Bow said, holding out his hand.
Adora stared at it. Bow wasn't a Princess, right? Was it okay to trust him or was he actually trying to trick her? If he was friends with Glimmer, a Princess, then he was probably untrustworthy, Adora concluded. Bow sadly retracted his hand after realising Adora wasn't going to take it.
Glimmer walked past them. "Come on. We've wasted enough time. We have to go back to Bright Moon," she said, not looking back.