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Adora was staring at Catra’s outstretched hand. The catgirl had one of her trademark smirks on her face, and Adora couldn’t tell why. Adora had been taken aback by Catra’s choice of clothes. A striking, dark plum colored suit with magenta accents and matching button down blouse. Her bowtie dangled around her neck, untied. Dirty tactics, Catra.

Since the moment Catra and Scorpia had arrived, Adora couldn’t help but fixate on her best friend. Ex-best friend? Friend-with-complications? She knew they were up to something, but so far the best Adora could tell Catra had come just to tease her. And now this. The smirk had gotten bigger, exposing one of Catra’s razor sharp canines. For the first time Adora payed attention to the music that was beginning to play. A jazzy little ballroom number. Adora resolved herself and lifted her hand to meet Catra’s. It seemed that playing her game was going to be the only way to figure this out.

Presentation and ritual were important to the Horde, even in matters of celebration. There were no parties. No spontaneous dancing in the aisles. No raucous chanties spun out of nothing. Ballroom dancing was the liveliest the Horde allowed. Even then, they made you practice it until it wasn’t fun anymore. Except when Adora and Catra practiced together. According to their instructor, Essteare, they were horrible at it. Too much improvisation. Too much laughing. Too many erratic motions. Gliding across that room, swaying and spinning in Catra’s arms, were some of the only times away from Force Captain training where Adora felt truly alive.

Essteare would have been so proud of this moment. Adora and Catra, hands pressed together, free arms bent at 90 degrees behind their backs. Tight. Precise.

Adora hated it.

“I know you’re up to something. I’m going to figure out what,” Adora said as they slowly circled around each other.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just here to enjoy myself.”

“We both know that’s not true Catra,” Adora huffed as she spun Catra away. She turned to receive the next dancer.

There was nobody there.

“Huh.” Adora blinked at the empty dance floor.

Catra slammed back into Adora, resting her head on Adora’s shoulder. “Just us this time,” Catra breathed. “Everyone else is gone.” In one smooth motion Catra grabbed and dipped Adora. Their faces were inches apart. Adora could feel every drop of blood she had flooding her cheeks. “Lucky them.”

“Wait, what?” The statement smacked into Adora.

“They’ve managed to get away from you,” Catra scoffed as she twirled Adora.

Adora was trying to regain her balance. “They’re my friends! They- They wouldn’t-”

Catra slammed into Adora again, knocking the rest of her statement out of her. She grabbed Adora’s hands and led her into a slow waltz. “Wouldn’t what? Want to be around you? Want to be in the blast radius of the inevitable ticking time bomb that is Adora?”

“I- I try not to be,” Adora was struggling to focus. She was trying to pull her hands free, but Catra’s grip was iron tight.

“Even if they haven’t figured it out yet, they will,” Catra sneered. “Getting away from you was the best thing to happen to me. I have friends now. REAL friends, not just someone using me as an emotional crutch!”

“I’m glad you have friends. I’m happy for you Catra, I really am.”

“People respect me now. They look up to me. The Horde believes in ME. All thanks to ditching you.”

Honestly it was shocking how tight Catra’s grip was. Even if she was She-Ra, Adora wasn’t sure she would have been able to break free of it.

Catra pulled her in. Their bodies were pressed together. Adora could feel the heat coming off Catra. “Let’s face it, I’ve done the world a favor,” Catra whispered into Adora’s ear.

Adora pulled her head back so she could look Catra in the eyes. There was something sinister in her stare. Every word Catra said slammed into Adora’s chest. Tearing. Pulling. It felt like Adora’s heart had a python wrapped around it, squeezing the life out of it. 

“I don’t understand,” Adora airly breathed.

Catra let Adora go, and slowly backed away. The smirk had morphed into a wild grin. Almost feral. Almost evil. Catra’s claws were fully extended, soaked in red. Adora opened her mouth to plead with Catra to explain what she meant, but nothing came out. Just a huff of air, and a labored grunt. 

It was then that Adora realized that she was getting light headed. Her abdomen felt like it was on fire. She looked down.

There was a giant gash in Adora’s stomach. Blood was gushing profusely from it. “Ca…Cat… tra,” Adora managed to push out as she collapsed onto the ground.

 


 

Adora bolted up into a sitting position. Sweat was pouring down her face, tears pooling at the corners of her eyes. Her chest was heaving, unable to catch her breath. She ripped her covers off and patted around her stomach. No blood. No hole or gash. No claw marks. There was no chance that there would be. This was more just busy work to calm herself down.

It was working.

As Adora’s breathing slowed to normal; as she wiped away the sticky residue of tears around her eyes; reality started coming back into view. Her bed. Her dark room in Bright Moon Castle, lit only by the moons high above in the sky. Judging from their positions, it was around 3 in the morning. A cool breeze was wafting in through the open doorway to her balcony. The breeze hit Adora. It danced around every bead of sweat, drawing goosebumps on her skin. Adora spun her legs around and dangled them off her bed. She sat there, at the edge of her bed, intently staring at seemingly nothing.

This wasn’t the first time Adora had that dream. Sometimes it went that way. Sometimes it went in a much more pleasant direction. Adora craned her arm around and gently traced the four gashes that ran halfway down her back, starting from her shoulder blade. The other side of her back had a matching set. It had been four months since the battle of Bright Moon, and the scratches on Adora’s back still hadn’t disappeared. She had for some time now come to accept that they wouldn’t.

Scars.

She-Ra doesn’t scar.

At least, She-Ra never had before, or since for that matter. What damage She-Ra did get never carried back into Adora. Except these. Adora knew that Catra’s claws were something to fear. She’d seen them glide through solid metal as one might run their fingers through water. She’d even been on the receiving end of a few nicks from them. Granted, those instances were met with Catra being beside-herself distraught with what she had done, not maniacal glee.

Adora kept telling people that they were a statement Catra was trying to send to her. That wasn’t entirely true though. Adora knew that. They were the punctuation to the statements Catra had told her back during their ordeal in the Crystal Castle. Adora still hadn’t told anyone about what happened there, not even Glimmer and Bow. The entire extent of hers and Catra’s friendship was something Adora tried not to talk about. She thought it would make things between her and her new friends messier than they needed to be. Which meant that the Crystal Castle ordeal was something that she’d kept to herself. 

She wouldn’t even know where to start at this point. Catra never summoned just one clear emotion anymore. It was this ball. Lumpy. Messy. That would press down on her chest and stick in her throat. Safer to just not bring it up at all than try sorting through it.

Not that she felt great about lying to her best friends. Then again, her and Catra apparently spent a lot of their lives not being honest with each other. Maybe this was just how Adora did friendship. The thought did something awful to the pit of her stomach. A strong gust of wind billowed in, causing Adora to shiver. Just enough to jolt Adora out of this pit of self-loathing that she had found herself in. A pit that she had spent far too many nights in recently.

Chances of getting back to sleep were out of the question at this point. Adora got dressed into a sporty tank top and workout leggings. As was becoming a frequent custom, if sleep wasn’t going to happen, Adora decided to do the one thing that still cleared her mind: training.

 


 

All things considered, Rift Hollow wasn’t a strategically important part of the Horde. It was hours southeast of the Fright Zone, even by skiff. A small farming town, it mainly supplied food for a few of the security checkpoints along the southeast border of the Horde.

Under normal circumstances, reports of civil unrest in Rift Hollow probably wouldn’t warrant even a Force Captain making the trip, let alone Lord Hordak’s 2nd-In-Command. Catra wasn’t concerned with the problems of Rift Hollow though. After the initial thrill of her promotion, the realities of the work set in. While unsuccessful, the assault on Bright Moon had been a great audition for Catra, but it had also left the Horde forces in shambles. These first four months as Force General had been dedicated to refortifying the ranks of the Horde’s army.

Catra’s personal project had been to put together a squad that she could trust. Lonnie, Rogelio, and Kyle had been natural choices. Well, maybe not Kyle, but his inclusion was essential to get Rogelio on board. They’d seen minor field work before, but today was their first big day. Catra wanted to be on hand to see how they performed.

The transport skiff lurched to a stop near the entrance of the town. Catra stood below deck, looking over the status report on Rift Hollow. Above her Force Captain Octavia was barking orders at the squads. Catra rubbed the bridge of her nose. Even now, as Octavia’s superior, something about that woman just grated at Catra. She couldn’t argue with Octavia’s effectiveness though. She was just so damn annoying. Or maybe it was just that this trip had been annoying. Hours of traveling through the Horde countryside just to come yell at some farmers. Or maybe… Maybe it was just everything. Truth be told when Lord Hordak had promoted her Catra mostly envisioned hanging out with Entrapta and Scorpia to come up with plans to take down those princesses, not… reports. Or staff updates. Or overseeing training.  

Octavia was finishing up. Catra let out a yawn before tossing down her notes and making her way up the stairs.

Octavia’s squad of rookies was tasked with securing the perimeter near the skiff and the entrance of the town. Catra led her squad of Lonnie, Kyle, and Rogelio into Rift Hollow. The townsfolk gave them a wide berth. Their fear was apparent. Catra enjoyed the feeling. They met with a local Horde security officer named Norn near the center of town.

At the sight of Catra Norn stiffened up and saluted. “Force General! Ma’am? So sorry we weren’t expecting you! Had we known that-” Norn started.

Catra waved him off. “Relax Officer, you’re fine. I’m just here to make sure my newbies are ready. Now, what’s the latest?”

“Fourth day of protests. Most of the farmers have halted work entirely.”

“Can’t have that now can we. Where are they?”

“Follow me, I’ll show you.” Norn led Catra’s squad through the town. Within a few minutes they were at the edge of the farmlands where a group of farmers were forming a pretty meager blockade and taunting the one Horde security officer already there. At the sight of Catra the farmers began yelling. The details of what they were saying were lost as too many voices overlapped each other.

Catra snapped her finger at Kyle. He lifted a horn up and pressed the button. A screeching sound filled the area, causing everyone to fall silent. Catra patiently waited until the horn died down. She had everyone’s attention. Even some of the townsfolk were making their way to see what all the common was about.

“Citizens of the Horde,” Catra began.

“You mean citizens of Rift Hollow!” a man called out from the crowd.

Excuse me ?” Catra growled. The man was easy to find, especially since as soon as Catra started moving forward everyone else moved away from the man as if he was contagious. To his credit, the man didn’t back down. He did gulp hard as Catra bared down on him, so only but so much credit. “You’re first and foremost a citizen of the Horde. Got it?”

The man mustered all the courage he could. “I was a citizen of Rift Hollow long before the Horde. And I’ll be one after the Horde too.”

Catra didn’t respond for a moment. She examined the man in front of her. Had to be in his mid-forties, easily. Without warning, Catra spun jerked her arm up and connected with a backhanded slap that sent the man careening to the ground.

All of Rift Hollow ground to a stop. Dozens of pairs of eyes were trained on Catra. She flicked her hand in a couple of motions in the general direction of her squad. Lonnie, Rogelio, and Kyle began spreading out.

“Okay. Gonna say this one time,” Catra announced. “Thanks to these little, fits , Rift Hollow hasn’t made its production quotas in two months. You WILL make your quota next month. If you don’t the next visit’s gonna involve tanks. Got it? Now, for the rest of today I’m imposing a curfew, starting now! Everyone go home. Anyone caught protesting, or out at all, will be disciplined.”

A couple of the farmers helped the man that Catra struck to his feet. Nobody was leaving. “We can’t be treated this way. We’re human beings dammit,” the man huffed.

“Yeah, stupid ones. Squad!” Catra called out. On cue Lonnie and Rogelio turned on their stun spears. Impressive weapons that had Entrapta written all over them. Kyle followed suit just seconds after them. Lonnie and Rogelio jammed the closest protesters, who dropped to the ground immediately in pain. 

Panic struck the town. People started fleeing in every direction. A few tried to fight back. Lonnie and Rogelio were making those few immediately regret those decisions. Even Kyle was taking control of his area. The Horde security officers were assisting.

Kyle was trying to focus on herding the citizens back to their homes instead of engaging in physical altercations. “Focus Ky. Focus. You can do this. Just focus,” he kept chanting to himself. He came across a couple of surly farmers who didn’t much want to move or go home. “Re-return to your houses now fellas!” Kyle yelped. They just glared at him. “Please!” he added. The two men instead began approaching Kyle. In a panic Kyle jabbed out his spear. Sparks flickered as it connected with the first man, who fell over immediately. He swung the spear to the next man, dropping him also.

“Not bad, Ky!” Kyle assured himself. He spun around confidently, only to realize that another man had snuck up on him. The old man still seemed pretty spry for someone who looked to be in their seventies. He had a big pitchfork that he was rattling at Kyle. “Oh no,” Kyle whispered.

Meanwhile Catra had her attention trained on the man that she had struck originally. He seemed determined to stand his ground. Catra smirked while one hand rested firmly on her hip. “Look at what you’ve done.”

“What I did?! I didn’t threaten a whole town! I didn’t sic guards on people to force them into their homes! I-”

Didn’t get a chance to finish that sentence. Catra’s fist slammed into his face. The man stumbled. Front kick squarely into the stomach sent him back to the ground. She stood over the man and flashed her claws. The smile on Catra’s face was slowly widening.

A familiar screaming broke Catra’s concentration. Without even looking Catra had a good idea what she was about to see, and sighed. Kyle was standing there, a pitchfork plunged into his shoulder. Catra’s interest in the man she was assaulting waned.

Out of nowhere Rogelio appeared and sent the old man tumbling onto the ground. All 6’7” of the stocky green lizard man towered over the elder. Terror washed over his face as Rogelio began cracking his knuckles one by one. Rogelio began stalking towards the old man when he felt something tug at his pants leg. Rogelio looked down to see Kyle.

“Rohé, sweetie please, don’t,” Kyle was able to force out. Rogelio reached down and pulled the pitchfork out of Kyle. He scooped the fraile, blond man up and cradled him in his arms.

Catra appeared next to them. “Rogelio, get Kyle back to the transport, and tell Octavia to get her squad over here!” Without hesitation Rogelio took off. “Dammit Kyle,” Catra sighed to herself.

 


 

Before he even opened his eyes, the noises flooding Kyle’s ears were painting a picture. A rhythmic beeping that was keeping time with his heartbeat. The low hum of the various machines in the room. Hissing was sprinkling down from the halogen lights above him. And a constant scratching.

Kyle ventured to pry his eyes open. It took a moment for his vision to come into focus. Everything was as expected. A Horde infirmary. Judging from the better than average state of upkeep of it, he was probably in Horde Command, the military city at the center of the Fright Zone, where Fright Spire, Lord Hordak’s base of operations, resided. Home.

Just to Kyle’s left was Catra, sitting haphazardly in a chair, one leg dangling over the armrest while the other seemingly crumpled onto the floor. Every minute or two her tail would tap the floor. She hadn’t looked up yet from the pad she was holding as she steadily scratched a pencil along it. From his angle Kyle couldn’t make out what she was doing.

“Whatcha drawing?” Kyle croaked.

“Drawing?”

“Oh, I thought you might be doodling something.”

“What am I, 12?”

“You used to love-”

“Reports Ky. I’m filling out reports about today, which you missed the end of. Long story short, Rift Hollow is complying,” Catra gloated. She slowly pushed herself up and approached the side of Kyle’s bed.

“Nothing permanent. Doc patched you up good. Even with Rogelio breathing down his neck the whole time.”

“He worries.”

“I know. I’ll go get him in a minute. He’ll be happy to hear that you’re up. Only reason why he wasn’t here is because I was getting worried he was going to pace a groove into the floor.”

Their conversation died down. They let an awkward silence pass over them for a moment before Catra patted Kyle on the shoulder.

“I’m taking you back out of the field.”

“What? No! I can do this Catra!”

“Kyle, you let an old man wreck you on your first day! Look, I didn’t put any of the details into the report. This isn’t going to affect your permanent record.”

“Really Catra, please, I’ll do better next time! I promise! I-”

Catra waved her hand in front of him. “This isn’t a debate. I even talked to Rogelio already. He agreed, you’ll be safer here. We’ll find something else for you.”

“He’s my boyfriend, not my father! He doesn’t get to decide what I do and don’t do!” Kyle fumed. A fire was bubbling up inside of him and spilling over. This probably didn’t fit very well into the doctor’s ‘rest and recuperation’ plan.

“No, I get to decide,” Catra huffed, done with this conversation. “And I did. Kyle, on your first day you couldn’t even subdue a simple-”

“-Grandfather!”

Kyle hadn’t meant to blurt it out. Both of his hands immediately shot up to his mouth as his eyes bulged in his head. He could only muster looking up at Catra for a split second before lowering his gaze back down. She was silent, glaring at him intently. Her mouth was slightly agape.

He didn’t often win arguments with Catra. Kyle was pretty certain he hadn’t won this either. But maybe. Just maybe, he hadn’t lost it either.

“What?” Catra floated out. It was softer and more inviting than anything Kyle had heard from her in months.

Kyle inhaled hard, sucking in as much air, and courage, as his lungs could hold. “I hacked into the digital records a few years back. I just… I just wanted to know where I came from. That’s when I found them. My family. Four generations, all farmers in Rift Hollow. I’ll be the first to not.”

Catra sat down on the side of Kyle’s bed. “What happened?”

“Don’t know. That part wasn’t in the file. Something , happened to my parents. And the rest of my family had to give me up to the Horde.

“I… I check in on them now and again. Just to make sure they’re okay. My family doesn’t even know I’m alive,” Kyle sniffed.

It lasted only for a brief second, but Kyle was sure he had seen it. A flicker on Catra’s face. The scrunching at the bridge of her nose. The soft frown. 

Compassion.

Just for that second though, then Force General Catra was back. “You’re a Horde soldier. We’re you’re family now. The only one that matters at least.”

Catra patted Kyle on the shoulder again. “And that detail aside, I still have concerns about you out in the field,” Catra conceded. Kyle hung his head. Catra scratched the back of her neck. A friend, a loyal friend, was crushed. It was plainly written on his face. Catra didn’t want to leave him like this. She’s better than that.

Think Catra.

Think.

Ah-ha!

The germ of an idea bubbled into Catra’s mind. She looked over to Kyle and gently slapped him on the arm. “Forget field work. You managed to hack into the Horde mainframe all by yourself?”

Kyle perked up. “Huh? Oh, yeah?”

 


 

First came writing reports. Then came filing them into the computer. Catra knew it was probably faster to just write them on the computer in the first place, but she had an easier time collecting her thoughts through a pencil than she did a keyboard.

It had been a full day, and these reports had taken her late into the evening. All that was left was Kyle’s. It was getting late, Catra could feel it in her body, which was calling for her bed. A cruel thing, really, seeing as how Catra knew that when she got there all she’d do is lie awake for hours, trying to pick out all the various hums and clanks of all the machines that kept the Fright Zone going.

Focus, or lack of focus actually, wasn’t helping either. Catra kept thinking about Kyle. Well, Kyle’s family.

Family.

Family…

Catra sighed. With a few clicks, she found herself in another program. A Horde directory. Only available to the highest ranking members. Something Catra only had available to her for four months now. She typed her name in and hit the little button with a magnifying glass. The results popped up, causing Catra to sigh yet again. Longer this time though. She allowed the sigh to deflate her as she slumped into her chair.

Oh, look, it’s your file. And hey, under “Known Relatives” it lists “None”. Just like the last three times you did this. You and None really need to hang out sometime and trade family recipes or something. I mean, you don’t have any, but maybe they will!

The Horde is your family. This is all you have.

 

Chapter Text

Catra and Scorpia were waiting in the hallway in front of the Black Garnet chamber. For so long just seeing that door made every hair and strand of fur on Catra’s body stand up on edge. For almost a year now though a large lit-up neon purple sign hung mounted to the side of the door that read “Entrapta’s Lab”, and just below that was a plaque that read “All Welcome. Hard Hat Recommended. Mini-Cupcakes Encouraged.” Both were effective in putting Catra’s mind at ease. Especially after Entrapta had explained to them what a mini-cupcake was. 

What didn’t put Catra’s mind at ease was waiting. It had been over an hour since Entrapta had sent one of her messenger robots, telling Catra and Scorpia that she needed to see them right away. When the pair got to the lab though the door was locked. Knocking had resulted in hearing Entrapta call out “just a minute!” 

That was 62 minutes ago. 

Catra had knocked a few more times, resulting in callouts like “I’ll be right there!”, “almost done!”, and “it’s almost ready, just wait!”

Knocking clearly was having no effect, so instead Catra began pacing in front of the door, her arms folded over her chest, her tail periodically making sudden, violent swishes back and forth. Each pass in front of the door caused Catra’s golden left eye to twitch. It wasn’t JUST the waiting that was grating on Catra’s nerves. Scorpia was leaning against the wall across from the door, tapping a claw against the wall as she hummed. She seemed to be enjoying herself just fine. It was infuriating.

“What are you even humming?” Catra asked, mostly out of need to focus on anything else besides the fact that this door may never open.

“You know, it’s a song for waiting. I think it’s called ‘the Waiting Song’,” Scorpia gently tapped her claw against her chin a couple times. “Or is it ‘the Waiting Melody’?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh! You know, ‘do, do do, do- do do do.. Do, do do, do- do do do.”

Right , THAT classic!” Catra retorted. Her words were drenched in sarcasm.

“We should sing it together! Time will go by so much faster! Do, do do, do- do do do!”

“Do, do do, do- do do do!” a third voice responded. Entrapta was hovering in the doorway while balanced on her uncannily long pigtails, purple goggles still over her eyes, trademark jumpsuit covered in dirt and grease smudges. “What are we singing?” she asked. Her voice was low and raspy, as it often was when Entrapta was curious.

“Nothing! Nothing at all,” Catra blurted out before anyone else could respond. She quickly pushed Entrapta into the lab, Scorpia scurrying in after them.

Every time Catra was in this room there was a new a pile or stack of electronics that hadn’t been there before. An impressive feat considering Catra was in here basically every day. She was starting to wonder if Entrapta’s secret princess power was conjuring metal. 

“You wanna tell us what was so important that you had me waiting for over an HOUR?” Catra asked. Her last sentence was structured like a question, but the tone was entirely a demand.

“Oh yes. I asked you here,” Entrapta mused. Her attention was cut by a loud buzzing noise.

“I got it!” a voice yelled coming from the opposite side of the room. They saw Kyle scurrying from his small workstation over to a makeshift oven that Entrapta had built. Entrapta softly clapped her hands together rapidly and made her way over to Kyle.

“I think they’re ready,” Kyle suggested, gingerly taking the small round cakes out of the pan. Entrapta snatched one up immediately with her hair. Kyle handed one each to Scorpia and Catra. Well, more like he had to force it into Catra’s hand.

Entrapta’s hair produced three audio recorders. She examined each for a second before deciding on the right one. “Fright Zone Culinary Log, day 352. Assistant Kyle is attempting his 73rd recipe variation of mini-cupcakes.”

“Mmm, not bad if I do say so!” Kyle beamed through bites.

“Chewy! Pretty good Ky!” Scorpia exclaimed, having popped the entire tiny cupcake into her mouth at once.

“This BETTER not be what you had me waiting an hour for,” Catra growled. Her cupcake remained uneaten.

“Recipe Variation 73 results: These are awful. But by far the best batch yet. I rescind my initial hypothesis of Assistant Kyle’s uselessness. Given time I now have full faith that he’ll find good enough ingredients to make a decent mini-cupcake. Then we can move on to icing.”

“Er, thanks?” Kyle shrugged, blushing slightly.

Kyle got a big purple hair thumbs up. “Assistant Kyle continues to need constant affirmation. It is endearing, if sometimes tiring,” Entrapta mused into her recorder.

“ENTRAPTA!” Catra exploded. The outburst caused Scorpia to almost drop her fourth mini-cupcake.

“Right! Why I asked you here!” Entrapta whipped around, turning away from her friends and slinked over to her work station. “As you know, most of my research has been focused on studying First Ones tech. And really, the Black Garnet has been a dream to have access to. And thanks to it...” After rummaging for a couple of seconds she held up what appeared to be a portable monitor, with a small keypad to its side and a number of wires dangling from the bottom. On the top of it was a round glass encasing that was glowing red. “...Ta-da!” she exclaimed enthusiastically.

Catra tilted her head slightly to the side, he eyebrows furrowed slightly as she faintly grinned. “Oh great, a portable monitor, groundbreaking.”

“It’s not just a monitor.”

“What is it then?”

“Well, it is a monitor.”

The twitch in Catra’s golden eye came back. Her hands coiled in front of her, wrapping themselves around an imaginary neck. Her mini-cupcake was completely crushed. “YOU JUST SAID-”

“-It’s not about what it is,” Entrapta said, cutting Catra off. “It’s about what it can do. I call it the First Ones Replication, Imitation, and Duplication Device!”

Catra’s posture slackened a little now that progress was finally being made. “Okay. That’s, that was a lot of words.”

“I’ve just been calling it a Duplicator,” Kyle helpfully chimed in while cleaning the oven area. 

Entrapta cleared her throat. “Yes, a Duplicator. By harnessing a little bit of power from the Black Garnet,” she said, tapping the round glass part on the top of the device, “and cross analyzing the power signatures of that with those of other-”

“-Entrapta, remember that little talk we had? Several times? In English.”

Entrapta let out a sigh. Her eyes narrowed to convey a sense of hyper focus. “This. First One Thing. Can. Pretend. To be. OTHER. First One Things.”

“So it can mimic other First One tech? Like,” Catra pointed at the Black Garnet, “if you tell it to it can do the same stuff that the Black Garnet can do?”

“Not exactly. It can mimic the power signature of the Black Garnet.”

“How is that helpful?” Catra asked with a raised eyebrow. Her patience was starting to slip away.

“ARE YOU KIDDING? Everyone thinks about runestones as these sources of raw power, but there’s so much more to them than that! They store information. They balance the elements they have control over. They control access to all kinds of First Ones places. And so much more! I’ve barely scratched the surface of what runestones can do.”

Bingo. Catra was starting to piece together why Entrapta was so excited about this Duplicator . “So wait, You’re telling me that we can use this thing to bust into First Onces temples?”

“Imagine,” Entrapta airly hummed. “Simply walking in through the front door. No traps, not weird First Ones mind games.”

Mind games. Catra still wasn’t sure if it was intentional on Entrapta’s part, but she was good at pushing buttons. Usually the right buttons. Usually. She was clearly very proud of this Duplicator thing. And Catra was starting to see the big picture she had. 

“So what can the Black Garnet do?” Catra asked. “Can it get us into anywhere good?”

“Not sure actually. But that’s not the one that matters,” Entrapta’s face betrayed the pure glee bubbling underneath her surface. Strands of hair shot over to a keyboard. Few clicks, a few clacks and suddenly the giant main computer monitor on the wall lit up. Schematics were all over the screen. In the center, a rotating 3D model of…

“The Sword of She-Ra,” Scorpia gasped. Entrapta enjoyed showing off new tech to her friends, but specifically Scorpia, who seemed to be overwhelmingly impressed with everything. “‘Trapta, how did you get ahold of the sword?”

“Last year, when you stole it at the Princess Prom. Horde technicians did a full scan. They weren’t able to make heads or tails of it, but luckily they saved all their files.”

At this point Catra didn’t want to make any assumptions or get her hopes up. Best to just ask questions and try to follow along. “Okay, I’ll bite. What can the Sword of She-Ra get us into?”

“If my calculations are correct, and there is an 83% chance that they are, the Sword of Protection acts as a masterkey of sorts. It can probably let you into ANY First Ones structure.”

“And of course the Crystal Castle,” Scorpia chimed in.

Catra gave her a confused glance. “Crystal Castle? How do you even know that name?” Scorpia simply shrugged. “Not in a super rush to get back there anytime soon.”

“But with my Duplicator we could do it safely this time. Just think of the secrets the Temple of She-Ra has to hold!”

“We?”

“Well I’ll need to be there to work the Duplicator. Besides, I couldn’t pass up another chance to see the inside of a First Ones Temple!”

“And if you’re both going,” Scorpia piped up. Her giant arms wrapped themselves around both Catra and Entrapta and pulled them in close. Entrapta simply giggled. Catra hissed but didn’t put up much of a fight. “We might as well make it a full Super Pal Trio outing!”

“Alright, FINE,” Catra huffed, finally freeing herself from scorpion woman’s grasp. She began pacing back and forth in a tight formation and mumbling to herself. “Hmm, yeah, this could work.” A sly grin grew on her face.  “Hey ‘Trapta, next time, ‘I found a way for us to break into our arch-nemesis’ base and be able to learn all of her secrets and weaknesses’ is probably what you should lead with.”

“Noted!” 

 


 

The village of Thaymor was one of the few places on the western side of the Whispering Woods that wasn’t under Horde control. Not exactly strategically important to either side. Which is why the fact that it was now the site of TWO battles between the Horde and the Rebellion in less than that many years struck so many as odd. 

Adora had, feelings, about Thaymor. This was where she met Swift Wind, then just Horsey. Where she tried berry juice and apples and murk plums for the first time. Where she met the first Rebellion citizens that didn’t want to kill or arrest her. Where she finally gained Glimmer’s trust. Where she defected. Where she lost her .

Only that wasn’t entirely true. Deep down Adora knew that. Adora didn’t lose Catra. She drove her away. For weeks after that first battle at Thaymor Adora tried to piece together why. How did she miss all the fragments that should have made the reaction Catra would have to “I just found out the Horde is evil and since it’s evil I have to leave it because it’s hurting people I don’t even know” so obvious. Putting together puzzles wasn’t something she was good at, Adora had decided. At least, not until Catra gave her the rest of the pieces months later.

“We’re here everyone!” Swift Wind announced, setting down gracefully in a clearing near the edge of town. Bow, then Glimmer, then Adora climbed down from the majestic winged unicorn. The stallion surveyed the town. Horde troops were engaged with the contingent of Bright Moon guards that had been assigned to the area. Coming in through the valley that led to Thaymor was an impressive Horde tank. “This doesn’t look like someplace for a unicorn,” Swift Wind quivered.

“No, certainly doesn’t,” Adora mused. She gave Swift Wind a pat on the neck. “Thank you Swift Wind, I’ll call you if we need you.”

“Right,” Swift Wind said with a nod. His beautiful rainbow wings stretched out as Swift Wind began to take off. “Good luck Princess!” he called out as he soared off into the blue morning sky.

Bow had already notched his bow with an arrow. “They couldn’t even wait for us, that’s just rude.”

“Yes it is Bow! Let’s go teach these creeps some manners!” Glimmer delighted. Staff of Micah in one hand, Glimmer took Bow by the arm in her other hand. “See ya out there Adora!” she quipped as her and Bow blinked away, leaving only pink sparkles glimmering in the place where they had just been.

Adora couldn’t help but smile as she slid the massive Sword of Protection out of the sheath strapped to her back. Becoming She-Ra had come with many complications. There were things about being She-Ra that made Adora uneasy, nervous. 

This though, this was the good part. Adora held the sword high into the air.

“FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL!”

 


 

Considering that they were outnumbered five to one, the guards of Bright Moon had done an admirable job keeping the Horde from overrunning the town. That number advantage was starting to pay off though, and the Horde was pushing through. The main Horde soldier battalion had pushed the fight through the main street and into the marketplace of Thaymor, sending the remaining villagers that had stayed to protect their shops and carts scattering.

Horde soldiers were on the verge of fully overpowering the guards when an arrow soared overheard. It flew past the front lines and exploded into a giant net, ensnaring a good dozen Horde soldiers. Bright Moon guards took advantage and began driving the fight back. Free Horde soldiers began frantically scanning the rooftops for the source of the arrow.

“Don’t mind us!” they heard before they saw it. Bow and Glimmer appeared in the air a few yards above the Horde soldiers. Both came crashing into the soldiers feet first. Bow landed on one of the soldiers and pushed himself off, sending the soldier to the ground and Bow back into the air. In seconds he had notched three more arrows and released. They whistled through the air before exploding into multiple bolas each.

Glimmer landed on a soldier and flipped off them. She spun into the air, sending sparkle shots in multiple directions before landing on her feet. More sparkle shots were thrust from her hand. Horde soldiers began closing in around her. Glimmer created a sparkle sphere that hovered just in front of her. She spun the Staff of Micah into it. Connecting the staff with the sphere created a shock wave, sending soldiers flying back into each other.

“Hey Glimmer! Sparkle me!” Glimmer heard She-Ra shout. Glimmer spun around. She-Ra was sailing through the air, falling towards Glimmer. She got a big grin on her face and sent up a large sparkle sphere into the air. She-Ra landed on the sphere, which exploded immediately, sending her flying farther into the sky.

She-Ra soared through the air. The tank bringing up the rear was her destination. The tank would react to her, She-Ra knew that. A blast from the cannon was something the Shield of Protection could deflect with ease, something she knew from experience.

On cue the tank’s turret spun to meet She-Ra’s position. What wasn’t on cue was that instead of the usual turret cannon, this tank had a double barreled cannon. Each Barrel ended in large vented muzzles. Set into each barrel were a couple glass orbs that were suddenly glowing magenta.

Both cannons erupted at the same time. Two massive bolts of energy careened towards She-Ra. Shield first, she braced for impact. Instead of deflecting the blasts, as she had done many times before, these two blasts hit the shield spot on and sent She-Ra spinning backwards violently. It took all of She-Ra’s strength to hold onto the shield as she hurtled into the ground, where she tumbled for a few yards. She wanted to lay on the ground for a minute, but searing pain sprung her back into action. She jumped to her feet and threw the shield down. Smoke was rising where it had been strapped to She-Ra’s arm. 

At She-Ra’s will, the shield morphed back into the sword. The transformation seemed to have dissipated the heat, as the sword was fine to pick up.

“That’s new,” She-Ra muttered to herself. New tank. New obstacle. Same objective. She-Ra nodded to herself sternly and charged at the tank, this time on foot. The tank began to aim for She-Ra, but she was able to spin out of the way as the blasts slammed into the ground. Dirt and rock pelted She-Ra as she continued charging the tank. Before the tank could line up another shot She-Ra leapt into the air. She came crashing down sword first onto one of the engines holding the tank up off the ground. It sparked and smoked before catching on fire. The tank wobbled briefly before slamming down into the ground. Its turret spun around in a desperate attempt to hit She-Ra. The Sword of Protection cut through both barrels like a warm knife through butter.

She-Ra climbed up the tank and ripped the metal hatch off. A Horde soldier was leaning back in a chair and looking up at She-Ra, and flipping her off.

“S’up Adora.”

“Lonnie??” She-Ra was taken aback.

“Yup, got that field promotion finally!”

“Looks like I broke your new toy,” She-Ra quipped as a smile emerged on her face. “Impressive though.”

“Don’t worry, we got more where this came from. Better even,” Lonnie responded.

“Even better than this one?” She-Ra mused. There wasn’t time to think about it though. Suddenly She-Ra felt something slam hard into the back of her. She went flying off the tank and crashing into the ground. More annoyed than hurt, She-Ra hoisted herself up. Her eyes searched for a second to find the assailant. “Rohé!” she yelled at the sight of the massive green lizard man standing atop the tank. Rogelio made a grunting noise. She-Ra put her hands up as a gesture of admission. “You’re right, I don’t have the right to nicknames anymore. I’m sorry Rogelio,” She-Ra admitted.

Both Lonnie and Rogelio hopped down from the carcass of a tank. “Damn Adora, we thought for sure the double-barrels would have taken you out,” Lonnie scoffed as she powered on her stun spear. “Don’t matter though, we’ll just do it ourselves.”

She-Ra buckled over in laughter. She couldn’t help it. “That’s a good one Lonnie!”

“You dumbass you think we’re joking?”

“Um, look around!” She-Ra gestured around. The tank was destroyed. Most Horde troops were beginning to fall back, being driven out by Glimmer and Bow and the Bright Moon guards.

“Who cares about Thaymor? I just want to whip your ass!” Lonnie screamed. She started to charge but Rogelio quickly caught her. “Come on man, you and me, we can take her!” Rogelio looked at the wreckage of the tank, and back at Lonnie, then back at the tank, then focused his gaze at Lonnie and simply shook his head.

Lonnie pulled her shoulder from Rogelio’s grip. She gave She-Ra a good, hard stare before powering down her stun spear. “Tsk, fine. We’ll have plenty of chances.” The two began stalking away.

She-Ra faded away, with Adora emerging in her place. There was no desire to take either prisoners. Adora thought about it briefly before deciding to call them out. “Hey! It was, um, it was nice to see you both again.”

The statement made Lonnie spin around where she was standing. “Are you for real Adora? Damn, Catra’s right. You may have that sword now, but you’ve gotten so weak! Sad really!” The two started jogging away, trying to catch up with the other Horde soldiers, in full retreat mode now.

There was a part of Adora that wanted to call them back at the sound of Catra’s name. It had been, oof, long enough that Adora had to really think about it. A little over seven months since she had seen her former best friend. Catra rarely took to the battlefield anymore, instead directing Horde activity from Horde Command. She was a good Force General. Even without seeing her Adora knew that to be a fact. The Horde had converted the destroyed town of Elberon into a Horde base right under the Rebellion’s nose. They had pushed the southern border a lot farther, coming uncomfortably close to Seaworthy. Misdirection was Catra’s forte. Always had been. Only now, instead of tricking the mess hall cooks into giving her second servings, she was moving troops to one place, only for the real strike to happen hundreds of miles away.

She could never admit it to anyone, especially not Bow or Glimmer, but Adora was proud of Catra. She was excelling at something that, growing up, Adora never even dreamed Catra would want to be good at. If only all of Catra’s success wasn’t a detriment to Adora and all her friends and the people she had sworn to protect.

Adora glanced at the wrecked tank again, and squinted her eyes. Thaymor wasn’t a huge city or anything, but just one tank? Hmm.

“Yo Adora!” Bow called out. He and Glimmer were jogging over to Adora.

“Did that tank have a DOUBLE BARREL cannon??” Glimmer screamed. Glimmer had that look on her face. One that she wore a lot, particularly when in battle. It sat somewhere between horror and awe. 

“Hah, yeah. Packed a pretty hard punch,” Adora admitted. “Horde R&D have been really outdoing themselves lately.”

Glimmer playfully slugged Adora in the arm. “Well it’s a good thing that you pack an even better punch!”

Adora laughed as she got hit. At that moment a searing pain shot through Adora’s head, causing her to lose her balance.

“Oh come on, I didn’t hit you that hard!” Glimmer protested.

“No, no, this is something else,” Adora said. Glimmer and Bow helped her back to her feet, and continued holding her by the arms to ensure she was stable. “Thanks guys, I ‘m okay now. That was… Weird.”

Swift Wind appeared in the sky and landed gracefully in front of the Best Friend Squad. “Adora! Glimmer! Bow! You have to come with me right now!”

“What is it Swift Wind?” Adora asked.

“I just felt something, it was one of the First Ones temples. The Crystal Castle, I think it’s in trouble!”

“Wait, you just felt something too?” Glimmer inquired.

“Yeah, why? What do you mean ‘too’?”

Adora hopped onto Swift Wind. “I just felt something also. I didn’t know what it was, but I must have been feeling the same thing!” 

“That’s great!” Swift Wind beamed.

“It felt awful,” Adora mused.

“Um, I’ve been tuned to feeling the temples this whole time. I’ve felt ALL your shenanigans,” Swift Wind scoffed. Bow and Glimmer had climbed securely onto Swift Wind. The beautiful steed lifted into the air. 

“Er, sorry,” Adora continued.

“It’s fine. If you’re starting to become tuned to the temples also  that must mean that your training has been going well. Light Hope’s going to be so proud of you!” Swift Wind remarked.

“Yaaay,” Adora said with a smirk. Adora looked down at the rapidly fading away battlefield. Hmm. 

Misdirection.

 

Chapter Text

Catra had full faith in Entrapta. In the year that she had gotten to know the quirky princess Catra had learned to never underestimate her. Despite that though, Catra couldn’t help but be amazed that this seemed to be working. 

The Duplicator had opened the door to the Crystal Castle with ease. It was now hooked up to the base of the wall just below a giant stained glass image of She-Ra. Catra scoffed at the sight of it. The arrogance of princesses.

A weird AI lady had popped up and started muttering something about an “Administrator” when they entered the main chamber. Once Entrapta had connected the Duplicator to the wall the AI had powered down. The Crystal Castle was under Horde control. Catra and Scorpia were looking around to idly pass the time while Entrapta, leaning against her robot companion, Emily, did her work.

“What’s wrong Kitty? You look tense,” Scorpia noticed. Catra had been trying her best to hide it. Had to be her tail, which was flicking back and forth with sharp, violent swishes.

“You don’t have to worry about defenses, I’ve already disabled them,” Entrapta offered.

Giant killer spiderbots definitely were high on Catra’s things to hate, but that wasn’t it. Catra was honestly a little surprised, and disappointed in herself, that this place still had meaning to her. Memories. Bad memories. When Catra had followed Adora into here all those months ago she had no idea that was going to be the last day she would ever look at Adora and feel anything other than malice.

There were no regrets for any of the decisions Catra had made that day, or in all the days following it. Still. That day. That ordeal. Ugh. Bad memories.

“I’m fine,” Catra stated flatly.

“Kiiitttty,” Scorpia whined.

Catra huffed. Death would probably be preferable than to admit just how much Scorpia’s friendship had come to mean to Catra. Times like this weren’t the best though. That whine. Those almost quivering eyes. Scorpia wasn’t going to just let this go.

“Look, this place just gives me a bad feeling okay? The last time I was here… This place can be pretty intense. All this weird power and technology, just messing with you.”

“Weird power and technology is quite an apt way of putting it,” Entrapta said, clapping her hands together in a fit of glee. “The information here is incalculable! The mysteries it could solve, the theories it could prove, the possibilities are endless!”

“Yeah that’s great and all,” Catra responded. “ How about we get on with our main mission first?”

Entrapta simply nodded. “Yes, discovering She-Ra’s weakness is a priority. That’s why I am downloading as much of the data that I can while I figure out where to even begin looking.”

“Perhaps I can help,” A new voice stated, startling everyone. All three of the Super Pal Trio trained their eyes on the source of the voice. An AI, a different one than had greeted them, stood before them. Taller, more detailed, still purple though.

“I, am Light Hope.”

“Hey, you’re the one that Adora was looking for the last time I was here!” Catra beamed.

Light Hope slid over to Catra and regarded the catgirl for a moment. Her digital brow furrowed. “Hello again Force General Catra.”

Hearing her name coming from Light Hope made Catra twitch with anger. Her fingers flexed instinctively, causing her nails to extend. “And how do you know who I am?” Catra said with a clenched jaw. She already knew the answer.

“I was able to scan your brain the last time you were here if you remember,” Light Hope stated.

“Yeah, and I still owe you for that.” Catra inched closer to Light Hope and stuck a claw into Light Hope’s shoulder. An opening formed there with pixels sparkling around it. “Not much I can do though, I guess.”

“Princess Entrapta,” Light Hope began, then stopped. She teleported to just next to Entrapta and looked her up and down. “The very real Princess Entrapta,” Light Hope restarted, “has full control over me and this entire temple. It may not be as cathartic, but it is a rather effective form of revenge.” Light Hope teleported back to in front of Catra again. For a dispassionate computer AI, Catra couldn’t help but notice a faint sneer on Light Hope’s digital face when looking at her. “I take it you had a point to all this effort Force General. Should I ask Force Captain Scorpia or would you care to tell me?”

“You know who I am?” Scorpia chirped.

Light Hope glanced at her, then at Entrapta and Catra before refocusing on Scorpia. “I believe I did just mention that I have a full scan of the Force General’s mind. Along with 1,000s of years of Etherian knowledge, and also full scans of Adora’s mind. Being connected to her mental state is key in her She-Ra training. She has a quite high regard for you Force Captain.”

Scorpia blushed and waved her massive claw at Light Hope. “Me? Nooooo. I never even interacted with Adora until after she defected.”

With a few flicks of Light Hope’s hands holographic versions of Adora and Catra were standing in the middle of the room. Fully colored and looking remarkable three dimensional, the only real evidence that they weren’t real were the occasional flickering and errant pixel that was seemingly flack off once in a while. They jerked into motion. The holographic Catra and Adora seemed to be walking. Adora had a stack of books cradled in her arms, while Catra was carrying a single notebook.

The sight of them caused a hitch in Catra’s breath. She summoned every ounce of willpower to level herself out.

 


 

“It’s not like you just finish this year and BOOM you’re a Force Captain. There’s weeks of Force Captain Orientation right?” Catra quipped.

Adora adjusted the weight of the books into one arm and rubbed her neck with her newly freed hand. “I mean, yeah, but Orientation sounds fun actually,” she mused.

“HAH! Orientation sounds boooooooring!” Catra blurted out.

“I don’t know, They pair you up with senior Force Captains for it, I’m excited to actually be mentored by someone with real field knowledge, ya know?”

“Depends on who they pair you up with I guess. Ugh, could you imagine being stuck with Octavia?”

“I’d rather not!” Adora squealed. Both girls shared a chuckle. “I hope I get paired with Force Captain Scorpia.”

“She’s the one with the big red claws right?”

“Yep! She’s so cool! I heard she’s an absolute badass!”

“Probably doesn’t take crap from anyone!”

“And those claws can pulverize solid rock. They may be even more lethal than your claws,” Adora quipped.

Catra looked at her free hand, as if examining it for the first time ever. “Ya think so?”

Adora grabbed Catra’s hand, causing them both to stop walking. She lifted it up and began caressing the inside of Catra’s middle finger gently with her thumb.

“Probably not. These things could tear right through me if I’m not careful,” Adora said, shooting a soft smile at the catgirl.

Catra closed her fingers around Adora’s thumb and smiled back. “I’LL be careful. You’re never going to have to worry about that.”

 


 

The holograms disappeared with a zapping noise. The same zapping noise caused Light Hope to flicker for a moment. When she returned she was grimacing. Entrapta was standing where the holograms had been, holding the Duplicator, which had wires trailing back to where they were plugged into the wall. Emily was holding the wires in her pincers to keep them from tangling up.

“I think we have gotten off track again,” Entrapta stated. 

Catra, who’d been staring intensely at the ground this whole time, shot a glance up at Entrapta, who simply gave her a nod in reply. A faint smile grew on Catra’s face.

“I think-” Scorpia began. She seemingly glided over to Catra and swooped her off the ground into a bearhug. “-we need to take a moment to appreciate that Catra thinks I’m a badass!”

No amount of squirming or pushing could make Scorpia release her hug before she was ready to, but Catra was giving it a good effort anyway. “Oh, yeah, full badassery on display right now Scorpia. Let me down already!” Scorpia reluctantly complied and set her best friend down. Catra huffed as she straightened her clothes.

“NOW, if we’re all done fooling around,” Catra glared directly at Light Hope, “We can get on with our business here.”

Light Hope recomposed herself. “What do you wish to know Force General?”

“Simple: how do we defeat She-Ra once and for all?” Catra said with as much sinister atmosphere she could muster after having just been bearhugged by an overly cheery scorpion woman.

“Do you, really not know how to defeat Adora?” Light Hope said, squinting at Catra.

“No no, not Adora. Who CARES about Adora? She’s squishy and fleshy and it’s probably all about friendship and she’s SUCH a freaking disappointment.” Every word of Catra’s statement was dripping with disgust. “No, I want to know about defeating She-Ra specifically. She’s more than Adora, she’s a force unto herself isn’t she. Adora’s just like, the container that poor She-Ra got stuck with.”

Light Hope didn’t respond. She examined Catra’s face, one eyebrow cocked. Finally she let her shoulders slacken. “Very well then. Defeating She-Ra is theoretically simple. You simply need the Radiant Core.”

“Ooooooooooooooooh!” Entrapta squealed. “THAT sounds fascinating!”

“Alright,” Catra replied. “What’s the Radiant Core and how do we get it?”

“The Radiant Core is one of the runestones that guide all the forces of Etheria. It is THE runestone. It is the Runestone of Light and the most powerful force in all of Etheria.”

“Perfect!” Catra slyly grinned. “And how does one acquire this Radiant Core?”

“Ah, the catch,” Light Hope stated. “The only being strong enough to wield the Radiant Core is She-Ra. And in her current state, even she isn’t powerful enough to do so.”

Catra smacked herself in the face. “So the only thing strong enough to defeat She-Ra is something ONLY SHE-RA CAN USE?! Enough with the games you stupid Light Bright!”

Light Hope’s examination face returned. “If you will, allow me to adjust the parameters of the question. While you only seem to care about She-Ra, it is simple fact that She-Ra and Adora are tied together. If you regard them as the single entity they are, then there is another way to defeat her that I do not think you have realized yet.”

“FINE,” Catra huffed. “As long as this isn’t ANOTHER waste of time then go ahead and tell us.”

“Absolu-” Light Hope began, but trailed off mid word.

“What?” Catra asked.

“It appears the Castle has visitors. Perhaps we can continue this when you are finished,” Light Hope said and blinked away.

Catra’s teeth were grinding. “‘Trapta, what’s she talking about?!”

Entrapta frantically typed away at the Duplicator. “It seems she was correct. Three humanoid creatures just opened the door. It was opened with the passcode.”

“Adora and her friends ,” Catra let out a loud growl. “That stupid AI was STALLING us!” Catra flicked out her hands, causing all her claws to fully extend. “Alright everyone, looks like we’re going to have to-” Catra began as she looked back at her team. She stopped when she noticed how uncomfortable Entrapta looked. “Entrapta? You okay?”

Giant purple strands of hair were wrapped around Entrapta as her hands fidgeted together. “I.. That is…”

Catra’s posture slacked. Claws retracted, she made her way over and rubbed Entrapta’s shoulder. “You’re not comfortable fighting them.”

“I… I’m sorry,” Entrapta lowered her head.

With a bent index finger Catra lifted Entrapta’s head back up. “Hey, it’s okay. We got this. Can Emily fight in your place?”

Entrapta nodded in confirmation.

“Good, then you should go hide, get as much information downloaded as possible. We’ll buy you as much time as we can,” Catra smiled at her.

As a sign of relief, Entrapta’s hair untangled itself and lifted her into the air. She used a hair strand to tap the stun baton that was strapped to Catra’s waist. “You should use this, I think you’ll be impressed with the modifications I made to it.” Without further comment Entrapta’s pigtails spun her around and she stalked off into the hidden corners of the massive chamber.

Catra pulled the stun baton from her waist. The handle grew to twice the length for better two handed use. The stun part at the end made a clicking noise and the cylinder morphed into four joined cylinders like a giant electric mace. It crackled with energy. The hairs on Catra’s hand stood on end. She gave a sly grin before spinning the staff in her hand.

“Welcome home Adora,” Catra sneered.

 


 

Adora, already transformed into She-Ra, entered the main chamber of the Crystal Castle flanked by Glimmer and Bow.

“This place still gives me the creeps,” Bow said. He had his bow at the ready, just in case.

“It’s okay Bow, now that the Crystal Castle recognizes me as She-Ra, it listens to me. Usually,” She-Ra added a half-hearted chuckle.

They continued to the middle of the room. “Hmm, nothing looks out of place,” She-Ra admitted. “Weird that the greeting AI didn’t kick on though.” She-Ra rubbed her chin and glanced around the room. Everything looked normal, but she still felt a sense of unease. “Light Hope?!” She-Ra yelled into the room. No response. No, nothing. “Huh, strange.”

“Sorry, Light Hope can’t come to the chamber right now!” a voice from above yelled out. She-Ra spun around with just enough time to use her sword to block the swing from Catra’s stun mace. Catra landed and flipped backwards, creating some distance from the Best Friend Squad. Catra stood, yards from them, spinning the mace in her hands. “Hey, Adora.”

“Catra?!” She-Ra blurted out. It sounded a lot less angry than She-Ra had hoped. “How did you get in here?”

“And why would I tell you that?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Glimmer huffed. She was tapping her staff in her hand aggressively. “Let’s just show her the way out!”

As soon as Glimmer made the declaration she was struck from the back and tumbled forward on the ground. Glimmer rolled over, looking furious. Scorpia was standing over Glimmer, her tail recoiling back. There was a sinister grin on her face as she tapped her claws together. Glimmer let out a scream and teleported. She appeared behind Scorpia and slammed her staff into the back of Scorpia’s head. The stout woman stumbled forward, but remained on her feet. Her tail shot out. Glimmer leaped into the air, just avoiding it. She raised the Staff of Micah up and began to swing it down, but Scorpia caught it in her claws and threw Glimmer across the room. Glimmer teleported to avoid crashing violently into the ground. New plan was to begin hurling sparkle blasts at Scorpia, who lumbered to dodge out of their way.

She-Ra and Bow found themselves engaged with Emily, the orb shaped robot. She had a number of impressive weapons, including lasers cannons, shock tentacles, and as She-Ra found out as she charged at the bot, a sonic wave cannon that sent the princess flying back as soon as she got close. She-Ra landed on her feet next to Bow. She grabbed him and flung them both to the ground just in time to dodge a couple laser blasts.

“I don’t remember Horde robots having this much firepower!” Bow shrieked. Him and She-Ra scrambled to their feet. Bow bought them some time by firing a number of arrows in its direction, including one that splintered into multiple mini-shards of metal.

“This is new!” She-Ra replied. “Between this and the tank, somebody in the Horde’s had a stroke of genius.”

Bow and She-Ra scrambled behind a pillar to regroup. “I’d be super impressed if they weren’t trying so hard to kill us!” Bow huffed. He notched his bow again with another arrow. “I’ll draw it’s attention, see if you can get close this time.” She-Ra nodded at the plan. Bow took a deep breath, then charged out from behind the pillar.

She-Ra started to run out the other direction but had to drop down to her knees at the last second to avoid being hit in the face.

“Aw, forget about me?” Catra grinned. She had a firm grip on the mace, waiting for She-Ra to make the next move.

“Of course I didn’t!” She-Ra climbed to her feet. She swung her sword down. Catra used the mace to block. The sword clanked into the mace, but didn’t cut through. 

Catra used all her might to shove forward, pushing She-Ra off. “Well now, looks like there IS something your little sword can’t quite cut through,” Catra quipped. She swung the mace forward. 

She-Ra swung her sword, knocking the mace away. “That IS pretty impressive.” The two traded swings and defensive blocks for a few minutes. “You know, if you weren’t siccing killer robots on me and my friends I’d be pretty glad to see you Catra,” She-Ra said. 

“A dork ‘til the end I see!” Catra said, bringing an overhead swing down. She-Ra rolled out of the way.

“I’m just saying, I haven’t seen you in months!” She-Ra said just as she had to jump back away from another vicious swing. “Is it wrong that I was hoping maybe we could talk? We’ve never really had the chance to just talk about, you know, all that stuff that happened.”

One of Catra’s swings finally connected, even if just glancing. It made She-Ra stammer back a few steps. A wild grin swept over Catra’s face. “What’s there left to talk about Adora? Stuff happened. I’m 2nd-In-Command now. And you’re-” another wild swing forced She-Ra to jump back to evade it, “-my enemy. End of story.”

Despite Catra not being able to connect with the next few swings. She-Ra felt a sting in her chest.

Enough games.

Another wild overhead swing was heading for her. She-Ra lifted her arm and simply caught the bulky end of the mace in her hand. Catra was grunting, and visibly exerting her energy trying to finish the swing. She-Ra simply held the mace in place.

“I disagree. Look, can’t we just, like, sit down and talk?”

Catra relaxed her effort. The mace wasn’t going to move. Slowly Catra began sliding her hand up the shaft of the mace. “So, what, are we just supposed to sit down over a couple of fizzy waters and pretend like we’re not supposed to hate each other?!”

She-Ra cocked an eyebrow. “Since when did you start drinking fizzy water?”

“Really Adora? That’s what you chose to focus on?”

Catra’s hand slid up to reach a small button on the mace. With a press the bulky end of the mace began glowing bright blue in She-Ra’s hand. A loud ‘BAZOOM’ noise exploded from it, along with arcs of lightning. She-Ra went soaring through the air. It was Adora that smacked into the ground, streams of smoke coming off her. The Sword of Protection skittered along the ground.

The sight brought an ear-to-ear grin to Catra’s face. She regarded the mace in her hands for a moment. “Entrapta, I don’t care if I have to tear all of Etheria apart, I’ll find you that damn cupcake recipe you’re looking for,” she mumbled under her breath.

Limp and lying on her back, Adora showed no signs of movement. Her chest softly lifting and lowering as she breathed was the only indication that she was even alive.

Catra took her time stalking over to her. She could feel the power recharging in the mace as she walked. Catra was standing directly over Adora now. Slowly she raised the mace over her head. “A dork until the bitter end,” She muttered.

Before anything else could happen Catra was bombarded with sparkle blasts. Out of nowhere Glimmer appeared, slamming her fist into Catra’s gut. It rose the catgirl off her feet. “You get away from her, you monster!” Glimmer yelled.

It didn’t take long for Catra to recover and get back to her feet. “Hey Glitter, this was a private party, stop butting it!” Catra swung her mace. It connected with the Staff of Micah. Glimmer held her ground and pushed Catra back.

“IT’S GLIMMER!” she yelled, bringing a sparkle charged fist careening through the air. Catra hopped back out of the way. The force of impact sent dust and debris flying into the air.

“My bad Glowstick, I’ll get it right next time!” Catra yelled back as she started into a sprint. “OKAY, I THINK IT’S TIME TO GO!” Catra announced abnormally loudly. Scorpia and Emily joined her as they ran into the first hallway they could find.

Glimmer teleported to Bow, who was propping himself up on a pillar. “Are you okay?” Glimmer asked.

Bow took a second to answer, but did give an immediate thumbs up. “Y-yeah. Whew, that robot wasn’t messing around!”

“We can’t let them escape! Who knows why they were even here!” Glimmer huffed.

“Right,” Bow nodded. “What about Adora?”

“As long as we don’t lose those Horde monsters she should be safe.”

The two nodded at each other and sprinted into the hallway Catra, Scorpia, and Emily had ran down.

 


 

“OUCH!” Adora screamed as she bolted up into a sitting position. It took a moment for her to level her breathing off. Standing was a laborious endeavor. A quick scan of the main chamber suggested that she was alone. “Light Hope?” Adora called out. Her voice was still a bit horse.

“Yes Adora?” Light Hope answered, standing just feet from Adora.

“What happened?”

“The Force General used a weapon on you, rendering you unconscious for seven minutes. They’ve since retreated into the bowels of the castle. Your friends are giving chase as we speak.”

Adora scooped up the Sword of Protection. “I have to go help them!” Adora jogged into the middle of the room and looked around. “Which way?”

Instead of answering Light Hope simple strolled over to Adora.

“Light Hope which way did everyone go? I need to go help,” Adora pleaded.

“That is not true. 

“We should talk,” Light Hope stated.

But, there’s Horde soldiers in the castle!”

“The Crystal Castle is capable of defending itself. You have seen that first hand.”

“Horde and Rebellion soldiers are fighting right now in the castle! Isn’t winning the war supposed to be my destiny?!” Adora huffed.

“Nothing here today has been about the war Adora, it’s been about you. Fighting to protect you. To hurt you. Your attachment to all of them is what has brought this violence on. As I told you it would.”

“We’re not having this conversation again!” Adora had begun pacing and fuming. “I remember what you said! And look, I even get the point you’re trying to make, but I’m more useful to them as their friend than I am just abandoning them!”

Light Hope pulled out her face of the day, the examination face. “If you do not wish to have this conversation we will not,” she said after a few long seconds of silence.

“Thank you!” Adora sighed. “So, can you tell me why they were here in the first place?”

“They wanted to learn any weaknesses you might have, so they could more easily defeat you.”

“You didn’t tell them anything did you?! What even ARE my weaknesses anyway?”

“No, you showed up before I could tell them anything of importance.”

 “Wait, would you have if I hadn’t shown up?!”

“Yes Adora, they had taken control of my computer systems. I was forced to comply with their demands. Thankfully the fight distracted them enough that I was able to lock them out of my network. Once again giving me control of the Crystal Castle.”

Adora sighed. There was another question at the tip of her tongue. Something she was now passionately curious about, but also terrified of the answer.

“So, what IS my greatest weakness? So I can maybe figure out how to defend myself against it.” Adora finally asked.

“Would you like to see what I would have shown them?”

“... Yes.”

“Very well”

Light Hope flicked her wrists. The entire main chamber melted away. Suddenly Adora was back in the Black Garnet chamber. 

 


 

Shadow Weaver stood at one of her computer terminals, doing who knows what kind of work. A young Adora, about 14, knocked on the open doorway. Shadow Weaver pulled her attention up from her terminals and glared at the doorway. Her expression, at least as much of it that could be made out through her mask, softened immediately at the sight of Adora.

“Come in, child,” Shadow Weaver said. The mage made her way over to Adora, who appeared reluctant to be there. Shadow Weaver knelt in front of Adora and gave a soft stroke along Adora’s cheek. “Can I do something for you Adora? You seem… Nervous.”

“Are you busy? I can come back later if you are,” Adora said. There was no air in her words. They were low, almost dipping to a whisper at times.

Shadow Weaver rose to her feet and ushered Adora into the room. “I always have time for you, child.” Shadow Weaver stood a couple feet in front of Adora, her arms clasped behind her back. “Is this about your training session today? Octavia said you did very well.”

“Well, yes, and no. Kind of? Not really actually.”

“Adora, you are rambling. Focus, and ask me what you came here to ask.”

“I was kind of hoping that I could ask you something a little more personal. Not as a teacher, but more as a mo- a mentor.”

“Yes, of course.”

There was no smooth way to launch into this. Adora had been trying to come up with one for hours now, with no luck.

“So, you know my squad right?”

“I put your squad together personally Adora.”

“Right. Well okay. So there’s Lonnie. She’s cool. I like her, we get along pretty well. And there’s Rogelio. I like him too. A bit quiet but he’s a great sparring partner. And Kyle. we actually get along pretty well too. He loves studying. He’s the one person I can get to go to the library with me. But then, then there’s Catra…” Adora trailed off.

Shadow Weaver’s demeanor changed, becoming clearly agitated. “Did she DO something to you?”

“What? No! No of course not. It’s just, whenever she’s around lately I feel, weird. Like, I get this sharp pain in my chest. And like, sometimes it feels like I can’t even breathe whenever I’m near her.”

“And she isn’t physically hurting you?”

“No! No, she would never,” Adora leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. She was having trouble focusing. A million thoughts swirled around her head. Thousands of ways to describe what she was feeling. Nothing seemed adequate. “Whenever we’re together, I feel like my body is going to burst. But when she’s not around… All I can think about is how much I wish she was.”

Shadow Weaver gave Adora a long stare, her eyes squinting more with each passing second.

“Adora, what are you trying to tell me?” Shadow Weaver’s voice was even, measured.

“Shadow Weaver…” Adora didn’t know how to say any of this. No book in the Horde Academy’s library told her how to deal with this. She knew that to be fact, having turned the place over looking for something, anything to help her figure this out.

“...What does it feel like to be in love?” Adora pushed out of her mouth. It felt like a hand grenade that she just dropped in the middle of the room.

Shadow Weaver’s eyes were nothing more than white slivers, glowing, glaring, processing what Adora had just told her.

Any second that hand grenade would explode, Adora knew it. She was bracing for it. There was no one else for her to turn to, but this wasn’t the smartest of turns. Yet, it had to be done. If Adora didn’t talk to SOMEBODY about how she was feeling she was sure she would actually burst. Even now, bracing for Shadow Weaver’s anger, Adora felt relief. To have it out there. To share this secret, the one secret she can’t tell her best friend.

No explosion came. No outburst of rage. Shadow Weaver was simply rubbing her left thumb along the fingers in her left hand, as if feeling for something that wasn’t there. A few uncomfortable moments of silence passed between them before Shadow Weaver recomposed herself. She gave Adora a stern look.

“Love, is the most powerful, and destructive, force in all the universe. It can be the strength when you feel you have none. It can be the will to stand in the face of all that opposes you. If used as a weapon, it can destroy you in an instant,” Shadow Weaver spoke slowly, picking her words deliberately, keeping her tone even and calm. She placed her hand on Adora’s back and gently ushered her further into the room. Adora gave no resistance. She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, but an actual conversation definitely wasn’t it.

Shadow Weaver gripped Adora by both shoulders. “Love is dangerous. There is no place for it in your studies my child. Forget it. Focus on what’s important.”

Adora pulled back. “But, this is important. How I feel about her is very important to me!”

“Does she even feel this way about you?”

Hearing the question felt like slamming into a wall. “What? I mean, no. We’re just… friends.” Adora let out a long sigh. Her entire body seemed to deflate. “She’d… She’d never be, into me, like that.”

“The better for you.”

“How? How am I supposed to… DEAL with feeling like this?”

“By letting it go. Forgetting about it and moving on.”

“I- I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I want to! I- I want to feel this way about her. I just wish it wasn’t one-sided.”

Shadow Weaver took a deep breath and let out a big sigh. Then she cupped Adora’s cheeks with both hands and pulled her close. “My patience is beginning to fray Adora. Catra is nothing more than a mangy Magicat, a trophy of Lord Hordak, not deserving of your affection.”

Adora tried to pull herself free, but Shadow Weaver had a firm grip. “What? No! That’s not true!”

“Yes it IS! Listen to me Adora. Love is weakness. It is a distraction. One you do not have time for.”

All Adora could feel coming from Shadow Weaver’s hands were a burning sensation. Red bolts of energy began crackling and arcing around Adora’s head. “You will forget these feelings for that magicat, your focus should be your studies. The only thing that should concern you is becoming the greatest Force Captain the Horde has ever seen.”

Tears began rolling down Adora’s cheeks. Every inch of her skin ached. She tried to focus on looking at Shadow Weaver, but a darkness was creeping over her vision. She was trying to think, to argue. Words seemed to fall apart as quickly as she formed them in her mind. She tried to grab at any thought she could focus on.

“But… I lov….” Adora’s eyes went pitch black, and she fell into silence. Shadow Weaver released her grip as the last red energy bolt danced around Adora’s head and dissipated. Adora stood, motionless, for over thirty seconds before she began blinking. The blackness over her eyes seemed to evaporate into puffs of smoke.

“H-hi Shadow Weaver,” Adora croaked. She looked around in bewilderment. “What… What am I doing here?”

Shadow Weaver patted Adora on the shoulder. “You were so excited to tell me about your training today that you fell and bumped your head running here. Do not worry, you are okay now.”

 


 

The main hall of the Crystal Castle came into focus. Adora’s head was lowered as she stared off into nothing. Light Hope was standing next to her, focusing intently on Adora.

“She stole my memories,” Adora whispered.

“A known tactic of Shadow Weaver.”

“Guess I sure showed her, huh. By the time I was seventeen I felt the exact same way again about Catra. Her mistake was letting us continue to hang out.”

Light Hope appeared to reflect on the statement. “I suppose.”

“You were going to show this to Catra?”

“I would have had to.”

“But why this one, specifically? I don’t even remember it.”

Light Hope opened her mouth, but Shadow Weaver’s voice came out, “If used as a weapon, it can destroy you in an instant.” Light Hope cleared her throat, her voice returning to her own. “This memory neatly laid out all Catra needs to defeat you. In addition, seeing Shadow Weaver being so gentle with you would have infuriated her.”

“Do you WANT her to kill me?!” Adora screamed.

“I want her to want to kill you,” Light Hope stated. “But Adora, in truth, the ONLY thing that can stop She-Ra is you, and your lack of conviction.”

Adora slammed her hand into her chest. “I have conviction!”

“But it is splintered. As long as you continue to cling to all these, human, attachments you will never be truly whole. Never fully the She-Ra that you were meant to be.”

The main hall of the castle lit up. A circle of lights surrounded Light Hope and Adora. The lights began to take shape into people. Light Hope began to stroll, and beckoned Adora to follow.

Just about everything Light Hope was saying was making Adora more and more agitated. But, as Adora had learned over the last year, there was usually some useful knowledge to be had if you could just sift through all that pretension.

“This is your heart Adora. It should be clear of distractions. Focused. The things that you’ve been tasked to do as She-Ra are of such magnitude that they should be all that occupies here. But they are not. They’re not even here at all. Instead it’s full of people, and the feelings you have for them.”

As Light Hope walked she waved a hand toward one of the lights that had taken the shape of Queen Angella. “Admiration.”

Another group of lights were in the shape of the princesses Perfuma, Mermista, Frosta, Spinnerella, and Netossa; and also Sea Hawk, Scorpia, Lonnie, Kyle, and Rogelio. “Respect.”

Light Hope stopped at the next light, which had taken the shape of a table with a bowl of chocolate covered strawberries on them. She tilted her head in confusion.  “... pleasure?”

“What?!” Adora asked, indignant. “They’re delicious ! You would understand if you could taste things Light Hope.” Light Hope simply shrugged and continued on. As she passed, Adora tried to grab a strawberry. Her hand passed right through it. Not a surprise, but disappointing nonetheless.

The next group of lights had morphed into Glimmer, Bow, and Swift Wind. “Affection.”

Adora was caught off guard by the next one. The lights had turned into Entrapta. Adora reached out to touch Entrapta’s shoulder, but her hand passed right through. “Regret,” Light Hope stated. She didn’t wait for Adora, Light Hope simply continued on. Adora had to jog after her to catch up.

At the center of the room the lights had turned into Catra, curled up and napping on a nondescript surface. “And here, at the center of everything, is her. Affection, regret, pleasure, anger, love. All right here.”

“You’ve told me all this before Light Hope,” Adora muttered. She couldn’t take her eyes off the image of Catra. She was so peaceful.

“Yet nothing has changed in all this time,” Light Hope responded. “All these emotions continue to rage, and hold sway over you.”

“I’m… dealing with them.”

“You’re trying to bury them. That is not dealing with them. How can you move forward? How can She-Ra move forward if you continue to dwell on this part of your life.”

No answer came to Adora’s mind. “I… Don’t know,” Adora sighed. Her hands were balled into tight fists as waves of anger and shame and annoyance washed over her. Adora closed her eyes. Staring at the holographic Catra was starting to hurt. She took a deep breath to calm herself. “Any sug-” Adora began as she blinked her eyes open. The image of Catra was gone. Adora’s attention shot up. All the lights were gone, as well as Light Hope. “-gestions?”

The room was still dimly lit by the ambient blue and lavender lights that always seemed to light it up, but otherwise Adora seemed to be alone. She didn’t feel alone though. “Hello? Light Hope? Bow? Glimmer? Is someone there?” She pulled out the Sword of Protection. Just in case.

Something faint and soft hit the ground a few yards behind Adora. If the Crystal Castle hadn’t been so painfully silent she probably wouldn’t have even noticed.

“Why am I a regret?”

It was as if suddenly every drop of blood in Adora’s body had been replaced with ice water. Her jaw fell open as she sucked in a giant gasp. The Sword of Protection clanged on the floor. Adora knew that voice.

Slowly Adora turned. Just a few yards away was Entrapta, dangling in mid-air, being held up by her pigtails, just like always. The goggles sitting on top of her head glowed purple, and a faint green glow was coming from the monitor she had tucked under one of her arms.

“H-Hi Adora. I, um, I was hiding. And I, I may have overheard everything. And I saw, when Light Hope showed you ‘your heart’, she said I was a ‘regret’. I was, er, just wondering…”

“Light Hope,” Adora spit out through gritted teeth. “If this is one of your tricks I swear!”

“What? Oh! Oh, no. She’s gone for the moment. I think she... I don’t think she likes me very much. Which is fair.” Entrapta floated over to Adora and grabbed one of her shoulders with her hand. “See? Very real.”

The hand on her shoulder drew Adora’s complete attention. She could feel it. This was a real hand. A real hand connected to, “Entrapta!” Entrapta didn’t have much of a chance to react. Adora pulled Entrapta down to her feet and threw her arms around her, wrapping her in a smothering hug. Adora had tried to hold back, but she couldn’t. Tears began freely pouring out of her.

Entrapta stood frozen for a moment. The sound of crying compelled her to awkwardly stroked Adora’s back with her hand. “H-Hi.”

“We thought you were dead,” Adora squeezed out between sobs.

“WHAT?!” it was like a shock to Entrapta’s system.

“I’m so sorry,” Adora sobbed. “We should have searched,” Adora sobbed some more. “We thought you were incinerated.”

Entrapta’s expression fell. “Oh,” she simply stated. It took her a moment to examine the situation she was in, and the woman on her shoulder, drenching her clothes. Finally she mustered a faint smile and wrapped her arms around Adora, drawing her into a tight hug.

 


 

It had been over 15 minutes. Adora was sitting cross legged on the ground. Entrapta’s hair was piled under her, making something of a beanbag.

“So ALL the new weapons have been you?” Adora sighed.

“I never really thought about what they were being used for. They were just, puzzles to solve.” Entrapta pushed her fingers together meekishly. “You’re angry.”

“What? No. I mean. I don’t love it, but I get it. Trust me, I understand.”

“Yes, you’re being forced to fight a war against the woman you-”

“-Oh wow you really DID hear EVERYTHING didn’t you!” Adora said with a nervous giggle.

“Your secret is safe!” Entrapta chirped. “I disagree with the hologram lady. I don’t think it’d be in Catra’s best interests to hear that right now. You really never said anything to her?”

“Not that I remember, but who knows, maybe I did and Shadow Weaver wiped it from both our minds!” Adora grimaced at her own joke. “That sounded funnier in my head. No. Her friendship meant the world to me. I didn’t want to make it weird or do anything to jeopardize it. Well, right up until I threw it all away chasing some stupid destiny.” Adora glared at the Sword of Protection, laying on the ground next to her.

Adora seemed to become lost in thought as stared intently at her sword. “You’re going to stay there aren’t you?” Adora finally asked.

“...Yes.”

Worry had been written all over Entrapta’s face. Seeing Adora’s soft smile beaming at her was a surprise, but a welcome one. “I’m glad that Catra has you in her life.”

“Catra and Scorpia’s presence in my life has been… A rewarding experiment,” Entrapta smiled.

Rabid clanking could be heard from the far hallway. The girls got to their feet. Entrapta seemed pleased. “That sounds like Emily!”

“I remember Emily. Don’t remember her having Sonic Wave cannons though!” Adora quipped. “If that’s Emily, that probably means…”

“Go, I can cover,” Entrapta said, cutting her off.

Before they could react though they heard a voice along with the clanking of Emily’s metal legs. It was Glimmer, yelling out “Adora!”

Both girls looked at the dark hallway in confusion. Entrapta was the first to react. She jumped behind Adora, and tried to make herself as small as possible, her pigtails wound tightly around her waist.

“What’s wrong?” Adora asked, eyes still trained on the empty hallway.

“Glimmer’s not going to understand!” Entrapta whimpered. “To you, I defected to a place you used to call home. To her, I’m a traitor that joined the side that killed her father!”

“Don’t worry! She’s going to be happy to see you! And I’m here, I’ll be able to help iron out that... other stuff.”

Glimmer came into view. She jogged into the main hall and made it halfway to Adora before collapsing to her knees. Glimmer was covered in sweat and having trouble catching her breath. Emily appeared in the main hall, a little banged up, with her guns still out. “Adora! Help!” Glimmer huffed.

“Oh no! Emily’s still in fight mode!” Entrapta said.

Adora took off immediately. Her sword morphed into a shield as she slid to a kneeling position next to Glimmer. “Are you okay? Can you teleport Glim?”

Glimmer shook her head. “N-No.I’m, I’m spent.”

“It’s going to be okay,” Adora assured her. She rose to her feet, shield facing Emily. “Emily, we’re not your enemy! I don’t want to hurt you.” 

The robot didn’t seem to take any stock in Adora’s words. Emily aimed her guns. The hum of the power building up in the robot echoed in the room. Adora braced herself.

“Emily stop!”

Adora looked up, Entrapta had jumped in front of her.

“Emily, be a good girl!” Entrapta commanded. The robot trained it’s focus on Entrapta, then gave Adora and Glimmer a glance, then began retracting it’s weapons. Entrapta gave the robot a hug. “That’s my girl.”

“Entrapta?!”

The next thing Entrapta knew Glimmer had tackled her into a giant hug. “Oh my goddess we thought you were dead!”

“I have heard,” Entrapta replied hugging Glimmer back.

“Where have you been?!”

“Weeellllll…”

 


 

“The Horde?!” Glimmer shrieked with an expression of pure indignation.

“Now Glim,” Adora interjected. “I think we should try to focus on the fact that our friend is alive, and has been taken care of.”

“Taken care of?! She’s been with the Horde! She’s been with that catgirl! How well do you think they’ve treated her?!”

“I can actually answer that, as I am still present,” Entrapta offered.

“Glimmer,” Adora huffed over Entrapta. “I think you’re forgetting that I GREW UP in the Horde! I’ve known Catra for basically all my life!”

“Yes, but then you got smart and joined the good side!” Glimmer balled her hands into fists. “Not the OTHER WAY AROUND!”

“Got smart?!” Adora yelled.

“What are we going to tell everyone else?!” Glimmer demanded.

“The truth! I’m sure they’ll at least be happy to know she’s alive,” Adora shot back.

“No, wait,” Entrapta forced her way into this conversation about her. “Is telling everyone a good idea?” Entrapta had been having trouble maintaining eye contact but she was trying.

Glimmer stared Entrapta dead in the eyes. Just like that, Entrapta’s experiment with eye contact came to an end. Glimmer attempted to at least lower her voice down to normal levels. “Our friends… No, your friends, deserve to at least know that you’re alive! Especially Perfuma.” The name made Entrapta perk back up. “Gods she was so broken up. Still kind of is!”

“She, she is?”

“Yeah, she is actually,” Adora confirmed. “She made a statue in your honor.”

“She did?” The light in the main hall was dim, which helped hide the fact that Entrapta’s face was turning a deep red. “I see your point, about telling her, I mean, them.”

Adora placed a hand on Entrapta’s shoulder. “They’re your friends. Even if they have trouble understanding why, they’re still your friends.” Adora’s eyes squinted. Now that Glimmer seemed to be finally calming down it finally hit Adora that something was off. “Speaking of friends… Where are ours?”

Glimmer gasp. “Oh my goddess! Right! Seeing Entrapta totally got me off track! Everyone’s gone!”

“What?!” Adora and Entrapta yelled in unison.

“We were chasing Catra and Scorpia and they ran into a room and Bow followed in after them and before I could get to the room it did… Something and poof they were just gone and then the room door closed and vanished into the wall!” Glimmer’s shoulders sank. “They’re just… Gone!”

“LIGHT HOPE!” Adora screamed out. Nothing happened. “Hey Entrapta, you think you can use that thingy to hack back into the castle?”

Entrapta stared at the Duplicator. “It will take some time, but yes, it should be possible.”

“That will NOT be necessary!” Light Hope protested. She was standing just in front of the princesses. She stared directly at Adora. “That was in poor taste Adora.”

“Don’t start with me about ‘poor taste’ Light Hope. Where are my friends?”

“Gone, as the Princess of Bright Moon said.” All three gasped. Light Hope held her head in her hand. “No, no not gone like that. They entered a forbidden part of the castle so I teleported them away.”

“Oh thank goodness,” Adora sighed. “So where are they?”

“I do not know. Because I do not care,” Light Hope quipped. “They needed to be removed from the castle so I did. Where was not a priority.”

Adora groaned. “Please tell me you have very limited range for where you can teleport someone.”

“While accuracy is sometimes questionable, theoretically the Crystal Castle has the ability to teleport someone to any point on Etheria. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go make sure the Crystal Castle’s systems are properly defended against further unwanted intrusions,” Light Hope blinked away.

The three princesses simply stood there for a moment, staring at each other. It was Entrapta to finally break the silence.

“Oh. That’s. That’s not good.”

 

Chapter Text

Bright blue skies hung over the jungle. Tall trees with trunks of varying shades of brown and blue peppered the area. They were spread out just enough for dense, lush, exotic foliage to mostly cover the ground. A harmony of bug chirps and bird squawks filled the air. 

A new sound began adding to that harmony, and quickly drowned it out. Not a chirp or a squawk, more of a high pitched “AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!”

Thankfully, the foliage was dense enough to provide a relatively soft landing for Catra. She tumbled for a moment before coming to a rest against a bush. Another scream rang out just before the sound of someone else crashing into the bushes a few yards away.

Catra stayed there on the ground for a moment, glaring at the sky, and the world in general. She climbed to her feet finally and began kicking the weeds around her. “I. HATE! First! Ones! Temples!” Assaulting the weeds proved cathartic. Catra was able to recompose herself and began glancing around, attempting to take in her new surroundings. The depression where the other body landed caught her eyes. “You okay?” She asked, trodding her way over there.

Bow popped up from the weeds. “Yeah, I think so.”

“You!” Catra hissed, stopping dead in her tracks.

“Hey Catra,” Bow responded with a cheery tone. “Have any idea where we are?” he asked, surveying the treetops above them.

Catra didn’t say anything. Instead she hissed again and pounced at Bow. He was able to leap out of the way in time as Catra drove her claws into the  dirt.

“I’m going to assume you don’t!” Bow quipped before taking off. Catra followed, slashing through the weeds with her claws. “Don’t you think we should be setting our differences aside so we can find a way home?!”

“Not really!” Catra barked. Bow didn’t get very far before Catra, with her superior speed, tackled him. They went tumbling together before finally landing in a standoff; Bow on his back, Catra straddled on top of him. Bow was holding an arrow, and pushing it’s tip into Catra’s throat. Catra’s claws were on full display as she hovered her hand over Bow menacingly.

“This isn’t helping either of us!” Bow tried to reason. Catra simply growled at him and flexed her claws. “Look, on the count of three I’m going to put my arrow away. Then maybe you can get off of me? Agreed?” Bow shot Catra a big sparkling grin. 

It didn’t budge Catra. She grunted and growled through gritted teeth and just glared at the archer. She was trying desperately to hold onto her anger. The day had given her plenty of it. Surely it would be useful for getting out of a jungle. Although to be honest Catra wasn’t entirely sure what was useful in a jungle. She’d never been in one before.

Bow’s sparkling grin dimmed at Catra’s non-response. “Okay, I’m going to do it anyway. On three. Ready?”

“1…”

“2…”

“3!”

Catra drove her hand down.

“Eeek!” Bow squealed, closing his eyes in fear. It took a second to realize that he wasn’t feeling any pain. Bow peeked open one eye. Catra’s arm was next to his head, fingers buried in the dirt.

“Fiiiiine.” It was as if Catra had to force the word out of her mouth. She rose to her feet and dusted herself off. “Just until we get out of here. Then you’re coming back with us as a prisoner.”

“Oh gee, what fun I have to look forward to,” Bow snarked. He slid from under Catra and got to his own feet. “Is it just the two of us?”

“No, I saw Scorpia, ‘pop’, with me. She should be here somewhere. Hopefully. What about Glinda?”

Bow let out a chuckle and shook his head. “No, she was still in the hallway when I ‘popped’. You know,” Bow began.

“Wait,” Catra cut Bow off. It seemed like Bow was about to continue talking but Catra held a finger up to shush him. Her ears were twitching as she began surveying the horizon. Suddenly she grabbed Bow by the quiver strap and pulled them behind a grouping of bushes. “We’re not alone,” she stated, and pointed at a direction along the horizon.

It took Bow a few seconds to see them, but they came into his view soon enough. Three humanoid creatures, with elongated, almost cobra-like necks, different shades of grey skin, each around seven feet tall, although a good foot of that was the neck. They were wearing worn, metal armor, and carrying very sharp looking spears.

“Sniks,” Bow said.

“Oh, um, bless you,” Catra said, eyes still trained on the snake people.

“No, those are called sniks!” Bow huffed.

“Ooh! Right.”

The two continued watching the sniks patrolling for a bit. They seemed to be searching for something. They kept poking into bushes and scanning the trees.

“I don’t get ‘Glinda’,” Bow said, concentrating on the sniks. “Like, I got ‘Glowstick’, and ‘Glitter’. You’re playing on the fact that she sparkles. But ‘Glinda’?”

“You’re thinking too hard. I’m just going for a phonetic thing. Two syllables, and starting with that ‘G L’ sound.”

“Aaaah. Okay that makes sense then,” Bow nodded. They both sat in silence for a moment, making sure not to lose sight of the sniks.

“Gladys,” Bow offered.

“Oh dear Hordak. That just reeks of old and uptight.” Catra glanced back at Bow and shot him a vicious smile. “It’s perfect.” Catra noticed that Bow had stuck his fist out at her and was holding it in the air. She rolled her eyes then returned her gaze to the sniks. Then fistbumped him.

They spent another ten minutes watching, and slowly moving to keep a safe distance from the sniks. Eventually two of the sniks met in the middle of a small clearing, the day moon causing their scaly skin to shimmer. The sniks began making clicking and grunting noises at each other.

“Oh no,” Catra whispered. “I think they have Scorpia.”

“Wait, you can speak Snek? You didn’t even know what they were!”

“I mean, kind of I guess? I’m only getting about half the words. I speak Liggish, I have a friend who’s a laug. I guess most reptilian languages are similar?”

Bow just shrugged. After a moment he leaned against Catra’s shoulder. “Aw, look at you, talking about having friends,” he quipped.

Catra was taken aback. Indignant. “I have friends!” Catra glared at the sniks, “and they have one of them!”

A few minutes later the sniks regrouped and started moving away. Catra got into a crouching position. “They probably took Scorpia to their village. I’m going to follow them,” Catra stated. She flexed out her claws.

“Lead the way,” Bow said has he got into a crouch himself.

Catra looked back and stared at Bow for a moment. “You don’t have to do this with me. She’s my friend. My Horde soldier friend.”

Bow stopped to ponder what Catra said. “You’re right,” he replied, readying his bow. “Lead the way.”

 


 

It took over an hour before they reached the snik village. Silently Catra was appreciating how adept Bow seemed to be at sneaking. They had made it all the way to the village without being detected.

To call it a village may have been a misnomer. It was more an outpost, with maybe two hundred people. A ten foot stone wall surrounded the settlement. Only way in or out was through the front or back gates, both of which were heavily guarded. Well, maybe there was one other way.

“From above?” Bow questioned.

“Yeah,” Catra replied. They were hiding behind another grouping of bushes at the top of hill less than a hundred yards from the front gates. Catra pointed up at the treeline. “Look up there. The trees hang way over the wall. We can climb up and drop in without even being noticed.”

“That sounds like a great plan. Three thoughts. We don’t even know where Scorpia is. How will we get out once we’re in? And,” Bow surveyed the treeline again, “I can climb pretty well. I don’t know if I can climb THAT well.”

“I told you that you didn’t have to come!”

Bow slid his bow and quiver off and handed them to Catra. “Hold this for me please,” he said as he rummaged around the pockets of the quiver. He pulled out two arrowheads, one red and purple. “Ah, here we go.” Bow handed the red one to Catra. “Explosive arrow. But you can use it without being attached to a shaft, just click this button here and you’ll have ten seconds before it goes off.”

“That’s great and all,” Catra said, pocketing the arrowhead, “but that still doesn’t answer how we’ll find Scorpia.”

“Simple!” Bow pulled a little handheld monitor out of his quiver. He clicked the button on the purple arrow and stuffed it in his boot. A little dot popped up on the screen. “Tracker!”

“And how are we gonna get that to Scor… Oh. No. Bow, not a great idea!”

Bow just shrugged. “Can you think of a better one?”

Catra could not. “Alright. Just, don’t get yourself killed.”

There was a little mock gasp from Bow. “Aw, starting to warm up to me already?”

“I don’t like the idea of prisoners dying while in my custody,” Catra scoffed.

“How, um, humanitarian of you,” Bow said as he shot Catra a suspicious glare. “ANYWAY, I’ll give you a few minutes to get in position.” 

Catra nodded as she slung the quiver and bow over her shoulder. She was able to slink away in complete silence. Bow watched the tree for a few minutes. Soon he spotted Catra. She was already making her way along the upper branches.

Before moving Bow took a few seconds to tidy his hair and dust off his clothes. He gave himself a couple nods of encouragement then confidently sprung up from behind the bushes.

“Heeeeey fellas!” Bow called out to the sniks as he strolled over to them. There were four sniks standing at the entrance; two at each side and two in the middle. A metal barred gate stood closed behind them. The two sniks in the center glared at Bow. “I seem to be lost. I was wondering if maybe you could…”

Two sharp spears pointed at Bow, who stopped in his tracks and mid sentence.

“I guess not!” Bow winced, raising his hands into the air. The two Sniks at the ends rushed over and grabbed him. “No need to be rough guys!” Bow protested. He was pretty sure that they understood him, because they seemed to get intentionally rougher with him immediately, yanking both his arms down and tightly wrapping his wrists together with an itchy rope.

With a creek and a lurch the metal gates began to part. Two sniks grabbed Bow by the arms and began pushing him into the village. As he passed through the gate Bow shot a smile over his shoulder at the treetops.

 


 

The mini-monitor was a pretty decent piece of technology. Catra had been convinced that most of the kingdoms that were a part of the Rebellion were stuck in old ways. Swords and bows and horse-drawn carts. Dryl had been the exception, thanks to it’s brilliant princess. This didn’t have the feel of an Entrapta made piece of tech though. No flare. No, “it does all these things that make sense and also this one thing that certainly doesn’t.” Perhaps Catra was underestimating the technological prowess of the Rebellion.

At the very least, she had underestimated Bow. From afar he seemed like nothing more than a cheerleader. Someone to make Adora and Glimmer feel better whenever they needed. It was true, Bow seemed to have an abundance of cheer, but he was so much more. Although, at this very moment he was nothing more than a purple dot on a screen.

Catra had kept an eye on Bow for as long as she could, but the buildings and bustle of the village eventually made it impossible to keep track of him and his captors. The tracker was doing it’s job though.

Eventually the dot came to a stop. Catra had moved along the trees in pursuit. She had been led to a branch that reached over the wall and dangled over a low, long one floor building that seemed to have thick walls. After some surveying of the area, an outline of a plan formed in her head. There was just one component that she needed. And luckily, all the thick vines that had been running through the trees would do nicely.

 


 

Bow crashed into the floor with a thud. A clank of a jail door locking echoed in the big concrete room. The two sniks that had been escorting him spun around and filed out.

“I got you buddy,” a voice said behind Bow. Before he knew it he was being lifted to his feet. Once up, Bow was standing face to face with Scorpia, looking her usual chipper self, save for a couple errant scratches on her cheeks. “Here, let me help you with that,” she beamed. Bow’s arms were still bound together, but Scorpia’s claws tore through the rope with ease.

“Thanks!” Bow smiled. “Are you okay?”

“Mostly, yeah!” Scorpia replied. “Crazy day huh. First there was that crazy hologram lady, and then we were all fighting and suddenly I was teleported to a jungle and then those…”

“Sniks.”

“Thank you! I’ve been wondering. Anyway, I ended up in the jungle and six of those guys showed up and I was going to fight them but their spears are really sharp.” Scorpia gently brushed a claw past one of the scratches on her face. “Like, really sharp.” 

“Well, we’re glad you’re okay.”

“We?”

There was a loud thump noise on the roof.

“Yeah, and I think we should probably duck!” Bow barely had time to say it before the roof exploded. Both him and Scorpia dove onto the floor away from the blast point. Cement debris rained down into the jail cell. Dust filled the air. It also began filling Bow’s and Scorpia’s lungs, causing them to cough.

Through the haze a thick vine dropped into the room. Scorpia followed the sight of the vine up to the roof. Catra was sitting at the edge of the hole, feet dangling into the room. “Kitty!”

“You gonna just hang out there all day?” Catra cracked. She tried her best to sound disinterested, but her big smile betrayed her true emotions.

Scorpia and Bow scurried up the vine. A door flung open, and loud grunting and clicks could be heard just as Bow hoisted himself onto the roof. Without hesitation, and barely giving Bow time to get out of the way, Catra slashed her claws at the vine. It dropped down into jail below. Catra handed Bow his quiver and bow back.

Catra greeted Scorpia with a soft jab on the arm. “What’s the big idea, getting yourself captured!” Catra sounded more playful than angry.

Not that Scorpia’s reaction would have been different either way. She gave a shrug and a chuckle to her friend in response. “Sorry Kitty, they got the jump on me.”

“Yeah, well,” Catra began striding over to where three vines were dangling down from the branches above. “They’re going to get the jump on us again if we don’t hurry.” Catra grabbed one of the vines. With a tight grip she took a few steps back then began running forward as fast as she could. She jumped and the vine swung her clear over the encampment wall. Bow and Scorpia followed suit.

Just on the other side of the wall was a grassy hill that led up into more jungle. Catra landed gracefully. Bow and Scorpia both landed with varying degrees of less grace. Catra helped her large scorpion friend to her feet. 

The trio wasted no time as they made their way up the hill and into the jungle. For a moment Catra thought that they may have been in the clear, until an arrow zoomed past their heads. A quick glance over their shoulders revealed a small hunting party of sniks closing in. All three broke into a run, with Catra leading the way. Every once in a while Bow would fire back an arrow, which was just enough to slow the sniks down. They zig-zagged around thick, ancient trees. Crashed through exotic looking bushes. Vaulted over fallen logs and other underbrush.

Soon enough they came to a river cutting through the jungle. Without losing momentum the trio leapt into the air and grabbed ahold of dangling vines, swinging them safely across the river. Catra was ready to spring back into flight, but Bow and Scorpia were having trouble getting their legs going again.

Catra tugged at Scorpia’s arm. “Come on, they’re still right behind us!”

“Hol-hold on a minute Kitty. We don’t all have the endurance you do,” Scorpia huffed out. She was buckled over, her claws pressed into her knees to hold herself up. Bow was in a similar position.

“Tsh, clearly,” Catra snorted. Her heightened sense of hearing allowed Catra to hear the sniks long before they came into view. “Come on, we need to at least get out of sight!” Catra barked, renewing her tugging efforts. Scorpia and Bow stumbled their way into the jungle behind Catra, to a grouping of large enough trees to mask their presence. Catra took a peek out. The sniks were just starting to approach the river. Catra took in an honest look of her traveling party.

“Don’t think outrunning them’s going to be an option,” Catra muttered to herself. She dug a set of claws into the tree and gave a test yank. It was a solid tree, the bark held up to the pressure. She glanced at Bow. “Got any more tricks in that bag of yours?”

“Heh, yeah, a few.”

“Okay. Bow, get their attention. Scorpia, after Bow gets their attention you’re up.” Catra dug her other set of claws into the tree and began climbing. “I’ll get around them and strike from behind.”

 


 

Despite their reptilian heritage, sniks tended to not enjoy water. Having to wade through a gross river was just one of the many crimes the sniks were planning to accuse these intruders of. The hunting party of eight made it across to the bank of the river, where, judging from the pressed down grass, someone had recently been.

A whistling noise caught their attention. They looked up to see an arrow fly overhead, then suddenly explode into a stream of colored lights and sparkles.

“Ooooooooh, pretty!” Scorpia marveled as she watched the scene play out from behind the trees.

“Thanks! This one should be more effective though,” Bow said as he notched another arrow and sent it flying. It slammed into one of the sniks, but instead of piercing their skin, it exploded into a puff of smoke. A surprising amount of smoke poured out of the arrow, engulfing the area.

Suddenly two of the sniks were lifted into the air and slammed together, knocking them both out. “Night night!” Scorpia jested as she dropped them.

Another snik spun to attack her. Bow used the distraction to slam his bow into that snik, sending them to the ground.

The three sniks in the back of the party were backing up, trying to escape the smoke. Catra crashed into one of them from above, sending him to the ground. Two spears jabbed at her, but Catra pirouetted out of the way of both. Her claws flexed out. Slash slash. Both spears fell into pieces in the sniks’ hands. Front kick to the stomach area knocked one of the sniks back into the water. A leaping roundhouse sent the other spinning lifelessly to the ground.

Catra landed gracefully into kneeling position. She sprung to her feet in time to see Bow and Scorpia taking care of the last two sniks. “Huh, that went... Well.”

Bow shot her a smirk. “You don’t have to sound THAT surprised.”

A thunderous noise killed their conversation. The kind of thunderous noise that causes all the birds in the jungle to take to the skies at once. A noise the vibrates solid rock and shakes trees. The sort of noise that you hope isn’t heading your way.

It was getting louder.

Everyone’s attention was pulled back to the direction they had come from. Catra squinted her mismatched eyes trying to see something through the trees. Until.

“Oh, you HAVE to be kidding me!” Catra’s eyes grew wide. She spun around and began running at Bow and Scorpia. “Okay back to plan Run Like Hell!” she shrieked as she flew past them.

“What is it?” Scorpia asked as she and Bow began to jog after Catra.

Her question was answered immediately. On the far bank of the river a tree was torn from the ground and tossed into the air as a massive, fifteen foot tall creature sprung out of the jungle and onto the bank. Sand kicked up beneath its four feet as it landed. The creature, being ridden by a snik, arked it’s neck up and let out a ferocious roar. The creature’s skin was leathery and gray, with a giant horn at the tip of its noise. It resembled a rhinoceros, if a rhinoceros had been created by an angry teenager doodling in their fifth period class notebook.

The creature leapt and landed squarely in the middle of the river. It trudged through and began galloping as soon as it reached land. 

Catra and her group’s saving grace was their size. The ability to dodge and avoid the trees was the only thing that kept any distance between them and that, thing, that had to tear it’s way through the jungle. Which it was doing with alarming ease.

There was a ridge in front of them. It was wide and deep and down at the bottom spiky rock formations awaited. On the other side of the ridge was more jungle. Working entirely on reflex Catra leapt as soon as she reached the ridge without breaking stride. Even with her impressive agility and catlike reflexes, she was only barely able to clear the gap.

Bow and Scorpia skidded to a halt. “Now what?!” Bow yelled out.

Scorpia had an immediate solution. She grabbed Bow by his collar, wound him up and pitched him clear across the ridge. Much to Catra’s chagrin Scorpia had aimed and sent Bow crashing directly into her, presumably to break Bow’s fall.

Alone on her side, Scorpia peered down into the ridge. Not an appealing sight.

“Dammit dammit dammit!” Catra was darting her eyes around, looking for something. More vines. Anything. “Hold on Scorpia!”

Bow’s shoulders slumped as he let out a sigh. He fished out an arrow from his quiver. It was metal and bulky at one end, and a wire with a dongle dangled at the other. Bow gripped the arrow tightly and nodded. “I have an idea,” he said.

“Hey Scorpia!” Bow called out. “You’re gonna have to jump! I’ll shoot you a rope!”

Scorpia looked back over the ridge. “I have many skills Bow, hops isn’t one of them.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get the rope to you!” Bow took the dongle and snapped it into a designated space on his bow. He notched the arrow and waited as Scorpia backed up a few steps.

“You had a rope arrow this whole time?!” Catra huffed from just behind him.

“Not now! This has to be timed just right!” Bow snapped. Catra was taken aback by Bow’s suddenly seriousness. She gave him space to focus.

The rumbling of the monster’s stampeding feet was getting louder. Time was up. Scorpia took off and leapt into the air. Just then Bow shot out the arrow. It zoomed through the air, the metal end sprung up into a grappling hook. Scorpia didn’t even make it a third of the way across the ridge, but the arrow got to her. She had to reach out all the way but she was able to snap her claw around the grappling hook. She swung down and slammed into the side of the ridge.

The force of Scorpia’s swing yanked Bow off his feet. He was sliding toward the cliff but Catra jumped on him. The two were weight enough to anchor the rope. Scorpia drove her tail into the wall for extra grip.

The beast reached the ridge. It trudged back and forth along it for a moment, snarling, before giving up and disappearing back into the jungle.

Scorpia began trying to climb up the rope. Bow and Catra were attempting to pull her up.

“Hey guys?” Scorpia called out when she was close to the top.

“Yeah?” Catra grunted as her and Bow put all their power into pulling.

“I don’t think I like the jungle,” Scorpia admitted.

“Yeah!” Catra agreed as they made the final pull. Scorpia popped up onto the safety of flat land. 

All three collapsed onto the grass, taking the moment to try to catch some semblance of breath.

Still flat on his back, a small grin grew on Bow’s face. “You could say, that it’s the pits.”

At first he thought no one heard him. Then Scorpia let out a soft chuckle. Followed by another. Followed by another until she was having a fit of laughter on the ground. “Because it was a pit of death! Good one!”

Catra, lying spread out on the ground, turned her head to glare at the duo. They were paying her no mind as Scorpia attempted to calm her laughing fit down. “This is my nightmare,” Catra mumbled to herself. Her attention slowly drifted away from her traveling party. Here at the edge of the ridge there weren’t many trees, allowing the sky to peek through. It was blue, with a few errant clouds. Off to one edge the amber light of dusk was starting to creep in.

The sky in the Fright Zone looked entirely different from the rest of Etheria. Almost as if it was another world. A blue sky wasn’t an unpleasant thing to see. Every once in a while a bird would fly past. That’s something the Fright Zone definitely didn’t have. Birds. Catra remembered learning about them in Etherian Biology 102. She had been fascinated by birds. Something about them always made her hungry. For a couple weeks after that semester there had been a plan to sneak out of the Fright Zone and see these “birds” firsthand. Just her and…

Catra hoisted herself into a sitting position. “We should keep moving. Gonna be dark soon.” Catra sprung up and helped Scorpia to her feet. 

That’s when she noticed Bow. He was sitting up, his knees pulled into his chest as he tried to respool the wire into the grappling hook arrow.

“Hey, Bow. You okay?” Catra asked.

Bow jumped at her voice, as if he had just been pulled back from being lost in thought. “Oh,” Bow said. He sighed. He held up the arrow at Catra and Scorpia, who were both standing over him, concerned looks painted on their faces. “Yeah. I’ll be fine. It’s just that, this was the last of the arrows that Entrapta had made for me.” He ran his thumb along the shaft of the arrow. “They were all I really had to remember her by.”

Scorpia and Catra shot each other confused looks.

“I mean, if you ask her nicely I’m sure she’d make you more,” Catra responded.

“Yeah,” Scorpia added. “You want us to ask her for you? Probably be easier if we asked her huh.

“Wait,” Bow raised an eyebrow. He jumped to his feet and stared intensely at the two. His mouth fell open. “Wait! Are you telling me, that Entrapta’s alive?!”

More confused glances. “What?” Catra asked. “Of course she’s alive.”

“You think she’s still at the Crystal Castle?” Scorpia directed at Catra.

“Nah, knowing ‘Trapta she’s already back in the Fright Zone trying to figure out how to find us,” Catra said with confidence.

Bow grabbed Catra and Scorpia by the arm. “We thought she was incinerated!” Bow said, tears streaming down his face, but with a big grin nonetheless. He pulled Catra and Scorpia into a group hug. Catra began squirming, but with the combined grips of Bow and Scorpia she wasn’t going anywhere.

Finally Catra was able to pry herself out of the hug. “Huh. That, actually makes a lot of sense,” Catra said. “But nope, ‘Trapta is 100% alive and well.”

“And, has joined the Horde?” Bow inquired, his face twisted into a more pensive expression.

“I mean, kind of?” Catra offered while rubbing the back of her head.

“To be fair, she’s never officially joined the Horde,” Scorpia added.

“She just kind of started tinkering with things and since they were all massively powerful weapons we just kind of let her,” Catra added. She was worried that hearing that would dampen Bow’s spirit. She was also really annoyed about the idea that she was starting to care about dampening Bow’s spirit.

Instead, Bow just let out a chuckle. “Yeah, that sounds like Entrapta!”

The trio made their way into the jungle, traveling aimlessly, only real destination was to be as far away from giant rhino monsters as possible. Scorpia and Catra told Bow about what Entrapta had been up to. Instead of anger, or resentment, Bow just seemed happy to know that his friend was okay.

Eventually the conversation shifted from Entrapta to more idle chatting. Bow and Scorpia were entertaining themselves by trying to see who could spot the largest bug, or the fanciest flower. Catra entertained herself by mocking them. Neither seemed to be bothered by it.

A couple hours passed. Night was almost upon them when they finally came to a clearing in the jungle. In the center of it was an impressive set of ruins. They looked to be made mostly out of white stone and wood, eroded by the weather, overrun by plantlife. Faint remnants of ornate carvings could still be made out in a few places where the walls weren’t covered by moss or vines. It appeared to have been a large two story building surrounded by a few smaller buildings. Most of the front of the main building was gone. On the inside was the skeleton of rooms and halls. Dusty and barren.

Surprisingly, what was still standing seemed pretty sturdy. Catra scouted through the building. Empty. The upside of that meant that there was no one to disturb or fight. The downside was that there wasn’t even so much as the frame of a bed left. It was fully dark by now though, and they were absolutely lost. The ruins would make a plenty fine camp for the night.

Catra and Scorpia built a fire on the roof, one of the few places not completely overrun with vegetation. Bow returned soon with food. Three rarrats; plump animals about the size of pekingese dogs that tended to scurry around areas with dense bushes. They shared a quiet dinner, then went back into the ruin to try to rest. Bow volunteered to take the first watch.

It was a nice sentiment, but Catra had long ago learned not to trust sentiment, or anything else for that matter. When she got to the roof she found Bow using a charcoaled stick from the fire to scribble, something, on the roof.

When Bow realized Catra was there he simply gave her a nod before returning to his writing. He would scribble a couple things on the roof, then turn around and stare at the moons in the sky for a moment. This seemed to be a repeating process.

“Can’t sleep?” Bow asked, eyes still focused upward.

“More like ‘don’t sleep’,” Catra responded. She strolled over near him, making sure not to step on any of the scribbles. She began staring up at the moons with him to see what all the fuss was about. Best Catra could tell, yep, those were the nine moons of Etheria, just hanging there. In the sky. Like always.

“Everyone sleeps.”

“I’ll get a couple hours if I really try.”

“Sounds rough.”

“What can I say? Sleep doesn’t come easy. Got a lot on my plate, ya know?”

“I’m sure being a Force General isn’t a picnic.”

“A what?”

Bow slowly turned to Catra and just rolled his eyes. “Oh jeez, not you too.”

Catra just shrugged. “It’s a hard enough job even if you’re prepared for it. I wasn’t though. None of this was supposed to be mine.” Catra’s voice had an air of pride, of victory. “I’m sure you’ve heard all about that.”

“Not really,” Bow answered. He was looking back up at the sky and rubbing his chin.

Catra couldn’t help but let out a laugh. “Wasn’t even worth a second thought. That’s not surprising,” her voice had turned low. She didn’t mind if Bow heard her, but she wasn’t exactly talking to him.

For the first time since Catra had made her way to the roof Bow stopped what he was doing and gave her his full attention. “Look,” Bow began. “I know this probably isn’t my place-”

“-It’s not,” Catra cut him off.

“-BUT, I kind of think that the opposite of that is true. Adora doesn’t talk about you much, because it hurts when she does.”

“Good!” Catra gleefully responded. “Her suffering sounds great to me.”

Bow sighed and stared down at his scribbles. “Right, we’re still enemies.”

A silence came over the roof. Bow decided to do his best to focus on scribbles in front of him.

Catra crossed her arms and stared down at the scribbles on the ground. They were drawings that didn’t make much sense to Catra. “What is this exactly?”

“Hmm,” Bow turned to face Catra. “I have good news, great news, and not-so-great news.”

“Good news.”

“I know where we are!”

“What? How? From scribbles?”

Bow pointed up at the moons. “No, from them! I was able to use the positions of the moons to figure out where we are. Sea Hawk taught me how. It’s something sailors have been using for centuries. You know, I’m technically a pirate.”

Catra doubled over in laughter. “A PIRATE?! YOU?!”

“I’m officially part of Sea Hawk’s crew!”

“Didn’t he set his last ship on fire?”

“His last seven.”

One of Catra’s eyes began twitching before she was able to recenter herself. “Okay, what’s the great news?”

“I know how we can probably get home!”

“Probably?”

“Do you know what a breeze hawk is?”

“The giant birds?”

“Yes! There’s a colony of them that live maybe two hours northeast of here.” Bow stopped and looked thoughtful for a moment, making sure to carefully piece together his next sentence before saying it. “Okay, here’s the not-so-great part. For you and Scorpia at least. They try not to get involved with human wars, but breeze hawks kind of hate the Horde.”

Catra sighed. “Not surprised. The Horde used to hunt the breeze hawk colonies that lived along the western border of the Fright Zone. Just about to the point of extinction. Apparently their skin was good for making leather armor out of.”

“That’s… Horrible.”

A simple statement. Catra reflected on it with a smirk. Wasn’t much to argue about. The Horde and the kingdoms of Etheria had been at war for decades. Each side did what they had to in order to keep fighting. Sometimes doing what was necessary wasn’t pleasant. Catra had the worrying suspicion that what happened to the breeze hawks of the west didn’t have anything to do with ‘necessary’.

“So what do breeze hawks have to do with us getting home?” Catra asked, pushing past her thoughts.

“Well like I said, they’re don’t really want to be a part of any war, but they’re friends of the Rebellion. If I ask nicely they may be willing to fly us back home.”

“You think they’d be willing to fly us home? Just like that?”

Bow pulled at his collar. “If I have two Horde prisoners that I need transport then yes?”

EXCUSE ME? ” 

“Not really my prisoners! Just, you know, pretending until we get back home!” Bow gulped.

“You’re saying that our best chance to get home rests on some giant birds believing that somehow you overpowered and took prisoner an almost seven foot scorpion bruiser and one of the more agile and skilled fighters in the Horde?”

“Yes?”

“Out of the question!”

“Catra, on foot it’ll take us a week to get back to Bright Moon!”

“A WEEK?!” Catra was visibly taken aback by that news.

“At best. Let’s face it, we don’t have the supplies to get home. The breeze hawks can get us there in a few hours.”

The very valid and sensible point was met with grumbling. No rations. No supplies to speak of. Bow’s quiver was looking pretty barren, and Catra had lost her stun baton back in the Crystal Castle. Making it another day would be a struggle, let alone a whole week.

Pride had no interest in sensible though. A Force General playing prisoner just to hitch a ride on a stupid bird?

“No. Nope, no way!”

 


 

Mid-morning over Etheria was beautiful. The sky was a deep baby blue with fluffy white clouds playfully painted in spurts. It was peaceful. Serene.

Until a bird, resembling a hawk but with a 30 foot wingspan and a torso twice the size of a horse, barreled through the clouds, dispersing them in a poof. On it’s back sat Bow, clinging as gently as he could to the bird’s feathers. Just behind him was Scorpia, with one claw clinging to Bow while she waved the other one in glee as the breeze hawk dove into an air current. Catra was pressed up against Scorpia’s back, her arms wrapped tightly around the woman’s torso.

“Isn’t this great?!” Bow giggled.

“I feel so alive!” Scorpia responded.

Catra’s only response was to grind her teeth. This was, hands down, the worst best idea she’d ever been a part of. That was a bold claim, considering that her and her, old friend, had come up with plenty of amazingly awful and awfully amazing ideas growing up.

“At this rate we should be back in Bright Moon in less than an hour!” Bow beamed.

“Wait,” Catra craned her neck to peak around Scorpia’s sizable bicep, “we’re not actually going to Bright Moon right?” Part of ‘being a prisoner’ included not being privy to the conversation that Bow and Candir, as this breeze hawk was called, had before leaving.

Bow leaned back as much as he could without letting go. “You don’t think he’d be willing to actually fly into the Fright Zone do you? Candir’s going to take us to the other side of the Whispering Woods and land us a couple miles north of Thaymor, which puts us right between Thaymor and Elberon. You know, the Horde controlled base that used to be Elberon? That good enough for you?” The mention of Elberon was the first time this whole time that Catra really heard bitterness in Bow’s voice. Catra was at a loss for words, and at the point where she was afraid that opening her mouth might result in her losing her breakfast, so she simply answered Bow with a thumbs up.

Rotten moods weren’t going to be enough to spoil Bow’s. It was too beautiful up here. Soon enough, Bright Moon Castle came into view. It glittered and gleamed in the afternoon daylight. Next they passed over the Whispering Woods. Lush violets and greens twisted together in a sea of leaves. From this angle, the woods looked like any other, it’s many terrors and wonders masked from view.

On the other side of the Whispering Woods was the border. Green fields disintegrated into dirt. Blue skies became stained yellow and orange. In part from smog and pollution, but also in part of something else. The natural decay of the Fright Zone was something most on Etheria didn’t understand. Not even most of the people in the Horde.

Candir flew in a tight line, skirting the edge of the Whispering Woods, making sure to keep well inside the Bright Moon side of the border.

Thaymor appeared on the horizon. Candir passed over it and their destination, the open field just north of Thaymor, just south of Elberon, came into view.

Suddenly the view was blacked out. A thunderous noise followed by a flash of light and a giant puff of black smoke appeared just in front of them. Another one appeared dangerously close to Candir’s wings.

“Oh no,” Scorpia gasped. “Those are explosive shells!” She looked down, studying the Horde side of the border. After a couple seconds she pointed her giant claw towards the northwest. Two Horde tanks could be seen advancing to the border. “There!”

“Everyone hold on!” Bow said just as Candir made a hard bank to the right. More explosions erupted around them. Candir made more impressive evasive maneuvers to avoid the deafening blasts. Bow, Scorpia, and Catra held on for dear life as Candir dove and spun and made sharp 90 degree turns.

Candir swooped up out of the way of an explosion, but another explosion erupted immediately around them. Catra could feel the heat from it, the boom rattled her bones. So did the thunderous scream that the breeze hawk let out. Candir began rapidly losing altitude. Catra opened her eyes for the first time in minutes. Smoke was billowing from Candir’s right wing from a spot where it’s feathers were missing. Catra slammed her eyes tight and wound her arms around Scorpia even tighter.

The breeze hawk had somehow managed to reach the open field. The bird slammed into the ground and bounced back a few feet into the air, all the while maintaining its momentum. It tried to gain some control with its feet the next time it landed but all that managed to do was cause it to tumble towards the edge of the forest. It’s riders were tossed and the breeze hawk rolled on the ground a number of yards before slamming into a tree.

“Ow. Ow,” Catra moaned as she slowly lumbered to her feet. She was in the field, a dozen yards from the edge of the woods leading back towards Bright Moon. Bow and Scorpia were stirring just a few yards from her. 

Bow tried jumping to his feet, but his left ankle disagreed with that idea, sending him toppling back down. “Candir?!” Bow yelped. The breeze hawk made a low squak. Bow tried the whole standing thing again, only this time Scorpia was there to help him to his feet. The two made their way over to Candir. Bow and Candir conversed in some sort of bird language that neither Scorpia nor Catra understood.

“He’s going to be alright. Not going to be able to fly for some time though,” Bow reported.

“That’s good to hear,” Scorpia replied as she stroked Candir’s back.

Catra hadn’t moved. She simply glared at them. Slowly Bow and Scorpia noticed her intense stare. The field seemed so quiet that one could hear the grass rustling in the gentle breeze.

This should be easy.

“Kitty?” Scorpia called out. She had a sullen expression.

A wounded breeze hawk. A wounded Rebellion soldier. An important Rebellion soldier. Tank reinforcements are on the way. 

A Rebellion soldier that asked me to ask our mutual friend to make him some new arrows. 

A Rebellion soldier that thwarted my plans to find a way to stop She-Ra.

A Rebellion soldier that helped save Scorpia, twice.

“Something, happened to my parents. And the rest of my family had to give me up to the Horde.”

The Horde is evil.

“Aw, look at you, talking about having friends.”

“Just focus on me, okay? It’ll help.”

“These things could tear right through me if I’m not careful.”

We’re evil, right?

This should be easy.

“Hey, Catra?” Scorpia called out again. 

Catra snapped out her seeming trance. She gave the trio another glance. Bow and Scorpia weren’t hiding the worry on their faces. Candir’s eyes were filled with intense outrage. Catra turned towards the Fright Zone. The tanks were just barely on the horizon, still plenty far away.

“They’re going to be here soon,” Catra remarked as she looked over her shoulder at the party. She took a deep breath that emptied into a sigh. “I’ll buy you as much time as I can, but they’re going to want to investigate the area. You better not be here when they do.”

Bow limped a few steps forward. “Catra, thank you.” Catra simply nodded and darted towards the tanks on the horizon. 

“Better get going. Gonna be a long walk with Candir here,” Scorpia said as she gave the breeze hawk another pat on the back.

“Yeah, I better,” Bow said. He didn’t move. Him and Scorpia simply stood there staring at each other for a moment. Bow was the first to break eye contact. “This is weird right? We’re supposed to hate each other!” he said with a chuckle.

“That’s what they tell me!” Scorpia retorted. “Just think though, we’ll always have the jungle to hate.” The idea caused both to laugh heartily. Candir squaked at them. One didn’t have to be a bird expert to get that it was meant to be taken as annoyance.

Bow helped Candir to his feet as much as he could. “I really do need to be going. Hope you get home safe, Scorpia.”

“Yeah,” Scorpia scratched the back of her neck with her claw. “Take care of yourself, Bow.”

It wasn’t long before Bow and Candir disappeared into the woods. Scorpia watched them get completely out of sight before turning to head back to the Fright Zone.

 

Chapter Text

Elevators in the Fright Spire were pretty fast. On most days, at least. Deep down Catra knew that they were moving the same as always. Just, at this very moment, it felt so slow. She could feel each time the elevator would momentarily change velocity. A little faster, a little slower. Apparently it wasn’t very good at maintaining a steady speed. 

Catra was paying extra attention to the speed of the elevator as a way to distract herself from paying attention to the awkward silence on it. Her and Scorpia had hitched a ride back to Horde Command from one of the tanks that had attacked the breeze hawk known as Candir. There was a short walk to the Fright Spire where they boarded this elevator. Through that entire hour Scorpia had barely said a word. Catra often wished Scorpia would talk about 80% less than she does, but much to Catra’s surprise the silence was killing her.

She’s mad. Mad I let them go. Maybe worse than mad. Maybe she’s lost faith in me. Maybe she doesn’t think I can do this anymore. Shit. Scorpia, say something. Speak. Speeeeak!

Catra let out a sigh. 

Fiiinnne, I’ll go first.

“Dinner after this? Something quick?”

Scorpia jolted her head up. “Huh? Oh, yeah.”

“Cool.”

The conversation hadn’t lasted as long as Catra had hoped. She tried leaning against the wall of the elevator. Unintentionally she ended up in maybe the least casual “casual pose” possible.

“Hey, Catra,” Scorpia started after a moment. Catra’s ears perked up. She tried hiding just how tense she was. Scorpia glanced at her and smiled, “I’m proud of you.”

“You, you are?” Catra asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You made a kind gesture to the enemy. It was, a mature thing to do. The kind of leadership I can stand behind, ya know?”

Catra grunted out a chuckle. “None of that can go into any reports. Doesn’t feel like the kind of leadership Lord Hordak would stand behind.”

Scorpia nodded in recognition of the order. The conversation died down again.

“Thanks,” Catra said after a moment. Scorpia responded with a big smile and a nod.

Knowing that her best friend didn’t in fact hate her allowed Catra to finally relax. Every muscle in Catra’s body ached. After getting tossed from a giant bird after a previous day of running and fighting all Catra wanted to do was go get a quick dinner, maybe clean herself up a little and collapse into her bed. Sleep or no sleep, just being off her feet would be a welcome change of pace. There was something her and Scorpia had to do first though.

 


 

The door to Entrapta’s Lab swished open. Catra and Scorpia strolled into the room. The lights were on, but the room was unusually quiet.

“We’re back!” Catra called out. There was no response. “Hey ‘Trapta, you here?”

Catra’s ears picked up a rustling in the rafters, followed by the sound of something soft hitting the floor. They both whipped around to see Entrapta standing in the doorway. A strand of purple hair shot out and hit the button to close the door. Entrapta was dangling a few feet off the ground, and avoiding eye contact.

“I was worried,” Entrapta mumbled. Her voice was low. There was a distance about her, something that had never been there before.

It was certainly noticeable, but Catra tried to push on; maybe she was just tired and reading too much into everything. “We figured, that’s why we came here as soon as we got back. Safe and sound.”

“What about Bow?”

“Bow? What about him?” Catra inquired, trying her very best to hide the hints of nervousness rising up in her stomach.

“He disappeared along with you. What happened to him?”

“Oh, um, no idea. Didn’t run into him,” Catra offered, hoping desperately to change the subject.

It had happened so fast. Even with her reflexes, Catra barely saw it coming, and had no time to react, not that her aching muscles would have played along even if she had tried. Strands of purple hair were wrapped tightly around her neck. Catra’s hands shot up to her noose. The grip was firm. No way it was budging. Slashing it with her claws was an option, but Catra wasn’t still wasn’t sure how Entrapta’s hair worked. Would that hurt? She was hesitant to find out.

“What… Are… You doing?” Catra squeezed out of her restricted wind pipes.

“You’re LYING again!” Entrapta screamed through gritted teeth. She looked up finally. Her brow was furrowed. She had a puffiness around her eyes, her cheeks looked vaguely wet.

“Yes, we are!” Scorpia yelped. She rested her claw on the extended strands of hair, and gently stroked them. “Entrapta, please.”

The grip around Catra’s neck slackened, and in a few seconds the hair was completely pulled back. Free, Catra doubled over onto her knees in a coughing fit. Scorpia made her way to Catra and helped her back up to her feet. She gave the catgirl a long stare.

Entrapta was mere inches from Catra by the time she was standing back up. “Stop lying,” Entrapta pleaded, tears were beginning to form in the corners of her eyes.

Staring at the purple haired princess was painful, but Catra made herself do it. If nothing else, she owed it to her. “Truth is, Bow helped us get back.

“So I let him go.”

“They thought I died in the blast furnaces,” Entrapta responded. Eye contract was proving too much, so she shifted her gaze to the floor. “You said they abandoned me.”

“We had no idea why they left you behind,” Catra said. 

Entrapta glared at Catra, her squinted red eyes were piercing.

Catra let out a big sigh. “The truth. I didn’t know that they thought you were dead.  But, I do know Adora well enough to know that if she thought that there was any chance to rescue you, she would have at least tried.”

“Did,” Entrapta began. She let out a sniffle before restarting. “Did you only let me stay because I could be a valuable tool to fight the Rebellion?” she blurted out all at once.

There were dozens of responses Catra wanted to say. Something to fix this. To end this conversation and let things go back to the way they were. The truth offered no such guarantees. In fact, Catra feared it would offer just the opposite. She examined the face just in front of her. Cheeks stained with streaks of tears, half-lidded eyes focused intently on nothing. The corner of her lip quivering, holding back sobs.

The truth.

“...Yes.”

Facing Catra any longer was apparently too much as Entrapta spun to face the door. Entrapta’s eyes fell the rest of the way shut. Her pigtails began wrapping around her.

Catra slinked her way around to try to get Entrapta to look at her. “That’s not why you’re here now though. Entrapta, we want you here with us.” Catra began to reach an arm out. She looked at the sight of the princess in front of her, eyes still closed, her arms and hair wrapping themselves around her. Catra pulled her arm back.

Another sigh. Catra was deflated. Defeated. She let her own eyes fall shut. “You’re free to leave you know. If that’s what you want no one will stop you. I promise you.” Catra hated every word that came out of her mouth. Didn’t want to say any of them, but she knew she had to. The truth. Painful, raw honesty. It sucked.

Catra was compelled to open her eyes when she felt something wrap around her midsection. Entrapta had buried her face into Catra’s chest. Her arms were tightly wrapped around the catgirl. It took Catra a few seconds to process, but soon she embraced Entrapta in a tight hug. Some of Entrapta’s hair darted its way over to Scorpia and pulled her in. Scorpia wrapped her thick arms around them both.

“Thank you, for telling me the truth,” Entrapta spurted out between sobs.

“Please don’t leave,” Catra whispered.

“I won’t.”

 


 

Daylight poured in through the windows of the Great Library of Bright Moon. It was a cavernous room, carved into sections, stuffed with rows and rows of shelves of books. More shelves of books lined the walls. Groupings of tables were spaced throughout the library. In the center was the Master Librarian’s Station. Beautiful chandeliers  hung overhead. Adora was pretty sure that the entire training center where she grew up could fit in here.

Bow had been back from his jungle adventure for three days now. He had been reluctant to talk at length about what had happened. Adora respected his position. After all, who doesn’t have things that they’re rather not talk about? Glimmer, on the other hand, was less okay with her best friend keeping secrets.

“So where did you sleep?” Glimmer inquired. She was leaning against the shelf while idly flipping through a book, paying no attention to what it was saying.

“For the 100th time, I spent the night camped out in some weird ruins,” Bow huffed. His head was propped up on the table, pretending to read a book that was sitting in front of him. “Maybe they were interesting, but I was too tired to notice. Besides, it was night, they were mostly just dark.”

“You didn’t check them out in the morning?”

“Aw jeez Glimmer, I’m sorry I was in a rush to get home because I thought my friends would be worried sick that I was missing!”

“We were! Sorry, it’s just hard to believe that you spent two days in the jungle and nothing interesting happened.”

“I told you about riding the breeze hawk right?”

“Okay, one interesting thing.”

“Sorry Glim, that’s all I got for you,” Bow quipped. He raised an eyebrow when he finally paid attention to the book he was flipping through. “Hey Glim, what are all these for again?”

Glimmer took note of her book as Adora strolled past her carrying another three thick tomes. Adora let them slam down onto the table with a satisfying thud, causing Bow to jump up.

“Oh! Sorry Bow!” Adora yelped.

“It’s okay!”

Both Adora and Glimmer took a seat at the table with Bow. Glimmer tossed the book she was holding onto the pile.

“What’s with all the history books?” Glimmer inquired.

There wasn’t an easy answer to that question. The real answer was that four days ago Adora heard the term “magicat” for the first time. According to Shadow Weaver that’s what Catra was. In all their years growing up neither Catra nor Adora had known what species she was. Nor had they ever seen anyone else remotely like her. There were a couple times Adora tried to research it, but the Horde didn’t value the preservation of knowledge like Bright Moon does. The information available was severely limited to only the specific information that Hordak and the Horde would want one to know. It had seemed that Catra’s heritage wasn’t knowledge worth preserving. So maybe here, in this metropolis of words, she’d have more luck.

“Just trying to brush up on all the history I missed growing up in the Fright Zone,” was the answer that Adora chose to go with. Not a complete lie, plus a subtle dig at the Horde to boot. Glimmer was very placated.

“I don’t think I did this much studying when I was still in school!” Glimmer quipped.

“You didn’t do any studying in school,” Bow fired back. The response earned him a playful smack on the arm.

Adora raised an eyebrow. “Then what did you do in school?”

“Don’t listen to him ‘Dora, I studied plenty. I was a great student,” Glimmer boasted.

“Yeah, great at getting in trouble!” Bow giggled.

“That was only Madam Boarheim’s class! It was just so, so BORING!”

Both Bow and Adora burst into giggling fits.

“I was right there with you Glim, you know I can’t say anything!” Bow said.

“And I certainly can’t say anything. Half the time I would sleep through class because Catra had me out all night exploring some weird corner of the Fright Zone that we definitely weren’t supposed to be in,” Adora leaned back in her chair. Images started flickering in her head. Times long ago.

“You and her were pretty close, huh,” Bow said. He laid a reassuring hand on Adora’s arm, eliciting a little smile from her. 

“Once upon a time I thought we were.” Adora heaved out a heavy sigh. “Not anymore I guess.”

Or maybe we never actually were.

Adora was pulled out of her mind by the feeling of Bow and Glimmer giving each of her shoulders a gentle rub. She squeezed both their hands affectionately.

“Let’s dive into some history, shall we?” Adora said. She made sure her tone was extra chipper.

Glimmer let out a soft groan as she slowly tugged on a book. Less than a minute later the massive clock in the center of the library began chiming. Glimmer immediately threw her hands up.

Oh no , looks like we won’t be able to today,” Glimmer said, just a little too cheerily. She popped up from her chair and tugged on Bow’s arm. “It’s 11, Bow,”

Bow jumped to his feet. “Right!”

“What happens at 11?” Adora said. She was beginning to regather the stack of books. Glimmer pressed her hand down on the stack to stop her.

“You stay,” Glimmer ordered. “Keep studying!”

“What? How come?” Adora asked.

The standing two thirds of the Best Friend Squad were beaming ear to ear. “It’s a surprise!” Glimmer said. “We’ll come get you when we’re ready!”

Just like that, Adora was alone at the table with her books. She was almost alone in the entire room. Three librarians were on duty, and Adora had only seen about a dozen people roaming the library.

Solitude was fine. In some ways Adora preferred it. In other ways not. Bow and Glimmer were good for keeping her from falling too far into her own head. Which had been a good thing. It had been a stormy place ever since their last visit to the Crystal Castle. Seeing Entrapta alive hadn’t done much to assuage her guilt. The reasoning behind it simply shifted.

Entrapta was just a minor drizzle compared to Shadow Weaver though. Adora had felt the pain of that mindwipe spell before, but Glimmer had saved her. Seeing it carried out to fruition, the look on her younger self’s face. It had been haunting her for days now. It was the same kind of pain that Catra had experienced over and over, but had always kept from Adora. Catra had hid it well when they were growing up. Or had Adora just gone out of her way to not notice it? She had accepted that Catra was moody and angry a lot growing up. As far as Adora had known, that was just how Catra was.

That was the real tsunami; Catra. It all always came back to Catra. Light Hope hadn’t needed to beat her over the head with the point, Adora was well aware of it. She had spent the better part of the last year trying to bury her feelings for Catra. To move on. To “let go”. It was proving difficult. Then Light Hope had to show her that memory, and all those feelings came springing up out of that grave, like a particularly persistent zombie.

Who needs memories and feelings when there’s knowledge though. Adora picked up a book titled “Early Kingdoms of Etheria Volume 2”. Volume 1 had been the previous day’s read. This was where solitude was helpful. Adora elected not to share what Light Hope had shown her to Bow and Glimmer. It would be hers and Entrapta’s secret. It went into the “things about my life in the Horde that I don’t want to share because it’ll just complicate our friendship,” pile.

So Adora had kept her sudden fascination with “magicats” secret. After all, if she told them about it, the next logical question would be “why?” Why obsess over something that’d only be useful to someone who was actively trying to destroy you? Adora didn’t want to be asked that question. Mostly because she still hadn’t found an answer for it for herself. Why.

Adora’s finger was slowly running down the index of “Early Kingdoms of Etheria Volume 2”. Ks. Ls. Ms. A little gasp escaped from her. At the edge of her finger, “Magicat - Half Moon, pgs 78-94.”

“Finally!”

 


 

There had been a time when the only emotion Lord Hordak’s throne room elicited from Catra was terror. For some time now that sense of fear and foreboding had been replaced with a general sense of discomfort. Granted, Catra was fairly sure that the room had been designed for maximum discomfort. The glaring green lights casting everything in a hazy lime color. It stunk of motor grease and burning oil. The long walk up the starkly inclined stairs. 

“Ah, Force General. Thank you for clearing your morning,” Hordak mused.

“Of course, Lord Hordak,” Catra responded. She had to fight the chuckle back from the implication that there was ever a chance Catra could have just said ‘sorry Hordak, day’s full, I’ll fit you in next week.’

“I read your report on the endeavor to the Crystal Castle,” Hordak said. His voice was smooth. He seemed to be more interested in digging his razor sharp nails into his armrest than he was in Catra. “There hasn’t been many occasions to say this since you took the mantle, but I must say, I am disappointed Force General.”

Catra sucked in air hard. It had been as if the words were a hammer right to the gut. “My apologies Lord Hordak. It wasn’t a total loss though. We were able to learn of another of She-Ra’s abilities, which can be useful. And of the existence of the Radiant Core.”

“A useless magical bauble.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“There was loss. A tank was destroyed and over a dozen Horde soldiers were taken prisoner, just for a distraction. Our forces can ill afford such recklessness. Especially if we are to continue the suspension of some of our more, ‘traditional’, methods of recruitment.”

“Our forces are stronger than they’ve ever been. More dedicated than they’ve ever been. We are stronger with an army of recruits that want to serve the Horde than we are with a force of scared orphans and slaves.”

“Yet, without tapping those scared orphans and slaves I would not have my Force General.”

“Even if it was by volunteering, I’d still be here. Our forces will remain strong. I promise you that. We won’t let She-Ra stop us. I promise you that .”

“See to it then,” Hordak stated. “That will be all for now Force General.”

A quick bow in deference then Catra made her way out of the room. Lonnie was waiting just outside of the throne room, leaning against the wall.

“Yo what’s up Force General?” Lonnie said.

Catra just rolled her eyes and continued on down the hall. Lonnie pushed off the wall and caught up with Catra. They were walking together stride for stride.

“What do you want Lonnie?”

“Heard you and Bossman were having a meeting today. Was hoping to get some news on the next action.”

“Sorry to disappoint.”

“Oh come on!”

They were at the elevator. Catra hit the down button. She laughed. “You just got your ass handed to you at Thaymor.”

“That’s the whole point. How are we supposed to relax when the last thing we did was get our butts kicked? And for what?! We need to get back out there!”

Elevator was taking its sweet old time. Maybe it really was slowing down. “When we have another good plan, we will,” Catra continued. “For now, we regroup and try to figure out that next plan.”

“I owe Adora payback for breaking my tank,” Lonnie said, slamming a fist into her other, open hand.

Catra let out another laugh. “Is this why we never got along? Because we’re the same person? You’re starting to sound just like me.”

Lonnie scoffed. “And when did you stop sounding like yourself?”

The elevator showed up finally. Catra had to wait for a couple soldiers to get off first. “When my job suddenly stopped letting everything be all about me.”

“What’s happening to you? Hating Adora used to be the only thing that mattered,” Lonnie responded.

Catra made her way onto the elevator. “I still have plenty of room in my heart to hate Adora.” Catra looked down thoughtfully for a few seconds. “There’s just other things that are important too, ya know?”

Lonnie began to enter the elevator, but Catra pushed her back and wagged a finger.

“No no, you take the next one,” Catra grinned.

“What?! Catra! Catr-”

Thick doors slammed shut on the elevator, cutting the rest of Lonnie’s sentence off. Catra’s grin grew. “That’s what you get for questioning how much I hate Adora.”

 


 

A bright morning had given way to a brighter afternoon in Bright Moon. The Best Friend Squad was in one of the many gorgeous flower gardens surrounding Bright Moon Castle. A large blanket was spread out on the grass. All three were sitting on it, along with a sizable basket.

This was Adora’s surprise. Glimmer and Bow had been planning it for a while, but war stuff or weather seemed to keep pushing it back. Adora was sitting cross legged. Bow and Glimmer were much more relaxed as they began unpacking the basket.

“What is this again?” Adora asked. She didn’t want to seem ungrateful. All the effort Bow and Glimmer had put into letting Adora experience new and fun things was greatly appreciated. It was just that Adora had finally started finding real information on magicats when they came for her.

“A picnic!” Bow beamed. He was holding a cup of berry juice. “Here you go,” he said, handing the cup off to Adora.

Berry juice was perhaps in Adora’s top five things that she’d discovered since leaving the Horde. Top ten definitely. “So, is a picnic just outside lunch?”

Bow and Glimmer let out a chuckle. “No silly,” Glimmer said. “It’s a lot more than that!”

“It’s a lot to do with being out and enjoying nature,” Bow added. “Which is why we’re sitting on the blanket on the ground. Just give it a minute. The light. The breeze. That scent of flowers.” Bow snorted a deep breath into his nose. Adora followed suit. Scents of lavender and coneflowers mixed in her nostrils. 

The fragrance brought a smile to Adora’s face. She had known what nature was, on a conceptual level at least. Experiencing it was still pretty new though. The time she had admitted that the Whispering Woods was the first time she had ever seen a tree in person had left Bow inconsolable for the entire day.

Glimmer handed Adora a small bowl of some sort of sliced melon. “It’s about the social aspect too. A picnic is about experiencing all that food and nature with people you care about. Friends, family.” Glimmer leaned over to close the space with Adora and Bow. “Or of course, you can have one with that special someone. They make really good dates.” A devious smile was painted all over Glimmer’s face.

Concentration swept over Adora’s face as she munched on another slice of melon. “Wait. You told me this one. Date. Don’t tell me! Date. Date… Oh! That’s basically another word for courting right?” Bow let out a groan. “Did I get it wrong?” Adora inquired. She was confused. She had been pretty confident in the ‘courting’ definition.

“No, you’re right I guess,” Bow groaned. “Courting is just sounds so, cold.”

“Hah,” Adora gave a nervous laugh. “It’s accurate though. In the Horde relationships are often for, ‘strategic’ reasons. Feelings aren’t really encouraged, especially weak feelings like love.”

“Love is NOT a weakness!” Glimmer argued.

I’m not saying it is!” Adora defended herself. “It’s not like people don’t fall in love in the Horde. We’re still people. You can tell people not to follow their emotions, but it doesn’t mean they don’t still have them.” Despite herself, Adora was drifting off into her head again. Every effort was made to not let this conversation conjure up images of anyone in particular, but there she was. Curled up, tail draped over her legs. She wasn’t wearing her headpiece. Adora liked the way tufts of hair fell on her face without it.

“I didn’t mean you of course,” Glimmer said, a hint of remorse in her words. She handed Adora an overstuffed sandwich.

There were at least four different meats on the sandwich. Adora chomped on one of the ends. “It’s alright Glim,” she said, partially muffled by bread and cold cuts. “This is really good, by the way. Thank you both so much. This is really nice.”

Another round of berry juice was passed around. “Anything for our best friend,” Bow smiled. “So, I know you don’t like talking about your time in the Horde, but I gotta know though; did you ever ‘court’ anyone when you were still in the Horde?”

Not a question Adora was expecting, as evidenced by the spurt of berry juice that shot out of her. Bow and Glimmer gave her a very sympathetic round of laughter.

“What? No, of course not! There wasn’t time for that.  The cadet training is pretty rigorous, and what little free time I did have was spent getting into trouble with Catra.”

Bow leaned in, his face was growing devious. “MmmHmm. There wasn’t anyone you had feelings for?”

Most, if not all of Adora’s blood was rushing to her face, she could feel it. “I, I didn’t say that .” Every last drop of blood. “Never acted on it though.”

“How come?” Bow asked.

“Didn’t want to have to deal with getting rejected I guess,” Adora sighed.

Glimmer broke out in a fit of loud laughter. “You really think someone would have rejected you?”

No good answer sprung to mind, so instead decided to shove the whole remainder of her sandwich into her mouth. Which was a lot. Bow and Glimmer laughed and cheered as she managed to power through it.

Just then a small shadow came over them. They looked up to see a Bright Moon guard standing at the edge of the blanket. She had striking indigo hair that tapered off just below the chin. Judging from the lack of helmet or armor she must have been a rookie.

“Ahem. Excuse me, princesses?” she meekishly asked.

“Yes?” Glimmer responded.

It was good that Glimmer took the lead, there was still plenty of sandwich in Adora’s cheeks.

The guard straightened her posture so perfectly it could have made a pole jealous. “Queen Angella has asked me to inform you that the princesses of the Alliance have begun arriving. The meeting will be in an hour.”

“Oh. Thank you,” Glimmer responded.

The guard bowed and spun on her heel. She walked a couple steps then stopped, and turned back around. “If you’ll excuse me one more time,” the guard said, making her way back to the blanket.

“What is it?” Bow asked, being the only one prepared to answer. Adora had finally downed the rest of the sandwich and was washing it down with berry juice. Reminder of the upcoming meeting sent Glimmer into thoughtful reflection.

The guard sucked in a large breath. “Forgive me, but if I may be so bold. Princess of Power, I just wanted to say what an honor it is to be in your presence.”

“It’s Adora,” she said, getting to her feet. She stuck out her hand at the guard. The guard pensively looked at Adora’s hand and slowly raised her own. Adora grabbed it and gave it a good shake. When she let go the guard retracted her hand and gave it a good look over.

“Princess Adora, my apologies.”

“Just Adora. I’m no princess. She-Ra’s the princess,” Adora said with a snort, more denoting discomfort than anything else. There was still something about the idea of being a princess that never sat well with Adora. When she was She-Ra sure, but just Adora?

“I see. Adora, seeing you in action is inspiring. I was here when you defended Bright Moon from the Horde. It’s what inspired me to join the royal guard!”

Adora wasn’t sure what to do. She settled on rubbing the back of her neck in an attempt to stop herself from getting flustered. “Oh? That’s really cool to hear. I was just doing my best though.”

“Are you kidding? You were amazing! And your technique with your sword!” the guard made a few mock slashing motions in the air.

Adora waved her hands in a dismissive fashion. “Anyone could do that, with enough practice.”

The guard blushed. “I don’t think I could ever figure it out.”

“I could give you some pointers if you’d like?” Adora offered.

Somehow the guard blushed an even deeper shade of red. “You’d really be willing to do that?!”

“Sure!” Adora responded. 

“Are you free tonight?”

“I should be. This princess meeting shouldn’t take long. Training Center 4, say around 6?”

“I’ll be there!” the guard squealed. “The name’s Zayn, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you Zayn!”

“Yes, likewise Prin-, er, Adora. I will, I will see you tonight,” Zayn beamed. She then scurried off.

Adora stood and watched her go. She had apparently been pretty focused on watching her go because she did not notice Bow and Glimmer come stand on either side of her until Bow threw his arm around her shoulders.

“Training with Zayn tonight huh?” Bow said. Adora was very worried about the size of Bow’s grin.

“I’m sure they’re going to get lots of training in,” Glimmer snickered. Adora raised an eyebrow.

Bow squeezed her tight. “Congratulations on the first, you know, date.”

“WHAT?! No.

“Nooooo.

“No?”

 


 

Considering the circumstances, the afternoon Princess Alliance meeting went about as well as possible. Adora and Glimmer had called it to discuss the recent revelation of Entrapta’s continued existence. That was one thing that Bow did make a point to mention about his adventure, that he had found out Entrapta was alive. According to him, he saw her before getting zapped away.

Breaking the news to everyone was one of the hardest things Adora had done since joining the Rebellion. There had been a sense of relief from everyone in the meeting. Unfortunately there were also a lot of other emotions mixing in the room. Having dealt with the same feelings herself, Adora recognized the sense of guilt on Bow’s, Mermista’s, and Sea Hawk’s faces. There was also confusion as to why Entrapta was choosing to stay. Adora didn’t have any easy answers. The best she could tell, Entrapta just, liked it there. This idea, along with a bunch of other ones drew grumbles from Glimmer, who, despite suggesting this meeting, spent most of it being combative and annoyed.

During the majority of the meeting Perfuma had chose to remain quiet. When Adora first announced that Entrapta was alive, Perfuma had jumped up in her seat. Once she settled back down though, she said almost nothing until the end of the meeting. Adora was hoping to talk to her afterwards, but as soon as the meeting was adjourned she disappeared.

All in all it had been an unpleasant afternoon, post-picnic anyway. An evening training session was just what she needed to clear her head and refocus herself, and for once, she wasn’t alone.

“All right, give me your best front attack!” Adora yelled, wooden practice sword firmly in hand.

Zayn charged forward. She swung down with her wooden practice sword. Adora blocked. Zayn spun to deliver a side swipe. Adora blocked. She tried slashing across her body. Adora blocked. Zayn dropped to a crouch and tried swinging at Adora’s shins. Adora quickly pinned the sword to the ground with her foot.

“What was that?” Adora asked.

“Um, I was trying to sweep your legs?” Zayn offered with a nervous smile.

“That’s not a thing in swordfighting,” Adora chuckled. She offered her hand and pulled Zayn to her feet. Zayn popped up. There was maybe a foot between them. Adora smiled at her. “That was pretty good though!”

“I didn’t even get close to landing a blow!”

“Yeah, but I’ve been training my whole life. You were saying you only joined the Royal Guard a year ago? Got a lot of natural ability. You just need more training,” Adora chirped. “Here, let’s start with your stance.”

Adora was moving around Zayn. Lifting her arm. With both hands Adora twisted Zayn’s hips. She took Zayn’s wrist in her hand and adjusted it’s angle. “Spread your legs a little, it’ll help your balance,” Adora said, inches from Zayn’s ear. “See, your whole body’s controlling your swing now, not just your arms. Isn’t that more comfortable?”

“Y-Yeah,” Zayn said, with a slight hitch in her breath. She recomposed herself and leaned into Adora more. Her back was pressed gently against Adora’s front. Zayn regathered her confidence. “You certainly know how to move a woman’s body,” Zayn whispered. Adora blushed so hard Zayn could feel the heat coming off her cheeks. “You should be the one training the Royal Guard.”

Adora detached from Zayn and walked back over to her starting position. “I can just train you, then they’ll put you in charge of training,” Adora said.

There was a large smile growing on Adora’s face. “Shall we go again?”

 


 

Nights in the Fright Zone weren’t very dark. Smog held the light from the cities, creating a bright haze. That orange tinted glow poured into Catra’s room through open window blinds. Catra was sitting on her bed, leaning against the wall, and scribbling away at reports when she heard the familiar sound of a claw rapping against her door.

“Yeah?” Catra lazily called out.

“Hey Kitty,” Scorpia greeted her as she came into the room and plopped down at the edge of her bed. “I got your comm message.”

A decent sized stack of folders were sitting next to Catra, partially toppled over and resting against her leg. She fished a specific one out of the pile and handed it to Scorpia. “I know it’s getting late, but I was hoping you could give these training schedules that Octavia submitted a once over for me.”

“Of course!” Scorpia beamed.

“Thanks,” Catra said. The break from writing was an opportunity to let out a big yawn. She put her pad down and rubbed her face with both hands.

“Everything okay?” Scorpia asked.

Catra wanted to glare at her, but couldn’t find the energy. She gave the scorpion woman a long stare.

“Lonnie was being annoying earlier,” Catra eventually offered. “It got me thinking about Bow again.”

“Yeah, me too,” Scorpia immediately, and absentmindedly, added.

For now Catra decided to ignore it. “I can’t believe I let him go! What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing,” Scorpia flatly stated. “How would Entrapta have reacted if we brought him back as a prisoner?”

It took Catra a good minute to ponder that question. She knew the answer immediately. It took her some time to fight off images of an enraged Entrapta.

“Can I be honest with you? I miss hanging out in the lab. I wish things would go back to the way they were.”

“Give it time Kitty, she’ll forgive us. Point is, she’s still here.”

“Lonnie said I was changing.”

Scorpia chuckled. “Well isn’t that a good thing? You’re the Force General of the Horde. You wouldn’t be able to do this if you just stayed as that angry, enraged rookie Force Captain.”

“I like to think my anger serves me pretty well. I’m always a little angry.”

“Is that your secret?” Scorpia chortled. It actually got Catra to chuckle.

Catra pulled herself together quickly. Her eyes narrowed and a thin smile grew on her. “So, why were YOU thinking about Bow?”

“What?! Oh, um, you know, same as you. Just thinking about how crazy and mature it was of us to let him go!” Scorpia stammered through the statement.

Amid her own laughter, Catra gave Scorpia a playful punch on the shoulder. “Go on, get those training schedules done.”

 


 

Turned out that the libraries of Bright Moon didn’t limit how many books one could check out at a time. Which was a good thing because Adora had settled on that number being as many as she could carry. Even without being She-Ra, that was a pretty substantial amount.

A sizable stack sat on Adora’s desk. Next to it was a stack of paper for Adora to take loose notes on. Things such as “Wow, Catra you wouldn’t believe this (yellow book, pg 78”) and “I wonder if you can do that too (E. Species book, pg 164)”.

Learning about magicats was exhilarating.

Yet, Adora was feeling weird. She had been back from her training session for a little over an hour now. Besides a quick rinse-off shower she had spent that whole time reading ostensibly about Catra. It was something Adora had been looking forward to since the morning. Right now though, she couldn’t help but feel like she was doing something to insult Zayn.

The first year Bright Moon guard was, pleasant to be around. Zayn was the first person in Bright Moon outside of Bow and Glimmer that Adora was able to make any sort of real connection with. It was good to have another friend. Which is all Zayn was. Which was all Adora wanted her to be. Which was something that Adora realized she was saying to herself a little too often.

Adora pushed herself away from the desk. She slouched back into the chair and rubbed her temples.

“Didn’t realize She-Ra got homework.”

Adora jumped upright in her chair. She wheeled around in the chair to stare in disbelief towards her balcony. “Catra?!”

The catgirl had propped herself up on the balcony railing. She gave Adora a sly grin and hopped into her room. Catra took a quick survey of the place. It was bright. Everything was round edges. Soft.

“Huh, so this is it. What you left me for.”

Adora made a start to stand up but Catra grabbed her shoulder and pushed her back down into the chair.

“Relax. I’m not here to fight. Or waste time pointlessly rehashing old shit.”

“What are you here for then?”

Catra rested both her arms on Adora’s right shoulder and leaned over to stare at the desk. “Bored I guess,” Catra admitted. “What’s all this?” She began flipping through the open book.”A, magicat?”

Adora blushed slightly. Catra was so close. Her smell was intoxicating. So familiar. But also, after almost a year apart, so new. Adora was trying desperately to not notice that Catra’s chest was inches from her. “That’s you actually. I finally found out what you are.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” Catra scooped the book up and began reading it and pacing.

There was an awkward few minutes of silence as Catra studied the book.

This shouldn’t be happening. Adora hated to admit it though, it felt so normal too. She was happy to let Catra finally find out about where she came from, but Adora was also a little disappointed. She wasn’t sure how or even if she’d ever be able to talk to Catra about magicats, but there was a part of her that had hoped that it would have been with a little more fanfare than this.

“Huh, says here that magicats enjoy napping in the daylight,” Catra said, nose still buried in the book. “Kind of ironic that seemingly the last magicat on Etheria lives in the one place that doesn’t really get daylight, don’t ya think?”

“Haha, yeah,” Adora answered. Catra was here. In her room. Just hanging out. Adora couldn’t get her heart under control. It was racing so fast she was worried it would actually explode out of her chest. There was so much she wanted to say. So many things to talk about. To catch up on. A whole year apart. All the adventures that she had. That she had wished Catra had been with her for. Where to start. What to say. Adora decided to work her way backwards.

“I, I think I went on my first date tonight,” Adora sheepishly said.

Catra snapped the book closed. She stared at Adora, eyebrow raised, for a good 20 seconds before doubling over in laughter. “You THINK?! Hahaha! How have you never been on a date before?!”

Adora seemingly shrunk in the chair. “I don’t know! All my free time used to be spent hanging out with you!”

If Adora was being honest, the mocking wasn’t that surprising. Something about being apart all this time though made it sting all the more.

What was surprising was Catra’s next action. The catgirl turned the chair to face away from the desk with Adora still in it. She bumped Adora’s knee which made her sit upright in the chair. Then Catra plopped down, straddling Adora’s lap.

“Couldn’t have been much of a date.”

“W-why?” Adora gulped. Catra was SO close. All of Catra’s weight was in Adora’s lap, slowly rocking back and forth. Her tail was slowly weaving its way through Adora’s legs. Adora was starting to feel tingly all over.

“Well, it’s not even 9:30 and it’s already over? Not a very good finish to a date if you ask me.”

“What would be a good finish to a date?”

“This!” Catra thrust her hand downward, sliding it down Adora’s abdomen and pressing it hard into the center of her crotch.

“CATRA!” Adora yelped.

The catgirl leaned in. She gave Adora’s ear a quick nibble before whispering into it. “This is what we both want, isn’t it?” Catra pulled back to look Adora in the face. Her hand hadn’t budged.

Adora stared into those mismatched eyes.

Then Adora punched Catra in the arm. Not a real punch. More than a playful punch though. “Damn it! Damn you Catra! After all this time! I finally spend some time with someone else and now you show up?! This isn’t fair!”

Catra leaned back. She had one of her trademark devious smiles on her face. “Hey, just say the word. I’ll go and we never have to talk about this.”

Adora glared at the woman in her lap for a few seconds.

Then she grabbed Catra’s face with both hands and pulled her in, slamming their lips together. At first it was sloppy. Angry. But then Catra slid her tongue into Adora’s mouth, and she began to melt.

Busy hands tore off Adora’s belts and flung her trademark red jacket open. Adora clumsily kicked her boots off. Catra’s fingers were digging into and balling the sides of Adora’s pants into her fists.

In one hard motion Catra yanked both Adora’s pants and underwear down to her knees. She rolled them the rest of the way off of Adora’s legs then tugged at the socks.

It made Adora giggle. “Is that really important right now?”

“I’m not fucking a girl in socks,” Catra grinned. Catra bit and nibbled her way up the inside of Adora’s left leg. Her arm was gently caressing it’s way up the outside of Adora’s right thigh. Catra’s small layer of fur brushing against her thigh caused the best kind of goosebumps.

Catra nibbled and kissed Adora’s stomach just below her bellybutton. She shot a quick glance up. Her princess simply returned an airy smile.

It was all Catra needed to drop her head into Adora’s lap. Her mouth slammed into and began suckling on Adora’s clit.

The sweetest little gasp Catra had ever heard floated out of Adora, spurring Catra on. She slid her thumb up and down along Adora’s lips, noting all the places that elicited more gasps. Catra’s coarse tongue flicked and traced circles around the plump clit, as her thumb began pushing its way into Adora.

As Catra continued running her tongue up and down Adora began rolling her hips to match the catgirl’s rhythm. Both of Adora’s hands were buried in Catra’s beautiful dark mane.

The thumb tugged at Adora’s folds, making room for that tongue to play inside of her. Catra’s free hand had slipped under Adora’s shirt and wandered up. She was playfully kneading Adora’s breast over her bra. Every once in a while she’d pinch at a hard nipple.

Closest thing Adora could do to talking as this point was a series of grunts and variously pitched moans. Her eyes were rolling into the back of her head. Her entire body began tensing. A powerful convulsion exploded throughout her body, forcing out a giant gasp.

Adora clenched her fists around clumps of Catra’s hair in an attempt to hold on for dear life while her orgasm wracked her body.

Adora remained tense as a few aftershocks rumbled through her, helped in no small part to Catra. She planted sloppy kisses on Adora’s pussy, sending more aftershocks careening through the princess.

Finally, as her orgasm passed, Adora fell limp into the chair.

Catra placed a few more kisses up through Adora’s neatly trimmed bush before resting her chin on Adora’s stomach, taking in the sight of the spent princess.

That’s how you finish a date,” Catra chirped.

It took some effort, but Adora was able to raise her hand to caress Catra’s cheek.

Energy slowly returned to her body as Adora sat up and smiled at Catra. “Who said anything about ‘finished’?” Adora asked. Her tone was soft, inviting. “Get on the bed, it’s your turn.”

“Hah!” Catra sniggered. “I have to get back to the Fright Zone tonight. I don’t have the days it’d take you to figure out how to do this."

Adora huffed. “I’ll try my very best.

“I want to make you happy. I’m so glad that you’re here with me.”

Catra shook her head and laughed. She reached up and rapped Adora on the forehead with her knuckles three times.

“Oh Adora, don’t you get it? I’m not here.”

Adora bolted upright in the chair. Her eyes were blurry and still half closed. It took her a minute to adjust to her surroundings.

There was a piece of paper stuck to her face. She pulled it off. It had been adhesed with a pool of drool. Adora sleepily wiped her cheek with her sleeve.

Her world came back into view. She was in front of her desk. The stack of paper was disturbed from where Adora’s head had been laying on them. She quickly patted herself down. Clothes were still fully intact.

Another three rapping noises rang out. This time followed by the sound of Glimmer’s voice. “Adora?”

“Coming!” As Adora continued adjusted to her sudden consciousness she gave a rushed scan of the room. There was no Catra. There was never any Catra. Not really.

“Heeey,” Adora nervously offered as she opened her door to Glimmer and Bow.

Bow and Glimmer plopped themselves down on Adora’s bed while Adora settled back into her chair.

“You okay?” Bow asked. “You seem, I don’t know, a little out of sorts.”

Somehow, being called out made Adora relax. “Dozed off reading and had a pretty intense dream, is all. I’m fine, really.”

“I’d hope so!” Glimmer said. “We need to hear all about your date!”

Both Glimmer and Bow’s eyes were huge. Adora could feel them burrowing through her skin.

“Really, it wasn’t a date! Just a friendly training session.”

“Sure, we definitely believe you. So tell us every juicy detail!” Glimmer demanded.

 

Chapter Text

Entrapta’s lab was packed. Entrapta herself was busy bouncing back and forth around her various work stations that took up a good portion of the lab. Kyle was cleaning up the remnants of the morning’s foray into mini-cupcake testing (this batch was ‘passible’). Off to the side of the room Lonnie, Scorpia, and Rogelio were gathered around a small table playing cards. Catra was slouched in a chair a few feet from them with her legs propped up on a metal container. She was reading through the previous day’s reports on a mini-monitor.

“No. No no no!” Lonnie exclaimed, tossing her cards on the table. “You cheated. You HAD to have cheated!”

Scorpia chuckled as she slid the pile of chips over to her own pristine, and tall, stacks. “How exactly did I cheat?”

“I don’t know, hidden cards?”

“WHERE? I don’t have sleeves! I don’t have HANDS! Do you have any idea how long it took me be able to hold cards with these pincers?”

“Oh, yeah, my bad,” Lonnie meekishly fell back into her seat.

Scorpia gave Lonnie a hearty slap on the shoulder. “I’m just giving you a hard time!”

“Heh, think you can give me my money back?”

“I’ll give you a chance to win it back,” Scorpia grinned.

Rogelio collected the cards and began shuffling them. His technique was a work of art. A hidden skill of the stocky laug. Lonnie and Scorpia sat, mesmerized as the cards flew every which way but always collected back into a neat stack in his hand. He was just starting to deal when Entrapta appeared in front of everyone.

Excitement was bubbling over in the purple haired princess. Her giant pigtails were bobbing her up and down in the air as she clapped her hands together in rapid, small claps. A giant grin was on her face.

Catra put her monitor down. “Yeah, Entrapta?” she asked softly.

“I’VE FOUND SOMETHING!” Entrapta screamed, a bit louder than she had intended. “Er, sorry!” Entrapta waved for everyone to follow her as she bounded back to her workstations.

Walls of half translated text was scrolling all over the giant main monitor, along with charts, pictures and maps. Entrapta’s hair did some work at a keyboard and everything on the screen was minimalized except for a giant map, taking up most of the screen. On it were a number of red dots that kept blinking.

“As we know,” Entrapta announced, “almost all I’ve been doing these last couple of weeks has been pouring over the data that we recovered from the Crystal Castle. It could take years to sift through, especially given that fact that a lot of it is written in First Ones language. That is good news though! There’s so much here I’ve been able to begin piecing together a translation key. That will take months, maybe even years to fully decipher.”

Entrapta turned back to see a bunch of raised eyebrows. “That’s not why I was excited though! Well, I mean, it is exciting. Deciphering the First Ones language could change our entire understanding of the world!”

“Yo girl, just get on with it?” Lonnie butted in.

“Ahem, yes. Right. As you can see this is a map of Etheria. These red dots are all the First Ones temples in the world.”

Catra groaned. “Ooooh, that’s a lot,” she muttered under her breath.

Most of the red lights on the map dimmed, while one, in the northeast portion of the main continent, was highlighted.

“This is the Temple of Shifting Plains. As you can see it’s nestled in the wilderness between Skydancer Kingdom and the Kingdom of Snows. My research into this temple has led me to the idea for a new experiment. If my hypothesis about the temple are correct it’s going to be amazing !” Entrapta ended her sentence in an excited whisper.

“What’s it gonna be?” Catra asked.

The princess began playing with her fingers. “I-I don’t want to say until we’ve been to the temple and I know for sure what’s there. I don’t want to get any of our hopes up.”

There was a low grumble under Catra’s breath that she was trying to hide. “We have to go to this, Temple of Shifting Plains, don’t we.”

“For me to collect the data as well as mineral samples that are stored in the temple,” Entrapta answered.

“When did you wanna go?”

“As soon as possible?”

“We can go today if you want,” Catra mused. Didn’t look thrilled about it though.

“YES! That would be preferable!” Entrapta beamed. “While it is still in the forefront of my mind.”

Catra rubbed her chin. “We’re going to have to be better prepared this time. Even with a distraction She-Ra still found us last time.”

Entrapta began typing on a keyboard. Blocks of text began scrolling by on the monitor next to an image of She-Ra. “As the Princess of Power, She-Ra apparently has dominion of, and thus some sort of connection with, the First Ones temples of Etheria. It may be impossible to infiltrate one without her being alerted somehow.

“Before you ask, no, I haven’t found a way to sever that connection.”

“Then we’ll just have to try to work faster,” Catra mused.

“I agree. That’s why I wish to bring Assistant Kyle,” Entrapta said.

“GASP! I get to do something in the field?!” Kyle was beaming.

“He has tiny hands. They are useful for delicate work,” Entrapta added.

Rogelio made a few grunts. The entire room erupted into laughter except for Kyle, who was instead turning redder than a strawberry.

“Rogelio!” the cherry colored young man fumed.

Lonnie elbowed Kyle. “Hey, man, good for you,” she sniggered.

“I’M GOING TO GO CLEAN SOMETHING!” the walking tomato said before storming off.

Catra patted Scorpia on the arm. “Up for a day trip?”

“Super Pal Trio Plus Kyle Excursion? Of course, Kitty!”

“Alright. We leave in an hour.” Catra stood on her tippy-toes and cupped her hands around her mouth. “Hey Loverboy did you hear me? We leave in an hour!”

“YES I HEARD YOU CATRA!”

Entrapta bounced back to her work area and began collecting tools into a pack.

“What about us?” Catra heard over her shoulder. She turned around to see Lonnie, arms folded, tapping her foot. Behind her was Rogelio, looking disinterested, which seemed to be his default look except when interacting with Kyle.

Catra tapped at the monitor she was holding then handed it to Lonnie. “You know Glenmar? That mining town?” Catra asked. Lonnie nodded as she took the monitor. “Reports are that they’re having problems with bandits. They say that it’s hindering the town’s day-to-day work. I want you two to go figure out what’s up and fix it.”

Lonnie’s eyes were gigantic. “You’re. Giving. Us. Our. Own. Mission?!” She began vibrating, which caused Catra to chuckle. Catra was sure Lonnie was going to explode, but instead she just overly enthusiastically saluted. Her and Rogelio spun on their heels and left the room.

With everyone else set, Catra turned back to Entrapta, who was still sorting through which tools to bring. “Hey, Entrapta. An hour gonna be enough for you to get everything you need ready? We can leave later if you want,” Catra offered. She was standing on the other side of the long work table in the middle of the area.

“An hour will be sufficient,” Entrapta stated. She didn’t look up or even stop what she was doing.

Catra nodded a couple times then spun on her heels towards the door.

Entrapta sighed and stopped packing. She fished out a recorder and stared at it for a few seconds before clicking it on. “Shifting Plains Experiment, hour 1,” Entrapta started. She was talking much louder than she usually does when dictating into her recorders. Catra made a start to leave, but was stopped by a tugging on her tail. She whipped around to see strands of purple hair coiled around the end. The hair retracted itself. “I have been successful in convincing us to make the journey to the Temple of Shifting Plains, in hopes that the data and samples gathered there will lead to something great. Despite her misgivings and past experiences, it was easy to convince Catra to return to the First Ones temple.

“I do not believe that she realizes that I forgave her days ago for her past dishonesty. I must compile a list of things I want before she wises up.” Entrapta clicked the recorder off. With a slight grin she returned to packing.

For once Catra didn’t have the desire to get a final word in, or to make snarky remark. She simply smiled and left the room.

 


 

Adora leapt out of the way of the strike. Zayn’s wooden sword cracked down onto the floor mat. She brought her sword up for a spinning slash. Adora blocked it. Zayn gripped her sword with both hands and tried pushing it through the block. The momentum caused Adora to back up a few paces. A gap in the mats tripped Adora, sending her crashing onto her back. Momentum sent Zayn falling onto her. 

Both girls giggled. Zayn hoisted herself up to her hands and knees. Their faces were less than a foot apart. Adora shot her a pleasant grin. “You’re getting so much better at this,” Adora said.

Zayn chuckled. “Probably shouldn’t have fallen down with you!”

“Okay yeah. Knocked me off my feet though. That’s a start.”

They lingered there in that position for probably a little too long. Zayn eventually got to her feet and offered her hand. 

Adora hadn’t even gotten halfway up before toppling back over, gripping her head and screaming.

“What’s the matter?!” Zayn asked, trying to comfort Adora. After a moment she was able to get Adora up to her feet.

“I’m fine now, thank you,” Adora strained. “It’s a First Ones temple. Something’s wrong.”

Just then Swift Wind barged into the training room. “Adora!”

“WINGED UNICORN!” Zayn blurted out. Her eyes were bulging out of her head as Swift Wind strode over to the two of them. Zayn’s mouth was slightly agape as she stared unblinkingly at Swift Wind.

“Oh, hey. Zayn, this is my friend Swift Wind,” Adora said. It seemed to fall on deaf ears.

At the sight of Zayn Swift Wind brought out his best horsey smolder. “Heeey there. Adora’s told me so much about you,” Swift Wind said.

“YOU TALK!” Zayn yelled. She began shaking Adora. “YOUR HORSE TALKS!”

“Madam, I am my own horse.”

It took a bit, but Adora was able to get Zayn to calm down. “Hey, I’m sorry but I have to go,” Adora said.

“Right. I get it. Duty calls,” Zayn responded. Her words were reassuring. Her face was far more dejected though.

“I’ll see you later?” Adora asked.

“Of course,” Zayn answered.

Adora made her way over to Swift Wind and they began to leave. Before getting out the door Swift Wind twisted his neck to look back. “Don’t worry!” He yelled. “I’ll have her back to you in no time!”

“What are you doing?!” Adora said in an aggressive whisper after they left the room.

“Wingmanning for you. You’re welcome!” 

“I don’t need a wingman!”

Swift Wind gave her an accusatory glare. “Um, yeah you do.”

 


 

Catra appreciated the color scheme of the Temple of Shifting Plains. The Crystal Castle was too pink and lavender. Too princessy. This place though, bright beige stone with gray concrete accents. It felt almost normal. The main hall of the Temple of Shifting Plains bared more than a passing resemblance to a cave. A pale yellow haze engulfed the room as light streamed in from openings in the ceiling and mixed with dust. It was large, open; with plenty of stalagmites and stalactites all about. Granted, the stalagmites and stalactites pulsated with a weird blue glow, but other than that, normal! 

Per Entrapta’s instructions, Kyle was slowly extracting rock samples from the stalagmites and bottling them into plastic containers. Each container had a perfectly sized spot in a cushioned crate. Entrapta herself was working furiously on a small computer setup that was hooked up to a tall pedestal in the center of the room. Emily was using her little pincers to remove panels on the walls and run cables from them to Entrapta’s computer.

“Shifting Plains Experiment log, hour 7. Initial findings are so much better than I dared to dream of! The rock structures here are radiating with First Ones energy unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Despite how dangerous and volatile they are…”

“Wait, what?!” Kyle blurted out.

“... If my hypothesis is correct,” Entrapta carried on, seemingly uninterested in acknowledging Kyle, “they could lead to the biggest breakthroughs of my entire life! I’ll need to continue data collecting. Unfortunately the Temple of Shifting Plains has no guide to answer any of my burning questions.”

That was something else Catra liked about this temple. Outside of the generic greeting AI that Entrapta had turned off as soon as they got there, there weren’t any other annoying artificial beings to mess with them. At least, not any that Entrapta could find in her precursory scans of the temple databases.

“The worst thing happened.” Catra snarled. Her and Scorpia were idly wandering around the room together.

“Oh no! What’s wrong Kitty?” Scorpia responded.

Another snarl. “Octavia graduated a perfect class.”

“That sounds great!”

“Nooo! Because now it’s my job to give her a… a…. Commendation ,” Catra hissed.

Scorpia couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. “You’re never going to like her are you?”

“Have you looked at her?”

“It’s what’s on the inside that counts, Kitty.”

Catra flexed her claws out. “DON’T tempt me.”

The two shared a laugh that was interrupted by the sound of a loud beeping.

Entrapta typed at her computer and the beeping cut off. “It has now been a little over an hour. About as long as it took the Best Friend Squad to find us the last time. Taking into account how far we are from Bright Moon, we should expect to see them in 20 or so minutes,” Entrapta stated very matter of factly.

“The Best Friend Squad??” Catra questioned. “Bow came up with that didn’t he.”

“I believe so, yes,” Entrapta responded.

Catra cracked her knuckles together. “Okay, Entrapta, Kyle, two of you keep working. Emily, Scorpia, and I will greet our frie…” Catra trailed off. Scorpia was being too distracting. “Um, Scorp, what are you doing?”

What Scorpia was doing was nervously and repeatedly straightening out her suit. “Is this too wrinkly? Oh, it’s too wrinkly isn’t.” 

The response Catra gave didn’t involve words, only a glaring eye twitch.

“Right, right,” Scorpia nodded. “We need to focus. Got it Kitty!”

“Can we just get into position like we talked about, PLEASE?” Catra barked.

Almost as if on cue, as soon as Catra said that the sound of the ancient stone door began sliding open. Catra sighed, “20 minutes huh?” Entrapta simply shrugged and doubled her typing efforts.

There were no hidden hallways in the Temple of Shifting Plains. No dark corners or forbidden rooms. Nowhere to hide or flee to. Catra had decided as soon as they got there to take a different approach this time. She straightened herself up and folded her arms. Catra had always been slight of build, but as she had to learn over the last year of leading an army of people who wanted to question her, she knew how to project an air that made her seem so much more imposing. Taking the cue, Scorpia concerned herself with looking as professional and intimidating as possible. The robot Emily clanked up behind them.

Adora, already in She-Ra form, marched in followed by with Bow and Glimmer just behind her. The Super Pal Trio Plus Kyle stood directly some hundred yards in front of them. They were on a slightly raised platform in the middle of the room. She-Ra took large strides. Like this she was more confident than Adora ever dreamed of being. Glimmer and Bow were a few feet behind, unable to quite keep up. Glimmer exuded righteous anger, just as she always did around the Horde. Bow however looked mostly pensive, like he wasn’t entirely happy to be doing this.

“Should I pretend to be surprised? Or can we just skip that part?” She-Ra asked as she strode up. She had a slight smile on her face.

“Hey Shero,” Catra sneered. She glanced past She-Ra for a moment. “Hey Bow…. What’s up Gladys.”

It might have been Catra’s imagination but she could have sworn that she could see steam shooting out of Glimmer’s ears. It was delicious.

“GLADYS?!” Glimmer fumed. Despite trying his best not to, and his hand covering his mouth, Bow let out a snicker. Even She-Ra let out a small hum in amusement. Glimmer glared hard at Bow. “That’s it!” She pulled the Staff of Micah from it’s sheath on her back and made a move to charge at the Horde contingent standing just a few feet away.

It was only She-Ra’s speed that stopped her. She shot an arm out just in front of Glimmer, serving as a chiseled barrier. “Don’t let her rattle you Glim, it’s what she wants.”

“Duh,” Catra remarked.

She-Ra turned back to the Horde. She shot a brief look at Entrapta, who had made her way to the group before turning her attention back to the catgirl. “Besides, I was hoping that we might be able to resolve this peacefully.”

Catra scoffed. “Yeah sure, we can do that. All you have to do is turn around and leave.” Catra paused for effect as she narrowed her eyes.

“You’re good at that.”

Even after well over a year, She-Ra still hadn’t found a good way to respond to that sort of barb. Catra had given her plenty of chances to practice at it, but the few quips and snarky retorts that She-Ra had mustered in her mind always seemed to get stuck in her throat on the way out. Jabbing insults back and forth used to bring her such joy. Back when they both laughed at the jokes. Back when they were told while roughhousing in her bunk. Way back then.

Instead of reacting, She-Ra simply swallowed hard. “Catra, you’re not in the Fright Zone, you don’t belong here.”

“Oh I’m SORRY!” Catra began pacing back and forth on the platform, making sweeping arm gestures. Her tail was swishing wildly for added effect. “The misfits left their cage and are roaming the countryside. Lock up your children everyone, they might get eaten!”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” She-Ra huffed. “We’re between a Princess Alliance kingdom and a kingdom that has a peace pact with the Rebellion.”

“Yeah, ‘between’. We’re in unclaimed wilderness. We have every right to be here,” Catra responded.

She-Ra felt a tug on her arm. “Can we just wallop her already?” Glimmer whispered.

Maybe a new tact was necessary. She-Ra turned away from Catra. “Entrapta. I’m sorry but you know I can’t just let you use this to make more weapons for them.

“It’s good to see you again though,” She-Ra added with a smile that was sincere but not quite from a place of happiness.

“I… Who said anything about weapons?” Entrapta asked. “The tech here has so much more potential than just any one thing!” She continued, her voice gaining more confidence as she went. “Yes, weapons are a possibility, that’d be just barely scratching the surface of what I could do with this stuff!”

Catra stepped in front of She-Ra’s line of vision. “How dare you think you can talk past me?”

“I’m just trying to see if we can maybe resolve this with words instead of violence!”

“Yeah, words aren’t working for me anymore,” Catra said as she leapt into the air. Claws fully extended, she slashed down. She-Ra blocked the attack with her sword.

The single act of aggression was all that was needed. Entrapta regrouped with Kyle. “F-Finish with t-that sample, then come help m-me with the data retrieval.”

Kyle grabbed Entrapta’s shoulder and nodded. “Hey, are you okay ‘Trapta?”

Entrapta gave a couple half-hearted nods then made her way back to her computer. As she furiously typed she pulled out a recorder. “Shifting Plains Log, hour 8. Data and sample extraction is almost complete. However… For many years I convinced myself that there would be no one that cared for me, or that I cared for in return. I made peace with that. Then She-Ra returned to Etheria and everything changed.” Entrapta stopped typing and took a deep breath. “There are ten people in my life that have great meaning to me, and seven of them are currently trying to kill each other. Hardly an optimal condition for data collection.”

Across the room Emily was firing at She-Ra with two cannons that jutted out from the top. She-Ra dodged the first three shots, but was caught in the shoulder with the four one. It stung. A lot. To She-Ra’s surprise though there was no bullet wound or laser burn on her shoulder. What Emily had fired was on the ground near She-Ra feet. She picked it up to examine it.

“Rubber?” She-Ra was turning over the thick rubber bullet in her hand. She dropped it when she heard Emily making another whirring sound. She looked up to see another weapon powering up. “Dammit not Agaaaaiiin!” She-Ra yelled as a blast from Emily’s Sonic Wave cannon hit her.

Not far from Emily were Scorpia and Glimmer. Initial attempts to land any blows with the Staff of Micah had proven futile, so they were currently locked into a ballet of dodging sparkle blasts and tail jabs.

“Your sparkle attacks looks really nice,” Scorpia said as she ducked under a couple of the said blasts.

Glimmer teleported to right on top of Scorpia and drove down a sparkle fist. Scorpia threw up a claw to block, although judging from the cracking noise the fist made when making contact, it still hurt. Scorpia swung out her other claw and knocked Glimmer to the side. Glimmer teleported and landed on her feet.

“You’re not going to be able to distract me!” Glimmer cried out, flinging more sparkle blasts.

“Wouldn’t dream of it!” Scorpia quipped as she charged at Glimmer.

Up on the raised platform area were Catra and Bow. The two were trading blows. Catra with her stun mace, Bow using his bow as a melee weapon.

“So Gladys was a success,” Catra said. A mace swing, and a block.

“I’m not going to hear the end of it for laughing at that by the way!” Bow chuckled. A slash from the bow, and blocked.

“Maybe she won’t even remember.”

“HAH! You really need to get to know Glimmer better!”

“Well maybe me and her will go get lost in the jungle for a while.”

“But I want you both to live!” Bow chuckled.

Catra chortled. Another mace swing, that was blocked. During the swing though Catra’s tail shot out and pulled Bow’s foot from under him, sending the archer crashing onto his back. Catra waved the stun mace playfully at him. “I want you to live too.

“Weird feeling isn’t it.” 

 Before they could react the mace was forcefully knocked away from Bow. She-Ra was standing over him, pointing her sword menacingly at Catra.

“What the hell?!” Catra demanded as she recollected her mace. “You dumb battering ram you’re going to get someone hurt like that!”

I’M going to… UGH! I’m just trying to protect my friend, Catra!” She-Ra yelled. She extended her hand to Bow and hoisted him up with ease.

“See, Bow’s fine!” Catra stated, pointing at him.

“All good here!” Bow tried to add.

It didn’t seem She-Ra was quite buying it. “Yeah, because I got here in time!” She-Ra shook her free, non-sword hand, at the catgirl in frustration. “We didn’t have to do this today! I tried to give you an out this time and everything!”

“Oh did you really?!” Catra snapped back. “Don’t tell me that you just came here to talk! You were looking for a fight the moment you walked in all “hulked up” like you always are!” Catra twisted her hands around the shaft of her mace. “I wouldn’t even care, but look at her!” Catra swung a finger in the direction behind her. “Entrapta’s terrified, because of you!” About a dozen yards back Entrapta and Kyle were sitting together leaning against the pedestal she had jacked into. Entrapta’s knees were buried into her chest. Kyle had his arms wrapped around her, and was shaking.

“Hey, I’m not sure how fair that is,” Bow interjected.

“No, she’s right,” She-Ra mumbled. She stared at the runestone in her sword for a moment. Her arm dropped, and the Sword of Protection dangled at her side, gently scraping on the ground. She-Ra changed back into Adora.

Despite every thought of never wanting to show any weakness in front of her, the sight of Adora de-transforming took Catra aback for a moment. At a loss for words, she just stared at Adora, only realizing that she didn’t want to bite her lip in front of her when it was far too late to stop it.

“What?” Adora meekly asked. She suddenly felt as if the was under an intense magnifying glass.

“Oh, um, nothing,” Catra lied. “It’s just, this is the first time I think I’ve seen you in… Well shit, almost a year at this point.”

Something about Catra’s gaze made Adora blush. “What are you talking about? You saw me just a few weeks ago.”

“No, not She-Ra. You,” Catra responded. “And those few seconds when you were knocked out on the floor definitely don’t count.”

… Because I wasn’t able to stare into those eyes of yours then. 

“I’m sorry that we’re upsetting Entrapta. I was trying to avoid fighting specifically because I didn’t want to put Entrapta in the middle of that again,” Adora admitted. “All you had to do was walk away.”

“Are you kidding me?!” Catra scoffed. “You’re unbelievable Adora. Actually no, you’re completely believable.”

“What? What did I say?!”

“You just apologized and then blamed ME in the same breath!”

“I wasn’t saying it was all your fault!”

“Then what were you trying to say, Sword Girl?!”

“Maybe we should all take a deep breath,” Bow tried interjecting. He received two piercing glares in return. “Or not! What do I know?!” Bow slowly backed up. “Hey Glimmer?”

“A little busy Bow!” Glimmer yelled from across the room. Her and Scorpia were still going at it, although it seemed like Glimmer was putting a lot more effort into it than Scorpia was. The Staff of Micah was crackling with sparkle energy. Bow had interrupted her just as she was about to swing, distracting Glimmer just long enough to Scorpia to close the distance. She swatted the staff back up, causing it to shoot a powerful sparkle blast up to the ceiling.

There was a colorful explosion that erupted from mixing Glimmer’s magic with the glowing rocks of the temple. A number of stalactites dislodged and fell. Directly at Bow. It happened so quick. Between instinctively shielding himself when he heard the explosion and the general disorientation of all the sound and smoke and debris, Bow had little time to react to the falling rocks.

Lucky for him that both Catra and Adora had better reflexes. They simultaneously rushed at Bow and shoved him out of the way. Their combined shove sent him flying back a good ten yards.

Just as Bow cleared their touch the stalactites slammed into Adora and Catra. There was a giant explosion of glittering smoke that began swirling in the place where the girls just stood. It was accompanied by a noise that sounded like blustering winds. The sound increased in intensity as the glow at the center of the swirling smoke got brighter and brighter. Then noise abruptly stopped with a pop and the smoke swirled tighter and tighter into itself until it vanished in a matter of seconds.

Dark, blue glittery ash settled onto the floor in the area where Catra and Adora had just been. There was no sign of them anywhere.

“ADORA!” Glimmer screeched and teleported to middle of the ash. She looked at it for a second before she dropped to her knees and began sobbing. “Oh goddesses, what have I done?!”

Scorpia rushed up onto the platform over to Bow, who had been sitting where he landed, unable to do anything but stare at the spot he, then Catra and Adora, had just been.

With two massive red claws tucked under each arm, Bow was hoisted to his feet. “Come on, I got you Buddy Bow,” Scorpia softly said. They made their way over to the ash pile together.

“Glimmer,” Bow called out. She didn’t look up. She was far too busy sobbing into her hands. Bow dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around his best friend. Glimmer was momentarily brought out of her hysteria by an unexpected sensation. She faintly noticed that a claw was softly rubbing up and down her back as Scorpia knelt behind her.

Another sensation interrupted them. Soft purple hair began wrapping itself around and tugging at their chins, causing the trio to look up. Hovering above them was Entrapta, with a look of unbridled joy on her face. “Do not despair!”

Entrapta moved her attention away from the trio and brought it to a tentacle of purple hair that she had wiped through the ash. She gave it a closer look. Rubbed it between her fingers. Sniffed it. Tasted it. Despite not enjoying the tasting part, Entrapta looked exceedingly happy. So happy that she was rapidly clapping her hands together.

“Shifting Plains Experiment log, hour 8, second entry. Friends Catra and Adora were forced into an impromptu testing of the temple’s First Ones magic,” Entrapta began dictating into her recorder. She shook her hands in the air triumphantly. “AND IT WORKED!”

“Wait, ‘Trapta, ” Scorpia said, rising to her feet, “are you saying that Catra and Adora are still alive?”

Suddenly Scorpia was being shaken by purple hair as Entrapta hovered inches away from her face. “YES! That’s exactly what I am saying!”

Bow and Glimmer hopped to their feet. Even Kyle had made his way over, still visibly shaking. Entrapta took the sudden audience as a cue to expand on her statement. “Catra and Adora are definitely alive, but are no longer here. It’s quite exciting actually! My hypothesis is correct! The rocks in this temple have been imbued with First Ones technology that has given them matter dispersion properties-”

“-Entrapta!” Scorpia, Bow, and Glimmer yelled in unison.

The recorder clicked on as Entrapta took a deep breath. “Shifting Plains Experiment log, hour 8, entry three. Endeavor to make at least one intelligent friend.”

“Are you saying they were teleported?” Kyle questioned, only just then reminding most of them that he was there at all.

“Precisely!” Entrapta said.

Bow wrapped his arm around Glimmer’s shoulders. “See Glim, everyone’s okay! We’re not losing any friends today.”

“Where are they then?” Glimmer asked, attempting to pull herself together.

“That, is a good question. That I do not have the answer to,” Entrapta responded.

Scorpia gave Entrapta gentle nudges with her elbow. “Hah, this is definitely the last time Catra’s gonna let us come to one of these temples for sure!”

“Agreed,” Entrapta responded. “I shall attempt to make the most of this trip then! Come Assistant Kyle, we must get back to work”

“Hey ‘Trapta,” Scorpia called out. The purple haired princess spun around. Scorpia began nodding her head at Bow.

“Right!” Entrapta said then scampered off to her work area.

Fully recovered now, Glimmer broke free of Bow’s hug to stand on her own. “Now wait a minute! Just because Adora is currently missing doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly allowed to go back to pillaging this temple!”

The only reply she got was a shrug from Scorpia. Entrapta appeared next to her. They walked over to Bow together. From somewhere in the living mess of Entrapta’s hair emerged a cylindrical package that she handed to Bow.

It took almost no time for Bow to unwrap the package and pull out, “new gadget arrows!”

“Scorpia told me that you needed new ones,” Entrapta smiled.

“Thanks you two!” Bow exclaimed. “Entrapta you should see some of the ones I’ve been working with on my own!”

“I would love to Bow, as soon as I’m finished!”

“Wait, how did Scorpia know you needed new gadget arrows?” Glimmer asked, holding a single finger up.

Bow began frantically biting his lip. “Well, you see,” Bow began rubbing the back of his head with his free hand. “Heheh, kind of a funny story actually.” Bow trailed off. 

The package of arrows fell out of his hands as Bow began wailing. “I’M SO SORRY GLIMMER! I’VE BEEN KEEPING A SECRET FROM YOU! I WAS AFRAID THAT YOU’D GET MAD AT ME BUT YOU SHOULD GET MAD AT ME BECAUSE I’M A TERRIBLE FRIEND!!” 

“Bow what are you talking about?!” Glimmer asked, very confused.

Red pincers gently gripped Bow around his arms. “Hey there Buddy Bow, calm down. Glimmer will forgive you! You were just trying to protect her feelings, right? Breathe. Breeeaathe,” Scorpia encouraged.

“Buddy Bow?” Glimmer’s eyebrow shot up.

A couple deep breaths later Bow was starting to settle down. “Whew, thanks Scorpie Girl, that helps.”

“Scorpie Girl?!”

Bow turned to Glimmer. He was still looking very nervous, sporting a smile that made him seem somehow less confident. At least his breathing was leveled out. “Hey Glim. There’s something I’ve been needing to tell you…”

Glimmer stood glaring at Bow, arms folded, eyes narrowed, foot tapping frantically. “Let me guess; this has something to do with the jungle doesn’t it? You DID go on some kind of grand adventure, didn’t you?!”

“Gulp.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Adora remembered shoving Bow out of harm’s way. She also remembered that for some reason Catra had rushed to help Bow also. There had been a slight jabbing in her back as the stalactite slammed into her. After that everything was glitter and the sound of wind. A similar experience as when Glimmer used her powers, only this glitter was blue instead of pink.

Blue glitter blinked away to reveal white. Adora threw both arms up to brace for impact just before she slammed into the top of the snowy mountain. The wrist of her hand that held the Sword of Protection took the brunt of the impact into the rocky surface. It bent weird and the sword shot out of her grip as she screamed. The rest of her momentum sent her hurtling a few more yards before crashing back down into the snow and sliding to a stop.

“Ouch,” Adora groaned, while rolling onto her back. The sky above her was a dance of various violets and lavender. It was pretty, but not nearly distracting enough to make her forget about all the aches and soreness in her body. Adora attempted to push herself up. Her right wrist gave out as soon as she tried. “OUCH!” She was more careful on the second attempt to sit up.

Just in time to see Catra appear a few yards up in the sky and flop down into a snowdrift. Adora couldn’t help but giggle. Catra had tried to do the cat thing and land on her feet, but the drift wasn’t solid and she sunk right into it. End result was that Catra was lying face down, half buried in the snowdrift when Adora got to her.

There wasn’t much movement from Catra, only the expelling of a long, low groan and a few agitated tail flicks. “Comfy?” Adora giggled.

“Oh I’m doing wonderful ,” Catra sneered. She pushed her face out of the snow. Adora couldn’t help but laugh at the sight: large clumps of snow stuck in Catra’s hair, wedged into her headpiece, packed onto her cheeks. “Well I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself,” Catra commented as she tried wiping away some of the snow.

“Come on, let’s get you out of there,” Adora said as she offered her hand. Catra reached up, and smacked Adora’s hand away. Adora recoiled, but not from pain. It took more effort than she had hoped to climb out of the snowdrift by herself, but it was worth it Catra decided.

A quick shakedown dispelled of most of the snow on her. Catra stretched her arms while staring off into the distance. “Congratulations, you win. I’m never setting foot in another First Ones temple again,” she scoffed.

“I’m not trying to win anything Catra. I’m just trying to do what’s right and protect the people important to me,” Adora said, walking up next to her.

Catra shot a subtle scowl at Adora. “Oh yeah? How’s that working out for you?” 

Adora just sighed.

A moment passed. 

Both Catra and Adora were idly staring off into the distance. It was a sea of snow dusted mountain tips, with most of their mass obscured by fog. The skyline was pink and lavender and a little orange. The navy blue of night was starting to creep in along the edges.

Catra began shifting uneasily on her feet. “Where are we?” she mumbled.

“Hmm,” Adora continued surveying their surroundings. Eventually she let out a gasp. “Oh no. I think we’re on Mount Snows.”

There was nothing subtle about this scowl. “Mount Snows,” Catra grumbled. Adora nodded. “The tallest mountain on Etheria?” Adora nodded again. Catra looked up to the sky and let out a laugh. “Of COURSE! That’s just fantastic!” Catra’s annoyed state suddenly shifted to one of fear. “How are we going to get down from here?!”

“It should be okay.” Adora began scanning the mountain clearing they were standing on near the summit. “I can call Swift Wind to come get us.” Catra was giving Adora another piercing stare. Lucky for Adora her red cheeks could have been easily explained by the cold. “What?”

“First of all, your plan relies on your pegasus to come find us.”

“He’s a winged unicorn.”

“Who cares?!”

“He does! He’s very picky about it.”

Catra’s mouth opened and closed a few times, cancelling the first few drafts of the sentence she wanted to say. “How do you know that your pega-unicorn, is picky?”

Adora shrugged. “He tells me everything that annoys him. Which is a lot actually.”

“Wait,” Catra cocked an eyebrow. “Does your unicorn talk?!” Adora nodded. Catra smacked her head with both hands and drug her fingers down her own face. “How is your life this WEIRD now?!”

It wasn’t a particularly deep statement. Nevertheless it made Adora ponder everything for a brief moment.

“Just lucky I guess,” Adora finally suggested.

“Second of all, why do you ALWAYS have to try to play the hero?!” Catra closed the distance between her and Adora in a flash. “All your solutions are just you doing everything.” She was trying to muster as much anger as she could. Wear and tear of the day was taking its toll, however.

“I’m not trying to be a hero!” Adora huffed. “We are stuck, miles up. It would take weeks to climb down under the best circumstances! And we’re at about the opposite of ‘best’! This is the only plan we have.” Adora’s face softened. “Catra, please. I just want us both to get home safely.”

It wasn’t fair. Catra was actually starting to miss She-Ra. With She-Ra, her hate and angered flowed easily. Everything about the Princess of Power was off-putting to Catra. Adora though, that was a different story. There were no fountains of hate to be found in those eyes. Just the opposite.

Catra let out a little scoffing laugh. “FINE, let’s call your stupid unicorn.”

Without saying anything Adora turned from Catra and began pacing around. “Hmm.” Adora had doubled back to where she had landed. “Well first we have to find my sword.”

“WHAT?!”

“I lost it when I landed,” Adora said, looking over her crash site.

“How hard is it to hold onto your weapon?!” Catra asked, holding up her stun mace and waving it.

“That’s not fair! You landed in a snowdrift. I smacked into a rock.”

“Well why didn’t you try landing on your head, this way nothing valuable would get damaged!” Catra mocked. She walked over to Adora. The cold snow pricked at her feet with each step. It was one of the only times that Catra wished she was wearing boots.

Adora pushed out a half-hearted chuckle. “Sounds like something a smart person would think of.”

“Hmm,” Catra pondered Adora’s response. “Well, you got me there.”

“It couldn’t have gone far. Not like it can get up and walk on it’s own,” Adora said, abruptly changing the subject. “Can you check over there?” Adora asked. She was pointing at a small grouping of loose boulders. Plenty of gaps and crevices for a sword to fall into. Catra groaned again.To Adora’s surprise though, instead of it leading to an argument, Catra hopped up on the rocks and began searching the gaps.

Most of the snow on the summit of Mount Snows was pristine, undisturbed. It made finding the skid the Sword of Protection made pretty easy. Adora called out to Catra, who perked up from between two boulders. The skid went on for a good thirty feet, until…

“Oh no,” Adora whispered to herself. “No no no no no.” Adora dropped to her knees, and looked over the cliff that the skid ended at. There were more flat areas below them, but no sign of the sword.

Catra joined her at the edge. There were no words for a moment as they both stared down the mountain. Nothing needed to be said, Catra knew right away what had happened. She wanted to be angrier. For a brief moment she actually believed Adora would be able to help her. There she was though, kneeling in the snow, useless as she always was. Anger wasn’t flowing however. Mostly, Catra felt tired. Besides, it looked like Adora was busy beating herself up just fine.

First noise to break the silence wasn’t a word, but a long, drawn out sigh from Catra. “Don’t suppose there were any other plans?”

“No. None,” Adora squeaked. She hadn’t moved, eyes still focused on the mountain below them. A flood of words flashed in her mind.

Fool. IDIOT. Don’t lose the sword. It was like my ONE job.

A tapping at Adora’s shoulder pulled her back out from the recesses of her mind. She looked up to see Catra pointing. 

“Over there,” Catra said. “It looks like slope is the most gradual over there. We should be able to get down the next leveled area from there. It couldn't have fallen the whole way down the mountain, Right? We just gotta find it.” Catra began striding, taking as large of steps as possible. Adora followed.

The angle of the slope was probably just fine for someone with sizeable claws that could be dug into the rock. Adora examined her very short, chipped, and generally uncared for nails. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if Adora still had two properly working hands.

Without warning, Catra slapped Adora in the stomach with the back of her hand. “Think you can do it? I know you don’t have claws, but this isn’t too bad, right?” There was a faint grin on Catra’s face.

Suddenly it all felt so familiar to Adora. So comfortable. The goading. The mischievous grin. The naked dare in her words. She knew this Catra. She missed this Catra desperately.

Despite her misgivings, Adora nodded. Catra went headfirst and on all fours, claws keeping her planted where she stepped. Adora started down herself, trying to descend in a slow, controlled slide. For a little while it was going great. The rockface was jagged, plenty of places to grab at and make good footholds of. Adora was attempting to keep up the best she could, despite her circumstances. Every now and again Catra would call back some sort of teasing ridicule about how slow Adora was. She’d fire something back, which usually elicited a condescending snort from Catra.

About two thirds of the way down the rockface smoothed out considerably. The smoothness allowed Catra to pick up her pace. Adora was trying to keep up, but with less places to grab onto it was proving difficult. She tried planting a foot on one of the few footholds still present, but it crumbled as soon as she applied pressure. Instinctually she shot her right hand back up to the jutting rock above her. She remembered too late about her wrist. Sharp pain shot through her arm. Adora recoiled immediately and went tumbling down the mountain side. Her momentum was interrupted briefly. Catra had grabbed her by the arm. Adora’s momentum was too strong though, and they both tumbled the rest of the way down the slope.

Adora crashed and rolled onto the snowy gap in the mountain. A second later Catra slammed on top of her. They both laid there for a moment. Adora on her back, Catra strewn face down across Adora’s stomach.

“I take it gaining phenomenal cosmic power didn’t cure your clumsiness,” Catra mumbled. The catgirl pushed herself up. She stared at Adora, and gave her a smirk. “You okay?”

Just about everything ached. Adora’s wrist was throbbing. It took a minute for her to get her wind back, it had been knocked out by the tumble, and then Catra.

“Check back in a minute,” Adora answered.

For good measure Catra gave her a light bonk on the head. “How about now?”

The expression on Catra’s face wasn’t easy to read. Especially combined with playful violence. There was a time when Adora would have felt supremely confident in their meaning. Now though, she was only able to make a guess, based on what she used to know. She really hoped it was the right one.

A clump of snow flew into the side of Catra’s head, courtesy of Adora’s good hand. She gave the catgirl an innocent smile. Catra returned it with an intense glare.

Little lumps of snow began dripping down the side of Catra’s face as the intensity of her glare grew. Adora was starting to grow panicked. She was sure she had made the wrong guess. Until.

“Oh you are DEAD!” Catra hopped up. With both hands she shoveled a cloud of snow onto Adora’s face. For some reason Adora couldn’t help but giggle as she scrambled to her feet. By the time she was up a snowball puffed into her cheek. Not to be outdone Adora connected a snowball directly on Catra’s shoulder. The force of the explosion sent snow all over her neck and hair.

A good dozen more snowballs found their marks, and dozens more tossed every which way, before they ran out of momentum. 

Once a snow-truce had been established, Adora leaned against a boulder, while Catra stood a few feet away, hands on her knees. Despite the circumstance, and the hate and animosity that had come to define their relationship, they couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably .

Eventually that laughter died, and was replaced by an awkward silence.

Recovering from laughing, and falling, and a day of fighting, Catra forced herself upright. She gave Adora a look over.

“What’s wrong with your arm?” she asked.

Not a question Adora was anticipating. “What? How’d you know?”

“You were throwing with your left the whole time. You’re not left handed.”

“Look at you, Snow Detective,” Adora chuckled. “I hurt it when I crashed into the mountain earlier. And I think I may have made it worse by overusing it on the climb down.”

“And when were you gonna tell me?” Catra growled.

Adora shrunk in the moment. “I, didn’t think it was important.”

Catra scoffed. “Why do you always have to be so damned proud?”

“What? That’s not why I didn’t say anything! Why do you think everything I do has some sort of ulterior motive?”

“Oh I don’t know. Years of evidence?” Catra fired back.

“I just didn’t think you would care,” Adora stated. There was no force in her voice.

“Maybe you’re right, maybe I don’t care,” Catra said. There was no anger in her voice, no malice even. There was no intent in Catra’s statement, just facts. “But I need you alive so you can summon your stupid horse so we can  get out of here.” 

It felt as if giant snake had taken up residence in Adora’s chest. Constricting. Squeezing. There was still flecks of snow on her arm. A moment just past that suddenly felt so far away. Adora dusted the snow off her arm. “We should probably get back to finding the sword then,” was all she could muster to say.

The gap in the mountain they were on led to a path that wound down part of the mountain. They chose the most probable direction and followed it. It wasn’t planned or discussed, but a mutual understanding passed between them to walk for a time in silence.

 


 

Never thought I’d be wishing I was back in the jungle being chased by a giant rhino monster. Instead I get to be stuck on this desolate mountain with the last person I want to see. Or talk to. Or even look at. Adora’s so annoying. With her stupid perfect teeth that sparkle when she smiles. And the dumb way she brushes her hair out of her face when she’s embarrassed. And those dumb little dimples that she gets when she laughs.

The longer they were on Mount Snows, the colder it was getting. Catra could feel it in her bones. In an attempt to keep her mind off of the chill, Catra had started compiling a list of things she clearly hated about Adora. She thought it was going well. 

Catra wrapped her arms around herself, trying to hold in as much heat as possible. Despite her layer of fur, the cold was starting to get to her. What little daylight had reached them up here was withdrawing as dusk rapidly approached. Catra began to shiver as the shadows of the mountain grew.

So focused was Catra on her own thoughts that she hadn’t noticed Adora getting closer to her until she suddenly felt something draped over her shoulders. It startled Catra. She screamed and jumped and yanked what was on her shoulders off and held it up in front of her. Catra gave it an inquisical look.

“Your jacket?” Catra asked, holding the vibrant red thing at arms’ length.

“Sorry, you looked cold,” Adora responded. She was mostly focused in staring at her feet. “I thought it might help warm you up,” she continued. 

“Don’t you need it?”

Adora brushed a few errant strands of hair out of her face. “No, I’m okay.”

“How are you not freezing?” Catra asked.

There was a pause while Adora searched for the best way to word her answer.

“You’re not going to like it if I tell you,” Adora admitted.

It took a few seconds but Catra began to understand what Adora was trying to get at. “Oh, you have to be kidding me!” She sighed.

“Ever since I became She-Ra, I don’t really feel extreme temperatures anymore. Like, I know what’s hot and what’s cold, but it just doesn’t bother me anymore.”

“That’s just not fair,” Catra mused as she slipped her arms into the jacket. Catra fumbled with the zipper, which seemed stuck. “How does this…”

“Here.” Adora was inches in front of Catra. She twisted the zipper slightly and slid it up. “You have to sort of yank it to the side to get it started.” Adora fastened the belts around the jacket with a click. Then she straightened out the collar. She gave Catra a soft smile. “There you go. Feeling warmer?”

Catra adjusted herself in the jacket. “Wow, this thing’s thicker than I thought it’d be.” She stretched her arms in a few directions to test the jacket’s limitations. “Hmm. it’ll do.”

The duo continued on for a bit longer. It was becoming apparent that the sword wasn’t anywhere along this path. The path ended at a ledge that wrapped around the mountain downward. It was just barely wide enough for one person. They made their way down, slowly but surely. Catra kept herself braced to the wall with her claws. Adora followed behind, gripping the wall the best she could.

Descent down the ledge took a while. Winds kicking up weren’t helping either. Cold may not have been a problem, but Adora’s fingers were getting raw from scraping against rock for so long. She had tested using her right hand once or twice, but it was effectively useless for gripping. Despite having a clear advantage, Catra remained just a few steps in front of her. Adora had taken to using the holes that Catra’s claws left as good gripping places.

One set of holes weren’t so good though. Adora dug her fingers into them, but instead of gaining any grip the rock simply crumbled. The lack of something to grab on to caused Adora to stumble forward as one of her feet slid off the ledge. Catra’s hand shot out, grabbing Adora by the bicep. She pushed Adora back against the wall and held her there until Adora was able to regain a grip. Adora stood there for a moment, forehead pressed against the rockface, cursing to herself.

“What’s wrong?” Catra asked, very confused.

Adora weakly chuckled. “I think I rolled my ankle just then.”

Catra guffawed. “They’re gonna change your name to the Princess of Porcelain at this rate.”

“Hah! Seems that way. I guess icy mountains aren’t a good habitat for me.”

“You think they’re any good for me?”

“Haha, no, you like the daylight too much.”

“What?” Catra asked. Her eyes were squinted and peering at Adora, very confused by the proclamation. The Fright Zone didn’t get much in the way of direct daylight. It was mostly just a bright haze filtered through layers of smog. Daylight wasn’t a part of Catra’s existence.

“Oh, um, nothing,” Adora gulped. She gave her foot a test. Definitely did something to it. She turned to Catra, who had finally released her grip. “You should go on without me, I’m just slowing you down.”

“Hmm,” Catra appeared thoughtful for a moment. Her face seemed to be passing through a number of emotions. Anger. Sadness. Annoyed. Anger again. There was a brief smile in there too. It settled on a stern look. “What good would that even do me? I need you to use the sword.”

There was a silence for a moment. “No, you don’t,” Adora admitted. Her voice was soft, hollow. If Catra didn’t have extra impressive hearing abilities it might of been lost under the wind. “When you find it, just hold it up and speak Swift Wind’s name into the runestone. Glimmer did it once when she needed him, and it worked for her. The runestone allows people that are important to me limited access to a few of the sword’s abilities.”

“How do we know it’d even work for me?” Catra asked. She had locked her gaze with Adora, and was refusing to break it.

Adora chuckled again. “It’ll work for you.”

“So that’s it?” Catra asked, her angry face was coming back. “You’d rather just give up than do the obvious thing.”

“What? No I don’t want to give up! But I-”

“-But you’d rather that than ask me for help? Got too much pride to stoop that low Princess?” Catra scoffed.

“No!” Adora barked, anger rising in herself. “I just didn’t want to slow you down anymore! Dammit Catra, not everything I do is some kind of judgment on you! Did you ever think that maybe, maybe it’s about my own stupid hook ups? Just maybe it has nothing to do with whether or not I believe in you?”

“Ask me.”

“...Catra.”

“ASK ME!”

“Will you please help me?!” Adora screamed. She was shaking, doing everything she could to hold herself together. 

Catra glared at her for a second, then shimmied back to her and interlocked her arm with Adora’s. “Brace yourself against me. We move on my word, got it?” Catra asked. Adora gave her a nod. “Okay. 1...2… step. 1...2...step.”

It took another ten minutes before they were able to reach a gap in the mountain. Happy to be back on flat land, both girls collapsed. Adora was the first to move. “This mountain really needs an elevator,” she quipped between breaths.

“Tell Princess Petite to get right on that,” Catra giggled. She climbed back to her feet and made her way over to Adora, who had managed to sit up. “Come on,” she said. Catra looped her arm under Adora’s and helped her to her feet. “Please tell me you see the sword around here,” Catra pleaded, scanning the ground around them.

“No, but I see the next best thing.”

“An actual elevator?”

“HAH! No, silly. Look,” Adora pointed to the mountain wall a couple dozen yards away. “A cave. Let’s face it, it’s just about dark, this wind is biting and the cold’s only going to get worse. The sword’s going to have to wait until morning.”

It took a very deep breath before Catra agreed. They made their way to the cave and crept inside. It was pitch black for a moment, although Catra was able to make out the general shape of the room. Except for a couple piles of rocks that had fallen from places in the ceiling, it seemed empty. Catra pulled out her stun mace and clicked it on. It began to glow blue with electric energy. Adora jumped at the sight of it.

“Relax,” Catra remarked. “I’m just using it as a light.” Catra made a lap around the room while Adora rested against one of the piles of rocks. “Well, good news. Doesn’t seem to be anything here that wants to eat us. Bad news. Nothing here to eat for ourselves.”

“Sorry I didn’t find us one of those fancy four-star caves,” Adora giggled.

Catra walked toward Adora, mace pointed at her. When she was only a couple of feet away the mace powered down. “Here. I can see well enough without it. Stay here. There was some dead shrubbery around. I’m gonna go try to scrounge it up, maybe get a fire going.” Catra didn’t give Adora a chance to protest. As soon as Adora took the mace Catra made her way out of the cave.

Adora let herself slide down to the ground and prop herself up against the rocks. She didn’t know how she felt about Catra doing all the work. Adora was happy to be getting attention from Catra. She was thrilled that they seemed to be getting along; giddy even. There was a part of her that felt tremendously guilty about making Catra do everything though. Not that Catra seemed to mind, shockingly. For some reason the catgirl’s mood had become more agreeable since Adora twisted her ankle and effectively became dead weight. Adora decided it was best not to dwell on her thoughts too much, that’s how unhealthy hopes happen. So she busied herself by giving the stun mace a good look over.

The bounty of withered weeds and wilted shrubs that Catra returned with after about 30 minutes wasn’t huge, but it had been enough to keep a small fire going for about an hour now. To protect them from the cold Catra had used the stun mace to cave in the entryway. That is, after she was able to assure Adora that they’d be able to blast their way free in the morning.

“... And then Entrapta pressed the button and Scorpia went flying clear across the room!” Catra chortled as she tossed a couple more sticks onto the fire.

It took Adora a minute to get control of her laughing. “Poor Scorpia!” she said, wiping a few tears away.

Heat from the fire licked Catra’s arm as she poked and prodded at it with a stick. “Heh, she’s pretty durable. Beside, there was safety padding in the room.”

“Taking precautions? Wow, Entrapta’s come a long way!” Adora snorted.

“Eh, the padding was mostly Kyle’s idea.” Catra tossed the stick she was poking with into the fire.

“Oh, that makes more sense.”

Flickering flames danced for a while. Adora and Catra let their conversation die down as they watched sparks pop and fire devour. It wasn’t a tense silence. For the first time in a long time, it was one of those peaceful moments they used to share often before Adora left.

One more twig went into the fire. “That’s the last of it,” Catra announced.

Adora rested her head against the rocks. “We should probably try to get some rest anyway. Get back out there bright and early.”

“Yeah.”

Catra had been sitting a couple feet from Adora. She pulled her knees under her chin. The fire was mesmerizing. It only held her attention for so much though. There was an idea that kept flickering in Catra’s head. She hated it. She loved it. It was logical. Sound. And the dumbest idea her brain had created in a long time. It was the only thing she wanted to do.

The first attempt to speak was a false start. Instead of words there was just a small croak followed by a coughing fit. Turned out Catra’s mouth was bone dry. She licked her lips to help.

“Hey, Adora?” Catra asked. “Are you asleep yet?”

“Hmm? No, still awake.” Adora was still mostly sitting upright, propped up against the mound of rocks behind her.

“Probably gonna be getting cold in here once the fire is out.” Catra tugged at the coat she was wearing. “Guess it’s not going to be much of a problem for you huh.”

Embers were all that was left of the fire at this point. Adora leaned forward. She could barely see anymore, just the soft outline of Catra in the dim glow. Adora had an idea. She knew it was practical, so there was a chance Catra would go for it. Truth be told though, practicality wasn’t the impetus for the idea.

“Say, do you remember wilderness training?” Adora ventured. She could see the silhouette of Catra’s head perk up. Her ears twitched. “I mean, I’d understand if you don’t want to. But, we can, if you did want t-Oh!” Adora sucked in air hard at the touch. Catra’s hands were pushing Adora’s knees apart. Without saying a word Catra crawled in and flopped into Adora’s lap. Her head nestled against Adora’s chest, her arms draped around Adora’s right arm. Adora gently squeezed her legs back together. Catra’s tail lazily snaked its way around their legs.

“You’re warm,” Catra noted. Her voice was faint, airy.

“Phenomenal cosmic power makes a pretty good internal heater,” Adora said. She got a light laugh in return. Adora’s left hand dug into Catra’s mane of hair, eventually finding the base of her ear. She gently scratched at it. A soft rumble came out of Catra, vibrating them both.

“You remembered,” Catra murmured. Her eyes were heavily lidded. The few embers that still burned danced in the corners of her blurry vision.

“Always,” Adora whispered.

They sat that way for a few minutes, the only sound around them being Catra’s soft, rhythmic purrs.

“Hey, Catra?” Adora breathed after a few more minutes.

Nothing.

Adora arced her neck forward, attempting to move her body as little as possible.

The sight she saw was a catgirl, eyes closed, mouth slightly agape, chest subtly heaving up and down with each subdued breath. Adora smiled.

“Right. You always could fall asleep as soon as your head hit the bed,” Adora grinned.

Another few peaceful moments passed by. Adora’s cheek was pressed against the woman in her arms. Cold may not bother her, but it did dull Adora’s sense of smell. With her nose buried in Catra’s hair though, she was able to take it all in. All the familiarity. All the comfort. Part of Adora was blissfully happy. There was also a tenseness rising in her chest.

A handful of tears dropped onto Catra’s hair. The sleeping catgirl didn’t seem to notice.

“I really messed this all up, didn’t I?” Adora muttered. To Catra. To herself. To the night.

“I don’t know if you’ll ever forgive me… 

“I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself... 

“I don’t know how to fix this...

“But I miss you so much.”

Adora gripped Catra tighter. The last thing Adora thought of as she fell asleep was the feeling of Catra’s breath caressing her arm.

 


 

Pitch blackness engulfed Adora. It was still the middle of the night when she sat up. Her lap was no longer occupied. Adora climbed to her feet, gripping the rocks behind her for leverage.

“Catra?” Adora called out. There was no response. She felt around for the stun mace, trying to remember about how far it was from her when she last saw it. What she found was a small pile of rocks that she tripped over, sending her stumbling into the wall.

Leaning against the wall Adora tried calling out again. “Catra? Where’d you go?”

On cue the fire was rekindled. Catra was kneeling in front of it, stoking it higher. “Right here, dummy.”

“Sorry. I was… I was worried,” Adora admitted.

“It’s fine,” Catra responded, with a giggle.

All Adora could make out in the dim light was her silhouette. Catra stood up and began strolling over. As she closed the distance details began to fill in. Catra was still wearing the red jacket. It was hanging open, belts dangling at the side. It was the only thing she was wearing.

Once Adora realized that Catra was basically naked she gulped. All the blood in her body rushed to her face. Her voice cracked as it involuntarily rose a few octaves. “CATRA?! What are you..?! Where are your…?!”

Catra reached Adora and threw her arms over Adora’s shoulders. Her hands began rubbing the back of Adora’s head, and playing with loose strands of hair at the base of her neck. Instinctively Adora grabbed Catra by the shoulders. “There’s no one else for miles. It’s just us here. What’s there to be afraid of?” Catra smiled.

“I mean, nothing I guess. That is… Wait,” Adora stared at where her hands were gripping Catra. After a few seconds she let out a sigh. “I’m dreaming again.”

“What gave it away?” Catra asked, an amused grin on her face.

Adora confidently squeezed Catra’s shoulder with her right hand. “Besides how unlikely this is? No way my wrist and hand are feeling this much better after a couple hours of sleep.”

Catra tapped Adora on the nose. “Who’s the little snow detective now?” Catra leaned in and began nibbling Adora’s neck.

“No, Catra, this isn’t real,” Adora protested.

“So?” Catra asked. She blinked her mismatched eyes at Adora. “This IS the closest you’re ever going to get to this after all. Why not just enjoy it?”

“I-I don’t know. This feels off,” Adora confessed.

“Oh, what, just because the real me actually nearby for once? You worried that you’re cheating on her, with me? Or is it that you’re cheating on Zayn with me? Or are you cheating on Zayn with her? Or are you cheating on her with Zayn?”

As Catra presented each scenario Adora clutched her head harder. “No! I mean, I don’t know! UGH!” Adora let out a pained grunt.

“It’s not that hard,” Catra said. She pulled her face up to Adora’s. They were inches apart. Adora could feel Catra’s breath tickling her lips. “Stop thinking so much,” Catra whispered.

Adora let go of her head and stared at the catgirl in front of her. She looked real enough right now. She looked gorgeous, teasing everything, but thanks to the jacket and shadows, showing almost nothing. Adora ran her hands up Catra’s arms, thumbs messing a trail in her fur. She leaned in to kiss Catra.

Catra aggressively kissed back. The force pushed Adora hard into the wall. Adora slipped her arms inside the jacket, caressing Catra’s sides before finding her breasts. Her thumbs found Catra’s nipples as she cupped Catra’s perky tits.

There was a sharp tug at Adora’s pants, yanking them and her underwear halfway down her thighs. Giving Catra’s hand just enough room to slide in between Adora’s legs. The contact brought a series of gasps out of Adora. Catra slowly slid her fingers along Adora’s pussy, playfully poking here and there.

“Holy shit, you are so fucking wet!” Catra snorted. “Gross.”

“I’m just, really turned on by you right now,” Adora whimpered.

Catra continued sliding her hand up and down. She pressed down with her thumb, pushing against Adora’s clit. It got a few moans out of her.

“Of course you are. This is excessive though. And messy. Makes you seem that much more desperate,” Catra mused in Adora’s ear. Her fingers began digging around the lips of Adora’s cunt. “Guess I’m in too deep to stop now though.” Catra pushed her index and middle fingers into Adora, who gasped loudly. “Get it, ‘in deep’?”

Adora moaned out a giggle. Catra’s fingers began thrusting in and out of Adora. Fast for a bit.

Slowly for a bit.

A few times all the way down to Catra’s knuckles.

With each thrust Catra’s thumb pushed and prodded at Adora’s swollen clit.

Adora wrapped her arms around Catra’s head, fingers tangling themselves in Catra’s beautiful mane of hair. She chomped down onto Catra’s collarbone to try to quiet herself. It just made her make a series of muffled grunts as she nibbled at Catra.

Pretty soon Adora was enthusiastically rolling her hips in rhythm with the thrusting.

It wasn’t long before Adora began convulsing against the wall, waves of her orgasm crashing through her body. Catra kept herself pressed firmly against Adora, holding her upright.

Once the orgasm passed, Catra gently pulled herself out.

“If we’re not careful you’re gonna flood this whole damn place,” Catra cracked.

A faint, breezy laugh came out of Adora, who was still regaining her bearings. She smiled at Catra as her arms were draped over Catra’s shoulders. “Do you get a turn this time?”

“Heh, not a chance.”

“Please? I want to make you happy.”

“There’s important stuff down here,” Catra said, waving her hand over her groin. “It’s not like messing up a project in science class. You mess up, I’m in for a world of pain!”

“I won’t.”

“You mess everything up. What makes you think this time would suddenly be any different?”

“Because it’s important to me. You’re important to me,” Adora pleaded.

“Aw, you really care for me don’t you,” Catra said, her eyes narrowing.

“Of course I do.”

“Gonna be honest, that’s pretty sad,” Catra stated. She took a step back.

Adora clumsily pulled her pants back up. Her shoulders were drooped. “I… I know you don’t feel that way about me. It’s okay.”

Catra scoffed. “Do you really think anyone could really care about you?”

A few tears rolled down Adora’s cheeks. “I-I don’t know. Maybe. Probably not. I still want to make you happy though.”

Suddenly Catra’s hand was wrapped around Adora’s neck. She could feel claws pressing into her throat. Adora tried to pry the hand off, but the grip was firm.

“You want to make me happy?” Catra growled. “How about you hold onto your dumb sword. Or just don’t get yourself hurt so I don’t have to drag your dumb ass around this fucking mountain. Better yet, don’t get me stuck on this mountain in the first place! Or even better still, how about removing yourself from my life completely! Everything about my life is better without you!”

“Ca...tra…” Adora struggled. She could feel Catra’s claws digging further into her. Adora could feel the moment they began to pierce through her skin.

 


 

Adora shot up. It took a while to calm herself down. Skin was soaked with a cold sweat. Her heart was pounding through her chest. No amount of gasping could help her catch her breath. Her eyes darted around the room erratically, trying to piece everything together, but not focusing on anything enough to really take it in. Her attempts to catch her breath led to a coughing fit. It was disruptive enough to finally start bringing Adora down from her almost frenzied state.

Terrific, even the “good dreams” are starting to go bad now.

It was the first coherent thought Adora was able to stitch together. Slowly details of the world around her began snapping together. Streams of daylight flooded into the cave through little gaps in the pile of rock where the entrance was. The ashy residue from the fire sat a few feet away from her. Also, it seemed Adora was alone.

“Catra?” Adora called out. She got no answer.

Oh no. Did I say something in my sleep? Did I DO something in my sleep?!

Adora clambered to her feet. Her ankle was sore, but better enough to walk normally. Wrist was still in a great deal of pain though.

“Oh no,” Adora whispered.

“Catra!” Adora yelled.

The stun mace was gone. The entryway appeared to be undisturbed. Adora spun around in a panic. That’s when she noticed a tunnel at the back of the cave. It was partially obscured from view by a pillar.

Maybe something terrible happened to Catra. Maybe she decided to abandon Adora. Maybe Adora DID do something in her sleep and she ran away for her own protection. A million other thoughts flooded Adora’s mind as she made her way over to the tunnel.

“CATRA!” Adora desperately yelled down the dark path.

“Hey, Adora!” Catra called back. Blue glow from the stun mace suddenly appeared from around a bend down the path. Catra sauntered her way back toward Adora, smile plastered on her face.

“Morning sleepyhead,” Catra remarked. She poked Adora on the forehead. “Worried I ran off?”

“Just ‘worried’,” Adora said.

Catra smacked her in the shoulder. “Relax, I’m just messing with you!

“Figured I’d check out the rest of the cave while you were getting your beauty sleep.”

Adora smiled at Catra. “Find anything?”

“Actually I did! Come on!” Catra grabbed Adora’s left hand. They scampered together down the passage for a couple minutes. 

When they came to a stop Catra waved the stun baton at a place in the wall. There was a small crack in the base of the wall. Light could be seen on the other side.

“Where’s that light coming from?” Adora wondered.

“Don’t know. But that’s not all, listen carefully.”

Adora pressed the side of her head against the crack. She gasped. “Is that?!” She looked back at Catra, who nodded with a big grin.

“Stand back,” Catra exclaimed. Adora scrambled behind her. The stun mace blasted a hole in the wall. After the smoke cleared a rocky surface could  be seen about a dozen feet below the passage they were standing in. Catra hopped down into it. Adora sat at the edge of the hole then scooted herself off and into Catra’s waiting arms. Catra caught her and slowed her fall so that she landed gracefully.

“Whoa!” Adora exclaimed immediately. Catra turned to see what all the fuss was about.

There was a lake in the mountain. They were in what seemed like a spacious grotto. There was a sizable hole in the ceiling that light was currently pouring in through. Small waterfalls poured in through a few other holes in the ceiling. Around the lake was various foliage. Most of it was just grass and weeds and moss, with a leafy shrub sprinkled here and there. A number of tunnels fed into the room.

The girls ran immediately to the water. After a few cautious test licks they began lapping it up wholeheartedly. The drinking was interrupted by a mild splash fight that only didn’t go on longer because, as Catra put it, “it’s still fucking freezing in here.”

After finally quenching their thirst, they decided to look around. Adora was fascinated by the plant life that was growing, in large part in hopes that something might be edible.

While Adora was busying herself taste testing grass, Catra had noticed a rocky hill that the day moon was beating down on. It made her think about something Adora had mentioned the day before. 

Catra hopped up the hill and just sat there as the light engulfed her face and shoulders. “Shit, that does feel weirdly nice,” she murmured to herself. She didn’t understand. It was just light.

“Whatcha doing?” Adora called out.

It made Catra spring to her feet. “What? Nothing! Just, er, just thought this would be a good vantage point to scout the whole room,” Catra fumbled through. “Yeah, that’s definitely what I’m doing,” she added under her breath.

“See anything?”

“Nothing special.” Something did catch Catra’s ears though. Her ears perked up and began twitching.

Adora’s gaze followed the twitches. “What is it?” she asked.

Catra hopped down from the hill. “Don’t know. Almost. Almost sounds like something walking.” That was when it hit her nose. She took in a few hard sniffs. “Something’s alive down here,” Catra said. All the previous playfulness was replaced by a severe seriousness.

Just as soon as Catra trained her ears in a specific direction a creature emerged from an opening that was a good 30 feet off the ground. It was humanoid in shape, but with an almost bearlike face. The creature stood over 15 feet tall and had thick limbs. It was covered in white fur.

“Yeti!” Adora yelped.

Catra pushed Adora behind her and pulled out her stun mace. “Stay behind me! Maybe we can just slip out without it caring.”

The yeti focused on the girls and let out a thunderous roar. It scaled down the wall to the ground in seconds and barrelled at them, forcing them to dive out of the way.

“Maybe not!” Catra shouted.

The yeti had charged so fast that it had sent itself crashing into the rocky hill. It was quick to shake that off and refocused itself.

Catra didn’t give it time though. As soon as the yeti had regained its balance Catra slammed the stun mace into it, sending a shock blast into the creature. It roared in pain but redoubled its attention to Catra.

Just then a rock slammed into its head. It turned to see Adora standing atop the hill, bad arm cradling rocks, good arm loaded for another throw.

A second rock slamming into its head demanded attention. The yeti turned.

“Hey you shag carpet, don’t walk away!” Catra screamed as she leapt into the air. The stun mace, fully charged cracked into the yeti’s face. The power of the blast sent the yeti to the ground and tossed Catra back. Her cat instincts helped her land on her feet.

Adora slid down the hill and returned to Catra’s side. They cautiously paced around the yeti for a moment.

The yeti let out a grunt and began stirring.

Catra grabbed Adora by the arm. “We have to get out of here!”

“Which way?”

It only took a quick scan for Catra to make a decision. “That one!” She said, pointing across the room. Adora grabbed Catra’s hand and they sprinted across the room together.

The tunnel they chose was poorly lit, but not completely dark thanks to the light from the grotto behind them and more light apparently somewhere in front of them. They raced along the straight path for a couple minutes before it curved and fed into a room. High above them in that room was a tiny opening that allowed a trickle of light in. Off to the left was another tunnel that curved downward at a sharp descent. That tunnel was brightly lit by light bouncing off the dusting of snow on the ground and walls.

Heading down that side tunnel was the obvious choice. Catra could hear the yeti off in distance behind them as it continued to recover. In front of them, the sound of wind. The sharp slope of the tunnel and the snowy surface of the ground slowed their progress.

One of the yeti’s angry roars, despite still being far away, shook the entire mountain.

They came around a bend to the end of the tunnel. It fed out to a small shelf of rock that jutted out of the mountain. Only ways off the shelf was a small ledge that curved back around the mountain or back up the tunnel they had just came out of. The ledge was even thinner than the one they had tackled the day before. Catra cursed at their circumstance.

“Keep going,” Adora stated. Her voice was calm, determined.

Catra knelt near the ledge and felt the footing. “I don’t know if this is going to work,” she remarked. She turned back around, only to realize she was on the jut of rock by herself. “Adora?” She made her way back into the tunnel and caught up with Adora back at the top of the tunnel, at the entrance to the room with the trickle of light.

“What are you doing?!” Catra asked, tugging at Adora’s arm. “We have to go! That thing’s footsteps are getting louder. It’s gonna be here soon.”

Adora gave her a severe stare. “We’re not going to be able to outrun it. You saw how fast it scaled that wall back there.” Adora grabbed Catra by the arm, and gently caressed it. “But you can, if I can distract it long enough.”

“NO! No, I thought we were past this hero shit Adora!” Catra huffed.

“Hmm,” Adora grunted. She let go of Catra and stared at the tunnel where a yeti would appear any moment. “There’s nothing heroic about this, Catra,” she admitted. Adora’s face looked pain, but there was a glint of resolve there too. “This is all I’m good at. I’m not a good leader. Or tactician. I’m not that smart. I’m a terrible friend. But punching things? Being a shield to protect the people I care about? I can do that.”

Catra didn’t want to hear it. She was too busy trying to pull at Adora. “You don’t stand a chance against that thing you idiot!”

Adora spun around and wrapped Catra in a tight hug. “I don’t have to. I just have to buy you enough time,” Adora whispered. She gripped Catra tighter. So tight Catra was sure that she’d be crushed.

As soon as Adora released her hug she gave Catra a good shove, sending her stumbling back into the tunnel. To Catra’s surprise, Adora was holding the stun mace. She was pointing it directly act Catra. “You have to go,” she stated, then tossed the charged stun mace into the air. It smacked into the top of the tunnel entrance and exploded.

“Adora!” Catra screamed, before having to jump back out of the way of the entrance caving in on itself.

Where the tunnel entrance had been was now a solid wall of rock. Adora pressed her hand against the wall and gave a melancholy smile. 

“I love you, Kitten.”

The yeti didn’t give Adora much time for reflection. Within a minute it appeared in the room, announcing itself with a mighty roar, as if it needed to.

Adora turned her attention to it. She grinned at the thing. Adora shook her left arm to loosen it up, and gave her right one a test. Still hurt.

“Alrighty big, ugly, and… You know that’s really all I know about you so let’s just stick with those two. You ready to do this thing?”

 


 

“Adora!” Catra screamed. There was a brilliant flash above her as the stun mace connected with the ceiling. Catra had to jump back to avoid the falling rocks. The tunnel was steep angle. Her jump was awkward, rushed. She wasn’t able to find her footing. Despite her excellent sense of balance, Catra tumbled backwards, and continued tumbling all the way back down to the jut at the end of the tunnel. She slid to a stop on the jut of rock, just beyond the edge of the tunnel. Bright blue sky was all around her. 

The day moon was assaulting. Shining in the sky. Bouncing off the snow below her. Reflecting off the snow on the wall next to her and the mountain side above her. Catra squinted as she stumbled to her feet. “Adora!” Catra screamed again, this time as more a desperate growl.

Before Catra was able to even think, a roar from the yeti rumbled through the entire mountainside. Catra barely had time to see the sheet of snow that dislodged from the mountainside above the tunnel before it came spilling down onto the shelf.

Catra tried to move, but there was little room to maneuver. A wave of snow slammed into her legs, kicking them out from under her. She landed on sliding snow and scrambled as fast as she could. With one last gasp Catra leapt with as much force as possible. She landed half on the ledge that was just to the side of the shelf and began slipping off. Frantically she scratched and dug at the icy ledge, and finally found enough grip to hold her with nothing but her hand and forearms still on the ledge.

Claws firmly planted, Catra dangled there for a moment, huffing to catch her breath.

A scream, so guttural and raw that she was lucky she didn’t dislodge any more snow, bellowed out of her.

“Alright universe! I get it, you fucking hate us! We get it, fucking stop already!” Catra screamed at the top of her lungs. Her head was hung, eyes closed. Winds gently swayed her in place. A tear or two dropped down onto the mountain. “I get it already,” Catra added, under her breath.

After indulging in a moment of self-pity, Catra returned to the task of pulling her up. She raised her head. Just above the ledge she was dangling from was another jut of land. It caught her eyes. Catra let out a weary laugh before steeling herself for the climb up to it.

 


 

The yeti’s swing was so broad it’s claws scraped the ceiling. The giant, white, fluffy hand slammed into the ground where Adora had been standing seconds ago. Adora jumped on the yeti’s arm. Not having thought any further than that, she held on tight as the arm lifted back into the air. Vigorous shaking sent Adora flying into the wall. She was slow to get up, and needed the support of the wall to do so.

“Okay, climbing Mr. Fluff-Fluff maybe wasn’t my best idea,” Adora chuckled.

Claws fully extended, the yeti swung at Adora again. She made a move to dodge it.

The yeti was so preoccupied with Adora that it didn’t notice that behind it a few rocks at the top of the cave in dislodged and fell.

With her best roar, Catra bound out of the newly formed hole and flew through the air, Sword of Protection in hand. The yeti looked up just as Catra jammed the sword into a massive stalactite hanging from the ceiling. The whole stalactite, and surrounding rocks, crumbled off the ceiling and fell onto the yeti.

Catra bounced off the falling rocks and landed gracefully. Her eyes were focused on the yeti, now mostly under a pile of rocks. Finally it seemed the yeti would stay down. Catra cracked a smile.

“See Adora,” Catra began as she turned to locate Adora. “I always said, we’re stronger to…ge...” Catra trailed off when she finally caught sight of Adora. She was lying motionless near the far wall. “Adora!” She bounded across the room, letting go of the sword and dropping to her knees as she reached the still blonde.

“Hey! HEY!” Catra rolled Adora onto her back. She was unconscious. Her breathing was labored. On her stomach was three deep gashes. Blood was pooling under her.

“Nononononono! Adora! ADORA!” Catra reached over and retrieved the sword. She set it on top of Adora’s left arm. Catra grabbed Adora’s right hand and manually wrapped Adora’s fingers around the handle. “Adora, come on, you have to wake up. I found your sword. You have to wake up and use it.” Catra was on her knees next to Adora, gently shaking her shoulder.

“You dummy, you were supposed to hold on until I could get back to you,” Catra said with a hopeful smile. Catra started shaking her harder.

There was a faint stir from Adora. Catra shook even harder. Adora’s head tilted slightly. “Ca…..tra?”

“Adora I found your sword!” Catra exclaimed, wasting no time.

“Y… u... S… posed… to… run…”

“Yeah, well you were supposed to keep all your blood inside you, you dummy,” Catra smiled. Adora went quiet again so Catra returned to shaking her. “Hey, stay with me Adora! The sword’s here, you have to use it to heal yourself!”

Adora’s hand began sliding off the sword. Catra caught it. It twisted and very meagerly gripped Catra’s hand.

“I… sor…ry,” Adora croaked.

“For what? It doesn’t matter right now Adora!” Catra put Adora’s hand back on the sword. “Come on, you have to say the words Adora. Come on. Just say them!”

Catra gripped both of Adora’s shoulders in her hands. “It’s easy Adora, just say them! Come on! Like me, ‘For the honor of Grayskull’. Now you say it.”

Nothing happened so Catra began shaking both shoulders.

“Come on! ‘For the honor of Grayskull’! Just say it!

“‘For the honor of Grayskull’! Say it!” Catra squeaked.

“...Wha…” Adora finally mumbled.

“Adora! Come on! ‘For the honor of Grayskull’!”

“Fo… hon….r,” Adora’s voice cracked. “Fr….hon...r….”

“Please! Adora, you have to stay with me!”

A few clear drops hit and splattered on Adora’s shirt. “Just say the stupid words! Please!”

Catra was trying to press Adora’s hand harder onto the sword. Maybe the grip just needed to be tighter. Maybe she just needed to be pressed against it harder. Catra was pushing on the sword, right at the rune, hoping that maybe Adora would absorb it and be better.

Nothing was happening. Catra leaned in so that her face hovered inches over Adora’s. Tears were raining down onto Adora’s face. It didn’t seem to phase her.

“I know we’re not in a good place anymore. But I can’t lose you Adora, not like this. So just say your damn saying already!” Catra sobbed.

“Come on! ‘For the honor of Grayskull’!”

Still nothing was happening. Catra was trying to control her sobbing, which was just another losing battle she was fighting. Her hand was still resting on the sword. She pressed her forehead against Adora’s.

“You’re not allowed to go somewhere I can’t follow you to,” Catra whispered.

Nothing.

“Please,” Catra begged, completely succumbing to her sobs.

Sounds of sobbing and choking tears echoed throughout the cave.

A cyan colored light flickered in the corner of Catra’s extremely blurry eyesight. At the same time her hand was starting to feel a warming sensation under it. Catra lifted her head. The runestone on the sword was glowing under her hand. Wisps of cyan colored magic danced and darted around Catra’s arm and began circling Adora’s abdomen. Her entire abdomen became engulfed in light. 

Catra couldn’t bring herself to move. Her mouth hung agape at the sight magic wisps floating around them.

Suddenly Adora’s chest arced up as she took in a massive gasp of air. Her eyes flicked open, although they didn’t seem to be looking at anything in particular. Adora’s grip around the sword tightened. She tried to lift it. Catra had to help her steady her arm.

“For… the honor… of GRAYSKULL!” Adora crescendoed.

The force knocked Catra off of Adora. She rose into the air and became engulfed in blinding light.

In the meantime Catra busied herself trying to clean herself up the best she could. She used the jacket’s sleeves to wipe up her face the best as possible.

The light touched back down on the ground as She-Ra emerged, healthy as ever. Catra was already on her feet.

“Well it’s about damn time,” Catra snarked.

She-Ra examined the sword in her hand. “You found it! Thank you Catra!” She suddenly spun around, just remembering that there had been a giant yeti. “Oh,” She-Ra gave a long glance at the pile of rocks. “Did, you stop the yeti?”

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Catra asked, eyebrow cocked.

“Hmm. I was trying to avoid the yeti’s attacks. It didn’t seem to be going great.”

“Yeah, well, the yeti did nick you, but I showed up and defeated it for you, gave you the sword, and now you’re She-Ra.”

She-Ra nodded. “Easy peasy huh?”

Catra scoffed. “Yeah… Easy peasy.”

Something unseen caught She-Ra’s attention. A smile grew on her face. “Did you call Swift Wind already?”

“You said I could! Figured it’d save time.”

She-Ra stared up at the ceiling, at the small hole of light. “Ready to get off this mountain?”

“You have NO idea.”

A blast shot out of the Sword of Protection and hit the ceiling where the hole of light was, making a much bigger hole.

Without giving Catra a chance to protest, She-Ra scooped her up and cradled her. “You might want to hold on,” She-Ra remarked with a big smile. Piecing what was about to happen together, Catra threw her arms around She-Ra. She-Ra bent her knees before pushing off hard, launching them into the air. They shot out of the hole and cleared the mountain completely.

For a few seconds, at the top of the leap’s arc, they seemed just float there. High above the clouds. Above the world. Just them. Blue sky all around. Wisps of glittering gold hair fluttering about. Catra slammed her eyes shut and tightened her arms around She-Ra’s neck. “I got you,” She-Ra whispered.

Just as they began their descent they came to a sudden stop. Catra opened her eyes to see majestic rainbow wings flapping in front of her.

“Hey there!” Swift Wind exclaimed.

“Swift Wind!” She-Ra called back. She gave his mane a playful rub. “You’re a lifesaver, buddy. Literally!”

“All in a day’s work for the hero equine deserve!” Swift Wind beamed.

Catra laughed. “Wow, he really is your pegasus Adora.”

As soon as Catra said it she realized her mistake. Her and She-Ra traded nervous looks.

Swift Wind twisted his head back, eyes squinting. “Excuse me dog lady , what did you say?”

 


 

Around twenty minutes later Swift Wind touched down in a clearing. They were in an uninhabited area that was mostly just grassy plains. It was about two hours north of Bright Moon and a little over an hour east of the Fight Zone.

The girls climbed down off of Swift Wind, who decided to go get a grassy snack, and give them some space. She-Ra immediately transformed. Adora looked down at her shirt. Her entire midsection was exposed. She looked confused. “A nick you said?”

Catra waved it off. “That looks worse than it was.”

There was a silence between them for a moment. Neither were sure what to do next. 

“I’m guessing I’m not a prisoner?” Catra asked.

“What? No, of course not,” Adora responded. “I’m just glad we both got out of there safely.” Catra nodded in agreement. “Hey, Catra,” Adora began. It took her a minute to build up the nerve to continue, but she seemed to have Catra’s attention. 

“I was, I was hoping to apologize. For all the stuff that did, and didn’t, happen while we were growing up.”

Catra shot a hand up. “What did I tell you before? There’s no point. It’s stuff. It happened. What’s it going to change now?”

“Nothing,” Adora admitted. “I just wanted you to know. There’s a lot of stuff I wish I could go back and change.”

“Does that sword magically turn into a time machine now?” Catra asked. Adora shook her head. “Then see, no point.”

Adora sighed. “I know. It’s just, except for the yeti thing, I actually had a lot of fun up there. With you. And me.”

“Yeah. Me too.” Catra turned to glance in the general direction of the Fright Zone. Her face was getting more annoyed. “It could have been like that all the time.” Catra turned back to glare at Adora. “But you made your choices. So now I’m going to go home. And you’re going to go back to that, that glistening tower of decadence.”

There was a huge knot in the pit of Adora’s stomach. It had nothing to do with the already healed yeti nicks. “You’re right,” Adora whispered.

A breeze blew through, rustling grass, rustling hair. Nothing else seemed to move.

“I’m sorry,” Adora said after a moment.

“But...” Catra added.

“But?”

“There’s always a ‘but’,” Catra sneered. “Ya know, ‘but the Horde is evil’, ‘but I can’t watch innocent strangers get hurt’.”

Adora chuckled at Catra’s impression of her.

“No buts. No excuses. I’m just sorry. For everything,” Adora said, covered in an air of melancholy. Swift Wind approached behind her. She gave him a pat on the neck.

The glare on Catra’s face faded. A more cold one replaced it. There was a faint sigh as Catra slid the red jacket off her shoulders. She held it up at Adora.

Adora gave the jacket a long, hard look. “You keep it,” she decided. “It looks better on you,” Adora added with a smile.

Catra pulled the jacket back in and regarded it. Then she held it back out. “What if I don’t want it? What if I’m just going to throw it in the mud? Or better yet,” Catra paused. She flexed the claws on her free hand out. “What if I just want to tear it to shreds?”

Instead of saying anything at first, Adora just closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. She hopped up on Swift Wind’s back. “If you could do me a favor then. Wait until I’m out of view before you do?”

The question seemed to deflate Catra.

Swift Wind prepared to take off. Adora turned to give one last look at Catra. “Take care of yourself,” she said with the faint remnants of a smile. Swift Wing galloped forward and launched into the air. Etheria fell away from them quickly. Adora sat hunched over, staring off into nothing.

“Hey, are you okay?” Swift Wind asked.

It took a moment for Adora to respond. She tried to say yes, but instead all that came out was a sob. Her hands shot to her face. “I’m sorry,” she got out between sobs.

“Hey, hey, it’s alright Adora,” Swift Wind assured her. “Let’s get home.”

 


 

Catra watched as the unicorn carried Adora away. Soon they disappeared in the mid-afternoon sky. Her attention refocused on the jacket in her hand as she held it out at arm’s length. All she wanted to do was close her eyes, so she did.

On Mount Snows her nose had spent its entire time being stuffed up, or draining grossly. During that entire time she could barely smell anything. Down here though, in normal weather, it was finally functioning. She had noticed it almost immediately, and now that Adora was gone it was all the more obvious. She pulled the jacket in, burying her face in it. With all her might she sniffed.

It smelled just like Adora.

Another deep sniff. Catra slipped the jacket back on. She yanked the zipper to the side as she zipped it up. The belts buckled easily into place. Catra played with the collar in her fingers.

Dammit.

The walk back to the Fright Zone was going to be a long one, but at least it would be a warm one too.

 

Chapter Text

Along the far wall of Adora’s room was an alcove with a large, round window and a cushioned bench built into it. Many of Adora’s recent mornings were spent curled up in this reading nook while pouring over tomes of Etherian history, scouring for any scraps of magicat information she could find.

Today, however, it seemed to be a nonstarter. Adora sat there, book in her lap, stack of paper for notes sitting next to her. The book had been on the same page for more than ten minutes now as Adora idly stared out the window. Her mind was bouncing to a million different things all at once, none of which were in the book in front of her.

Swift Wind had gotten Adora back to Bright Moon from her mountain excursion with Catra late yesterday afternoon. Glimmer and Bow were so relieved that they threw her a small, impromptu party. The three of them, Swift Wind, Spinnerella and Netossa, who just happened to be around. Glimmer also just so happened to invite Zayn.

It was a pleasant distraction, for a time. They meant well, Adora knew that. She loved her friends, loved how they wanted to celebrate life at every opportunity. Last night Adora didn’t feel like celebrating though. She stayed as long as she could, but eventually slipped out when the opportunity struck.

Adora had hoped that a good night’s sleep would be the remedy she needed. Sitting there now, propped up against the wall in her reading nook, early morning light streaming in through the window, Adora couldn’t help but laugh at what an unrealistic idea that was. She woke up just as she went to sleep: consumed with images of Catra.

Instead of any clarity, their day together had only made everything harder. Adora had been trying to heed Light Hope’s advice, in her own way. She had been trying to put Catra out of her mind, to not dwell on her. Adora even managed to mostly convince herself that she was studying magicats for purely academic purposes. It hadn’t been an entirely successful endeavour, but she was trying.

Then they spent the night together.

In the year and half since arriving in Bright Moon Adora had become more accustomed to her new life. She no longer needed Glimmer and Bow to have a sleepover every night. Not that they ever complained about doing so. One thing that was probably going to never change though: Adora would wake up a good two hours before Glimmer and Bow. Something she would probably never shake from a childhood of military training. Not that she minded. It often allowed her to get in a light morning workout and still have time to mentally prepare herself for the day.

There was no workout this morning. Adora decided to give herself the extra time to wake up and get ready. It was a big day. Today was the day that the Princess Alliance would finally be allowed an audience with the ruler of Skydancer Kingdom, Princess Embra. Glimmer had been working on this for months now. Skydancer Kingdom was the last still-existing kingdom from the original Princess Alliance that hadn’t yet joined. Rebuilding the Princess Alliance fully to its former glory was a point of pride for Glimmer.

Ever the good friend though, Glimmer had told Adora that she could sit this one out if she needed to, considering everything Adora just went through. A sweet gesture, but Adora was determined to go. This meant the world to Glimmer and besides, any proper pitch to join the Princess Alliance would need She-Ra to be on hand for.

A knock at her door made Adora stir from her spot. “Come in,” she called out as she collected her book and notes into a neat pile.

The door creaked open as Zayn made her way in. “Hey there.”

“Oh, hi Zayn!” Adora responded, somewhat surprised to not see Glimmer. She recovered quickly and patted the spot next to her on the nook bench. Zayn made her way over and sat a couple inches from Adora.

“I didn’t see you leave last night,” Zayn said.

“Sorry. It was nice seeing you there. I was just tired.”

Zayn nodded with acknowledgement. She rubbed the back of her head. “Well, I just wanted to check up on you before you head out for Skydancer today.”

“Thank you, that’s so sweet,” Adora smiled. “I’m fine. Nothing a good night’s sleep couldn’t cure.” Zayn gave her a nervous smile back. Adora took a deep breath and turned toward Zayn. Adora clasped Zayn’s right hand. “Zayn, I have to be honest with you. I’ve enjoyed spending time with you and getting to know you,” Adora began. She had to take another deep breath before continuing.

“I sense a ‘but’ coming,” Zayn said. Her brow furrowing upward.

Adora giggled softly. “See, you’re really smart too.

“I don’t know what I can give you right now,” Adora said.

Zayn nodded slowly. Any remnants of a smile on her face were gone.

They both allowed each other a moment to collect their thoughts.

“Is… Is there someone else?” Zayn eventually ventured.

Adora let out a big sigh. That question. “No… Well, yes?” Zayn tilted her head at the response. Adora decided to try again. “There sort of was, for a time. I just, I’m really not sure I’m over her. And I felt you deserved to know that.”

“Is she over you?”

“Hah!” Adora couldn’t help but guffaw. “Oh yeah. I’m not actually sure if she was ever that into me.”

“Sounds like she was a fool,” Zayn responded. Zayn placed her free hand on Adora’s hands and gently rubbed her thumb along Adora’s knuckles. “We’re having a good time together, right?”

“Of course,” Adora answered.

“So maybe we can just keep having a good time, and see where it goes?” Zayn offered. She had a timid smile on her face as she gave Adora’s hands a squeeze.

Adora shot back a big, soft smile. “I’d like that.”

 


 

Mid-morning haze bathed Catra’s room in greenish yellow. Scorpia was sitting at the edge of Catra’s bed, leaning against the metal footboard. She was occupying herself by reading reports on a portable monitor. Catra was on the bed, blanket pulled over her midsection, snoring loudly.

After a couple minutes one of Catra’s legs wormed its way out of the covers and kicked Scorpia in the side. “Oh! Hey there Kitty, watch out,” Scorpia chuckled.

“Mmmm,” Catra murmured from under the sheets. “Hmmm?” A couple more softer, exploratory, kicks patted against Scorpia’s side. Catra sat up, eyes still mostly lidded, hair at maximum poofiness. “Scorpia?” Catra let out a giant yawn, fully exposing her sharp canines. She scratched her face a couple times before her eyes suddenly popped open. “Scorpia?! What the hell?!” Catra shouted, almost panicked.

Scorpia threw a claw up to wave. “Morning Kitty! I was going to wake you, but you looked too peaceful. You don’t seem to get much sleep nowadays so I didn’t want to interrupt the one time you were.” Scorpia pointed toward the front of Catra’s bed. “Oh, is it because you got a new pillow? Red, bold choice for pillow color, I like it!”

Catra twisted around. She grabbed the balled up mound of red fabric her head had been laying on and hurriedly shoved it under the blanket. “It’s nothing! I was just tired is all. Been a long couple of days, ya know?”

“That makes sense,” Scorpia nodded.

“So, um, why ya lurking in my room?” Catra asked. She sounded annoyed, but a smile suggested otherwise.

“R-right,” Scorpia stuttered. She seemed pensive. Catra placed her hand on Scorpia’s shoulder, causing her to snap back to reality with a jolt.

“Hey, are you okay?” Catra asked, her voice was low, calm.

Scorpia made a few taps on her monitor and handed it to Catra, who scooted to sit at the edge of the bed next to Scorpia. “There’s been reports of unrest in the town of Nitch. I know it’s not something that would normally warrant sending a Force Captain for, but I was hoping that maybe you could assign me to it.”

There wasn’t an immediate response from Catra. She spent some time reading over the file then began typing on the monitor. After a moment she handed the monitor back to Scorpia. Catra stood up and stretched her joints.

The report was updated on Scorpia’s monitor. Under the report title and main information was a new line that read “Assignment Lead: Scorpia, FC. Lead Assistants: Catra, FG; Lonnie, RS; Rogelio, RS.” Seeing it made Scorpia jump to her feet.

“You’re going to come with me?” Scorpia asked. The enthusiasm in her voice was palpable.

Big stretch of her arms. “It seems important to you. So it’s important to me,” Catra answered.

“I didn’t even tell you why yet,” Scorpia chuckled.

“Eh, you can tell me on the way,” Catra responded while stretching out her legs. Without warning Scorpia scooped Catra up into a giant bearhug. “Scorpia!”

“You don’t know how much this means to me, Kitty!” Scorpia professed.

“That’s… Great! Please stop… Crushing me!” Catra huffed.

After another minute Scorpia set Catra down. “Sorry Kitty! I may have gotten a little carried away.”

“No more than usual,” Catra mumbled under her breath. “Why don’t you go let Lonnie and Rogelio know and I’ll meet you down in the skiff bay after I get cleaned up a bit.”

Scorpia gave a Catra a quick salute and rushed out of the room. Catra waited a moment. There was always a chance of Scorpia returning, having forgotten to mention something important. When it seemed unlikely that Scorpia would return, Catra turned attention to her bed, where she  fished the mound of red fabric from under her blankets. She gave it a quick sniff, which brought a smile to her face. Then she neatly folded the red jacket and stuffed it between her mattress and box spring.

 


 

Skydancer Kingdom was known for the majestic mountain range that shot up high into the sky and cut through the center of the kingdom. If one followed the mountains south it would eventually lead to the frosted tips of the Kingdom of Snows. Follow them west and they’d lead one to Mount Candila, a long dormant volcano that sat at the border of Skydancer Kingdom and the Kingdom of Midnight Sands.

Riding Swift Wind allowed the Best Friend Squad to arrive at Skydancer Castle early. Glimmer felt it would be make a good impression. The castle, nestled at the top of the mountains,  was a pristine white, with gold accents and an apparent love of spires and towers. Bright hallways were lined with grey marble floors.

A Skydancer guard escorted the Best Friend Squad into the main meeting hall, a round room high atop the center tower of the castle. There was a giant circular stone table in the center, with  glowing gold chandeliers lighting the room. Multiple glass doors were placed around the room that led out to a balcony that curved around the entire tower.

“Gotta say, I’m pretty impressed,” Bow mused as they made their way to the table. There was a chair at the end of the table that was bigger, more ornate. Glimmer took a seat right next to it. Adora then Bow took the next chairs.

Glimmer shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. Does sitting this close seem too desperate?” All three exchanged looks, and in unison shifted down one chair.

“Heeeeey,” Mermista waved as she entered the room. She took a seat across from Adora. “Could you, like, do me a favor Bow?”

“What’s up?”

“I definitely told Sea Hawk that this was for Princesses only. If you could not tell him you were here that’d be greeeeeat.”

“Oh, uh, sure thing! Does that mean he’s not here?” Bow asked, slight frown on his face.

“UGH no he’s downstairs. Somewhere,” Mermista groaned. She was slumped in her chair, leaning it back as one arm draped over the back of it. It took all of Glimmer’s control not to ask her to sit up.

“Greetings everyone,” Perfuma announced. She had seemingly appeared standing just behind Bow before taking a seat next to him. “Hello Bow. Adora. Glimmer. Mermista.”

Everyone greeted Perfuma. It took Adora a few seconds to realize that she was staring at Perfuma, and quickly averted her gaze. The flower princess had on her cheery demeanor, a trademark for her. Adora had been searching for any sign. This was the first time she’d seen Perfuma since breaking the news about Entrapta to her and everyone else. Adora felt particularly bad about it. Thus far though, Perfuma had shown very little sign that it was truly affecting her.

Frosta, Spinnerella, and Netossa all showed up around the same time. Everyone chatted idly while they waited. After about 10 minutes, a royal servant entered. Everyone instinctively stood up. Except Adora, who was tugged to her feet by Glimmer.

“May I present to you, their royal highness, Princess Embra,” the servant stated. Everyone was staring at the doorway that the servant was standing in front of. So focused was everyone that when there was a loud bang it made them all jump. Adora jumped so hard she knocked her seat over. It came from the large, ornate chair at the table. The bang erupted into a small explosion of fire and smoke. The smoke dissipated to reveal Embra standing on the chair, hands planted confidently on their hips, huge grin on their face.

“HAH! Wow, I really wasn’t sure you’d fall for that!” Embra said as they hopped down from the chair. They were we wearing a mustard yellow sleeveless top with crimson trim and black accent panels. Their pants were black with more crimson trim. One of Embra’s most prominent features was their golden iris eyes, which appeared striking against their dark skin. Their jet black hair with gold highlights was collected into a tight ponytail, save for a few strands that framed their face.

The entire room bowed to Embra, who seemed more uncomfortable by the gesture than anything else.

“Princess Embra, it’s an honor,” Glimmer said, coming out of her bow. She extended to a hand out.

Embra took Glimmer’s hand and kissed it. “A pleasure. You must be Glimmer! I’ve loved getting to know you through our letter correspondence. It’s so great to finally meet you!” Embra took a look around the room. “All of you in fact!” Embra as positively beaming. “This is so exciting! Come, let’s have a seat and get to work.”

The entire room took Embra’s advice. Once everyone was comfortable at the table, Glimmer, who had taken a minute to recover from Embra’s gesture, clearly wanted to drive the meeting. “Thank you for finally agreeing to see us, your majesty.”

“Please, just Embra!” they said, waving. “So before we get started, I feel like I kind of know Glimmer, but I don’t know most of you. I know, our fault. So let’s change that right now.”

One by one, they went around the table introducing themselves. Embra seemed a little perplexed at meeting Adora, the legendary She-Ra. Gray pants, plain white long sleeve shirt and a tight ponytail wasn’t exactly living up to the “legendary” part. Mermista kept her intro short, which was very on-brand for her. Perfuma, still as cheery as ever, also kept hers short, which seemed a little more odd. Embra took their time getting to know each princess. They opened up much more to Adora once she had informed them that this wasn’t her She-Ra form.

“I must ask,” Glimmer interjected after the introductory round table, “Embra, Skydancer been reclusive and insistent on not getting involved in the war for years. What’s changed?”

Embra clasped their hands together and contemplated the question. “Well, the emergence of She-Ra was compelling. Truth be told though, it all has to do that new Force General that took over the Horde last year. What’s her name? Kit? Cata? Catter?”

“Catra!” Adora squeaked. It came out too fast. Too obvious. Adora was terrified that it had sounded way too defensive. Unseen by most, both Bow and Glimmer gave Adora gentle pats on her knees as she tried to slump in her chair.

“Yeah, her,” Embra said, seemingly indifferent or unaware of Adora’s Etheria shattering embarrassment. “The only things that insulate us from the Horde are the Kingdom of Midnight Sands to the west, and the vast wildlands south of us. Since she took over, the Horde have made a peace treaty with Midnight Sands and they’ve pushed their borders miles into the wildlands. I fear for my kingdom. I also fear that with their treaty with Midnight Sands, Mount Candila has become vulnerable.”

“The volcano to the north?” Frosta asked. “What on Etheria would the Horde want with a volcano that hasn’t gone off for centuries?”

“Power,” Embra responded. “Their previous Force General, Shadow Weaver, tried many times to get to Mount Candila. We’ve always been able to stop their attempts. But now, they’re closer than ever. I don’t know how much longer we can keep them at bay.”

Embra stood up. They held both hands up. After a couple seconds their hands were engulfed in flames that danced around their forearms. “As possessors of the Flame Brand runestone, my family has been charged with protecting Mount Candila and the power that is housed there. Namely, the Radiant Core runestone.”

“The what core?” Perfuma asked.

“Ugh, it SOUNDS annoying,” Mermista added.

The words perked Adora up. She wasn’t sure why. It sounded familiar. She was sure that she had never heard it before though.

“The Radiant Core,” Embra continued. “The most powerful runestone, most powerful anything, on all of Etheria. Legends says,” Embra turned to stare directly at Adora, “that only She-Ra can wield it, but only when they need it the most.”

Adora nervously laughed. “Need it the most? Well that’s vague.”

“Hey,” Embra shrugged, “I don’t make the legends, I just learn them.”

Glimmer got up to match Embra, who was still standing. “You need our help to ensure the Radiant Core is protected.”

Embra frowned. “I’m sorry. I know it’s selfish. You’ve been fighting and sticking your necks out for Etheria while we sat up here, cloistered from the world.”

“Hey,” it’s alright,” Glimmer said, placing her hand on Embra’s shoulder. “You were doing what you thought was best for your people.”

“But now I’m ready to fight alongside you, if you’ll have me,” Embra said. They regarded Glimmer’s hand on their shoulder and smiled.

Still sitting at the table, Bow leaned over slightly and whispered into Adora’s ear. “Heh, you see what’s happening here?”

“Yeah,” Adora answered back. “Glimmer’s closing another deal. She’s a super-pro at it.”

Bow snorted. “Yeah, that’s definitely what’s happening.”

Adora gave a longer, more meaningful stare. “Ooooh,” she mouthed. They both giggled.

“What does everyone say?” Glimmer asked the table.

Frosta stood and walked up to Embra. She gave the fire princess a look over. There was a silent pause for a moment while everyone regarded the idea. Finally Frosta shot a hand out. “Welcome to the Alliance,” she said.

Mostly everyone gathered around Embra to shake their hand or pat them on the back. “Thanks everyone!” Embra said. “But okay, okay, I need to see it!” Everyone looked confused until Embra pointed directly at Adora, who had been lingering behind everyone else. “I need to see She-Ra!”

“Oh, um, sure,” Adora said. She picked the sword up from the floor next to where she had been sitting and backed up to a more empty part of the room. Embra’s face couldn’t contain their excitement. Even after all this time, Glimmer couldn’t hold in her excitement either.

Adora raised the sword, making sure not to poke any of the chandeliers that were hanging about. “FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL!” Adora became engulfed in brilliant light. Swirls of color spun around her before the light vanished in a cloud of sparkles. She-Ra emerged, smiling, sword slung over her shoulder.

Embra squealed. “Oh my goddesses! You look amazing!”

“Er, thank you,” She-Ra said, slightly blushing.

“So, are you like, really super strong? Can I see it?” Embra asked.

She-Ra looked around then focused on the table. She walked up to it and put her hand on Perfuma’s shoulder. Perfuma had remained seated the entire time, electing to lay back from the festivities. “Hey,” She-Ra said to her in a low, calm tone, “you’re probably going to want to move ‘Fuma.” She-Ra looked back at Embra, “is the table valuable?” 

“Not really, it is solid stone though. It weighs well over a thousand pou-OH MY GODDESSES!” Embra lost track of their sentence at the sight of She-Ra one handing the table over their head.

“Pretty great huh!” Glimmer said while elbowing Embra in the arm.

“I’m so glad I’m on your side,” Embra whispered, staring intently at She-Ra. “I can’t wait until you get your hands on that catgirl!” Embra called out.

The statement almost made She-Ra drop the table as she had a choking coughing fit. “What?!”

“You know, to teach her a lesson!”

“Yes! Right! That, that makes sense.” She-Ra carefully put the table down and transformed back to Adora. “Yeah, teach her a lesson,” Adora mumbled.

 


 

Over the following hour the Princess Alliance meeting had devolved more into a social gathering, with everyone wanting to get to know Embra, and also catch up with each other. 

There was a part of Adora that loved spending time with the Alliance. It gave her a sense of family comparable to her old squad in the Horde. Adora was quite fond of Embra, although not as fond of them as Glimmer seemed to be. Adora was not feeling overly social today. Twenty four hours ago she was standing in a field, trying to rebuild some sort of relationship with Catra, and failing miserably.

While everyone had been busy chatting, Adora slipped out of the room and onto the balcony that wrapped around the tower. Benches and potted plants were placed strategically. Adora made her way around to face the northern part of the kingdom, that fed into the ocean. She leaned against the stone barrier and watched as birds played off in the distance. It was so peaceful up here, she could see why they were reluctant to be drug into the war.

“Oh, hello Adora,” Perfuma said as she came around the bend. Adora jumped up and greeted her back. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were out here. I can leave you alone,” Perfuma sighed. She turned around to head back.

“No, wait,” Adora called out. She made her way to the closest bench and plopped down. “Let’s hang out,” Adora said patting the bench next to her.

Perfuma contemplated it long and hard before finally coming over to sit next to Adora.

The two sat there in an awkward silence for a couple minutes. Adora tried to act casually, which looked utterly awkward and stiff.

“Not feeling very social either?” Adora ventured.

“I wished to take in the view from up here. It’s very pretty,” Perfuma answered. She was staring off into the distance, seemingly determined to not look at Adora.

“How are you doing?” Adora finally worked up the nerve to ask.

“I am well, thank you for asking,” Perfuma mumbled. She finally turned to Adora at the touch of Adora’s hand on her shoulder. Adora’s smile was warm, inviting.

“For real though, how are you doing Perfuma?” Adora asked a second time. From Adora’s tone, mannerisms, there was a deeper question being conveyed.

From the way Perfuma scrunched up her face, forced her eyes closed, let out a gentle sigh, she understood what Adora was asking. She stared down at her knees for a moment. Adora let go of her shoulder, but shuffled a little closer.

“I’m supposed to hate her now, correct?” Perfuma murmured.

“What?”

Perfuma drew in a deep breath. “It’s… nothing.”

“No, no, it’s not. You’re talking about Entrapta, right?”

“We’re the good side, the Horde is bad. I do not understand why she would want to stay,” Perfuma said.

Adora took a couple seconds to collect her thoughts. “I’ve begun to realize that nothing is ever that black and white.”

“But the Horde is evil,” Perfuma protested.

“Yes, ‘the Horde’ is evil, but most people aren’t. Most people are just that, people, constantly dealing and adjusting to the situations life puts them in. I know the people that are around her. If you get on her good side, Catra can be quite charming. And despite how fierce she looks, I don’t think there’s an actual unfriendly bone in Scorpia’s body. She’s surrounded by people who care about her. AND computers and robots and all kinds of machinery. Honestly I’m not surprised she’s thriving in the Fright Zone.”

“There are people here who…” Perfuma started. She trailed off before laughing. “I am so stupid. I barely got to know her. The last time I saw her she was so infuriatingly… HER.”

Adora chuckled. “You kind of want to strangle her and hug her at the same time, right?”

“Yes actually,” Perfuma laughed. As quickly as the laugh came it died as her face dipped back into a big frown.

“Am I a traitor?”

“What?!” Adora gasped. “No, of course you aren’t!”

“She made her choice. I know I should just let her go. I shouldn’t think of her as anything but an enemy now.” Perfuma looked up at Adora, tears were welling up under her eyes. “But I can’t. I can’t stop thinking about her.”

“It’s okay.” Adora scooted closer and wrapped her arm around Perfuma’s shoulders. “As someone who made a choice to leave everything they knew behind, I can promise you, she’s thought about you too.”

The simple statement made Perfuma grab the hand on her shoulder and give it an appreciative squeeze. “I forget sometimes that you grew up in the Horde.”

“It gives me a unique perspective. I understand your conflict Perfuma, but I promise you, that doesn’t make you a traitor. Anymore than I am. You’re not alone in this.”

Perfuma turned to Adora, a look of confusion on her face. Adora gulped. “Can I tell you a secret?” Perfuma nodded. “So, I didn’t just know Catra when I was still in the Horde. I met her when I was like 6 years old. And from then on until the day I defected we were inseparable.”

“She was your best friend?”

“She was. She was my whole world,” Adora paused as it became visible that lots of blood was rushing to her face. “More than that though. From even before I truly understood what love was, I understood that I felt that way about her.”

There was a small gasp from Perfuma as she patted Adora’s knee. “You were in love with her?!”

“That’s just it, it’s not that I was in love with her, I am in love with her.” Adora sat up straight and took a deep breath. “Wow, that’s, I think that’s actually the first time I’ve ever told that to another living person.”

“Think?”

“Yeah, well, when you grow up with an evil sorceress that likes to wipe minds you tend to question parts of your memories.”

Adore pushed herself off the bench and went to lean over the barrier again. She stared off into the distance. “We’re not traitors ‘Fuma.”

Perfuma made her way over to Adora. She looked a little melancholy. “You love her, and it still wasn’t enough for her to follow you?”

“Hah,” Adora chuckled. “I never told Catra how I really felt about her. I was just so happy that she was my friend. You’re the only person that knows.” Adora thought about it for a moment and smiled. “Well, actually… It’s kind of poetic really. You and Entrapta are the only people that know.”

Hearing Entrapta’s name made Perfuma blush. “How does she know?”

“When I ran into her at the Crystal Castle. It’s a long story.”

There was a brief moment of silence before Perfuma wrapped her arms around Adora, drawing her into a tight hug. “You have no idea what it means to me, knowing that there’s someone I can confide in,” Perfuma whispered.

The hug lasted for a good minute before separating. “I wish I could be more helpful, but I can be a sympathetic ear.”

“That’s helpful enough,” Perfuma chuckled.

“Maybe,” Adora responded. “Not like I have much good advice to give.”

“I’m sure that is not true. How have you been dealing with it? That would probably be very helpful to know.”

“That’s just it, I’m barely dealing with it,” Adora admitted. “Light Hope told me that I need to let go. And I’ve been trying my hardest just to put her out of my mind completely, but it’s been so hard.”

Perfuma stroked her chin. “Light Hope, told you to just forget about her?” Perfuma asked. Adora nodded. “Have you thought about, maybe, doing the complete opposite?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, far be it from me to question a custodian of ancient knowledge and wisdom, but that does not seem like the healthiest way to deal with one’s feelings. True, you can’t control how Catra feels about you, but that doesn’t mean you can just not feel the way you feel. You’ve spent all this energy on trying to shove your feelings into a box, as if that’s going to solve anything.”

“I can’t even keep them in that box,” Adora admitted.

“Of course not.” Perfuma held Adora by her arms. “Adora, the only way you’re going to be able to process your feelings, is to let yourself feel them,” Perfuma said with a soft smile. She flicked her wrist. A pink flower bloomed in Adora’s hair. “If you love her-”

“-then I need to let myself actually be in love with her.”

“Yes, precisely,” Perfuma giggled.

Adora shrugged, but Perfuma maintained her grip. “What does that even look like?” Adora wondered.

“How do you want it to look?”

It took Adora a moment of hard thinking, but soon she settled on, “I need her to know that she’s important to me. Show her that I understand how great she is. I failed her, growing up. I made her feel inferior, which was never my intention.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Perfuma said.

“What about you?”

“I… I just wish to see her again,” Perfuma answered. “Maybe it was all in my head and there’s nothing there. I need to know if what I’m holding onto is real, or just something I created after the fact.”

“That seems pretty doable,” Adora assured her.

“You really think so?”

“Definitely.”

“There you two are!” Glimmer interrupted. Adora and Perfuma turned to see Glimmer standing a few yards away. “I’ve been looking all over for you! Embra wants to give us a tour of their kingdom.” Glimmer made her way over to them and grabbed their arms. “Let’s go. Beats just moping around here all day, that’s for sure!”

 


 

Nitch was about 90 minutes to the southwest of the Fright Zone. It was a robust town of over a thousand people. There were extensive farmlands surrounding the town, but it was also known for its it’s blacksmithing and carpentry. Many of the melee weapons that were in Horde rotation had come from Nitch.

The skiff slid to a stop just at the edge of town. Even at the outskirts of Nitch a loud commotion could be heard wafting through the streets.

Catra, who was driving the skiff, went through the landing procedures then turned around confidently. Sitting behind her on the long bench against the back wall was Scorpia, with Rogelio and Lonnie on either side of her. All three were buckled in. Lonnie and Rogelio were both tightly hugging Scorpia. There were grimaces on everyone’s face but Catra’s.

“What?” Catra asked, noticing the pained looks.

Scorpia held up her mini-monitor then looked at Catra. “Kitty, Nitch is supposed to be a 90 minute trek.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s been 74 minutes!” Scorpia cried.

“What can I say, I’m efficient!” Catra scoffed. “If skiffs weren’t meant to go that fast they wouldn’t make them able to!”

“Yo that’s not how driving works!” Lonnie yelled as she unbuckled herself.

The four of them climbed down and huddled.

“Okay,” Scorpia said. “As you may know, Nitch has been the Horde’s primary supplier of bladed weapons for, well yeesh, decades. But recently order requests have dropped sharply.”

Both Catra and Lonnie snickered. It took Scorpia, who hadn’t intended the pun, a minute to figure out what they were laughing at before joining in herself.

“That makes sense,” Catra stated as she pulled herself together. “The recent acquisition of the town of Rosewood probably cut into it,” Catra snickered at her own joke. “But seriously, Rosewood was a good get for us. They make good swords, and now they make good swords for US and not the Rebellion.”

Scorpia nodded in agreement. “Yep. But that leaves a town whose economy has always depended on producing weapons suddenly tossed into turmoil. There’s been daily protests outside the town’s Horde outpost by workers who suddenly don’t have any work. And what’s more, the town’s mayor, a man named Mattis, is fully supporting the protesters and refusing to let the local law enforcement step in, leaving the outpost guards on their own.”

Lonnie pulled her stun baton out and powered it on. “Which is why we’re here! To go bash some skulls and break up that protest line.”

“No no!” Scorpia hurriedly assured them. Lonnie and Rogelio seemed very confused. Catra raised an eyebrow but simply stood there with her arms folded. With a perplexed, but attentive audience, Scorpia pressed on. “I know it’s not our usual tactic, but instead of just outright quelling the protests, we’re going to go talk to the Mayor first. See if we can come to some sort of peaceful resolution.”

“What?!” Lonnie looked exasperated. “Scorp, what the hell kind of PRINCESS shit is that?”

“Um, I am a princess you know.”

“Yeah, but you’re usually like, a ‘cool’ princess, not a ‘princess’ princess,” Lonnie balked.

“Well, I’m in charge of this mission, and I’m saying that we’re going to try to negotiate a peaceful resolution.”

Lonnie spun around to stare Catra. “Boss, are we seriously gonna do this?”

Catra glanced at Scorpia, then back at Lonnie and shrugged. “What? This is Scorpia’s mission, we do what she says.”

 


 

Nitch Town Hall was a proper sounding name for the building, but not a very accurate one. Nitch Town Shack would have been much more apt. A completely wooden structure with painted white walls that were chipped in some places and stained with years of mold in other places. The inside wasn’t that any more impressive. Grimy linoleum tile floor and brown lacquered wooden walls in every room but the mayor’s office; a dingy little box with hardwood floors.

Scorpia’s squad was waiting for said mayor. Lonnie was agitatedly pacing along a tight path. Rogelio was plopped down in a sticky cushioned chair that was butted up against the wall. Every once in a while he’d say something to Lonnie to get her to calm down, which only earned him more glares. Catra was leaning against the wall with her arms folded. Her face was cool, expressionless, and intently staring at Scorpia, who was standing just in front of the mayor’s desk. Scorpia’s arms were folded over her chest and she kept tapping her own chin with a claw. Periodically she’d mumbled something so low that not even Catra could hear.

“Sorry to keep you all wai…” Mayor Mattis said, standing in the doorway. Mattis was a tall, slender man with a build that suggested he was no stranger to manual labor. He had short, scruffy black hair and lightly tanned skin to go with a face that was pleasant to look at. His sentence trailed off at the sight of the squad. “...Scorpie?”

The pet name made Catra’s ears perk up. Scorpia cleared her throat and straightened up her posture. “Hey Mattis.”

Mattis looked over Scorpia for a second before his shoulders drooped. “You’re the Horde representative aren’t you,” Mattis put together. Scorpia nodded. Mattis looked around the room and jumped slightly at the sight of Catra. “And the Force General? Oh boy, this is going to be bad, isn’t it?”

“With any luck no, actually,” Scorpia said. “I was hoping we could find a solution that got everyone back to work. Without violence.” Scorpia took a seat in front of the desk. Mattis closed the door behind him and made his way to his desk.

“Does the Force General of the Horde always come to negotiate small town business?” Mattis tittered.

Catra pushed herself off the wall. She gave both Scorpia and Mattis long, hard stares before making her way over and draping herself across the chair next to Scorpia. “Well, ya know, we’re trying something new, and I’m just here to show that you can trust Scorpia here,” Catra said. Scorpia shot her an appreciative glance.

“Of course I trust Scorpia,” Mattis smiled.

“What do you say we get to work then!” Scorpia beamed.

 


 

The lengthy tour of Skydancer Kingdom lasted over four hours. From the majestic halls of Skydancer Castle to the Skydepths, a massive and impressive network of mines that yielded all the ore Skydancer could ever need and then some, Embra had been eager to show their new friends all the sights their kingdom had to offer. 

Last stop on the tour was the Market Square, a massive market and trading area in the lower ward of Skydancer Castle.  Embra left their companions to explore the market, everyone having agreed to meet back at the castle proper for a dinner feast. Everyone began scattering. Sea Hawk, having joined the group for the tour, convinced Bow to get in a quick visit to the northern shore before the feast. Perfuma, noticeably peppier, convinced Mermista and Frosta to go with her to the gardens at the edge of the market.

Adora, Glimmer, Netossa and Spinnerella took in the market together. They enjoyed visiting a number of jewelry and craft stalls where Netossa and Spinnerella purchased matching earrings. After some time wandering around Adora’s eye caught a shop off in a corner. She made her way over to it and went in.

“Why are we here?” Glimmer asked. It startled Adora, who had assumed no one else would be interested in the shop. To her surprise, Glimmer, Netossa, and Spinnerella were all there in the shop with her.

“This place is cute,” Spinnerella remarked as she glanced over a table stacked with pre-bound blank books. She picked up one of the blank books and held it up to Netossa and giggled.

Netossa ran a finger along the length of Spinnerella’s chin. “We could start a love journal,” Netossa asserted.

“Darling, there’s over 50 pages in this, I don’t know how many times I can write your name before I run out of writing styles,” Spinnerella fired back.

Adora and Glimmer left the couple to quip over love journals.

“You know, if you want a journal we have royal makers that can just make you one,” Glimmer argued.

“Thanks Glim, but I think I’d rather just pick one out here than commission something from the royal staff. This feels more, intimate,” Adora mused.

Glimmer gave her a sly grin, “Looking for something more intimate huh? Are you starting a diary? Is it all going to be about Zayn?” Glimmer was enthusiastically prodding Adora with her shoulder.

“What? Oh, no!” Adora responded, blushing profusely. “It’s going to be more of a journal for… Making notes about Etherian history! Yes. That.”

There was a big sigh from Glimmer. “History again?!”

“There’s so much I didn’t learn growing up. So much about Etheria that I still don’t know. How can I be the hero of Etheria if I don’t really understand it?”

“I guess that makes sense,” Glimmer begrudgingly conceded. She began perusing through the tables of blank journals, decorative writing paper, pens, quills, and many other items.

Finally alone, Adora began looking through the journals herself. Narrowing the choices down to three, she continued looking around while trying to decide.

“Oh wow!” Adora gasped as she got to a table near the back. The item that caught her eye was a sketchbook set that included a high quality sketchbook as well as a full assortment of colored pencils and graphite pencils. All the pencils were collected neatly in a pouch that clipped to sketchbook. Adora picked it up and gave it a thorough examination. “This is great,” Adora mused to herself before tucking the bundle under her arm with the journals.

 


 

Throughout the day Catra had felt compelled to allow Scorpia a long leash. Scorpia deciding they should stay for this was the first time Catra had a tinge of regret about it. It was just after dusk. This far away from the Fright Zone meant that the sky was actually mostly dark, save for the light glow from the town center of Nitch.

What Scorpia had decided they should stay for was an impromptu bonfire and celebration in the town square. Afternoon negotiations had led to late afternoon success, which paved the way to this dusk celebration of said success. The protests had ended, and the workers of Nitch would be returning to work tomorrow, with new commitments and new revenue streams besides just weapon crafting.

As a symbolic gesture, a bonfire was built so that some of the workers used to burn their protests signs. People with musical instruments showed up, seemingly summoned by a fireside gathering, and soon food and drinks were involved. Scorpia was spending time with Mattis, talking to him and mingling with the townsfolk. Even Lonnie and Rogelio, although disappointed initially by not getting a chance to use their stun batons at all, seemed to be enjoying themselves, especially when food started arriving.

For the first time since, she lost track of since when, Catra hadn’t been the center of Scorpia’s universe, and Catra didn’t know how to feel about it. Catra didn’t know how to feel about a lot of what the day, and now night, had brought.

Catra couldn’t help but watch the people dancing in the street around a makeshift fire to music being played by unplanned jam bands and think of just how surreal, how “princessy” it all seemed. Catra was hanging back leaning against a cart across the square from the celebration, lazily sipping at some sort of fizzy drink that she had been handed by a stranger.

“Kitty!” Scorpia called out as she suddenly appeared in the side of Catra’s vision. Before Catra could react she was in a hug, and fighting desperately to keep from spilling her drink. Scorpia eventually let Catra out of the hug. They both leaned against the cart. “Why aren’t you celebrating?”

At first Catra simply responded with a low hum. She was staring intently at the celebration. “I… don’t know how,” Catra confessed. “I’ve never seen anything like this in the Fright Zone. I didn’t know this could exist in the Horde.”

“Haha, what, celebrations?”

“Joy,” Catra whispered.

“Joy can exist anywhere, Kitty. You just have to know where to look for it,” Scorpia assured her. “You bring me joy every day.”

Scorpia hadn’t been fishing for it, but Catra knew a statement like that deserved a kind gesture in return. “You, dull my anger more than anyone else by far.”

It was enough. Scorpia gave her a big smile. “Thank you Kitty. Coming from you that means the world to me.” Scorpia paused as she looked back at the celebration. “Even if I don’t believe that it’s true.”

Catra sneered at her, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Haha, nothing, Kitty.”

The conversation died for a moment as they enjoyed the sound of music that had wafted over to them, followed by the scent of fire and food.

For a bit Scorpia seemed lost in thought. Ones that were bringing a smile to her face. “Thank you, Kitty,” Scorpia said after another moment.

“For what?”

“For today. For letting me do this my way. For supporting me, even when I know you were skeptical, when I was going completely against the grain of what we usually do.”

“You’ve earned the chance. I trust you Scorp.”

“Well, I owe you one.”

Catra turned to face Scorpia, a mischievous grin on her face. “Well you can pay that back right now.”

“Oh?”

“Mattis didn’t just look at you and guess your name, a nickname no less. Spill.”

Scorpia let out a hearty chuckle. “I was wondering when that would come up.” Scorpia cleared her throat. “When I was young, Mattis’ mother was my mother’s Lady-In-Waiting. That mansion was so big! And I’m an only child, you know? He was my best friend, we did everything together!”

There was a pregnant pause while Scorpia’s smile twisted into a sad smirk.

“I don’t know what happened, but something did. My parents banished his family from the Fright Zone. My best friend, gone just like that.”

There wasn’t anything spoken, but there was a quiet agreement. They both understood that feeling quite well. Catra shuffled closer. She began lazily stroking Scorpia’s claw.

Scorpia cleared her throat. “Never did find out what happened to them. Until I saw Mattis’ name on the report. Wasn’t even sure if it was my Matty, but you don’t find too many Mattises around these parts.So I took a chance.”

Catra playfully slapped Scorpia on the arm. “Looks like your gamble paid off!” Catra chortled. “The two of you seem to be getting along pretty good now. I’m glad.”

“Yeah, I guess it’s never too late to reconnect with someone,” Scorpia said, with emphasis.

The statement made Catra cough. Her eyes narrowed to slits. “Okay, I’m really starting to think  you’re trying to get at something Scorp.”

“I’m glad you finally got a good night’s sleep, Kitty. New pillows can make a world of difference.” Scorpia contemplated for a few seconds. A devious smile worked its way onto Scorpia’s face. “Never seen pillow with such prominent shoulder pads though.”

That elicited another slap on the arm from Catra. Still playful, but a lot more forceful too. “You’re on thin ice there, ‘Scorpie’,” she smirked.

A loud crash cut their conversation. They both turned to see an elderly woman staring intensely at them. At Catra specifically. At the woman’s feet was a shattered drinking glass.

“Ma’am, are you alright?” Scorpia asked, rushing to the old woman. Catra leisurely followed. When Scorpia got to her the old woman tried brushing her aside and craned her neck around to keep eye contact with Catra. The woman’s eyes were huge, her mouth fallen completely open.

It made Catra uneasy.

As soon as Catra reached her the old woman snatched her by the wrist. “Um, can I help you?!” Catra hissed.

“Mira?! Mira’Dea?!” The old woman croaked. “But… But how?! Where have you been?!” She tightened her grip on Catra’s wrist even as Catra was trying to pull away. The woman had a decent grip. Catra was also worried about hurting her. 

“I think you have me confused, lady!” Catra exclaimed, hand squirming.

The old woman was so excited she was starting to hyperventilate. “Mira, how did you make it? All the magicats, they were…” she trailed off.

Catra stopped fighting. “What did you call me?”

The woman was struggling to catch her breath. She collapsed, but Catra caught her in her arms. “Wait, lady, what did you say?!” Catra shot Scorpia a desperate look. “What’s a magicat?!” 

Scorpia shrugged in confusion. The scorpion woman knelt down and scooped up the elderly woman into her arms.

“Is everything alright?” Mattis asked, approaching the trio. “Gram?!” he yelped at the sight of the woman.

They brought Mattis’ Gram over to a nearby bench. Scorpia rushed away to get a damp cloth and a new cup of liquid. Mattis remained, kneeling by his Gram’s head. Catra stood just behind him.

After a moment she began stirring. Another moment after that Scorpia returned. Mattis helped his Gram to sit up and gently patted her forehead with the damp cloth.

“Mattis, dear? What’s, what’s happening?” the old woman muttered.

“It’s okay Gram, you had one of your episodes,” Mattis assured her. Gram looked up as Catra handed her a cup of water.

Catra knelt in front of Gram. “Do you remember me?” The old woman shook her head and took a tentative sip. “Not at all? What about ‘magicats’?” The woman shook her head again. Catra stood up and turned to Scorpia.

“You heard it too right?” Catra asked.

“Heard it, Kitty. No idea what it means.”

Mattis gave his Gram a soft pat on the shoulder before standing up. “I guess I need to thank you again,” Mattis chuckled as he turned to face Scorpia and Catra.

“It’s no problem!” Scorpia beamed.

“She called me a magicat,” Catra stated. “Any idea what she was talking about?”

“No, sorry,” Mattis responded, rubbing the back of his neck. “Gram isn’t always ‘here’ so to speak. She’ll get these flashbacks, mostly back to her war days.”

“Wow, your Gram was a Horde soldier?! I never knew!” Scorpia said.

Mattis sucked in air. “Actually…” he began.

“Oh. I mean, that was a long time ago anyway,” Scorpia responded. She pulled Catra into a side hug. “We actually have friends in the Rebellion. War’s weird like that.”

Catra gave Scorpia a perplexed look. “We do?”

Scorpia responded with an awkward toothy smile.

“Oh,” Catra snickered. “Right. He’s a charming boy. Kind of annoyingly nice.”

 


 

Moonlight streamed into the large round window of Adora’s bedroom alcove. That and a single lantern suspended above her provided all the light she needed. She was propped up in the reading nook against the wall, stack of books directly on the floor next to her, loose paper scattered about on the cushioned bench. A history book sat propped open on the windowsill.  Her legs were curled up so that she could rest a clipboard against them as she rapidly scribbled notes.

It was late, judging by the moon placement, after midnight. Adora had been working since they got back from Skydancer over five hours ago. Her conversation with Perfuma had given her a renewed sense of purpose, a new clarity. Only exhaustion from a busy few days could cloud that new clarity. Adora set the clipboard and pencil down and rubbed her bleary eyes.

“Hey, Adora.”

Adora opened her eyes. Catra was sitting between her legs, wearing nothing but a sheer purple babydoll nightgown. Adora smiled. “Hi.”

Catra looked down at herself and sighed. “Really Adora? What the hell am I wearing?”

“My dream, my rules, Kitten,” Adora grinned.

“Guess so,” Catra said with a shrug. She curled up in Adora’s lap, resting her head against Adora’s chest. Adora wrapped her arms and legs around the catgirl. “Is it okay if we just cuddle?” Catra asked.

“That would be great,” Adora murmured. Her hand shot immediately to Catra’s ear, hitting just the right spot to start up the purrs. “I know what I need to do,” Adora whispered.

“What’s that?” Catra asked, her tail slinking itself around Adora’s thigh.

“I need to convince you that I appreciate you. I need to make you understand that I always appreciated you, and that I never thought you were second best.”

Catra shuffled around in Adora’s arms, tightening her grip around Adora’s waist. “Why does it matter?”

“Because, I need you to get over being obsessed with hating me. With any luck I can get you to a nice healthy apathy towards me.”

“And that’s going to accomplish what exactly?”

Adora took in a deep breath through her nose. “Everything it needs to. Catra…” Adora paused for a moment as she gently combed her fingers through Catra’s hair.

“... I did just about everything wrong. But someday. Someday someone’s going to come along. Who knows, maybe they already have, not like that’s something you’d bother telling me at this point. But someday someone’s going to come along and do everything right. And they’re going to make you feel, well, just how you make me feel.

“And I don’t know if I could live with myself if you missed out on them because you were too obsessed with hating me.” Adora said, closing her eyes.

Catra sat up. She leaned in and kissed Adora on the forehead. “You do realize what that hatred is though, right?”

Adora opened her eyes again. She was alone, and awake. She felt the spot where “Catra” had just been. Cold.

A few errant tears rolled down her cheeks as a faint smile grew. Adora knew. “Your hate is the only thing keeping you in my life,” Adora whispered. “When you get over me, I’ll probably lose you forever.”

The book that had been propped open was called “Cultures of Etheria”. Adora picked it up and stared at it. 

She took a moment.

Then Adora picked up the clipboard and returned to her vigorous note taking. “I’m going to have to make every chance I have count then.”

 


 

It was one of the least glamorous aspects, but one thing the Horde did well was bureaucracy. Which meant that inevitably there was a dusty room somewhere in Fright Spire full of filing cabinets that were filled with paper copies of old records. 

As a point of due diligence, Force General Catra knew where those rooms were. Sequestered down on the third sub-basement level, away from anywhere anybody wanted to go. On the old wooden door was a plastic plaque that simply read “Records”. The room itself was basked in sickly halogen light, with all the dust in the air giving everything a fuzzy look. Chest-high filing cabinets were neatly lined up in rows, creating long aisles. Faded paper taped to each one explained each drawer’s contents.

All the sub-basements had a chill about them, especially in the middle of the night, which 1 am definitely counted as. Catra knew it would be cool, which was 100% the only reason she had decided to wear her new red jacket.

Catra spent an hour pulling folder after folder and reading their contents. So far, she had only found one instance of the word “magicat,” on a master list of races of Etheria. The list seemed old, very likely older than Catra herself. There were a number of “half leads” and “maybe look intos” that Catra was jotting down onto a notepad.

Another drawer was shoved closed. Catra let out a long yawn. She gently scratched at the tip of her jacket collar.

“Heh, you wouldn’t believe it, me, doing research. And voluntarily no less!” Catra chuckled.

Upon examination, It felt like the rows of cabinets stretched on forever. “You’d be so much better at tackling this mess. There’d probably be some sort of plan. I can see you now, mapping this stupid place out. ‘Catra, you take this quadrant, I’ll take this other one’,” Catra couldn’t help but giggle.

“... Just for the record though, I do not wish you were here.”

Catra sighed and slumped onto the filing cabinet. “Great Catra, now you’re lying to yourself.”

 

Chapter Text

Something that Adora could never figure out was why Light Hope was so tall. She was one of the few creatures that Adora still had to look up at even while in She-Ra form. Did she want to be imposing? Was she trying to go for weird and scary? Did Light Hope genuinely think that was what someone ‘nurturing’ and ‘approachable’ was supposed to look like? The handful of times Adora had broached the subject had resulted in Light Hope trying out new forms that were even more haunting.

At the moment Light Hope was, “connecting with the sword” as she put it, which seemed to amount to Light Hope being able to run a diagnostic on the sword’s recent use. She-Ra found that her thoughts often drifted during these times, while her sword hovered in front of Light Hope, whose eyes were glowing and pupilless.

When She-Ra’s mind drifted, it always tended to head one way, as if it was a river confined by the land around it, flowing the only way it was allowed. In the past She-Ra had tried her best to not let herself dwell on Catra too much while in the Crystal Castle and in proximity of Light Hope. Considering her last visit though, when Light Hope laid out Adora’s feelings for Catra in no uncertain terms, she now let herself just drift wherever she wanted to.

“Do you think she’s going to mind that you fell asleep?” Catra asked.

She-Ra was sitting, propped up against one of the pillars. Catra was sprawled out on her lap, thoroughly enjoying the tummy rubs she was receiving.

“It’s been an hour, I don’t know what else she was expecting,” She-Ra said with a laugh.

“This place really needs a radio or something,” Catra remarked through purrs.

“Ahem,” Light Hope interjected. She-Ra and Catra looked up. Light Hope was towering over the over the both of them, digital brow slightly furrowed. “It is time for you to exit, Force General. I need to speak with She-Ra.”

She-Ra’s eyes blinked open. With the help of the pillar she climbed to her feet. “That was creepy Light Hope, even for you. Remember that talk we had about staying out of my head unless I give you permission?”

Light Hope regarded She-Ra a moment before speaking. “Yet the Force General was welcome. I thought you said that you were dealing with that.”

“I’ve decided to try something different,” She-Ra answered. “Can we please not get into that fight again? Please?”

“Very well,” Light Hope answered.

They walked over to where the sword was still hanging in mid-air. “It appears you did indeed access your healing magic,” Light Hope stated.

“Yes, but how? I don’t even remember it. I’m not even sure how conscious I was! I’ve tried doing it again, but I haven’t had any success.”

“Questions I am afraid I cannot answer. I do not know how you were able to use your magic. In such an incapacitated state no less.” Light Hope pressed her hand against the sword. “Your inability to reliable call upon your healing abilities is because you have not yet become synchronized with the power of She-Ra.”

“I’m working on it! Every day I feel more in sync with my powers.”

“Much like you are working on your feelings for the Force General.”

She-Ra gritted her teeth. “I come here because you told me that you could help me become a better hero for Etheria, not to be mocked!”

Light Hope nodded. “We will not dwell on it any longer. Instead of healing, let us focus on something else.” Light Hope gave the sword what seemed like a gentle push. It floated all the way across the room.

“She-Ra and the Sword of Protection share a bond,” Light Hope said. “If you call to the sword, it will find its way back to you.”

“You mean I can make the sword come to me?!”

“Precisely. Go ahead, give it a try. Simply focus on wanting the sword in your hand.”

She-Ra regarded her hand then stared at the sword.

Right, just want the sword in my hand. Oh, is that all?

Nothing seemed to be happening. She-Ra held her hand out, which didn’t seem to help either. She slammed her eyes shut, and tried concentrating on thinking about the sword in her hand.

“Hey, Adora.”

“Catra? What?! I’m not asleep! I can’t be! I-AAAH!” She-Ra shrieked as she opened her eyes. In front of her was Catra, appearing normal until she briefly flickered.

“LIGHT HOPE!” She-Ra yelled at the sight of the hologram version of Catra. “What is this?!”

“It seems that I also could use a new approach in regards to how you relate to the Force General. I thought her presence might be able to help you concentrate.”

“Hear that Adora, Light Bright here things you need my help,” Catra smirked.

“I just need to focus on this,” She-Ra huffed. She turned back to the sword. Small grunting noises came out of She-Ra as she strained to focus on the sword.

Sharp nails pressed themselves against the nape of She-Ra’s neck. The touch made She-Ra flutter. “What are you doing?” She-Ra breathed.

The nails were drug down softly across She-Ra’s skin until they bumped into her collar. “Helping you relax, duh.”

Catra’s nails gently kneaded against She-Ra’s neck. “Yeah, but that’s not helping me focus,” She-Ra said.

“That’s the point. You’re thinking too hard about it,” Catra said. “Just let it happen.”

The more Catra kneaded She-Ra’s neck, the more thoughts in her head began to slip away. She shook her arm to loosen it, then held it back up. There was a “fwoom” sound as the sword zipped across the room, slamming it’s handle firmly into She-Ra grip.

“I did it!” She-Ra cheered. In one motion she turned and hoisted Catra into the air with a big hug. Catra giggled at the embrace, then simply wasn’t there anymore. She-Ra stumbled forward as she found herself suddenly squeezing nothing.

Light Hope appeared behind her. “Well done, She-Ra.”

She-Ra snorted, all the while refusing to look at Light Hope. “Don’t do that again,” She-Ra said.

“As you wish!”

 


 

Lonnie and Rogelio were standing at attention. The expression on Lonnie’s face was one of annoyance. Catra paced a few feet in front of them, reading a mini-monitor. Off to the side Entrapta was stalking along her workstations, rummaging through piles of stuff and mumbling to herself. Scorpia was assisting Kyle solder sheets of metal together, as per Entrapta’s request.

Catra clicked off the monitor and handed it to Lonnie. “Good work you two. But keep patrols up around Glenmar until you know for sure that you’ve caught the last of the bandits.”

“What are we gonna do if we arrest anymore? Tickle them?” Lonnie quipped.

“Oh Hordak, are you still on about this?” Catra groaned. “That was two weeks ago, let it go already!”

“I’m just saying, I didn’t realize coddling was an option.”

Over at her workstations, Entrapta was frantically ransacking cabinets.

“Nitch wasn’t coddled.” Catra began stroking the bridge of her nose. “They ended their protests, didn’t they? They’re complying aren’t they?”

“Yeah, because we asked just so nicely.” Lonnie glanced over at the workstations. Scorpia and Kyle had stopped working and were giving their attention to Entrapta, who was emptying out more cabinets. Lonnie returned her gaze to Catra.

“I think you been hanging around too many princesses, Cat,” Lonnie scoffed.

At this moment Entrapta let out a loud scream in frustration. She slammed the wrench-like tool that she had been holding down onto the table. It hit just right and went hurtling across the room. Catra threw her hand up at the last second and caught the wrench mid-spin.

“Oh yeah, they’re pushovers,” Catra sneered. She turned her attention towards the workstations. “Hey, can we be careful about the flying tools?!” Catra yelled out.

Entrapta was tugging at the base of her pigtails. “UGH! SORRY!” she scowled.

Catra squinted and gave the situation over by Entrapta’s workstations a good, hard look. After a few seconds she turned back to Lonnie. “You have your orders,” Catra stated flatly. “Go do them. And hey. Take Kyle with you today.”

As Lonnie and her squad filed out, Catra made her way over to the workstation area. She leaned against one of the shelving units with her arms folded.

In the center of the area Entrapta was still standing, hands digging into the base of her hair, as her pigtails rifled through various items on the ground. “No. No. No. No. No.” she kept repeating as she tossed the items on the ground aside.

For a moment Catra decided to just observe. Scorpia shuffled over. “She’s looking for a… A…. Heck… Hexy…”

“Hexadot Subspacial Inverted Riveter,” Entrapta said, sparing Scorpia.

“Oookay,” Catra said, biting her lip. “Let’s not worry about what that is for the moment. Can’t we just…” Catra looked at Scorpia. They shared an awkward glance. “...Get more? Build a new one?” Catra said with hope. Scorpia gave her a give unconfident smile and shrugged.

“No,” Entrapta answered. She began rubbing her temples. “The Hexadot Subspacial Inverted Riveter was an invention of my own, one that took years to develop. I was sure that it was on the list of items I needed when we sent the couriers to collect my things.”

“Maybe they just forgot it,” Scorpia tried to add.

“My instructions were very detailed,” Entrapta responded. She had knelt down, and was still rummaging through all the junk now on the floor. “If they didn’t retrieve it….” Entrapta trailed off and hung her head. “... That means it’s most likely still in my old lab. Which only I know how to get to. Without it this project won’t work. Weeks of work and a trip to the Temple of Shifting Plains will have been for nothing. There won’t even be any data to collect.

“And it was going to be a great project,” Entrapta sighed.

Hearing the temple’s name perked Catra up. “Oh no. No way that temple trip’s going to be for nothing!” she balked. Catra knelt down and put her hand on Entrapta’s shoulder. “You need that… riveter thing? Then let’s go get it.”

Entrapta looked Catra in the eyes. She seemed worried. “Go back? To Dryl?”

“Why not? It’s still YOUR kingdom ‘Trapta,” Catra assured her.

“Y-yes, that is correct,” Entrapta said. She took a deep breath. “Okay, let’s go back to Dryl.”

 


 

The balcony doors in Adora’s room tended to be left open. Partially because weather in Bright Moon was usually lovely. It was also partially to allow Swift Wind ease of access. The majestic winged unicorn touched down gracefully and sauntered into the room. Adora climbed down.

“You know, in the end I thought training went pretty well today,” Swift Wind remarked.

“She really needs to get that ‘human inspiration’ protocol ironed out,” Adora muttered.

“Are you saying that because of the Catra thing?” Swift Wind asked with a bright smile.

Adora glared at him. “What do you think?” Just as Adora was unstrapping the sword from her back there was a knocking at her door. “Come in.”

Zayn swung the door open and hurriedly made her way in. “Adora! Oh, Flying Unicorn.”

Swift Wind bowed to her. “Swift Wind, madam.”

“Hi Zayn!” Adora grinned. “This is a pleasant surprise.”

The compliment momentarily threw Zayn off course, stumbling over the words she was about to say. A good throat clearing recentered her. “It’s good to see you too, Adora. I’m afraid I bring bad news though. Scouts spotted a Horde skiff. It was heading for Dryl.”

“What?!” Adora gasped. She took a moment to get lost in thought. Dryl. She hadn’t been to Dryl for almost a year now. The last time wasn’t long after they lost Entrapta. But Entrapta wasn’t lost. Not really. She was in the Fright Zone, happy. Was she heading back to her kingdom for some reason? Was she alone? Was she with…

“I should definitely investigate,” Adora decided. “Have Glimmer and Bow left for their meeting in Skydancer yet?”

“A couple hours ago,” Zayn responded. “I… Could come with you if you needed back up.”

Something about that statement made Adora turn beat red. “Oh! No, Zayn, I couldn’t ask you to do that. Besides, I’m sure you still have guard duties to attend to. I’d hate for you to get in trouble.” Adora restrapped the sword onto her back. “She-Ra can handle this,” she said with a smile.

“If you’re sure,” Zayn mumbled.

Adora rubbed Zayn’s shoulder. “I’ll be fine.” She pulled Zayn into a hug.”Thanks for worrying though.”

“Of course,” Zayn responded as the hug ended.

“Want to get something to eat when I get back?” Adora asked.

“Yeah, that sounds good,” Zayn smiled back. Her and Adora had another short hug before she left.

Adora took a minute to watch her go before returning to the task at hand. She began frantically rummaging through the various stacks of paper and books on her desk. After a bit she fished out something rectangular in shape. It was clumsily wrapped in plain brown paper which was being held closed by twine. Finding it brought a giant grin to Adora’s face.

“What’s that?” Swift Wind asked.

“Just in case,” she responded.

Swift Wind narrowed his eyes and whinnied. “Quite the triangle you have going. What’s your goal with all this?”

“No goal,” Adora answered. She was making a satchel for the present out of a cloak from her wardrobe. “And there’s no ‘triangle’. Zayn’s just a friend. And Catra… Catra hates me. See, no triangle.”

“Just friends huh?” Swift Wind stared at the door for a moment. “You do realize…” Swift Wind stopped when Adora placed a finger over his mouth. She then moved to pet his mane.

“Yes,” Adora said softly. “It wouldn’t be fair to ask any more of her. I’m still working through my feelings for Catra. Zayn knows that. I’ve tried to be as upfront with her as possible.” Adora climbed onto Swift Wind’s back. “Up for a little afternoon adventure?”

“Always!” Swift Wind said, all his enthusiasm returning.

 


 

Entrapta slowly wandered down the dark purple hallways of Dryl. Everything was clean, immaculate. The courtyards. The hallways. The plethora of rooms in the castle. All thanks to Entrapta’s army of worker robots. Which didn’t make sense. The likelihood of them having continued to work without any sort of maintenance required during the last 13 months was, as Entrapta had put it, “astronomically low”. Yet there they were, zipping by Entrapta, Catra, and Scorpia, working just as efficiently as they day she left.

To Entrapta, it was a perplexing problem. Catra came down on the “creepy as hell” side.

They had spent a good hour searching, but it appeared that Entrapta’s old help staff were long gone. It was just the robots.

“Maybe they’ve learned how to maintain themselves?” Scorpia wondered aloud.

“THAT’S even creepier!” Catra said.

There wasn’t an immediate response from Entrapta. She had stopped, and was staring at a side table in the hallway. A vase of blue flowers sat on it. They, like the castle itself, were perplexingly well kept and alive. Even weirder, Entrapta didn’t remember having vases of flowers in her castle.

“That would be a discovery of astounding proportions,” Entrapta finally responded, still staring at the flowers. “That does not seem to be the case though.” Entrapta didn’t wait for either girls to respond before she slinked off. As opposed to most of the time, she was walking with her legs, while her massive pigtails dragged along the floor. She had wrapped herself in her arms.

Once Catra and Scorpia realized Entrapta was gone they followed the most likely direction she would have went. After a few minutes they found  the door to the lab. A heavy metal thing with a keypad lock. It was already open. They found Entrapta in the middle of the lab, simply staring at the massive array of computer terminals and monitors in front of her. This was the part of the castle that the worker robots hadn’t been able to reach. A thick layer of dust covered everything, accompanied by plenty of cobwebs. Half finished experiments and machines in mid-tinker were strewn about. A life left behind. Except for the dust, the lab looked exactly the same as it did that day when Perfuma and Mermista showed up and convinced her that their friends needed their help. It could have been yesterday. Except it wasn’t.

Catra made no effort to be stealthy. She wasn’t trying to be sneaky. So when she put her hand on Entrapta’s shoulder and it made the princess nearly jump out of her skin, it was a bit of a surprise.

“Sorry!” Catra said immediately. As Entrapta recollected herself, Catra decided to try the whole “hand on the shoulder” thing again. “Are you okay?” There was a softness to Catra’s words that Entrapta seemed to respond to.

“Unsure,” Entrapta admitted. “I-I thought this would be easy. I’m happy in the Fright Zone.” Entrapta stopped and glanced around the room. “This was my home though.”

The grip on Entrapta’s shoulder tightened. “This IS your home too,” Catra assured her. “Entrapta, I’m glad that you want to stay with us, but this is still your kingdom too. You don’t have to choose one over the other. I wouldn’t make you do that.”

The princess seemed to perk up a little. “Thank you.”

“Yeah, when you finish your big project maybe we can come do a weekend trip. You can show us around proper,” Scorpia said.

“Is it that simple though?” Entrapta asked, her optimism receding once again.

“Sure,” Catra said. “What, just because we’re in the middle of Rebellion territory? This is your kingdom ‘Trapta, they can’t tell you what to do.”

“Will Hordak be okay with it?”

Catra waved her off. “I’ll deal with Lord Hordak. It’s going to be fine!”

It was what Entrapta apparently needed to hear. For the first time since arriving, Entrapta rose up onto her pigtails. She strode over to one of the many piles of machinery and began digging through it. After a minute or two she pulled out an object. It almost looked like a toaster with spikes on one end, a couple antennas on top, and a long, almost rifle-like buttstock at the end with a trigger. “Ta-da!” Entrapta beamed.

“Is that the Heckler… Rabbit… The thing?” Catra asked. Her head was slightly cocked to the side as she stared at the contraption in Entrapta’s hands.

“Hexadot Subspacial Inverted Riveter. And yes!” Entrapta exclaimed. She glanced around the room. “Now that I’m here, I see more things that I could use,” she said, stroking her chin with a few strands of hair.

“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Scorpia answered. “Skiff’s got plenty of room!”

“Hey, what’s this?” Catra asked. She had begun wandering around the room and had come upon one of the desks. Sitting on a pedestal was a red triangular object that seemed to be covered in First Ones markings.

In no time Entrapta had bounded across the room and scooped the First Ones shard up with her pigtails. “Be careful with this!” Entrapta bellowed. Catra jumped back. Entrapta scooped up a small sack on the desk and put the shard in it.

“Sorry,” Entrapta said. “I never got a chance to finish studying this. It’s fascinating! But potentially very dangerous! I know that it can ‘corrupt’ First Ones technology and artifacts. Anything or anyone connected to First Ones tech is at risk. Maybe other things too, there’s a lot about it that I still don’t understand, but I will!” Entrapta said as she tightened a string around the sack.

“We’re not First Ones tech!” Catra quipped.

“Correct. But it can also affect those connected to First Ones tech. Such as runestones. We’ve all been around the Black Garnet for so long. We still don’t know what kind of effects that’s had on on us.” Entrapta handed the closed sack to Catra. “Better to be overly safe.” Catra nodded as she regarded the sack in her hands.

 


 

Like the castle itself, the courtyards of Dryl were immaculately clean and lined neatly with well kept foliage. The skiff was parked at the far end of the main courtyard in front of the castle entrance.

While Entrapta was busy packing up all the stuff she wanted to bring, Scorpia and Catra decided they’d be most useful by getting a headstart on loading the skiff. Scorpia was pushing a trolley full of crates. Catra followed just behind her, carrying an open box full of various small items. The First Ones shard was carefully sitting on top.

“The skiff’s gonna be able to hold all this stuff right?” Catra asked as they arrived at the skiff.

Scorpia took a long look at the packed trolley. “Hopefully? She seemed to be packing a lot, huh.”

Catra chuckled. “At this rate we might as well be taking the entire lab.”

At that moment Catra felt the ground shake slightly. Suddenly a giant green vine erupted out of the cobblestone underneath her and wrapped itself around the box Catra was holding. Catra jumped back as the vine tore the box from her grasp and slithered along the ground back towards the castle.

“How dare you.”

Catra and Scorpia turned at the sound of the voice. About twenty yards behind them Perfuma stood. The box was hovering in the air, held up by vines. She was haphazardly rummaging through it, eye contact never breaking from Catra.

“Heeey, flower princess!” Catra said. She gave her chin a stroke. “Petal? Plumb?”

“That’s Perfuma,” Scorpia whispered. Catra looked over her shoulder back at Scorpia and glared.

Perfuma had a stern look on her face. “It’s not enough that you stole her away from us, now you’re pillaging her kingdom?!” she sneered.

“You have it all wrong!” Catra barked, shooting her hands up in a gesture of peace.

“What is all this then?!” Perfuma yelled. She took the bag out of the box and pulled the red shard out of it.

“No wait!” Catra yelled as Perfuma looked down at the shard.

At first all that happened was that Perfuma appeared to be highly interested in the ancient object. Maybe Entrapta had overstated her concerns. Then Perfuma’s eyes flickered and turned red. Crimson veins began pulsating on both her arms. She looked up at Catra and Scorpia, and grinned.

It took all of Catra’s superior reflexes and heightened senses to dodge the massive vine that exploded out of the ground. Scorpia wasn’t as lucky and was slammed back into the skiff. Catra’s razor sharp nails tore at the vine, freeing her friend. The duo charged at Perfuma, and were met with a series of vines as thick as branches Shooting at them from every which way.

“We don’t want to fight!” Catra yelled. A vine shot right at her. Catra leapt and landed on the vine and bounced off immediately. Another vine swatted her out of the sky mid-leap.

Perfuma cackled as the catgirl crashed down onto the cobblestone.

“I don’t think ‘Perfuma’ is home,” Scorpia said, trying to help Catra to her feet. Just as Catra got her legs under her Scorpia was ripped away. The scorpion woman was lifted into the air, thick vines wrapping themselves around her neck. She tried ripping them with her claws but more vines tightly spun themselves around her body.

Catra jumped towards the vines attacking Scorpia, only to be caught herself in midair. She swiped and clawed frantically at the vines as long as she could. There were too many though. Cutting one vine caused two to wrap around her body. Slicing another one made three more tighten around her neck. Catra squirmed futilly as she became more and more constricted. The vines were raising her and Scorpia higher and higher into the air.

All Catra could do was look on in terror as the vines strangled Scorpia, whose face was beginning to turn blue.

Out of nowhere a spinning sword zoomed through the air, cleanly cutting the vines holding Scorpia and Catra. They fell to the ground, Catra landing into a roll while Scorpia landed a bit less gracefully. Catra looked up to see the sword rounding back around. She watched as the Sword of Protection crashed into She-Ra’s hand.

“Oh my goddess I can’t believe that worked!” She-Ra smiled. “Catra! Did you see that?!” she yelled across the courtyard.

Upon seeing She-Ra, Catra unwilling did the last thing she ever wanted She-Ra to see her do. She smiled.

She-Ra sprinted over to where Catra and Scorpia were. “You two alright?” she asked.

Catra was helping Scorpia to her feet. The large scorpion was still trying to regain her breath. “Timing could have been slightly better,” Catra joked.

“My invite must have gotten lost,” She-Ra cracked back. She stood between them and Perfuma, whose face was twisting even more maniacally at the sight of She-Ra.

She-Ra held out her free hand towards Perfuma. “Hey, ‘Fuma, can you hear me? It’s She-Ra, your friend. We don’t want to hurt you.”

“Of course,” Perfuma hissed. Her voice was shrill, and cracked with every word. “Of COURSE you’d show up in time to protect her !”

“Okay, that’s just unnecessary,” She-Ra fumed. “And it’s totally unfair that you’re still able to talk while under that thing’s influence.”

Catra grabbed She-Ra’s forearm. “Wait, did you get exposed to that?

“Was it awesome?”

“Not for anyone in my way,” She-Ra answered.

Their conversation was broken up by another onslaught of vines shooting at them. Some of these vines had thorns the size of grapefruits. She-Ra cut through large swaths with her sword. Catra and Scorpia were tearing through them with their claws. Even with She-Ra’s extra strength, they were having a tough time keeping up with Perfuma’s constant barrage.

The trio did a good job of preoccupying her though. Perfuma didn’t notice the hairy purple tentacle until it was tightly wrapped around her wrist. The tentacle squeezed until Perfuma was forced to let go of the shard. It fell into a cupped strand of purple hair.

Entrapta tossed the shard onto the ground, and slammed down a giant mallet onto it a few times, until the shard was shattered into dozens of pieced.

“I probably should have secured this in something safer than a bag,” Entrapta mused while wiping her brow. She gave the remnants of the shard a nod before turning towards everyone. They were all staring at her. The attention made Entrapta blush.

Perfuma stared at Entrapta as her eyes faded from red back to black. She seemed transfixed on the purple haired princess, a look of abject horror on her face. Entrapta gave her a sheepish wave. Which made Perfuma flee. She ran as fast as she could out of the main courtyard, heading into the side gardens, which were more like elaborate mazes, that led away from the castle.

“No, wait!” Entrapta called out. Perfuma was already out of sight. Entrapta bounded after her, pigtails scurrying so fast it almost looked like they were spinning.

She-Ra and Catra watched as Entrapta vanished into the labyrinths of Dryl. They turned to face each other and exchanged awkward smiles.

“So, what effect exactly did that thing do to you?” Catra asked.

“Well...” She-Ra began.

“...Uh…. Hey,” Scorpia cut her off. They both turned to see Scorpia, leaning against the skiff, giant thorn jammed into her stomach.

Catra rushed over to her. “Shit! Scorp!” Catra tugged the thorn out, which only increased the bleeding. She-Ra began fumbling around with her sword. “Heal her!” Catra barked.

She-Ra held up the sword at Scorpia.

Nothing happened.

“Come oooon,” She-Ra mumbled to herself. “Come on She-Ra, you can do this.”

“Well?!” Catra yelled.

“That’s not helping!” She-Ra yelled back. Still nothing was happening.

Catra scurried over to She-Ra. “What are you waiting for?!”

“I’m trying! I’ve only ever did this that one time! And I don’t even remember what I did!”

“Put your hand on the runestone. I think you were doing that,” Catra suggested.

Having no better idea She-Ra did as Catra suggested. Still nothing was happening. Scorpia began slumping over. “It’s not working! What else did I do?!”

“Nothing! Maybe you’re doing it wrong!” Catra growled.

“I’m putting my hand on the runestone! How am I doing that wrong?!”

“I don’t feel so good,” Scorpia muttered.

“Here,” Catra grabbed She-Ra’s wrist. She took She-Ra’s hand into hers and pressed them both down onto the runestone. “Like this!”

Suddenly the entire sword began to glow a cyan blue color. Catra started to let go but She-Ra caught her hand by the thumb. “No, stay here,” She-Ra demanded. Catra listened. They both stood, hands on the sword’s runestone, as a cyan glow shot out of the sword and engulfed Scorpia.

It lasted about a minute before the glow dissipated. She-Ra released Catra’s hand and she immediately ran over to Scorpia.

“I’m alright!” the stocky woman said as Catra helped her to her feet.

She-Ra was thoughtfully examining her sword. Then she stared at Catra, head cocked slightly to the side. “Say, Catra, remind me again what happened when I healed myself on Mount Snows?”

“What? You got hurt, so I gave you the sword, it healed you. Then you turned into She-Ra,” Catra answered. She still had Scorpia’s impressive arm slung over her shoulders as the stocky woman regained her balance.

“Hmm,” She-Ra hummed. She squinted at her sword. “Is that what you said last time?” She-Ra wondered aloud.

“Shit Adora, I don’t remember,” Catra scoffed. “That was weeks ago! I have more important things to remember than that.”

“I suppose you’re right,” She-Ra said, deciding not to press it any further. She replaced the sword in its sheath and transformed back into Adora. She took a second to scratch at an itch on her right forearm before returning her attention to Catra and Scorpia. “So, what are you up to?” Adora asked, smiling innocently.

Catra rolled her eyes. “Oh, is that why you’re here? Looking to kick us out too?”

“No!” Adora cried. “I mean, I did come to see why a skiff was heading to Dryl. But this is Entrapta’s domain, you have just as much right to be here as me.” Adora stopped to collect her thoughts and brush a few loose strands of hair off her face. “I just wanted to say ‘hi’.”

“Well, hi,” Catra quipped back. She squinted at Adora. “What, did you just think that you’d ride in here and once again play the hero…”

“... You DID need my help, by the way. You’re welcome,” Adora said, cutting Catra off.

“Thank you for the assistance, Adora!” Scorpia piped up.

All the butting in made Catra growl. “What were you thinking? That’d we hang out or something?”

“Oh,” Adora sighed. Her body language noticeably dropped. “No, I wasn’t really thinking that,” she admitted.

“Even if we wanted to,” Catra started as she patted a crate on the trolley. “We’re kind of busy. So, you know, crisis averted. You can go home now, She-Ra.” Catra moved her attention to Scorpia. “Start loading this? I’m going to go load up another trolley.”

“Sure thing, Kitty!” Scorpia smiled. She looked off in the distance. “Should we go after them?”

Adora laughed. “No. They need this,” she said.

“Guess it’s just you and me Scorp,” Catra sighed. She took a few steps towards the castle before glancing over her shoulders, “later, Adora.” Catra tried to make it a point not to stare when Adora’s smile wilted.

Catra got a dozen yards before she heard Adora’s voice. “Here, you stay up there,” she heard Adora say. Catra turned around. Scorpia was standing on the skiff while Adora handed her boxes off the trolley. She watched the two work for a moment. They seemed an efficient team. The thought made Catra smirk.

 


 

The garden mazes of Dryl were deceptive. They didn’t look complicated or hard to navigate through. At least not until one of the many traps were set off. Anything from trap doors to electrified tiles to attack drones.

Over the last year Perfuma had mentally mapped where most of the traps were. As such she was tearing through the maze with impressive speed. It was an attempt to outrun her shame, and she was going to make as valiant an effort as she could. She was barreling through so fast that she barely had time to notice that she was careening into an area she didn’t know very well. Perfuma got two steps into this segment of maze before she heard a click under her foot. Eleven foot high walls shot up all around her, creating a metal box.

Perfuma stumbled to a stop. She leaned her hand against the wall as she took a moment to catch her breath. After sucking in enough air Perfuma’s brow furrowed as she slammed her balled up fist into the wall in front of her. Tears streamed down her face, that pain helping her ignore the current pain in her fist.

“Dryl Inspection Log, entry 1,” Perfuma heard over her shoulder. The voice was just a few yards away. It seemed to petrify Perfuma, who found herself unable to move. So she simply continued staring at the metal wall in front of her.

“The security walls are working at an optimal level,” Entrapta continued into her recorder. She was brushing her hand against the walls. “They have currently trapped the princess of Plumeria. A temporary situation. Thanks to her powers she is able to get out and leave anytime she desires.

“... I hope she stays,” Entrapta added, clicking the recorder off.

At the click, Perfuma spun around. She caught a passing glance of Entrapta before diverting her gaze to the ground. “I hurt your friends. I hurt our friends,” Perfuma meekly said.

“That was the First Ones shard, not you,” Entrapta countered. She perked up as a memory came to her. “When it infected She-Ra, it was only Glimmer’s quick thinking that prevented She-Ra from killing Glimmer and I!”

“That shard infected She-Ra?”

“Yes. It was highly fascinating, besides for the constant terror of our impending doom.”

The statement made Perfuma giggled. “There’s the scientist I remember.” Perfuma made her way over to Entrapta, who was standing in the center of the enclosed space.

“I, am sorry that we left you,” Perfuma murmured.

Entrapta nodded. “I am sorry that I let you think I was dead.” Entrapta pulled out some sort of remote. She pressed a button and the walls started to retract. “You have been looking after my kingdom?” she asked, gesturing in the general direction of the castle.

“It was the least I could do to honor your memory,” Perfuma smiled.

“Was it also you that has been maintaining the worker robots?”

“Oh, no,” Perfuma conceded. “Bow has been helping with them. He’s a sweet boy. One of the few people I feel comfortable confiding in.”

A thoughtful look came over Entrapta’s face. “Is it because you both chose to transition to new genders other than your birth ones?”

Perfuma’s cheeks suddenly began glowing red. “You.. know? That is one thing me and him have in common, yes.

“Does that bother you?” Perfuma skittishly asked.

“No, definitely not,” Entrapta replied. “I accept the you that you choose to present to the world.”

Entrapta began banging her forehead with one of her knuckles. “No, not ‘accept’! That’s not the right word! It’s insufficient! An insufficient statement!” She was stopped by Perfuma taking ahold of her wrist. She gave Entrapta a warm grin.

“It’s okay. And thank you,” the flower princess said.

“I am happy that you chose to stay,” Entrapta said, returning Perfuma’s smile with one of her own.

“As am I.”

 


 

Adora and Scorpia were busy unloading a fresh trolley. It was their third one. At this point they had become a well oiled machine. A few times they had struck up small conversations while they worked. It was an odd sensation for Adora to talk to someone who actually brought up Catra more than she did.

“...So that was like the third time in a row that Lonnie accused me of cheating. But I’m not a cheater,” Scorpia said while hoisting a large crate out of Adora’s arms. “I’m really worried that she thinks I’m underhanded. I don’t even have hands!”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. If Lonnie keeps saying you’re cheating at something that just means she’s frustrated. She’s super competitive.”

“It’s just cards.”

“With Lonnie, it’s never ‘just’ anything,” Adora quipped.

When they were finished with that trolley they sat on the edge of the skiff while they waited for Catra to bring them their next load.

A peaceful silence was shared between them. Scorpia was looking off into the distance and smiling. Adora couldn’t help but notice that she seemed to always be smiling. “Hey, Scorpia,” Adora ventured after a moment. The scorpion woman brought her attention back to Adora. “I just wanted to say, thank you.”

Scorpia’s smile widened. “You’re quite welcome Adora!

“... For, what exactly?”

Adora seemed intent on staring at her own lap. There was a melancholy expression on her face, with a half-hearted smile at the center. “For being there for her. Taking care of her.” Adora rose her gaze to stare at the castle. “For being her best friend. She deserves to have that at least once in her life.”

“I’m not her first ‘best friend’,” Scorpia retorted.

“I just meant that she deserves someone who’s not going to mess it up and let her down,” Adora added. “I’m glad she has you.”

“...Adora…” Scorpia wasn’t sure what to say. Her heart dropped a little at the sight of the sad girl next to her.

“Hey slackers!” Catra called out, grabbing both of their attention.

Immediately Adora’s expression morphed into a confident smile. “You mean ‘overachievers who are waiting around on your lazy butt’!” Adora hopped down from the skiff as Scorpia climbed back onto it.

Catra gently bumped the trolley into Adora and leaned against the handle. “You’re just lucky I didn’t decide to take a nap and leave you waiting around for hours. I could have wasted your whole day,” Catra quipped.

Adora shrugged. “I didn’t have anything better to do today,” she responded.

“Ooooh, nice comeback, dork!” Catra cracked. “Anyway, this is the last one unless Entrapta decides to pack up more when she gets back.”

“That’s good, I think we’re almost at the skiff’s limit,” Scorpia mused. Her and Adora got back into their routine while Catra returned the other empty trolley to the castle.

It took less than ten minutes to load the final trolley onto the skiff. Just as they were finishing up Catra returned with a pitcher and three cups. She poured water for them and handed the cups out.

“Please tell me the Princess of Power still needs to hydrate herself,” Catra said as she shoved the cup into Adora’s hand.

“Haha, yes Catra, I still need food and water,” Adora said.

“Oh thank Hordak. It’s almost like you’re still normal,” Catra shot back. “Scratch that, you were never normal.”

“It took a lot of effort to keep up with your ‘weird’,” Adora fired back. They both started chuckling.

Scorpia forced herself to chuckle also, although she wasn’t sure why being mean to each other was apparently so funny.

Entrapta and Perfuma appeared back in the main courtyard. They were walking casually next to each other while holding hands.

“Welcome back!” Scorpia beamed.

Adora took a quick glance at how their fingers were interlocked, and smiled. She noticed that Scorpia and Catra were both focused on the returning princesses. Perfect time for Adora to slip away.

Perfuma closed her eyes and bowed slightly at Scorpia and Catra. “I am sorry that I hurt you both.”

A big claw plopped onto Perfuma’s shoulder. “It’s alright. Thankfully Adora was here help us out with things,” Scorpia assured her. She looked around. “Wait, where is Adora?”

“Right here!” Adora yelled, popping out from behind the skiff. She had both her arms behind her back. “Hey, Catra, can I talk to you for a second?” Catra nodded and followed Adora, who disappeared back around the skiff.

When Catra rounded the skiff she found Adora standing there, her back to Catra. “Yo, what’s up?” she asked.

Adora spun around and held out both her arms. Her face was completely flushed. In her hands was the rectangular, brown paper wrapped package.

“Here,” Adora squeaked.

Catra slowly took the package. She kept turning it over, examining it. “What’s this?”

“It’s…” Adora pulled at her collar of her white shirt. “It’s a gift.”

The word “gift” made Catra raise an eyebrow. “Those are like, for occasions or whatever.”

“Yes! That’s it exactly,” Adora beamed.

“Sooooo, what’s the occasion?” Catra asked, still looking over the package.

“Oh,” Adora somehow turned redder. “No occasion actually. I saw it, and it made me think of you. So I thought you might like it.” Catra turned the package over again. Adora giggled. “You have to open it!”

“Right!” Catra exclaimed. “I knew that.” Catra made short work of the paper. “A sketchbook?” Catra looked over the sketchbook. It had a little tie that could hold it closed, and a pouch that was clipped to it. In the pouch was a robust array of graphite and colored pencils.

“You’re always doodling. On just about every surface you could find,” Adora chuckled.

“Yeah, and eventually I learned to doodle in places Shadow Weaver would never look,” Catra laughed.

Adora squinted her eyes and grinned. “Yeah, like in the showers.”

They both bellowed with laughter. “Did she even know what a shower is?!” Catra shouted.

“Who knew dark magic could smell so bad!” Adora laughed.

It took a good minute before either of them could recompose themselves. Catra was the first to pull herself back together. She stared at the sketchbook in her hands. “That was kids stuff, though.”

“What? It wasn’t that long ago that you were still doodling.”

“But I’m an adult now. I’m Hordak’s Second-In-Command. I don’t just sit around ‘doodling’. I have real responsibilities,” Catra stated.

“Oh,” Adora’s shoulders drooped. “Drawing used to bring you so much joy. I had hoped that you still… That is…” Adora sighed hard. “I’m sorry for assuming. I can get rid of it for you,” she said as she reached out for the book.

Catra pulled the sketchbook into her chest. “But it’s mine though, right? You gave it to me.”

Adora immediately retracted her arm and smiled. “Yes, of course it is.”

“Ahem,” Scorpia cleared her throat just behind them. “Kitty, we’ve finished up out here. We’re ready to go whenever you are.”

“Good, prep the skiff,” Catra ordered.

Scorpia shot Adora the best “I am SO sorry,” look she could and disappeared back around the skiff. Adora and Catra silently followed her. As they rounded the corner, they got a chance to see Perfuma helping Entrapta up onto the skiff, more a courtesy than a necessity. They continually waved at each other even as Entrapta took her seat.

It gave Adora an idea, but before she could act Catra had already hopped up on the skiff herself. She leaned against the side wall and glanced at the sketchbook in her arms, then down at Adora. “Hey,” Catra called out.

“Hmm?”

“... Thanks,” Catra said, just as the skiff began pulling away. Adora simply waved and smiled. Catra gave a small wave back before finding her seat.

Adora and Perfuma watched in silence as the skiff disappeared in the distance. Perfuma was brought out of her trance by Adora, who was elbowing her in the arm.

“You got to see her,” Adora smiled.

“Yes,” Perfuma wistfully answered. “But what do I do next?”

“Take it one day at a time, I guess.” Adora threw her arm around Perfuma. “Hey, why don’t you come back to Bright Moon this evening. Zayn and I were going to go out to dinner. We’d love to have you along.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t. I don’t want to get in the way,” Perfuma assured her.

“No, it’ll be fine.” Adora gave her a squeeze. “I think it’s a good night to be around friends.”

Perfuma smiled at her. “Yes, I believe you are right.”

 


 

Thanks to the many improvements that Entrapta had made over the last year, Horde skiffs drove like a dove gracefully gliding through the air. She had determined that skiffs should also have horns installed on them, “for safety” she said. They made duck noises when one pressed the horn button.

Catra sat on the bench next to Entrapta as the skiff sped away from Dryl. The sketchbook was sitting in her lap as she lazily slid her finger along its spine. She wasn’t sure what to make of it still. Why would Adora bother giving her a present? There was no reason. And a sketchbook. Nothing fancy, just a well made binding of blank paper and a collection of pencils. Such a utilitarian gift that she really didn’t need anymore. Adora just gave her the gift version of herself. The idea made Catra chuckle. It also felt off for some reason. Catra gave herself a good shake, clearing her head. She looked around for the first time since boarding.

Scorpia was busy at the helm, and seemed to be intently controlling the steering stick. Just a couple of feet next to Catra was Entrapta, who was sitting on the bench also. She was holding a pink flower, and gently prodding at it’s petals.

“As princesses go, she didn’t seem to be too annoying,” Catra remarked. “You know, when she wasn’t actually trying to kill me.”

Entrapta snapped her head up, seemingly surprised at Catra’s presence. “No, annoying is not how I would describe her,” she said, a small smile growing on her face.

“I bet it isn’t,” Catra quipped. It didn’t seem that Entrapta was being overly chatty at the moment. Truth be told, Catra wasn’t looking for a conversation, just a distraction. The science princess began poking at the flower again, examining it as if seeing it for the very first time.

“Hey, ‘Trapta, can I ask you a question?” Catra worked up the courage to say after a couple more silent minutes.

“That was a question,” Entrapta responded, still focused on the flower.

Catra sighed. “You know what I mean!”

There was a small chuckle from Entrapta. “Proceed.”

“How,” Catra began. She trailed off for a second and took a deep breath. “How were you able to get past it? I know she didn’t mean to hurt you, but it doesn’t change the fact that she caused you pain.”

“She apologized,” Entrapta answered.

“Just words though. Was it really enough?”

The question finally made Entrapta stop playing with the flower. She gave it a meaningful look before turning to face Catra directly. The smile that greeted Catra was from a mixture of emotions. Happiness seemed to be the predominant one.

“It is true, while she never intended to, she did hurt me. I could have continued being hurt and angry. Kept punishing her. Made sure she felt every ounce of despair and regret.”

Entrapta took a pause. One could visibly see on her face the effort she was putting into building her sentences.

“That’s a bad equation. The numbers don’t work out to anything positive. The only thing I’d be accomplishing would be punishing myself.

“I didn’t forgive her for her. I forgave her for me.” Entrapta looked back down at the flower and stroked it’s petals.

“Why push her away when letting her in… Lets me feel like this?”

Catra stared at the purple haired princess for a moment, mouth agape. Slowly she recollected herself and let out a snide laugh. “When did you get so emotionally mature?”

“It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life,” Entrapta chuckled. She looked up and stared ahead, as Scorpia diligently attending to the steering. “We’ve had a good teacher though.”

Maybe it was feeling two pairs of eyes staring at her, but at that moment Scorpia looked back, and shot them a weary smile. “How’s everyone doing?”

“Doing great Scorp,” Catra responded.

“Um, that’s good. Very good.” Scorpia’s weary smile gave way to a look of fear. “I have bad news! I think we’re in big trouble!”

Both Entrapta and Catra jumped to their feet, quickly depositing the sketchbook and flower onto the bench behind them. “What is it?!” Catra barked.

“I think the skiff is broken!” Scorpia yelled. “I’ve been trying my hardest, but I can’t get control of it!”

There was silence for a second. Then, Entrapta began laughing. It started as a chuckled, but grew into a bellowing fit of laughter. She had to use Catra’s shoulder to hold herself up. Scorpia and Catra tried to join in with uncertain giggles.

“I installed an autopilot, it’s driving itself!” Entrapta said through tears. That news made Catra guffaw herself.

“Oh,” Scorpia replied, scratching the back of her head with her meaty claw. “Sorry about that!”

Catra made her way over and patted Scorpia’s shoulder. “It’s alright, Teach.”

 


 

Off the side of his throne room was Hordak’s “Sanctum”, a personal lab where he conducted experiments that the rest of the Horde didn’t need to worry themselves with. It was mostly dark, lit only by the green glow of computer monitors and the light of various buttons and knobs. This was a conscious choice. Those that did enter his sanctum would be at a disadvantage, as Hordak didn’t need external light to see.

Hordak stood over one of his work tables. He was tinkering with some small gadget. In truth, he was simply trying to pass the time as he waited. The sound of the heavy throne room door sliding open echoed in the room. He cracked a thin smile at the sound of boots stomping up the steps. Six Horde guards appeared in the doorway, flanking a shackled prisoner. Two of the guards grabbed the prisoner by the arms and shoved them to the ground.

“Leave us,” Hordak commanded, not bothering to look back.

The guards nodded and filed out. The door to the Sanctum closed behind them.

“Get up,” Hordak ordered as he continued to tinker at the gadget in his hand.

“No thank you,” the prisoner scoffed. “I am quite comfortable down here.”

Hordak snapped the open panel shut on the gadget he was working on. He pressed a button on it. A metal tentacle popped out of the ground behind the prisoner. It arced over them and wound its way around the prisoner’s neck. The tentacle lifted the prisoner up to their feet.

“Shadow Weaver, I SAID get up!” Hordak barked, spinning around to face Shadow Weaver for the first time. Her hands were bound together with metal cuffs. Shadow Weaver was still wearing the same trademark outfit that she was known for, only now it was stained, fraying at some of the seams. Instead of flowing unnaturally, her black hair hung limp, matted and tangled. She still wore her mask, which now had massive cracks in it originating from the setting where her Black Garnet shard used to reside.

Once she was on her feet, the tentacle slackened it’s grip. Hordak marched over to her and glared. “Pathetic,” he mocked.

“It is good to see you too, Lord Hordak,” Shadow Weaver said with a strained chuckle.

“How could you let this happen to you?”

“I’ve been through worse,” Weaver murmured. “I underestimated her. Catra’s far surpassed anything I ever expected from her.”

Hordak sneered. “You sound almost proud of the woman who defeated you and took the garnet from you.”

“Yes, it is true. But I also know that you are not one for sentiment my lord, and I cannot help but notice that I’m NOT currently stranded on Beast Island.”

“The Force General insists that you can still be of value,” Hordak jeered. He strolled around Shadow Weaver, his arms behind his back. A disturbing grin grew on his face. “She’s correct, obviously.

“But she doesn’t know the right questions to ask,” Hordak whispered, just inches from Shadow Weaver’s ear.

Shadow Weaver turned her head as much as she could with the tentacle still around her neck. “I am sorry to disappoint you Lord Hordak. I’m not feeling talkative today.”

Hordak actually chuckled. “No, I didn’t think you would be.” He held up the gadget and pushed another button. Electricity pulsated through the the tentacle and into Shadow Weaver. She growled in pain. The tentacle re-tightened, holding her upright against her will. After a minute the growls and yells began to become interspersed with laughter. Hordak powered down the tentacle. It retracted into the ground, allowing Shadow Weaver to fall to her hands and knees. He walked around and stared down at Shadow Weaver, whose chest was heaving in an attempt to catch her breath.

As she got some air into her lungs, Shadow Weaver once again chuckled. “An impressive machine… Lord Hordak… But it can’t compare… To the pain I feel… Every day. You can’t imagine the agony that I’ve suffered through.”

“Yes, I thought you might say that too,” Hordak grinned. Shadow Weaver felt the poking of Hordak’s sharp nails nestle under her chin. He forced her to look up at him. In Hordak’s other hand was a small vial of glowing red powder. Shadow Weaver’s white, pupiless eyes widened. “Shavings, from the Black Garnet. Not enough to give you any power, but enough to take that edge off.”

She couldn’t help herself, Shadow Weaver reached up, desperation in her eyes. Hordak shoved her back down and gave the vial a shake. “Answer my questions.”

“... What do you want to know, my lord?” Shadow Weaver said. For added measure she bowed.

“I long allowed you to hold onto your secrets, Weaver. It seemed an equitable tradeoff for your loyalty and power. But here you sit, powerless, in shackles, defeated by one of your own projects. So now I need to know those secrets.”

Hordak knelt down in front of her. “Let’s begin with the one most pertinent. You had your reasons, and it wasn’t because Adora was fond of her.

“WHY, exactly, was Catra so important to you?”

 

 

Chapter Text

Despite her initial reservations, returning to Dryl had proven to be a net positive for Entrapta. In the week since their visit, Entrapta had spent day and night in her lab. Sounds of churning machinery and maniacal laughing could be heard at all hours.

It was late morning. Reports had been reviewed, assignments handed out, overnight fires put out. So Catra and her squad once again found themselves in Entrapta’s lab. Entrapta had sequestered herself into a seperate room off to the side of the lab where she usually did some of her more dangerous work. Kyle and Rogelio were over at the baking station, working on Kyle’s latest mini-muffin recipe together. Rogelio wasn’t a natural chef, but Kyle was happy that they were working together. Lonnie and Scorpia were gathered around the small table off to the side of the room, currently engaged in an intense game of checkers. Catra was sitting crossed legged in  a chair a few feet away from the table.

About fifteen feet in front of Catra was Emily, standing very still and holding the cord to a red balloon. Catra wasn’t sure where Entrapta got a balloon from, but Entrapta insisted that this was a good pose. She’d look up and study Emily for a few seconds then start scratching a lime green colored pencil on the sketchbook in her lap.

Everyone continued on this way for another 40 minutes or so. Without warning, all the lights went off in the lab. It was pitch black for a second before the emergency lights came on.

“What the hell?!” Catra yelled, collecting her pencils into the pouch as fast as she could.

“Sorry! Sorry!” Entrapta shouted back as she emerged from the side room and ran over to the lab’s wall mounted power station. She threw a few switches and the lights returned to normal. “Precisely why I made sure to install a seperate breaker just for the lab.”

Catra and everyone strolled toward her. Despite the momentary power struggles, Entrapta seemed to be utterly gleeful.

“You okay?” Catra asked.

“Okay?! I’m better than okay!” Entrapta blurted out. She waved her hands in front of her in a grand, sweeping motion. “He’s done!” she exclaimed then quickly stalked back into the side room.

“Did she say ‘he’?” Kyle asked.

A loud “whirring” noise came from the room as well as the sound of metal moving and grinding together. Entrapta strutted back out of the side room on her pigtails, triumphant grin on her face. She stood in front of the group and motioned her arm out as if to introduce someone.

“May I present to you, the newest addition to our family, Clack!”

Everyone was staring where Entrapta was motioning, but nothing was happening.

“...Ooooooh… Heeeeey… Nice to meet you, Clack,” Scorpia nervously said, just trying to fill the silence.

Lonnie was less interested in being accommodating. “Yo, there’s nothing there!” she sneered.

Entrapta didn’t argue. Instead she just gave them a sly grin and clapped her hands. The air next to Entrapta began to wobble. Suddenly a Horde bot, much like Emily, only slightly smaller and with blue lights instead of red, appeared just next to Entrapta. “This is Clack!” Entrapta said as she threw her arms around the giant green sphere. The robot’s sudden appearance drew gasps from everyone. Clack did a little bow.

Catra cautiously approached the bot and touched it’s very real, very metal surface. “H-How?” she mumbled.

“Easy!” Entrapta exclaimed. “The tech from the Temple of Shifting Plains. The First Ones created that technology to displace matter but I thought if one can displace matter than surely displacing light, which is just electromagnetic radiation after all, can’t be that difficult if…”

“Stop!” Catra barked as she was rubbing her temples. Entrapta ended her sentence immediately. Catra took a deep breath. “You know what? I’m not going to yell. That one’s on me. I DID ask the question. I see where I went wrong here.”

“Headache aside though, this is incredible!” Catra said, giving Clack a pat. “So, he can turn invisible at will?” Entrapta nodded. “And he can stay invisible for as long as he needs to?”

“Unsure. In theory yes, Clack’s energy core should be able to accommodate it. I haven’t been able to do enough testing yet though.”

Clack was a sight to behold. Catra took a step back to get a better look at the robot. She almost bumped into Scorpia, who was just inches behind her. It was obvious to everyone, especially Catra. Robots that could turn invisible. Move without detection. They could go anywhere, and no one would notice. Catra’s eyes grew wide.

“This could change everything,” Catra said under her breath. She heard Scorpia sigh after she said it. Catra gave a glance at her large scorpion friend, who was looking apprehensive.

“... Poor Bow,” Scorpia muttered.

“Hey, who’s side are you on?” Catra ribbed.

Scorpia smiled at her short cat friend. “Yours Kitty, always.”

“Entrapta, this is amazing!” Kyle beamed.

“Thanks Assistant Kyle! You helped!”

Kyle’s face twisted. “Wait, I did?”

“You collected the First Ones samples and did that soldering that I asked you,” Entrapta said while giving Kyle two big thumbs up. Kyle was beaming. One of Entrapta’s pigtails pulled out a recorder and clicked it on.

“Lab Assistant Evaluation, log 47. Assistant Kyle continues to respond well to any praise, even when he must know that it is objectively untrue.” Entrapta clicked the recorder off and it disappeared back into her mass of hair. Kyle sighed and deflated, but was brought back up a little when Rogelio wrapped his thick arms around him.

“Okay, so, testing,” Catra stated, attempting to get back on track.

“Yes! Clack still needs testing. I have sent him out for trial runs around the Spire, but that’s inadequate to really see if he can properly maintain his cover.”

“Wait,you’ve been testing him around the Fright Spire? I didn’t hear anything about this,” Catra stated.

Entrapta looked at Catra, then at Clack, then back at Catra. “That’s because he turns invisible,” Entrapta said. She looked back at Clack again. “You, do know what ‘invisible’ means,  yes?”

Catra rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Yes ‘Trapta I KNOW what ‘invisible’ means! I’m just saying that if you’re gonna conduct tests in the Fright Spire, I should probably at least be aware of them.”

“I wanted it to be a surprise,” Entrapta meekishly said.

“Yes, and it’s a great surprise,” Catra remarked. “So, Clack needs longer range tests.”

“Before we use him for anything that could be dangerous.”

“Well alright then. Set it up as soon as you can. How far were you thinking?” Catra asked.

It was a simple question. Catra was very confused why it made Entrapta blush.

“Well.. Um.. That is…” Entrapta stammered. She was amazingly getting even more red.

Catra spun around to face Lonnie, Kyle, and Rogelio. “Hey, give us the lab for a bit.”

“What? We’re her friends too!” Lonnie scoffed.

“Just get out!” Catra barked. Her and Lonnie traded glares as the three stomped out of the room. “Jeez,” Catra huffed after they left. She turned back around. Scorpia was caressing Entrapta’s shoulders. The science princess had seemingly shrunk since she last looked, mostly due to the way she was slumping. Catra walked up to Entrapta and gently ran her claws through Entrapta’s hair. “It’s just us, what’s wrong?”

“They ARE my friends. Too. I just. I’m not trying to betray anybody,” Entrapta stuttered.

“Heeey! Calm down. Nobody’s accusing anyone of betrayal. Right?” Catra asked as she shot Scorpia a confused look. Scorpia shrugged.

“Scorp,” Catra was jerking her head in the direction of the makeshift kitchen area. Scorpia nodded and scurried away. Catra took Entrapta’s hands and guided them both down into cross legged sitting positions. Scorpia returned after a minute and sat down on the floor with them. She handed each a fizzy water. Catra and Scorpia sipped theirs. Entrapta downed the whole glass in two gulps. At the end she made a satisfying ‘aaaahhhh’ sound.

“How you feeling?” Scorpia asked.

Entrapta nodded with her eyes closed. “Better. Thank you.”

“Wanna tell us why the idea of long range testing made you flustered?” Catra asked.

“Have, you heard of the Midsummer Ball?” Entrapta mumbled.

Catra’s ears flattened. “Midsummer Ball?”

“Yes. A dance, this year hosted by the Kingdom of Midnight Sands, that happens every summer during the third moon cycle. I received my invite yesterday. Every princess is invited, but I’ve never gone,” Entrapta admitted.

“Me neither!” Scorpia added. She gave Entrapta’s knee a soft pat.

“Yes, well, this year, I was thinking, maybe I should go, finally.”

“Sure, why not?” Catra mused. “You’ve been working your little butt of, you deserve to have a fun night!”

“What, exactly does that have to field testing Clack?” Catra inquired.

“Well, that is, you know. Usually, usually, I think, I am fairly sure, when you go to a ball, usually, you, you know, you take someone. That is, someone goes with you. Because they want to,” Entrapta said, continually floundering around her point.

Having already put it together, Catra decided she should spare Entrapta from further strain. “Oh, I see!” Catra reached up and grabbed a mini monitor that was sitting on one of the workstation tables. She hummed for a minute while she looked something up on the monitor. “Says here that Plumeria is over 200 miles away. Would that be enough of a field test?” Catra asked, sly grin on her face.

It made Entrapta blush all over again. “212.2 miles. To her door. To be exact. And yes. That would be sufficient.” Entrapta couldn’t seem to look at Catra for more than a second of two at a time. Catra chuckled and scooted over to be closer to Entrapta. She snaked her arm around the giant pigtails and placed her hand on Entrapta’s back.

“You should definitely ask her to go with you,” Catra smiled.

Suddenly Catra found herself being tightly squeezed by pigtails, arms, and after a few seconds, giant red claw arms. Part of her still wanted to fight it, fight the hug, fight the intimacy. There was a part of her though that couldn’t help but notice how warm it felt there, at the center of the pile. So she gave it a good minute before she started trying to squirm her way out of it.

“That’s really good to hear, ‘Trapta. Mattis and I were talking about going. Thought it might be a good excuse to hang out again. Would probably be safer if we all showed up together,” Scorpia offered as the hug pile untangled.

“Yes, that would be acceptable. And also logical,” Entrapta answered.

“Wait, safer?” Catra asked as she dusted herself off. “We have a peace pact with Midnight Sands. The King himself assured me that our people would be treated respectfully when there. You should be just fine there.”

“We know,” Scorpia said. “Problem is the Prince, the one who’s officially hosting this ball. He’s much less agreeable to us than his dad. We’ll be tolerated, but accepted?”

“That’s bullshit,” Catra growled. Catra paced around the room for a moment, tapping her chin rhythmically. Soon she came to a stop and snapped her fingers. “I can just go with you, and just be on hand to make sure nobody tries anything.”

“LIke a chaperone!” Scorpia beamed.

Catra sighed. “Yeah, something like that.”

“That’d be swell to have you there. One problem though, Kitty. You have to be invited to attend.”

“Who said anything about ‘attending’?” Catra said, sinister grin on her face.

 


 

In the three weeks since they had received their invitations to the Midsummer Ball, Glimmer and Bow had been focused on little else. This ball, compared to the Princess Prom, was much less formal, Adora had memorized all the necessary greeting procedures in the first day. There was always the chance to try to use the ball as an excuse to attempt to convince the prince to get his father to reconsider their treaty with the Horde. That task, however, was being covered by Princess Embra, who had accepted the prince’s invitation to be his date for the ball. It seemed a better plan than the one they had used to try to get Frosta to join their cause. Something that Frosta still liked to poke fun of them about. It was a good plan, even though whenever Glimmer talked about it her teeth would grind for some reason.

That left just one thing for Adora to do at the ball. It was the one thing that she had never really learned how to do well, or really at all.

“Stop squirming!” Glimmer huffed as she put the finishing touches on Adora’s hair. Adora had insisted that her hair still be up, but Glimmer had managed to convince her to go with an elegant braided updo instead of ponytail.

“Sorry Glim, just nervous about tonight,” Adora conceded.

“Adora, there’s nothing to be nervous about. I promise, you only have one job tonight.”

“Yes, I know, ‘enjoy myself and have a good time’.”

Glimmer giggled. “You’re probably the only person who’d view that as the toughest job.” A few more bobby pins, and then… “There! All done,” Glimmer proclaimed. “Go on, take a look,” she added, pointing to the mirror.

Adora rose to her feet and swished her way over to it. She was wearing a sleeveless, open back gown. The straps tied around the neck. There was a black lace panel above the chest. The dress itself was a navy blue, with a lace tulle outer skirt that matched the panel lace.

Something about the tulle skirt made Adora do a few spins to examine herself from all angles. She had to admit, she cleaned up pretty well. Her main concern, well her only concern, was the backless part. Her scars peaked out pretty significantly. Bow and Glimmer had insisted from the very start that she’d look stunning in the dress, regardless of the scars. Adora was less certain.

“Wow.”

At some point Zayn had appeared in the doorway to Adora’s room, and was currently standing there, watching Adora twirl in front of the mirror. Zayn was wearing a black, sleeveless, A line dress with navy blue accents that complimented Adora’s gown.

Adora froze mid-twirl and turned beat red. “Zayn!” She stumbled back into a normal, non-dancing-in-front-of-the-mirror position.

“I can finish up my makeup on my own, I should be going, byyyye!” Glimmer excitedly said all at once then blinked away.

“You look very pretty tonight,” Adora meekishly proclaimed. “I mean, you always look pretty! You just like, mega-pretty tonight!”

Zayn chuckled as she took Adora’s arms into her own. “It’s okay ‘Dora. I know what you meant. Here, let me get a look at you!” Zayn held one of Adora’s hands up and twirled her around. Her big smile briefly faltered. ‘Oh!”

“What? What is it?” Adora asked. Zayn turned Adora, and ran a thumb along Adora’s back.

“Scars from the Battle of Bright Moon,” Adora automatically commented.

“I’m… So sorry,” Zayn replied. “You didn’t want to cover them up?”

“Oh, why, do you think I need to?” Panic was noticeably growing  in Adora’s face.

“No, I just thought you’d-, That is, you… Nevermind. You still look great, they’re not even that noticeable.”

Deep down Adora wanted to believe Zayn. Truth though was that Zayn did notice them, almost immediately. Enough that they were worth commenting on. Maybe Bow and Glimmer were wrong about going backless. Maybe she could put together something entirely different in the 43 minutes before they had to leave. Maybe Bow and Glimmer and all her other friends and the gorgeous woman in front of her wouldn’t mind it if she just didn’t go at all.

Just then Zayn pulled her in close, snapping Adora’s train of thought. They stood in Adora’s room, inches apart. Zayn was resting her right hand on Adora’s waist. They smiled at each other for a moment.

Then Zayn leaned in and kissed Adora.

Adora could feel the softness of Zayn’s lips against her. This close, she could smell the fresh citrus scented perfume Zayn was wearing. Adora’s hand shot up to grab Zayn’s shoulder. If she focused Adora thought she could feel one of those butterflies that are supposed to form in your stomach at times like these.

It was nice.

“Wow, yourself,” Adora breathed as their lips slowly parted. They shot each other warm smiles.

“Let’s go have a fun night,” Zayn said with a nod.

 


 

The Kingdom of Midnight Sands sat far to the north of Bright Moon. Horde territory butted up to its western borders, with Mount Candila sitting at its eastern side. The sizeable kingdom was peppered with robust towns and villages. At its center was the Midnight Sands desert, a massive desert that covered almost 50,000 square miles. The desert, and kingdom, got its name from the dark gray sand that covered it. During the day it sparkled like a starfield in the daylight, and became an enchanting sea of night after dark. Near the eastern edge of the desert, where the terrain became rocky and hilly was a low mesa upon which the Midnight Palace sat. The exterior of the extensive palace was a charcoal gray with teal and gold detailing. Wrapping itself around the mesa was a river that came from the shoreline farther north and headed towards the wildlands to the southeast.

The Horde skiff barreled through the desert, kicking up dark clouds in its wake. It only began slowing when it was about 50 yards from the palace courtyard where all the horses and carriages and many people were gathered. It was aimed for a open space to park and slammed to a stop.

Catra threw the stick into the “park” position and slapped her hands together in triumph. She turned to see a bench full of bewildered faces.

“Safe and sound and 20 minutes faster than they said it would take,” Catra boasted.

Perfuma was the first one to stand up, albeit a little wobbly at first. “H-how EXHILARATING that was! I didn’t realize that these skiffs could go that fast,” she said, trying to fix her hair as much as possible.

“They’re not supposed to,” Scorpia responded. She had gotten to her feet and was helping Mattis to his.

“Hey, if it can go fast, I’m gonna make it go fast!” Catra was strapping on a backpack. She wasn’t dressed up, or even in uniform. Her mass of mane was pulled back into a big puffy ponytail. She had on a black tank top and dark red leggings, and a puffy shouldered red jacket; unzipped because she felt it suited her style better.

Scorpia rubbed her temple with her claw. “Kitty that’s really not how that works! How do you not know that?”

“Let me guess, it was in Force Captain Orientation!” Catra huffed.

“No of course not,” Scorpia assured her. “It was in Driver’s Ed! How did you even pass that?”

Catra squinted at Scorpia and raised an eyebrow. “Driver’s what now?” Scorpia groaned in exasperation. Mattis patted her on the shoulder.

“Hey, we’re here safely, right? Thank you Force General,” Mattis said.

“Not a problem!” Catra beamed. She shot Perfuma a quick awkward glance. “And tonight, it’s just Catra.” She hopped down from the skiff first. “And remember, if anyone asks, I’m not here.”

“We were going to meet up with some of my friends,” Perfuma exclaimed. “Did you want to say ‘hi’ first? I am sure some of them would be happy to see you.”

“That would go against the whole ‘not here’ part of the plan!” Catra yelled as she disappeared into the crowd.

Scorpia appeared just behind Perfuma and smiled. “Good effort,” she simply said.

Perfuma turned back to Scorpia. “Does she really not know how Adora feels about her?”

“If it was only that simple,” Scorpia mumbled as she watched the sea of people funnel into the palace.

 


 

Zayn was slumped against the side of carriage. She was staring out the window, watching as the forest was thinning out into more rocky terrain. She let out a happy little hum when she felt Adora’s fingers caressing and interlocking with her own. Adora and Zayn were sharing the carriage bench seat against the back of the carriage. On the bench across from them was Bow, Glimmer, and Frosta. There was a little table between the two benches. On the table was five glasses of berry juice in various states of empty, and a mostly devoured bowl of chelumbs, Frosta’s favorite fruit.

“Thanks again for picking us up Frosta,” Glimmer said in the middle of chewing a cherlumb.

“It’s no problem!” Frosta beamed back. “Besides, I really appreciate you letting me tag along. I didn’t really have anyone to go with.”

“You can always come with us,” Glimmer said.

Bow held out his hand. “Yeah! Best Friend Hanging Out at the Ball Squad High Five!”

The three of them did a three way high five. The entire cabin laughed.

“Wanna know what the best part of this Ball is going to be?” Frosta asked. Everyone gave her their inquisitive attention. “Doesn’t matter who Adora gets into a fight with, I won’t have to be the one to worry about it!” This elicited a laugh from everyone but Adora, who was turning red and squirming in her seat.

“I’m not going to get into a fight! This time,” Adora tried defending herself.

Zayn gave her hand a squeeze. “Did you get into one at the last dance you went to?” she asked with a chuckle.

“All the same to you, I’d rather not think about that tonight. Besides, she won’t even be here to get my riled up this time,” Adora grumbled. When Perfuma had told Adora about Entrapta’s invitation, Catra’s status was the first thing Adora asked about. According to Entrapta though, Catra had no plans or interest in the Midsummer Ball. Despite her initial disappointment, Adora recognized that it was probably for the best.

“Sorry,” Zayn said. She lifted Adora’s hand up and gave it a kiss. “I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”

“Yeah, me too,” Frosta said, slumping a little on the bench. “I forgot how that ended for all of you.”

Glimmer patted Frosta own the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it! We’re going to have fun tonight!”

The five of them made small chat for a little bit. Pretty soon they were pulling into the courtyard of the Midnight Palace. The carriage slowed as it made its way around the crowd towards the drop off zone.

“Hey!” Frosta was looking out the window. “There’s Perfuma!”

“Aw, she looks so pretty!” Glimmer noted. “And wow, Entrapta’s looking very dapper tonight.”

“See, she makes a cummerbund look good. They’re just not for me,” Bow quipped. He studied the crowd a little more. “Wait. Who’s that with Scorpia?”

Glimmer sighed. “I don’t know Bow. I’m not up on all of our Horde friends’ circle of friends. Why don’t you ask .”

“Be nice Glimmer,” Adora interjected. “Remember, Midnight Sands is neutral territory. They’re just as welcome here as we are… Frosta please stop looking at me like that.”

“Like what?” Frosta asked, big smirk on her face.

The carriage came to a stop. Adora was the last to climb out. She stood for a moment at the top of the carriage steps, scanning the crowd. Maybe Perfuma was mistaken. Maybe Catra had just changed her mind. No such luck. She took a deep breath.

Enjoy myself and have a good time. I can do this. It’ll be fine. I’m here with Zayn. I’m happy to be here with Zayn. We’re… I have no idea. I liked her kissing me. It was… Good? It was my first kiss. They’ll probably get even better as I get better at them.

Adora was pulled from her head by the feeling of Zayn taking her hand and helping down the steps.

Bow and Glimmer enveloped Entrapta in a hug, the first one Bow had been able to give her in over a year. Entrapta seemed unsure how to react. Frosta took the chance to greet and chat with Perfuma. Adora greeted Scorpia, and the two exchanged introductions between Zayn and Mattis. Zayn mostly elected to hang back as Adora chatted. Without warning Bow was at Adora’s side, jovial as ever.

“Hey there!” Bow grinned. His view shot immediately to Mattis. Bow’s face turned slightly more serious as he extended a hand. “Hi, I’m Bow. Don’t think we’ve met before.”

Mattis gave Bow a firm, pleasant handshake. “Hey, name’s Mattis.”

Scorpia seemed quite excited to show Mattis off. “We were the best of friends when we were little. He was like my Glimmer,” Scorpia said.

“Yeah, Scorpie looked me up out of the blue recently. It’s so nice to have her back in my life,” Mattis added. “Been great getting to know each other all over.”

There was the briefest of flickers on Bow’s face before it turned even more jovial. “That’s great you guys!”

Adora looked around. “Bow, where’s Glimmer and Frosta?”

“Oh, they went inside already,” Bow replied. He then nudged Adora in the arm. “I think she wanted to see if Embra’s already here.”

“OOOH MY GAWDDESS, Entrapta!” a voice called out a few feet away. Suddenly Mermista slammed into Entrapta’s back and threw her arms around her.

“H-hi Mermista!” Entrapta squeaked. She had just gotten free from Bow and Glimmer’s hug.

Mermista looked up at Perfuma, who smiled and gave her a pleasant wave. “Girl, ‘Fuma, looking great!

“Princess Entrapta!” another voice called out. Mermista furiously rolled her eyes. They both turned to see Sea Hawk posing a few feet away.

“NOOO. STOP!” Mermista barked.

“Princess Entrapta! I was so relieved to hear that you were alive!” Sea Hawk said. “Surely this is call for a… SONG… In Celebration! One of my famous chanties!”

“Okay!” Entrapta seemed enthusiastic about the idea.

“NO.” Mermista huffed as she reached Sea Hawk. “You are NOT!”

“Oh er, yes Mermista dear! However, Princess Entrapta did say she wanted to hear one.”

Scorpia, Mattis, Adora, Bow, and Zayn had made their way back over to the group.

“What’s a… chantey?” Scorpia asked.

Bow turned to Scorpia, sorrowful look on his face. “What’s a chantey?!” He spun around to Sea Hawk. They intently stared at each other for a second before Bow started clapping his hands in rhythm. After a few seconds Sea Hawk began stomping his foot in the same rhythm. Adora, Scorpia, Perfuma, and Entrapta all started clapping to the rhythm. Meanwhile Mermista was burying her face in her hands.

Sea Hawk jumped up on a garden wall that was just a couple feet away. “WHAT is a sea chantey?

“You don’t know?

“Well that’s just silly

“What’s a sea chantey?

“It’s simple really

“You just sing your heart

“And rhyme some parts

“That’s a Sea Shant Tee!”

To Sea Hawk’s pleasant surprise Bow jumped up next to him on the garden wall.

Bow took a turn at a verse. “Tales of ghosts,

“That would scare off most

“But NOT a pirate of the seas!

“So just make some boasts

“They’re like better toasts.”

Sea Hawk wrapped one arm around Bow and together they sang “That’s a Sea Shant Tee!”

“UUUUGH,” Mermista groaned. Entrapta and Perfuma stopped clapping to pay attention to her. “OMG I am dying. Do you see me? I am literally dying. ‘Fuma, do you have any of your healing herbs because I am literally dying.”

Perfuma giggled. “Afraid not. But,” she took a look at Sea Hawk and flicked her wrist. A sizable blue flower formed in front of his mouth.

“Oh my, I’m so sorry Sea Hawk, that was meant for your hair!” Perfuma giggled. This brought the song to an end.

“It’s quite alright Princess Perfuma! It’s a lovely flower I shall cherish it!” Sea Hawk called out. Bow helped him affix the flower into his hair.

Both Entrapta and Mermista were suppressing fits of giggling, and losing that battle.

“Ugh ‘Fuma that, was amazing,” Mermista delighted. She shot a grin at Entrapta. “You better watch out ‘Trapta, she keeps doing stuff like that and I might steal this one.”

Entrapta blushed. At first her only instinct was to wrap one of her pigtails around Perfuma’s arm.

Mermista slapped her on the shoulder and bellowed. “Girl I’m kiiiidddding! You two are tooooo cute!” Mermista interlocked her arm with Entrapta’s “Come on, let’s go tear this place up!” she yelled. Perfuma interlocked her arm with Entrapta’s free one and the three of them frolicked into the palace. Sea Hawk scampered after them.

Bow returned to remaining people still outside: Scorpia, Mattis, Adora, and Zayn.

“That was amazing Bow!” Scorpia proclaimed as she excitedly clapped her claws together.

“THAT, is how you do a sea chantey,” Bow smiled. He then shot a glance over to Mattis. “Ever done one of those?” he asked with a sly grin.

“No, no never anything like that,” Mattis said. There was a look of satisfaction on Bow’s face. “I am a classically trained pianist though,” he added in.

“Oh!” Bow shouted, trying not to seem surprised. “That’s great. Really cool.

“Sooo great.”

 


 

A week before the ball Catra had made a trip to Midnight Sands. Officially it was to meet with the king to discuss new trade options. Unofficially Catra was there scoping out the ballroom the dance would take place in. It was a large round open room that was three stories high. Most of the third story space was taken up by a variety of scaffolding, pipes, support beams, and wires.

Catra was currently carefully shuffling across one of the support beams. Down below the party seemed to be starting. The music had died down and she could hear the prince giving his welcoming speech.

Propped up on a couple of beams were about 20 plank boards that together formed a nice platform area. Catra wasn’t sure why they were up there, but she was grateful. As soon as she reached the platform she plopped down into a sitting position, with her legs dangling freely.

It was a perfect view. From here she could keep an eye on her friends to make sure they remained safe. An evening hanging out above a party that Catra had no interest in actually attending was a small price to pay for her friends’ comfort.

Besides, Catra brought plenty to keep her busy. She slid the backpack off and took off the jacket and folded it carefully before stuffing it into the backpack. She pulled out her sketchbook and flipped a few pages to a blank one. After a quick scan to make sure Scorpia and Entrapta were okay, she began doodling.

At some point over the following twenty minutes Catra had made herself more comfortably by laying facedown on the platform. She continued doodling and was trying to not check in on the dance too often. Catra barely noticed the music change, but did notice all the laughter that could be heard. Out of pure curiosity Catra looked down, and saw Adora. Along with Bow, Glimmer, Mermista, Sea Hawk, and about a dozen others, Adora was doing a synchronized dance that people seemed to enjoy doing intentionally wrong more than doing correctly.

Adora looked like a fool, Catra thought. Big goofy, dimpled smile. A few locks of hair swished in front of her face as she danced. Perfect subtle red lipstick that complimented her skin. The way she filled out that dark blue dress. The song made Adora bob up and down like a goofball. Catra couldn’t help but notice the way it made Adora’s chest jiggle.

Okay, it was time to stop watching. She had serious doodling to do, among other things.

Catra propped her head up with her arm and watched Adora as she danced through the rest of the song, which turned out to be a pretty long number.

When the song finally ended Adora and her friends shared a good laugh as they made their way off the dancefloor. Catra’s vision followed them as they met up with their other friends who were hanging off to the side of the dancefloor and enjoying drinks. Catra was heartened to see that for the most part Entrapta, Mattis, and Scorpia were being included. Everyone seemed to okay with their presence, with the obvious exception of Glimmer, which Catra 100% expected, and another indigo haired girl that Catra didn’t recognize but definitely seemed to be a part of the group as she kept standing next to Adora for some reason. Catra watched with mild interest for a moment, until the indigo haired girl interlocked her arm with Adora’s.

A guttural, involuntary hiss came out of Catra. It shocked even herself. She threw her hands over her mouth. Where did that come from? Catra continued glaring at the indigo haired girl as she pulled Adora onto the dancefloor so they could dance together.

In the middle of all the glaring, and not understanding why her hair kept standing on end, Catra saw them. From where Catra was, they were faint, but unmistakable. “What?” Catra pushed herself up so that she was sitting on her knees.

Battlefields weren’t a place to be unsure of yourself. In the midst of a fight, all one could do is execute your best plan and see where it went. Act. React. No compromise. No apologies. What happens, happens. Catra held out her hands out and fixated on them. Her claws flexed in and out a few times. She looked back down at Adora. Her back was partially covered by the indigo woman’s hand, but Catra could still see the scars clearly. Catra’s eyes fell closed as she took a deep breath.

“Dammit.”

 


 

Adora and Zayn were the first splinter off from the group, but not the last. Mermista, Perfuma, Frosta, and Entrapta were wandering away with Sea Hawk entow. They were following Entrapta, whose eye had been caught by the high tech DJ setup. Mattis had excused himself for a moment, leaving Bow, Scorpia, and Glimmer, who she herself was slowly wandering away.

“This is 100% better than the last dance I was at,” Scorpia said, trying to keep her volume above the music.

“Right?! I’m having a great time tonight!” Bow exclaimed.

Scorpia leaned in to talk directly into Bow’s ear. “Hey, I’m really sorry about last time.” Bow pulled back. He looked confused. Scorpia looked a little melancholy. “You know, at the Princess Prom.”

Bow shrugged. “Don’t worry about it Scorpie Girl. I know, this has been kind of weird. Horde and Rebellion being friends? Crazy idea.”

“But I love our friendship!” Scorpia blurted out.

“I love it too!” Bow answered immediately.

They both chuckled nervously. “Sorry!” Scorpia said. “That sounded pretty defensive.”

“How are you two doing?” Mattis asked, returning.

“Doing great!” Bow said, a little too quickly.

Mattis held out his hand. “Want to dance, Scorpie?”

“Sure,” Scorpia answered. She turned back to Bow. “See you in a little bit Buddy Bow?”

Bow nodded and the two whisked themselves away onto the dancefloor. It was only then that Bow realized he was alone. He found Glimmer pretty quickly, who was only about ten feet away at one of the buffet tables. Glimmer seemed to be more interested in the food on the table than Bow when he walked up to her.

“Everything okay, Glim?”

Glimmer glared at her friend. “What do you think Bow? You’re spending your time talking to a Horde Force Captain! And all our other friends just seem to be ignoring that Entrapta’s a HORDE SCIENTIST!. Like, I get it, she’s our friend, I miss her too, but she’s also the one building half the things that we end up always fighting.”

“I know it’s complicated Glim. We’re all just trying to get along and make this the best dance we can.”

The mini-outburst seemed to be all that Glimmer had, as it deflated her. “I’m trying Bow. It’s just…” Bow placed his hand on Glimmer’s shoulder. The contact made her lift her gaze, which had been drooping. She was greeted with a thumbs up and a wink.

“Come on. Let’s go see what Mermista and Frosta are up to,” Bow said with a smile.

“Probably up to no good,” Glimmer responded.

Embra suddenly appeared next to Bow. “There you guys are!” they exclaimed. “Party’s pretty banging right?” Glimmer and Bow both nodded in agreement. Embra was wearing a shimmery gold sleeveless button down blouse, with a ribbon tied into a bow around their neck. Fitted black slacks completed the look.

“Hey, I’m going to go say hi to Mermista and Frosta,” Bow said before quickly making his exit.

Both Glimmer and Embra watched Bow scurry off. Embra turned back to Glimmer. “Does Bow not like me?”

“What? Bow likes you! I’m pretty sure Bow likes everyone,” Glimmer cracked. “Why do you think he doesn’t?”

“It’s just, he seems to run off every time I show up,” Embra responded. Glimmer didn’t have a good answer, so she just shrugged. “Anyway,” Embra continued. “Enjoying the Midsummer Ball?”

“Going okay so far,” Glimmer said. “How’s it going with Prince Akur?”

Embra sighed. “He’s… Fine. Soooo formal though. I’ve tried subtly dropping hints about the Horde, but nooooo. All he wants to talk about is the party. He’s been asking me for help with his closing speech ALL night!”

Glimmer couldn’t help but chuckle. “This is Midnight Sands’ first time hosting. He’s probably just nervous.”

“Yeah,” Embra sighed again. “It… Looks like my first Princess Alliance mission is a bust.”

“Oh! Hey!” Glimmer threw herself into a hug at the sight of Embra sulking. “There’ll be more missions! Don’t think that we’d just kick you out just because this one thing didn’t work out.”

“Promise?”

“Promise,” Glimmer beamed.

The music was in the midst of changing to something slower. Embra gave Glimmer a little smile. “Hey, Akur had to go attend to some stuff for a while. Did you wanna dance?” they asked. The lights in the ballroom were low and pulsating different colors and effects. All of which helped mask how flushed Glimmer’s face became when asked that question. She nodded and Embra led them onto the dancefloor. On their way out they passed and waved at Perfuma and Entrapta, who were also making their way onto the floor.

Perfuma and Entrapta found a good spot on the dancefloor. After fumbling around with hand placement they began slowly rocking back and forth. At first their movement was really stiff. Gradually they began to smooth out into one fluid unit, gliding together across the floor. Entrapta was audibly counting to keep rhythm with the dance. It made Perfuma giggle.

“Aaah, sorry!” Entrapta screeched when Perfuma’s giggling momentarily overcame her.

“No, it’s okay,” Perfuma assured her. “It’s cute… You’re cute.”

Entrapta was so thrown she messed up the beat for a second, before recovering. “Thank-thank you. You are too. No. Pretty. You’re very pretty. I should have said pretty. I-”

Before Entrapta could continue, Perfuma pulled her head in, cradling it against her chest. “It’s okay. Thank you,” she smiled. They continued dancing for another couple minutes without saying anything, just enjoying each other’s presence.

“I’m, very happy,” Entrapta eventually whispered.

“Me too,” Perfuma smiled back.

“I was worried that I would mess this part up.”

“You’re actually a very good dancer,” Perfuma said. She could feel Entrapta’s cheeks getting hotter against her chest. It made her giggle again.

“Catra showed me how, actually.”

“Well I’ll have to thank her, whenever I am able to see her next. Which is definitely not tonight.”

“Correct, definitely not tonight,” Entrapta chuckled.

Not far from Perfuma and Entrapta, Adora and Zayn were comfortably dancing as the slow song was starting to come towards its end. Zayn happened to see over Adora’s shoulder Mermista, Frosta, Bow, and Sea Hawk, off to the side of the dancefloor. Mermista and Frosta were creating ice pops out of the punch, which seemed to be hilarious to them. The sight made Zayn laugh.

“Your friends are silly,” Zayn snickered. She spun them around so Adora could see what they were doing. Adora let out a soft chuckle.

“It’s good to see, actually,” Adora responded.

“Oh, no sorry, I wasn’t trying to be critical.”

Adora smiled. “I know. It is good to see though. When Glimmer first told me about dances, I couldn’t quite figure out what the point was. I get it now.”

Zayn smiled. “I’m pretty sure the point is to have an excuse for you to wear that dress. You look great by the way, I don’t think I’ve told you that enough. Your back is barely even noticeable.”

It made Adora and blush. The song same to an end. A faster, poppier number was starting up. “Hey, I have to go visit the little princess’ room, I’ll be back in a bit,” Adora said. Zayn nodded. Adora began the process of maneuvering her way off the dancefloor.

 


 

Catra had re-settled into her makeshift nest. She was quite proud to see Entrapta nailing the dance. If only her old dance instructor, Essteare was there so she could throw it in his dumb face.

Despite all her efforts, Catra kept finding herself staring at Adora. At the moment she was down there, dancing with that girl . Catra was working on her third doodle of the night, a picture that was taking a considerable amount of her peach, yellow, and a blue colored pencils to make.

All in all, Catra had been perfectly content. Her friends seemed happy. For once all she COULD do was relax. She was settled into hanging out up there for the next few hours of the dance. There were even snacks in her backpack.

Wait, where’s Adora going?

Catra had noticed that at the end of the last song, Adora began heading off somewhere all by herself.

Who cares. My friends are here. I need to keep watch over them. Right now everything seems to be going so well. I need to stay here and make sure their night keeps going smoothly. Why should I care what Adora’s doing?

 


 

A number of minutes later, Adora found herself in a side atrium. Wash rooms were off to the right, hallway back to the ballroom on the left. In the center of the atrium was a large water fountain with a statue of a mermaid in the middle of it.

Adora had already done what she needed to, but found herself reluctant to return to the ball. She was having fun. She was happy to see all her friends for once being able to pretend that the weight of so much wasn’t piled on their shoulders.

Here though. Alone here in this overly fancy foyer, Adora felt a peace. Quiet. No one staring at her. No worrying about what all those looks meant. Were they excited to meet “the She-Ra”? Maybe waiting for her to pick another fight? Was that becoming a thing she was known for? Did they think her scars were ugly? She knew Zayn didn’t know how self conscious her scars were making her feel. That was Adora’s fault, something else she was doing poor job of communicating. Speaking of which…

“Hi Zayn,” Adora said as she felt fingers, two to be exact, press against her back. For a second Adora didn’t think anything of it, but the fingers slowly started dragging themselves down, tracing the scars. “Yes, I know, going backless wasn’t a good idea. Too late to do anything about it though.” Adora was surprised that Zayn still hadn’t said anything. She was starting to get nervous about it. “Zayn?” Adora inquired as she spun around.

Catra’s hand recoiled, as if suddenly realized that she had been touching an open flame the whole time.

“Catra?!” Adora yelped, taking a step back. “Catra what are you doing here?!”

It took a bit before Catra said anything. Her ears were flattened against her head, and she was biting her lip. She seemed to be forcing herself to not break eye contact with Adora.

“How did you even get here?” Adora asked, hoping this question might get a response.

“She-Ra doesn’t scar,” Catra whispered, seemingly disinterested in Adora’s questions.

“The one and only time,” Adora shrugged. Seeing Catra’s face was making Adora blush. “It’s okay. They don’t hurt.”

“They probably did though.”

“That’s life. That’s war,” Adora answered. She tried to pick the mood back up. “So, whatcha up to?” she asked with the chipperest tone she could.

“Just hanging around to make sure no one gives Scorpia and Entrapta a hard time,” Catra said. Her ears perked back up. One of her trademark grins returned to her face. “You look, amazing, by the way.”

Adora turned into a glowing red beacon. “Th-thank you!”

“Yeah I don’t know what idiot told you backless was a mistake but no. It was… It was… A good decision,” Catra said, scrounging around for the right words.

“That idiot , that you called her, is Zayn. She’s actually very nice,” Adora quipped.

“Well if she doesn’t see how good this looks, then I’m standing by my statement,” Catra responded, sticking her tongue out for good measure.

Zayn. Good. It was good to have a name to file all that unexplainable rage under.

Catra’s ears twitched. She let out a sigh. “And here comes the idiot now. Which is my cue to not be here anymore. Later, Adora.” Catra turned, but Adora grabbed her by the arm.

“You don’t have to leave.”

“I’m not officially ‘here’. As in, not on the guest list. So yeah I kind of do.”

Adora let her go. They stood, staring at each other a moment. “It was nice seeing you,” Adora airily said. Catra nodded. She hopped onto a statue against the far wall, scrambled up it and into the air vent. Adora watched her go. Once Catra was gone Adora turned attention to the main hallway. She squinted and nodded confidently.

 


 

It didn’t take long for Catra to get back to her nest. One of the perks of catlike reflexes. She plopped back down onto the boards and let out a long, groaning sigh. Catra ran her hand over the sketchbook and closed it. It went back into the backpack, replaced by a small monitor-like device that had buttons on each side of its face. Right now something a little more distracting than doodling was necessary.

Catra still wasn’t sure why she needed to go see Adora, to touch her. No matter how much physical work she was doing, or how how grimey she got, Adora’s skin was always amazingly soft. Except now for those eight lines on her back that Catra had left. Those were hard to the touch. A queasiness washed over Catra. Even the hard parts were pleasant to touch. And her smell. It was her normal odor, spun together with lavender. Catra could still smell it. In fact, it seemed to be getting strong.

Wait.

“You know, I’m really glad I didn’t let Glimmer talk me into the heels,” Adora said. Catra looked up and found the blonde princess carefully making her way across one of the support beams. She reached the platform of boards and sat next to Catra, giving a respectable six inches of space between them. Catra greeted her with a look of astonishment.

What are you doing?” Catra stammered out.

“I don’t know, what are you doing?” Adora smiled back.

“I’m not lonely up here if that’s what you’re thinking,” Catra said, regaining her composure back.

“Never said you were.”

“Adora I’m fine, you can go back down to your little party. I’m sure Zayn is missing you.”

“If, if you really want me to go, I will,” Adora said. She gave Catra a hopeful smile. “But I’m perfectly happy up here right now.”

Catra stared at Adora for a moment, their gaze seemingly locked together. She finally broke her stare and picked up the device next to her.

“Look what I brought,” Catra said with an amused smile.

“A Playkid!” Adora squealed as Catra handed the device to her.

“You haven’t played one since you left, have you?” Catra asked.

“No! They don’t have them in Bright Moon.”

“Well that’s just tragic. Give it a go. It’s already got our fav loaded up,” Catra said.

Adora made a small little gasp and booted up the gaming device. “Thunder Strike!” she screamed as the title flashed on screen. “You’re so much better at this game than I am,” Adora admitted. Catra was leaning over her shoulder and watching Adora play the game. They both had on big grins. Adora kept dying at the same obstacle. Catra kept poking fun at her for it each time.

“See, the problem is that you’re thinking too much,” Catra stated. “You just gotta react.” Adora died a another couple of times.

“Not sure if I can react fast enough to clear that jump,” Adora conceded.

“Sure you can, your timing’s just slightly off. Here, do the level again,” Catra ordered. She reached her arm around Adora, and was loosely holding Adora’s hand as she controlled the game. It took a lot of effort for Adora to push past the fact that most of Catra’s body was pressed against her. The way the fur of her arm brushed against Adora’s back alone was making it hard to concentrate. She had to force herself not to think about it too much and just stay in the moment. Just as Adora reached her problem jump, Catra shoved Adora’s hand, moving the thumbstick.

“AH! I made it over!” Adora exclaimed. She couldn’t stop giggling as she finished the rest of the level with ease.

“There you go!” Catra chuckled.

“I GOT A HIGH SCORE ON THE LEVEL!”

“You got the #5 spot, congratulations,” Catra cracked.

“Just because you have the first four,” Adora quipped. They shot each other goofy smiles.

Suddenly Catra’s smile vanished. She scanned the crowd until she found her friends. They were currently off to the side of the room, talking to Prince Akur, a couple of Midnight Sands guards,  Princesses Perfuma, Embra and Glimmer, Bow and Zayn.

“Something’s going on,” Catra said. Her ears were twitching rapidly. “Can’t hear everything they’re saying… Shit.” Catra hopped up to her feet.

“What is it?”

“It seems that the Princess of Power’s gone missing, and guess who’s getting the blame?” Catra scoffed.

Adora careful got to her feet. She had a pained expression on her face. “Oh no. I have to get back down there!”

“I’ll meet you there!” Catra said. She turned the opposite way.  Thanks to her feline prowess Catra had more direct options down. With any luck she could keep things calm until Adora could get back down.

 


 

“We have no idea what you’re talking about, we swear!” Scorpia pleaded.

“Then where’d she go Scorpia? She-Ra doesn’t just vanish!” Glimmer barked back.

“Please, I’m sure there’s been a misunderstanding,” Perfuma chimed in, arms still intertwined with Entrapta. “There’s no way they would have done anything. They’ve been with us the entire night.”

“Yeah,” Bow added. “We’ve all been hanging out, Glim, when could they have slipped out to do something like kidnap Adora?”

“I don’t know Bow! But last time they managed to rig bombs to an entire castle without us noticing!” Glimmer huffed.

“Ya gotta admit Bow, it is pretty suspicious,” Embra chimed in.

“I don’t want to just accuse you of wrongdoing,” Prince Akur stated. “Given your track record though, you have to understand why you’d be the most obvious suspects.”

“I just want Adora back! I don’t even care about why they would have done it,” Zayn begged.

“But, we didn’t…” Scorpa squeaked. Her frown was growing.

“Look, as someone who was their kidnappee, I’m willing to vouch for them now,” Bow said. He shot Scorpia a quick wink. “I just don’t think they’d do something like this.”

“Then where’s our friend, Bow?!” Glimmer demanded.

“Who knows, why don’t you ask around instead of just accusing people right off the bat?”

The group turned as Catra made her way into the conversation.

YOU !” Glimmer hissed. “Of course. Still gonna try to act innocent now?”

“Because they are!” Catra growled.

“Then what are you doing here?” Glimmer sneered.

“I’ve been hanging around specifically for this reason. In case somebody tried to start something with my friends.”

“Are we really supposed to believe that?” Embra chimed in. “You’re just, chilling here, just in case. Because you care.”

Catra furrowed her brow. “Is that so hard to believe?”

The arguments ground to sudden halt when Adora strolled up between Glimmer and Zayn. “Hi everyone. What’s going on?” She said, trying to play innocent.

“Adora!” Glimmer and Zayn both shouted in unison. They both smashed her into a hug. Catra glared at them.

“We thought something happened to you!” Zayn exclaimed as her and Glimmer slowly released Adora.

“I’m okay,” Adora assured them. “I just needed to get some air.” Adora shot a quick glance at Catra, “and also get some jumping practice in,” she chortled. Just about everyone looked at Adora with confusion. Except Catra, who let out a snicker despite all her efforts to suppress it.

Okay, good. This is good. Adora’s back and everyone’s calming the hell down. Maybe the night will be fine after all.”

“Don’t suppose anyone’s going to apologize?” Catra put out there. She got glares from Zayn, Glimmer, and Embra.

Scorpia put her claw on Catra’s shoulder. “It’s alright, Kitty,” she said, wearing her trademark optimistic smile. Catra looked up and patted Scorpia’s claw.

It’s not, really. But everyone seems to be willing to let it go. That’s good enough I guess. But really, it’s n-

“I’m sorry,” Adora said. “I shouldn’t have just run off like that. It was irresponsible.” Adora stared intently at Catra, giving her a morose smile the whole time. Catra tilted her head slightly. She was about to open her mouth, but got cut off before she could.

“You have nothing to apologize for,” Zayn protested.

“Scorpia and Entrapta are just trying to have a pleasant evening, like the rest of us,” Adora fired back.

“Yes,and they are free to stay, as no wrong doing actually happened,” Prince Akur decreed. “Miss Catra, on the other hand, you were not on the guest list. I am a patient man. I’m willing to overlook all of this if you agree to leave immediately. Do not worry, your friends will be taken care of.”

“How do I know this isn’t going to happen to my friends again?” Catra inquired, arms folded.

Bow playfully slapped Catra on the shoulder “Don’t worry, they’ll be with us.”

Catra nodded. “Thanks Bow.”

“We’ll take care of them,” Adora added. Adora had that look she always got when she was determined. It was a look Catra believed. She gave an approving smile to Adora.

“Feel free to go home, cat,” Zayn glared. She hadn’t taken her eyes off Catra the entire time. Catra returned the glare.

You know what idiot? You’re lucky that I’m in a fairly decent mood and am willing to that slide.

Finally breaking her glaring contest with Catra, Zayn turned her attention to Adora, who was looking very nervous about the whole situation. Zayn put her arm around Adora’s waist and pulled her in close. It was such a fast action that Adora let out a little yelp. She giggled as she slammed into Zayn’s side.

Catra continued staring at Adora and Zayn.

Everything’s fine. This is fine. My friends are gonna be taken care of. I can go home. This is good. The prince gave his word. Bow’s gonna keep any eye out for me. And Perfuma will be here to watch over them too. I don’t need to be here. This is fine. Everything’s-

“No. You know what,” Catra began, grabbing Akur’s arm, “that’s not good enough.”

“Pardon me?!” the prince responded, seemingly taken aback by the brashness of Catra pulling at him.

“I don’t trust you, Princey! Something happened and the very first thing you did is try to pin it on my people!” Everyone had looks ranging from shock to anger over Catra’s sudden outburst.

“Catra!” Adora gasped, a look of horror on her face. Catra had no interest in acknowledging her. Instead she kept pressing the Prince.

“And I don’t trust most of these princesses here! They’re just dying to throw us out!”

“Kitty, calm down, it’s okay!” Scorpia pleaded. It seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“How dare you!” Glimmer screamed.

“Oh shut up Glacier!”

“WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?!” Glimmer’s hands started forming a glow around them.

Catra pointed at Glimmer. “You are so full of shit, you know that?” Her finger slid to Embra. “And so are you, hiding in your stupid little mountain.” Catra’s finger moved to Zayn. “And you are super full of shit! You couldn’t wait to try to get my friends tossed out!” Her finger finally landed on Prince Akur, whose chest she was jamming it into. “And you especially are full of shit, you whiney, spoiled brat!”

Akur slapped Catra’s hand away. “Okay, you’re going now, cat.” Akur snapped his fingers and the guards began descending on Catra. She started pushing back.

“I’ll go when I want to go!” Catra cried, knocking a guard back.

Scorpia stepped in, shoving guards backwards. “Hands off her! Come on! It doesn’t have to come to this! Let’s just all calm down!”

“That’s no longer an option!” Akur yelled. He pushed into the mob, encouraging his guards on. The guards started getting rougher so Catra began doing the same. One of the guards raised a baton into the air.

It all seemed to play out in slow motion, but still no one was able to stop it. The guard had raised his baton at Catra. On instinct, Scorpia swung her claw. It wasn’t a planned attack, or coordinated strike. The guard she aimed for moved out of the way, which left Scorpia’s claw hurtling through the air until it slammed into the prince’s face. He flew back a good ten yards. The entire room screeched to a halt. Scorpia immediately knew what she had done. Her eyes went huge as she jaw dropped. Everyone watched with stunned faces as the prince slammed onto the ground.

For a moment, everything stopped. Everything was focused on the prince, now crumpled on the ground. Catra felt around and tapped Scorpia on the arm, all the while staring at the prince.

“We gotta go,” Catra yelped.

“Yep!” Scorpia ageed.

Then everything sprung back into action. Scorpia and Catra turned, and with a quick, knowing glance, communicated everything. Mattis and Entrapta turned and the four bolted for the door. Perfuma ran after them.

Embra was the first princess to regain their senses. They slapped the nearest guard on the arm. “Don’t just stand there, apprehend them!” Their command seemed to spread through the guards like wildfire. They all began chasing.

The Horde group burst into a main hallway with a long staircase leading down to the main doors. There were a good dozen guards in the room, all of whom trained their attention to the group.

“Shit,” Catra muttered. “My stuff.”

“What?” Scorpia asked, having not been entirely listening to Catra.

“I have to go get my stuff. Scorp, can you pick me up on the roof?”

“Yeah Kitty.” Scorpia examined the room as the guards began closing in on them. “May take a few minutes.”

“Okay, meet you there!” Catra yelled then turned back. She slammed through the doors back into the ballroom just in time to run into the guards. Catra barreled through them, easily outmaneuvering them and taking a few down on the way. She sprinted through the ballroom. Most were too confused to even try to stop her.

What was left of the princess circle had been attending to Akur when Catra zipped by. Glimmer growled and grumbled to the guards around her to follow Catra.They got up and began pursuing.

Adora was watching Catra run, and then the guards follow. There had been something in the pit of her stomach that had started aching as soon as the whole conversation began going south. Now it was throbbing. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and it was suddenly clear. Adora started to move, only to be quickly yanked back, having only just remembered that her hand was firmly in Zayn’s grasp. They stood, length of both of their arms between them, hands still clasped together, staring at each other.

“What are you doing?” Zayn asked.

“I have to,” Adora answered. Her voice was tinged with melancholy , but full of conviction.

“Please, don’t do this,” Zayn begged, eyes starting to look glassy, wet.

Adora looked at Zayn, then back towards where Catra was running, then at their hands, held together. Finally she looked back at Zayn, sadness in her eyes. “... I’m sorry,” Adora whispered, and yanked her hand out of Zayn’s. She turned and began sprinting with all her energy.

Both Glimmer and Zayn screamed out Adora’s name at the same time.

The guards were at the edge of the ballroom when they heard something yelling behind them. They turned to see Adora plowing a collapsable table into them.

 


 

Catra burst into the atrium and almost flew right into the fountain. She caught herself on the ledge of it, where she figured to take a momentary rest. At least until her next obstacle arrived. There was one set of footsteps behind her. Soon Catra could hear their huffing from running. Which sounded just like…

“Adora?” Catra mused out loud just as Adora flew through the atrium doors. She spun around and slammed the doors shut. Catra watched in awe as Adora, still in her normal Adora form, twisted the metal handles together, effectively tying the metal things into a knot.

“That should hold them off for a few minutes at least,” Adora huffed between attempts to catch her breath. She turned and smiled at Catra.

“What are you doing ?!” Catra asked, shocked to see her.

“Um, wow Catra, did you get hit in the head at some point? I’m clearly helping you escape,” Adora playfully mocked.

“But why?”

“I, feel bad. This is all my fault. Again. I ran off, and now everyone’s night is ruined. Because I decided to act like an impulsive child.”

“This wasn’t your fault,” Catra said. She looked at the doors, firmly shut. “Thanks though.” she turned to look Adora in the eyes. “I mean it, thank you.”

“You are welcome,” Adora smiled.

With a couple simple motions Catra was already at the top of the statue in the room and opening the air vent grille. Behind her she could hear Adora struggling. Catra turned around to see Adora halfway up the statue.

“Um, what are you doing?” Catra questioned.

“How many times are you going to ask me that tonight?” Adora quipped.

“No no, don’t follow me,” Catra told her.

“What? Why not?” Adora asked, her mood visibly dropping.

“You wanna help me escape? Then keep a lookout here. Good? Good.” Catra didn’t wait for Adora to answer before slithering into the air duct. She crawled a few feet then stopped and lightly punched her own head.

What was that, you stupid cat? Yeah they were being kind of shitty, but you lost it.

And she’s being soooo nice.

Ugh, why is everything weird and complicated?

 


 

Scorpia, Entrapta, and Mattis burst through the main palace doors, a few scratches, but otherwise fairing well.

“Social Experiment 2 Log, entry 3,” Entrapta was dictating while her pigtails ran for her. “Experiment started out better than I could have hoped. For much of the night it went very well.”

Hearing Entrapta dictate, even at a time like this, made Scorpia chuckled.

“Do all your nights end up this wild, Scorpie?” Mattis asked as they jogged.

“Heh, only the ones worth remembering,” she responded.

Behind them, the palace doors burst open again. Scorpia looked back, but was put at ease when she saw Perfuma running down the stairs. The group didn’t let up until they made it back to the skiff. Perfuma caught up right after that.

“Sorry Perfuma, you probably don’t want to hop a ride with us,” Scorpia apologized.

Perfuma shook her head. “I know.”

“The Social Experiment came to a close much sooner than planned,” Entrapta was continuing. “The experiment ended far too early. It was not a satisfactory conclusion.” Entrapta clicked the recorder back off, looking more sad then when she began.

Mattis and Scorpia had climbed up on the skiff already. Scorpia was directing Mattis on how to help her prep it. “We’re going to have to get going,” Mattis told Entrapta and Perfuma, who were just staring at each other. “We’re about to have friends,” he continued, pointing. Guards were starting to file out of the palace.

A mischievous grin grew on Perfuma. She turned and held her arms up. A giant green wall of vines exploded out of the ground, creating a barrier between the palace and the entire parking area.

“That should buy us a few minutes,” Perfuma giggled.

“I-I’m sorry I ran off without saying anything,” Entrapta stammered.

“It’s okay. I understand!” Perfuma smiled.

An idea popped in Perfuma’s head suddenly. She snatched the recorder out of the pigtail’s grasp.

“Social Experiment 2 Log, entry 4. Turns out, there was a satisfactory conclusion to the evening,” Perfuma beamed. She clicked the recorder off and pushed it back into the pigtail. Entrapta gave her a confused look for a second before Perfuma grabbed her by the collar and pulled her in for a kiss. Their lips hit each other and Entrapta’s pigtails began twitching wildly. After a few stiff seconds Entrapta began melting into Perfuma’s arms.

They finally separated with a gasp for air. Entrapta had a big stupid grin as she airily stared at Perfuma, who was smiling immensely.

Suddenly Entrapta was lifted up into the skiff by a meaty red claw. Perfuma looked at Scorpia and nodded. “Get her home safe.”

Scorpia smiled back at Perfuma, “Always do.”

 


 

At the top of the Midnight Palace was a roof garden. Gorgeous and well kept, it was a great place to come to reflect, or to wait for a getaway skiff. Catra strolled along the walkway, bushes on either side. She leaned over the low wall at the edge of the garden and idly stared of into the horizon.

“What was so important that you’d risk getting arrest for?” Adora asked.

The sudden sound of Adora’s voice nearly made Catra jump off the roof.

“Stalker!” Catra gasped.

“It’s nice being one of the few people who know how to sneak up on you,” Adora joked, leaning against the wall next to Catra.

Catra grunted and smiled. “You know, I’m starting to doubt that we’re ever getting invited to another dance ever again,” she chuckled.

“Haha, yeah, it’s looking pretty unlikely!”

“Know what? Who cares,” Catra said as she pushed herself off the wall. She looked Adora up and down and grinned. It made Adora blush. She averted her gaze in embarrassment, but her attention was brought back by the sight of Catra’s hand, extended out. Being offered. Adora stared intently at it for a few seconds before placing her hand into Catra’s. “We’ll just start out our ball then!” Catra chuckled as she spun them both.

Adora was giggling profusely. “First rule, no stupid greeting procedures!” They swayed and swished and pulled and pushed and laughed and almost fell into the bushes at least three times.

“We’ll call it, the Essteare Memorial Ball!” Catra exclaimed.

“Wait, is Professor Essteare dead?!”

Catra slyly grinned. “He’s been dead to me for years.” Catra spun them again and dipped Adora low. Even lower than intended. It took all the balance both of them could muster to stay on their feet.

Their faces were inches apart. Adora could feel Catra’s breath, gently cascading onto her cheeks.

She didn’t intend to, but Catra found herself gazing into Adora’s eyes and smiling. They didn’t get to stay that way for long though. Catra’s ears began twitching. She pulled Adora back up into a standing position.

“Someone’s coming,” Catra warned.

There was a sigh from Adora. “All the doors are jammed closed. I WONDER who could get around locked doors.”

“Glinda’s getting on my last nerve,” Catra groaned.

Adora busted out laughing. “Glinda? Catra that’s just lazy.”

“Look, being this witty is hard work! And I wasn’t planning on having to use a bunch of her nicknames tonight and I’m not going to waste the good ones when she’s not even around!” Catra protested, which just made Adora laugh at her harder. Catra was able to chuckle at it too as she made her way back over to the edge.

“Come on Scorpia, what’s taking you so long?” Catra mumbled under her breath.

“You didn’t answer me, by the way.” Adora was standing a few feet away, an inquisitive smirk on her face. “About what you went back for. I mean sure, the Playkid, but that’s not that valuable.”

Catra sighed. “You’ not going to let it go are you.”

“Nope.”

“Fiiiiiine,” Catra moaned. She knelt down and opened the backpack. With one smooth motion the jacket was yanked out and slid onto Catra. Adora gasped.

“My jacket!”

“No, my jacket,” Catra chortled.

Adora smiled wide. “Your jacket,” she agreed. “You kept it.”

Catra’s layer of fur only did so much to mask her blushing. “You gave it to me,” she mumbled. Catra loudly cleared her throat. “I’m surprised you didn’t get yourself a new one.”

“Can’t, actually,” Adora sighed. “It was specially made by one of the Horde’s chief designers. I tried finding someone in Bright Moon who could, but no luck. It’s the fabric, haven’t been able to find a match outside of the Horde. Everything’s been, too soft.”

“This does have a very particular level of firmness,” Catra remarked. Adora approached her and straightened the collar.

“It really does look great on you,” Adora reminded her. Catra grabbed one of Adora’s hands and held it.

The Horde skiff raised into view at the edge of the garden.

“Wow. I really feel like a jerk here tonight. I keep ruining everyone’s moments,” Scorpia said.

Both Adora and Catra giggled.

“It’s alright, Scorpia,” Adora said.

Suddenly the door to the garden flung open. Glimmer and Bow were standing in it. Glimmer was huffing, hands glowing, eyes wild. Bow stood behind her, a look of concern all over his face. Their appearance prompted Catra to let Adora go. She snatched up her backpack and hopped onto the skiff. Adora ran to the edge of the garden and leaned against the wall. Catra smiled at her and gave a little wave as the skiff pulled away. Adora stood there, clutching the wall, watching as the skiff sped off.

“Was she wearing your jacket?!” Glimmer stomped up the walkway towards Adora. “I thought you said it was destroyed?!” Adora didn’t respond immediately. She seemed preoccupied with watching the skiff.

“It’s been a long night, Glim,” Adora finally answered. “Can we discuss it tomorrow?” Adora asked, still watching the skiff.

“I think we kind of need to know now, Adora!” Glimmer barked.

“Glimmer, it’s fine,” Bow assured her. “Maybe going home and getting a good night’s rest wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t let this just slide Bow,” Glimmer scoffed. “Adora, what were you thinking ? Running off? Attacking royal guards? Protecting that cat?? You owe us an explanation!”

Adora perked up. “I. Owe? You?” Adora didn’t seem to notice it, but Glimmer and Bow definitely noticed as the solid stone edge wall crumbled under Adora’s tightening grip.

“I OWE you?” Adora screamed as she turned to face them. Her brow was furrowed. Her eyes were puffy. Her hands were balled into fists and were shaking.

“Oh please do tell me what I owe you Glimmer. I only left the home, as messed up as it was, that I grew up in.”

“Adora…” Glimmer squeaked. Adora was slowly stalking toward them. Glimmer and Bow both had faces of fear as they gave Adora more ground.

“I only abandoned the people that raised me. And now regularly fight the people who used to call me their friend. The girl who taught me how to do eyeliner? Punched her so hard she flew out of her armor. The guy who kept bandaging me up whenever I got a scrape or a bruise as a kid? Threw him through a wall.

“I know your history with the Horde. I get it, Glimmer. But they were my family. For better and worse. They’re half the reason I’m the person that I am. And you don’t even care !”

Adora took a beat to think. Bow and Glimmer were cowering together.

“And that cat ? I gave up my chance for a real relationship with her. For ANY relationship with her. For what? Fealty to Bright Moon. Honor to Grayskull. I’m stuck in a blood feud with the woman I LOVE. The woman I’ve ALWAYS loved. For you. For your mother. For that damn sword!

“And I OWE you?

“What more can I owe you?! I’ve already GIVEN YOU EVERYTHING!”

After she finished, Adora stood there, feet away, seething at Glimmer and Bow. They weren’t sure what to do, so they just stood there, trying to look at their friend, who had become an exploding volcano of rage and sadness and anger and regret.

“I’m going home,” Adora said, unnervingly calm. She walked past them, then stopped as Bow and Glimmer turned to follow her. “Alone,” she said, then marched through the door leading back into the palace.

Bow and Glimmer stood there, holding each other, tears rolling down their cheeks as they stared into the empty doorway.

“...Bow,” Glimmer sniffled.

“I know, Glimmer, I know,” he whimpered.

 

 

Chapter Text

Anyone who could afford to be someone in the Horde lived in Crescent Valley. A deep gash cut in the ground at the edge of the Fright Zone, Crescent Valley was a glittering metropolis as much built into the sides of the valley as it was along the valley floor. Retired war heroes, dignitaries, those that profited greatly from the business of war. On the surface, Crescent Valley was one of the nicest places in the Horde. Dig a little deeper and one would also find one of the nastiest.

Catra made her way down one of Crescent Valley’s wide streets. The city was one of the only ones in the Horde with paved roads and sidewalks. They looked weird to Catra. Then again, she grew up in a tower of steel and wires, who was she to judge?

It was early in the morning, many of the shops that Catra passed were just opening. She wanted to get an early start, in the hopes that there’d be less people who would recognize “the Force General”. The plan was working great, thus far she’d only passed one other person, who didn’t seem at all interested in her.

The early start was also a result of not having slept at all the night before. She hadn’t changed, or even taken off her jacket. She had been a ball of energy as soon as they got back from the dance. So she stayed up all night researching, which brought her to her current destination: a little, nondescript shop in a sleepy corner of Crescent Valley. The sign said “Closed”, but Catra tried the door anyway. It opened for her.

Inside the shop was lit with harsh yellow bulbs, that bounced off the hardwood floors to give the room a hazy sunset glow. Across from the door was a counter, with hundreds of little drawers and cubby holes behind it. A little bell had been connected to the door, alerting those within earshot of Catra’s arrival.

“I’m sorry, we’re still cl-” a short, elderly man started as he came around the corner from a back room. “-Oh, Force General. This is a surprise.”

“Hey Mr. Pointe,” Catra smirked. “You weren’t an easy man to find.”

Mr. Pointe chuckled. “That was intentional, lass.” He took a deep breath as he climbed up onto a stool behind the bar. “Seems I didn’t make it hard enough though.”

“What can I say, I was motivated.

“I also had a certified genius who spent the night ‘high on love’ cranking out search algorithms on maybe the most powerful computer setup on all of Etheria,” Catra grinned. “So, you know, don’t blame yourself.”

An uncomfortable silence fell on the shop. Mr. Pointe sat there, cleaning his glasses with a cloth. Catra simply watched him.

“This very thing is what I was trying to get away from,” Mr. Pointe said. “I did my time. I’m done with ‘Horde’ work.”

“Yes, I understand Mr. Pointe. But you are the best at what you do. Please, I just need you to do one more job.”

The old man rubbed the bridge of his nose before putting his glasses back on. “I suppose it’s not a healthy choice for me to say ‘no’ to you.”

Catra jumped back and threw her hands up. “What? Oh, no! I’m not that kind of Force General. Horde’s doing things differently now.”

“What, you displace old Hordak?” Mr. Pointe chuckled.

“No, of course not!” Catra was quick to correct.

“Heh, good luck with the whole ‘differently’ then.”

“Look,” Catra began, determined to get this back on track, “I’m actually trying to keep this off the Horde radar, for now at least. I’m just coming here as myself, hoping for the help of a sweet old man, one last time.”

A long, drawn out sigh came from Mr. Pointe. “Alright lass, what exactly did you need?”

“Here,” Catra pulled a folded up piece of paper out. There were a number of designs sketched out on it. “I was hoping you could help me with this.”

 


 

As far as Adora was concerned there was not going to be anything more important to do than be in bed all day. Buried deep underneath her covers, Adora’s head was swirling with the events of the previous night. So many good moments. So many bad ones. Thinking about Bow and Glimmer and Zayn just made Adora groan and roll over, attempting to wrap herself tighter in her blankets.

There was only one place Adora really wanted to go back to. That rooftop. Before the bad parts. Back to the part where they danced. The part where she held Adora’s hand. The part where she was wearing the jacket Adora gave her. The part where her hair smelled like cinnamon. The part where she gazed into Adora’s eyes, and for the first time since Adora left the Horde, Adora thought she saw happiness reflected back.

The room was suddenly filled with the sound of someone knocking at the door. Adora grumbled and buried her head under her pillow. After a minute there the knocking resumed. “UUUUGGGH,” Adora moaned out. “Just a minute!” she yelled right after. Adora flopped out of bed and quickly scrounged around the floor for something approximating presentable clothing. A trail of low, indistinct mumbling followed Adora as the stumbled to the door.

“Can I h-” Adora began as she opened the door, but stopped. “-Zayn,” Adora breathed.

Zayn was standing in the doorway, fully in uniform, and stone faced. “The Queen needs to see you, immediately.” With that she spun around to walk away, but Adora grabbed her by the arm. Zayn stared at Adora’s hand for a second, then yanked herself free.

“The Queen needs to see you, immediately .” Zayn didn’t give Adora any time to respond. In a few long strides she was rounding the corner, out of sight.

Adora closed the door. She leaned against it, forehead first, and let out a long sigh. “Dammit.”

 


 

No matter how many times she was in it, Queen Angella’s throne room intimidated Adora. It was so open, so cavernous, voices would echo and bounce back into you. The walls glistened with gold and the floor shimmered as if you were walking on glass. Even after all this time, Adora still felt out of place here.

At the far end of the room the Queen sat on her throne, extended out into the air past the opening in the wall. She was bathed in daylight. Glowing. Zayn marched a few feet in front of Adora, each footstep was deafening.

It all felt off. Usually guards were stationed along the walls, and there was almost always at least a few royal dignitaries milling about. Today though, Angella, Zayn, and Adora were the only people in the room.

“Psst. Hey, where is everyone?” Adora tried whispering to Zayn. She just continued marching, paying no attention to Adora.

After another moment Zayn stopped and bowed. Adora was so preoccupied with trying to get Zayn to talk to her she didn’t realize at first, but tried recovering as quick as possible and also bowed.

“Your Majesty, Princess Adora, as you requested,” Zayn stated before moving off to the side, leaving Adora in the center of the room, alone.

“I’m not.. Really.. A.. You know what, that’s probably not important right now,” Adora stumbled. She could feel the weight of Angella’s gaze bearing down on her. “Y-Your Majesty,” she said, bowing even lower.

“Do you know why we are here this morning?” Angella questioned. Even without trying, her voice boomed across the room.

Adora let out a massive puff of air in an attempt to buy time. “Yeeeee-noo? Oh, is this about Swift Wind? Did he leave a mess in one of the hallways again? I can assure you, I’ve already talked to him about that,” Adora said all at once.

Angella let out her own sigh. “Adora, it is okay to just say ‘no’ once in a while.” Adora blushed from embarrassment. Angella sat up straight in her throne.

“We are here this morning because I have been informed of something troubling,” Angella said. Adora picked her head up and looked at the queen in confusion. “Adora, you have been accused of consorting with the Horde.”

“WHAT!” flew out of Adora’s mouth. Her eyes went wide, her mouth was hanging open as he eyebrows furrowed. Angella held her hand out towards Zayn. Adora whipped around. Zayn was glaring at her.

“You kept defending everyone in the Horde last night. You attacked Midnight Sands guards. You helped the Horde’s Force General escape custody,” Zayn listed, for the first time showing any hint of anger.

“How do you answer these charges?” Angella sternly asked.

Suddenly Adora was having trouble breathing. Her mouth kept opening, trying to form words, instead she just gasped for air as she peered up at the Queen. “I’m not… It wasn’t like… I mean, I did… But I’m not…” she kept stuttering.

“Why did you help Catra escape, Adora?” Zayn sneered behind her.

“No… It wasn’t like that… I’m not a traitor… Your Majesty, I’m not a traitor!”

In one effortless motion, Angella rose out of her chair. Her wings unfurled slightly, and twinkled in the daylight. “Were you protective of the Horde contingent last night?”

She was trying to hold herself together, but it was getting harder and harder for Adora. Tiny pools of tears were starting to form in the corner of her eyes. “Midnight Sands is neutral territory, I was just trying to remind everybody of that. They just wanted to have a fun evening.” Adora sighed. “And yes, I did attack those poor guards, which did help Catra escape. I-I didn’t do it for the Horde though.” Adora slammed her eyes shut. A single tear rolled down her cheek.

Angella, her hands hanging interlocked together in front of her, turned to Zayn. “Thank you guard. Please leave us,” the Queen ordered. Zayn opened her mouth to protest, but thought better of it as soon as she made eye contact with Queen Angella. Instead, Zayn just bowed and made her way out of the throne room. The Queen began making her way down the floatings steps, until she was standing just in front of Adora.

“I… I’m still loyal… to Bright Moon, your Majesty… I swear,” Adora sniffled. She was doing her best to hold back her tears, and just barely succeeding. Her only saving grace was a spot on the floor that she had decided to fixate on on a method of distraction.

“I know,” Queen Angella plainly stated.

Adora’s head shot up. At some point the Queen’s expression had softened, with a sincere smile, and forgiving eyes.

“You do?” Adora breathed. Her eyes were puffy as she used her sleeve to wipe her nose. Angella rose her long, slender fingers to gently cup Adora’s chin.

“I see pain in this face, not betrayal,” Angella said. Her voice was ethereal, gentle like a soft breeze. “For a long time I had concerns about your loyalty, Adora. I was worried that your connections to the Horde would be a weakness, but in time I’ve come to realize that it is your greatest strength. You understand, perhaps more than anyone, the humanity involved in war. You’d save them too, if they let you.” Angella let out a little hum. “You saw them being mistreated, and you didn’t stand idly by, even when it put you against your friends. That’s the She-Ra I want leading my army.”

It was too much. Too much to hold back any more. Tears began rolling down Adora’s face, one after another after another and then a deluge. Queen Angella pulled Adora into a hug. Adora wrapped her arms tightly around the angelic woman. Angella stroked Adora’s hair.

Their embrace went on for a few minutes. The Queen was in no rush. In the year and a half since she came to Bright Moon, Adora had earned her place in the Rebellion. Her place in Bright Moon. Her place in Angella’s family. The arrival of She-Ra had given the Queen the hero destined to save them; it also gave her a second daughter.

Eventually Adora pulled herself away at least far enough to allow herself to wipe her messy nose. Adora rose her bloodshot, glassy gaze up to the Queen. “I’m sorry for all this. I’m sorry I made a scene last night. I’m really sorry for any trouble I may have caused with Midnight Sands. Definitely wasn’t something I was trying to do. I was just…. I don’t have a good answer for any of it really.”

Angella examined Adora, staring into her eyes. Adora could feel the Queen piercing into her soul. “The Force General, Catra was her name?” Angella inquired. Adora nodded. “You knew her when you were still in the Horde?” Adora nodded again. “You love her.”

The words punched Adora in the gut, sending her into a minor coughing fit. “Did Glimmer tell you?” she stammered. Angella smiled and wiped a tear off Adora’s cheek with her thumb.

“No, this told me all I needed. Does she love you back?”

“Hahaha. Ahem. I…” Adora began with a stutter. She took a pause.

“If you asked me that yesterday I would have told you with 100% certainty that she does not. But now, I’m honestly not sure what she feels about me. Catra’s always been pretty good at hiding her true feelings. She’s a master of mental walls.” Adora sighed, “I used to think I knew how to see past most of them.” Adora sighed again. Deeper, more deflating this time. “If I had to guess, still probably not.”

“Then there is no reason to despair,” Angella said. “I heard a lot of ‘probably’ and ‘unsure’, meaning that there is still a chance that she does.”

Adora’s face contorted into a smirk. “Would that be okay? Me, having, something, with the second-in-command of our enemy?”

“Dangerous, to say the least. I trust you Adora. I know where your loyalties lie. I trust that you will be careful.”

This time the hug had more energy, more smiles, more giggling. “Thank you, your Highness.”

“Besides,” Angella whispered into Adora’s ear. “I’d be too much of a hypocrite it I told you not to follow your heart just because it was dangerous.” Adora pulled away to look at the Queen, pure confusion on her face. Angella let out a small chuckled. “Come, sit with me.”

They made their way over to the floating stairs. Adora sat on the bottom one, Angella took one a few steps higher. “When I was about your age, Castaspella and I loved to visit Seaworthy. The beaches. The parties. The sailors. I was the Princess of Bright Moon, everyone loved me. Or so I thought. Pirates kidnapped me during one of our particularly wild visits. They thought I could be ransomed off for a steep price.

“Unfortunately for them my powers were well developed, even for that age. By that evening I had taken over the ship. Almost made the captain walk the plank. I spared him though.”

“Out of mercy?” Adora asked, hang on every word.

“Because he was cute,” Angella chortled. “The Dread Pirate Micah indeed.”

Adora gasped. “King Micah was a pirate?! I thought he was a sorcerer.”

“He was, eventually. He grew up being trained in Mystacor. But something happened, something he refused to ever talk about. He ran from his power for years, until he met me.”

“You helped him find his way,” Adora smiled.

“Micah was a scarred, broken man for many years. I helped him, loved him, held his hand every step of the way, but in the end Adora, he found his own way. He just needed someone to believe in him.

“Not that it was always easy. Most of my friends thought I was crazy. You should have seen my mother when I brought a pirate home! ‘Untrustworthy’ she said! ‘Pirates only care about the sea and their ship!’ I was warned repeatedly,” Angella chuckled. “And yes it’s true, he did love that ship of his,” Angella grinned from ear to ear, “the Glimmering Cutlass.”

A giant gasp escaped Adora as she jumped to her feet. “Wait, is THAT where her name came from?!”

“Our little secret,” Angella smiled.

“Glimmer doesn’t know?! Can I tell her?! Pleeeaaassssseee?!”

“Absolutely not.” Angella rose to her feet and made her way back to Adora. She set a gentle hand on Adora’s shoulder. “A bratty princess and a broken pirate found love together, and created something beautiful. That is to say, Adora, there’s no correct way to do this. There is no criteria for who you should love, other than they be the person, that when you close your eyes and think about them, your entire soul lights up and glows.”

At that moment, Adora felt lighter than she could remember in a long time. “Thank you, your Majesty. I think I know that feeling. Back when we were growing up, sometimes Catra and I would just hang out together on my bed. Doing homework or playing games. Something. When she’d get really relaxed she’d start purring,” Adora stopped to let her thoughts drift for a moment. Queen Angella squinted her eyes at Adora. “The way that vibration would run through my body, it felt like I was on higher plane of existence.”

“Did you say, “purring”?” Angella questioned.

Adora blushed. “Oh, yeah. Catra’s something called a-”

“-Magicat?” Angella cut Adora off.

Hearing someone else say it was a shock to Adora. It took her a few seconds to realize that Angella had said it as a question. Adora nodded. “How did you know? I’m actually trying to research magicats right now. We never knew what she was growing up, and nobody else in the Horde seemed to either.”

Angella spun around and wandered to the edge of throne room. She was staring out into the open air. “No, I would think not… That’s… Impossible. Isn’t it?” Angella seemed to be talking to herself. Which was good, because Adora had no idea how to answer the Queen’s questions. Angella flicked her wrist out, and a door emerged out of the wall near her throne. Angella began walking toward it. She grabbed Adora’s wrist as she passed her. “Follow me,” the queen stated.

The door opened into a shaft with seemingly no way down it. Angella grabbed Adora and pulled her in. “Hold on,” Angella said and jumped down. The Queen’s translucent wings spread. They slowly floated down the shaft, which didn’t take long. At the bottom was a sizable single room with bookshelves against every wall and more shelves and a couple long tables in the center. Every surface was overflowing with books.

“Whoa,” Adora gasped as they reached the bottom. There were no other openings in the room beside the shaft they just descended down. Purple flames flicked on, bathing the room in a soft light.

“My private library,” Angella informed her. The Queen made her way over to one of the shelves and began rummaging through it. Adora wandered into the room. The books seemed old, and bursting with history. Some felt like they were literally crackling with magic. “Be mindful,” Angella called out. She had disappeared behind more shelves. “Some of the things in here are quite delicate, and others quite dangerous.”

It took a good five minutes for Angella to find what she was looking for. She reemerged in the center of the room, smile on her face. “Feel privileged Adora, Glimmer’s never been allowed in here, even though she’s tried.”

“I’ll try not to rub it into Cutlass’ face,” Adora quipped. Angella chuckled as she handed Adora two books. “What are these?” Adora asked.

“The libraries of Bright Moon will contain plenty of knowledge and history on magicats, but I thought these might help you get a better sense of what kind of people they actually were,” Angella stated. She put her hand on the top book, a thick blue book with silver trimming. “The collected works of Mai’Shup, most talented poet in magicat history. No one captured the heart and creativity of their culture quite like her.

“And this,” Angella began, shuffling the books in Adora’s hands. The other book was now on top, it was a little thinner, black with gold leaf on the front. “This is actually a collection of handwritten letters,” Angella stopped. She took the book back and ran her fingers over it. She had suddenly become melancholy. A sad little smile cracked on her face.

“I put this together afterwards. To remember. It’s a collection of letters between myself, and Empress C’yra, the last ruler of Half Moon, kingdom of the magicats.”

“You knew the last ruler of the magicats?!” Adora gasped.

“More than knew. C’yra was my best friend. We grew up together. Did everything together. That became much harder when we had to take over rule of our kingdoms, but we made it work. We made sure to write each other every week. At least, until Half Moon fell.”

“What happened to them?” Adora breathed.

Angella’s eyes narrowed. There was a sudden bitterness in her tone, made all the more frightening by how seldom it was heard. “The Horde. Half Moon was on the other side of the Horde as we are, far to the west. For us to get to it we had to cross the ocean. For a long time they were safe. They were strong. But the Horde kept pushing its borders west. We weren’t able to get help to them in time. We tried,” Angella trailed off again. It was obvious that she was starting to be overcome with emotion. Feeling Adora’s hand on her shoulder pulled her out of it. “The Horde viewed them as a threat, and decimated Half Moon. Reports indicated that the Horde took no prisoners from the battle. The complete genocide of the magicats.

“Except, apparently not. One still lives, and is ironically leading the Horde.”

“She doesn’t know,” Adora said, sounding a little defensive. “Catra was an orphan, same as me. The Horde doesn’t want you knowing where you came from. Once you’re theirs, the Horde becomes all that matters.”

Angella took a deep breath. “My apologies, I wasn’t trying to attack Catra’s character.

“The loss of Half Moon and C’yra was a crushing blow. The Rebellion never really recovered. At least not until you came along.”

“Empress C’yra was important to the Rebellion?”

That got a laugh from Angella. “C’yra and Micah founded the original Rebellion. Those two were magnificent friends in their own right. In a way, they were the original Adora and Glimmer. They convinced me to form the first Princess Alliance.” Angella had a dreamy look on her face. “C’yra and I had envisioned leading the Princess Alliance to glory, and then passing it onto our daughters. I had hoped for the day when Glimmer and C’yra the 2nd would lead Etheria to liberation, together. Only poor C’yra the 2nd met the same fate as her mothers.”

“Ahem,” Angella cleared her throat. “Look at me, reminiscing.” The Queen handed the book back.

Adora gave her a big hug. “Thank you, your Highness!” she smiled.

“I have a question though,” Adora said. “If they were the ‘Adora’ and ‘Glimmer’, what did that make you?”

“I guess, I was their Bow,” Angella laughed.

Adora tightened the hug. “That’s the highest honor anyone could achieve.”

 


 

The doors to the throne room creaked open. Adora slipped out, her new books tucked under her arms. She had hoped that maybe she could slip away without anyone noticing. Instead, as soon as Adora pushed the door shut, she turned to see Zayn leaning against the wall opposite from her. Adora sucked in a deep breath through her nose as she stared intently at Zayn, then turned to leave.

“I’m sorry,” Zayn called out after Adora. It was enough to get Adora to stop walking. She stood, back still to Zayn. “What was I supposed to do Adora?” Zayn asked. “FIghting guards? Helping the Force General of the Horde? What was I supposed to think?” Zayn pushed herself off the wall and slowly inched towards Adora. “You ditched me! For that… that brat!”

Adora spun around. Her face was a mix of sadness and anger, and seemed to fluctuate back and forth between the two from moment to moment. “She’s not a brat,” Adora said. It came out flat.

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say?”

Seemed anger was winning. Adora pushed herself forward. “What do you want me to say? You accused me of treason!

“You left me no choice. I did what I had to do for Bright Moon,” Zayn defended herself.

“There’s always a choice Zayn, you could have talked to me,” Adora growled.

Zayn stared into Adora’s eyes. It seemed to cut the anger in both of them.

“I was scared of what your answers would be,” Zayn admitted. There was a silence as both of them took a deep breath. “It’s her, isn’t it.”

“What?” Adora asked, terrified of what Zayn was asking her.

“Catra. She’s the one. The other girl you couldn’t get over.”

“... Yes,” Adora whispered as her head lowered.

Zayn grunted in acknowledgement. “Did I ever really have a chance?”

There wasn’t an answer.

Which was the answer.

“I’m so sorry,” Adora finally said. Zayn just grunted again to indicate she had heard Adora.

“Where will you go now?” Zayn asked.

“Oh, probably just back to my room for the day. Maybe try to work the nerve up to go find Bow and Glimmer,” Adora mused. Zayn cocked her head in confusion. “What?”

“Have, you not been banished by the Queen?”

“What?! No, of course not!” Adora blurted out. “She did let me borrow some books though. You really thought I would be banished?”

“Well I mean, kind of, yeah. You DID help the Force General escape.”

“Yes, but for love, not treason,” Adora reassured her.

Zayn closed her eyes and rubbed her temple.

Adora gave her a curious look. “Did, you want me to get banished?”

“What? No, of course not Adora. I’m just sort of amazed by our Queen’s grace sometimes.”

“Yeah, she really is something.” Adora placed her free hand on Zayn’s arm. “I really am sorry about last night. If you want, we could talk about it over dinner,” Adora gave her a hopeful smile.

At first Zayn remained quiet, and just stared at the hand on her arm. She finally looked up to make eye contact with the blonde woman in front of her. “I… Can’t tonight. Sorry.”

“Oh, of course. Well, just let me know if you do want to, okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” Zayn replied. She shuffled her feet a little. “I, should probably get back to work.”

“Right. Absolutely,” Adora agreed. “I’ll see you around, Zayn.” Adora spun back around and scurried off.

Zayn watched intently as she left. After Adora was out of sight Zayn took a deep breath. “See you around, Princess.”

 


 

“Explain yourself, Force General!” Hordak barked. He was perched in his throne, at full attention. Catra stood a few yards away. The force of Hordak’s words seemed to push her back. “It was you that convinced me that a peace treaty with Midnight Sands was a better immediate solution than an outright attack. Despite my reservations I let you try. And now you’re telling me that you jeopardized the entire thing in one night?!”

“Lord Hordak, my apologies! It was a misunderstanding,” Catra stammered.

“What were you doing that?” Hordak demanded.

“Er, I needed to follow up with the King, in regards to our last round of negotiating,” Catra said. “I can fix this,” Catra promised.

“Yes, you will. I allowed the treaty because it was seen as a sign of benevolence. Now it looks like a sign of weakness.”

“We are not weak, my Lord,” Catra assured him.

“I do not care what it requires. Ensure that Midnight Sands understands that .”

 


 

“What did Lord Hordak say?” Scorpia asked as Catra stormed back into the lab.

Catra didn’t immediately answer. Instead she examined the table that was sitting between Scorpia, Lonnie, Kyle, and Rogelio. They appeared in the middle of a card game. Catra could feel her chest heaving harder and harder as she glared at the table. Then, with one smooth motion she flipped the table into the air. It went spinning, missing Kyle by inches. Cards and chips flew about the room. Everyone jumped up in astonishment.

“Kitty!” Scorpia yelled with indignation.

“Yeah, there’s our Catra!” Lonnie beamed, basking in the random act of violence.

“Catra that almost hit me!” Kyle cried.

In an instant Catra was on Kyle. She grabbed him by the shirt and lifted him high into the air. Her arm was wrenched back, balled into a tight fist. “You want to know what a hit really feels like Kyle? Is that what you?” Catra felt a tugging on her arm. She turned to see Rogelio grasping her pulled back arm. “Let me go this instant!” she snarled. Rogelio didn’t listen. Catra tossed Kyle down and gave her full attention to Rogelio. With Kyle out of the way Rogelio shoved Catra back. Her claws flexed out, but before anything else happened, a giant purple pigtail shot between them.

“My lab is not for fighting!” Entrapta barked. “Unless, of course, it’s in the name of science. But this is not.” Entrapta closed the distance with Catra. The princess’ eyes were wide. “ Is this for science?!” Entrapta excitedly asked, a hint of hope in her voice.

It was most likely just Entrapta’s habit of sometimes completely misreading social cues, but there was a small part of Catra that wondered if Entrapta understood how people worked a lot more than she let on. The earnest question threw Catra just enough for her moment of anger to pass.

“No, not for science,” Catra groaned.

“Okay then,” Entrapta pulled up a mini-monitor and tapped at it. “There are many training rooms throughout the Fright Spire. Here are the three closest,” she quipped and handed Catra the mini-monitor. Entrapta gave her a beaming smile then bounced back off to her workstation.

Catra glanced around the room at the mess she made. The anger was passing, but the shame was just starting. Her shoulders drooped as she watched Rogelio helping Kyle up. She tossed the mini-monitor onto one of the still standing chairs and slumped away into a corner of the lab.

“That outburst at the dance, and now tablecide? Been a while since I’ve seen this Catra,” Scorpia remarked, having followed her. They were seperated from the rest of the lab by rows of metal crates.

“You mean the real ‘Catra’?” Catra huffed.

“I don’t believe that,” Scorpia said. “What happened.”

“He yelled at me,” Catra growled. “All we’ve done in the last year. We make one mistake and suddenly he’s making feel like I’m just some bumbling cadet all over again.” Catra banged her head against one of the crates. “Worst part is, he’s right.”

“I definitely don’t believe that,” Scorpia protested.

Thanks Scorp. You’re 100% wrong, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

Scorpia gently scratched her giant claw down Catra’s back. About halfway down a small purr rumbled out of Catra. “You’ve been doing so good, Kitty. Yeah, we made a mistake. But was just one mistake.

“Look, I’ll go get my yelling at, and then we can start planning on how to get back in Midnight Sands’ good graces.”

“No you won’t,” Catra said airily. “I didn’t tell Lord Hordak what really happened. He doesn’t know anything about the dance or you and Entrapta being there. And we’re going to keep it that way.”

“Is lying to Lord Hordak such a great idea?” Scorpia worried.

“With the mood he’s in? Do you really think telling him that we messed up a peace treaty over some shenanigans that happened at a dance would go over well?”

“You shouldn’t have had to take the fall all by yourself, Kitty.”

Catra chuckled. “That’s what leaders do, right?”

“Wow,” Scorpia laughed. “You spend one night with Adora and you’re sounding just like her.”

“How dare you!” Catra said, mockingly clutching her chest. They both laughed.

“You know, it’s okay,” Scorpia said.

“What is?”

“You know, to admit that you still like her.”

“Who? Adora? HA!” Catra forced a laugh out at the top of her lungs. “Just because I didn’t punch her on sight last night doesn’t mean I suddenly like her again.”

“Kitty…” Scorpia sighed.

“...She’s our enemy. Nothing about that’s changed,” Catra muttered. “That was her choice. She chose to not be here with us.”

“Funny, because I distinctly remember her choosing to spend the day with us in Dryl,” Scorpia fired back. “She certainly seemed to choose to be with you on that roof last night.”

A low grumble came out of Catra. She pushed herself off the the crates she was leaning against and forced herself to stare Scorpia in the eyes. There as a mix of emotions in Catra. A little bit of anger, blended with a little bit of sadness, and a lot of fatigue.  

Scorpia threw her thick arms around Catra and squeezed hard into a hug. Catra squirmed some, mostly for the sake of precedence. “I’m sorry. I won’t push. Just… Think about it.” Scorpia whispered.

“Now come on, we should probably go help clean up,” Scorpia said as she let the catgirl slide out of her grip. They began walking back with Scorpia’s arm slung over Catra’s shoulders. “And hey, no more talk about ‘angry, rage Catra’ being the real ‘Catra’. You’ve worked too hard for that kind of talk.”

If I’m not anger and rage and hate…. Then what even am I?

 


 

Over the next two days Adora spent the majority of her time in her room, reading all about the misadventures of Angella and C’yra. It had been an intense friendship. They seemed to perfectly balance each other out. C’yra was always ready for a fight, and if there was no fight to be had, she was always ready to create one. Angella, even then, had all the makings of the calming force that she would one day grow into. Adora found herself lamenting that she could never meet Empress C’yra, or even that version of Queen Angella.

At no point had Bow or Glimmer stopped by. Adora had made minimal effort to seek them out. The farther she went from the Midsummer Ball, the more Adora became angry at herself. She knew, deep down, that most of what she felt was true, but that wasn’t the way to handle it. To try to bottle it up and ignore it until it comes exploding out. This was her friendship with Catra all over again. And just like Catra, Adora was now terrified that she had irreparably damaged their relationship.

On the third day Adora was just about sick of her room. So she found herself once again in the Great Library, following up more leads on magicats. The Great Library had many rolling ladders, for reaching up to the highest shelves. Those were for other people, not the hero of Etheria. Adora scaled up the bookcase, the shelves creaking under her weight. The book she was after was right there, red and thick and just out of reach. Adora was straining to reach the book. So much so that she started losing her balance.

Before she could fall though, Adora was engulfed in pink sparkles. There was a swirling noise and in a poof of glitter Adora was now standing safely on the ground, red book in her hands. She looked up. Just in front of her was Glimmer, whose lip was quivering. After a second Glimmer threw her arms around Adora’s head and hugged her.

“WE ARE SO SORRY!” Glimmer wailed right next to Adora’s ear.

As if on cue, Bow slammed into them and just like that Adora was being buried in a Best Friend Squad hug. “WE ARE TERRIBLE FRIENDS!” Bow lamented through tears.

At first her main concern was the red book that was being pushed into her abdomen, but she soon was able to deal with that. The warmth from her friends, the sounds of sobbing, the comforting touch of their arms and hands hugging her, it all proved too much for Adora to bear. Tears began forming in her eyes, then suddenly Adora was also crying.

“I’m sorry too,” Adora sniffled.

Glimmer and Bow released her slightly. “We’re supposed to be apologizing to you! Not the other way around,” Glimmer snorted.

“You don’t know anything about my life in the Horde, because I didn’t want you to,” Adora sighed. “It was my choice to not tell you. Especially how I felt about Catra.”

“We could have asked. We should have!” Bow retorted.

“I don’t know how much I would have said. I was so worried what you’d think of me. You’ve both been so wonderful, inviting me into your home, into your lives. And I know the Horde is evil. I know what damage they’ve done to Etheria, to Bright Moon. That’s why I was so scared to tell you that… I didn’t hate growing up in the Horde. I kind of loved a lot of my childhood. Sure there was training, but there was also a lot of Catra and I sneaking up to the roof late at night to pig out on stolen rations and watch the lights of the Fright Zone. Or Kyle and Rogelio and I making a volcano for our lab experiment.”

Adora closed her eyes in an attempt to hold her emotions in check. “I especially didn’t tell you about Catra. How was I supposed to tell you that the person that’s trying to stop us, that’s trying to lead the forces of the Horde against us, is the same person that when I’m going to bed at night, I wish was there curled up with me.” Adora squeezed her eyes shut tight. Even tighter than before. Tears were still escaping. “I wanted to, I really did. I want to see you guys everything.”

The Best Friend Squad closed in for another tight hug.

“Tell us now,” Glimmer softly said.

 


 

Catra entered the lab, a rectangular box tucked under her arm. She stopped to survey the room. Scorpia was at the side table, working on reports on the mini-monitor. Some of Entrapta’s workstations had been moved around to make some floor space. There was a long table that Rogelio, Kyle, and Lonnie were sitting at. Behind them were two more long tables that six more cadets were sitting at.  A few feet in front of them was Entrapta, hovering in front of one of her large monitors, staring at the trio, and holding a remote to the monitor. Next to Entrapta was Emily, somehow wearing a sweater and holding a folder of paper in its pincers.

The sight confused Catra, who sat next to Scorpia.

“Um, what’s going on?” Catra whispered, so not to disturb Entrapta, who was lecturing about where rain came from.

“So apparently Entrapta’s developed a way to reasonable predict when it’ll rain,” Scorpia began. She was cut off by Catra’s snorting laugh.

“Predict rain? What kind of witchcraft is that?” Catra asked.

“Lonnie made a similar joke. So now Entrapta’s teaching them about weather patterns.”

Catra narrowed her eyes. “Why is Emily wearing a sweater?”

Scorpia cleared her throat. “‘Because that’s what teacher’s assistants wear’.”

After a long sigh Catra got up and carried the box to the edge of the “classroom”. She leaned against a stack of crates and waited for Entrapta to notice her. Once she did Catra made a nodding motion to the side room.

“Alright class,” Entrapta said. “TA Emily is going to pass out a worksheet.”

“Whoa, whoa,” Lonnie protested. “You didn’t say anything about having to do work!”

“A class has to have classwork,” Entrapta continued. “Make sure to do both sides before turning it back into TA Emily.” Entrapta surveyed her “students”. “You may work together on them, you will almost certainly need to.”

Entrapta, Catra, and Scorpia gathered in the side room, which had become the “Bot Room”, equipped with monitoring and charging stations for both Emily and Clack. The latter was currently resting at their station.

“Sorry to interrupt… Whatever that was,” Catra said. “I won’t keep you long.”

“That won’t be a problem. That worksheet will likely keep them busy for the entire day,” Entrapta smiled.

Catra and Scorpia exchanged looks before moving the conversation on.

“I was actually wondering if I could use Clack,” Catra asked.

“Of course!” Entrapta beamed. “The more test runs he conducts the better the data!” Entrapta strode over to the monitoring station and pushed a button. Clack rose with a hiss and scurried over to them.

“You simply press this button to open his storage compartment. Or simply ask him to open it. He fully understands voice commands.” A purple tentacle poked the button and Clack’s side slid open. Catra put the box in the compartment. Something caught her eye, and she pulled a small red flower out of the compartment. Catra only had a chance to regard the flower for a second before it was snatched out of her hands by Entrapta’s hair. “Sorry!” Entrapta screeched.

That’s when Catra noticed that there were little red flowers nestled throughout Entrapta’s pigtails. There were at least a dozen upon a quick glance.

“They look good ‘Trapta,” Catra smiled.

“D-do they?” Entrapta asked, her face slightly going red. “She said the red was because they matched my eyes. I-I don’t know if that is how it works.”

“Trust us, they work,” Scorpia assured her.

Entrapta cleared her throat. “Right. So, where is Clack going?” For some reason the question seemed to mean that it was Catra’s turn to blush.

 


 

After relocating to one of the tables in the Great Library, the Best Friend Squad spent the next two hours finally getting to know the life Adora led before She-Ra. It was a new chance, and Adora wouldn’t let herself make the same mistake again. So she told them everything, the things she thought they’d be curious about as well as all the questions they had. She told them about the first night Catra curled up in Adora’s bed because Adora had had a nightmare. She told them about being raised by Shadow Weaver and about her squad and what being a child in the Fright Spire was like.

Not surprisingly, Catra took up much of the conversation. Above all else Adora wanted to make sure that they knew the real Catra. The Catra that would spend a lazy afternoon doodling with Kyle while Adora would be furiously working on homework. The Catra that once drug Adora into a fight after Catra had bit a fifth year cadet who was bullying the younger cadets. The Catra that would cuddle in Adora’s arms on nights when it would thunderstorm.

Adora recounted to them the stolen memory that Light Hope had recently showed her. “It’s kind of weird, knowing a memory that you can’t actually remember,” Adora remarked. Glimmer and Bow both nodded at Adora’s assessment. “But I think I remember what exactly led me to go see Shadow Weaver that day. Catra had disappeared the day before, which was something she would do once in a while. She had left me a note though to meet her on the roof that night. Well when I got there I found Catra with a full dinner from Hampeezey’s, which was a fancy restaurant not far from the Fright Spire. I had always dreamed of going there. Some of the senior Horde staff would bring food from there from time from time. It seemed like the kind of place you only went to if you were someone special. She never did tell me how she managed to get it.

“But there it was. Just for us. Just for me really. I don’t know. There was just something about it. Being up there. It was one of the clearer nights in the Fright Zone. Catra seemed so pleased with herself. That night was the first time that I looked at her and realized that I was in love with her,” Adora said, with a chuckle. Glimmer rested her hand on Adora’s. They exchanged soft smiles.

“It sounds like the two of you really had something special. I’m sorry about how it’s all worked out,” Glimmer said. “Although, judging from the Midsummer Ball, doesn’t seem like all is lost.”

“I don’t know Glim,” Adora sighed. “I made a decision not to long ago that I couldn’t keep ignoring how I felt about her, but all I’ve been really trying to do is hopefully get her to not hate me. To not be consumed by trying to get revenge on me.” Adora wistfully glanced at Glimmer. “All I’m expecting to get out of it is apathy. Which, is good enough.”

“That wasn’t apathy we saw up there, Adora,” Bow said. “Even if it’s just slim, sounds like it might be a chance worth taking.”

“Thanks Bow,” Adora smiled.

“So, where have you two been?” Adora asked. “I haven’t seen either of you since the ball.”

“Wellll,” Glimmer started, while scratching the back of her neck. “When I heard about you getting accused of treason. So I went to talk to my mom. And we got to talking and I managed to get out of her that you were researching magicats this whole time.”

“Soooo,” Bow continued. “We figured that if it’s Etherian history, then we should go talk to my dads.”

“Oh!” Adora piped up. “How are George and Lance?”

“They’re doing great!” Bow chirped. “Visiting home is so much better now that I don’t have to hide who I am,” Bow beamed. “They send their regards, Adora. And also, this!” Bow said as he held up a brown book with orange leaf on it. Bow flipped through the book. “Apparently the magicats were a pretty advanced society, incorporating a lot of First Ones tech into their lives. And you know how my dads love First Ones stuff.  This is a journal they put together years ago about some of the stuff magicats were able to accomplish with it.” Bow snapped the book closed and handed it to Adora.

“You guys,” Adora sniffled. Glimmer and Bow scooted their chairs closer for another hug.

 


 

After another hour in the Great Library, the Best Friend Squad found themselves heading back to Adora’s room.

“So, what does that mean for you two?” Glimmer asked, opening the door. Bow and Adora followed her in, both holding books.

“I don’t know. I haven’t been able to find Zayn either since she accused me of treason. Which, you know, wasn’t fun,” Adora huffed.

“Honestly, that’s crazy,” Bow said. “Thinking you could betray us. Did she even really get to kno-” Bow stopped mid-sentence when they all heard a metal clanking noise.

They turned their attention to the balcony, where the noise had originated from. “What was that?!” Adora wondered. She held her hand up and the Sword of Protection slammed into it. “Is someone there?”

Suddenly Clack seemingly appeared out of nowhere in the doorway to the balcony. Everyone yelled and jumped back. Glimmer’s fists powered up. Bow, not having his bow on him, held up the book he was holding in a menacing manner. Adora stared at the bot, who cowered when they yelled.

“I think it’s okay,” Adora said, putting the sword down. “Hey fella. You’re Clack aren’t you?” Adora turned to Bow and Glimmer, who were slow to relax. “This is the little messenger bot that Perfuma was telling us about.”

“Seeing it do that in person is a lot more disconcerting than I thought it’d be,” Glimmer said. “She developed this for the Horde? What if they decide to do something else with it?” Glimmer dreaded.

“It IS a pretty scary thought,” Bow mused. “Maybe it’s time I start trying to develop something that could detect invisible things.”

“That’s a good idea Bow,” Glimmer nodded.

“Yeah, just one question. Where do I even start?” Bow wondered.

Clack approached Adora slowly. “It’s okay little guy,” Adora said with a smile. “We won’t hurt you. We’re friends with your… Creator? Mother? With Entrapta. We know you mean a lot to her.” The bot seemed to perk up. It spun around and the storage compartment slid open.

Adora tilted her head as she stared at the box inside. Then with a shrug she reached in and pulled it out.

“What is it?” Glimmer asked.

“Only one way to find out I guess,” Adora said. She tore the box open easily. Inside was a soft, wrapped package with a folded piece of paper. Adora opened the paper and read the note inside.

 

I know you don’t get cold. But it always was a pretty cute look on you.

- Catra

 

Adora let out a little gasp and set the note down so she could give the package her full attention. There was a label on the package that read “Ned L. Pointe Fashions”. Adora tore into it and gasped louder.

In one smooth motion Adora slipped on her new jacket. Styled exactly like her previous jacket. High collar, puffed shoulders, air vents across the biceps. Exact same fabric. Only this one was a slightly more crimson than red, and there was gold trim along the collar and bottom of the jacket. The biggest difference was the back. On the back was the crest of She-Ra: a blue oval surrounded by three gold points on each side, a larger point at the top, and a gold stripe that ran out of the bottom and fed into the gold trim at the bottom of the jacket.

“How does it look?” Adora asked, posing and unable to control her giggling.

“Looks great!” Both Glimmer and Bow said in unison.

“It’s like a perfect recreation,” Glimmer remarked.

“Mr. Pointe made my old one too,” Adora smiled.

“That’s a really accurate She-Ra crest,” Bow noted. He rubbed his chin and grinned deviously. “Catra must have been staring at your chest, a lot.”

“BOW!” Adora gasped, she threw her arms over her chest, which made both Glimmer and Bow bust out laughing. Adora relaxed after a moment and picked up the note again. She read it four more times, then began stroking her chin. She started looking around her room. After taking inventory she nodded. “Yeah, a week. I can do this in a week,” Adora murmured to herself.

With an idea formed in her head, Adora turned to Clack. “Mr. Clack, do you think you can deliver something for me to Catra?” The little robot seemed to bow and reopened his storage compartment door. Adora sat at her desk and fished out clean piece of paper and found a pen.

“What are you doing?” Glimmer asked.

Adora stared thoughtfully at the paper for a moment before responding. “Taking a chance.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Hey, Catra! What are you doing next Tuesday? I was wondering if you would meet me at these coordinates (43.771049, 11.248621). Say, around noon?

 - Adora

PS: This isn’t a trap.

PPS: Don’t eat breakfast.

 


 

Catra didn’t know those coordinates offhand. When she punched them into the skiff’s auto-navigation system a little map had come up on the screen. From what Catra could tell, there was nothing in that area except for forests and rolling hills.

The skiff zipped along, cutting through thin forests near the northern edge of Bright Moon. It was late morning. The skies above were a rich light blue. Catra was leaning against the skiff guardrail while the autopilot did the work. She stared ahead as the wind whipped her hair about.

Adora’s note had been light on details. Catra hummed a little laugh as she thought about it. “This isn’t a trap.” It sounded just like something someone who was trying to set a trap might say, but Catra knew it was the truth. Catra was just amused that Adora felt the need to mention it. It wasn’t that crazy though. At the end of the day, they were still enemies, leaders on a opposing sides of a forever long war, right? Someday it was going to come down to her fighting She-Ra, wasn’t it?

If not a trap though, then what was this? Catra had been racking her brain all week. Most of the ideas she came up with weren’t very realistic. She tried hard not to think about those. She didn’t want to end up disappointed. Wasn’t that long ago that ‘enemy’ still sat so well in Catra’s brain when thinking about Adora. Now there was a bitterness to the word. Like it didn’t fit. Like it wasn’t what Catra actually wanted. Like it was never what she really wanted.

That left the question, then, what did Catra want? Dare she dream about it? Again? Dare she believe again? Dare she risk that hurt again?

Rounding over a hill, Catra’s destination finally came into view, and it only made her more confused. There was Adora, sitting relaxed in a flat clearing on some sort of blanket. Adora was reading a book, with a large basket sitting just behind her. Catra couldn’t help but notice that Adora was wearing her new jacket. The sight brought a smile to the catgirl’s face. There was something else worth noticing. That stupid She-Ra sword anywhere was nowhere to be found.

As the skiff closed in, the roar of the engine announced its presence. Adora looked up and grinned as Catra coasted towards her. She snapped her book shut and climbed to her feet. The skiff slid to a stop just a few feet away.

“Hey, Adora,” Catra let slink out of her mouth as the skiff set down.

“Hey!” Adora said, grin bubbling over as she strolled up. One of her hands shot out to greet Catra at the edge of the skiff. The catgirl regarded it for a second before giving Adora her hand, and allowing Adora to help her down from the skiff. Catra gently touched down on the ground. Their hands remained entangled.

“I’m so glad you came!” Adora beamed.

Catra took in her surroundings again. “Yeah, I’m here… Soooooo, what are we doing here?”

“Oh!” Adora blushed slightly. She took a step back so Catra could see the blanket and basket behind her. “I thought it might be fun to have a picnic.”

Picnic. That sounded familiar. Catra stroked her chin, trying to recall.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t know what it was either until Bow and Glimmer showed me,” Adora assured her.

“Right!” Catra exclaimed, snapping her fingers. “Bow made fun of me for not knowing what that was when we were lost in the jungle.”

Adora giggled. “They mean well! But sometimes it’s soooo frustrating. How am I supposed to just know about all this Bright Moon stuff?! It’s not like I expected them to know what a dermalstat is when I got there!” Both girls chuckled.

“So what is a picnic, exactly?” Catra asked. Adora led her over to the blanket on the ground.

“Basically, it’s outdoor lunch,” Adora answered

“We’ve done lunch outdoors plenty,” Catra quipped. “Never anywhere like this though.”

“That’s a part of it!” Adora pulled them both down into cross legged sitting positions on the blanket. “A picnic’s more than just eating outside. It’s about the people you’re doing it with. And also about enjoying the weather when you’re doing it.” Adora’s explanation was met with a raised eyebrow. “Okay. Close your eyes,” Adora commanded.

“Really?” Catra snarked back.

“Yes really. Try it,” Adora pleaded. Catra sighed, but closed her eyes. “Now just, think about it. The warmth of the daylight on your skin. The way that gentle breeze is rustling the fur on your arms. The smell of the grass and the flowers. I can smell them, I’m sure it’s pretty intense for you.”

Catra hung on Adora’s every word. She tried doing what Adora suggested, and, Adora was entirely correct. “Outside” never felt like this in the Fright Zone. The scents were intoxicating. Something about the way the daylight was beating down on her face made Catra want to roll around in the grass then maybe take a nap. She fought the urge very hard. There was no arguing. Here, in the middle of these grassy hills, miles away from anything, the outdoors felt amazing.

A nudging sensation in her arm returned Catra’s attention to the picnic. She blinked her eyes open then looked for the source. Just in front of her was Adora’s hand, holding a cup of dark red liquid.

“It’s called berry juice,” Adora said. Catra took the cup and had a small sip. Then downed the entire cup.

“THAT is delicious!” Catra stated. Adora held up the jug and poured her another cup. While Catra enjoyed her second cup Adora fished a small, chilled container out of the basket. She popped the lid off. Adora subtly scooted a little closer, to make it easier to share. “What’s this?” Catra asked as she took a piece of the small, cylindrical food out of the container when Adora presented it to her.

Adora tapped her lip a few times. “I believe Mermista called it Suss-Shee.” She nudged Catra with her shoulder. “It’s made of fish,” Adora said with a sultry tone.

The entire sushi slice went in Catra’s mouth at once. About halfway through chewing it her eyes dilated into giant black saucers. “Adora, this is AMAZING!” Catra said as she gulped down another piece. Together they made short work of the tray of sushi.

“Do you,” Catra sheepishly began, “do you have anything else?” she hoped.

Also, I can’t believe I’m going to think this, but can we spend the whole day like this?

Adora got a big grin on her face. She twisted her body and pulled out another couple of containers. “Oh yeah, we have tons of stuff.”

 


 

Over the next two hours they slowly worked their way through numerous treats and snacks that came from all over Etheria, all the while laughing through fun stories and completely decimating a couple jugs of berry juice. The late afternoon day-moons were hanging directly over them.

Adora was currently sitting up. She was leaning back slightly and propping herself up with one arm. Catra was laying perpendicular to her, with her head resting on Adora’s thigh.

“What’s this?” Catra asked as Adora lowered a slice of green fruit into the cat’s mouth. It was good. Mostly sweet, with just a hint of tartness.

“Ke-Wheees,” Adora smiled.

A peaceful breeze ushered in a peaceful silence. It was the daylight, Catra was sure of it. Something about it was overpowering to her. She gladly let it. There was no desire to fight it. Adora’s free hand had found its way to Catra’s ear, and began scratching just the right spot. Soft purrs reverberated through them both. Adora couldn’t even try to hide the giant grin on her face.

“Hey,” Catra said after a few minutes. “I have the craziest urge.” Catra pushed herself up into a sitting position.

“Oh?” Adora gulped, trying desperately not to let herself blush at least until Catra told her the idea.

“I’m pretty sure it’s the daylight’s fault. Gotta be,” Catra pondered.

“... I wanna roll down the hill,” Catra finally confessed.

It made Adora burst out laughing. “What?!”

“I’m serious! Gah! I don’t know what it is, I just want to roll around so badly!”

Adora chuckled. “Yeah, that makes sense actually.

“You should do it!” Adora chirped.

“Do it with me?” Catra asked.

“What? I don’t have the urge to roll down a hill,” Adora giggled.

Catra bounced up to her feet. She flashed a sly grin at Adora and held her hand out. “Come on! First one down gets to eat the last ke-wheee.” Adora took Catra’s hand and was yanked to her feet.

Before they knew it they were flinging themselves down the hill. They tumbled and bounced and giggled down the grassy slope for a few seconds before both of them rolled to a stop at the bottom. Adora gently careened into Catra. They were both laying on their backs, shoulder to shoulder. The girls shared a meaningful look for a second before exploding in laughter.

“Okay, that was the dumbest idea!” Catra howled.

“Who even won?!” Adora wondered.

“No clue, I was too busy trying to keep track of up and down!” Catra responded. It took another moment for the laughter to die down. They decided to continue laying there at the bottom of the hill, simply smiling at each other.

“Hey,” Catra said after a bit. “Thanks for being willing to do something really dumb with me.”

“Always,” Adora assured her.

“So, how did you know?” Catra began. “You mentioned it on Mount Snows too. How did you know that daylight would affect me so much?”

Adora sat up. She stared off for a moment, lost in thought. There wasn’t going to be a better segue than that. “Here, why don’t I show you?” Adora got up and helped Catra to her feet. Hand in hand they made their way up the hill back to the blanket. Adora dug around in the basket, and pulled out a rectangular package. It was a bit smaller this time, but the wrapping was much fancier. She held it out to Catra, her face bright red the entire time. Catra slid the package out of Adora’s hands.

“Another present?” Catra asked with a smile. Adora beamed at her.

Before Catra could do anything with it though Adora put her hand on it. “Before you open it,” Adora started, her face shifting to something far more serious. “I have to warn you of something.” Adora had to stop to take a deep breath. “Unfortunately, there was no way to avoid it. I’m sorry. There’s some really bad stuff in here about the Horde in here. Like, really bad.”

“What?” Catra’s face suddenly drained of color.

“It’s just… Unavoidable. Some of the stuff the Horde-”

“Are you kidding me?” Catra scoffed. Her face went sour.

“I just didn’t want it to blindside you,” Adora said. She was beginning to worry. Catra’s face had twisted into a sneer so fast.

Don’t overreact. Don’t overreact. Adora probably has a better explanation for this than whatever that just was.

Catra glared down at the package for a moment.

In one swift motion, Catra threw the present violently onto the ground. “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME ADORA?”

Adora glanced at the present briefly before returning her attention to Catra. She put her hands up, in hopes to convince Catra to calm down. ”Wait. I’m sorry, I didn’t-”

A single tear traveled down Catra’s cheek. Her teeth were grinding. “Is THAT what this is? Another attempt at get me to abandon the Horde?!”

“What? No! No! Catra, no…” Adora tried assuring her.

“Is that all ANY of this ever was?! Another attempt to get me to defect?! Another attempt to get me onto the Rebellion’s side!”

“No I promise!”

I should take a breath. I need to take a breath.

“I can’t believe I fell for this, again!” Catra snarled. “I really wanted to believe this time! I wanted to believe you!”

“I’m sorry! This… This came out all wrong!” Adora whimpered. “If we could just, maybe, restart…”

Let her talk. Let her prove to me that she really cares.

“Shut up!” Catra barked. Her claws flexed out.

“Catra please! Just wait…” Adora took a step back at the sight of the claws.

Let her talk. Maybe she can explain it all…

“I SAID SHUT UP!” Catra screamed as she pounced. Adora tumbled backwards in time to let Catra fly over her. She went crashing into the blanket full of empty containers as Catra landed on all fours a few feet away.

Control yourself. Don’t overreact! Stop overreacting!

“I don’t want to fight!” Adora huffed as she stumbled to her feet.

“What’s the matter? Forgot your precious sword?” Catra grumbled.

“I was spending the day with you! I didn’t need it!” Adora yelled.

Control. Don’t overreact.

“Another thing you’re wrong about!” Catra sprinted at Adora and swung her arm wildly.

Don’t…

“OOOWW!” Adora shrieked. Her face burned. On instinct she shot her hand up to her face to feel blood oozing out of the four cuts on her right cheek. Catra kicked Adora in the stomach, sending her stumbling back.

“Please Catra, I’m not going to fight you!” Adora pleaded. Catra swung again. Adora threw her arms up, and received deep gashes in both forearms. Another swing grazed with the bridge of her nose. Maybe just a graze, but it still stung.

Catra swung again. Adora was able to grab her by the wrist. The other arm swung out. Adora grabbed that wrist too. Even without She-Ra, Adora was strong enough to control Catra’s arms. “Please listen to me! I won’t fight you!” Adora begged.

It just made Catra snarl more. With her arms held down Catra kicked out wildly. Nowhere to dodge, it hit Adora right in the stomach. She winced. Another kick. “Stop!” Adora yelled. Catra seethed and slammed her foot into Adora’s stomach again.

Adora didn’t wince. She didn’t protest. Catra’s wrists were released as Adora stumbled back a few feet, then dropped to her knees. She doubled over in pain, one arm holding her up, one arm clutching her stomach. Adora could already feel it. Something was wrong in there.

What started as an attempt to talk ended up just being a few coughs as blood spewed out of Adora’s mouth. She let out a labored grunt as more blood drooled out of her.

Seeing Adora collapse. Hearing her bloody hacking. Catra stood there. Chest heaving. Panting. Fists at her side. Her claws were digging into the palm of her hands. She focused on Adora’s face. A mix of tears and blood covered her. Catra couldn’t bare to look at her, so she looked down. There she noticed blood spattered all over her shirt. It was caked into her nails.

Catra forced herself to look back up at Adora.

What have I done?

“... Adora,” Catra called out, her voice weak, pulled down by shame, humiliation. She reached her arm out to Adora. At the sight of it Adora winced and cowered. Catra immediately recoiled. She didn’t know what to do.

Very slowly, Adora clammered to her feet. She wasn’t able to stand upright. After shuffling over to the blanket, Adora began packing up the picnic. Amidst everything else, Catra couldn’t help but notice how efficient Adora was. She wanted to help Adora. She wanted to stop Adora from leaving. She didn’t know what to do.

Once the picnic was stuffed into the basket, Adora collapsed onto her knees and reached over for the present on the ground. The paper seemed to be torn and damaged in a couple spots. The best she could tell though the present itself seemed okay. She ran her hand over the wrapping paper and had to suppress a sob.

“I understand,” Adora mumbled. Her voice was hollow, labored. “I get that you may hate it. Not believe any of it. You’ll probably throw it away as soon as you can, but,” Adora had to choke down another sob, her voice was barely louder than a whisper. “I worked really hard on it, and I hope you at least give it a look before you destroy it.”

With a great deal of effort Adora was able to hold out the present at Catra, who gingerly took it. Catra clutched it against her chest.

Adora struggled to her feet. She took a few deep breaths. “Catra. This wasn’t an attempt to get you to defect. Of course I would give anything to be able to see you every day. To be able to hang out, have picnics together, every day. But I know that’s not possible. I put us on different paths.” Adora stopped to sniffle. “There was so much bad in your life. From teachers who never believed in you, from people like me, like Shadow Weaver. You overcame it. You made a life for yourself. You’ve managed to thrive. For what little it may be worth, I really am proud of you.”

A sharp pain in her stomach made Adora wince. She needed to get back to the sword as soon as she could. Adora tried to muster the biggest smile she could. It wasn’t much of one. “Take care of yourself,” Adora said as she turned to stumble away. She stopped for a second and glanced over her shoulder.

“Hey. If you didn’t have anything else to do today, you should think about hanging around here until dusk. I think you’d enjoy it ,” Adora suggested. She gave a little half-hearted chuckle. “Yeah. You’ll enjoy it.”

Catra didn’t move, couldn’t move, until Adora was completely out of sight. Almost everything inside her wanted to stop Adora from leaving, but she was seemingly paralyzed, overtaken by guilt. Unable to move, to talk. Barely able to think. It took a few minutes before Catra remembered the present in her arms. She carefully tore into the wrapping.

A book. Or more precisely, it seemed to be a journal. Handwritten by Adora, and over 100 pages long. Catra turned it over a few times. It had a red leather cover, with black detailing on the cover that vaguely formed the shape of a cat. She cracked it open to the title page.

The page made Catra gasp loudly. She stumbled back and fell onto her butt. The book hit the ground in the space between her legs. Catra buried her head in her hands, tears pouring out.

“You dumb cat! You dumb stupid fucking cat, what did you do?!” Catra moaned. She sobbed uncontrollably.

Finally, after all her tears were spent, and her nose was sloppily wiped off with her forearm, and her eyes were puffy, pink, cleaned with her shirt, Catra picked the book back up. She had cleared her schedule for Adora, and even if she already fucked it all up, she was sure as hell going to read the present that Adora made for her. She owed her that much. She owed her so much more, but this seemed like a good place to start.

 


 

 

Historian Adora’s Abridged Guide to Extinct Societies of Etheria Volume One:  

Magicats

 

~ Forward ~

Hey, Catra! So, SURPRISE! Okay, I don’t actually know if you’ve learned this yet, but I’ve found out what you are. You’re a magicat! I may have just told you this in person, I still haven’t decided yet. Ugh, I really should have written this section in pencil first.

I know that you probably have a lot of questions about exactly what a “magicat” is, and I’m going to try to answer as many of them as possible.

From reading a lot of books (yeah, I know, I’m a dork), this is the part where I’m supposed to thank people that have helped me:

A lot of this information is from various text books and history books from around Etheria. So I’d like to thank all the historians that came before me.

I’d also like to thank Bow’s dads, George and Lance. When Bow told them about what I was doing they sent a very useful book. I think you’d like George and Lance! They’re sweethearts. Bow is very much their child.

I also need to thank Queen Angella. She was personal friends with the last rulers of the magicats and she helped me get to know all about what your people were actually like.

And finally, I’d like to thank, you.

For being you. :)

 

That last line made Catra pause. Not even into the book proper and she was already tearing up. As Catra quickly realized, Adora wrote the entire book like she was having a conversation with Catra. She could actually hear Adora’ voice as she read.

 


 

~ Home ~

Okay, so, I wanted to deal with this question right off the bat since it’s maybe the question that matters the most: where are the other magicats? I’m so sorry Catra, but I’m pretty sure that you’re the last magicat on Etheria. Or at least, if there are others, they’re deep in hiding.

That doesn’t mean you’re alone though. You’re not alone, Catra. You have a family. People that love you dearly. You mean the world to Scorpia and even Entrapta, who for a while I wasn’t sure even understood human relationships. And from what Scorpia was telling me, you, Kyle, Lonnie, and Rogelio have gotten so much closer. You’ve built a great family for yourself. I’m so proud of you.

Okay, before that though, where were magicats? Your race is from a kingdom known as Half Moon . It’s pretty far to the south west. Unfortunately I’m not 100% sure where Half Moon was located. As a safeguard against the Horde, the entrance to Half Moon changed often, and even then, those entrances were often guarded by spells and illusions. My best guess is that Half Moon is located somewhere in the now Horde controlled Scorched Mountains. Queen Angella seems to agree.

The only way Queen Angella and the Rebellion was ever able to get to Half Moon is that Half Moon and Bright Moon once had a teleportation system set up that allowed them to get to each other without having to travel through the Horde or over the sea. From what Queen Angella tells me the system was pretty cool. Teleporting all the way from Bright Moon to Half Moon would have taken too much power to be practical, so the system was actually a chain of teleporations. There’s two “stations” between the two kingdoms. One station is deep under the Whispering Woods. It feeds off the forest’s magic to function. And from what I can tell from the maps, the other station is actually hidden far beneath the Horde village of Glenmar. Sadly that system was apparently destroyed. The stations in Bright Moon and under the Whispering Woods still work, but the Glenmar and Half Moon stations stopped working when… Well, I’ll get to that.

 

Catra continued reading another dozen pages about Half Moon, her apparent home. Her original home. According to Adora, it was a massive city built into a mountain, with much of the city in and under the mountain, while the rest of the city rose up into a hidden valley somewhere in the Scorched Mountains. A massive elevator connected the topside and subterranean parts of the kingdom.

Describing the impressive elevator segued into the next section, ~ Technology ~ . Gifted and clever, magicats were on the forefront of innovation on Etheria. One of the few kingdoms that could rival Dryl in that regard. As it turned out, Half Moon had pioneered the skiff technology that the Horde used so much in everyday life. There seemed to be a number of inventions that the Horde took from Half Moon.

Part of Catra’s stomach went queasy at the thought that so many things in her life were stolen from her people. They were a people she never met, but they were just like her. A people she should have belonged to, instead of Shadow Weaver. There was another part though, that Adora pointed out.

 

I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what it must feel like. To know that all this stuff we’ve been using forever was actually just as stolen from your people as you were. There’s another way to look at it though. Parts of your home have always been here with you, even if you didn’t realize it.

 


 

~ Rule ~

I know how much you hate us princesses. Well you’re in luck! Sort of. Yes, Half Moon was a kingdom ruled by a monarchy. BUT, the rulers weren’t called kings and queens. The ruler of Half Moon was referred to as empress (or emperor), and their children were referred to as empris. I know that probably looks like it reads similar, but there’s a difference, albeit a subtle one. I can just say it for you the next time I see you.

The last ruler of Half Moon was Empress C’yra, and her dashing wife, Empress Mira’Dea. They had one daughter, a precious kitten by the name of Empris C’yra the 2nd. They were fair and beloved rulers. C’yra was raised to rule, and a skilled sorcerer. She was also the wielder of runestones known as the Sun Gems. With her runestones she could heal people. The Sun Gems also gave her increased strength and agility.

Mira’Dea was the child of a wealthy noble family, and a brilliant inventor. Many of her inventions were to satisfy her apparent craving for adrenaline. They met at a charity event for cutting edge new skiff technology that Mira’Dea had helped create. Apparently despite being the host of the party, Mira’Dea got kicked out, and C’yra just had to meet the woman who wasn’t afraid to tell off the Duke of West Low Block in the middle of  a room of crowded people. Mira’Dea convinced her to come get lost together, without even knowing who C’yra was.

 

Over the next few pages the book recounted the lifelong friendship between Angella and C’yra, and the new friendships that were forged when Micah and Mira’Dea entered their lives. The book chronicled their passion for the Rebellion, and C’yra’s commitment to the Princess Alliance. Catra didn’t know who these empresses were, but she found herself wishing that she could have lived in their kingdom. She was especially curious about Mira’Dea, the one  who, if Mattis’ Gram was to be believed, Catra had a passing resemblance to.

The next fifty pages were filled with sections about magicat physical traits, about the culture of Half Moon, as well as history dating back to the time of the First Ones. There were a few heavy points; some places that stung or brought Catra to tears. More than anything else, Catra was a little surprised by how much Adora was making her laugh. Adora kept sprinkling in stories and references to Scorpia and Entrapta and the squad that were only tangentially related, but they were funny nonetheless.

Then Catra got to the last chapter, a pretty thick section that took the last 22 pages. The section’s title immediately made Catra’s heart sink.

 

~ the Battle of Half Moon and the Fate of the Noblest Kingdom on Etheria ~

Hi Catra. Before we dive into this last chapter, I wanted to take a moment to apologize. For having to be the one to tell you all this. For this being the truth. For there being yet more people who you tried to believe in but ultimate failed you. I’ll explain it in more detail, but here’s the truth: the Horde destroyed Half Moon, and slaughtered your people, and kept you. Half Moon was a threat to the Horde. They were the heart of the Rebellion, of the Princess Alliance. Most of the Rebellion’s most advanced weapons were from Half Moon. And unlike the rest of the Rebellion, with all the expansion of the Horde, Half Moon was right at their doorstep.

I am so sorry. The Horde failed you. Hordak failed you. I failed you. Shadow Weaver sure as hell failed you. But you know what? Forget about us. Focus on Scorpia. Focus on Entrapta. Hell, focus on Kyle, Rogelio, and Lonnie. They believe in you. They’ll never fail you. Catra, you are loved. You are cherished.

 

The rest of the words were a blur. Catra closed the book and held her head in her hands. For a time she cried pretty heavily. Slowly she pulled herself back together.

Catra looked up for the first time in, it turned out, hours. Dusk was upon her. Most of the sky was a mix of golds and pinks, with the inky darkness of night creeping in at the edges. Catra let out a little chuckle. Adora was right, it was quite beautiful.

Except for all the bugs.

One landed on Catra’s hand. She shook her hand until the thing flew away. They were a new, evening time addition to the hills. Another one landed on the book. She glared at it. The little pests that were ruining the…

It blinked.

That bug’s butt just blinked. Catra’s eyes became huge, black, shimmering saucers. Setting the book gently on the ground, she scrambled to her feet and clapped her hand around one of the bugs. She opened her hands slightly. Yellow light engulfed her palms as the firefly fluttered out. The entire field was full of blinking fireflies.

Catra’s mind went blank. She giggled and pounced at one of the bugs. She could feel it squirming in her cupped hands. Laughter rung out over the hill as Catra pounced and pounced and chased fireflies for a good ten minutes. At some point she even began purring. Catra pounced on one last firefly before collapsing onto the side of the hill in exhaustion.

A small fleet of fireflies were squirming in her hands. Catra was laying on her back when she threw her arms up. The fireflies fled, creating a sky of glowing sparkles. Catra giggled uncontrollable as they fluttered away. She watched for a minute before her fleet fully rejoined the society of fireflies around her.

The giggling died down. Slowly, Catra sat up. She looked around. Beautiful sky. Beautiful, magical lights fluttering about. A beautiful evening.

“This is what you wanted me to see, isn’t it Adora?” Catra mumbled to herself. She slammed her eyes shut as more tears came pouring out. Catra pulled her knees up to her chest.

“I really messed this all up, didn’t I.

“I don’t know if I deserve forgiveness this time.

“But I am sooo sorry.” Catra rested her head against her knees and began sobbing.

“I miss you so much.”

 

Chapter Text

The door to Adora’s room creaked closed behind her. Somehow she had managed to make it all the way through the castle to her room without anyone noticing. Which was good. The very last thing she felt like doing was explaining any of what had just happened. She wasn’t sure that she could even explain it to herself. Right now, all Adora could focus on was the pain. From her face. From her arms. From her stomach and chest. And now from her legs, after having stumbled all the way home on foot. Swift Wind wasn’t going to be back at the clearing until after dusk. Adora managed to force out a faint chuckle as the thought of Swift Wind arriving to an empty field, and being very confused.

Adora slumped against the door. The sword was, somewhere, in here. Finding it though would have taken more patience and energy than she could muster at the moment. She held her hand out and the sword zoomed to her. In her battered state, the sword felt so much heavier. With a great deal of difficulty, she managed to raise it into the air.

“For... the honor, of GRAYSKULL!”

She-Ra stepped out of the light.

Good as new. Physically anyway. Power coursed through her veins. The pain was gone. The marks were gone. The Physical ones anyway.

The room looked just as Adora had left it in the morning. Books stacked high on one side of the desk. Scraps of wrapping paper on the other side. Pages and pages of notes everywhere. On the desk, the floor, the bed, the reading nook. There were more books stacked around the room.

A note sat at the edge of the desk. She-Ra strode over and read it. “Kitten! You’re going to love this!” it read, with page numbers on it. She-Ra let it go, allowing it to flutter to the ground. She surveyed the room.

Slowly the grip around the sword’s hilt was tightening.

Everywhere, the room was covered with the work of the last two months. Adora’s room had effectively become a cathedral to magicats. To her. Her “Kitten”.

She-Ra’s grip tightened. Her nails dug into her palm.

Physical recovery would come quicker than the mental one. She-Ra knew that. Adora knew that. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Deep breath. Deep, calming breath.

With a rattling bellow She-Ra swung the sword in an arc, slamming it into the desk, cracking it in two. The desk chair kicked out. She-Ra’s free hand grabbed it and flung it wildly, sending it careening off the balcony. A stack of books was punted, slamming them into the wall with such force they exploded into puff of paper. She-Ra screamed as she hoisted the bed over her head and launched it. The thing crumbled into a pile of wood and stuffing against the wall.

In a blink Glimmer and Bow were standing in the middle of the room. “What on Etheria is-” Glimmer began, but stopped mid-sentence at the sight of the Sword of Protection plowing through the standing armoire. “Adora!” she screeched.

Glimmer ran over to She-Ra, who was yanking the sword out of the giant hole. Seeing Glimmer was just startling enough to She-Ra for Glimmer to grip the sword and teleport it and herself to the corner of the room. Glimmer’s actions were met with a growl from She-Ra as she transformed.

Adora took a second to scratch the itch on her sword wrist before seemingly remembering the new jacket she was wearing.

“Get it off of me!” Adora yelled. She tugged hard at the belts and began unzipping it. Bow ran over and helped slip it off of her. He clutched it to his chest and took a few steps back.

“Give it to me!” Adora snarled.

“No Adora!” Bow retorted, gripping it tighter.

“Bow give it to me!” Adora snarled again as she took a step towards Bow.

“No, I’m keeping it right now! Let’s calm down, and if you really still want to destroy it tomorrow we will!” Bow tried to reason.

“I said give it to me!” Adora howled. She leapt at Bow. He jumped back enough for Adora to miss him. He scurried over some of the debris.

“Glimmer give me my sword back!” Adora yelled, turning her attention to her other defiant friend.

“Adora you need to calm down first!” Glimmer cried. Adora held up her hand. The sword tried to wiggle out of Glimmer’s grip. It shimmied enough and nicked Glimmer on the arm. “OW!” she yelped.

The sword clanked onto the floor as Adora dropped her arm. “Glimmer! I’m so sorry!” Adora took a step. She started clutching her head. Anger drained out of her, replaced entirely by anguish.

“I’m so sorry!” Adora sobbed as she dropped to her knees.

The assault on her room was over. Glimmer and Bow nodded and ran over to Adora, wrapping her in hugs. Adora continued ugly crying for a few minutes.

“Why… Is this so… hard,” Adora choked out through the tears. “Why does this have to be so hard?!” Glimmer began stroking her fingers through Adora’s hair. “I-I just wanted to make her happy! Just for an afternoon. Why can’t I make her happy?” Adora wailed.

“Because she’s a fool,” Glimmer softly replied. Her and Bow tightened their hug around Adora. They would stay that way on the floor for over half an hour.

 


 

Upon reflection, autopilot in the skiffs were a stroke of genius. If left to steer for herself, Catra wasn’t sure where she would be heading at this moment. Setting off to the Scorched Mountains blindly? Driving aimlessly through the wildlands of Etheria? Crashing into the gates of Bright Moon? Catra wasn’t sure. They all sounded good. They all sounded a little more like something she wanted to do than what deep down she realized the smart thing was: head back to the Fright Zone. Get a good night’s sleep, or at least, as much sleep as she could. Talk to Scorpia and Entrapta in the morning. Like Adora’s book kept reminding her: when it all fails, Scorpia and Entrapta will be there for her.

The skiff slowly parked itself in the docks. It took Catra a minute or two to realize that she had arrived back at the Fright Spire. She had been huddled up on the bench, book held tightly against her chest.

It was late, dusk was hours ago. Catra disembarked and made her way through the docks in a daze. As the familiarity of the Fright Zone crept over her senses, Catra began feeling more self conscious about her general state of presentation. Her eyes were bloodshot, nose raw from wiping it, yet still runny. Her clothes were still spattered with blood. Adora’s blood. Lucky for her the docks were mostly empty, save for a few technicians, who were far too busy to pay attention to Catra. It was the perfect time for Catra to slip in unnoticed.

“Hey! Catra! Catra!” Kyle called out. He was barreling at the catgirl. She rolled her eyes so hard it gave her a headache.

“Not tonight, Kyle,” Catra scoffed with what little energy she had.

“But-” Kyle began, almost buckled over from the exertion. He was panting heavily.

“Whatever this is can wait until-”

“-Throne room!” Kyle blurted out, hands still firmly on knees.

That got Catra’s attention. “What?”

“Catra, you have to go now! It’s Entrapta and Scorpia!”

“WHAT?!” Catra gasped. Her mouth fell open. That didn’t make sense. She grabbed Kyle by the arm. “Are you messing with me Kyle?!”

“No! Promise. Entrapta and Scorpia are in the throne room with Hordak. They need you Catra!”

Need. The word was like a match lighting the powder keg that was Catra’s emotional state. She slammed her book into Kyle’s chest. “Take this to my room, and stay there . Got it?”

As soon as the book was in Kyle’s hands, Catra took off. Those two shouldn’t be in the throne room, not this late at night. Catra had no idea what was going on. All she could think of as she raced down the halls was that her family needed her.

 


 

Just as soon as the throne room doors were open enough for her to fit, Catra darted through. She got a few yards to just about the base of the steps and stopped dead, gasping loudly.

“Good evening, Force General,” Lord Hordak greeted from his throne. He was sitting upright, attentive. Then he did perhaps the scariest thing he can do: he smiled. “We have been waiting for you.”

Tears were forming in corners of Catra’s eyes as she surveyed the scene. Entrapta was hovering a good 20 feet in the air, being suspended by metal tentacles wrapped around her neck. She whimpered and squirmed at the sight of Catra, to no effect. At the bottom of the steps was Scorpia, claws chained behind her back and unconscious. She had a well formed black eye. Hordak rose from his throne and marched to the top of the stairs, where he glared down at the catgirl as she dropped to her knees to attend to Scorpia. She was breathing, and except for the black eye seemed okay.

Catra rose to her feet and glared back up at Hordak. Her hands were balled into fists so tight her nails were digging into her skin. Her tail swished back and forth angrily.

“Lord Hordak, what’s going on?!” Catra demanded. “Why are my people being detained?!” It was taking every last bit of energy to retain her composure. “None of this makes sense!”

“Yes,” Hordak began pacing at the top of the stairs, arms behind his back. “I guess you would have had to have been here to understand fully,” Hordak growled. “Today has been an eventful day, Force General. It has been quite the revelation.”

“M-my Lord,” Catra stammered. She knelt down in the hopes that deference might help. Something about doing it tonight felt disgusting. “Just let Entrapta and Scorpia go, and we can work out whatever issues have arisen.”

Hordak glared even harder. “Was that, a demand?

“You DARE demand things from your Lord?” Hordak sneered. “No Catra, they stay in custody. You see Catra, while you were out, I learned the truth.”

“The truth?” Catra gulped. That could have meant a variety of things. Catra wasn’t sure which truth to fear.

“You LIED,” Hordak growled. “To my face!” His glowing red eyes narrowed. It felt like lasers piercing into Catra’s skin. “You lied, to protect traitors .”

Kneeling wasn’t working. Catra jumped to her feet. “What?! No, Lord Hordak, they’re not traitors! I don’t know what you were told but-”

“What I was told?” Hordak let out a chuckle. It was unnerving, rattling. He began pacing again. “Do you deny that Entrapta was fraternizing with one of the princesses?” Catra reluctantly shook her head at the question. “Do you deny that Scorpia was also fraternizing with members of the Rebellion? That She attacked the prince of a kingdom we had a peace treaty with?”

“My Lord, you don’t understand, she was just protecting me!” Catra pleaded. Every minute this night seemed to bring a new fresh hell. What else did Hordak know?

“Yes, over a squabble about a party .” Hordak made the word “party” drip with such disgust and disdain it might have been toxic to even hear.

At this point Catra was less trying to wrestle control of the situation away than she was simply trying to contain it.

“Doesn’t sound great, I admit that Lord Hordak. But please, Scorpia and Entrapta are not traitors. This can all be explained. It’s not as bad as it may seem.”

“No. What is, ‘as bad as it seems’, as you put it, is Entrapta’s continued secret communications with the princess.”

Every new distorted, but correct, accusation Hordak threw out felt like a body blow to Catra. Maybe on a fresh day she could have rolled with it. With how battered her psyche already was though, this fight was hard. This fight was being lost and she was trying desperately to find a way through.

“But her and Perfuma were just-”

“-Oh, ‘Perfuma’ is her name. Noted,” Hordak quipped. “What is even worse, Force General, is YOU and Entrapta withholding the fact that she has developed cloaking technology for the Horde. What is worse is that I was not told where you were going today. Or more precisely, who you were going to see.”

Hordak stopped pacing and stared back down at Catra, his arms folded behind him. “Care to give honesty a try Force General? WHO, did you go see today?”

Catra hung her head. “...Adora,” Catra mumbled.

“Aaah. Finally, some truth.”

“How,” Catra continued, head still hung low. She was trying to hide the defeat on her face. “How do you know all this, my Lord?”

“Sorry Kitty-Cat. Afraid that was me,”a voice said from behind Catra.

Confusion sliced through Catra’s anger and despair. She knew that voice.

Slowly Catra turned around. The woman in front of her was wearing all black, except for the crimson belts and boots, and vertical maroon stripe on the front of her top. She had striking indigo hair that tapered off just below the chin. Catra’s face twisted as her confusion grew.

“... Zayn?” Catra asked.

Zayn let out a light chuckle and slapped Catra on the shoulder. “Not anymore I’m afraid. All that time building trust, and poof, burned it up on something that didn’t even work. But damn, I got thiiiiiis close to getting She-Ra banished from Bight Moon. GAH! It was so frustrating. I thought for sure helping you was going to be enough to get Adora kicked out, but nooooo. If that spineless sack of a queen had even a LITTLE bit of nerve, who knows what would have happened to Adora.”

Catra still stood there, mouth slightly agape at what she was seeing.

“I’d like you to meet Decepsha, one of the Horde’s top spies,” Hordak announced. “She has been undercover in Bright Moon for the last three years.”

“But with my cover blown,” Decepsha continued, “I thought it was time to come home. Especially after seeing that our new Force General seems to prioritize dates and dances over, you know, winning a war!”

“I do not!” Catra retorted. She growled at Decepsha, who smirked back.

“Lord Hordak,” Catra said, whipping back around to face him. “I have served you faithfully for my entire life. Over the last year I have led your empire diligently.”

“Yes,” Hordak answered. He beckoned Catra and Decepsha up the stairs as he returned to his throne. From there he ordered Entrapta and Scorpia to be jailed. An battalion of guards drug them out of the room.

“Please, Lord Hordak, don’t do this,” Catra implored.

“For a time you were an exemplary soldier of the Horde. Which is why I am willing to offer you a second chance, Catra.”

“What. Anything! Just please, don’t hurt Scorpia and Entrapta!” Catra begged. Decepsha grinned, seemingly enjoying the awkwardness of it all.

“The time has come,” Hordak announced. “Our expansion has slowed. Our peace treaty with Midnight Sands is broken. It is time to remind Etheria what the Horde is really about.

“Conquest. Order. Rule.

“We shall attack Bright Moon. And this time we shall succeed. This time, we will conquer it.”

“How? The Whispering Woods is the only way to Bright Moon, and it’s as healthy as ever,” Catra argued.

“Not necessarily,” Decepsha chimed in. “The Whispering Woods is the most obvious way in, but not the only one. Way down by Seaworthy, there’s a valley that our tanks could pass through. It’s heavily guarded, and constantly patrolled. Our tanks would be spotted in a second. UNLESS, they were invisible,” Decepsha smugly finished.

“They’ll never see it coming,” Catra breathed.

“We’ll be literally on their doorstep before the even know we’re there,” Decepsha added.

“Preparations to adapt the cloaking technology to our tanks starts tomorrow. I’ve been assured that it will be completed within a week. We have a week to prepare our army,” Hordak stated.

Catra’s stomach was turning over. Her eyelids fell shut. “And my second chance? Lead our armies against Bright Moon?”

Hordak rose. His red eyes were slits. His red teeth bared in an evil smile. “No Force General. Your skills are uniquely suited for a very key part of this mission. On the day of the attack, you will meet with She-Ra, and keep her away from the battle. By any means necessary.”

A thousand protests ran through Catra’s mind. “You want me to meet and stop She-Ra?”

“Yes. You have reestablished a connection to Adora. For this very reason. Correct?”

If it was possible, Catra was squeezing her eyes shut even harder. No matter what, she couldn’t let the tears leak out. “I… I don’t know if Adora will agree to meet with me again,” Catra muttered.

“She will. If you ask,” another voice said from the edge of the throne area.

Catra whipped around. Her mood swung in an instant, hissing, baring her claws. She knew that voice too. Before Catra could act, she felt one of Hordak’s sharp hands grip her shoulder. Catra just stood there, glaring at Shadow Weaver. There was a small shard of the Black Garnet in Shadow Weaver’s mask. Her hair was wispy, lively cascading slices of black waterfalls, just like it used to be.

“What is she doing free?!” Catra snarled.

“I sent for her,” Hordak answered. “With my Force General on another mission, and my other top Force Captain in jail, someone has to lead the assault.”

“We can’t trust her!” Catra yelled.

“No,” Hordak agreed. “But I know where she stands, and I can trust that .”

“I’ll behave, I promise,” Shadow Weaver assured in an almost menacing way.

It took a tremendous amount of willpower, but Catra was able to rip her attention away from Shadow Weaver and give back to Hordak. “I do this, and Scorpia and Entrapta go free?

Hordak’s grin grew. It was unsettling. “Yes, Force General, of course.”

Catra ground her teeth. She gave a little huff, and did all she could to hold herself together. “Okay.”

 


 

Decepsha was strolling down a hallway in the Fright Spire. As far as meetings went, that one was pretty fun. She had been worried that she’d feel awkward being back, but even after years away, these walls felt like home. There was also a little part of her that thoroughly enjoyed seeing Catra’s discomfort as everything all came crashing down.

As Decepsha passed by a door is slid open. Two arms reached out and yanked Decepsha into the room. Decepsha stumbled, until Catra pushed her hard, sending her crashing to the ground. Decepsha rolled over, getting a look at her assaulter for the first time. Catra was standing, chest huffing, the single light in the room behind Catra casting her in shadow.

“Hey Kitty-Cat,” Decepsha smirked.

“How could you do this to her?” Catra demanded.

Decepsha climbed to her feet. She couldn’t help but laugh in Catra’s face. “ME?! Oh that’s rich. Especially coming from YOU!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Catra grumbled.

“I was just doing my JOB catgirl. And you know what? You know what the worst part is? It wasn’t just a job. I really thought about it,” Decepsha sighed. “I tried to stop her from following you at the ball. Who knows, if she chose me I might be there right now, confessing to her all the Horde’s darkest secrets.” Decepsha glared directly at Catra. “But noooo, ‘her Catra needed her!’ I never stood a chance. And what have you done with it? Made a mess of her, that’s what.”

Catra scoffed. “No-no I haven’t.” She bit her lip.

“Lying’s not going to work with me. Don’t forget, I’m the one who got to be there. To see all of it. I know about that book she made you. I’ve seen her room, it’s basically a damn library right now. Stacks of books everywhere. I’m the one who, instead of getting to go on a real date, had to settle for hanging out in the library with her while she tried to piece together magicat genealogy. She spent months on that thing.” Decepsha paused. It appeared she was deep in thought. She let out a faint laugh.

“I found out that she was going to be meeting with you today. Thought I could follow her, get some last minute intel before heading home, finally.” Catra gulped, her anger and shame was mixing together as Decepsha leaned in close to her. “I saw what you did. Damn near killed her. And what was her crime? Daring to give you a present? Caring about you?”

“Shu-Shut up,” Catra muttered.

“No wonder you’ve been such a good Force General. Shadow Weaver trained you well.”

Catra grabbed Decepsha by the throat and slammed her into the wall. “I said shut up!”

“Whoa, settle down Kitten , we’re on the same side, remember?” Decepsha cracked.

You don’t get to call me that! Nobody calls me that,” Catra huffed. She maintained her grip on the spy. There wasn’t much Catra felt she still had a good grip on. Decepsha’s neck was something tangible at least.

“Not to your face anyway.”

“What?”

“Told you, I saw it all. Including all her silly little notes that she was taking for your book. I know all about you Catra.”

The implication smacked Catra. Adora, called her, that? Catra shook her head, trying to clear it. The grip around Decepsha’s neck loosened slightly. “You don’t know anything about me.”

Decepsha pondered that for a minute. “Know what? You’re right. All I know is the woman that exists in Adora’s eyes.” Decepsha looked Catra up and down. “You can’t hold a candle to that person.” Catra yanked Decepsha again, throwing her on the ground.

“Get out,” Catra commanded, still staring at the wall.

“Gladly,” Decepsha said as she hoisted herself to her feet. She got to the door and stopped after opening it. “I look forward to working with you, Kitty-Cat. This is gonna be fun,” she said just before the door closed behind her.

Catra stood in the room, alone, still staring at the wall. Not matter what she did, she couldn’t seem to get her breathing under control.

A fist slammed into the wall. Then another. And another. And another one. And one more.

Hands cracked, knuckles bloodied, Catra’s feet slid out from under her. She crumpled onto her knees. Catra tried jamming both of her fists into her mouth in an attempt to muffle her scream.

 


 

The door to Catra’s room slid open. The catgirl straggled in and closed it behind her. For a brief second she had forgotten that she had told Kyle to wait for her. Which is why when he greeted her she almost jumped through the roof.

“Oh, sorry Catra!” Kyle groaned. He was sitting in the side chair in the room. Catra’s book was splayed open in his lap.

“It’s fine Kyle,” Catra sighed. She took a couple deep breaths. When she refocused on the room, she couldn’t help but notice the book open.

It was obvious to Kyle too. He snapped it shut as quick as he could before jumping to his feet and depositing the book in the chair. “I’m sorry! It fell open and I happened to read a few lines and then I got interested,” Kyle said far too quickly. He scratched the back of his neck. “Catra, your home…” he started. Kyle stopped when he took a good look at Catra. Standing in the middle of the room, posture drooping, head facing down. There was sniffling. Tears were starting.

Before Catra knew it Kyle had his arms wrapped around her. “Are Entrapta and Scorpia okay?”

The question changed Catra’s crying to uncontrolled sobbing. She hugged Kyle back. “They’re in jail. Hordak’s going to make me do something awful to get them out!” She wailed.

Kyle’s hug got tighter. “We’ll think of something,” he assured her.

Something about Kyle being so confident about something made Catra laugh. “Thank you, Ky.” He nodded happily. “Actually, there is something I need your help with right now.”

 


 

With what sway she still had, Catra had ensured that Scorpia and Entrapta were put in neighboring cells. Currently Scorpia and Entrapta were both on the floor, knees cuddled up into their chests. They were sitting back to back, with two feet of steel cell wall between them. Entrapta’s pigtails hung lifelessly. To pass time Scorpia was scratching the floor.

“Hey,” Catra said. Her voice was raspy.

Both Scorpia and Entrapta looked up. Catra was standing between the cells, holding a red book. When she made sure both of them saw her, Catra turned around and rested against the wall between the two cells. She slid down into her own huddled position. All three sat there in silence for a moment.

Scorpia was the first to break it.

“You shouldn’t be here, Kitty. If they see you-”

“-I have an hour,” Catra interrupted her. “Kyle is doing a ‘routine maintenance check’. He’ll have the cameras offline for the next hour.”

Catra pulled her knees in tighter. “I am sooo sorry.”

“This wasn’t your fault,” Scorpia said. A sad laugh escaped her. “We were trying to have a life, and serve the Horde.

“Apparently there’s no room for ‘life’, in the Horde,” Entrapta grumbled.

“Just ‘the Horde’,” Catra added. “Did, they hurt you?”

“Well, ego for sure,” Scorpia quipped. “Otherwise, just this shiner.”

“Nothing permanent,” Entrapta muttered.

“But hey, tell me something good,” Scorpia demanded. “I wanna hear about today. How’d it go with Adora?”

“She took me on a picnic,” Catra answered. Her eyes fell closed.

“Heh, that is so Adora,” Entrapta remarked.

“What’s a ‘picnic’?” Scorpia asked.

Catra took a deep breath. “It’s taking me to a bright hilltop in the middle of a forest. It’s making me a bunch of delicious food that I’ve never even heard of. It’s letting me roll around, and laugh, and relax for once. It’s being a sweetheart and showing me the time of my life, right up until I hurt her, for no damn reason,” Catra said with a sniffle. “Because I can’t CONTROL ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN HERE !” Catra screamed as she banged her fists into her head.

“Hey Kitty! Catra!” Scorpia had moved to kneel by the cell forcefield. “Kitty calm down! Please?”

“I thought I was getting better Scorp. I’m just as broken as ever,” Catra cried. “Everything’s just so confusing! And when I’m around Adora I can’t think right! I don’t know what’s wrong with me! There’s just so much in my head and none of it makes any sense!”

“Sure it does,” Scorpia assured her. “Kitty you’re doing so much better than when I first met you. You’ve come so far, don’t let one or two missteps undo everything.”

“I don’t understand why my mind’s like this,” Catra sighed.

“I think you do, if you’d let yourself think about it,” Scorpia said.

“It’s pretty obvious, really,” Entrapta added.

“It’s Shadow Weaver. She messed me up. She messed me up beyond repair,” Catra snorted through tears.

“No. No Kitty you’re not beyond repair! You’ve already repaired a lot!” Scorpia argued. “I can’t imagine the lingering baggage that witch left you with, but you’re working through it. And besides, that wasn’t what we were alluding to anyway.” Catra turned to Scorpia with a confused glare.

“Kitty,” Scorpia smiled softly, “you want to be with Adora. But you don’t want to abandon us.”

Catra collapsed back against the wall between the cells. She was quite for a while. Finally she got up and tapped the button to open the little hole in the forcefield meant for food trays. She slipped the book through to Scorpia.

“What’s this?” Scorpia asked as she opened it. She gasped as she began reading.

“It’s a book, that Adora wrote for me. The entire history of magicats,” Catra said while facing Entrapta’s cell. “Every question I could have asked. Including what happened to my people. Spoiler alert, the Horde killed them.”

“Your people,” Entrapta said. “Do, you believe what it says?”

“I want to,” Catra said, a little deflated. “I… I don’t want to believe she’d lie or decieve me anymore. I wish I could get proof though.”

“Proof that the Horde could do something like that?” Scorpia asked. Catra nodded. Scorpia hummed a little laugh. “Kitty, I’m your proof.” Catra knelt in front of Scorpia, who was still flipping through the book. She stopped for a moment.

“Do you remember when I told you that I didn’t know why Mattis’ family was banished? That was a lie. My parents, they tried so hard to let me just be a child. To keep me innocent-”

“-they did a remarkable job with that,” Entrapta teased.

The trio chuckled.

“Shut up, you,” Scorpia shot back. “Anyway, Mattis’ family was banished because his mother told me the truth, about what happened to the Scorpio Kingdom. The Horde never gave my people a chance to cooperate. Hordak took our runestone. ‘Thinned’ my people out until we were compliant. Telling me was unforgivable to my parents.

“I was so young, I barely knew what any of that meant, until I was older. By then, I was so adept at putting it out of my mind. I never allowed myself to think about it. Until I reconnected with Mattis.”

“Scorpia.. I..” Catra was stammering to respond.

“It’s okay Kitty. You couldn’t have known. One of the many sins we turn a blind eye to, ‘for the Horde’.”

Catra flopped down on her butt and put her head in her hands. “I just wanted to build a life here, a home.”

“Hey,” Scorpia closed the book and turned to Catra, who was sitting a few feet in front of her. “The Fright Spire? This isn’t my home. This? The three of us right here? This is my home. No matter where we go, you’re my home.”

A sniffle came out of Catra as she wiped away a few tears. “... I love you guys.”

“Same,” Entrapta responded with a thoughtful nod.

“We love you always,” Scorpia smiled back.

“Show off,” Catra quipped. They all laughed. She climbed to her feet and reopened the slot for Scorpia to pass her book back. “Hour’s almost up,” Catra sighed.

“Will you be back?” Entrapta asked.

Catra stared directly at the purple haired princess. “Every night until you’re both out of here.”

“Can I read it tomorrow?” Entrapta meekishly asked.

“Of course,” Catra smiled. “You two try to get some rest.” Catra turned and glared out into the void of the large cellblock. “I unfortunately have a little more work to do tonight.”

 


 

The door slid closed behind Catra. The room, a guest quarters, was lit with a hazy purple glow. Every hair on Catra’s body stood on end as she was basked in purple light. Her tail swished wildly. She felt a tug on her pants. It was Clack. Somehow Entrapta had designed him and Emily to emote via their lights. Clack was absolutely terrified. Not sure what else to do, Catra gave him a reassuring pat on the top of his dome.

“Greetings, Force General,” Shadow Weaver said as she emerged from a side room. She was standing, head held high, hands calmly clasped together in front of her. Her mask was repaired, a small Black Garnet shard sat inset in it.

Catra’s eyes narrowed to slits. “ You should be the one that’s still rotting in a cell.”

“Perhaps,” Shadow Weaver pondered. She had a disturbing air of amused calm about her. “But like they say, desperate times and all.”

“I see jail didn’t break you. I guess they defied my orders and actually fed you.”

The jab got a laugh out of Shadow Weaver. “I’ve survived worse.”

“Let’s just get this over with,” Catra scoffed. She made her way over to the desk in the room.

“For Lord Hordak’s plan to work, you need to ensure the She-Ra is kept busy, or disposed of, and kept away from Bright Moon. You’ll send a note to Adora, asking her to meet you somewhere secluded, eight days from tomorrow.”

Blank paper was sitting on the desk. Catra stared at it. The woman, the witch, next to her, made every part of her made Catra’s skin crawl and her stomach twist itself into knots. The thing Catra hated the very most about her though? Was all the insight she possessed about her and Adora. “Earlier, you seemed sure that Adora would come if I asked.”

“I have no doubts.”

“Hah! Well, sorry to tell you SW, but while you were busy getting let out of prison, I was busy being that fuck up that you always knew I could be,” Catra huffed. “I wouldn’t trust her to show up.”

“She’ll show,” Shadow Weaver assured her.

Catra glared into that mask of hers. “ How are you so sure?”

Shadow Weaver stared back, sizing up Catra. “I’ve tried to catch up on the last 15 months. I noticed, some two months ago you broke into the Crystal Castle, looking for She-Ra’s weakness.”

Something about knowing Shadow Weaver was going through her files made Catra uneasy. “Er, yeah. So what?”

“How was the Crystal Castle? A mesmerizing place, isn’t it? Is that holographic nitwit still up and running?”

Despite her efforts to suppress it, Catra couldn't’ help but laugh. “Yeah, Light Bright’s still there. Still annoying.” Catra cocked her head to the side. “How do you know about her?”

“What, you don’t think you were the first Force General to have the brilliant idea of trying to raid the Crystal Castle for its secrets and power, do you?” Shadow Weaver asked. “The file said that you were unsuccessful in learning She-Ra’s weakness.”

“So? What does any of this have to do with Adora?”

“Simple, my child, She-Ra’s weakness is Adora’s weakness. It’s the same weakness that she’s always had.

“You.”

“Me?!” Catra huffed.

“Yes, of course. You were always her blind spot. Her motivation. You’re the opponent she fears facing off against on the battlefield. At the end of the day, we both know that she can’t defeat you.”

“Hah, are you saying that I’m stronger than She-Ra?” Catra chortled, trying to keep her mood from nosediving.

“Oh no, definitely not! She could break you in half without even working up a sweat.

“Not that she sweats.

“You know what I mean Catra. You are Adora’s weakness, and hence She-Ra’s weakness. So yes, unless you killed her, she will come if you ask. Perhaps you may have to beg, depending on how much of a, what did you say, ‘fuck up’, you were, but she will still come.” Shadow Weaver waved her hand. The pen on the desk floated up to Catra. “So make it count.”

 


 

Clack scurried out of Shadow Weaver’s room. Catra left right after him. She was caught off guard by Lonnie, who was leaning against the wall across from the door. Catra sighed and forced a smile.

“Lonnie! I’m glad I finally ran into you!” Catra said. Catra meant it, but was a little concerned by the stern glare Lonnie was giving her.

“I told you this would happen,” Lonnie grumbled.

“What?”

“THIS!” Lonnie yelled and waved her arm around. “All this! Shadow Weaver free. Scorpia and Entrapta in jail. All of it! And you let it!” Lonnie scoffed.

“I didn’t ask for this Lonnie!” Catra argued back.

“Didn’t you? Negotiating with territories? Peace treaties? Attending balls? Letting Entrapta have a thing with a princess? Face it Cat, you went soft. You started talking to Adora again and you let that bitch turn you into mush!”

In an instant Catra shoved Lonnie against the wall. She was inches away from Lonnie and growling. Lonnie was just smiling.

“There! There’s the Catra I know!”

Lonnie’s words seemingly pushed Catra back a little. “No. I’m not going to fall for this. Dammit Lonnie! Don’t you see, I’m trying to protect us!”

“Us?”

“Yes, us. You, me, Kyle, Rogelio, Scorpia, Entrapta. Our squad. We’re a unit! We-”

“- Serve the Horde. I serve Lord Hordak,” Lonnie cut Catra off. She patted Catra over her heart. “Don’t forget that,” she said. Lonnie pushed Catra’s arm away and stormed off.

Catra watched her go until she rounded a corner.

“Dammit, Lonnie,” Catra sighed.

Lonnie stomped around the corner away from Catra. She was hoping talking to Catra would ease her mind. Instead she was more worried than ever. Lonnie was so busy grumbling in her own head that she didn’t notice anyone else in the hall.

“Gotta warn you, generally cats do the exact opposite of what you tell them to,” Decepsha called out. It made Lonnie stop dead in her tracks and look around. Decepsha was leaning, arms folded, against the wall. They were alone in the hallway.

Having gotten Lonnie’s attention, Decepsha pushed herself off the wall and strolled over to the soldier. “Can we trust her?”

Lonnie pondered the question for a minute.

“She’ll make the right choice,” Lonnie decided on.

“Let’s hope. Didn’t get your name.”

“Lonnie,” she said, staring at Decepsha’s outstretched hand a moment before shaking it. “And you must be Decepsha, Queen of Lies. Heard you finally got back from assignment,” Lonnie said in a mocking tone.

“Oooh, my reputation precedes me. How exciting!” Decepsha grinned.

“Been gone a while,” Lonnie said. “Don’t think you’re gonna get a pass just because some of the old heads around here are gushing over you.”

“Worry not, I earn my reputation.”

“Good luck with that,” Lonnie said. She began walking away, and threw back a “see ya,” as she left.

Decepsha watched her go, arms folded, with a sly grin on her face. “Yeah Lonnie, you have a good night,” she breathed to herself.

 


 

A mid-morning breeze cut through the clearing in the Whispering Woods. Adora stood, just feet from the closed door of the Crystal Castle. The Sword of Protection was strapped on her back. She was wearing her usual red boots, grey pants, and white long-sleeved top. No jacket. She had arrived fifteen minutes ago, but just continued staring at the door, eyes half glazed over.

“Dearie!” a voice called out behind Adora. It pulled her out of her daze. Adora slowly turned.

“Madame Razz,” Adora said as she forced a weak smile. The old woman was scampering toward her, basket and broom in hand. Just like always. Adora couldn’t be sure, but she was starting to think that Razz’s glasses got thicker every time she saw her.

“Picking berries today?” Razz asked.

“No. I have training today,” Adora corrected.

“That usually takes place on the inside, Dearie.”

“Er, yes. I know,” Adora sighed as she returned her gaze to the door. Adora knew she had a duty to go in there. Just about every fiber of her being wanted to be doing just about anything else though. The only reason she was even here was that she was hoping that some training would help her put yesterday out of her mind.

“Adora, Dearie, can I see your sword?” Razz asked. Adora shrugged and handed it to her. Razz took a long look at it. Adora was always amazed by how much strength Razz had in her little body as she handled the sword with ease. With a shrug Razz tossed the sword over her shoulder, sending it flying into the nearby woods.

“Hey!” Adora yelled.”Razz I need that!” Adora held her hand out. The sword began zooming through the air towards her. Midway it deviated course and flew into Razz’s outstretched hand. The sight made Adora’s jaw fall open. She stared at her empty hand. “H-How?” Adora stammered out.

Razz gave Adora a soft smile. She adjusted her glasses with her free hand. “Dearie, my Mara, she shared her heart with me. Allows me to do some of the minor sword abilities.”

The answer made Adora start pondering. About her abilities. About her and the fact that Adora’s only ever been able to access her healing magic when she was there to help. “Like healing magic?” Adora asked.

“Of course not Dearie!” Razz laughed. “I said ‘minor’ abilities, not major.

“Now, training happens on the inside, and you’re still on the outside. You don’t need to train today,” Razz said with a big laugh. She tossed the sword back over her shoulder. “Come pick berries with me Dearie!”

Adora couldn’t help but laugh at Razz’s tenacity. “Okay, Razz. Let’s go pick some berries.”

 


 

Catra sat huddled up in the side chair in her room. She was wearing her jacket, with her sketchbook opened in her lap. At the moment Catra was simply staring out of her window at the mid-morning haze. Catra couldn’t help but feel that the sky seemed duller than usual. Or maybe, it was just the first time she took a real look at it in long time.

A knocking on her door broke her concentration. “Come in!” Catra called out. Kyle and Rogelio slipped into the room. “Morning guys!” Catra chirped as she jumped out of the chair. She carried her sketchbook over to meet them by her desk.

“You wanted to see us?” Kyle asked. He and Rogelio had melancholy expressions, which seemed to clash with Catra’s aggressive peppiness.

“I definitely did!” Catra beamed. “I did a few new drawings that I wanted to show you!”

Kyle cocked his head to the side. “You called us, just to show us drawings?”

“Yep!” Catra smiled. She flipped her sketchbook open and handed it to Kyle, all the while with the biggest, widest grin her face could manage. Kyle looked down at the page and immediately nodded.

 

Rogelio, Kyle, we can’t actually “talk”. You never know where that little Imp is. And now “Spy Master” Decepsha is also snooping around, seemingly everywhere.

I am so sorry for letting this mess happen. I want you to know, I consider the both of you a part of my family, and I’ll do everything I can to protect you, and help you, no matter what you decide to do.

“Deciding what to do” is really what this is all about, isn’t it. Here it is.

I don’t trust Hordak. I can’t trust him anymore. Not after everything that’s happened. Everything I’ve learned. The rest of our family are sitting in jail cells right now, while Shadow Weaver of all people is roaming the halls free. The only way Hordak will let them out is if I hurt Adora… I don’t think I can do that. Not unless EVERYTHING else went wrong. But I CAN’T let Scorpia and Entrapta just rot in jail.

So, I think I gotta go. But I can’t go alone. I don’t want to go without the two of you. And I won’t go without Scorpia and Entrapta. Only way we’re going anywhere is with a jailbreak. I have a plan but to do it I’d need both of your help. Which means, all of us goes, or none of us do.

I know, I’m asking for a lot. I’ll respect your decision, not matter what it is. But know that I’m not asking this a superior officer, or even as a fellow soldier. I’m asking this as a friend.

Are you in?

 

The three exchanged meaningful looks for a moment. Then Kyle held out his hand. Catra gave him a pen. The room echoed with the sound of the pen scratching and scraping the paper as Kyle wrote.

 

 

Chapter Text

Swift Wind soared through the sky on a clear blue morning. Adora sat on his back, staring off into the distance. The Sword of Protection was strapped to her back, and again no jacket. Her eyes were unfocused. In truth, Adora wasn’t looking at anything. Her mind was racing in so many different directions. It had been a hard week after getting Catra’s note. Nothing elaborate, just Catra pleading with Adora to meet with her. Most noteworthy part was probably the least sensible part. “Dump scone”. It was gibberish, an insult that Catra had made up when they were young when she had run out of ways to insult Octavia. More importantly though, it was something Adora and Catra used as a code word. It meant “emergency”. The location was a grassy cliffside north of the Whispering Woods, near where Midnights Sands, the wildlands, and Skydancer converged. There was nothing of significance there, just a nice view from the cliff. Maybe Catra was planning to throw Adora over it.

Adora tried shaking that thought from her mind. It was one of the dozens of emotional highs and lows Adora had went through over the week. From “maybe she wants to make up!”, to “maybe she wants to finish what she started,” and everything in between. Bow and Glimmer kept asking Adora the same question: “What is Adora hoping happens?”

In truth, there wasn’t an easy answer. She knew she should be mad. It would have been understandable if she crumpled Catra’s note up and never gave it a second though. Reality was though, that was never an option. Deep down, Adora still longed for Catra. That love hadn’t gone away, just now it felt commedically pointless. If, after everything she tried, Catra still hated her, Adora wasn’t sure what else she could do.

It made Adora feel like a tremendous failure. Catra didn’t love her. That wasn’t shocking, but after everything she couldn’t even convince Catra to forgive her and move on.

It had been a hard week.

“Hey, we doing okay Adora?” Swift Wind asked.

“Huh, oh, yes, I’m fine,” Adora lied.

“Okay,” Swift Wind replied. “It’s just, you’ve barely said a word this entire time. And also, you know, we are sort of connected.”

“Right, Sorry.”

“No, it’s okay! This can’t be easy. Honestly, I’m not even sure why we’re doing it,” Swift Wind admitted.

“Catra seemed desperate in her note. I need to at least make sure she’s okay.”

“Why? After all she’s done? I know you care about her a lot, but Adora, where’s the limit?”

“The limit?” Adora repeated. She tried to make room in her head for the question, to give it some space to be examined. “Honestly Swift, I don’t know.”

“I’m worried about you Adora,” Swift Wind confessed.

Adora cracked the first smile of the day. “Thank you, Swift Wind.” She patted the unicorn on his neck. “How could anything really bad happen to me when I have so many people looking out for me.”

A Horde skiff came into view. It was parked at the top of a hill, at the edge of the cliff. Catra was leaning against it, looking out over the cliff with her arms folded. Swift Wind set down way down at the bottom of the hill. Adora climbed off and gave Swift Wind a pet.

“I’ll call you when I need you, okay?” Adora asked.

“Yeah,” Swift Wind said. “Remember, there has to be a limit, Adora. Don’t let her take advantage of you.” Adora smiled again and nodded. Swift Wind rose into the air and took off.

With Swift Wind gone, Adora turned her full attention to the hill. She could just make out Catra’s hair sticking out from behind the parked skiff. She started her short hike. It wasn’t that steep. Adora probably could had covered it in less than a minute if she really wanted to. That climb felt like forever though. So far there weren’t any signs of a trap.

About ten yards from the skiff, Adora paused. Catra was mostly in view now. Adora took a deep breath.

“Hey,” Catra said, quickly glancing over her shoulder. “Brought the sword this time.”

“Don’t usually make the same mistake twice,” Adora fired back.

“No, that’s… That’s smart,” Catra said. Her voice was low, hollow. Her arms were wrapped tightly around herself.

Another deep breath. Adora slid the sword out of its sheath and jammed it into the ground. One more deep breath then Adora made her way over to Catra and leaned against the skiff, just a few feet away from Catra.

They both just stared out over the valley below the cliff for a moment.

“Your note sounded desperate,” Adora finally said. “You pulled out the ‘dump scone’ and everything.”

Catra lowered her head. “I needed to make sure you’d show,” she mumbled.

“Well, congratulations, I’m here,” Adora responded. She hummed the faintest of laughs.

“You are,” Catra confirmed. She was still looking down mostly. Every now and then she’d look to her side, or back at the valley, but never at Adora. At least, until she closed her eyes all together.

All week Catra had been trying to brainstorm what to actually do when, or if, Adora showed up. Nothing seemed right. It was the one part of the week that she hadn’t been able to figure out. After taking one look at Adora though, Catra had an idea of where she wanted to start.

“... I am so sorry,” Catra said, barely louder than a whisper. She snorted back a sniffle. “I know I can’t take any of it back, but I really wish I could.”

“Still no time machine I’m afraid,” Adora joked. It got an actual laugh from the both of them. She turned to face Catra, but maintained her distance. One of her hands seemed to instinctively be reaching for Catra. “Hey, it’s, it’s going to be okay.”

“Don’t do that,” Catra said. “Don’t just forgive me. You tried to do something incredibly sweet, and I messed everything up.” Catra bit her lip. “I don’t deserve forgiveness.”

“I’m-I’m not,” Adora assured her.

They fell quiet again for a moment.

“I guess I kind of am though,” Adora said. She let a half smile on her face. “I know I should be mad. I am mad. But I also hate being mad at you.” Adora collapsed back against the skiff. “This last week has been so hard,” Adora groaned. Tears were starting to pool in the corners of her eyes. “I don’t know what I can say around you, or what I can do around you. I’m scared that anything I do, that everything I do is going to upset you!”

“I don’t want you to feel that way,” Catra lamented.

“I don’t want to feel that way!” Adora closed her eyes and took another deep breath. “Catra, ‘with you’ used to be the only place I felt safe. But now, I don’t even know how I’m supposed to act around you. I hate this feeling.” Her hands were gripping an edge on the skiff, and slowly tightening.

“I hate that you hate me,” Adora let tumble out.

That slammed into Catra so hard that she actually winced. “I don’t hate you,” she forced out. It just got a tired laugh from Adora.

“Why do you care?” Catra asked.

“What?”

“Adora, you have everything you’ve ever wanted.”

Everything I’ve ever wanted?! ” Adora huffed.

“No, I didn’t mean that as a negative or anything! But, you do. Why are you wasting your time on me? You have friends who care about you. A family that you’re a part of now. You’re a hero. You’re beloved. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Right,” Adora grumbled. She pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. “What I wanted. Catra, do you really think that’s what I want? Do you really think I even get to want things?”

“What are you talking about? Everyone has wants, Adora.”

Adora gave Catra a sad, defeated smile. “I don’t get to have what I want, Catra. Do you really think that this is what I would want? To be the one that’s supposed to know how to save everybody? To be the She-Ra that doesn’t mess everything up? I don’t get to want things, I get to have ‘a destiny’,” Adora scoffed.

“First Shadow Weaver ‘destined’ me to be the best Force Captain the Horde’s ever seen. It was my entire childhood. I never had a choice. Shadow Weaver made that choice for me a long time ago. And then I was DESTINED to be the hero of Etheria. Not much room in there for wanting things.”

Catra glared at Adora. “I don’t believe that. There has to be things that you want.”

“What’s the point though? I can’t have what I want now can I.”

“Says who?”

“Says… UGH, Catra, just, believe me, please. I’m not going to get what I want.”

“No, you’re avoiding it. Adora, what do you want?” Catra asked, a grin finally forming.

“What do you want?” Adora spun it around.

“What?”

“You keep asking me, but what does the big, bad Force General of the Horde want?” Adora smoothly asked.

Something about the question struck a nerve in Catra. She stood, staring intently at Adora.

“Oh, hey, I’m sorry, if you really don’t want to tell me you don’t have to,” Adora assured her.

“I… Want to protect my family,” Catra spit out.

“Catra?”

“It’s Hordak, he imprisoned Entrapta and Scorpia! He said the only way he’d release them is if I did something for him!” Catra said. She was having trouble catching her breath again.

“What?! Why are we just hanging around here then? We have to go rescue them! Did you want to meet with me to ask for my help? You know I’d always help you with something like that.” Adora pushed herself off of the skiff.

“No!” Catra immediately shot down the idea. “No, it’s, fine. Adora, it’s alright, really. They’re going to be fine.”

Adora stood, and took a good look at Catra. Her shoulders sagged. “Catra, what does Hordak want you do?”

The two of them stared at each other for a solid minute. “He’s, he said he'd only release them if I stopped She-Ra,” Catra divulged.

It hung in the air between them, like a toxic gas. Adora stood there, blank faced, blinking once in a while. Catra was awash in shame. After another minute Adora gave a confident nod, then turned around and started marching toward the sword.

“Hey, Adora, we’re just talking though. I’m not looking for a fight. You didn’t let me finish! Adora?” Catra called out, but Adora was ignoring her. She marched all the way to the sword, still standing jammed into the ground. “Adora?” Catra called out again. Adora gripped the handle. She closed her eyes and sucked air in through her nose before letting out a big exhale.

Swift Wind. You asked me earlier, “Where’s my limit” I think I finally have an answer for you.

The Sword of Protection was pulled from the dirt. Adora slowly turned, sword in hand, and began marching back toward Catra. Adora was stone faced, determined.

“Adora, whoa! Hey! We were just talking!” Catra pleaded as she slowly backed up. Adora was stalking her way to her. “I didn’t say that to fight! I don’t want to fight! Please believe me! I’m sorry!” Catra threw her arms up and slammed her eyes shut as Adora was upon her.

I know, Swift Wind. I’m an idiot. A fool. You’re right. I am those things. I tried to figure out how I should feel, but in the end, I can’t change how my heart wants to feel.

In the end, I’m just a girl who can’t help but love the girl who’s always made her heart flutter and soar.

So that’s my answer Swift Wind...

...There is no limit.

Much to Catra’s surprise, she wasn’t feeling any pain. In fact, all she felt was a soft pressing against her chest. Cautiously, Catra opened her eyes. Adora was holding the sword, handle up, pressing the broadside against Catra.

“Take it. Show it to Hordak, as proof that you defeated She-Ra. It should be enough,” Adora smiled. A sincere smile, but not a happy one. “But if you could please convince him to not destroy it, if that’s even possible. I’m probably going to have to steal it back eventually. Don’t worry though, I’ll make sure it doesn’t come back to you.”

Catra gripped the sword by the handle. Adora let it go. The weight immediately yanked Catra’s hand down. “Adora…”

“Go,” Adora gave Catra the softest smile she could. “Go save your family. You love them, and I know you’d do anything to save them. So go save them Catra.” Adora spun on her heel to leave.

“Wait,” Catra said, setting the sword down by leaning it against the skiff. “It’s okay Adora. Everything’s going to be fine. I thought we were just talking.”

“Are you sure?” Adora asked, glancing over her shoulder.

“Yeah. Besides,” Catra looked at the sword, the back at Adora and grinned. “You’re stalling.”

“Excuse me?”

“About what you want.”

“Oh,right, that. It really isn’t important. Are you sure you don’t have to take the sword right away?”

“Stop changing the subject Adora. What is it you want?”

“Forget it. It’s stupid and not worth talking about,” Adora insisted. She started walking away.

Catra grabbed Adora by the arm and spun her around. “Bullshit. I told you about what I want. You gotta tell me.”

Adora stared at the hand on her arm, then at Catra. She glared at Catra for a long moment. She was tired. She wanted Catra to drop it, to stop asking. She couldn’t tell Catra, why couldn’t Catra understand that? She was so tired. She could feel the warmth of Catra’s hand. Adora was tired. Of fighting. Of resisting. Of always holding back. And now Catra wouldn’t stop pressing her about the one thing she couldn’t talk about with her. Adora was exhausted. She gazed into Catra’s mismatched eyes. Her perfect, mismatched eyes.

Fuck it.

With both hands, Adora grabbed Catra by the cheeks and pulled her in, crashing their lips together for a kiss.

And, it was everything. The butterflies. The sparks. The fluttering in the stomach. The weak knees and the stopping of time.The ecstasy and all the other clichés that could never fully explain it. She felt the softness of Catra’s lips. Smelled the cinnamon of her hair. Bathed in the heat of Catra’s whole body just inches away.

For the first time in forever, Adora’s mind was clear. There were no doubts. No sides. No wars. Just her, just Catra. Just those adorable ears and playful tail and cute orange stripes and perfect mismatched eyes and beautiful freckled face.

It was hard to tell precisely how long the kiss lasted. Probably a good 30 seconds, but it felt like all time collapsed into that one moment.

It was perfect.

Until it wasn’t.

Guilt began creeping into Adora’s mind. She became disgusted with herself in an instant. She forced herself to pull away from Catra, who was standing there, mouth slightly agape. Catra’s eyes were bulging, her hands just dangled at her sides.

“I am so sorry!” Adora gasped as the kiss ended. “That was awful of me! I never should have forced myself on you like that!” Adora was just inches from Catra, who still staring in disbelief. Adora slapped herself on the head. “Dammit Adora! Just have to ruin everything ,” she yelled at herself. “I am sooo sorry,” Adora whimpered.

As Catra regained her bearings, Adora found that she couldn’t look at her any longer, out of shame.

“Do you get it now though?” Adora asked with a whisper. She was still staring at the ground. It was the only thing she could stomach to look at, at the moment. “I don’t get to have what I want.”

Adora’s words echoed in Catra’s brain as she regained function of it. She looked at the girl in front of her…

...And smiled.

“Why not?”

Adora rose her head just in time for Catra to throw herself at Adora. Their lips locked together for another kiss. Catra pulled Adora in as tightly as possible. Adora wrapped her arms around Catra’s head, burying her hands into that gorgeous mane.

Catra was being playful. She nibbled Adora’s lower lip until Adora opened her teeth, allowing Catra’s tongue to play. One of Adora’s hands began scratching that spot by Catra’s ears. She began purring, vibrating both of them. Adora hummed a moan through the kisses. The sweet sound drove Catra wild. All she could focus on was getting Adora to do it again, which turned out to be quite easy. Catra pushed forward, she needed all of Adora. She needed to feel every inch of the blonde. Adora attempted to balance for both of them.

It turned out to be a terrible idea. Adora’s knees buckled and they both went crashing onto the ground. Adora slammed down back first and Catra landed on her. Neither of them could control their amused giggles at suddenly being on the ground.

“Sorry!” Catra snickered.

“No, no! It’s okay!” Adora assured her with a soft smile. She was on her back, arms splayed out over her head. Catra was straddling her waist. “This is okay. Better than okay, actually,” Adora meekishly grinned.

Catra’s grin was a bit more devilish. She was slowly running her finger down the side of Adora’s face. Every inch of her skin felt like a fire Catra needed to bathe in. “Reeealllly?”

“I mean, Catra, you spent most of our lives pouncing on me. Did I ever complain about it?” Adora asked, playful grin on her face.

“Come here,” Catra pulled Adora up into a sitting position under her, and also into another kiss.

They released their lips after a couple minutes with a small gasp. Catra had a soft smile on her face.

“You, wanted, me ?”

Adora was caressing Catra’s face. “It’s always been you. Catra, you’re all I’ve ever wanted.”

The answer bought Adora another kiss.

They sat, kissing, legs around each other’s waists, hands caressing and exploring, for a while longer. Until they reached the limit of how much oxygen their lungs could be deprived of. When they finally separated their mouths, they leaned in and pressed their foreheads together, and shared a giggle.

“You never said anything,” Catra murmured.

“Never dreamed that you’d ever think of me that way.”

“Of course I did.”

“Well I know that now !” Adora huffed.

They both giggled.

“I’m sorry,” Catra breathed.

“For what?” Adora asked as she traced the edge of Catra’s ear with her finger.

“Where do I even start?”

Adora put a finger over Catra’s mouth. “Stop,” she said. “Yeah, there’s, goodness, there’s so much to talk about, and work out, and apologize for. That’s all probably unavoidable.

“But if it’s okay with you, there’ll be time for that. I’d like to just stay in this moment for now.”

Catra licked the finger that was placed over her mouth. As an impulse reaction the finger bent. Catra began kissing and sucking on it, which was drawing out cute little gasps from Adora, which only stopped when Catra pulled her in for another kiss. She pressed their lips together as tight as she could, in the futile hope that she could bury herself in Adora and not have to face life.

Eventually Catra forced herself to pull away. “Dammit, we can’t!” Catra groaned as she untangled herself from Adora. After climbing to her feet, Catra stomped over to the sword. “We can’t just stay in this moment,” she heaved. Catra picked the sword up and stared directly into it. There was a faint reflection of her in the shiny runestone. “Adora, you have to go back to Bright Moon. Now.”

“You, want me to leave?” Adora asked, voice sullen. She climbed to her feet, clutching her hands together over her chest.

“That is the last thing I want,” Catra cried. She swung around to face Adora, sword still in hand. “But you need to! You need to save your friends!”

“What?!”

The truth. It was the last thing Catra wanted to say. After all this time, she finally had Adora. But now the truth was threatening to destroy it all in an instant. There was no choice though. Adora would hate her if she found out Catra knew what was happening to Bright Moon and didn’t warn her. And she’d deserve it.

All Catra really wanted to do was crash back into those lips, plump and red from all the abuse they’d already taken today, and get lost in the gentle oceans of Adora’s eyes.

But, the truth.

“Hordak sent me here to stop you, but also, to distract you. Adora, they’re attacking Bright Moon, today! Probably as we speak. I couldn’t stop them!”

“How did we not know..” Adora started, but trailed off. “... Clack. The cloaking technology.” Catra reluctantly nodded in agreement.

Adora stared at Catra. There was so much pain in those eyes. “All this, was just a distraction?”

“No!” Catra screamed. She started to make her way towards Adora with the sword.  “No, Adora! I just needed Hordak to think I was following his plan today! NONE of this was because of that! I promise! That’s why I’m telling you nooo-OW!” Catra screeched as she slammed into the translucent gray forcefield in front of her that appeared out of nowhere. She took a step back to see that she was completely enclosed in a gray forcefield cage. “What the hell?!”

“Catra!” Adora screamed.

Both of their attention was drawn by a sudden clapping behind Catra. Both girls gasped in disbelief.

“Well done, Force General,” Hordak said. He strolled around Catra’s force cage.

“Hordak!” Adora glared.

“Ah, She-Ra,” Hordak remark. “So much potential. Wasted. A tragedy really.” Hordak swung his attention to Catra, who was banging on and clawing at the forcefield. “You weren’t in the middle of betraying the Horde, were you Force General?” Hordak asked with a bemused smile. Catra just growled at him. “Worry not, as long as you sit tight and hold onto that sword like a good girl, your end of the bargain will be fulfilled.”

“Hordak! Please don’t do this!” Catra pleaded.

“It is LORD HORDAK!” he snarled at Catra. Just then Hordak spun around and threw his arm out, catching a leaping Adora by the throat. “Admirable attempt,” Hordak smiled. Adora smiled back and smashed the rock she was holding into his face.

Hordak dropped Adora, who took the opening to spin kick into Hordak’s side. He screamed out and held his hand up, firing a  pulse wave from it that crashed into Adora, sending her flying back. Hordak stalked after her. Adora struggled to her feet just in time for Hordak’s pointy fist to slam into her face, knocking her back down. Hordak drove a fist down but Adora rolled out of the way, immediately spun on the ground and kicked Hordak in the face. He growled. Adora thrust her leg out again but Hordak caught it as he rose to his feet. He tossed Adora, flipping her a little down the hill. She was using all her strength to push herself up off the grass.

“Very laudable, Adora,” Hordak said, stalking towards Adora. “I see it now, what they all saw in you. A shame, you could have been a great Force Captain. Under Weaver’s tutelage who knows what you could have been.”

“I’d rather die!” Adora growled.

“Don’t worry,” Hordak cracked his knuckles, “you will.”

Adora screamed and pushed herself off the ground, careening into Hordak.

In the force cage, Catra was slashing and stabbing at the walls with the Sword of Protection, to no avail. “Come on you stupid sword! Help me out here! Adora needs us!” Catra huffed after another few swings. She was panting, and on the verge of tears. Nothing seemed to be working. Catra held the sword up. The runestone glistened at her. Catra pressed her hand against it. “Please,” Catra begged. “We have to save her. We HAVE to! So please, I need you to do something!” Catra felt a warmth beneath her hand.

Hordak laughed as Adora collapsed onto the ground. She was slow to stir. Blood was spilling from the gash across her forehead and nose. She rolled onto her side and spit, a mix of blood and saliva hit the grass. “Valiant effort Adora, but I think this is at an end.”

Just as Hordak was over Adora, a thunderous boom filled the area, followed immediately by an energy wave. The force made Hordak stumble. It took all his strength to not get knocked over completely. Hordak turned around just in time for Catra’s flying dropkick to land on his chest. The force sent Hordak tumbling down the hill.

Catra landed just next to Adora. She helped the blonde up to her knees and laid the sword in front of her. “I’ll buy you time, you do your thing.”

Adora stared at Catra, a weary smile began forming. “Catra…”

It was met with a quick kiss on the lips. “Come on Babe, it’s She-Ra time,” Catra winked. She jumped to her feet and darted down the hill. Adora looked down at the sword, a devious grin washed over her.

The kick had sent Hordak down to almost the very bottom of the hill. He immediately rose to his feet, and sensed Catra just at the last second. His arm shot out. Catra’s claws dug into Hordak’s bracer and drug down. Hordak screamed as the claws punctured through and connected with skin. Catra hopped back to give some distance between the two.

“Afraid I have to hand in my resignation, Hordor,” Catra quipped as she flexed her claws.

“I will NOT stand for this insolence Catra!” Hordak barked.

“Oh yeah,” Catra narrowed her eyes, “try to stop me.”

Catra launched herself back into the air. Hordak threw his hand out and shot out another pulse wave, but Catra pirouetted in the air and avoided it. She was able to connect a glancing kick to the face. Catra landed a few yards behind Hordak. He spun around and began striding towards Catra.

Out of nowhere two interlocked fists slammed into Hordak’s back, sending him stumbling. He spun again, just in time for She-Ra’s fist to bash him right in the jaw. Hordak stumbled right into claws slashing against his face. She-Ra swung again, but instead of connecting, her fist just flew through a sort of wispy black mist.

Both girls looked up to the top of the hill, where Hordak had reappeared. He felt his face, where a couple drops of blue ooze had dribbled out of the claw marks. “I’m not sure I like these odds,” he stated. Hordak snapped his finger, which echoed throughout the hillside unnaturally loud.

There was a rustling behind Catra and She-Ra. They moved closer together as they turned to see a dozen Horde soldiers, all pointing laser modified stun batons at them. The Sword of Protection immediately transformed into the Shield.

“Stay behind me,” She-Ra encouraged.

“Yeah, unfortunately there’s not really a ‘behind you’ right now, Babe,” Catra quipped.

She-Ra reached behind her and grabbed Catra’s hand. “We are not dying here today,” she stated with all the air of confidence and truth she could muster. Catra was a little taken aback by just how otherworldly Adora could sound in this mode. Somehow, she believed her.

“No one has to die,” Hordak confirmed. “I would happily parade She-Ra through the Fright Zone as a prisoner.” Hordak took a few steps down the hill toward them. “You two put up quite the fight, but not even the great She-Ra can withstand over a dozen lasers all at onc-ACK!”

Hordak’s sentence was cut off as he began gagging. She-Ra, Catra, and the Horde battalion watched as Hordak began rising into the air, suspended by the hairy purple tentacles wrapped around his neck.

“HOW DOES IT FEEL?” Entrapta snarled as she emerged over the hill. Neither She-Ra nor Catra had ever seen such pure rage on the Princess of Dryl’s face. It was a terrifying sight.

There was the sound of an explosion behind She-Ra and Catra. They spun back around to see a couple of the Horde soldiers flying through the air. The robot Emily landed in front of the rest of the battalion, all of her guns drawn. She fired her Sonic Wave cannon, blasting a group of the soldiers.

With all the soldiers’ attention on Emily, Catra took the opportunity to attack a handful of them from behind.

Seeing that the soldiers were under control, She-Ra turned her attention up the hill. Hordak was still squirming in his vice. He flexed his hand out, popping out a small laser dagger. He swung back, but Entrapta recoiled her tentacles in time. Hordak landed on his feet facing Entrapta. He only got a step or two before the Sword of Protection slashed up his back. Hordak stumbled and howled in pain, and was immediately caught with a giant purple haired fist. She-Ra kicked him in the back, just where the gash was.

Catra made her way to She-Ra just Entrapta grabbed Hordak by the feet and flipped him into the air. She-Ra’s eyes went wide.

“Oh! Catra! Catra! Fastball Special!” She-Ra squealed.

“What?!” Catra huffed.

Without warning She-Ra scooped Catra up. “Don’t worry! I’m actually strong enough to do it now!” She-Ra said, then immediately tossed Catra as hard as possible. Catra slammed into Hordak in mid-air, claws first. She drove him into the ground with her claws dug into his shoulders and a look of frenzied glee on her face.

Hordak coughed and labored to breath as Catra glared down at him. He smiled. “Enjoy… Your mediocre life Catra, for what time you can at least,” Hordak said, then evaporated into another cloud of black mist.

The princesses and Catra gathered on the hill. “Where’d he go?!” She-Ra stammered. They all looked around the hillside. All they could see was Emily, finishing off the last of the guards.

“He is gone,” Entrapta stated. “Hordak knows when he’s lost.” Catra immediately hugged Entrapta.

“I’m so glad you’re safe,” Catra whispered as Entrapta hugged her back. “The plan?”

“Working perfectly so far. Well, except for Hordak showing up,” Entrapta responded. “One of Assistant Kyle’s greatest skills is that everyone underestimates him.”

Emily and Swift Wind arrived on the hill at the same time.

“I came as fast as I could She-Ra… What the heck happened here?” Swift Wind asked as he surveyed the area.

“A long story!” She-Ra chuckled.

“Ooooh, She-Ra your winged unicorn can talk,” Entrapta remarked. “That is FASCINATING.” She pulled out some sort of measuring device. Catra immediately grabbed Entrapta’s hands.

“Hey ‘Trapta. Maybe leave Swifty alone until after we help save Bright Moon?”

“Yes, that is probably for the best,” Entrapta agreed. She clamored up onto Emily. “I’ll meet you there!” she said as the robot scurried off.

Catra turned to smile at She-Ra. “Shall we?”

“You’re going to help me? Save my home?” She-Ra stammered, and blushed. Catra nestled her head into She-Ra’s chest.

“There are worse first dates.”

 


 

Another volley of laser blasts slammed into the Forcefield surrounding Bright Moon Castle. The barrage had been going on for 20 minutes now. Once the blasts even managed to break through the forcefield, but Queen Angella had made her way to the moonstone and was currently doing all she could to keep it powered up.

Glimmer led Bow, Netossa, Spinnerella, and a battalion of Bright Moon guards towards the gates of the castle.

“How did this happen?!” Spinnerella bemoaned.

“That damn cloaking tech Entrapta made, that’s how!” Glimmer growled.

Bow seemed very upset. “I know she’s working with the Horde, but I really didn’t think she’d do this,” he sighed.

“She DID almost destroy the world in the name of science,” Glimmer said. “Apparently that’s all that means anything to her.” The bitterness in Glimmer’s words was palpable.

“We can be angry at her later. Right now we gotta focus on that!” Netossa said as they spilled out into the watery valley between the castle and the edge of the Whispering Woods. There were dozens of tanks. Hundreds of soldiers. And almost just as many attack robots. “Please tell me we got word to the Princess Alliance!”

Glimmer’s shoulders drooped at the overwhelming sight. “I did. But I JUST did. There’s no way they’re going to be here in time. And I have no idea where Adora is.” Glimmer narrowed her eyes. “It’s just us.”

Spinnerella summoned a whirlwind that cut through a swath of Horde soldiers and slammed into a tank, sending it flying into the air. A number of soldiers immediately rounded on her, but were knocked down by one of Netossa’s light nets. They both had to dodge quickly as a barrage of laser fire came at them. Spinnerella shot more out, trying to, if nothing else, cause chaos and confusion.

The Bright Moon guards, with Glimmer and Bow at the front, crashed into the front rows of the soldiers. As the guards and soldier fought, Glimmer teleported her and Bow towards the center. They popped in, sprayed a few sparkle blasts and arrows, and popped away. She knew she couldn’t keep this up forever, but in the shadow of the moonstone her powers were supercharged. They were trying to make their way to the attack robots, who were causing all sorts of damage.

The two made it to the edge of soldiers. A number of them swung around to pursue. “You get the robots, I’ll hold these guys off for you!” Bow yelled. Glimmer agreed and teleported away. Bow loaded an arrow and shot it at the soldiers. It exploded on impact of one of them, sending that one to the ground and creating a thick smoke cloud. It was too late for two soldiers to see Bow as he emerged from the cloud, cracking his bow over their heads. Another soldier swung their baton, which Bow was just able to dodge. The next baton swing got him right in the stomach though, sending him crashing onto the watery ground.

Bow sat up quickly and fired a net arrow at the approaching soldiers, taking down three of them. As he did that though another soldier fired his stun baton at Bow, which sent him into a convulsing fit. Bow writhed in the water for a moment as soldiers stalked towards him. He recovered enough to swing his bow just as they reached him. The bow smacked into one, but another soldier tased Bow again. Three soldiers stood over Bow as he struggled to his knees.

Suddenly one of the soldiers was flung into the air. The other two were lifted up and slammed into each other. They both fell lifelessly onto the ground. Bow looked up at the outstretched claw and grabbed ahold of it. Scorpia yanked him up to his feet.

“You okay, Buddy Bow?” Scorpia asked with a giant smile. Bow stared at her for a few seconds, then threw his arms around her. Scorpia pulled him in for a tight hug. “Don’t worry, I got you.”

Bow pulled away enough to look up at Scorpia’s face. “You’re here to help us?!”

“Of course! It’s a long story, but the short of it is the last week’s been… Not great. And let’s just say we’re between places right now, so we’re here to help!”

“We?”

Scorpia pointed over her shoulder. A little ways behind her Rogelio was tearing through waves of Horde soldiers, while Kyle knelt and provided cover fire with a laser rifle. Scorpia gave Bow a sly gin. “Let’s go kick some Horde butt!” She exclaimed. “Oh, that’s going to take some time to get used to saying!”

 


 

There was a path of torn and destroyed machinery in Glimmer’s wake. With her father’s staff in her glowing hands, she had dispatched of almost a dozen robots in no time. Fueled by anger and desperation, Glimmer was pushing herself. Even in such close proximity to the moonstone, she was already beginning to feel the limits of her abilities. The last robot almost got her when here teleportation fritzed momentarily. There was no room for those worries though as she slammed a sparkle fist into the closest attack robot. The robot stammered back. It quickly regrouped. Glimmer swung another sparkle fist at it, but the sparkle fizzed out mid arc, leaving only Glimmer’s hand. Her fist cracked into the metal exterior of the robot hard.

“OW!” she yelped. Glimmer tried to recover with the Staff of Micah, but the robot smacked her in the stomach, sending her tumbling onto the ground. Glimmer tried firing a sparkle blast, but only a few shimmers of light came out. The robot reared up, preparing to strike.

Before the robot could do anything though, three giant purple lasers tore through it, and also eight robots behind it. They all fell lifelessly to ground as smoldering lumps of metal. Glimmer scrambled to her feet in disbelief.

“HAH!” Entrapta’s voice rang out loud. “Glimmer! Glimmer!” Entrapta was calling. Glimmer turned around. Just a few yards away Entrapta was climbing down from Emily. “Did you see?! TRIPLE BARRELED CANNON!” Entrapta exclaimed. She was shaking her fists in triumph. Emily powered her cannon back up and stalked after more robots. Entrapta bounced toward Glimmer. “I can’t believe it actually worked! I never had time to even test it!”

Glimmer stared at Entrapta for a second. Entrapta began waving her hand in front of Glimmer’s face. “Glimmer? HellOOO? The residual energy distortion from the cannon didn’t fry your brain did it?

“Because if it did I really should document i-Oh!” Entrapta was cut off by a teary eyed Glimmer hugging her. Entrapta stood stiffly as Glimmer began crying on her shoulder.

“You’re here!” Glimmered whimpered.

“Er, yes. There were a few minor delays. We got here as soon as possible,” Entrapta said, patting Glimmer on the back. Emily appeared next to the two princesses. It was beeping excitedly. “Oh, even better, Emily says that Clack just arrived!” Entrapta beamed. She scanned the horizon until she saw Clack, waving at her, atop the ridge.

“Well, I’m glad he’s okay,” Glimmer said, looking a bit puzzled at Entrapta’s enthusiasm. “I’m not sure how useful he’s going to be though.”

“HAH! Not in battle, of course,” Entrapta assured her. “He’s been doing what he does best,” Entrapta said as she enthusiastically waved back at Clack, “delivering messages.”

The little robot began scurrying down the ridge. Just behind him a giant green vine slithered along the ground at an impressive speed. Riding atop the vine was the Princess Alliance: Perfuma, Mermista, Embra, and Frosta, along with Sea Hawk.

Mermista, Sea Hawk, and Frosta hopped down into the standing water of the valley. Massive clumps of water rose into up and began soaring through the air. The water crystallized into ice spikes just before they slammed into a row of Horde tanks. Sea Hawk, brandishing his yellow laser sword, swashbuckled his way through Horde Soldiers as he met up with Scorpia, Bow, Kyle, and Rogelio, currently taking the fight to the Horde ground soldiers.

Embra leapt from the vine and onto another vine that was shooting out of the ground. They hopscotched along more rising vines until they were over the attack robots. With one more leap Embra’s fists ignited on fire and they dove at the ground. A massive explosion of fire erupted from the point of impact where their fists slammed into the ground, exploding an entire group of robots. Vines shot up and through a few of the errant robots.

“Glimmer!” Embra smiled as they regrouped with Glimmer and Entrapta.

The giant vine dissolved back into the ground, depositing Perfuma right next to them. “You’re safe!” Perfuma squealed at the sight of Entrapta. The tech princess ran to her and leapt into Perfuma’s arms. Their lips quickly found each other.

“I’m sorry to worry you,” Entrapta breathed when they finally separated.

Perfuma caressed her fingers against Entrapta’s face. “You have nothing to apologize for!” Perfuma assured her.

A few feet away Glimmer watched the warm embrace, and was overcome with emotion. She was startled when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

“You okay Glim?” Embra asked.

“I can’t believe it, you’re all here!” Glimmer sniffled.

Embra pulled Glimmer in for a hug. They ran their fingers through her glittering hair and smiled. “Of course we are! We came as soon as we got Entrapta’s message from Clack.”

“I… Thought Entrapta was… That is… And now… She saved Bright Moon,” Glimmer smiled.

“Incorrect,” Entrapta stated. Her and Perfuma were standing next to Embra and Glimmer, arms interlocked. “Yes I am executing the plan. I can’t take most of the credit for creating it though. And also, we haven’t saved Bright Moon, yet.”

Glimmer pulled away from Embra and pounded her fist into her own hand. “Then let’s go finish the job!”

Entrapta put a finger up, as if about to make a point. She had a nervous smile. “We may not be able to. All the robots and tanks are being controlled by a Mobile Command Ship. And the Horde has plenty of reinforcements. The only way to truly stop the onslaught will be to stop that ship. Which is of course, at the rear of the attack, safely behind all the forces of the Horde.”

“How are we supposed to get to it?!” Glimmer huffed.

“We’re not. Our job is to keep the Horde from overrunning Bright Moon and keep the Horde’s forces busy.”

“Then who’s going to stop the Command Ship?” Embra asked.

Entrapta was quiet for a moment. She was looking around in seemingly erratic directions. After a moment she perked up. She turned to face the group. “They will,” she said as a shadow briefly passed over them.

Swift Wind soared over the valley of Bright Moon as the battle raged on below. “Whoa,” he mumbled at the sight.

“I’m still not convinced this is safe!” Catra yelped as she sat sidesaddle, cradled in She-Ra’s lap. Her arms tightened around She-Ra’s waist.

“You know I can hear you, right?” Swift Wind remarked.

“It’s okay Catra, I trust Swift Wind with my life. We’re connected!” She-Ra tried to reassure her. Catra’s only response was somehow tighten her grip around She-Ra even more. “Everyone’s here!” She-Ra grinned widely. Below them the Princess Alliance was slowly turning back the tide of Horde machines.

“Yeah, Kyle and I figured Bright Moon would need more than just Bow and Glitter to help hold back the invasion,” Catra mused.

She-Ra nuzzled her head into Catra’s mass of hair. “Thank you,” she whispered. “So what’s our part of the plan?”

Catra pointed off just in the distance. “See that? That’s the Mobile Command Ship. Kind of brilliant idea Entrapta had. A massive command center than can remotely control all the Horde tanks and robots. No human drivers makes them more relentless. Of course, it also makes them vulnerable to all be taken out at once. We’ll just storm the ship and… Oh no,” Catra sighed as she surveyed the area around the Mobile Command Ship.

“What is it?”

“Lonnie. She’s heading up the ship guards. Of course she is,” Catra grumbled. “Okay, I’ll take care of the exterior guards and try to talk some sense into Lonnie while you get to the bridge and disabled the ship.”

“So Lonnie didn’t come with you? I’m sorry.”

“Bah, she just needs to see the truth. She doesn’t realize just how bad the Horde i-oh son of a bitch!” Catra growled. She-Ra was shooting her a self-satisfied smirk.

“What? I didn’t say anything,” She-Ra said with a grin. “You should finish that thought.”

Catra glared at She-Ra for a couple seconds then pulled her in for a passionate kiss. She nipped She-Ra’s lip as they separated. Then Catra jumped off of Swift Wind. “I admit to nothing!” Catra teased as the dropped to the ship below.

Swift Wind was rounding towards the back of the ship. “Hey, Adora?” Swift Wind called out.

“Yes?”

“So, new rule I’m instituting right now: NO hanky-panky on the horse.”

On the top deck of the Mobile Command Ship was five Horde soldiers, being commanded by Lonnie. Catra landed directly on one. She rolled off of that one and launched into a jump kick that sent another one flying overboard. Catra rose to her feet to see Lonnie being flanked by the other three soldiers.

“I just lost an argument with Adora thanks to you,” Catra muttered. “I’m tempted to punch you in the face for that alone.”

“Why not?” Lonnie growled. “You abandoned your home for her. Why not punch your friend for her.”

“Dammit Lonnie! I didn’t just abandon the Horde because I was smitten. They betrayed us!”

“No! You betrayed the Horde first!”

“The Horde killed my people! My family!”

“And the Rebellion killed mine!”

Catra took a step back at the revelation. “... Lonnie.”

“My parents were loyal soldiers for the Horde. They died fighting the Rebellion. And you expected me to just drop everything and join them?!”

“Lonnie, I’m sorry. I’m not asking you to join anything. But, we’re your family, you belong with us.”

“Then why did you abandon me!” Lonnie screamed and charged. The other three soldiers followed suit.

 


 

The corridors of the Mobile Command Ship were minimally protected; almost no challenge for She-Ra. It was dark and drab. Gray metal walls lit only by the glow and blinking of red lights everywhere. Access to the bridge was blocked by a thick, heavy, locked door. It was kicked open with such force that the door flew across the room.

She-Ra stepped onto the bridge. It appeared to be abandoned. Then a stun mace slammed into She-Ra’s back. She stumbled a few feet before recovering. Another swing of the mace was coming at her, she could hear the crackling energy slicing through the air. She-Ra spun to block the mace with her sword.

“Hi Honey!” Decepsha snarled as she tried to push the mace through She-Ra’s block. Her eyes looked wild, and her indigo hair was messed, strands falling all over her face. She-Ra leapt back, giving them some distance.

“Zayn?!” She-Ra gasped.

“Didn’t get the memo? Name’s Decepsha!” she yelled as she charged at She-Ra. The swing was blocked by the Sword of Protection. She-Ra kicked her foot out, sending Decepsha tumbling onto the floor. She rolled over and chuckled at She-Ra.

“I miss ‘Zayn’,” She-Ra lamented, eyes half lidded.

“Well that’s funny.” Decepsha asked. She wiped her mouth with her forearm. “You killed ‘Zayn’.”

“Was, any of it real?” She-Ra asked. Her heart was heavy at the sight of this apparently complete stranger that she had spent so much time with over the past few months.

“Don’t you get it?” Decepsha climbed to her feet. “All of it was real!” she howled as she charged She-Ra again.

 


 

High above the fray was the moonstone chamber. Queen Angella hovered few feet in front of it, doing her best to repower the runestone with her own magic. The initial barrage had weakened it, but she had managed to almost fully repower it, especially as more and more of the battle move away from the gates of the castle. The Queen knew how important it was to keep the shield up. It was the only thing holding Bright Moon from ruin.

Yet, her daughter, and people that she had grown to care deeply about, were all down there. Fighting the real fight. Making the real difference. Not being cloistered away from all the action. She wasn’t strong enough to help them. So Angella stayed up here, out of the way. So nobody, not She-Ra, not her daughter, could see what a failure of a leader she really was. Deep down she had always known she was a failure.

Except, ‘always’ had apparently started today. She had never felt that way before. Or had she?

No, it was new.

But what if it was always there? Gnawing at Angella’s soul? Festering?

A celestial being doesn’t let things fester though. How can something fester when she surrounded herself with so much light and purity?

There it was though. Inky and black and clawing at her from the corner of her eyes. Doubt. Disgrace. They shouldn’t have been there though. Not here. Not when she was so sure of her purpose. The darkness of failure.

No. Light.

Light can cleanse.

It WILL cleanse.

Queen Angella grunted and growled, and then screamed as a shockwave of light erupted out of her from all directions. There was a thud sound against the moonstone chamber wall. The expulsion of such energy made her fall to her knees. Angella looked over her shoulder to see Shadow Weaver pushing herself off the wall.

“Well done, Angella,” Shadow Weaver said.

“You must be the one they call Shadow Weaver,” Angella responded as she climbed to her feet. The Queen wasn’t sure what was more off putting, that Shadow Weaver had addressed her by first name only, or that Shadow Weaver curtseyed when Angella addressed her. “Get out of my kingdom,” she demanded.

“Come now, Angella. There’s so much for us to talk about!” Shadow Weaver barked. With the wave of a hand black tendrils shot out of the floor at Angella. She jumped into the air and held her hand out. Light shot out, disintegrating the tendrils. More tendrils spewed out of the walls, grabbing Angella’s wrists. She made her entire body shimmer with a glow, which seemed to burn the tendrils. She dropped back to one knee. Being in the presence of the moonstone couldn’t keep up with how much energy she was using.

“Impressive,” Shadow Weaver remarked. “Micah would be proud.”

Micah’s name ignited something in Angella. She looked up and growled at the witch. “Keep my husband’s name out of your mouth!” she yelled as she shot a hand out. A beam of pure light shot out. Shadow Weaver disappeared into a puff of smoke before it connected with her.

Gray, cracked fingers wrapped around Angella’s chin as Shadow Weaver appeared just behind the Queen. They burned to the touch. “Aw, did Micah never mention me?” she goaded. Angella spun on her heels, connecting a backhand to Shadow Weaver’s facemask. The dark mage staggered backwards. Angella summoned a ball of light and shoved it into Shadow Weaver. It blasted her back, slamming her into another wall.

“What business would my husband have with something so vile as you?”

Shadow Weaver used the wall to pull herself to her feet. “Your husband. You mean my best pupil? The one whose skills I molded and trained?” Shadow Weaver chuckled.

The accusation made Angella stop dead in her tracks. Shadow Weaver took the opening to throw a wave of shadow at the Queen. It slammed into her, knocking her down. Suddenly Angella was having trouble breathing as inky black tendrils began wrapping themselves around her throat. More tendrils began enveloping both of her arms and upper body. They pushed her up and suspended her in the air.

“You know it’s true, don’t you,” Shadow Weaver mused as she stalked over to Angella. The Queen squirmed and struggled against her shadowy constraints. “You should be thankful. I taught your husband to be a great sorcerer. I trained your ‘Hero of Etheria’ to be the mighty warrior she is.

“It’s almost as if I was the one responsible for shaping all the important people in your life. Except for that daughter of yours. So much potential though. In time I could turn her into something exceptional.”

Anger was rising in the Queen of Bright Moon. Her heart began racing. Her labored breaths shortened. She wasn’t sure how much power she had left in her, but while there was any she wasn’t going stop fighting. “You… Stay…” Angella began grumbling. Her entire body lit up again and exploded in a wave of light. It destroyed the shadow bindings. “AWAY…” Still high in the air, Angella began swinging her arm forward at the witch. “FROM GLIMMA’!” As her arm swung, a thin column of light began forming in her hand.

The light took shape as a long solid light sword just in time to impale Shadow Weaver in the shoulder. With all her might Angella drove Shadow Weaver back, slamming and pinning her against the wall.

Angella held the light sword firmly in Shadow Weaver’s shoulder. “Micah and Adora may have began their paths with you, but in the end, they ran to me,” Angella grinned. “What does that say about you?”

Shadow Weaver let out a disconcerting hearty laugh. “Well played, your Majesty,” she said just before disappearing into a cloud of smoke. Angella stumbled forward at the sudden lack of Shadow Weaver. She searched the moonstone tower, but the witch was nowhere to be found.

 


 

Catra and Lonnie were pacing each other. Both were staggering. The other three soldiers were long since dispatched of, it was just the two of them.

“Lonnie, I get it,” Catra began between heavy breaths, “but we couldn’t stay. Not after everything.” Catra stumbled forward and swung her fist out, it grazed Lonnie’s shoulder.

“Yeah, you and Adora deserve each other. The cute little Freedom Fighters you are,” Lonnie scoffed, half heartedly pushing Catra back.

“I never said I was joining the Rebellion!”

“Then what are you doing here?!” Lonnie swung at Catra. The catgirl shuffled out of the way.

“I’m here to help protect Adora’s home!” Catra retorted. “That’s as far as I’ve gotten. And yeah, she’s important to me. Shit, Lonnie, you know how much Adora means to me.

“She… She kissed me,” Catra blushed.

The admission disarmed Lonnie for a moment. She sighed. “Catra… I’m happy for you. I don’t know what you want from me though.”

“Who knows Lonnie! None of us have anything figured out right now. I just… I just want us to all figure it out, together.” Catra held her hand out.

Lonnie gave it a long look. She began to raise her arm. Just then everything around them both began to go black.

“NO!” Catra screamed. She fell to her knees as the world melted away around her.

Suddenly She-Ra flopped onto the ground next to her in a puff of smoke. “What the?” She-Ra wondered, as she climbed up to a sitting position.

“Girls,” Shadow Weaver said, standing over both of them. She-Ra tried jumping up, but became frozen as soon as she was on her feet. “I have no more fight in me today, Adora.” Shadow Weaver knelt down in front of Catra, who was still on her knees, clutching her head. “Catra, look at me,” Shadow Weaver commanded. She had to force Catra to look up with her own hand. The catgirl stared at her, doing her very best to not feel terror. The witch rubbed her hand along Catra’s chin and hummed a little laugh. She stood back up to face She-Ra. She moved a few strands of hair out of She-Ra’s face. “The next time we meet, the goal will be to kill you both,” Shadow Weaver said with a softness that betrayed the blatant threat.

Just as quickly as it all stopped, the world reappeared and was thrust back into motion. Catra jumped to her feet at the realization that Lonnie was gone. “Lonnie!” she called out, but Catra knew the truth, Shadow Weaver had taken her.

Wasting no more time Catra raced down to the bridge of the ship. She-Ra was slowly climbing to her feet. Catra crashed into her with a hug. She-Ra wrapped her thick arms around Catra.

“It’s okay. It’s okay,” She-Ra kept assuring her. “Za… Er, Decepsha was here. Shadow Weaver showed up to rescue her.”

“Lonnie too.”

They both sighed in each other’s arms. After a moment they turned to massive control panel in front of them.

Catra stared intently at the blinking lights and buttons. “Time to end this,” she said, sly grin starting to come back.

 


 

All at once the Horde’s tanks ground to a stop, At the same time the attack robots fell lifelessly onto the ground. The sight of their machines falling around them, the remaining Horde soldiers that hadn’t listened to Shadow Weaver’s command of retreat finally paid heed and fled. For the most part the Princess Alliance were happy to let them go. They were just overjoyed to that it was finally over.

Catra and She-Ra made their way back to the top deck of the Mobile Command Ship. From there they could see the celebration of the Rebellion in the valley as the few Horde stragglers scurried away. She-Ra transformed back into Adora. She scratched an itch on the wrist of her sword hand then put it around Catra and pulled them close together.

“So, what now?” Catra asked.

Adora turned to her and smiled. She intertwined all of their fingers together and moved in close, just inches away. “Now, we get to figure that out. Together.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Two guards stood at the main doors of the throne room. Another one was posted by the stained glass door leading to the balcony. Three more guards were lined on each side of the room. Them, plus the entire Princess Alliance of Adora, Glimmer, Bow, Mermista, Perfuma, Frosta, Embra, Sea Hawk, Spinnerella, and Netossa, as well as Catra, Scorpia, Entrapta, Kyle, and Rogelio, all packed Queen Angella’s throne room.

At the front of the room were Glimmer, Adora, and Catra. Everyone else behind them was cautiously, and awkwardly, trying to mingle while they waited for the arrival of Queen Angella. For a stuffed room, it was uncomfortably quiet.

“Does Queeny always make you wait like this?” Catra grumbled. She stood just to Adora’s right side with her arms folded. Her tail swished behind her.

“Soon enough,” Adora said. She had purposefully put herself between Glimmer and Catra, in hopes that the buffer would be enough.

“THE QUEEN,” Glimmer hissed, “will be here when she can! She’s meeting with the generals of the Royal Guard to discuss clean-up plans. You know, to clean up the mess that YOUR Horde made!”

“They’re not MY Horde anymore! Or was the whole ‘hatching a terrific plan to save Bright Moon’ too much for you to figure out?” Catra cracked. “I beat up my boss like FOUR hours ago, you should be thanking me!”

Adora rubbed the bridge of her nose. “You guys, please don’t.”

“Oh thank you SO MUCH, Cat,” Glimmer growled. She showed no sign of having heard anything Adora had said.

“You are so welcome, Glue Gun,” Catra said with a smirk.

“My NAME is GLIMMER!”

“Settle down Glimma’,” Angella’s voice boomed throughout the room. The Queen of Bright Moon strode in through the large double doors. There were scratches on her skin, smudges on her clothes, a few errant strands of hair dangled over her face, and a look of triumph in her eyes. The people around her began to kneel. “No,” Angella stated, “no one is bowing today.”

They may have not been able to use any more words, but the glares Glimmer and Catra were throwing at each other were saying plenty. Adora stood in the middle of them, head in hand and sighing loudly.

As the Queen passed between Glimmer and Adora she gave them both assuring pats on the back. Once to the front she turned and surveyed the room, before stopping on Catra. Angella peered directly at the catgirl, stone faced.

Under the Queen’s unblinking gaze Catra could feel herself shrinking. Her ears flattened against her head. She cleared her throat with a big gulp and tried to match Angella’s stare. It was perhaps the least successful thing Catra had ever tried doing. Apparently satisfied, the Queen turned and floated up to her throne. Catra quickly grabbed Adora by the arm and leaned in.

“How did she do that? The staring thing. It is some kind of magic?” Catra whispered.

“No,” Adora answered. She looked up at Angella, and then back at Catra with a smug smile. “She’s just a badass.”

Angella cleared her throat once. The entire room fell silent. “Thank you. All of you, for everything you did to save Bright Moon. My kingdom owes you a debt of gratitude. Seeing some of you here is, surprising, but appreciated.” Angella turned to look directly at Catra and her squad. “However, I am left with questions. Shall we start with the obvious one? Why are you here?”

Catra’s squad was just behind her, gathered together. She stepped forward and tried to project as much confidence as she could, which only worked at all when she wasn’t looking directly at the Queen. “Well, it’s a long story, your Highness, but needless to say, we sort of wore out our welcome back in the Fright Zone. So we escaped.”

“Yes, but you could have just escaped. Why come help us?”

The question made Catra stutter as she grasped for words. She glanced back at Adora briefly, which did nothing to help her find the right answer. “Well, you see…”

“Revenge of course!” Adora offered confidently. Angella and Catra turned to Adora. “The Horde didn’t just push them out, your Majesty, they were treated awfully. They wanted to make sure that the Horde’s plans failed.”

The Queen stared at Adora, then back at Catra. “Is this true?”

“It’s… Not untrue!” Catra quipped.

The answer was met with another long stare. Catra’s eyes were darting around, trying to stare back but at the same time not stare back.

“Very well,” Angella decided to accept that answer. “So what will you do now? Are you here to join the Rebellion?”

Catra looked back at her squad and took a deep breath. “Honestly, we haven’t worked that out yet.” Catra looked over to Adora and gave a sad smile before turning back to the queen. “If that was an offer your Majesty, I speak only for myself but I’m afraid I must decline, at least for now. I still need... There’s stuff I still need to figure out before I decide something like that.”

“And the rest of you?” Angella asked.

Entrapta’s hand shot up. “If I may,” she asked. Angella directed her to continue. “I am still a part of the Princess Alliance, correct?”

Everyone turned to look at Glimmer. She stared at Entrapta for a moment before sighing. “Of course you’re still in the Princess Alliance.”

“Fantastic. Then I will return to Dryl and resume my obligations to the Princess Alliance. For now, Scorpia, Catra, Rogelio, and Assistant Kyle are invited to come stay in Dryl, until they figure out what they wish to do. Assistant Kyle could be useful.”

Angella rubbed her chin. “Princess Entrapta, we are familiar with you. But I do not know your friends. I am to allow ex-high ranking members of the Horde to just roam free?”

“I’ll vouch for them!” Adora butted in again. “I grew up with Catra, Rogelio, and Kyle, your Highness. And Catra vouches for Scorpia. That’s good enough for me. I’ll vouch for them all.”

For the first time since arriving, Angella smiled. “If Adora trusts you, and Entrapta trusts you, then I shall too. For now.”

Scorpia scurried up and whispered into Catra’s ear. “And Scorpia and I will be happy to debrief you on everything we know about the Horde,” Catra offered.

“Thank you,” Angella said. “Now. To the other matter. Today’s attack. The Horde’s entire army seemingly just appeared on our doorstep. Today we were lucky.”

Entrapta put her hand back up, more reluctantly this time. She had a melancholy expression her face. “That… This is my fault. The Horde have access to cloaking technology now, because I developed it. We wiped my files from their servers, but there wasn’t enough time to be thorough. There’s no telling what may have survived. BUT,” Entrapta quickly added, “the cloaking technology is based on First Ones technology.” Entrapta appeared to be perking back up as her brain worked. “First Ones tech produces very distinct energy signatures. It SHOULD be possible to develop a way to detect it. It may take some time. Assistant Kyle and I will begin as soon as we get back to Dryl.”

“And right now the Horde’s in disarray,” Catra assured them. “They just lost their Force General, one of their best Force Captains, and their top scientist. And the only person they have to replace us really is a woman who’s been sitting in a Horde jail for the last year. That should buy you some time to regroup and fortify your defenses.”

“Right. I look forward to what else you and Scorpia have to tell us,” Angella remarked. In the edge of her view, the Queen could see Glimmer getting antsy. She knew her daughter well enough to know what topic she needed to pivot to sooner than later.

“In lighter news-” Angella began.

“-VICTORY CELEBRATION!” Glimmer cut her off! “In honor of completely kicking the Horde’s butts, I propose we celebrate here in Bright Moon tonight!”

“Accommodations will be made for everyone, should you wish to stay the evening,” Angella pointed out.

“If there is nothing else to discuss, this meeting is adjourned. Goodness knows, we all deserve at least a few hours to relax.”

Everyone began mingling. Adora quickly found her way over to Catra, who was talking with Scorpia.

“Your first party! This is so exciting!” Adora exclaimed.

Catra tilted her head. “Weren’t the Princess Prom and Midsummer Ball parties?”

“Those were dances,” Adora corrected.

“What’s the difference?” Scorpia responded.

“Well for starters, you don’t have to dress up for parties.”

“Oh, that was the most fun part,” Scorpia lamented.

“I’m not sure I actually understand what we’re celebrating,” Catra said, tapping a finger on her chin.

“We are celebrating being alive,” Perfuma said. Her and Entrapa had appeared next to Scorpia. “Life is precious, and fleeting. In times like this, it can be far too short. And after days like today, it is good to have a reminder why we fight so hard for it.”

Their little conversation was broken up by a Bright Moon guard appearing next to them. “Excuse me, I’ve been directed to show you to your rooms and to help you with any belongings you needed moved,” She said.

“Hey actually,” Adora piped up before anyone else could respond, “why don’t you bring Catra’s stuff up to my room,” she commanded with a big grin. Catra looked at Adora with a raised eyebrow. “Well, I mean…” Adora began stammering.

Suddenly Queen Angella appeared over their shoulders. “Excuse me,” she interjected. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything, but I was wondering if I could speak with Catra in private for a moment?”

Catra looked to Adora for direction. Adora waved her to go. “Er, sure,” Catra said. The Queen nodded and led Catra through the stained glass doors that led out onto the balcony.

Upon stepping onto the balcony, Catra was overwhelmed by the view. She ran to the edge and leaned over the railing. An evening breeze rustled her fur. The comfort persuaded Catra to let out a good stretch. It was over a minute before Catra remembered why she was out there. Fully embarrassed, and worried about how annoyed the Queen would be, Catra was slow to turn around. To her surprise, Angella was simply standing in the middle of the balcony and watching Catra with an amused smile.

“Sorry, your Highness,” Catra mumbled.

Angella made her way over to, “the last magicat on Etheria. A cozy evening and a good breeze, I would expect nothing less.” Still with a warm expression, Angella peered at Catra again for a moment. “You have no idea who your parents were?”

“Not a clue,” Catra sighed. “You knew the Empresses of Half Moon, right?”

“Adora told you?” Angella asked with a light chuckle.

“Not so much told. She put it in her book.”

“Book?”

Catra went red with embarrassment. “Oh, yeah, Adora wrote me a book about magicats. She knows I’ve always wondered about where I came from, and rightly assumed that the Horde long since erased any and all references to magicats.”

“That was, very nice of her!”

“It was great of her,” Catra agreed. She leaned against the railing and sighed. “I still don’t know why she bothers with me.”

“Because she cares deeply for you,” Angella stated matter-of-factly.

Catra’s gaze was slowly lowering, along with her head. “I don’t deserve it though,” she said, suppressing a sniffle.

Long, perfect skinned fingers touched under Catra’s chin and raised her head up, until Catra was staring eye-to-eye with Queen Angella. “That is rubbish.” Catra didn’t know what to say. The side of her mouth twitched. Angella let Catra’s chin go, and moved her fingers to caress down the side of Catra’s face. The catgirl quivered and leaned into the touch. “Do you know what I see when I look at you Catra?” the Queen asked. Catra didn’t say anything, she just pressed harder into Angella’s hand, still resting on her face.

“I see a survivor. Someone who has had to fight for every inch of life she has. And is still standing. You have a lot of scars. You go out of your way to make sure nobody sees them though. And people don’t see them. Most people don’t, at least.”

Magic. It had to be. Adora was wrong, the Queen had to have some kind of mental powers. She had to. Catra couldn’t explain how else the Queen was making her feel this way. No matter how many times Catra turned it over in her head, she couldn’t figure out the Queen’s game. Whatever angle the Queen was playing at, it was alluding Catra. It was infinitely frustrating.

“H-how?” Catra stuttered.

Angella let out a laugh. “Mother’s intuition. You are not the first young woman I’ve had to deal with. I did raise a daughter through a rough time, amidst a war. And then Adora came to stay with us.

“More importantly though, I know those kind of scars all too well. The ones you can’t see.” Angella let go of Catra’s face. Her arm moved down to give Catra’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Those scars can still heal though. Over time. With help. Catra, you are not alone here.”

Catra sniffled loudly. “Why are you being so nice to me? I’ve done horrible things.”

“Adora believes in you, and that is good enough for me,” Angella answered. “She wants to help you heal, if you’ll let her.” Angella stared deeply into those mismatched eyes. “Besides, I’d be lying if didn’t say that you bring back memories of things that I had forgotten just how much I missed. C’yra was a dear friend.”

“She seemed like an amazing ruler. I’m sorry I never got to experience it.”

A knocking echoed on the balcony. Angella turned to see Adora, poking her head out through the slightly opened door. Catra quickly did what she could to clean her face up.

“Sorry! I just needed to speak with Catra for a moment,” Adora said, still standing in the doorway.

The Queen gently released Catra’s shoulder and gave her one more soft smile before strolling over to Adora. “I have matters I should attend to anyway. The balcony is yours.”

Catra had made her way over. “Hey, your Majesty?”

“Yes?”

“You never really asked me anything,” Catra pointed out.

Angella smiled at Catra. “I got all the answers I needed. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” With that Angella slipped through the door and closed it behind her.

The two stood there for a few seconds smiling at each other. Catra had regained her composure. She grinned slyly at Adora. “You needed to talk to me?”

“Oh, right!” Adora yelped. She brushed a few errant strands of hair out of her face. “The guards needed to know where to take your stuff.”

“Um,” Catra raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Didn’t you already tell them?”

“I-I did! But then I told them to wait until I talked to you.”

Catra’s heart sank suddenly. “You, didn’t want me to stay with you?”

“I do! I definitely do!” Adora sighed. “More than anything,” she mumbled. Adora began scratching the back of her neck. “But, um… Okay...”

Adora took a second to collect herself before restarting.

“Today’s been crazy, right? I mean, it was crazy to me, I can only imagine what you had to go through, before even getting to that cliffside.” She shot Catra an awkward smile. Catra returned a raised eyebrow. Adora took a deep breath as her eyes fell shut. “What I’m… What I’m trying to say is, it was wrong of me to assume where you wanted to stay. I’m sorry. And, I know today’s been a whirlwind. Of stress and excitement and anxiety and all kinds of emotions. I just wanted you to know that if you got caught up in all of that, and did anything that in hindsight you regretted or wanted to take back, I’d understa-mphf!”

The end of Adora’s sentence was cut off as Catra leaned in to kiss her. Catra pulled her in tight, cradling Adora against her body. It took Adora a few seconds to get over the surprise, but it wasn’t long before she was swooning into Catra’s arms.

Their tongues danced and tangled. Every once in a while one of Catra’s sharp canines poked at Adora’s lip. Catra’s hand was digging into a tuft of hair at the back of Adora’s neck. Her other hand was slowly snaking down Adora’s back, noting every crease, every mound of muscle along the way. Adora could feel Catra’s tail slithering around her thigh.

After a few more minutes of making out they finally had to separate their mouths.

“Hey, this is happening. I want it to,” Catra breathed. Adora met it with a smile.

“Okay,” Adora said. She leaned in, nestling her head on Catra’s shoulder.

“It really has been a while since we were around each other for long, hasn’t it?” Catra asked. Adora made a little humming noise in acknowledgement. “I’ve always been too busy with my own shit to notice, but Shadow Weaver really did a number on you too, didn’t she?”

Adora picked her head up and leaned back enough stare Catra in the eyes. “What are you talking about?” she asked.

Their bodies remained intertwined. Catra pulled a hand free to caress Adora’s cheek. “You can’t stop yourself, can you? Putting others before your own happiness. Feeling responsible for the whole world.You want to save everyone, but yourself. Everything keeps seeming to be in the context of what I want, not what you want.”

The soft fingers dancing along her cheek was making it difficult for Adora to focus on anything else. She leaned into their caress. “I just want you to be happy,” she murmured.

“Did you ever think that maybe you make me happy?”

Tears began pouring down Adora’s face almost instantly as she stared into Catra’s mismatched eyes. “...No,” Adora whimpered.

Catra immediately began kissing Adora again. She pushed them both forward until Adora was pressed against the railing. “We’re going to have to fix that,” Catra breathed through kisses.

After a couple more minutes they came up for air. Their foreheads were pressed together. Catra kept licking at Adora’s nose, which elicited giggles each time. Adora had her arms wrapped around Catra, massaging her lower back, which to Adora’s delight, was making Catra purr.

“There’s nowhere I’d rather be right now, than right here with you,” Catra whispered. She closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. “Which is what makes this next part so hard.” Catra pulled away just enough so that she could better look Adora in the eyes. “I can’t stay. At least, not yet.”

Adora looked into Catra’s eyes. There was a sad expression on Adora’s face that she couldn’t hide, but she forced a smile anyway. “You’re going to go try to find Half Moon.”

“I’ve been thinking about it all week,” Catra smiled. “I read the book you gave me five times.” Catra pulled Adora in to rest their foreheads together. “Thank you so much.

“The place I’m from is out there, and I’ve never even seen it. I can’t stop thinking about it. About what my home might have been like. What my parents might have done. It’s hard to explain.”

“No it’s not,” Adora answered. She leaned back on Catra’s shoulder. “Everyone deserves to know where they came from. I’m just a little sad that you have to leave right away.”

“There’s never going to be a better time to infiltrate the Horde. I need to see where I came from. To figure out who I am. Like, really who I am. For so long I was just your best friend, or Scorpia’s best friend, or a Horde soldier, or Force General. But who am I without all that stuff? I need to do this. For me. For us. I don’t want to jump into this relationship making the same mistakes I’ve always made. And the last thing I want to do is mess this up.”

Adora gave her a gentle kiss on the lips. “I’ll come with you.”

“No, Adora, you can’t,” Catra bemoaned. “I would love to go on another adventure with you, but Bright Moon needs you, now more than ever. The Horde may be wounded right now, but that may make them desperate. Entrapta did what she could to wipe their servers, but don’t doubt for a second that Hordak made sure to keep the important stuff somewhere we didn’t have time to find. Which means they still may very well have cloaking tech. The last thing Bright Moon needs is for its hero to disappear right after an attack.”

“I don’t like the idea of you going alone. Maybe Scorpia or Entrapta? Or even Kyle and Rogelio?”

“They’ve had enough turmoil over the last week. They deserve a break! Besides, the more people, the more we’d stick out.”

It seemed that no matter what protest Adora had, Catra would have an answer. She grabbed both of Catra’s hands and brought them up to her mouth, where she kissed them. “Promise me you’ll be safe.”

“Of course. I’ll come back to you, I promise.”

Still holding her hands, Adora began rubbing her thumb along Catra’s knuckles. “Stay tonight for the party? Don’t we deserve at least one night?”

Catra leaned in and nibbled Adora’s caressing fingers. It made Adora let out a little moan. “I’d love nothing more,” Catra mumbled.

“Do you, know what a ‘girlfriend’ is?” Adora airily asked.

“I do actually! Perfuma and Entrapta gave me a crash course.”

“Maybe, when you get back, I was wondering-” Adora began.

“-Can I be your girlfriend now?” Catra asked before Adora could finish her sentence. She flashed her cute little “begging” eyes that to date Adora had never been able to say no to.

This situation proved no different. “Yes! Yes absolutely!” Adora exclaimed. She threw her arms about Catra.

“I should probably go get debriefed before the party,” Catra said after a while.

“Come, I’ll walk you to the council room,” Adora replied. Catra held her arm out. Adora wrapped hers around it. Together they strolled into the throne room and towards the rest of their night.

 


 

“... And then Rohé took out the entire dock staff and commandeered the skiff for our getaway,” Kyle explained. Rogelio was standing exceptionally close to his slender blonde boyfriend.

“Oh my!” Spinnerella gasped. “Was it hard fighting the people you used to live with?” she asked, enraptured by Kyle’s tale. Netossa was next to her, haphazardly rubbing Spinnerella’s back, and being amused by her wife’s ability to get along with just about anyone.

Rogelio grunted said. “He’s right,” Kyle said just after. “Most of them weren’t what I’d call friends. But, ya know, we weren’t left with any choice.”

Just then Entrapta bounded up to them. “Assistant Kyle! Assistant Kyle!” She called out. Kyle turned around just in time to have a blue icing topped cupcake shoved into his mouth. “This! This is what you’ve been trying to work towards.”

Kyle chewed for a moment before his face lit up. “That’s amazing!” he spit out, along with a few crumbs.

“They didn’t have cupcakes in the Fright Zone?” Spinnerella gasped. Kyle, Rogelio, and Entrapta all shook their heads. “That’s so sad!”

“It’s alright sweetie, they can enjoy all kinds of good food now that they’re here,” Netossa tried consoling her wife.

Adora attempted to slip into the party quietly. Doing a quick survey of the room it appeared she was the last one to arrive. Netossa, Spinnerella, Kyle, Rogelio, and Entrapta were talking while Entrapta had an entire armful of cupcakes. Further along the buffet table Perfuma was busy introducing Mermista and Scorpia to each other. Sea Hawk was near them, with his focus on the food. Near the center of the room Glimmer was chatting with Embra and Frosta. Off towards the back Catra and Bow were huddled close and talking. Sitting at the large round table behind the buffet was Queen Angella with a few of her top generals. They seemed relaxed as they shared a bottle of something. A fun, melodic song was playing on the recorded music device Bow had developed.

Any attempt to not be noticed vanished in an instant. “Adora!” Glimmer bellowed as she appeared in a puff of sparkles just next to her best friend. Glimmer grabbed Adora by the arms and began dragging her towards the center of the room where Embra and Frosta were. “Where have you been?”

“Getting changed Glim,” Adora answered as she waved to Embra and Frosta. Adora popped her head up to the corner of the room. It was empty. She could see that Bow had made his way to the buffet table and was talking to Sea Hawk. No Catra though.

“Nice jacket,” Catra remarked. She was standing just behind Adora, and referring to the crimson and gold trimmed jacket she had changed into.

Adora’s face lit up. She spun around and smiled at the catgirl.

Glimmer scoffed and shook her head.

“That IS a nice jacket,” Frosta confirmed. “Different from your old one. Where did you get it?”

“My girlfriend got it for me,” Adora grinned. She leaned in and entangled one of her arms with Catra’s. “Enjoying the party?” she asked while pulling Catra into the conversation circle.

“Not going to ruin this one, are you?” Frosta asked with narrowed eyes.

“What, is that just like, your thing?” Embra chortled.

Catra sighed a laugh. “Yeah, okay, I probably deserved that.” Catra turned to Adora. “It’s been pretty pleasant so far.”

“Yeah, because you’ve been bogarting all of poor Bow’s time!” Glimmer huffed. “How’s he supposed to enjoy himself?”

“Did you ever think that maybe Bow likes talking to me?” Catra asked. “Believe it or not Glamour, we’re actually friends.”

Glimmer started fuming.

“Her name is Glimmer!” Embra defended before Glimmer could say anything.

Catra rolled her eyes. “Yeah Umbra, I know.”

“Embra,” they flatly retorted.

“Right, Ombra, my bad.”

Embra sighed. “Hey Glim, I’m going to go hit the buffet table.” They stared directly at Catra. “Since it’s unfortunately the only thing I can hit right now.” Embra led Glimmer and Frosta away.

“I like your friends,” Catra quipped.

Still connected to Catra’s arm, Adora turned to face the catgirl. “Do you?” she asked with a smirk.

“Well, I like riling them up,” Catra conceded. She let out a huff of air. “Sorry.”

Adora smiled at her. “It’s okay. We all knew this would take time.” She leaned in and pecked Catra on the cheek. “And I’m not expecting you and Glimmer to ever sit around braiding each other’s hair, but I hope that someday the two of you can coexist in a room together.”

Catra nuzzled their noses together. “I’ll try. I’m gonna run out of things to call her eventually.” The response got a laugh out of Adora. “How did everyone react to you when you first met them.”

“When most of the people here first met me, I was an eight foot tall warrior woman, so it’s not really a fair comparison,” Adora said. She wistfully looked over the room. “Now if you’re asking when they started accepting me as Adora, and not just a side package that comes with knowing She-Ra… I don’t know. It did happen. I think at different speeds for everyone.”

Their conversation trailed off at the sound of a minor commotion near the buffet table. Adora looked over to see Sea Hawk standing very proudly, with Bow hovering around him. Mermista was standing near them growling. That’s when Adora realized the song playing had changed to something upbeat, more energetic. Something without any words. It would have been a good beat for…

“UGH Sea Hawk DO NOT!” Mermista groaned. “Haven’t we been through enough today?!”

“That’s precisely why I MUST SING, Mermista dear! I must commemorate out VICTORY!” Sea Hawk exclaimed.

“Sea Hawk! Sea Hawk!” Bow was chanting just next to him.

“WHY are you encouraging this Bow?” Mermista whimpered.

Just about everyone had gathered near Sea Hawk. Bow began clapping in rhythm to the beat. Slowly everyone was joining in. Kyle leaned over to Catra, the person closest to him.

“What’s happening?” Kyle asked. Catra glanced at him and just shrugged.

Sensing defeat, Mermista moved off to the side next to Scorpia and Perfuma.

“Oh! Oh!” Scorpia excitedly shook Mermista by a shoulder. “IS he going to do one of those chanties?”

“Against ALL my desire in the world, yes,” Mermista moaned.

With the beat firmly set, Sea Hawk cleared his throat.

“Be brave today

“Sincere tomorrow

“The battle’s won

“No room for sorrow

“We may dismay

“But will not wallow

“The battle’s won

“No room for sorrow!”

At this point everyone was clapping and stamping their feet in tune. Everyone except Mermista, who was only haphazardly clapping. Bow jumped next to Sea Hawk, who gave the enthusiastic archer a turn.

“We Fight for hope

“Fight to be free

“So We’ll live today

“Can’t take that from me!”

Unfortunately Bow stammered after his first verse. Sea Hawk started coming back to save him, but before could Scorpia appeared next to Bow began belting out lines.

“Fueled by desire

“Pushed on by need

“No despair today

“We’ve overcome greed!”

Bow high-fived Scorpia. Just then Sea Hawk jumped back in.

“We may dismay

“But will not wallow

“The battle’s won

“No room for sorrow!”

Then Sea Hawk, Bow, and Scorpia sang the entire song all over again. As they were doing so, Perfuma had slithered her way through the crowd. She tapped Entrapta on the shoulder. The Princess of Dryl turned around to see Perfuma’s outstretched hand. They smiled at each other. Entrapta took Perfuma’s hand and together they launched into a loose, jitterbug type of dance. The crowd moved back to give them room.

Perfuma and Entrapta spun around. It was sloppy. They kept missing cues because they were too busy laughing. They didn’t care. Nobody cared.

During the singing and dancing Catra snaked her way over closer to Glimmer, leaving Adora to talk to Rogelio and Kyle. She found the sparkling princess near Embra. Glimmer was enthusiastically clapping to the beat.

Catra just stood beside her clapping as well. “So, you and Embra?” Catra tried to casually inquire.

“What?” Glimmer responded. She looked perturbed by Catra’s general presence, and none too pleased by the question.

“Hey, they’re cute! No reason to deny it!”

“That’s none of your business!” Glimmer huffed. She was clearly turning red. Catra wasn’t sure if she was doing that, or the question about Embra. “I don’t understand why you’re asking me. And I don’t understand why you’re talking at all!”

“Jeez! Settle down, Glam Rock, I’m trying to compliment you here!”

Glimmer growled. She grabbed Catra by the arm and teleported them both far to the back corner of the room. Well away from where anyone was paying attention.

“I will never understand what Adora sees in you,” Glimmer lowly snarled. “But you make her happy so I am trying to tolerate you. But it’s just that, tolerating . If you EVER break her heart,” Glimmer leaned in close to Catra and glared at her dead in the eyes, “you’ll wish you never left the Horde.” Glimmer didn’t wait for a response, she spun on her heel and began to walk back towards the party.

“I won’t,” Catra called out. Glimmer stopped, she turned enough to side eye the catgirl. “I won’t Glimmer, I promise,” Catra reiterated.

Glimmer wasn’t sure if it was the sad saucer eyes, or the sincerity in her voice, or the fact that Catra finally used her real name. She sighed and held out her hand. “Come on,” she huffed. The two silently returned to the party together.

The party went on for another two hours without incident. Everyone seemed to be getting along. To Adora’s shock, Catra and Mermista seemed to really be hitting it off. Satisfied that Catra and her other friends from the Horde were being accepted, Adora quietly slipped out into the hallway.

Once out there she had a good stretch. There was a mural on the wall that Adora decided she suddenly found fascinating.

The door opened about a minute later. Catra slipped out. “Hey, there you are!”

Adora spun around, big smile on her face. “Sorry, I just needed some air.”

Catra came over and leaned against the wall Adora was standing in front of. “You don’t like doing crowds for that long. I remember.”

“I guess I never have, huh.”

“It’s fine!”

“Thank you for checking up on me!” Adora said. “But please, I’m so happy everyone’s starting to get along. You don’t have to just hang out in a hallway.”

“Yeah,” Catra chuckled. “I have no intention of hanging out in the hallway all night.”

“Go, go have fun, I’ll be alright.”

Catra rounded on Adora and pinned her against the wall. Adora blushed at how close they were and how open the hallway was. “I think have a better idea,” she whispered into Adora’s ear. “Maybe it’s time for you to give me a tour of your room?” Catra pulled away to see Adora’s reaction. The blonde was staring at her, eyes huge, mouth slightly agape. Catra wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. Then Adora grabbed one of Catra’s arms and enthusiastically began leading her down the hallway.

 


 

The door to Adora’s room swung open with more force than she had planned. She pulled Catra into the room. Catra gave the room a look while Adora shut the door.

“This is cute,” Catra said. Adora’s room was full of pristine new furniture, almost identical to what she used to have. Catra’s belongings, all stuffed into one duffle bag, sat next to the door. She strolled over to the bookcase and began running her fingers along the books.

“A lot of the information I learned for your book came from those,” Adora remarked. Catra turned around and smiled at her. Adora led her around the rest of the room, giving her the quick tour: dressing area, wash room, canopied bed area, reading nook, balcony.

“What’s the waterfall for?” Catra asked. She was staring at it, tilting her head as she examined it thoroughly.

Adora chuckled. “A year and a half here and I still have no idea!”

“This place is really nice. A little bright though. This whole place is actually. Gonna take a little getting used to,” Catra said. Adora nodded and rushed over to the light knob on the wall. She spun it until the lights in the room were dimmed to just a little better than candles. Moonlight flooded in from the balcony.

“Better?”

“Much,” Catra smiled. She and Adora made their way to each other, meeting in just about the middle of the room. Catra gave Adora a few playful pecks on her lips.

The joy in Adora seemed to be overflowing. “You’re really here, in my room!” she exclaimed as they embraced.

“No I’m not,” Catra quickly retorted.

Adora suddenly pulled away. She had a panicked look on her face. “What?! What do you mean?!” She began poking and prodding Catra. “Oh no. No no no!”

Catra grabbed Adora’s hands. She sly grinned at the Princess of Power. “I’m not here in your room. I’m here in our room,” she quipped.

For a good 30 seconds, they just stood there, Catra grinning at Adora, holding Adora by the wrists, Adora staring blankly at Catra. Then, Adora sprung into motion. She yanked her arms from Catra’s grip. She grabbed Catra by the thighs and hoisted her up. On instinct Catra wrapped her legs around Adora’s waist. Catra grabbed Adora’s head and began kissing her as Adora rushed them across the room before slamming Catra down back first onto the bed. Adora toppled over with her, landing directly into more kisses.

Their tongues quickly found each other. Catra grabbed Adora’s ponytail and slid the scrunchie out of her hair. Blonde locks fell down onto their shoulders and cheeks. Without looking, or releasing Catra’s mouth, Adora detangled Catra’s headpiece from her mane of hair, and tossed it behind the bed.

Adora finally separated their tongues. She kissed down Catra’s cheek to her neck, where the kisses turned into nibbles that made Catra moan. One of Adora’s arms was propping her up, while the other one began pulling at Catra’s top. She got it hiked up enough to expose her abdomen. Adora ran her fingers over the area, enjoying the fur between her fingers. After a moment she stopped herself and looked at Catra.

“Is this okay?” Adora breathed, soft smile and half lidded eyes staring back at Catra. With one impressive motion Catra had spun Adora and herself so the Adora was now the one on her back. She was laying lengthwise on the bed, with Catra straddling her waist. Catra had a slick grin as she undid Adora’s coat and pulled it off of her.

“Better than okay,” Catra smiled.

Catra let herself fall towards Adora, landing with her mouth firmly on Adora’s neck. Adora squirmed under Catra, snaking her hands down until she could grab at Catra’s shirt. Catra chomped down on Adora’s neck, making her gasp loudly. Catra pulled up and gazed into Adora’s eyes. There was a hunger in the catgirl’s mismatched eyes that Adora had never seen.

It scared her a little.

It excited her a lot.

It didn’t take very long for Catra to tear Adora’s shirt and bra off, along with her own shirt. Adora helped her with her bra and then wouldn’t rest until Catra’s pants were on the floor. In less than the span of two minutes both girls were completely naked. Catra was straddling Adora’s waist again, pinning her to the bed

“Fuck,” Catra smiled.

“What?” Adora asked, somewhat confused.

“You are so gorgeous,” Catra remarked. She leaned down and kissed her blushing girlfriend. They continued kissing for a bit. Adora’s hands kept caressing Catra’s arms and back. Catra’s free hand was busy exploring Adora’s chest and fit stomach. Every time Catra’s hand grazed one of Adora’s nipples it made her gasp, which just made Catra do it more. Slowly Catra’s mouth worked its way down Adora’s neck. She nibbled on Adora’s collarbone. Her hand was slowly raking down past Adora’s belly button. Catra couldn't help but smile when she felt the first curls of Adora’s bush.

Catra didn’t want to rush. She pulled back up and began tracing around Adora’s belly button while her mouth wandered down to Adora’s breasts. Adora was moaning and mewing, and already starting to writhe around. Catra snaked her other arm under Adora, and grasped the back of her head. Catra’s fingers found their way back down, and were playing in Adora’s trimmed forest. Every once in a while a finger would slide over Adora’s pussy.

“Heh, you are so wet!” Catra breathed between attacks on Adora’s neck. Her voice was playful, a bit husky.

Almost immediately Adora stiffened up. Floods of emotions came crashing on top of her. “I know,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” Adora whispered. Catra immediately stopped what she was doing. She looked Adora in the eyes, only just realizing the sadness that had befallen her girlfriend.

“Sorry?” Catra parroted back. “Adora, what on Etheria are you sorry for?”

Adora blushed slightly. “You know, for, like, being so wet. And gross.”

“Whoa! Hey, don’t apologize for that! Who told you that?” Catra asked. Adora meekly shrugged. Catra had pulled her arm from under Adora and was using it to caress the Adora’s face. “Adora, if anything it’s hot! And sexy. And cute. It just means you’re really excited to be with me. It means you’re happy,” Catra drug her fingers down Adora’s cheek. “Never apologize for being happy.”

“I just wanted tonight to be perfect,” Adora sighed, feeling supremely embarrassed.

“Hey,” Catra leaned in and pecked Adora on the cheek. “You get to be here with me. I’m getting to spend the night here with you.

“It already is perfect,” Catra said through a warm smile.

The very next second Adora pushed herself up and found Catra’s lips. She kissed her passionately. Adora was so enthralled with Catra’s mouth that she had lost focus on what Catra’s other extremities were doing, until…

“Oh FUCK!” Adora gasped as one of Catra’s fingers pushed inside her. Catra stared directly into Adora’s beautiful blue eyes with a wicked grin. She lowered Adora onto her back as she slid a second finger into her pussy.

“Feel good?” the catgirl inquired as she slowly began sliding in and out of her blonde girlfriend. Truth be told, she didn’t need Adora to answer. That adorable face, and those cute gasps of air gave her all the information she needed. But she really wanted to hear her say it.

“Y...Yes!” Adora moaned.

Under the guidance of Catra’s fingers, Adora was writhing enthusiastically in the bed. Every push of Catra’s fingers brought more cute moans and the occasional swear of ecstasy. With every pull Catra slid her thumb directly down Adora’s clit, which kept making the hand buried in Catra’s hair tighten and grip what it could.

It wasn’t long before Adora figured out the rhythm and began rolling her hips with Catra’s thrusts.

For someone who didn’t sweat she sure did give off a lot of heat. A heat that Catra loved bathing in. Catra couldn’t help herself, she was purring uncontrollably at the sight of the woman pinned beneath her. Blonde locks of hair splayed out on the pillow. Rosy red cheeks. Her flushed chest bounced slightly with each new thrust. Then there were the noises. Every little moan. Every grunt. Every half formed word that Catra seemed to fuck into gibberish. They were a sweet honey to Catra’s ears, and she was addicted. Maybe her very favorite though was how much Adora was screaming out Catra’s name.

Adora’s eyes had been shut most of the time. They opened once in a while but every thrust seemed to force them shut again. She leaned over and bit down on Catra’s shoulder. She just needed some part of her girlfriend in her mouth. Shoulder would do. The nibbling brought Catra’s attention down to Adora’s mouth. Catra began kissing her. Yes, tongue was better than shoulder. Lips were better.

Thoughts and plans were melting away in Adora’s brain. All that existed were Catra’s fingers and tongue. And those wonderful mismatched eyes. The few times she could get her eyes open, all Adora could see was them. They seemed to glow in the moonlight. They were all the light Adora needed.

At first Adora wasn’t sure what was happening. A fire deep in her was lit that had never been there before, and Catra’s fingers were the match. Suddenly, a force began exploding from Adora, rippling through her body. Destroying her. Rebuilding her. The force pushed out the biggest moan.

Smaller explosions followed. Catra’s rhythm began to slow.

Soon the chaos passed and Catra gently pulled herself out of Adora. Catra leaned up to bask in her success. Adora lay there, sucking in air, perfect chest heaving and glowing beet red. Her arms were spread out haphazardly over her head.

After a moment Catra gave Adora a gentle nudge. Adora didn’t react. Catra smirked. “Ut-oh, did I kill you?”

“Was,” Adora began, her voice was airy as she was still sucking in oxygen, “Hordak’s master plan? Murder me in the best way possible?”

“Looks like I’ve been caught,” Catra grinned. She leaned down to give Adora’s neck a bite. “So, not dead?”

“No. This is just what euphoria looks like,” Adora mumbled.

“Euphoria? Who’s that? Another princess I haven’t met yet?” Catra asked with a big grin. Adora’s eyes flew open. She grew her own devious grin as she bolted up and flipped them.

Catra let out a little giggling yelp as she found herself on her back. Adora was lightly nibbling along the edge of Catra’s ears, which if Catra was being honest, was almost enough to get her off right then and there.

“I lo… I’m so happy right now,” Adora whispered through her soft bites.

“Me too,” Catra breathed, futilly attempting to maintain her composure. “H-hey,” Catra forced out while she could still think. Adora stopped to look at her. “What were you starting to say?”

“Oh. It’s nothing,” Adora smiled.

“Are you sure?”

“Yep, don’t worry about it,” Adora assure her. She leaned in and kissed the base of Catra’s ear. Adora kept nibbling and giggling along Catra’s face. Her shoulders. Her chest. There was a thick tuft of fur just above where Catra’s breasts met in the center that Adora loved running her nose through. She moved up to nip Catra’s lip before planting another kiss on her. As she did so Catra felt Adora’s hands running, caressing, along her thighs. She gently pried Catra’s legs apart and let her fingers dance around Catra’s pussy.

“May I?” Adora pleaded.

“I really hope you do!” Catra breathed. Adora grew an ear to ear grin. She lowered her head back down on to Catra’s collarbone and kept kissing and nibbling. After one more playful pass through Catra’s bush, Catra suddenly felt two of Adora’s thick fingers digging at her lips, slowly forcing their way inside of Catra. Catra let out a husky moan.

At first Adora maintained a slow pace, which Catra was enjoying. After a bit she sped up, which made Catra push back with her hips. Finally Adora settled into a steady rhythm that allowed her to tease Catra’s clit with each pass.

It was perfect.

Catra rolled her hips with each deep thrust into her. Adora’s other arm was under Catra, cradling her head. At first Adora’s free hand was playing in Catra’s hair, but after Catra began gnawing on Adora’s forearm she slid her hand down. Catra began suckling on Adora’s fingers as Adora gently thrust them into her mouth. All the while Adora was still doing a number on Catra’s neck and shoulder area.

There was no room for thoughts in Catra’s mind. Just the constant pleasure of fingers inside her. Of lips tracing maps along her skin. All she could muster once in a while was “Adora”, which appeared just long enough for Catra to moan it out. Catra couldn’t stop purring if she wanted to.

Just as it seemed Adora couldn’t stop giggling. Soon she pulled her fingers from Catra’s mouth, and replaced it with her own mouth. They kissed passionately as Adora’s rhythm sped up ever slow slightly. But it was just the right amount.

Catra convulsed under Adora. She felt like a dam that was on the brink.

“Do you wanna come for me, Kitten?” Adora asked at a low, soothing tone.

The panting catgirl nodded excitedly. It was all Catra wanted to do, and the question was the last crack. She slammed her eyes shut. Suddenly violent waves crashed through Catra’s entire body. Tumbling and slamming into every ounce of her existence. More tsunami force waves crashed threw her, followed by a few smaller waves, then just a few ripples. Then finally, Adora slid her fingers out of Catra.

It took all of Catra’s remaining energy to force her eyelids open. Half lidded, and still overcome with emotion, Catra looked up with blurry vision. There was an angel staring back down at her, smiling.

“You are so beautiful, Kitten,” Adora remarked with soft smile. She leaned in and began gently pecking Catra’s cheek.

“Kitten?” Catra asked out loud. In her emotional, vulnerable state Catra couldn’t help but be brought back to hearing Decepsha telling her about that word. Catra shook her head violently. No way she was going to let that bitch into her mind tonight.

“I’m sorry, would you rather me not call you that?” Adora asked, still hovering over Catra.

“What? No, no, I like it when you call me that,” Catra smiled.

Grinning broadly, Adora took in the view beneath her. “How did I get so lucky?” she airly asked as she leaned in for another kiss.

Lucky. It crashed into Catra’s brain like a rock through a window. Catra wasn’t going to be able to shake that one off. The only person she had to blame for it was herself.

Adora pulled back when she heard a sniffling. Catra’s expression had suddenly soured, with tears welling in her eyes. “Oh no!” Adora gasped. “I’m so sorry! Did I hurt you? I did something wrong didn’t I! I-” Adora’s sentence was cut off by Catra forcing herself up to a sitting position so she could reach Adora’s mouth. She pulled the blonde into an intense kiss as Catra gently ran her claws down the back of Adora’s neck.

“You didn’t do anything wrong Adora,” Catra said as she finally separated. “You were amazing. THAT was amazing.” Adora adjusted her legs so she could scoot in and wrap them around Catra’s waist. Catra pulled her into a tight embrace.

“It’s me,” Catra sighed. She nestled her head in the crook of Adora’s neck. Catra let out a soft laugh. “Fuck, who wants to be with the girl who cries during sex.”

“I do,” Adora assured her, gently running her fingers through Catra’s hair.

They sat there embracing in silence for a few minutes. Catra was taking comfort in Adora’s warm, physical and otherwise.

“... I don’t deserve you,” Catra said with a sniffle.

“What? That’s not true,” Adora protested. Catra didn’t answer. At first Adora thought Catra was just idly running her fingers up and down Adora’s back, until she realized they kept moving in the same very specific lines. “Catra…”

“I’ve never even apologized for them,” Catra murmured.

“That’s okay,” Adora said.

“No it’s not. How many more would you have if you didn’t have She-Ra’s healing abilities?” Catra pulled away to look Adora in the eyes. “How many do you have that don’t leave visible marks?”

Despite it all, Adora continued smiling brightly at the catgirl in front of her. She grabbed Catra by the head and pulled it down to lay on Adora’s chest. “Catra, do you hear that? Do you feel it?”

“Do you mean your heart?” Catra asked. Adora hummed a little sound in confirmation. “Yeah, it’s racing really fast!”

Adora let her up so she could stare into her mismatched eyes. She kept her hands on Catra’s cheeks so she could caress them with her thumbs. “That’s because I’m happy. I’m ecstatic. I’m, over the moons. YOU did that too.”

Catra leaned into one of Adora’s hands. Her own hands moved up to softly clasp themselves over Adora’s.

“I know,” Adora started. “There really is a lot we have to work through when you return. But we will. And we’ll have all the time in the world to heal together. It’s going to be wonderful. Do you know how I know?”

“How?”

Adora turned so that she could lean her back against Catra. She cuddled in between Catra’s leg. Catra wrapped all her limbs and her tail around Adora. “Because nobody else has ever made me feel this way, and I’m willing to fight for it,” Adora hummed into Catra’s ear.

The build up of passion in Catra exploded. She pulled Adora in tightly and began nibbling on her ear. Her arms began exploring their way down Adora’s body again.

“Catra!” Adora moaned out. She giggled as she felt Catra spreading her legs apart. “We already did…” Adora started, but trailed off as Catra squeezed one of her breasts.

“You know what they say Babe, second time’s the charm.”

“I thought it was the third time?”

Catra bit Adora’s ear. “Don’t get greedy,” she chuckled. Catra crooked her fingers and slid them back into the blonde, who was still plenty ready to receive. Catra gripped Adora tightly against her body. She could feel every muscle convulsion, every short breath from her lungs, every attempt to writhe and wiggle. Her entire body was performing, and it was quickly becoming Catra’s favorite show.

Adora didn’t last long. Catra felt her go stiff, then begin convulsing violently has her orgasm slammed through her body. Eventually Adora seemed to melt lifelessly into Catra’s arms. She only stirred when Catra lightly bit her on the nose. She reached up and pecked Catra on the lips.

“Can I try something different this time?” Adora asked with her gently, pleading blue eyes.

“Uh, sure.”

“Do you trust me?”

“Of course I do,” Catra confirmed. Adora smiled widely and pushed Catra back down onto her back. She kissed Catra’s mouth again, then slowly began kissing her way down Catra’s neck, then to her chest, then down her abdomen. Adora sat up so she could spread Catra’s legs apart, then dove down. Her mouth crashed into Catra’s clit, which elicited a husky gasp. Adora drug her tongue down Catra’s lips, then slurped her way up them. She pried Catra apart with two fingers, then shot her tongue into her pussy.

Catra convulsed wildly with every wiggle, every flick, every lip to lip slurp. Catra’s hands shot out and grabbed Adora by the hair, gently pushing her further into her. Catra already knew she wasn’t going to last long, and that was before Adora moved a finger in just to play with Catra’s clit.

Within a few minutes another orgasm began thundering through Catra. It felt like Adora was slurping the orgasm right out of her. Adora’s hands moved to Catra’s stomach as the orgasm rumbled through her.

Soon the orgasm passed. Adora began kissing her way back up Catra’s body. She shot Catra a mischievous grin as she was doing so. “Kitten, you are yummy,” Adora smirked.

“I’m yummy?!” Catra chuckled. Adora appeared over top of her. “Get away, you have pussy breath!” she laughed.

“That’s not a thing!” Adora protested as she blew air into Catra’s face.

“Then how do you have it?!”

They squirmed and giggled and wrestled for a few minutes.

“You are such a dork,” Catra said as Adora remained hovering over her.

“I know.”

Catra relaxed on the bed, content. She gazed into Adora’s eyes. Those gentle, calming, loving oceans.

“I love you,” Catra airly said.

Adora was on the verge of crying. Happy tears. “I love you too!” she exclaimed as she lowered in for another kiss.

 

 

Chapter Text

The first few rays of morning light streamed through the windows into Adora’s room. Light hit the canopy surrounding the bed area, basking it in a lavender glow. Slowly Adora began to stir. After a few minutes, when she was just far enough into consciousness, something occurred to her. Adora bolted upright in her bed, only to realize that she was in it alone. Catra’s duffel bag was still sitting by the door. The dresser drawers were open, and appeared to have been rummaged through. Adora’s heart sank. She had gotten half of what she had wanted for so long, she had gotten to fall asleep in Catra’s arms again. If only she had been able to wake up next to that perfect freckled face.

Adora wiped away a tear from her cheek as she turned to sit at the edge of the bed. That’s when she noticed a folded piece of paper, her name written on it in big letters, sitting on the nightstand. Definitely Catra’s handwriting. Adora eagerly snatched it up and unfolded it.

 

Hey, Adora,

I am so sorry that I won’t be there when you wake up. Getting to wake up next to you again was the best follow-up to what was an amazing day. I had to leave now though. I couldn’t wait until morning. Because, if we’re being perfectly honest, if I had to look into those eyes of yours to say goodbye, I never would have been able to leave. Even now, even while you’re sleeping soundly, while you lay there, looking completely at peace, and adorable, I’m finding it so hard to pull away.

But I have to. I need to do this. I need to find Half Moon. I need to see just what the Horde did to my people. I know I read about it, but I need to see it with my own eyes. With any luck, maybe I can figure out who my parents were, who I was supposed to be. I never should have been in the Horde, but that doesn’t even begin to explain what I should have been. Who was I? Who were the magicats? Hopefully figuring that out will help me figure out who I want to be.

There’s no way I’m going to let myself mess this up again. Mess us up. In order to make sure I don’t, I need to sort my shit out. I promise you, I will come back to you once I do. Once I figure out exactly what I’m supposed to be, what I want to be.

Because right now I have no clue about any of it. I’m sure you understand, the Horde’s always provided those answers for us. Now I gotta go find them on my own. So far there’s really only one thing I do know for sure: I’m the girl that gets to love Adora… And that’s a pretty damn good place to start.

 

Adora clutched the letter to her chest and flopped back onto the bed. She wiped a few more tears off her cheeks. They weren’t from sadness though. Adora was already desperately missing Catra, but Catra promised that she’d come back, and Adora believed her.

 


 

Hours Earlier.

The moons of Etheria glared brightly in the night sky. Bright Moon was living up to its name, the entire kingdom seemed to be bathed in pale purple light. Reflections of the moons danced in the shallow lake between the kingdom and the Whispering Woods. All around was evidence of the day’s battle. Fallen and destroyed robots and tanks littered the lake and the ground around it. There were gashes in the soil from laser fire. Bright Moon Castle bore a number of scorch marks from when the shield briefly fell. It could have been much worse, but in this moment there was no denying just how fortunate the Rebellion was to have secured victory.

On the far shore of the lake, Catra stood at the edge of the Whispering Woods. She was leaning against a tree and idly flipping through Historian Adora’s Abridged Guide to Extinct Societies of Etheria Volume One: Magicats. The pages were beginning to get dog-eared already. In the little over a week since she got it, Catra had read it five times; Scorpia once; Entrapta twice; and Kyle once.

Currently Catra was wearing her dark red pants. As a top she was wearing one of Adora’s long sleeved white shirts. The one that still had the Horde logo on the back of it. She wasn’t wearing her headpiece. It would be too recognizable. Besides, she wasn’t entirely sure where Adora had tossed it the night before and she hadn’t wanted to wake her up from looking for it.

“Psst!” a noise came from the tree next to her.

Catra smiled and snapped the book shut. “Hey Bow.”

The Rebellion archer emerged from behind one of the trees, holding a backpack. “Hey Catra! I got all the supplies you asked me to get for you.” Bow handed the backpack to Catra. “And don’t worry, I found you the plainest looking cloak I could find!”

“Thanks a bunch, bud!” Catra exclaimed. She knelt down and began rummaging through the backpack. “This is perfect.”

“Heh, can’t help but notice that you’re wearing Adora’s old shirt,” Bow smoothly remarked.

“Well, figured the Horde logo would help me blend in. Besides,” Catra pulled some of the fabric up to her face and gave it a sniff. “This way I can keep her close to me, no matter where I am.”

“You really think you’re going to be able to find Half Moon?” Bow asked.

“Adora’s book gave me a pretty good idea where to look. Plus, I think there might actually be someone in the Horde that can help. Besides, I have to. I just feel, lost I guess. Adora anchors me, but it’s unfair to her to ask her to be the entire foundation of my existence. That doesn’t sound very healthy for our relationship.”

“I’m guessing, considering the sneaking out in the middle of the night, that you didn’t tell Adora that this was your plan all along,” Bow sighed.

“Well, I sort of did.” Catra unfurled cloak that was in the backpack. It was dark brown, a little tattered at the edges. No designs or patterns. It was completely normal. It was, like, boring how normal the cloak was.

“I told her that I was leaving, just not tonight. I did leave her a note though. Couldn’t just leave without explaining myself at all,” Catra said as she tightened the cloak around her neck. She stopped for a moment. “I’m not going to mess it up this time,” Catra mumbled to herself.

“Hah! We’re Letter Buddies!” Bow exclaimed. Catra spun around in confusion. Her head cocked to the side to take in the sight of Bow. “You know, because I wrote letters too. Great minds think alike!”

“Um, what do you think you’re doing?” Catra asked, with a slight twitch in her eye.

Standing in front of Catra was Bow, strapping a second backpack to his back. He was already wearing a matching plain brown cloak. Bow gave her a slick grin. “I’m going with you.”

“Whoa! Whoa Bow! No you’re not!” Catra commanded. “I can do this on my own. They need you here. They-”

“-Are fine!” Bow retorted. “Look, I get that Adora can’t go with you. She-Ra probably shouldn’t just disappear right after a big battle with the Horde. And yeah, Entrapta and Scorpia have to go back to Dryl and figure out how to neutralize the Horde’s cloaking tech. That’s where I come in!”

“I’m pretty sure they’ll miss you too Bow.”

“Miss me sure, but need me? Are you kidding? Entrapta and Scorpia are back. For the first time in, well ever, every living princess is on the same side!”

“Bow I can do this on my own.”

“I know that, but you shouldn’t have to. I’m not about to just let my friend sneak back into enemy territory on her own.”

Friend. That’s a low blow, Bow.

“Fiiiinne!” Catra huffed. “You better keep up!

“And, thanks.”

Together they started walking down a path into the Whispering Woods.

“Wait,” Catra suddenly chirped up as they walked. “Did you say letterS? As in plural?” Bow began blushing profusely.

 


 

Hey Glimmer!

I didn’t want you to worry, or wonder where I am. So if you’re reading this, it means that I convinced Catra to let me go with her to help her find Half Moon. I know what you’re probably thinking, “Bow that’s smart, you can keep an eye on her.” That’s NOT why I’m going with her. Let’s face it Glim, Catra’s on our side now, we have to start trusting her.

But I didn’t want to talk about Catra. Look, yesterday was so crazy I didn’t really get a chance to say it, but I am SO proud of you Glimmer. It’s always been just us, and then Adora came along and the Best Friend Squad’s been in full effect since. But somewhere along the way you’ve grown into your own, magnificent person. You’ve become such an amazing leader. We are all so fortunate to have you showing us the way through this war. I am so lucky to call my best friend.

Take care of yourself! We’ll be back as soon as we can.

 

- Bow

 

PS: While I’m gone, I think you should think about spending more time with Princess Embra. They seem to enjoy spending time with you. And I think YOU like spending time with them, too. ;)

 


 

Catra’s duffel bag sat open on the bed. Adora, fresh from bathing and getting dressed, was rearranging her dressers to make room for Catra’s stuff. There wasn’t much, it easily all fit into one draw. Despite that, Adora was trying to make more space for all the stuff she was sure Catra would get when she got back, now that she could.

Once that was sorted Adora pulled all of Catra’s non-clothing belongings out and placed them on the bed. She let out a little gasp when she saw the sketchbook. There were dozens of drawings already in it. Adora couldn’t help but be impressed with how much Catra had improved. Some blend of immense flattering and embarrassment overcame her when she got to what seemed to be the Midsummer Ball section of the sketchbook. There were multiple sketches of Adora wearing her blue dress. It was starting to make Adora a little misty eyed.

There was a slow rapping at her door. “Come in!” Adora called out. Glimmer ambled into the room, eyes still puffy. “Glimmer? Everything okay?” Adora asked. She stopped what she was doing and made her way over to her best friend.

At first Glimmer didn’t say anything, she just jumped into a tight hug.

“Are YOU okay?” Glimmer squeaked after a moment.

Adora’s eyes closed as she warmly embraced Glimmer. “You heard about Catra.” She could feel Glimmer nodding in her arms. “I am actually. Yes, I miss her already… But I know she’s coming back to me. I know that she wants to come back to me.” Adora hummed a little satisfied sigh. “For the first time in as long as I can remember, my heart feels full. I’m just going to worry about her being out there all alone.”

Glimmer pulled away and handed Adora the letter Bow had written Glimmer. “She’s not alone,” Glimmer smiled.

It didn’t take long for Adora to read the letter. She handed it back to Glimmer and smiled widely. “Bow. That beautiful boy!” Both girls chuckled. Glimmer held her hand out to Adora.

“Come on, everyone’s going to be departing soon. We should go see them off,” Glimmer said.

Together they walked out of Adora’s room and down the hallway. Adora’s eyes narrowed as she smiled. “So, are we going to be making a trip to Skydancer soon?”

Glimmer’s face was completely flushed. “Yeah yeah, let’s just worry about our cloaking problem first.”

 


 

By late morning most of the princesses had departed for their kingdoms. Only the group heading for Dryl, and Perfuma, remained. It was due to Scorpia having spent the morning being debriefed about her Horde knowledge by Queen Angella and her generals.

The ex-Horde skiff sat parked in the main courtyard. Adora, Glimmer, Perfuma, Entrapta, Kyle, and Rogelio were standing around and chatting until the sound of the main doors opening  quieted them. Queen Angella, with Scorpia by her side, stepped out. The two nodded respectfully at each other and Scorpia made her way to the group.

“I am so sorry for making you wait!” Scorpia exclaimed.

“No worries!” Perfuma answered.

“Glimmer, your mother is really nice,” Scorpia smiled.

“Yeah, you say that because she’s never caught you sneaking out after curfew,” Glimmer argued. Everyone chuckled.

“We should be on our way. The sooner Assistant Kyle and I can begin working on detecting cloaking tech, the better we’ll all be,” Entrapta stated.

Glimmer shook Kyle’s and Rogelio’s hand. Adora, on the other hand, pulled them into a warm hug.

“I’m SO happy to get to see both of you again!” Adora exclaimed.

“Same!” Kyle replied. They stared at each other. Kyle’s smile faded.

“Hey,” Adora said, patting him on the back. “We’re not giving up on Lonnie. We’ll get her back, we just have to believe it. We’re her family. No matter where she is and where we are, we won’t abandon her.” Kyle and Rogelio nodded happily before climbing onto the skiff.

Meanwhile, Glimmer gave Perfuma and Entrapta a hug. Scorpia grabbed Adora and squeezed them into a group hug. Once everyone untangled, Entrapta and Perfuma said their goodbyes and helped each other up onto the skiff.

“Don’t worry,” Scorpia  stated between her, Glimmer, and Adora, “Bow and Catra are gonna be fine. They have each other’s backs. They’ll come back safe to us.”

“It was good seeing you again,” Adora said with a bright smile. Scorpia nodded. She turned to the skiff, but Glimmer caught her by the claw first.

“Thank you,” Glimmer blurted out, “for everything.” Scorpia gave Glimmer one of her big, soft smiles. “Oh yeah! One more thing,” Glimmer exclaimed. She began feeling around her clothes until she pulled a folded piece of paper out of her pocket. “This was addressed to you. It’s from Bow.”

Scorpia stared at Glimmer, wide eyed, an expression of disbelief on her face. “From Bow? For me ?” Just then Scorpia felt a tugging on her arm. She turned to see a purple hair tentacle pulling at her. “Right!” Scorpia climbed up onto the skiff. It made a “veering” noise as it started up.

The skiff lifted off the ground and began to lurch forward. Everyone waved as they left. Once that was all out of the way Scorpia found a seat on the bench and unfolded the piece of paper.

 

Hi Scorpia!

I know we haven’t known each other for that long really. But in the few short months since that jungle, I’ve come to think of you as a real friend. You are amazing. And you destroyed almost every belief I had about what and who the Horde could be. You are kind, loyal, beautiful, funny, fierce. You want to wrap the whole world in a hug and bring light to everyone’s morning.

Scorpia, you are so easy to talk to. Whenever you’re around I just feel, happy.

So, um, I was wondering. When I get back, would you like to grab dinner together sometime? You know, like a date?

- Bow

 

Scorpia folded the paper up and put it away as quickly as she could. She wiped a few tears off her cheek.

“Hey,” Perfuma said, suddenly sitting just next to Scorpia. It made the woman jump from surprise. “Sorry! I did not mean to startle you.”

“Oh, it’s okay! I was just in my own head for a moment, that’s all,” Scorpia answered.

Perfuma began rubbing Scorpia’s shoulder. “I just wanted to make sure. You’ve been grinning this whole time, but the tears were concerning.”

“Thank you,” Scorpia replied. “But seriously, I’m fine. In fact,” Scorpia smiled widely, “I think today’s going to be a great day.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Along the southern part of the Bright Moon/ Horde border was a steep cliff face that rose to a large plateau on the Bright Moon side. It extended from the edge of the Whispering Woods all the way down to Seaworthy and the shoreline. About a dozen miles north of Seaworthy was the only break in the cliff face. An opening only 20 yards wide that fed into a valley that cut through the plateau and led to Bright Moon Castle. The valley was treacherous. Uneven. Jagged pillars of rock rose out of the ground all over the place. There were often Bright Moon patrols along the top edge of the valley. Only the Clack technology had allowed the Horde to move such a large contingent of forces through the valley without being caught.

The corner edge of the plateau was where Adora, Glimmer, Netossa, and Spinnerella had set up their camp. Twenty four hours removed from seeing the rest of the Princess Alliance off to their kingdoms, they were here to address the security vulnerability.

Netossa and Adora were standing at the corner, surveying the scene. Well, Netossa was. In truth Adora was mostly staring out towards Horde territory. Somewhere out there was Bow and Catra. Hopefully staying safe.

“How long did it take them to parade through here, right under our noses?” Netossa mused. Her arms were folded as she stared down into the valley.

“No one’s to blame ‘Tossa,” Adora answered.

“Yeah, I know. It’s just,” Netossa sighed. “Girl, we got so lucky the other day. I don’t like relying on that much luck.”

Spinnerella appeared next to Netossa, as if she was able to sense Netossa sagging shoulders. “And that’s why we’re here, Sweetheart,” Spinnerella chirped, pulling Netossa into a side hug.

Adora couldn’t help at smile at the affection that Spinnerella and Netossa were always so comfortable showing each other. She turned back to the Horde border and let out a soft sigh. After a few seconds a hand appeared on either shoulder.

“You don’t have to feel guilty for missing her,” Spinnerella smiled. Her and Netossa were standing on either side of Adora.

“She needs this,” Adora said.

“But every part of you wants her to be here right now,” Netossa said. Adora didn’t answer, she just gave another little sigh. “Hey,” Netossa said. Her and Spinnerella gave Adora joint side hugs. “There is nothing wrong with that.”

“Thanks you two,” Adora smiled.

A loud smacking noise jolted the trio out of their group hug. They turned to find that Glimmer had set up a table in the center area of their five tent camp. She was laying out a chart on it. The trio made their way over to the table, along with the top Bright Moon Guard.

“Okay,” Glimmer began, “there’s no telling how long it’s going to take Entrapta to develop her detection device. So in the meantime we’re going to need to make sure this valley is closed and monitored at all times.”

The Bright Moon Guard raised their hand and spoke when Glimmer nodded. “We’re going to have staggered patrols along the top of each side. But, how are we to ‘close’ the valley?”

“Don’t worry, that’s what I’m here for!” Adora smuggly stated as she flexed a bicep.

Glimmer chuckled. “That’s not the only reason you’re here Adora! Until we have a way to detect Clack tech we need to have a princess on hand at all times. The four of us will take the first shift. Frosta agreed to take the second shift in three days.”

Everyone nodded at Glimmer’s plan. “Alright, let’s get to it then!” she exclaimed.

Adora and Glimmer made their way over to the edge of the cliff. Glimmer wrapped her arm around Adora’s shoulder and gave her a maniacal grin. “You ready to She-Ra out?!”

“FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL!”

She-Ra stepped out of the cocoon of light with a confident smile. She smacked one fist into her other hand. “Alright, let’s do this!” She-Ra exclaimed and leapt into the air. She slammed fist first into the valley wall down below, cackling with glee.

Nettossa approached Glimmer while laughing. “Is ‘closing’ the valley just Adora punching the valley walls until she causes a rockslide?”

Glimmer interlocked her fingers on each hand together and smiled widely. “Sometimes the perfect girl and the perfect job just find each other.”

For the better part of the next 20 minutes She-Ra wailed on the walls of the valley, causing one rockslide after another. Sometimes the mantle of She-Ra felt like a crushing weight of expectations that Adora could never live up to. But sometimes, it just meant being able to haul off on rocks with reckless abandon.

Once the valley was buried under multiple piles of rock, She-Ra flew back up to the plateau above. Glimmer was there to meet her with a high five that Glimmer had to teleport up to reach.

“Watching you smash things never gets old!” Glimmer screamed. She had entered into her ‘She-Ra Hypewoman’ mode, which happened often when She-Ra was committing wanton destruction.

“Those rocks never stood a chance!” She-Ra added with glee.

Spinnerella and Netossa rejoined She-Ra and Glimmer. “AND,” Spinnerella chirped proudly, “the Guard patrols have been assigned. Invisible or not, nothing’s getting through this valley!”

“Well done, everyone!” Glimmer exclaimed. “Now we can relax and hopefully nothing crazy goes down on our watch.” Glimmer, Spinnerella, and Netossa made their way over to the table so Glimmer could review the patrol assignments. As the war went on it had become increasingly important to Glimmer to get to know the guards that served her. In her mind, it was the very least she could do to show appreciation for their loyalty.

Satisfied that her task was done, She-Ra transformed back into Adora. She resheathed her sword and absently scratched the itch on the wrist of her sword hand. Adora was looking forward to spending the afternoon with her friends. There hadn’t been that many occasions for her to hang out with Netossa and Spinnerella, but she always thoroughly enjoyed their company when she did. They were fun and easy going, and Adora would be lying if she didn’t say that she looked up to their relationship. Usually though, that feeling was tinged with melancholy. Today, on the other hand, it felt different. Instead of looking at them and seeing something only Adora could only dream of, today it felt like something she was excited to work towards with Catra.

Adora scratched the wrist on her sword hand again. Usually, there was a mild discomfort just after changing back. Today though, the discomfort was persisting a little longer. Adora scratched it again. The discomfort was fading away.

Suddenly, instead of discomfort the Adora’s wrist was inflamed with a searing pain that pulsed through her entire body. Adora screamed out in anguish. The pain was so intense Adora stumbled to her knees, clutching her wrist the entire time.

The Princesses rushed to her side. “Adora!” Glimmer yelled out. She dropped to her knees and comforted Adora. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s my wrist,” Adora labored to say. She was kneeling on the ground, tears staining her cheeks from the pain. “It usually itches after using the sword, but it’s never been like this!”

Glimmer slowly rolled Adora’s sleeve up, attempting to be as gentle as possible. Even still, the movement made Adora wince a few times. After a few rolls everyone gasped. On Adora was what looked like an intense rash that covered her entire wrist, but instead of looking like an average rash, it was blue. There were crevices in the rash that glowed and pulsated a brighter blue.

“That… That wasn’t there this morning,” Adora muttered. It was a disgusting sight, but Adora couldn’t take her eyes off of it.

“You said it’s always caused discomfort after using the sword?” Netossa asked. Her and her wife were standing over Adora’s shoulder.

“Well, not always,” Adora conceded. “I think it started a little before the Midsummer Ball.” Adora pulled her sleeve back down. The sight had been a little too much. “At first it was barely anything.”

“It’s definitely something now,” Glimmer scoffed.

The worst of the pain had passed. Glimmer helped Adora to her feet. “It’s fine,” Adora said. “I’m feeling better now, thank you,” she smiled.

“THAT is not fine, Adora!” Glimmer protested.

“I have to agree,” Spinnerella added.

Adora absently ran her hand over her wrist. It made her wince slightly. “But what about the valley? We can’t just abandon it for… Whatever this is.”

Whatever this was. Just a small problem. Adora probably just overexerted herself. Maybe everything surrounding the last month or two had just made her too stressed out. There was such a thing as glowing, magic triggered stress rashes, right?

As if arguing against Adora’s thoughts, the pain from Adora’s rash suddenly intensified again. Adora stumbled, but Glimmer caught her and held her upright.

“This isn’t a pimple Adora, we can’t just ignore it,” Glimmer muttered to her.

“She’s right,” Spinnerella said, placing reassuring hands on Glimmer’s and Adora’s shoulders. “We’ll watch the valley. You just figure out what’s wrong. The last thing we really need is for our She-Ra to be out of commission.”

Glimmer helped Adora regain her footing. The pain was subsiding. At least enough so that Adora could function on her own. She gave a firm nod, conceding the point to Glimmer and Spinnerella.

“Come on,” Glimmer said while wearing a sad smile on her face. “Let’s get you back to Bright Moon. Hopefully the healers can figure out what’s wrong.”

“No,” Adora stated. Finally having enough energy to stand on her own again, she stood in the center of them with as and sighed. Despite desperately not wanting to, deep down Adora knew the truth about this. “Not Bright Moon. This, whatever this is, has something to do with the sword. There’s really only one person, er, entity, that’s going to be able to help me.”

 


 

With that pesky science princess no long around to protest Shadow Weaver had wasted no time reclaiming the Black Garnet chamber as hers, and returning it to its former set up. The sight of it was jarring to Lonnie. Three days ago she was in here, arguing with Kyle and Rogelio about loyalty. The couple was making their pitch to Lonnie about how much the Horde had betrayed them all. It was the fourth time they had tried to during that week. On top of Catra’s many attempts to do the same, Lonnie had grown sick of it. Sick of them not really hearing her perspective on the situation. She remembered yelling at Kyle and Rogelio. Remembered using a lot of words that she probably shouldn’t have. She remembered telling them off. What she didn’t realize at the time was that it would be the last time she would get to talk to them.

How quickly the room had changed from the lab back to this cold, dark place, lit mostly by the glow of the Black Garnet, now reinstalled in the center of the room. The door behind Lonnie slammed shut. She gulped and took a few pensive steps into the room. The side table had been right here. Their work table. Their card table. Their “we finally got Rogelio to admit he hates wearing hats” table. Their “we wore Catra down until she showed us her sketchbook and it turns out she’s actually pretty good at it” table. Lonnie let out a long sigh.

“Shadow Weaver?” Lonnie called out. She couldn’t see anyone else in the room.

“Lonnie,” Shadow Weaver’s voice seemed to creep directly into Lonnie’s brain. She whipped around to see Shadow Weaver standing between her and the door, with both arms behind her back. “You are here, and on time. Excellent,” Shadow Weaver said.

With the gentle motion of a few gray, cracked fingers, Shadow Weaver beckoned Lonnie to follow her farther into the room. Lonnie followed, keeping a few feet between them, and keeping silent.

Behind them the door opened again. Both turned around to see Decepsha scurrying in. She looked at the two women already in the room and smiled widely. “I haven’t missed it have I?” she asked.

“No,” Shadow Weaver replied in a cold, even tone.

“Awesome!” Decepsha said. She made her way over to stand near Shadow Weaver and stood up as straight and formally as possible. Decepsha made every attempt to put on a serious face, but couldn’t help but shoot Lonnie a grin and a wink when they briefly made eye contact.

Shadow Weaver cleared her throat. “Lonnie, I asked you here today for good reason. You have, throughout your entire tenure here with the Horde, shown nothing but loyalty. Those things were put to the ultimate test recently, and here you remain. Lord Hordak commends you on your fealty, and recognizes your devotion to the Horde. As do I.” Shadow Weaver held out one of her hands to Lonnie. It slowly opened to reveal a bright green badge. “You’ve earned this,” Shadow Weaver said, with what passed for her ‘happy voice’.

Lonnie stood there and gasped at the sight of the Force Captain badge.

Decepsha snatched the badge and took it upon herself to pin it to Lonnie’s chest. She nodded at Lonnie, who was still trying to come to terms with what was happening.

“Congratulations, Force Captain,” Decepsha said, bright smile on her face.

 


 

Lonnie left the Black Garnet chamber about an hour after being promoted. Shadow Weaver had introduced her to life as a Force Captain, and went over what was to be expected of her. She wandered down the hallways, new Force Captain binder tucked under one arm, head full of thoughts pulling her every which way.

Being back in the place, that, for the last 14 months she had come to think of as just as much her home as her bed, had proven to be more difficult than Lonnie had assumed. She had devoted herself to the Horde. She chose to stay. At least, she was pretty sure she did. She vaguely remembered confronting Catra on the Mobile Command Ship before waking up on a skiff halfway back to the Fright Zone. The details of battle at Bright Moon were sketchy in her mind, but Lonnie had been assured that she had chosen to stay. In truth, Lonnie didn’t know what to believe anymore. All she really knew for sure was that everyone who kept calling her their family was now what seemed like a whole world away, and she was here, alone.

Well, not entirely alone it seemed.

“Hey! Hey Lonnie!” Decepsha was calling out. She was jogging down the hall towards Lonnie, who slowed up to let Decepsha catch up. “Oops, sorry. Hey Force Captain ,” Decepsha grinned as the two strolled down the hallway.

“How’s it feel?” Decepsha inquired.

“Weird,” Lonnie admitted. She pulled the pin off and gave it a good look, flipping it over a few times, marveling as the metal gleamed in the light. “Everyone here dreams of this right? I just… Being stuck in the same squad as Adora and Catra. Well let’s just say that I never got my hopes up about it.”

Decepsha jabbed Lonnie in the arm. Lonnie looked at her with shock in her eyes, and mild annoyance.

“But here you are!” Decepsha exclaimed. “You should be proud of yourself. And we definitely need to go celebrate.”

Lonnie raised her eyebrow in confusion. “What’s this ‘we’? We’re not friends, Queen of Lies.”

Decepsha stopped in her tracks. Lonnie kept walking for a couple yards, but guilt overtook her just enough to get her to stop.

“We could be,” Decepsha mumbled. She had started idly playing with her fingers and sighed. “You know what? It’s fine. Totally cool. I’m sorry I bothered you.” She turned to start slowly stalking away, but was stopped by a hand on her shoulder. Decepsha looked over her shoulder to see Lonnie.

“What did you have in mind?” Lonnie asked with a smile.

 


 

Swift Wind touched down gracefully in the clearing in front of the Crystal Castle. It had been especially hard to find the castle today, as if the Whispering Woods were being combative. Now, to seemingly drive the point home, Adora’s rash was acting up again. Not so much a throbbing pain, it was just making itself known. Adora didn’t know how she knew, but she felt certain that it was reacting to the castle itself.

Glimmer had to help Adora down from Swift Wind. The pain had made Adora’s balance spotty. They all stood in the clearing, staring down the castle for a moment. Adora’s weight was being supported by Glimmer.

“Do you really think Light Hope’s going to be able to help?” Glimmer asked.

“If anyone knows what’s wrong with me, it’s going to be her,” Adora said. She wanted it to sound reassuring to Glimmer, but in reality Adora was trying to desperately reassure herself too. “She HAS to know what’s wrong with me,” Adora added.

“She can fix me, then everything will get back on track while I eagerly wait for my girlfriend to return,” Adora mumbled. The statement was made more as a hope than confidence, and also a little bit because Adora had been keen to find any excuse to work the fact that she could call Catra her girlfriend into conversation.

Adora turned to Swift Wind and Glimmer and smiled warmly. “Wait here. It’d be best if I talk to Light Hope on my own. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the more visitors I bring in with me, the less inclined she is to be helpful.”

“You sure Adora?” Glimmer asked. The expression on her face didn’t convey any sort of confidence.

“Don’t worry!” Adora exclaimed. She marched to the door of the Crystal Castle, and used the password to open it. Adora looked over her shoulder and gave the two a confident nod before walking into the Castle. The door snapped shut as soon as Adora was inside.

The walk to the main hallway seemed to take forever. Adora was doing her very best to keep her spirits up, and not let the fact that AS SOON as it seemed that her life was starting to go well “She-Ra” started fritzing get to her. She’d been fighting that frustration almost since the moment it happened. After all this time, they were together. Catra loved her. Just about all of Adora’s friends were on the same side finally.

The rash throbbed, as if reminding Adora of why she was here.

Once Adora was in the main hall, everything lit up around her and the castle seemed to lurch to life. Light Hope appeared in the middle of the room.

“Greetings, Adora,” the hologram said. “There seems to be something greatly troubling you today.”

“You could say that!” Adora grumbled and rolled up her sleeve. Light Hope disappeared and reappeared next to Adora, who held her arm out at the purple hologram. Light Hope let out a small gasp as she ran a digital finger along Adora’s wrist. There was a slight tingling sensation to Light Hope’s touch.

“I see.”

“It appeared-” Adora started.

“-right after transforming from She-Ra,” Light Hope finished.

Adora pulled her arm back and rolled her sleeve back down. “Yes,” Adora confirmed.

Light Hope strolled away from Adora, seemingly paying her little attention. The hologram appeared to be lost in thought. She was actually mumbling something to herself.

“You know what it is, don’t you,” Adora inquired. Judging from Light Hope’s behaviour, the answer seemed obvious.

Slowly, steadily, Light Hope recomposed herself, then turned around to face Adora. “Yes, I do,” Light Hope answered. “I did not think that this would happen so quickly, but it’s not entirely unexpected.”

“Okay,” Adora huffed. “So what is it, and how do I get rid of it?”

“It is not that simple,” Light Hope stated. She moved closer to Adora. Her face was the most severe that Adora had ever seen it. Which was a feat unto itself. “I suppose I may be somewhat to blame as well. I believed that there would be more time to prepare you, but if it is already starting, then I fear time may be shorter than I thought.”

“Um, Light Hope, NONE of that made sense!” Adora growled. The last thing she was hoping for was a bunch of riddles and ancient ramblings on how to cure a She-Ra rash.

“In order for you to understand what is happening to you now, you need to know.”

The main hall went dark, except for Light Hope, who was emitting her own glow, and a faint violet light that made the ceiling glow. “It is time,” Light Hope said.

“Time for what?” Adora asked, trying her very best to not let how ominous this all looked rattle her.

“It is time you were told...

“...Everything,” Light Hope confirmed.

 


 

Glimmer and Swift Wind were standing side by side. They were just a few feet in front of the Crystal Castle’s entrance, and facing out towards the far edge of the clearing. Glimmer had a sly grin on her face as she braced most of her weight on her left leg, which was bent out in front of her.

“Are you ready?” Swift Wind asked. His wings were pinned back against his body.

“Whenever you are,” Glimmer shot back.

“Okay. Ready. Set…

“GO!”

Both Glimmer and Swift Wind took off into a sprint. A large boulder, some 50 yards ahead, was the destination for both of them. Swift Wind charged out in front easily. He was just 10 yards away when Glimmer appeared in a puff of sparkles on the boulder. Swift Wind pulled up to a trot.

“Hey, that’s cheating!” The majestic unicorn protested.

“No way!” Glimmer chuckled. “You can gallop at like 40 miles per hour! This was the only way to make it fair.”

“Don’t seem fair,” Swift Wind scoffed.

“Hey, this was your idea. I was perfectly happy to just sit around and wait, but noooooo you wanted to-” Glimmer stopped talking abruptly at the sound of rustling in the surrounding woods. She jumped down next to Swift Wind and summoned her staff to her. Swift Wind dug in his hind hooves, ready to charge at whatever was coming their way.

Razz popped out from behind the bushes. “Dearies! What are you doing here?!” she asked, pulling her broom from the bush.

Just as fast as it appeared, Glimmer dispatched of the staff and laughed. Swift Wind relaxed his stance. “You scared us Madame Razz! You’re lucky I had the willpower to wait to see what it was before charging, or you might have had a horn to the face!” Swift Wind asserted.

“Sorry Dearie. I just thought I heard voices. And for once I was right because here you are!” the old woman snorted. “What brings the two of you out here? Interested in picking berries?”

“Haha, no Madame Razz, no berries today. We’re here for Adora. She’s in the Crystal Castle right now,” Glimmer answered. The three began strolling back towards the castle. “Maybe you can help us, actually. You know a lot about She-Ra,” Glimmer continued as they strolled. “Something’s wrong with Adora, and we’re worried that it has something to do with her She-Ra powers.”

Madame Razz stopped in her tracks. It took a few feet before Glimmer and Swift Wind realized she had. They turned back to see Razz, looking more thoughtful and sad than they were used to seeing her.

“Something is wrong with Adora?” Razzed asked. Her voice was low. “And you think it’s She-Ra’s fault.” Glimmer nodded at the sagely woman. “Does it look like a blue rash?”

Glimmer and Swift Wind gasped at the same time. “Madame Razz! How did you-”

Before they could continue their conversation, the door to the Crystal Castle slid open. Adora wandered out. The expression on her face was completely blank and her skin was drained of color. Everyone rushed over to meet her. Glimmer took Adora’s hands into her own.

“Adora! What did Light Hope say?” Glimmer asked, barely able to contain her excitement.

At first Adora just looked straight ahead, blank eyed. Slowly Adora began to turn to Glimmer, faintly indicating that she even heard her. What caught Adora’s attention more was when Razz reached up and clutched Adora’s wrist.

“May I?” Razz gently asked. Adora gave her a soft nod. Razz took Adora’s right arm from Glimmer’s hand and began rolling up the sleeve as gently as she could. Sight of the rash prompted Razz to let out a sigh. “It is as I feared.”

They all stared at it for a few seconds before Adora pushed her sleeve back down.

“What happened in there?” Glimmer asked.

There were no words. Adora’s answer consisted entirely of breaking out into sobbing. Glimmer grabbed her and drew her into a hug. “It’s okay, Adora. We’re going to figure this out,” Glimmer softly whispered into Adora’s ear.

Razz had already turned around and was marching back towards the woods. “Come come! We have to head home!”

“But Bright Moon isn’t that way,” Glimmer informed her.

“I didn’t mean Bright Moon.”

 


 

Razz scampered through the edge of the woods and scurried to her house. “Come Adora Dearie!” She called back as she threw her door open. Glimmer, Adora, and Swift Wind were just behind her. Glimmer was leading Adora by the hand, almost pulling her. The Princess of Power had been in a sort of shock since emerging from the Crystal Castle. Glimmer desperately needed to know what had happened, but was reluctant to prod too hard. At least not while they were hustling through the woods at Razz’s behest.

By the time Adora and Glimmer made it into the house Razz had already seemingly ransacked her shelves. She was mumbling something while containers and jars were shoved out of the way with abandon.

“Ah-ha! Here it is!” Razz shouted. She pulled a small ceramic jar off the shelf. To say it looked old would have been an understatement. The old woman took one look at the two girls standing in her house. “Come come, sit down!” she commanded as she waved to a long bench along the wall. Glimmer pulled Adora down onto the bench. Swift Wind was peering into the window next to the bench. Razz unlocked it to let the unicorn poke his head in.

“Huh, yeah, this place is not horse approved,” Swift Wind mused.

“This old gal doesn’t need much room, Swifty Doll,” Razz chuckled. She tried opening the jar for a moment before handing it off to Glimmer, who was able to untwist the top with relative ease. It hissed, as if a vacuum seal was broken.

“What is this stuff?” Glimmer asked. In the jar was a pink gel-like substance.

Razz took the jar back and had Adora pull her sleeve back up. Adora did what was asked of her, with no protest or resistance. “It’s an ointment, just for this.” Madame Razz scooped a bit out with her fingers and began rubbing it along Adora’s wrist. “My Mara and I came up with it, for her.”

Almost immediately Adora exhaled a large gasp of air. “Thank you Razz, that feels so much better,” Adora breathed. Adora gave Glimmer’s hand a good squeeze, as Glimmer had been holding her hand the entire time.

“This is all I have left. You are lucky I still had even that!” Razz laughed. “I can make more. It’ll take a little bit of time though.” Adora nodded in acknowledgement.

“You ready to tell us what’s going on?” Swift Wind asked. Him and Glimmer have their eyes fixated on Adora. “And maybe what we can do to help?”

“Nothing can be done, Swift,” Adora muttered. She was still staring at her wrist, where the ointment was bubbling slightly the longer it was exposed to air. “There’s no cure for it,” Adora sighed. “It’s… Stuck like this. And it’s my fault.”

“What?!” Glimmer blurted out.

“Because I’m too distracted, according to Light Hope. Apparently my She-Ra power and I aren’t in a ‘harmonious alignment’. There are… Things that can be done moving forward. But this can’t be undone.”

Glimmer gave Adora’s hand a squeeze back. “So, even if you bring yourself into ‘harmonious alignment’, whatever that even means, you’re going to have that rash forever?”

Adora took a minute to regard her best friend. The longer she stared, the softer her tired smile got. “... Yes. That’s the gist of it. Really, really sucks, but Light Hope assured me that nothing can be done. I just-”

“-hogwash,” Razz interjected. Suddenly Razz had the full attention of the room. She adjusted her thick glasses. There was a sourness on her face that Adora had never seen before. “Dearie, there’s always something that can be done. You’re at a crossroads. My Mara came to the same one.”

“Her choices are what led her down a darker path,” Adora added. Tears started welling up around her eyes again. “The price is too steep Razz. I won’t let myself succumb to the same fate.”

Razz sighed. “It is true, my Mara went down a path of destruction. But it’s not because she tried to find options where there weren’t any. It was because Light Hope fought her every step of the way.

“Whatever you do, do not trust that holographic charlton. Because you still have the ability to choose, but not to her. The choice is clear to her . All she really cares about is She-Ra, not you.”

For the first time since the morning, Adora seemed to have some life to her. She sat up quickly and gently grabbed Razz by her shoulder. “Are you telling me that Light Hope is wrong?”

“Everyone has a perspective, Dearie. She thinks she’s right. But she’s blinded by her perspective. She was created specifically to do what is best for She-Ra. Not Mara, not Adora, She-Ra. It’s her purpose.

“There’s always something else you can do, Adora Dearie, you just have to figure out what.”

Adora slumped back on the bench. “Where would I even start looking for something to help with a She-Ra problem, if not Light Hope?” There was silence for a moment while everyone pondered the question. After a few seconds Adora let out a sigh and closed her eyes. “Madame Razz, what did Mara do? Light Hope told me everything, except what ultimately happened to Mara.”

The elder woman pulled up a small stool and sat down. It took a good minute for her to answer.

“After stranding us here in Despondos, my Mara tried to find a way to fix what she had done. It was eating at her soul. It was ripping her mind apart. She went out in search of a wizard named Noah.” Razz took a break to take in a deep breath. “She never returned. My Mara was lost to time.” Adora leaned up to pat Razz on the back. For the first time since meeting the old woman, she seemed genuinely sad.

“That’s a lead though!” Glimmer chirped up.

“What? How?” Adora asked.

“Grand Wizard Noah! He was the founder of Mystacor!” Glimmer exclaimed. “Aunt Casta knows about ALL the great wizards and sorcerers of Mystacor. She used to tell me stories about them, and ‘Grand Wizard Noah’ was one of them! If Mara found him I’m sure Aunt Casta would know something about it.”

The bubbling on Adora’s arm had ceased, leaving just a thin glaze over top of the rash. There was still a great amount of discomfort, but it was far more manageable than without the ointment. Adora slowly pulled her sleeve back down, trying not to disturb the gel. She climbed up to her feet.

“Not like we have anything to lose!” Adora exclaimed.

“Whoo! Floating island!” Swift Wind celebrated.

Adora leaned down towards Razz, who was still on her stool. “Thank you Razz. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”

Just As Adora went to stand back up Razz grabbed her arm. The sagely woman stared intently at Glimmer, who quickly got the message. Glimmer teleported outside and pulled Swift Wind out of the window. Razz got up and closed the window behind him.

Madame Razz jumped up on the stool so she could get closer to looking Adora in the eyes. “I loved my Mara, Adora Dearie, but I know the damage she caused Etheria. And so did she, until she began losing herself. She was too obsessed with controlling the power of She-Ra. Light Hope was only concerned with letting She-Ra control her. Those are two extremes. But they aren’t your only options. Remember that.”

 


 

The door to the Black Garnet chamber slid open. Decepsha made her way into the room. Shadow Weaver was standing at one of her computer terminals, intently reading what was on the screen. When Decepsha got to within a few feet of Weaver she knelt down.

“That is unnecessary,” Shadow Weaver remarked, while still reading her computer terminal.

“Oh, um, right,” Decepsha stood back up, and remained there in place, awkwardly waiting for Shadow Weaver.

After another moment or two, Shadow Weaver finally turned around. “Tell me, Decepsha, do you have any remaining contacts in Bright Moon?”

Decepsha took a few seconds to ponder. She tapped her lower lip the entire time. “Y-yes, there are still some people I could get some info from.”

“Good. Then that is your task. Momentum is in the Rebellion’s favor, we must search of any opportunities. We need to know what they’re doing with that momentum. With Catra and Adora united, the Rebellion will be more difficult than ever to defeat.”

At the sound of Adora’s name, Decepsha heavily exhaled a breath through her nose. Shadow Weaver squinted the white eyes of her mask at the master spy. “Is something the matter, Decepsha?”

It hadn’t even been a conscious act. Decepsha had to take a second or two to figure out what Shadow Weaver was talking about. When she did, her immediate response was to turn bright red. “Oh! No Shadow Weaver, Ma’am.” She glanced at Shadow Weaver, which wasn’t a good idea for her confidence. It was persuasion enough to compel her to the truth. “It’s just-”

“-I have read your report on your time in Bright Moon,” Shadow Weaver said, sparing Decepsha the embarrassment of having to explain it. “Is that going to be a problem?”

“What? Oh! No! No, Force General. Not a problem at all.”

Shadow Weaver strolled up to Decepsha, and placed her hand on Decepsha’s shoulder. Decepsha was sure it was supposed to be comforting, but it was having the opposite effect. “There is nothing to be ashamed of. Adora is special,” Shadow Weaver said. She lightly sighed. “She has a way of worming into the hardest of hearts.

“If it’s going to be an issue-”

“-no!” Decepsha snapped. “Er, no. No Shadow Weaver, I can do this.”

“Very well then. You are to begin immediately.”

“Immediately?”

“Yes. Is that a problem?” Shadow Weaver asked, glaring.

Decepsha scratched the back of her neck. She could feel her cheeks going flush. “It’s just that… That is, I was going to help Force Captain Lonnie with her orientation, and…” As she talked Decepsha could feel those pupilless white eyes burrowing into her. “... no. No problems, Shadow Weaver.”

“Good. You are dismissed,” Shadow Weaver stated. She turned back towards her monitors without giving Decepsha a chance to say another word. Decepsha did a half bow and quickly scurried out of the room. The door slammed behind her.

Shadow Weaver continued reading her monitor in the room, alone. After a moment she stopped, and let out a soft chuckle. “Poor Decepsha. You really thought you could come between them? Something that no amount of magic or space or time could accomplish? Foolish girl.”

“I do admire the confidence though.”

 


 

Twilight in Mystacor was a beautiful sight. Floating high in the sky allowed for the remaining wisps of daylight to rise around them from all sides. It was getting just dark enough for the street lanterns to begin flickering on, igniting into flames of soft greens and blues.

The pristine beauty of Mystacor always struck Adora. Being far above the rest of Etheria, the kingdom remained untouched by battle and war. Adora thought it was a weird sensation to be jealous of a place.

Adora and Glimmer had barely had time to dismount from Swift Wind before High Sorceress Castaspella appeared in front of them.

“Glimmer! Adora! Mr. Horsey!” Castaspella called out. She looked ecstatic to see them.

“The name’s Swift Wind… Your.. Highness? Your, Sorceress?” Swift Wind stammered.

“Just ‘Castaspella’ is fine,” she answered while at the same time scooping up Glimmer and Adora into a hug. “How is my favorite niece and favorite Princess of Power?!”

“We’re doing okay Aunt Casta!” Glimmer struggled to say as she was crushed in the hug. She finally managed to squirm out of it. “Actually, no. That’s not the truth,” Glimmer huffed.

The sorceress released Adora and gasped. “OH? What’s wrong?! How can your Aunt Casta help?”

Instead of a complicated explanation, Adora opted to simply pull up here sleeve and stick it out towards Castaspella.

“What on Etheria?!” Castaspella asked in a shout.

“Long story short, the She-Ra in me is acting up. And we’re not sure how to fix it,” Adora lamented.

“Oh,” Castaspella took a long look at the rash. She slowly waved her fingers over it. Adora would feel the tingling of her magic. “This is powerful magic. I know, it’s She-Ra, duh! But I can… Feel it. It’s so overwhelming! AH!” Castaspella quickly withdrew her hand from the rash and gave it a good shake.

“Aunt Casta!” Adora yelped. “I’m so sorry! Are you okay?!”

“Yes. Don’t worry about me! It was just, wow. That power’s intense. And in a volatile state.” Castaspella’s everlasting chipperness faded slightly. “I don’t know how I will be able to help, girls. I’m afraid that kind of magic may be beyond even the wisdom of Mystacor.”

“Maybe not Aunt Casta,” Glimmer said. “You may still be able to help us. We’re hoping that maybe you had information on the Grand Wizard Noah?” Glimmer asked, pleading face in full effect.

“Noah?” Castaspella cocked an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” Adora replied. “We have reason to believe that the last She-Ra may have tried to get his help when something similar happened to her. We were hoping that maybe he’d had left… Something about it.”

“Like a journal! Or maybe notes!” Glimmer offered.

Castaspella scratched her own cheek. “I’m so sorry girls. There’s nothing of Noah’s here.”

“How’s that possible?!” Glimmer exclaimed. “Wasn’t he the founder of Mystacor?”

“Yes, Glimmer dear. But he also studied a lot of dark magic. He was going a little mad when he was exiled from Mystacor.” Castaspella smirked. “Okay, maybe more than a ‘little’.”

Glimmer let out a deep growl of anguish. She grabbed her own hair and began tugging on it. “That’s just GREAT! He was our only lead!”

“It’s okay!” Adora assured her. “We’ll just… Think of something else! Who knows, maybe George and Lance can help. Or maybe your mom will have an idea or two!”

The invocation of Angella caused Castaspella to purse her lips. The sorceress sighed and waver her hands in the air. A book appeared in a puff of smoke. She began flipping the pages loudly until she got to the page she wanted.

“Ah-ha! Here it is!” Castaspella announced.

Both girls and Swift Wind gave her confused looks.

“Noah was exiled from Mystacor. But we’ve kept an eye on him ever since he left.”

“Wait,” Glimmer interjected. “How is that possible? Noah would be centuries old by now!”

Castaspella nodded. “Like I said, he was dabbling in dark magic. Immortality was the tip of the iceberg.” She looked Adora in the eyes and smiled. “I know where he is. But you have to PROMISE me that you’ll be careful. There’s no telling what mental state he’s even in nowadays.” Adora and Glimmer nodded excitedly. Castaspella took a deep breath. “He’s on Mystic Isle. A remote island far off the coast to the east.”

Glimmer jumped into her aunt to hug her. “Thank you so much Aunt Casta! We knew you wouldn’t let us down!”

“Now hold on, Glimmer! There’s a catch.” Glimmer pulled away from Castaspella enough to face her while she talked. “Mystic Isle won’t be easy. Noah’s set up the entire island as one big boobytrap for tresspassers. And what’s more, while his magic is teeming and seeping into every inch of the island, he also has protection spells all around the island. Meaning you won’t have access to any of your magic or powers.”

Swift Wind let out a whine. “How will I be able to get there?”

“You won’t,” Castaspella flatly answered. “Only way on or off the island is by a good, old fashioned boat. Which means you’d have to get a ship to take you there.”

Adora and Glimmer exchanged confident grins. They nodded at each other before Glimmer turned back to Castaspella. “That’s not going to be a problem Aunt Casta. We are, after all, honorary pirates.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Inside the Veiled Swans Inn was the Veiled Swans Tavern, the only bar in the only inn in the entire town. Even with the monopoly, business wasn’t exactly booming. The same seven people were sitting at the lacquered wooden bar that sat there every night. They were lit only by a single long tube light that sat buzzing overtop the shelves of alcohol. There were ten tables spaced throughout the tavern. A couple hazy halogen lights hung, casting barely enough light in the room. Three of the tables were filled with regulars: one had a middle aged couple; one had a group of three friends; and one had an elderly man in dirty overalls; all here at the tavern after a hard day’s work in the fields. Just like always. 

Except tonight the entire tavern was buzzing with tense excitement. Hushed whispers, stolen glances. Everyone wanted to look, but no one wanted to be seen staring. It was the table in the far, dark corner that had the tavern buzzing. A figure in a hooded cloak sat, leaning back in the chair, sipping on a cheap fizzy water. While the rest of the tavern didn’t want to make it obvious they were staring, the hooded figure didn’t have any such qualms. It was near impossible to see the figure’s features through the gloom of the tavern, but the way the their head turned, it was obvious where they were watching the tavern regulars.

After a few minutes a second hooded figure entered the room from the doorway that led into the inn. They made quick strides until they reached their hooded compatriot. There was a brief, hushed discussion between the two before they both stood and made their way towards the inn. Along the way they had to pass by the other seated patrons.

Just after the hooded figures passed by the old man in dirty overalls, the man heard a clinking sound. At his feet was a little sack. The figures seemed to not notice so the old man picked it up.

“Excuse me! I think you lost something!” the old man called out to them.

The original hooded figure, still holding their fizzy water, looked over their shoulder. The old man briefly had time to see a golden yellow eye wink at him before both figures continued on into the inn. Confused the man opened the sack, then quickly closed it again and slid it into his overalls pocket. Best not to be flashing leather bags of gold coins around in a place like this.

The two figures didn’t linger, they made their way quickly up the stairs to the inn and to the room that they had rented for the night. Just as soon as the door clicked closed Catra threw off her cloak with plenty of dramatic flair. She let her backpack slide off her onto the ground and had a long, satisfying stretch.

Bow was less dramatic, but no less enthusiastic about being able to dump his cloak and backpack for the evening.

“If I had to carry that pack any longer my back would have BROKEN!” Catra whined.

“Hey, you asked me to make sure we were prepared for everything!” Bow shot back. He currently stretching out his neck, which seemed to bring him a great deal of relief.

Catra let out a chuckle. “You got me there. Honestly I was surprised that we ended up needing the nets so soon.”

“But that was really heads up thinking!”

“Thanks!” Catra smiled. “A shame that the only thing really lightening our load though is our ever dwindling food supplies,” Catra remarked as she pulled out a bag. She grabbed a handful of the food inside and popped it into her mouth. On their first day of journeying, Bow had described it as a sort of puffed corn. They were coated with an orange powder that Bow had said was cheese dust. When Catra ask what cheese was Bow began crying uncontrollably, which was cute right up until it almost got them caught.

One of the side effects of eating them was the orange powder that got all over your fingers. For some reason Catra got a kick out of it. She licked each finger clean and resealed the bag.

“Maybe while we’re here we can see about getting more food supplies,” Bow suggested as he peered out the second floor room’s window. At the edge of town was vast swaths of farmland. Logic dictated that the Horde’s food had to come from somewhere. Even still, being in a town that was for the most part exceedingly normal, that was surrounded by farming, while being in the middle of Horde territory was something that Bow was having a hard time adjusting to.

First his friendship with Adora, and now his budding relationships with Catra and Scorpia had flipped everything Bow thought he knew about the Horde and who was good and who was evil. All these people were members of the Horde, yet they seemed to be relaxing after a long day of hard work, just like any normal person would. Although one of them had just became a whole lot richer.

Bow pulled his attention from the window and returned it to the room. It seemed Catra had already claimed the left cot. She was sitting crossed legged on the bed, with her magicat book and a notebook open in front of her. This seemed to be becoming a nightly ritual. The previous two nights ended with Catra reading her book, making notes about things she’ll want to ask Adora when she gets home and things she hopes the ruins of Half Moon can answer for her. Part of the ritual of the preceding nights had involved Bow asking questions in an effort to get to know magicats also. Catra had been more than happy to talk about it. She just seemed genuinely shocked, and touched, that Bow seemed to really care. Tonight though Bow thought he might try striking up a different line of questioning.

“So, what was that back there in the tavern?” Bow asked as he kicked off his boots and leaned back on his cot.

“Would you believe that I just dropped it and was way too lazy to walk back for it?” Catra asked, an air of hope in her voice. Bow grunted. Catra put her pencil down and sighed. She seemed more keen on glancing around the room than looking directly as Bow.

“Why am I getting the feeling that we’re not in Rift Hollow just because it’s the most direct route?” Bow asked, his words dripping with accusation.

Catra took a deep breath and slowly exhaled it. “His name is Kelpar. He’s Kyle’s grandfather. Kyle liked to check up on him when he could, make sure he’s okay. Now that we’re out of the Horde he’s not going to be able to do that anymore. Thought it’d be good to make sure the old man was taken care of.”

Out of nowhere Catra was wrapped up in a hug. She half-heartedly squirmed, all the while laughing.

“You big softy you!” Bow chirped.

“Bow what did I tell you? Two hug a day limit!”

“I know,” Bow softly responded.

“And what are you going to do for each time you go over that limit?”

“For each hug over the limit I gotta get you another sushi-I mean, suss-shee roll.”

“How many rolls does this hug make?”

“14,” Bow chuckled. “It IS pronounced sushi, by the way.”

“Yeah, well,” Catra began, her cheeks were going flush, “that’s how Adora told me it was pronounced. And if that’s what Adora thinks it’s called, then that’s what I’m going to call it.”

Bow let out a healthy laugh as he made his way back to his cot. He pulled the covers back and slipped in. “Heh, you’re a good girlfriend, Catra of Half Moon.” Catra didn’t have a verbal response to that. Instead a big, involuntary grin that exposed her sharp canines grew on her face while the rest of her face turned redder than the tomatoes out in the fields at the edge of town.

 


 

It was a little after two in the morning. Rift Hollow was far enough out from the Fright Zone that the glow of the moons actually shown through. That hazy moonlight poured in through the open window in Catra and Bow’s room, providing the only source of light while the two slept soundly, bundled up under the covers.

A few faint clicking noises bounced into the room from the door. On the fourth click the door creaked open. Three men, all middle aged, wearing dark clothing, and sporting varying lengths of thinning brown hair quietly swept into the room. One man moved to stand over the left cot, one over the right cot, while the third stood between them.

“Which one’s her?” the man over the right cot whispered.

“Just do ‘em both. Don’t want to take any chances,” the center man slowly growled. It seemed clear that he was the leader. The two men next to each cot pulled long, thick, sharp knives out of their coats. “On three.” the man in the center raised a closed fist. One finger lifted up. Two fingers lifted up.

Suddenly the room was illuminated by a lamp in the corner of the room, sitting on a table next to a small chair.

“You really suck at this sneaking thing,” Catra said, perched in the chair.

The covers on the right cot flung up into the man’s face.

“Yeah, REALLY suck at this!” Bow hollered as he hopped to his feet from the right cot to punch the man just as he was pulling the covers off of him.

Catra immediately flew into action, slamming into the leader in the middle, which sent them both tumbling over the left cot. The left cot man who was already standing there had to jump out of the way to not get bowled over. Catra immediately shot a leg out at him, knocking the wind out of him. She rounded back to the first man and shoved him back to the ground.

“Hey, I know you! You’re the one that led that protest here last year!” Catra exclaimed. “Here to renegotiate?”

“I’m here to make you pay for what you did to us!” He yelled. “Can’t hide behind a Force General badge this time!”

The man tried to push Catra off of him, with little success. “Word gets around I see,” Catra said. “I’d think you’d be happy, I thought you hated being a part of the Horde.” 

The left cot man regained himself and charged Catra. She jumped just as he was on top of her. He slammed into her just right to send her toppling back over the cot.

“We do hate it,” the third man growled. “But we hate you just as much!”

The right cot man was still focused on Bow, and losing. Suddenly there was a banging on the door. The whole room stopped and turned its attention to the door.

“Hey! What’s going on in there?! This is Horde Security Officer Norn! Open the door this instant!”

Catra didn’t hesitate. She leapt into the air and crashed into both of the men, legs first. They went stumbling into the wall. She pounced up to her feet and scrambled to collect the few things that had been unpacked. Within just 40 seconds both her and Bow were able to have their packs strapped to their backs while still fending off the men. Security Officer Norn gave another warning.

Bow grabbed Catra’s arm and nodded at the window. Catra wasn’t convinced it was a good idea, but decided to trust Bow. They ran to the window together and leapt. Once outside Bow twisted and shot the rope arrow into the building. Catra latched onto him and the two swung to the ground with still considerable momentum, but overall safely.

They wasted no time. Within minutes they were hurrying through fields of corn and other vegetables at the outskirts of Rift Hollow. They ran for a solid ten minutes, until they were sufficiently far enough from Rift Hollow so that the village was a small, dark blob against the horizon. Satisfied that there was enough space between them and the village, the two took a moment to gather themselves. Bow was buckled over, hands on his knees, gasping for breath. Catra was slightly winded, but recovered quickly.

Fatigue wasn’t bothering Catra, she was in excellent shape, and her magicat body was designed for speed and distance. No, what was bothering Catra was something else. She crouched down and snarled angrily at the ground, slamming her claws into the dirt.

“Whoa! Hey, what’s the matter?” Bow huffed between breaths. “We didn’t forget anything did we?”

“No, we didn’t forget anything,” Catra muttered. Her vision was transfixed on the claw marks dug into the dirt she had just caused. “I know what that was all about.”

“Good! Because those jerks just messed up the most restful sleep we had in three nights and I’d hate to think that it was for no reason,” Bow remarked. His breath was finally normalizing. He stretched and loosened up his neck, preparing for the long journey in front of them..

 “This is my fault,” Catra mumbled. “I wasn’t exactly nice to Rift Hollow when I was the Force General.” Catra slid down to her knees and let out a little laugh. “I’m probably really dumb, thinking I can outrun my past. Put that person behind me.”

A hand appeared on Catra’s shoulder, spurring her to look up at her travelling companion, who was sporting a giant, oversized grin. “You’re not running from it. You’re walking beyond it. Every day. Catra, I’m not a fool. I know what kind of person ‘Force Captain Catra’ was. What kind of person early ‘Force General Catra’ was. She didn’t give old men free money. She didn’t cherish gifts, or mispronounce things just because it made her think of her girlfriend. She wouldn’t have a girlfriend. And she certainly wouldn’t be my friend,” Bow finished by extending his hand out. Catra regarded it for a moment before smiling.

“Just for the record, that was like, a word hug,” Catra said as Bow hoisted her to her feet. “So that makes 15 suss-shee rolls when we get back.”

Bow let out a big puff of air before laughing. “I’m going to owe Mermista a HUGE favor.”

 


 

Rogelio was rummaging around a giant tool cart that came up to his chest. The burly lizard man made a few grunts.

“Um, I think it had a purple handle?” Kyle answered. He was lying on his back, up to his waist into the standing control console. A mess of wires hung just above him. Rogelio continued sifting through the cart drawers for a moment before making an exciting grunting noise and pulled out a tool that looked somewhat like a purple handled wrench, but with a bendable shaft. He set it in Kyle’s outstretched arm.

“Thanks Sweetie!” Kyle chirped back. Immediately the sound of metal grinding together echoed out into the courtyard.

Pinks and pale yellows swept across the morning sky above Dryl. A few clouds were dotted here and there, but otherwise it was a clear day. Rogelio stared up at the clouds and let out a satisfied snort of air. Fresh air. That first night in Dryl it had almost been hard to breath. The air smelled “off”. It took him hours to realize that it was because the air wasn’t drenched in grease and the smell of overheating machines. By the end of the first night he’d decided that he could get use to this new air.

The standing control console that the boys were working on was at the edge of the main courtyard nearest to Dryl Castle. At the opposite end was Entrapta, her pigtails extending her up fully some 15 feet into the air. She was working on electronics in a little metal box atop a pole. Scorpia and Emily stood near her, looking up nervously as the pigtails were balanced on their tips.

“Screwdriver, three eigth inches, flathead,” Entrapta barked out. Scorpia dropped to a crouch and began sifting through the open toolbox. After a few seconds of unconfidently moving the tools around in the box, Emily reached down with her pincer and handed the tool to Scorpia.

“Thanks Em,” Scorpia smiled as the robot beeped excitedly. Scorpia rose up and handed the tool to a strand of hair that carried it the rest of the way. Entrapta continued tinkering for a few minutes, then closed up the metal box and lowered herself down.

“That’s the last of them! If all goes right this network of sensors that I have deemed the Clack Back we should be able to monitor Clack’s every move while invisible!” Entrapta was talking fast. Her excitement could barely be contained.

“Um, ‘Trapta,” Scorpia put up a claw trying to get Entrapta’s attention. She was doing her best mask the slight nervousness in her tone. “When, exactly was the last time you slept?”

The Princess of Dryl scurried up to Scorpia on her pigtails and excitedly shook her. “Who cares about sleep! Do you realize how exciting this?! We’re going to be able to track things we can’t see!” Entrapta released Scorpia and began trekking across the courtyard back to the control console. Scorpia quickly packed up the toolbox and her and Emily jogged to catch up.

After a few minutes the command console was finished and up and running. Emily was standing near the edge of the courtyard holding a checkered flag. Little Clack was next to her. Entrapta had him open, giving him a last minute diagnostic.

“Now Remember, try to make each lap through the courtyard maze different. It won’t work as well if it’s just having to recognize the same pattern,” Entrapta softly coached Clack. She closed him up and patted the bot on the top of his dome.

Entrapta took control of the command console. A small map of the courtyard flickered on the side monitor. Clack was a little red dot on it, sitting patiently at the edge of courtyard. Entrapta gave a once over of console. 

A mini-recorder slid out of her mass of hair. “Clack Back Detection System, Test 1 Log. Everything seems to be working optimally. Assistant Kyle and I have put in nonstop work since returning home to Dryl yesterday…”

“Um, Entrapta?” Kyle called out. The purple haired princess turned to look at Kyle, who was standing with Scorpia and Rogelio a few feet behind her. “Um, we got back to Dryl three days ago. This is actually the fourth day now.”

The entire crew behind Entrapta smiled hopefully at her. She huffed and returned to her recorder. “For some reason Assistant Kyle chooses odd times for humor. I do not understand the joke. Regardless, I have high hopes for this test!” She clicked off the recorder.

“Remember Clack, go when Emily waves you to,” Entrapta called out. “Emily, whenever you are ready!” she said with an enthusiastic thumbs up. 

The robot turned her full attention to her smaller “brother”. Emily unfurled the flag and smoothed it out. She held it up in the air. Everyone stared with bated breath. Then, the flag dropped.

Clack immediately disappeared. The dot on the monitor showed him moving in a straight line quickly. Then according to the dot he turned quickly. Entrapta’s eyes were lighting up. Everyone else had gathered closer, and were growing more and more excited. The red dot zig-zagged across a lawn, then up another aisle. Then it disappeared from the map.

“WHAT?!” Entrapta growled. She banged on the control console, despite how useless that was. The dot reappeared after a few seconds, but only remained on the screen for a couple more seconds before disappearing again. This time, it never came back. Entrapta glared at the monitor, her grip at the edges of the console was tightening with each second.

Finally, after another two minutes, Clack reappeared, far away from where the dot had last put him. The little robot looked impressed with himself until he caught sight of Entrapta. Emily came up and took Clack by the pincer and gently led him away, giving the humans their space.

“All in all though, not a bad first run!” Scorpia said, breaking the silence. She attempted to give two claws up.

“Not bad?!” Entrapta yelled, still staring at the console monitor.

“That’s what tests are for, right?” Kyle asked. “See how it goes and go on from there?”

“NO, Assistant Kyle! We cannot afford to ‘see how it goes’!” Entrapta barked. “Don’t you get it? There could be a Horde tank right in front of us. A Horde tank could be sitting at the door of Bright Moon. They could be rolling through Plumeria as we speak! And we wouldn’t even KNOW!” Entrapta yelled as she tore up the center of the command console from the ground and flung it indiscriminately towards the courtyard. A purple mass of hair shot out and knocked over the tool cart, sending tools everywhere. A heaving Entrapta stomped away.

For a moment, Rogelio, Kyle, and Scorpia stood there, looking bewildered. Scorpia finally took a deep breath. “Alright,” she said. Scorpia glanced around. “If you two don’t mind,” Scorpia waved at the wreckage around them. Kyle and Rogelio nodded.

Turned out Entrapta hadn’t gone that far. Near the edge of the courtyards was a patch of grass that sloped down slightly towards the castle walls. Entrapta was sitting, knees pulled into her chest, arms wrapped around her knees tightly, on the crest of the hill. Her chin was resting on her knees while bundles of hair drooped all around her.

Scorpia appeared next to her, holding two fizzy waters. Without actually looking up, Entrapta took the one that was being handed to her. The scorpion woman sat down in a cross legged position just next to her. Together they stared straight ahead, taking in the full glory of the plum colored metal walls that surrounded the castle.

“That’s a good wall. Sturdy looking. I bet there’s some kind of security measure built into it too, knowing you,” Scorpia remarked. She took a sip of her fizzy water, then made a show of how refreshing it was by smacking her lips together and letting out a long “aaah”.

“Every segment of wall houses a laser turret, flamethrower, and net launcher,” Entrapta quietly listed off.

“Hah! Knew it,” Scorpia bumped Entrapta with her shoulder. The pigtailed princess continued sulking. Scorpia scooted closer. Together they watched the wall for a few minutes.

“My legacy is going to be getting everyone I care about killed,” Entrapta finally muttered. Somehow Entrapta managed to pull herself into a tighter ball.

The large scorpion woman next to her scooted even closer and gave Entrapta a side hug. “Your legacy is going to be that of a brilliant woman who changed the course of progress on Etheria. 

“And maybe also as the woman who liked shoving guns into walls.”

Despite herself, Entrapta let out a chuckle. Strands of purple hair wrapped themselves around Scorpia.

“I know how important getting this Clack Trap-”

“-Clack Back.”

“... Clack Back system up and running is. And you’ll figure it out. But not in this condition. You’re just wearing yourself out.”

“... Has it really been four days now since we got back?” Entrapta wearily asked. Scorpia nodded. “Really?! Four days home and I haven’t visited Perfuma once?! She is going to be less than pleased! I need to go see her, right now,” Entrapta started trying to scramble to her feet, but Scorpia held her in place.

“You’re in no condition for a field trip, ‘Trapta! I know you want to see her. But you’re no use to her, or us, or your work, in this condition. Perfuma will understand. She knows the monumental task you have in front of you.” Scorpia lumbered back up to her feet. “What you need right now is some sleep. Maybe a late morning power nap.” She extended her free claw out. Entrapta took it and was pulled up with ease.

“Thank you,” Entrapta smiled. The two began strolling back towards the castle. “When we finish the Clack Back I need to show you all around Etheria now that you’re free from the Horde.”

“Ooh, I’d love that. There was this particularly good finger food that they had at the Princess Prom. Maybe we can visit wherever those are made,” Scorpia beamed.

“We’ll make it a finger food quest!” Entrapta declared.

 


 

Late afternoon light peeked into Mayor Mattis’ office. The window was open, letting in a warm breeze that rustled the stacks of paper on the desk. Mattis sat, hunched over in his chair, working diligently at the business of Nitch.

A faint whistling noise caught his attention. He looked up just in time to see an arrow zoom in through the window and plant itself into the wall. Mattis jumped up and rushed to the window. Nothing out of the ordinary could be seen. His scanning of the outside was cut short by the sound of a click that came from the arrow. Mattis wheeled around to see that a piece of paper was hanging from a compartment on the arrow. The note was short and to the point. Mattis read it twice before quickly stuffing it into his pocket. He pulled the arrow out of the wall and smirked.

Mattis returned to his desk to finish the paperwork he was in the middle of. About an hour later he had finished and found himself wandering through the back alleys of his little town. The alleyway between two metal factories that spilled into another alleyway between the factories and other buildings behind them was a well worn dirt path, with various debris discarded from the factories littered about. On the wall in the back alley was a graffiti tag in the shape of a dragon head with the words “Dragon Smooches was here” haphazardly sprayed below it.

“We didn’t do that, by the way,” a voice behind Mattis said. He whipped around.

“Catra?!” Mattis yelped. “And… Bow, right?”

Bow snorted. “Yeah, that’s right.”

“Good to see you Matty,” Catra said. She slowly began approaching the mayor. “I hope it’s good to see us to. I know a fugitive and a Rebellion soldier probably aren’t the kind of things that you’d be excited to find in your town when you’re trying to keep it running smoothly.”

It took only a few seconds for Mattis to make his judgement. He ran up to Catra and wrapped his arms around her. “Gulp! Right, definitely Scorpia’s friend.”

“How’s she doing? She okay?” Mattis immediately asked. Catra took the opportunity to squirm out of the hug.

“Yeah, she’s not in a Horde jail anymore, she’s going great.”

Mattis nodded. “That’s good to hear.” He couldn’t help but notice that Bow seemed to be glaring at him. Mattis decided to focus on Catra. “So, I’m guessing you didn’t go through all that trouble just to pop in and say hi.”

“I need your help,” Catra stated, with all the seriousness she could.

“Or more specifically, I need your Gram’s help.”

 


 

Mattis’ house was pretty modest, for the mayor at least. It had faded blue siding, and a gable roof. Single floor, four bedrooms, wooden floors. Overall a good looking house, although it was showing its age. Not that Bow and Catra minded. After three days of sleeping on the ground, hiding out in caves, wading through swamps, and rickety old cots that led to attempted murder, Mattis’ house was a downright mansion.

At the moment Bow and Catra were sitting together on a pretty comfortable couch in Mattis’ living room. Mattis’ Gram was relaxing in a big comfy rocking chair, half asleep with crochet needles and yarn in her lap.

Catra had her book out and was flipping through it with purpose.

“So, we just wait for his Gram to recognize you?” Bow whispered.

“Pretty much,” Catra responded.

“Do you really think she knows how to get into Half Moon? I mean, knowing what magicats are is one thing, remembering how to get into a secluded kingdom in the mountains is something else entirely.”

“She knew the Empress’ name. She acted like she was actually familiar with the Empress herself. She’s our best lead.”

Bow sighed and leaned back. “Ya know, you did tell me the plan. Now that we’re here though, I’m a little skeptical.”

“Well, there’s always Plan B,” Catra said. She looked up at Bow with a devious grin. “Hiking through the Scorched Mountains until we find it.”

A chuckle escaped Bow. “For some reason I’m not clamoring to trek through somewhere called the ‘Scorched Mountains’.”

“Nor should you, that place is treacherous, to say the least,” Mattis interjected as he entered the room. He was carrying a plain metal teapot, with four tea cups stacked up in his other hand. They were set out on the coffee table and one by one, Mattis carefully filled each up with a very floral smelling tea. It caught Catra’s nose immediately, giving her the urge to open her eyes just as wide as she could.

Catra took one of the full cups and gave it a sniff. “What IS that?” She took a few cautious slurps before drinking the rest of it.

“Mistdew Tea,” Mattis answered. He carefully handed one of the cups to his gram. “It helps with mental clarity. And if you need my Gram here to remember anything about magicats, she’s going to need to be as focused as possible.”

“Did she ever say anything to you about them?” Catra asked, taking a few more sips of tea.

“She said a lot of things,” Mattis sighed. “Always thought most of it was gibberish.”

Mattis’ Gram spent the next twenty minutes slowly sipping her tea between bouts of crocheting. Catra was doing her best to be patient, but judging from how many times Bow had to put his hand on her knee to get her to stop bouncing it, she wasn’t being very successful at it. She had to admit though, that tea was as advertised. Her mind felt crisp, clear. In this state the risk of Catra’s plan suddenly seemed so severe. If they got captured. If Shadow Weaver got her hands on her or Bow. Catra shuddered. This plan had to work. She didn’t know what she was going to do if it didn’t.

Finally, once the tea was gone, and Gram seemed to be crocheting at a steady, confident pace, Mattis knelt down next to her. “Hey, Gram?” Mattis was able to get his Gram’s attention easily. 

Gram looked up at her grandson and gave him a warm smile. “Matty, you’re home early today. Is everything alright?” Her voice was soft, but broke every few words.

“Yes Gram, everything’s fine. In fact, I have friends over.” Mattis directed her attention to Bow and Catra. Gram gasped at the sight of Catra.

“A magicat!” Gram yelped. She started to attempt to climb out of her chair. She was so excited, she was making it difficult for herself until Mattis helped her. The elder woman shuffled over to Catra and ran her hand down the catgirl’s face. “You look just like her, except you don’t have her lime green eyes. They were a sight to behold.”

Catra collected Gram’s hand from her face and clasped it between her hands. “Gram, my name is Catra. I need your help.”

“Oh dear me, I don’t know how these old bones could help anyone.”

“I’m looking for Half Moon. We have to find a way in. Please, can you think of anything?” Catra softly asked. Gram scrunched up her face, appearing to be lost in thought. After a moment she began to stumble. Bow and Catra caught her and guided her to sit between them. Gram leaned back on the couch and buried her head into the back of it. “Gram, please!” Catra pleaded. “I need your help!”

“You need to teleport into Half Moon, young Catra,” Gram mumbled.

“What?” Catra twisted around so that she was kneeling over Gram on the couch. “No, that’s no good. The teleporter system was destroyed!”

“No…. The Glenmar one was…. Intentionally disabled. The rest… Still.... Wor-” Gram said as she trailed off to sleep.

“Can we wake her back up?” Catra asked.

“Won’t help,” Mattis said. He had wandered over to his window and began peering out it, seemingly lost in deep thought. “If you wake her up now she’ll be even more disoriented than usual. We need to let her rest.”

Throwing her hands up over her face, Catra flopped back down onto the couch. “DAMMIT!” she huffed. “NOW what? I really didn’t want to actually have to wander around the Scorched Mountains aimlessly.”

“We may not have to!” Bow said. “Catra, you heard her, most of the teleporter system is still working, including the one in Half Moon! So all we have to do is go to this Glenmar, FIND the teleporter station, and fix it.” Bow jumped up and stood proudly. “It’s a good thing you brought the Rebellion’s Chief Technician and Weapons Master with you!”

Catra smirked at Bow through her spread fingers over her face. “You know technically that’s Entrapta again now, right?”

It seemed as if Bow had been punched. “Yeah, well, I guess you’re just going to have to settle for number two.”

“Hey.” Catra scrambled up to her feet and gave Bow a playful punch on the arm. “You know I’m just giving you a hard time, right? I really, really appreciate you being here with me.” Catra raised her hand up slightly over her head. Bow was almost on the verge of tears as he enthusiastically high fived Catra. “So now we just need to figure out HOW to get to the teleporter station in Glenmar.”

“What does your book say?” Bow asked.

“I don’t think Adora knows. It just says that the Whispering Woods and Glenmar stations were buried far underground.” Catra scooped up the book, and started flipping through it, just in case she missed something.

“I may know,” Mattis said after a moment. He was still staring out the window. With a heavy sigh he turned around. Catra snapped her book shut so that she could give her full attention. “I’m sure, when you were still Force General, you may have heard about a group of bandits that were causing problems in Glenmar.”

“Yeah. We never were able to catch most of them. The couple that we did catch just kept going on about how ‘the Bandit King will make us pay’!”

Bow got a laugh out of that. “The Bandit King??” Catra started laughing with him.

Mattis sighed. “That wasn’t my idea! That was a drunk joke that someone said that stuck.”

Suddenly Bow and Catra stopped laughing.

“Wait,” Catra narrowed her eyes and stared intently at Mattis. “YOU’RE the Bandit King?!” Mattis nodded. “But, you’re a government official. WHY?”

“The same reason you’re standing here in my living room as a fugitive! Catra, most of us live in the Horde because we don’t have a choice. But Glenmar. They LOVE being in the Horde. A town of cowards. You think I have any loyalty to the Horde? After everything they’ve done to my people?”

“Your people?” Catra inquired.

“Did Scorpia tell you about why my family was banished?”

“Yeah, your family told her about what the Horde really did to the Scorpio clan.”

“Here’s what not even Scorpia knows though. Why my family would even know what the Horde did. Truth is, I’m Scorpia’s cousin. I’m only a quarter Scorpio, but I’ve seen what they did first hand. My grandfather only has one leg, because he tried running away when the Horde arrived. The noble class of the Scorpios mostly got spared, put up in lavish houses to placate them. The rest of us weren’t so lucky. We’re a subclass to the Horde, not worthy of respect.” Mattis started rubbing the small of his back. He appeared to be on the verge of tears. “Obviously, only being a quarter, I don’t have most of the Scorpio traits. I did have a tail though. My parents made the decision when I was very young. They thought that without it I could pass as a normal human. Have something of a normal life.” Mattis’ eyes narrowed. “I still remember. Removing a tail isn’t something you go to a clinic for. No. That’s back alley work. Not much in the way of anesthesia there.”

Mattis was cut off from his seeming rambling when Catra grabbed him by the shoulder. “I’m sorry,” Catra murmured. Mattis patted Catra’s hand and cleared his throat.

“Anyway. Yes, I’m the ‘Bandit King’. Which means, I know all the underground passages under Glenmar. At the end of one of them is a door, painted pitch black, with no locks, no handles. We tried blowing it up once, to see what was inside. C4 had no affect on it. If there’s a teleporter station under Glenmar, I’m guessing it’d be behind that door.”

“Well I guess we’re going to Glenmar then,” Catra grinned.

Out of nowhere Bow slammed into Mattis with a powerful hug. “You’re her cousin ?! That is just the BEST news!”

 


 

At the outskirts of the town of Glenmar was a small park, or at least, what passed for a park in the Horde. It was a patch of worn out grass with a single bench, a small water fountain, and large boulder with the face of Hordak chiseled into it.

Water in the fountain shimmered under the moonlight. It was late at night, only a couple hours before dawn. Mattis, Catra, and Bow quietly crept into the park. It was the easiest part of being around Glenmar.

“We had to suspend our runs,” Mattis lowly spoke as they made their way to the fountain. “The Horde security presence was getting too hot around here.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Catra mumbled.

“Hey, you were just doing your job. No hard feelings,” Mattis quipped back. The got to the fountain. In the middle was a small statue of what looked like a dancing bull. Water spilled out of its mouth. Mattis leaned over the fountain and grabbed one of the bull’s horns. Pulling the horning made a small clicking sound.

Catra leaned over the fountain and glanced into the water. “Okay, what did that do?”

Mattis grinned and made his way over to the giant boulder. There was a tiny sliver of a crack in the boulder that hadn’t been there before. He pulled at it, revealing a stairwell that led down. They stepped inside the stairwell, making sure to close the door behind them. Once they did everything went pitch black until Bow and Mattis clicked on flashlights.

“Ow, I could see better without those,” Catra grumbled.

“Sorry Catra, not all of us are so lucky,” Bow shot back.

The stairs went down a good twenty feet under ground. At the bottom was a small chamber that led into a stone paved passage. Mattis chuckled. “A fugitive, bandit, and rebel go wandering in the sewers. Got the makings of a good joke there.” Bow and Catra laughed as they followed Mattis into the tunnels. “Fun fact, back before the Horde, or Rebellion, Glenmar was a town full of moonshiners. These tunnels were how they transported their illicit goods around and out of the town.”

“Wait,” Catra stopped in her tracks. “These are the moonshine tunnels?”

“Yeah, why?” Mattis asked.

Suddenly Catra grabbed both Mattis and Bow. “Turn ‘em off! Turn ‘em off!” she barked. They both fumbled around with their lights as Catra pulled them back around the corner into the stairwell chamber. They stood in the pitch black, silent, with Catra’s hands over both Bow’s and Mattis’ mouths, for what felt like two minutes. They couldn’t see it, but Catra’s ears were twitching wildly in all directions, until finally settling on one. A light could be faintly made out, whatever was causing it was still a couple hallways away.

“Is someone there?” A voice called out. “This is Horde Security, if you’re there I demand you show yourself!”

Catra finally let their mouths go. “Here’s a fun fact for you,” Catra muttered, “I’m about to get caught by people that are here under my order. Lonnie and Rogelio figured out that this was probably how the bandits were avoiding capture, so I authorized a security presence in the tunnels.”

“I really wish you mentioned that before we set out,” Mattis sighed.

“How was I supposed to know which tunnels we were going to be in?”

“Catra, how many sets of tunnels do you think run under a town?” Bow asked.

“I don’t know! I’m not a city planner, Bow!” Catra growled. “Okay, there should only be around four guards here. Where’s the door?”

“Far north end of the town. Less than ten minutes away, if you know where you’re going down here,” Mattis answered. “Luckily for us, I do.”

The light was getting considerably brighter. It had to be just around the corner. The Horde soldier called out another warning. Catra could hear the crackle of the powered up stun baton.

“I’m going to go say hi to our friend,” Catra whispered. “Bow, be prepared to back me up. Mattis, as soon as we get around this one I want you to make a run for the door. We’ll follow you.” The two boys nodded, which only Catra could see.

The Horde solder was in the hallway right in front of the stairwell chamber. Light filled the hallway. Catra snorted in a deep breath through her nose, then casually stepped out into the tunnel. “Hey what’s up?!” Catra said in the more chipper voice she could muster.

“Er, Force General?” the solder stammered. They were covered head to toe in Horde armor. The soldier lowered their weapon at the sight of Catra. “Wait, you’re not the-” the soldier began, but their hesitation had been enough for Catra’s superior reflexes to get the jump on them. She yanked the baton from the soldier’s hands and kicked out, sending the soldier stumbling back. Catra jammed the baton into the soldier’s stomach. A few zaps later and the soldier collapsed onto the floor.

“Now!” Catra yelled out. Mattis and Bow ran out of the tunnel. Mattis had his light pointed directly forward while Bow was carrying his bow with an arrow at the ready. Catra, still clutching the stun baton, followed.

They zigged and zagged and jogged through a maze of tunnels. For a few minutes it seemed like they would be in the clear. Then a soldier appeared out of a side tunnel. Bow instinctively raised his bow and shot it. The arrow exploded into a net just in front of the soldier, taking them down, but not in time to stop them from hitting the alarm button on their walkie talkie. A siren began screaming out, bouncing off all the walls of the maze. The group pushed on as fast as they could. Finally they came to the small hallway that led to the dead end room that housed the door.

Catra adjusted the setting on the stun baton. “I’ll hold them off while you figure out how to get through that door,” Catra said as she ran back to the edge of the small hallway, and hunkered down.

"A locked door? HAH! That won't be a problem." Bow slipped off his backpack and began rummaging through it. After a moment he fished out a multitool. Mattis was shining his light on the door. It glistened in the light. A black slab that sparkled. Bow ran his hand across it. “What the?”

“I did mention that it had no locks or handles,” Mattis offered.

“But I figured it’d have something. A panel, a keypad, maybe even just something that could have been pried off to see the circuitry underneath. This is just a solid sheet of metal built into a wall!” Bow felt around the wall itself. Hoping for a hidden switch. Or lever. Or anything really. He gave the wall itself a good push. “We could blow up the wall itself maybe, but even that seems really sturdy.”

“We tried blowtorching through it once. That’s no ordinary rock there,” Mattis said.

“Um, Catra?!” Bow yelled out. Catra scampered back.

“How’s it going?” she excitedly asked. Bow simply pointed at the metal door.

“You want the good news or bad news first?” Bow asked.

“Bad news?”

“I have NO idea how to unlock this thing. There’s nothing to hack, nothing to pick, nothing to dismantle. Apparently we can’t blow our way through it and we can’t burn our way through it. NONE of that seems normal!”

Catra sighed. “And what’s the good news?!”

“There isn’t any! I was hoping to think of something on the fly but I couldn’t!” Bow grumbled.

“This is NOT how this trip ends!” Catra said with a scowl. She made her way over to the door and glared at it. “You stupid door, let us in!” she growled as she slammed her fist into it. “Huh?!” Catra gasped. While pressed against the door, the area beneath Catra’s fist began faintly glowing orange. Catra quickly pulled it away.

“Well that’s new,” Mattis said.

Bow grabbed Catra’s hand and pulled it until her hand was pressed against the door. The door around her hand glowed orange and vibrated. Then the entire door seemed to shimmer and melt away, revealing a room on the other side that was lit up with blow glowing lights. The three glanced at each other then rushed through. The door reformed behind them.

“Awesome, I got us in!” Bow quipped. Catra glared at him. He smirked back. “What? I’m technically right.”

The room was circular, with a large platform surrounded by pillars in the center of it. The pillars were covered in glyphs from an old language that were glowing blue. The wall was lined with the same kind of glyphs and glowed. Just next to the platform was a raised console. 

Cut wires at the bottom of the console immediately caught Bow’s eye. “This has to be why this station went down.” He knelt down and began examining and tinkering. 

“Gram said that the station was taken down intentionally,” Mattis said. Him and Catra were idly wandering around the room. “Why on Etheria would they want to do that?” he wondered.

“To save Bright Moon,” Catra answered. Bow stopped working and stood up. Catra gave him a sad smile then returned to looking around the room. “This system was an expressway between the two kingdoms. When it was obvious that the battle for Half Moon was lost, the Empresses wanted to make sure that the Horde couldn’t use this to invade Bright Moon so one of their last orders were to make sure the system was taken down. This did the trick.”

To add to the drama of Catra’s statement, as soon as she finished it Bow pressed a button on the console, and the entire teleporter lit up and began making a whirring noise.

“They could have just destroyed the whole thing, but they didn’t,” Bow began. “I think that whoever did it was hoping that someday someone would come along looking for Half Moon. Someone who could get into this room. Someone who was looking for their home,” Bow said as he waved his hand at the teleporter.

Catra stopped and looked up at the teleporter. The tips of the pillars were glowing yellow. “Home,” Catra said, breathless.

Just then Bow appeared next to her. “Catra of Half Moon, it’s time to go home,” he said, smiling wide. Bow extended his hand out from his side. After a moment Catra took his hand into her own. Together they climbed up onto the teleporter platform. “Hey Mattis, care to do the honors?”

Mattis nodded and made his way to the console. “Also,” Bow called out, “the screen up on the console should let you scan your hand into the system. This way you can get back in here if you need to.”

“Thanks Bow,” Mattis said. He pressed his hand to the console. He felt a tingling warmth under his hand for a few seconds before the word “success” popped up on the screen.

“And Mattis,” Catra yelled from the platform, “when you get home you’ll find something on your coffee table.” Mattis cocked his head at her and raised an eyebrow. “Guard schedules and deployment maps for all the Horde soldiers in the area. And also, some floor plans for some of the outposts.”

Catra smiled to herself. “You’re right, most of us that grew up in the Horde didn’t do so by choice. It’s easy to lose hope that there’d ever be anything else. I think those kids could use a folk hero. And what could be better than a bandit, that’s also a king?”

“Thank you. And when you get back to the Rebellion, let them know that there are people here rooting for them. Fighting for the same cause,” Mattis said. “Say hi to Scorpia for me!” Bow and Catra nodded at him. With the press of a few buttons Catra and Bow disappeared in a swirl of golden light.

 


 

Clack excitedly sat at the edge of the court yard. The morning light sparkled on his shiny exterior. Emily was rubbing him down with a towel, buffing out any smudges. Just to the robots’ left was the rebuilt standing control console. Entrapta was at the helm, her hands and one tendril working the console while another tendril was holding a glass of fizzy water. Her audience was once again Scorpia, Rogelio, and Kyle.

“Clack Back Detection System, Test 4 Log,” Entrapta began dictating into her recorder. “After a particularly promising third test last night, I am excited for the prospect of today’s test. The nap that I was forced to take lasted six hours, which is weird because I thought I set an alarm for one hour, but now my alarm clock seems to be missing. I must investigate that further. Luckily while I was asleep Assistant Kyle came up with some promising formulas that led to a particularly disastrous second test, but the direction of those formulas were vital in where we’ve gotten to now. Assistant Kyle continues to prove his value.”

Everyone, including Kyle, especially Kyle, waited patiently for the next inevitable statement that would undermine Entrapta’s compliment. She glanced back at her audience, then clicked the recorder off.

“Emily!” Entrapta hollered. “Is Clack ready?” Emily gave something approximating a thumbs up with her pincers. Entrapta turned back to her audience. She smiled at the sight of Kyle, who was almost in tears. “Everyone ready?” The whole group nodded. Entrapta turned back to the console. “Any time, Emily!”

The robot pulled out her flag again and wasted no time waving it. Clack shot off, turning invisible immediately. Again he was represented by a red dot on the screen. The dot plowed forward, then turned sharply. The red dot suddenly reversed course but zig zagged around its original path. The red dot took a couple more erratic laps. With each one the expression on Entrapta’s face brightened. Finally the red dot zoomed at Entrapta’s position. According to the screen, the dot came to a stop just a couple feet directly in front of the console. Entrapta slowly made her way around and reached her arm out. Her hand touched firmly against metal as Clack reappeared.

“It worked!” Scorpia screamed. She charged at Entrapta, who was just standing there, staring at Clack with a look of shock on her face. Scorpia slammed into her and hoisted her into the air. Scorpia kept a tight hold of Entrapta as she lowered her back to the ground, just in time for Kyle and Rogelio to envelope them in a group hug. Even Emily and Clack joined in on the group hug. Entrapta was in the center of the hug, tears streaming down her face.

“We did it,” Entrapta mumbled. Her hair slithered through cracks in the hug and wrapped themselves around everyone they could. “We did it,” Entrapta repeated. “We actually did it.

“We’re going to be able to save everyone.”

 


 

The teleporter had delivered Bow and Catra to a room similar to the Glenmar station, only this room’s walls were infinitely nicer. Beyond the teleporter station was a spiral staircase that went up for a while. Catra was scampering up the staircase with ease, but Bow had fallen behind.

“Come on, slowpoke!” Catra shot at How.

“Right… Right behind you Catra,” Bow stammered. He did his best to keep up with his overly excited friend.

At the top of the stairs was another door. It was rather ornate, with gold laced carvings of cats and decorative spirals. A few wisps of light slithered through the door, illuminating all the dust in the air.

“Ready?” Bow asked. Catra nodded enthusiastically and threw the doors open. Catra scurried into the center of what looked to be a throne room. Her mouth was slightly agape as the impressive sight. The ceiling was some twenty feet up. At one end was two thrones atop a marbled dais that was butted up against the wall. Behind the thrones was a stained glass window that rose up to the ceiling. It was cracked in a few places, but still intact. It seemed to be some sort of cat goddess. Catra seemed mesmerized by it until Bow started lightly tapping her on the shoulder.

“Uuuum, Catra?” Bow said. She turned to look at her friend, who was staring at the wall. Catra followed his line of sight to a giant painting, hanging on the far wall by the throne room doors. “Is that… The royal family?”

It took Catra a moment to respond to Bow, she was too transfixed on the painting. “Who else would have their picture hanging in the throne room?” The painting was that of a family. On the right, holding their bundled kitten, was a dark furred magicat with hints of calico coloring on her neck. She had a striking mane of gold hair that was pinned under a crown. Her left eye was a golden yellow, and her right one a bright turquoise blue. The figure on the left was slightly taller, with neat, swept back shoulder length dark hair behind her tiara. She had bright orange fur, and vibrant lime green eyes. Only their kitten’s face could be seen through the bundle of blankets. A tiny little thing, orange furred, dark haired, and a face covered in freckles.

Both of them stood there, jaws hanging down, staring intently at the painting. “You, see it, right?” Bow asked.

“Yeah,” Catra simply answered.

Eventually Bow wandered out of the half opened throne room doors. They led into a brilliant foyer. By the looks of it, at one time there were front walls made of glass, but the majority of them were shattered, and scattered on the ground. Just beyond remains of the front glass was what looked like a balcony that ran the entire length of the front of the building they were in. Bow excitedly made his way to it.

Catra remained inside the throne room. She had finally pulled herself away from the painting. She knew what Bow had been talking about. It was obvious. At the same time though, impossible. Catra stared at the palm of her hand. She couldn’t be…. Could she? Catra started to look around the rest of the throne room. More paintings, more magicats. The high ceiling was dotted with hanging light fixtures. Perhaps the most curious thing about the throne room though was a pedestal just a few feet in front of the throne dais. Whereas the rest of the throne room was a mix of light blue and black marbling and gold leafing and rich blue gems of various hues, the pedestal was a simple, gray, metal shaft with a monitor attached to the top of it.

It had grabbed Catra’s attention. She made her way over to it. There was a single button on the top of the monitor. To her surprise, pressing it turned the monitor on. It was a handprint reader. Catra gave her hand another look, and placed her hand on it.

Bow was just about to the balcony when he heard the throne room door slam shut. He spun around and began running back. As he did he couldn’t help but notice that the lights in the foyer were beginning to flick on. “Catra!”

Inside the throne room Catra was beginning to panic. Both the main door and the side door leading to the teleporter had locked themselves shut. All the lights in the room blinked on at once, basking it in brilliant colors. Catra kept stepping back from the pedestal until she tripped over the dais, falling clumsily onto the steps. She pushed herself up to a sitting position.

After a moment of hearing as the building seemed to churn to life, a hologram flickered on. The figure was standing a few feet in front of Catra. The hologram was that of a magicat, and seemingly more sophisticated than Light Hope. This hologram was in full color, and barely flickered at all. The hologram looked just like the orange magicat from the painting. She looked just like Catra, but a little taller, and with shorter hair. The hologram cracked its digital neck and lazily opened its eyelids, revealing her lime green eyes. She took one look as Catra and gasped. “My little C’yra? Is that you?!”

 

Chapter Text

The Dragon’s Daughter 9 bolted across the sea, hovering a few feet above the water surface. Glimmer as atop the mast of the boat, clutching it with one hand. She was scanning the horizon ahead, mostly empty, except for, “there!” Glimmer yelled down, pointing just slightly to the northwest. Sea Hawk adjusted the wheel.

Adora was standing at the front edge of the boat, staring intently at the direction Glimmer had adjusted them to. Just coming over the horizon was what looked like an island of rolling hills and forests. The sight made Adora perk up. They had left Salineas hours ago and while Adora knew that Mystic Isle was far out of the way, every minute that passed was filled with a dim pain, like pins poking all over her wrist. Only Razz’s ointment was able to dull it, and that jar was almost empty.

“Not trying to be a jerk, Adora, but all the pacing isn’t helping anybody ,” Mermista remarked from the bench built into the side of the boat wall. Mermista was leaning back, her arms hanging over the boat.

“Right. You’re right. Sorry,” Adora said. She turned from the front of the boat and sat next to Mermista. Both Mermista and Frosta shot bemused smirks as Adora as she sat there, leg bouncing wildly. “UGH!” Adora groaned.

“Pretty sure that’s supposed to be my line,” Mermista quipped. Adora gave her a sad apologetic face. “Girl it’s fine ! If my powers were doing that I’d be pretty irritable too.”

“More irritable, you mean,” Frosta said, a sly grin on her face.

“Irritable is my brand,” Mermista laughed.

“Is that why you hang around him so much? To keep you on brand?” Frosta chuckled as she pointed at Sea Hawk.

“You know it!” Mermista yelped back, laughing heartily.

Sea Hawk perked up at seeing Frosta point. “Oh? Do you need something young Frosta?!”

“Nah Sea Hawk, just saying hi!”

“Ah yes, hello to you!” the pirate chirped.

Just then Glimmer popped in next to Sea Hawk. “Alright, we’re heading directly for Mystic Isle. Should be there pretty soon,” Glimmer informed her captain.

“Excellent! Er, good work crew!” Sea Hawk yelled. “It seems we are nearly at our destination, and then our REAL ADVENTURE can begin!” Sea Hawk jumped from behind the wheel to the center of the ship, leaving Glimmer scrambling to take the helm. “This success calls for a song! Something catchy, upbeat! Something-ACK!” Sea Hawk was cut off by a sudden, forceful wave crashing into him from overhead.

“Nope! No. NO!” Mermista glared from her seat. “We are not singing. Not while I still have my power and we’re literally surrounded by water.”

High waves were on either side of the boat, keeping up with the pace of the Dragon’s Daughter 9. Sea Hawk gulped. “And when exactly are your powers supposed to stop?”

“Hopefully not yet!” Glimmer yelled, voice clearly panicked. Everyone turned their attention forward. The island was close, just a couple minutes away. Before that though they’d have to get through the whirlpools that had formed between them and the island.

“When did those happen?!” Adora asked as she jumped from her seat.

Glimmer spun the wheel, swerving safely around one of the whirlpools. “Just now!” Glimmer barked. “They must be some of those magical defenses Aunt Casta was talking about!”

Mermista staggered to her feet, fighting the stark motions of the boat. She held her hand out to give a little test, then smiled. “Hey Frosta, you ready to get our princess on?”

The young princess hopped up. The rocking of the boat sent her staggering into Mermista. Clutching onto the Princess of Salineas, Frosta grinned, “let’s do this!”

“Hey Glimmer! Keep the ship going straight!” Mermista yelled over the roar of the whirlpools all around them. “And keep that throttle up!” Mermista held her arms out toward the front of the boat and began concentrating hard. A bit in front of them a sheet of water began to arc up, forming a ramp. Frosta shot her hands forward, freezing the ramp into place. Glimmer did as she was told and put as much throttle as she could into the ship. It zoomed up the ramp and went sailing off it.

The Dragon’s Daughter 9 was soaring through the air, safely over all the whirlpools in the sea. Their trajectory was a sandy beach at the edge of the island. A great idea was quickly turning into a harrowing one as they began their descent.

“Um, Mermista dear!” Sea Hawk yelped. He was clinging onto the center mast for dear life. “Perhaps summoning some soft water to land on wouldn’t be too much trouble?!”

Frosta, Adora, and Mermista, were all holding desperately onto the side of the  boat. Frosta reached out and grabbed Mermista by the waistband in an attempt to hold her steady while she concentrated. She spent a good thirty seconds straining.

“UGH, it’s not good! We must be in that super annoying anti-magic barrier!” Mermista huffed.

“We must be! I can’t teleport either,” Glimmer screamed. She was holding tight to the wheel to brace herself.

While still trying to brace against the wall, Adora pulled her sleeve back a little and gave her wrist a look. The blue part of the rash was still pulsating. She could feel it. The power. It was still there. Adora pulled out the sword.

“FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL!” Adora yelled. Bright rainbow tinted light enveloped her.

She-Ra wasted no time. As soon as the light dissipated she hopped over the edge of the boat and clutched each side of the front with her massive hands. The ground rapidly approached and She-Ra braced for impact. Her feet slammed down onto the sand, sending sharp pains coursing up her entire body that made her eyes shut. The momentum of the fall forced She-Ra to slide back in the sand, each foot digging their own ditches.

After a couple yards She-Ra was able to force herself to a stop. Every muscle in her ached as she opened her eyes. The boat was still in her arms, being held up, minor dents under where her hands were gripping it. With as much ease as possible she set the boat down. She-Ra dropped to her hands and knees and tried sucking in air.

The rest of the crew carefully and clumsily climbed out of the boat.

“Hey no fair! Why do you still get She-Ra?” Mermista huffed.

“She did just save our butts,” Frosta added. “I, for one, am thankful that She-Ra doesn’t seem to listen to any sort of laws of magic.”

A moment later and She-Ra could feel her muscles easing. She climbed up to her feet with a hop and smiled at the two princesses in front of her. “She-Ra’s powers run on their own sets of rules. Most magic is the harnessing of something. The power of your runestones, the energy of nature. I think that’s what the island’s barrier is doing, cutting off your ability to tap into that energy.” She-Ra held up her sword. The runestone gem inlaid on the hilt sparkled in the afternoon light. “Whereas my power is self-sufficient.”

“Well look at you,” Mermisa said. “You’re a regular Mystacor scholar now, Adora.”

The snarky comment was met with a shrug. She-Ra resheathed her sword. “I’ve had to do a lot of research, trying to find other options.” She-Ra turned and looked toward the island in front of them. Beyond the small beach were some minor hills that fed into thick forest. A spiky mountain at the center of the island could be seen beyond the trees. “You know, just in case this all turns out to be a wild goose chase.”

Glimmer was the last out of the boat. Her and Sea Hawk were accessing its condition. She gave the side a few slaps. “We got so lucky! Just some minor cosmetic damage.”

Sea Hawk sighed. “Yes, alas. She was a good ship, but she shall keep us warm tonight.”

“What?!” Glimmer smacked the pirate in the arm. “DO NOT set our only way home on fire Sea Hawk! This ship will sail again!”

“Maybe, just to be safe, we should make sure he doesn’t have any matches,” Mermista suggested.

The Captain of the Dragon’s Daughter 9 gave a slight bow. “You are more than welcome to search me, my majestic Mermista.”

“GAUUUUUUUH,” Mermista grunted at the top of her lungs. “On second thought, let’s just take his word for it.”

A few minutes later the party was ready. Without magic they would have to rely on their regular weapons. Glimmer had the Staff of Micah. Frosta had brought two impressively sized daggers that she kept referring to as her “Ice Picks”. Mermista had her “Trident of Sea-Ra”, a suped up weapon that she had badgered Bow into making for her. Sea Hawk had his yellow laser sword strapped to his side. He was also carrying a backpack full of supplies. They had no idea how long this would take, or what to expect, so Glimmer had listened to her inner Bow and packed for as many contingencies as she could think of. She-Ra, of course, had the Sword of Protection, and was also carrying a backpack. 

Being in her She-Ra form was the only time Adora felt relief. As She-Ra, there was no rash, no pain. As She-Ra she was fine. Better than fine. Almost every time she changed back from She-Ra though the rash had grown in intensity and discomfort. Because of that Adora had been hoping to put off using She-Ra if she was able to. Now that she was She-Ra though, she figured staying that way would be the easiest way to get through the island.

“Everyone ready?” She-Ra asked. She got confirmation from the whole party so they set out towards the center of the island.

 


 

Mystic Isle seemed to be a series of rings. The outer ring, surrounding the entire island, was a beach. The next ring was thick forests that encircled the jagged mountains in the center. She-Ra’s party was making their way through those forests. Dense and undisturbed, there wasn’t even the hint of a path along the forest floor. 

That wasn’t stopping Frosta, who seemed to take great pleasure from slashing and tearing a way through with her Ice Picks.

“Isn’t this exciting?!” Frosta exclaimed with glee. Using the Ice Picks, she plowed through a bush that had been in their way. “I’m so happy Spinnerella and Netossa didn’t mind covering my shift at the valley.”

“Oh yeah. This is just, what’s the word for exhilarating, but awful,” Mermista moaned.

“Aw, where’s your sense of adventure?” Glimmer asked.

“Left it on the boat, with my powers,” Mermista coolly responded.

“Fear not! I brought enough adventure for all of us!” Sea Hawk cried out. His yellow laser sword tore through a tiny, thin tree. “I am with you, little Frosta!” he added. Sea Hawk and Frosta scampered forward, slashing a path through the underbrush. Mermista groaned, but followed closely.

Glimmer grabbed She-Ra by the wrist. Gradually she slowed their pace so that they were lagging behind. “What did you mean by ‘a wild goose chase’?” Glimmer asked a hushed voice. “Adora this is going to work. We’re going to get you better.”

“Thanks Glim,” She-Ra said. She was smiling, but it was a heavy smile, the kind that didn’t convey any actual happiness. “This is a long shot though. Mara went looking for Noah, but she disappeared after that. There’s a chance she never even found him. Light Hope doesn’t even know what became of her.”

“Didn’t Razz tell us not to trust everything Light Hope says?” Glimmer flatly asked.

“Well, yeah, but-”

“-Then let’s just go see,” Glimmer said before allowing She-Ra to finish her though. Glimmer picked up their pace to catch up with the rest. “IF it turns out this Noah is a dead end, then we’ll just find another solution,” Glimmer smiled. They caught up to Mermista pretty easily who was casually following the path that was being cut for them.

Up ahead Sea Hawk and Frosta had reached what looked like a moss covered boulder. They hopped up on it at the same time, and raised their weapons in triumph. 

“Ah-HAH!” Sea Hawk exclaimed. “This forest is no match for the mighty Sea Hawk, and…”

“... The deadly Winter’s Bane!” Frosta yelled on cue. After their momentary cheer, Frosta lowered her weapons as Mermista, Glimmer, and She-Ra caught up to them. “Honestly I was expecting more. Glimmer you said Mystic Isle was going to be full of danger!”

Glimmer scoffed. “What about the whirlpools?”

“Those weren’t actually on the island,” Frosta shot back with a smirk, which got a glaring smile back from Glimmer. Frosta opened her mouth to make a follow-up statement, but a rumbling from out of nowhere stopped her. Suddenly her and Sea Hawk were thrown from the boulder as it began to raise up out of the ground. “I take it back! I take it back!” Frosta screamed. Glimmer helped her to her feet as the mossy boulder seemingly began to crack in half. It opened like a clamshell, revealing a pair of large red eyes with glossy pupils. The closest thing to a head that it had was a stretched out sheet of skin towards the back of the shell where the eyes sat, as well as a mouth that was nothing but pointy teeth and saliva. Six massive tentacles extruded from the sides of the creature. At the sight of the party it let out a wet roar as its tentacles writhed around.

She-Ra leapt into the air, Sword of Protection arcing over her head. The creature shot out a tentacle in her direction, forcing She-Ra to twist in mid-air to avoid it. A second tentacle grabbed her out of mid-air and slammed her into the ground. She laid there motionless.

Quickly recovering from the emergence of the creature, Sea Hawk leapt to his feet. He charged at the creature, who shot a tentacle out at him. Sea Hawk hopped to the side and slashed at the tentacle with his laser sword, leaving a singed scratch mark. The creature roared out and flailed its tentacle, hitting Sea Hawk and sending him flying into a tree. He collapsed onto the ground in a heap. The same tentacle rose up over him, and began to swing down at the prone pirate. Before it could reach him though it was jabbed with the Trident of Sea-Ra. Mermista was standing over Sea Hawk, her legs spread for balance, the muscles in her arms tensing as her hands tightened their grip around the trident. The tentacle was still pushing down with great force, but Mermista dug her feet in and held. Slowly she slid a hand up to a button on the trident shaft. It was one of the new features that Bow had added to the Trident of Sea-Ra. Mermista pressed it, and a jolt of electricity shot out, electrocuting the tentacle. The creature reflexively retracted its tentacles and gave out another angry roar.

Mermista knelt down and helped Sea Hawk to his feet. “Still with us, Pirate?” she asked with a smirk.

Still buckled over, hands pressed against just above his knees, Sea Hawk looked up at Mermista and shot a confident smile that was only betrayed by the dirt covering his chin. “This rock clam, thing, is a worthy foe, but no match for the Hero of Salineas” Sea Hawk exclaimed. Against her conscious desire, Mermista couldn’t help but crack a wide grin.

On the other side of the monster Glimmer and Frosta were faring a little better. A tentacle swung wildly at Glimmer but she was able to hop over the swing and deliver a hearty whack with the Staff of Micah. As the tentacle winced from that hit Frosta jumped at it and delivered a flurry of strikes with her Ice Picks. Frosta was so distracted that she hadn’t noticed a second tentacle flying at her. Luckily Glimmer had been keeping track, and leapt to intercept the second tentacle, flailing angrily at it with her staff.

Both tentacles recoiled at the barrage, giving Frosta and Glimmer time to regroup.

“I didn’t even SEE that one!” Frosta cried.

Glimmer let out a small laugh. “Have to keep your head on a swivel with this thing!”

Frosta sighed and looked down at her daggers. “I’m sorry. I’m more of a liability than anything right now,” Frosta mumbled. Her posture sagged at the idea. More than anything Frosta wanted to prove herself useful. She wanted to show Glimmer that she was a worthy member of the Alliance, not someone that always had to be saved. She didn’t want to admit it, but without her powers Frosta felt lost. Everyone else seemed to be so capable of handling themselves, with or without their abilities.

A gentle hand from Glimmer snapped Frosta’s head up. “Hey, you’re doing great. Look, this is crazy. I’ve never had to fight a monster without my powers before and I have no idea how we’re supposed to stop this thing. We just have to stick together,” Glimmer said with an encouraging smile.

The rousing speech lifted the Ice Princess. She gave Glimmer a stern nod, and the two charged at rock clam.

She-Ra’s eyes shot open. They were bright blue, even brighter than normal, glowing and pupiless. The Princess of Power sat up from where she had been slammed down. A faint golden aura radiated around her as she stood up with ease. To her left, the Princess of Salineas, along with that pirate of hers, were battling the left tentacles of the rock clam. On her right, the Princesses of Bright Moon and Kingdom of Snows were attacking the rock clam’s right side. She-Ra stared straight at the rock clam, its bulging eyes moving wildly to keep track of everything on both sides. 

Confidently She-Ra marched forward towards the clam. A tentacle shot out at her, but she deftly side stepped it. Within a few strides She-Ra was at the core of the rock clam. She looked it directly in the eyes and placed her hand on the top of the creature’s shell. As soon as the clam felt She-Ra’s touch, its tentacles began retracting, much to everyone else’s surprise. The rock clam seemed transfixed with She-Ra’s eyes, unable to take its own off of hers. Slowly the rock clam recurled its tentacles and lowered itself back into the ground, returning to its slumber.

“Nice trick. Whhyyy didn’t you just lead with that?” Mermista asked. Everyone was gathering around She-Ra.

“Because Adora is an idiot,” She-Ra said, not bothering to look back at the party. “Come, Noah’s cottage is close, just over that ridge up ahead.” She-Ra climbed over the now sleeping rock clam and began walking on.

Behind her the party stood, stunned by She-Ra’s words. Glimmer knew what exactly what her best friend sounded like, in and out of She-Ra form. The person who just spoke sounded nothing like Adora. There was more command in the voice, a louder boom. An echo as if it was coming from somewhere else entirely.

“How do you know where Noah’s cottage is?” Glimmer called out. “Adora, wait!”

She-Ra stopped. She turned to look intensely at Glimmer. Slowly the aura around her faded, and her pupils returned to her. It seemed as if she just realized what she was standing next to. She-Ra jumped back and pulled her sword back out. “AAH! Wha- What happened? Where’d that tentacle clam thing go?!”

Everyone started looking at each other. Finally Glimmer took a step forward. “Um, you lulled it to sleep,” Glimmer said. She-Ra tilted her head as she looked at Glimmer. She appeared clearly confused. “And then you said Noah’s cottage is just over that ridge.”

“I… I did?” She-Ra looked back at the ridge just a few dozen yards in front of them. “I don’t remember any of that,” She-Ra muttered. Glimmer and Mermista appeared on either side of her. They each grabbed one of She-Ra hands.

“Well, whatever that was, should probably get you to Noah as soon as we can,” Glimmer said in soft tones.

The party made its way through the rest of the forest to the ridge. Just on the other side, where She-Ra had said, in a low valley between where the forest ended and the base of the mountain began, was a wooden cottage surrounded by a robust garden. From the front door was a cobblestone walkway that lead up to the ridge where they were. Glimmer seemed excited to have found it. On the other hand, She-Ra was still a little worried and confused about the apparent episode she had just experienced. Now more than ever, she hoped the Grand Wizard Noah would be of some help.

Following Glimmer, the party made their way down the side of the valley along the cobblestone path. Just before they reached the gardens though there was another rumbling.

“Oooh, not again!” Frosta huffed.

All around them the cobblestones of the path rose into the air and flew towards a point just at the edge of the garden, between the party and the cottage. The cobblestones seemed to fuse together to form a ten foot rock creature, vaguely in the shape of a human, with glowing yellow eyes, jagged teeth, and stone clubs for hands.

When it spoke, the stone creature’s voice was deep, its words ground together like stones grinding into each other. “She-Ra,” it growled. “You were warned!” With that the rock creature swung its heavy fists forward. The party scattered as the fists slammed into the ground, shaking it.

“Wait!” She-Ra called out.

The rock creature fixed immediately on her voice and began lumbering over to her. She-Ra pulled out her sword, preparing for a fight. “I told you never to come back here!” the creature roared as it swung again. She-Ra jumped back and drove her sword into one of the creature’s arms. She pulled to the left hard, tearing out a chunk of its arm. The creature cried out as the cobblestones readjusted to reform the arm, but a little smaller. Frosta and Sea Hawk took the opportunity to attack the creature from behind. Frosta slid across the ground, striking the creature in the legs. Sea Hawk hopped over her and slashed his laser sword across the back of the rock creature. It spun around to see it’s new assailants. When it did Mermista drove her trident into the creature and sent out an electric wave from it, blowing a hole in the creature’s chest. The creature swung out it’s arm at Mermista, but was met with the Sword or Protection, lopping off the whole thing from the elbow to hand. At the same time Glimmer crashed into the rock creature’s face, driving the sharp end of the Staff of Micah into the creature’s eye, which sent the monster crashing to the ground, where it scattered back into cobblestone.

There were only a couple seconds to celebrate though, as the cobblestones began pulling themselves together again, reforming the same terrifying creature. “I’m not going to let you near me She-Ra!” the stone beast growled.

“Wait!” She-Ra yelled again. “Please wait!” She was jogging at the rock creature with her arms out, showing that she was unarmed. The Sword of Protection was safely away in its sheath.

The creature swung with its arm, forcing She-Ra to stumble backwards to avoid it. “NO! Not again! Not this time!”

That’s when She-Ra realized what was happening. She hopped up and tried approaching the rock creature again. “Please wait! I’m not Mara!” When it heard the name, the rock creature backed off just a bit. “I’m not,” She-Ra assured him.

Knowing words wouldn’t do it, She-Ra slowly walked further towards the rock creature. As she did so she transformed back into Adora. The overwhelming pain made her stumble forward to the ground and grab her forearm. Without even looking Adora could tell; the rash had spread its way up to her elbow. It too some effort for Adora to climb back to her feet. “See? Not Mara.”

At that the rock creature collapsed into a pile. The cobblestones skittered across the ground back into their positions.

“No, you’re certainly not,” a voice croaked from the door of the cottage. Standing there was a man, thin on hair but long on beard, both of which were well on their way to graying, but surprisingly still maintained some of their original brown. The lines and creases of his face created a busy tapestry of time and stories. His eyes were sunken, with a glint of green in mostly gray. His clothes were plain, a shirt that may have been white ages ago, and dark trousers. Clearly he wasn’t expecting guests.

“Grand Wizard Noah?” Glimmer asked. She had made her way to Adora, helping her friend keep her balance as she adjusted to the pain of her arm.

The old man chuckled, which turned into a cough. “‘Grand Wizard’. Bah, haven’t heard that in years.” He turned back to the door and looked over his shoulder. “Well come in, no sense in standing around out here in the hot day.”

 


 

With the entire party piled inside, Noah’s cottage was a packed house. It was small, some could say “quaint” even. A few rooms towards the back with a main living area in the front. In the middle of the living area was a fire pit for cooking and heat. A cluttered desk sat under a round, grimey window. Walls were lined with books, bottles of who knows what, jars, and an array of mystical artifacts. The group had packed in around the fire pit, where Noah had been roasting a vegetable stew for lunch.

Adora explained her time as She-Ra and her current predicament, with everyone adding bits of details or commentary where they could. Noah enjoyed his stew as the story was recounted. Adora was finished before the stew was, so they were forced to sit and wait and watch as he continued eating. Finally the last slurps of broth were had and Noah put the bowl down. Remnants of stew were all over his beard. Adora looked around quickly and offered him what she assumed was a wash cloth of some kind.

The wizard stared at the outstretched gesture. “What do I need that for?” Noah asked. Adora awkwardly retracted the cloth and set it on a stand near the fire pit.

After having to wait through a series of post-meal stretches, Noah let out a chuckle. “So her little Razzberry is still kicking around but she ain’t. HAH, ain’t that some irony.”

“Razzberry?” Adora asked.

“Yeah, what Mara used to call that wife of hers. If she’s outlived Mara, then maybe there is some decency in the world, as fractured as it may be.”

“Sounds like you and Mara weren’t friends,” Glimmer interjected.

Noah held up one of his arms, there was what looked like scars running all up until they disappeared under his shirt sleeve except the scars were an ashy black color. “This, was her going away present. Well this and getting me kicked out of Mystacor.”

“You were kicked out because you started practicing dark magic!” Glimmer argued.

“And who do you think made me do that ?” Noah fired back.

“Wait, Mara was in Mystacor?” Adora interjected.

The old wizard took a deep breath. “Yes, Mara helped me build Mystacor. No longer having access to the First Ones, she turned to magic. It was great, for a time, working on her problem. Building a place where people with magic could feel safe. But fixing her problem was taking too long. Mara wanted to do good, she really did. All the trouble and pain she caused the world. She always wanted desperately to fix it. That kind of thing takes power. And Power had a price. Mara was never afraid, no matter what the price was, even when she should have been. It’s what did her in, in the end. And what undid me. I tried to help her get what she needed to put it all back together. I remember Etheria. The old Etheria. Of course I wanted to help undo that damage. Took me too long to see the damage it was doing to her.”

“Was She-Ra the cause?” Adora asked. Her voice was weak, hollow. It was a question she didn’t want to ask. “Razz said that she left her to come find you to help with her She-Ra powers.”

“Ah yes, your rash. Yeah, that was part of it. And what she had done was part of it. Working together, tearing her apart.”

“She came to you looking for a cure,” Adora claimed.

Noah leaned back in his rickety wooden chair. “A cure?”

“Yes, please, we have to find some way to stop it!” Glimmer pleaded.

“Stop it? That ain’t the same as a cure. Of course we could stop it. There’s always-” Noah started. Before he could Adora jumped up and towered over him. It was so startling Noah almost toppled over in his chair. “-er, nevermind.”

“What? What is it?” Glimmer asked.

There was a moment of silence as Noah and Adora intensely stared at each other. “Can Noah and I have a moment, please,” Adora stated, not breaking eye contact with Noah.

“But…” Glimmer whimpered.

“Please?” Adora restarted. The party begrudgingly filed out of cottage. Adora and Noah continued their staring contest for another moment before Noah broke into a husky giggle.

“They don’t know, do they? Maybe there’s a little more ‘Mara’ in you than I thought,” Noah chuckled.

“I am nothing like Mara,” Adora insisted.

“Then why the secrets? Shouldn’t they know?”

“If you can fix this then they won’t need to know,” Adora retorted.

Noah sat back up in his chair. Adora still hadn’t broken eye contact. The afternoon light poked through the grim of the window, highlighting the edges of her hair.

“Looks like you’re in luck,” Noah finally said, throwing up his hands.

“Really?!” Adora excitedly asked.

“There was a spell that we had worked on together. It didn’t work. Needed someone who really cared about her was the problem, and by then all she had was me, she had lost track of what happened to Razz. She thought it was other reasons. Blamed me. She never was any good at accepting reality as it was if it didn’t serve her.” Noah held his arm back up as an offer of evidence.

“So tell me, Miss Adora, anyone here care deeply for you?”

Adora sat down on the chair next to Noah. She was smiling ear to ear. “My best friend, Glimmer. We love each other. We’d do anything to help each other. She came here without hesitation.” The blonde princess took a pause. “Why do we need Glimmer for the spell?”

“You see now, She-Ra’s a lot of power, isn’t it? The whole problem is how much of a strain it is on the body to house that much power. What the spell does is it’ll temporarily connect your heart to Glimmer’s, and she’ll share that burden while the spell re-sorts the power of She-Ra to in a way that your body can handle it.”

“It won’t hurt her, will it?”

“No,” Noah said with a grin. “If it works, you should both be fine.”

If it works?”

“This is magic!” Noah grinned wildly. “It’s not magic if there isn’t any risk!”

 


 

Adora and Glimmer were both lying on their backs in the middle of Noah’s living area. The stuff that needed to be moved to make room had been pushed against the wall. They were opposite of each other, with their heads meeting in the center of a circle that had been drawn on the floor.

Sea Hawk and Frosta were helping Noah mix a concoction together in his cauldron. It seemed to be going well, judging from how much all three of them seemed to be cackling.

Mermista was sitting on a chair just outside the circle near Adora and Glimmer’s heads. “So remind me again why we’re trusting the wizard that was banished for using dark magic?” Mermista moaned.

“To be honest?” Adora looked directly at Mermista and gave a soft smile. “Because I’m desperate.”

“This is going to work,” Glimmer added, voice full of confidence.

Adora reached up over her head and gave Glimmer’s shoulder a squeeze. “Thank you, Glim, for doing this.”

“What are friends for? I know you’d do the exact same if our roles were reversed.”

Just then Mermista crouched over them. “Ugh, this is just too cute. I may throw up.”

The three girls shared a laugh.

“Hey, Mermista?” Adora said when they calmed down.

“Yo.”

Adora gave a glance over at the cauldron. Noah was vigorously stirring while Sea Hawk and Frosta were having fun grossing each other out with the various magical ingredients in Noah’s stock. “Does Sea Hawk know how you feel about him? Like, how you really feel?” Adora asked.

“HAH!” Mermista laughed. “Wow Adora. Don’t tell me you’re that kind of person. In a relationship for one week and think you have love all figured out.”

It was a fair accusation. Adora hummed at it. Her hands were interlocked together and resting on her stomach. Underneath them was her jacket’s belt buckle, turquoise blue and an oval just like the runestone in the Sword of Protection. Adora was sure it was an intentional design decision on Catra’s part.

“No,” Adora smiled, “not quite like that. More, someone who’s been through a lot in this last week. And even though this is promising, there’s still a lot of dangers and questions ahead. It’s been a reminder that I don’t know exactly how long I have. She-Ra is no promise of longevity. Just the opposite. I just say this, as someone who wished she told Catra how she felt about her years ago, and regrets all the time I lost that I could have been with her.”

The reaction Adora hadn’t been expecting was for Mermista to begin rubbing her shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’re not going to let you go anywhere,” Mermista mumbled.

Soon Noah appeared over the girls. Mermista hopped up to get out of the way. “Everyone ready?” the wizard asked. Glimmer and Adora both nodded. “Good. All you need to do is lie there. I handle the rest. Well, first drink this,” Noah said, holding out two cups. Adora and Glimmer sat up and drank it. Their immediately desire was to barf it back up.

“What WAS that?” Glimmer hissed.

“Potion,” Noah responded. “Gonna help the magic run through you.”

Frosta took the cups from the two as they laid back down. Noah knelt between them as Sea Hawk, Mermisa, and Frosta respectfully took cover behind the firepit area.

Noah began reciting words that Glimmer did not understand at all. Somehow Adora knew that it was the First Ones language. He recited the same line a few times. At first nothing seemed to be happening. Then, during the fourth repetition Noah’s eyes went white and began glowing. A swirling wind kicked up inside the cottage, centered on Glimmer and Adora. The chalk drawn circle began glowing, and soon both Glimmer and Adora began sparkling. Noah moved onto a new verse. This one was longer, he was speaking louder, and it caused the swirling winds to pick up. The sparkles on Adora and Glimmer began lifting into the air and swirling together into a glowing ball in the center of the circle, just over their heads. Noah rose his hands up as light began shooting out of the chalk circle. Soon the entire room was flooded with light as Noah screamed another verse.

Then it all abruptly came to a stop. The wind, the light, the glowing. Everything went startling still. Everyone slowly opened their eyes. Frosta, Sea Hawk and Mermista came out from hiding. Noah was sitting on the ground, leaning back against a shelf. He was drenched with sweat and panting.

“Can… I.. Get some water,” Noah asked, voice hoarse. Sea Hawk scurried to the sink to oblige.

Adora opened her eyes. She felt a little different. Sitting up and seeing her legs and arms made her realize what it was. “Huh. The spell seems to have changed me into my She-Ra form,” She-Ra said, climbing to her feet. 

Glimmer blinked her eyes open and sat up slowly. “Ugh, my head.”

“Okay otherwise?” Noah asked between chugs of water.

“Well it’s kind of hard to tell really. My powers being suppressed has been uncomfortable this whole time,” Glimmer responded. Noah snapped his fingers and chugged more water. Glimmer looked at him, then teleported to the other side of the cottage. “That feels sooooo good!” Glimmer exclaimed.

Mermista and Frosta glanced at each other then at the sink area. Quickly a blob of water and a snowball were hurtling through the air. Both girls ducked, leaving the water and snow to slam into Sea Hawk. Frosta, Glimmer, and Mermisa were laughing hysterically at the sight. Sea Hawk just let out a little sigh.

“Here,” Mermista said with a chuckle, catching Sea Hawk’s attention. She used her magic to flick most of the water off him, and began dabbing a towel on his face to get the last bit of moisture.

“Thank you, Princess,” Sea Hawk said with a smile.

“Hey,” Mermista said, smiling back, “we ‘get’ each other, right?” she asked as she finished cleaning Sea Hawk’s face. He nodded with a big smile and a little hum. Mermista gave his shoulder a warm squeeze as she smiled brightly. “Good.”

Glimmer teleported back to the circle. She-Ra had transformed back into Adora. She had her back to Glimmer. 

“Adora?” Glimmer was worried, she could hear the distinct sniffles of Adora crying. Before she could say anything else though Adora spun around. Tears were streaming down her face, and she was grinning from ear to ear. She held up her wrist. It was clean. “It worked?!” Glimmer gasped.

“It worked!” Adora confirmed as the best friends slammed into a hug. They were quickly engulfed by a group hug from Frosta, Sea Hawk, and Mermista.

Adora contorted herself so that she could look down at Noah, who was still relaxing on the ground. “Thank you,” she softly said.

Noah raised his cup at her. “Just do me a favor? Don’t tell anyone that I’m actually not crazy. It’ll ruin the whole secluded island thing.”

 


 

An unexpected bonus to being a Force Captain was that the training rooms available to them were far superior to the ones for cadets and low ranking soldiers. Lonnie was currently utilizing one to work on her combat prowess. There were two robots, set to melee attack, that she was fighting with a bow staff. Despite the higher setting, Lonnie was making short work of them. They did make her evade and perform some creative dodges, but all in all she was owning the room. 

One of the robots was completely taken down, and sitting in the corner, dejected. Lonnie had the other robot back on it’s heels, or, metal slivers as the case may be. She leapt into the air and slammed her staff into the weak point sensor on the robot’s head. It beeped, signaling that the robot was “dead”. Lonnie sensed something else in the room. She pushed off the robot, sending her through the air. She landed, and spun in place, swinging the bow staff out. It came to a rest just inches from Decepsha’s chin.

The spy was standing, both arms behind her back, posture in a tight stance, leaning back slightly to avoid the bow staff. She gave it a look then turned her attention to Lonnie. 

“Evening, Force Captain,” Decepsha said with a smirk.

“Heey, Queen of Lies, you’re back!” Lonnie declared. Decepsha bristled a little at the title, but did her best to hide it. “Haven’t seen you in a few days, I thought you were going to give me a hand with orientation?”

Decepsha freed one of her hands and rubbed the back of her neck. “Sorry, assignment came up. I’m here now though!”

Lonnie shrugged. “All caught up. Don’t have another orientation class until Friday.”

“Well, I’ll help you with that then!” Decepsha offered.

“If you’re here,” Lonnie flatly stated.

“I’ll make sure I am,” Decepsha responded. “But! Speaking of my last assignment! I was able to pick some of these up.” From behind her back, Decepsha produced a small green box. Lonnie stared at it, looking confused.

“A box. Coooooooool,” Lonnie said.

“Haha, no, not the box itself!” Decepsha answered. She popped the box opened and pulled out a red oblong object with a brown tip. She held it up to Lonnie’s face. “Go on, try it.”

At first Lonnie was skeptical. She gave it a whiff. Smelled pleasant enough. She took an experimental bite. After a couple chews her face lit up. “What is THAT?”

“They’re called chocolate covered strawberries,” Decepsha beamed. “Bright Moon actually does have a few perks.” She handed Lonnie the rest of the half eaten strawberry. Lonnie wasted no time devouring it. Decepsha pulled out another one out. “Adora turned me onto them. Honestly one of her best discoveries.”

Despite the sweetness of the fruit, a sour face washed over Lonnie. She pushed the strawberry back at Decepsha. “Of course,” Lonnie scoffed. “This is about Adora. Always about Adora,” the Force Captain grumbled.

“What? No. Sorry, I shouldn’t have brought her up, it wasn’t important. I just wanted to share them with you!” Decepsha pleaded, attempting to hand the fruit back to Decepsha.

Lonnie just folded her arms. “Whatever you say, Queen of L-”

“I’M NOT!” Decepsha screamed, cutting Lonnie off. She shut her eyes and let out a deep, angry sigh. “I’m not. Lying. I’m not. I… I just wanted to...” Decepshas was finding it hard to finish her sentence. 

Fortunately, she didn’t have to. Lonnie took the chocolate covered strawberry. “Cheers, then,” Lonnie said, faint smile coming back on her face as she popped the fruit into her mouth.

A soft smile formed on Decepsha’s face. “Cheers.

“Oh, also, I don’t think you’re supposed to eat the green part.”

 


 

Glimmer and Adora had returned to Bright Moon late that night. The following morning they learned the good news of Entrapta’s breakthrough with what she was calling her Clack Back System. They spent the day going over the logistics of how and where to deploy it. The valley would be first, followed by rollouts to all the free kingdoms of Etheria. 

In spite of a full day of meetings, and planning, and war stuff, and missing Catra, Adora went to bed in high spirits. It was the first pain free day Adora had in almost a week. She turned into She-Ra twice over the course of the day. Once just as another test, and once for the heck of it. As her head hit the pillow, Adora could feel consciousness slipping away immediately.

 


 

What felt like only seconds after laying down, Adora was forcefully lifted out of bed. Something was hoisting her off the ground by her shirt. Between the darkness and the blur of her sleepy vision it took her a moment to realize what was happening. She gasped when she finally saw the figure holding her in the air.

“Sh- She-Ra?!” Adora stuttered.

The Princess of Power stood there, her fists balled into Adora’s shirt, glaring at the blonde in front of her. She growled and threw Adora into the armoire, toppling it over.

How dare you!” She-Ra barked as she stalked towards Adora. Just as Adora was able to climb to her feet She-Ra slammed a boot into Adora’s ribs, knocking her back.

“This is impossible!” Adora screamed at her and held out her hand. The Sword of Protection didn’t come to her. Instead She-Ra pulled it from the sheath on her back . Adora gulped and backed up until she hit the wall. “She-Ra? Is this the spell?!”

This is about the spell, ” She-Ra stated. “You really thought you could just, put me in a box, and play with me whenever you saw fit?!

“You’re a part of me! This is my body, I’m the one in control!” Adora yelled back.

Keep denying this all you want, Adora. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to confront it. Confront me,” She-Ra said with a calmness that chilled Adora to the bone. Without warning She-Ra charged Adora, driving the Sword of Protection directly into her stomach.

 


 

Intense pain woke Adora up. She tried sitting up but the pain was so bad she more just rolled out of bed, and flopped onto the ground. After a moment, the worst of the pain passed, just leaving a low hum of discomfort. Adora looked down. On her sword hand, the rash had returned. It covered her wrist, and had created gashes all the way up her arm to her shoulder. Adora had to use the bed for leverage in climbing to her feet. As silently as she could she began getting dressed.

 


 

“... and it seemed to work,” Adora mumbled. “For a little while, at least.”  Adora was sitting on the bench in Madame Razz’s little house, her legs pulled into her chest. Razz was stoking a strong fire for warmth and light. “I’m so sorry to bother you at this hour. I didn’t know who else to turn to.”

The elderly woman continued poking at the fire, getting it going properly. She had a somber, completely out of character expression on her face. “I was able to make more of that ointment. Won’t cure, but what could it hurt?”

“Thank you, it helped a lot,” Adora said. Razz left the fire and made her way to one of her shelves. She fetched another jar, and grabbed a stool, and sat down next to the bench where Adora was. She took Adora’s arm, there was no resistance, and began slathering the ointment over the worst parts of the rash.

“You gave me a gift too, Dearie,” Razz said, all the while focusing on applying the ointment. Adora perked up. “You told me more about what happened to my Mara. Noah. Dark magic. Mystacor. I never knew anything about what became of her.” Razz stopped. She seemed to be lost in deep thought, staring at nothing in particular. “I can’t say I’m happy to hear the path she went down. But good to know, nonetheless!” Razz chirped, some of her chipperness returning.

Adora sighed heavily. “It was another warning. Of MY fate if I don’t choose the right path.” Tears began streaming down Adora’s face. “I think there may be only one path left for me.” With a sob, Adora’s eyes fell shut. “I think Light Hope may actually be right.”

“Only if you let her be,” Razz scoffed. Adora opened her eyes to the feeling of a towel brushing away tears. Razz was staring at her, her hopeful eyes magnified twice as large through her glasses. “Adora, Dearie. I’m right. Light Hope is right. Noah’s right. And we’re all wrong. The point is, it doesn’t matter what any of us say, or think. All that matters is what you’re willing to do. To fight for. Noah’s spell didn’t work, but Etheria is a big place. ‘Give up’ can’t be your only option.”

Razz gave Adora’s shoulder a squeeze. “Please tell me it won’t be.”

“It won’t,” Adora replied, smiling for the first time since arriving. “I have a returning girlfriend to look forward to. I’ll keep looking Madame Razz. But I won’t let what happened to Mara happen to me. She pushed too hard, and became something of a monster.”

A few strands of hair had fallen onto Adora’s face. Razz brushed them aside. “You won’t. I can see it in your eyes, Dearie. There are so many ways you are like the Mara I knew. But so many in which you are different. She, for all her good parts, always had a hard time not putting her own interests before the interests of others. In the end, she even put her own needs over my own, and left me here, while she spiraled into, as you put it, a monster.

“You’re a different person than my Mara, Dearie,” Razz patted Adora on the cheek.

With the ointment working, and pep talk received, Adora sat up straight on the bench and pulled herself together. “Only question is, where to start.” Both Razz and Adora sat there stroking their chins for a moment. Razz perked up first.

“You said Noah told you that Mara was still in Mystacor after he was banished.”

Adora jumped up from the bench. “MAYBE, she kept working on solutions that he didn’t know about. Maybe there’s something there. At least it may give me an idea of what to do next.”

 


 

About an hour later, as the moons hung brightly in the night sky, Adora left Razz’s. She wasn’t sure if she should go back to Bright Moon, or head right to Mystacor, but at the moment she thought that the walk through the woods from Razz’s would help clear her mind, if nothing else.

Suddenly there was a light whistling noise. Seconds later Adora collapsed onto the ground, a dart sticking out of her neck. From behind a tree a few dozen yards away, Decepsha emerged, and slithered her way over to the prone Adora.

Decepsha stood over her, shaking her head. “Really Adora? Walking around by yourself in the middle of the night? You really make this too easy.”

As Decepsha was gloating, Adora began to faintly glow, which cut the gloating short.

There was a brilliant flash of light that lit up the forest. When it dissipated, Decepsha looked up to see She-Ra rising to her feet.

“That’s new,” Decepsha remarked. She-Ra started lumbering at her. “A-Adora?” she gulped.

No,” She-Ra responded. In an instant one of She-Ra’s fists slammed into Decepsha’s face, sending her soaring through the air. Decepsha landed on her back hard. Her hands shot up to cover the intense pain on her face. Her nose was a bloody mess.

Sh-She-Ra?

Before Decepsha could process what had happened she felt She-Ra’s hand closing around her neck. The Princess of Power lifted her into the air, and pulled her free arm back, ready to strike.

She-Ra stop!

Stay out of this. 

Decepsha flailed wildly to no avail. Her fingers were tugging at She-Ra’s hand, in a desperate attempt to get oxygen. It was obvious that She-Ra wanted to slam that other fist into her, but she was hesitating for some reason.

No She-Ra we can’t do this!

She-Ra glared at Decepsha. “But she is our enemy,” She-Ra stated out loud. Decepsha looked at her with confusion.

Yes. But… She was more than that. She was a friend. Someone I, we, cared about. She was our first kiss.

I don’t care about those things. Those are human feelings. They’re just distractions.

Well I’m human and I still do. And we’re in MY body, so put.. Her…

“Down!” She-Ra screamed. Her hand withdrew from Decepsha’s neck, allowing her to fall to the ground. She-Ra stumbled backwards and transformed back into Adora. As soon as her head stopped spinning, Adora rushed over to check on Decepsha.

Upon seeing Adora, Decepsha scrambled to her feet and jumped back, slamming against a tree. “Adora, what the hell was that?!”

The blonde gave her a long, sad smile. “Trouble,” she responded. “It’s under control for now. But you better go, if you don’t want to spend your time in jail.”

Decepsha smirked at her. “You’re, letting me go?”

“Not if you keep that tone up,” Adora chuckled back. Decepsha didn’t waste time, she turned to leave immediately. “Hey!” Adora called out for her, stopping Decepsha in her tracks. She turned and was surprised to find Adora had closed the gap between them. “Can I ask you a question?” Adora asked the spy. She nodded in return.

“Am I too trusting?”

The question got a laugh out of Decepsha. “I don’t know, Adora. Maybe?” The princess in front of her nodded and let out a long sigh. “Look,” Decepsha added, “You always saw the best in people, even when there probably wasn’t really any, you found it.” Decepsha found it hard to stare at Adora, so she wistfully looked around the forest. “I think that’s why I fell for you. You saw a version of me that didn’t exist, but I kind of wanted it to.”

“It’s never too late to be that person,” Adora responded. She had that face. A warm face that seemed to radiate light. Her big eyes full of hope and wonder. Bright smile that promised a better tomorrow.

“Hmm, maybe,” Decesha chuckled. “I’d have to find somebody worth changing for.” Decepsha closed her eyes. A small smile grew on her face. “Maybe I already have.” She turned to leave, but stopped briefly. “Watch you back, Adora. This is still a war.” With that, Decepsha slid away into the shadows of the forest.

Adora simply watched. The forest seemed to calm down after Decepsha’s exit.

She’s a member of the Horde. I thought we wanted to save Etheria?

Aren’t the Horde Etherians too? Except Hordak of course.

We can’t save everyone, Adora.

Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. She-Ra, I don’t want to keep fighting like this. Adora looked down at her arm, it was a mess of scabs and pulsating veins. Look at what you’re doing to me.

I… Don’t actually have any control over that. I’m sorry. I’m stuck on this ride, same as you.

What are we going to do?

Go to Mystacor. I wasn’t with her the whole time, but I know where Mara kept her journals. The ones she didn’t want anyone else to read.

 


 

Mystacor in the early morning was a quiet place. It seemed sorcerers and wizards enjoyed their nights, and saw little value in mornings. Only a handful of guards were roaming the grounds. Adora found it easy to gain access to the Historical Library, a giant maze-like vault that housed the ancient wisdom of Mystacor. She wasn’t sure what had given her more authority, being She-Ra or being Castaspella’s favorite non-biological niece.

She-Ra guided Adora through the maze made out of piles and shelves and stacks of books and scrolls along with hundreds of other ancient artifacts. It took over twenty minutes before they got to the very back of the vault. She-Ra instructed Adora to push a shelf that was butted up against the wall out of the way.

“Okay, now what?” Adora asked, as she ran her hand over the solid stone.

Hold the sword up to it.

Adora did as she was told. The runestone on the sword began to glow, and part of the stone dissolved into a doorway. A long spiral staircase led another two stories down. There Adora found Mara’s private vault. Books, books, and more books. Some half finished metal contraptions were strewn across a big table in the center. On the wall was a mount that seemed designed for the Sword of Protection. And on the wall across from it was an old painting, faded and chipping. Nevertheless, it made Adora smile.

“Razz,” Adora remarked, looking at the portrait of a much younger woman that even then had the thickest glasses in all of Etheria.

There was no denying that Mara was misguided in many things. Until the very end though, she did love that woman. In a way it drove all her actions. Much like that cat drives you.

“I suppose those are just ‘human distractions’ too,” Adora grumbled. She-Ra was sure that they were. Adora cracked open a massive book that had been written by Mara at She-Ra’s encouragement. It turned out to be her spell book. She flipped for dozens of pages, reading notes and experiments that all seemed to be working on the same problem Adora was going through. They all ended in failure according to the book. After flipping a particular page, Adora couldn’t help but notice the handwriting had suddenly, and sharply degraded.

That’s where we were separated.

She never found a solution.

Maybe on the pages ahead. But she never found one while I was consciously still with her. It was obvious that she was always going to try to find a way to control me. I am NOT a thing you can control and abuse.

Adora laughed out loud. “No, you’re the mighty Princess of Power.”

No. You’re the Princess of Power, my vessel. I am She-Ra, the Goddess of Protection. It is my duty to protect Etheria. At all costs.

For a while Adora continued flipping, trying her best to ignore the willful goddess that crankily occupied her head. The remaining pages in the spellbook painted a picture of a woman growing increasingly desperate, and slowly losing her grasp on sanity. With each turn of the page Adora’s heart sank a little more. After a while, the pages seemed to be mostly just gibberish, the rantings of a crazy person.

Until the last two pages. The penmanship, while still showing hints of erratic scrawling, was much more contained. Not to the extent of the beginning of the book, but definitely an improvement. Adora took a moment to examine the penmanship before reading on. The first line of the second to last page began, “It has been a long time, but I have found my way back to Mystacor.”

“Mara left, then came back some years later it seems,” Adora mused.

From the looks of it, she found some relief during that time.

The rest of the page were notes about the changes to Mystacor that she felt she should keep track of. Interesting, but not relevant at the moment. Then Adora saw the last page. A spell. The last spell in the book. Titled simply, “the Answer”. Adora’s eyes went wide.

She read the spell, a rather simple thing, only a couple necessary components, along with all the notes Mara had made to it. After reading it, Adora looked up. She was stone faced.

That… 

“Maybe we read it wrong,” Adora said quickly. She looked back down and reread the spell three more times.

Then it all clicked. Adora backed up until her back hit the wall behind her. She slowly slid down it. Sitting at the base of the wall, Adora curled her knees up to her chest. “She really did become a monster.”

Noah said that she didn’t care about the price.

Tears formed in Adora’s eyes, followed quickly by uncontrollable sobbing. Adora sat there in the basement for a good ten minutes, alone, crying her heart out. Eventually her body didn’t have anything else to give her.

Adora… I’m sorry. If there was a way I could help us, I would. But this is beyond my control.

“I know.” Adora looked up towards the table the book was on. “It all makes sense now.

“I can’t let myself turn into a monster like her. I won’t,” Adora sniffled. “I can’t use that spell. If I use it… No, that price is too high. But if I don’t…

“Either way I’d become a monster.”

What are you saying then?

“I’m saying…

“I’m saying, that right now, I really want to see my girlfriend…

“...I just want to see the love of my life again.”

I’ll help any way I can.

“Thank you.” Adora sat there in Mara’s vault. Thinking. Deciding. Accepting. Planning. She knew what she wanted. Now that she had found Mara’s vault, she knew her options. Her and She-Ra were willing to do what they could to make those two things work in tandem for as long as they could.

“Adora?” a voice cut through the quiet, starling Adora. She looked up to see Castaspella standing by the stairs.

“Aunt Casta!” Adora got to her feet and met Castapella with a hug.

“The guards told me you were in the vaults. What is this place?” Castaspella asked as she returned Adora’s hug. “I never knew this even existed.”

“This is the Vault of Mara. She was the previous She-Ra. She hid this here, centuries ago,” Adora answered, determined to be as chipper as she could be for her favorite, and to her knowledge, only, aunt. “I was hoping to find something to help me.”

Castaspella pulled back to look at Adora. She frowned at the sight, which was confusing to Adora. She  was wearing one of her trademark long sleeved white shirts and her jacket. The rash on her arm wasn’t visible.

“Your predicament isn’t getting any better,” Castaspella stated. The head sorceress took her fingers and gently grazed them against Adora’s neck. To Adora’s surprise, the touch stung.

Once Adora realized that the rash had spread again, Adora sighed. “No Aunt Casta, no luck. But,” Adora began. She made sure to make eye contact with Castaspella. There was a look of sadness in her aunt’s eyes. Nevertheless, Adora pushed on. “There’s actually something you could hopefully help me with.”

 


 

It was late afternoon when Adora returned to Bright Moon. Just as she was crossing the bridge into the main castle, Glimmer popped in right next to her and assaulted her with a hug.

“THERE YOU ARE!” Glimmer yelled. “I was so worried!” Glimmer released the hug. Her face was a whirlpool of concern and anger. Immediately Glimmer grabbed Adora’s arm and pulled the sleeve up. The princess of Bright Moon let out a sigh of relief as she stared at Adora’s bare, blemish free skin. “When you weren’t here this morning I was so worried that the rash had come back.”

Adora gave her best friend another hug. “I’m sorry I worried you Glim. After everything, I just needed to get some air. And then Razz found me, and then she asked me for help getting some stuff for a potion, so I went to Mystacor, and you know Aunt Casta! Took me all morning before I could get away!” Adora brightly smiled.

Glimmer nodded at the story. Then her head cocked to the side. “Where did the necklace come from? It’s really pretty!”

The necklace in question was around Adora’s neck. It was a thick gold chain connected to a marble pendant on it. In the center of the pendant a large, deep blue gem was inlaid. It seemed to be faintly glowing. Adora played with the chain.

“Oh this? Aunt Casta gave it to me,” Adora replied.

I don’t like this.

Why? That’s technically the truth. She did give it to us.

After you asked her to make it for you.

“No fair!” Glimmer huffed.

Adora grabbed Glimmer’s arm and they began walking into the castle together. “Well if you ask really nice, maybe Aunt Casta will get you one too.”

Glimmer laughed at the idea. “So, everything’s fine?” she asked as they walked.

“Everything’s terrific.”

Great, now we’re just openly lying to our allies?

 

Chapter Text

Catra sat there on the steps to the thrones, her jaw hanging open at the sight of the hologram in front of her. She was so much better defined than anything the Horde had developed, and unlike that pesky custodian of the Crystal Castle, Light Hope, she was in full color and infinitely more stable. Since turning on she hadn’t flickered even once. Catra would have noticed since she has been unable to take her eyes off it. This person looked so real. So lifelike. Catra scurried up the stairs a bit when the hologram took a few steps towards her.

“Little C’yra, it IS you, isn’t?!” the hologram asked, full of enthusiasm.

“N-no. I think you have me mistaken. My name’s Catra,” she stammered. Those lime green eyes were intense to stare at. It hit Catra that she had never had to look into a magicat’s eyes before. The sudden thought that this may be what others felt when looking at her popped into her head. She couldn’t help but think about all the times Adora had willingly, and apparently happily, met her gaze with ease.

The hologram closed in on Catra quickly. Secretly, Catra appreciated that it moved like a normal human, or magicat, and didn’t glide like Light Hope did. The hologram knelt down on the steps next to Catra, and smiled. She gazed intently into Catra’s eyes.

“No. That may be a name that they gave you, but you ARE my little C’yra,” the hologram said. Its hand reached up to Catra’s cheek. To her shock, Catra felt the touch. Not skin, or fur, but something. A sort of solid warmth. Catra could feel it pressing into her cheek. After a few seconds Catra jumped to her feet and fled farther up the stairs, all the way up to the thrones.

“What the hell?! I’m not your little ANYTHING! You’re not even real!” Catra yelled. “You’re… You’re… What even ARE you?”

“My apologies,” the hologram said, rising to her feet. The hologram adjusted her top, a sleek black tank top that had gold trim. “You must be so confused.

“Yes, it is true, you are technically not ‘mine’. I am a digital light sentient AI developed by the original Mira’Dea. The flesh and blood one. Your mother.”

“The Empress of Half Moon is not my mother,” Catra was quick to correct her. “I’m not an Empris. I’m not royalty.” Catra gripped the armrest of one of the thrones, as she was talking her claws were digging farther and farther into it. “I’m just a nobody. A leftover.” 

Mira’Dea smiled. “You are the Empris, young Catra.” The AI began slowly climbing up the stairs. “They can change your name. They can take your childhood memories. They cannot take your birthright.” The digital light version of Mira’Dea reached the top of the steps. Catra was pressed against the throne.

“How? What makes you think that I’m the Empris of Half Moon?” Catra asked. Her voice was starting to crack.

“You mean, besides the fact that you look almost just like me, just like my little C’yra did? Or the fact that you have your mother C’yra’s exact eyes? The reason that I have no doubt is because I’m here.”

Catra tilted her head. “What?”

“The pad worked for you, it’s only programmed to work for the royal family. You were able to restart Half Moon Castle, and turn my program on. You ARE the lost Empris, C’yra the 2nd,” Mira said. There was a softness in her voice that was overwhelming Catra. She hadn’t been able to look Mira in the eyes in minutes. Instead, Catra focused on her own hands. Specifically the hand she had put on the monitor. The hand that had made it work.

“I… I’m the…” Catra lifted her head. Inviting green eyes were shining at her.

It was too much. “... Mom?” Catra’s voice broke as tears began pouring out of her. The recreation of Mira’Dea threw her arms around Catra, pulling her into an actual hug. It was a weird sensation. There was plenty of solidness, plenty of warmth. Best Catra could equate it to was being hugged by a happy thought. Mira wrapped her arms tightly around her.

“Yes, my beautiful daughter, I’m here,” Mira whispered into Catra’s pinned down ears. “I just wish I was really here for you. This version of me is all I can give you. Not enough, but I’ll help you in every way I can.”

The hug lasted a couple of minutes, as Catra worked through her reservoir of tears. Finally, they separated. Mira took her daughter’s hands into the indistinct warmth of her own. “An imperfect family reunion, I’m sure,” Mira said.

“You’re based on my mother, your creator?”

Mira giggled. “More than ‘based’. I am a full brain scan of the real Mira’Dea. I have all her memories, feelings, thoughts, brain patterns. I’m a 99.9% accurate recreation of her. For all intents and purposes, I am her. Her mind at least.” Mira ran her fingers down Catra’s face. “I’m sorry, this was the best that I could do.”

Despite her bloodshot eyes, and tear-stained cheeks, Catra was smiling. “Are you kidding? I get to talk to my mom.”

“I want to know everything! Here, let me get a look at you!” Mira took a few steps back. “What are you? 21? 22?”

“Hah, still 20, we’re still a few months from my 21st.”

“An entire childhood. All your teens. I want to hear about it all!” Mira rushed up and grabbed Catra’s arms.

The request didn’t seem to sit well with Catra. Somehow her body found more tears.

“Oh,” Mira said. “Oh no, I’m sorry, my little C’y-Catra. What’s wrong?”

Catra dropped to her knees and buried her sobbing face into her hands. “Everything’s wrong. Mom. You don’t understand,” Catra’s voice was cracked, full of hiccups, broken up by sniffles. “I’ve done horrible things! Awful things, in the name of the people that did THIS!” Catra growled as she waved her arms about. Mira dropped to a knee to match her daughter. A warm sensation passed through Catra’s shoulder as Mira gently rubbed it. “Your daughter’s a complete screw up who’s only really good at hurting people.” It wasn’t possible, but Catra was trying to squeeze her eyes shut even tighter.

“I don’t believe any of that,” Mira assured Catra. “Come.” The digital representation of the Empress of Half Moon led her daughter down the stairs by the hand. Once they got into the middle of the throne room, Mira placed her hands on either side of Catra’s face. “I do not believe that you’re any of those things. But you don’t have to argue your point, one way or the other. If you let me, I can see that life that you’re apparently so ashamed of. All you have to do is say yes.”

There wasn’t a verbal answer. Catra simply nodded her head. She reclosed her eyes. Suddenly there was a rush, almost like a shock, but not quite. It was like someone had rewound her entire life back and replayed the entire thing in the span of a second. The jolt that went through Catra made her stumble back and fall down, landing on her backside. She sat up and clutched her head, which was throbbing. It took her a minute to regather herself. Catra’s entire life was a slideshow that had been dumped into a pile on the floor. Slowly but surely, she was able to put herself back in order.

As Catra was able to regain focus, a sudden dread hit her. Did her mom hate her now? Just as she found her, was it going to be all over that quickly? “I’m so sorry,” Catra mumbled under her breath.

Shadow blocked the light over Catra. She slowly lifted her head to see Mira’Dea standing over her, a huge smile on her face. “What on Etheria for, my sweet child?” Mira asked. She extended her hand out. To Catra’s surprise the hologram was able to grip her hand firmly enough to pull her to her feet.

“You saw, didn’t you?” Catra asked, just inches from her mom.

Mira softly smiled at her daughter and caressed her cheek. “I saw everything. But what I didn’t see is anything I should be mad at. What I saw was a young girl, struggling to survive in a hellish upbringing, fighting for every scrap she could get.” Mira hugged Catra again. “The Horde went out of their way to control and manipulate you. Yet here you are, standing in your birthplace, having gotten here because of friends from the Rebellion,” Mira laughed. “MY Rebellion, that C’yra, Micah, and I worked so hard to get going. Speaking of which, that Bow fella is trying to hack through the door’s locks.”

“He’s just worried about me,” Catra chuckled.

“See?” Mira asked, giving Catra’s cheek a small pat. “You have friends that worry. I even saw a girlfriend in there,” Mira slyly said.

Catra had a spontaneous coughing fit as her entire face went red. “How-How much did you see? Exactly?”

“Don’t worry,” Mira said, strolling over towards the big doors in the throne room. “I skipped over all the parts that I really did not want to see. But you know what I did see?” Mira asked. She had reached the door. Before opening she turned around to look at Catra, who just shrugged as a response to Mira’s question. “I saw how happy this Adora makes you. And how much she cares about you.” A smug little smirk grew on Mira’s face. Catra knew that look well, she’d seen it many times in the mirror. “And you thought you had something to be ashamed of.”

Just as she finished her statement, Mira snapped her digital fingers. The doors to the throne room flew open. Bow could be seen just off to the side of the door. His hands were fiddling inside the opened control panel. There was a screwdriver in his mouth.

At the sight of Mira’Dea, Bow spit out the screwdriver and jumped back. “What the?!” he shouted.

“Hello, Mr. Bow,” Mira cheerfully greeted the bewildered archer. Catra made her way up to Mira and gave the digital light construct a side hug. They both got a giggle out of Bow’s exasperated expression.

“Bow, I’d like you to meet Mira’Dea, one of the Empresses of Half Moon. And my mother.”

“Wait,” Bow was rubbing his temples with his hands. “Okay, hold on…”

“Oh, he is adorable, isn’t he?” Mira said. She pulled Bow into the throne room with them.

When Mira’Dea let Bow go he stared at his hands. “Um. No offense, your Majesty, but why do you feel like that?” Catra couldn’t help but laugh at Bow’s question.

The Empress was more forgiving. “Because, sadly, I am not the original Mira’Dea. I am a digital light sentient AI, built by the original Mira’Dea.”

“Wow!” Bow gasped, staring intently at Mira. He reached his hand out and tapped her on the shoulder. “You’re… so much more impressive than Light Hope. Makes sense, I guess. Even with her self-maintenance, she is over a 1,000 years old.”

“Yes, the original Mira’Dea outdid herself. For all intents and purposes, except for the physical form, I am her.

“Enough about me, though!” Mira’Dea announced. “How about a tour of your castle, Catra?”

The idea slammed into Catra, who was only now just really starting to grasp the ramifications of what she was. “ My castle?”

“Well yes, you are the Empris of Half Moon, and the heir to the throne. And the last living member of the royal family,” Mira’Dea rattled off. Mira’s expression changed instantly to something far more somber. “On second thought, that may not be as fun as I first thought. Nobody’s been here since the Battle of Half Moon, all those many years ago. Half Moon has sat, a decaying graveyard to the fallen. An entire civilization lies here, strewn in the streets. Buried under the rubble of their homes.”

“That’s awful,” Bow groaned. 

“I want to see it.” Both Bow and Mira’Dea turned to Catra. Her hands were balled into fists, eyes unfocused, seemingly staring off into nothing. Her jaw clenched as a look of resolve grew on her face. “Half Moon. The Horde. The fall of the First Rebellion. The Battle of Half Moon. That was how I was born. Me, Catra. Not C’yra the Second, not the Empris, not the daughter of Mira’Dea and C’yra. This whole kingdom sits, suspended in the moment Catra was born.

“I want to see.

“... I need to see it.”

As Catra stood there, Mira’Dea made her way over to her daughter. For the first time, Catra found it easy to gaze into those intense green eyes. She offered her mom a soft smile. “If I’m going to figure out how to move forward from my past, I need to see it. All of it.”

Mira’Dea had only known her daughter for a couple of minutes, and had only gotten to experience Catra’s life as a massive data dump that, even with her supercomputer brain, she had barely enough time to take in. Even so, the look of resolve on Catra’s face was convincing. She nodded, and led them out into the foyer. 

“This was where guests that arrived at Half Moon Castle would first be greeted. It’s empty now, but long ago there would have been dozens of people here at any given time. Along with plenty of guards and service staff.”

“Come, this way,” Mira’Dea commanded. Off to the side of the room was a stairwell that curved up. “This was the main entrance to the rest of the castle. My old workshop, C’yra’s laboratory, kitchens, dining halls, you name it.”

“Wait, the throne room is on the bottom floor of the castle?” Bow inquired.

“Indeed! You’ll find that, due to the nature of Half Moon, our sense of verticality and placement is a little different,” Mira said with a smile.

Bow and Catra squinted at her. “The nature of Half Moon?” Catra asked.

Mira let out a chuckle. “Oh! You came in through the teleporters didn’t you?” She got nods of confirmation from both. “Well then! Let’s explore the castle, and then I do believe it will be time to properly introduce you to the Kingdom of Half Moon.”

 


 

“Wow,” Scorpia gasped. “I didn’t know trees got that big!”

It was a bright day in Plumeria. Scorpia, Kyle, and Rogelio were near the entrance to the main community of Plumeria, situated under the shadow of the vast Heart Blossom Tree. They were wearing uniforms similar to their old ones, but now in a gradient of dark purple instead of red, and lacking any kind of insignias.

The sight of the towering magenta plant was striking to the ex-Horde squad. “You and me both,” Kyle whispered. “I’ve read about nature, but seeing it up close and in person…” Kyle had to crane his neck to see the top branches. “... It’s breathtaking.” Rogelio grunted something quietly and simply slid his arm around one of Kyle’s, pulling them closer together.

All around them, the community of Plumeria was bustling with the work of the day. Farming, gardening, bartering. A gaggle of children ran past Scorpia, all giggling incessantly as a blue ball bounced ahead of them. One of the kids stopped and turned. The little one was staring at Scorpia, and slowly wandered her way back towards the scorpion woman. In turn Scorpia knelt down to greet the child.

“Hiya!” Scorpia bellowed. The kid reached for Scorpia’s claw with her left hand. Scorpia played along, and extended it out to the kid. “My name is Scorpia. What’s your name?”

“...Murna,” the little one said, stroking Scorpia’s claw. “Where’s your hand?”

“This is my hand,” Scorpia beamed. She slowly opened her claw. Murna gasped at it.

“How do you do stuff with it?” the little girl squeaked.

Scorpia gave her a big smile. “Well, it took some time growing up, but now I can use it for just about everything. I don’t even have to think about it.”

Little Murna gave Scorpia a gap-toothed smile. “Maybe someday I can be like that, too!” she exclaimed. She held up her right arm; the forearm was only half the size of a normal one and the fingers on that hand were seemingly pushed and forced together, forming a sort of hook shape.

“Of course you will!” Scorpia exuberantly said. “You’re going to be able to do anything you want!” Scorpia held her claw up, and Murna gave her a high five. “Now, you should probably go catch up with your friends,” Scorpia said, running her claw softly along Murna’s shoulders. “But first, could you possibly point us to the market?” Murna pointed slightly to the east, then ran off, waving as she left. The Dryl group waved back.

Just to the east of Plumeria’s community square was the market; a long walkway with tables and stalls and carts lined up on either side. There people could buy or barter for all kinds of goods. Clothes, jewelry, supplies, trinkets, just about everything. Towards the far end was where all the food venders seemed to group. Just past the vendors were a series of low, round tables surrounded by cushions, making a sort of unofficial food court.

The group from Dryl strolled through the market until they got to cart they were looking for, a food stall near the end of the row. The front was a lavender and blue painted stand with a long counter with platters of small pastries. The sign on the stall read “Pâtisserie Petit”. Behind the stall a short woman with blue hair that was tied back into a bun was working the counter while a huskier woman with lime green hair was working in the kitchen area and a lavender-haired person was mixing various syrups to concoct different flavors of fizzy water.

Scorpia stood patiently behind a customer at the stand in front of her. When they were done she walked up to the counter and was greeted with a warm smile from the blue-haired girl. “Hi! My name is Ayla, how can I help you today?” she chirped.

“Oooh, I have no idea! What’s good?” Scorpia asked.

Kyle popped from behind Scorpia. “I remember seeing something like that at the victory celebration!” Kyle said as he pointed at a little triangle pastry that had a dollop of jelly sticking out the top.

“Oh, yes! Our jelly tarts. They are quite popular!” Ayla joyfully claimed.

“I concur, they are very tasty,” Entrapta said, suddenly appearing behind the Dryl Squad.

Ayla jumped back and gasped. The two in the kitchen looked up at the commotion and also gasped. 

“Y-Your Majesty!” the green-haired woman shrieked.

Entrapta smiled at them. “Hello, Laudia. Ayla, Allum,” she said with a nod.

All three bowed low. “Princess Entrapta! We heard you returned from the Horde,” Ayla said. “We were unaware that you’d be coming to Plumeria.”

“Hah,” Scorpia bellowed out. “Entrapta’s here for business and pleasure,” Scorpia boasted. Entrapta turned a deep red.

Allum, the lavender-haired one, cocked their head to the side. “Peculiar,” they remarked. Entrapta quickly shook it off and returned to her jovial demeanor. Allum, along with the rest, gulped hard. “Princess Entrapta… Did you come here to take us back to Dryl?”

“What?” Entrapta yelped. “Not at all. Of course, you are always free to return if you desired to, but no, the reason we’re here is so possibly arrange for a daily shipment of your sweets and fizzy drinks. Paid shipments, of course. And I’d handle setting up the transportation.” The trio breathed a sigh of relief.

“That sounds doable, your Highness,” Laudia said.

“Excellent!” Entrapta proclaimed. “I’ll let Scorpia, Assistant Kyle, and Rogelio here to work out the details of the shipments. I have… business with-”

“-Princess Perfuma!” Ayla gasped.

At the name, Entrapta’s eyes grew wide, almost as wide as her smile. She spun around on her pigtails. Perfuma was standing just a handful of yards away.

“Hello everyONE!” Perfuma yelped as Entrapta scurried along on her pigtails and pounced on Perfuma, finding her lips in seconds.

The Dryl team watched with amused satisfaction at the sight of their friend’s happiness. Their attention was caught by the sound of glass shattering on the ground. Scorpia turned around to see three very exasperated faces. A broken fizzy drink bottle lay at Allum’s feet.

“She does have a heart!” Allum breathed.

Laudia leaned in with a smirk. “Looks like I win the bet.”

Allum sighed. “Fiiine. I’ll take all your chores for a week.”

“Deal.”

Locked arm in arm, Entrapta and Perfuma strolled away from the Pâtisserie Petit. They talked about their week since the Second Battle of Bright Moon on the way. Once they got out of the bustle of the market, Entrapta was able to focus a little more.

“Plumeria is quite lovely,” Entrapta noted, her head resting on Perfuma’s shoulder.

“Thank you,” the princess giggled. “I hope this is your first of many visits to my kingdom.”

“Of course,” Entrapta said with a light, happy sigh. Pretty soon they came to their destination. A crate in the Plumeria Community Square. There were Dryl logos plastered on the sides.

“Is this it? The Clack Back system?”

Entrapta bounced along forward and embraced the crate. “Yes! It shouldn’t take that long to set it up.” Entrapta began pacing around, surveying the forest around the village. “This should be particularly easy. We’ll just mount them to the trees, that’ll save time.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Perfuma’s cheery face sudden had a look of horror on it.

“What?” Entrapta asked back, not understanding Perfuma’s reaction.

Perfuma took a deep breath. “Entrapta, Dear, mounting involves nails and hammers and whatnot correct?” Perfuma asked. Entrapta gave a nod, still not understanding the problem. “We are not mounting anything to the trees.”

It took a moment for Entrapta to process. Her mouth hung slightly open. “But… That would be the fastest and most efficient way.”

“It’s barbaric!” Perfuma huffed. “Could you just as easily drive a nail through a person?”

“... Trees aren’t people,” Entrapta stammered.

“They can still feel, though! They can feel pain!”

Entrapta stared intently at a tree for a few seconds, then back at Perfuma. “N-no. It is a tree. They aren’t sentient creatures.”

“Says you,” Perfuma was glaring at Entrapta.

“Yes. Yes, that is what I just said,” Entrapta was examining her girlfriend. At some point she had become displeased, and was now seemingly downright frustrated. Entrapta had barely an idea why.

This wasn’t the first time. On the day that they got back to Dryl, they had spent the afternoon together. It was the only time before now Entrapta had been able to see Perfuma. Entrapta remembered them cuddling together and talking. She remembered Perfuma off-handedly asking her about her zodiac sign. A wonderful question. Entrapta was ecstatic to show Perfuma her presentation proving the absurdity of horoscopes. For some reason, Perfuma didn’t seem to approve of the presentation. Entrapta didn’t understand the tears. 

Mounts were something else that Perfuma didn’t approve of, apparently. “I suppose we can install poles for the system. It’ll take more work, and a little more time,” Entrapta was stroking her chin as she brainstormed on the fly.

“And be an eyesore,” Perfuma added, her arms were folded. She freed one of them to wave around at the village. “Look around, Entrapta. We are at one with nature here. We add to it where we can. We build our buildings and set our tents in accordance with the trees and plants around us. We do not build giant towers, or poles, that will be blots on that harmonious landscape.”

“Uuuuh,” Entrapta said, mouth agape. “I do not understand, that is the only other efficient solution. If we waited to develop something else it would take too long, leaving Plumeria unprotected.”

“No poles.”

“Okay, then we will do the mounting then.” 

No mounting!”

“You’re mad,” Entrapta said, voice breaking. “I-I do not know what I did.”

Perfuma buried her head in her hands. “No, of course you don’t. All you can see are problems you can throw machines at!”

“Machines are useful!” Entrapta defended herself. She wanted to move closer to Perfuma, but was afraid of approaching her at the moment. “I just want to get this defense system up as quickly as possible! Using the trees for mounts would let us get them up today! Plumeria would be protected!”

“No. Mounts .” Perfuma spit out through gritted teeth. “We’re not putting the system up until we can figure out a way to do it without hurting the trees or ruining the harmony of Plumeria!”

“But… But..” Entrapta was sputtering. “That would take days! No, mounting is how it needs to be installed.”

The Princess of Plumeria shot Entrapta an ice cold stare. “We. Are. Not. Mounting. Anything,” she said with an eerie calm. Then she inhaled in a deep breath. “No, it’s fine. You know what? Plumeria has builders, just leave it here and they will take a look at it. And if they can’t figure it out I’ll just ask Bow for help when he gets back.”

Entrapta had no idea how to respond. She started about a dozen sentences in her head, but they all fell apart. She could feel the tears beginning to well up in the corner of her eyes.

“I think you should go,” Perfuma said, perfectly calm, after an awkwardly silent moment.

“I’m… I’m…” Entrapta kept saying. She gave up trying to say anything with a little huff, and a whimper. “Okay,” she finally was able to whisper. Entrapta began skulking away. She stopped to look back at Perfuma, who had her back turned to Entrapta. She began to reach a hand out, but pulled it back and thought better of it.

Perfuma gave it a couple minutes to make sure that Entrapta was gone before burying her head into her hands and sobbing.

 


 

Much of Castle Half Moon was deserted. There weren’t even any signs of battle. Just emptiness. Which wasn’t unexpected, just creepy. Mira’Dea had led them through the first few floors quickly. They were mostly staff quarters and areas for cooking and cleaning and other boring yet vital things for a castle to function. There was a floor that just consisted of ballrooms, during which both Bow and Catra recounted their misadventures at royal engagements. Mira couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that “that time I drugged and captured you, Bow,” was met with such amusement between the two. The second to top floor was some of the empresses’ personal rooms. C’yra’s lab, where she kept up with her magical studies, was fascinating. A lot of time was spent in Mira’Dea’s workshop, where the digital version of Mira’Dea and Bow geeked out about all the tech that was strewn about.

It was the top floor that proved a challenge. As soon as they got out of the stairwell and into the hallway, it was obvious. Decayed bodies were everywhere. At this point they were mostly just a few bones in rusted armor and disintegrating fabric. There was a variety of armor in various states of disrepair; sleek blue Half Moon armor, dark grey armor with the unmistakable Horde logos, and also, “this looks like what Bright Moon guards wear,” Bow breathed as he knelt down over one of the dead.

“Yes,” Mira’Dea answered him. “Word got to them too late, but Bright Moon sent a contingent nevertheless to aid us.” Mira’Dea knelt down next to Bow and gently placed a hand on the armor. Her eyes fell shut. “They fought valiantly. Gave their lives trying to protect the treasure of Half Moon,” Mira’Dea sighed.

Catra was carefully walking along the hallway, avoiding stepping on anyone. She was clutching her own arms tightly, trying desperately to wrap herself in a hug. From the pattern of bodies, it seemed like