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Breaking the Chain

Chapter Text

“Get out!”

Adora and Catra had been running around The Fright Zone, playing some game that not even they really knew the rules of, when the pair had found The Black Garnet chamber abandoned, with the door wide open.

The Black Garnet chamber was one of the most mysterious and scary places in the Fright Zone. Nobody was allowed inside except Shadow Weaver, Hordak’s cruel second in command. All the majority of The Horde knew about it was the ominous red glow that escaped from the cracks in the door and the screams that could be heard walking passed. Some cadets, especially the ones that slept in the barracks just down the hall, swore that the closer to the chamber you got, the worse your nightmares would get.

So of course when Adora and Catra found its door open with Shadow Weaver nowhere to be seen, they went inside.

A large black crystal dominated the inside of the chamber – the eponymous Black Garnet. Red light pulsed through the crystal like veins, giving off the harsh red glow the room was known for.

Aside from the Black Garnet in the centre, the room was mostly empty. There was no furniture to rest on, no chairs or beds, only the monitors that could be found on every wall of The Fright Zone and a small pedestal, on which a shallow bowl of water was mounted.

Standing in its presence, Adora and Catra understood what the cadets said about nightmares. Just being in the same room as it was enough to send shivers down their spines and put doubt into their hearts.

That wasn’t enough to stop Catra from poking at the crystal, scraping it with one of her claws. The effect was instantaneous, as The Black Garnet sent pain coursing through her nerves. Adora could only watch as red lightning arced down Catra’s body, only stopping moments later when she withdrew her claw.

“Catra, are you okay?” Adora asked, the concern in her voice palpable.

“I’ll be fine.” Catra replied. It was not meant to be dismissive, however, like it would have been if anyone except Adora had asked. “Just hurt a bit.”

Adora wasn’t sure how long the pair of them had been in the room, enraptured by the crystal – it didn’t feel like long – when Shadow Weaver entered, practically dragging herself in and howling in pain the entire way.

Lucky for them Shadow Weaver’s pain was distracting enough that she didn’t notice the pair when she entered, and they had time to skirt around and hide on the other side of the Black Garnet.

Adora was thinking quickly, trying to figure out a way they could get away without Shadow Weaver noticing. A quick glance over to Catra confirmed that her feline friend was doing the same thing.

Maybe, Adora thought, if they stuck to the shadows that lined the walls they’d be able to blend in and get out without incident.

Adora was about to signal to Catra, try and communicate her plan without actually saying anything, when she was interrupted by the sharp, echoing sound of something falling on the metal floor. In her pain, Shadow Weaver had ripped off her mask and let it fall to the floor.

Adora couldn’t help but gasp. Shadow Weaver’s face was horrifying. It was as though her skin was melting off and peeling away. Her eyes looked like they didn’t fit in the sockets properly and could fall out at any second.

Hearing the gasp, Shadow Weaver snapped her attention to Adora, and therefore also Catra who was still standing next to her, frozen in horror at her unmasked face.

“Get Out!” Shadow Weaver screeched at the pair as she reached to re-affix her mask. Not needing to be told twice, the pair dashed for the exit, any thoughts of sneaking through the shadows gone from their minds.

“Not you.” Shadow Weaver said, her usual cold composure returning with the mask. “You stay.”

She reached out her arm and Catra was frozen once more, this time by Shadow Weaver’s dark magic. She wanted to scream, protest, struggle in some way, but she found herself stopped by the magic as it inflicted pain that coursed through her small body.

Adora was going to do as Shadow Weaver said, was about to run out of the room when something stopped her. She couldn’t just leave Catra here alone, she realised. Despite how her friend liked to tease her, Adora was smart. She had figured out what happened to Catra when she was left alone with Shadow Weaver.

And she refused to let it happen anymore.

Not again. Not to Catra. Not to her only real friend.

“No!” Adora yelled, throwing herself between Catra and her tormentor. “Stop it!”

“Adora, please.” Shadow Weaver tried to reason in what must have passed for her gentle and understanding voice. “Catra broke the rules, she needs to be punished.”

As soon as she said “punished”, Shadow Weaver flicked her wrist and wracked Catra with red lightning that covered her in tiny scars that crisscrossed across her body.

“No! I broke the rules too, you can’t just punish her! It’s not fair!” Adora was close to tears, trying desperately to get Shadow Weaver to back off from her friend.

“Oh, Adora. Life isn’t fair, that’s something you need to realise.” And then with a flourish of her hand, Shadow Weaver forced Adora out of the room, her magic slamming the door and trapping Catra in with her.

Adora stood by the door for hours, wailing and slamming her little fists against it, begging – demanding even, that Shadow Weaver let Catra go.

Hours further seemed to pass and Adora collapsed into a heap by the door, exhausted from her vigil. She was woken up when the door finally opened and Catra’s unmoving body was flung into the hallway.

“Keep your pet under control.” Was all Shadow Weaver said with her icy cold voice before slipping back into the Black Garnet chamber, the door slamming shut behind her.

“Catra!” Adora wanted to cry at the top of her lungs, but it barely came out as more than a whisper after her hours of screaming and crying.

“Catra, can you hear me?” Adora asked, prodding and gently shaking her friend in an attempt to get a response. Getting none, Adora started to grow desperate, shaking Catra harder and putting a finger to her neck, trying to find a pulse like they’d been taught in their first field medicine course earlier that week. It took her a few minutes to find the right spot, her anxieties telling her that Catra was dead the whole time, but eventually she did feel the faint beat of a pulse on her fingertips.

Relieved that her friend was still alive, even if she wasn’t moving, Adora gathered her strength and picked Catra up using a modified version of one of the holds they had learnt in their sparring training – training Adora was suddenly very thankful she excelled in. She doubted she’d be able to keep it up for long, but she should be able to make it back to their bunk without any trouble.

It took a while, but eventually Adora got the pair of them back to their shared bunk. She laid Catra down on the bottom bed, gently she hoped, although a life time of combat training made that seem unlikely. Either way it didn’t look like Catra would be waking up for a while, so she curled up next to her to make sure she’d be there when she eventually woke up and let herself drift off.

Adora wasn’t sure how long she’d been asleep when Catra suddenly jumped up in the bed, wide awake and terrified. With how Adora had shifted in her sleep to hold Catra there was no way she’d have been able to sleep through it, not that she minded in the slightest.

“Catra! You’re awake!”

Adora then remembered where they were and quickly glanced around the barracks, worried she may have woken up a sleeping squad mate. Thankfully the rest of their squad was out, probably at some training exercise she’d ignored in her concern for Catra.

Satisfied that they were alone, Adora turned her attention back to her friend.

“How are you feeling?” She asked, although she was pretty sure she could guess the answer.

Catra didn’t respond, instead opting to pull the scratchy blanket tight around her, hiding her face behind it.

Adora didn’t say anything more, instead gently pulling the blanket down from Catra’s face and giving her friend a hug. They stayed like that for several minutes, with Catra quietly sobbing into Adora’s shoulder, before Catra gently shook Adora off.

“I hate her.”

“I hate her too.”

In another world, Adora might have tried to justify Shadow Weaver’s actions – even if it was only half-heartedly – bought into what Shadow Weaver said about needing to punish Catra. Instead, Adora had realised in her hours spent listening to Catra’s screams and begging for mercy that Shadow Weaver was evil.

What that actually meant, Adora didn’t really know. She knew that the princesses were evil, and they were trying to stop the princesses. And Adora wanted to stop Shadow Weaver. Really, that was enough for her.

“Let’s leave. Run away.”

Even as the words were leaving her mouth, Adora found herself surprised by them. But it was the only way. As long as they stayed with The Horde, Shadow Weaver would be in charge of them. And as long as that was the case, Catra wouldn’t be safe. The only option was to leave.

“Where would we go?” Catra asked, her voice dry and horse from her tears. “The Rebellion wouldn’t take us, and we’d die in The Whispering Woods.”

As much as Catra desperately wanted to run away with Adora, and deeply appreciated that Adora was willing to give up everything to go with her, her preservation instinct that Shadow Weaver had forced her to develop told her it was a bad idea, she’d just have to tough out the punishments until...

Well Catra wasn’t sure when.

She hoped not forever.

But Adora wasn’t ready to give up.

“Maybe not today then. But one day Catra, I promise I’ll get us out of here.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

Chapter Text

Maybe going to find The Sword alone had been a mistake, Adora admitted to herself as she stumbled through yet another bush, trying to make her way back to where she had fallen earlier in the day. Catra had always been the better of the two of them at finding her way around, probably on account of her heightened, cat-like senses.

Adora had stolen another skiff to get to the Whispering Woods, and was starting to regret leaving it at the edge of the woods. She had been worried that she’d just fly by the Sword without noticing it on the ground, but at least she wouldn’t have been climbing through the underbrush, getting covered in mud and tiny scratches – not big enough to really hurt, but plentiful enough to be irritating.

As she pushed through yet another bush into yet another empty clearing, Adora started to think that maybe Catra had been right, hunting for a random sword in enemy territory in  the middle of the night had been a bad idea.

As soon as she thought it, almost as though the woods were alive and listening to her thoughts, the dull whispers that surrounded her and gave the woods their name solidified into a single unified voice.

“Adora...”

“Who’s there?” Adora demanded, her fists already drawn up into a fighting stance. “Show yourself!”

“Adora...” The woods repeated. It was only her name, but still Adora felt like they were testing her, judging her.

She was about to open her mouth to say something, demand to know what they wanted, only to have the trees part before her, revealing another clearing, one bathed in a brilliant blue light, despite the fact that it was the middle of the night.

In the centre of that light was the Sword, impaled blade first in ground, calling to her.

“The Sword! Thank you!” Adora still didn’t really understand who she was talking to, but thanking them felt important regardless.

With the Sword finally within her sights, Adora threw caution to the wind and ran to it.

“Horde soldier!”

Adora was about halfway to the Sword when the cry caught her off-guard. She stopped running to look for the source of the call. It was a boy with a bow and a girl with sparkly pink hair. Was that a princess? Adora didn’t want to hang around and find out. Seizing the initiative while the pair stood and screamed in what might have been some kind of rebellion war-chant, Adora made for the Sword, sprinting as fast as she could.

She found herself wishing once again that she’d brought Catra with her. That girl was fast.

Adora had halved the distance between herself and the Sword again when Bow and Sparkles snapped into action. She noticed an arrow flying towards her and rolled out of the way at the last moment, only to roll right into Sparkles. How she’d closed the distance so quickly without Adora noticing she wasn’t sure.

“Back off, I don’t want to hurt you.” Adora warned, leaving the “but I will” unsaid.

 “Since when does a Horde soldier not want to hurt someone?” Sparkles asked, tackling Adora as she did.

The instincts a lifetime of combat training had given her kicked in and Adora twisted and threw Sparkles over her shoulder.

“I’m just here for the Sword, we don’t have to fight.”

“The Sword is rebellion property, you can’t have it!”

Adora dodged another arrow – which exploded into a puddle of green goop when it landed – and made another dash for the Sword, only to have Sparkles appear in front of her.

“I found the Sword in the Whispering Woods. It’s mine.”

She tried to push past Sparkles, only to be surprised by Bow coming up and tackle her from behind.

“And the Whispering Woods are under the Rebellion’s protection. It’s ours.”

Adora rolled over and shoved Sparkles and Bow off her. The two just laid where they were, stunned. Adora took advantage of their confusion and made one last dash for the Sword, grabbing it just as the two started to stand up.

That was the last thing she saw, because the next thing she knew she was blinded by a flash of intense white light.

“Adora...”

She had heard that voice before, last time she touched the Sword, and again in her dream earlier that night.

“Etheria needs a hero. Will you fight for the honour of Greyskull?”

A strange looking holographic woman stood before a series of images Adora had trouble comprehending. They looked like the sky, but different. Like it wasn’t her sky.

“Who are you? What is Greyskull? You’re not making any sense.”

“I am Light Hope. Will you fight for the honour of Greyskull?” The woman repeated.

Adora wanted to ask more questions, find out what exactly was happening, but she lost the chance as consciousness began to return.

When she came to, Adora’s hands had been bound behind her back and Sparkles was pointing the Sword at her throat.

“Who exactly are you?” She demanded, glaring at Adora.

Instead of answering, Adora flexed, testing the strength of the knots binding her. They didn’t budge. If she was getting out of this, it wouldn’t be through raw strength alone.

Tired of waiting for her to answer, and apparently uninterested in asking again, Sparkles pulled Bow away to where they must have thought they were out of her earshot.

“This is it Bow – ”

Wait, was his name actually Bow? Adora had only been calling him that because of his weapon.

“ – if I bring home this First One’s tech and capture a Horde soldier, Mom will have to respect me!”

“Maybe she’ll even consider your plan to rebuild the Princess Alliance.”

Adora could have easily run while the pair talked, they hadn’t even bound her legs for Etheria’s sake! However, she found herself compelled to stay. She hadn’t actually met any members of the Rebellion before, and she didn’t want to just throw away what could end up being a chance for her and Catra to escape Shadow Weaver and the Horde’s clutches.

“Alright prisoner, we’re going to take you to Brightmoon to be interrogated and answer for your crimes as a Horde spy. Get moving.” Sparkles waved the Sword at her again before marching into the woods, leaving Bow with Adora to make sure she followed.

As they walked, with Sparkles scouting ahead with Bow and Adora following behind, Adora reflected on her captors. Bow, who was trying to make small talk as she ignored him, seemed to be very friendly and almost shockingly genuine. He actually reminded her of Kyle somewhat, except Bow actually seemed competent.

Sparkles on the other hand – Adora still didn’t know her actual name – reminded her of Catra so much that she almost called her that while they were fighting. Sparkles seemed just as headstrong and stubborn as her best friend, and if the conversation she’d overhead was any indication, both were eager to prove themselves.

Either way, neither of her captors seemed like the cold hearted, ruthless Rebellion soldiers the Horde had taught her about, not even Sparkles, who Adora was fairly sure was a princess.

Not that Adora was particularly surprised by that development. Adora had suffered in the Horde, and when she’d realised how bad Catra had it many years ago it opened her eyes to the Horde’s pattern of lies and abuse. The idea that they’ been feeding them nothing but lies and propaganda was not a stretch at all.

“You don’t talk much do you?”

Bow’s voice snapped Adora out of her contemplation.

“I’m your captive, do you really expect me to be?”

That being said, Adora did have the perfect chance to learn about the Rebellion since the Horde’s teachings seemed to be... off.

“So what’s Sparkles’ deal? I’m pretty sure people aren’t supposed to teleport.”

“Oh, you mean Glimmer? She’s a princess.” Bow said like it explained everything. And, in his defence, it largely did. Princesses were supposed to have unnatural, dangerous magical powers. That being said, Adora was making sure she questioned everything the Horde had “taught” her. After all, Sparkles – or Glimmer, as she’d learnt was her other captor’s actual name was – didn’t exactly fit the Horde’s description of princess as horrifying, primal creatures that only vaguely resembled humans.

“Don’t tell me you don’t have princesses in the Horde?” Bow looked utterly heartbroken at the idea of life without princesses, for what reason Adora couldn’t fathom.

“Not really. Although Catra is convinced that Shadow Weaver is some king of rogue princess.”

“Who’s Catra?” Bow asked, and Adora wasn’t sure if it was because Bow seemed genuinely interested in her life, or if it was just because she liked talking about Catra, but she was going to tell him.

Going to, before they pushed through the trees and found Glimmer frozen in place, silently staring at the still smouldering ruins of a village.

“They can’t keep getting away with this.” Glimmer sobbed when she heard Bow approach.

Adora hung back, not quite sure what she should do. She didn’t know Glimmer well enough to feel right trying to comfort her, and if her suspicions were accurate there’d be a good chance her comfort would feel hollow.

“What happened here?” She asked.

“What do you think happened, look around.” Glimmer told her, unable to keep the malice out of her voice.

“The Horde.” Bow elaborated.

Adora wished she could say she was surprised. She wished she had enough faith in the people that raised her to be able to defend them, to insist there must have been some kind of misunderstanding.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

“I’m sorry.” She offered.

“The Horde did this, and you’re a part of it. You don’t get to be sorry.”

“Glimmer, don’t you think that’s a little harsh?” Bow asked. “She was just saying she was sorry.”

The look on Glimmer’s face betrayed her shock and hurt that Bow would suggest such a thing.

“It’s the Horde Bow. Don’t you remember what they’ve done, who we’ve lost?” Glimmer turned to Adora and her expression morphed back to rage. “You’re the reason I don’t have a dad anymore, why I lost my sister.”

Adora was at a loss for words. How can you possibly respond to something like that?

Luckily for her, some kind of giant insect monster chose that moment to burst through the village.

Well, maybe not luckily.

But it did break the awkward silence.

The creature reminded her of the beetles that would crawl through the parts of the Fright Zone that had fallen into disrepair – so most of it. Except where those beetles were black and barely larger than her hand, this one’s carapace shimmered with every colour of the rainbow and was the size of a tank.

 Glimmer teleported into the tree line with a flash of sparkles as Bow sprinted in the same direction.

Adora managed to ignore her lifetime of combat training by not jumping in to fight it head-on, instead following the rebel pair’s lead, turning tail and running back into the forest.

Adora was only barely outrunning it as she pushed through the bushes and branches. It didn’t seem to care one way or another, crashing through the mighty and ancient woods like they were little more than dry twigs.

The creature tried to sweep at her with one of its giant mandibles, only narrowly missing Adora’s legs. Digging into her reserves, Adora found one last burst of speed and burst through the tree line, finding herself in another clearing, although it didn’t seem to be the same one she’d found the Sword in. Glimmer was already there, and Bow burst in a moment after she did.

They didn’t have long to catch their breath before the giant insect crashed through the last of the trees and breached the clearing. Glimmer dropped the Sword and raised her fists, which were now sparkling more than her hair. Bow notched an arrow, readying themselves for the coming fight only moments before the creature emerged.

For her part, Adora did nothing. With her hands bound and no weapons to speak of anyways there wasn’t much she could do beyond hoping her captors had it under control.

Bow let his arrow fly and Glimmer punched sparkling blasts at the monster, but they hardly seemed to even slow it down. The beetle charged at them, gnashing its weird bug teeth as it did. Adora dropped and rolled out of the creature’s way, landing herself in the cover of the big roots of an even bigger tree, as Bow and Glimmer backed up further and further, continuing to shoot arrow after arrow and blast after blast.

While that was enough to stop the monster’s charge, it certainly wasn’t enough to stop it completely. Slowly the creature inched forward, backing Bow and Glimmer closer and closer to the edge of the clearing. Adora didn’t want to think about what would happen when they were pinned against the dense woods.

She also didn’t want to think about what would happen once the monster was done with the pair of them and realised it was missing its third snack.

Adora let her lifetime of training take over. As soon as the monster had passed her hiding spot she rolled smoothly out of the roots and jumped to her feet.

Her eyes scanned over the clearing, searching for where Glimmer had abandoned the sword. Its telltale glow meant it didn’t take long to find. Adora dashed across the clearing to the sword before the insect could turn around and react to her movements. She dived down to where the sword lay and ran it between her arms, the sharp blade cutting through the ropes that bound her like they were nothing.

She grabbed the Sword, stood up, and faced the monster. It had finally finished turning and lowered its head to charge when Adora heard the voice of Light Hope echo through her head once more.

“Will you fight for the honour of Greyskull?”

The words echoed as Adora let an instinct she didn’t know she possessed take control. She lifted the Sword high in the air and declared:

“For the honour of Greyskull!”

There was a blinding flash from the stone embedded in the Sword’s hilt as Adora felt herself change. She grew at least a foot taller, possibly more, it was hard to tell. She grew stronger – although Catra would have told her it wasn’t possible. Her hair seemed to have freed itself from its usual orderly ponytail and was now flying dramatically behind her.

Her outfit changed too. Her standard issue Horde uniform had been replaced by a vibrant white one piece with a skirt. She was dotted with pieces of armour, most notably a pair of golden bracers. And possibly worst of all, she was now wearing a tiara.

The biggest changes, however, weren’t physical.

 There was an energy, a power, running through Adora’s veins. It was exhilarating. It felt like she’d been living her whole life with one eye closed, and now she was seeing the world clearly for the first time. In this one moment Adora felt like she was at one with all of Etheria. She could understand the voices of the Whispering Woods. She could smell the salt of a far away sea, hear the people of a far away kingdom, feel the cold of a far away glacier. She could taste fruits she couldn’t even name.

It was exhilarating.

It was overwhelming.

Adora forced it back, forced it away until all she could hear was the sound of her own breathing. She opened her eyes, which she hadn’t even noticed she’d closed, and stumbled to the ground as she reverted back from... whatever that had been.

“What the fuck was that!?” Glimmer had snatched the Sword away from her and was up in her face.

Glimmer’s voice snapped Adora out of shock and forced her to acknowledge what had just happened.

“Why don’t you tell me? I didn’t know being a princess was contagious!”

“Everybody calm down!” Bow yelled, failing to follow his own advice. “You want to tell us how you did that?” He asked Adora, quieter this time.

“How am I supposed to know? One minute I’m holding the Sword, then whoosh, I’m in a tiara!”

It looked like Bow and Glimmer were both about to say something, only to be cut off when the giant bug monster decided to make itself known once more. Having been woken from its stunned state by the group’s yelling, it let off a horrendous gurgle of its own and charged at them.

It bowled through the three of them, throwing Bow and Glimmer in one direction and Adora in another.

Glimmer and Bow watched Adora from the cover of the tree roots they’d landed in as she rolled out of the fall and jumped straight back on her feet and ran at the monster, her fists itching to punch something.

As he watched her punch ineffectively at the creature’s shell and get thrown back again, Bow realised something.

“We need the giant lady with the Sword.”

“What Bow? No.” Was all Glimmer said, before starting to work on her own escape plan.

Not that it stopped Bow, who grabbed the Sword from where it lay beside his friend and ran into the open.

“Do it again, do it again!” He yelled as he ran to where Adora had started charging at the beast again.

Unfortunately, Adora reached the monster before Bow reached her. She threw a flurry of punches at its rear end, just like Catra had been teaching her to do – approaching her problem from another angle. Not that it mattered, since it turned out that the creature’s shell covered it all over, and her punches did little more than get its attention.

Irritated, the creature turned to give her its full attention, instead of focusing on Bow or the sparkles coming from the roots.

Adora desperately wished she had one of the standard issue Horde energy rifles. Those things could punch through the armour of a tank like it was nothing, let alone a bug’s shell.

Why didn’t she think to bring a weapon with her into enemy territory?

“Change of plans!” Glimmer yelled as she teleported behind Bow and grabbed him. “We’re running!”

She teleported Bow into the tree-line before teleporting back and getting Adora.

“A little warning next time.” Adora said as she regained her bearings. Much to her annoyance some of Glimmer’s sparkles had gotten stuck on the sleeve of her uniform. She brushed them off furiously as Glimmer talked.

“Start running, you can be a crabby Horde soldier once we’re safe.”

Adora heard the monster’s enraged gurgle behind them and the now familiar sound of trees crashing to the ground and realised that Glimmer might have a point.

The three of them ran.

Adora figured the Whispering Woods must have been on their side, as it seemed like the trees were parting for them – no more climbing over branches or pushing through bushes.

Eventually their luck ran out. They had reached a massive crystal structure that reached high into the heavens. The whispering of the woods was louder here than it had been at any other point in the forest, and whenever they tried to go around the structure the trees moved to cut them off. In the background they could hear the crashing getting louder and louder.

“I can teleport us in.”

“You’ve never teleported three people before, Glimmer, it’s too risky.”  Adora could hear the concern in his voice. There was no way he’d survive in the Horde.

Glimmer blasted at the door with her sparkles, and Bow tried to pry it open, using an arrow as an ineffective crowbar.

“What about this writing?” Adora asked. Some kind of lettering ran down the height of the door. It looked strange and nothing like anything she’d seen before, yet she knew she could read it.

“What writing?” Bow asked through his grunts as he discarded his arrow and resorted to trying to open the door with his bare hands.

“Here on the door, it says...” Adora paused for a moment as she focused on deciphering the symbols.

“Eternia.”

As if by magic the door opened. And not a moment too soon, as the giant beetle crashed through the last of the trees that stood between it and its dinner. Adora ran through the door as Bow and Glimmer gaped at her.

The sound of the monster gurgling as it stared them down snapped them out of it and the pair ran to join Adora before the door snapped shut behind them. Keeping the monster out, but trapping them in.

The dull thud of the creature ramming into the unmoving door echoes through the dark hallway. The only light was the faint blue glow of the Sword strapped to Glimmer’s back. It cast strange shadows on the wall which obscured the symbols and images carved into the crystal. To Adora’s untrained eye it looked like more of the writing that had decorated the door, but she couldn’t be sure.

“You want to tell us what’s really going on here?” Maybe it was an unconscious use of her powers over light, but something about Glimmer in the dark, surrounded by strange shadows made her seem even more intense.

“You think I know what’s going on here?” Adora replied, refusing to let herself be intimidated. “I just read what was written on the door.”

“Oh sure,” Glimmer continued, not buying it. “You just happened to read a word written in a language nobody’s been able to understand for a thousand years and it just so happened to open the door to a First One’s ruin that’s been sealed for just as long.”

Adora was fired up to give Glimmer an equally snarky comeback when Bow butted in.

“Go easy on her Glimmer; she did just save our lives.”

Glimmer didn’t say anything, just huffed and stormed off, stomping further down the hallway.

“Sorry about her.” Adora liked Bow. He seemed a lot more reasonable than his companion. “So, I didn’t catch your name?”

He also seemed incapable of not befriending someone.

“Adora.”

“Ooh, Adora, that’s a nice name. Well I’m Bow, and that’s Glimmer.” He gestured down the hallway in the direction the princess had stormed off in, still visible thanks to the glow of the Sword on her back and the sparkles falling out of her hair.

Adora decided it would be nicer not to tell him she’d already figured that out, instead asking about something else that she’s been wondering about.

“So what’s a First One?”

“She doesn’t even know what a First One is?” Apparently, they had wandered far enough down the hallway that Glimmer could hear them again.

“Glimmer!” Bow was evidently horrified by his friend’s lack of manners, but Adora didn’t care. “Sorry about her, she’s not normally like this.”

If Adora was honest, she could totally understand why Glimmer was acting like she was. She knew what it was like to be hurt by the Horde, better than a lot of people. If the roles were reversed, Adora wouldn’t have been surprised to find herself acting like Glimmer.

“Anyways,” Bow said, eager to move back onto the question at hand. “The First Ones were the original settlers of Etheria. They’re all gone now, but they left behind high tech ruins, like this one.”

Fascinating. An entire ancient civilization that hadn’t been mentioned once by the Horde. Adora didn’t know what to think of it.

Adora’s wonder must have been written on her face, because Bow clearly picked up on it.

“This is pretty basic history, did the Horde really teach you none of this?”

“The Horde doesn’t teach cadets anything that’s not directly beneficial on the battlefield.” Adora’s voice was quiet as her eyes wandered, taking in the new world that had been opened before her.

She tried to read the symbols on the wall, like she’d read the word on the door, but it was mostly gibberish to her. She could understand the occasional word on its own, but any context or meaning was lost on her.

Adora didn’t say anymore as the group continued down the hallway, which eventually opened into a spacious room, although it was too dark to be able to tell any more than that with the light of the Sword alone.

“Hold on.” Glimmer said, gathering a ball of light and sparkles in front of her chest before launching it into the air, scattering sparkles over the walls and bathing the room in glittering light.

“Glimmer, be careful.” Bow said, too late to stop her. “We’re a long way from Brightmoon, you might not be able to recharge for a while.”

“Bow!”

“You have to recharge your powers?” Adora made sure Glimmer could see the smirk on her face.

“Could we not talk about this in front of the Horde soldier!?”

“Sorry.” Bow held up his hands in mock surrender.

As the two bickered, Adora cast her eyes around the now lit up room. It was octagonal in shape, with large doorways taking up the majority of seven walls, and a large mural taking up the all the last wall, the one directly across from them. The mural was a relief of a giant woman with long flowing blonde hair and prominent muscles. She wore golden armour over a white dress.

Most significantly, she held a Sword that looked identical to the one strapped to Glimmer’s back.

Below the mural was more of the First One’s writing that Adora had seen coming in. While she could read it, she had no idea what it meant.

“Wow.”

“Hey Adora, it’s you!” Bow said, pointing at the massive mural, his voice reflecting the excitement and curiosity Adora could hear in his voice.

 “That looks nothing like me.” It was mostly true at least. Both her and the lady in the mural had blonde hair she supposed, but Adora never wore it down like that.

“Not like you now, the other you. The one in the tiara.”

“That’s me?” Adora didn’t know what to think. How could that be her? This ruin was ancient, and Adora wasn’t.

“You can read that, right?” Adora was surprised by the lack of hostility in Glimmer’s voice as she pointed at the First One’s script below the mural. “What does it say?”

“She-ra, whatever that means.”

“Greetings administrator.”

The three of them jumped as a holographic and vaguely otherworldly woman appeared in front of them.

“Who are you?” Bow asked.

“Administrator detected.” The hologram stated, ignoring Bow’s question.

“Uh, hello?” Glimmer tried.

“Administrator detected.” The hologram repeated.

“What’s happening?” Bow asked, as though either Adora or Glimmer had any idea.

“Administrator detected.”

“Adora, you should try. You clearly have some kind of connection to this place.”

“What, me?” Adora asked over the hologram’s “Administrator detected.”

“Query not recognised.” The hologram replied to Adora’s question, even though it was directed at Bow and not the hologram.

“Argh! What’s even going on?” Glimmer shook her hands through the hologram in her annoyance, hoping that somehow that would cause it to start making sense.

“Administrator not detected. Enabling security measures.”

The hologram turned from its previous shade of blue into a deep red as sirens began to sound and the door behind them slammed shut. The ground began to rumble and the hologram disappeared, leaving the three intruders to their fate.

“Uh, guys?” Bow struggled to stay standing as the rumbling got louder and stones started to come loose from the ceiling. “Adora, can you do something?”

Adora tried. She cried out anything she could think of that might stop it.

“Stop!”

“All clear!”

“No danger!”

Growing desperate, she started using the passwords she’d already learnt, hoping that one of them might do something.

“Eternia!”

“She-ra!”

Wait. This was clearly the shiny tiara lady’s domain. Maybe she could stop this.

Before she could pitch her idea she heard a sigh over the rumbling and felt Glimmer grab her arm.

“Glimmer, wait! It’s too dangerous!” Bow cried.

“Do you have any better ideas?” Before Bow or Adora could reply she added, “And I’m not giving the Horde soldier a weapon.”

Glimmer didn’t give the two a chance to respond before she gathered the last reserves of her power and teleported the three as close to Brightmoon as she could reach.

All Adora could see was clear blue sky. It was quite beautiful, she thought, Catra would love it.

Then Adora realised all she could see was sky. No ground.

Oh wait, there it was.

And it wasn’t close.

But it was getting closer.

She looked around frantically for Bow and Glimmer. Maybe together they’d be able to survive.

Bow was to her right, frantically searching through his quiver, for what Adora had no idea.

What about Glimmer? She teleported them into this mess, maybe she could teleport them out of it too.

Glimmer was to her left.

Glimmer wasn’t moving.

Well that was technically a lie. Glimmer was, after all, also plummeting to her death. Otherwise, Glimmer wasn’t moving. With no way to reach her, Adora couldn’t tell if she was dead or merely unconscious. Despite everything, Adora hoped it was the later.

Adora looked back over to Bow, wanting to see if he’d noticed his friend’s condition, just in time to see him finally find the arrow he’d been looking for, draw his bow, and fire it directly below them.

She watched in amazement as the arrow fell apart mid-air, revealing a net that had been hidden in the tip. The net’s corners each held a barb that caught on the treetops of the Whispering Woods, making a perfect landing zone. Adora could have sworn she saw the trees move to catch the net perfectly.

Moments before Adora hit the net, she remembered everything the Horde had ever taught her about how to land after a big fall, seconds after it would have been useful information she could act on. Instead of an elegant and relatively painless landing, Adora hit the net with her arms and legs splayed out at awkward angles.

She hurt all over, but at least she survived.

Bow did too, it seemed. He was slowly getting up, wincing from the hard landing. Red lines cross hatched across his dark skin in the same pattern as the net, thankfully it didn’t seem to be blood, Adora thought, just marks from where he’d hit the net. Adora was sure she must be covered in them too.

“Glimmer?”

Bow had crawled over to where the third member of their group – her other captor, Adora half-heartedly reminded herself – had landed.

She wasn’t moving.

Bow frantically searched for a pulse, and let out a relieved sigh when he found it.

“Help me get her down?” He asked Adora.

It wasn’t an easy job, but between the two of them they got Glimmer to the ground without dropping her or falling themselves. The pair got her down under the shade of one of the large trees that caught the net and watched her, hoping she’d wake up soon.

Glimmer wasn’t out for long, but that didn’t stop Bow from worrying. He alternated between wringing his hands, pacing back and forth, and staring at Glimmer, as though he were trying to will her awake, faster than Adora could keep up with.

“Bow?” Glimmer’s voice was uncertain and wavering, still rebuilding its strength after her collapse. Bow was at her side in an instant, helping her to her feet.

“Careful there Glimmer, you really had me worried.”

Glimmer managed a small smile.

“I guess I overdid it a little, didn’t I?”

Glimmer joking was clearly a good sign, because Bow lightened up immediately.

“If only someone had warned you about that.” Bow suggested innocently. “Oh wait, I did that. Like five minutes ago.”

Glimmer just rolled her eyes.

That was when Glimmer noticed Adora. Adora was surprised when confusion crossed Glimmer’s face. She was expecting the cold anger Glimmer had almost every other time she looked at Adora.

“What are you still doing here?”

That wasn’t what Adora had expected her to ask, either.

“Did you forget I’m your prisoner?”

“Bow and I are hardly a crack security team, you could have escaped whenever you wanted to. Why didn’t you?”

That was the question, wasn’t it? Why hadn’t Adora left? She had told herself she was gathering information on the Rebellion, but she wasn’t sure she’d ever really believed that.

She looked at the Sword, strapped to Glimmer’s back. She could remember the power, the strength that the Sword had made her feel. The safety it provided. She thought of Shadow Weaver, of the Horde, the opposite of that safety, and she knew her answer.

“I didn’t know why I went into the Whispering Woods tonight. I was looking for the Sword, but I think it was you two the Woods wanted me to find.”

“What do you mean?” Bow started to ask, but Adora cut him off.

“Life in the Horde is hard. It’s cruel and it makes people cruel. Me and Catra, we wanted to leave. But we didn’t know how. We thought the Rebellion would kill us for being Horde soldiers, and the Horde would definitely kill us for being deserters. So we stayed.”

Adora could feel the tears building up, but she didn’t wipe them away.

“But then I found the Sword, and you found me. You’ve shown me that the Horde, that I, was wrong about the Rebellion. That if we left the Horde, there could be a life for us with you.”

“So please, help me break Catra out of the Fright Zone, give us a place with you, and I’ll fight for you as She-ra. Just let Catra live the life she deserves.”

Adora was definitely full on crying now.

So was Bow.

“Oh Adora, of course we’ll help you!” Bow cried before Glimmer could say anything. He wrapped Adora in the biggest hug he could manage.

Glimmer rolled her eyes at the pair’s theatrics, but she couldn’t help but wipe away a tear herself. She offered Adora the Sword.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got a plan for this?”

Chapter Text

Catra paced back and forth across the cadets’ barracks. Adora had been gone for hours and she was getting restless. So much had happened over the last day and Catra was having trouble processing it all.

Adora had gotten a promotion and was going to leave her.

The two of them had snuck out into the Whispering Woods where Adora swore she had found a sword of all things.

Then Adora had gotten up in the middle of the night and snuck out again to find the damn sword.

A sword that would get them out of the Horde. Somehow.

Catra didn’t know exactly what she was feeling, just that it was a complex and volatile mix of emotions that she most certainly did not want to unpack in the middle of the barracks, even if all the other cadets were asleep.

The only thing she could safely pull out of that tangled mess was a kind of gratitude. She knew that Adora never broke her promises – not to Catra – but she’d always resigned herself to knowing there’d be one exception to that rule. But maybe that would change tonight. If this mystery sword that Catra still didn’t really believe existed had the power to get them out of the Horde, out of Shadow Weaver’s reach, then Catra was willing to suspend her disbelief for one night.

Catra lay on the end of her bed and squirmed her way over to where Adora had been sleeping only a few hours ago, hoping her lingering scent would bring some comfort. There was no way she’d admit it to Adora, but she was worried about her friend. She’d heard stories about what happened to soldiers who wandered into the Whispering Woods, and Adora was only a cadet, even if she was the best of them.

Her scent brought a touch of comfort to Catra’s troubled mind. It was like she could close her eyes and Adora would be right there, laying right beside her...


“ATTENTION CADET SQUAD 7.1.99 YOU ARE REQUIRED TO REPORT TO HANGER C AT ONCE.”

The automated message blaring over the PA system woke Catra up far earlier then she would have liked. She didn’t know how long she’d actually managed to sleep last night, but it hadn’t seemed like long. Certainly not long enough.

A sentiment apparently shared by the rest of her squad, who were all slowly blinking the sleep out of their eyes.

Someone, Lonnie maybe, Catra wasn’t really paying attention, asked why they were being called to Hanger C. Hanger C was one of the hangers reserved for active mission use only. Maybe it had something to with Adora’s promotion, but it had been made clear that only Adora was seeing active duty, not the rest of the squad.

On the note of her missing teammate, the rest of the squad left without asking about her, probably under the impression she was already there. That was a weight off Catra’s shoulders. She had agreed to cover for Adora, but she figured the best lie was the one you didn’t have to tell.

Adora.

Catra was struck by another wave of anxiety at the thought of her friend. What if she was the reason they were being called to the hanger. Except instead of being called for active duty, it was because one of their own had been caught sneaking out. Defecting.

Adora may have been Shadow Weaver’s favourite, in Shadow weaver’s own sick mind at least, but not even that would save her if she was caught committing treason.

Catra could tell Shadow Weaver was coming before she arrived. The Fright Zone already had deep shadows, cast at unnatural angles, but when Shadow Weaver drew near the shadows seemed to grow colder, crueller, like they could reach out and pull you in.

With Shadow Weaver around, they could.

“Where’s Adora?” It was more of a demand then a question.

Despite Shadow Weaver’s presence, Catra felt some of the weight lift of her shoulders. If Shadow Weaver didn’t know where Adora was then she hadn’t been caught.

“Bathroom?” Catra didn’t actually think Shadow Weaver would buy it, but she owed it to Adora to at least try.

“Do not toy with me, stray. Where’s Adora?”

“I don’t know, it’s not like I track her every move. That’s really more your speed.”

Maybe that wasn’t a smart thing to say, Catra realised as the shadows around her started to grow and breathe.

“Watch your tongue with me, whelp. You just might lose it.”

Catra could feel her joints starting to seize up as the shadows surrounded her and began to hold her in place. It was incredibly painful, like ice was running through her veins and freezing her muscles, but she refused to scream. There was no way she’d give Shadow Weaver the satisfaction.

“Not today, Shadow Weaver.”

Catra barely had time to process Adora’s voice before the shadows dropped her. Instinct kicked in and she rolled out of the fall, even though she had been barely inches off the ground and was in no real danger of hurting herself. She bounced back up to her feet and found herself staring at a sight she would have thought was only possible in her dreams mere days ago.

Adora stood between her and Shadow Weaver, a sword so bright it was glowing in her hands, pointed right at Shadow Weaver’s heart – assuming she actually had one. Adora looked so sure of herself, so confident in her abilities, it was like she had been born to wield a sword.

Not just a sword.

That sword.

“You don’t get to hurt us anymore.”

The shadows receded back to their natural state and Catra almost managed to trick herself into thinking Shadow Weaver would let them go. Almost.

"Oh, Adora.” Was that sadness in her voice? Not a chance. Disappointment maybe. “I wish you’d never found that sword.”

Without warning the shadows surged forward once more, except instead of taking hold of Catra again, they charged at Adora, surrounding her and forcing themselves into her head any way they could, through her mouth, nose, ears, and even eyes.

Catra watched in horror as Adora hung in the air, suspended by nothing but the invasive shadows. She tried to run at Adora to pull her out of the air, something to help her, but while she’d been distracted the shadows had bound her again.

“I never wanted to have to wipe your memories, Adora. I find it dulls the mind and you were too good of a soldier to ruin like that. But you’ve left me no choice.” Shadow Weaver giggled to herself, a horrifying, unnatural sound that made Catra’s ears hurt. “At least this time I’ll be able to get rid of your little pet.”

Catra’s blood ran cold. She didn’t doubt that Shadow Weaver would make good on that threat. She struggled, desperate to break free of the shadows, but they held firm.

“Catra...” Adora’s quiet whimper managed to slip past Shadow Weaver’s magic. “No... NO!”

Adora’s voice grew loud and angry. Catra didn’t want to risk hope, but Adora had never let her down before. She could feel her heart swell.

“For the honour of Greyskull!”

The barracks were cast in a harsh, bright light as Adora’s body began to change. It was so bright Catra had to raise her hand to shield her eyes so she could watch her friend.

Wait.

She could move her arm.

The light of Adora’s transformation was so powerful it had burnt away the shadows that held Catra down.

Revelling in her newfound freedom, Catra charged at Shadow Weaver, ready to pounce on the blinded witch.

After suffering a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the witch, Catra didn’t think she’d ever feel something as satisfying as her claws digging into Shadow Weaver’s skin, deep enough that she’d be carrying the scars for the rest of her life.

Although the resulting scream might be a close second.

With Shadow Weaver laying unmoving on the floor – still breathing, much to Catra’s disdain – Catra turned her attention back to the friend she had been so anxious about mere minutes ago.

Adora was... different to say the least. She was much taller for one thing, at least a foot taller than normal (which was still several inches taller than Catra, to her everlasting annoyance). She was also somehow buffer than she had already been, which Catra had been sure couldn’t be possible.

Then there was her outfit. There was far too much white and gold for Catra’s taste. She’d have made some comment about how she was practically glowing, except Adora was literally glowing.

Wait.

Was Adora wearing a tiara?

Catra couldn’t stop herself; she just had to laugh at the sight of it. She would never in her life have guessed that she’d see Adora, focused, serious, practical Adora in a tiara.

Her cackling laughter must have triggered something in Adora, because when she looked back up at her friend, her transformation her reverted and she was back to being regular old Adora.

“I can’t believe you were wearing a tiara!” Catra exclaimed as soon as she’d recovered enough breath to speak.

Once she had calmed down from her laughing fit (and the several smaller ones that had followed), the anxiety that had been building up since Adora left all came crashing in at once. She leapt up and grabbed Adora’s face, getting closer than was perhaps practical to inspect her for any damage.

“Are you okay, what happened?”

Adora started to tell the story as the pair left the barracks, beginning to make their way to the hanger Adora had snuck in through.

If it weren’t for the fact that she had the Sword to prove it, Catra doubted that she’d have believed Adora’s story. That being said, Adora did have the Sword, and had turned into a giant warrior goddess right in front of her, so maybe it wasn’t as unbelievable as she first thought.

“I guess you really didn’t get brain damaged.” Catra made grabby hands at the Sword. “Can I see it?”

“Sure,” Adora replied, handing it to Catra.

 “Cool.” Catra couldn’t help but say as she turned the Sword over in her hands. It was long and heavy in her hands, despite how easily Adora had seemed to wield it. Its golden hilt was reminiscent of the tiara Adora had been wearing and Catra couldn’t help but giggle again at the thought of it. Embedded in the hilt was a light blue gemstone that steadily pulsed with light. It took a moment for Catra to notice, but it was pulsing in time with Adora’s breathing.

“So this is supposed to get us out of here?” Catra did her best to sound uninterested, like this wasn’t the thing she’d wanted more than anything else in her entire life.

Turns out her best wasn’t that good and Adora saw right through it. That or Adora hated life in the Horde more than Catra had realised.

Or both.

It was probably both.

“Apparently the person I turned into is some kind of ancient defender of Etheria. I told the Rebellion that I’d fight for them if they helped us get out of here and let us stay with them.”

Catra grabbed Adora, wrapping her in her arms.

“Holy shit, Adora.” It may have come out as a whisper, but in that moment it was Catra’s whole world.

She could feel Adora melt into her arms. Catra supposed she couldn’t blame her, normally Catra tried to distance herself from others, even Adora, who usually had to be the one to initiate contact.

At least that’s what Catra liked to tell herself. In reality she took practically every opportunity to touch the other girl, whether she was jumping on her, hugging her, or ‘accidently’ brushing her hand.

“What if they’re worse?” Catra whispered into Adora’s shoulder. “If they’re making you fight for them...”

“Do you trust me?”

Catra didn’t even have to think about it.

“Yes.”

”They won’t be worse. I know I’ve only met two of them, but they’re nothing like the Horde, and nothing like the Horde says they are.”

“Besides,” Adora continued. “I kind of offered to...”

“You offered to fight?” Catra was confused more than anything; surely they should be focused on getting away from the Horde, not fighting them.

Still, it was better than being forced to.

“I may have come off as a little desperate; I didn’t really give them a chance to say anything.”

Of course she didn’t. She’d say it was the single most “Adora” thing she’d done, except for the fact that just last night she ran off after a magical sword on the whims of a dream.

Adora was lucky Catra was smart enough for the both of them, she’d end up running off and getting the both of them killed at this rate.

On the note of getting themselves killed, their escape had been going surprisingly well so far. They were about halfway to the hanger where Adora had said their ride was waiting and they hadn’t been stopped once.

The few people they passed looked too distracted by the morning’s alarm to care that a couple of cadets were wandering the halls with something that looked suspiciously like a sword wrapped in a jacket. Surprise missions like the one that had been called this morning weren’t unusual, but they happened just infrequently enough to keep soldiers on edge. Shadow Weaver claimed it was to stop rebel spies from leaking all their plans, but Catra was pretty sure it was just because she liked torturing soldiers.

As they got closer to their ride, the hallways started to get busier and busier. Catra realised with a start that they were getting close to hanger C, where their squad had been called for a mission earlier. She signalled Adora silently with her tail, suggesting they take a different route using the makeshift language of signs they had developed over their lifetime of sneaking around the Fright Zone after curfew.

Adora shook her head in response, pointing at Hanger C.

Great.

That was where their ride was.

As well as a mobilising force of Horde soldiers.

...or not, as it turned out.

The bulk of the force must have already left. The few squads that were left were scattered around the hanger, doing the last preparations they needed for their tanks, or waiting for late teammates.

Teammates like her and Adora.

Catra could see the rest of their squad waiting by a tank on the far side of the hanger. She couldn’t hear them from this far away, but it looked like they were confused, and Catra couldn’t say she blamed them. It wasn’t like Adora to be late, especially since she was probably meant to be leading this mission.

Adora must have seen them too, because Catra had to stop her from going over to them. Catra knew Adora wanted to take them too, but it just seemed like a bad idea to her. Even if they did want to come and didn’t just raise the alarm, getting the whole team out was going to be far harder. There would be a good chance that they’d just get caught and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

“Later.” She whispered to Adora, hoping she’d get her meaning without needing to have an entire conversation.

Thankfully Adora seemed to get her message, because with only another glance at their team, Adora lead her to where their ride was waiting.

Or that was the idea at least.

In reality Adora led her to an empty part of the hanger where their ride might have once been.

“I thought you said we could trust these people.”

Catra could feel all kinds of ugly thoughts rise up inside her, ones that were rarely, if ever, directed at Adora. Had this all been a set up? Was she trying to frame her for treason to get rid of her? There was a part of her that tried to say that was dumb, Adora would never do that to her, but it was quickly getting drowned out by the chorus of dissent.

“No, no.” Adora was panicking too, from the looks of it. “They can’t be gone. They were right here. They wouldn’t leave without us.”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t an intentional plot to betray her. But Adora had still put their lives in these peoples’ hands and they’d betrayed them.

That was when she noticed the blinking red light.

Catra was very glad that most of the lights in the Fright Zone were green, because she absolutely could not resist red lights. They activated some long dormant primal instinct in her, and she absolutely had to pounce on them.

The desire was strong enough that, as she wound up to pounce, she let the dark thoughts slip her mind, a problem for later Catra.

Catra felt that she had tensed up just enough and sprang forward, landing directly on her target.

A target that turned out to be some kind of handheld tech. It didn’t seem to be in the greatest condition – probably because she had just leapt on it – but it seemed to still be working.

Blinking on the device’s screen was one word.

Adora.

“Hey, Adora?” Catra called over to where she was still silently panicking about their ride. “Is this yours?”

 The question was enough to draw Adora back out of her own head, at least briefly. She took the device and turned it over in her hands.

“This is Bow’s. It’s some kind of tracker I think?”

Adora tapped on her name, causing the screen to flicker as a new message popped up.

“Adora,” she read out so that Catra could hear. “Horde soldiers started showing up so me and Glimmer had to leave. I’ve put a tracker on us, so you should be able to find up with this. We’ll try not to go too far.”

Catra watched the panic drain from Adora’s face as she realised they hadn’t been abandoned after all, their ride just had the common sense to not get captured. Catra knew she was feeling the same relief.

“It’ll be nice to have some smart friends for once.” Catra nudged Adora as she cackled to herself.

Adora shoved Catra, but the smile on her face gave away how she was really feeling.

“Come on, oh smart one, let’s get out of here.”

They followed Bow’s tracker out of the main hanger door, into the smog-filled air that polluted all of the Horde’s territory. The pad said they were close, their ride had probably hidden in the first alleyway they’d found.

Picking up the pace now that they were out in the open, the pair were panting by time they reached the alley they were looking for.

“There they are.” Adora pointed to the skiff that was not so subtly idling at the end of the alley as she caught her breath.

The pair on the skiff must have recognised Adora, because they stood up and waved them over.

Adora started to walk over but Catra stood still. The reality of what they were doing had just hit her. This was the point of no return. If she followed Adora into this alley, there could be no turning back, no more Horde.

Adora turned back to her, concern written clearly on her face.

“Aren’t you coming?”

 “If I take one more step, I’d be leaving the Horde. No going back. No more home.”

“We’ll make a new home, together.” Adora’s voice was not allowed to be this soothing, there was no way it was natural. “No more Shadow Weaver, no more Horde. Just us.”

No more Shadow Weaver.

Together.

That was enough to quell the of the doubts that had wormed their way into Catra’s mind now that she was on the verge of all she had ever dreamed of. She crossed the threshold and didn’t look back.

Chapter Text

The ground below her was a blur as Adora stood at the back of the skiff, watching the Fright Zone slowly disappear over the horizon. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she was making a mistake, despite spending the better part of her life wanting nothing more.

She’d wanted to leave the Horde since that fateful day in the Black Garnet chamber, an eye-opening experience that had revealed to her exactly what the Horde was – an organisation of liars and abusers. Despite that, she felt the call to return, to go back to the only thing she had ever known. Maybe if they came back now Shadow Weaver would take them back without turning them over to Hordak.

After all, Shadow Weaver had always liked Adora.

“You think we made a mistake, don’t you?”

Catra’s voice helped draw Adora out of her own head and forced her to turn away from the Fright Zone, to look at her friend. She was almost unrecognizable.

Not physically – she was still dressed in the same clothes, still had her big fuzzy ears and distinctive heterochromatic eyes.

She still had the tiny white scars that criss-crossed her body, lasting remnants of Shadow Weaver’s abuse.

The difference was hard to pinpoint in a single moment. It was in the way her tail moved, in how she stood, in how her eyes weren’t flicking back and forth, constantly on the watch for danger.

Catra was safe.

That realization was enough to push the doubts out of Adora’s mind for good. She’d done it, she’d kept her promise, gotten Catra out of the Horde, away from Shadow Weaver.

And in that moment, she knew she was never going back.

“Not a chance.” Adora replied.

She reached out and hugged Catra. She made it feel real. This wasn’t a dream; it was really happening.

As Catra purred in her arms, all of Adora’s thoughts of the past were replace with a new, happier vision of the future.

The Fright Zone disappeared over the horizon, but Adora didn’t notice.

“Adora.” Catra whispered in her ear.

“Yeah?”

“Your friends are staring at us.”

Adora looked up to find Bow and Glimmer were, in fact, staring at them. Hell, she could practically see tears in Bow’s eyes.

“What are you two doing?” She asked, hopefully not to accusatorily – after all, they had just gotten them out of the Fright Zone.

Glimmer had the decency to look away, embarrassed to be caught staring, but not Bow.

“You two are so cute!”

Adora and Catra gave each other a confused look. What made them so cute?

“So?” Catra asked.

“It’s a good thing.” Bow assured them, not unfairly assuming that the Horde had left them unaware of the concept. “I don’t really know how to explain it though.”

“We know what cute is.” Catra saved him from trying to explain it.

“Yeah,” Adora continued. “It’s a weapon, designed to corrupt the minds of Horde soldiers.”

“I don’t know why you’d call us that, though.” Catra finished.

Bow looked like he was halfway between laughing and crying. Glimmer on the other hand, looked like her eyes might pop out of her head.

“Cuteness is not a weapon!”

“Relax Glimmer, they don’t know any better.” Bow tried to calm his friend down. “It’s just what the Horde taught them.”

Glimmer took a deep breath and unclenched her fists. The sparkles that Adora hadn’t even noticed appeared began to fade as Glimmer’s calmer side took over.

“Sorry.” Glimmer said after a few moments of collecting herself.

“So if its not a weapon,” Catra began, ignoring Glimmer’s apology. “What is cute?”

 Bow and Glimmer stared at each other, wearing the face of people who knew what they wanted to say, but had no idea how.

“So like…” Bow started.

“Imagine if…” Glimmer tried.

Both of them sighed as they realised, they really didn’t have a good way to explain it.

“I guess there’s no good way to explain it, you just kind of know it when you see it.” Glimmer ‘explained’.

“For example, you two were being super cute when you hugged.” Bow added, trying and failing to help.

The nice thing about the Horde, Adora decided, was that they were very clear with what they said. Sure, half the time it was a blatant lie, but at least they were very clear, well defined lies. There was no questioning what something meant in the Horde, none of this undefinable nonsense.

Catra would fit right in here.

Adora looked at her friend, who had stepped back when they caught Bow and Glimmer staring, and smiled. As much as Adora might end up missing aspects of their life in the Horde, it was worth leaving just for the look on Catra’s face as she tracked a bird’s flight above them.

“Everything is so different out here.”

This was going to be alright.


 “What do you mean sneak in?” Catra was very good at hiding her emotions, but Adora could still pick up on the suspicion in her voice.

“I’m already going to be in a bunch of trouble for sneaking out, I don’t think ‘Look Mom, I found some Horde soldiers, can we keep them?’ is going to go over well.”

Alarms went off in Adora’s head. This was bad. If they weren’t going to be accepted as defectors, if they would be imprisoned or worse, like the Horde had always said, then her and Catra would have risked it all for nothing.

They’d have nowhere left to go.

“Why didn’t you tell me we’d have to hide who we are?” Adora asked, trying and failing to keep the accusatory tone out of her voice.

“It’s not like that,” Bow interjected as he leapt off the now stationary skiff. “It’s just that a lot of people have been really hurt by the Horde, the Queen especially. People are just going to be suspicious at first, especially since Angella is going to be worried about Glimmer.”

“Why would the Queen be worried about you?” Catra asked. She realised that she was her mother, and supposedly mothers were meant to care for and worry over daughters – not that it had been her lived experience – but as a rebel commander, surely the Queen should be used to her daughter running missions like this.

“I may or may not be grounded right now…” Glimmer said, like it was both the end of the world and also explained everything.

Adora and Catra shared a confused glance. What did the skiff have to do with anything?

“You know, just because we stopped the skiff doesn’t mean we can’t start it again.” Catra tried to explain.

Did the Rebellion not have skiffs or something?

“What on Etheria are you talking about?” It was Glimmer’s turn to look confused.

“We don’t get it.” Adora said.

“Why would the Queen care, even if the skiff was grounded. We took it from the Horde, didn’t we?” Catra finished.

“Oh, I get it!” Bow said before Glimmer had another chance to express her confusion. “You must not get grounded in the Horde!”

“I mean, the skiffs can fail, so sometimes we are.” Adora said.

“That’s not what grounding is in the Rebellion,” Bow explained. “Well it is, but it means something else as well. When a parent wants to punish their kid, they might ground them. It just means they’re not supposed to leave their bedroom.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes?” Bow seemed not to understand her question, so Catra elaborated further.

“No solitary?”

“No!” Bow looked horrified at the idea.

“No magic?”

“Did they use magic on you guys?” It sounded like he almost couldn’t believe it, that not even the Horde would do that.

He never actually answered Catra’s question, but the look on his face told Adora enough. That wouldn’t happen here.

Adora didn’t really understand the world outside the world outside the Fright Zone, but the more she learnt, the happier it made her.

Or maybe happier was the wrong word.

Relieved.

Catra though, needed more convincing.

“So what will happen to Glitter now that she’s broken this ‘grounding’?”

Glimmer’s eye twitched with Catra’s teasing, but Bow answered the question before she had a chance to do anything about it.

“Nothing, probably.” He said. “Angella might yell at her a bit, but that’s not even super likely.”

“Really?” Catra still looked sceptical, and Adora could see that she was actively trying not to believe them, not let herself get lured into a false sense of security. “Then why is Sparkles so worried about the Queen finding out?”

That was something Adora hadn’t considered. Glimmer did seem pretty eager to avoid the Queen finding out considering it sounded like nothing would happen if she did.

“MY NAME IS GLIMMER!” Catra smirked as Bow held Glimmer back.

“Glimmer, please.” Bow tried to calm her down as he sent Catra a dirty look, one that looked incredibly strange on Bow of all people’s face.

Glimmer shrugged his hand off her shoulder, but took his advice and a deep breath, and answered Catra’s question.

“I’ll probably be grounded again, probably for longer this time.”

Adora didn’t want to be rude, but she couldn’t help but wonder why Glimmer was so worked up about getting grounded. It didn’t sound that bad, especially when she compared it to what Catra and her endured in the Horde.

Catra, Adora was sure, wouldn’t share her reservations about being rude, so she turned to cut her friend off from saying something that would make Bow and Glimmer change their minds and stop helping them, only to be cut off herself by Bow.

“Look Glimmer, they’re clearly worried. Maybe we should just be direct about this.”

Glimmer looked back and forth between Adora and Catra, her stare intense as though she was seeing them truly for the first time.

Adora returned her gaze, trying her hardest to let the walls she’d built in the Horde fall, to let Glimmer in and see the desperation she felt.

Catra seemed to sense the gravity of Glimmer’s gaze and for her part let the tough, teasing façade she put up drop, only for a moment, but just long enough for Glimmer to see the hurt that lay underneath.

“I… You’re right Bow.” She said, her voice losing the steam it had before. “But if I get in trouble for this, I’m blaming you.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.” He replied. His voice made Adora pretty sure this was some kind of inside joke between the two of them, but she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why it was funny.

That was the point of inside jokes, she supposed.

“Come on, you two, let’s introduce you to my mom.”


“I cannot believe this!”

As soon as they had reached Brightmoon, the four of them had been escorted by halberd wielding guards to the Queen’s throne room, where the Queen had immediately started yelling at her daughter.

“You snuck out while you were grounded, went into the Whispering Woods of all places, and for what?”

“Mom…” Glimmer started to defend herself, only to stumble as her magic filled night finally caught up with her. Losing the strength even to stand, she collapsed to her knees on the floor.

The change in the Queen was practically instantaneous. What had been anger, fear, and disappointment snapped to concern in a heartbeat. Not giving her daughter a chance to collapse further, let alone say anything, Angella gathered her up in her arms and flew off with a beat of her magnificent wings, carrying Glimmer up to the Moonstone.

Angella set her daughter gently down upon the marble dais to recharge and started pacing back and forth, desperately waiting for her daughter to recover. She loved Glimmer dearly, but she had too much of her father in her. Both had an unhealthy disregard for their own safety and were all to eager to jump into harm’s way without a second thought.

Of course, they had their positives too. They were both selfless, loyal, and had a strong sense of right and wrong. There was a time when Angella would have liked nothing more than for Glimmer to take after Micah.

But that was a long time ago.

Angella shook herself out of her thoughts and returned to her daughter’s side. Several minutes had passed, so she should wake up any moment now.

It wasn’t much longer before Glimmer woke up with her mother leaning over her.

“Hi Sweetie.” While Glimmer had recharged, Angella had taken a moment to calm herself down. “How are you feeling?”

“Better now.” Glimmer said, teleporting off the dais and shooting off a few sparkles to test that her newly recharged powers were working properly.

“You didn’t even recharge before you left?” Now that she was sure her daughter was okay, Angella let a touch of sternness slip back into her voice, but to nowhere near the extent it had been before Glimmer collapsed.

“I didn’t think I’d be gone that long.” Glimmer replied, still shooting off sparkles. Not to test her powers anymore, just because the world could always do with more sparkles.

Angella didn’t say anything back and after a moment Glimmer realised, she was waiting to hear why she had left in the first place.

“So Bow picked up a massive First One’s signal one his tracker pad, we figured we’d go out and get it for the Rebellion.”

“Is that why there’s a pair of Horde soldiers in my throne room?”


“Come on guys, trust me, they’re fine.”

Bow was standing between Catra and Adora and the palace guards as they advanced on the now former Horde soldiers, Halberds drawn and aimed at Catra and Adora.

“Step away Bow, those are clearly Horde soldiers.” One of the guards said. Bow was a well-known figure around the palace as the princess’s close friend, and especially with the guards, many of whom helped to teach him how to use the weapon from which he took his name.

“They’re defectors, I swear.” He raised his hands in front of him, desperately trying to get them to back down.

Adora had practiced for this. She’d spent so much of her limited free time in the Horde dreaming of escaping to the Rebellion, and a part of that had always been an impassioned speech she’d deliver and effortlessly convince everyone that her and Catra were genuine defectors.

Of course, now that she was in that moment, all her words were failing her. How could she possibly convince these people that she meant them no harm, that she wanted to help them. Sure it would just sound like she was lying to save face.

“I thought you said we’d be okay.” Catra whispered harshly at Bow.

“I thought you would be.” He whispered back. “It’s not like you’re the first defectors the Rebellion had taken in.”

The guards took a step closer to the trio, tightening the circle around them.

“I’m not going to repeat myself again, Bow. Step away from the Horde soldiers.”

The beating of the Queen’s wings as she flew back down to the throne room, a fully recharged Glimmer in her arms, stopped any response Bow may have had in his throat. The guards all took a step back from the trio so they had room to snap to attention and salute.

“My Queen.” The captain of the guard greeted her with a salute.

“Stand down.” The Queen commanded as she set her daughter down and sat in her throne.

She directed her attention to Adora.

“My daughter tells me she found you in possession of a powerful First One’s artefact. Is this it?”

Adora nodded, handing over the Sword when the Queen gestured for it.

“I’ve not seen this sword in a great many years.” The Queen said as she turned the blade over in her hands, examining it carefully. “Not since I was a young girl.”

Adora and Catra stood there quietly, not entirely sure if they were supposed to say something.

“And you,” The Queen continued, pointing at Catra with the Sword. “Proof that the magicats still live, yet wearing the colours of those who slaughtered them.”

“What do you mean, magicat?” Catra asked, her curiosity overpowering her nervousness.

“I mean your people.” The Queen’s answer was simple, but the hint of regret Adora detected in her voice was anything but.

“I have no people.”

“Not anymore.” The Queen paused and let her eyes wander over the room. “I am told you wish to defect from the Horde.”

Adora and Catra looked at each other, unsure how to proceed.

“Yes.” Adora replied, uncertain not of her decision, but of how to address a Queen.

“Why?”

It was a simple question, but the answer was far from it. Did the Queen want to hear about their abuse? Their desire to fight the Horde? Some kind of greater ideological reason? Adora didn’t know and she didn’t want to risk there place here by answering wrong.

Thankfully, Catra saved her from having to worry about it.

“The Horde hurts people. Not just the people of Etheria, but its own people. Us. Me. I just want to get away from them and live safely with Adora. I didn’t think that was possible until we escaped this morning.”

“And now?”

“I don’t think you’ll hurt us. I think we’re safe here.”

The Queen stopped talking and watched the defectors. They could feel her gaze on their skin, so powerful it felt like it could pierce through and stare into their very souls.

“Very well. Glimmer, show them to their new rooms.”

Chapter Text

The shadows pulsed through Adora’s body as she desperately tried to resist Shadow Weaver’s attack. It wasn’t much use. Suspended in the air by nothing but the shadows that invaded her body, Adora couldn’t do much but scream.

Shadow Weaver’s sick cackle broke through the shadows that surrounded her. The sound was horrible, unnatural, and it made Adora wish she could just move her arms to cover her ears and block off the awful noise, even if it left her overwise defenceless.

Adora opened her mouth, resigning to begging Shadow Weaver to let her go, but before she could make a sound the shadows took advantage of the new opening and flooded in, down her throat. Not just gagging but suffocating her.

“I can’t wait to finally get rid of your little pet.” Her cruel voice was amplified and distorted by the wall of darkness that shrouded her, grating against Adora’s soul.

She could just make out Catra’s form through the shadows. She was standing upright, painfully rigid, frozen still by Shadow Weaver’s magic.

“Catra!” Adora tried to yell, but all that actually happened was that more shadows took the chance to force themselves down her throat. Adora was starting to feel faint, choking on nothing instead of breathing.

“Oh how rude of me, would you like to watch?”

The curtain of shadows parted to properly reveal Catra. Her normally beautiful and vibrant heterochromatic eyes had faded to uniform and pale whites. Blood seeped out of her skin and matted her normally fine fur, despite the fact that Adora was certain Catra hadn’t been cut at all.

“Don’t worry, Adora.” Shadow Weaver cooed, caressing the girl’s cheek. “You won’t remember any of this soon enough.”

Tears built in Adora’s eyes as she tried desperately to jerk away from Shadow Weaver’s touch. Try as she might the shadows held her, forcing her to watch her best friend die.


Adora gasped in Brightmoon’s too cold air as she shot up in one of Brightmoon’s too soft beds. The Sword gleamed in the moonlight, still resting against the bookshelf she’d leaned it against last night, the light coming from its gem pulsing rapidly. Adora felt around under her pillow, looking for comfort in the grip of the dagger Catra had swiped for her during their tour of the castle last night.

As she took deep breaths and began to calm down – the Sword’s gem calming down with her – Adora’s eyes wandered over the room. She was in her new room at Brightmoon. The concept of having a room all to herself still felt strange to her. The gentle trickling of the waterfall – which was apparently not for showering – helped to calm her nerves as the running water cast the moonlight in strange patterns around the room.

The room’s open balcony let the cool night air into her room, leaving her colder than she could ever remember being in the Fright Zone – with the obvious exception of the Freezer, not that Adora had ever spent much time in there. The always burning furnaces and ever running machinery left the Fright Zone constantly warm, suffocatingly so, Adora realised as she compared it to the gentle night breeze of Brightmoon.

Finally managing to get herself to a slightly calmer state after her nightmare, Adora laid back down and tried to get some sleep.

Tried being the operative word.

Everything was so different from the Fright Zone, Adora found she just couldn’t get comfortable.

No matter how she tossed or turned, it didn’t stop her from feeling like she was going to sink through the far too soft bed. Even when she eventually managed to find a comfortable spot and began to drift off, her eyes would close and she’d find Shadow Weaver behind them, and then they’d snap back open and Adora would be back where she started.

It wasn’t always the same dream. Sometimes it was, and she’d be forced to watch as Shadow Weaver killed Catra. In others, Adora would manage to break free and save Catra, only to kill Shadow Weaver.

Adora hated those ones the most.

Not because she’d rather Shadow Weaver be alive than Catra – it was quite the opposite – but because of the confusing and conflicting emotions it would cause.

Shadow Weaver would beg her daughter – beg Adora – not to kill her, and every time Adora was forced to watch on with an overwhelming sense of guilt as her sword slid through the woman that raised her.

And then she’d feel guilty for feeling guilty. Shadow Weaver was an awful, abusive person who made her and Catra’s lives a living hell for years. She didn’t deserve Adora’s guilt, her sympathy.

Yet here she was.

After what felt like hours of tossing, turning, and not quite sleeping – but in reality had been closer to twenty minutes – Adora gave up on trying to sleep and instead got out of bed. Catra had always helped her sleep in the Fright Zone, maybe she could do the same here.

Adora banged into her doorway as she tried to step out of the room. Despite the name, Brightmoon was actually quite dark, at least at night. As much as she grew to hate living there, Adora found herself missing the Fright Zone more and more. There was always light in the Fright Zone, whether it was the ambient green lights that ran the length of the hallways, or the glow of the idle monitors that could be found on almost every wall, always ready for Hordak to impose his will on the Horde.

One upside, she supposed, of navigating Brightmoon as opposed to the twisting labyrinth that was the Fright Zone was finding the room she was looking for. The Fright Zone was a convoluted mess of narrow hallways that seemed to lead nowhere, a series of messy additions that were built with no thought of the future. Brightmoon, on the other hand, was easy to navigate. The wide and roomy hallways of Brightmoon were easy to tell apart thanks to the unique murals that decorated the walls, and despite only having been there for a few hours, Adora was pretty sure she could find Catra’s room without getting lost.

Adora rounded a corner – the last before Catra’s room if she remembered correctly, only to find the Queen standing solemn, staring at a mural. She was talking to someone, although Adora couldn’t make out who it was in the dark hallway.

The Queen’s voice was much softer than it had been in the throne room. It actually reminded her of the voice Shadow Weaver would use when she was trying to endear herself to Adora.

“They had their own kingdom, the sprawling underground city of Halfmoon.” The Queen said to whoever she was talking to.

Adora was going to turn around and find another route to Catra’s room to give the pair privacy, only to stop when she heard the voice of who the Queen was talking to.

“Is that where I’m from?” Catra asked the Queen.

Catra was learning about her past, Adora realised. The pair of them had always been curious about their pasts, where and who they came from. The Horde didn’t exactly try to hide that they ‘adopted’ children from the lands they conquered. Learning about their history, their people, was a dream of most of the children ‘adopted’ this way, especially ones like Catra and Adora who were taken before they were old enough to remember it.

Seeing Catra talking to the Queen on her own ignited something in Adora, the same protective instinct that took over around Shadow Weaver. Without really thinking about it, Adora stepped forward and inserted herself into the conversation.

“Your Majesty.” She greeted the Queen with a salute – only to realise mid-salute that she was meant to bow.

Or was it curtsy?

Greeting foreign royals wasn’t something the Horde taught, as it turned out.

No longer sure of the correct action, she found herself muddling through an awkward mix of the three. The Queen raised a questioning eye as Catra broke out laughing.

“You look stupid.” Catra cackled as Adora struggled to right herself.

“Good evening, She-ra.”

“You know I’m She-ra?” Adora certainly didn’t remember telling the Queen, but she supposed it would have made sense for Glimmer to tell her.

“You found the Sword of Protection, did you not?”

Was that really all she needed to know?

Catra watched Adora’s brief conversation with the Queen like a tennis match – not that she knew what tennis was – before deciding to step in and save Adora from embarrassing herself.

Or at least from embarrassing herself anymore then she already had.

“The Queen was telling me about the magicats.”

“Is that what you are?” Adora asked, remembering something the Queen had mentioned back in the throne room.

“Yeah!” Catra said, the excitement practically dripping from her voice. “Apparently there used to be a whole kingdom of people like me.”

Adora nearly asked what happened to them but caught herself before she made that mistake. She already knew what happened to the magicats, or at least she was pretty sure she did.

The same thing that happened to her people, whoever they were.

The Horde.

“What were they like?” Adora asked instead. She was so busy congratulating herself on the save that she nearly missed the Queen’s answer.

“The kingdom of Halfmoon was renowned all over Etheria for their incredible magic.” The Queen gave the mural on the wall beside them a small smile before continuing. “My husband, King Micah, loved their culture. He was a somewhat accomplished sorcerer himself.”

“What happened to him?” Adora asked, only to realise the very next moment that it might not be an appropriate question. Apparently, she could stop herself once, but not twice.

Despite that, the Queen didn’t seem to mind the question.

At least she didn’t comment on it.

“He died in the first battle of the war – the one where the Rebellion was first formed.”

Adora backpedalled, suddenly very uncomfortable about asking, on account of her time in service of the Horde that presumably killed the Queen’s husband.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

“Of course you didn’t know,” Adora chastised herself, “that’s why you asked.”

Catra only just managed to stop herself from laughing at Adora again. The pair were close enough that Catra had accurately guessed what was going through Adora’s head as she fumbled in front of the Queen.

 The only thing stopping her from laughing was the look on the Queen’s face. The way her lips drooped, her eyes cast down, it reminded her of Adora’s face when she’d asked Shadow Weaver where she’d come from.

Catra had never seen an adult experience loss before.


“Catra!”

Adora eyes blinked open as she took in her surroundings. She and Catra were laying in the middle of a big round bed, just as soft as the one as the one Adora had struggled to sleep in the night before. A brilliant beam of sunlight shined on the pair of them, basking them in a kind of warmth foreign to her, despite her life in the Fright Zone.

Catra’s room had a very similar layout to Adora’s. It even had a waterfall.

Maybe one day she’d figure out why.

“Catra!”

There was that voice again. Glimmer’s maybe?

“Come on, you gotta get up!”

Yup, that was Glimmer.

Wait.

Get up? What time was it?

Adora looked around for a clock, but as best as she could tell there wasn’t one in the room. It seemed late, based on how high the sun was in the sky, later then she’d ever slept in at the Horde.

She just did not want to get out of the bed.

Maybe it was the softness, maybe it was the warmth, but for some reason getting out of bed seemed like it was the worst possible idea.

Maybe it was because, instead of curling up by her feet like she normally did, Catra laying beside her, holding Adora in her sleep. There was no way she could get up without waking her.

“That’s it, I’m coming in!”

Glimmer appeared in the middle of the room in a puff of sparkles, took one look at Adora in Catra’s bed, and turned red as a tomato.

She disappeared just as fast.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know!” She yelled from the other side of the door, so fast it may as well have been all one word.

Adora was confused, what was the issue?

“What are you talking about?” She called back through the door.

“You and Catra! Don’t make me say it!”

What on Etheria was Glimmer going on about?

“Oka-ay…”

Adora let the silence hang for a minute before realising that Glimmer was probably here for a reason.

“What did you want to tell Catra?”

“Never mind, I’ll just tell you at breakfast.”

With that, Adora heard the faint twinkling that accompanied Glimmer’s teleporting.

“What did Sparkles want?” Catra sked, watching Adora with out of one eye while the other tried to stay asleep.

“I have no idea.”


It turned out what Glimmer wanted to tell them was that they were invited to a meeting of the war council. After a breakfast that was a million times better than the Horde ever served, Adora and Catra followed Glimmer and Bow to the council room.

“Do we have to go, Adora?”

“No.” Bow called back at them from where he and Glimmer were leading the other two. “Just because you were invited doesn’t mean you have to go.”

“Okay then, why are we going, Adora?”

“Because I want to, Catra. I can finally help stop the Horde.” She glanced at the two in front of them and lowered her voice. “Plus, I kind of promised.”

“But we finally escaped the Horde and this stupid war. Why do we have to run right back to it?”

Adora didn’t have an answer for that. Why should they fight this war? Joining the Rebellion had never been a part of the plan when they were growing up, so why was it now?

But that had also been before. Before Adora saw the outside world, before they had escaped.

Before She-ra.

This new world outside the Horde was strange and Adora had no idea what was happening half the time. But it was also warm and kind and people helped each other without asking for anything in return.

Maybe She-ra was destined to fight the Horde and bring balance to Etheria.

But Adora wanted to.

And wasn’t that enough?

“You don’t have to come with me Catra. You can stay behind if you want and I won’t think any less of you. But I want to go. I want to fight the Horde and make sure no one else has to grow up like we did. And I’d love it if you were there with me.”

Catra couldn’t say no to that. She still didn’t want to fight in this stupid war, but she couldn’t say no when Adora asked her like that.

“Fine. But I’m only going because I know you’ll do something stupid if I don’t.”

The pair of them leapt back as Glimmer appeared between them in a puff of sparkles.

“Now that you’ve both decided to come, can we please get a move on? We’re going to be late at this rate.”

The council room was a large but predominantly plain room, especially by Brightmoon’s standards. A large round table dominated the room, carrying a holographic map of Etheria and surrounded by a number of uniquely decorated chairs. While the body of each chair was unique, the backs all served as a mount for a precious stone of some kind.

One of the stones in particular – the gem mounted on the back of a wide red chair that seemed to be lined with some kind of carapace or chitin – looked familiar to Catra. It took a moment to click why, but once it did, she leapt back from the chair, her fur standing on end.

“What is the Black Garnet doing here!?” She hissed, eyeing the chair, the room, and the people in it suspiciously.

At the mention of the Black Garnet Adora went on high alert, drawing the Sword and scanning the room for any sign of the witch from her nightmare, or her painful lightning.

“Where is it?” She asked, eyes on the prowl.

“Uh, guys?” Glimmer asked. She turned to Bow. “Do you know what they’re going on about?”

He shrugged, holding up his hands in confusion.

“What’s the Black Garnet?” He asked.

Catra and Adora ignored the pair, and everyone else in the room who were beginning to stare at their outburst.

“There’s a sliver of it in that chair.” Catra said, pointing it out to Adora.

Now that it had been pointed out to her, Adora could feel its presence. Its menacing thrum pulsed through the room, finding its way right into her heart.

Not thinking, Adora took a step forward and attacked the shard, swinging at it with the Sword.

Instead of shattering the shard, the Sword bounced off. The force of the impact threw Adora back, and knocked her off her feet.

“If you’re quite done attacking my furniture, we can begin this council.”

Oh yeah, that was what she had done, wasn’t it.

Wait.

Why did the Queen have a fragment of the Black Garnet?

On some level, Adora knew there must be a reasonable explanation, but a greater part of her mind was flashing warning lights. The connection to Shadow Weaver was not something she could dismiss out of hand.

That being said, Adora couldn’t bring herself to ask about it. If there was one thing she had learnt in the Horde, it was that asking questions was a dangerous pastime. Especially confrontational questions directed at authority figures.

Such as a Queen.

Luckily, Adora didn’t need to ask, because Bow repeated his question.

“Before we start, is anyone going to tell us what the Black Garnet is?”

The Queen sighed as she sat down. It was a sad, defeated sigh, rather than one of exasperation, not that Adora could tell the difference.

“The Black Garnet was a runestone, much like the Moonstone, or your sword. It was lost when the Horde conquered Scorpion Hill.”

“It’s not lost.” Catra said as she detached herself from Adora. “The Horde has it.”

Catra rubbed the base of her neck as talk of the Black Garnet sent shivers down the scars it had left in her back.

“Regardless, may we please start this meeting?” The Queen sighed.

This time it was exasperation.

Catra and Adora sat by Bow and Glimmer as the council began. The meeting started with the captain of the guard, an attractive lady whose name Adora missed, gave a report on the Horde/Brightmoon border. A number of small settlements in the Whispering Woods had been raided, including:

“Thaymor was lost in a surprise attack last night. The survivors have been trickling in all night, we’re redirecting them to refugee camps.”

Thaymor…

Why did Thaymor sound familiar?

Oh.

Thaymor.

“What was Thaymor?” Adora asked, hoping against hope that Shadow Weaver had told the truth just once.

“A small village.” Answered Spinnerella, a princess Adora had been introduced to at breakfast. “Why?”

Adora suddenly felt a crushing weight drop onto her shoulders.

She could have stopped this.

She should have stopped this.

“Uh, Adora?” Glimmer waved her hand in front of Adora’s zoned out eyes. “What’s wrong?”

Catra glanced over at her friend, who was still stuck in her own head. Realising that she wasn’t going to say anything herself, Catra answered for her.

“Thaymor was meant to be our first mission. She was going to lead the assault.”

Adora took a deep, gasping breath, then managed to speak, even if it was so quiet that even Catra struggled to hear her.

“Thaymor was meant to be a heavily fortified stronghold. Not a civilian town.”

“Are you alright Adora?” The Queen asked, her voice filled with enough concern that even Adora managed to pick up on it. “We can take a break if you’d like.”

She wasn’t being kicked out?

But she was supposed to lead the attack that wiped out a village, surely they should be mad about that?

Adora braved a glance around the room, and all she found on the aces of the people around her was concern. Even on the faces of Spinnerella and Netossa, who she’d only met that morning.

It was like Catra could hear what was going on in her head, because she leant over and whispered.

“This isn’t the Horde; I think you’re alright.”

Adora took another deep breath and steeled her nerves. Try as she might, she couldn’t shake her Horde instincts to hide her vulnerabilities.

“We can continue.” She replied to the Queen’s question, deliberately ignoring the looks she was receiving.

“Very well.” The Queen replied after regarding Adora for a moment. “Captain, if you would.”

“For out last order of business, the Horde’s siege on Plumeria continues.”

“Brightmoon will send food and aid.” The Queen replied. Everything about her voice gave Adora the impression that this was a practised reply the Queen had given many times before.

Adora waited for her to continue, to give orders about troop movements or something to counter the Horde, but the Queen didn’t have anything else to say.

“You’re not going to fight the Horde?” Catra asked, her eyes wide.

“Plumeria withdrew from the Princess Alliance, we must respect their wishes.”

“This is why you’re losing the war! How can you hope to win if you won’t fight?” Anger seeped into Catra’s voice.

She didn’t particularly want to fight the Horde, in fact she wanted nothing to do with the war. But the great Rebellion refusing to fight? She couldn’t understand it.

“So you’d have me send soldiers to die in a fight that have no chance to win?” The Queen asked. “I won’t do it.”

“What if,” Glimmer said, hoping that her idea would be seen in a better light in comparison to Catra’s outburst. “We go and try to recruit Princess Perfuma for the Princess Alliance?”

“Yeah.” Bow agreed, eager to back up his friend’s ideas. “Uniting will only make us stronger, and this way we don’t have to fight a losing battle. The best of both worlds.”

Adora could see the Queen was still hesitating. On some level she wondered if this was normal outside the Horde, parents resisting sending their children into a fight. Either way, she felt compelled to make a push for Glimmer.

“I can go as She-ra. I’ll escort Glimmer and make sure nothing happens, and I can deliver the relief supplies while she recruits Perfuma.”

The Queen sighed.

“Very well. Adora, Glimmer, and Bow will deliver the relief supplies and attempt to recruit Princess Perfuma for the Princess Alliance.”

“Me?” Bow asked. Adora had been wondering the same thing.

“Are you honestly trying to tell me that you wouldn’t have gone on this mission if I hadn’t assigned you to it?”

Bow just laughed. Adora supposed that was a good thing.

“If Adora’s going, I guess I am too.” Catra said, her tone not leaving room for argument. “Someone’s got to keep her from doing something stupid.”

Adora punched her in the shoulder, only to have Catra poke her tongue out in response.

“Very well.” The Queen said. “You’ll leave in the morning.”


Adora watched Catra slink away as the meeting ended, no doubt off to find the tallest thing she could sleep on. Adora hung back, wanting to take the chance to figure out a bit more about life at Brightmoon.

“So, where can I get my new schedule?” She asked Glimmer. “Catra’s too, I guess, since she won’t get it herself.”

Glimmer blinked at her.

“Your what?”

“Schedule? You know, the thing that tells us when we’re supposed to train or eat or sleep?”

Glimmer blinked at her again.

“I could take you to the training grounds and sign you up for one of the courses.” Glimmer said as she pinched on of Adora’s already impressive biceps. “I don’t really think you need it.”

“I think what Glimmer is trying to say,” Bow said as he watched the confused look on Adora’s face. “Is that you don’t have something to dictate your every move here – it’s up to you.”


With nothing left to do, Adora set off to find Catra. Despite having been in Brightmoon for a day at most, Adora was confident the normal “find Catra” strategy would work: go up.

So she did.

She climbed staircases and explored hallways, ones well beyond the scope of Glimmer’s brief tour the night before.

She’s thought she’d failed when the hallway she was searching reached a dead end, resigning herself to going back to the beginning and trying again, until she caught something in the corner of her eye.

There was a gap in the wall.

A small one, well hidden. Adora doubted she’d have seen it if it hadn’t been for a lifetime of hunting Catra.

She walked up to the wall and gave it an experimental push. It creaked open; its hidden hinges coated in a thick layer of dust.

It was clear no one had come this way in a long time.

Or at least until today.

A faint set of footprints had been let in the dust, easily identified by the small scratches left by the claws on Catra’s feet. Adora followed the footsteps through the spacious but dimly lit passage until she reached another door. She pulled it open, cringing at the screech of the hinges.

Adora didn’t know what she’d been expecting to find at the end of a secret passage – well, besides Catra – but it certainly hadn’t been a library.

Unlike the passage leading to it, the library was clean and bright. A large window dominated one of the walls, letting in lots of light and giving an impressive view of the kingdom. It also gave Adora a clear view of how high she had gotten.

She was super high.

The window let in a warm beam of sunlight. Adora found herself taking a moment to just stand and bask in it. This kind of peaceful warmth was completely foreign to her.

“You’re standing in my sunlight.”

Adora turned around to face Catra. She was curled up on an ottoman that – until just now – was positioned perfectly in the sun. Behind her was a large door, the proper entrance to the room, Adora assumed.

“Isn’t Brightmoon nice?” Adora asked.

“Sure.”

Adora frowned. Sure Catra normally had trouble opening up to people, but never Adora. Based on everything she’d seen so far, she had been sure she’d love it.

“And you’ve got to be loving all this sun.” She continued, trying to pry more out of Catra.

“You’re still standing in it.” Catra said in lieu of an actual answer.

“Sorry.” Adora said as she stepped out to the side, once again letting sunlight flood Catra’s new resting spot.

“Catra, what’s wrong?” Adora asked, giving up on the idea that Catra would tell her on her own.

“Nothing, everything’s fine.”

Why wouldn’t she just tell her? Adora wanted to groan, but managed to contain it to just a sigh let out under her breath.

“I know you’re good at hiding your feelings, Catra, but you’re not that good.” Adora said as she sat down next to her. “Now spill.”

“Just stop, Adora.” Catra snapped, curling herself into an even tighter ball.

“Not until you tell me what the problem is.”

Catra didn’t say anything for several moments. Adora took advantage of the silence to rub Catra in her favourite spot behind the ear, give her a physical reminder of their promise.

“You’re the problem, okay?” Catra whispered, barely audible, having immediately lost the energy of her snap.

Was she sobbing?

Adora hadn’t seen Catra cry since they were little kids, not since they’d made the promise that eventually led them here.

It was probably the only thing that stopped Adora from assuming Catra meant the worst and walking away.

“Me?”

Catra sobbed again before continuing.

“She was right. We’re not even in the Horde anymore and I’m still just following you around.”

Adora didn’t need to ask to know Catra was talking about Shadow Weaver.

“Catra that’s not true. She’s not right.”

“Then why am I going to Plumeria?”

She was briefly tempted to point out that Catra had technically volunteered to go to Plumeria, but she knew it was more complicated than that – and it wouldn’t be helpful, even if it wasn’t.

“Why are you going to Plumeria?” Adora asked. “I thought you wanted to escape the war?”

“I don’t know.” Catra said. “I do want to escape the war.”

Adora didn’t respond, instead giving Catra a chance to talk it out and figure out what it was she wanted.

“We promised to look out for each other. I can’t do that if you’re in Plumeria and I’m not.”

Adora’s scratches seemed to be doing their job well, Catra was calming down more and more each moment.

“What about you?” Adora asked. “I want to go to Plumeria and fight, but we’re out and we’re safe. There’s no reason for you to go if you don’t want to.”

“Besides,” she continued, giving Catra a friendly shove. “I’ve got the power of a goddess now, I don’t think you need to worry about me.”

“If I don’t need to fight anymore, and I don’t need to protect you anymore, what’s left for me to do?”

“Whatever you want.”

Chapter Text

“I told you,” Adora said for what must have been the millionth time, “Catra didn’t want to come, and I wasn’t going to make her.”

“Glimmer,” Bow cut in. “It’s not a big deal. We can do this with just the three of us.”

The three of them – Adora, Bow, and Glimmer (well technically four if you counted the horse pulling the cart, which Adora absolutely did) – were making their way through the Whispering Woods, en route to deliver supplied to the besieged Plumeria.

“Not a big deal?” Glimmer asked. “She’s seen how bad the Horde is first-hand, she should want to fight them!”

Adora had just about enough of this. She put her foot down as she pushed her way past a branch.

“Catra’s been fighting for her whole life; she deserves her peace.”

Glimmer teleported around the branch as it snapped back to where it was before Adora had pushed passed it. She opened her mouth to keep up her tirade against Catra, only to be cut off by a meaningful look from Bow. They had been friends long enough that they often didn’t need words to talk, much like Adora and Catra. The meaning of this look was clear: “Don’t push it.”

Instead she asked, “So what was it like growing up in the Horde?”

Glimmer felt a little like she was betraying her principles, but the proud look Bow gave her made up for it.

Adora really didn’t know how to answer her question. What was it like growing up in the Horde? What made it different from growing up in the rest of Etheria?

“It’s strange,” she eventually decided. “They taught us we had to be utterly loyal to out squad-mates and commanders, but then they made us fight and compete for every little scrap. Shadow Weaver used to tell me I was like a daughter to her, but she never acted like a mother to me.”

Adora stopped talking when she realised what she’d just said. While she theoretically knew it was wrong, it was going to take time to unlearn the Horde’s most important rule – never show weakness.

Bow and Glimmer let the silence hang, not sure how to respond.

“Adora I – ”

“Adora that’s – ”

They said at the same time, only to stop when they realised they were cutting each other off.

“That sounds awful.” Bow said after a quick nonverbal conversation with Glimmer to figure out who was going first.

“I’m glad that you’re with us now, both of you.” Glimmer finished.

“Thanks guys.” Adora replied, her voice now heavy with unshed tears. “I’m glad we’re here too.”

“I just wish I knew what Catra was doing.” Adora continued. “I hope she’s doing okay, she was pretty upset yesterday.”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Bow reassured her. “What’s the worst that could happen?”


As it turned out, the worst that could happen was Catra breaking into the library again.

Well, maybe breaking in might have been a stretch, since there wasn’t any actual indication that the library was off-limits, but breaking in sounded much more interesting to Catra then just visiting the library.

Catra was lying on the same ottoman as she had the day before, stretched out in the sunlight. Nothing the Fright Zone had ever produced came even close to this natural sunlight.

Despite that Catra found herself growing bored. This whole concept of free time was as new to her as it was to Adora, and Catra had no idea how she was supposed to fill it.

She stood up slowly, yawning as she did. In the rare instances of free time in the Fright Zone, Catra would always spend it with Adora. What they actually did with those stolen minutes changed as they got older, but in was never anything Catra could do on her own.

After all, they’d always be together right?

But now Adora was off saving the world with her new Brightmoon friends and Catra was alone. She wasn’t bitter, not like she might have been if things had gone down differently, but she couldn’t shake the beginnings of jealousy that were starting to build in her stomach.

Strangely, Catra found she wasn’t jealous of Bow and Glimmer (not that she’d use their names to their face), but rather jealous of Adora.

Well, maybe it wasn’t that strange.

Catra had always wanted the affection Shadow Weaver had seemed to pour over Adora, even if deep down she knew it was as false as anything she gave Catra.

She found herself jealous of how easily Adora had found her place here. So sure of herself and what she believed in, what she wanted from life, as opposed to Catra, who had nothing better to do then lay in the sun all day.

Catra wandered over to the window and looked out over Brightmoon. A whole new world for her to explore and learn about. One where she might even get to be happy, to thrive.

One day.

Hopefully.

If only she could figure out how to navigate it.

Almost as though fate were responding to her unspoken wishes, Catra noticed a reflection in the window. The many bookshelves that lined the walls of the library, but specifically a small section simply labelled “Micah”.

Catra had never been an avid reader – not that the Horde offered much literature beyond blatant propaganda – but she figured it wasn’t like she had anything else to do.

Plus, she had been wanting a way to learn about life outside of the Fright Zone.

She walked over to Micah’s shelf and pulled out a book at random.

It was as good a starting point as any.


“Are you really going to be She-ra the whole time?”

“I don’t see a problem with it,” Adora replied with She-ra’s slightly deeper voice. “Besides, can Adora do this?” She asked as she lifted the supply cart above her head with a single hand.

“Uhhh…” Glimmer concentrated on not drooling as she watched She-ra’s biceps ripple.

Bow rolled his eyes at his friends’ antics, thinking to himself that he honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she could.

In reality Adora didn’t think that she’d need She-ra’s impressive strength or still mysterious powers on what was effectively a diplomatic mission. What she needed was She-ra’s confidence. She wasn’t Adora, the out-of-place deserter, she was She-ra, a literally glowing warrior with a clear mission and purpose – stop the Horde.

She was pulled out of her own head by the sound of Bow’s voice.

“Woah, what happened here?”

The bushes in front of them were wilting, dying even. And not just the ones directly in front of them. All around them, plants were beginning to rot and decay. The vibrant colours Adora had come to expect from the Whispering Woods had become muted and lifeless. An acrid smell carried through the air on a dry breeze.

“Everything’s dying,” Glimmer responded, the horror in her voice palpable.

“Yes, we are going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment, but I’m sure the universe will right itself soon enough.”

The trio jumped at the sudden voice behind them – the horse who’d been pulling the cart until Adora decided to show off didn’t seem to notice.

Adora wheeled around to find who she could only assume was Princess Perfuma. She wore strange, impractical clothes, but Adora had come to expect that from Etherians. More interesting was her smile. It was a wide, welcoming smile, but it didn’t reach her tired eyes.

“Princess Perfuma!” Glimmer greeted once she’d recovered from the surprise. “Hi!”

“Welcome to Plumeria, I’m sure everyone will be very glad…” Perfuma trailed off as her eyes landed on Adora.

“Is that… Is that the She-ra?”

Adora froze. She hadn’t expected to be recognised – why she wasn’t sure, it seemed so obvious now – and she had no idea how to deal with the hope that flooded into Perfuma’s eyes, the expectations that seeped into her voice.

“I… Uh… Bring relief.” Adora said, gesturing with the cart in her hand.

Adora facepalmed internally. She had no idea what she was doing, what she was saying.

“Wonderful!” Perfuma declared as she began to lead them through the dying forest to a clearing.

It was hard to tell at first, since everything was so well hidden, but it seemed to be a central point for the kingdom. Buildings were smoothly integrated into the trees on the edge of the clearing, almost as though they had been made by twisting and guiding the trees into shape. Adora wasn’t sure if she’d have even been able to tell if it hadn’t been for the blight infecting the trees, which had affected their colour and made the buildings stand out.

“Everyone! The She-ra has come to purify our lands, just as the legends foretold!”


The journal opened with a date. The Rebellion must have used a different calendar system then the Horde, Catra realised, since she had no context for the numbers.

I had another Light Spinner nightmare last night. It played out like they always do. I didn’t back out, I helped her complete the spell and she turned on Mystacor. No matter how much she destroyed, no matter how many she killed, she always left me. I was helpless to do anything but watch as she brought my home to ruin.

C’yra tells me these dreams are natural, a part of the healing process even, but I just wish they’d stop. It would probably be easier if I only had bad memories of her, but I don’t. As much as I hate her and what she became, the woman taught me for years – hell, she practically raised me. I almost feel like I’m betraying her by having these dreams, and even if she betrayed me first, it still hurts.

Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without C’yra. She woke me up from my nightmare and made me this amazing tea that helped to calm my nerves. It astounds me that even after all these years there are still things about the magicats – like this tea – that seem so incredible to me.

Regardless, the best thing she does is sit and talk through it with me. I couldn’t ask for a better wife, and I was lucky enough to be blessed with two.

Catra was distracted from the journal by the sound of the door opening. She must have been really absorbed in the book, because normally she would have heard anyone’s footsteps well before they reached the door. The idea left her feeling uneasy. She shouldn’t have let her guard down so easily, not in such an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar people.

The large doors which Catra had previously dismissed as unimportant opened to reveal the Queen. Catra’s Horde-born survival instincts kicked in and she rolled off the ottoman she had been laying on and sprung up to attention, only to remember she wasn’t in the Horde anymore and slouch down again.

Despite that she was still on edge. Just because the Rebellion seemed laxer about discipline didn’t mean she wouldn’t get in trouble. A small voice in her head tried to tell her she had no reason to believe she shouldn’t be in the library, no reason to believe she’d done anything wrong, but it was silenced by years of Shadow Weaver’s “lessons”.

The Queen, for her part, seemed just as surprised to find Catra as Catra had been to be found. A lifetime of composure ensured the Queen recovered quickly enough that Catra hardly noticed.

“Good morning, Catra.” The Queen greeted.

“Your majesty.” Catra snapped to respond.

Catra waited for something else to happen, for the Queen to get angry with her.

But the moments stretched into minutes and nothing happened. Catra just stared at the Queen’s face, trying to figure out what was going on. She certainly didn’t seem interested in telling her.

Eventually the Queen broke the silence.

“I did not expect to see you today.”

Right.

The Plumeria mission she had signed herself up for. Did that mean she was technically deserting right now? The Queen didn’t seem to be upset about it if she was.

“You’re not mad?”

“What ever for?” The Queen seemed genuinely confused.

Catra didn’t even notice it herself, but her body and fur relaxed as she realised the Queen wasn’t upset.

“The Plumeria mission? I said I’d go yesterday.” Catra prompted, only to immediately regret it. If the Queen wasn’t mad at her, reminding her why she should be was probably a mistake.

The Queen didn’t say anything in response, at least not right away. She did make a small noise of understanding, however, when she realised what was bothering Catra.

“We don’t make people fight if they don’t want to.” The Queen explained, more patiently than Catra could have imagined. “It’s one of the core principles of the Rebellion.”

The Queen paused briefly to consider something.

“It’s not my place to ask why you chose to stay behind, but if you’d like to talk about it I would be happy to lend an ear.”

Huh.

The feeling that rushed into Catra was familiar, but she couldn’t place why. It was warm, inviting even.

It was also incredibly dangerous.

At least that what her instincts told her.

With her focus on the war of emotions running though her, Catra barely noticed that she’d responded.

“I’ve always been in Adora’s shadow. I don’t think I want to spend my new life just following her around.”

Catra froze as she realised what she’d said. Saying anything even slightly bad about Adora – or even just Adora-adjacent – was the quickest way to get on Shadow Weaver’s bad side.

Or further onto her bad side, in Catra’s case.

But the magic never came.

No magical freezing, no painful lightning.

Nothing.

“Is that why you came here?”

The Queen’s gentle voice pulled Catra out of her own head. She slowly opened her eyes, one at a time, eyes she hadn’t even realised she closed.

“Here?” She asked tentatively.

“The Royal Library. This is where we hold the journals of the royals long passed, so we may learn from our history.”

With the word royal Catra hesitated. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to be here after all?

Then again, that had never stopped her in the Fright Zone, why should it stop her now? Besides, the Queen didn’t seem to have any issue with it, so why bring it up?

“Dare I say, it would probably be a good place to find new purpose.” The Queen said, who had either not noticed or not cared about Catra’s hesitation.

“New purpose? It’s just a bunch of books.” Catra didn’t hate reading or anything, but it wasn’t something she’d ever considered doing without being told to.

Until now, she realised, looking down to where Micah’s journal had fallen when she stood up.

The Queen must have followed her gaze, because she bent down and grabbed the journal, dusting it off as she straightened up.

“Take my husband’s journal for example. You seemed quite taken with that when I walked in, have you considered why?”

She had not.

Maybe it was his nightmares? They certainly felt similar to the one she’d had about Shadow Weaver last night.

Maybe it was his ties to her people? This journal had the most she’d ever learnt about the magicats, and there hadn’t even been much there to begin with.

“I don’t know.” She told the Queen.

“Maybe if you keep reading you’ll figure it out.” The Queen replied, offering Catra the journal. “I’m sure Micah would have been glad for his journals to help a magicat.”


 “No thanks, you need this food more than we do.” Adora – still as She-ra – said as she gently pushed the bowl of – well something, she honestly wasn’t sure what – back into the hands of the woman who gave it to her.

Adora had no idea what was going on. The people of Plumeria were celebrating, but they clearly hadn’t won anything, that much was clear from a quick glance around the clearing.

In fact, Plumeria was clearly in dire straits. People were sick and hungry, the forest was diseased and dying. Perfuma’s powers seemed to have grown weak, barely able to keep her own flowers alive, let alone the forest.

Getting up from the circle she’d been sitting in, Adora looked around to find where her companions had disappeared to, hoping one of them could explain what was going on. She was tempted to ask one of the Plumerians, but she knew she had a tendency to be blunt and didn’t want to risk Glimmer’s mission by insulting the locals.

She saw Glimmer first. She was walking through the crowds with Perfuma, probably trying to convince her to join the Princess Alliance.

Figuring that was more important than her confusion, she turned her search to Bow. He didn’t take long to find, she spotted him standing under a tree surrounded by a group of children, making extravagant hand gestures as he talked to them.

Adora gently removed herself from the group that had gathered around her while she searched – literally pulling one of them off in the case of a woman in a yellow shirt – and made her way over to Bow.

As she pushed her way through the crowd, she felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning around, she found herself face-to-face with Perfuma. The princess seemed to have lost Glimmer since Adora had seen the pair and was now alone.

Adora felt a creeping anxiety rise in her stomach. Despite now being one, a lifetime of being taught to think of princesses as nothing but monsters had left a mark on her.

Adora took a deep breath and swallowed her anxieties enough to greet the princess.

“Princess Perfuma, hi.”

Even though Perfuma had been the one to approach Adora, she was noticeably surprised when Adora spoke to her. Actually, Adora corrected herself, it seemed less like surprise and more like… Adora couldn’t quite place it.

Perfuma had gasped slightly and had a small blush on her cheeks. Adora filed the information away for later. Catra had always been good at reading people, maybe she would know.

“Yes, She-ra,” Perfuma replied. “I was just wondering, uh, when you’d be healing our lands?”

Unlike when Perfuma had welcomed them into Plumeria, when her voice had been confidant and friendly, now it was uncertain and almost… subservient?” Adora didn’t get the change. Had something changed?

“Do you think you’ll do it before the drum circle or after?” Perfuma prompted when Adora didn’t respond immediately.

Wait, what was it Perfuma wanted her to do? Heal her land?

Adora looked around at the dying trees. She had no idea she even could heal things, let alone how. This was too much for her. She couldn’t do it.

She couldn’t do it.

“Just a second,” Adora told Perfuma, trying not to let her weakness show as she grabbed Bow and Glimmer and slipped away into the trees.

“What’s wrong?” Bow asked once Adora stopped pulling him and Glimmer along.

“Well that makes sense,” Glimmer said. “That is supposed to be one of She-ra’s powers.”

“I don’t take it you know how to do it?” Bow asked.

“No I don’t know how to heal! I barely know how to turn into She-ra!” Adora yelled, pausing from what she had been doing – namely pacing back and forwards so much she had trampled several of the already dying ferns.

“Alright, lets just calm down.” Bow gently instructed her. “Breathe in and out, like that.”

As Adora listened to him she felt her sense return.

“What can I do?” She asked after a moment.

“Well…” Glimmer started. “Have you tried healing anything?”

And so Adora spent the next several minutes trying to heal a tree. Something about her strained and frustrated grunts must have alerted the horse that had at one point been pulling the cart, because it trotted over to watch.

“This is useless!” Adora grunted as she tried and failed to use She-ra’s healing power. “What am I supposed to do?” She pleaded with the Sword, turning it over in her hands as though she was searching desperately for any kind of instructions.

As she stared into the gem embedded in the hilt of the Sword, she felt a calmness overtake her body. She didn’t know what it was, but it was like someone was guiding her actions.

She felt warmth building in her hands, flowing into the Sword’s handle and down the blade, where it built and built until…

Distressed squealing broke her concentration.

Adora opened her eyes – which she hadn’t even realised she’d closed – and was met with possibly the most confusing scene she’d ever laid eyes on.

Glimmer and Bow were desperately trying to calm down what Adora could only assume was Horsey. It didn’t really look like Horsey anymore, not beyond the basic head and body shape.

The most startling difference was the addition of wings. Big feathery wings, all the colours of the rainbow, one on each side of the creature’s body.

Adora didn’t get long to study the new Horsey as he beat his new wings and took off into the air, flying clumsily and looking more distressed than ever.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine…” Glimmer said, not even really convincing herself.

“Did I do that?” Adora asked. “Was that Horsey?”

“Yes it was, and yes you did.” Bow replied, his mouth still open in shock.

“I don’t think that counts as healing.” Glimmer unhelpfully supplied, earning a look from Bow.

Adora wasn’t listening anyway. As she watched Horsey fade into the horizon, she noticed something. Thick, unnatural smog was rising through the air over the treeline. Unlike most things in Plumeria, or Brightmoon for that matter, this was familiar to Adora. It was the same smog that hung over the Fright Zone.

That must be where the Horde was operating.

“Do you guys see that?”

“See what?” Glimmer asked.

“Above the treeline, it’s smog.” Adora showed them. “The Fright Zone was filled with it.”

“And that means,” Bow said.

“The Horde is nearby.” Glimmer finished.

“They must be behind this,” Adora said, gesturing to the dying plant-life. “We should tell Perfuma. I don’t think I can heal, but if we can drive off the Horde that’s basically the same thing.”

“Well.” Adora sighed after a moment. “I guess I should come clean with her shouldn’t I.”

Bow and Glimmer followed Adora as she pushed her way back through the trees into the clearing where Perfuma was hosting the festival.

“Look, there she is!” Someone in the crowd called out as they emerged from the trees. Suddenly Adora was surrounded once again, even if She-ra’s added height meant she could easily see over the sea of people.

“Wait, everyone. I have an announcement to make!” Adora called out over the crowd, ignoring the voice she was pretty sure she heard say “Hold me!”.

In lieu of actually saying anything, Adora just dropped She-ra’s form. Immediately the crowd’s cheers turned to a confused murmur.

…“Where did She-ra go?”….

…”Who’s this?”…

…”She’s just a girl.”…

Adora took a deep breath with her own lungs, for the first time in hours.

“My name is Adora, and I am She-ra.”

Adora took another breath and steadied herself for what she was going to say next.

“Just keep it simple, Adora.” She told herself.

“I’ve only been She-ra for a few days and I don’t know how to heal yet.”

She was going to continue, but the crowds murmur shifted from confusion to hostility. One by one they started to slip away, muttering about stories and lies.

“Wait! I know the Horde, I’m sure they’re behind this! We can fight them, drive them off!”

It didn’t matter. The crowd drifted away until only Perfuma was left, unwept tears in her eyes.

“Thank you for your honesty, but we can’t fight the Horde.”

“Why not?” Glimmer jumped in before Adora could ask the same question, although she liked to think she’d be less… aggressive when she asked.

“We are a peaceful people. We can’t fight.” Perfuma flourished her hand and a flower appeared in it, only to wither away and die before their eyes.

“I make flowers, and I can’t even do that properly anymore.” Perfuma sobbed. “Thank you for the food and medicine, but we’re going to evacuate.”

 With that Perfuma followed her people, spreading the news and planning their retreat.

“They won’t fight?” Adora was confused. Why wouldn’t they fight?

“Don’t they realise the Horde is killing their land?” Glimmer seemed just as confused as Adora.

Bow looked between his two friends and sighed as he realised it would fall to him of all people to talk them into going behind Perfuma’s back.

“Come on guys, we still have our plan, don’t we?”


Catra didn’t know what a husband was.

At least, she wasn’t sure if she did. Unlike most of the foreign concepts she and Adora had ran into at Brightmoon, the Horde had actually taught them something about husbands and wives.

Catra hadn’t been in class that day, on account of one of Shadow Weaver’s private “lessons”.

But Adora had, like she always did, tried to fill Catra in on what she missed as best she could.

Apparently, husbands and wives were a dangerous rebel concept where you would value one person so highly, you’d dedicate yourself to them above all others. The Horde forbid them, claiming they only served as a distraction from a soldier’s dedication to Hordak.

Personally, Catra and Adora hadn’t thought the idea sounded so bad.

That being said, it had seemed pretty clear that it was meant to be an exclusive thing, one husband and one wife. So why did Micah’s journal mention two?

The Queen had left for something called “tea”, so Catra couldn’t ask. Instead, she turned her attention back to the journal in her hands. Maybe Micah would go into more detail about it? Even if he didn’t, she was eager for more snippets about her people.

C’yra is Pregnant!

I can hardly contain my excitement! We’re going to have a child!

Admittedly I do have some concerns. Light Spinner didn’t exactly leave me with many positive role models, and I can’t help but worry that I’ll follow in her footsteps.

C’yra and Angella have both assured me I’m being ridiculous. They tell me I’m a million times better person than Light Spinner (not that it’s hard), and that I have the experience after practically raising Casta on my own – although I’d say it’s doubtful how that turned out!

(Love you Casta.)

They’ve told me time and time again, but I can’t shake the feeling.

Maybe I should volunteer at one of the kitten dens, get some practice and help soothe my anxieties.

Honestly, I’m just scared by how much of an impact Light Spinner has on my life, even after so many years.

Catra was interrupted by a small cough from the Queen, newly returned and carrying a tray with the most delicate looking cups Catra had seen in her life.

“I wasn’t sure what kind of tea you’d like, so I got you a catnip blend. It was always C’yra’s favourite when she visited.”

Catra probably should have been offended that the Queen assumed she’d like it just because she was a magicat, but all she could focus on was the name.

“C’yra? Like from Micah’s journals?”

“Indeed.”

The Queen didn’t seem to have anything more to say on the matter. She didn’t seem hostile, but rather unaware, unaware as to why it would be important.

“I’m confused.” Catra began with a rare admission of weakness. “The journal said she was Micah’s wife, but I thought he was your husband?”

“That is correct.” The Queen still didn’t seem to understand Catra’s confusion.

“The Horde taught us that it was supposed to be an exclusive thing.” Catra prompted.

It was like a switched had flipped, how fast understanding flooded into the Queen’s eyes.

“The Horde never taught you about love and marriage, did they?”

Catra shook her head. Even though there had been that one class on it, Catra doubted it was accurate to the rest of Etheria.

“When two people love each other, they might get married. It’s like a declaration to the world, a promise. Typically you’d only marry one person, like the Horde seems to have taught you, but that’s not always the case.”

“So Micah married you and C’yra?” Catra asked.

“He did.”

That made enough sense, Catra supposed.

“Does that mean Glimmer has a sibling? The journal mentioned C’yra was pregnant.”

A sob caught in the Queen’s throat. It had been years and she had made peace with Micah’s death, but such a casual mention of his daughter caught her off guard.

She could picture her now, running up and down the corridors of Halfmoon, driving her parents half-mad. The little thing only had a thin layer of fuzz, unlike her mother’s thick and luscious coat. Micah had loved teasing C’yra about it, but she was insistent it would grow in.

“Did I say something wrong? I’m sorry.” Catra interrupted the Queen’s reminiscing, bringing her back to the present with only a few tears in her eyes.

“No, you couldn’t have known.” The Queen didn’t need Catra’s apology, but she appreciated it. “Yes, Glimmer had a sister. She was killed with her mother and father when Halfmoon was attacked.”

“Oh…. I’m sorry.”

The Queen gently laid her hand on Catra’s shoulder, only to remove it when she noticed Catra flinch.

“It’s okay Catra, you couldn’t have known.”

Was this what it was supposed to feel like? Catra was warm and safe. She suddenly felt guilty for flinching away from the Queen’s touch. She couldn’t figure out why though, in her experience that never ended well. Was this what Shadow Weaver was meant to be?

A mother?

The Queen excused herself so he could attend her duties and Catra found herself thinking on what she’d said. Relationships, love, promises, now that she thought of it, there was one pair of people that reminded her of…


“Kyle? Rogelio?”

 Those two were definitely not who Adora was expecting to run into when she, Bow, and Glimmer infiltrated the Horde base, but she wasn’t going to complain.

“Adora! Thank god!” Kyle exclaimed.

“What are you guys doing here?” She asked.

“Look…” Kyle started, only to get cut off by Glimmer.

“It’s great that you know these people Adora, but can we get inside? I’d rather not get caught.”

Reminded that they were standing out in the open in the middle of an enemy (that felt weird to think) base, Adora grabbed Kyle and Rogelio by a shoulder each and pulled them inside with her.

“Come on, we can catch up in here.”

After closing the door and double checking they were alone, Adora, Bow, and Glimmer pulled off their helmets.

“Wow those helmets suck.” Bow complained as he took his off. “How do you see anything in them?”

“You get used to it.” Adora told him.

“So,” Adora said, turning her attention back to Kyle and Rogelio. “What are you two doing here? I thought Shadow Weaver decided the squad wasn’t ready for missions.”

“Shadow Weaver split us up to look for you. She’s super pissed about something.”

“Well, more than usual.” Kyle added as an afterthought.

“If she split up the squad, why are you both here?”

As Rogelio started to sign the story, Adora translated for Bow and Glimmer.

“Rogelio was meant to be on a mission to Thaymor, but he ‘convinced’ the force captain in charge to swap to be with Kyle.”

Rogelio grunted and nodded, approving Adora’s translation.

“Why are you here Adora? Shadow Weaver is freaking out, it’s kind of scary.”

Adora raised her an eyebrow.

“Okay, it’s a lot scary,” Kyle admitted. “That still doesn’t answer my question.”

“Catra and I maybe defected a little.” Adora answered, wincing as she anticipated their response.

Kyle, not one to disappoint, dropped to the floor, his head in his hands.

“Shadow Weaver’s going to kill me.”

Rogelio leaned down and patted Kyle on the shoulder, trying to convince his friend that it would be alright.

“I don’t really know who Shadow Weaver is, but she sounds awful. Why don’t you guys just come with us?”

Of course it was Bow who suggested they defect. It wasn’t like Adora didn’t want them to come – she was still disappointed they’d been left behind in the first place – but in the shock of seeing them again, Bow managed to beat her to the punch.

“Yeah, you guys absolutely should come with us. Brightmoon is so much better than the Horde, there’s no Shadow Weaver, or anyone else like her.”

“But what if we’re caught? We’d be killed.” Kyle still hadn’t stood up from where he was fretting on the floor.

“But what if you aren’t caught?” Bow offered.

Rogelio looked between Kyle on the floor, having a mild panic attack from the mere idea of angering Shadow Weaver, and Adora, surrounded by new friends and looking happier then she ever had been in the Horde (barring a couple times he’d seen her with Catra) and made up his mind. Gently, he picked Kyle up off the floor, stood him up, and walked him over to Adora.

Rogelio didn’t say anything, just put his hand on Adora’s shoulder in a silent show of support.

“Well then,” Glimmer said, a little annoyed that they’d picked up more Horde soldiers – despite how well the last ones had turned out – but not willing to say anything about it. “Let’s finish our mission, shall we?”

“Right.” Adora took a step back from Rogelio and pulled out the Sword. “For the Honour of Greyskull!”

Kyle and Rogelio watched in awe as Adora transformed into She-ra.

“Let’s go, shall we?” Adora asked in her now slightly deeper voice.

“Could you always do that?” Kyle asked as Rogelio continued to stare in disbelief.

Rather than answer, She-ra took several strides towards the large, ugly machine that dominated the centre of the room. Its injectors pumped a sickly green fluid into the roots it was built over.

She-ra leapt up onto the machine and brought the Sword down on it in a massive overhead blow that cut it cleanly in two.

The strange, stone-like material that made up the Sword’s blade tearing through the hardened metal created an ear-shattering screech that be sure to alert the entire base that something was wrong.

She-ra landed by the door, prepared to fight off and Horde soldiers that decided to make their presence known. She stood and waited as the others formed up behind her.

And they waited.

And waited.

And waited.

“Where is everyone?” Glimmer asked once she’d grown bored of waiting. “There were heaps of people here when we came in.”

“Maybe they didn’t hear it?” Kyle suggested.

“No, they definitely heard it.” She-ra said. “We should check it out.”

She kicked down the door, which flew off its hinges and made a dent in the next building over.

The scene outside was chaos. Horde soldiers were running in every direction, trying to outrun large, healthy, green vines that slithered after them far faster than vines had any right to move. The ones that weren’t fast enough to escape would become tangled as the vines grew to surround them, forming a tight cocoon around their victims.

Intermixed with the vines and fleeing soldiers were Plumerians carrying makeshift weapons. They weren’t skilled fighters by any means, but they made up for it with numbers and passion.

Judging that the Plumerians and vines had it handled, She-ra followed the trail of vines and cocoons as it twisted between buildings to find Perfuma atop a tower of the vines, controlling their movement from the centre of the base.

“The She-ra!” She called out when she noticed She-ra and her companions at the base of her tower, which she began to lower until she reached their height.

“I’m impressed.” Glimmer said, looking around the ruined Horde base.

“What made you change your mind?” Bow asked.

“The She-ra inspired us.” Perfuma said, looking straight at the girl in question. “She was brave enough to reveal her true form to us and was even still determined to fight for us after we shunned her.”

“Does that mean you’ll join the Princess Alliance?” Glimmer asked.

Perfuma’s soft aura briefly hardened.

“Didn’t that go horribly last time?”

“Last time sure, but now with Glimmer leading it and She-ra at our side, there’s no way we can fail.” Bow told her.

Perfuma’s aura returned to its normal, soft self.

“Would I get to punch more people with flowers?” Perfuma asked with a giggle.

Adora took that as a yes.


After answering all the questions Micah’s journal had raised in Catra, the Queen had left her alone in the library, free to continue reading as she pleased. Despite all the options available to her, Catra kept finding herself drawn to the shelf containing Micah’s entries into Brightmoon’s history.

Much to her dismay, many of the books were little more than directions on how to draw spells. After what seemed like an age of flipping through pages, she gave up on the one she was holding and picked up a new one.

Catra wasn’t sure why, but she found herself drawn to the last book. Rather then dwell on why, she opened the journal and started to read.

I saw Light Spinner last night.

She came to me, desperate and weak, insisting that I join her on some scheme to overthrow Hordak and rule the Horde.

I told her exactly what I thought of that.

Needless to say, she didn’t take it well. She must not have been as weak as she was acting, because as she screamed at me, threatened my family, said all kinds of horrible things I don’t feel the need to repeat here, I could feel the power rolling off her voice. It was like fire, burning into my skin as she put power into her words, trying to change my mind.

While she was distracted with her own magic, I managed to banish her from Halfmoon with a quick spell of my own. I don’t think she was expecting me to attack my own teacher, otherwise I doubt I’d have been able to pull it off.

As she disappeared she said I’d “never see her as Light Spinner again.” I had suspicions before, but I think this – and her new scheme – confirms it.

Light Spinner is Hordak’s new second in command.

Light Spinner is Shadow Weaver.

Catra dropped the book. There was more in the entry, but she didn’t care.

Micah was taught by Shadow Weaver.

Micah was taught by Shadow Weaver – and he’d beaten her.

Could Catra do it too?

Chapter Text

“This,” Glimmer said, handing Adora some kind of flat food, “is a cookie.”

Adora took a bite as Glimmer and Bow handed out more of them to Catra, Kyle, and Rogellio. She didn’t know how to process it. The cookie was so different to the food they’d been served in the Fright Zone. Even just the texture – soft, warm, and just a little bit crumbly – was a vast improvement over the slightly greasy and congealed ration bars of her past.

Deciding that she liked it, Adora wolfed down the rest of it as Catra and the others went through the same process.

“Okay Glimmer, I think we can add bakeries to the list.”

It had been a few days since the mission to Plumeria, and Bow and Glimmer had taken it upon themselves to show Adora and Catra around Brightmoon.

Also Kyle and Rogelio apparently. Glimmer was still unsure what the deal with those two was. Adora had told her they were her and Catra’s teammates in the Horde, but they’d given the pair a fairly wide berth since they’d got back.

Bow, on the other hand, had figured it out almost immediately. It was clear, at least to him, that Adora and Catra had been closer to each other then anyone else in their team. Adora may not have wanted Kyle and Rogelio to suffer in the Horde, but she didn’t have the same connection with them as she did with Catra.

It actually reminded him of his relationship with some of his brothers.

Most of them actually.

And his dads.

A lot of people, apparently.

“Is all your food like this?” Adora asked.

“Some of it,” Bow told her. “There’s other flavours as well.”

Catra’s pupils dilated as she focused on something she saw through the window.

“What’s that?” She asked, pointing behind Glimmer.

Outside, a man was guiding a serpent made of fire through the air, darting between members of a captivated audience. It must have been burning hot, but not even a single soul seemed concerned.

“Oh cool, a sorcerer is putting on a show.” Bow said. “We should go watch it.”

Glimmer rolled her eyes – having lost her enthusiasm for magic after one to many visits to her aunt – but she managed to avoid saying anything. Instead she helped Bow lead the others through the crowd to watch the display.

Despite her curiosity, Catra noticed her fur starting to stand on end as they got closer and closer to the source of the magic. It didn’t take much to figure out why.

She hated that even so far away from her and the Fright Zone, Shadow Weaver could still hold so much power over her.

It felt like her body was moving on its own, driving her away from the danger. Shaking, she pushed her way back through the crowd, away from the magic but not the memories.

As she broke through the edge of the crowd she burst into a sprint, running as far away as she could, headless of the voices calling out behind her. She didn’t know where she was going until she was well and truly lost, hiding in a dark alleyway between a couple shops Glimmer and Bow might have shown her earlier.

A place where she could be alone with her thoughts.

With her memories.

With Shadow Weaver.

“You’ve always been a disappointment, but this is a new low.”

Catra whipped her head around to find Shadow Weaver blocking her exit from the alley.

She seemed to have recovered from her ‘fight’ with She-ra in the Fright Zone, looking exactly how Catra remembered in her nightmares.

“Crying alone in an alleyway, just because you saw a cheap magic trick? I thought I trained you to be stronger than that.”

Without warning, Shadow Weaver lashed out at Catra, who flinched, raising her arms to cover her face, and closing her eyes.

Only to open again when Shadow Weaver’s hand paused in front of her rather than making contact.

“Pathetic.”

Catra couldn’t take it anymore. She’d left the Horde to escape Shadow Weaver, she wasn’t going to just sit there and take it now. If she did, what would have been the point of leaving?

“No!” She yelled as she clawed at Shadow Weaver’s mask…

Only for her claws to pass right through.

The vision of Shadow Weaver gave her a condescending look as it sunk back into the shadows of the alley.

“Catra?” She heard Adora call. “Catra, where are you?”

Catra saw her run passed the alley, still calling Catra’s name, only to double back and poke her head into the alley to look around.

“Catra!”

Adora’s eyes lit up as they landed on Catra, only to darken once more when she noticed the tears in her eyes.

“Was it the magic?” She asked as she approached Catra and gathered her in her arms.

“She just has this effect on me.” Catra said, trying to illustrate what she meant with her hands, but getting frustrated and crushing some imaginary thing in her hands instead. “I thought leaving the Fright Zone would stop it.”

Adora didn’t need to ask who she meant.

“I wish there was more I could do.” She said, holding her closer.

“This is good.” Catra admitted from Adora’s embrace.

And it was. The beat of Adora’s heart, the rhythm of her breath – it helped Catra find something to cling to, something to stop her spiralling back to thoughts of Shadow Weaver.

“I can’t believe you like me.” Adora teased, sensing that Catra’s mood was improving. “How embarrassing for you.”

“Shut up.” Catra replied, shoving Adora off her. “Let’s go back.”

“Are you sure? I’m sure the others would understand if you wanted to just go back to the palace.”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Catra replied as she stood up. “Now are you coming or not?”

Catra was surprised when they ran into Glimmer on the way back. Apparently Adora hadn’t been the only one to go looking for her, the whole group had split up to search for her.

Huh.

That hadn’t happened before.

Every time she had doubts, Brightmoon seemed eager to prove her wrong.

After insisting that she was fine with it, and even wanted to go, the group returned to the show.

Watching the sorcerer work their magic, Catra found herself resisting the urge to run again. Instead, she watched the crowd, trying to distract herself from the magic. What she saw surprised her.

Wonder.

Excitement.

Joy.

Nothing like what she’d been raised to expect from it.

There were exceptions of course. Glimmer mostly just looked bored. Adora seemed to be about as uncomfortable as Catra felt, and Kyle and Rogelio didn’t seem much better. But as the show went on, even they started to enjoy themselves.

Catra went back to watching the show. Once she’d gotten passed the initial discomfort (and she wasn’t going to lie, Adora reaching down to hold her hand helped immensely with that) she found herself getting into it too.

That was the first time Catra found herself smiling at magic.


Catra didn’t know why she was at another strategy meeting. She’d made it clear she wasn’t interested in fighting – she had no particular desire to confront that demon at this stage. Although, to be fair to the Rebellion, they hadn’t made her. In fact, Adora was the only one who had even mentioned it to her.

No, Catra had chosen to be here.

She had no idea why, but she had.

She wasn’t even really paying attention; she was just staring at Adora, who was watching Sparkles argued with the Queen like a tennis match.

 Okay, maybe she did know why she’d come.

Of course, staring at Adora only kept her out of the conversation as long as Adora wasn’t a part of it, and that couldn’t last forever.

“Uh, we’ll need a boat.” Adora interjected into whatever conversation was going on, pulling Catra into it with her.

“Right, with She-ra and a boat we can accomplish anything!”

“And an experienced sea captain.” Bow added.

“Wait, wait, wait.” Catra interrupted. “You’re going on a boat? Like on water?”

“Do you have any better ideas on how to reach Salianas?” Glimmer asked.

So that’s what they were going on about.

“I just don’t get why you’d want to be on a boat, they’re awful.” Catra said, ignoring the question.

“Let me guess,” Glimmer said. “That’s why you’re not coming.”

Catra had a sarcastic remark lined up, but she didn’t get a chance to use it.

“Glimmer!” The Queen admonished.

“What? It’s true, isn’t it!”

“Glimmer, it’s Catra’s choice if she wants to fight or not.” Bow said calmly, hoping to diffuse the situation.

“Catra’s fought enough already.” Adora finished.

Catra didn’t know what to say. She was used to Adora jumping to her defence – and grateful for it – but this many people? She didn’t know what to make of it.

“No Sparkles, I’m not going. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

“Argh!” Glimmer growled, throwing her hands in the air. Fed up with trying to deal with Catra, she teleported away.


“What are you doing here?”

Catra found her nap disturbed by Sparkles, who had appeared on the roof in a flash nearly as irritating as the rest of her.

“What does it look like, Sparkles?” She replied, opening a single eye to watch the princess.

“Gah! You’re so annoying!” Glimmer complained.

Catra stood up and stretched her arms, finally compelled into moving by Glimmer’s annoyance.

“What exactly is your problem with me, Sparkles?”

“What’s my problem? What’s your problem? You refuse to fight the Horde. Don’t you understand the pain they’ve put us through, the loss they’ve caused? How can you just stand by and do nothing!?”

“Ha!” Catra laughed, but it wasn’t one of amusement. “You think I don’t know the pain? You think I don’t know loss? The Horde killed my parents, they wiped out my people!”

Catra paused to take a breath, and Glimmer used it as a chance to interject.

“I’m sorry, but…”

She didn’t get a chance to finish as Catra cut her off once she’d caught her breath.

“Then I was kidnapped by the same people who wiped out my kind, raised in a place where each and every day was its own new hell.” She stepped into Glimmer space and pointed a claw at her chest. “Don’t you get it? I was raised by the same abusive witch that taught your father! Don’t tell me I don’t know the Horde, don’t know suffering!”

“My dad...”

Glimmer actually knew very little about her father. She had been very young when he died, and she was hesitant to ask her mum, for fear of reopening the woman’s own grief.

So to hear Catra, this girl she still barely knew from the other side of the war mention him so casually threw her off, tossed out all her thoughts of anything else.

“You knew my dad’s teacher?”

Catra grunted in response, which Glimmer took as a yes.

“What was she like? Did she talk about him at all?”

“Oh no. I’m not doing this with you.” Catra glared at her. “I’m not talking about Shadow Weaver with you of all people.”

Fur raised in discomfort and anger, Catra stormed off, dropping down and climbing away, leaving Glimmer alone on the roof to feel guilty and contemplate the Magicat’s words.

Chapter Text

The library had become Catra’s personal resting spot while Adora was away on missions. It was quiet, peaceful, and got great sun. Even when she had the Queen for company, like today, she never broke the peaceful atmosphere.

Above all, she was fascinated by the journals it held. Micah’s little windows into another time, another life, one where her people hadn’t been wiped out and she had been raised by loving parents.

It was one of those journals that she was reading now while she waited for Adora to return from her mission to Salianas.

Dearest Cyt’yra

As I write this, you’re only a few months old, but you already mean the world to me.

C’yra – your mother – tells me that magic is passed down through families amongst the magicats, in journals like this one passed from father to daughter and mother to son.

Where I was raised, magic was seen rather differently. Large classes would be taught by disciplined instructors, with little in the way of personal touch.

I must say, I rather prefer the magicat tradition.

But you didn’t come here to read your father’s ramblings, did you? You came here to learn magic!

Magic is all about channelling Etheria’s natural energies through yourself and into spells. Theoretically you don’t need anything to do so, but you’ll find drawing runes will help you direct that energy, and stardust will help you embrace your natural connection.

The journal went on to describe several of what it called “simple” spells, instructing this Cyt’yra to use her claws to draw the required runes. Supposedly, the fine points of her magicat claws made an excellent tool for drawing runes, one that Micah was jealous of.

Wait.

Catra looked at her hands.

She was a magicat.

She had magicat claws too.

Catra waited until the Queen was well and truly distracted by her own reading before slipping off with Micah’s journal, an idea already forming.


Adora stood at the bow of the Dragon’s Daughter IV, enjoying the wind in her hair and sea spray on her face as the ocean carried her, Bow, and Glimmer to Salianas.

The way the ship rocked backwards and forwards as it rode the waves was exhilarating and nothing like the boats in the Horde, which were so big and bulky that they just ploughed through the waves like they weren’t there.

Now this was sailing.

That being said, Adora had enough trouble dragging Catra onto the Horde’s admittedly smoother vessels for training; she doubted Catra would ever willing set foot on a boat this wild.

Adora turned around and leant on the side of the boat, watching her friends on the deck instead of the ocean waves. Bow was following Sea Hawk – their rather… eccentric captain – helping him adjust the sails and occasionally breaking into shanties. Glimmer, on the other hand, was up in the crow’s nest, theoretically on the look out for land, but more likely just to get away from the captain.

She must have noticed Adora’s eyes on her, because she disappeared from the crow’s nest in a flash and reappeared beside her.

“Hey, Glimmer.”

“Catra doesn’t like me, does she?” Glimmer asked, getting straight to the point.

“Can’t imagine why.” Adora replied, with more snark then she usually allowed herself.

Honestly Adora liked Glimmer, she really did. But the way she treated Catra every time the topic of the rebellion came up was inexcusable, at least to Adora.

“Okay, I deserved that.” Glimmer admitted.

The pair stood there awkwardly, letting the silence linger as they watched Bow chase Sea Hawk around, working the ship.

“What was it like, growing up in the Horde, being raised by Shadow Weaver?”

“It sucked, why do you ask?” Adora was confident they’d had this conversation before when she defected. Why was Glimmer asking now?

“Apparently Shadow Weaver taught my dad too. I figured if I could learn about what it was like living under her, what she was like, maybe I’d learn something about him too.”

“So Catra told you.”

“You knew? Why didn’t you tell me?” Glimmer didn’t seem hurt by the revelation, just surprised.

“Catra told me the night we got back from Plumeria. She figured I’d want to know that Shadow Weaver had ties here.” Adora replied.

“Oh.” That made sense to Glimmer now that she thought about it.

“And I didn’t tell you because I assumed you knew. Catra told me she found out in Micah’s journals, I figured you’d already read them.”

Glimmer had tried to read them. Several times even. But something about them – how personal, how intimate they were – stopped her every time. She just couldn’t handle it.

“The Horde was awful, and Shadow Weaver was the worst part of it.” Adora said, preparing herself to go into detail about the Horde with someone other than Catra for the first time.

“Shadow Weaver, she was responsible for training us, raising us. To call her cruel would be putting it lightly. Everything about the Horde she exemplified and reinforced. On a good day she’d pit us against each other, play favourites, do her absolute best to destroy mine and Catra’s relationship. On bad days, she’d hurt Catra and blame me.”

Glimmer was reminded of something Adora had said back during their mission to Plumeria, about how Shadow Weaver had considered Adora her daughter.

“Is that why you’re so uncomfortable around my mum?”

Oh.

Adora was more then a little unsettled by how easily Glimmer picked up on that. She knew it was probably foolish, but she couldn’t bring herself to trust the Queen, especially as a maternal figure.

 On some level she knew the Queen wasn’t Shadow Weaver, that the Queen had been nothing but kind since her and Catra had defected. But she couldn’t look at her without worrying that she’d just swapped one Shadow Weaver for another.

There weren’t any big signs, nothing she could point out and say was the problem.

It was the little things. How she’d catch the Queen talking to Catra in random hallways in the middle of the night. The way her eyes would linger a little to long as they passed over Catra and Adora, with a look Adora couldn’t place, something foreign and new and scary. It was a hand on her shoulder, one that could wind up for a slap at any point.

The worst part of it was knowing it was entirely unreasonable. Catra was willing spending more and more time with the Queen, and Glimmer was proof that the Queen wasn’t Shadow Weaver. There was no reason not to trust the Queen.

But that didn’t mean she did.


When she’d had this idea, Catra hadn’t expected it to blow up in her face.

Certainly not this literally.

Catra picked herself up – again – out of the grass surrounding Brightmoon, frustrated. Micah’s journal had made this seem easy, so why was such a simple spell giving her so much grief?

She flipped the journal back to the page instructing her on how to draw the rune – the force of her most recent failure had slammed it shut – and unsheathed her claws, ready to try again.

She pulled her index claw through the dirt, following the pattern of the rune, a circle within another, larger circle, bisected by a line going down the centre.

Catra stepped back and admired her handiwork. It matched the pattern in Micah’s journal, but so had the last 10 runes she’d drawn. That was what made it so frustrating, it felt like she wasn’t even making progress, she was just drawing the same shape over and over again in the dirt.

Catra put aside her thoughts and moved on to the next step of casting the spell. As Micah’s journal instructed, she reached out to Etheria, grasping for light in the dark.

It would have probably helped if she had any idea what she was meant to be doing or how to do it.

Eventually, her reaching found something, a strange buzzing feeling, one that bounced around in her head like static. Figuring that must be what she was looking for, Catra took the feeling and forced it through her body and into the rune.

Woosh.

Catra was blown back as the rune exploded once more.

“Ugh.” She groaned, throwing her hands in the air.

This was getting ridiculous. Why couldn’t she do this? She tried again and again and again but it kept blowing up in her face.

Maybe Shadow Weaver was right.

Maybe she was useless.

Adora leaves her alone for one day and suddenly she can’t do anything.

Catra hated how easy it was to listen to that voice in her head. How easily she found herself folding to it.

She hated knowing it was wrong but agreeing with its every word.

Sighing, Catra picked up Micah’s journal and made her way back to the palace, to her bedroom, where she could lie down and wait for Adora to come home.


“Ugghhh.”

Maybe Sea Hawk hadn’t been the best choice in captain after all, Adora realised as Princess Mermista groaned again.

“Why did you have to bring him?”

“My darling Mermista, it truly has been too long.” Sea Hawk declared, seemingly oblivious to Mermista’s question.

“He… wasn’t our first choice.” Glimmer tried to put as delicately as possible.

“Nonsense!” The man in question responded. “I am the one and only Sea Hawk. Once they’d heard my daring stories of heroism, they knew there was no captain better suited to such a voyage!”

Mermista sighed. She seemed to do that a lot, Adora noticed. That and groan.

“Why are you even here?” Mermista asked.

“Well I simply had to…”

“Not you Sea Hawk. Can’t you see I’m talking to my new friend Shimmer?”

Sea Hawk pouted as Glimmer corrected Mermista.

“Actually, it’s Glimmer, and I’m here because I want to rebuild the Princess Alliance.”

Mermista groaned this time. Adora started keeping a tally in her head, sighs vs groans.

“That ancient thing? Didn’t it end horribly last time?”

“Well…”

“Whatever. Even if it didn’t, look around. Salianas is falling apart. Figures that I’d inherit a dying kingdom.”

She sighed. That made it 1:1 in Adora’s tally.

“At least I still have a servant to order around. Butler, get drinks for everyone.”

“Oh thank you, my most generous Mermista.”

“Everyone except Sea Hawk.” Mermista amended.

While the butler went off to get drinks, Adora found herself drawn into the artwork that lined the walls.

Or rather, made up the walls. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of seashells had been laid into the stone walls, weaving a magnificent tapestry that shimmered in every colour of the rainbow. Threads of pearls ran through the walls, flowing like water from scene to scene, telling the story of Salianas one shell at a time.

Her eyes were drawn to the mural that dominated the centre of the timeline. The Salianas Sea Gate took up most of the back wall, behind Mermista’s throne. At the top of the gate’s arch, the Pearl glowed faintly.

That was the only part of the Sea Gate that glowed.

Unlike the shells in the other walls that shimmered, reflecting the Pearl’s light, the Sea Gate was dull. The colour had faded from the shells, they could have easily passed for simple stone.

“Adora?”

Bow’s voice snapped her out of her focus and back to the conversation going on around her.

“Sorry, what was that?”

“Mermista was telling us about the Sea Gate,” Bow patiently recapped for her. “Apparently it’s failing. We thought you might be able to fix it, since it’s First One’s tech and all.”

The Sea Gate was failing?

That wasn’t good.

In fact, it was very, very bad.

The Horde knew Salianas was valuable. They watched the gate like hawks, waiting for any hint of vulnerability.

If it was failing, that meant one thing.

The Horde was on its way.

Adora forced herself to breathe. The Horde was notoriously inefficient, the probably had plenty of time to fix it before an attack.

That just left the small issue of fixing an ancient piece of First One’s technology.


Catra didn’t remember falling asleep. That wasn’t uncommon when she was upset. Back in the Fright Zone, she’d frequently find herself waking up in strange places with only a foggy idea of how she’d got there.

Somehow, no matter how far out of the way she’d find herself, Adora would always be right there with her, waking her up with gentle scratches behind her ear.

There was no Adora today.

But it didn’t feel like it.

She didn’t remember falling asleep, but she was confident she wouldn’t have tucked herself in. Tighter than she would have liked, but not so much that it was uncomfortable.

Nor did she open the window a crack, letting in a gentle, calming breeze.

Nor did she leave the glass of water on her bedside table.

Adora wasn’t here, but she felt just as warm and just as safe.

Catra shrugged off the covers and stretched her arms. At the foot of her bed, someone had small cloth pouch, tied up with a drawstring.

Her curiosity piqued, Catra pulled herself out of bed and walked over to the pouch. It was sitting on top of Micah’s journal, with a small white card wedged between the two.

Catra slid the card out from under the pouch and turned it over in her hands. On the other side, four words were written in elegant script.

“I believe in you.”

Catra pushed down the warm feeling that was building in her stomach and picked up the pouch. It was small, fitting perfectly in the palm of her hand, and it made a sifting noise as she held it.

Catra let the drawstring fall from around the pouch’s neck and opened it.

Inside was a sea of glittering white sand, sparkling despite the shadow cast by the pouch.

Was this… stardust?

Micah hadn’t described stardust in detail – probably thinking he’d be able to give it to Cyt’yra himself – but this did match what little description he did give.

Curious, Catra reached her fingers the pouch and took a pinch of it between her claws.

It was unlike anything she’d ever felt before.

It was cool to the touch, but she could feel something buzz and pulse through her as Etheria’s magic ran up her arm and into her body.

As the buzzing grew stronger and stronger Catra began to feel something burn inside of her. Initially just an ember, it grew and grew, burning hotter and hotter until there was a roaring bonfire inside her.

It was hot like the sun, but Catra didn’t scream.

This wasn’t Shadow Weaver’s lightning.

It may have burned, but it didn’t hurt.

This…

This felt right.

Just as quickly as it had grown, the burning sensation receded. In its place, a new power pulsed through her veins. It was like she was breathing for the first time.

Suddenly filled with new energy, Catra opened Micah’s journal. With only a gentle flick of a page, it flew open to exactly where Catra had left off.

Even though all her attempts before had exploded, Catra didn’t bother going back outside.

It was going to work this time.

She knew it.

Catra may as well have not bothered opening Micah’s journal, because she didn’t need it. She drew the rune in the air using the stardust without looking at the book once, guided by her failures and instinct.

Later on, Catra would wonder how the rune hung in the air like that, but in the moment, she didn’t care, she just knew it was right.

 Retracting her claws, Catra spared a moment to admire the rune as it hung in the air of her room. The shape was simple, only a pair of circles with a line going through them, but Catra was proud of it all the same.

Finished admiring her handiwork, Catra raised her hand and willed some of the new power that pulsed through her into the rune. Unlike before, when she had to dig deep for even the slightest hint of power, it flowed easily into the stardust, and stopped as soon as she felt like enough had been used.

She wasn’t sure how she knew it was enough, but she did.

It didn’t explode.

Instead, a tiny, bright white flame like a magnesium flare burnt through the rune until only the flame was left.

Catra watched captivated as the flame transformed into an orb of red light and began to dart back and forth in front of her.

It passed right in front of her, teasing her.

Taunting her.

She leapt.

It darted to the side. Catra could have sworn it giggled.

She rolled to her feet and leapt again, at its new position this time.

The light tried to dart out of the way again, but it was too slow.

It burst into a shower of sparkles as her claws closed around it. Sparkles, as it turned out, which ended up distracting Catra, who went crashing into the floor.

She was left gasping for air in a pile on the floor. Pouncing around after the light had been surprisingly tiring. After a couple moments, what she had just done set in and her eyes darted out of her doorway, checking for any unwelcome witnesses.

Finding none, Catra let out a sigh and allowed herself to relax. Before long she found herself giggling on the floor. It turned quickly into full on laughter.

She couldn’t believe she’d just done that.

It had been fun.


She was doing it.

She didn’t know how she was doing it, but she was doing it.

Adora – or rather, She-ra – was fixing the Sea Gate.

And it was exhausting.

She didn’t know exactly what was happening, but it felt like the Sea Gate was draining Adora’s energy to replenish its own.

The initial connection had been hard to make, seemingly impossible. Even a couple words whispered behind her would instantly shatter whatever bond had started to form.

Eventually, Adora was able to force a bond that wouldn’t shatter right away.

It was exhausting.

She felt like she was stuck in a war trying to maintain the connection, but it wasn’t the Sea Gate she was fighting. The gate was eager for the connection, hungry, drowning itself in every little bit of energy Adora could give it.

No, Adora was fighting She-ra.

“Why are you doing this?” Adora demanded between strained grunts, not expecting an answer.

And she didn’t get one.

Not from She-ra at least.

What she did get was an overwhelming wave of pain as something exploded against the Sea Gate and threw her off the cliff.

She got a short glimpse of a Horde warship as she fell, only to lose sight of it when she hit the water and her world went dark.

“Adora…”

Whose voice was that? Adora didn’t recognise it.

“Adora, wake up…”

Adora’s eyes snapped open. The voice may have been unfamiliar, but the location she found herself in was anything but.

She was in the Fright Zone.

Specifically the infirmary.

“Adora…”

Unlike most times she’d woken up in the infirmary, Adora wasn’t in one of the beds. She was actually sitting in a chair beside on of the beds, somewhere she’d found Catra every time Adora had woken up here, no matter how angry it made Shadow Weaver.

“Adora, come closer…” A hand beckoned her attention to the bed.

Obediently, Adora leant forward and came face to face with the devil herself.

Shadow Weaver lay nearly catatonic on the bed, but it wasn’t her raspy voice coming from behind her mask.

“Why did you hurt me, child?”

Adora felt waves of guilt rushing in, crushing her under their weight.

“I… I didn’t want to. But I couldn’t let you hurt Catra again.”

Deep down, Adora knew she was lying. Catra hadn’t been the only one who had felt a deep satisfaction, joy even, from their victory over Shadow Weaver.

But that didn’t stop the guilt from eating away at her.

“We need each other, child.”

It still wasn’t Shadow Weaver’s voice, but that didn’t matter. Not anymore.

“No! You’ve done nothing but hurt me and the people I care about! I don’t need you, I can’t. I refuse!”

“Oh child.” Not Shadow Weaver’s voice said in a calmer and softer voice then the woman herself had ever used. “This woman has hurt you, but I’m not your enemy.”

That was when Adora finally managed to place the voice.

It was hers.

Trepidatious, she reached over and pulled the mask off the prone woman’s face.

She-ra stared back.

“Adora?”

“Adora!”

Adora recognised the voice this time, but it didn’t make it any less confusing.

“Lonnie?” She asked as her eyes snapped open. She was absolutely soaked, lying on the deck of the Horde ship she’d seen as she fell.

“Did you save me?” She asked.

Lonnie looked away.

“It wasn’t anything big, you just fell in the water over there and I pulled you out.”

Adora gave her a gentle shove in the arm.

“Hey, thanks.”

Lonnie hadn’t been her best friend in the Horde – that position had obviously been filled by Catra – but they had been friends.

“What happened to you, girl?” Lonnie asked. “You and Catra just disappeared a couple weeks ago and suddenly Weaver’s broken up the squad to look for you.”

She didn’t specify, but Adora had a sinking suspicion that Weaver had only ordered a search for her, not Catra as well.

“Me and Catra, we defected.” Adora explained. “We found a way out and we took it. I wanted to bring the rest of the squad, but we didn’t have time.”

Adora waited a moment, then added: “Sorry we didn’t tell you before we left.”

“You guys defected?” Lonnie let out a sigh. “That’s crazy.”

Lonnie didn’t say anything for a few moments and Adora started to worry that she was upset. She wouldn’t have been able to blame her.

“Good for you guys. I know Weaver was always harder on you two then she was on us.”

Adora let out a breath she hadn’t realised she was holding.

“You know, you could still come with me.” Adora offered.

“I don’t know Adora. I’m glad it worked out for you guys, but things are starting to look up for me in the Horde. I’ve been moved up to active duty – Weaver put me in Force Captain Scorpia’s squad – and I’ve got a real chance of making Force Captain myself soon. I don’t know if defecting would be worth leaving all that behind.”

This was going to be a tough sell.

Lonnie was always going to be the hardest of her former squad mates to convince. Where the rest of them had been too young to remember being orphaned, Lonnie hadn’t.

Lonnie was born to Horde parents in a Horde occupied village. Peaceful might not have been the right word, but she’d lived as decent of a childhood as the Horde could provide the for nearly ten years before the Rebellion took the village back.

Her parents hadn’t survived the battle.

She’d been taken back to the Fright Zone by the retreating soldiers, where Shadow Weaver twisted her trauma into a weapon for the Horde.

It wasn’t like Lonnie was blind, she knew what the Horde was capable of, she knew it wasn’t a force for good. But of all their squad, Lonnie had the closest ties to the Horde, the most distance from its cruelties.

“Look, Lonnie, I know what the Rebellion did to you. I wouldn’t – couldn’t – ask you to join them, but that’s not the only option. I did, but Catra, Kyle, Rogelio? They all decided they’d rather stay out of it, just escape the war.”

“That’s… that’s not an option, is it?” Lonnie asked.

“Not in the Fright Zone.” Adora agreed. “But in Brightmoon? Catra’s been tearing through their library, learning everything she can about her people. Hell, Kyle and Rogelio aren’t even in Brightmoon anymore, a new friend of mine – Bow – got one of his brothers to take them on a tour of Etheria, seeing everything the planet has to offer.”

Lonnie looked like she was having trouble believing her. Adora’s reputation as a chronically bad liar was probably the only reason she was still listening.

“Just like that? No Horde, no Rebellion, just freedom?”

“Just like that.”

Adora watched as Lonnie struggled with the idea. She couldn’t blame her. In another world she could easily picture herself in Lonnie’s place, having to convince herself to leave behind everything she’d ever known, everything she’d ever worked for, all for the dubious promise of a better life.

She didn’t know what she’d choose.

“I’m sorry Adora, but I can’t do it.”

Oh.

She’d known Lonnie would be the hardest to convince, but for her to actually say no? Adora didn’t know what to do.

“I’m glad you got Adora, I really am, but I’ve still got too much here to leave it all behind.”

“Does this mean we have to fight?” Adora asked.

“How about one last spar, for old times’ sake?”

Adora smiled. That she could do.

She grabbed her sword – she must have been holding it during the fall, or Lonnie fished it out too, since it was lying right next to her – and took a quick, teasing swipe at Lonnie’s legs.

“Oh, it’s on!”

The two traded blows as they danced back and forth in a familiar pattern. It wasn’t like sparring with Catra – nothing quite was – but it was fun and familiar.

It even felt safe, which Adora would later realise was an awfully strange way to describe a fight.

Eventually, Adora managed to parry Lonnie’s staff and use the momentum to knock her partner to the floor.

“That’s a fancy new sword you got there, Adora.” Lonnie commented as she accepted a hand up. “They give those out to every new recruit?”

Adora smiled.

“Just me I’m afraid. It’s a part of the long-lost princess package.”

Lonnie just stared at her.

Adora shrugged.

“You’ve had a wild few weeks, haven’t you?”

Adora was going to reply, but she was interrupted by the most chipper booming voice she’d ever heard.

“Hey there Lonnie, who’s your friend?”

Adora and Lonnie turned around to find a large, buff woman with white hair and scorpion pincers instead of hands standing on the upper deck.

Adora was suddenly very, very glad she never got around to replacing her Horde uniform.

“This is Adora.” She replied.

“Adora… where have I heard that name before? Oh! Adora, like your friend we’re meant to be looking for?”

Uh oh.

She hadn’t defected, but surely Lonnie wouldn’t sell her out, would she?

“Uh, no… This is my friend Adora from the engineering corps, I brought her along to keep an eye on the cannon. Common name, ya know?”

“Is it?” Scorpia pondered. “Great thinking Lonnie! These things always break, I swear they want you to replace them after every shot. Keep this up and I’m sure you’ll make Force Captain in no time!”

Lonnie blushed.

“I’ll just show her to the cannon’s control room now.”

“Sounds great.” Scorpia said. “I should probably go check on the rest of the squad, find out why they aren’t firing it. You two have fun.”

With a smile and a wave, Scorpia walked off in the opposite direction of the cannon.

Adora turned to Lonnie, amazed.

“How did you do that?”

Lonnie smirked.

“Just because you were too busy staring at Catra to notice didn’t mean the rest of us didn’t exist, ya know?”

“Shut up.” Adora said as she shoved her, but she was still smiling.

“Now come on, I’ll show you the way.” Lonnie said, gesturing to the cannon.

“Wait, what? Why?”

“Look, Adora, I don’t want to fight you. If you can break the cannon, I can convince Scorpia to call off the mission, and then we don’t have to.”

“Thanks Lonnie, you’re the best.” Adora said, putting a hand on the other girl’s shoulder.


As it turned out, breaking the cannon was something easier said than done.

She didn’t want to just turn into She-ra and smash it. In addition to giving herself away, she didn’t want to risk Lonnie getting in trouble because she covered for her.

That left her to stare at the complicated mess of wires and circuit boards behind the cannon’s maintenance panel, trying to figure out which ones she needed to cut or snap to keep the cannon from firing.

Preferably without getting electrocuted.

Unfortunately, Lonnie’s lie had in fact been a lie, and Adora hadn’t been in the engineering corps. Some of the very basics had been covered in her classes, just enough to marginally lower the chance she’d get electrocuted while troubleshooting a faulty weapon in the field, but that was it.

It had, however, been enough for Adora to recognise what was probably the power supply, and for her to know that cutting any wires while it was connected was probably going to be a painful mistake.

Okay, so step one: Disconnect the power supply.

Next question: How?

Adora tried to reach in and pull it out – how they were theoretically designed to be removed – but with the awkward angle she had to hold her arm to get a grip on it she couldn’t apply enough strength to pull it out of the socket.

She spent what felt like hours but was really minutes reaching and twisting around, trying to find a good angle to pull out the power supply while desperately hoping no one would come in and ask what the hell she was doing.

She had to stop herself from growling in frustration. She was Adora, being strong was her thing. Why was this little box giving her so much trouble?

She took a step back to cool down and think. There had to be a way, right?

Could she make it overheat maybe? She seemed to remember that adding wires in strange places could do that.

Except she had no wires.

And even if she did have wires, she didn’t remember which places.

But maybe that wasn’t the only way to get it to overheat…

Back in Plumeria, when she was trying to heal the forest, she’d accidently fired lasers out of the Sword. Some of those had been hot enough to burn holes in the trees, a mini storm of accidental destruction.

Maybe that was something she could try again.

Hopefully in a more… controlled manner.

“For the power of Greyskull.” She whispered.

Adora felt the power of She-ra rushing into her, but it was dulled, like She-ra hadn’t fully recovered from her attempt to fix the Sea Gate.

Honestly, Adora was just glad it was there at all, because she hadn’t been sure the transformation would work without her shouting She-ra’s oath to the heavens. It even seemed to recognise her desire for stealth, forgoing the usual blast of light.

That or She-ra was too weak to produce it, Adora couldn’t say.

Adora put the worrying thought in the back of her mind. If it came to that, there would be time to panic after the mission. Instead, she focused her energy into her blade, trying to coax every bit of She-ra’s connection to the world into a concentrated beam.

It was easier than she expected.

She was expecting another doomed ordeal, like when she tried to heal, but the energy flowed through her easily. It felt like She-ra was hungry, starved, and Adora was letting her eat for the first time in a millennia.

It was actually harder to stop then it was to start.

She-ra didn’t want to stop.

But Adora could see the laser had burnt through most of the cannon’s insides and was about to start chewing through the ship’s hull. She had to stop it. It took every bit of strength Adora could muster, but she managed to force the connection to close and let the beam die.

Stepping back, Adora let She-ra’s form drop.

The damage was done. There was no way this cannon was firing again, Scorpia would surely be forced to call off the attack as soon as she found it.

On that note, Adora figured it was time for her to be leaving.

She awkwardly re-covered the now destroyed wiring with the maintenance panel and stepped out of the cannon control room Lonnie had shown her.

Only to run into the girl herself.

“Hey, Adora?” She said. “Before you go, could you do me a favour? Say hi to everyone for me, I’m going to miss you guys.”

Adora didn’t comment on Lonnie’s misty eyes, letting her keep her misguided dignity.

“Of course, we’ll miss you too. And, if you ever decide the Horde isn’t for you? We’ll be here for you.”

“Not happening.” Lonnie smiled through her tears. “Now get out of here, before I change my mind.”

Adora was pretty sure Lonnie was joking but decided it would be better no to call her on it. As she leapt into the water – conscious this time – she heard the sound of Scorpia calling a retreat and smiled.

She was leaving Lonnie in good claws.

She pushed through the wate and climbed up the cliffside path to re-join Bow, Glimmer, Mermista, and Sea Hawk.

“Impressive work, lass!” Sea Hawk declared, giving her a round of applause.

Bow and Glimmer gave her embarrassed looks.

“We wanted to go down and help.” Bow began.

“But we had to stop Sea Hawk from burning the boat with you in it.” Glimmer finished.

“You know,” Adora told them. “It actually wasn’t that bad.”

“Your friend’s pretty cool, Shimmer.”

Mermista’s voice reminded Adora of what got her into this mess in the first place.

The Sea Gate.

Transforming into She-ra, Adora turned her attention to back to the ancient First One’s tech. She took in a deep breath, tasting the salt in the air, feeling the sea breeze on her skin, and hearing the squawks of ocean birds.

Adora opened herself to the energy of the world and channelled it into the Sea Gate.

It still wasn’t easy. She-ra still seemed hesitant to do it, but she didn’t fight her.

But it worked.

And once it was done, once she’d dropped She-ra’s form?

She didn’t even feel tired.

“So, Mermista, I don’t suppose I could talk you into joining the Princess Alliance, could I?” Glimmer asked.

The princess in question was still too in awe of She-ra to respond with her usual apathy.

“Yeah, I think you just did.”


It was a calm evening in Brightmoon. Angella took a long sip from her cup of tea as she watched her kingdom from the library window.

A calm evening, except for the Magicat practising spells in the fields surrounding the palace. Catra had been out there for hours now, trying out every new spell and rune she could find in Micah’s journals.

Some made bright flashes, some made loud noises, and some exploded and did both at the same time. It must have been awful trying to get an early night’s sleep, but Angella couldn’t find it in herself to ask Catra to stop.

Ever since she’d figured out the basic technique and cast her first spell, Catra had been out there with an enthusiasm Angella hadn’t seen before in the girl.

It brought warmth to her heart.

It was obvious to Angella that both Catra and Adora had bad experiences with magic in the past. Probably at the hands of her husband’s old mentor if their reaction to the Black Garnet shard in the strategy room was anything to go by.

Yet here she was. Teaching herself magic and loving every second of it.

Seeing her like that, it was hard not to think of poor Cyt’yra.

She hadn’t intended to push Catra on this path when she’d let her read Micah’s journals. It was like she’d said at the time, she was sure Micah would have loved it if his journals helped Catra learn about her people and their way of life.

She hoped she wasn’t just doing this to project her grief about Cyt’yra. Even if she hadn’t been hers, Cyt’yra had been her daughter, and Angella had loved her with her whole heart, but Catra deserved more than that.

What she did know – without a doubt, no matter her feelings about Cyt’yra – she was proud of Catra.

Chapter Text

Catra could get used to this.

She was awake before Adora – a rarity, even now that they’d left the Horde. Rather than wake her up, Catra was sitting in bed, Micah’s journal in her lap, using one of the beams of morning moonlight streaming in from the open balcony to read.

Or rather, she was trying to read it.

Last night, Adora had been doing some kind of high intensity training, and when she’d gotten back to their room afterwards, she’d just thrown off her shirt and collapsed face first onto the bed.

And Catra definitely wasn’t staring.

Certainly not at Adora massive back muscles.

Which somehow managed to look even more impressive than usual because of how the morning moonlight hit.

Catra tried to force herself to focus on the journal in front of her.

She’d seen her like this a million times before, what made this any different?

Rather than deal with that question, Catra distracted herself with the book on her lap. It was open to an earlier entry than most of the ones she’d read so far, one she’d found searching for mentions of Halfmoon.

C’yra took me on a tour of the tunnels today.

I knew she was an architect, but actually seeing her work in person, having her guide me through it, it’s just so impressive.

We started in the older tunnels, the ones that date back to the founding of Halfmoon. While a little bare compared to today’s standard, they have this ancient elegance, a promise of peace and protection.

It’s hard not to see how Halfmoon got its reputation as the underground kingdom.

As we explored the tunnels and started reaching more and more recent tunnels, the one thing that didn’t change was the lights.

The artwork on the walls, the height, the width, even the number of people using the tunnels all changed as we explored, but never the lights. I would have thought in the hundreds of years since the first tunnels were carved, some new, more efficient light spell would have been developed, but apparently not.

I asked C’yra about it, and she told me these light spells were unique – designed to not only to provide light, but heat and clean air. They even helped prevent travellers from getting lost, especially in the older tunnels with fewer identifiers. Something about helping the viewers mind focus on their destination if I had to guess.

Then she offered to teach it to me.

Not being one to turn down the opportunity to learn a new spell, I accepted, and she grabbed my hands to guide me through the rune.

I swear, I nearly fainted.

Her hands were so soft, and I…

Catra stopped reading as the entry turned away from Halfmoon and towards Micah trying to figure out his feelings for C’yra – something that definitely didn’t help keep her distracted from her own confusing feelings.

It wasn’t much, but every little thing she learnt about Halfmoon and her people made her feel more and more like she belonged.

She wasn’t just Catra, the ex-Horde soldier anymore.

She was Catra the magicat.

And she had a magicat spell to learn.

She turned her attention to the rune Micah had drawn in the margins of the entry. She wasn’t sure if it was because Micah had been distracted with thoughts of C’yra, or if he just didn’t have as much experience drawing runes as he would in his later entries, but it was harder to decipher than his other ones had been.

The lines were shaky and the circles incomplete. Parts of the rune were strangely empty, like Micah had forgotten to draw them in his rush to write about C’yra.

Shrugging, she started to draw the rune in the air in front of her. Matching Micah’s drawing, she reached into the world and infused it with magic.

The rune flickered in the air briefly before fading.

Nope, Micah’s drawing definitely wasn’t complete.

But maybe it didn’t need to be.

Catra started drawing the rune again straightening Micah’s lines and closing his circles. Once she was satisfied with the base, she turned back to one of the later entries, the one that first taught her to cast spells, the one addressed to Cyt’yra.

The rune on that page, the first one that she had ever cast, had been a light spell too – one that had stuck around for a while. Maybe if she could fill out the blank area of this new rune with symbols from the old, she could replicate the effect.

The only question was, which symbols?

She could copy the symbols in the missing area of the rune (roughly bottom left), but there was no guarantee those would be the ones she needed.

Or maybe she could just copy the whole rune.

If she copied the whole rune, she was guaranteed to get any symbols she was missing, and theoretically any redundant or duplicate runes just wouldn’t added anything to the spell, right?

Honestly, she had no idea, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

Probably.

Her mind made up, she added the rune to the design floating in front of her, using more stardust than was strictly speaking necessary – or perhaps wise.

The rune complete, she took a moment to admire it before casting the spell. She’d drawn runes before, sure, but this one was the first that really felt like it was hers. Something she had made, figured out for herself. Even if it might not end up working, it was hers.

She cast the spell.

Gradually, the rune began to heat up and glow, building up until it was slightly larger than Catra’s fist and warm enough to keep the room toasty but not suffocating.

Proud of her work, Carta leant in to get a closer look.

Only to yelp and jump away as a beam shot out of the glowing orb and burnt a whole in the stone wall across the room.

Just as quickly as it had formed, the beam faded away, taking the orb with it.

Checking that she hadn’t woken up Adora, who was still out like a brick, Catra got up to investigate the hole.

It was still glowing slightly on the edges – although that could have just been Brightmoon’s ambient light that she was still getting used too – and the wall surrounding it was singed black.

Finally starting to look like home, Catra thought to herself, giggling.

The hole itself wasn’t too big, maybe an inch or two across, but it was enough that Catra could see something moving on the other side.

Or rather, someone.

Glimmer was marching towards the hole, murder in her eyes.

And then with a sparkle that absolutely did not match her mood, Glimmer was on Catra’s side of the wall.

“Catra! I swear of all the…”

“Glimmer? What are you doing here”? Adora asked, now sitting up in the bed, her voice heavy with sleep.

Glimmer took one look at Catra, one look at the still shirtless Adora, turned as red as a tomato and vanished. Catra was pretty sure she could faintly hear her yelling something about common decency from the other side of the palace, like she wasn’t the one who kept barging into Catra’s bedroom unannounced.

“What was that?” Adora asked as she started getting dressed.

“I was experimenting with a rune I found in Micah’s journal.” Catra told her as she took Adora’s cue and started getting ready for the day. “Accidently burnt a hole in the wall. It’s really not that big, I don’t know what she’s so upset about.”

“Accidently? What was it supposed to do?”

“It was a kind of light spell they used in Halfmoon, but it wasn’t recorded well so I had to improvise a bit…”

Catra trailed off, wondering what she should have done instead. She could have left the blank area blank and just focused on cleaning up the edges, or maybe looked closer at the symbols the rune might have been missing.

She’d have to try one of those next time.

Now fully dressed, Adora sat on the edge of the bed and took a glance at the journal.

“Huh…”

Adora traced the rune on the page with her finger, as though mesmerised by the shape.

Not saying anything, she got up and walked behind Catra, gently lifting the back of her shirt to reveal an old birthmark.

Or possibly scar, the two of them had never been sure.

“What are you doing?” Catra asked, not offended or concerned, just confused.

Adora traced a finger over the mark on Catra’s back, causing a shiver to run up the girl’s spine.

“It’s the same shape…” Adora murmured.

“The same shape… do you think it’s a rune?” Catra asked.

“I don’t know.” Adora admitted. “Maybe?”

Catra stepped away from Adora and the hands on her back – ignoring the immediate desire to just go right back – and grabbed some paper and a pencil from her supply on the desk.

“Draw it for me.”

So Adora did.

Catra laid face-down on the bed, her shirt pushed up so Adora could easily see the full rune.

She perched herself over Catra on the bed, carefully trying to transcribe the marks on her back. She gently traced each curve with her finger before committing it to the page, pushing Catra’s fur aside to get a better view of it.

Unfortunately, Adora’s steady hand with a blade did not translate to the pencil.

It wasn’t inaccurate, per se, but the lines were kind of shaky and not all the symbols quite lined up.

It was much like the rune in Micah’s journal in that respect.

“What do you think?” Adora asked.

“I can work with this.”

Catra started drawing the rune in the air, smoothing Adora’s wobbly lines much like she’d done with Micah’s.

Unfortunately, without knowing what the spell was meant to do, there was no way Catra could fix up the symbols by comparing them to ones she’d seen before. Although maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, considering the still smouldering hole in her wall.

Confident the rune was as good as it was going to get, Catra cast the spell.

Or she tried to.

Where most of her successful spells burnt away as the rune was cast, this one simply faded out of the air, without any indication as to what, if anything, it might have done.

Catra didn’t know what she’d expected to happen, but it hadn’t been that.

“Did I draw it wrong?” Adora asked.

“No.” Catra reassured her. “If I draw one wrong, they tend to still do something, usually explode. I don’t know what happened with this.”

“Maybe it’s just coincidence that it looks like a rune?” Adora offered. “And it isn’t actually a spell at all?”

Catra wasn’t sure about that, it seemed like a pretty big coincidence to her, and she could have sworn it felt like she’d cast a spell, even if it didn’t look like it.

Well, there was no use worrying about it now. Maybe she could ask Angella about it later. For now, she had spells to practice and an Adora to tease.


Scorpia was many things.

Scorpia was brave. Scorpia was loyal. Scorpia was a great hugger and a greater friend.

Scorpia was also smarter than she let on.

She had put two and two together and realised that the Adora that Lonnie had introduced her to at Salineas was the same one they were meant to be looking for. She knew everyone on that ship, and Adora hadn’t left the port with them.

But Scorpia trusted her friends. And although Lonnie had only been transferred to her squad recently, she was Scorpia’s squad mate, and that meant she was Scorpia’s friend.

So, if it were important enough to Lonnie that Adora wasn’t found that she’d lie to Scorpia, it was important enough to Scorpia that she’d lie to Shadow Weaver.

Scorpia was many things.

Scorpia was currently getting berated by Shadow Weaver.

Scorpia was currently getting berated by Shadow Weaver, in front of Lonnie.

“This is unacceptable, Force Captain. I gave you a simple order, yet you returned to me empty handed.”

“I’m sorry Shadow Weaver, our cannon malfunctioned. There was no way we could take the Sea Gate without it.”

“Your orders, Force Captain, were not to take the Sea Gate. You were to retrieve Force Captain Adora and return her to the Fright Zone.”

It was known – to everyone really, but especially to the Force Captains who had to deal with her regularly – that contradicting Shadow Weaver was hazardous to one’s health.

Which was why Scorpia didn’t point out that, officially, they had only been there to take the Sea Gate, and in fact Hordak had specifically forbidden Shadow Weaver from hunting down “one measly Force Captain”.

Of course, there were also rumours that Shadow Weaver could read minds, and that merely thinking contradictory thoughts was just as hazardous as speaking them – but those had to just be rumours, right?

A different strategy then.

“Sorry Shadow Weaver, but we didn’t see her at all, in fact, I don’t even think she was there. Of course, you sent us there after her, so you must have known she was…” Scorpia trailed off as she noticed the desperate look Lonnie was giving her. “Right, being quiet now.”

Shadow Weaver’s eyes narrowed behind her mask.

“Do you dare question me, Force Captain?” The shadows in the room danced, eager to be fed. “I know exactly where Adora is, there is nowhere she can hide – anyone can hide – from my shadows.”

Shadow Weaver took a deep breath and the shadows calmed.

“But not to worry, Force Captain. Your failure will not matter in the end. You are dismissed.”

Scorpia and Lonnie turned around to leave, only to be stopped by Shadow Weaver’s voice once more.

“Not you, cadet.”

Scorpia watched as Lonnie turned back around, eyes downcast, afraid to look Shadow Weaver in the eye. Wordlessly, she put a claw on the girl’s shoulder and offered her what she hoped was a reassuring smile.

Lonnie’s eyes flicked to Scorpia’s and gave her a weak smile of her own.

“Leave, Force Captain.”

Shadow Weaver wasn’t yelling, not quite. But her voice was cold, firm, and left no room for argument. Scorpia left the Black Garnet chamber in a hurry – not running, there had been a whole section about running from superiors in Force Captain Orientation after all – but doing the universal powerwalk of major discomfort and lowkey fear.

It was there, in the hallway outside the now closed Black Garnet chamber, that Scorpia waited. She knew – everybody knew – what happened behind the chamber’s closed door, and she wasn’t about to leave one of her squad members to face it alone, especially not her newest.

Not Lonnie.

Lonnie who had been through so much already.

Lonnie, the last remaining member of her former squad, whose leader had deserted, whose members had vanished when the Plumerian outpost fell.

Lonnie, who smiled at her jokes and didn’t struggle out of her hugs.

Lonnie…

Scorpia was getting distracted.

From what she didn’t know, all she was doing was waiting for Lonnie, but it was better not to pursue that line of thought too far.

Luckily for Scorpia – and especially Lonnie – she wasn’t left waiting for long. The door to the chamber opened and Lonnie walked out, not even limping.

“Are you okay?” Scorpia asked, allowing herself to be more serious than usual, almost sombre.

Lonnie nodded, but didn’t say anything, clearly shaken by whatever had happened in the chamber.

Scorpia put a claw around Lonnie’s shoulders and pulled her in close.

“I know you were only just transferred, but you’re a part of my squad now.” Scorpia said. “That means you can come to me with anything, okay?”

“Thanks, Scorp.”

Scorpia’s face practically began to glow.

“Was that a nickname?” She beamed. “Just a second, let me come up with one for you…”

Scorpia tried out nickname after nickname as she guided Lonnie back to the barracks, struggling to find one that fit.

Lonnie sat on her bunk, listening to Scorpia’s suggestions and not getting a chance to respond to them before Scorpia second guessed herself.

“How about Lon?” Scorpia eventually asked. “It’s just your name, but shorter, like Scorp. It’s like we have matching nicknames!”

“Sure.” Lonnie agreed, having half-tuned out Scorpia’s suggestions minutes ago.

“Scorpia.” Lonnie began, having finally reached a decision over what had been plaguing her since she’d left the Black Garnet chamber. “I need your help.”

“Anything.” Scorpia offered.

“I need to send a message.”


As it turned out, even when she wasn’t on a mission for the Rebellion, Catra couldn’t always spend all day with Adora. The girl in question was out in the courtyard, training with her sword and as much as Catra enjoyed watching her friend train, Adora had been at it for hours and Catra was getting bored.

So, she found herself wandering through the halls of Brightmoon, looking for something to do.

So far, she wasn’t having any luck.

She was about to give up on looking for something new and just head up to the library, only to hear someone’s voice call out nearby.

“Ah, shit!”

That was Bow’s voice.

Bow’s.

What on Etheria could possibly drive Bow of all people to swear?

Nothing, it turned out.

Catra followed his voice into a room off the hallway she had been exploring, half expecting to find him caught up in some kind of elaborate death trap, only to find him sitting at a bench, shaking his hand like he’d burnt it.

Scattered over the bench, and tables that filled the room were a variety of arrows, tools, and half-finished projects. It was one of those half-finished projects that Catra found Bow leaning over.

“Did you just swear?” Catra asked, cackling to herself.

Bow shot up from his hunch, spun around on his stool, and promptly whacked the hand he wasn’t already shaking into the corner of the workbench.

“Fuck! Catra! Hi! You surprised me.” Bow replied, now shaking both hands.

“You did swear! I didn’t think you knew how.”

“Sorry.” Bow apologised, blushing. “My brothers have been rubbing off on me.”

Catra ignored his apology – she certainly didn’t care if he swore – and walked up to the workbench he was sitting at. Curious, she picked up what looked like an arrow with a lightly larger than usual head, only for the head to collapse in on itself as several springs and a metal pin fell out of it.

Catra hurried to put it back on the bench, trying not to break it further.

“So, what are you doing?” She asked, hoping to distract Bow from the broken arrow.

“Well you see.” Bow began with his normal cheer – either the distraction had worked, or he hadn’t minded in the first place – “I’m a bit of an engineer. I dabble with all kinds of gadgets and trinkets for the Rebellion, it’s a hobby.”

He picked up the device he’d been working on – which Catra recognised now as his tracker pad. “At the moment, I’m trying to add communication capabilities to my tracker pad.”

He pressed a button on the side of the pad and the screen lit up. It stayed like that for a few moments before it started making a quiet, tinny noise.

“I don’t have a great speaker yet, so…”

And then it started sparking again.

“Shit!” Bow cried, dropping the pad. “I’m still trying to work out all the kinks.”

“So why are you doing this? What does a tracker pad need to communicate with?”

Well beyond whatever it’s tracking, Catra guessed, but she assumed it could already do that.

In fact, she’d seen it do it before.

“It’s not actually for the tracker pad.” Bow explained. “I just like to test new tech in here first, it’s actually going to be for something Show was talking to me about.”

“Show? Who the fuck is Show?”

Bow gasped so dramatically Catra couldn’t possibly believe he was serious.

“You don’t remember Show!? My poor brother who agreed to give your ex-Horde friends their tour of Etheria?”

“Oh right.” Catra pretended to remember – she was pretty sure she’d never actually been told his name, but it wasn’t worth getting into. “Are they back already?”

“No, but I got a letter from him the other day. Apparently, Kyle and Rogellio are missing some of their friends from the Horde, and he was wondering if I could figure out a way to help them out.”

Huh.

Catra wondered if she should feel bad. She’d never really stopped to think about Lonnie – or Kyle and Rogellio before they’d left the Horde. They hadn’t been awful to her while they were growing up – at least not by the standards of the Horde – even if she wouldn’t really call them friends. And she must have left them with one hell of a mess after what her and Adora did to Shadow Weaver during their escape.

Maybe she could spend some time with Kyle and Rogellio when they got back.

But not because she liked them.

Kyle was still a loser, even if he did take a fall for her.

“That’s where I got the idea to try hack into the Horde’s encrypted radio waves. Just think what we could do with – spy on messages, intercept troop movements, and Kyle and Rogellio could talk to their friends without anyone getting in trouble.”

“I mean, that’s great and all.” Catra said. “But wouldn’t Kyle and Rogellio talking to the Horde be a huge security risk? What if they accidently leaked information?”

“They’re not really involved with the Alliance, so I don’t think they’d know anything to leak.” Bow replied. “Besides, shouldn’t you trust your teammates? Didn’t you guys work together for years?”

Catra raised an eyebrow at him.

“Trust isn’t a thing in the Horde. Everyone has their own agenda and will stab you in the back as soon as you get in their way. If they don’t, they lose their opportunities and sink to the bottom of the barrel, it’s just how it is.”

“What about Adora?”

“Adora’s different. She always was.” Catra gulped. “She still is.”

“Well, the rest of Etheria isn’t like that.” Bow said. “We try to trust each other to work together for the good of the community. It’s kind of the foundational principle of the Alliance.”

It would be fair to call Catra cynical.

Life – or rather, Shadow Weaver – had been out to get her for as long as she could remember.

Until recently.

Since she and Adora had defected, everything seemed to be getting better for the first time in her life. The Queen had been teaching her about her heritage, Bow and Glimmer – as annoying as the princess could be – were showing her true friendship, and Adora…

Well, she was Adora. Was there really anymore to say?

She was learning things because she wanted to learn them, doing things because she wanted to do them. For as much as her past tried to find something – anything – to latch onto as a warning, some sign that it was all about to collapse out from her, it found nothing.

Not knowing how to handle this revelation, Catra started to leave the workshop, only to be stopped by Bow’s voice.

“You know, it gets pretty lonely around here. Would you like to hang around while I work? You could tinker with your spells while I tinker with this.” He suggested, pointing to the tracker pad.

Catra smiled.

“I think I’d like that.”


“Ah, Adora. Just the person I wanted to see.”

Adora was hot, sweaty, and probably smelled – she couldn’t tell. She’d just finished an extended workout in the courtyard and had been heading to her room to freshen up when she turned a corner and ran into the Queen.

“Your Majesty.” Adora hurried to bow, only to regret it as she lost her balance and stumbled before righting herself.

The Queen hid a giggle with her hand. Was she laughing at her?

“There’s no need to bow, Adora.” The Queen told her; amusement clear in her voice.

“Can I help you with something, your Majesty?”

“Not quite.” The Queen replied as she regained her normal composure. “I observed your training from my window, and I wished to congratulate you, you’re incredibly talented with your sword.”

The Queen was watching her train? Was this some kind of test? She couldn’t help but be reminded of Shadow Weaver watching over her lessons, just waiting to pass down judgement and punishment.

Adora smiled through her teeth, years of experience telling her the best approach was to bare through it and try not to take anything she said to heart.

“Thank you.”

“You’ve been a true boon to the Alliance since you joined us.” The Queen told her. “I only wish you could have been with us sooner.”

The smart move was to stay quiet and bare it until Shadow Weaver had gotten through her speech.

But she’d crossed a line, and something inside Adora snapped.

“Because that’s what I am to you, isn’t it? A soldier for your war, a boon for your Rebellion.”

“Adora I…”

“You never cared about us, about me. Why? Why couldn’t you just love us?” Adora screamed through her tears.

The Queen didn’t hide the heartbreak in her eyes.

“Adora, what’s wrong? Was it something I said?”

The genuine care in the Queen’s voice snapped Adora out of her dissociation as she realised what she’d said, and to who.

“I…” Adora stuttered as she backed up. “I’m sorry…”

Adora turned and fled, leaving a confused Queen to worry in the hall.


Contrary to what most people thought, Glimmer didn’t hate her lessons.

Sure, she’d rather be out in the field, making a tangible difference in the war, but she knew that one day she’d be Queen, and she wanted to do right by the people of Brightmoon.

So, she did her best in her lessons, paying attention to what she was being taught and asking questions when she didn’t understand.

But not today.

Ever since their mission to Salineas, what Adora had told her of her and Catra’s upbringing had been playing in her mind, and her interaction with Catra that morning had brought it to the forefront.

It had been distracting her all day.

She couldn’t even remember what her lessons had been about. Some of her mom’s advisors had come in to teach her about Brightmoon’s industries, but which ones or what they’d actually said she had no idea.

Her instructors seemed to pick up on her distraction as well, letting her go early with instructions to get some rest.

Except, instead of doing that, Glimmer left her classes and immediately started looking for Catra.

She teleported around the palace, checking all of Catra’s usual spots. The library was empty, as was her bedroom and the roof.

From the roof she could see Catra wasn’t in her usual practice spot, a secluded bit of the fields surrounding the palace where she could teach herself magic in peace.

So, where was she?

Not particularly in the mood for a long search, she teleported down to Bow’s workshop, intent on enlisting his help.

Only to have to dodge a rouge spell as soon as she appeared.

“Catra?” She asked as she picked herself up from the mess of electronic component’s she’d dived into.

“Glimmer?” Bow asked. “Did your lessons finish early?”

“Uh, yeah Bow.” She replied. “Do you mind if I talk with Catra for a bit?”

Bow gestured for her to go ahead as he stepped out of the room.

“What’s up, Sparkles?” Catra asked as she flipped through Micah’s journal, keeping an eye out for runes.

“So…” Glimmer said, not really sure where to begin. “I, uh, talked to Adora, and I realised I’ve not been great to you.”

“You could say that.” Catra agreed as she kept flipping through the journal.

“I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry for the things I said. I should have realised insisting you join the Rebellion was insensitive, and I promise I won’t bring it up again.”

Catra stopping flipping.

Glimmer might not have known how to say it, but Catra didn’t know how to react.

She wasn’t proud that her first instinct was to brush it off, assume it was just some attempt to win her over so she’d join the Rebellion, but a voice in her head that sounded suspiciously like Bow encouraged her to trust Glimmer.

To believe that a genuine apology like this was even possible.

“Uh, thank you.” Catra replied. And she meant it, even if she didn’t really know what she was supposed to say.

She didn’t know what to say, but she did know one thing.  She wanted to do something nice for Glimmer.

It only seemed fair.

“Hey, Glimmer, how about I come along on your next mission? I could use a chance to get some practical experience with this magic stuff.”

Glimmer’s face lit up, but her voice was still reserved.

“Are you sure? I meant what I said about not asking you to join again.”

“Who said anything about joining?” Catra asked. “This is a one-time thing, assuming you do want me to come.”

Glimmer rushed forward and pulled Catra into a hug.

“Thank you! Of course you can come with us!”

“Did I hear that right?” Bow asked as he stepped back into the workshop. “Do we have a new member of the Best Friend Squad?”

“You do realise I was already your friend, right?”


It wasn’t often Angella found herself uncertain of something.

Sure, early into her reign she’d been a nervous wreck, terrified she’d mess up and hurt her people, but that had been a lifetime ago. Since then she’d grown into a sure and capable ruler.

Yet here she was, standing in front of Adora’s door, questioning whether to knock or just walk away. It sounded cruel, but she wasn’t sure what she’d said to hurt Adora in the first place. The last thing she wanted to do was to say it again without realising.

She found herself wondering what Micah would have done in her situation. He’d always been better than her at this sort of thing.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t here to guide her.

She took a breath and knocked.

“Adora, may I come in?”

She let the request hang in the air for a few moments before accepting that Adora must not want to see her.

Frowning, she turned to leave, only to stop when she heard Adora’s voice softly call out behind her.

“Come in.”

She stepped into the room and gestured to the bed, next to where Adora was sitting on its edge.

“May I?”

Adora nodded and Angella took a seat next to her, managing not to make the mattress sink, despite how soft it was.

“Adora, I wanted to apologise.” Angella began. “You’re a wonderful young woman, and I value you for more than just your contributions to the Alliance. I didn’t mean to make it sound otherwise.”

Adora sniffed but didn’t say anything.

“You are a brilliant and loving person, and I will forever treasure you for the friendship you’ve given my daughter.”

Angella sat there with her, letting her words linger in the not quite comfortable silence, wondering if she should say anything else.

“Would you like me to leave?” Angella eventually asked, after several more minutes of sitting in silence.

She gave Adora a few moments to respond, and when she didn’t, Angella took it as an affirmative and started to get up.

Only to be stopped by Adora’s hand in hers.

“Please, wait.” Adora asked, her voice heavy with the tears in her throat.

Recognising what Adora was silently asking for, she wrapped the girl in a hug, letting her get what she needed to say off her chest.

“I’m scared.” Adora began as the tears started to fall.

“I’m scared that I’m broken, that I’m just going to see her everywhere I go for the rest of my life. I know you’re not her, that you’re good and kind, but whenever you talk all I hear is her voice. I just can’t do it, I can’t bring myself to let you in, to trust you.”

“Even though I want to.”

 Angella didn’t know what to say. What can you say, when someone’s just dropped something this big? All she could do was sit with Adora, holding her tighter and rubbing her back in the way that had always helped Glimmer calm down.

“We’ll get through this Adora, together.”

Chapter Text

Sun on her back, wind in her fur, and a perilous drop below her.

Catra loved the mountains.

The steep mountains surrounding Dryl should probably have been terrifying – one wrong step could easily send the unprepared plummeting to their death.

But not to Catra.

Her sharp claws and springy muscles made navigating the rocky terrain a breeze. Her superior hearing had saved Adora once already, giving her just enough warning to pull her friend away before the cliff’s edge crumbled underneath her.

It was like she was built for this place.

“You know, when she agreed to come, I assumed we’d have to drag her along.” Glimmer told Bow and Adora behind her. “Not that she’d be running ahead and climbing up every rock in sight.”

“It’s cute, isn’t it.” Adora sighed.

Adora sounded… weird, Catra noted as she heard Bow and Glimmer giggle.

“What’s so funny?” She asked, dropping down behind them from the rock she’d been climbing.

“Ah!” Bow yelped as Glimmer teleported a few metres away.

Adora, used to Catra appearing seemingly out of nowhere in the Fright Zone, barely jumped.

Barely.

“I have no idea.” She replied to Catra’s question as Bow and Glimmer recovered.

“It’s nothing.” Bow reassured them as he and Glimmer definitely kept smothering giggles.

“Okay…” Adora responded. “So why are we going after Princess Entrapta? What makes her special?”

Glimmer calmed herself as Adora changed the subject.

“Well apparently she’s a brilliant inventor.” She replied. “Her castle is meant to be filled with all kinds of advanced traps and robots. If we recruit her, she could design weapons that can actually stand up to the Horde’s technology.”

“I know how brilliant Entrapta is better than anyone, Glimmer, but we both know that’s not why you chose her for this mission.” Bow said, making a pointed look at Catra.

Glimmer sighed as the magicat in question raised an eyebrow.

“Okay, I admit it. There’s been no reports of the Horde near Dryl in years, I thought Catra might appreciate it.”

“It’s the Horde soldiers you should be worried about. I could take the best of them in her sleep, and she defected with me.”

That wasn’t what Glimmer meant, and Catra knew it.

And judging by the sad look on Adora’s face, she did too.

Catra would be the first to admit that she didn’t know how to handle someone doing something nice for her – even if it was slightly misguided.

As it turned out, you need experience with something to develop the skills to handle it.

It wasn’t something she liked about herself. She hated feeling like she was disappointing people – disappointing Adora – when she brushed past whatever had been done for her.

“But, uh, thanks.”

She tried.

She tried, and they didn’t say anything.

She tried, and she failed.

But then she turned away, only to come face to face with the massive smile Adora was beaming at her.

And maybe it wasn’t a complete loss after all.

Either way, it wasn’t something she wanted to linger on.

“So, this Entrapta, she’s into tech?” She pushed on.

Bow must have picked up on her desire to move on, because he used it as a chance to go into detail about Entrapta and her many accomplishments, from nano-circuitry to artificial intelligent.

He was in the process of describing the particulars of a new kind of electric motor she had developed when Glimmer cut him off.

“Wait, I thought Princess Entrapta was super reclusive. How do you know so much about her?”

“Oh, she’s the pre-eminent member of the Etherian Makers Community.” He replied.

The others stared at him, waiting for some kind of elaboration.

“… Of which I am a member, as I dabble in gadgetry myself.”

He pulled a miniature bow out of his pocket – the limbs of which flipped out of the handle like it was spring loaded – and used it to fire an equally miniature arrow into the air, which exploded into a shower of glitter.

“Oh.” Catra realised. “Like that sonic arrow you were working on the other day?”

“Yeah!” Bow confirmed, pulling the arrow in question out of his quiver and admiring it in the mountain sun.

“A sonic arrow?” Adora asked. “What would we need that for?”

“If we have to like, get up really early?” Glimmer laughed.

Bow just rolled his eyes at the girls’ antics, but Catra replied.

“Good question, why would we ever want a loud distraction in the middle of battle?”

They continued along the path in silence, although it wasn’t uncomfortable.

They could see the spires of the Crypto Castle poking over the mountaintops when they came across a rockslide blocking the path.

Catra barely even noticed it, climbing over it with such ease one would think she’d been rock climbing her whole life.

Climbing over revealed that she’s turned the final corner and the entrance to the Crypto Castle was laid out before her.

“The emergency beacon’s lit.” She observed.

“…”

It was only when no one replied that she looked back over her shoulder and realised the others were still stuck behind the boulder. She scurried back over to come face to face with pandemonium.

Adora had transformed into She-ra as Bow panicked over the noise and Glimmer watched with glee.

She-ra was winding back, as though she were a bull about to charge right through the boulder.

Before Bow could have an aneurysm, Catra jumped down from her perch above them, landing right in front of her much larger friend.

“Wait.” She told her. “I’ve got a better idea.”

Glimmer slumped a little as she realised there was to be no rock smashing today.

Strictly speaking, Catra wasn’t sure it was a better idea, but it was one which gave her a chance to practise her magic. That was why she came after all.

Theoretically at least.

She used her claw to scrape a rune into the side of the largest of the boulders blocking their path. Its shape was much more angular than most of the runes she’d drawn so far, with many sharp lines directing to a single point.

Whether that was significant or not, Catra had no idea. It was hard to tell how significant any aspect of spellcasting was based on Micah’s journals alone – it was just too narrow of a perspective.

Mentally, she added it to her ever-growing list of questions and finished casting the spell with a dab of stardust in the centre of the rune.

The boulder vibrated as the rune dissolved into it. Catra watched it cautiously as it didn’t stop vibrating, concerned the spell might not have worked properly and she’d just destroyed the boulder herself.

Eventually she got to let out her breath as the boulder settled, for the most part unchanged except for several subtle marks that had formed in its surface, in the form of a number of dots and arrows.

She ran her hands over the marks, doing her best to figure out how they were meant to be read – Micah hadn’t gone into detail about a magicat tunnelling spell, probably under the entirely reasonable assumption he’d never need to dig an underground highway network.

Eventually satisfied, she made a much more visible mark on the boulder’s face and turned back to Adora, only to find the girl in question staring right back at her.

Adora turned away. If Catra didn’t know better, she’d swear she was blushing.

“Hey Adora.” She said, and Adora’s head snapped back around, even redder than before. “Hit it here.”

Bow groaned as Adora transformed back into She-ra – Catra hadn’t noticed but she must have deformed while she was casting the spell.

Catra swapped places with Glimmer beside Bow as the girl in question found her enthusiasm return with the promise of She-ra destroying something.

“Do none of my friends care about mountain safety?” He sighed.

“Just watch.” Catra replied, letting smugness slip into her voice.

As if on que, the Sword of Protection cut through the boulder like warm butter. Instead of shattering and cascading into an unstoppable rockslide, the cleaved side simply slid out of the way, coming to a gentle rest without disturbing the surrounding rock, leaving room for the group to safely pass.

“But how?” Bow asked.

“Its an old magicat tunnelling spell, it shows what parts of the rock are loadbearing and what parts can be cut safely.”

“But what about the noise?” Bow asked. Despite the question, the curiosity on his face made it clear he was more impressed than concerned. “She-ra’s not exactly quiet, couldn’t that trigger one too?”

Catra shrugged.

“I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of avalanches, dude.”

“Am I?” Bow pondered as they rounded the final corner – again in Catra’s case – and came face to face with the Crypto Castle.

“The distress beacon’s lit.” Glimmer helpfully observed.

“I noticed, thanks.” Catra replied, trying her best not to roll her eyes.

The four approached the castle, Catra and Adora stepping into formation without a thought. Adora scanned the horizon as they carefully stepped forward, using the sword to guide her sight like the scope of a Horde rifle.

The pair relaxed their step as they stepped into the shadows of the castle walls, their training determining they were safe from any exterior threats.

“I thought you said there was no reports of the Horde here?” Bow asked Glimmer.

“This isn’t the Horde.” Catra replied before Glimmer got the chance.

“She’s right.” Adora agreed. “Look, no tank tracks, no banners. Subtlety has never been one of their strong points.”

“Then what is this?” Glimmer asked, gesturing around herself as she crept into the castle’s abandoned courtyard.

Adora shrugged.

How was she supposed to know?

She followed Glimmer and Catra trough the main gate, only to lose balance and fall forward as something shifted behind her.

She heard Bow yelp as she turned around. The floor had fallen out from under them. Bow must have jumped backwards; he was clearly only just recovering his balance.

“We should be careful; this place is meant to be laden with traps.” Bow told them as he recovered his breath and jumped the narrow pit to join the others.

“You couldn’t have warned us a little sooner?” Catra snarked.

“I kind of did.” Bow replied.

“Oh yeah.” Catra remembered.

Adora took a moment to surveil the courtyard as they slowly moved through it. It was dark, darker than it had any right to be at this time of day. Shapeless shadows skirted through the darkness, moving with barely a whisper. Discarded electronics and fragments of damaged robots littered the ground, some of them still, others trying to drag themselves along under whatever power they could muster.

One such fragment – some kind of severed hand – pulled itself along with its remaining fingers, crawling over to Glimmer, until it got close enough to pounce, latching onto her arm.

“Aaah!!” Glimmer screamed, frantically shaking her arm until it eventually lost its grip and sailed away into the shadows.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Adora murmured.

As if answering her worries, a man with a frog’s head popped open a sewer grate in the ground of the court.

“Get out of the square!” He yelled before disappearing back into the drain.

“Why, what’s happening?” Bow tried to ask, but it was too late, the frogman was gone.

Even so, he didn’t have to wait long for an answer.

Out of the shadows, robots crept toward them, led by a humanoid machine re-attaching the hand Glimmer had flung off.

“We need to get out of here.” Glimmer declared, doing her best to stop panic from leaking into her voice.

Adora nodded.

“For the honour of Greyskull!”

A blinding flash illuminated the true size of the robot horde, if only for a moment.

“We need to get out of her now.” Glimmer amended, firing blasts of sparkles at the nearest robot.

She-ra charged at the nearest door, Catra right behind her. Bow and Glimmer hung back slightly, doing their best to hold off the robots while She-ra dealt with the door.

The sound of She-ra cleaving through the door echoed over the din of battle. Bow and Glimmer turned to follow, only to watch as Catra and Adora fell through the floor, plunging out of sight as the floor replaced itself.

“Shit.” Glimmer muttered, but they didn’t have time to worry about it. The robots were gaining ground.

Glimmer barely noticed she had started stepping back until she felt something – someone – move behind her. She went to scream but hands were already blocking her mouth as she and Bow were dragged out of the courtyard.


Falling.

Why was she always falling?

At least this fall had the decency to turn into a slide as the pit started to slope until it reached its end in a cage.

A cage she and Catra were now trapped in.

Well, at least the company was good.

“Does this happen a lot in your missions?”

“Falling? All the time. Getting trapped? Not so much.”

Adora sighed and raised her sword, preparing to transform yet again – she’d lost She-ra’s form during the fall.

“Hey, you got the door. It’s my turn.” Catra said, flexing her claws.

That got Adora’s attention. She was never one to turn down the chance to see her friend tear through metal with her bare hands.

Unfortunately, Catra started drawing a rune instead.

Well, not unfortunately. It was, after all, incredibly impressive, and Adora was so very proud of Catra’s progress – especially considering she was practically self-taught.

Adora just liked Catra’s arms.

Before Adora could really mourn the opportunity to stare at Catra’s arms, she’d finished drawing the rune. A quick tap to the centre with a pinch of shiny white powder – stardust, Catra had told her – and the rune erupted into a small laser beam.

Catra seemed to be guiding it somehow – gesturing with her claws to angle the beam – as it burnt a hole in the bars, leaving a gap big enough for the pair to squeeze out.

“Is that why we have a hole in our bedroom wall?” Adora asked, half-remembered, sleep-addled visions sifting through her mind.

“Yeah.” Catra replied, leaping on the chance to talk about her spells. “I’ve been refining the spell that burnt a hole into Glimmer’s room. Figured something with a little less power might be a bit more… practical.”

Adora smiled. She could listen to Catra talk about magic all day.

Or anything, really.

“So, princess, shall we?” Catra asked, gesturing down the hallway they found themselves in.

“Huh? Oh, yeah.”

Adora blushed.

It wasn’t here fault Catra was so distracting.

And so, they wandered the halls of the Crypto Castle, not lost because that would imply that – at some point – they had known where they were in the first place.

“Just like home, isn’t it?” Adora commented as they wandered the halls.

The inside of the castle was like the Fright Zone in many ways. The maze of corridors was lined with tech of various eras and in various states of repair. There was very little natural light, but where the Fright Zone was bathed in sickly green light, the Crypto Castle was lined with very clean looking light strips.

They just so happened to be purple.

Those weren’t the only similarities of course. After all, both of them seemed to be out to kill her.

Adora stumbled as she felt the floor move beneath her. She looked behind her to find…

Oh.

The floor was disappearing.

That was bad.

Not even taking the time to transform, she scooped Catra into her arms and started sprinting, much to the magicat’s consternation.

“Hey!”

“Floor’s disappearing.” Adora explained.

“Yeah, I noticed.” Catra rolled her eyes.

“Quick, in there!” Catra pointed out a door, half-hidden by the clutter on the walls.

“Got it.” Adora said as she made the sudden turn and dived into the room.

She didn’t nail the landing. Her and Catra ended up in a heap, just through the doorway as the floor disappeared from the hallway behind them.

“You know.” Catra said as she picked herself up. “I would have made that turn without falling if you hadn’t picked me up.”

Adora had the decency to look sheepish.

“Sorry, I got caught up in the moment.”

Catra was going to respond – acknowledge Adora’s apology – only for something more pressing to come up.

“What’s that?” She asked, taking a half-step back towards the pit.

Large purple eyes illuminated the shadows of the room, floating near the ceiling, too tall to be natural, and swaying in a way that could be described as unsettling at best.

The eyes started to creep towards them as all kinds of debris scattered across the floor below the creature – tools and scrap metal creating a cacophony of clangs and crashes as they collided with the various walls and shelves.

Only for the eyes to suddenly drop to eye-level and step out of the shadows.

“Horde soldiers! I’m saved!”


Someone had grabbed her.

Glimmer’s instincts kicked in and she teleported a few feet away, fists raised and glowing with princess magic.

Only to be confronted by… a baker?

Their eyes were wide – clearly unuse to conflict – but they managed to raise a finger to their lips and shush her.

Not feeling particularly threatened by kitchen staff, Glimmer lowered her fists and allowed herself and Bow to be escorted though a large door into some kind of storeroom, then through a small corridor into a kitchen.

Glimmer let them lock the kitchen door before she exploded.

“What the hell is going on!?”

“Glimmer…” Bow chided.

“Sorry.” Glimmer apologised. “What the hell is going on, please?”

Bow rolled his eyes.

“We don’t know.” One of the kitchen staff – a waiter based off the look of their uniform – replied. “All the princess’ robots went haywire yesterday, but no one’s seen her since.”

“We’re just going to wait it out in here.” The baker added. “Usually, she fixes these things in a couple weeks, and we’ve got the food to do it here – even if it is all tiny.”

She offered Bow and Glimmer each a tiny cupcake.

“We don’t have time to wait.” Bow said. “We’ve got to find our friends.”

As if on que, his tracker pad pinged, a chime that echoed through the unnervingly quiet castle.

“Sir, please quiet your device.” The third staff member whispered, their eyes darting back and forth between the kitchen’s door and window. “Sound activates the robots.”

Bow lowered his voice as he tried to reassure them.

“Don’t worry, it was probably just Glimmer teleporting.”

The staff shared a look.

“Uh Bow…” Glimmer whispered. “I didn’t teleport.”


“What did you call us?”

There was an edge to Catra’s voice as she interrogated what she could only assume to be the princess they were meant to be recruiting.

“Horde soldiers, obviously.” Entrapta said like it was nothing.

“Not anymore.” Catra replied so quickly and so sharply that she may as well have cut Entrapta off.

“How could you possibly know that?” Adora asked.

 Entrapta stared at them like they were the weird ones.

“You’re wearing uniforms.” She explained slowly. “Modified ones sure, but uniforms all the same.”

Catra and Adora shared a relieved and annoyed glance, frustrated that they both missed something that simple.

Before they knew it, Entrapta was moving, wandering into the hallway – the floor of which had seemingly returned – muttering into a handheld recorder.  

Catra and Adora followed without a word. Unsettling as the princess may have been, she was their mission and also their only lead to finding Bow and Glimmer.

“You mentioned we saved you.” Adora prompted as she sidled up to Entrapta. “What did we save you from?”

“What’s going on?” Catra added.

“Oh, it’s quite fascinating. An old piece of First One’s tech was found in our mines, inside was the most intact fragment of First One’s code I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

“Wait.” Adora stopped walking as she interrupted. “I thought the First Ones were supposed to be ancient. Aren’t their artifacts meant to be magic?”

Adora winced as she asked, worried that her inexperience with the world outside the Fright Zone was showing.

“That’s actually a really common misconception.” Entrapta explained, rocking on her hair in a way that was reminiscent of someone bouncing on their heels. “Really much of what we call First One’s artifacts was in fact, just mote advanced versions of technologies we have today. For a group that had so many connections to the princesses of their time, they seem to have used surprisingly little magic.”

Entrapta paused with a thoughtful look on her face.

“Well at least very little of what we would consider magic.”

Normally, Catra would be all for a chance to sit down and interrogate Entrapta for all she knew on ancient First One’s magic, but now didn’t seem like the time.

“Does this have anything to do with why everything in your castle is trying to kill us?”

“Right!” Entrapta declared as she refocused and resumed walking. “So, I was examining the disc’s code when it infected my systems, now everything’s gotten just a teensy bit deadly.”

Adora wasn’t sure if it was just her imagination but she would have sworn she could feel some kind of rumble coming up through the floor.

“By which you mean your robots are trying to kill us.” Catra surmised.

As Catra and Entrapta talked, Adora picked up some kind of scraping noise, like steel tearing through steel.

“Exactly!”

“Do you guys hear that?” Adora asked, the sound scraping at her mind.

“Hear what?” Catra asked.

Another scrape echoed against Adora’s mind.

“That.” Adora said, blocking her ears in a vain attempt to stop the noise drilling against her.

The rumbling got closer and closer until a giant robot rounded the corner in front of them. It was lined with massive brushes that rubbed against the walls and floor, leaving most of the various decorations untouched, but sucking up the occasional vase and portrait.

It seemed like it must have been some kind of cleaner before it took up murder.

“Are you okay?” Catra asked, concerned that Adora seemed to be hearing something that even her sensitive ears weren’t picking up.

Adora nodded.

“I’ll be alright.” She said through a wince.

Entrapta had stepped in between them and the robot while Catra was checking on Adora, but she didn’t seem interested in trying to stop it.

“Meet Stanley!” She introduced them to the robot. “He wanders around and keeps everything nice and clean.”

Entrapta gestured at the floors behind Stanley, which were indeed shiny, like they’d just been waxed.

Ignoring what its creator was saying, Stanley raised one of his clanking brush-arms, turning on Entrapta with glowing red eyes.

“Entrapta!”

Catra pounced at the princess as she yelled, tackling her out of the way as Stanley swung at her, strong enough to leave shiny cracks in the floor where Entrapta had been standing moments ago.

“Aww.” Entrapta sighed, wiping away the beginnings of a tear with a tendril of hair. “I was hoping Stanley would survive.”

“For the honour of Greyskull!”

With Entrapta out of the way, Adora transformed and leapt into action.

Flying over Stanley’s various appendages, she landed on top of the robot’s chassis, right beside his head.

The fight didn’t last long.

One swipe of the Sword through the robot’s head and it stopped moving.

But She-ra didn’t.

Try as she might to stop, Adora was a prisoner in her own mind as She-ra raged at the machine. Thick red veins grew out from the Sword’s runestone as it smashed into Stanley’s fractured head again and again.

“Adora, I think you got it already.” Catra laughed from the ground.

“No…” Adora silently begged as She-ra turned her attention to the magicat.

“Adora?”

Catra’s eyes widened as She-ra leapt, Sword arching down in a massive swing. Years of training kicked in as she dived out of the way.

Unfortunately, she had years of experience against Adora.

Not She-ra.

It wasn’t bad – just a nick to her shoulder – but it was a warning.

She’d never admit it – especially not to the girl in question – but she already had trouble keeping up with Adora in a fight.

Against a bloodthirsty She-ra?

She needed a plan, and she needed one quick.

She felt her claws tingle. As much as she wanted to try magic in a fight, there was no way she could cast fast enough to avoid getting hit by She-ra.

“Fascinating.” She heard Entrapta mutter as she focused on dodging another one of She-ra’s wild swings. “Her sword seems to have changed colour to match the infected robots.”

The sword.

“Entrapta, you genius!”

Even if taking away the Sword didn’t revert whatever had happened to She-ra – and Catra doubted that even Adora would know if it would – Catra would much rather be fighting a She-ra that wasn’t holding a 2 metre long blade of ultra-sharp crystal.

She dodged another strike; a plan starting to form. Instead of rolling out of it and dancing away, she followed through on her momentum to swing around She-ra and pounce onto her back.

It was enough to throw She-ra off balance for just a moment. But a moment was enough for Catra. Swinging off She-ra’s back, she went flying through the air at just the right angle to kick the Sword out of her hand and send it clattering to the floor.

Catra landed on the floor, panting as She-ra stumbled forward, nursing her head in her hands. The gargantuan woman managed to rise, only to stumble once again as she deformed.

“Catra…” Was all Adora could get out before she collapsed into a pile on the floor.


The robots were at the door. It was bulging against their weight as they banged against it, their fists forming a discontent rhythm.

“I don’t think I can hold this much longer.” The baker called out as Bow and Glimmer did their best to prepare the kitchen for a fight.

Bow was setting up rope from one of his trick arrows as a tripwire in front of the door while Glimmer helped the waiter hide.

“We’re good.” Glimmer said as she shut the cupboard door with the waiter inside. “Bow?”

Bow drew his bow and aimed an arrow at the door.

“Open it.”

The baker took a deep breath as she steeled herself.

“Here goes nothing.”

She opened the door, hidden behind it as waves of possessed robots flooded into the already cramped kitchen.

The pure force of the robots behind them sent the first wave crashing into Bow’s tripwire, throwing them to the floor. A couple of particularly unlucky bots didn’t stop there, sliding on the flour laden floor and landing right in the oven, the combination of oil and flour taking care of them in a single dramatic moment.

Of course, that was only two of many, many robots.

Bow and Glimmer stood together taking out robot after robot with arrows and sparkles. They may not have had the lifetime of combat training Catra and Adora had, but their strikes still managed to form a beautiful dance of light and motion.

The robots fell one by one, their numbers thinning as they were taken out by trick arrows and princess magic.

Before long only one was left – one of the more humanoid robots, although there was no telling what its intended purpose was – backing the third of the staff – a bartender – slowly into a corner.

Its skeletal arms were raised menacingly, as though it intended the life out of the bartender’s neck like they might squeeze the juice from a lemon.

“Uh… A little help…” He panicked.

Bow reached into his quiver on reflex and pulled out the last of his arrows. He nearly fired it too, before he realised what it was.

The sonic arrow.

“I got this…” Glimmer declared, but fatigue was slipping into her voice.

She stumbled a little as she went to punch sparkles at the robot.

“Actually, maybe I shouldn’t.” She admitted in a rare exercise of self-control. “Bow, you need to do it.”

“I can’t, it’s the sonic arrow, it’ll draw more bots.”

Bow stood there frozen, arrow nocked, and bow drawn, struggling with the decision.

 One moment crawled into many and the robot got closer and closer until its hands were practically around the bartender’s neck.

Only for it to collapse to the ground in a heaping pile of circuitry as the waiter poked their head out of the cupboard they’d hidden in.

“Is it over?”

They looked around the room, the exhausted rebels, wide-eyed bartender, and ruined robot below them.

“Did I do that?”


Adora was unconscious.

It shouldn’t have panicked Catra. She’d seen Adora collapse a million times before, whether due to an unlucky hit in training or after a long day with far too little time taken to care for herself.

But this was different.

They were a million miles from home. Catra couldn’t just drag her back to their bunk, make up some excuse so Adora could get the rest she needed.

No, they had to be in the middle of an army of haywire robots, separated from their friends – squad mates, Catra’s instincts wanted to correct her – their only company a princess who seemed more interested in dissecting Adora than helping her.

A princess who was pacing back and forth behind them, muttering theories about her “experiment” into a handheld voice recorder.

“Could you stop that and help her!” Catra snapped, turning away from Adora for just a moment to yell at the princess.

To her credit, Entrapta seemed to take it in stride – maybe she realised what Catra was going through right now – and it made Catra feel a little bad for yelling. Not enough to distract her from worrying about Adora though.

Catra looked back down to the girl in her lap.

A girl who was now staring back.

“Adora! You’re awake!” Catra didn’t even try to hide the relief in her voice – there was no way it would have worked anyway.

That possessed She-ra, the look in her eyes – Catra shuddered – was one of the scariest things she’d seen in her life.

And she’d been raised by Shadow Weaver.

But that didn’t matter.

Adora was here and Adora was awake.

She hugged Adora, held her tight so that nothing could take her away again.

“Hehe… you’re pretty…”

Catra’s eyes grew wide as she felt a blush build on her cheeks.

“Adora, are you alright?” She breathed.

“Ha1” Adora snorted. “I’m fine…”

She clearly wasn’t. Catra knew that. She’d never seen Adora like this before.

But loopy Adora was better than unconscious Adora, so Catra pushed down her concerns.

She looked back to Entrapta.

“What’s happening to her?”

“Well, I’d have to take her apart to be sure.” The princess pondered, pulling a scalpel out of her hair.

Catra’s glare cut that line of questioning off before it could begin.

“Well, the virus seemed to pass from Stanley to her sword, so it would stand to reason that she’s still infected with the same virus.”

“Am I sick? Oh no!” Adora cried, collapsing dramatically into Catra’s lap, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand.

Catra tried not to wince as a slab of pure muscle dropped onto her legs.

She mostly just blushed.

Blushed more.

“The virus came from some disc, right?”

Entrapta nodded.

“So, we destroy it and the virus goes away?”

“In theory, but what about the experiment?” Entrapta asked.

“I think.” Catra said, her already thin patience starting to wear. “You can call this experiment a failure.”

“But what if…”

Catra glared.

“No, it’s a failure.” Entrapta conceded with a sigh. “I’ll take you to my lab and we can destroy it.”

Catra sighed, the relief rolling off her.

“Come on Adora.” She said, helping Adora up as she stood herself. “Let’s take you to this lab.”

“You’re taking me somewhere? Is it a date?” Adora asked, growing more and more excited by the word. “The pretty girl is taking me on a date!”

Catra stood there, smoothing out her tail with her hands, hoping against hope that her fur hid the blush that was growing brighter and brighter by the second.

Adora was going to be the death of her.


The kitchen was incredibly still. The staff were still reeling from the battle while Bow and Glimmer took a moment to recover.

“Are you alright?” Bow checked on Glimmer as he snacked on one of the miraculously unharmed tiny cupcakes. “You seemed ready to collapse there.”

“I’ll be okay.” Glimmer assured him, barely lying. “I just need a moment to rest.”

They let the silence hang for a few minutes as they ate their cupcakes and regained their energy.

“So.” Glimmer started once she started to feel her energy return. “What do we do now?”

“We should start with finding Catra and Adora.” Bow suggested. “I’d rather not be separated in this maze of a castle.”

“I agree, but how?” Glimmer turned to the kitchen staff. “Our friends fell into a pit trap by the main entrance. Do you know where it would have ended up?”

The kitchen staff looked among themselves, silently asking each other the same question.

“No, sorry.” The waiter replied.

“We usually use the delivery entrance.” The baker elaborated.

The staff paused to consider other options as Bow and Glimmer’s faces dropped.

“Does the castle have a trap master or anyone else who would know?” Glimmer asked.

“I don’t know about a trap master, but Princess Entrapta knows the better than anyone, plus she built most of the traps.” The bartender said. “If anyone can find your friends, it will be her.”

It wasn’t a solution to their problem – not yet – but having direction, something to work towards, was relief in its own way.

“I’m sure Entrapta must be in her lab, trying to fix this virus.” Bow said, a hint of admiration in his voice. “So, we should head there first.”

Privately, the kitchen staff doubted Entrapta was in her lab, not this early into the crisis, but they were in silent agreement that saying so would probably hurt more than it helped.

“Good idea.” Glimmer nodded. “Can you take us there?”

“I don’t think that would be a good idea.” The baker said, wringing her piping bag like a towel. “Hiding in here while you guys fought off some robots is one thing, but actually going out there?”

“But you already did go out there.” Bow pointed out. “You saved us – we owe you our lives – now we ask you do it again to help save our friends.”

“Maybe so, but to go to the source of the robots?” The waiter questioned. “We don’t have powers like the princesses, we couldn’t survive out there.”

“I don’t either.” Bow replied. “But I fight for the rebellion every day.

“With all due respect, mister Bow.” The bartender argued. “But you’re a master archer. We’re just regular kitchen staff.”

“A master archer with no arrows.” Bow corrected. “But that doesn’t matter. I’m strong, I’m brave, and I’m going to save my friends.”

He sized up the three staff before him.

“I bet you lift heavy sacks of flour every day, don’t you>” He asked the baker.

“Every morning when the deliveries arrive.” She confirmed, apprehensive of where he was going with this.

“Do you have any idea what muscles like that could do to a robot?” He moved on to the bartender. “You’re clearly a talented drink mixer, can you make sour drinks?”

“Of course.” He responded, offended by the implication there was a chance he wasn’t. “It’s an important part of any drink’s flavour profile.”

“The acid in a drink like that could do serious damage to a robot’s insides. Mix up a few and, bam, instant grenades.” He turned to the waiter. “And you must have walked the route to Entrapta’s lab a million times, right?”

“Definitely, before she built a robot to do it at least. Now I mostly just plate the food.”

Bow nodded.

“Who better to help us avoid robots on the way there?”

The kitchen staff all had much more hopeful looks on their faces than they had only a few minutes ago, spurred on by Bow’s words.

“You’re right!” I am strong, no robot’s going to stand in my way!”

“My drinks are fabulous, and they’ll fry any robot’s brain!”

“I know this place better than the back of my hand, I bet I know the way better than the princess herself!”

“So, can we do this?” Bow cheered.

“We’ve got this!” The staff cheer back.

“Follow me!”


Adora was going to be the death of her.

Catra knew that for a fact.

The walk to Entrapta’s lab was already hard enough, the princess seemingly having no idea what way they were meant to be going. But having to practically drag Adora along so she didn’t wander off and get herself killed was exhausting on its own.

And all that was before having to deal with Adora’s notion that she was taking her on some sort of date. She’d already overheard Adora worrying about her outfit, had Adora offer her jacket because she thought Catra looked cold, and now she was desperately trying to take down her hair – despite Catra insisting it looked great as it was.

Looking back on it later, she’d wonder why she didn’t just say it wasn’t necessary – after all, they weren’t actually going on a date.

Probably for the same reason she accepted the jacket.

“Oh hey, we’re here!” Entrapta interrupted Catra’s train of thought before she could follow it too far.

Catra raised her eyebrow.

“I mean… we were never lost…”

She walked up to the door and punched in a code with her hair.

Only to be locked out with a hostile beep.

“Huh… I could have sworn that was the current password, one second…”

Entrapta punched in several more codes in quick succession, growing more and more frustrated as they denied her entry one by one, until a cartoonish face appeared on the flashing red screen to taunt her.

“The door’s evil!” She exclaimed, not even close to as concerned as she probably should have been. “Fascinating…”

“That’s bad, remember?” Catra reminded her.

“I know, I know.” Entrapta assured her. “But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be learnt from it.”

Well, she wasn’t wrong, Catra supposed.

“Never mind, I’ll deal with it.”

Catra started drawing a rune in the air, the same laser spell she’d used earlier to escape the cage.

She’d be the first to admit she didn’t know many spells, but Etheria help her she was going to master this one.

“Oooh, pretty…” Adora slurred. “Are you putting on a light show? Just for me?”

Catra blushed and tried not to lose focus on the spell. No matter how used to this loopy Adora she thought she got, she couldn’t stop getting flustered.

Finally, just when it seemed like she might have been too flustered to properly cast the spell, the sparkling stardust coalesced into a single beam and started to cut through the supposedly evil door.

“Oooh, is that magic?” Entrapta asked, suddenly in Catra’s face. “How does it work? Tell me everything.”

The laser faltered briefly as Catra became distracted, a reminder that now was not an appropriate time.

“Maybe later, once Adora’s better and your castle isn’t trying to kill us?”

“It’s a date!” Entrapta squealed.

“A date…?” Adora asked, her slurred voice drooping. “With Entrapta?”

The sadness in Adora’s voice made Catra’s ache.

“Not a date, Entrapta, but sure.”

Adora didn’t say anything, but her eyes picked up and she smiled at Catra.

Catra didn’t like what Adora’s smile did to her stomach.

Her laser faded away as she lost focus, leaving a small hole bored through the door, not big enough to go through – not by a long shot – but big enough to look through.

So, she did.

Only to find something staring back.

A robot – its face half turned to slag by Catra’s laser, with an eye only barely hanging on stood behind the door. It shuddered like its gears were getting caught on something, causing the red light coming from its eye to scatter across the lab and reveal a veritable army of possessed tech, all staring hungrily at the door.

Catra never wanted to see a robot hungry.

“We have a problem.” Catra said, stepping back from the door as it shuddered under the strength of a hundred robots.

“No!” Adora cried. “I can change, I swear!”

Briefly distracted from the growing crisis, Catra took Adora’s ands in hers and looked her right in the eyes.

“Don’t you dare.”

“Uh…” Entrapta tried to interject. “We have another problem.”

Sure enough, the mechanical approach of what must have been the rest of Entrapta’s robots was signalled by the scraping of steel on the castle’s stone floors.

“We need to move.”

Entrapta didn’t need any encouragement, scampering off, her hair practically flinging her across the floor faster than she should have had any right to move.

Catra didn’t drop Adora’s hand as they ran after the princess.


“Just through here.”

The waiter was leading the rest of the group through the castle’s various secret passages – or service hallways as they called them – insisting it was the most reliable way to get around.

And they weren’t wrong.

The service hallways may have been narrow and cramped – especially with five people squeezing into them – but they’d avoided the robots and traps that littered the Crypto Castle.

The waiter pushed open a well-oiled door and poked their head out into the hallway, checking for robots, before gesturing for the rest of the party to follow.

“The service hallways are great, but they’ve only got limited access, we’ll have to go the rest of the way in the open.”

“Are we far?” Bow asked as he stretched out.

“Assuming the princess hasn’t changed the hallways since the robots took over this job? Not far.”

“Does that happen often?” Glimmer asked.

“Just often enough that you can never be sure/” The baker replied.

The other staff nodded.

“Now, this way.” The waiter led them onwards.

They had barely rounded the first corner when they began to hear the sounds of a fight echo down the corridor.

“That’s got to be Catra and Adora!” Glimmer exclaimed.

They didn’t have to wait long to find out. Moments later, Entrapta came barrelling around the corner – taking massive, leaping bounds with her hair – followed closely by Catra, and Adora being pulled along behind her.

“Bow and Glimmer!” Adora celebrated, pointing them out to Catra with the hands they were holding. “We can make it a double date!”

“Help me.” Catra begged Bow and Glimmer. Despite the rapidly encroaching robotic horde, it was clear that wasn’t what Catra was talking about.

“Is she okay?” Glimmer asked, blushing at Adora’s comment.

Entrapta interrupted before Catra could even begin to explain.

“Maybe we could deal with the robots first, then you could catch up?” She said, popping her head back around the next corner, which she’d already bounded past.

“Good idea.” Bow agreed, drawing his namesake, only to be forcibly reminded of his arrow situation.

“Don’t worry, mister Bow, we’ve got this!” The bartender proclaimed, flourishing a pair of bottled drinks he’d prepared earlier.

The trio of kitchen staff made surprisingly quick work of the robots. They weren’t alone – Glimmer had rested and wasn’t about to let a chance to kick some robot chassis just pass her by – but between the acidic drinks and baker’s powerful forearms, the robots fell like flies.

“Okay!” Said Glimmer, catching her breath as the last robot fell. “Now can you tell us what’s wrong with Adora?”

“What? I’m fine…” Adora snorted as she laid herself down in Catra’s lap, playing with the tufts of hair around her ears.

“This happened.” Catra said, handing the Sword to Glimmer as she tried her best to ignore what Adora was doing. “Best as I can figure the virus that’s affecting the robots spread to it when we took one down earlier.”

“She doesn’t want to kill us though.” Bow pointed out.

“You should have seen her an hour ago.” Catra told him, showing off the cut She-ra had left in her shoulder.

“She was bigger… and angrier…” Entrapta added, having re-joined the group when she realised they’d stopped running.

“So, how do we fix her?”

“Well, if we destroy the source of the virus, it should revert the effects.” Entrapta explained their theory.

“So, we need to get into Entrapta’s lab and destroy the disc.” Catra elaborated.

“That’s the source?” Bow asked.

Catra nodded.

“Only problem – her lab’s overrun by robots, way more than were chasing us. There’s no way we could get through the door without dying.”

“What if you used the vents?” The waiter suggested. “I’ve had to use them a couple times when Princess Entrapta locked the door so she could focus on her work.”

“The vents! Of course, how didn’t I think of it!?” Entrapta berated herself.

She pointed down the hall with her hair.

“This way!”

 She led them to one of the vents – not the closest one, the waiter whispered to Bow – and opened it up.

“We’re going to end up right above one of Princess Entrapta’s machines, so be careful of the drop.” The waiter advised as the group began crawling through the vents.

The vents were spacious – at least compared to the average air vent. Even so, with eight people squeezed in together, the crawl to the lab was cramped at best.

Luckily for all of them, the crawl didn’t take long. They dropped down onto one of Entrapta’s machines – a multi-polymer reconstitution matrix according to the princess. Glimmer lowered Adora down into Catra’s arms, neither of them trusting the girl to make the drop herself.

A decision that was only partially inspired by her current state. Adora could barely avoid tripping over herself at the best of times.

“Oooh, spooky.” Adora said, not thinking to lower her voice at all.

Or maybe just not thinking in general.

Catra slapped a hand over the talkative girl’s mouth, only to recoil when she felt the girl lick her palm.

She glared at Adora, shushing her.

“We need to be quiet.” She whispered.

Adora nodded dramatically, as though she were being handed some awesome power.

“There’s the disc.” Entrapta whispered, pointing across the room with her hair. “Deactivating it should stop the virus.”

The disc in question was mounted on a clattered desk, thick, strangely sinewy tendrils emerging from it and into the surround technology.

“You call that a disc?” Glimmer hissed.

“Yeah, like a computer storage device.” Entrapta explained.

Glimmer stared at her.

“Oooh… you mean the tentacles.” Entrapta realised. “Those are new.”

“So, what’s the plan?” Bow asked.

“You guys keep Adora safe up here.” Catra began.

“Uh, miss…” The bartender tried to interrupt.

“And I’ll go destroy it.”

“Miss?”

“Yeah?”

“I think your girlfriend has a different idea.”

Sure enough, Adora had somehow managed to slip away – how, Catra had no idea, that girl was as stealthy as Kyle driving a tank – and was approaching the robots, her fists wavering in front of her.

“New plan. You two deal with the disc.” She gestured at Bow and Entrapta. “I’ll protect Adora.”

In her haste, Catra didn’t even think to correct the bartender.

“You with me, Sparkles?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

With a flash of glitter, the pair were on the floor, tearing apart robots in a furious blur of magic, claws, and fists. Even if a robot wanted to hurt Adora, none could even get close to her without facing swift fury.

“You know, I think they have that handled.” The baker observed from above.

“I wouldn’t want to be facing them.” The waiter agreed.

“Maybe so.” The bartender conceded. “But we’ve already come so far.”

The three shared a look, speaking in the silent language that all service workers learn. One by one they nodded and leaped into the fray without another word.

“You know, Sparkles>” Catra called over the din of battle. “You’re not half bad at this.”

“You’re not so bad yourself.” Glimmer glanced around the lab, a smirk forming on her face. “Wanna try something?”

Catra smirked back.

“Sure.”

Glimmer grabbed the magicat’s hand and sent the pair teleporting all through the lab. It took a few teleports for Catra to figure out the timing, but before long they were a spectre of destruction, cutting down a robot and teleporting across the lab to destroy another three before the first hit the ground.

It was only her cat-like reflexes that stopped Catra from nearly eviscerating Entrapta when Glimmer teleported closer to the pair working on the disc than may have been strictly wise.

Nearby, Bow was practically standing on Entrapta’s workbench, using his feet as leverage to try and pry the disc from its mounts.

“It’s no use, it’s worked its way in too deep,” he said. “Can we cut the power?”

“The plug!” Entrapta exclaimed. “How did I miss the plug!?”

Entrapta dashed over to the industrial sized plug – jacked not into the wall but a massive, disconnected power pack – and wrapped her hair around it, pulling as hard as she possibly could.

And harder than seemingly necessary, judging from how much she stumbled back as the plug came loose.

Cut off from its power source, Entrapta’s computer powered down, the monitors that littered the walls going dark.

Until they lit right back up a moment later.

“It’s drawing its own power from the grid.” Entrapta muttered. “Fascinating…”

Bow sent her a look, to focused on his attempt to pry it from the desk to respond with words.

“And terrible. We’re all going to die.”

Bow winced but didn’t disagree.

“Think Bow, think.” He muttered to himself.

He found himself fiddling with his quiver, a habit he’d picked up learning archery, when he got nervous about missed shots.

“That’s it!” He exclaimed.

He drew his sole remaining arrow – the infamous sonic arrow.

“Sound activates the robots!”

He didn’t bother with the bow. He pulled the pin out of the fletching of the arrow and jammed it into the disc, already moving to cover his ears as Entrapta got them out of the way.

The high-pitched whine of the arrow tore through the echoing lab, causing the lab’s organic inhabitants to wince and cover their ears.

“Make it stop, make it stop.” Catra dropped Glimmer’s hand to cover her sensitive ears.

Luckily, she didn’t have to suffer the noise for long. The signal activated something in the robots, drawing them away from the fight and to the disc. One by one they started hammering at the disc until the clangs of their metallic fists drowned out the arrow’s wailing.

And then there was nothing.

The disc must have lost integrity because the robots shut down as one, filling the previously cacophonous room with unnatural silence.

“We did it!”

Adora closed in on Catra, still walking without balance, like she was infected.

“Thank you for the lovely date.”

She hung her arms on Catra’s shoulders and leaned in until their lips were a hair’s breadth away.

Catra couldn’t breathe.

She didn’t know exactly what was happening, but she didn’t want it to stop.

Adora blinked.

And she blinked again.

“Catra?”

Whatever it was disappeared in an instant.

“Adora? Are you okay?”

Adora shook her head like she was trying to clear water from her ears.

“I think so? What happened?”

“Adora’s okay!” Glimmer’s celebration interrupted her before Catra could even begin to explain.

Adora was pulled off Catra and into Bow and Glimmer’s arms as they revelled in their friend’s health.

A revel that was soon cut short by the cheery start-up noise that noise that came from Entrapta’s computer.

“Oh, don’t mind me, just making sure everything works.” Entrapta said when she realised everyone had gone quiet. “I’m glad you’re better by the way.”

Entrapta hummed to herself as she wandered around the lab, starting up various machines and checking diagnostics on others.

“I’d be happy to join your alliance and make weapons.” She offered as she worked, apropos of nothing. “Assuming you’d like that, of course.”

“Of course!” Glimmer replied, more than a little stunned to have a princess actively offer to join the alliance.

Apparently finished checking her machines, Entrapta looped back around to her main computer, which was just finishing its loading sequence.

“What the fuck is that?” Catra scraped at the monitor with her claw, where a Horde emblem spun in the bottom right corner.

Glimmer’s eyes narrowed as the atmosphere suddenly got much more hostile.

“Oh that?” Entrapta said, seemingly missing the mood change. “I hacked the Horde’s systems months ago as a side project. Their infrastructure is incredibly poorly maintained, it’s fascinating to watch.”

Glimmer’s eyes softened immediately. Adora, who had started reaching for her sword, lowered her hand.

“You have access to the Horde’s systems?” Glimmer repeated.

“Sure.”

“Can you give us access?”

“I don’t see why not.” Entrapta agreed, already opening a new tab to start working on the project. “I bet I could fit it into that pad Bow’s carrying.”

“That would be amazing.” He replied.

Bow handed the pad to Entrapta, who plugged it into her system to scan the hardware.

“That reminds me, actually.” Entrapta said as she dug through files in the Horde’s system. “This appeared in their files a week or so ago, more protected than most of their other files. It mentioned you both by name.

“Us?” Asked Adora, gesturing between her and Catra.

Entrapta nodded as she opened the file. A video started playing.

“Adora.”

It was Lonnie.

She looked like shit.

Her eyes were red, like she’d been crying, and her voice was heavy to match. Tiny white lines covered her body in a pattern Catra was intimately familiar with.

“Weaver knows. She knows you joined the rebellion, that you’re a princess, everything.”

Lonnie shuddered.

“She’s angry.”

Adora grabbed Catra’s hand tight enough to bruise. There was no way she could let her go through this alone.

Little did she know Catra was thinking the same thing.

“You need to find Catra and hide. She’s not going to stop until she kills her and has you in shackles.”

Lonnie sighed.

“Scorpia tells me she can get this to your pad without anyone knowing.”

“I hope she’s right.”

“I hope you’re okay. All of you.”

“I hope I’m not too late.”

Chapter Text

In the week following the events in Dryl and Shadow Weaver’s threat, the thing Adora found the most disturbing was how little everything seemed to change.

Sure, security had been heightened – extra guards had been posted and she needed ID to enter and exit the castle now – but it was still Brightmoon. She wasn’t stopped in the halls with demands for an explanation of her presence, there weren’t any invasive searches.

An incident like that in the Horde and the Fright Zone would be even more intolerable for months on end as Shadow Weaver and a dozen copycats tried to leverage the situation to strengthen their hold on power. There’d be random inspections, midnight “training” sessions, and even the slightest slip up would result in punishments harsher than even Catra got on a regular basis.

Adora had to admit she much preferred Brightmoon’s method, even if all her training – her conditioning – screamed at her that it wasn’t enough, that it wouldn’t keep her and Catra safe.

Now, The Queen stood at the head of the war table, heading a hastily called meeting of the Princess Alliance – plus Kyle and Rogellio, who Catra of all people had suggested they include, since they were likely to be affected by Shadow Weaver’s threat as the rest of them.

More than anything else, the heightened security, the princesses arriving in Brightmoon, it made Adora feel safe. Not the Queen specifically – although she had been feeling a lot more comfortable around her after their talk – but just the knowledge that they were finally going to do something about it.

“Last week, during their mission to recruit Princess Entrapta, Adora and Catra were on the receiving end of a direct threat to their safety – one that may threaten the entire Alliance.”

As she recounted Shadow Weaver’s threat to the princesses, Angella couldn’t help but notice the lack of empty seats.

Her daughter had done it.

She’d rebuilt the Alliance Angella had allowed to fall apart.

She felt herself flush with pride, as inappropriate as it felt given the situation.

“Shadow Weaver – Hordak’s second in command – appears to have been personally slighted by Adora and Catra’s defection and threatened the physical and mental wellbeing of both them and our guests, Kyle and Rogellio.” She said as she gestured to the boys in question.

“Our warning of this threat was delivered by one Lonnie, a former teammate of the four and an active soldier in the Horde’s army.”

Mermista stood from her seat and interrupted the Queen’s briefing.

“Wasn’t she like… a part of the force that attacked my kingdom? How can we trust her?”

The rest of the princesses at the table, with the exception of Adora, murmured in agreement. Who could trust the word of a random Horde soldier?

“Adora told me that Lonnie helped her disable the cannon on the Horde’s ship.” Catra pointed out.

“Lonnie was mean sometimes, but she never seemed to buy into the Horde’s propaganda.” Kyle added, Rogelio’s hand on his shoulder in a silent show of support.

Adora nodded.

“That lines up with what she told me at Salineas.” Adora added. “She doesn’t seem to support everything the Horde does, but there’s too much she’d be giving up if she just left.”

“If our source has been vetted to your satisfaction,” the Queen directed to Mermista, “may I continue with the briefing?”

“Sure.”

Mermista nodded as she sat down, satisfied – but not apologetic for wanting some assurances on a random Horde soldier.

“Shadow Weaver is a former sorcerer of Mystacor, who joined Hordak in the early days of the war after being banished for practising forbidden magic.”

The Queen sighed.

“And she has apparently corrupted the power of a runestone.”

The room went dead quiet. The idea that something as powerful as a runestone could be corrupted – something even the princesses who used them had to yield to on occasion – could be overpowered, it was incomprehensible.

“Brightmoon…” Perfuma stammered as she tried to recover from the news. “Brightmoon hasn’t been attacked, has it?”

“No.” The general confirmed. “However, the Whispering Woods – which provide the vast majority of our defences – are most effective against large forces. A single person, especially one as magically proficient as Shadow Weaver, could be able to navigate them with ease.”

“The horde is aware Adora and Catra are living at Brightmoon.” Entrapta pointed out. “What if we simply moved them to another kingdom? The Horde’s surveillance network is limited at best, they likely wouldn’t notice for several months, maybe even a year.”

Murmurs of agreement ran about the table until Adora spoke up.

“I don’t think that will work. Even if the Horde can’t find us, Shadow Weaver’s always seemed to know exactly where Catra and I are. I think she can find us magically, no matter whose kingdom we hide in.”

The murmurs died as Adora’s point killed any plans that had begun to form.

“That complicates matters somewhat.” The Queen said. “If we can’t hide the four of you, how can we best protect you?”

The paused, the princesses all trying to come up with some kind of plan.

“We have the Sea Gate at Salineas, maybe it can disrupt the tracking magic?” Mermista suggested.

“First One’s artifacts have done stranger things.” Bow agreed.

The table’s eyes turned to Entrapta.

The Alliance’s expert on all things First One’s tech put down the small pile of parts she’d been tinkering with as she realised everyone’s attention had turned to her.

“Entrapta?” Perfuma prompted.

Entrapta’s eyes lit up as she figured out the implied question.

“While some First One’s artifacts have displayed traits similar to the ones described, the interactions between First One’s artifacts and modern magic have produced far too inconsistent results for this to be considered a reliable course of action.”

The table settled into another silence as the Alliance reconsidered.

“Ooh, what about Plumeria then?” Perfuma offered, sounding more excited than was probably reasonable given the situation. “We don’t have the same physical defences sure, but our positive energy and natural connection to Etheria would surely repel someone with such a powerful tie to dark magic.”

“I don’t know if that would work if she’s already corrupted a runestone.” Glimmer argued. “She might just end up corrupting whatever tries to keep her out.”

The look on Perfuma’s face soured quickly. Her kingdom was still recovering from the Horde’s corruption, and she wasn’t eager to expose them to it again.

“I suppose you could come to Dryl. We don’t have any protections against magic, but the Crypto Castle could buy you time if she does come.”

Memories – nightmares – from her last trip to Dryl ran rampant through Adora’s mind. The fear, the loss of control.

Her eyes darted to Catra’s shoulder.

The scars.

“No.”

She couldn’t do it again. That feeling – like something, someone, else was in control of her body – would stick with her for a lifetime, even with Entrapta’s reassuring daily updates on the states of both the disc and the previously affected robots.

The rest of the table – or at least the ones who hadn’t been at Dryl that day – were watching her, waiting for some kind of explanation.

One that wasn’t coming, at least not from her.

“No.” Catra repeated, picking up on Adora’s discomfort with practised ease.

“Right.” Entrapta agreed after a few moments when she picked up on the issue. “It probably wouldn’t be a great idea anyway; I’ve still got to finish up the repairs from last week.”

Adora gave Catra and Entrapta looks of gratitude as she let out a small breath of relief.

“Thank you for offering your kingdoms.” The Queen began as she braced herself on the table. “However, in this case we truly only have one option.”

The table leaned in as Angella took a deep breath.

“Mystacor.”


Catra had zoned out of the Alliance meeting once they’d agreed on Mystacor. She’d picked up that there was some kind of protection there – something to keep out banished sorcerers maybe – but all she really needed to know was when they were leaving.

Even that hadn’t been a simple matter since Mystacor apparently moved around Etheria on its own, chasing the moons or some other thing that Catra didn’t fully understand.

Eventually it had been decided they’d leave early the next morning, so they wouldn’t have to “make the jump” to Mystacor in the dark, whatever that meant.

That left her with the night to pack her things. Adora had already finished packing hers, and had been conscripted by Glimmer to help with the princess’, so Catra was left alone in their room, its bareness revealing to her just how few things she actually had.

She had a few sets of nearly identical clothes that Glimmer had found for her when she’d arrived, the slowly dwindling pouch of stardust Angella definitely hadn’t given her, and her pile of notes and theories about sorcery.

That was everything.

Everything except Micah’s journal.

Of everything that had come into her possession since leaving the Horde, it was by far the most significant.

She’d found her people in the journal. She’d found something she could make her own.

She’d found healing.

But she wasn’t the only one it was important to.

Glimmer and Angella had lost family. She couldn’t just take something so personal from them like it was nothing.

She put the journal on the room’s desk.

“I’ll get her for the both of us.”

She let silence hang over the room as she looked at the journal, surprised that saying goodbye to a book was making her tear up a little.

“Thank you.”

“Catra?”

The girl in question jumped as Angella entered the room, walking so softly even Catra’s sensitive ears didn’t catch it.

“Angella!” Catra replied as she jumped up, wiping an errant tear from her eye.

“I’ve finished making the arrangements for you to stay at Mystacor.”

Angella looked around the room.

“Adora’s not with you?”

“She’s helping Glimmer pack.”

“I’ll see her soon then.”

Angella sat on the edge of the bed Catra and Adora shared and gestured for Catra to join her.

“When you get to Mystacor, I want you to seek out Castaspella.”

The name familiar to Catra, but it took a few moments for it to click.

“Micah’s sister?”

“Yes. She’s the head sorcerer at Mystacor, and she’s agreed to give you lessons, if you’d like them.”

“Really?” Catra whispered.

“You’ve come far on your own and I am incredibly proud of you, but Micah’s journal can only teach you so much. I know…”

Angella got cut off by Catra wrapping her arms around her.

“Thank you.”


Almost everyone in the Horde found the Black Garnet Chamber unsettling at best, and Lonnie had never been an exception to that rule, as much as she might have liked to pretend otherwise.

That being said, it had a different air since she’d sent Adora that warning, a foreboding reminder that she was one slipup from a trip to Beast Island.

Each step loomed longer than the last as Scorpia escorted her to the chamber, her claws clacking nervously.

“I didn’t rat on you, you know that right?”

The optimist that Lonnie had spent a lifetime trying to bury hoped that no one had ratted them out and it was just a coincidence that they were being summoned to Shadow Weaver’s chambers.

The “realist” in her that had been forced to emerge after a decade in the Horde knew that was too good to be true, but even its jaded, cynical nature couldn’t believe that Scorpia of all people would turn her in.

“I know, Scorp.”

Lonnie shuddered as she took the final steps, stopping in front of the chamber’s sliding door.

She raised her hand to knock but stopped before the fist landed.

This wasn’t going to go well.

She knew that.

So why was she doing it? Why not take Scorpia and run, run far away where no one could ever hurt them again?

“Come in, cadet.” Shadow Weaver’s harsh voice raked down Lonnie’s spine like nails on a chalkboard.

Scorpia put a claw on her shoulder and gave her the best attempt at a reassuring smile she could muster.

It was meant to be reassuring, but it felt like she was being marched to the executioner’s block.

The door opened as Lonnie felt the shadows surrounding her grow deeper.

“Cadet.” Shadow Weaver addressed her; the outline of her mask barely visible through the shadows that danced around the Black Garnet.

“Shadow Weaver.” Lonnie replied, doing her best to compose herself and stand at attention. “You wanted to see me?”

“Indeed.” Shadow Weaver’s voice slithered around Lonnie like a snake on her neck until she was practically whispering in her ear. “I hear you’ve been sending messages.”

“Dangerous messages.”

Lonnie couldn’t stop her voice from hitching as she responded.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You need to find Catra and hide. She’s not going to stop until she kills her and has you in chains.”

Lonnie gasped as the screens that lined the walls lit up with her own face, illuminating the room but doing nothing to dispel the shadows that swirled around her.

“You should know better than to try hide something from me, cadet.” Shadow Weaver growled, her voice growing louder as her shadows swallowed the light to grow deeper. “There is nothing I do not know, nothing I do not see.”

Shadow Weaver took a breath that sounded more like a bull rearing to charge than a person calming themselves as the shadows shrank back to a more natural state.

“But do not worry, child. All will proceed according to plan. Adora and Catra have been forced to flee to Mystacor. Soon, everything will be as it was always meant to be.”

Lonnie’s heart sank as she realised, she’d been set up. Shadow Weaver had counted on her warning the others, and she’d played right into Weaver’s hands.

“Of course, you will not be allowed to interfere again. You are to guard my chambers with Force Captain Scorpia until this matter is… resolved.”


“This is going to be great; you guys are going to love Mystacor!” Glimmer declared as she and Bow guided the former Horde soldiers through the Etherian countryside.

“It’s got everything.” Bow agreed, trying to help left eh groups spirits. “Warm beaches, hot springs, an amazing view…”

“Magical barriers to protect us from a demented, vengeful sorcerer?” Catra interjected.

Her voice prompted Bow to stop hiking up the hill they were climbing and take a closer look at his companions.

All four of them, even Kyle and Rogelio – who had been to Mystacor on their tour of Etheria and knew what was waiting for them – looked ire. It was clear that they’d gotten maybe an hour of sleep between them the night before, and Catra and Adora, who Glimmer and Bow would normally have trouble keeping up with, were lagging at the back of the group, jumping at shadows.

“Uh… yeah.” Bow nodded before jogging back up to Glimmer.

“I’m worried about them, Glim.” He confided, quiet enough that he hoped they wouldn’t overhear.

“Me too, Bow.” She agreed as she stopped at the cliff’s edge. “But we’re nearly there, so everything should be better soon, right?”

“I hope so.”

The pair stood at the cliff’s edge; quiet as they waited for the others to catch up. The early morning moonlight illuminated the woods below them in beautiful shades of blue and orange.

It was a moment of peace in a storm of turmoil, but neither could imagine enjoying it without the other.

They savoured the moment as the others caught up.

“Uh, guys?” Adora asked. “Are we going to keep moving?”

“We don’t need to.” Glimmer replied, gesturing out to the horizon. “We’re here.”

“Are you sure?” Adora asked.

“This doesn’t exactly look like a…”

Catra was interrupted by Bow and Glimmer jumping off the cliff.

“What happened?” Adora and Catra scrambled to the edge, both hoping to and scared to find their friends.

As the pair desperately tried to look through the low hanging clouds that had gathered around the drop, Kyla and Rogelio wandered over at a far too relaxed pace for a pair who had just seen two people jump off a cliff.

“Do you think we can climb down, or should we run the longer way?” Adora asked as she tried not to fall down the ledge she was leaning over.

“Guys…” Kyle tried to interject.

“I think I could climb it, but not both of us.” Catra replied, already starting to climb.

“Guys…” Kyle tried again.

“If I go down the long way, I won’t be able to help them if they’re trapped on a ledge – do we have a rope or anything?”

Rogelio rolled his eyes and growled, reaching down, and picking Catra off the cliff face.

“Kyle is trying to tell you that’s how you get to Mystacor.” He signed after putting her down.

“That’s how you get to Mystacor?” Catra asked, indignant both at being picked up and not being told in advance.

“So, you just jump off and bang you’re in Mystacor?” Adora clarified as she collapsed to the ground, only landing on the safe side of the drop thanks to a quick guiding hand from Kyle.

As if to answer her question, the clouds below them were blown away by a gust of wind to reveal Bow and Glimmer, standing safely on a large floating rock.

“Pretty much.” Kyle confirmed.

“Kind of you to tell us.” Catra snarked as she leaned over the edge to get her own confirmation of Bow and Glimmer’s wellbeing.

“We assumed you knew.” Rogellio signed. “You’ve been out of the Horde longer than we have.”

Catra rolled her eyes.

“Well, after you then.” She said, gesturing overing the edge.

Rogelio chuckled and grabbed Kyle under one arm.

“Uh… see you guys soon.” Kyle stammered as Rogelio backed up, then ran off the cliff.

Kyle waved from the rock when they landed, Rogelio’s powerful thighs easily absorbing the force of the impact.

“Is it just me or do those two seem closer than they used to be?” Catra asked, turning to Adora.

“No, I think you’re right.” Adora agreed as she stood up, mostly recovered from her friends’ apparent dive off a cliff.

The pair took a moment to watch the horizon together.

“Couldn’t get this in the Horde, could we?” Adora asked.

Catra purred in agreement as they let the moment sink in. Seeing Etheria in all its glory like this, one quiet breath with the person she most cared for, it made her forget Shadow Weaver’s threat, if just for a moment.

“Together then?” Catra offered Adora her hand as they stood over the edge.

“Together.”

Hand in hand, the pair backed up, footsteps so in sync they may as well have been one mind. They ran forward, over the edge together…

“Adora…”

One foot on the cliff and one hanging in the void, Adora heard her name whispered on the wind. She twisted around to the find the source of the sound, her hand slipping out of Catra’s as they fell.

There, floating in the shadows of the forest on the cliff behind them, was one of Shadow Weaver’s wraiths, an umbra devoid of its own shadow, with cruel red eyes that watched Adora fall.

She could have sworn it smiled as she lost balance and tumbled through the void.

Through the void and face first into a rock.

“Ooh…” Glimmer winced. “Are you okay?”

Adora groaned from a pile on the ground as the floating rock began moving.

Rogelio snorted.

“Not used to Adora falling on her face yet?” Catra asked as she helped the girl to her feet.

The wind breezed through Catra’s fur as their floating island carried them through the air.

The quiet carried on a moment too long and Catra started to worry. They’d been teasing Adora for her habit of falling on her face for years, and she’d always had some kind of now-quite-witty response.

“You are okay, right?” She asked as she grabbed Adora’s face and made a show of inspecting her head. “Please don’t be brain damaged, Shadow Weaver would…”

Oh.

Catra closed her eyes tight and tried to force herself to think about something, anything else. Magicat history, spells, Glimmer’s family drama.

Anything.

“They’re here.”

Adora’s voice was a whisper, almost lost to the wind.

Catra’s eyes snapped open as she felt her breath catch in her throat.

“Who.” She whispered, hoping against hope she was wrong.

“Her spies, they’re here. She knows where we’re going.”

Suddenly, the wind stopped, but Catra shivered regardless.

“What spies?” Bow asked.

“Shadow spies.” Adora replied. “They live in the darkness and report everything they see to Shadow Weaver.”

“Horde Soldiers always called them her eyes.” Catra added. “They say the spies can appear anywhere, as long as there’s a shadow.”

Glimmer looked around at the desolate former Horde soldiers and felt a righteous anger rise in her heart. How dare this woman hurt these people – her friends – so much.

“Don’t worry.” She told them. “We’ve crossed Mystacor’s barrier now. Even if she knows where you are, there’s no way she’ll be able to reach you.”

Adora wanted to believe her, but a lifetime of evidence suggested otherwise, and one look at Catra told her the other girl agreed.

Maybe it would have been better not to say anything, she considered. Seeing Catra worried hurt almost as much as seeing the shadow spy.


The rest of the trip was filled with Bow and Glimmer – and to a lesser extent Kyle and Rogelio – trying unsuccessfully to raise the mood.

After some time, their floating rock came to a gentle stop at the edge of a much larger floating island, the largest of a cluster of three.

“Is that my Glimmer?”

A tall woman with dark hair and a golden circlet that dripped with stardust ran onto their rock, wrapping the girl in question in a powerful hug.

“Aunt Casta…” Glimmer forced a smile as she slipped out of her grasp. “Mom told you we were coming?”

“She did.” Castaspella replied, her voice suddenly curt at the mention of her sister-in-law. “It would be nice to have been asked, but she is an angelic being after all, and I am mere common sorcerer.”

Glimmer sighed. Catra got the feeling this conversation had happened before.

“Oh but excuse me.” Castaspella caught herself. “We have guests! Rest assured that no harm will come to you within the halls of Mystacor.”

Catra did have to admit, actually being on the island, floating hundreds of meters in the air did make her feel more secure than she had been floating up.

“Now, Glimmer, you simply must introduce me to all your new friends.”

Glimmer sighed but complied.

“You know Bow.” She said, gesturing to the boy in question.

“Great to see you, Casta!” Bow said, smiling brighter than the woman’s stardust circlet.

“Lovely to see you as always Bow, did you get the socks I sent you?”

Bow lifted the cuffs of his pants slightly to reveal a pair of fluffy woollen socks.

“I’m wearing them right now.” He smiled.

Castaspella beamed back.

“And these,” Glimmer continued, “are Adora, Catra, Kyle, and Rogelio. They were all raised in the Horde, but they’re good now so don’t worry.”

“Welcome, all of you.” She greeted them, turning to each of them one by one to offer a smile.

As she stopped on Catra, the magicat noticed something poking out of the edges of the woman’s dress. Elegant, familiar designs, inked into her skin.

Runes.

Intrigued, Catra filed the idea away for future research.

“So, shall we begin the tour?” Castaspella asked, clapping her hands.

“Tour?” Adora asked.

“Of course, we can’t have you visiting and just not show you the Lunar Lenses.”

“Actually, Aunty,” Glimmer interrupted. “Mom said something about you teaching Catra sorcery, and I figured the rest of us could go to the beach in the meantime?”

Castaspella paused.

“Yes, Angella did mention something about that…” She muttered, turning to Catra. “You want to learn sorcery?”

Catra nodded.

“I’ve been teaching myself with Micah’s old journals, but I want to learn more.”

Castaspella’s eyes lit up at the mention of her brother.

“Micah’s journals you say? Let’s get started right away then.”

Glimmer looked between her aunt and Catra and decided they were probably safe to leave now.

“Sorry for throwing you under the skiff.” She whispered to Catra as she left, taking the others with her.

“Don’t worry about it.” Catra whispered back – although she could feel her excitement drop as Adora left.

“Take care of her for me.” Catra nodded at Adora.

“That’s the plan.” Glimmer nodded. “Will you be okay?”

Catra took a moment to check herself.

“I think so. Theres something about this place, a power I can feel on my skin. It’s reassuring.”

Glimmer and Bow lead the other three away, following the edge of the island until they turned around a tree and out of Catra’s view.

“Classes are already in session, but there should still be some empty training fields if you follow me.” Castaspella said as she led Catra away from the edge.

“So, tell me Catra,” Castaspella asked as they wound through buildings and courtyards. “What do you know already?”

“I don’t remember exactly how he worded it, but Micah’s journals mentioned that spells are powered by the caster’s connection to Etheria – which can be strengthen by stardust – and their effect is based on the runes they draw.”

Castaspella nodded as they walked onto a large grass field, with more than a few small craters blown into it.

“Very impressive.” She praised.

It had happened a few times now, thanks to Angella, but Catra didn’t think she’d ever get over the rush she got from this casual approval.

“It sounds like you’ve got a solid grasp on the basic theory.” Castaspella continued. “Now, since we have some space, how about a demonstration – show me what you’ve got.”

Catra nodded and began drawing runes.

“This was the first spell I managed to cast.” She explained as she finished the rune with a touch of stardust.

The circle framing the rune collapsed into a small ball of red light and started bouncing around the training field.

Unlike the first time she cast the spell, Catra managed to avoid pouncing after it.

Barely.

“Ooh, I remember helping Micah with that one – we developed it together for little Cyt’yra, she loved chasing it around.” Castaspella reminisced, a small tear forming in the corner of her eye.

Catra couldn’t help but wince at the mention of Micah’s first child. Angella and Glimmer had both assured her it was fine, but she still felt like she was intruding when she read the journal – especially when Cyt’yra came up.

“I think he wrote it in his journal to teach it to her.” Catra admitted.

Castaspella nodded.

“It was an old magicat tradition, to learn from a journal your parents wrote for you. It seems fitting that a magicat is learning from it now, even if it isn’t his daughter.”

Catra didn’t know how to respond. In her head she’d been preparing for Castaspella to decide that actually Catra shouldn’t be using her brother’s journal, that it was too personal for some random Horde soldier to be reading – studying even. But for her not only to approve, but to be glad for it?

It didn’t line up with what she’d been trained to expect from life.

It wasn’t a disappointment.

“So, Catra, do you know any other spells?”

And so, Catra showed off every spell she’d picked up from Micah’s journal. A simple light spell, the rock cutting spell she’d used in Dryl, a small fire spell.

And her spell.

She finished the rune and a small laser shot out of the stardust hanging in the air, the beam managing to avoid burning Catra’s new teacher as it sailed for several meters before fizzling out into the air.

Castaspella jumped to attention, leaning forward to inspect the remnants of magic in the air where the laser had just been.

“I don’t recognise that one.” She told Catra. “Did you find it in Micah’s journal?”

“Kind of.” Catra explained. “I made it myself, based on an incomplete rune from his journal – burnt a hole in Glimmer’s wall in the process.”

Castaspella stopped, eyes wide.

“You made it yourself?”

Catra nodded, not understanding what the problem was.

“That’s really impressive, how did you do it?”

Catra winced a little. Whenever she’d done something well enough that even Shadow Weaver couldn’t ignore it, she’d always be asked how she did it.

Challenged to prove the accomplishment was really hers.

But Catra didn’t hear that same animosity in Castaspella’s voice.

Just curiosity and excitement.

“Micah’s version of the rune looked wrong to me – I think he was distracted when he drew it – but I noticed there were similarities between what was there and some of the other light spells he’d recorded. So, I figured that each of the symbols in the rune controlled a specific part of the spell and I copied some from other spells to fill it out.”

Castaspella nodded.

 “You’ve really got a talent for this,” she said. “That’s really close for a blind theory. You’re right that each of the symbols tells the spell to do something specific, and the overall effect is a consequence of how they interact. However, those symbols don’t have to be confined to a rune.”

Now that was interesting.

“If they’re not all in a rune, how does the spell know what to do?”

“Strictly speaking, the spell never knows what to do, even when it’s confined to a rune. Runes and the symbols that make them up help guide a sorcerer’s magic to produce a given effect, but with enough training and focus you can guide the magic yourself. When multiple runes – or even no runes – are involved, you follow the same principle, guiding your magic through symbols, regardless of how they’re contained.”

Huh.

Catra started drawing symbols as Castaspella watched.

One on the ground.

Another floating in the air.

A final one on her own palm.

She closed her eyes and focused on the magic within her as she let Etheria’s power flow through her, into the symbols on the ground and in the air, and finally back into her hand.

She opened her eyes to a glowing hand, the light spell working as intended, even without a rune.

“Woah…” She said as she held her hand up to her face, turning it as she examined her handiwork.

“Nicely done.” Castaspella said, nodding her head. “You can take it a step further too, we here at Mystacor have a proud tradition of tattooing the runes and symbols we use most to our bodies, so we can use them again and again, without needing to draw them.”

As she described them, Castaspella pushed up her sleeve to reveal an arm covered in intricate tattoos, drawn in a deep black ink with flecks of stardust sparkling through.

Catra didn’t know why, but she couldn’t shake the vision of being held by a woman with tattoos just like those.


Adora didn’t know how Kyle and Rogelio managed to get out of going to the beach, but she wished she had too.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like it, per se, she just didn’t get it.

“So, what are we actually meant to do here?” Adora asked her captors.

“We’re not meant to do anything.” Glimmer explained as she and Bow laid down towels on the sand. “You just… exist. It’s relaxing.”

“Well, why would I need to do that? I’m perfectly relaxed.” Adora insisted through a clenched jaw.

Bow and Glimmer didn’t respond with words, instead opting for a pair of disbelieving stares.

“Adora, it’s alright to be stressed, you’ve been going through a lot recently.” Bow tried to reassure her.

Adora sighed.

“Is it that obvious?” She asked, her shoulders drooping.

“Yeah.” Bow and Glimmer replied in unison.

 “Look, Adora.” Glimmer said. “Just try it. Get comfortable and let the sound of the clouds on the beach wash away your worries.”

Adora needed that.

She had no idea how laying still for however long could possibly achieve it.

But she needed it.

“Okay,” Adora agreed. “I’ll try it.”

She laid down and tried very hard not to be tense.

Adora closed her eyes and focused on the sound of the clouds on the beach, trying to lose herself in their rhythm like Glimmer had told her.

Just in and out.

In and out.

In and out.

“Adora…”

In and out.

“Adora…”

In and out.

“You can’t hide from me.”

In.

And.

Out.

“Adora?”

Adora jumped as a hand shook her shoulder.

“This isn’t working for you, is it?” Glimmer asked, taking her hand off Adora’s shoulder as the girl caught her breath.

She didn’t get a chance to confirm before Glimmer continued.

“It’s worse than I thought.” Glimmer mused. “Bow, get up – this calls for the Steam Grotto.”

Bow jumped up, unfairly alert for someone who had clearly managed to fall asleep.

“Woo, Steam Grotto!”

Adora stood back awkwardly as Bow and Glimmer started gathering their things.

“Uh, guys, I don’t think steam will help.”

Glimmer put her things back down so she could put a hand on Adora’s shoulder.

“Look, Adora, Shadow Weaver can’t hurt you here. You just need a distraction to take your mind off it – and there’s no better distraction than the Steam Grotto.”

Adora must not have looked convinced, because she continued.

“Please Adora? For us.”

That wasn’t fair.

“Okay Glimmer, I’ll try it.”


As it turned out, Catra loved lessons.

By the end of her time in the Horde, she was skipping more than half the lessons and other training sessions she was meant to attend.

But it hadn’t always been that way.

As hard as it was to believe, she’d been more excited than Adora when they were finally moved to formal training as kids. She’d felt so ready to start learning and prove to Shadow Weaver that she was worth her bunk space.

And she was good at it. Her instructors loved her enthusiasm, she worked hard, and she did well.

But it was never enough.

Not for Shadow Weaver.

And her instructors picked up on it too.

She didn’t know is Shadow Weaver had told them to treat her worse, or if they’d just grown tired of her, but one by one they began ignoring her achievements and berating her failures.

So, she stopped caring.

Castaspella made her forget all of it with only a few words.

“Yes, well done Catra.”

The sorcerer clapped her hands at Catra’s answer.

It hadn’t been hard – she was basically just repeating something Castaspella had just told her about stardust a few minutes ago – so she didn’t really get why Castaspella was so enthusiastic about her answer.

But that feeling.

That rush.

It took her right back to those first few classes, sitting with Adora and competing to answer Grizzlor’s questions.

“Do you have any questions, or should I move on?”

Catra shook her head.

“I think I’ve got it.” She confirmed.

“Next topic then!” Castaspella declared, swiping away a series of diagrams she’d drawn with light in front of her.

“Have you noticed that your spells all create new effects and don’t change the world around them?” She asked.

“Or at least, don’t directly modify the world around them.” Castaspella amended after a moment of thought.

Catra thought about it.

Castaspella was right. The light, the fire, her laser – they were all something she was making.

Although didn’t the tunnelling spell modify the rock?

“What about the magicat rock carving spell? That one leaves marks on the stone.”

“That’s a great point, I hadn’t considered that spell.” Castaspella acknowledged.

It felt weird that she could correct a teacher – or any authority figure for that matter – and not get eviscerated for it.

Not that it had ever stopped her from doing so.

“Anyway,” Castaspella continued. “Spells that affect the world around us are typically more complex than ones that create something new.”

Catra nodded along. She hadn’t noticed at the time but looking back at it there had been a real imbalance in Micah’s journal – especially the sections addressed to Cyt’yra. It would make sense that meant there was a jump in difficulty at that point.

“The reason for this.” Castaspella continued as Catra thought back on what she’d already learnt, “is that spells affecting the world need to be told in some way what they’re meant to change.”

As she lectured, Castaspella cast a spell that made her finger glow bright blue, which she used to draw helpful diagrams in the air, where they floated like runes.

“Normally, I’d just explain how to do this, but I’ve been impressed by everything you’ve said and I’d love to hear how you think it’s done, if you wouldn’t mind sharing?”

That gave Catra pause.

How was it done?

She had an example of each, the answer had to be in there somewhere.

What was the difference?

They didn’t feel any different to cast, as far as she could tell at least.

The symbols that comprised the runes were different, but that was true of all spells, there was no way it could be that alone.

Catra tilted her head as she puzzled it out.

Almost without thinking about it, she started drawing a rune in the air – a light spell – and cast it, hoping for a side-by-side comparison.

The first cast, she felt around for a stone to draw the second on when it hit her.

“I draw the rune on the rock I want to change!” She burst out as it finally clicked.

“Very well done, Catra, I’m impressed.” Castaspella praised her. “That is one was a sorcerer can target their spells, and it seems to me that is how the tunnelling spell specifically works.”

Oh, that was a rush.

“That being said, it’s not the only way, and it’s often not practical – it tends to work best for long term applications, such as the shields and levitation spells that Mystacor relies on.”

“Take telekinesis, for example,” Castaspella continued, “a staple of a sorcerer’s repertoire. How might you target something you can’t reach to draw on?”

Uh…

Catra had no idea.

This wasn’t like the last question, where she could reverse engineer an answer from the spells she already knew – nothing she knew fit the description.

The closest she had was her laser, which moved away from her, but that felt more like a fire, which she started, but only had limited control over it after that.

Even if the laser did work like these targeted spells Castaspella was talking about, Catra had cobbled the spell together out of runes she knew basically nothing about, so it wouldn’t have helped even if it did.

Catra sighed.

She didn’t know, and she was going to have to admit it.

“I… don’t know.” She said, wincing unconsciously as she did.

Castaspella felt her heart break a little.

She recognised Catra’s wince. She’d seen it before, in other students who had been hurt. Sometimes it was a teacher, sometimes it was a parent, and she didn’t know enough about Catra’s history to guess.

But she did know that now wasn’t the time to push her.

“That’s okay.” She reassured her. “I doubt Micah’s journals would get that complex.”

Right.

Not the Horde.

Not Shadow Weaver.

Slowly but surely, it was getting easier to believe.

She recomposed herself.

“So how do you do it?” She asked, eager to try and put it behind her.

Castaspella waved a hand through the diagrams, causing them to fade away as she drew a new one – the Sword of Protection.

“Ultimately, it comes down to magical signatures. Most magical items and First One’s artifacts generate one naturally, and you can use a rune to make something emit one of its own.”

Catra drew a rune in the air by the Sword.

Catra jumped to dig through her bag and pulled out a piece of paper, copying down the rune and labelling it.

Castaspella smirked at Catra’s eagerness and paused her lecture while the student was distracted.

“And finally, the heart of the planet emits a signature of its own, far more powerful than any Mystacor has recorded in its storied history.”

Catra nodded along.

“So, once I have a signature, how do I use it?”

“Unless you’re dealing with a magic item directly – summoning a staff for example – using a signature in your spell ends up being far too complicated, adding potentially hundreds of symbols to your rune to translate things like location, motion, speed, and direction.”

“So, what’s the work around?”

There had to be one, right? There would be no reason to mention it otherwise.

“Strictly speaking, there are several.” Castaspella answered. “The most common, however, is this.”

Instead of drawing another rune in the air, Castaspella pulled up one of her sleeves to reveal a rune tattooed near her shoulder.

Well technically she revealed more than one rune – Castaspella had a lot of tattoos – but there was one that was larger and more prominent than the rest, which Catra assumed was the one she was referencing.

“This is what we call the Redirection rune. How it actually works is incredibly complicated, more so than even using signatures – I can lend you some books on the topic if you’d like to learn more, but it’s not necessary – but essentially what it does is translate your intentions on what you want to target into symbols you can use on the fly.”

Catra studied the rune inked into Castaspella’s arm. It was easily the most complicated rune she’d ever seen, with symbols branching off each other like fractals, getting finer and finer until Catra could barely see the ink.

“That looks far too complicated to just add to a spell.” She pointed out.

“Very observant. It’s very rare for the redirection rune to be cast normally – typically it’s tattooed early into a sorcerer’s career, often as the first one they receive.”

“In fact,” Castaspella continued. “I’d be happy to give it to you tonight, if you’d allow me.”

Catra had to stop herself from gasping.

“Just like that?”

“Even though it’s me?” was left unsaid.

“Admittedly it is rather forward, traditionally your mentor would be the one to give you your first tattoo, but Micah…”

Castaspella winced.

“Well, he can’t, and I’d…”

Catra could feel tears starting to fall, but she didn’t try to stop them.

“I’d be honoured to have you tattoo me.”


Even Adora had to admit, the steam felt nice. It would probably be great for her muscles after a tough training session.

Of course, she’d only admit it after sneaking out of the grotto.

She appreciated what Bow and Glimmer were trying to do, she really did, but they simply didn’t get it.

Shadow Weaver was hunting them.

Adora knew that, and she didn’t like it.

It terrified her.

But Shadow Weaver wasn’t the real danger here.

She was.

As much as seeing the Shadow spy had upset here, she had felt the barrier as they passed into Mystacor, and it let her put Shadow Weaver to the back of her mind.

Present, but not overwhelming.

But her.

She was here.

And she couldn’t protect everyone from herself if she was just laying in the steam with Bow and Glimmer.

She had to get away from anyone she could hurt if she lost control. Last time, she’d scarred Catra.

She couldn’t let herself think about what could happen next time.

Everything inside her was screaming to leave, run away from Mystacor and find somewhere she would never need to worry about losing control of She-ra and hurting her friends.

But she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t just leave her friends – leave Catra – to deal with Shadow Weaver without her.

And so, she wandered the beach, staring over the edge, too far to protect her friends from Shadow Weaver and too close to protect them from herself.

“Adora!”

And apparently too distracted to see what was right in front of her.

Kyle and Rogelio were standing right in front of her, apparently wandering the beach themselves.

She tried to just give them a nod and step around them to keep herself isolated, even with their arms around each other they were agile enough to block her.

“Hey guys…”

Rogelio reluctantly removed his arm from Kyle’s shoulder so he could sign.

“Where are you going?” He asked.

Uh…

“Oh, you know… nowhere in particular…”

“Alone?” He signed. “Weren’t you with Bow and the princess?”

“Uh yeah… I just wanted to grab a bit of fresh air.”

Kyle shook his head.

“Wow Adora, you aren’t a good liar, and that’s coming from me.”

Rogelio snorted.

“Come on, let’s sit down.” Kyle suggested. “We’ve barely talked since we left the Horde.”

She shouldn’t.

She was a danger, she needed to be as far away from everyone as possible.

But something about Kyle and Rogelio, two of her oldest friends, even older than Catra – who didn’t end up in the Horde until they were five or so – compelled her.

Because Kyle was right.

She and Catra had left without saying goodbye, and when Kyle and Rogelio eventually joined them, they hadn’t stuck around in Brightmoon, opting to tour the world with Bow’s brother.

The truth was, she missed them.

“Yeah, okay.”

They sat down in the sand, around a small fire that Rogelio managed to create suspiciously quickly.

Had he always been able to do that?

And so, they sat, staring into the flame, the crashing of the clouds into the shore echoing down the beach.

They didn’t say much – where could you possibly begin after such a monumental change – but they enjoyed each other’s presence, the quiet familiarity of lifelong friends.

Eventually, Rogelio broke the silence with a grunt.

“You’re not okay.” He signed.

It wasn’t a question.

Adora sighed.

“I’m not okay.”

She wanted to disagree – maybe if they didn’t know they’d be content to leave her alone – but she knew Kyle and Rogelio would see right through whatever she tried to tell them.

“Want to talk about it?” Kyle offered, poking at the fire.

Kyle’s directness managed to snap Adora out of her stupor for a moment. The Kyle she remembered would never have had the confidence to be so direct. The tour of Etheria must have been good for him.

That or just being out of the Horde in general.

“Not particularly, but you’re not going to let it go that easily, are you?”

Rogelio shook his head.

Adora sighed again.

“Okay.”

She poked the fire, watching the embers twist and twirl as they floated down, losing herself in their glow.

“I’m scared.” She admitted. “Terrified actually.”

She breathed in slowly, tasting the smoke of their fire on the fresh beach air. She could feel her connection to Etheria grow as she focused on her senses.

She shut it down just as soon as it had opened.

That was not what she needed right now.

It did, however, force her to stop putting off an explanation.

“Last time I went on a mission, I lost control of She-ra. It was like she was forcing me to watch as she went on a rampage.”

Adora choked back a tear.

“I… she hurt Catra and I don’t know if she’ll do it again.”

Adora stopped, forced to catch her breath as the tears began to fall.

Kyle and Rogelio shared a look. They’d heard that something happened at Dryl, but not what – until now.

“And that’s not even starting on Shadow Weaver.” Adora continued once she’d had a moment to recover. “We know she’s out there, hunting us, but no one seems to be taking it seriously. Even Catra’s off learning magic instead of…”

“Instead of what, Adora?” Kyle interrupted. “We’ve come to Mystacor because it’s the safest we can be while the Rebellion figures out how to deal with Shadow Weaver. There’s nothing more to be done.”

His words stopped Adora in her tracks.

Not so much because of what he said – in theory it was all stuff she already knew – but because he said it.

Kyle really had grown a spine.

“Well,” Adora sighed. “I don’t feel safe.”

“What would make you feel safe?” Rogelio asked.

She didn’t need to think about her answer.

“I need to leave. I can’t be trusted not to lose control of She-ra again, I’m a danger to everyone here.”

Rogelio gave her a sad look, shaking his head.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” Kyle asked, “how did it happen last time?”

“Honestly, I don’t know, I don’t remember much of what happened at Dryl. Catra told me I got infected by one of Entrapta’s robots.”

“You probably don’t need to worry about that here.” Kyle pointed out. “Not a robot in sight.”

It didn’t really help her worries, if Adora was being honest, but she appreciated the attempt.

“But that’s not all.” Adora added. “When me and Catra left the Horde, Shadow Weaver said something about messing with my mind – controlling me – and then just now I heard both her and She-ra voices’ on the waves…”

“What if… What if she can control She-ra?”

An uneasy silence settled over the trio. No one wanted to admit it, but Adora was right, she had – they all had – good reason to fear that Shadow Weaver could – would – take control of She-ra.

“That’s why I need to leave, I’m a danger to everyone as long as I’m here.”

“A danger to Catra…”

Rogelio scoffed.

Kyle nodded.

“Are you saying that Shadow Weaver is going to have a harder time going after you if you’re alone and outside of Mystacor’s protections?”

“Well…” Adora tried to cut in, but Kyle didn’t stop.

“Besides, even if Shadow Weaver is angriest at you, do you really think she’ll stop there? That she won’t march She-ra into the halls of Mystacor and not stop until everything is exactly the way she wishes?”

“I guess…”

“We survived the Horde by sticking together. Do you think Shadow Weaver would have held back with Catra’s punishments if you didn’t interfere? The only thing that got her through those sessions with Shadow Weaver was knowing we – you – would be there for her afterwards.”

Adora cast her eyes down to the fire, memories playing in her head.

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

Fuck you’re right.”

She looked up at Kyle.

“You know, it’s not fair how good you’ve gotten at that.”

Rogelio growled in agreement, planting a kiss on Kyle’s cheek.

Adora smiled at her friends display, letting it cheer her up for the first time in days.

“I’m going to go find Catra.” Adora said. “I think it’s about time I was with her.”

Kyle and Rogelio didn’t say anything as she left, too distracted by each other.


“Like the tides, the moons have a pull on Etheria’s magic.” Castaspella explained as she guided Catra through Mystacor’s many halls. “That’s why tattoos are traditionally applied in the evening, under the shadow of both the day and night moons.”

Catra tried not to let her attention drift as Castaspella talked – after all, the woman was about to tattoo her, the least she could do was pay attention – but Mystacor made that nearly impossible.

Every way she turned, some kind of magic was being cast, and she wanted to stay and study it all.

“Is that why so many people are casting spells now? Everything seemed so much quieter during the day.”

“Well observed.” Castaspella commented as she led them into an ornate but bare room. “In fact, I’m supposed to be leading the Lunar Lens Ceremony right now, but I asked Rituella to take my place. A sorcerer’s first tattoo is far more important.”

Privately, Catra doubted it, but she didn’t say anything. She wanted this, and she wasn’t about to try and talk Castaspella out of it.

Instead, she looked around the room. It was circular, with a stone table in the centre big enough for her to lay on. Beside it was a smaller table, which held a couple of what Catra assumed were tools used in the tattooing process. A privacy screen was pushed against a wall on the opposite side of the room.

“Okay, just wait here a moment.” Castaspella directed as she stepped behind the screen.

Left on her own, Catra realised the room didn’t have any lights, magical or otherwise. Instead, a large skylight was built into the ceiling, the intricate shaping of its glass seeming to direct both the day and night moons’ light into a beam concentrated enough to light the table.

“Let’s get started, shall we?” Castaspella said as she stepped out from behind the screen. She’d changed out of her previous dress into a sleeveless white one which showed off the runes of her arm.

As she got closer, Catra realised it wasn’t a simple white dress. It appeared to have runes sewn into the fabric, forming a complex tapestry that was practically invisible from a distance.

“This,” Castaspella continued, holding up a bottle from the smaller table, “is the ink we’ll be using.”

Catra took the bottle and looked inside. Little flecks of stardust floated in ink as black as night, swirling gently in the otherwise still liquid.

“Wow.”

“Impressive, isn’t it.” Castaspella agreed, taking the bottle back, replacing it on the table and taking the other item.

“And this,” she said, handing it to Catra, “is the needle.”

The needle was a magnificent work of art in its own right. It was weighty like stone or steel, but its colour suggested it was made of wood or bone. Patterns of runes formed spirals from the tip to the base, glowing a faint blue that reflected off Catra’s claws.

“Needless to say, but there’s too many runes to go into all of them in specifics, but each spiral concerns an aspect of the process.”

Castaspella pointed to the first spiral.

“This one relates to hygiene and ensures the healing process will be quick and painless.”

She pointed out another.

“This one concerns the application of the ink and its permanence, so you don’t need to worry about it fading.”

She pointed out the last of the three major spirals.

“And this one helps with control, keeping the needle steady and helping guide it through the runes as I apply them.”

Taking the needle back from Catra, Castaspella continued.

“Have you considered where you’d like the tattoo?”

Catra had not.

“Maybe on my back somewhere? I hadn’t thought about it, do you have any suggestions?”

Castaspella nodded.

“The back is a good choice, although this particular rune is hardly big enough to take up the whole back. Perhaps near the base of your neck, between the shoulder blades?”

Catra nodded.

It sounded just as good as anywhere else.

“Wonderful!” In that case, could you please take off your top and lie down on the table?”

Catra did as instructed as Castaspella busied herself double checking her tools. She wiped down the needle with a cloth Catra hadn’t noticed earlier.

“Are you ready Catra?”

“I am.”

And so Castaspella started her work.

She wiped down Catra’s back with the same cloth she’d used on the needle, who could feel the tingle of magic as it glided over her fur.

Apparently satisfied that Catra’s back was ready, Castaspella put down the cloth and picked up the needle.

“I’m starting with the needle now.” She warned. “The enchantments mean it shouldn’t hurt a bit.”

“Go ahead.” Catra replied, trying her hardest not to move.

At first, Catra thought Castaspella must have changed her mind and gone back to the loth, because it felt practically the same – a cool tingle between her shoulder blades.

It wasn’t until a couple minutes later when Castaspella wiped the needle off on the cloth that she noticed the change had indeed been made.

“I always appreciate a chance to teach.” Castaspella said a few minutes in. “But you didn’t need to pretend not to know about runic tattoos.”

Catra scrunched her eyebrows.

“I wasn’t pretending.”

One of the runes on the needle must have had a calming effect, because even the implication of an accusation by a teacher brought up bad memories, yet she didn’t feel panicked at all.

It was Castaspella’s turn to be confused.

“But what about the ones you already have?”

“What…”

Right.

Her birthmarks.

Or scars.

Or apparently, tattoos.

“That’s a tattoo? Adora noticed its similarity to runes a while ago, but it didn’t do anything when I tried casting it.”

“Huh.” Castaspella murmured as she finished the one she was applying as fast as she safely could.

She wiped the needle and Catra’s new tattoo one last time before setting her tools aside.

“Do you mind if I take a closer look?”

“Please.”

Castaspella pushed aside Catra’s fur to get a closer look at the mystery tattoo.

She gasped.

“What, what’s wrong?” Catra asked.

“This tattoo wasn’t drawn on you. It…”

Castaspella had to stop herself from heaving.

“It was carved into you.”

Catra could hear Castaspella give a faint sob as she delivered the news.

She just felt numb.

Of course, Shadow Weaver had carved some sick spell into her skin.

Of course she had.

“What… what’s the spell?” She asked, unsure if she even wanted to hear the answer.

Castaspella took a deep breath and calmed herself.

“Of course…” She said as she continued to follow the pattern of the rune through Catra’s fur.

“It was a block.” She answered. “Tell me, when you cast your first spell, did you feel a burning sensation through your body?”

“How did you know?”

“That was your magic burning through the rune and restoring its connection to Etheria. Normally, you’d need another sorcerer’s help and potentially years of magical therapy, but this rune…”

Castaspella narrowed her eyes.

“There’s more than one rune here.”

“What do you mean?” Catra asked. “What’s the second one?”

“It’s hard to tell.” Castaspella replied, once again peering through Catra’s fur. “It’s done properly – with ink – so it’s harder to find through your fur.”

“In fact, I think the block was – carved – directly on top of it.”

Castaspella shuddered again at the thought of someone who could do something so cruel to a child.

“Wait…” She muttered as she traced the older tattoo. “I recognise this one…”

She gasped, her hands flying to her mouth as she stumbled into the smaller table.

“I… I gave you this tattoo.”

She stumbled forward and held Catra in her arms.

Cyt’yra… you’re alive.”

Chapter Text

Adora was lost.

She’d left Kyle and Rogelio to each other and tried to retrace her steps back to where she’d last seen Catra. It hadn’t been too hard to follow the beach back around to where Catra and Castaspella had split off from the rest of them, but of course the two couldn’t study magic on a cliff and they’d gone off to who knows where.

She’d done her best to follow Mystacor’s various signs and maps to figure where they must have gone, but it hadn’t helped when she didn’t actually know where she was meant to go.

What was the difference between a “Training Field” and a “Practise Field”?

Eventually she’d given up doing it alone and tried to go back to the beach, where hopefully Glimmer would be able to take her where she wanted to go.

Unfortunately, in her search for Catra, she’d also lost her way back to the beach.

So, she wandered the hall of Mystacor, calling out to Catra, Glimmer, Bow, anyone she thought might be able to hear her, and getting shushed by irate sorcerers poking their heads out of classrooms full of people she wasn’t looking for.

Eventually, her search lead her down a long, dark corridor, flanked on either side by larger than life stone statues.

She hadn’t been spending long in any of the other halls and rooms she’d been through, but something about the statues made her stop. There was an energy in this room – a discordant voice in the choir of Mystacor’s magic.

It pulsed from a statue near the far end of the left wall. A large burn marred the statue’s face, but Adora recognised it all the same.

Shadow Weaver.

Or, as the plaque on the statue’s plinth called her, Light Spinner.

Adora knew that Shadow Weaver had been a figure at Mystacor in the past – it wasn’t like it had been hidden from her or anything, it was part of why Mystacor’s protections were so important after all – but knowing it and being confronted with it were two very different things.

As she got closer, the energy began to coalesce into indistinct whispers. It was impossible to tell what they were saying, but she found herself drawn to it all the same.

Maybe she could stop it.

She felt She-ra panic inside her as she reached out to the statue’s plinth, urging her not to touch it.

She hesitated.

Maybe She-ra was right. Maybe touching it was a bad idea.

It felt like an evil presence, whatever it was, but maybe leaving it alone was the wiser course of action.

But, as if in response to her hesitant thoughts, the murmurs grew louder and louder, like they wanted to drown out the dissenting voice.

“Oh Adora, is this who makes your choices now? Is this why you left me?”

Adora staggered as the words pierced her.

How dare the murmurs imply that.

Of every choice she’d ever made, that was the one she was most sure of, the most dedicated too.

The person she was most dedicated to.

To imply that She-ra was the only reason she left the Horde, that she hadn’t even made that choice herself…

Adora roared.

She had made up her mind. These murmurs were going to go.

She gathered every bit of strength she could muster and drove the Sword of Protection into the statue and whatever remnant of Shadow Weaver existed inside it.

The sword touched the stone, and everything went black.


“Cyt’yra… you’re alive.”

Cyt’yra.

The name hung over her like a threat, but Castaspella’s arms around her felt like anything but.

“What… what do you mean?” She gasped out as the shock rolled through her body.

Castaspella could barely speak through her own tears.

“You… you’re Cyt’yra. You’re my niece – my family.”

Family.

“I… We thought you died when Micah and C’yra… when your parents…”

“But how?” Catra stammered. “How could I be… how could you know?”

“Your tattoo.” Castaspella breathed as she traced over it once more, entranced. “It’s the Halfmoon royal seal. C’yra asked me to give it to you when you were just a kitten.”

Catra could barely breath, air just kept getting could in her throat.

“This… this is real?”

Catra could feel Castaspella’s eyes water against her fur.

“This is real. You’re here… you’re alive.”

Catra lost herself in an ocean of consciousness as a thought came crashing into her like a wave.

“So, I’m Glimmer’s… Angella’s my…”

She felt Castaspella jump against her.

“Of course! We need to tell them!”

She gathered Catra’s top and handed it to her.

“Let’s find Glimmer – find our family.”


Glimmer felt the Grotto’s relaxing steam wash over her as she slowly blinked awake. She was lying in the warm water, satisfactorily pruned, and feeling more refreshed than she could remember being.

Beside her, Bow yawned and stretched, disturbed from his own rest by her subtle movements.

As they slowly woke, Glimmer noticed something was missing.

Or rather, someone.

“Where’s Adora?”

Bow looked around and shrugged.

“Not here.” He confirmed.

“You don’t think something happened, do you?” Glimmer asked, panic slipping into her voice.

“Mystacor’s protections wouldn’t let that happen, would they?” Bow replied as they got out of the water.

“But what if they did?” Glimmer asked. “And after we ignored all her concerns…”

“Come on,” Bow said, getting dressed. “Let’s go find her, just in case.”

He was good at hiding it for her sake, but Glimmer could tell from the tremble of his lip that he was just as worried.

“Adora?” They called out over the beach, leaving the Grotto.

They wandered up the beach, following footprints that might have been hers, calling her name over the wind.

As if in response, a growl carried over the wind.

“Is everything okay?”

Bow and Glimmer turned to find Kyle and Rogelio jogging to catch up with them.

“We heard you calling Adora’s name.” Kyle translated Rogelio’s signing.

“Adora disappeared from the Steam Grotto, and we don’t know where she is.” Glimmer explained.

“She probably just wandered off.” Bow added, although it sounded more like he was trying to reassure himself than anyone else. “We were following these footprints; we think they’re hers.”

Rogelio nodded with a grunt.

“That would make sense.” Kyle agreed. “That’s the direction she went after stopping to talk to us.”

Rogelio signed something in response.

“That’s true, Darling, it was more like we had to stop her.”

“You’ve seen her?” Glimmer confirmed.

“Was she okay?” Bow asked.

Rogelio gave him a confused shrug in response.

“Physically, yeah.” Kyle elaborated. “But she seemed really stressed and anxious – more than usual – although she did seem a bit better after our talk.”

Rogelio chortled and slung an arm around his boyfriend’s shoulder.

“Shush you.” Kyle nudged him back.

“So, uh…” Glimmer interrupted, cheeks as pink as her hair, “where did she go?”

“She decided to go watch Catra’s magic lesson.” Kyle said, turning away from his boyfriend briefly to answer. “I assume you know where that would be?”

Glimmer nodded.

“I’ve got a good guess.”

Bow looked up and took note of the darkening sky.

“It’s starting to get late; do you guys want to come with us?”

Rogelio nodded and the three boys followed Glimmer though Mystacor.

 “With the day moons setting and the night moon rising, I figure they’ve got to be in one of the Evening Shadow chambers, and they’re all in this direction.” She explained as she guided them through the halls and grounds of the floating citadel.

“Look at you, knowing all this magic stuff.” Bow teased, nudging his best friend.

“Only because Aunt Casta won’t stop trying to teach me…”

“Did I just hear my Glimmer?”

The four rounded a corner and almost ran headfirst into Catra and Castaspella, looking quite fraught themselves.

“Catra! Aunt Casta! You guys haven’t happened to see Adora have you? We were looking for her and thought she might be with you.”

“Huh?” Catra responded, her head twitching. “Why would she be with us?”

“She said she was going to watch your lessons,” Kyle explained.

 “I’m afraid she never showed up.” Castaspella said.

“Dummy probably got lost on her way.” Catra laughed it off, but a change in her eyes made Glimmer doubt the sincerity of her reaction.

Castaspella’s lips grew thin as she contemplated.

“Bow, could you take…”

“Kyle and Rogelio.” Kyle reminded her.

“Right, Kyle and Rogelio – my apologies – to find Adora, while Catra and I have a talk with Glimmer.”

“Shouldn’t I be looking for Adora with the others?” Glimmer argued. “I know Mystacor…”

“Sparkl – Glimmer, please.” Catra’s voice cracked on the nickname.

Glimmer’s blood ran cold.

What could be so important it would make Catra of all people rank it over finding Adora?

“Okay.”


When Adora’s vision returned – only moments after touching the statue – it was like she was watching everything through a dirty window.

Distorted lines of red energy had begun to run up Light Spinner’s charred statue, swirling into far more complex shapes than she’d ever seen in Catra’s runes.

“Huh.”

She tried to comment on it, but she was talking underwater, her voice warbled beyond recognition.

Her heart fell as her body started moving on its own and she realised what had happened, what she’d done.

She tried to scream, to cry, anything, but all that came out was a distorted sob.

“Come now Adora. We both know you’d come crawling back to me in the end.” Her own voice taunted her.

No no no no no.

Anything but this.

Anyone but her.

“Now, how does this thing work, I wonder?” Shadow Weaver asked, holding the Sword in front of Adora’s body.

A chill ran through Adora’s consciousness, like ice down her back.

She mustered ever last ounce of will and control she could, to throw the Sword away, to get it out of Shadow Weaver’s – her – hands, but she couldn’t make it so much as wobble.

“Now, now Adora, we both know who’s in control here.” Shadow Weaver chided.

Despite Adora’s efforts, Shadow Weaver raised the Sword above her head and transformed in a wave of crimson light.

She kept trying to stop Shadow Weaver – or at least slow her down – but the sorcerer had clearly grown tired of responding and ignored her, marching She-ra through the halls of Mystacor with a strict efficiency that would make onlookers think she’d never left.

Eventually, despite Adora’s protests, they arrived in a large room, hidden deep within Mystacor’s winding passages.

A large pink crystal dominated the centre of the room, faint blue runes barely visible on its surface. Similarly pale runes covered the walls.

Even Adora, trapped within her own mind, could feel the magic emanating from the room.

Clearly at her destination, Adora expected Shadow Weaver to use her to cast a spell, or break the crystal – anything.

But she just sat and waited.


Castaspella sat down and motioned for the girls – her nieces – to join her.

“Glimmer, I…”

“Sparkles…”

Castaspella and Catra both started and stopped, neither sure how to break the news.

As it turned out, neither Mystacor nor the Horde has classes for revealing that someone’s long dead sister was actually alive and right in front of them.

“Well?” Glimmer asked. “What’s going on?”

“Glimmer, I was doing Catra’s tattoos and… she has it.”

“It?”

“The… the Halfmoon royal seal. Catra, she’s…”

“I’m Cyt’yra.”

It was like all the air had been sucked out of Glimmer’s lungs.

“You… you’re joking.” Glimmer gasped as she felt her eyes start to water. “You have to be joking…”

Catra shook her head, unable to form the words she needed.

“Never.” Castaspella breathed.

The clatter of her chair hitting the floor echoed through the room as Glimmer leapt out of it and wrapped Catra in the tightest hug of her life.

“We have some catching up to do.” Glimmer managed to whisper through her tears.

“Yeah, yeah we do.”

Castaspella watched the sisters’ reunion and had to stop herself from joining their hug.

“As much as I want to be here with you two for that, Angella needs to know about this.”

“You’re going to get her?” Glimmer asked, finally letting go of Catra.

Castaspella nodded.

“It’s the fastest way, and even if we’ve had our differences in the past, I couldn’t keep this from her longer than absolutely necessary.”

“What about Shadow Weaver?” Catra asked. “If you’re gone, couldn’t she attack?”

Castaspella shook her head.

“I don’t need to be here to power Mystacor’s barriers, only to defend them, and you’ll be surrounded by powerful sorcerers able to do that the entire time I’m gone.”

“Okay.” Catra acknowledged, trusting her aunt – her aunt – to know what she was doing.

She gave each of them a quick hug.

“Okay girls, I love you both. I’ll be back with your mother soon.”

Her mother.


It was peaceful, in a way, waiting in the crystal chamber, and it made Adora hate it all the more.

Beams of moonlight drifted slowly across the floor, filtered down from a room above by a trio of crystalline lenses.

She was trapped in a cage that would even let her pace and it made her want to pounce on the beams like Catra – if just to prove she could.

“What are you waiting for?” She asked through her warbled and distorted voice.

She didn’t get an answer.

Even if she had, Adora doubted she’d have been able to do anything with the information. She just wanted something to distract herself from..

Well, everything really.

The light in the room shifted further. The three beams of moonlight had converged into one, shining directly into the crystal that dominated the centre of the room. The light scattered out from it like a disco ball, bathing the pale runes that covered the wall in light.

She didn’t have time to enjoy the spectacle before she felt her body jerk her up.

“Now child, time to prove your loyalty.”

Shadow Weaver’s voice scraped across her like nails on a chalkboard as she was pulled by her sword and forced to watch herself hack at the crystal with all the elegance of a Horde tank.

Bit by bit the crystal fractured against the Sword of Protection until Shadow Weaver brought Adora’s arms down in a massive overhead swing that shattered it into a million tiny pieces, manipulating her like a puppet on a string.

For a moment there was nothing, just the tinkling of the crystal fragments raining on the stone floor.

And then, everything.

The crystal’s magic coalesced into a pulsing ball of pure white energy before exploding in a shockwave that sent her flying into the wall.


“What was that?” Kyle asked as he, Bow, and Rogelio were staggered by the shockwave.

“I don’t know,” Bow replied, “but what’s the bet Adora’s involved?”

The boyfriends shared a quick glance and nodded.

The trio ran, following the destruction caused by the shockwave as best they could, running deeper and deeper into the bowels of Mystacor, down staircases and through passageways Bow was sure he’d never seen before in all his visits with Glimmer.

They eventually rounded a corner into a pitch-black hallway, its magical lights presumably disabled by the shockwave’s energy.

Bow slowed on instinct, and Kyle and Rogelio followed suit. Something felt wrong about this hallway, and Bow didn’t like it one bit.

Their suspicions were confirmed when a faint blue light illuminated the far end of the hall.

Bow squinted.

“Is that…”

She-ra charged before he could finish his sentence.

The trio scattered, barely managing to avoid her blade.

“If it isn’t the Rebellion’s finest.” Shadow Weaver’s grating voice came out of She-ra’s mouth, unsettling calm for a woman who had just charged into battle.

“Adora?” Bow asked. “What’s going on?”

“Oh, Adora’s not here right now, but I can take a message.”

Shadow Weaver swung She-ra’s arm but Bow managed to deflect it with the metal of his bow.

“Move,” Shadow Weaver told him, her voice quickly growing curt, “or I will move you.”

“Not until you let Adora go.” Bow denied her as Kyle and Rogelio formed around him.

Shadow Weaver turned her attention to the former Horde soldiers.

“I can’t say I’m surprised you defected.” She chided Kyle. “It was only a matter of time really, a useless little thing like you.”

She sighed.

“But I must say I’m disappointed by your betrayal, Rogelio. You could have been something great with me, not just Kyle’s minder.”

Rogelio dropped into a fighting stance as he gave the most fearsome growl his boyfriend has ever heard him make.

“Shame, that.”

She-ra attacked.


Magic rippled through the air as Castaspella disappeared.

Catra felt it echo around the room and decided that it must have been what was causing the strange energy in the air between her and Glimmer.

What was there to say?

What could she say?

“I can’t believe I have a family.” She said eventually, breaking the silence.

“I can’t believe my sister’s alive.”

The silence settled once more, but slightly more comfortable than the last.

“You know,” Glimmer broke the new silence, “when I was little, I had a list of things I’d ask my sister if she were alive.”

Catra chuckled.

“I guess its time to get started.”

“I guess so.”

Glimmer paused and tried to remember what had been on that list.

“What’s your favourite colour?”

Catra snorted.

“We discover we’re long-lost sisters and that’s your first question?”

“Just shut up and answer it.”

Catra hadn’t really thought about it before, but the answer came easily.

“Blue.”

“Like Adora’s eyes?”

Glimmer saw right through her.

“Shut up.” Catra replied, hoping her fur hid her blush.

“You know, I always wanted to ask my sister about help with Bow, but now I just want to ask about that instead.” Glimmer decided. “How did you guys get together?”

Catra took the chance to look around the room Castaspella had pulled them into as she avoided Glimmer’s eyes. It was a small room with a table and whiteboard – maybe sorcerers came here to study?

It was pretty quiet after all, even with the door left open.

Glimmer tapped her foot on the floor.

“Well?”

“It was so long ago; I don’t actually remember meeting her.” Catra eventually replied. “We’ve been friends as long as I’ve known.”

Glimmer rolled her eyes.

“That’s not what I meant. How did you start dating? When?”

Catra sighed.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Look, I want to be with Adora, and I think she wants to be with me, but…”

“You think?” Glimmer interrupted her. “You sleep in the same bed, and she spent all the time we were at Dryl thinking you were on a date! You’re telling me you’re not even together!?”

“We didn’t have the language to talk about it in the Horde,” she replied, “and I want to do something about it now, but everything is just so much more since we left.”

Glimmer shook her head.

“I always imagined I’d be going to my cool older sister for advice, but maybe I should give you some – even if it wasn’t on my list.”

Catra chuckled as she felt some of the tension leave her system.

“Sure.”

“Just go for it.”

“Are you sure?” Catra asked, scepticism in her voice. “It’s been so long, it feels like it needs to be something big, something important…”

Catra paused, something caught in her throat.

“Something special.”

Glimmer sighed.

“Nothing’s ever really going to feel special enough, is it?” She pointed out. “You and Adora would both be happier if it just happened. That’s what will make it special>”

Catra glanced up at Glimmer then went back to avoiding eye contact.

“I’ll think about it.”

Glimmer rolled her eyes and tried not to think to hard about following her own advice.

“You know,” Catra said, looking back up at Glimmer. “I could get used to having a sister.”

“Good.” Glimmer replied, shoving her. “Because you’re stuck with me.”


Bow leapt back with the elegance of a dancer as She-ra swung at him.

He drew his bow and aimed an arrow at the princess’s face.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Shadow Weaver taunted. “You wouldn’t want to hurt Adora, would you?”

Bow’s arrow wavered as he realised what she was saying.

Luckily, the Horde’s brutal training had left Rogelio with no such qualms, and he grappled She-ra from behind.

He growled as they wrestled, which Kyle quickly translated for Bow’s benefit.

“We don’t have to kill her, just stop her. Adora will be fine.”

His resolve strengthened, Bow reached into his quiver and pulled out a trick arrow, which he tossed to Kyle.

“Can you use this?”

The arrow unfolded in Kyle’s grip and transformed into a small dagger.

She-ra broke out of Rogelio’s grip with a swing of the sword which caught the large lizard man in the arm.

“I’ll make do.” Kyle replied as he used it to – mostly – parry a swing of She-ra’s sword.

And so, they fought. She-ra slowly pushed them back down the corridors, forced to back up to avoid the Sword of Protection’s large and dangerous swings.

She’d occasionally be slowed by one of Bow’s trick arrows or a lucky blow from Rogelio before he was forced back, but it was never for long. She-ra would charge at them, blade hungry, and they’d be pushed back yet again.

It was like she was herding cattle.

Bow just counted himself lucky that she didn’t seem particularly interested in killing them, because they were barely holding their own as it was.

By time she’d forced them back to an area of Mystacor Bow recognised – somewhere close to the lunar lens chamber – all three of them were nursing injuries.

“You know,” Shadow Weaver said, her chilling voice leaving She-ra’s mouth for the first time since she’d attacked them, “this would be much easier if you’d just stepped aside.”

“Not as long as you’ve got our friend.” Bow replied, struggling to aim another arrow at She-ra, his earlier reservations lost entirely to her onslaught.

The arrow flew wide.

“Pity that.” She said, forcing her way through the injured trio and stepping into the lunar lens chamber.

The crystals that normally decorated the room had been scattered by the large crystal’s destruction – the remnants of which were faintly visible through three windows in the floor.

The sorcerers responsible for the ceremony were in a state of disarray, confounded by the unprecedented explosion during what was meant to be a reasonably routine ritual.

Judging that the sorcerers were too shocked to be a concern, She-ra strode to the combined beam of the three moons’ light.

Panting, Bow, Kyle, and Rogelio burst into the chamber, just in time to see She-ra reach to the heavens and absorb the moonlight.

Bow reached for his last arrow and fired.

It sailed straight and true.

Only to be struck down by a bolt of raw magic.

She-ra didn’t even turn around.

Finally, She—ra collapsed, as a shadowy wraith escaped her body. Bow could have sworn it smirked as a body formed around it, face hidden by a crimson mask.

Shadows erupted from the figure, enveloping Adora and itself.

The shadows faded and Bow collapsed as he stared into the void that had formed in their place.

Adora was gone.

Chapter Text

“Do you remember Dad at all?”

Glimmer’s voice broke the silence that formed between the newfound sisters.

Catra shook her head.

She wished she did – she’d wished for pre-Horde memories long before the idea of a post-Horde life could have even been a possibility. But every time she’d wished for it, whenever she reached deep inside herself for some fragment of a lost memory, all she found was longing.

Longing and a headache.

“It’s just…”

The door to the study room the girls shared clattered open, cutting off Glimmer trying to justify her question.

Bow, Kyle, and Rogelio burst into the room, shaky and out of breath.

“Where’s Castaspella?”

The desperation was clear on Bow’s face.

“It’s an emergency.” Rogelio signed, managing to keep clear signs despite his jerky movements.

“She had to go to Brightmoon.” Glimmer answered. “What happened?”

“Adora…”

“Shadow Weaver…”

Barely sparing Glimmer or anyone else a glance, Catra leapt out of her chair and bounded down the corridor.

“Take me there!” She barked at Kyle over her shoulder as she ran.

Kyle did his best to catch up with the panicked magicat as everyone else followed behind.

“Is anyone going to actually tell me what’s going on?” Glimmer demanded as they sprinted through the hallways.

“She-ra attacked us.” Bow replied through heavy breaths. “We think Shadow Weaver managed to disable Mystacor’s defences and possess Adora.”

“Shit.” Glimmer muttered. “Please tell me you’re joking.”

Bow didn’t say anything, but one look at his face told her everything she didn’t want to hear.

Eventually, Glimmer realised they must be being led to the Lunar Lens chamber, right before they turned a corner, and it came into view.

Or rather, it should have come into view.

Where the door to the chamber should have been was instead an empty black void.

“What is this?” Catra asked.

“We don’t know.” Bow told her. “But we can’t get past it.”

“It hurts to touch.” Rogellio winced.

“What if…”

Catra tuned out the others as Bow and Glimmer started trying to devise a way around the wall.

This magic was more than familiar.

She touched a claw to the void. Pain seared through her body in the way it had so many times before.

But this time she was ready for it.

It was like Shadow Weaver’s magic was trying to hunt down her own and destroy it. The pain circled around her back, trying to sink itself into the scars the woman had carved into her back.

Thinking quickly, Catra drew a rune in the air – the first one she could think of, it didn’t matter which – and focused herself on the hostile magic, channelling it into the rune like it was her own and expelling from her body.

Luckily, the rest of the group managed to dodge the fearsome looking laser that shot of the rune.

The pain mostly gone, Catra took a deep breath and stepped into the void.


Adora’s limbs buzzed like static as blood started to trickle back through her veins. Her mouth was dry and gritty – she must have chipped a tooth when Shadow Weaver dropped her body.

She couldn’t help but groan as she tried to pick herself up off the floor – even when she was back in control of her own body it barely listened to her.

She was still in the ritual chamber, Adora noticed as she got a grasp of her surroundings. Shadow Weaver had erected some kind of shadow barrier around them, cutting off the outside world and trapping the moonbeams in with her.

The moonbeams and Adora.

Shadow Weaver herself was standing above Adora – not quite corporeal – conducting the moon’s light into her ghostly form.

“It didn’t have to be like this, you know.” Shadow Weaver said casually, making no other sign that she’d notice Adora was awake. “If you’d just played your part, we could have all been happy in the Horde.”

“My part?” Adora repeated as she forced herself to her feet. “You mean your enforcer? Your pawn?”

“You make it sound so bad. Don’t you miss the simplicity, Adora? The order?”

And in that moment, she did.

She’d been raised in the Horde’s idea of an orderly society – almost raised by it to some sense – and when she looked back on those years, she couldn’t help but smile.

But she’d seen life outside that. That peaceful halls of Brightmoon, the vibrant forests of Plumeria, the powerful waves of Salineas.

And sometimes it was messy. It wasn’t always simple when your every minute hadn’t been planned out by your superiors.

But even then, it wasn’t the simplicity that made her smile when she looked back at the Horde, nor the so-called order. It was her squad, her friends.

It was Catra.

“Your idea of an orderly world is just one where you get to go unquestioned, unchallenged.”

The Sword of Protection was in Adora’s hand. She didn’t know how it got there, but in that moment, she didn’t question it – she just pointed it as Shadow Weaver’s throat.

“The princesses just want what’s best for Etheria – you just want power for yourself, and you disgust me.”

Shadow Weaver snarled and suddenly her incorporeal form seemed much more real.

“You ungrateful child, I made you what you are today!”

“No,” Adora glared. “You made me broken. You made everything I hate about myself.”

“You dare be so insolent with me, Child?” Shadow Weaver lashed out, firing a blast of magical energy that knocked Adora back to the ground.

“No matter.” She hissed. “Soon this will be nothing more than a bad dream.”


It was the smell that gave it away, even before Catra opened her eyes.

It wasn’t a smell she knew. It wasn’t the smog of the Fright Zone, or the crisp air of a Brightmoon night.

She didn’t know what it was, but it smelled like home.

She opened her eyes.

She was looking into a mirror.

A small, fuzzy mirror with mismatched eyes.

A distant explosion rocked the bedroom they were standing in, sending the young Cyt’yra scampering between the other two figures in the room, a pair Catra only recognised from pictures.

A stocky man with a clean black beard stood beside a tall, slender magicat woman, each with a hand on one of Cyt’yra’s shoulders.

“Mom? Dad?”

Catra’s voice cracked, but her parents didn’t acknowledge her.

Another far-off explosion rattled the room.

C’yra turned to Micah.

“My people, they…”

Micah kissed her.

“I know Precious. I’ll keep Cyt’yra safe, go help your people.”

“I love you.” She knelt down to look Cyt’yra in the eyes. “I’ll be back soon kitten, I love you.”

C’yra placed a gentle kiss on Cyt’yra’s forehead and ran out of the room, grabbing an ornate staff as she left.

Catra was tracing where the kiss that been left when she heard a scream outside.

“You!” C’yra’s now unforgettable voice cried out before something thumped to the floor outside.

Eyes wide, Micah leapt in front of Cyt’yra and drew a rune in the air faster than Catra could blink.

“Tut tut tut.” Shadow Weaver chided, stepping out of the shadows behind Micah. “Always so predictable.”

Micah growled.

“Get away from my daughter!”

“Oh, relax Micah, I’m just here to make you an offer.”

“An offer? Is that what the soldiers are for? The cannons? Is that what you offered my wife?”

Shadow Weaver scoffed.

“You wound me. C’yra will be fine – it’s certainly nothing a talented sorcerer such as yourself couldn’t handle.”

Micah redrew his rune.

“Well? Spit it out then.”

“Come with me – to the Fright Zone. We can dethrone Hordak and finally do what the Sorcerer’s Guild would never let us.”

“And how did that turn out last time?” Micah spat, blasting the rune at Shadow Weaver’s mask, shattering it, and burying fragments of the crystal mounted on it into the woman’s face.

“Oh, Micah.” She snarled, wiping blood from her face with one hand. “You never were very wise.”

She waved her hand, and the fragments of the Black Garnet tore out of her face and encircled Micah.

“What is this?” Fear slipped into Micah’s voice as his eyes tracked the shard. “What have you done?”

“Goodbye, Micah.”

The fragments collapsed into Micah, and suddenly he was gone.

“Such a waste.” Shadow Weaver muttered as her eyes settled on Cyt’yra.

She bent down to the young magicat.

“What’s your name?”

Cyt’yra looked up at the scarred woman, confusion in her eyes.

“I’m Cyt’yra. What did you do to my parents?”

Shadow Weaver ignored her for the first of a million times.

“Catra is it? Let’s hope you’re smarter than your father.”


Catra held back tears as the scene faded away, revealing a ghostly Shadow Weaver conducting some kind of ritual over Adora’s prone body.

“Catra!”

She wiped her eyes as they met Adora’s. They didn’t need words for Catra to know she was scared.

“And so, the stray comes wandering home.”

Shadow Weaver stared at Catra; her scarred face intermittently visible though her ethereal mask.

“You destroyed my home, stole me, and killed my parents,” Catra spat. “Fuck you and fuck your home.”

Shadow Weaver ignored her barbs.

“That fool Micah was my greatest student until he betrayed me. You should have been destined for greatness, for power.”

“Instead, you were weak, bratty, and insubordinate.”

Shadow Weaver sighed.

“It will be a shame to waste such raw potential, but to cultivate a garden, the weeds need to be pruned away.”

Adora was still somewhat dazed from Shadow Weaver’s spell – the talk of Catra’s family flew right over her head – but she recognised a threat when she heard one.

“Stay away from her!” She yelled as she rose to her feet, sword in hand.

“Don’t worry, Adora, soon you won’t remember her at all.”

That was more than enough for Adora, who swung the Sword at Shadow Weaver’s head.

Unfortunately, Shadow Weaver was ready for her. She caught the Sword in a rune and wrenched it from Adora’s grip, tossing it across the room.

With the same motion, Shadow Weaver froze Adora in a telekinetic grip that sent red lightning coursing through her body.

Adora tried to scream, but the grip froze her mouth shut.

“No!”

Catra pounced, claws drawn, but got caught in the same grip.

Shadow Weaver tutted.

“Surely I taught you both better than to attack a sorcerer under the moons’ beams.” She chided. “But it’s no matter. Soon, this body will be ready, you’ll both be put into your proper places, and everything will be as it was always meant to be.”

…a sorcerer in the moons’ beams…

As Catra writhed against the magical grip, that line stuck with her.

Shadow Weaver wasn’t the only sorcerer here.

She might be restrained, but she didn’t need to draw a rune to cast a spell, not anymore.

She thought back to Micah’s journal, the entry that had taught her as much in an afternoon as Shadow Weaver had in a lifetime.

Magic is all about channelling Etheria’s energies through yourself and into spells. Theoretically you don’t need anything to do so, but you’ll find drawing runes will help you direct that energy, and stardust will help you embrace your natural connection.

She’d been given a rune by Castaspella, and as Catra realised that those journal entries had been written for her, she’d never felt more connected to Etheria.

She opened herself to Etheria.

First was pain.

Opening herself up meant dropping whatever minor resistance she was making to Shadow Weaver’s assault, and the result was so much more intense. It hadn’t hurt like this since the first time.

But eventually – or maybe it was instantly – she reached beyond the pain.

She felt the gentle warmth of the moons’ glow on her fur, heard the chimes dancing in the gentle evening breeze.

But most of all, she felt Adora.

Her pain, her fear.

Her courage, her loyalty.

And there was something else there too, something she didn’t dare name.

She let it all – the pain, the pleasure, everything – flow through her into the tattoo, picturing what she wanted to happen in her mind, like it already had.

Catra released the magic, and the Sword of Protection flew across the room, colliding with Shadow Weaver’s more-and-more corporeal head. Her concentration broken, Catra and Adora dropped to the floor, where the sword landed in Catra’s hand.

“You aren’t the only sorcerer here.”

Shadow Weaver chuckled.

“Maybe I underestimated you.”

“You’ve been underestimating me my entire life.”

Catra swung the Sword and the room exploded into motion.

Shadow Weaver’s skin lit up like a Brightmoon light show as magic coursed though her many, many tattoos. With quick flicks of her hands, she sent the Sword flying out of Catra’s claws and fired a bolt of red lightning at Adora.

Already charging at the woman, Adora rolled out of the bolt’s way and reached out to the Sword, compelling it into her hand. She let the momentum of both the Sword and her dodge carry through into a smooth rolling strike.

While the blade didn’t seem to physically harm the witch, it did stagger her, so Adora had to assume it was doing something.

Catra and Adora shared a smirk.

They could work with something.

With Shadow Weaver staggered, Catra followed up with her claws, taking a swipe at the woman before bouncing back to give herself the space to cast a spell.

Before she could, Shadow Weaver recovered. She threw a blast of pure magic at Catra, who had to abandon her own rune to dodge.

But the attack left Shadow Weaver open to Adora, who took another swing with the Sword, causing an awful hiss to escape her ghostly form.

Adora went to follow up with another strike, but found the blade caught in a rune – which threw it from her grasp a moment later.

Almost without thinking, Adora switched into a defensive stance. She absorbed the worst of Shadow Weaver’s own follow up blast with her forearms, springy enough to keep on her feet after the barrage had ended.

Shadow Weaver’s attention turned away from her, Catra cast another spell, once again calling on her new tattoo to summon the Sword of Protection to her hand. Its weight was unusual in her hands, its crystalline blade was clearly balanced for someone much larger than her. But as its runestone pulsed in time with Adora’s breath, Catra knew she could work with it as well as she could work with the girl herself.

She swung at Shadow Weaver, her breath perfectly in time with Adora and the Sword’s. The woman howled as it connected, her attention turned back to Catra once again.

With her attention off Adora, Catra tossed the Sword back to its owner. Adora caught it without a word, just barely giving a nod to show she understood what Catra was thinking,

It was never a standard Horde tactic, but it was always the one the two were best at. Divide the enemy’s attention and hit them where it hurt.

Catra drew quick runes, firing off a dozen or so tiny lasers that burned holes in Shadow Weaver’s form, even if the holes only lasted for seconds before being reformed.

Shadow Weaver’s attention well and truly consumed by Catra, Adora finally had the chance to put on a proper offensive. She swung with the Sword again and again, building an irresistible rhythm as she rained down blows. Whenever Shadow Weaver would try to defend herself or disarm Adora, Catra peppered her with another volley of lasers, forcing the witch to focus more on maintaining her form than protecting herself or mounting a counter-offensive.

The Sword moved so fast it appeared to be more light than crystal. It glowed so bright it reflected in Adora’s eyes and Catra almost thought she’d turned into She-ra without her noticing.

As quickly as it had all started, it stopped.

With Shadow Weaver backed against her own shadow wall, Catra and Adora moved as one. Adora buried the Sword in Shadow Weaver’s chest as Catra cast a laser larger than any before to the same spot.

Time seemed to freeze around them.

“You’ll regret this.” Shadow Weaver hissed.

With one final gasping breath, Shadow Weaver’s form disappeared, the shadow wall shattering as the body faded.

The pair saw everybody else rush in, led by Angella and Castaspella as they collapsed into each other’s arms and the world faded away.


Catra didn’t know how long she was out before she woke up sharing an infirmary bed with Adora. Angella sat nearby, sipping on a cup of tea as she watched over the girls.

“What happened?” Catra asked, groaning slightly as she adjusted how she was laying in the bed.

“You both appear to be suffering from a severe case of exhaustion.” Angella replied. “Castaspella and I carried you here. We tried to put you in separate beds, but that seemed quite impossible.”

She nodded to Catra’s waist, where a still-sleeping Adora had wrapped her arms tight.

Catra didn’t say anything for a while, taking advantage of her first quiet moment in what felt like years – but had really only been a few hours – to process all that had happened.

“I… I saw what happened to Micah and C’yra.” Catra eventually broke the silence. “Does that mean… does that mean it’s true, what Castaspella said?”

“Yes, it’s true.” Angella nodded. “You were born as Cyt’yra, daughter of Micah and C’yra.”

Catra paused to watch the woman’s face.

“Did you know?”

Angella put down her tea as she considered her answer.

“I had my suspicions.” She admitted. “But I couldn’t put all of Glimmer and I’s hopes on you like that; it wouldn’t be fair.”

She sighed.

“I don’t think I could have borne it if I had told you and my suspicions turned out to be wrong.”

Catra considered the answer for a moment before asking a simple question.

“Does that make you my mother?”

“Only if you want it to. Glimmer and I have missed you everyday of our lives, and we’d welcome you home with open arms. But we know you don’t have those same memories, that same context, and I promise that we won’t think any less of you if that’s not what you want.”

“I..”

“I’d like that.”

Angella smiled and offered a hand to Catra.

“Then, daughter, shall we go home?”


Lonnie stood outside the Black Garnet chamber, her body coursing with nervous energy.

She and Scorpia had only been there for a few hours, but it felt like the longest posting she’d ever had. Every so often, noises would escape under the chamber door and leave Lonnie worried her warning had been in vain.

A blood curdling scream broke Lonnie out of her own head before the chamber fell dead quiet.

She shared a glance with Scorpia, and stepped into the chamber, one hand resting on the stun baton strapped to her waist.

The room was dark, even the ever-present wall monitors had been disabled by some kind of magical backlash.

Backlash that was still in the air. She could feel it crackle down her spine, an unwelcome reminder of the room’s inhabitant.

Shadow Weaver had collapsed into a bloody pile in the middle of the room, her ragged breathing the only sound breaking the rooms unnatural silence.

Maybe her warning wasn’t sent in vain after all.

She looked down at Shadow Weaver, at the mask that laid shattered on the floor. It was hard to believe this was the woman who had made her life hell, who’d seemed so untouchable only moments ago.

This was the woman who’d manipulated Adora, hurt Catra, kept Kyle and Rogelio apart.

The woman who’d forced her family apart.

She looked down.

The stun baton was in her hand, and the shock had been primed.

Lonnie breathed.

The baton fired.

Shadow Weaver stopped breathing.


In the week following the confrontation at Mystacor, the thing Adora found strangest was how little everything seemed to change.

Most of the additional security precautions that had been put in place had been removed, sure, but Brightmoon was still at war. There were still meetings, training drills, reports from the front lines.

But there were still bakeries and libraries too.

The biggest difference was the mood of the people around the palace. Catra, Angella, and Glimmer had been practically inseparable since they returned to Brightmoon, which Adora could hardly fault them for.

Bow had been extra friendly since they’d got back. At first she’d thought he’d just picked up on the infectious mood from the rest of the palace – which he probably had as well, it was hard not to – but that wasn’t the whole story. It turned out that Adora wasn’t the only one missing her best friend as they caught up on a lifetime of missed family experiences.

And Adora…

Adora was better than she’d ever been, even if she couldn’t spend as much time with Catra as she might have liked. Something inside her had changed, like she’d woken up without a headache for the first time in her life.

She’d first noticed it the morning after they returned to Brightmoon, and the timing wasn’t lost on her. Something had changed after their fight with Shadow Weaver, and it made Adora feel free.

Which was how Adora found herself standing amongst the parapets of Brightmoon Palace, staring out over the horizon, minutes before the day moon was due to rise.

“Shouldn’t you be training?”

Adora didn’t need to turn to see the teasing smirk on Catra’s lips.

“Didn’t feel like it.” Adora replied. “I wanted to watch the moonrise.”

“You know, I wouldn’t have minded waking up early for that.”

Catra’s smirk turned into a softer smile as she buried herself in Adora’s side, seeking shelter from the early morning breeze.

“I’ll keep that in mind next time.”

Adora’s arm found its way around Catra’s shoulders without a thought, pulling the girl in even closer.

The pair stood there for a few minutes, not saying anything, just watching the sky and enjoying the other’s presence.

“You know, I actually followed you out here to ask you something.” Catra admitted, stepping back so she could look Adora in the eyes. “Glimmer’s actually been joking about disowning me if I don’t do it soon.”

Catra laughed as she said it, so Adora assumed it was a joke she was in on.

If it wasn’t, Glimmer had a world of hurt coming her way.

“Of course.” Adora said, putting those thoughts aside. “You know you can ask me anything.”

Catra took a breath and took the plunge.

“There’s always been something between us, some thing we didn’t have a name for. I don’t want it to be like that anymore.”

“Adora, you’re so important to me, and I can’t imagine a life without you, so please…”

Adora kissed Catra as the moon rose over Brightmoon.