By the time Marlena managed to herd everyone into the dining hall, the servants had added two new place setting for Entrapta and Catra.
A long table, draped in a red tablecloth with an orange runner down the center, the plates shining yellow-gold in the place settings. Everything was a wash of warm colors. The room was almost too bright.
Entrapta had to lower her welding mask over her face until her eyes adjusted.
It seemed she wasn’t the only one. Skeletor and Evil-Lyn’s son, Skeleteen, did the same, lowering the skull designed face-plate of his own helmet down over his face. “Are those solid gold forks?”
“Leave them.” Skeletor commanded, placing an almost restraining hand on his son’s shoulder.
Skeletor, Randor, and Miro all went for the seat at the head of the table at the same time.
“Boys,” began Miro, looking from one of his sons to the other. “I do believe, as patriarch of this family, I should sit at the head of the table.”
“But this is my house!” Randor gestured vaguely at the palace around them. “My wife is hosting this dinner. I should sit at the head of the table!”
“Nuts to you both!” Skeletor snarled. “I’m the rightful King of Eternia, and this is the capital! I should sit at the head of the table. It’s my rightful place!”
“Now, hang on a minute, I distinctly remember naming Randor as the next King before I died.” Miro informed him. “Why don’t you go sit next to your lovely not-wife and your son, Keldor.”
“Don’t call me that!” Skeletor shouted, irrationally angry at the mere mention of his old name.
“You’re not dead, father.” Randor reminded Miro. “You’re standing right here. But, since you’re not King anymore, why don’t you go sit with your harem.”
Lady Asuka and former-Queen Nina seemed to be oblivious to the power struggle going on at the head of the table. Asuka pulled a chair out for Nina, and Nina brushed her hip against Asuka’s thigh as she sat down. The two women made unnecessarily intense eye-contact as Asuka took her seat next to Nina.
Still standing next to his mother, Skeleteen gave another amused chuckle. His phone in his hands, holding it up so that he could shoot a video of the three ‘Kings’ fighting over a seat at the dinner table. “This is gonna get me so many more followers!”
All three men looked up them froze. Neither one of them wanted to come off as the jerk in a video that might possibly go viral across the planet.
“Randor, just let your father sit at the head of the table!” Marlena commanded. “Think of Adora! Do you really want her first impression of her father to be that of a petty man who fights with his brother and his elderly father over a chair?”
Randor looked to Adora. She was standing between her brother and her girlfriend, looking more confused than anything else. Was this how things were done on Eternia? She sat in a wrong chair once. Sometimes, where a person sat at a table could be a deeply emotional and important nuance.
“Skeletor, come sit with us.” Evil-Lyn said between sips of her drink. Some kind of clear spirit. Vodka, or gin, or clear sake, one of the ones like that.
Begrudgingly, stifling a growl of frustration, Skeletor stomped back over to his family, pulled out a chair roughly, making a point to scrape the legs across the floor, and sat down.
Randor took the seat at Miro’s right hand, with Marlena on his other side, Adam next to her, Adora next to her twin, and Catra on Adora’s other side.
On the other side of the table was Skeletor, with Skeleteen sitting between him and Evil-Lyn. Entrapta sat on Evil-Lyn’s other side and then Hordak across from Catra.
Both Keldor’s mother, and Randor’s mother somehow managed to fit two chairs at the end of the table. Of course, they might have even been sharing one chair, as close together as they were sitting. They were practically in each other’s laps.
“So…” Adora began, unsure of what was supposed to happen now. She had never been to a ‘family dinner’ before.
Examining his place setting, Skeleteen picked up one of the forks, bent it in half, then back again so that it was mostly straight again. “It is solid gold!” He announced. “There are entire villages on the boarder of the Burning Sands that have to live off one crate of rice a day, and they’re here eating off solid gold plates with solid gold forks.”
Skeletor placed a hand over his son’s, forcing the younger man to lay the fork back down on the table. “Not right now.”
“Right.” Skeleteen nodded. “Not right now.”
He took his phone back out and started typing out… something.
“So, this is nice.” Marlena stretched her lips into something she hoped looked like a smile. She was sharing her table with Skeletor and sitting across the table from Skeletor’s spawn. She didn’t actually have much to smile about. “Why don’t we start the first course.”
She snapped her fingers and a door against the opposite side they entered from opened and a line of servants entered. They set solid gold bowl on top of the solid gold plates that were already at their place setting, then ladled warm hot soup into them.
For a brief moment, nobody moved. Unsure if they should start eating. Was it rude to just start eating? Did they wanna say a few words before the meal. Oy, was someone going to want to give a toast!? Was it gonna be a long one? How long were they gonna keep them waiting?
“Wine, too.” Miro said to the last servant before they disappeared back out of the dining room. “I want to make toast.”
Another servant came out with a flagon of wine, and a second with a flagon of juice for the younger diners at the table.
When everyone’s cup was filled, Miro raised his own. “I’m so happy to have the whole family together again under one roof.” He announced. “I haven’t celebrated this holiday in years-“ probably due to the fact that he was dead “-but I’m happy that the first holiday dinner I get to share is with my estranged son, Keldor,-“
“That’s not my name anymore.” Skeletor interrupted.
But Miro continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “…and with my granddaughter, Adora, whom we all thought was lost to us forever. Stand up, Adora, let us get a look at you.”
Feeling more awkward than she ever hand before in her life, Adora pushed back her chair and stood. She gave a hesitant little wave, and flashed the exact same smile she used back in the early days when she wasn’t yet comfortable telling people she was She-Ra and didn’t know how to handle the attention. “Hi… everybody…”
Miro nodded, satisfied, and Adora set back down quickly. Happy to have everyone’s attention back on the old man again instead of her. “This holiday we’re not just observing a feast, we’re also celebrating the return of one of our lost children. To Adora!”
Miro drank his wine.
“To Adora.” Echoed Randor, Marlena, Adam, and Catra.
No one on the opposite side of the table shared in the toast.
Skeleteen just started eating without waiting for permission.
So did Catra. “Hm! This is good!”
“It tastes like hot milk and unseasoned potatoes.” Skeleteen informed her, unimpressed.
It was a dairy based cream of potato soup. Not very well spiced. There was no garlic, or pepper, or even onion in it. But there was a lot of butter. Cream and butter, of course the cat-girl would like it.
“Adora, try some.” Catra offered a spoonful from her own bowl.
Adora cast an unsure glance at her parents. Were displays of affection and intimacy allowed at the dinner table? Then she cast a glance down at the opposite end of the table, where her grandmother and Uncle Skeletor’s mother were sharing one spoon.
Leaning in close to Catra, Adora ate the offered morsel off of Catra’s spoon. “It’s not bad. Very creamy.”
Watching this exchange, Marlena cleared her throat. “Ahm, so, Adora, how’d you and Catra meet?”
There was a pause in which both women hesitated.
They made quick eye-contact, then just as quickly looked away.
Then Adora announced, “Catra helped me save Etheria!”
While at the exact same time, Catra shouted, “We grew up together!”
Marlena blinked down the table at them, confused. Which was it? Did they grow up together? Were they childhood friends? Or did they only just meet recently when Catra helped Adora save Etheria from the Horde?
“I mean, we did grow up together.” Adora admitted. “But I didn’t realize I wanted to be with her, like, really be with her, until she helped me save Etheria. I really…” Adora took Catra’s hand in hers. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Well, isn’t that sweet.” Marlena smiled at them. “What a lovely romance.”
Adora and Catra exchanged another look. Both secretly agreeing not to let Adora’s mother know about the torrid power-struggle that was at many points outright violent, that was their relationship prior to saving Etheria. Marlena need never know.
“Were you another of Hordak’s wards?” Marlena continued to question, trying to get to know her daughter’s girlfriend as much as she was her daughter.
On the other side of the table, Hordak appeared to choke on his soup.
Entrapta rubbed his back with her hair, trying to sooth him.
“Actually, I had very little to do with raising any of the orphans in my care.” He announced. “That job was delegated to someone else.”
“Oh.” Marlena appeared confused. “I wasn’t aware. Should I have invited them…?”
“No!” Both Adora and Catra deadpanned at the same time.
“She was a b-“ Catra began.
But Adora cut her off. “She’s dead.”
“Oh.” This time it was a more somber ‘oh’. “I’m so sorry to hear that, girls. Were you close with them?”
Again, Catra and Adora exchanged a look.
“Sometimes…” Adora began, unsure of how she was going to actually answer the question, “…it felt like she lived in my head.”
“Oh, so they were a strong influence on you.” Marlena concluded.
“You could say that.” Adora agreed. That was a thing that could be said.
Everyone went back to their meal.
For a moment, the only sound in the dining room was the sound of spoons scraping over the bowls as everyone ate their soup.
Then Skeletor cleared his throat, leaning back to get a clear view of Hordak around all the people seated between them. “I can’t help but notice, Hordak, that you’re using a dish. Lucky for you, you don’t have to wash this one.”
“Very lucky.” Hordak set his spoon down and similarly leaned back to glare at Skeletor. “I would hate to be teleported into a shadow dimension over a petty domestic task.”
“It’s not petty!” Skeletor shouted down the table at him. “The pile of dishes in the sink was taller than me!”
“That is not very tall.” Hordak informed him.
“I’m taller than you’re new wife!” Skeletor snarled. “She- where did she go?”
Everyone peered down the table to see that Entrapta’s seat at the end was, indeed, empty. Everyone started looking around the room, trying to see where she had gone. No one even saw her get up. She didn’t make any sound either. It was like she just vanished.
Hordak, Catra, and Adora all looked up.
There was Entrapta.
Hanging from the chandelier and poised above Skeletor.
Following the other’s eyes, Skeletor looked up above him- -and nearly fell out of his chair. He scrambled out from under Enterapta. “What in all the hells!? Get away from me!”
“How are you eating?” Entrapta asked, not at all phased by his very clear hostility. “Where does the food go after it enters your mouth? You don’t have a throat for it to pass down. How does it reach your stomach from your floating skull? Actually, how does your floating skull stay with your body when you move around? I’d think your skull would just remain stationary while your body walks off without it.”
Skeletor turned back to Hordak. “Can you not control your woman?”
“One does not control Entrapta.” Hordak informed him. “You can either allow her to flourish, or else get out of her way.”
“How can I get her to leave me be so I can suffer through this meal in peace?” Skeletor demanded.
“Entrapta,” Hordak called to his lab partner, “I would feel much better about your own safety if you did not continue your examinations of Skeletor. He just might open up a portal and send you to a dimension where I cannot follow.”
“Oh.” Entrapta nodded, understanding something the others did not. “Don’t wanna mess around with portals again.”
Adora and Catra understood.
There was an odd tension in the air.
Marlena forced another hospitable smile on her face. “How about the next course?”
More servants entered to clear out the soup bowls and refill the wine of juice -or in Evil-Lyn’s case, whatever clear spirit she was drinking. Then another battery of servants brought in treys of grilled vegetables, mashed potatoes, cheesy macaroni, and bread pudding.
Marlena began portioning out the food. Asking each guest to pass her their plate so she could fill it from the serving treys. A real family style meal, like the common folk did.
Catra really liked the cheesy macaroni. Thick creamy cheese with yet more butter. She was so glad she invited herself along. Who knew they had such good food here on Eternia!
Adora was slightly less impressed. Everything served was easily just as good as anything she was fed while at the palace in Brightmoon.
Skeleteen, however, seemed visibly disappointed. He took a bite of the cheesy macaroni, thought it was no different than the soup. He tried a bite of the potatoes and realized they were literally just potatoes that had been boiled and then mashed, there was nothing added to them for flavor. The grilled vegetables were a similar story, aside from the bitterness of being vegetables, the only added flavor was the slight charring on either side.
He took his phone back out and began texting again.
“So, Keldor,” began Miro.
“That’s not my name.” Skeletor reminded him.
“That’s a pretty nasty scar you got there.” Miro continued as if Skeletor hadn’t interrupted.
“What scar?” Skeletor sounded so confused, if he still had eyes everyone was sure he would be blinking. “You mean my face? You mean how my face is missing? You mean how my whole head is just my bare skull being held up by dark magic and my own stubborn willpower? That ‘scar’. Is that what you’re referring to?”
“Yes.” Miro confirmed, deadpan, without inflection.
Skeletor sighed. “What about it?”
“Nothing.” Miro assured him.
“Do you wanna know how I got it?” Skeletor offered. “Or would that be taking too much of an interest in me for you?”
Skeleteen looked up from his phone. “Finally, some salt at this table!”
“Salt?” Miro glanced at everything laid out over the table. There was no saltshaker.
“It’s what the kids are saying these days.” Skeletor translated for his father. “It describes a person being upset, or ‘salty’. You see, father, unlike you, I actually take an interest in my son. Right, Malkyn?”
Skeleteen did not respond. He was, once again, typing on his phone.
“Malkyn!” Skeletor snapped.
“What!?” Skeleteen looked up again. “Yes, you’re a regular helicopter parent. Jeez! Just let me live-tweet his terrible dinner in peace!”
“Now listen here, Keldor, that’s unfair.” Miro argued. “I always took an interest in you boys.”
“No, you took an interest in Randor!” Skeletor snarled back. He had given up on trying to correct his father on his new name. “You spent quality time with Randor! You would play games with Randor! You never did any of that with me!”
“Well, you were just never interested in fun things.” Miro informed him. “You liked books, and magic, and word games, and puzzles. Ya know… nerd stuff. Randor liked to go outside and play contact sports.”
“That shouldn’t matter, I’m still your son!” Skeletor roared. “You shouldn’t have to force your child to bond with you on your terms! You have to adapt to your child!” He jabbed a finger at Skeleteen who was still tweeting on his phone and not paying attention. “You think I care about BTS, or SuperWhoLock, or dabbing? No! But I know about them because that’s what my son cares about!”
Well, it was a good thing Skeletor knew what those were, because no one else at the table had any idea what any of those things were. Dabbing? Never heard of her.
“I’m sorry, Keldor, I had no idea you felt that way.” Miro informed him, sounding truly remorseful. “After dinner do you wanna go outside and we can toss a ball around?”
“No! I do not want to toss a ball around!” Skeletor stood from his chair again. “Didn’t you hear a thing I just said? I’d wanna do a dramatic reading of the Caradhras scene from ‘Fellowship of the Ring’, where we each play a character.”
“Ugh. Nerd stuff.” Miro scoffed. “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
Skeletor grit his teeth, his hand closing over the golden fork of his place setting.
Moving quickly, more quickly than anyone would have expected since she’d been drinking, Evil-Lyn snapped up out of her seat and launched herself onto Skeletor only moments before he tried to make a lunge at Miro with the fork. Skeleteen dropped his phone on the table to help his mother pull his father back into his seat. Evil-Lyn pried the fork out of his hand.
“Not right now.” She hissed at him.
“Yeah, dad, not right now.” Skeleteen repeated.
Beginning a snarl, but halfway through having the sound morph into a sigh, Skeletor forced himself to relax and allowed his family to pull him back into his chair. “Not right now…”
There was a beat of silence.
Then Catra gave a laugh. “I gotta say, Adora, your family’s way more fun than I was expecting! Heck! Your uncle’s so dramatic, I bet DT would be jealous!”
Double Trouble wishes they could play a role as dramatic and hammed up as Skeletor.
Not knowing what to say to that, Adora just took another bite of potato and looked at her brother. Adam had been pretty quiet the whole meal so far.
Adam reached for Skeleteen’s phone, which had had thrown on the table in his haste to keep his father from stabbing his grandfather.
Seeing Adam’s hand reaching for it, Skeleteen snatched the device up before his cousin could touch it. “Get your own, cousin, you’re rich.” Skeleteen snapped at him. “Your parents own the planet!”
“I just wanted to see what you were posting.” Adam informed him.
“Worried I’m making you look bad?” Skeleteen taunted.
“No.” Adam assured him. That was not the reason why he wanted to get a look at Skeletor’s son’s phone.
“Who’s ready for the main course!” Marlena jumped up and practically shouted across the table.
A single servant wheeled in a cart with a large turkey on it. They were about to offer the carving knife to King Randor, then hesitated and offered the carving knife to Miro instead.
Randor opened his mouth to say something, but Marlena put a hand on his shoulder before he could get a word out. “I don’t want a repeat of the chair argument. Let your father carve.”
Randor shut his mouth without saying anything.
Miro cut into the turkey, slicing off pieces of breast. Everyone passed their plate up the table so that he could slide a cut of the bird onto it.
“Finally! Some meat!” Skeleteen seemed particularly excited. The moment his plate was set back down in front of him, he took an over-large bite of it. Shoving more into his mouth than was practical. He looked so disappointed before swallowing. Then put a hand to his head as if he had a frustration headache. “What is it with you people?” He muttered. “How can you control more than half the planet’s spice trade, and still make food like this?”
“Food like what?” Adora asked. She took a bite of her own turkey. It tasted fine to her. Slow cooked, and rotated often enough so that all the juices stayed inside. It was good. “I like it.”
“Of course you do.” Skeleteen pushed his plate away and started typing on his phone again.
There was another lull in conversation as everyone ate their turkey.
No one else seemed to have any objections to the lack of seasoning.
“So, Catra,” Marlena began again, trying to get to know her daughter’s girlfriend. “What do you do?”
“Uh…” Catra froze, unsure how to define her occupations to Adora’s mother.
“Up until recently, Catra was my second-in-command on Etheria.” Hordak announced. He dabbed elegantly at his lips with a napkin and met Catra’s eyes across the table. Daring her to contradict him. “In fact, Entrapta’s very clinical analysis informs me that Catra exponentially increased efficiency during her time in the position.”
“Oh, that’s incredible.” Marlena praised. “To be so talented at such a young age! Do you still work with Hordak?”
“Uh… sort of…” Catra admitted, still unsure of how to spin her current obligations to Etheria.
“My organization has since shifted focus.” Hordak continued. “Now we are focusing on clean up of the eco-system and renewal of its communities. Catra does still work with us, but she no longer holds a leadership role. She is now the official liaison between my organization and Brightmoon.”
Catra sighed with relief. Who would have thought that Hordak would be her alley in this dinner where she was gonna be questioned by Adora’s mom? Hordak helping her? Wow. Things really had changed since they beat Prime.
Then Hordak smirked and added an unnecessary and unsolicited piece of information. “It’s easier that way since Catra lives in Brightmoon with Adora.”
“Oh.” Was that disapproval in Marlena’s voice. “You live together. So this is… serious. Do you have plans to be married?”
Both Catra and Adora became very flustered very quickly.
“Well, I mean-“
“Catra still has a lot-“
“Adora deserves someone bet-“
“There’s just so much work to do back on Etheria!” Adora finally shouted unnecessarily loud. “We can’t think of marriage until Etheria is recovered and stable!”
“Yeah!” Catra shouted, matching Adora’s volume. “Marriage is the last thing on my mind!”
“It is?” Adora asked in a much more serious and less flustered tone, eyes now focused on Catra and Catra only. “You mean, you haven’t even thought about it at all? ‘Cause, I’ve thought about it a little bit. When we were at the Heart of Etheria, I thought… Never mind! You haven’t thought about it at all?”
“Well, I-“ Catra faltered. “I didn’t know if you were thinking about it, and I didn’t wanna scare you away…”
Even to Catra’s own ears that sounded weak. She wasn’t afraid of ‘scarring Adora away’ when she was intentionally infecting her with a First Ones virus, or taking her friends hostage.
On the other side of the table, Hordak sipped his wine, enjoying the drama play out. He made his peace with Catra and how she wronged him. But sometimes, it did make him feel good just to see her squirm with discomfort.
Marlena pursed her lips with disapproval. “If you’re living together, I do hope you’re taking the relationship seriously and have given a thought to where it’s going. I realize you’re young and right now ‘just having fun’ seems like enough. But you will wake up one day and want more than just fun. You’ll want the lifelong companionship of a stable partner and a stable commitment.”
Catra looked down at her reflection in her juice. Stable. She had been many things over her short life. But ‘stable’ was never one of them.
Did Adora deserve better?
“We haven’t heard anything from Adam!” Adora decided it was best to change the subject. “I just learned I have a brother!” She gave him a playful punch to the shoulder. “C’mon, bro, say something. Help me get to know you!”
“Oh, um,” now it was Adam who felt put on the spot. “I have interests. I… like to read, and watch Duncan and Meckaneck work in the vehicle garage. Ya know, nerd stuff.”
“Bet!” Skeleteen muttered, not looking up from his phone.
Randor cleared his plate of the meat and belched loudly.
“Nice one, son.” Miro nodded.
Now the table, Adora took that as a challenge. She breathed in deep, then let it out again as a reverberating burp that matched Randor’s.
“Also, nice.” Miro nodded at his granddaughter. “She is definitely a member of this family.”
Skeletor put his face in his hands. “Ugh.” He hated his family.
Marlena plastered another uncomfortable smile on her face. “Who’s ready for dessert?” A pause. “And an antiacid.”
The servants entered again, this time carrying treys of tiny macarons, cupcakes with brightly colored frosting, cookies shaped like wild turkeys, and multiple pies.
Entrapta in particular was especially excited for the tiny macarons and cupcakes. “They’re so cute!”
Hordak offered her his share of the desserts, he hadn’t yet developed a taste for refined sugars and found the desserts too sweet.
Marlena leaned back in her seat, allowing herself to relax for what was probably the first time since the planning of this dinner began. They were on the dessert course now. Soon everyone would be going home. She could not wait to get Skeletor out of her house and away from her family. She hoped they didn’t stay to digest or socialize with everyone.
Sure enough, after his plate was clear, Skeletor was the first to stand from the table. “Malkyn, are you ready?”
Skeleteen did not look up from his phone. “Just a sec.”
Skeletor crossed his arms over his chest and glared at his son.
“Not right now.” Insisted the teenager, as his thumbs danced over the touch screen on his phone.
“Malkyn!” Skeletor snapped with impatience. He reached a hand out and called his Havoc Staff to his hand. “You have spent all night with your face glued to that thing!”
Sighing, Evil-Lyn drained the last of her glass of clear spirits and similarly stood from the table, her own sorceress’ staff in her hand.
Adam excused himself from the table. Grabbing Adora by the hand, he pulled her out of the room with him. “Excuse me. I need to pee. Adora, will you come with me, I don’t wanna go alone.”
They left the room.
Finally, Skeleteen stood from his seat. "Got the last firewall, palace security is mine!" He pressed one final button on his phone’s touch screen. “Okay, now!”
Then the lights went dark!
The only sound was Skeletor’s maniacal laughter. “Myeehehehe!”