Chapter 1: bAdtime stories
Adora is nearly dozing off again. Glimmer knows that Adora has had problems sleeping again after... well, but Adora had seemed to be getting better. Must be a bad day, then. Bow sighs beside her and she knows that he has noticed too. Glimmer shakes her head and tries to get back into the briefing. Juliet is talking about the Horde attacks they've fended off in the last few weeks. She's not prepared for the commotion that suddenly starts up at the front gates.
Her mother elects to stay back for the moment, but Glimmer burst out of the war room as soon as the shouting starts. Bow and Juliet are on her heels, Adora lags behind a bit because she had to be shaken awake first. Castle guards are shouting, but there doesn't seem to be large machinery, so this shouldn't be too hard. Glimmer kicks open the castle gate and stop dead in her tracks.
The scene before her looks so surreal that she doesn't even notice Bow bumping into her. First of all, there are only three people. No good reason for a shouting match between the guards if she's being honest. Secondly, the people are not from the Horde. In fact, all three of them look like they should be dead. Not because she wants them to, but they aren't supposed to be walking around alive.
She zeroes in on the man in the middle. He's wearing a hood - which is suspicious in the warm and humid Bright Moon weather - but Glimmer would recognise him anywhere. He looks older but well-groomed and he wears clothes that look a bit strange but are in good shape. Maybe even new.
"Dad?" she chokes out, not understanding how he could stand here in bright daylight when he's been dead for years. He takes his hood off and Glimmer drinks in the sight of his face. Older than she remembers but he's smiling just like he did when she was a baby.
"Glimmer!" he shouts and extends his arms. She's about to throw herself at him and hug the life out of him when Juliet grabs her shoulders. Glimmer stops. Dread starts pooling in her stomach. Her dad has been dead for a long time.. what if this isn't him? If this is an impostor she'll put Bow out of commission for an entire day because he's going to have to console her. Suddenly she's glad that her mother is still inside.
"Of course," he mutters and his arms sink back to his side. "It must be a shock for you to see me. Please let me explain." He sounds earnest and Glimmer feels herself nodding. She focuses her attention on the other two figures. They are wearing strange helmets and hoods that conceal their features but she won't let anyone inside the castle in disguise. The one on the left takes off his hood after an order from Juliet.
"We come in peace," is the first thing he says and Glimmer freezes at the sight of his ears. They look like cat-ears, just like Catra's. Her eyes narrow and zoom in on the tail that starts swinging behind him, she wonders how she could've missed it before. The other person is a woman, at first glance Glimmer thinks it could be Catra, but her suspicion isn't justified. The eyes are different and the hair is too light, it's someone else.
"My name is Giovanni, I'm a member of the council in Halfmoon and I ask for an audience with the Queen," the guy on the left says next. He bows respectfully, seemingly aware that Glimmer is a princess and the woman who accompanied him follows his example. Glimmer looks at Juliet who shrugs her shoulder. If everyone hands in their weapons, then a talk with her mother should be in the cards. The whole Alliance is here as backup if things go sideways.
"Follow me, then," she says and extends an arm into the castle. It's only when they walk back to the war room that Glimmer notices the absence of Adora. She sends Bow a worried look and he nods, already taking off into the corridor with Adora's room. Maybe the sight of the catpeople was too much for her. She's been getting worse after the battle for Salineas. The doors to the war room open and there is a collective gasp.
Her parents crash together somewhere in the middle between door and table and no one is stupid enough to try and separate them. Glimmer just really, really hopes that this is actually her father and not someone else. Her mother is sobbing, something Glimmer hasn't witnessed since she was a child. Her dad makes shushing noises and suddenly she feels tears pricking in her eyes too. She throws caution in the wind and teleports into a family hug with her parents, Juliet isn't trying to hold her back now. It's a tearful reunion, but at least there are happy tears for a change.
It takes a while for them to calm down, but the time is needed anyway to find chairs for their guests. Giovanni introduces himself and his colleague - whose name is Alecto, apparently - to the Alliance but doesn't say anything else. He's probably waiting until the war meeting is officially restarted or someone gives him permission. Finally, after everyone is seated and her parents have stopped crying, her mother stands up.
"It has come to my attention that you have asked for an audience, I hope this setting is appropriate." Giovanni gets up and bows again and her mother gives a small nod of acknowledgement before sitting back down.
"Thank you for receiving us here, your Majesty. There are a few matters I would like to discuss but maybe we should start with King Micah." The rest of the room sits up a bit straighter after that. Giovanni sends her father a look and he smiles sheepishly.
"You're right Giovanni, maybe I should tell the story myself. It's quite the tale after all." Glimmer can see him take a deep breath and her mom teacher over to grip his hand. He shakes his head and starts telling his story.
"It all began at the Battle of Halfmoon. As you may know, the kingdom fell and I fell with it. I was pronounced dead after someone saw me take a fall from impossible heights, but you probably never found a body." She sees Netossa and Spinarella exchanging a look.
"That's because I was captured and banished to a place that's so dangerous that no one has made it out alive before. Beast Island." A few gasps go through the room and Glimmer shudders. She's heard a few horror stories from Adora. Apparently, they scare little children with threats of sending them to Beast Island and in the case of Catra that even became a reality.
"After years of fighting to survive, I stumbled across a girl who must've come from Halfmoon. I was overjoyed to see that some of the people there had survived and decided to help her out a bit. She was young but she did well on the Island and we formed a friendship. And then one day, she asked me why I had never tried to get off the island before." He chokes up like he's trying not to cry and lets out a little laugh.
"I had tried so hard! But I was always outnumbered and I didn't want to die in a fight with Horde soldiers -again- so I had settled on waiting. But this girl, she just conducted a plan and it worked and suddenly we were on a ship and getting away from that horrible place. I wanted to get back to Bright Moon so badly, but she asked me to come with her to Halfmoon. She didn't remember her home and I couldn't say no so we went to Halfmoon together. The city was in ruins of course. She wanted to take a look but I stayed back, not quite ready to see the battlefield." Her dad pauses and Glimmer notices Netossa and Spinarella looking a bit queasy. She's pretty sure that the two of them fought in the Battle of Halfmoon and that they saw her dad go down. He clears his throat and carries on with his story.
"It got dark and she didn't come back so I became worried. But then suddenly Halfmoon lit up for a split second and I think you can guess how shocked I was." Her mother gasps and Glimmer feels a bit out of the loop when the other princesses look equally shocked.
"The runestone?" Spinarella whispers and Netossa asks, "You found the princess?"
"I did," her father says. "I figured I would wait for a while and sure enough - Giovanni came and found me. There she was, newly coronated and completely out of her element. The princess of Halfmoon, imagine my shock at finding out that this scrawny girl on Beast Island was actually a long lost princess."
Glimmer jaw is practically on the floor now. A runestone and a lost princess? That was amazing, especially now, when they needed every reinforcement they could get.
"I stayed in Halfmoon for a while, trying to help her with her magic. She'd never used it before and well, fire powers aren't a joke. But as soon as she got a handle on things and felt more comfortable with her role as a princess she insisted I return back to Bright Moon. She wanted me to get back to my family after all."
Her dad wipes away a stray tear at that and Glimmer silently thanks this princess that she sent her dad back and got him off this horrific island. On the other side of the table, Giovanni clears his throat and looks at her dad for approval. He nods and Giovanni stands up again.
"Thank you, King Micah. Without you we'd still be waiting for our princess to come home so really - it was a pleasure to escort you back to Bright Moon." He bows again and Glimmer can't get over how polite this guy is.
"As all of you know, the kingdom of Halfmoon fell years ago in a bloody battle with the Horde. The world thought us dead but unbeknownst to everyone else a large part of our population managed to survive in a hidden city underground. Only members of the royal family were able to open the gates and that detail proved to be our downfall. The King and Queen died and the princess was lost so our people were trapped until the princess would find her way home."
"Uhm, not to like, be disrespectful or something but what would've happened if the princess had died too? Would you be stuck forever in that city?" Glimmer frowns a bit at Mermista's interruption but it's not like she wasn't about to ask the same question. Giovanni smiles.
"Fair question. You see, in the case that there is no one left in the royal family, the runestone chooses a new princess, a new champion so to say. But seeing as our princess never died she was to only one who would be able to open the gates." His smile turns sad. "It also gave us hope, you know? That she was still out there someday and would return eventually."
Mermista seems satisfied with that answer and Glimmer thinks about this girl who was the last hope of an entire city full of people. Well, if she had died they would've gotten out too, she guesses, but that was just depressing. The princess couldn't even be that old. Her dad said that she didn't remember Halfmoon so she must've been lost as a child. The battle wasn't that far back, she couldn't be that much older than Glimmer herself.
"Well, to get back to our story - the princess did make her way back home eventually, as you can see. It was quite the shock when one of our guards returned with a young magicat in tow who seemed entirely unaware of who she was. She nearly collapsed after touching the stone," he chuckles. Then he frowns a bit, glancing at Alecto who still hasn't said a word.
"It took quite the toll on her," she confirms. "Gen had to pretty much carry her to bed, and the coronation was a blur. She improvised a nice little speech actually but we're pretty sure that she didn't quite know what was going on the first few days." Glimmer wants to laugh but it's probably not that much fun to have a coronation sprung on one. She can't imagine not knowing that she's a princess. It feels strange and she understands that her dad stayed back for a while to help. It's just how he is, always trying to help where he can.
"Well yes," Giovanni chuckles, "she certainly had her panicky moments when she was learning to wield her new powers. Setting things on fire by accident isn't that much fun after the first few times." Mermista snorts at that and Giovanni turns his head to her. He bows again, seriously what is up with this guy and bowing?
"Princess Mermista, I trust that you got our letter?"
"Oh yes, I did. Thank you, I guess. That warning pretty much saved my a- kingdom. My kingdom." A bit bored as always, and always forgetting that Frosta is a child. Mermista. The water princess narrows her eyes a bit at Giovanni and Alecto.
"But you know, there's another thing that's strange. The Horde ships started burning to the ground all of a sudden and we're pretty sure that there were arrows involved that no one of us could've shot off. Know anything about that?"
Alecto smirks. "Well, our princess sent the letter and then decided that it would probably best to send backup in case it wasn't taken seriously. A smart choice on her end I'd say." Mermista raises an eyebrow but nods. Glimmer is pretty sure that the Horde would've gotten the drop on them eventually so that backup was very appreciated.
"Speaking of our princess, she has heard of your reformed Princess Alliance and is interested in talking with a delegation. In fact, I carry a letter for the Queen with me." He takes a rolled-up letter out of his pocket and hands it over to Juliet who inspects it briefly before handing it to her mother. Her mom breaks the seal and starts reading, pursing her lips halfway through. She looks at her dad who gives a little shrug and rolls the letter back up, stowing it away in one of her hidden pockets. Glimmer is a bit miffed about not getting to read it but she's not in the mood to start a fight right now.
"If you decide to send a delegation to Halfmoon, we would be honoured to escort them back to Solaris, the hidden city. Princess C'yra III merely requests that no more than five people travel with us."
Glimmer startles at the name. She's heard of C'yra II before, she was the Queen around the time of the battle but Glimmer had never known the princess' name. Glimmer raises her hand and looks at her mother, who sighs and gives her a nod, signalling to speak. She shoots to her feet.
"I volunteer," she says, and no one is surprised. "Bow and Adora will accompany me." Actually, she's not too sure about Adora's part but she imagines that She-Ra would be pretty handy to impress a new princess and maybe it will even help Adora. She's not sure how it could help but there must be a way. To her surprise, Mermista gets up too.
"I want to come too. Without Halfmoons help my kingdom would be fu- lly burnt to the ground and that would be like, bad. Or something." Frosta looks offended at Mermistas almost f-bomb and Glimmer sighs. It's cute that everyone acts like Frosta doesn't curse like a sailor herself. Apropos sailor.
"Oh yeah, and Sea Hawk's coming with me." Mermista inspects her nails as if this was a minor detail that just crossed her mind. "He wouldn't stop gushing about fire powers and he has a boat so like, that's pretty handy I guess." Glimmer drops her head onto the table. If she has to endure another sea shanty she'll scream. But Bow will probably be ecstatic.
"Hm, travelling by boat might be faster actually," Alecto muses and Giovanni sighs. "We could've been here in two days but someone insisted on trekking through the forest," she says. Giovanni hangs his head and rubs his nose.
"Yeah, yeah. I get it, it was an error in judgement, I'm sorry." At Alecto's raised eyebrow he growls lightly and waves his hand. "And you were right or whatever. Don't act like that wasn't just a lucky guess. I couldn't have known it was this far."
"You have a map," Alecto deadpans and Mermista snorts in the background. Giovanni grits his teeth lightly but lets the issue go and Glimmer smiles to herself. It seems that Giovanni isn't always as polite and proper as he presents himself when talking to royalty.
"Is it settled then? Princess Glimmer, Princess Mermista and their corresponding companions?"
Her mother looks at Giovanni for a few seconds and then she nods. "It is settled. Give the delegation a few days to prepare. We would be honoured to have the two of you stay at the castle until your departure."
Everyone is dismissed after that, Juliet showing the two Halfmooners to their guest rooms. Glimmer shudders a bit at the thought that they'll sleep in the same corridor as Shadow Weaver. After Adora stormed out in tears and begged her to never talk to the woman she's a bit apprehensive about her. And she's creepy, there's no denying that.
She can hear her parents talking in low tones in the now-empty war room and she sets out to find Bow and Adora. They have a lot to talk about and she has to tell Adora about Halfmoon and the Magicat before Adora runs into Giovanni or Alecto unprepared and breaks down in tears or something. She just hopes that Adora will agree to come with her to Halfmoon. Even if it hurts.
Chapter 2: portraits of the dead
After Bow has a talk with Adora, Glimmer summarises the meeting for him. He comes to an interesting conclusion.
Hm the last chapter wasn't my best work but we all knew that, so let's wrap this up.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Adora takes off into her room and Bow follows her immediately. He has a pretty good idea why Adora is so upset all of a sudden, the two cat-people were probably a bit too much for her. She's still grieving. And even though Bow would never judge her for it, he has noticed that she took Catra's death really, really hard. Like... very, very hard. More so than the death of the average or even normal best friend would rattle someone.
He doesn't really know a lot about their... uhm... friendship, but he has the feeling that Adora didn't really tell them everything. Bow knocks on her door. Faint crying noises can be heard in the corridor, they give way to footsteps. Adora opens the door and immediately lies back down into her bed. Well. Her bunk.
He sits down on the foot of her bed and pats her shoulder comfortingly. She has her knees tucked in. Bow still doesn't really understand why she would sleep that way but it's something that Adora has always done. The crying stops after a short while and he can feel Adora relax a little bit as she calms down.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asks softly, after a few minutes of silence. Well, apart from Adora's little sniffling noises. She nods and sits up, hugging her pillow like a teddy bear.
"I- I thought it was her for a second," she whispers and Bow extends his arms for a hug. Adora leans in and cries into his shoulder for a bit before pulling away. He gets it. That woman freaked him out too, and he didn't even know Catra that well. It must be so much worse for Adora.
"Is it bad that I'm still sad, Bow?" she asks him, a bit helplessly. Bow shakes his head.
"Of course not Adora. She was your friend. You're allowed to be sad."
"Yeah but, with the whole enemy thing?"
"Well, she was your friend for longer. It's okay, Adora. Really."
Adora cuddles her pillow a bit aggressively as she stares into space and contemplates his words. She sighs. "Okay." Well. That was easier than he expected.
"Uh, so Bow. Can I... tell you something?"
Is he hallucinating? Adora wants to talk? He has been ready for this day since the two of them met.
"Yes of course what's up," he says. Adora hesitates.
"I always thought we'd have more time, you know. I thought she'd switch sides eventually and we could stop fighting and we could be together again."
"Together?" Bow asks. That was not the point Adora was trying to make, fuck.
"Not like- not like that!" Adora exclaims, a bit red in the face suddenly. Huh. "Just, on the same side. The same team. Best friends again. A unit." Bow nods. Interesting.
"So, not like Spinnerella and Netossa?"
"No." Adora doesn't sound very sure of that. Bow raises an eyebrow. A blush raises on Adora's face.
"Well, sometimes I thought..."
"You thought...? What?"
"I thought that we had the potential for a bit more, okay. A bit more... together."
"Oh, Adora," Bow says and offers a hug. Adora nearly squeezes the life out of him. He wouldn't say that he had no idea, he had a bit of a feeling but he really wasn't sure. This whole grieving-for-a-friend thing suddenly made a lot more sense.
"And now we don't have time. Now she's dead because I was stupid and left her alone in a place that hated her," she cries. "Why did they hate her so much?"
The words get increasingly muffled and Bow doesn't really understand anything after that but Adora is crying into his shoulder again. He really needs to get her a glass of water after this. It can't be healthy to lose that much water.
When Adora calms down again she gets up and rummages through her desk. Bow doesn't ask what she's looking for. She produces a sheet of paper and puts it into Bow's hands. It's a drawing.
"Is that Catra?" Of course, it is but the question slipped out already.
"Yeah." There is an awkward pause where Bow stares at her drawing. It's not... not very good. But that's not something he has to say out loud. He can tell that Adora put a lot of work into this.
"So I can remember her better, you know. Like the mural of King Micah, but a bit smaller and just for me."
Bow nearly starts to cry himself. This would be so romantic if Catra wasn't dead. He wasn't ready for so much tragedy. The picture really does look like Catra. It's a bit squiggly and weird but the resemblance is clear and Bow can understand why Adora would want a reference. Forgetting faces hurts. It's why they have portraits of the dead. To remember them.
"I could make you a frame if you want," he offers and gives the drawing back. Maybe he can print out a picture from a camera (preferably one where Catra doesn't look murderous) for her too.
"That would be nice," Adora whispers, studying the picture again. It looks like she's scared to forget Catra. Maybe she is, Bow isn't going to ask her today. He can tell that Adora is exhausted already.
"Sleep for a while, I'll check in with Glimmer."
"Mhm," she mumbles, already lying in bed again. Knees tucked of course. He picks up the drawing and lies it down on her desk so it doesn't get wrinkled.
"Sleep good," she mumbles.
"Thanks, Adora." He closes the door behind him. There is no crying to be heard anymore.
"Okay, catch me up," he says while later, sitting on Glimmers bed. Adora is asleep, but he missed the whole meeting and doesn't know what's going on. He did gather that King Micah is back somehow and that it has something to do with the two Magicats that were with him.
Glimmer recounts the story, mostly glossing over the part where her dad was on Beast Island and jumping to the part with the Princess who wants to meet them. But she spends most of the time rambling about her dad and how glad she is that he's back now.
Bow is glad too, but there is something that's strange about this story. He thinks it over again while going to sleep to make sure that he's not jumping to conclusions.
The Magicats were apparently locked in their secret city until the Princess opened the gates. Which meant that she would have had to live outside of the city her whole life.
The only Magicat that Bow ever met in his life was Catra. Catra, who grew up in the Horde and heard bedtime stories about Beast Island. Catra, who was dumped on Beast Island a while back. Around the same time where the Princess mysteriously appeared on the island.
So either this is a very, very weird coincidence or...
...Catra is still alive and the Princess of Halfmoon.
He shoots up in his bed, breathing hard. How the fuck did he not immediately notice this? And how did no one else? Adora wasn't there, so she's excused. Micah will likely know. Angella...
Angella might know too, now that he thinks about it. She had a weirdly knowing glint in her eyes after she read the scroll that Giovanni handed her. Glimmer is probably just too caught up in the whole thing with her dad. Or in denial. She never liked Catra after all.
He doesn't really want to talk about it though. Especially in front of Adora, and now that she told him about her, well, feelings concerning Catra. She's on track to get better now but if Bow says anything about Catra being alive, and he's wrong then... Adora would never get over that if she ever got her hopes up again. And there is a chance that he's wrong.
He has to be careful with this and he already has someone in mind who he can talk to about it.
The next days are full of preparation tasks. Glimmer wants to spend some time with her dad before she leaves, all of them can understand that. They aren't in a rush. Especially Adora is still a bit apprehensive about visiting a kingdom that's full of people who'll remind her of Catra. But she's been doing better since their talk, it's almost like that was weighing her down a bit.
Bow is just glad that he could help. He gets startled out of his thoughts by Sea Hawk who's barging in, loudly declaring that they are going on an ADVENTURE. And that's perfect, actually, because Sea Hawk is just who he needs to talk to. About Mermista's whereabouts.
Because he's pretty sure that Mermista connected the dots too. She doesn't read those mystery novels for nothing, after all.
So, as some of you said, it's pretty unrealistic that no one would connect the dots. And as Bow has a firm grip on the BFS brain cell most of the time, I let him be the one to realize the obvious. He's not the only one, don't worry.
The next part will cover their journey and of course the long awaited meeting of Catra and the BFS (+ Mermista and our fanboy Sea Hawk)