A heavy tension smothered the atmosphere, up in Angella's old teenage room, where the princesses had been asked to gather after Adora's arrest. Ten guards were keeping them company, and Glimmer had even received a special bracelet that prevented her from teleporting wherever she wanted.
They had already spent more than fifteen hours in there, and even if they'd tried to get some sleep during the night, none of them felt comfortable enough to get some proper rest.
Angella had been in an out of the room several times to speak with her sister-and-law and the rest of the Council. Sometimes she came back angry, some other times, confused. She didn't seem to know how to act, what to say, even what to think on some matters.
At least she kept her position regarding Adora. Mystacor needed to release her, and stop keeping the Alliance in a cage at once. It was highly disrespectful, and she couldn't understand how Castaspella failed to see the irreparable damage it had already caused between them. But they were all obsessed with Adora's treason, and feared another one that could follow if they let loose of their grip…
It infuriated her.
She looked up at the enchanted floating winged clock Micah had offered her when they were sixteen. It was already dawn.
The Council must have awaken now. She could ask for a new audience with them soon enough.
Around her, the princesses were all awake, except for Mermista who was still pretty tired from her recent runestone illness. Glimmer was boiling on her seat, glaring at her bracelet then at the guards who kept a closer look on her than on the others. The rest of the princess crew looked very tensed. It seemed like a word was burning the tip of their tongue, but they were too scared to say anything.
Overall they hadn't really been able to talk freely since yesterday.
This was not normal. What on Etheria had happened in Mystacor these last few years? How could it change so much that even Angella felt like a prisoner in her own bedroom? Even if the Horde's raids had thrown a wave of panic on the castle, it wasn't a reason to act on impulse and lock people up.
She knew they were afraid the events of yesterday could repeat itself… They didn't trust Adora- and therefore the Alliance- regarding Catra.
Thinking of the ex-Horde Commander triggered Angella's permanent headache. She was really annoyed and confused on that subject… She wished the jury would have voted for her own motion. Disciplinary redemption serving the Rebellion for a certain amount of years.
Instead, they chose another sentence they considered merciful enough for a criminal like Catra… The Forbidden Zone.
It made Angella uncomfortable. There weren't enough recent data about that place. The last person sent there had been Light Spinner, and they didn't know how she got out. They weren't even there when she got banned, it was the previous Council who executed the sentence.
Angella was torn between her instinct hurling at her that despite Catra's crimes it was still too harsh of a sentence, and her principles ordering her to respect the decision of the jury. It was driving her mad, and because of this she failed to make the Council reconsider the vote.
Indecision had always been her weakness...
She had been raised at Mystacor after all. It was hard to just oppose whatever she was taught to be righteous and fair. She had only broken with their ways a few times in her life, and she had always been helped by someone else's encouragement when it happened.
Micah had helped her form the first Alliance to attack the Horde, despite Mystacor's disapproval, and last year, Glimmer convinced her to completely cut ties with Castaspella until she realized her passive attitude was not only wrong but criminal towards the people suffering from the war.
Now, in all logic… The Alliance should part with the sorceresses again, because of this intolerable power move the Council had dropped on them. But giving up on their support in the war against Hordak was a risky bet…
She sighed again.
She needed to know the princesses' opinions, regardless of the presence of the guards.
Just as she was about to open her mouth, the door lock clicked, attracting all their attention. A new warlock guard entered the room, holding out a parchment for the Queen.
How did things turn out that way?
How did it all escalate so fast into this mess?
How did Adora end up in Mystacor's prison, accused of treason, on the very day she needed to be free of movement?
For hours, she had been pacing in the cell, trying to figure out a solution to escape and set Catra free before the execution of her sentence.
She couldn't let her be sent to the Forbidden Zone… It was worse than the death penalty. She was condemned to survive and try to get out of a place that would literally drive her crazy. This wasn't really a kinder fate…
Maybe Catra had been right after all. Maybe the Rebellion and Mystacor had never intended to give her a chance in the first place. But why not directly kill her then? She frowned as she remembered what Catra had told her about a week ago… The trial was perfect to look fair and merciful. It didn't mean it truly was.
A wave of rage shook her whole body. She punched the mattress several times, until she felt breathless.
The civilians, the innocent people she swore to protect and turned her back on the Horde and her best friend for… She only felt hatred for them right now. They'd heard Vassilis. They'd heard her. They'd listened to Catra's story, Catra's motives, Catra's values and evolution…
But they had shown no understanding. No mercy. They hadn't wanted to be the better man.
It had all been useless.
Maybe people were not worth fighting for in the end…
She snapped her head up, and glared at her visitor.
"Don't look at me like that…"
"What do you want, Glimmer?"
The sparkling princess sat on a chair, holding Adora's gaze with her brows knitted together.
"Adora, what you did was wrong."
"Excuse me?!" Adora jumped on her feet, fire in her eyes as she gripped the bars. "I was wrong to try to save my friend?!"
"It was wrong to oppose the sentence of the jury!" Glimmer shouted. "You went through the process like all of us, even though more than one would have preferred to kill Catra on the spot, and in the end you still did what you wanted in front of everyone's faces! You disrespected us Adora! It's not how justice works!"
"Oh right, justice is more about betraying friends to testify against them."
"And justice is more about bewitching Catra's mask to hurt her physically when she uses it."
"Auntie Casta did that just in case she tried to turn into a beast and escape, and guess what, she was right, that's exactly what happened!"
"Ooh, I got it! So when the Rebellion hurts people it's okay, because we're the good guys."
"...don't pull that on me Adora, you know perfectly well we can't avoid hurting people in a war!" Glimmer pointed to her. "May I remind you, you hurt your own ex-comrades in battles, and you betrayed your best friend for us!"
Adora squinted her eyes at her but didn't answer. She was outraged, but also astound by Glimmer's sudden fondness for respecting rules. It didn't sound like her. She averted her gaze, resuming her pacing. She wasn't as good as Catra for that kind of talk.
"You're just mad because you couldn't save your friend, but the trial went exactly how it was supposed to."
"No, I'm mad because they made it seem like they were merciful, whereas they were NOT," Adora spat.
Adora looked over her shoulder, an eyebrow raised. Glimmer looked uncomfortable.
"I always thought the Forbidden Zone sentence was the most terrible of all. Because in the end, whatever the archives say… I don't think anybody ever comes back from there."
If she had crushed Adora's heart with a rock it would have felt just the same. The blonde slouched on the mattress, holding her head in her hands. How could she let this happen?! She should have listened to Catra! She should have set her free the other night at Brightmoon!
"You should have asked me…for my help. I could have teleported her away discreetly."
Understanding Glimmer made Adora's heart beam and hurt at the same time.
It was all about appearances, wasn't it? It was wrong opposing the jury publicly, but doing it sneakily, helping Catra escape and leaving no proof against them… To remain on the good side of people… What was the point of making a fair trial then? This wasn't a way of thinking Adora understood. It made her sick.
She hugged her knees, burying her head in her arms. If only she had looked around her when she let Catra go… Despite the chaos after the bombing, the people who saw them didn't lose their focus… They went straight denouncing her to the High Council.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was the prosecutor's witness…"
Adora shook her head. "It's okay. You didn't have a choice, and you did your best to help…" she paused. "Hey, why didn't you come earlier?"
Adora had waited all night long to see...anyone actually. She had calculated that it should be dawn by now, but oddly enough, no light came from outside.
"They wouldn't let me. Yesterday was crazy, you have no idea. After they put you in jail, the sorceresses had to create a new spell to replace the shield. They can't make it again before a few months, so they set up a huge dark cloudy sky to hide us from the Horde's radar. Mystacor can't be targeted anymore."
Glimmer spoke with frantic gestures. She explained how everybody was overwhelmed by the attack. There were many dead people, and many more wounded. Half of the castle was destroyed. And the Catra and Adora problem didn't make things any easier. They had too many things to take care of at once.
"My mom tried to take your defense. But the jury and the sorceresses are furious. They believed in you and you disappointed them. So now they're feeling suspicious regarding the princess Alliance as well. Since they know you're our friend, much more than an ally, they checked on us all night long, to prevent us from coming to you before…"
"Before Catra is on her way to the Forbidden Zone."
Adora rose on her feet again. "Glimmer…" She ignored her panic, trying to find the impassive Catra in her instead. She chose her words carefully. "Why are you really here?"
Her friend looked tortured. She opened her mouth, but at this moment the prison guard peeked through the door.
"Hey! What are you doing here?! The princess is supposed to stay alone!"
Glimmer grabbed Adora's hand and teleported them.
"Are you sure it's the right way...?"
Kyle rolled his eyes after reading the signs. He would defend himself if he had the strength, but he felt too exhausted for that. His whole body was aching. Octavia's magic and punches were still fresh… And they've been travelling in the Woods for hours now…
"What did he say?" Scorpia asked.
"Nothing important, he's just doubting Entrapta's device."
Rogelio glared at him. Kyle understood his worry. Catra's signal had been pretty blurry since the beginning, but it still held on. Nothing good would happen if they started to give in to panic…
"Nah, don't worry, Entrapta's the best!" Scorpia's genuine grin fell a second after saying her name. She focused on driving the skiff. "I mean...we can trust the tracking machine."
The three fugitives held onto the silence that followed. They lost two people. They were physically and emotionally strained. They didn't know how they would be able to rescue Catra in that state. And they had no idea what to do if they failed.
Lonnie had been right.
It was a suicide mission.
The sky was so dark. Even in the Fright Zone, Catra had never seen anything like this. As if Mystacor was plunged in the core of a frozen storm. Dark purple clouds were surrounding the whole floating island, unnaturally still despite the presence of a strong wind. No sunlight was slipping in.
The castle looked to have reached another dimension.
Catra's ears flattened on her head. She didn't like that atmosphere at all. Feeling like the sky might explode at every second…
She focused on the guards securing the trip to her future prison. She thought they would take a vehicle and leave the island, but they were actually climbing up the highest cliff of Mystacor.
Magical fire lamps were floating, lightening the path with an eerie aura. Cold sweat ran on Catra's skin as she fully embraced the fact it was the path to her eternal prison. The last path of the condemned.
"Take those cuffs off of my feet and I'll jump there," she snarled.
A buzzing shock made her tail rise behind her back. Catra panted as the guards dragged her up the rocky way. A few minutes later, they reached the top.
The High Council was complete, including Castaspella and her two close counsellors. None of the princesses was attending her last moments in the righteous kingdom.
No princess. No Adora.
Catra's heart clenched. She wouldn't even get a proper goodbye…
"Commander Catra," Castaspella started. "You are here to be banned from this dimension, into the Forbidden Zone.
If you manage to fight the demons that live within you, the Zone will release you from its hold, and we will release you from our sentence. You will be welcomed in our ranks, as a redeemed ex-Horde soldier."
Catra's mouth twitched in a hateful pout.
"Do you have any last words to tell?"
She spat at her feet.
Castaspella blinked in confusion and surprise. What a naive stupid little queen… Was she thinking Catra would beg for mercy or something?
"I think the Commander made her point," Isidore said severely. "Let's begin."
The guards zapped Catra again, all at the same time. She screamed as she got brought to her knees. Her whole body shook, unable to move. Four sorceresses and warlocks of the Council formed a circle around her. The guards stepped aside, leaving the prisoner alone and vulnerable in the middle. Castaspella closed the circle, averting her eyes from Catra.
Catra felt her heart beat in fear as she watched them chant a new spell around her. She tried to move again, but to no avail. She searched with her eyes for anyone who might help her.
But she only found Castaspella's gaze on her. That queen… Catra couldn't understand her. Something was too odd in that pitiful look she gave her as she was sending her to a terrible fate. She really did think she was acting right…
Catra held her stare, making sure Castaspella saw how much she despised her and how she didn't fear her.
A shock wave spread on Mystacor, sending the guards on their knees. The Council had not moved an inch.
Catra blinked. What was done? She was still on the ground, in the middle of their freaky circle. She stared up at Castaspella. The queen looked different from a minute earlier. She looked terrified. Terrified of something…
A second later, Catra was raised on her feet by the warlock soldiers, and dragged until the far edge of the cliff.
She widened her eyes at the view.
Down there, in the air… A fog. A dark, whirling, circular fog. It was the size of the moonstone. It was like a hatch to another place… Another dimension.
And it was calling Catra.
Her tail and ears raised. Every fiber of herself trembled in fear at the idea of being sucked into that fog. The guard started to push her, but she planted her claws in the ground, using her last strengths to stop this… Never able to turn her gaze away from the darkness…
"Castaspella stop! We can't do that!"
Catra's brain barely registered it was a new voice.
Angella was here. Angella had finally come. Catra would have laughed at the idea of that other righteous queen that she actually appreciated and who still let her down by waiting for the last minute to rescue her, except that Catra couldn't focus on anything but her terror. She could only stare at the fog beneath her.
"Angella?! What are you doing here?" Castaspella's voice faltered from confusion and indecision, then gained back some strength. "Didn't you read my orders-"
"The last person we sent here was Light Spinner, and even for her, the debate was tight!"
"How can you disrespect an official decision-"
"This is madness, you know just like me that she'll never come out of this!"
"If she doesn't, it means she doesn't deserve our forgiveness!" Isidore yelled.
"Oh really?! Go down there Isidore, and prove us you deserve to be our ally!"
This voice made her snap out of the fog's hypnosis. She turned her head, but the guard's massive body wouldn't let her see her...
"Princess Adora what are you doing here as well?!"
"Glimmer, what is- Don't touch my daughter!"
Catra heard a shriek that sounded awfully like the time Shadow Weaver tortured Sparkle…
The guard looked hesitant. If Catra wanted to go it was now. But her body was still numb from the buzzing spell.
She raised an elbow in her back, painfully, and nudged him as hard as he could. The guard sucked a breath in, pulling away from her. Catra hopped on the side, her movement limited by the chains at her feet.
She looked up. A smile started to form on her lips as she saw Adora running towards her, avoiding the attacks of the guards, but it got frozen on her face when the bottom of the guard's spear hit her stomach.
Catra stumbled backwards, lost her balance, and fell.
Her fall was unnatural. She didn't slice the air. The air was pulling her faster to the ground.
No… The fog was.
She felt her heart race in her chest as she saw the top of the cliff turn smaller and smaller. Invisible fingers made a loop around her body, engulfing her in a world of silence and darkness, and she was sure if she turned her head, she would see a giant mouth about to swallow her.
A figure jumped from the cliff. Her pretty blue eyes looked so desperate. She extended her arm to her. Catra tried to reach out as well… But her hands were still cuffed in her back.
She felt her fingertips brush her cheek.
Then Adora disappeared.
"What the- Scorpia, Rogelio, look!" Kyle panicked. "The signal… It's gone!"
"What?! What do you mean it's gone?"
"It's just what I said! Catra is...gone?"
Kyle regretted his words right when they slipped from his mouth. Scorpia stopped the skiff so abruptly Rogelio fell off of it.
"No," Scorpia said coldly. She snatched the device from his hands, and shook it. Kyle had never seen her like that. She was crying and yelling at the machine. "No, no, no, she's not GONE. Not her! We didn't do all this just for… NO!"
Kyle's jaw dropped as well. He hadn't thought of it that way but… Entrapta had said she could track Catra wherever she was, so... It meant…
"It's just malfunctioning. That's all," Scorpia gave it back to Kyle, her pincer shaking. "We need to… We need to keep going."
"To go where?" Rogelio asked. Scorpia shrugged when Kyle translated.
"I don't know, but Entrapta said we had to keep going so…" She took the earphone from her pocket again. She looked at it for a few seconds, her whole body shaking, then put it back in there. She looked lost. She looked terrified.
And she was right to be. This was the worst thing that could have happened. They had lost the signal, and they were all alone in hostile magical woods...
Rogelio put a hand on her shoulder. Then he put his other hand on Kyle's, giving them a long squeeze before signing. "It's been a long day. We need to rest. There's no signal to track right now, so let's eat something and sleep."
Kyle nodded, too overwhelmed to try to find another solution. He was exhausted.
"Yeah, later… Later the signal will be back." Scorpia reassured herself. Kyle didn't have the moral strength to try to contradict her either.
They would deal with this mess later…