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For my Sake

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Adora wondered how she could have ever thought the Fright Zone was "home". It was all so dark, cold, unwelcoming. Of course spending three days in a cell wasn't the best representation of her past life there, but there had been a time when she believed the Horde was treating their prisoners with respect. What a fool she had been… She sighed. She would have to resign herself to that kind of life from now on. The Horde was close to winning. After one year of war against the awakened She-Ra, Princess of Power, Lord Hordak had finally managed to capture her, taking away the only hope of the Princess Alliance.

Things had changed in a year. The Horde's weapons had gotten more powerful with time, thanks to Entrapta, as the Alliance had learned recently. The Black Garnet was so powerful it drained the Princesses' powers everyday. Their last true defense was the power of She-Ra, AKA Adora, uniting the group and giving them strength.

Oh, how jubilated Commander Catra had been the day she captured her enemy, her former best friend… Adora groaned as she leaned on her injured shoulder. Catra had never been one to go easy on her attacks. And ever since that day in the ruins, that fateful day where she decided to let go of Adora forever, she attacked her with all her strength every time they crossed blades. And each time it felt more and more difficult for Adora to retaliate.

She sighed again as she remembered their last encounter, the day before.

"Hey Adora." The teasing voice echoed on the walls of her cell. Adora's first reflex would have been to look at the feline commander, but she wouldn't give her that pleasure. She spun her body on the cell bench to face the wall.

"Aw… You still don't wanna talk, I see. Never mind, I just wanted to tell you the news. We're going to attack Bright Moon very soon…" Her tone was poisoned by hatred and malice. What had she become? Adora didn't recognize her Catra anymore. "I would love you to witness our victory, so I asked Lord Hordak to activate the wall screens of your cell. How great is that?"

Adora didn't answer. Ever since she'd been locked up, she had given Catra nothing but the silent treatment. She knew it annoyed her deep down, even if Catra wasn't one to show her weakness. At least not anymore. "Oh well, I would have expected a thank you at least, that'll be your last chance to actually see your friends. Not that they'll be able to see you though. But it's better than nothing, right?"

Catra snickered then left the jail, as she saw that she wouldn't get any new answer from her prisoner. Adora's tears fell when the door closed. Tears for her friends that she eventually couldn't protect, tears for Etheria, her failure to save it, tears for Catra…

"It's not like you to give up."

Adora didn't react right away.

"Are you really going to let that stupid child do whatever she pleases?"

"I don't wanna talk to you, Shadow Weaver."

"If you hadn't left the Horde, none of this would have happened."

Adora pursed her lips. Never answer. This was just her mind tricks.

"I should have gotten rid of that brat when she was still a kitten."

"Stop it." Adora snarled.

"How can you still have feelings for her, after everything she's done?"

"I don't have feelings for her."

"Don't pretend, child. I can hear you when you sleep."

"Once again, shut up Shadow Weaver!" Adora said as she rose from the bench. She looked through the bars of her cell, glaring at the masked face on the other side. "Catra made bad decisions because of me. She still wants to prove she's better than me, and hurt me for what I did."

"Oh, I think you overestimate her interest in you. She clearly stated that she wanted power for herself and crushing the rebellion is her way to reach it. She's unredeemable now."

"No. I can still feel anger coming from her. She's not over this yet." Adora squinted her eyes, "I don't understand why you still hate her though. She did everything you wanted for me. She rose further in the Horde ranks than any of your other wards…"

"I don't hate her." Adora raised her brows so hard she thought she would tear them from her forehead. "She did everything I planned."

"Excuse me?" It was hard to interpret Shadow Weaver's mind when she kept her mask on her face all the time. Her voice was also strangely calm. Adora had never seen her like this before.

"Dear Adora… Why do you think I kept pushing her against you all the time?"

"I- I don't get it."

"You are She-Ra. I've known it, all along, ever since I found you in the Whispering Woods. Your crib was abandoned right next to the sword… It was only a matter of time before the sword found you again. I couldn't let you become the Horde's greatest threat like that."

"What do you mean?" Adora said, her voice trembling.

"I did my best to make you want to become a Force Captain, the perfect Horde soldier. But the sword would find you on the battlefield eventually… I needed to give the Horde its best chance to defeat you if it happened… Catra."

"...you're lying. This is a mind trick again. I don't want to listen to you anymore."

"Every time I punished her when I favored you… Every time I called her a nuisance or told her I'd kill her if she pulled you down, I created a little more of the Catra you now know."

"Stop it!"

"She had the perfect mindset for this. She doesn't care about justice like you do. She only takes care of herself and her loved ones."

"Shadow Weaver…"

"All she needed to unleash her true potential...was a little betrayal from her most loved one."

Adora smashed her hands against her ears. It was nothing but a mind trick… Shadow Weaver won nothing from this situation, she couldn't have molded Catra intentionally... However if it was real, it meant that it had all been her fault since the beginning, so then maybe… Just maybe, Catra would reconsider her position, right? This idea was seducing…

"Spit your venom somewhere else, Shadow Weaver." A hiss accompanied the voice of the newcomer who slammed the door open. "The guard tells me prisoners are screaming, and here I find you, torturing your special princess."

"Do not speak to me like that, Catra, or-"

"Or what? You're never getting out of this cell Shadow Weaver. Not as long as I command for Lord Hordak." A smirk tucked her lips in delight.

"Catra," Adora said, clenching the bars of her cell, "Shadow Weaver made you who you are, but you don't have to follow the path she influenced you to take. You'd only be doing her a favor."

Catra pounced, landing an inch away from her. Only the metal bars separated them, and Adora could feel her warmth. She missed her hugs so much. "Who do you think I am, a puppet?" she hissed. "I don't know what kind of crap she told you, but I'm making my own decisions, no influence whatsoever. And I take the responsibility for my own actions, Adora... unlike you."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"You heard me. Don't try to put the blame all on Shadow Weaver. She took her part in that mess for sure, but you leaving? That's on you, Adora."

"I'm sorry you're still mad about that."

"You really understand nothing… I thank you every day for leaving." Catra smirked. "I'm truly free without you around. You and Shadow Weaver… You were the ones holding me down."

"So that's your ideal, your goal in life... Destruction." Adora whispered, trying not to sound angry. "And then what? Once the rebellion is dead, once you've captured all the free people, once you've ruined the planet and taken over everything?"

"Lord Hordak has plans for the future of Etheria."

"You're just a pawn."

"Shut up!" Catra tried to scratch her, but Adora dodged the claws in time.

"It's true though. You have no true ideals. You just want to assert your dominance as much as you can."

"Well at least, I'm doing it right." Catra glared. "I just can't wait to see the look on all your Princesses' faces when we win, and when they realize you won't come to save them. Talk about a hero..."

Adora lost her spirit there. Catra was unfortunately right. She had failed.

"Aw, don't cry, Princess, save the tears for later when your little best friends join you in your cell."

Catra started to laugh again, when the screen on the wall lit up, revealing Hordak's skeleton face. "Lord Hordak!" Catra kneeled.

"Commander Catra. You need to join me and Chief Force Captain Octavia for the preparations of the final battle. Don't waste any more time with the prisoner. She's of no use to us any longer."

"No use?"

"No. We're getting rid of her today."

Catra and Adora both froze on the spot. "But my Lord, she's a precious hostage, the rebellion-"

"The rebellion has hope as long as She-Ra is alive. They still have the sword, they think they can get out of this. We need to crush that last wall."

"But- I- My whole plan was based on her being a hostage." Catra hid her hands behind her back. Adora could see them shake from where she was.

"Really? ...in that case, come up right away. I can't wait to hear about that plan."

"Of course, my Lord." Catra bowed, breathing out in relief as the screen switched off.

"Thank you."

Catra glanced behind her back. Adora's face didn't carry any hope or pain like usual when she was looking at her. Gratefulness. It had been a while since Catra had seen that one. It irritated her. Adora had no reason to be grateful to her.

"I didn't do it for you, once again. I only do things for my sake. Now excuse me, ladies, I'm awaited at the big chief's headquarters."

As she was walking away, she heard Shadow Weaver cackle ominously. "Are you going insane, old lady?"

"You're so naive, it's incredible."

"Excuse me?"

"You act so tough and almighty now, but you have zero experience working for Lord Hordak." Catra lost her composure for a second, then brushed it off.

"I'm not in the mood to listen to your mind tricks today."

"Do you really think that Lord Hordak's interested in your plan right now?"

Catra punched the wall. "Enough, you know what?" she snatched the key from the guard's belt, unlocked Shadow Weaver's cell, and dragged the feeble woman out. "You're going in the pit."

"Like it'll change anything."

"Stop talking." Catra closed the jail's door behind her, and led her old motherly figure through the corridors of the building, until she reached a special door, the door to the darkest cell in the Fright Zone, meant to deprive the prisoners of all light and hope until they've learned their lesson. "You're gonna regret opening your mouth today. Have fun, I'll get you out tomorrow if I don't forget about you."

"If it makes you feel good." Shadow Weaver walked on her own towards the dark cell. "You were right you know. We are more alike than I thought."

"Yeah right. Get your pathetic ass in."

"We were both left out by our most precious girl. And today we'll both lose her for good."

Catra slammed the door with a scream of rage. She ran back to Adora's cell department, locked the door herself, then put the key in her pocket. That wasn't enough though. She stared at one of the wall screens. "Call Scorpia."

"Hi Commander! You forgot to come celebrate Entrapta's success at empowering the black garnet. That's a shame, I made a great cake and-"

"Yeah sorry, listen Scorpia, I need you to come down to the prison department and guard She-Ra's cell, okay? Don't let anyone come in until I say so."

"Oh, sure, okay boss!"

"Perfect. Now you, guard, go do your business somewhere else, you're not assigned here anymore." The guard left, puzzled. That would be enough. Catra breathed in and out. She was in control. Nobody would stand in her way. Now all she needed was to find a plan for Hordak.


Catra busted into the reunion room. She loved making an entrance more and more nowadays. Chief Octavia rolled her only eye but didn't make any comment. Catra had clearly become Lord Hordak's new favorite strategist in barely a year, to Octavia's great distress. How this child had managed to usurp her role as second in command in half the time she had done was a mystery. But she needed to be careful if she wanted to keep her current position.

"Commander Catra, be seated. We were discussing my troops' organization for tomorrow."

"Of course Lord Hordak, but please let me first tell you about my idea regarding the hostage-"

"We already have a plan, Commander."

"It's not changing anything major, She-Ra would be used only as bait to distract her Princesses friends or make them surrender…"

"We don't need to distract them, Entrapta's experiment is already a success. We are going to beat them in a mere day, and sending them She-Ra's head on a plate before the battle tomorrow will be enough to crush their spirit."

"Lord Hordak, with all due respect, it'll only fuel their anger…"

"That's enough. I'm starting to think that you take a great interest in She-Ra's life, Commander."

Catra held Hordak's empty stare. How was she going to get out of this? She was beginning to panic inside. Octavia was smirking next to Hordak, of course she would enjoy seeing her in trouble.

"Chief Octavia?" Two guards appeared on a screen behind them. "Your orders have been executed. She-Ra is dead."

Catra's heart stopped.

"Perfect. Send the head to Bright Moon, with my compliments."

"Um…we can't, we already incinerated the body in the purging chambers...as we always do…"

"What?! I never ordered you to do that. Octavia, explain yourself."

Catra didn't wait to hear her colleague's explanation. She ran out of the room, jumped from stair to stair. It couldn't be. It was a mistake, a frame up. Adora was still in her cell, protected by Scorpia. When she reached the jail department, she saw Scorpia, lying unconscious on the floor. Her body was still jerking with spams from the Horde's tazers.

"Scorpia! Wake up!" Catra shook her, but the Force Captain could barely groan in her slumber. Catra pushed the door open. The lock had been forced. "No…"

Adora's cell was empty. No trace of her was left behind. "No!" Catra ran again, this time in the direction of the purging chambers, the same ones where she once helped Adora and her friends escape, and where they left Entrapta for dead in the Fright Zone. She must have survived, she had to have… She was She-Ra damn it!

"Call Entrapta!" she yelled at a screen when she got in front of the metal doors.

"Catra! Right when I was going to send you a note! I made an interesting discovery about-"

"No time! Can you unlock all of the purging chambers now?"

"At the same time? No problem, but why?"

"Just do it!"

A second later, a long corridor leading to the dusty land stood ahead of her. Empty.

"No…" Catra whimpered. "Entrapta you survived in these last year, right?"

"Barely. Emily opened up and put me inside of her. She saved me."

"NO!" Catra ran as fast as she could, checking every corner of every chamber, until her feet landed on the ground outside. "ADORA!"

She dropped on her knees. Her vision was blurred by the tears. When had she started crying? She couldn't recall. Somebody screamed her nemesis' name again. Maybe it was her own voice, she didn't know anymore.

"Commander…" Two big pincers wrapped around her shaking body. Catra cried even harder, but didn't push them away. "Lord Hordak is calling for you. For the battle, you know?"

"The battle?"

"Yeah. I can tell him you're sick if you want."

"No… No need, Scorpia. I'm fine."

"Are you?"

Catra wiped her eyes. She had to look composed, Hordak couldn't see her look so weak… But what was the point?

"I just- I need a minute..."


"What was that horrible sound?!"

"Catra…"

"Adora get back underneath the blanket, we're not out of the Horde's vision yet! If they spot us…"

"What does it change Glimmer? Even disguised we still look suspicious leaving the Horde just before the battle."

"It's not a reason, Bow. We can't risk them seeing her no matter what. Nobody can know she's alive."

Adora sighed as she looked one last time towards the Fright Zone. It was already far, but she was almost sure she could see a red dot in front of the Fright Zone's buildings. A red dot that was screaming like it was just hurt to death.

Chapter Text

Earlier that day…

Three masked soldiers were whispering as they walked through the building, occasionally nodding from afar to guards. The smallest one seemed uncomfortable.

"Guys, I don't want to be the one pushing you out, but… How long do you intend to stay? I mean…I love having you here, but you're not exactly on good terms with the Horde."

"Of course Kyle, we understand that we're putting you in a difficult situation. If only Miss Reckless here had agreed to make it a one day mission as planned..."

"But Bow! We still don't know the details of Hordak's plan!"

"We know the essentials Glimmer, it's more than enough for the Rebellion."

"Guys, remember to use the code words... " Kyle said as he glanced behind his shoulder.

"Sure, but once Hordak realizes that we rescued Adora, he'll change his whole plan again. I need to know more about him, his way of thinking, his strategies."

"Alright, no need to argue now that we're spying on him again," Bow sighed, "but it's the last time anyway, since he planned to attack us tomorrow."

"If he does…" Glimmer sweated. "If only we could rescue Adora incognito…"

"Guys, we reached the blind spot, let's go."

Bow and Glimmer followed Kyle who crawled inside an old air duct. It was their fourth time using it to reach the meeting room where the Horde higher ups gathered to speak of battle strategies. Each time made Kyle more and more nervous because of the eyes and ears of the Fright Zone : Entrapta. The geek princess had been ordered to keep an eye on everybody on behalf of Catra. The genius didn't really care, but she still had found the time to set up cameras here and there in the building.

"Do you realize that we intend to leave Entrapta behind, once again?"

"I know Bow… But we can't trust her anymore, and we can't risk everything for her. Maybe, another time, another mission…"

Kyle shushed them. Bow was amazed at the transformation of the guy. He remembered the first time he met him, all weak, frail and sad. Desperate to make friends. Bow never thought he could actually become friends with a Horde soldier except for Adora, but after their previous infiltration a year before, Kyle had managed somehow to contact him. Ever since that day they had chatted once in a while, and Kyle eventually started to tell them crucial information. Without him they would have lost a few battles. It was also all thanks to him that Glimmer and Bow had now been walking safely inside the Fright Zone since the day before, collecting valuable information and planning to save Adora.

"I can't believe Catra hasn't found us yet. I mean, she knows more secret places than I do."

"She must feel too important to hide now that she's Hordak's right hand." Glimmer said. If she had spat on the floor she wouldn't have conveyed a better impression of her feelings for Catra.

"Okay, we're here… Be quiet."

The three teenagers stopped at an entrance to the air vent. All three of them couldn't peek at the same time, so Kyle stepped aside while Glimmer and Bow leaned on each other to take a glance. Hordak was just beneath them, petting his little white demon. That evil being had almost spotted them while they were looking for Adora's cell the day before. They had thought it would be all over, but it took them for guards.

"Chief Octavia, come on in. We're waiting for Catra to start the reunion. How are the troops?"

"As ready as ever, My Lord. If I may ask though, what do you intend to do about She-Ra?"

"I have not decided yet, I wanted to know both your opinions on that subject. I fear she might be too powerful to keep. Killing her would greatly affect the Rebellion, but it might have the reverse effect of giving them a martyr to fight for."

Glimmer bit her fist to hold back a gasp.

"I couldn't agree with you more, Lord Hordak. But even if the Rebellion gets a sudden motivation boost after learning of her death, we still are more powerful than them. They can't win as it is now. On another level, I don't think Commander Catra will be enclined to take her out."

"And why is that?"

"Well, they were always close before Adora defected, and given the amount of time Catra has already spent in her cell in three days…"

Hordak remained silent for a few seconds.

"Were they close enough to doubt Catra's loyalty?"

"That's for you to decide, My Lord, I don't have your judgement. All I know is that if you suggest this option, Catra will do everything she can to make you change your mind."

Glimmer and Bow didn't dare to breathe. It took them only one day in the Horde to understand that Catra's position was envied by this Force Captain Octavia. They knew -and so apparently did Octavia- that Adora's life was safe as long as she was under Catra's power, but now she seemed to be hanging by a thread…

"Call Catra." Hordak commanded to the screen wall. The feline commander's face appeared on the wall. Someone was standing behind her… It was Adora!

"My Lord!"

"Commander Catra. You need to join me and Chief Force Captain Octavia for the preparations of the final battle. Don't waste any more time with the prisoner. She's of no use to us any longer."

"No use?"

"No. We're getting rid of her today."

The shock on Catra's face was pretty obvious. She stuttered a few complaints that made Octavia smirk. When she told Hordak about having a plan using Adora, Glimmer could have sworn she saw a frown on the Horde's ruler's impassive face.

The screen switched off. The whole room fell silent, waiting for Hordak's reaction.

"...it might be too early to say you were right, Octavia."

Bow wished his heartbeat stopped being so loud.

"I guess…" Hordak rubbed his chin. "I guess there is only one way to test Catra's loyalty to me, and to see if she can truly be useful in the future. Chief Force Captain, send a guard to kill She-Ra, right now."

A small whimper escaped Glimmer's throat. The white demon jerked its head up.

"Okay, time to go." Bow whispered in Glimmer's ears.

"Oh my First Ones, oh my First Ones, oh my-"

"Shh, be quiet!"

The trio retraced their steps, as silently as they could. Mission was over, it was time to run away with Adora. If they managed to reach her before Octavia…

"Do you think the demon thing saw us?"

"I don't know…"

"Guys, what do you intend to do?" Kyle asked as they got out of the vent.

"We need to follow the guards that'll be in charge of killing Adora and take them out."

"Or better, we need to be those guards!" Glimmer said.

"Great, Kyle, where can we casually be found by Octavia?"

"Um…well, she's coming that way right now…" Kyle squeaked. Octavia had spotted them in the hallway outside of the reunion room, and was walking towards them at a military pace. Kyle was shaking, he wasn't supposed to be dressed as a guard, he was still merely a cadet. Hopefully she wouldn't recognize him.

"You three!" She yelled. The trio stiffened and made the Horde salute. "Special orders. Go to the prison department right away, and execute prisoner She-Ra. Here's your warrant."

"Yes Ma'am!" Bow said with a bit too much enthusiasm. Octavia looked puzzled for a second, then shrugged and walked back into the reunion room. She wouldn't miss Catra's fall for anything in the world.

"Okay, quick, we need a plan."

"Ew, this is so awful, look at the warrant, they want us to behead Adora!"

"Bow, focus! Plan! This is the perfect opportunity to escape without the Horde realizing Adora's alive."

"Yeah, but remember the cameras, they're watching us, and we need to show them proof we killed Adora anyway..."

"Guys," Kyle begged, "please be moving, we can't stay close to Lord Hordak's room too long, we'll get in trouble."

"How do you execute prisoners usually, when you don't behead them?"

"Um... I don't know, I never killed anyone… But I had to throw bodies in the incinerator for Shadow Weaver once or twice."

"Let's forget how terrible your life is for a minute, but we'll get back to it, I promise. Perfect!" Bow exclaimed, "we'll pretend we didn't read the warrant, and we'll pretend to throw Adora in the incinerator."

"But how do you intend to…you know...not incinerate Adora?!" Glimmer asked.

"Guess." Bow smirked.

"...oh great." she sighed, "you want me to teleport inside before it starts burning. But what about the cameras? I can't teleport if there's Entrapta recording…"

"There's no cameras in the incinerators, it's too hot." Kyle answered. "Um guys..."

"If that wasn't a little bit crazy, I'd say-"

"Guys..." Kyle tugged Glimmer's sleeve. "The demon thing is looking at us…"

Creepy faced, the demon was standing still on a pipe, staring at them like a spider at a careless fly.

"Let's just pretend we're happily chatting about our great murdering mission…" Glimmer laughed awkwardly. "Kyle, where is the incinerator?"

"It's in the purging chambers of the unused air vents. You know, the ones She-Ra destroyed last year when you escaped? They were fixed."

"Okay. Go find Adora, we'll meet there. I'm gonna distract that demon."

The boys left, and for a second the demon was going to follow them, until Glimmer snapped her fingers. Purple sparkles blew in the air, catching the minion's interest. Glimmer disappeared down a dark hall, the evil spy on her trail.


"This is a bad idea."

"We can't go back Kyle."

"But it's Scorpia! I can't fight Scorpia!"

"We're not going to fight her, we're in our legal right to go see Adora. We have a warrant."

"But why do you think she's here? Catra posted her there…"

"Huh? Why her specifically?"

"I don't know, I just know that whatever Catra tells her to do, she does. And a Force Captain is definitely not supposed to guard the prison…"

Bow raised a brow. Did it mean Catra was going out of her way to make sure Hordak wouldn't kill Adora?

"Well, we're gonna find out…" he muttered. "Let's go."

Scorpia was starting to get bored. She had forgotten her drawing pad in her room. Catra's orders had surprised her, and especially her urgent tone. She was pretty scared of something regarding Adora… But may she fear not, for as long as her best friend -meaning her, Scorpia- was guarding the prison, nobody would lay a hand on their prisoner.

Scorpia broke out of her trance when she saw two odd looking soldiers coming out of the dark. She crossed her pincers beneath her chest as she moved between them and the door.

"Force Captain Scorpia," the shaking man tried to impress her somehow, "we have a warrant. Let us in."

"...no."


Glimmer was scared. She had acted on impulse, promising the guys that she would occupy Hordak's beast, but she couldn't let it know she wasn't from the Horde, or their whole plan would be pointless. And now she couldn't get rid of it. She had walked through a dozen corridors, taken at least five staircases, but it wouldn't stop trailing her. She was getting further away from the rendezvous point, she had to hurry… What if she ran fast to a camera blind spot and teleported before the demon could witness it? No, she had no guarantee she would land in another blind spot.

"Ugh, come on, go see your master, you ugly thing…"

She glanced behind her shoulder. The creepy baby face was gone. Nowhere to be seen. Glimmer felt sweat running between her shoulder blades. This was actually worse than being followed… She took a few prudent steps forward. She realized she didn't recognize this part of the building. It was dark and unusually silent. Her heart pounded with each step. She scrutinized the walls and corners, looking for the thing. She jolted when she heard tiptoes behind her, but nothing was behind her when she took a glance…

She gulped. It was taking all of her willpower to not teleport. She breathed in and out. She tilted her head towards a slight noise on her right. Dark eyes on a white face. Two inches away from her head.

She screamed.


"We are under direct orders from Chief Force Captain Octavia, who received this warrant from Lord Hordak himself. You need to let us go through."

"No."

Bow couldn't believe his misfortune. It wasn't every day that an infiltration mission included following the enemies command in order to succeed… And yet he had to fall upon the one true loyal soldier obeying the one enemy who had feelings for the person he needed to save. There truly was a lack of communication between both parties…

"We are going to report you!"

"I don't care. I only follow Commander Catra's orders."

"Who has to follow Lord Hordak's orders, now come on!"

Kyle was starting to panic next to him, he could feel it. The sooner they finished this mission, the better.

"I'm staying until she says I go."

"Alright then you leave me no choice…" Bow sighed, then in one swift motion planted his tazer on Scorpia's belly. The Force Captain gasped but then threw a pincer at Bow, sending him flying. Kyle jumped on her back, covering her eyes with his arms. Scorpia wiggled and tried to catch him with her pincers whilst waving her tail through the air. Bow recharged his tazer, rushed in but got hit by the tail.

Scorpia finally grabbed Kyle's leg between a pincer, and threw the boy towards Bow, sending them both on their butt.

"Nobody goes in!" she shouted as she pounced on them. Bow and Kyle screamed. They raised both their tazers at the last second. Scorpia crashed on the weapons and a light yelp was the last thing the boys heard from her.

"She's alive?" Kyle asked, feeling a bit sorry for the giant.

"Yeah don't worry…"

Bow would feel sorry for her later. He forced the prison door open. A dozen empty cells stood behind, but only one was interesting.

"Adora! Um I mean…prisoner She-Ra!"

The princess looked up to the soldier. Something was off with him, but she couldn't tell what…

"You are here to be executed."

Adora hiccuped, but then she stood, raising her fists. If she had to die today, it wouldn't be without a fight. The soldier hurried to open her cell, then raised his tazer at her.

"I'm sorry…" he whispered. "Sorry Adora, I have to do this."

"Bow?"

The weapon hit her torso. Her body suddenly ached so badly that she thought she would throw up. It hurt so badly that she didn't feel the ground when she fell. Nothing mattered but the relentless pain. Then it all went black.


"Identification required."

The demon's stern bot voice yelled those two words at Glimmer again and again. She had to do something, or it would attract other soldiers to them.

"Um...look, that's my ID bracelet, look…" she waved the bracelet of the armor, but it didn't seem to impress the demon. "Come on now, stop it!"

She was considering using her powers to stun it, when suddenly it froze. The bot's eyes seemed to turn off, and it fell on its side.

"What's going on little guy, hurling all over the place?"

Glimmer's jaw dropped and she wondered if she would've just preferred being discovered rather than facing her. Entrapta.

"Who are you? Why was the minion following you?"

"I'm- I- I don't know actually, that was what I wanted to ask it!"

"Really? Then let's just ask him, he's not a very chatty cyborg, but after a few arrangements I managed to make him say a few words on his own. How incredible is this little creature, right?"

"Yes, incredible, ha-ha, thanks for the help!" Glimmer said as she walked backwards, trying not to look in too much of a hurry.

"You sound familiar…" Entrapta rubbed her chin with her hair. "Have I stolen your food once?"

"Oh, probably. Who knows? Everybody loves to steal my food."

"Hang on…" Entrapta swung a lock of her moving hair. It sent the princess' helmet flying in the air. "Oh… Sparkles."


The final step. If everything went well, in less than ten minutes, the Fright Zone infiltration mission would be over. Bow's heart was threatening to break his ribs. He couldn't believe his luck. He only hoped that Glimmer was fine and had gotten rid of their stalker.

"I don't like how the soldiers are looking at us…"

"We're carrying a bodybag Kyle, that's not surprising."

"It's not my first time though…"

"Then it's because the body is actually alive this time. Relax, we're following Octavia's orders."

"No, she ordered us to behead She-Ra. If someone asks to see our warrant..."

Bow sighed. Only a few more blocks, then it would be over.

"Hey you!"

The guys froze. A lion looking Force Captain, according to the badge, was pointing at them. It was the end. He would ask to see the body. He would see Adora's chest rising and falling. He would-

"Once you're done, join your squadron in the battle prep talk room."

"Yes, sir!" Bow saluted. "I'm telling you Kyle, this is our lucky day."

"Right, keep moving."

When they finally reached the purging chambers, Bow tried to call Glimmer as discreetly as possible, remembering that he was visible on the cameras. Nobody answered. Where was she? There wasn't even a handful of blind spots to hide in this area…

"Bow…" a voice whispered from above.

"Glimmer! Are you… Are you in the ceiling?"

"Somehow! Come on let's do this, I'm ready!"

"But how did you-"

"Later, Bow! The plan!"

"Okay, Kyle, open the doors. We'll throw her in, and...hope for the best."

"Thanks for the motivation!" Glimmer grunted.

Once Kyle unlocked the metal doors, Bow had only a few seconds to throw Adora in the gloomy space. Second thoughts crossed his mind as the doors closed and he heard the rumble of the fire behind. What if it had been too fast for Glimmer? She would be dead too… The door opened again when the boys pressed the button. Empty. No trace of human life.

"Okay, so…"

"So now we call Octavia, tell her we did it, and join the girls on the beach."

When Bow announced to Octavia that he had executed She-Ra, he truly hoped that he had fooled her and her alone.


"Commander Catra, what took you so long? You made us wait."

"Forgive me, Lord Hordak, I had to make sure She-Ra was dead," Catra spat. Swallowing up her pain, and turning it into anger. She had always been good at that. She sat at her usual place, noticing they had now been joined by the other Force Captains, including Scorpia, and even Entrapta.

"You're overzealous, Commander. Watching the tapes is more than enough to be certain, isn't it Entrapta?"

"Um…right, yeah, totally!" Entrapta put a hair-thumbs up.

"Now, let's focus again on the battle plan. Catra, please remove She-Ra's figure from the board."

Hordak was as stoic as ever, but he was staring at her very expectantly. An evil smile spread on Octavia's lips next to him. This was directed at her, Catra. The ruler was testing her, and somehow the Force Captain did this to weaken her. Catra grabbed the little She-Ra, holding Hordak's stare. No tears broke her face. Hordak nodded and started to talk, but Catra couldn't hear him. She was clutching Adora's figure in her palm. Octavia would pay for this.

Chapter Text

Entrapta felt uncomfortable. It didn't happen a lot. She was used to being stared at, or criticized. She was not like all the princesses and people she met, but she didn't really care. She didn't need people's approval, she was happy enough with her robots' love. However she didn't like to be a cause of harm to people she cared about. The last time it had happened was when her robots went berserk after her failed First Ones Tech experiment, over a year ago, terrorizing her human employees.

"Come on Entrapta! I can't believe you have nothing on her."

The most recent cause of her discomfort was waving her tail impatiently next to her.

"I'm telling you Catra, Octavia's as clean as Emily's circuits."

"It can't be…" Catra paced through the lab, mumbling of herself. "How am I going to get back at her if she has nothing to hide?"

Entrapta stared at her silently. Catra was a peculiar being to say the least. Not only physically, her behavior too was sometimes contradictory, like her obsession to fight with Adora that somehow always ended with Adora being allowed to run away. She claimed that she hated her, but had cried a river when she learned of her death… Her death, right. Here was the discomfort.

"Entrapta, promise me you won't say a thing to anyone!"

"Not even Emily?"

"Okay, only Emily then, but nobody else, and especially not Catra!"

Entrapta never had any problem keeping a secret. Being part of a social experiment was always exciting. However this time it involved watching her friend go insane. This would never happen with robots. She sighed.

"I'm going to look through older tapes. But it'll take some time Catra, and Hordak asked me to give him a way to modulate the Black Garnet's power at will during the battle. I might not have the time."

"I can do that for you!" Scorpia said as she came in. "I can look through the tapes. I've been assigned to the Fright Zone protection squad tomorrow, so I don't have many preparations to make anyway."

"What?!" Catra shouted. "What the hell? You're supposed to be with me for the leading operation!"

"Hordak thinks that I'm more useful protecting Entrapta and the Black Garnet, since it originally belonged to my family. Don't worry Commander, you'll win the battle in a snap of the claws, and we'll be back to the Super Pal Trio in no time!"

Catra huffed at Scorpia's bright smile. Something felt fishy in that sudden change of plan, and she was sure Octavia had something to do with it.

"What's she doing right now? That dumb tentacle face?"

"Checking her strike team's tanks."

"Aren't you supposed to be doing the same?" Scorpia asked.

"What? Yeah, I will. After I give her a piece of my mind…"

"Oh, Commander speech, nice!"

"Are you sure that's a good idea Catra?" Entrapta worried. The feline commander finally looked her in the eye. It was the first time she had seen the geek princess look so ill-at-ease. She was fidgeting.

"If you have something to say, speak your mind."

"Well you just seem emotionally unstable, it might not be the best idea to go have a word with Octavia in that state…"

"You're right." Catra rubbed her chin. "I'll first go ask Hordak why the hell he changed his plans without telling me, then I'll kick Octavia's butt," she said as she left the lab, a laugh lingering on the walls.

"Edit to log. Social experiment day 452 : people are exhausting."


A dark aura emanated from the Commander as she jumped from storey to storey in the main base building. Soldiers were conveniently avoiding her gaze, not wanting to get yelled at or scratched, but Catra didn't care. Only one thing mattered right now. She had to demand respect from Hordak, and she had to take Octavia out somehow. Then maybe the fire in her heart would stop eating it alive. But then what would be left? She mustn't think about it. There was the battle, it would occupy her thoughts. Or maybe she could use the battle to get rid of Octavia.

"Lord Hordak."

"Catra, I didn't require your presence." Catra ignored her boss's discontent.

"I learned that Force Captain Scorpia has been reassigned to the Fright Zone, despite being the most familiar with my battle techniques and strategies."

"She's also the most qualified to guard the Fright Zone and the Black Garnet. We can't risk a surprise invasion from the Rebellion."

"If you had only informed me earlier, I could have trained someone else. Now it's-"

"You are perfectly capable of leading the main strike team under my command, Catra. Don't forget that I'll be joining the fight, and don't forget who the ruler here is," he replied acidly.

Catra repressed a frown. "I wouldn't dare, Lord Hordak. I just felt that it would look less imposing without a Force Captain like Scorpia. How about assigning Chief Octavia in her stead?"

Hordak raised a brow. "Octavia is leading her team against Salineas. I need a representative leader at the top if I want to scare Princess Mermista enough to make her call her allies."

"Our new canons are so powerful that the sea gate won't hold up five minutes. Octavia won't even need to show her Force Captain badge. The Princess Alliance will run over there at the first blow, leaving Bright Moon defenseless."

Hordak tapped his fingers on his seat as he stared at Catra. She gulped, holding his stare. She couldn't be too pushy, but she had to make sure she wasn't losing her influence over Hordak. Having Octavia obey her orders during the battle was essential.

"Very well, Commander. I'll let you find a new Force Captain to lead the Salineas strike team, and announce the change of plans to Octavia. You're also in charge of making all the teams fully prepared. If there's any failure due to that last minute disturbance, you'll take the responsibility for it."

"Of course, Lord Hordak," Catra bowed, internally grinning. She was about to leave when the ruler called her back.

"Tell me Catra, that mask of yours… Why don't you ever remove it, or place it in front of your eyes like it's meant to be?"

By instinct, Catra reached up to her mask. She delicately lowered it until she could see through the holes meant for the eyes. What she didn't see though, was the sparkle that briefly passed in Hordak's empty eyes.

"I don't know my Lord, I've always had it. Shadow Weaver said it's the last thing that belonged to my race. It's a sort of inheritance, I like to wear it to feel strong."

"I see. Wear it as you lead the war then, Commander."

Catra left a bit puzzled, not noticing the smirk tucking Hordak's lips as he was petting his little demon. One good thing was done. Now she needed to think fast. Who would replace Octavia? What could she do to her? She also needed to make a final prep talk to the different teams. And she had to prepare herself for the battle. Catra stopped in the middle of the stairs. Her breath was short. She was sweating. Something was crushing her chest, she thought her ribcage would explode. She had to get out.

She quickly jumped on the walls and pipes, until she reached her favorite spot, the highest point of the building, the one that let her dominate all Etheria. She clenched the metal bars as she watched the sunset. Her lips trembled as the reddish sky reminded her of her. She used to love the sunset. Catra's face broke, a whining sound escaping her mouth. Her knees dropped as she kept staring at the setting sun, as if it was Adora saying goodbye to her forever.


What a beautiful color. Adora sighed as she watched the sky explode in dozens of shades. She wondered if Catra was watching as well. Probably not. She'd never been as dazzled by the sunset as she herself had.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

Adora turned around and smiled as sincerely as she could. "Hey, Glimmer. I was just admiring the sky."

"How are you feeling?"

"Relieved. Grateful to you guys. And…" she sighed again. Guilty.

"You're thinking of her, right?" Glimmer's disdain was thinly veiled. She sat next to Adora, who was curled up in her blanket.

"She thinks I'm dead."

"And that's a good thing. We need them all to think that you're dead. You're our secret weapon now, more than ever."

"I know, and tomorrow the truth will be out, but I can't forget how she screamed when we left..."

"I don't understand you," Glimmer said a bit aggressively. "After all she's done, all the fights, the bruises, the kidnapping… You still love her."

"Love?! You mean like Netossa and Spinnerella?! I don't- I just-"

"Oh come on, it's as obvious as the nose on the middle of your face!" Glimmer gritted her teeth.

"It's more complicated than that."

"I know, and it kills me, because I want you to be happy. I want us all to be happy. But it means winning. It means defeating Catra. Will you be happy with that outcome?"

Adora didn't answer. It had been over a year since Catra had cut Adora from her life to become Hordak's right hand, and yet the princess hadn't stopped hoping she would forgive her and change her allegiance. She still clung to the old Catra she knew, the one who always looked out for her. It was also the one who had been tortured by Shadow Weaver, had endured the bullying of the other cadets, and had been abandoned by her best friend…

Adora's feelings would always stay conflicted about her decision. She had made the right choice for Etheria, for the common good, and for her own values. However she had betrayed the one person who needed her most at the time. It took her some time to understand how Catra had felt. The more Adora deciphered her best friend's mindset, the more Catra seemed to embrace the path of darkness.

"Adora? I know I've been repeating that a lot, but it's not your fault Catra acts the way she does."

"I know. She told me herself."

"She did?" Glimmer looked surprised. This might actually help Adora move on.

"She said I'm responsible for leaving her, but she's responsible for the choices she's made from that point."

"She's right. She chose to stay with the Horde. She knows that they're evil, and she embraces it."

"But to what point, Glimmer?" Adora stared at her, with her big despairing blue eyes. "What is she looking for in the Horde's power? I can't help thinking…"

"I know what you think, but you can't let it disturb you! Even if she does this only to prove to herself that she's better than you, she will still strike as hard as she can. Remember the scars Adora."

Adora reached her back, where some stitches left ugly white marks between her shoulder blades. They only hurt in nightmares now.

"Becoming the best… For her sake... " she whispered to herself then gave a hopeful look to her friend. "Today proved that she doesn't want me dead at least. I take that as a good sign. She's not totally lost, Glimmer."

"Whatever Adora. Don't forget though, that if she comes out of the war alive, she'll have to face the Rebellion's judgement."

Glimmer said this with a sorry tone. She didn't like Catra, but she knew that whatever happened to her would hurt Adora, and Glimmer couldn't do anything about it. She reminded Adora to come to the meeting room for the strategy preparation in an hour, then left the bedroom. Adora snuggled deeper into her blankets, staring intently at the red sky.


An hour later, as she entered the staff room where all the princesses were gathered, Adora felt for the first time as if her allies and friends were talking behind her back. The silence that welcomed her was more than a little bit suspicious.

"Adora, dear, please take a seat," Angella invited. "Glimmer was about to tell us more about Hordak's operation tomorrow."

Glimmer cleared her throat and waited for Adora to sit. "So Hordak's plan is to launch an attack on Salineas tomorrow morning at dawn, using their new extremely powerful canons to blow up the sea gate. Bow and I have seen the machines, they are not to be taken lightly. His real offense though will be against Bright Moon, after the Alliance sends some Princesses to protect Salineas. He will use the best of his forces here in Bright Moon, while we're trying to protect the sea gate.

Obviously we would send our troops back to Bright Moon when we realize the trick, but the problem lies in Plumeria. Since Hordak took Perfuma's kingdom over a few months ago, he's built underground galleries all the way from Plumeria to the sea. He's stored some artillery machines there and plans on releasing them while we're fighting in Salineas, creating a barrier to stop us from coming back to Bright Moon."

She made a pause in her speech. Mermista looked outraged. Perfuma, devastated at the reminder of her lost kingdom. The rest of the audience was eagerly waiting for Glimmer to continue. She smiled a little, delighted to reveal her plan.

"Hordak's plan is simple, but it would really weaken us. Since he can now matchour power with the Black Garnet, we need to be all together in Bright Moon when we face him, and he knows that. He doesn't really care about Salineas, he just wants us to split our group."

"Wait hold on. Face him? He will be there?!"

"Exactly. He wants to end the Alliance in Bright Moon, since it's our headquarters. Capture us and Queen Angella, and make us surrender. If he can also win Mermista's kingdom as well, it's a bonus. Tomorrow is his big show."

"Do you have a plan in mind, Commander Glimmer?" her mother asked.

"I do. This will be hard to hear, Princess Mermista, but we can't send any Princess to fight for Salineas. We need to give up on your kingdom."

"I'm sorry, whaaat?" Mermista rose from her seat. Balls of water levitated from the glasses on the table.

"Please, listen to me! Tomorrow will be decisive for either side of the war. We need to act together, all elemental princesses united, in order to defeat the Black Garnet's power. We have She-Ra with us to act as an independent runestone and to boost our power, which they have no idea of. They think they've killed her."

Glimmer bit her lip as she said those words. She didn't mention yet to anyone that one person in the Horde knew about their secret. Could Glimmer trust her though? She had to believe in her.

"Sooo, you basically want me to abandon my people."

"Temporarily! We will win against Hordak tomorrow, capture him and his commander, and release both Salineas and Plumeria."

Adora's eye twitched at the mention of the commander. A question burnt the tip of her tongue, but it wasn't the time to ask it.

"Okaay, and what if we…you know, don't win against the Horde? What if we win but he runs away? How do you intend to take my kingdom back?"

"I can send my troops to back them up," said Frosta. "Us princesses will fight in Bright Moon, while my soldiers help your soldiers in Salineas to hold the siege."

Over an hour of negotiations passed, trying to decide what was best for tomorrow's fight. The only thing they could all agree on was that Plumeria was a real thorn in the side. If they had known sooner about the Horde's underground battle field, they could have anticipated. They finally agreed on a compromise. Salineas' folks would evacuate to Frosta's nearby kingdom tonight, while part of Frosta's and Mermista's soldiers would head to Plumeria, ready to ambush it in the morning. The Horde wouldn't expect this inside attack, focusing on Salineas and Bright Moon.

"What will happen, when we win?" Adora finally asked. "What will happen to the Horde soldiers?"

Glimmer and Bow glanced at each other, then looked over at Angella, whose face grew harsher. "They will be judged at the Grand Court of Mystacor, like all war prisoners."

"But what would their sentence be...at worst?"


"I don't like this Bow…" Glimmer was pacing in her room. It was late now, the moon was up in the sky, feeding the runestone with power.

"Me neither. But we can't do anything but have faith in Adora."

"Did you see how she was zoning out during the meeting? It's like she's still over there, with her."

"Yeah. Three days back in the Horde did take a toll on her."

"My mother is suspicious. She loves her, but she realized that Adora was affected by Catra's sentence."

"She hasn't been judged yet."

"Come on, you know how it'll end! If she's not sentenced to death, she'll be exiled to the Forbidden Zone, which is even worse…"

Bow remained silent. He didn't know what to think of Catra. She had shown such contradictory behavior within a few months… Her relationship with Adora had a kind of strength and weakness at the same time, making them long for each other as well as fight each other. They hurt themselves repeatedly, due to that damn lack of communication. However it didn't erase all the suffering Catra had caused around her.

"Bow, remember how I was in the ceiling back in the Fright Zone?"

He looked to see a very anguished Glimmer. "Yes? You didn't tell me how you ended up there."

"Well, I got some help."

"...from?"

"Entrapta."


"Aaah finally, I did it! Look Scorpia, with this little clicker, Hordak can now activate the Black garnet and make it siphon any runestone he wants at will! He can even redirect a runestone power against the princesses if he wants."

"Amazing! You are one true genius Entrapta! Does it work on the sword of She-Ra?"

"No, that's the one runestone we can't control. I'd need to have the sword in order to study it."

"Well, anyway, it's not like She-Ra will be a problem anymore," Scorpia said uncomfortably.

"Yeah...not a problem."

"Glimmer, what are you doing here?"

"Um… Visiting a friend?"

"You're here for Adora, right?" a little pinch of sadness could be heard in Entrapta's voice.

"I…yes, Entrapta. I won't lie to you. We need to save Adora, we can't let her die."

"Oh that's right, Hordak sent some soldiers to kill her. Are you alone?"

"No. Bow is here as well. On his way to rescue her."

"Right, right…" What was she supposed to do? As a Horde member, she had to stop them.

"Entrapta, I'm sorry, by the way."

"About what?"

"About leaving you behind. About not trying to rescue you when we learned you were still alive."

"Oh well… I'm working for the Horde willingly, saving me would be illogical. Kidnapping me would, on the other hand."

"I'm still sorry I gave up on you."

"It's okay. I feel better here, with Scorpia and Catra. I've never had so much fun in my life!" She saw Glimmer hold back a frown. Of course she wouldn't understand.

"So what now?"

"Well I think it's better if you three just leave the place. Come on, I'll show you the way."

Entrapta didn't know why she still cared about them enough to help them escape back then. Like Catra had told her numerous times, these princesses never understood her, except for Bow maybe. And they had left her behind. Well now she knew that they had thought she was dead at first. Which kinda made sense.

Anyway, Entrapta was happy now with her new life in the Horde, with her friends, her discoveries, her experiments… However, even if they were officially her enemies, she couldn't let Adora die, or Glimmer and Bow be captured. They had shared some things together. Even if they didn't work for the same side now, Entrapta would never mix her friendships with her allegiance. She was the exact opposite of her commander.

"Where is Catra? I need to tell her something."

Chapter Text

The robot's insides exploded as it was crushed by the weapon. It had been defeated, but its attacker kept on hitting, trying to turn every piece of metal into dust. The training room was filled with destroyed war machines, lying pathetically around their only opponent.

After landing her final blow, Catra threw her stick to the floor. She paused a few seconds to catch her breath, then headed towards the gym. Since there were no more robots to train with, she would lash out at the heavy bags. She still had so much energy built up, she thought her body would blow up like the bots.

As she pushed the door open, she realized that she had bruises on her arm. She hadn't even noticed how hard she'd strained her body. It didn't matter. She focused on the physical pain, clenching her arm until she could see blood.

"You shouldn't do that, you know."

Catra jolted and turned around, ready to attack her opponent. She relaxed just a little bit when she recognized Lonnie.

"What are you doing up so late? We're leaving in three hours."

"I could ask you the same, Commander."

A soothing feeling ran through her muscles as she heard the honorific. Not once had her ex-co-cadet used it ironically since Catra had been promoted. She appreciated that. She couldn't have imagined that what she would enjoy the most about her rise was the calm respect of one of her old rivals.

"I need to be ready for tomorrow, that's all," said Catra as she put her focus on the heavy bag in front of her, punching it like it was her mortal enemy.

"I think the mess you left in the training room is proof enough that you're ready."

"Well I'm the Second-in-Command, I'll be the judge of that."

"Right." Lonnie sat down on the bench next to the heavy bag, allowing her to get a better view of her superior. "What do you picture when you punch the bag?"

"What?" Catra stopped, raising her brows in surprise.

"We all have a mental image when we train. What's yours?"

Catra gulped. She didn't really have one tonight. Usually she was picturing the princesses, or...Adora. More precisely, defeating Adora. She had always had a long term goal, something to feed on. Tonight, a thick fog seemed to be clouding her mind. Physical exhaustion didn't clear things, even if she didn't feel it. She pictured nothing on the heavy bag. If she focused hard, she could perceive what was ahead of her. The battle. Octavia. Then nothing.

"You know Commander, taking a break, especially when something big has happened, is the best way to get back on the horse."

"Yeah right, I'll ask Hordak to give me the day off tomorrow, I'm sure he'll be delighted."

Lonnie ignored her reply. "It starts with sitting on a chair and talking."

"I have nothing to say."

"If you kept repeating that to Adora for all these years, it's no wonder she eventually took it seriously."

"You need to go back to sleep if you don't want to lose an eye, cadet." Catra hissed, but Lonnie didn't bother protecting herself. She knew the feline. She was triggered but wouldn't attack her.

"I hated her, too, you know, when she left. We all hated her, except for Kyle maybe, because there's nobody he could hate. But now that she's dead…"

"Shut up!" Catra's claws ripped the heavy bag's leather. She was shaking. Her tired mind wandered in her memories. She was back in the prison, the last time she saw Adora. She wanted to stop herself from saying such terrible things to her. She wanted to open the cage and hug her. She wanted to nuzzle in her neck, smell her scent, kiss the skin behind her ear.

"Commander…Commander. Catra!" she snapped out of her trance. "You need to mourn, Catra."

She didn't answer. No more fights, no more teasing, no more talking. She couldn't do any of that anymore. Adora was gone. "I didn't want that..." Lonnie grabbed her hand, pulling her on the bench. Catra let her. She didn't want to look so vulnerable. She had tried so hard all day long to keep the gates closed. It only took Lonnie a few minutes to break through them.

"Why did I capture her?" Catra bit her lip at the sound of that hoarse voice she had when she was emotional. She hated it. Lonnie threw an arm around her shoulder. "Why…"

"She was our enemy."

"Was she?" Catra's fists were so tightened her claws were hurting her palms. "I don't even know anymore!"

"It's normal. She wasn't just some enemy. She used to be our friend. Your best friend."

"And I killed her."

"No, you didn't. Hordak did."

"No, no, I brought her in, I wanted her to see my victory, I wanted her to fail to protect her friends… And in the end it was me… I failed."

Catra's eyes stared at nothing in the air. She blinked as she realized that her reflection was staring back at her in a mirror. What a great image, Hordak's second-in-command, the terror of Etheria, looking like a zombie with dark circles under her puffy eyes. One year ago, the same Catra was laughing with her best friend after a good training day. A less respected Catra, to be sure. Bullied, hated by Shadow Weaver, petty about being second best after her most important person. But somehow happy.

What would she become now? What next? She was on top, or almost on top. She had everything she wanted, except for that one thing she would never have again. She thought that she had lost Adora when she left her to become She-Ra. It was only now that she realized Adora had still been a very big part of her life, even far away in Bright Moon, even on a different side of the war. She had been there, in her mind, in her plans, in her dreams. They were always linked.

How humiliating to think that despite cutting her best friend out of her life, their bond had only changed in shape but not in intensity. How unnerving to think that she hadn't been able to do things for herself, to take her own path as Catra, and not as Adora's former best friend, or Adora's arch enemy.

And how devastating to only acknowledge that now that she was dead.

"What now?"

"Now you need to sleep." Catra had forgotten Lonnie's presence. "You need to rest, then lead the battle, then mourn. Step by step. And not alone."

Catra nodded as she wiped her eyes. "First I need to go see someone." She walked towards the exit but stopped for a second. "Thank you, Lonnie."

"No problem. You're a far better Shadow Weaver, you know."

Catra cringed. Lonnie didn't mean it that way, but it was not a compliment to her ears at all.


"Move your ass, Shadow Weaver."

"You were quick to get me out of the pit."

"Oh but I can let you rot in there, if you insist." Catra's words were sharper than usual. She had some spite to let out. She dragged her old commander back to her usual cell.

"No thank you. So what now Catra? Have you come to blame Adora's death on me?"

Catra only glared at her through the bars. After everything she'd achieved, Shadow Weaver was still mocking her. Despising her. She didn't even fear her.

"I have warned you."

"I know, and guess what, your warning didn't make any difference at all," Catra spat. "How the hell did you know Hordak wouldn't listen to me?"

"I've been working for him since you were a little kitten. What do you think? I was his Second, then Octavia took some of my work, then he replaced us both with you. Lord Hordak doesn't like his right hands to become too powerful. He wanted to put you back in your place."

"So he killed Adora just for that?!"

"If he saw her as a nuisance, yes. He had plans for her since she was a baby. She disappointed him."

Catra raised a brow. This was the first time Shadow Weaver had ever mentioned Adora's childhood that way. "Why did Hordak have plans for a baby? For that baby?"

Shadow Weaver didn't answer. Catra groaned.

"You're hiding things from me."

"I thought you didn't care for my mind tricks."

"Oh this isn't one of them. Your silence says more truth than you realize."

"Then good luck deciphering it."

"Come on, you owe me that!"

"I...owe you...NOTHING." Shadow Weaver pounced so fast that Catra jolted back, even though the bars separated them. "You killed Adora. Deal with it by yourself."

"...why did you love her so much?"

"..."

"You really did, in your sick twisted way. And you hated me as hard as you loved her. That's something I can never understand…"

"It doesn't matter anymore."

Catra crouched on the floor, wrapping her tail around herself. She felt a weird feeling of proximity with her old mother figure, despite the hatred they both held for each other.

"Did you know that she would become She-Ra when she was a baby?"

"Will you stop bothering me? If Lord Hordak learns I told you…"

"So you're really hiding something. What was so important about Adora that Hordak wanted her in his ranks? He couldn't know she'd be She-Ra, or he would have killed her…"

"Stop talking when he can hear us because of your stupid cameras!" Shadow weaver rose and gripped the bars of her cell.

"I monitor the cameras, and he will see what I want."

"You foolish child, you never learn, do you?! This is why I hate you."

"Oh really?" Catra stood up to her, glaring at her mask. "Is that all? You're sure you don't also hate me because I took your spot? Humiliated you? Broke your powers? Ruined your future? ...killed Adora?" Catra's eyes burnt with rage as she said those words. Oh, how she wanted Shadow Weaver to suffer. If she could make her feel half the pain she was bearing right now, she'd considered herself blessed.

"Since you really want to know…" the sorceress grasped Catra's top, pulling her face to her level. "I hate you the most because of your race…"

"My race?" Catra didn't expect that.

"All my miseries started because of that filthy queen who convinced Mystacor to ban me…"

A black aura erupted from her hands, running up Catra's skin. She shivered. Her power was not completely dead. She tried to escape, but Shadow Weaver's hold was too strong.

"The Queen of the Magicats… You look so much like her… I only wish I could have killed her myself."

She locked her hand around Catra's neck, who widened her eyes. Her old childhood nightmares came back in an instant as she felt this pure hatred coming from the woman. Shadow Weaver wanted to hurt her, like she had done so many times before. Catra was frozen with terror, hypnotized by the darkness. She was choking. The shadows were slowly blurring her mind.

She had to move, she had to do something. She couldn't let her keep the control. She planted her claw in Shadow Weaver's arm. The spell broke in a second.

"You're crazier than I thought," Catra panted, rubbing her neck.

"You wanted to know the truth. There it is."

"You told me nothing useful."

"You don't know anything about yourself, Catra. You were so lost in your childish self-pity and ego that you didn't look at the big picture. You got blinded by the recognition your master granted you. And now because of you, and you only, you lost the only person who ever cared about you. How could you believe you'd be more than a tool to Lord Hordak?"

"I shouldn't have come to you."

"That's right. You don't need me to see how pathetic you are."

Catra hurried away from her, away from the prison. She was exhausted, and terrified of Shadow Weaver even if she tried to hide it. Old pains from bruises the cruel woman had given her when she was a kid came back to taunt her body. When she arrived in her private room, she collapsed, leaning on the toilet seat, and threw up.


The night was peaceful at Brightmoon. Only in appearances though. A palpable tension lingered on the walls, as dawn was approaching. The soldiers on night duty were more awake than usual, paying attention to any movement coming from the Whispering Woods.

The enchanted forest had become a no man's land with two trenches on each side. One for the Horde, one for the Rebellion. The Princesses hadn't been able to fix the woods, that was why it had quickly become a battlefield. Recently the Horde had managed to push Brightmoon's trench back towards the castle. It would be a piece of cake for them to break through it in the morning.

In Glimmer's "secret weapon stash" room, Bow and Adora were training under the bored gaze of Swift Wind, the talking unicorn.

"You're slacking off, Adora," Swift Wind said as he yawned.

"Easy for you to say, you weren't tazed into unconsciousness today."

"I'm sorry again Adora…" Bow lowered his shield. Adora took advantage of that to land another attack. "Hey, seriously, I said I'm sorry!"

"Who's slacking off now, Swift Wind?"

Bow asked for a truce when Adora tackled him down to the floor, taking a well deserved break.

"I can't feel tired, it's weird."

"Me neither. Too much stress."

"Look, Swift Wind is snoring."

"Adora? How do you feel by the way?"

She knew what he was talking about, but didn't want to bring that topic up. "I'm fine. Anxious about the strategy, because I still think Glimmer was a bit too optimistic about us winning…"

"Are you kidding? Your power is huge, and we're all together now. We definitely have a shot."

Bow kept his last discussion with Glimmer to himself. They couldn't let more people know that Hordak might already be aware of their secret weapon. There was also no need to make their secret weapon more insecure than she already was.

"Yeah I'm with Bow on that. It's gonna be just fine! But you dodged the question," said Swift Wind as he peeked an eye open.

"I don't want to think about it guys. Tomorrow we end this war. Then we'll think."

"Alright." They stayed silent for a few minutes, rocked by the sounds of the birds chirping.

"You know that whatever you decide to do, Glimmer and I will support you Adora."

"And me as well, as long as you help me free all the horses."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Adora huffed.

"Right…" Bow smirked. He wanted to tease Adora more, but it might not be a good idea to talk about Catra's ambivalence before the big battle. They would have all the time in the world when it was all over.

"You're very optimistic Bow, I always appreciated that in you. Always positive…" Adora sighed.

"We need positivity! We need to see the bright side of things and hope for the best!"

"Things are not always that simple. If they were, Catra would be by my side right now."

"Yeah, I wish she had followed you from the beginning."

"I don't." Her friends looked at her in surprise. "I can't say I like how it all ended, but...clearly she would have still been miserable if she had followed me. Probably less than now, sure, but she needs something she has to find by herself."

"She looks like the kind of person who needs a big burn out to figure things out." Swift Wind nodded.

"Alright but...I would have preferred if she hadn't frozen the Whispering Woods for that…" Bow laughed. Thank the First Ones Glimmer wasn't here, she would have been outraged to see them talk so lightly about that subject.

"She is so powerful…" Admiration rang in Adora's words. She seemed lost in her thoughts. "She doesn't even realize how strong she is and always was. I mean, she's not strong the way she thinks. I realized it only recently. She has this passion in her, this energy that can move mountains. And because of everything that happened, she turned it into rage. That's also where she's so vulnerable."

"Do you want us to leave you alone with your mental projection of Catra?"

Swift Wind cackled, and added "no but seriously, she kidnapped you, and nearly got you killed."

"She tried to protect her until the end. Kyle and I had to fight Scorpia to reach Adora, that wasn't child's play..." grunted Bow. He saw from the corner of his eye that Adora was smiling.

"Did you hear from Kyle by the way?" she asked.

"No." Bow answered sadly. He felt guilty for leaving their ally at the Fright Zone, but Kyle had insisted that it was better for them to have a spy in the base. What he truly meant though, was that he wasn't ready to leave his whole life behind quite yet. "I hope he's okay. I'm scared he got discovered."

"If he did, it'd be bad for us. Hordak might already know everything."

"No way, he's super sly, I'm sure he's just been busy."

Suddenly the door burst open revealing Glimmer, looking pale and grave. "It's 4 AM. It's time."

Bright Moon's guards were yelling through the castle,"It's time! Get yourselves ready! They can arrive at any moment!"

Perched on the castle's walls, Perfuma was counting the number of onion bulb bombs she had created. "Already?! One hundred and twelve, one hundred and thirteen…"

"Keep your position for the moment, I will send you the order when you can attack Plumeria." Frosta told her troops via a com-diamond, as she was pacing in the hall.

In their room, Mermista and Seahawk cheered and chugged a shot of vodka. "For Salineas."

"Let's finish this…" Netossa fixed Spinnerella's armor.

"Let's show them how it's done..." Queen Angella slammed her fists on the battlefield board.


"It's time." Octavia banged on the doors of the soldiers' dorms. A thunderous sound resonated everywhere in the building. Humans, hybrids, robots, everyone was perfectly synchronized. A chant started in the ranks as they opened the gates, driving the tanks out onto the fields.

The Horde is might

The Horde is right

Can you hear our wrath?

Victory is ours...

Hidden in the reef of Salineas, the ships of Force Captain Leech were waiting for the exact time to attack the sea gate. "In three, two, one…"

"It's time, hahahahaha." Entrapta laughed hysterically as she welcomed Scorpia in the lab. She had never been more excited for an experiment. "I still haven't seen Catra, will she come say goodbye?"

"Are you ready to go, my Second-in-Command?" Hordak asked as he descended the stairs of his throne.

"More than ever, my Lord…" Catra bowed, making sure to avoid his gaze. "It's time."

Chapter Text

5AM.

The first rays of sunlight hit the dead branches of the Whispering Woods. Life had ceased to inhabit the place for a while now. A dreadful silence resonated in the grey area, that was only broken occasionally by the soldiers rolling shifts in the trenches.

Today, even the guards held their breath. Tension filled the air, as everyone waited for the storm to break. In the distance, the Horde's tanks were advancing fast, crushing every remaining root in the way.

Hordak was perched on the biggest tank, dominating the scene of war around him, not caring one bit about personal safety.

"My Lord, there's a call for you." A soldier from the tank handed him a com-tablet. A dragonish face was waiting on the screen, looking anxious.

"Force Captain Leech, what news do you bring?"

"Salineas has fallen, my Lord… Much faster than I had planned. The sea gate didn't last ten minutes. We fought against a mere hundred soldiers, but no princesses. The castle and the whole city were empty. They knew, my Lord."

"Did you get the runestone?" Hordak asked, unfazed.

"Yes, I sent it to Entrapta."

"Perfect. Settle your army there, Force Captain, and be ready to be of assistance if I need it."

Hordak ended the conversation. He rubbed his chin for a second, then faced the tablet again. "Call Plumeria." This time a half-lion looking beast soldier appeared on the screen. "Force Captain Grizzlor, how are things going over there?"

"There's been nothing to report since I arrived, my Lord. The city is empty, the runestone is working fine, and our men have already started to raise our robots' barrier."

"Good. Change the disposition of the barrier though. Protect Plumeria, make sure the base is unbreakable. And be prepared for an attack."

"It'll be done."

"Lord Hordak!" the ruler glanced up. On her tank, Catra was pointing ahead of her. "We'll be there in a few minutes!"

"Good," he smirked. "Salineas is ours, Commander. Now it's Bright Moon's turn."

With Catra on his left, Octavia on his right, the tanks at the front and the robots on the sides, Hordak made an explosive entrance into no man's land. The guards of Bright Moon sent the alarm, then retreated when Entrapta's improved cannons started throwing fireballs. They were no match for the Evil Horde.

"My Queen! They're here!"

"And Salineas has been attacked!"

Angella clenched her fists. "Alright. Everybody in position! And be careful. Now that they know we've anticipated their attacks, they can change their strategy at any moment."

She stepped onto the bridge leading to the moonstone, where she would activate its shield, but first stopped to nod at Glimmer from afar. She was standing still in the first row of their little army, looking much more of an adult than Angella would have wanted for a girl of her age.

She sighed. Hopefully, her only child could soon be the careless teenager she always should have been.

Glimmer raised a thumb up to her mother. She looked around her. Mermista and Frosta stood on the shore of the lake, ready to use their water and ice magic. Behind them, Seahawk was leading Mermista's crews on their ships, planning to throw handmade bombs that the shanty singer would set on fire -instead of the ships themselves…

Bow and Perfuma were on the walls of the castle with archers and Plumeria's citizens, all holding magic arrows or bulb bombs in their hands. Finally Netossa and Spinnerella led the troops with Glimmer. The only missing princess was Adora. She would make an entrance when the Horde was fully engaged in combat.

The trench guards ran out of the Whispering Woods, followed closely by the Horde bots. Glimmer raised her father's staff. "For the rebellion!"

The archers launched their arrows on the first row of bots. Explosions made the ground shake, decimating a third of the Horde's tech. The rest started to shoot laser bullets as the tanks and foot soldiers arrived in the valley. The army was huge. More and more machines were appearing from every direction. If the rebellion didn't act fast, they would soon surround the castle.

Angella synchronized her energy with the moonstone, calling all her inner strength to raise a magical wall around the castle. Spinnerella and Mermista both sent offensive water and wind waves to repulse the tanks and bots. Glimmer teleported so fast from tank to tank that only a flash of glitter was visible before they blew up. From her spot Perfuma was creating some magical branches that paralyzed the foot soldiers and immobilized the tech.

For a while, the rebellion seemed to be resisting the assault. At least until the leading trio arrived: Catra, already jumping up the cliff to command the catapult team on top; Octavia, marching against the main rebel troops to pierce through their ranks... and Hordak. Angella shivered when she made eye contact with him. She hadn't seen the man since the battle in which she'd lost her husband.

The ruler looked up to her and smirked. Angella gulped. She had to focus on protecting the moonstone. She couldn't let herself be disturbed by the screams of her troops, falling to Octavia's wrath. Or pay too much attention to the feline commander pulverizing Mermista's ships from the cliff. Or think of Glimmer who was so close to facing Hordak…

"Queen Angella! We just got some news from Snow Kingdom's captain, they're facing major difficulties in Plumeria…"

The queen shot a glance at the young princess who was fighting with Mermista. Frosta was definitely not in a position to make a decision… "Tell them to retreat if they can't take Plumeria, we can't have too many losses for nothing!"

She barely had the time to answer the soldier, when she suddenly felt drained of energy. She dropped to her knees and looked up. The moonstone's light was more feeble than she'd ever seen. She heard a general gasp coming from the ground. All the princesses were down, and the magical barrier had fallen. Fireballs hit the towers, while Horde soldiers rushed into the protected zone and began attempting to break into the castle. Plumeria's citizens dropped their bombs on them, creating a heavy fog around the castle.

"What did he do this time?" Angella whimpered as she glared at her mortal enemy. Hordak was holding a strange device in his hand. "Now would be a great time for She-Ra to come."

"Aaaah!" Glimmer screamed. She'd lost her powers while she was blinking. She fell on the rough metal of a tank, hearing a crack in her back. As she tried to pull herself together and find her staff, she got swept up by the hair. She cried again, raising her hands to make the thing let go.

"You're just a harmless little girl without your powers, aren't you?" A dark snicker made a shiver run down her spine. Blue face, one good eye, tentacle hair.

"Let me down!"

"Already? But we're having fun, aren't we?" Octavia licked her lips. "I think I'm going to make you my personal prisoner. That'll teach you for-"

"Octavia," Hordak snarled. "Keep your focus. The princess is irrelevant now. Kill her and move on. You have things to do."

"Yes, my Lord."

Octavia threw Glimmer on the ground. When she opened her eyes, she saw the gun aimed at her head. She wouldn't even have time to yell for help.

"Glimmer!"

A loud bang shook the tank and made her ears whistle, as a terrible smell filled her nose. "Quick, Glimmer, we need to get back to the castle!" Bow's voice was at her left. She felt arms wrapping beneath her own, dragging her away from the main battlefield. Smoke and a horrible onion flavor lingered everywhere around her. She couldn't see.

"Are you alright?" That was Perfuma on her right. They had come down all the way from the castle's walls to pick her up. "My onion bulb bombs will cover us for a while, but we need to hurry!"

Soon they reached their mass of main troops. Bow and Perfuma made Glimmer sit down behind a rock. "Get some rest here, Glim. We're gonna help the soldiers."

"Wait, my staff!"

"We'll find it, don't worry!"

Glimmer risked a peek from behind the rock. There was still smoke here and there, but she could see most of the Horde forces. Hordak was still standing on his tank, invincible, untouchable. He hadn't fought personally yet. And Octavia…was gone. Where was she?


"Frosta get behind me!" Mermista tried to shield her, but she felt so weak she fell back on her hands. "Seahawk, we need your fire now!" She shouted. Twenty bots were aiming at them. Frosta hugged Mermista as they braced themselves.

"Whenever you need, Princess! Let's go, my crew! Aaaadventuuure!"

The remaining ships destroyed the closest robots. The princesses took it as their cue to retreat in Seahawk's direction. The ships were easy targets but they would be a little bit safer there. They were ten seconds away when they heard the crew scream and saw them all jump into the instant later, a huge flaming rock crushed the boat.

"Seahawk!" Mermista called. She didn't see him jump. She attempted to extinguish the fire, but her power was completely gone. A new rock fell right next to her. She looked up over her shoulder. Catra was standing on top of the cliff, surrounded by their new catapult machinery. How had the Horde lifted it up there?

The Second-in-Command frightened Mermista. More than usual. She wasn't smirking like in their previous fights, a glint of delight in her eyes as she witnessed her own power. Today she looked stone cold. No expression betrayed her thoughts. Her outfit belt was adorned by grenades, giving her an even more dreadful aura. What had happened to her?

"Princess! Are you hurt?" Mermista groaned but then smiled in relief when she saw Seahawk swim towards her, all disheveled - both hair and moustache. "What should we do now?"

"...I don't know." She looked over at Frosta, who for the first time really seemed to be an eleven year old kid. Their ships were destroyed, they had no powers, and a murderous feline warrior had their lives in her hands.

Catra raised her arm for the new rock launching, but this time she pointed at the castle. The ships and the princesses on the lake were harmless now. "Aim at the wall, we need to stop their smelly bomb defense. Try not to touch the moonstone, we need it uncracked."

As she finished giving the order though, she froze on the spot. A shiny figure had just appeared in the sky above the castle, mounted on a flying horse: long blond hair blowing in the wind, sword raised and pointed at Hordak, a hateful rictus on her face. She fired.

A loud detonation sent everyone to their knees. Hordak's tank was nothing but metal pieces now, but the ruler was not lying amongst them. Catra didn't care. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out.

"Commander! The Princess of the sea has gotten her power back, look! What should we do?"

It seemed the power of the sword had given the runestones some fuel again, even if it was a bit weak. For a second Catra stared blankly at Mermista, who was once again swiping at the bots with water, immediately taking advantage of that reversal of force balance.

"Commander!"

"I…" Catra looked again at She-Ra. As their eyes met, a dozen feelings fought in her heart, threatening to make it explode in her chest. Surprise, relief, anger and pain were the ones she could recognize. She-Ra's eyes only conveyed sadness, Catra assumed. She mouthed her name, lowering her sword.

Then Hordak appeared out of nowhere in the sky and hit She-Ra full force, making her fall from the horse.


The fall was long. Adora crossed her arms in front of her face and folded her legs, bracing herself for the impact. She hit the water, sinking fast into the depths of the lake. Something seemed to whirl underneath her though, and in a few seconds she was propelled out of the water.

"Adora! Are you okay?" Mermista was rushing towards her. Adora coughed. She wondered for a moment where she was. Then she saw him. He was flying. But not like Angella or Swift Wind. More like the drawings of the First Ones' rockets she saw in the temple.

"Mermista get away from here!"

Adora raised her sword, but Hordak was too fast. He threw an arm at her. It was abnormally massive. It sent her flying despite being in the lake. Adora rolled onto the shore. She grabbed her sword and steadied her legs. Hordak landed a few meters away from her. His arm had indeed changed. It was now a sort of big cylinder… Pointed at her. Like a big canon.

Adora gasped and jumped just in time when he fired. He laughed. What was up with this guy?!

"What a great entrance you made, She-Ra. Too bad you're only strong in appearance."

His arm changed again, turning into a rocket launcher. Adora had no time. She transformed her sword into a shield. The rockets made a mess around her. Her shoulder took a hit, but the power of She-Ra protected her for now.

"You failed to kill me in the Fright Zone. You'll fail to kill me today," she smirked. "Your whole plan failed."

Hordak stayed impassive. "My plan failed? I don't think so. It's going exactly as I foresaw the moment I realized you had escaped yesterday."

Adora would have expressed her surprise if she had had the time, but Hordak had closed the space between them in an instant, turning his arm now into two swords. Good, Adora preferred close combat.

"Did you really think that your little friends could have just barged in and out of the Fright Zone with a prisoner like you unnoticed?"

"If that's the case," Adora punched his guts, "why did you come here today anyway? We knew your plan."

"To defeat you all at once." He grabbed her top, launched himself in the air and slammed Adora against the cliff. "Whether you're here or not, I will win, Adora. The rebellion is doomed..."

"I won't let you." Adora snarled. As she said those words, she felt her energy match with the sword. The diamond on the weapon grew brighter and warmer. She could feel the moonstone's power regenerate too. If she had been able to look into the distance, she would have seen the Princesses' power increase, and the Horde soldiers back up in retreat.

"You think your little sword trick will work every time?" Hordak let go of her. She fell from the cliff, but planted her weapon in the rock which made her landing smoother. "You're not the only one who can control the runestones now…"

Hordak stood over her holding a clicking device. He rolled a button and pressed another one. The energy she had felt earlier immediately died out, but oddly enough the moonstone seemed to shine brighter than usual, like it was siphoning all their magic. It was radiating so hard, Adora could see Angella scream underneath. Suddenly an extraordinary purple ray erupted from the stone…and destroyed the top tower of the castle.

"No…" Adora widened her eyes at the disaster. It was all falling apart. People were running out of the castle in panic. All civilians… "NO!"

She jumped on the cliff, propelling herself high in the air, and hit Hordak in the face. She wouldn't let him use the runestone against them. Not now, not ever. They fought again, sword against sword. Adora had a slight advantage, but he still seemed to be playing a game somehow.

"Had I known you'd become the She-Ra… I would have killed you when you were a baby."

She must not listen to him. He was just like Shadow Weaver.

"Yeah you should have killed me when you could, because now, I'm taking you OUT." She raged as she threw her sword. But he had changed his arm again into a canon. BANG.

Adora fell on her back. "You're right and yet… We are running after the same thing, Adora, even if you don't know it yet…"

"What?"

She tried to get up, but he put a foot on her chest, pressing her against the ground.

"Light Hope didn't tell you anything at all, did she?"

Adora stared into his eyes for real this time. She searched for a trace of malice, but she couldn't tell if he was just trying to distract her.

"Where do you think all my tech comes from? Why is the Horde alone mastering it? Why are all the princesses and their subjects so...weak? And why wasn't there a She-Ra for a thousand years, then out of nowhere, here you are?"

"I… I know enough about that, and I don't need more to know that you should be defeated!"

Hordak punched her. The metal broke her nose. "Tssk, children and their ignorance. You can't win a war if you don't know your opponents Adora. And if you don't even know yourself… You'd better stay home." He smirked.

"Then tell me, since you're so eager!" she yelled. Meanwhile, she was checking the battlefield out of the corner of her eye. She could see Bow discreetly making his way towards them.

"Think for yourself a little. Where do the First Ones come from?"

"Light Hope said they were travellers who came from… Eternia."

Bow armed an arrow. But now Adora actually wanted to hear what Hordak had to say.

"Exactly. So do we."


"Queen Angella! Please answer me! Are you alright?"

She opened her eyes. Her head was dizzy and her ears were ringing. What had happened? When she fully emerged from her slumber, she realized that her feet were not on the ground.

"Swift Wind! What- What is-"

"Thank the First Ones! You passed out when the moonstone fired!"

The moonstone. "No…" Angella's face broke when she saw the horror underneath the flying horse. Her castle was on fire. Rocks wouldn't stop falling. The bulb bombs had all exploded with the impact, creating even more damage. Civilians were running for their life, with Netossa, Frosta, Mermista and Seahawk trying to protect them from both the castle and the Horde.

Glimmer was fighting on the front with the remainder of her magic, but she could see her losing strength.

"What should we do my Queen?"

She tried to use her own wings, but her body was exhausted. She fell back on Swift Wind's back.

"First of all…" she shook her head. Think fast, think rational. "Let's go tell Netossa to lead the civilians in the direction of Plumeria. They can find Frosta's and Mermista's soldiers over there."

Yes, that was a good decision. First limit the damage. And not worry. It would not be like last time… Glimmer was strong. She was by Spinnerella and Perfuma's side. They would not let her die like her father.


Bow breathed in. He had to be focused. A little mistake, and he would hit Adora instead of Hordak. He breathed out. He was about to fire, when he got tackled from behind. He elbowed his attacker.

"Are you crazy?! "

Bow stopped wiggling when he recognized the voice. "Kyle?! What are you doing, let go of me!"

"Only if you don't shoot Hordak."

"I need to save Adora!"

"You're gonna get yourself killed!" Kyle let go, then dragged Bow behind a broken dead tree.

"In case you didn't notice, this is war! I can get myself killed at any moment!"

"Yeah okay, but this is suicidal, Hordak is way too powerful, look!"

They peeked out from behind the tree. Adora was still immobilized under the Horde ruler's foot. However they looked like they were...talking.

"Your friend can take him, but you can't Bow. Trust me." Kyle put a hand on his shoulder. "On the other hand, the princesses over there could use your help, especially Glimmer."

"Glimmer?! No way, she's resting..." He spun around. His best friend was back in the battle, hitting the most soldiers that she could, but she was hurt… He could see it. Perfuma and Spinnerella were also struggling, and the rebel soldiers were falling under the tank hits.

"You should give this back to her." Kyle handed him Glimmer's staff. "I snatched it from my tank's captain."

"Wow, now you steal from your own boss…" Bow laughed a little as he took it. Kyle gave him a feeble smile.

"I need to get back there or they'll notice I'm gone. Don't be reckless Bow, we are not princesses!"

Bow looked at Glimmer, then back at Adora. He had to make a choice, but he couldn't… His breath was accelerating. This wasn't how it was all supposed to happen. Why couldn't he help both? He had to do something, he had to snap out of it.

He shook his head and rushed towards the front battle. Glimmer needed her staff.


"You're from...Eternia?"

"And so are you Adora."

"That is a lie."

Hordak grinned. He was truly enjoying himself. He pressed his foot more forcefully into Adora's armor, making her lose her breath for a second.

"Why would I make such a blatant lie Adora? You and I were both sent here by accident, almost twenty years ago… The connection between Etheria and Eternia has been broken for over a thousand years, but somehow it got restored for a short while, and here we are. You, me, and the Horde. Most of the old soldiers came from our home planet as well."

Adora had forgotten about the battle around them. She could only remember that flashback she had several times when she discovered the sword of She-Ra, and when she met Light Hope. Stars… She saw stars. Madame Razz mentioned them as well. Could it be true? Could they both be from outer space?

"But how?!"

"If I had figured that out, I wouldn't be here, kid. However…" he took his foot off of her. Adora immediately rolled away from him. She raised her fists, but waited. She couldn't help it, she had to listen.

"However I have a good idea of how to restore the connection. How to finally contact Eternia. Wouldn't you want that as well? Don't you want to know your roots? To meet your family? ...your brother?"

She lowered her fists. Something told her he was telling the truth… At least a part of it.


Glimmer yelped. A dead soldier had fallen on her back. It was still hurt from earlier. She barely had the time to push the body away before another soldier charged her. She blocked the attack with her arms, glitter flying around her. She recognized her opponent, it was one of Adora's old teammates, the buff girl.

She was strong. Glimmer was forced to take a few steps back. If only she had her staff… The other princesses were as busy as her, fighting or helping people, and she was sure she saw her mother riding Swift Wind. Where were Bow and Adora? She could use a little She-Ra boost…

This cadet was starting to annoy her. She seemed to hold a grudge against her, as she had been harassing her since the beginning of the battle. Take this, thought Glimmer, as she threw a glitter fist into her stomach. The cadet snarled, about to retaliate, but she stopped at the last second. Glimmer frowned but didn't have much more time to think it through. A bullet lodged in her back.


"Why would you tell me this now Hordak?"

Adora and her old boss were tracing a circle as they paced slowly on the shore.

"Because I just thought… Why fight? Why not join our forces to conquer the runestones and bring our link with Eternia back?"

"You waited until now, in the middle of a battle, to ask me for a truce?" Adora raised a brow. He wasn't making any sense.

"You defected. You became She-Ra. I was in my right mind to mistrust you. But you seem loyal to your new allegiance, which makes me think that maybe...we could all work together…"

"And that includes killing people who disagree with you."

"...the fight for the greater good demands many sacrifices, Adora."

Adora huffed. "Something tells me that my family on Eternia were not good friends with you, am I right?"

"On the contrary, I took you in as a baby. Abandoning you would have been more logical if I had been on bad terms with them."

"...you're a bad liar, Hordak." Adora hissed. "And it doesn't change anything. You killed people, destroyed families and kingdoms. I'll never join you, I'll fight you even if I have to die for it!"

With her last words she pounced, feeling a flow of energy coming from the sword. Hordak raised his sword arm, barely blocking the attack.

"So be it, Adora. If I were you though, I would focus on saving my friends rather than taking me down for now." He smirked as he glanced behind them. Adora followed his line of sight and gasped.

A hundred soldiers from both sides lay in the valley, dead or dying. Angella was back at the moonstone, trying to raise a protection charm. The remaining troops and the princesses were now cornered by bots. They all looked distressed and exhausted... And behind the princesses, she could see one of Netossa's nets, protecting a group of her friends. Swift Wind was there, his horn spreading light. He had learned how to heal that way a few months ago. Somebody had been hurt.

Adora tossed Hordak away from her, and started to run. She could distinguish Bow standing next to Swift Wind from here, with Glimmer's staff in his hands… Glimmer?!

"Adora." Hordak was calling her again, but she would deal with him later. She could save them. The power of She-Ra would work now that the princesses were all together. They would bring back the rainbow wave, they would chase the Horde away. "Don't you want to say goodbye to your old friend?"

She stopped in her tracks and spun herself around. Hordak had his arms back to normal, crossed on his chest. He looked up to the cliff. Once again she followed his gaze. Once again what she saw made her want to cry.

Octavia was holding Catra. By the neck. In mid air. On top of the cliff.

Catra was half unconscious, struggling to get some air, clenching the tentacles.

"Now, now, Adora. I'm going to make it simple for you," said Hordak. "Surrender, or she dies."

Chapter Text

She was alive. Adora was alive. That was the only thought that Catra's confused brain could form at the moment. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she saw the giant warrior fight against Hordak.

How was it possible? She had seen her being thrown into the purging chambers on the tapes! It couldn't have been a fake, Entrapta would have noticed!

"Commander!" Catra grabbed her head in her hands. She was in the middle of a war, paralyzed by her own emotions. But what the hell was happening?! A few hours earlier, she was talking with Lonnie about mourning. Now her arch enemy was fighting on a fucking flying horse and she didn't know how to process it all.

"Commander, what are your orders?"

She needed to talk to her. She needed to punch her for making her so sad and confused. She needed to see the true Adora, not She-Ra. And touch her. Touch her face to be sure she was real.

"You look thrilled to see your prisoner alive, Commander."

Catra froze at the sound of that voice. She suppressed a hiss as she turned around to face her. "What do you want Octavia?"

The Force Captain was standing amongst the catapult team, looking suspiciously ecstatic. The soldiers on her sides appeared to be...uncomfortable.

"Well you seem unable to lead your team properly right now, so I thought I might take it from here," she said as she took a few slow steps towards Catra.

"And who do you think you are exactly to decide that?" Catra's claws unsheathed by instinct.

"...you don't know? It was covered in Force Captain Orientation, you should have come." Octavia pretended to be surprised. She stopped a few inches away from Catra. "I'm the new Second-in-Command of course!"

Her tentacles swished in the air. Catra leapt, avoiding them at the last second. She landed on Octavia's back, making her stumble. She scratched her face and jumped away from her.

"What kind of crap are you pulling Octavia?" she asked and avoided a slap again. She had to be careful. The Force Captain's true advantage resided in those tentacles, each of which could suck the life out of her.

"What do you think, idiot… Lord Hordak doesn't trust you anymore."

"...bullshit." Catra swiped at Octavia's torso, leaving a big mark on the blue skin. Octavia roared, and grasped Catra's leg with one of her tentacles as she was in the air. She smashed her on the ground. Catra instantly felt Octavia's power starting to drain her. She kicked hard between the Force Captain's legs, which made her yelp and loosen her grip. As Catra wriggled free, Octavia pulled out her gun and fired until it was empty. Catra danced between the bullets, jumping from rocks to machines. She hid behind one of the catapults to catch her breath.

"Did you really think Lord Hordak wouldn't notice how crazy obsessed you've been about Adora? It was obvious you would value her life more than his will." Octavia snickered. She borrowed a soldier's gun and silently notified the team to corner Catra from behind. "Okay, I have to admit, I played my role in convincing him… You only confirmed my position."

Catra tightened her fists. She knew it. Octavia had been plotting behind her back all this time.

"Poor little Catra… Even on top, you can't help being so weak." Her team tiptoed around the machine. "The Horde needs a commander that won't let herself be dragged on a leash by her feewings."

They pounced out of the shadows, raising their guns. But instead of Catra, they found only a small device. Round, the size of an apple. "Grenade!"

Laughter rose above the smoke. Octavia elbowed her way past the soldiers as they screamed in pain, making her way through the disaster zone. Then she gasped as she was punched in the stomach. She glared through the smoke with her only eye. She couldn't see anything, but could hear the little snicker on her right. She lashed her tentacles out, but only hit the fog. Suddenly something tugged on her collar, and sent her flying in the air. She landed on her back, immediately immobilized by something heavy.

"You thought you could take my place like that?!" Catra punched her face. Octavia tried to retaliate, but Catra had expertly stuck her arms beneath her back, blocked her legs with her own, and held a firm grip on the Captain's murderous hair. "I'm gonna make you pay for your treason!"

"You don't get it, do you?" Octavia spat out a tooth. "Lord Hordak doesn't want you anymore, Catra." She watched with delight as Catra's face paled. "We knew Adora was alive, kitty…"

"Stop lying!" she jammed her elbow on Octavia's throat, strong enough to make her heart race, but not so much that she couldn't still talk.

"I'm not. We never found the body or the guards who were ordered to kill her. Guards who didn't even follow the warrant. Didn't you think that was odd? Oh no that's right…" Octavia's tentacles wrapped around Catra's arms all the way up to her neck. "You were too busy crying for her."

Catra's claws sank into the flesh, but Octavia didn't even react to the pain. She squeezed her neck harder, and reversed their positions, now topping Catra. The feline was squirming in panic, trying to throw off her hold, kicking in the air, but to no avail. Octavia's magic was already working. In a desperate attempt to gain some time, Catra let out a few raspy sounds. Octavia let her hold loosen for a few seconds.

"Why… Why did he...keep me around...then?"

Octavia jerked her head backwards when she laughed. In a swift move Catra reached down towards her belt.

"You don't kill the bait before you catch the fish, kitty…"

Catra grabbed the little apple sized device on her belt.

"I'm the bait for…?"

She hooked her finger in the loop. She unlocked it. Ten-nine-eight-

"Adora, of course."

Seven-six-five-

"Asshole."

Catra waved the grenade in front of her face, a dark aura glowing in her eyes. Octavia's eye widened. She let go of her, and ran faster than Catra chasing a mouse.

Three-two-

Catra threw it as hard as she could in Octavia's direction. She curled in a ball as the explosion rocked the cliff. Her back was on fire, she could feel the agonizing pain scorching her body. She rolled on her back to extinguish the sparks then took a look around her. Most of her team had left the cliff. The rest were too injured to move... Move. Catra had to move. She couldn't see Octavia. She hoped she was down.

She had to go see Adora. She was fighting Hordak. She'd better not die this time.

Catra dragged her body through the smokey air, coughing here and there. Octavia's magic had ruined her stamina. She finally reached the edge of the cliff, where she could see the battle unfold. The princesses were cornered in front of the castle's destroyed bridge, barely protected by a magic net. They were losing.

And Adora… She was fighting in close combat with Hordak, yelling things at him. Adora…

"Where do you think you're going?"

Catra squealed. The tentacles lifted her by the neck. She was gasping for some air. She could barely touch the floor with her toes. Life was leaving her. Below, she could distinguish Hordak smirking up at her. That bastard. Her ears were whistling.

Adora was looking at her. She was wearing a look Catra had only seen once before. The time when Catra had cut ties and left Adora to fall to her death.

"Aww, she seems so devastated," said Octavia behind her back. "Are you happy Catra? You'll die knowing you finally got back to your girlfriend!"

Adora was looking back and forth between her and the princesses. Something was happening, but Catra felt too weak to think it through. Adora's shoulders slumped in defeat it seemed. She lowered her sword.

"Now that you...baited her good…" Catra choked on her words. "You can...at least...face me when…you kill me."

"You know what, you're right, this way the last memory you'll get from Etheria is my face."

Octavia spun Catra around. It allowed her to get a little more air for a second. She stared into this evil eye. This face she hated so much. Oh, how they'd hated each other for so long… The Horde had been so good at dividing the kids they were training.

Octavia cackled in delight. She had never been happier in her life. Catra's mind started to blank. Soon she would faint and never wake up.

Catra's claw cut the air. Octavia's eye fell to the ground. She shrieked.


The inhuman sound echoed across the valley. Angella saw the feline commander fall from the cliff, barely making it to the ground in one piece.

Poor child. Betrayed by the very people she was serving. If Angella hadn't held a grudge against Catra, she could almost have felt sad for her. Adora on the other hand… Angella had watched her hesitate between two sides. The queen could easily guess what had happened. It was just like Hordak to blackmail his opponent.

Catra or the rebellion.

And Adora had lowered her sword.

"Is everything alright, Queen Angella?"

Swift Wind landed next to her.

"Yes. How is Glimmer?"

"I controlled the bleeding. She's gonna be fine with some more She-Ra healing and some rest. We need to win this quick…" Anxiety broke his voice.

A rumble attracted their attention on their left. Frosta had gathered the last remnants of her strength to raise a thick ice wall in the middle of the battlefield, between the Horde and all of the rebellion. It circled the castle, and stood high enough to protect them from the catapult, but it wouldn't hold for long given the state of her power.

Angella breathed out. She gave the child a silent thank you as she saw her pass out in Mermista's arms. The snow princess' desperate act would give them a bit of time to think of a strategy. However, when she analyzed their situation at the moment, desperation overwhelmed her, as she couldn't think of a good enough solution to survive this battle.

"Swift Wind, bring Adora back to the Princesses. We need She-Ra, right now…"

"But she's still fighting Hordak!"

"We need to get our power boost, and he knows that, he's been keeping her busy while we lose strength."

"I got it, I'll bring her back."

"One more thing, when you can," Angella added hesitantly. The horse's ears raised. "We need to capture Catra."

"Capture...Catra?"

"...preferably alive," Angella shot an annoyed glance at Adora. "We can't let Hordak keep her."

"But why?"

"I'll explain later. Please, I can't hold on for very much longer, and neither can this wall… Go."

Angella shook her head as the horse flew away. She looked up at the weak moonstone. For now, she had to keep it active for the princesses. For Glimmer. She would think of Adora's little mistake later. First, protect her people.


"Catra!" Adora took a few steps towards her ex-best friend, but got hit by a canon attack from Hordak. The ruler paused and rubbed his chin as he contemplated the ice wall that had just erupted from the ground. He had to take command of his troops since Octavia was now useless. He stared at Catra, who was slowly recovering from Octavia's magic. He also had to decide what to do with her now...

Before She-Ra could snap out of his attack, he quickly walked towards Catra and tried to grab her by the hair. At the last second she seized his forearm as she glared at him.

"Nuh-uh!" Catra pounced on him, "you think I'm going to let you play with me like that?! How could you do this to me?!"

"Well, soldiers like you have an expiration date..." Hordak smirked as he caught her arm before she could scratch him. He tossed her against a rock.

She raged. "If it weren't for me, you wouldn't have made all of this progress! I got you Plumeria!"

"You've been useful to me. But you are not essential, and yesterday you proved that you couldn't let go of the past."

"Catra!" Adora called, as if on cue. She ignored her and rushed towards Hordak again.

"What do you intend to do now, Catra? Join the rebellion?"

"How about I take the lead of the Horde instead?"

"You?" He crossed his canon arms against his chest. Catra bounced on them and reached his face. He groaned as the claws marked his skin. "You can't even kill your worst enemy. How can you take over the world by yourself? You are not fit for leadership Catra."

Adora joined the fight. She shoved Hordak before he could blast Catra.

"This is my fight, Adora, go away!"

The feline jumped on Adora's shoulders and used them as a trampoline. She armed her claws, ready to give Hordak the scratch of his life, but then she felt swept up into the air. She wiggled, looking up to see what was carrying her.

"Horse?! What the hell?"

"It'f Fwift Wind, fank you vewy mutf." The flying horse was holding her with his teeth.

"That's a stupid name!" Catra planted her claws in his snout. Swift Wind dropped her, neighing in pain.

Adora, who was still fighting Hordak, wondered what on Etheria was her winged companion doing. He was chasing Catra again, but the feline wouldn't let herself be caught that easily.

"I've wasted enough time with the both of you." Adora jolted as she heard the words. Hordak wasn't smirking anymore. He was annoyed. Very annoyed. He pushed Adora away from him, turned his body into a First-Ones-kind of rocket again, and launched himself at an incredible speed towards Catra. He caught her before Swift Wind.

"No!" Adora yelled.

Swift Wind landed next to her, "Um, sorry to interfere, but we need you right now-"

She jumped on his back, "Follow him, Swifty!"

The ruler of the Horde flew to the area in front of the rebels on the other side of the ice wall. Immediately he had to dodge arrows and bulb bombs, but he soon steadied himself out of reach, high above the battlefield, a wiggling Catra locked between his tech arms. He stared at Angella, then She-Ra beneath him.

"Angella, you want my Second-in-command, right?" He shouted. The queen glared at him.

"See Catra," he whispered in her ear. "The rebellion really wants you in their ranks...or more likely behind their bars." He snickered.

"Then, dear Angella," he shouted again as he pushed the mask down on his commander's eyes. "I shall give you Catra."

He took a little golden stone out of his pocket, and inserted it on the left eye-hole of Catra's mask.

"Go wild," he said before dropping her.


A powerful shock wave shook all of Etheria. Or at least, that's what it seemed like to Adora, who almost fell off of Swift Wind. She saw Catra fall. She heard her scream during her fall. She saw her spasm. And just as she was about to crash into the middle of the rebellion camp, she saw her change. Her body grew, stretching her clothes. Her arms and limbs thickened. Her fangs grew longer and her face turned animalistic… A roar emitted from the little rebellion crowd, dominating the screams.

The beast was insanely strong. Tail swipes sent soldiers crashing into walls. Netossa and Perfuma couldn't trap the animal with nets or branches, and it seemed magic didn't have much of an effect on it. Its strength and agility were monstrous. Catra kept charging the masses of soldiers attacking her, as well as princesses.

"Hurry up, Swift Wind!" Adora pressed the talking horse. Angella had given up on the moonstone and was flying to her daughter as well.

Meanwhile, the Horde was aggressively bombing the ice wall. Deep cracks were threatening to shatter their last protection.

Adora jumped off of Swift Wind's rump, catching Spinnerella, who had been thrown through the air toward her, before she landed.

"Get away from my princess!" Seahawk screamed as a paw bigger than a human's head slashed in the direction of Mermista, who was still holding Frosta.

"Catra, stop!" Adora exclaimed. The beast's head snapped at the sound of her voice. She could see the blue eye through the mask. An angry, insane, bloodshot eye. Was Catra herself still behind that mask?

Bow fired an arrow into her furry flank. Catra roared in pain. The soldiers added their own arrows while all of the princesses and the queen sent a magical attack at the same time.

"No!" Adora pushed aside a few soldiers to make her way to Catra. Her eyes widened when she saw Catra charge blindly. Adora braced herself. She took the hit full force, tried to stop her, but there was too much momentum and they rolled over on each other. Catra quickly stood and ran in the direction of the wall, with Adora clinging to her back, trying to stop her.

"Catra, calm down!" She gasped when she saw the wall coming closer to her at an alarming speed. Catra was going to crash against it. Adora raised her sword and sent a powerful blast. It fragilized the ice, but not enough to pierce through it.

Adora turned her sword into a shield, put it in front of Catra's head, and closed her eyes. She heard Glimmer scream her name behind them.

She lost hold of the beast's flanks at the impact. Catra had exploded the ice. Such brute force in one body…

When she opened her eyes, she could see Catra on top of her, her claws ready to destroy her face. Adora breathed in, and changed her appearance back to her usual self. "Catra, it's me!"

The paw stopped mid air. A glint of lucidity shone in Catra's blue eye. For a second, Adora thought she could fix this entire mess. For a second, she thought she saw her old friend behind the mask, the girl who had meant everything to her, and who would continue to mean the world. But then some Horde bullets planted in Catra's back. She roared, then ran away, disappearing into the Whispering Woods within a few seconds.

Adora stood up groggily. She had to find her. She had to save her, even if Catra had told her multiple times that she didn't need saving. She didn't care.

"Adora! Watch out!" Bow called in distress. Adora looked around, but wasn't fast enough. She got blasted by a tank...as Adora, not She-Ra.

"I think we're going beast hunting as a celebration for our victory tonight," Hordak snickered at her. Adora, who was lying on her back, gritted her teeth. She ached so much, and for the first time she realized what She-Ra had been protecting her from. It was like being crushed by a mountain. Her heart was beating loud in her chest, trying to cope with the pain.

The Horde foot soldiers took advantage of the hole in the ice to invade the rebellion's temporary safe space. Brightmoon's forces, exhausted, had to fight again. But Hordak raised a hand at his troops. They held back, fingers on their triggers.

"Now Queen Angella," she could hear Hordak begin. "If I were you, I'd surrender promptly. You don't want to lose more people for nothing."

Not again… Adora thought. She was lying on the ground on the wrong side of the wall, helpless, tears rolling down her cheeks. Hurt, defeated. Too weak to reach her sword and transform. Why did she keep failing to protect the people she cared about?


Catra hurt. She didn't know what was happening. She only knew pain. However her body moved easily, like it weighed nothing. She could jump higher, run faster. Each time her paws touched the ground, it hurt. But she kept running. She didn't know where to go. She didn't understand what had happened to her. She didn't remember why she was running.

She just knew she had to get away from something. She roared at animals blocking her way. They scattered in fear. Catra was stronger now. She must have looked terrifying, but inside she was the one who was scared.

She jumped on a tree and stopped abruptly. She felt something. It was calling her. What was it? The attraction was strong. It soothed her pain. She needed to go there.

She left the tree and ran faster. Her heart lifted with hope as the thing became closer. It had to be good. Catra needed it. The pain had to stop.

"Oh! Hello, there."

Catra stood on her guard, tail and ears up, claws unsheathed. The thing was a person. Or the thing was on the person, she didn't know.

"My, my, you look terrible, Katriska. Are you looking for Mara, dear?"


Angella had to admit it. She had once again underestimated her enemy. With or without She-Ra, Hordak was still crushing the Alliance, ten years after their last battle. And this time, surrendering meant losing everything else that he hadn't taken the first time. Her kingdom, her daughter, her people, and her friends.

She squeezed Glimmer's shoulder one last time before she took flight. If she had to surrender, it would be with the dignity of a queen. Hordak was waiting, fidgeting his murderous device as a reminder that he also had a last resort weapon if the rebellion didn't cooperate. If it hadn't been for Entrapta…the battle might have ended differently, the queen thought bitterly.

She was about to speak, when suddenly the sky blackened. Everybody looked up to the dark clouds above them, which were spiraling in an ominous way.

"What on Etheria is-"

Angella couldn't finish her sentence. Lightning struck the Horde's tanks on the other side of the wall, violently setting the ground on fire. Soldiers screamed and scattered, and Hordak hurried back to them. An odd chant floated in the air, resonating louder despite the storm's rumble.

"No way…" Angella startled. People with long robes had just appeared, forming a large circle around Brightmoon, arms raised in the air, chanting to the skies' apocalypse. Some were on the cliff, others on the destroyed boats. Some were standing at the entrance of the Whispering Woods, including one that looked very familiar to Angella.

"Castaspella!"

The sorceress gave a warm smile to her sister-in-law, then focused again on her spell. Hordak didn't waste time waiting for another lightning strike. He shot at a warlock with his arm cannon, and missed him by an inch. The spell faded a little because of the disruption.

"Rebels!" Angella shouted at her friends. "We must help Mystacor's sorcerers. Let's protect them from the Horde's attack!"

Soldiers and princesses all clamored in unison. The unexpected help had raised their hopes again. They joined the Mystacor forces just in time, as the Horde robots had started to attack them more effectively. A few sorceresses had been wounded, but wouldn't stop casting their spell.

"Glimmer, what are you doing?" Angella asked accusingly to her daughter who was trying to leave the camp. "You're still wounded, you need to rest!"

"I need to check on Adora, don't worry, I won't fight."

Glimmer didn't wait to hear her mother protest. She hurried with Bow at her side towards the shore, where Adora had been blasted to. They widened their eyes in horror. Adora was shaking on her knees, as she attempted to stand up.

The duo arrived just in time to wrap an arm around her.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Adora! You need to turn into She-Ra. She can heal you, at least partly!"

"You're bleeding, hurry up and change!"

"I'm sorry I failed you all…"

"Will you stop that?!" Glimmer raged. It made Adora look up at her in surprise. "It's not like you to be giving up Adora, what's happened to you? Ever since you got abducted, you've been acting like a loser!"

A furrowed brow transformed Adora's expression. She pursed her lips. Glimmer took that as an excellent sign.

"The battle is not over Adora, now we've got my auntie helping us, but if you feel like too much of a loser to give us a hand, of course you can watch our victory from the sidelines."

"Sidelines?!"

Bow winked at Glimmer. Now she had woken her up. Adora nudged past them, raised her sword, and screamed the legendary words.

"For the honor of Grayskull!"

Glimmer sighed in relief as she looked at Adora surging back to the battle. She sat on the ground, exhausted already by exertion and the pain in her back. She reached to the wound and gulped when she saw blood on her hand.


Catra was wary, but the person didn't seem to mean any harm. However, an incredible power lingered in their aura. They must have been the most dangerous thing Catra had ever encountered.

"You look lost, Katriska. Does Mara know you're here? She must be sad without you."

The person reached out a hand at Catra. She growled in warning. The person understood. They stopped and picked mushrooms again. They minded their own business for a while, humming and talking alone about their Loo-Kee something.

Catra felt more at ease. She sat and proceeded to lick her wounds. She whimpered as the pain inside intensified. It wasn't a pain that she could heal. She flattened her ears in despair.

"You need help with that, Katriska. You know it, deep down, don't you dear? You've come to Madame Razz for a reason."

Catra let them come closer. Even if they did mean harm, her pain was so wrenching that nothing could make it worse.

The person put a hand behind Catra's ear and scratched. Catra knew it should have made her feel better but she barely felt anything at all. Still, she purred slightly to thank the person.

"So much pain you've overcome…" the person sighed. "Don't worry, I'll make sure Mara finds you."

The person took a shiny blue rock out of her pocket. She put it above Catra's right eye. When it clicked inside the eye-hole, Catra roared. She jumped everywhere as the pain threatened to make her body explode.

Images flashed in her head. Fire everywhere. Blood on the ground. Dead bodies. She screamed in terror.

Then it all went blank.

Chapter Text

Angella clapped her hands once. A shield appeared between the robot and herself, blocking its attack. She motioned her arms forward. The shield surged towards the bot, pushing it backwards until it hit a tank.

Satisfied, the queen checked over her shoulder. Her sister-in-law was still safe, focusing on her enchantment. Angella took advantage of the brief respite that she had from the battle to face her up close, her hands on her hips, a frown on her face.

"Although I'm very pleased to get some help from you, what on Etheria are you doing here? Since when does Mystacor get involved in wars?"

Castaspella ignored her, which only made her more irritated. Before she could speak again, the sorceress opened one eye and shook her head.

Not now.

Angella huffed. She looked around her and analyzed their situation. The rebellion was scattered across Brightmoon's domain, with several teams each fighting to protect a sorceress. The robots appeared to be tasked with defeating them, while the Horde troopers were busy saving tanks and munitions from the destruction of Mystacor's lightning magic.

Hordak was battling once again with Adora, to Angella's great pleasure. She was glad to see that Adora had gotten her spirit back. As for the Horde ruler, he looked extremely irritated by this new course of events. Like the rebellion, he must have been surprised to see Mystacor join the fight. Unpleasantly surprised, to say the least. Mystacor had a long history of neutrality regarding any war that didn't involve them in the first place or threaten the planet in its entirety.

One year ago, when the Horde had frozen over the Whispering Woods, messing with the runestones and the planet's balance, Angella had thought that Mystacor would finally end their passive policy. But it hadn't been enough. After months of negotiations, the High Council had voted to remain neutral, under the pretext that Hordak had failed to disrupt Etheria's inner balance. Mingling in all of a sudden after a thousand years of neutrality would only displease the First Ones' Spirits. Such ignorance and stubbornness had annoyed the queen so much she had stopped talking to her sister-in-law. The rebellion and Mystacor had remained on cold terms ever since.

Therefore, Angella could only wonder what had brought the whole Council into the middle of Brightmoon's fight. It had obviously been unplanned, Castaspella was still wearing her pajama robe.

"Don't think I'll forget about it. I'll be waiting for an explanation as soon as this is over," said Angella before raising her fists again.

As she panted during her fight, she pushed aside the thought that Mystacor's help still might not be enough to win. Their only chance was Adora defeating Hordak, or another unexpected yet lucky twist of fate.

As if the First Ones had heard her silent plea, the second shock of the day abruptly shook the ground beneath their feet, followed by a blood-curdling sound coming from the Whispering Woods. A roar.

Rebels, sorceresses and Horde soldiers fell to their knees. Machines turned off for a few seconds. A deafening silence embraced the valley for a short moment. However it seemed like a hundred years had passed before Angella felt it.

She felt it run underneath her skin. She felt it strengthen her muscles. She felt it lift a weight off her chest.

"Castaspella, what-"

"Oh my First Ones, this. Is. Amazing!" her sister-in-law clapped her hands as she rushed towards her fellow sorceresses.

A general gasp erupted from the rebellion. The princesses rose to their feet one by one, breathing heavily, as if they had all recharged on their runestone for the first time in years. Glimmer teleported next to Adora, a smile on her lips. She touched her friend's arm, trying to get her attention.

She-Ra looked flabbergasted by this sudden flow of power running free through her veins. She raised her sword high in the air, exposing to everyone the jewel that shone brighter than usual. Her body radiated even more brightly, and with her, the moonstone did as well.

Angella felt it increase as She-Ra called the energy of the moonstone. It was intoxicating. Their power could raise mountains. Their power could defeat anything. Even the Horde.

The queen then searched for Hordak. The ruler had not wasted more than two seconds on his knees. He was ordering his people around in silence. Angella frowned as she saw him try to use Entrapta's device. It wasn't working anymore. Then, everything happened too quickly.

"RETREAT!" yelled Hordak. The tanks were ready. They all charged at the same time towards the Whispering Woods' entrance, which was only protected by Angella now.

The queen flew a few feet above the ground. She called her reborn inner power and spread her fingers. She wouldn't let them flee.

Her powerful purple light beam blasted the first row of tanks.

Intoxicating power…

The next squad of tanks and troops kept going. Angella prepared herself for a new strike.

"MOM WATCH OUT!"

She looked up fast, but not fast enough. Hordak caught her in his arms, blocking her own so that she couldn't strike. He spun himself around, facing the rebellion. He smirked, held Angella by the collar, turned his arm into a blade, and pierced her stomach.

She heard Glimmer scream as she fell. She felt the power leave her. She felt explosions underneath her. She felt herself be caught by something. Then the world went dark.


"Mom… Mom, wake up!"

She groaned. A hundred signals coming from her body overwhelmed her brain. Pain, mostly. She could perceive agitation around her. Whispers tickled her ears, and smoke made her cough. Some noises seemed to echo far above her.

You'll be fine, Angella. Don't worry, baby.

She finally opened her eyes. The light above her was blinding.

"Mom!"

Purple hair muffled her whimper as she got crushed in her daughter's embrace. She returned the hug and then was helped up into a sitting position. She was lying underneath the moonstone, surrounded by a few princesses and Castaspella. She touched her belly. Her wound hurt underneath the bandages, but she could feel it was healing. Magic had been used there, probably She-Ra's and the moonstone's.

She looked up again. The runestone had never shined so brightly in decades. It was extraordinary.

"Now Angella," Castaspella started. "You must be wondering what this was all about."

"Auntie, let her settle first. Look, she's all confused!"

"I'm fine, Glimmer, don't worry."

Angella squeezed her daughter's shoulder in reassurance, then took a glance at Brightmoon's domain. Dozens of soldiers from both sides were lying in the valley and the lake, dead. The injured were being taken care of, even those of the Horde. The entrance to the Whispering Woods was now adorned with a series of holes, as if it was wearing a pearl necklace.

"What happened down there?" she asked.

"The bots self-destructed to prevent us from running after the Horde," Bow answered. "He planned everything."

Hordak… He once again managed to get away.

"Didn't he look too prepared for this to you…?"

"Duh." Mermista snorted. "It took him a second to understand that we could wipe his ass off the planet."

"Yeah, that was weird," Glimmer rubbed her chin. "Adora was going to bring out the rainbow wave, but he was already gone, and then he stabbed you and-"

"Where is Adora?" Angella searched around. She couldn't spot her in the valley or the castle's ruins.

"She left to find Hordak's Second-in-Command, at my request," Castaspella answered as she put both hands on her shoulders. "We need to talk, Angella."

The queen looked wary. She didn't like the little spark in her sister-in-law's eyes.

"Something incredible has happened. That is why we came."


"So let me get this straight."

Adora sighed. She crushed a frozen root under her foot as she listened to Swift Wind repeat her explanations for the third time since they entered the Whispering Woods.

"Glimmer's aunt is the queen of Mystacor."

"Wow, you're really starting from the beginning."

"Let me focus here, or you can get back home on your own. So, Mystacor finally decided today that it would be a great idea to pick sides in the war, whereas up until now they preferred to pray to the First Ones and go to the beach."

"That's a nice summary, I'm sure Castaspella would love to hear that," Adora chuckled.

"And their main reason was because of a...disturbance?"

"Yes. Castaspella said they felt the first shockwave like we did, when Hordak...turned Catra." Adora's face furrowed as she remembered the transformation. She couldn't forget that desperate, insane blue eye. The pain it contained.

"But that shockwave somehow...moved magic?"

"Not really, I guess you could say it disrupted the usual flow of magic. Mystacor's sorceresses are experts at sensing and analyzing the planet's flows of energy."

"That is the weirdest thing I've ever heard, and yet I'm a talking horse with wings and a horn on my forehead."

"It's true though!" Adora laughed. She was glad she wasn't alone in her search for Catra. Swift Wind had a way of approaching problems that always lifted her spirits.

"Okay, let's admit it. What are we doing here exactly? Because I get why you want to fetch Catra…"

"What do you mean by that?!"

"Nothing. But why would Castaspella want her as well? Oh and Angella too, she asked me to get her during the battle. Damn, this girl is really popular, isn't she?"

"Don't forget Hordak… Castaspella thinks that he's going to look for her as well."

"But he's the one who made her go wild!"

"He didn't expect he would lose. Now he probably wants her and her mask back..."

The mask.

Adora knew it was the key. When she described to Castaspella the events that led to the first shockwave, she saw the sorceress jump from one foot to the other in excitement.

Hordak had inserted a golden rock on the mask. It had changed Catra and created the disturbance in Etheria's flow of energy. Then a new shockwave had appeared from the Whispering Woods where Catra had disappeared.

"Adora, go find her, the owner of the mask. It's very important. Very, very important, oh my First Ones, this is huge! You think you can do it?"

"...yeah, yes of course, but why? What is so important about Catra?"

"I'll explain later dear, you need to find her first and quickly. Hordak knows as well how crucial this is. He must be looking for her now as we speak. So go get her, and most importantly, get the mask!"

Was this why he ran off so abruptly? To find Catra in the Woods?

Something had happened to her in there. Adora felt it inside. Something deep had changed on Etheria.

This rush of energy that they'd all been feeling since that shockwave… It wasn't something Adora had ever felt before. The princesses were all like…reborn. She-Ra was already incredibly powerful, but now it was going way beyond anything she had known before. She was feeling like the She-Ra of the legends now. She wouldn't even know how to explain what it was.

Now they would be a real match against the Horde, and Hordak had sensed it right away. Or maybe… Maybe he had known all along it could happen? But that wouldn't make any sense…

"Etheria to Adora, hello!"

Adora snapped out of her daze. She was about to talk when she saw what Swift Wind was staring at wide-eyed. Green trees. Grass and moss. Young roots popping up out of the ground. Little dandelions timidly exposing their buds.

"The Woods…" Adora hiccuped.

"It's healing!" Swift Wind neighed. The woman and the horse stepped on the fresh patch of nature that had begun to grow in the dead area. A breath of life swayed Adora's ponytail as a welcome back.

Adora wanted to turn into She-Ra, and see if she could help the Woods heal faster. But Swift Wind nudged her shoulder as a warning.

"Adora, the Horde," he whispered.

Adora pricked up her ear as she slowed her pace. As a matter of fact, she could hear in the distance some metal clanking and shouts. The troops mustn't be too far.

"We're close to Light Hope's temple," Adora rubbed her chin. "I'd like to go in there."

"Really?" Swift Wind looked at her in surprise.

The temple had been taken over by the Horde soon after the Woods' death a year ago. Hordak had made them dismantle every block of the castle, kill every giant protective spider, and sever She-Ra's connection to Light Hope. Adora knew it was probably a leap of faith and Light Hope would still be out of reach, but given every other incredible thing that happened today, she wondered… Why not?

And maybe she could find a lead on her ex-best friend.

"If the Horde's found Catra, they must be keeping her there, inside their camp, before sending her to the Fright Zone."

"Alright, but how do you intend to sneak in? Or...you want to wipe them out?"

"Well…" Adora grinned. "I've never felt stronger, this could be the perfect occasion to test my new powers."

"Although I'm fond of the idea of the supreme She-Ra kicking the Horde's ass, aren't you scared Hordak might be there?"

"I don't know… We'll snoop and see."

She breathed out. Easier said than done, especially with a big shiny white winged horse by her side.

They stopped talking when the machine rattle became louder. They were now so close to the camp that they were scared Hordak might jump out of a bush unexpectedly.

Adora considered themselves insanely lucky that the Woods had decided to grow back on that very day, on the very spot they were headed towards. More trees, more places to hide.

"Swifty, you can't come any closer. It's too risky."

"But-"

"No buts. I'll go observe the camp, and I'll be back before I do anything, don't worry."

The horse huffed in protest, but folded his wings and stayed put. Adora smiled at him, then crouched her way to the camp. Barbed wires blocked her entering. She decided to go around anyway, to take a good look at the entirety of the place. She might find an opening somewhere.

There was no sign of Hordak anywhere, to her relief. She remained on her guard until she spotted Force Captain Grizzlor bossing around a few troopers. If he was here, there was a good chance that Hordak was back at the Fright Zone.

"Force Captain, Red Team has just made contact, they didn't find the former Second-in-Command. They ask for permission to come back."

"Negative. They were ordered to search the west side till twilight. I don't want them back to the base earlier, unless they find her."

Adora silently rejoiced. Catra was still safely unfound, and as a bonus the camp was less guarded.

"Any news from Blue Team?"

"None, Force Captain Grizzlor."

"Alright. Stay alert. The rebels might attack any minute. Keep on burning that damn forest. We can't let ourselves get surrounded by magic trees."

Adora frowned. As she moved away from Grizzlor, getting closer to the temple, she realized with horror that the Horde was using flamethrowers on the reborn Whispering Woods nearby. Angry blood boiled in her veins. She had to stop them now. She had to kick them out of the Woods.

However, as she looked at the destroyed entrance of the temple, open and unprotected, she hesitated. She shook her head. She would have the time to explore after chasing the Horde away.

"REBELS!"

Just as she was about to call for She-Ra, the soldiers stopped their destructive duty and all ran in the opposite direction. Adora startled, then huffed when she saw Swift Wind flying above the other side of the camp. What on Etheria was he doing?

"For the honor of Grayskull!"

Grizzlor snapped around at the sound. He yelled a few orders at his troops. However Adora knew it wouldn't change anything. She smirked.

She swayed her sword slowly, firing it in a steady spray. Her shots were stronger than before. With that one movement, she blew up the entire base. Grizzlor's jaw dropped. Soldiers were screaming and running around, trying to save their weapons and the troopers stuck under the flaming cabins.

Adora felt awesome. If she wasn't busy destroying the flamethrowers and the guards handling them, she would have felt exhilarated, like Entrapta marvelling at one of her robot things.

"You…" Grizzlor pointed at her, his hand shaking. "You're a monster."

She raised her brows, outraged. "Excuse me?! Who's been attacking us for years? Who's destroying the Whispering Woods? Huh?"

She swayed her sword again, without firing this time. The wind wave it created was so violent it sent Grizzlor and his men crashing against the barbed wires on the other side of the camp. A scorching scream left their throats.

She walked towards them, impassive to their shrieks, tears and terrified gaze. She was so done with the Horde. She wanted to lash out, she wanted to let her anger overcome her. She wanted to kill them all. She would kill them. It would be easy, they were vulnerable, stuck in the wires, already wounded...

"Adora…" Swift Wind landed in front of her. She blinked several times. "I think that's enough."

She stared into the horse's eyes. He held her gaze, then gently nudged her shoulder with his snout. She lowered her sword.

"That was weird…" Adora whispered.

"It's okay. It's been a weird day."

She let herself fall on her ass as she looked around her. Fire was consuming the rest of the Horde camp. It had taken her two minutes to wipe it out. Two very short minutes. A dozen soldiers were dead. The rest had run away, including Grizzlor who must have been detached from the wires by his troops at some point while Swift Wind had been bringing Adora back to reason.

She wasn't sure back to reason was the perfect expression though. Her mind had never been clearer. And that was very frightening.

"Okay, now…let's go inside," she said in a daze as she stood up.

"No, I'll wait for you here. Just in case they decide to come back."

She nodded. As she headed towards the temple, she clutched her chest. She was breathless. She could feel her pulse on the sides of her head. Calm down Adora… She urged herself.

The shock she felt inside the ancient building didn't help her state. There was...nothing left. All the First Ones tech was gone. The ancient writings were vandalized, or destroyed. Spider machines lay on the sides, dismantled.

"Light Hope?" Adora called. Her words echoed on the broken walls in vain.

"Eternia! She-Ra!" she screamed frantically. Tears rolled down her cheeks. It was pointless. Even if she had known what Hordak had done, it was way worse to actually witness it. Her only connection to She-Ra's past and knowledge was severed for good.

Adora threw her sword on the ground, changing back to her human form. She sat down and hugged her knees.

"What am I going to do now…?" she hiccuped as it dawned on her that her short term mission was not going so well. She had no idea where Catra was after a day of searching, she had no idea how to find her, and the hope that somehow Light Hope was still there and would help her was now gone.

"How am I supposed to lead the war if you're not here to guide me Light Hope?" she sobbed. In spite of everything she had learned today, she still wished that she could see the odd woman. At least to get some explanations.

You can't win a war if you don't know your opponents Adora. And if you don't even know yourself… You'd better stay home.

Hordak's words rang in her mind like an unpleasant anxiety bell. He couldn't have lied about everything. She knew it deep down…

"Why didn't you tell me, Light Hope?!" she yelled. "Why didn't you tell me I came from Eternia?!"

She buried her face in her hands. This day had really been too much. Too many contradictory emotions surged in her body and mind. She was lost. She was exhausted.

She let herself cry for a while, her body shaking from the excess of energy in her. When she felt a bit better, she wiped her eyes, and rose to her feet. The night was starting to fall, and she had to move. She was starting to make her way towards the exit, when she spotted something in the dim light.

A shiny purple ball floated in the air towards her. She gasped, but clapped her hand on her mouth. She didn't want to scare it away. The glitter circled around Adora, then quickly disappeared down one of the destroyed hallways.

Rocks were blocking the way. Adora raised her sword and widened the passage. She ran behind the ball for a while. It was so fast! Finally it brought her to a door, adorned by the typical First Ones writings. Intact. The Horde mustn't have explored this part of the temple.

"Eternia."

A small room lit by a ceiling hole welcomed her. On the ground in the center of the room lay Catra, unconscious.

"Catra!" she kneeled beside her, and gently shook her shoulders. She rejoiced when she saw her mouth open to breathe. She was alive.

Her body was back to her original form, all bruised everywhere. Her face was furrowed in pain. And on her forehead, the mask Adora had seen Catra wear for years now had two rocks filling the eye-holes.

One golden, and one blue.

"Where did you get that?" Adora whispered as she reached a finger to the blue one. When she touched it, Catra snapped her eyes open.

"You…"

Adora didn't even have the time to gulp. Catra threw herself on her with an incredible strength, reversing their position.

"How DARE you?!"

She punched Adora's chest with both fists, but to the blonde's surprise it didn't hurt. Adora looked up at her face. Catra's yellow and blue eyes were as mesmerizing as the rocks on her mask. Adora only wished they weren't filled with so much pain.

Catra stopped the punching. She sat up, straddling Adora. She panted as she held her head like it would explode. Adora raised herself on her elbows, and timidly reached out to wipe a tear from Catra's cheek.

"Don't you dare ever die on me again."

Chapter Text

"Catra, we need to talk."

"Shhh."

"Catra."

"You're annoying."

Adora huffed. She tried to catch a glimpse of the girl's face on her chest, but Catra nuzzled deeper, clutching Adora's shoulder and back like she was about to disappear. So instead Adora dug her fingers into Catra's messy hair, hesitantly at first, but then began petting her with more confidence when she heard a sigh come from Catra.

She smiled. How often had she dreamed of this happening? Catra and Adora, back together as if nothing had ever separated them. As if there was no war, no rebellion. As if Catra hadn't tried to kidnap her, to defeat her friends, burn villages and take over the planet.

Her smile fell. Glimmer had been right this whole time. Why was Adora still so attached to Catra that she was willing to forgive almost everything? Did she feel responsible for the choices her old friend had made? Or was it…love, like Bow and Swift Wind kept implying?

Adora couldn't tell. She had never felt something remotely close to "love", as her friends had described it. She had always been focused on training, on achieving her goal of becoming a Force Captain. And after she defected, she was really too busy fighting for the rebellion to fall in love with anyone.

She had felt some attraction, she couldn't deny that. Both emotional and physical. But it had never been strong or interesting enough to dwell on it. At least, that's what she had thought until Bow started making snarky innuendo about her relationship with Catra.

What did she feel for Catra?

…she could only tell that it was a complicated mix of sadness, resentment, nostalgia…and longing.

She sighed as she brushed her fingers across the mask adorning Catra's forehead. She traced the contour until her nail scratched the blue rock.

Catra jerked on her lap. She grabbed her hand, pushing it away from the mask.

"Does it hurt?"

"Yeah."

"Catra…"

"I don't wanna talk."

"Catra we've been sitting like this for more than an hour."

They had indeed adopted this position for such a long time after Catra had woken up that Swift Wind had come in at some point to check if everything was alright. Catra had glared at him so hard that he had quickly left, saying he would wait for them outside.

"So?"

"We can't stay here forever."

"…I'd rather stay here for now."

None of them said the obvious truth that lingered in the air, building an unpleasant tension between them.

Catra had nowhere to go as a free woman.

Adora wished she could say that the rebellion would gladly welcome her as Hordak's betrayed former Second-in-Command. That she would make a precious ally if only they'd think about it. But Angella had made it clear that Catra would have to face a fair trial for her crimes.

However, everything had changed with the mask incident. Something told Adora that Catra had a better chance now than ever to make amends for the past.

"If I made you a proposition, would you consider it?"

"I already know what it is, and the answer is no."

"Are you serious?! Where do you intend to go then?" Adora exploded. Catra pulled away from her chest and glared at her.

"Hey! Don't yell at me, I'm the one who had a rough time today!"

"Sorry… But that's why we need to talk about it. We can't just ignore the problem-"

"Damn, it's always the same with you," she grunted. "I. Don't. Wanna talk. Why do you always have to look ahead?"

"Because if I don't look ahead, life punches me hard in the face."

"Well," Catra snickered. "Clearly it never helped you regarding me."

Adora pursed her lips. But Catra wasn't trying to be mean, she could tell. Her tone sounded more disappointed than anything. Despite Adora's obsession with anticipating things, she had never been able to foresee her best friend's reactions. And that was a shame.

At least that was what Adora felt from that tone. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe Catra didn't care anymore that Adora had abandoned her a year before. She had told her, several times during their battles, that any remnants of their friendship were completely gone. That she didn't care about her. She had said that pretty coldly, for someone as fiery as her.

"Can't you just appreciate the moment, Adora?"

However right now, these blue and yellow eyes told her something different.

It might be the last we have.

A desperate plea glinted in these colorful irises.

Adora gulped. She wanted to.

But she was Adora.

"The Horde could come back." Catra rolled her eyes and turned around to avoid her gaze. Adora gasped in horror when she saw what laid beneath the fluffy hair. "And you need healing too. Look at your back!"

Catra glanced behind her shoulder. She had forgotten about that pain. The explosion during her fight with Octavia had completely burnt the skin off of her back. Shreds of her shirt were now sticking to her skin alongside mud and grass. It was filthy. Very filthy.

If Catra hadn't experienced the excruciating pain of the transformation, she might have been agonizing from this one right now.

"It's fine."

"No! No, it's not! Let me help you."

Adora reached out for her sword, but Catra blocked her hand before she could. Adora tried to resist, but Catra straddled her and pinned her other hand to the ground.

"No. I don't want your help."

"Don't be stupid, you can't survive this. Look at you, your eyes are off and your face is sweaty," Adora stated with a matter-of-fact tone. "You can't even yell at me like you usually do. You have a fever."

"Ugh!" Catra groaned as she closed her eyes. "I only ask for one thing from you right now, and you can't even give me that."

Adora raised a brow, "I can cuddle you after I heal your back."

"Don't- It's not cuddling…" Catra let her go and crossed her arms beneath her chest. It made Adora smirk. It was like talking with the old Catra for a second. Pouting flustered Catra.

"Now, come on. Turn around."

Catra sent her daggers but obliged. She rolled her eyes when she heard the usual She-Ra transformation words.

Adora kneeled as she planted her sword in the ground. She put a hand on Catra's shoulder- which made the injured woman swallow a whimper - and closed her eyes. She could feel the girl shudder under her touch as the magic operated.

"This doesn't change my answer by the way," Catra said abruptly. "I'm not following you back there."

Adora didn't respond. When she felt the healing process stop, she changed back into herself and looked at the result.

"It's still messy. I don't understand…"

"I feel better though," Catra tried to touch her back and winced at the pain. "…at least inside."

"I must have cured the fever, but the wound needs more manual care."

Adora rubbed her chin as she contemplated Catra's back. Her companion shrugged and spun herself around to face her.

"Yeah well, I'll take care of that," she crossed her legs and averted her gaze. "…thanks."

Adora didn't answer. She was lost in her thoughts. "Perfuma is excellent at healing that kind of injury," she said more to herself than Catra.

"Adora, I said no."

"Catra, do you honestly think that you can deal with yourself in that state, all alone in the Whispering Woods? This is the best option you have, and the rebellion wants to see you and your mask and-"

"Excuse me?!" Catra pointed a finger at her. "You do NOT get to tell me what's best for me, Adora!"

"Oh yeah, because you're so good at that on your own." Adora snarled. "The last thing you did for your sake almost got me murdered and left you in so much pain that you're now demanding cuddles with your worst enemy."

If Catra's head could have exploded from exasperation, it would have now. "I'm done with you. Goodbye."

"Wait." Adora was about to stop her from leaving, but Catra didn't last more than two seconds on her legs. Her body shook and she fell into Adora's arms. "You're still weak…"

"Shut up," Catra mumbled. She let herself be held by Adora, returning to their previous position. "What's the big deal with my mask by the way? In two days I've heard more about it than in ten years."

"Well you kind of turned into a giant beast," Adora chuckled. She stroked her nape softly, making sure to avoid her wounded back.

"I know, and yet I can't remember anything except for the transformation and the pain."

"Really? Nothing after that?"

Catra shook her head.

"What about that blue rock thing? Do you know how it ended up here?" she pointed at the right eye-hole. Catra gave another negative answer. "What are those anyway? And why did Hordak have the golden one?" she wondered.

"I don't know. All I know is that my mask belonged to the Magicats. My race."

Adora hummed. She was about to describe the superboost effect they'd all been experiencing since the second shockwave, but Catra had fallen asleep. Adora smiled when she felt the soft purrs vibrating on her chest.

"Adora? Can I come in?" She looked up to see Swift Wind's head cautiously peeking into the room.

"Yes, come and sit with us," she whispered.

"There's no sign of the Horde whatsoever. I don't think they'll come back today. Shouldn't we get going now? It'll be cold soon."

"Sure..." Adora answered as she stroked Catra's cheek. "In a minute, okay?"

Swift Wind rolled his eyes and made himself comfortable on the floor, just in case the minute turned into an hour.


Hordak's fingers tapped relentlessly on the armrest of his throne. Below his level, Grizzlor and a couple of his men were trembling as they kneeled, waiting for the inevitable punishment.

"You lost the temple, and haven't tried to get it back."

"We tried, my Lord, but the Whispering Woods are growing too fast. They prevented us, and we had so many casualties we had to come back."

"And you still haven't found Catra."

"No, my Lord. Red team came back to the Fright Zone empty handed. As for Yellow team… We haven't heard from them all day. I think they're lost for good."

Hordak's finger tapping resonated ominously in the throne chamber. His silence was worse than Shadow Weaver's yelling.

"Take care of the injured for now, Force Captain Grizzlor. In a few days you're going to Salineas to replace Force Captain Leech. I assigned him to Plumeria."

Grizzlor hid his disappointment. He hated the ocean, and the kingdom of princess Mermista was so isolated it was like being sent into exile. But it was better than losing his head.

"Of course my Lord. If I may ask, now that Commander- I mean Catra, isn't here anymore, who will take her place as Second-in-Command?"

"Octavia, as we already asserted during the last Force Captain orientation."

Grizzlor looked up in surprise. "Isn't she blind though, my Lord?"

"She won't regret her old eyes once I'm done with her," Hordak grinned. Such a creepy smile made Grizzlor nod respectfully and leave as quickly as possible from the throne room.

Once he had left, Hordak's smile dropped to his usual stern expression. He rubbed his chin, lost in his thoughts.

He was unhappy. Very unhappy. Nothing had gone according to plan, and he knew exactly why.

He shouldn't have changed his plans regarding Catra. But he had had several good reasons to part from her.

First of all, she had become too powerful standing at his side. Even if until now she had proven herself loyal to him, he hadn't forgotten how she had framed Shadow Weaver so easily. She was bound to turn against him someday.

Second of all, she had shown mercy towards She-Ra, the enemy. That made her even more dangerous. She might have betrayed him in the future for She-Ra if he had kept her around. He didn't want to make the same mistake with Catra that he had made with Adora.

Adora…

Another wrinkle distorted his face as he thought of her.

Adora, destined to wield the Sword of Grayskull. Adora, who had landed with him on Etheria, the planet that had waited for She-Ra's return for a thousand years.

Of course he had known at the time that she might actually become She-Ra, a threat not to be taken lightly. But he had caved and retained her as a blackmail tool for Grayskull, if he ever made it back to his home planet.

That had been a mistake. He should have gotten rid of her as a baby.

That was why when Octavia had given him a new reason to distrust Catra, he had decided to discard her as soon as possible.

Third, Catra's fall had been meant to serve his ultimate goal, winning the battle against Brightmoon. Catra and her new power had provided an efficient distraction. However he hadn't expected Mystacor to get involved… How could he have anticipated that they would so quickly realize that the mask was fixed? How could he have expected Mystacor to get to Brightmoon in the middle of the battle?

He had underestimated them. And yet, he should have been able to defeat them all if it weren't for the other incident. The blue jewel of the mask. It was back as well. He knew it. Only that could explain the power boost of the princesses.

He hadn't expected it to reappear all of a sudden. How could he have? After all these years… But it only confirmed his old theory. Somebody was watching on the sidelines.

And because of that someone, all his efforts in twenty years to improve the Horde's tech on this lousy planet had gone up in smoke. The princesses were powerful again, they had She-Ra, unlike the last time, and Catra and her mask were gone.

Yes, Hordak had lost a lot in one battle. He had made terrible mistakes. He could only blame himself for that. He had been bored. Twenty years on this planet had been too much. He had wanted things to move… Now he couldn't complain, he had gotten what he asked for.

He wasn't in the best position right now, but he knew at least that the end was near. If the second jewel had resurfaced, after all these years in the dark… He might finally be able to reach Eternia soon.

"Lord Hordak! You asked to see me!" a joyful voice broke his trance.

"Entrapta, yes, please follow me."

Hordak tried to stay positive. He still had the mad genius. With her by his side, he had his chances to defeat the powerful princesses once again.

"I haven't shown you my private lab, have I?"

Stars shone in the girl's eyes. She had waited so long to discover her boss's special tech. But how much could he trust her? She had worked alongside the rebellion, and had been recruited by Catra. Although Entrapta had never given any signs of following human social conventions like loyalty to a greater cause, honor and friendships, and only seemed to care about science and her own personal research, Hordak didn't want to get fooled again.

"I'm going to show you a part of my work, under one condition."

"Anything you want!" she exclaimed, jumping on her magical hair in excitement.

"As a proof of your loyalty, you'll accept a little gift from me. One that'll link you to me."

"Sure, that's fair! Now show me your work!"

Hordak smiled as he opened the door behind his throne. A medium sized room welcomed them. It was supposed to be spacious, especially in height, but it was filled with machines and tubes everywhere, giving the place a confined and oppressive atmosphere.

Entrapta had always known that Hordak was working on machines and living beings at the same time, but she had had no idea of how he proceeded. She herself had tried for many years to combine science and magic, and had only succeeded recently thanks to the black garnet, so seeing something as terrifyingly advanced as this made her jaw drop. Hordak had pushed the limits of magic and technology in a way that would make the other princesses throw up.

She got a little uncomfortable, seeing human feet in tubes linked to computers that made them move. But she brushed it off as they approached the center of the lab, where an exam table stood. On the table lay Octavia, unconscious.

"I think you must have realized by now that my tech magic is particular and unique. It doesn't function like the princesses' power. That's because it's not from Etheria."

She raised a brow, curiosity catching her attention.

"I come from a planet called Eternia, outside the Despondos system. Over there, I was ten times more efficient and powerful. But here my Eternian magic is not completely compatible with that of Etheria. So I have had to exert myself for years in order to reach a decent level. Shadow Weaver helped me use the black garnet, but she took the power mostly for herself, and was satisfied with very little. You on the other hand, have managed to unlock so much potential from the runestone that I have decided to share with you the secret of my tech."

Hordak reached a hand out to a computer next to Octavia, inviting Entrapta to take a look. Before her eyes scrolled codes and data that she could understand but never could have imagined. It was like another language translated literally into the basic laws of Etherian physics.

"Is this how you program on Eternia?"

"Practically. I had to adapt it when I arrived here. It took me a long time to understand how to reconnect science and magic here."

"Tell me about it, it took me years. But I never considered using science that way…"

She marvelled as she explored Hordak's work. Cables linked the computer from one side to a helmet type of device, and from the other to a tube containing an eye. Entrapta jolted slightly when she realized what it was.

"So um…" her voice betrayed a little discomfort. "Are you going to give Octavia her sight back?"

"Somehow," answered Hordak as he was strapping down the commander's body. "It's the first time I'm trying this on Etheria."

"Speaking of her, what happened with Catra exactly?" Entrapta tiptoed on her hair nervously.

"She proved herself to be attached to She-Ra. I couldn't trust her anymore. I need unconditional loyalty Entrapta."

His gaze pierced through her like a spear at these words.

"Right," she smiled awkwardly. It wasn't like she had helped Glimmer and Bow escape with Adora at all.

"Now, before we begin," he placed the helmet device on Octavia's head, covering her injured eyes. Then he opened a drawer elsewhere in the lab, took something out and handed it to her. "Please accept my present, as my new scientific right hand."

"This is…" she looked at him, confused.

"A new device I developed recently."

He put his tech on the table. It was a hand. A metallic right hand, much like his own it seemed, with wires ready to be connected to something.

A hand for a hand.


A few blocks away from the throne room, a small cadet walked warily in the hallways, checking here and there on the ceiling if there were any cameras. He turned left, then right, then left again. He climbed a few stairs. He gritted his teeth when he crossed paths with some guards, but as usual, nobody really paid attention to him.

When he found the perfect blind spot, and double checked to make sure there was no intruder or Hordak's little spy, he sat down on the floor and took his tablet from his coat. He had a few missed calls. He pressed the call button.

"Kyle! Oh my First Ones, I was so worried!"

"Hey Bow. How are you?"

"I'm okay, what about you? Are you hurt? Were you found out?"

"No, nothing like that," Kyle replied. His voice was weird, Bow could tell. There was a problem. But the Horde soldier didn't seem to want to talk about it. "How are things going over at Bright Moon?"

"Fine. We're taking care of soldiers. Some are from the Horde. They're prisoners of war of course, but well we can't let them die from their wounds, can we?"

"Right," Kyle pursed his lips.

In his room, Bow sent a distressed look towards Glimmer, who was mouthing him some comfort words. How could he ask the boy to spy again on Hordak when he was looking so miserable?

"Um… Have you heard some…news from um…Horda-"

"No. I haven't." Kyle cut him off.

"Is- is something wrong, Kyle? You can tell me anything, you know."

"Can I?" he snorted. He pinched the bridge of his nose, and breathed heavily before staring at Bow with an expression he had never seen on him before: resentment

"Am I your friend Bow?"

"Well, yes, of course. I mean, we've been talking for a year now!"

"So can you answer me honestly if I ask you something?"

Bow nodded, his heart pounding in his chest.

"You're supposed to be the good guys, right? That's what you always told me. The Horde is the one killing people, burning villages, kidnapping, torturing…"

"Well, yes. That's what I believe."

"That's what you believe…" Kyle repeated, thoughtful. "Then tell me, why did Lonnie get a spear in her stomach?"

Bow's mouth fell open, but nothing came out. He looked over at Glimmer, who was raising her brows in consternation. It's war, she mouthed.

"It's- it's war Kyle. That's what you told me yourself when I tried to shoot Hordak, remember? We risk our lives on the battlefield."

"Right. But she was already on the ground when she got hurt," Kyle spat.

Bow stayed silent. His heart beat faster.

"And when your queen blasted our tanks, our tanks that were fleeing because you guys were too powerful, Rogelio lost both his legs."

Glimmer smashed a hand on her mouth.

"He lost so much blood… The doc isn't sure he's gonna make it."

"Kyle I'm so, so sorry," Bow was sincere, but he knew that it wouldn't be enough. He couldn't undo this.

"I need some time off, Bow. I need to think about this. About all of this." Kyle gestured between them, engulfing the Fright Zone as well. "You're a nice person, but my attachments are here, and they're now suffering because of the war and…"

You.

"I understand Kyle."

"It's not against you. I just don't know what to believe anymore. Bye, Bow."


When Catra woke up, she felt like her stomach wanted to throw itself up. She was groggy, she had a headache, and actually scratch that, her whole body ached everywhere. She groaned as she felt shaken around. What was happening?

She remembered then, Adora and her, in that cave… She had to run away, before Adora woke up. She didn't want to face her as she left. She would try to convince her to come to Brightmoon again. No way on Etheria would she agree to surrender.

There was also this thing between them… Catra had been very confused about Adora ever since she had believed she was dead. And of course it had to happen in the middle of a war. A war whose side she was on had kicked her out in the rudest way possible.

She opened her eyes. It was dark, and all she could see was Adora's face above her.

"What- Adora, what's happening?"

"Hey, Catra. Are you feeling better?"

Catra rubbed her hands on her eyes and looked around. Adora was carrying her. To Brightmoon.

Her heart dropped when she saw how close she was to the destroyed castle. How long and how deeply had she slept?!

"No. No, no no, nonono, Adora! What did I tell you?!"

"Catra, you're still weak and wounded. You can't run off on your own. Don't worry, it'll be fine. We're taking care of Horde soldiers too."

Catra gripped Adora's shirt as she looked at the guards welcoming them. Holding spears towards her, ready to strike if she moved. It was like jumping into the lion's den.

Some princesses and sorceresses rushed out of the temporary camp, pointing at them. Soon enough, a circle formed around them. Catra had to run. Now.

She motioned towards her mask.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Horde Commander."

The voice was a bit too joyful for the circumstances. It came from the sorceress in a pajama robe, standing next to Queen Angella. Stern faced, impassive Queen Angella.

"In your state, a second transformation could be lethal."

A burning silent moment passed between them. Catra, fingers on her mask, staring at the smiling sorceress. Adora, frowning in confusion, searching for Glimmer's help in a gaze. Glimmer, ignoring Adora. Princesses, soldiers and witches, waiting for something to happen.

Catra lowered the mask to her eyes.

Adora gasped as the weight of the beast crushed her. But it only lasted a moment. Catra jumped high away from her, as the soldiers and princesses charged her.

She landed at the entrance of the Whispering Woods, but her body crashed to the ground. Something wasn't right. Her tail was hanging low, her ears flattened, and she was shaking.

Glimmer appeared above her and blasted a few purple shots on her back.

"No!" Adora screamed. As she stood up, she saw Netossa trap Catra in a net. She sent her flying to the complete opposite side of the field, crashing against the moonstone's pillar. Catra slumped on the ground. Castaspella, who was nearby, hurried to the defeated beast, and ripped her mask off of her face.

The roar ended in a scream as Catra turned back into herself.

"Cuff her and lock her up! And be careful, she's dangerous." Angella ordered. Soldiers beat her several times when Catra tried to resist the cuffing, then started to drag her roughly towards the castle.

Adora was shaking. Anger rose again in her chest, like at the Horde camp near the temple. She tightened her fists.

"For the honor of Grayskull!"

People protected their eyes from the blinding light of She-Ra. She glared at Angella and Castaspella when she met their gaze.

"Adora, what are you doing?" Bow asked timidly.

She ignored him. She made her way towards Catra, who was unconscious, half carried by the two men, cuffed… Maskless.

The aura She-Ra was giving off made the soldiers gulp and delicately drop Catra on the ground.

Adora slipped her arms underneath Catra's legs and back, careful not to make a bigger mess with her wounds. She turned around and faced them. The rebellion. The people she cared about. The people who annoyed her greatly right now.

"She's injured. Very injured. I'll take her personally to the cell reserved for leaders. And we're going to treat her with respect, while waiting for her judgement. Isn't that what fair war victors are supposed to do?"

She left them all there, either puzzled or irritated. She didn't care right now. She hated herself for bringing Catra here. She hated that this would be the first impression of the rebellion that Catra would have.

"Adora…" Catra whispered, her half lidded eyes trying to decipher her.

"It's okay, I got you."

Catra chuckled. "You're funny Adora. What did you expect exactly when you brought me here?"

Chapter Text

Awkwardness.

That feeling had rarely filled the Alliance meeting room, and even when it had, it had never been as thick as it was now.

Adora was sitting straight in her chair, looking grave. Glimmer was glancing at her regularly, feeling uncomfortable. Mermista was tapping her fingers on the table, a little bit annoyed about the wait. Frosta was impassive as always. Spinnerella and Perfuma were nervously playing with their hair. Bow and Netossa were the only ones who tried to plaster a smile on their face, but it didn't look as convincing as they thought.

Angella was presiding, sitting on her royal throne, next to her late husband's empty one. A few more chairs had been added on the other side of the table.

The queen cleared her throat. She couldn't stand this atmosphere any longer.

"While we wait for Castaspella and her counsellors, I was thinking that we could review this battle and our situation."

Nobody reacted.

"Alright," she pursued. "The very positive side is that we've all increased in power, which Castaspella will enlighten us about. The negative side is that-"

"We lost my kingdom."

"The castle is destroyed."

"So many soldiers and civilians are dead…"

"Please, everyone!" Angella extended her wings. "We've all been shaken by the Horde's strength yesterday, but let's not forget that we won in the end."

"We won because we got help, Queen Angella," Frosta replied acidly. "Twice. We don't even know what the second help was."

"And Hordak didn't lose per se, he kinda ran away…" Bow added.

"He ran for a good reason. He knew we would have crushed him if he had stayed. What you don't know about this power boost that we've had," Angella sighed. "Is that it's not a boost. It's our natural power."

"What do you mean, mom?" Glimmer frowned, while the others exchanged confused stares.

"I mean-"

"She means," the joyful voice made them jolt. Castaspella had burst into the room with two other people, one sorceress and one warlock. They took a seat next to Angella, while Glimmer's aunt stood up, dominating the room as if she was about to perform in a play.

"She means that almost fifteen years ago, when you were all little, Etheria's runestones took a severe blow that altered their energy and decreased the princesses' power. It all happened when the Queen of the Magicats died and her mask was destroyed by Hordak. Or at least…"

She took Catra's mask out of her robe and held it up with both hands. The golden and blue rocks brightened when the sun rays hit them.

"…that's what we thought had happened."

Her dramatic effect was spot on. The princesses were speechless.

"Catra's mask is the Queen of the Magicats'?" Adora asked, an incredulous tone in her voice. Catra hadn't known anything about her ancestors, since they weren't taught a lot of history in the Horde's ranks. The origin of the mask had never been very clear.

"Exactly. And Catra would be their queen, if her people were still alive."

"I'm sorry, what?!" A general gasp erupted from the table.

"Castaspella…" Angella tugged her sleeve. "Don't just drop bombs on them like that. They need context. Please, let me do the talking."

"Yes, please mom. Context would be a treat."

"Alright," Angella took her sister-in-law's place. "So about twenty years ago, no eighteen years ago precisely, the Horde appeared. Out of nowhere."

A shadow lidded Adora's eyes. That was when she had appeared as well. Eighteen years huh…

"This was unprecedented, to say the least. Princess Scorpia's father, King Cancerius, pledged allegiance to Hordak right away, and let him settle down in his kingdom, now known as the Fright Zone. Cancerius didn't ask for any advice from the other kingdoms. This attitude was highly disapproved of, given that we didn't know anything about them.

Then, Hordak asked to meet us. All of the princesses and queens, and Mystacor's Council."

A shiver ran down Angella's spine as she recalled the first time she had seen Hordak. They didn't know at the time, how much harm he was about to inflict on them.

"He told us he was a space traveller, exploring different planets and systems, and intended to live here to observe for a few years, if we would be kind enough to welcome him."

"That doesn't sound fishy at all," Bow snorted.

"Indeed, but who were we to deny hospitality to a traveller for a few months at least, until he was ready to leave again? Cancerius had already vouched for him, pointing to Hordak's use of tech powers to heal his wife and baby daughter Scorpia as proof of his generosity and helpfulness.

Besides, we were curious. There hadn't been a space traveller on Etheria for a thousand years, according to Mystacor's Sacred Writings."

"Curiosity is what will cost us all," Castepella's counsellor spoke for the first time. She was a beautiful woman with elegant traits. Adora remembered her from the last time she had visited Mystacor. What was her name… Morticia? No, Mortella.

"We should have followed the First Ones' will, and sent him away," she added.

"Or we should have just listened to Katriska," Angella spat.

"Who is that now?" Mermista asked in a bored tone.

"Katriska was the last Queen of the Magicats. She warned us that she didn't trust Hordak, and wanted us to act against him before it was too late. She wanted war."

"And that's exactly why we refused, Angella. Katriska was like all of her predecessors. Fiery, stubborn and hotheaded, ready to jump head first into a fight without considering the consequences," said Castaspella.

"You just like to remember your disagreements with her and her people. The Magicats never followed Mystacor's ways regarding the planet's wellbeing."

"Why do you take this accusing tone? These were the ways you agreed upon, the ways the First Ones transmitted to us, the ways-"

"Excuse me!" Glimmer interrupted. "You're losing us right now! We don't know anything about your old disagreements, so please? What does it have to do with what is happening now?" She looked over at Adora and added, "what does it have to do with Catra?"

"I'm getting to it, Glimmer, I promise. You just need to understand the world you were born into."

My world, right… Adora thought. She hadn't told them yet what Hordak had revealed about her.

"The Magicats retreated to their lands, Halfmoon, furious to have been denied their request. For a couple of years, we actually got along with Hordak. Believe it or not."

The young adults looked at their parent figures in awe. Angella and Castaspella had never looked so embarrassed and guilty.

"He could be charming when he tried," Castaspella fidgeted. "And we were young rulers as well! We were not even twenty years old…"

"He told us many stories about the different worlds he had travelled to, including Eternia, his home planet, where the First Ones, our ancestors, had come from. Unfortunately, he couldn't go back there because he had gotten lost in the system of Despondos, but he promised us, and himself, that he would find a way to bring us all there. Such lies," Angella said bitterly.

"And then he convinced one of our own to betray us," the other counsellor, Isidore, blurted out.

"Yes. Light Spinner, or as you know her now, Shadow Weaver."

"Excuse me?!" Castaspella gasped. "Shadow Weaver, Hordak's Second, is Light Spinner?! When did you intend to tell me, Angella?"

"This is not so surprising, Castaspella," Mortella pinched the bridge of her nose. "She must have escaped from the Forbidden Zone somehow."

"Adora found out last year, but since we had been on cold terms, I forgot to mention it," Angella answered. Glimmer rolled her eyes again.

"So anyway, at a party where all the rulers were invited- same principle as Princess Prom, except that it was politics oriented- Light Spinner drugged Katriska and stole her mask. We don't know what she tried to do, but it almost killed the Queen. Light Spinner explained it was all for Hordak and for the greater good. Long story short, we banned her, at Katriska's request."

"And she joined Hordak, it seems."

"Yes. Katriska warned us again about Hordak, and we finally began to see him as a real threat. We were getting ready for an offensive when…"

Angella sighed heavily. "He attacked the Magicats. Halfmoon was the closest kingdom to the Fright Zone at the time. He destroyed it. Despite the Magicats' strength, the Black Garnet gave the Horde enough power to kill them all and destroy the Queen's runestone."

"Runestone?"

Castaspella held the mask up again. "These rocks are the Magicat runestone. The only other portable runestone after She-Ra's sword, and the only one that's in two parts."

"Golden for strength…" Angella's eyes sparkled, like she was seeing the ghost of the late queen.

"And blue for wisdom," Castaspella finished.

The assembly of princesses exchanged a stare. They didn't interrupt the silence though.

"We thought that the mask had been destroyed after that horrible slaughter, because our powers lost energy all of a sudden. We became terribly weak compared to Hordak, which is why we then created the Alliance."

"But why? Why did losing the mask take a toll on all of our powers?" Perfuma asked.

"Because the energy flow is a continuum on Etheria. The runestones are the surface points connecting the energy to you princesses, unlike us sorceresses." Isidore explained, a little condescending tone in his voice.

"You need it to call your powers. We don't," he pursued. "We can make any instrument our power connection thanks to a special spell, like Glimmer's staff. However, losing one runestone has affected us the same as you somehow. We lost a good deal of our magical power."

It made sense now. The shockwaves that had made Etheria tremble when the mask was fixed. The extraordinary energy rush through their bodies, almost intoxicating their minds. That feeling of being reborn…

That also explained why Mystacor had joined in the fight. They had sensed the disturbance in the flow of energy caused by the return of the mask.

"What about Catra?" Adora asked.

"Oh right. Catra is the last of the Magicats. I actually didn't know about her. Once again Angella, a little note wouldn't have hurt. Did you know as well about her eyes?"

"I didn't until a few months ago. I wasn't sure what it meant to be honest. She also had the mask, but without the stones…"

"You should have told me. This was very irresponsible."

"I tried, but you wouldn't talk to me, Castaspella!"

"Helloooo!" Glimmer waved her arms angrily. "Context! Please!"

"Sorry, Glimmer. Catra's eyes are the Queen of the Magicats' spirit's eyes. When a queen dies, her spirit travels into a kitten, any child of the Magicats, who recognize her by her eyes."

Golden and blue.

Hey Catra, your eyes are so ugly and weeeiiird!

Don't listen to them, Catra. Your eyes are unique.

"The eyes of the runestone."

They make you special.

You really think so, Adora? Shadow Weaver said I'm nothing special. She said I'm a nuisance.

You're special to me.

Silence fell again on the little assembly.

"So what now?" Frosta asked, focused as always.

"Now everything's perfect!" Castaspella exclaimed. "Etheria's complete again, you will beat Hordak, the planet will stop dying, and everything will go back to normal!"

"I'm sorry what? The planet is dying?" Mermista shook her head.

"You're too optimistic Castaspella, we haven't beaten him yet."

"This is a lot to take…"

"Hordak still has Plumeria and Salineas, how are we supposed to-"

Adora made her chair fall when she stood up, drawing every gaze to her.

"What will happen to Catra? The current Queen of the Magicats?"

"Um…" Castaspella fidgeted as she searched for her counsellors' support. "I'm sorry, dear. We can't consider her as a queen. She is our enemy, the Horde's Second-in-Command. And she has no kingdom."

"She has harmed us in many ways, Adora," Angella said as softly as she could. "She's a prisoner of war. She needs to face her judgement as such."

Adora nodded, pursing her lips. She quickly left the room to avoid spilling her feelings out onto her companions.


"Wow, what a bomb," Seahawk shook his head at the revelations.

"Tell me about it." Mermista groaned. "To think that our parents would hide this from us…"

It was unbelievable.

Her father had died so abruptly she hadn't even had the time to ask him more about the first war against Hordak ten years ago, but she had never imagined it would be so deep. Why had he never told her about their loss of power? Or the planet dying?

That information had slipped from Castaspella's mouth, and both queens hadn't explained anything, but Mermista wouldn't forget about it that easily.

"Seahawk, you've travelled a lot."

"Yes, Princess. I am the most accomplished pirate of Etheria!" he stroked his moustache and winked.

"Yeaah, whatever. Did you… Did it seem to you like our world was like, I don't know… Dying out?"

"I wouldn't say that but…It is true that the ocean is not the same as before, and I heard that the desert has spread quite a lot in a few years."

Mermista rubbed her chin. Was it because they had lost the mask fifteen years ago? If it was, then as Castaspella said, it should all be fixed from now on. Adora did mention that the Whispering Woods were growing again, before the meeting. It was a huge deal for them.

Lost in her thoughts, the Salineas princess resumed helping to repair the front of the castle. The soldiers were digging through the ruins, searching for intact furniture and utensils they could reuse in the future. Some civilians had come back to help as well.

Mermista brought in large quantities of water which Frosta then froze to bring stability to the broken walls. It was only temporary, but would suffice until they could get proper materials.

"My father never talked much about the Magicats. I only knew they were decimated by Hordak," Mermista told Seahawk. "And according to the other girls, I'm not the only one. Why though? Why didn't they tell us about how it all happened? Why didn't anyone teach us about the way the runestones work? Was it because of the fiasco of the first Alliance? Were they ashamed? Did they lose hope or something?"

If that was the case, they acted stupidly.

She raised her hands to launch a new wave of water, but she suddenly felt an immense fatigue throughout her body. Her arms shook and the water fell. She leaned on her knees, panting heavily.

"Princess, are you okay?" Seahawk rubbed a hand on her back. Frosta was approaching as well, a frown on her face.

"I'm fine, don't worryyy…" she groaned. "Just a little bit tired, that's all."


"Hey Adora."

Catra surprised her so much that the blonde tripped on the doorstep of the prison.

"I forgot how good your hearing was."

The feline didn't answer. She was lying on her side, facing the wall of her cell.

It was like a mirrored world all of a sudden. Only three days ago, she was the one in the cell, ignoring Catra.

"Perfuma made a special balm for your back. And a potion you'll have to drink twice a day. I'll bring them to you every day."

A tail swish and an ear twitch were the only signs that Catra had heard her. The features of a Magicat… They had always seemed normal to Adora. Of course, Catra was different, but her differences were never something she had dwelled upon.

She looked behind her. The guard was standing at the entrance of the prison, watching them from the corner of her eye. Adora sent her a sign. The guard nodded and walked her way, aware of what she was going to do.

The guard took the key to the cell out of her pocket, unlocked the door and pushed Adora inside. Adora jumped in as quickly as she could. The guard closed the door behind her and went back to her previous spot.

"Did you guys really think I would try to run away?"

"I have to take my precautions, I'm sorry. I don't want you to get hurt again."

Catra snorted. She sat up and turned around, facing Adora, who had crouched to her level. Her eyes were shining despite how dark it was in the prison. Her hair looked more dishevelled than usual, but maybe it was because of the absence of her mask on her head. Rebel strands framed her face now, giving it a more savage look.

"I can do it myself, Adora," Catra nodded in the direction of the balm. Her voice was so different now, compared to before the battle. It was low and off, and not only because of the sickness.

"Drink it all up."

Adora held out a gourd. Catra rolled her eyes and took it. As she chugged the potion, her nose wrinkling at the saltiness, Adora looked again at the guard. She wasn't sure she could hear them from over there. And…what if she could? Catra had a right to know.

"Can I tell you something?"

"Can I stop you?"

Catra put the bottle down and turned around again, presenting her back to Adora. She took her prisoner t-shirt off. The skin was as bad as the day before. Red, oozing, and blistering. Adora gulped. She pushed the messy hair off the sensitive zone and felt Catra tense. She didn't know if it was from the pain anticipation or the fact that it was Adora touching her.

"It's about your mask. And you."

"I figured. Are you allowed to tell me about it?"

Adora plastered the balm on her shoulder blade. Catra hissed in pain. She clutched her knees and bit her lip so hard she tasted a bit of blood.

"I don't care if I am."

"Wow, what a disobedient girl. It's not like you, Adora." Catra snickered as she wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. The balm actually soothed the pain faster than she expected.

It was a bit ironic when she thought of it. Adora rubbing her back was the physical representation of their relationship. Hurtful and relieving at the same time, leaving a bitter and sore pain to heal on its own.

Adora sighed.

"I'll only tell you if you want me to, but I think it's important. It's your past after all."

Catra stared at the wall, lost in thought. Did she want to know? Of course, curiosity was itching at her, but at the same time, did it matter? Would it change what she was now? What she thought? Or what she'd done?

Did she want to change anyway? A part of her was irked at the thought that a single revelation might turn her world upside down. She needed control, and it had already slipped from her hands in a mere few days. Another part of her was also irked at the idea that Adora might hope for her to change if she heard the truth.

"I'm sorry about yesterday evening by the way," Adora spoke again. "The way they beat you up…"

"Don't be. I've done a lot worse to them," Catra replied harshly.

"What you did to them doesn't excuse what they did to you, Catra. It's not a competition."

"You really are a goodie-two-shoes."

Catra could feel that she had irritated Adora in the way her hands were rubbing her lower back more harshly. She smirked.

"I don't care. How can we pretend we're fighting against evil if we act that way as well?"

"Ughh, you're killing me, Adora," Catra jerked her head backwards as she rolled her eyes. "You're always so shocked about people's behavior. I never am."

"Enlighten me then, miss smartass."

"This is a war, Adora. There might be one or two bad guys who have the evil intentions. But it's a war. All the people involved, whatever side they're on, however important in rank they are, are going to act badly, one way or another, to different degrees. Whether you like it or not."

"That doesn't mean I have to accept it."

"Then prepare yourself to be shocked many times in the future."

Adora slipped her balmed hand onto Catra's left hip, where the skin was a bit burnt, even if it wasn't as bad as the back. Catra could have done that part herself, but she let her. She didn't know why. She didn't want Adora to stop.

"I'd rather be shocked while trying hard to pull the best out of people."

"Is that what you're trying to do with me now?"

"No, right now I'm taking care of my weak ex-best friend's injury," Adora answered softly.

"That's your thing now… She-Ra, protector of the weak and wounded."

"I can stop if you don't like it."

Her hands left her skin. Catra's tail swished involuntarily, marking her discontent. Adora giggled and resumed her work. She was almost done.

"I can control it now, you know. The beast."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Yesterday, when I tried to run away, I wasn't out of my mind, like the first time."

"Good. I'll tell them if you don't mind."

"Why? You're pleading my case?" Catra chuckled. The silence that followed didn't reassure her.

"Catra… They are not going to be merciful with you."

"I understand. I wouldn't be either if I was on the other side."

Adora stopped her work, satisfied with the color of Catra's skin now. It would be greasy under her shirt, but at least it wouldn't hurt as much.

"So, do you want to know the truth or not?"

"Yeah, okay. Just, let me ask… Why are you doing all this? After everything I did to you?" Catra's voice was very small all of a sudden. Vulnerable.

Adora handed her the shirt. "I left you once."

Catra tensed again as she was putting the shirt on her back.

"I don't want to do that again."

Catra scoffed. "I'm not asking you for anything. How many times have I told you that it served me well when you left?"

"Look where it led you though."

"That's not what led me here. That was-" Catra's words died in her mouth. They weren't useful though.

That was when I tried to protect you from Hordak.

It made Adora smile. She rearranged Catra's messy hair. Catra let her. She was too tired to resist.

"Hordak messed us all up, Catra. Let me tell you what happened."

Chapter Text

In many ways, Scorpia knew that her life wasn't exactly the easiest compared to those of her fellow princesses.

Physically, she had pincers and a poisonous tail which people always looked at with a certain fear. She was also a tall buff woman who unfortunately liked crush-hugging. It didn't make befriending people an easy task.

As for her current social state… On the princess side she was the daughter of a king who gave his kingdom away to Hordak, the ruler unanimously disliked by the other princesses and Etheria in general. And on the Horde side, even though she had been made Force Captain after passing the tests successfully, most colleagues saw that as a favor given by Hordak because of her status.

So yeah, Scorpia could have had a better position.

But she never complained. Complaining was against her nature, she preferred to see the bright side of things.

Like the brightest time of her life, the day she had met Catra. Technically, Catra had rejected her like all of her colleagues, but Scorpia had seen in her something that she had seen in herself. An outcast. A pariah.

Oh yes, Catra was just like her, and the moment she had set her eyes on her, she knew they had to become best friends. And they did! Catra eventually trusted Scorpia, despite obviously having trust issues. Adora had been her only friend before after all.

The Super Pal' Duo had gotten even better when Entrapta came along. Pincer, claw and hair, tied together for better and for worse.

Oh, what blessed days for Scorpia. Life had finally rewarded her for her patience. She could have spent many more years like this, with her two best friends, fighting against whoever they needed to. Scorpia would do anything for them.

"What do you mean, Catra's not coming back?!"

"It's like I told you," Entrapta fidgeted. "Hordak didn't trust her anymore, he… He kicked her out."

Scorpia never complained. Scorpia never panicked either.

"This is not possible…" she hyperventilated.

"Scorpia, take it easy!" Entrapta rubbed her back and tried to lead her towards a chair.

"I need to speak to Hordak, it's obviously a mistake! Catra is the most reliable person in the world!"

"Please, no, don't, Scorpia!"

Entrapta had to use her hair to immobilize the strong Force Captain. Scorpia wiggled for several minutes, yelling at her friend to let her go, until some tears started to form at the corners of her eyes.

"Scorpia, please, listen to me!" Entrapta gripped her shoulders as hard as she could. It wasn't enough to keep her on the ground per se, but the genius's voice caught Scorpia's attention. "Hordak decided that Catra was no use to him anymore. That's how it is. We don't know where she is now anyway. She could be dead, she could be in the hands of the rebellion…"

"If that's the case we need to go save her!"

"No, Scorpia!" Entrapta looked around to check if Hordak's little spy demon was around. "If you do that, it's like you're defecting, because now Catra is a traitor. You understand?"

"Catra is not a traitor!" Scorpia snarled.

"Hordak decided she is."

"Well I don't care about Hordak! If I have to change sides or die to find her, I will!"

Entrapta shushed her. "Not so loud!"

"What is wrong with you?! It's like you don't want her back!"

"I do, but I don't want to lose you as well, so please keep it down!"

Scorpia relaxed a bit at those words. It was one of those rare times when she heard Entrapta express affection towards non-robots. Such moments meant a lot to both of them. It also meant that Entrapta was genuinely worried about their situation.

"You can't defect without a plan Scorpia, it's crazy. Hordak will never forgive you, you'll end up alone or as a prisoner of the rebellion, and you won't be able to find Catra at all."

"But if she's at Brightmoon…"

"What are you going to do about it? Set her free by yourself?"

Scorpia's face fell. A wave of utter sadness chased the adrenaline from her body. Entrapta was right. She was powerless on her own.

The genius sat up, letting go of Scorpia. She looked as down as she was. Another rare sight. The last time it had happened was when she had realized that the Princesses wouldn't come back for her a year ago.

"I'm not the best at making social decisions, but right now, I think it's best if we lay low here," Entrapta pursued as she scratched her forearm. Her weird metallic forearm. And hand.

"What is that?!"

Entrapta looked embarrassed. "Just a little gift from Hordak."

"Is that a sort of armor?" Scorpia's natural pep took her over. "It looks cool, show me!"

"No, no need, I just-"

Entrapta jumped away from her on her hair, but she wasn't fast enough for someone as trained as Scorpia in impromptu hugs. The Force Captain grabbed her hand and examined it. It looked just like a robot hand, only with a higher-quality design and an excess of buttons. There were probably hidden weapons in there, just like in Hordak's own tech. Scorpia whistled, impressed. Then she looked up on the forearm where the device ended and her face twitched in horror.

"Entrapta… where is your real hand?!"

"Eh, I wasn't particularly attached to it." Her usual hysterical laughter echoed ominously on the walls of the lab. Scorpia widened her eyes, smashing her pincer on her mouth.

"What the hell?! This is- This is horrible, Entrapta, how can he- I'm going to Hordak's."

"Scorpia, don't! He's gonna kill you!"

"He'd better not, I'm the princess of this kingdom after all, half of the soldiers here were my father's or their children. I'm going to give him a piece of my mind…" her face furrowed. She had never been so angry in her life. She needed to smash something on her way, or she would probably try to smash Hordak's face.

"Scorpia please…" Entrapta hugged her from behind. She was trying so hard here. But Hordak had gone way over the line. How could he do that?!

Scorpia had always known that Hordak's treatment of the other kingdoms wasn't the most ethical, but at least she had thought he treated his own people with respect. That's what her father had taught her. Now in a couple of days, he had betrayed the best girl in the world –Catra – and mutilated the best genius in the world.

"Okay I won't, but… Entrapta, this is so wrong… He… He cut your arm off! I can't accept this. This is torture. And you shouldn't accept this treatment either!" she yelled the last words, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Entrapta observed her crying friend for a few seconds, then averted her gaze. What was happening in her head? Scorpia didn't understand. The pain she felt on Entrapta's behalf barely matched the genius's body language.

Entrapta sighed as she rubbed the metal of her tech arm.

"I know, but what do you want to do, run away?"

Scorpia's face brightened, "…you're right! We could run away!" She grinned. "We'll find Catra, we'll set her free, then we'll come back here to kick Hordak's butt, or we'll do whatever she wants anyway, and oh- I know, we'll-"

"Scorpia, hey! Listen, I wasn't being serious. I can't leave."

"Why not?" Scorpia looked into her eyes. Entrapta had always been the hardest to read. Catra buried her feelings deep, but they always surfaced somehow in her attitude. Entrapta though... Her mind was a mystery, and even after a year of bonding with her, Scorpia wasn't sure how to interpret the little shadow she thought she saw in her eyes.

"I started a project, a few months ago. It was after we had investigated the temple in the Whispering Woods. Remember all that First Ones tech I got from there? I used it mostly for our weapons, as Hordak asked. But I also discovered what they contained."

"What is it?"

"Data. Tons of it. Billions of lines of encrypted data. I started to read them, and I learned… Some interesting things."

The frantic glint of excitement was back in her eyes. Scorpia didn't know what she had found, but it must have been good.

"Remember when I told you about my theory? How Etheria is all First One's tech?" Scorpia nodded. Entrapta pushed a button on the machine wired to the computer. When it opened, Scorpia saw many polygonal shaped crystals, aligned in a pattern.

"Well if I'm right… The answer is there, when you read the different pieces all together. The whole temple, Scorpia…it's a history book!"

Entrapta clapped her hands in excitement.

"Wow that's awesome! But you need to be here to analyze all this?"

"Yes. I need my lab, my computer, and the Black Garnet. I use its energy to decrypt the data. I can't read everything though. A big part of it is encrypted with a different key."

"Key?"

"Yes. The Black Garnet's magic is a key to decrypt part of the data. I realized it by mistake when I was doing experiments. But the new key I need…" Entrapta typed in excitement on her computer. Scorpia had NO idea what was happening, but somehow she was glad to see her friend acting normally. As if she hadn't been just mutilated… Another part of Scorpia didn't like that lack of reaction.

"The key I need is something, anything belonging to a First One's body, or a descendant."

"Aren't we all descendants of the First Ones?"

"Nope. Tried it on me. It didn't work."

"Try it on me then, maybe it'll work with a princess who has a runestone?"

"…did it already. I used one of your hairs. Didn't work. I also tried with Perfuma's hair that I found on an old shirt of mine, and with Adora's hair that I found on Catra's pillow."

Well that sounded just like Entrapta.

"That's funny, why did Catra have Adora's hair on her pillow?" Scorpia rubbed her chin.

"I think it belonged to Adora when she was still in the Horde."

"Oooh you're right, that makes sense, Catra likes to get fuelled with hatred towards her enemy even in her sleep," Scorpia nodded. "Did you tell Hordak?"

Entrapta shook her head. "I didn't want to tell him or Catra about it when I didn't even know if I was going to find anything. I just recently decrypted some of the data, and…I think it's best to keep it to ourselves for now."

"Alright. Hordak doesn't deserve to know after what he did anyway," she snarled. "But tell me, how long do you think you need to finish all this?"

"If I get the First Ones component… A few weeks at least."

Scorpia's jaw dropped. That was too long. Way too long.

"Is it that important?"

"Honestly… It might be. At least for Catra. I wanted to tell her before the battle, but she left too quickly."

"If it's for her, we can wait then, but we need to find a First One descendant…"

"What about a sorceress? I haven't thought about that before…" Entrapta hummed.

As the two friends discussed theories, a hidden figure moved silently away from the vent entrance above them. They crawled down the tube, making no sounds, until they reached the light. They double checked if there was anyone or any camera that might spot them, then got out, put a helmet on and walked at a quick pace through the building.

What fools, talking so freely inside the main base. Of course Entrapta was master of the cameras, but anyone could have spied on them. Proof, they just did.

A few minutes later, they entered the infirmary dedicated to the cadets.

"Where have you been Kyle?!"

He took his helmet off, and sat on a chair next to Lonnie's bed. She was glaring at him, clearly annoyed at having been left alone so long. Since she had a broken arm, twisted ankles, plus a few bandages on her stomach, she wouldn't be able to leave for a while. And she was bored. VERY bored, to Kyle's greatest distress.

"I didn't find your card game, sorry."

She groaned. "Seriously, Kyle?" but her face soothed when she saw the sorrow on his face. He was lost in his thoughts. "What's on your mind?"

"Do you think it's wrong? Following the Horde?"

"Shut up," she hissed. "Are you crazy? If somebody hears you…"

"That's the thing, Lonnie. It's gotten bad lately don't you think? We can't even talk freely any more."

"Well that's because of Catra. What a great idea she had, putting cameras everywhere…"

"Cameras don't record our voices."

"I know, I know, but there's a feeling of suspicion everywhere since she did that. Nobody trusts no one anymore."

"And even when we trust somebody…we don't know who might be listening," he snorted as he thought of his previous activity.

"Catra was a good Second-in-Command, she treated us well, but she screwed up with that part. I know it was because of the first rebel invasion, but now we're all suffering from the consequences…"

"Do you think our war is fair?"

Lonnie raised a curious brow. It wasn't like Kyle to wonder such deep questions.

"Is this because of Rogelio?" she asked softly. They looked in sync at the back room, where intensive care was provided. Rogelio was behind that door, in a coma since they had come back from the front, dragging him unconscious and legless with a trail of blood behind him. He was stable now, but would he wake up? They had no idea.

"I just keep wondering…why are we doing this? Is this our war, Lonnie? What will we get from this?"

"I…" she was speechless. "I don't know, I mean… The princesses are bad people and have been attacking us since before we were born."

She was just repeating Shadow Weaver's lessons and she knew it.

"Bad how? Have you met one before?"

"Have you?" Lonnie squinted her eyes at him. "You're not thinking of pulling an Adora on me, are you?"

"No, no!" Kyle denied with big gestures. "I don't think they're all good. But I don't think they're all bad either. Most of them are our age, you know. They were babies too when it all started."

Lonnie didn't answer. Kyle had been disturbing lately. She didn't recognize the frail boy she had trained with for all these years. He had grown.

Kyle stayed a little while longer by her bedside, then he waved goodbye and headed to the intensive care unit. He had to go check on Rogelio.


Another sunset was bathing Brightmoon in a comforting light. Soon the moon would be up in the sky, feeding the moonstone, that shiny rock that stood more powerful than ever, protecting nature around her.

Framing the domain, the Whispering Woods were growing at such a high speed that the war trenches on both sides had to be abandoned, despite the Horde's best efforts to resist with fire-launchers. To no avail. The connection between the runestones was back, unbreakable, and showing no mercy to those who fought against it.

It only lifted the spirits of the inhabitants even more, and the reparations were proceeding faster than planned. Angella was certain that a few villages and half of the castle could be finished in a couple of weeks.

The queen leaned her elbows on the destroyed windowsill of Glimmer's room. Maybe she was too high on her reborn power, but she had a good feeling about the future. Castaspella's optimism was also contagious, despite their regular quarrels about Catra, Shadow Weaver, Hordak, and Etheria in general. She laughed internally. It was like a divorced couple meeting for the first time in years, putting all their past disagreements back on the table.

However she was annoyed that it had to affect the children. They were fighting the war of their parents. A war they knew very little about, because of their parents' secrecy. Angella admitted it, she was very much at fault as well, and now the kids were trying their best to deal with all yesterday's revelations.

As for Adora…

"You asked to see me, Angella?"

"Yes, dear, please come in- I didn't ask for the evil trio though," she crossed her arms beneath her chest when she saw Glimmer and Bow sitting on a half burnt couch next to Adora.

"We're the emotional support," said Bow as he stuffed his mouth with apple chips.

"Am I that terrifying?" Angella chuckled. "I wanted to know how you're feeling Adora."

"Me? …I'm okay, really."

She didn't look okay though. Even if she tried to put on a brave face, nobody around her was fooled.

"This battle… And what I told you all yesterday, it's a lot to take in, especially for you. I don't want you to burn out Adora. I want you to say whatever's on your mind, without feeling restrained. If I don't understand, I'll ask. I won't deny your feelings or judge you."

"Wish you could be more like that with me…" Glimmer muttered under her breath.

"I promise Angella, I'm fine," Adora started. She looked like she wasn't finished, so the three of them stayed silent. "I'm just… Shaken. I know you don't like Catra, and I know she needs to face a fair trial for her crimes, but I still can't help seeing my best friend down there, hurt, confused and lost."

"I know, dear."

Angella had been mad at Adora during the battle. Mad that she would consider choosing Catra over the rebellion. Mad that she showed Hordak how much Catra meant to her and how much he could blackmail her with that. Mad that she felt more concerned about Catra's injuries over her daughter's. And finally, mad at her power move the day before, when she took Catra to her cell as She-Ra. Giving her a special treatment, and shaming the whole rebellion about their attitude towards the enemy.

Oh yes, Angella hadn't slept a lot that night, thinking of all these events. But as she saw Adora now, this innocent child who had left her whole life behind, including her best friend, to fight for a greater cause, being so miserable and lost… How could she stay angry? The war was over for now, and… Angella had to admit… Adora wasn't in the wrong. They weren't the Horde, and pray to the First Ones they wouldn't ever act like them.

"I've thought a lot about her this year. About us, about the war, what it all meant… So, I wanted to warn you Angella," Adora looked at her intently, with the resolution of a young adult. Such a young adult though. "I will fight for her cause during that trial. Glimmer told me how it worked. I will renounce my vote in the jury to testify for her."

"Are you sure? The loss of your vote… You need to be sure you can convince more than one person-"

"I will."

"Adora, this is a lost cause… You are the only one who knew her before she was Second-in-Command," Glimmer sighed.

"It doesn't matter. I'll speak well enough for people to see her as she is."

"Besides, she is technically the Queen of the Magicats now," Bow noted. "That has to put things into perspective, if she's willing to join us."

"Yes, exactly, she can control the beast now Angella!" Adora exclaimed.

"Really? That's an interesting point for her indeed, she could be a valuable ally," Angella said thoughtfully, then sighed. "You'll have more trouble convincing Mystacor though Adora. They were never fond of the Magicats."

"Why is that, mom? You didn't really explain yesterday."

"Well… What you need to understand is that Mystacor has been our source of knowledge regarding the First Ones and Etheria for a very long time. Since we can't read the First Ones writings, the sorceresses' books are our only way to understand our history and our world.

As you know, the last She-Ra disappeared a thousand years ago, leaving a world in chaos. We don't really know what happened, but more than half of the population died, pretty quickly. When we got back on our feet, we had very little technology and knowledge to build off of. And Mystacor was our pillar, our reference. They were the wisest of all.

They helped the different kingdoms: they learned to analyse Etheria's flows of energy; they taught us to use the runestones; they taught us our history, what our parents couldn't teach us before they died… They remain to this day highly esteemed, hence why they hold the Court of Etheria.

However, there was a kingdom that disagreed with their decisions very often."

The Magicats, Adora thought.

"The Magicats had tried to persuade us for a long time that the planet was dying. And Mystacor wouldn't listen."

The three teenagers didn't dare to breathe.

"Mystacor insisted for a few hundred years that the energy flows were alright, that nothing was wrong. And true enough, the kingdoms were actually expanding at the time. The population increased, and with it, tensions between royalties for more territory.

That was the only point that the Magicats and Mystacor agreed upon. Wars had to be stopped at all cost. However, they differed on the way to do it.

Mystacor convinced royalties to mind their own business and respect their neighbors. It took time to accept, but in the end that's what we did, and it worked for the best. Civilians could travel peacefully if they wanted, but rapidly, the habit of staying within one community engraved itself in our way of thinking. As for royalties, we only met regularly at particular events, like Princess Prom, in mutual respect of each other. If there was any tension, Mystacor was there to be the referee and ease our rivalries.

The Magicats on the other hand wanted us to bond more, they wanted more political arrangements, they wanted to form wider nations. For them, it was essential for the efficiency of the runestones that the princesses work together. They explained that if the runestones were more connected, nature would grow and the planet would live better.

But Mystacor continued to insist that there was no degradation of the planet, that the runestones had never worked so well, and that the Magicats had no proof or knowledge of what they were saying.

They also insisted that bonding would only create rivalries, jealousy, and eventually, war. They didn't hesitate to use the argument of the many fights the Magicats had started to settle disagreements in the past. Kingdoms were bound to argue and make war. The rulers had to be separated, only communicating from afar.

So once again, the Magicats weren't listened to. The kingdoms approved Mystacors' ways, and it went on like this for centuries, until the very end of the Magicats."

"They were right though," said Adora harshly. Angella stared at her, but Adora averted her gaze. Anger could be sensed in her body language. "They were right about the way the runestones work, our power has always reached its peak when we are all together. Besides, right now, since the mask has been fixed, the Whispering Woods are healing. Am I wrong, Angella?"

"No, you are absolutely right. We realized our mistake when the mask was destroyed and we brutally lost our former strength. We realized the runestones were more than portals giving access to magic. They were linked. That's why we formed the Princess Alliance a few years later, to fight against Hordak. Unfortunately it didn't end well, and after Micah's death I… I gave up on it. I gave up on Katriska, once again."

Adora softened as she saw Angella's sad expression.

"It's quite incredible that in a thousand years nobody wanted to believe them," marvelled Bow.

"Well actually, some kingdoms in the south followed the Magicats, and after a few centuries, completely cut ties with us in the North. They lost interest in our lifestyle and eventually decided it would be better to rule their own way. Even Katriska didn't have any contact with them."

Adora frowned. That sounded even more incredible.

"Mystacor's influence is huge," Glimmer pouted. "I love auntie Castaspella, but it's true that she's always right, if you know what I mean."

"In her opinion."

"Mom, why did you never tell us? Why did you never tell me?"

"Because- I'm so sorry Glimmer, it's just- We've failed you so badly. We are the reason you have to fight. All of us, Mermista's father, Frosta's mother and the others… We were ashamed. Very ashamed."

Angella covered her body with her wings. She wouldn't have been able to reveal all of that in front of the whole Alliance. It was already hard enough to see the judgemental look on Adora's face, even if she tried to hide it. Or maybe it was Angella who was imagining things. Maybe she wanted to be judged for her many failures.

"We told you the bare minimum, hoping we could resist the Horde long enough until She-Ra's return."

"You knew she would come?" Bow asked.

"The prophecy said: In time of our greatest need, the Princess of Power will come back to save us and bring balance on Etheria. We tried by ourselves, and failed. We lost the Magicats. We fell harder and lower than we ever had in a thousand years. Faith was all we had left."

Faith. That was exactly how Perfuma had acted the first time they met. She wouldn't fight on her own, she would only rely on the faith that She-Ra would save them.

What had gone so wrong on Etheria for the people to forget about their own strength?

Chapter Text

"Faith was all they had left?" Catra laughed so hard and violently that she could feel her wound start to reopen. "That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

"Don't mock people who believe!"

"Oh come on Adora!" Catra shot a glance over her shoulder. Adora was applying balm to her back with extreme concentration. "Don't tell me you agree with that! Not you! The Horde didn't raise us that way."

"I don't agree, but that's not a reason to be mean."

"Did you have to pretend then?" She cleared her throat to make her voice go higher. "Oh Angella, don't beat yourself for that. I would have done the exact same thing! Everybody knows waiting passively for a hero is how you win a war!"

"Stop it!" Adora nudged her shoulder, trying to sound angry. However Catra knew that she was holding back a smile. Catra knew her. "You should have seen Angella's face. She was devastated."

"No kidding. I'd feel shitty, too, if I'd left that mess for my kids to fix. Actually scratch that, I would have fixed it myself."

"You sound like Katriska…" Adora smirked.

She didn't get the effect she had hoped for. Catra tensed and stopped talking. Adora bit her lip, wondering if Catra would let her talk about it. Since the first revelations about the Magicats, she had closed herself off on that subject, only listening intently when Adora came back with new information.

"I mean, she used to be a pro-action person like you…"

"I know what you mean."

"So… How do you feel about all this?"

"By all this, do you mean the fact that I'm a queen without a kingdom, or that my people has been decimated by the Horde, or that the reason Shadow Weaver made my life impossible for all those years is that the last queen banned her? Or do you mean the prospect of being judged by people who hated my predecessor?"

"I don't think they hated her. It sounded more like political disagreements…"

"Oh come on, you're doing it again, Adora."

"Doing what?"

Catra opened her mouth, but at that moment Adora's thumbs rolled on a particularly sensitive knot in her back. She arched it, and couldn't keep the moan and purrs in her throat.

"Somebody's enjoying herself…" Adora chuckled.

Red with embarrassment, Catra decided it was payback time. She spun herself around despite still being bare-chested. Now it was her turn to smirk when she saw Adora's cheeks flush in a second. The blonde snapped her neck, almost hurting it, to avert her gaze.

Catra grabbed her chin and made her look into her eyes.

"Read between the lines Adora. This isn't a one time argument. This is a thousand year-long argument. And from what you told me, Mystacor realized that the Magicats had been right all along after Katriska's death? I'd be very petty about it if I were them."

"But now it's irrelevant. The Magicats are dead, the mask is fixed, and what matters is defeating Hordak and restoring balance!"

"That's not how people work, Adora."

Adora fell silent. Catra put her shirt back on, then stared at the blonde's confused face. Her old companion hadn't changed in that way. Despite realizing that her whole life at the Horde had been a lie, she couldn't bring herself to distrust the new people she had chosen to fight for. It actually made sense, Catra thought. Adora was an idealistic person. She wanted to build a better world for everyone. To be the fucking hero of that new peaceful world...

To keep that state of mind, she needed to see the best in people, and trust the motivations of her allies. However, it would only hurt her badly in the end.

Catra cupped her face, bringing Adora's eyes to her again.

"The Horde might be evil, but they taught you some valuable lessons that you should remember. Keep your focus, observe your environment, don't let your guard down." Catra touched her forehead with her finger, like all those times during training when she had tried to distract Adora. "And most importantly..." her eyes glowed in the dark cell. "Don't expect a fair fight."

"You're saying this as if I'm fighting my own side."

"Didn't you say you would testify for me?"

Adora didn't at all like what Catra was implying. She frowned and stood up.

"I'm pleading the Court for mercy on your behalf, I'm not opposing them. If they wanted it, they could have just cut your head off, and it would all be over. Instead they're giving you a chance!"

Catra laughed again. "How merciful. That's exactly what I would do if I wanted to get rid of an enemy AND look irreproachable to my people."

"You're wrong," Adora snarled. "I'm not going to let you turn me against my own side. You're just like Shadow Weaver, playing with my mind!"

Catra jumped to her feet and closed the space between them.

"As you wish, Princess. Go believe everything they tell you. It worked fine for you in the Horde, didn't it?"

Adora pushed her. She called the guard to open the cell for her.

"Don't get fooled twice Adora, that's all I'm saying." Catra shouted as she watched Adora leave the prison.

Stupid Catra.

This made no sense at all. Adora couldn't believe it.

She was their enemy of course. And she was a Magicat. The last of the Magicats. But her trial had nothing to do with the past between the Magicats and Mystacor. The trial was about her time commanding the Horde, destroying everyone's lives.

She started to regret ever telling her the truth. But Catra deserved to know it just as much as she did.

She groaned as loudly as she could in the ruins of the front part of the castle. Ironically, the prison in the back hadn't been touched during the battle. When she reached the Alliance camp outside, she took a minute to observe soldiers, civilians and princesses, busy repairing the holes.

Their faces carried joy and hope. They had won after all, and it seemed like the odds were in their favor now. How could Adora believe that their intentions were evil?

She shook her head. That wasn't exactly what Catra had said. It was more complicated than one good side versus one bad side.

Adora then looked to her left, where Angella was talking to Castaspella and her counsellors.

Alright, Catra… What wrong could it bring to be a little more… attentive?


"You found it!" Lonnie's face brightened as she snatched the game from Kyle's hands. "Thanks, you're the best!"

"If you cleaned your bunk regularly, I would have found it sooner."

"I don't like this new attitude you have…" Lonnie laughed. "When did you become so cocky?"

Kyle shrugged as he sat on the chair next to her bed. There was no use telling her now that he had gained his confidence from spying on Hordak for several months for Brightmoon.

"How are your wounds?"

"Better. I can walk by tomorrow, Doc said. But I'll need crutches."

Kyle smiled. At least this friend would be fine. He looked around the infirmary. Many soldiers were slowly recovering from the battle. Physically at least. A bunch of them had been traumatized by the experience, mostly young cadets who had never fought before. Pain crushed his heart as he saw a fourteen year old boy paralyzed in his bed, jolting every time his neighbor moved.

Who had decided such young kids could fight this war?!

The door of the infirmary burst open, revealing a tall blue woman with deadly tentacles flowing around her.

Octavia was back.

Lonnie and Kyle gulped when they saw her face. Octavia used to have a poisonous stare before, prompting people to avoid her when she glared. Now she had a helmet covering the top half of her head, down until the nose. She had no eyes anymore, just robotic lenses.

She was more of a machine than a woman now. And she was terrifying.

She started to inspect the wounded, one by one. How exactly she could see was a mystery, but she didn't have any problem ascertaining who would be able to leave the infirmary and when.

When she reached Lonnie's bed, the two cadets held their breath. Octavia crossed her arms beneath her chest, and stood still in front of the injured girl for a few seconds, as if she was scanning her.

"How long do you need to recover?" she asked.

"Doc said I can start training again in two weeks, if I go easy."

"Good. You're on teaching duty in the meantime."

"Me?" Lonnie raised her eyebrows in surprise. "You want me to train the kids?"

"Yes. You're not a cadet anymore, congratulations," she said in the most impassive voice they'd ever heard. "We need a new coach for the youngest recruits."

Recruits wasn't a fair word to use considering they were either kids captured in the villages the Horde had conquered, or children of the current soldiers, forced to join the ranks.

"But what happened to Mr. Smoothscales?"

"He died."

Kyle's heart dropped in his chest. Not a week ago, their life-long coach was giving him advice for the battle, because he knew that Kyle didn't have the spirit of a soldier, and he didn't want him to get hurt.

He didn't even know that he had joined the fight. It must have been a last minute decision, to be sure there would be enough troopers against Brightmoon.

Another pointless loss…

"Okay…" Lonnie shook her head to anchor herself in reality. Octavia hadn't waited for an answer though. She was heading towards the intensive care unit.

Kyle frowned. "Um… I'll be right back, okay?"

"What are you going to do?" Lonnie asked suspiciously. She watched the boy rush towards the ICU, where Octavia had disappeared.

Kyle pushed open the door in silence and stood in a dark corner. There were three gravely injured people in the ICU. Rogelio was the most severe case. Despite the stability of his body and wounds, he was still in a coma and couldn't survive without the machines stimulating his vitals instead of his brain.

Octavia was talking with the doc, pointing to Rogelio. "How long is he going to stay like that?"

"I really can't tell, Commander. The coma is a result of blood loss and the severe trauma his body endured. As long as his brain doesn't adapt and recognize that there's no danger anymore, he won't wake."

"Yeah well, we can't afford that, Doc. If he's not awake by next week, take him off life support."

Kyle froze.

No…

"I don't tolerate snooping, midget."

The doctor shot a confused look to Octavia, but the Second slowly turned around until she faced Kyle, paralyzed in his corner. How on Etheria did she know that he was there? She couldn't have heard him, he was as silent as Catra…

"Come forward," she said.

"I- I'm sorry, Commander," Kyle's voice trembled. "He's my training partner. I wanted to check on him, but you were there-"

"I don't care. If I catch you snooping around again, you'll be in trouble."

Her emotionless voice sent shivers down his spine. He apologized again, bowing as a way to avoid seeing her face rather than as a mark of respect. He stood like that until Octavia had left the unit, then he crouched on the ground, hugging his knees and burying his head in his arms.

"I'm so sorry…" doctor Ferrarius squeezed his shoulder. "All we can do now is hope that he wakes up this week," she sighed.

"There really is nothing else you can do?" Kyle asked her, his head still in his arms.

"Unfortunately, I've done everything in my power. I guess only Lord Hordak's tech would be able to break the coma."

Kyle looked up this time. "Can he really do that?"

Hope gave his watery eyes a desperate shade.

"Um, yes, definitely, but honestly…" the doctor said hesitantly. "I don't see him doing it for a mere cadet."

"Thanks!" Kyle stormed out of the ICU, leaving her puzzled. He hurried to Lonnie, and didn't give her the time to wonder what was happening as he blurted out what he had just seen.

"So, I thought that we could go together to see Hordak, and ask him to heal Rogelio, and you could say that you need him as your coaching assistant, you know, since you're wounded and new to this work-"

"Wow, Kyle, hold on a minute! There is no way Hordak will accept that! Have you ever talked to him? Like personally? He doesn't care about troopers like us."

"But you're not a trooper anymore, you're a coach!"

"Coaches report to their direct superior, the Force Captain, or the Commander, if necessary. Not Lord Hordak!"

"If we don't do anything, he'll be dead before next week like Mr Smoothscales," Kyle spat. Lonnie didn't answer right away. She understood what was at stake, but since she wasn't as close to Rogelio as Kyle was, she could see the flaws in his plan more clearly than he ever would.

"Listen, I'm not rejecting the idea, but," Lonnie started as she held his glare. "We need to find a very good reason to present ourselves to Hordak. We need to be useful to him, that's the only thing he cares about after all. Catra wasn't useful to him anymore, so he got rid of her. He functions that way."

Lonnie continued her outloud thinking, but Kyle stopped listening as he got lost in his own thoughts. Hordak wanted his soldiers to be useful. What did Kyle have that could serve Hordak well, in exchange for Rogelio's life?

The image of a brown skinned boy with a brilliant smile and a crop top flashed in his mind.

You're supposed to be the good guys right?

It's war Kyle…

Kyle frowned. It was war indeed.


Two onion bulbs, a drop of Heart-Blossom essence, an infusion of her own personal leaves… Mix it all slowly for a couple of minutes above the heater, and the potion was ready.

Perfuma dropped the tip of her finger in the cauldron to taste it. She nodded, satisfied.

"Why are you giving yourself so much trouble for that potion?"

Perfuma almost knocked the bowl over. She turned around and welcomed the newcomer with a pout. "Mermista you scared me!"

The sea princess rolled her eyes as she crashed on the couch. "Seriously though. You have to do this twice a day, plus the balm."

"It's no trouble at all. It's very fast to make."

"I'm not talking about the process. I'm talking about the motivation."

Perfuma raised an eyebrow as she poured the potion into a gourd, inviting Mermista to explain herself.

"She's the reason you don't have a kingdom anymore."

"Ah, so that's what you meant," Perfuma replied sadly.

It had been a few months since Catra had launched the raid against Plumeria. The Horde had taken them by surprise in the middle of the night, right after a battle in the dead Whispering Woods. The rebellion had not seen it coming. Plumeria wasn't a very big kingdom, but it still had a runestone, and was on the way between Salineas, the Snow Kingdom, and Brightmoon.

They should have protected it better.

"Nobody died though, we escaped in time, and…"

"Don't try to convince yourself you're not holding a grudge."

"I'm not! I mean, I am a little, of course, but… Well look at her now," Perfuma shrugged. "She got betrayed by her own side. She's more miserable than all of us now."

"That doesn't change the past."

"Yes, but as Adora said the other day, we should act as fair war victors on principle. I don't want to feel ashamed of my attitude in a few years when it's all over. I want to be able to tell future generations that we were the good guys till the end without feeling like I'm lying."

"You can tell them whatever you want if we're the victors."

Perfuma huffed. "Of course, but that's not the issue. The issue is what I feel is right."

"Yeah well," Mermista rolled her eyes again. "I can't forgive her for making me lose Salineas. That and all the other horrors she's done to us."

"You're going to vote against her, aren't you?" Perfuma asked.

"Probably."

"Well then, don't tell Adora. She'll be mortified."

"Don't tell me what?" Both princesses jolted. Perfuma stood up way too quickly to look natural, and Mermista blushed furiously.

"Um… Nothing, it's no big deal, it's just…" Perfuma asked for her friend's help in a silent stare.

"It's just that I feel a bit sick," Mermista pouted. "I keep throwing up, and I feel weak… It's weird."

"You're not pregnant, are you?" Perfuma raised an eyebrow.

"Whaaaaat? Nooo, definitely not, trust me."

Mermista scoffed and blushed even harder when she saw her two friends smirk. She left the room grumbling some profanities under her breath.

"I've come to fetch Catra's potion," Adora said when they were done giggling.

"I'm coming with you tonight. I need to check how the wound is healing," she said as she grabbed her first aid kit.

The two princesses walked the path from the camp towards the prison in silence. From the corner of her eye, Adora could see Perfuma was a little nervous at the prospect of facing their fearsome prisoner.

She couldn't blame her. Adora must have been the only princess who wasn't scared to stand close to the Horde Commander, and that was mostly because she had known her from before. It hadn't made the scratches she'd given her during the fights any less painful though.

When they stepped into the prison, with the guard by their side to open the cell, Catra immediately stared at Perfuma, following her with her eyes. The piercing gaze made the princess gulp. How could Adora stand this soul analysis twice a day?

"Hey, Catra. Princess Perfuma is here to see how your back is healing."

Catra nodded slightly. It was a good enough sign for Adora that she wouldn't try to claw her face. The guard opened the cell, and both princesses rushed in.

Catra stood up and stared again silently at Perfuma, probably waiting for her to talk.

"Um…" Perfuma's whole body was shaking. The cell was quite small. She had her plant magic, but Adora didn't have her sword. If the prisoner decided to attack…

The aid kit slipped from her hands. The box opened in front of Catra, whose face twitched and tail rose as she saw the needles.

"What are you going to do to me?" she hissed. Perfuma backed away, and Adora grabbed Catra's hands, blocking her way to the other princess.

"It's just in case Catra. She's not going to use them unless it's necessary."

"No, no, it's not necessary. I'm fine, and you are NOT using those on me!" she pointed to the needles then to Perfuma threateningly.

"Let's just sit, okay?" Adora slipped her hand onto Catra's waist and turned her around. The girl let her, but she didn't avert her gaze from Perfuma until her back was facing her. Adora made her sit, whispering comforting words that Catra listened to half-heartedly.

Perfuma gulped again, and sat down. She put the aid kit next to her and breathed out.

"Okay, I'm going to observe the wound for now, that's all. Can you take your shirt off, Catra?"

Catra didn't answer. Her tail just swished in discontent, but she obeyed nonetheless. Perfuma saw Adora blush at the sight of topless Catra. It made her laugh internally, and lightened her heart. She could do this.

"Alright, it looks much better than a few days ago! You did a good job applying the balm Adora!"

"Thanks…" Adora answered as she tried to avoid Catra's smirky face.

Her expression changed when she felt Perfuma touch her. She almost hissed but Adora squeezed her hands and gave her a warning glare.

"Does it hurt less than before?"

"...yes." Catra answered reluctantly.

"Good, good. Um, I'm gonna have to do something unpleasant."

"I said no needles!" Catra snapped her head.

"No, no, I promise, no needles!" Perfuma waved her hands. "But I need to...scrape the dead skin. There's not much of it, and it's not deep, but we can't leave it, or it's going to get infected."

"You're going to what now?"

"Catra, look at me," Adora cupped her face with both hands. She knew how much Catra hated medical care. "Once it's done, the only things your wound will need are the potion and the balm, that's all. It's just one unpleasant step, and then it's over."

"Yes, and I have another special regenerative balm to put on the zone I'm going to scrape, this way the skin will regrow faster."

Catra looked at Adora for a few silent seconds, until she did something that the princess didn't expect: she whined.

"Make it quick then."

She grabbed Adora's shirt and tugged. Adora understood. She scooted closer to Catra, so that she could lean her head against her chest. Adora nodded to Perfuma, signaling that they were ready.

"I'm going to apply a pain-killing lotion first, Catra. It'll sting a little at first, and then you won't feel pain anymore. You'll only feel that I'm touching you."

Catra's ear twitched. She just wanted it to be over.

Perfuma started working on the wound. The downside of their position was that Adora could see everything she did, and it gave her a little bit of nausea.

The first scraping made Catra's body jerk. She whimpered as she clutched Adora's sides, planting her claws in the fabric of her shirt. Her tail raised, slapping Perfuma's face.

"Can you control your tail?"

"No, I can't, you dumbface…" Catra hissed. "Your pain killing shit didn't work."

"Sorry, it's not as effective as the injectable one I have, but you said no needles."

Perfuma resumed her work. It took her fifteen long minutes to dispose of the little dead zones on Catra's skin. It would have taken less time had it not been for the tail swishing here and there in her face.

Catra was a shaking mess in Adora's arms. She tried to calm her by rubbing soothing circles on her nape, but she wasn't sure Catra could feel anything but the pain of her back.

Finally Perfuma pulled away to admire her work. Catra's back was shining because of all the balm she had put on it. If it wasn't mended in less than two weeks, she would call herself a bad healer. She gathered her instruments and closed her first aid kit.

"Don't forget to drink your potion, Catra. Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening."

She stood, waved at Adora and waited for the guard to open the cell.

"Thank you, Perfuma."

The two princesses widened their eyes in disbelief. Catra opened her blue eye to stare at Perfuma. The healer saw the prisoner's gratefulness beneath a heavy layer of pride.

She smiled, "You're welcome, Catra."

She left the prison, satisfied with herself.

Adora and Catra stayed in their position for a while, until Adora decided that Catra could catch a cold. She pushed her gently and handed her a sweater she had taken from her ruined room in the castle. It was larger, comfier, and warmer. There was a smiling unicorn knitted on the front.

"Am I allowed, as a prisoner, to wear something like that?"

"Perfuma approved. It's better for your wound." Adora raised her chin, as if she was provoking an invisible challenger.

"Alright Princess," she chuckled. As she tested the new clothes, Adora let her mind drift off to some old memories.

"Remember how scared you were of medical exams when we were kids?"

"Duh. Shadow Weaver made me endure those useless blood tests…"

"When she could catch you."

Catra grinned. It was a time when she was agile enough to jump from pipe to pipe with ease, and small enough to hide in the tiniest corners. Searching for her for blood tests had used to drive Shadow Weaver crazy. It only strengthened Catra's will to avoid anything related to doctors. Including needles.

"Good memory…" Catra whispered before her smile fell. She hugged her knees and averted her gaze. Adora wondered what had saddened her all of a sudden. Nostalgia? Or something darker?

"We had to make some in that place."

"Especially me," Catra muttered.

"Are you still mad at me?"

"For leaving? No, I already told you. It was a blessing. At least before Hordak betrayed me."

"No I meant…" Adora hesitated. Catra looked at her expectantly. "Are you still mad that I took so long to realize the Horde was evil despite what they did to you?"

Catra's ears flattened. Her hands shook.

Adora squirmed on her spot. She didn't know how to interpret this body language.

"You…" Catra gulped. "When did you finally understand that?"

"It happened progressively," Adora shrugged. "I've thought a lot about us this year. About how we lived in the Horde. About my attitude towards you, and Shadow Weaver's… I tried to understand what you saw that I didn't."

This is wrong Catra. They've been lying to us, manipulating us...

Duh! Did you just figure that out?

"I tried to understand what went wrong between us."

You never protected me! Not in any way that would put you on Shadow Weaver's bad side!

It doesn't matter what they do to us, as long we look out for each other.

"And? What did you think?" Catra raised an eyebrow.

You wanted me to think I needed you. You wanted me to feel weak. Every hero needs a sidekick. Right?

I never meant to make you feel like you were second best!

Adora sighed. "I really left you for a bunch of strangers that I had just met. For good reasons that I can't regret."

Catra frowned and opened her mouth, but Adora wasn't finished.

"But I never realized that the Horde treated you as badly as its enemies, even though I lived by your side for years."

Catra closed her mouth.

"I also think you really needed some time away from me to find yourself," Adora continued sadly. "And I needed to put my whole life and beliefs into perspective. I only wish it hadn't caused us to fight each other."

"We chose our paths."

There was a little sadness beneath her sharp tone. Adora nodded, then fell silent. A lot of things could have been said, but Catra couldn't bring herself to unpack it all now. The girls didn't say a word for half an hour, then Adora got up and left, promising to come back in the morning with a new potion.

Catra noted that it had been a long time since she had trusted one of Adora's promises.

Chapter Text

Another morning rose on Brightmoon. It had only been five days since the end of the battle, yet it felt to Adora like an eternity had passed. Because of all the revelations, she almost felt like she was discovering once again the world she was living in. Like a new era had started, where people were alter ego of themselves.

Especially a certain prisoner that kept nagging her thoughts wherever she went.

Never would Adora have imagined their relationship would evolve that way a week ago. They went from mortal enemies who couldn't spend two seconds facing each other without trying to fight, to two ex-best friends acknowledging their many disagreements and...actually starting to communicate. Slowly, sure, but they would get there.

That was a progress Adora would cling onto. That was also an excellent way to distract herself from other matters that kept her awake at night. Like the war. The future of the rebellion. The stories Angella had hidden from them. The truth about the runestones. The truth about her… The extra-etherial princess. The Alien.

Adora sighed as she carried an empty cart back to Brightmoon. It had been filled with food provided by the queen as a gift to the inhabitants of the new village in the Whispering Woods. Adora had offered to transport it as She-Ra, to gain some time. A couple of hours had been more than enough to make the trip, help the villagers with the last preparations of their new home, and come back.

When she arrived on the castle's domain, she put the cart down with the other ones. They would be reused to transport other supplies.

She changed back to herself and headed towards the camp, already buzzing with people coming in and out joyfully. She rubbed her face with both hands when she saw her friends wave at her. She had to break the overthinking trance state she had been in during the little trip.

Back to reality.

She smiled at Glimmer from afar. The sparkling princess smiled back, a little hesitation holding back her natural grin.

They had some talking to do. Adora was aware of the tension that had arisen between them because of Catra. Bow understood easily her attachment to her old best friend, but Glimmer had real trouble accepting it. Her mind and her heart both belonged in the rebellion. It was her whole life, her family, but also her passion as a leader. It was everything she wanted to protect. It was hard for her to understand that Adora longed for the person who tried multiple times to destroy it.

"Adora! Would you walk with me dear?"

This morning wouldn't be the time for her talk with Glimmer after all.

"Of course, Castaspella," Adora smiled. She sent an apologetic look to Glimmer, who brushed it off, raising a thumb up.

She followed the Queen of Mystacor towards the entrance of the castle. Instead of entering the main hall, they took left, taking the path to the moonstone pillar. During their walk, Castaspella kept talking with enthusiasm about the reparations, the Whispering Woods' recovery, and their advantages against Hordak.

Adora listened with a smile plastered on her face, wondering if that really required them to be alone. Finally they arrived under the moonstone. It was shining brightly, embracing them with its warmth.

"Isn't it beautiful?" Castaspella's eyes watered.

"Very," Adora closed her eyes to appreciate the peace it brought to her heart.

"I didn't think I would ever get to see it so radiating again."

Adora gave her full attention to the queen.

"I still have trouble getting used to our new powers," Adora admitted. "It's dizzying."

"It's normal. In a few weeks, you'll all feel in better control."

Adora didn't answer, waiting for Castaspella to announce the true purpose of their conversation, even if dozens of questions danced in her mind.

"Tomorrow the sorceresses and I are going back to Mystacor to prepare the trial," she looked in Adora's eyes inquisitively. "Angella told me you decided to withdraw from the jury and plead for the Horde Commander."

"That's right. I'll speak for Catra," Adora emphasized on her name.

"Alright, I just wanted to know for sure that you were aware of the implications. Do you know how the Court works in these cases?"

"Yes, Glimmer explained everything to me. The jury will consist of seven sorceresses including three from the High Council, seven princesses, and seven civilians from at least three different kingdoms. One other sorceress of the Council will preside, assuring the respect of the laws, and two sorceresses will speak, one to expose Catra's misdeeds, one to defend her."

Castaspella nodded. "In addition, each party have the right to call witnesses to testify for them, under the condition that they both have the same number. Since you are going to be the only witness for Catra, the prosecutor will have to chose one as well. One and only one."

That seemed fair. Adora remembered what Catra had said about not expecting a fair fight, but she honestly couldn't see a flaw in that organization. The only tiny problem would be to convince most of the jury that Catra deserved their clemency, and would be useful to the rebellion.

"Can I ask you something dear? Why are you going that far for her, after everything she's done?"

Adora knew she would have to endure that question from many other people.

"Because I don't believe she's a bad person. She is a soldier caught in a war, battling for her own side. She doesn't have big ideals, she just wants to prove her worth. It so happened to be on the wrong side…"

"But she saw you leave for the right side. She had many occasions to realize the Horde was only doing evil. She decided to keep on that path though."

The Horde was evil… Catra had known since they were kids. Since the first time Shadow Weaver threatened her life. Evil doing was never a concept to shame or reprimand in Catra's universe. It had been…her daily life. Righteousness wasn't a word that made much sense for her either.

It doesn't matter what they do to us, as long as we look out for each other.

Only her own survival and her loved ones' were important. Shadow Weaver was right when she asserted this a few days ago, when they shared the same prison.

"It's more complicated than that."

What made Adora different from Catra though? Even if she hadn't been as mistreated as her, she still couldn't say her life at the Horde had been a piece of cake.

If you hadn't left, none of this would have happened.

Shadow Weaver.

The woman raised her to become a Force Captain bearing the desire to bring order to the world. Unlike Catra, whom she barely allowed to live.

"That doesn't excuse her actions," Castaspella said softly, bringing Adora back to reality. "But I trust you'll make us see a side of her we didn't perceive."

The queen smiled and started to make her way back to the castle.

"Castaspella, can I ask…"

"Yes dear, what is it?"

"What happened between you and Katriska?"

She looked surprised. Then a bit uncomfortable.

"We already told you everything, back then with Angella…" she fidgeted. "I'm not proud of our attitude towards her and her people."

She stared at Adora, and saw that the princess wouldn't let her go away with such a vague answer. She sighed and sat down on the regeneration bench under the moonstone.

"The Magicats used to be very influential, just like us at Mystacor. It was normal that we would have to work together for our world's prosperity, and it's logical that we would disagree on our methods."

"But you ignored them for a thousand years…"

"We didn't bicker for that long, dear," Castepella chuckled. "If we believe our history books, there were a few magicat queens who got along pretty well with us. If you don't believe me, I'll give you access to our archives when you all come to the Court next week."

"Thanks…"

"As for Katriska, it is true that she was one relentless queen… She didn't intend to leave us in peace," Castepella huffed as she got lost in memories. "She kept nagging us with the planet deterioration, the runestones, the alliances we should make…"

"And she was right."

Castepella's face twitched, then sadness lidded her eyes. "Yes… She was right on many levels. We learned it the hard way Adora, believe me. She also warned us about Hordak, but we didn't trust her because she had spent all her reign telling us about disasters that wouldn't come… But as she foresaw, Hordak betrayed us…then he destroyed the Magicats... And ever since, the desert has kept on spreading. The disasters she'd predicted had finally come."

"But why did you stay neutral then after her death? You could have fought with the Alliance!"

"Because we didn't want to disturb the flows of energy more than they already were. Our Sacred Writings and our history proved many times that mingling in fights had only brought more pain and instability. The runestones' balance was more delicate than ever... My brother, King Micah, disagreed with us, he led the First Alliance troops for Angella… And got killed."

"Who wrote those Sacred Writings?" Adora knew she should show more empathy regarding Castaspella, but her curiosity level raised at each sentence the queen pronounced.

"Well, the sorceresses from the time of the Great Chaos of course," she sounded surprised by Adora's ignorance. "The ones that saved the survivors and led our world into an era of prosperity. The ones that invented our methods of energy analyses."

The Great Chaos…

The one caused by Mara. The last She-Ra before her.

"They were also the ones that made the prophecy of your return. We knew you'd be there to help us against Hordak. It was written."

Castaspella smiled. There it was again. The unbreakable faith she saw many times in the rebellion.

Adora definitely didn't like that at all. A wall raised in her heart.

"If you had listened to Katriska though you could have avoided the disaster…including King Micah's death."

"I know… We know. If we could bring her back… Bring Katriska and all the Magicats back, we would. And I would personally ask for her forgiveness."

"Maybe you can grant her successor your pardon in her memory…" said Adora gently. Castaspella raised her brows then chuckled.

"Speak like that at Court, and Catra's chances might get higher than anyone expects for now."


Entrapta tightened her right fist. The sore throb she felt when she used it at first was starting to fade now. She opened her hand and stretched her metallic fingers.

If it hadn't been imposed to her, she would only marvel at the perfection of the synchronization between her brain order and the movement execution. That was solid work.

She took her screwdriver to open the wire compartment of the device. She had to understand how it worked inside. Knowing the effects the hand would have on her was not only interesting but possibly a matter of life and death.

It'll link you to me, Hordak had said.

How exactly would it link them? He hadn't really answered when Entrapta had asked. She had already checked if there wasn't any mic or camera to spy on her. It seemed clean. Today she would inspect the inside, and run a few tests with her computer to comprehend the mechanism.

After all, Hordak had given her the mission to learn his tech magic in order to help him develop new weapons. She had to start somewhere.

"What are you doing?" Entrapta jolted. Scorpia was peeking over her shoulder, the curiosity in her eyes turning into something darker when she saw the hand. "You're trying to take it off?"

"No, I'm studying it."

She stared at Scorpia who suddenly pretended to be very interested in the maths on the computer. Entrapta had never seen her friend so unnerved. The Force Captain had been avoiding Hordak ever since the incident, because she wouldn't trust her mouth and fists if she saw his stupid face. She also knew Scorpia had been crying at night. She heard her once when she was taking her usual night venturing in the air vents.

Entrapta didn't really understand why Scorpia was more annoyed than herself at first, but when she had asked her what she would feel if Hordak had done it to her friend instead of her, the genius admitted it would make her very sad.

Besides there was the Catra problem and the question of their close future… It must have been all too much for Scorpia.

"How are things going with your...Project Temple?"

That was how Scorpia had named Entrapta's experiments on the crystals' data.

"It's a dead end until I can find a hair of a descendant of the First Ones."

"How do you know that's the key to your research?"

"It's written there, look," Entrapta typed furiously fast on the keyboard. The crystals glowed as electricity ran through the chain, then it stopped all of a sudden. "See, they won't let me access, and here's indicated, when you decode the maths, that First Ones are the key."

"But they're dead!"

"I wonder…" Entrapta rubbed her chin. "Are they really dead? We don't know what these creatures were. They must have held infinite power and wisdom to be able to make a whole planet. I find it hard to believe they wouldn't watch over it now."

"So…" Scorpia tilted her head. "They would be some sort of immortal beings or something?"

Entrapta's hair snapped up. "Immortal Beings!!!!" She clapped her hands excitedly.

"Scorpia!! Immortal Beings!" She raised on her hair and shook her friend's shoulders.

"Yeaaah, that's what I said?"

"Don't you see? Queen Angella is an Immortal Being! How could I forget?! If someone's a descendant of the First Ones, she must be! HAHAHAHAHA, this is amazing!"

"Oooh, I see, nice work Entrapta! But how are we going to get a hair from her? She's even more untouchable than the princesses in battle… Cause you know, she can fly and stuff."

"I can do it."

The two princesses froze. They slowly glanced behind their shoulders in sync. A guard came out of the shadows, stepping hesitantly in the lab.

"Oh hi there!" Scorpia grinned awkwardly, "I don't know what you heard, but we were totally not talking about a secret project at all. We were discussing about making a surprise party for Octavia's promotion-"

"Quit it Force Captain Scorpia, you guys aren't discreet at all," the guard said with a shaky voice as he removed his helmet.

"Kyle?!"

The boy rolled his eyes. He was getting a bit tired of getting this kind of reactions whenever he did something bold. He looked behind the Force Captain. Entrapta was staring at him with mild interest.

"You really should be careful, you're lucky I'm the only one who overheard your project."

While Scorpia protested again about the existence of any kind of project, Kyle found himself a chair. He sat and looked around him. He had spied on the lab many times before, but It was his first time entering it for real. Funny how recently he'd been forced out of the shadows.

"So, Princess Entrapta," he tried to take a mysterious tone. "You need a hair from Angella, I heard."

"Or Glimmer. Her daughter, you know. I'm pretty sure it can work with hers as well. But Angella's hair would be best."

Kyle nodded. "I can get that for you. But I need something in return."

The girls exchanged a look, but didn't say a word.

"I know you're studying Hordak's tech. So…" he breathed. "I want you to cure Rogelio before next week."

"Who's that?"

"A cadet who lost his legs during the battle. He's in a coma. Doc says only Hordak's magic can wake him, and if he doesn't… Octavia ordered to take his life support off."

Entrapta widened her eyes. Next to her, Scorpia was covering her mouth with her pincers, feeling sorry for the boy. Kyle was averting his gaze, not wanting to see the pity on their faces.

"Why didn't you go directly to him? Hordak?" Entrapta asked.

"I thought about it."

Oh yes, Kyle hadn't slept all night overthinking. He had some material to give Hordak in exchange for Rogelio's life. His friendship with Bow could be extremely interesting for the Horde, if he could manipulate the rebellion through him. Kyle also held Entrapta's secrets up his sleeve now.

Spying in the shadows for so long had given him more power than he ever thought he could get. So now that the time had come to use it, he had to make a choice.

Betray Bow, or sell Entrapta for his own sake?

Or…use the both of them behind Hordak's back?

"I don't want him to know me. I saw how it ended for those he noticed. I want to stay in the dark."

"How will you proceed to get the hair though?!" Scorpia asked, incredulous.

"That's my problem, but trust me, you'll have it by the end of the week."

Scorpia grinned, satisfied, and elbowed Entrapta, inviting her to take a decision. The genius hesitated.

Making deals wasn't her strong suit. It was Catra's. Entrapta was the brainiac, the scientist making weapons and discovering truths, while Catra had the skill of finding their best interest in her work.

What would her ex-Second-in-Command do now…?

"Give me a proof you know what you're doing, and I start working on Rogelio's case."

"How about…" Kyle scratched his head. "How about I give you some news from Catra's whereabouts from the rebellion's side?"

Scorpia gasped. Needless to say, this was a deal Entrapta had now to take.

"You're in touch with one of them, aren't you?" The genius raised a brow.

"Are you taking my offer or not?"

Entrapta did the probabilities in her head. What was her best interest, and the odds of a successful result? She needed the hair to have access to these important datas. She also needed to know where Catra was, and later find a way to communicate all the discoveries she made with her. It was vital.

However, Kyle promised to find out what the rebellion knew about Catra. Not where she was exactly. The princesses might have just lost her track. She also didn't know how much she could trust him with the hair retrieval. Was he going to just ask his contact? What if they refused?

Kyle didn't have the reputation of being a great warrior...or anything useful for that matter. And yet…the boy had just proven himself skillful at spying. That was something to be considered and added to the stats.

Finally Entrapta evaluated her own part in the deal. Could she actually heal Rogelio? She was a fast learner, but this would be her first attempt at practicing tech magic. She didn't know the cadet very well, but he looked very attached to the coma boy.

If she failed...he could become mad, and there was nothing she wanted less than make Kyle, the Horde soldier who knew probably more about her project than he told them, mad.

The probability of failing this experiment was higher than succeeding.

But…succeeding meant more knowledge.

"Deal."


Castaspella thought this day would never end.

The night was peaceful on Brightmoon at first sight, but if you listened closely, you could hear the tip-tap noise of the sorceress's slippers jogging in the castle behind her niece. If you paid more attention, you could feel anxiety echo on the walls, getting more intense as the two figures approached their destination.

"Finally you're here…"

A door opened. Angella invited them in with a nod.

"What is going on?" Castaspella asked.

The princesses were all gathered in the room around a bed.

On the bed lied Mermista. Pale, unconscious Mermista.

"We need your help."

Chapter Text

Everything is so hot around her. Fire is destroying the valley, burning trees and houses. Smoke is making her cough. Her eyes are crying. She whines in terror.

Why is she all alone in this hell? What is happening?

A figure appears in the heavy atmosphere. It's getting close to her. It's so tall…

She's scared. She curls up in a ball behind a rock.

But the figure has seen her.

Red empty eyes stare at her. She screams.

Catra jerked up, panting heavily. Sweat was running down her skin. She put her palms on her temples, rubbing circles to soothe her headache. She stayed like this for a few minutes, waiting for her heart to calm down.

The lingering pain of her back that was slowly healing kept her anchored in reality. It reassured her. She wouldn't fall back into slumber.

What an odd dream… It had felt so real she almost expected to see red eyes lurking in the corner of her cell when she looked around. But there was nothing. She was completely alone in the prison. She almost wished the guard would stay inside for once, to keep her company. They didn't even have to talk, standing next to her cell would be enough.

Catra stood up when she felt better. She looked up to the narrow window hole obstructed by two metal bars keeping her from escaping. She crouched a bit, wiggled her butt and pounced. She gripped the bars as her feet claws dug in the stones' interstices.

Peeking an eye out, she could see the east side of the valley, still ravaged by the battle. Dawn wasn't there yet, but her eyes had never had trouble deciphering her environment in the dark.

She unsheathed her thumb claw, positioned it above the metal, and started scraping it as silently as she could. She glanced behind her shoulder from time to time, checking on the guard. If she got caught… She doubted she would though. In almost a week, nobody had heard her once.

How stupid were these rebels? They were too trustful.

At the Fright Zone, cameras checked on the prisoners at every moment of the day, and if they weren't working, guards stayed inside the prison.

Catra wouldn't complain though. It served her well. If she kept on that pace, she might be able to slip away from the cell in time before the trial.

Thinking of the trial oriented her thoughts towards a certain blonde who had decided despite everybody's- including Catra's- protests to speak in the feline's defense.

She didn't know how to feel about that.

Actually she did, but she blocked her mind from thinking it through too hard. It made her insides feel whoopy. It made her tail swish in discomfort. It made her heart beat at an unpleasant rate.

Why on Etheria would Adora do that for her?!

This wasn't the Adora she was accustomed to. The Adora who kept things into order, and valued justice above most things. Under that logic, she should be despising Catra, or at least wait for her trial more passively.

But she didn't.

She was taking the risk of tarnishing her own image for a girl who had made everything in her power to destroy what was left of their friendship. Catra had spent a year pushing her buttons, fighting her, injuring her, destroying the rebellion little by little. Catra had almost done everything possible to make Adora hate her.

And yet again, she didn't.

Why?!

"Ouch!" Catra hissed. She had scraped her nail too hard, now the skin around was cut. She put her thumb inside her mouth, easing the pain. When it felt better, she resumed her work but with her other hand this time.

Stupid Adora.

Catra had been pissed when she had woken up in Brightmoon's prison.

She had almost begged Adora not to take her there. But there was one thing the two girls had in common...stubbornness. It was like second nature to them. Adora had decided that Catra would be safer in a cage than wounded alone outside in the woods.

Debatable, but that's how things were now.

Catra hadn't wasted time exploring her cell, studying the guards' routine, and figuring out that a little patience would get her out of here quite quickly. She just needed to be the calmest prisoner ever, so that the rebellion wouldn't feel the need to put more guards in her prison. She could get herself out of that mess, she knew it.

Or at least that's what she thought, until she realized she enjoyed a bit too much her time with Adora. She had already caught herself waking up just before dawn, when she knew Adora would come with her daily nurse aid. She had also caught herself grunting in impatience when she was late for their evening session.

Talking with Adora, even if it was still stiff between them...felt good. It felt like popping a tensed bubble that had been growing inside her chest for over a year. It also felt like discovering her old friend in a new way.

She'd realized soon enough that Adora had matured somehow. Even if she was still that naive utopist girl, she had put herself into question, she had examined their past relationship, she had tried to understand… Whereas Catra had given up on her since that day in the temple, a year ago.

Dumb Adora, who had tried to make Catra understand why she left, until Catra broke their friendship for good. Dumb Adora, who had decided to analyze their past relationship after Catra had let go.

How ironic.

However now Catra, to her great distress, enjoyed seeing what the former Horde soldier had become. And that wasn't all that kept her from working faster on those metal bars… When she thought of escaping Brightmoon, reluctance to leaving Adora behind clutched her heart.

What if it happened again…? What if she got captured by the Horde once more?

...what if she got killed for real this time?

If she left, far away from the war, only to find Adora dead when she returned… No, that wasn't something she could consider. She would have to stick around. But what could she do then?!

Going back to the Fright Zone and taking Hordak's place… That would be the most practical solution, as well as the most seducing one. She would get back at her old boss for getting rid of her, and lead the Horde with her allies and friends. Power and revenge, the perfect cocktail.

But what about the war? Hordak's goal had no appeal to her anymore. She didn't care for his big runestone project. She used to want to conquer the world for the Horde when she was a cadet and then Second-in-Command…

But Adora's revelations had changed everything.

Now Catra had a past. A past that had been erased by Hordak.

She wanted to know more about her race. She had to know.

The Magicats…

Were they really all dead? Catra couldn't help hoping that somehow, some of them had survived.

After taking over the Horde, she could, maybe, make some research about them. Find out what was true from what was legend. She couldn't trust everything Adora had told her. After all, it was only word of mouth.

It led her to think of the ones who had revealed all this information to Adora.

Mystacor.

Yeah, Catra didn't like them. Was it because she knew the last Queen, Katriska, hated them too? Catra couldn't tell. But from what Adora had told her, everything they did sounded fishy and their excuses were very vague and inconsistent.

And now that she thought about it, Catra had no doubt that Mystacor and the rebellion wouldn't let her become the new Lord Hordak in peace. They would attack her, she was sure of it. They would ask her to surrender and face Mystacor's Court once and for all, as a war criminal.

But Catra wouldn't surrender.

And she would have to fight against the rebellion, and therefore, Adora. Once again.

Catra let go of the bars and jumped back on the floor. Her legs started to get cramps. She sat down on her thin mattress, sighing heavily. She hated overthinking. It wasn't something she let herself do usually. But here in this cell, she was so lonely and inactive...she had literally nothing else to do.

She jumped on her feet when she heard a voice outside. Somebody was asking to come in.

The door creaked open, revealing the guard who let enter with a respectful head bow… Queen Angella.

Catra blinked several times in surprise, staring at the queen who waited for the guard to place a chair in front of the cell. She sat down, and smiled at the soldier who switched the light on then closed the door of the prison behind them.

Angella put her purple gaze on the prisoner. Seeing the feline up close for the first time gave her body a shock wave, accelerating her heart beat.

She looked so much like Katriska…

This untamed hair framing a sharp face… And these yellow and blue eyes, piercing through her soul like she was an open book…

The queen felt the hatred she had born for months against the Horde Commander slowly evaporate against her will.

Angella cleared her throat. "Good morning. How are your injuries going?"

"Good."

Catra was standing still, tail unmoving, all her senses in alert.

"I'm happy to hear it." Angella expected Catra to ask why she would visit her so early in the morning that it was still night outside, but the Horde soldier didn't say a word. Angella understood she wasn't one to give her opponent what they wanted. If the queen had something to ask her, Catra wouldn't help her saying it in any way.

"You really are a magicat…" she said thoughtfully, more to herself than Catra.

The feline raised an amused brow. She crossed her arms beneath her chest and leaned on the wall. Still in silence.

"I was scared to fight against you when you were still Hordak's Second, I have to admit. Not because of your strength, although I won't deny you gave us cold sweat many times, but because…" she sighed. "I was afraid of seeing an old friend in you."

Angella had decided it was better to hate Catra from afar rather than getting mixed feelings in the middle of a battle.

"And who would that be?" Catra asked with nonchalance. Her voice was rougher than Katriska's. It was the voice of someone who had lived many sorrows, experienced bitterness and pain, and come out of it stronger.

"The last Queen of the Magicats. Have you heard about her?"

"I've never heard of anything regarding my race in the Horde," Catra answered sharply. It wasn't a lie, Catra thought. The Fright Zone's history lessons only focused on the evil princesses they had to defeat.

"Well, I can't be surprised. Hordak annihilated them."

Angella was surprised by Catra's lack of reaction. Perhaps she didn't believe her. She was the queen of Brightmoon, and leader of the rebellion after all. Why would the Horde's Second-in-Command trust her enemy?

"You probably don't believe me, but you know Catra, we have more in common than you think. We are both the last of our species."

She saw her tail swish and her pupils dilate a little. If she remembered correctly, that could be a sign of interest. Angella decided to open up a little more.

"I am the last Immortal Being known on Etheria. My species is very ancient, direct descendants of the First Ones. But they disappeared a thousand years ago, during the time of the Great Chaos… I guess you don't know about it either, do you?"

Catra shook her head.

"It was a dark time for Etheria. The last She-Ra died, leaving us all enduring famine, diseases and war. And all the ancient creatures disappeared, including my race."

"How are you here then?"

"I have no idea."

Catra's face showed astonishment. Unconsciously, she sat on her mattress, leaning towards the bars of her cell to hear better.

"Mystacor's sorceresses found me when I was a baby, thirty-seven years ago. They recognized what I was right away, and got pretty excited. They are, to this day, still convinced my family is somewhere out there, hiding on Etheria. Waiting for the right time to come out."

Angella looked in the air, sadness veiling her features.

At this moment the light died. The prison got plunged in darkness. The guard burst in, apologizing for the inconvenience, but Angella assured him there was no problem. She raised her arms, closed her eyes, and let the power run through her body, until warmth erupted from her fingers.

A hundred tiny balls of purple light illuminated the prison, floating around them. The queen tried to hold her smile back when she saw Catra's irises dilated to the max and her ears raised on her head. The Magicat was probably resisting hard the urge to catch one of these little light balls.

"Mystacor raised me as if I was one of their own, and taught me everything they knew about my species." She caught Catra's attention again. "When I got fifteen years old, I left for a trip on my own, to find them. I searched and searched… It was all in vain. I even risked myself in the desert, but there was absolutely no living being whatsoever over there. I came back, tail hanging low, as the Magicats would say, and-"

"Why are you telling me all this?"

Angella looked right in her eyes. Catra was finally asking questions. Confusion was obvious in her tone.

"Even if you are the last of the Magicats, linked to my late friend by blood… You are our enemy," Angella's voice sharpened. She had thought a lot about what to make of Catra, how to spare Adora's feelings, how to assert justice without falling into blind revenge.

"You harmed us in many ways," she hissed, letting rage hoarse her voice. "You kidnapped my daughter, terrorized my subjects, froze the Whispering Woods… I should have no reason to be forgiving. However..."

Catra wasn't blinking. Angella held her stare.

"Adora is vouching for you."

Catra's ears flattened. Her body language showed discomfort. Guilt.

"Your reaction is sort of proving her point…" Angella tilted her head.

"Excuse me?! You're making no sense."

"Adora thinks you're not an evil person. She is convinced you can be redeemed if we give you another chance."

"Adora is a very naive person."

"Adora believes in you," Angella let these words sink in. She could feel the effect it had on the feline. The blonde princess had as much power on Catra as Catra had on her. "She's willing to give herself a bad image to the kingdoms and Mystacor just to take your defense."

"I never asked for this..." Catra averted her gaze.

"It doesn't matter. Accept the help she's offering you Catra. She's not asking anything in return."

"She's asking me to join you," Catra answered angrily.

"That's the condition to help you. She's not doing it for herself, Catra."

"And what about you? What are you doing here?! Are you having this talk with me for her, for me, or for yourself?!" Catra snarled as she grasped the bars of her cell, glaring at the queen. Such fire in her eyes. She was definitely made of the same wood as Katriska.

"I'm a leader at war, Catra. I'm not going to lie to you. I'm ready to forgive your mistakes and bad decisions, if you accept to help us, and be loyal to us. Having you by our side will be a great help against Hordak, with the power of your mask...and it can only boost up Adora's energy."

Catra blushed at that. It was cute.

"Where is my mask by the way?" she changed the subject.

"Castaspella has it. In a few hours they'll leave for Mystacor. They plan on studying it."

"Are they going to...touch the runestone?"

Angella squinted her eyes, "how do you know about that?"

Catra's face paled. She composed herself quickly, but Angella hadn't missed that detail.

"Ever since the mask rocks came out, you guys are more powerful. It just made sense that the mask is a runestone too."

"I see," Angella raised a brow. Catra knew much more than she let it on, obviously thanks to a certain blonde visitor Angella would have to scold... "I don't know what they're going to do. But I can tell them to be careful, if you prefer."

Catra's anxious face was like a silent approval. Angella remembered how Katriska was acting regarding her mask. She let very few people touch it.

"I'm getting to my actual reason to come to you at five in the morning," she breathed in and out. "Can you tell me what Hordak wanted to do with the runestones?"

Catra took a moment staring at her before she answered. "I don't know the details. I was just ordered to get them safely, unlike the first time I attacked last year, when I tried to destroy your moonstone."

"Alright… What about Salineas? What were your plans if you succeeded to conquer it?"

"Why are you asking?"

Catra wasn't stupid. She knew there was something beneath those questions. Could Angella trust her?

"Princess Mermista is sick. Very sick."

"And what does it have to do with the Horde?"

"Castaspella and her counsellors examined her, and came to the conclusion that the source of her illness lies in her link with the runestone. Something happened at Salineas. Someone is probably harming Mermista's runestone."

Catra turned away from the queen, showing her back. Angella waited patiently for Catra to take her decision. She was sure the ex-commander must have had an idea of what was going on.

"Her runestone is at the Fright Zone, in the hands of Entrapta," Catra finally blurted out, still facing the wall. "She's supposed to study it. Only study, not harm. Hordak wanted to bring the runestone of Plumeria at the Fright Zone when we conquered it, but the tree was too strongly attached to that damn rock. Salineas' wasn't as difficult on the other hand. Force Captain Leech destroyed the castle, and he got the runestone pretty easily. It was above the throne apparently."

"The runestones, except for She-Ra's sword and the magicat mask, aren't supposed to be moved…" Angella gasped.

She stood up from her chair, realization hitting her. Mermista was in grave danger.

"Thank you Catra. Your help was precious."

She knocked on the prison door, that the guard opened in a hurry when he saw her queen so distressed. Angella gathered her light balls quickly before leaving. They weren't necessary anymore, the sun was rising. ...she left one behind however.

Angella addressed a last thankful smile at Catra, whose blue eye was peeking at her, confusion and annoyment showing.

As she walked away from the prison, she heard hands clapping behind her, followed by a loud "gotcha". She giggled silently.

Perhaps Adora was right about her after all… Perhaps.


Perfuma scoffed. She was annoyed. How was she supposed to take care of Mermista, when so many people were bickering in the same room?! Of course, nobody listened to her when she kindly asked them to solve their problem somewhere else. She was that close to chase them away with onion bulb bombs.

"We can't trust Entrapta, Bow! We can't!"

"But what other choice do we have, Glimmer?"

That discourse had been repeating itself for over an hour now.

Since Angella had burst in at 5AM, repeating what Catra had told her about Mermista's runestone, the princesses had been arguing over the decision they had to make, always reaching the same conclusion.

"We don't even know if it's true! Catra could have lied!"

"She wouldn't lie for something like this…"

"Oh come on, Adora, you're biased regarding anything that's about her!"

"I'm with Adora on this," Angella spoke for the first time since the argument had started. The whole room went silent, waiting for their leader to speak. "She has nothing to gain from lying."

"But mom, we should at least send somebody to Salineas to be certain…"

"I already did, but the road to Salineas is dangerous. There are too many Horde soldiers between the two kingdoms now. Our spy, Double Trouble, has to be careful, it could take them a week to reach the sea… We can't afford to wait that long."

As if on cue, Mermista wailed at this moment. Perfuma wiped her sweaty forehead. Angella was right, they had to do something quick.

"Why are you so adamant, Princess Glimmer?" Frosta asked, suspicion in her eyes. "I don't trust any soldier of the Horde, even if it's a former princess, but you sound particularly worked up against Entrapta."

Glimmer grew pale. She exchanged a stare with Bow, who encouraged her with a smile.

"I haven't told you because I didn't find the time but… When we rescued Adora," she fidgeted. "We got help...from Entrapta."

Glimmer saw the confused look on their face, but she didn't give them enough time to react. "She promised not to tell anyone, but the next day, Hordak told Adora he actually knew the truth."

"You know Glimmer, he could have been bluffing…" Adora tried.

"I don't know, he didn't look very surprised to see you alive," said Bow.

"In any case, there's a big chance that Entrapta might have spilled the beans. That's why I can't trust her, and I don't think it's a good idea to put Mermista's life between her hands."

"What do you suggest then, Glimmer?" Angella asked softly.

"We could… I don't know… We could go on a new infiltration mission…"

"Nuh-uh, we'd need Kyle for that," Bow shook his head. "I'm not even sure he will take my call, Glim."

"It wouldn't hurt to try at least," Adora said. "You can call him, test the waters, see if he feels better. You'll understand quickly if he still needs space."

"And if we can't even count on him?" Glimmer asked.

"If we can't, we're only left with one solution," Netossa shrugged. "Attacking the Horde."

"We can't do that," Frosta raised from her seat. "We might be boosted up, but we lost a lot of soldiers. You can't ask them to go at war again, they haven't even mourned their dead!"

"Maybe us princesses would be enough," suggested Spinnerella. "We are a lot more powerful, and the Horde lost a lot of robots."

"That's a false impression," Adora warned. "The Fright Zone is huge, a lot of buildings are used to store tech. Old tech, it's true, but still operational in case of a surprise attack. There's overall more robots than soldiers in there."

"Alright guys, we're going in circles," Perfuma spoke loud, imposing her voice above the Alliance's jibber jabber. Mermista needed resting, the meeting had to end now. "Let's do what Adora suggested. If you all accept her plan, Bow could call Kyle first, and evaluate the boy's situation. If Kyle is willing to help us, Bow will ask him to transmit a message to Entrapta. She used to be our ally and friend, and she actually helped you escape, Glimmer. Even if you doubt her loyalty…I feel like she wouldn't let Mermista die."

"You're right, what can we lose?" Angella smiled. "Let's do this."

"Alright but let's not tell them right away why we want the runestone back there," Netossa pointed out. "No need to give a weakness away without being sure we can trust them."

"And if Kyle refuses?" Glimmer asked.

"Let's just hope he won't…"

 

Chapter Text

"Message for Squadron 69 on cleaning duty this morning, start with section A395-"

Kyle groaned. Of course he had to fall on sewer cleaning day. It was earlier this month. It must have been clogged. Lucky day.

He put a shirt on his back, rearranged his bed, and slapped his cheeks twice. The shower hadn't been enough to wake him up. He was about to jump from his bunk, when he felt a slight buzz from under the pillow.

His face turned whiter than Lonnie would have thought was possible if she was here. He checked around him. There were too many cadets in the dorm, he couldn't answer the caller, whose identity was unmistakable. There was only one person who'd ever called him on the stolen tablet. A few days ago Kyle would have ignored it, but because of the Rogelio issue, he had to take it. He was actually glad Bow called him first.

He slipped the tablet under his shirt, jumped on the ground, and headed to the bathroom. Instead of going in, he quickly turned around, and found his favorite air vent. Thankfully, no one was around.

He breathed out five minutes later when he got safely in his usual calling spot, a narrow blind spot next to the laundry vent, where dirty clothes piled up in the morning. He raised the tablet in front of his face. The call had ended of course. He clicked on Bow's picture.

"Kyle! I'm so glad to see you! I didn't think you would call me back."

"I almost didn't…" he lied.

"I'm sorry I'm calling so early. Did I wake you?"

"No, it's 6AM," Kyle laughed. He learned that year that the rebels were not morning persons. "I'm supposed to be going to work now."

Bow almost suggested he called back later, but he saw the princesses glaring at him. He had to ask Kyle now.

"I'm sorry I'm disturbing you again… How is Rogelio?"

Kyle's eye twitched. He tried to remain calm.

"He's doing better. He's still in the ICU though. But there's hope."

Bow seemed genuinely happy for him, yet Kyle couldn't help but wonder whether Rogelio's improved state was actually helping the rebel to expose the reason of his call.

"I'm really happy to hear this! I hope he gets back on his feet soon! I mean-"

Bow gasped when he realized what he said.

"Don't worry about it. He has artificial legs now."

He would soon, if everything went according to plan.

"Oh good then… Um, listen Kyle… I know you said you wouldn't want to help us anymore but…"

Bow sighed. Kyle frowned, listening intently. Something told him his mission was going to get easier all of a sudden.

"I have a favor to ask you."

"Go ahead."

"Well um...here it is. We know you have the runestone of Salineas somewhere… Probably in Entrapta's lab. Did you see it?"

"I can't remember. Do you want me to check?"

"That would be great, thanks. But what would be greater would be for you to ask Entrapta to put it back to its original place."

"You want...the runestone back in Salineas?" Kyle raised a brow. Well that was going to be harder than he expected.

"Yes. I know it's a lot to ask from you, but it's really important for us."

Kyle took a moment to answer. "I'll go ask Entrapta. I can't promise she can fix this though, the runestone was brought here under Hordak's command."

"Thank you so much Kyle!"

"I have one condition."

Bow's smile fell. Kyle didn't like to see his face so anxious, but he had to do it.

"I want to know where Catra is."

Bow took a quick glance up. The other princesses must have been in the same room.

"Um… Why do you need that info?"

"That's my problem. But understand Bow, ever since the battle, the Horde has been more and more severe with us. I risk a lot if I get caught. Tell me where Catra is, and Entrapta will know about your request."

At Brightmoon, the princesses were silently arguing next to Bow, Glimmer and Adora waving their arms angrily. Queen Angella wrote something on a paper and handed it to the boy.

"Okay, I will tell you what I know, and you give me Entrapta's number so that I can contact her."

"I can't do that."

"Why?"

"She…" Kyle sweated, trying to find the good words. "She can't be reached in private, all the calls are traced. My tablet is the only one that's untraceable, because it's not registered."

That was another little but necessary lie. All the calls were traced for sure, but Entrapta was more than capable to make a private call if she wanted to. It was actually surprising she hadn't thought about it.

"Alright… Catra is our prisoner. She's locked in Brightmoon's prison at the moment. She's safe."

"And what's her fate?"

"That's not part of the deal. I told you where she is, now you need to do what I asked," Bow answered coldly.

Kyle felt sorry. He really liked his rebel friend. Maybe later…he could apologize for this behavior. When Rogelio would be safe.

He nodded, promised to call back at noon, and hung up. Now all he had to do was to tell Entrapta the rebellion wanted Salineas' runestone back where it belonged in exchange for the hair. Then he would tell Bow Entrapta wanted the hair in exchange for his favor.

What a convenient coincidence. Kyle was almost scared it was too good to be true.

The only problem would be for Entrapta to convince Hordak though…


Catra sniffed the food in the bowl. Unconsciously, she closed her eyes as she felt her stomach awaken with a loud rumble.

She couldn't get used to the rebellion's food habits. Such flavors were disturbing her senses.

It tasted good.

She wished she could deny it, but the rebellion knew how to eat. Food at the Horde was tasteless. It always had been, it was the norm for her. The purpose of food was to nourish, not please. So when she had gotten her first prisoner meal a few days earlier, she had legitimately thought they were trying to poison her.

She crossed her legs, put the bowl on her lap, and tried to grab her spoon in the least hastily way possible. She knew the guard was watching her. She had caught her smirking the day before when Catra had showed big enthusiasm for a salty sort of meat she learned was called tuna.

On the other hand, she had rejected all the 'desserts' they had proposed to her. Anything called sugary apparently. It didn't taste any different from the Horde's food to her. Maybe the Horde gave them sugary things actually. But it didn't look the same, shape wise. She would have to ask Adora how they tasted to her.

The meal was chicken today. The guard had told her it was only the soldiers' leftovers, but damn did Catra feel like a queen right now. It was warm and firm, but some softer parts melted in her skin was making a pleasant crunching noise under her teeth.

The first bite was already sending waves of pleasure through her body, and she hadn't even swallowed yet.

She couldn't help it. A heavy sigh left her throat.

"Wow, somebody's enjoying herself."

Catra snapped her eyes open.

When did Adora came in?! That was what Catra meant by disturbing her senses. Food was NOT supposed to weaken her that way.

"Take that smirk off your face…" Catra grumbled. She spun herself around, showing Adora her back so that she could eat in peace.

Adora giggled as the guard opened the cell door for her. She sat behind Catra, leaning on the wall, waiting for her to finish her breakfast. Catra thought she would tease her again, or just talk like she usually did, but Adora was unusually silent.

Once she finished her chicken, licking all her fingers one by one, she turned around.

Adora was pinching the bridge of her nose, eyebrows deeply furrowed.

"You're okay?"

She jolted. Catra's curious eyes were examining her, as she always did nowadays. Before Adora left the Horde, Catra wouldn't spend so much time looking at her like that. Maybe it was because they were together all the time, and...still best friends. There wasn't much to think of as they looked in each other's eyes back then.

Whereas now…

"It's nothing, I just have a headache. I didn't sleep a lot tonight, with Mermista's problem…"

"Yeah, I bet it must be stressful," Catra answered softly. Adora's heart beamed. She hadn't heard this tone in a while.

Catra scooted closer to her, then suddenly straddled her thighs.

"What are you doing?"

"Soothing your headache," she simply answered as she brought her palms to Adora's temples. Right, Catra used to do that before…

Adora closed her eyes when the feline rubbed circles on her skin, massaging the muscles underneath. She leaned her head backwards and let out a sigh. Involuntarily, Catra's eyes were drawn to the parted lips. She had never paid much attention to them before. They were pink, a bit plump, but less than hers. Little white marks showed Adora had bitten them out of stress.

Stress must have been eating Adora out lately, and Catra was obviously one of the reasons. If she hadn't decided to plead for her at Court…

Catra's gaze moved up to Adora's closed eyes. Dark circles framed them, and a wrinkle of sorrow persisted on her forehead. Catra rubbed her thumbs on the eyebrows. She felt her face relax under the touch. Now she looked a lot more like the Adora she had always known before. Young, positive, energetic Adora. The Adora she had lost to the rebellion.

For a greater cause.

Pfft. Catra understood what Adora meant, and at the same time...she didn't. How was the cause of strangers better than hers?

Even if Adora had apologized, and acknowledged she had overlooked Shadow Weaver's treatment on Catra… She still wouldn't regret her decisions. Catra knew it. If Adora had to do it all over again, she would.

She would leave Catra behind again.

But Catra had already processed all that. She had moved on. She had found herself a goal of her own. So why was she thinking of Adora's betrayal again and again since she was here?

A sore pain came back in her chest when she remembered.

The feeling of losing her for good.

Losing her to death this time.

She couldn't go through that again. Never. Adora didn't have the right to die. Not before her at least.

A smile plastered on the blonde's face. Catra retracted her claws. She lowered her hands to cup her face, and run her thumbs beneath her eyes, as if to attempt to erase the marks of fatigue engraved there.

Adora opened her eyes.

"Feeling better?"

"Yes. Thank you," she leaned in the touch. "Now it's my turn. Show me your back."

Catra reluctantly let go of her face. She turned around, not bothering reducing the space between them. She took her sweatshirt off while Adora adjusted her position behind her. Catra was now sitting between her legs, her back almost touching Adora's front.

"Lean a bit forward," Adora commanded. "And don't forget to drink your potion."

Catra rolled her eyes. Her ears flattened when she felt the first balming touch. It hurt less now, but it would remain sensitive for a long time.

How many times had Adora taken care of her this week? Ten times? Something like that.

She could have asked a soldier, or a nurse to do it for her.

But she hadn't. Every morning, and every evening, she had opened the door of the cell, sat down with Catra, and balmed her back. Despite the icy comments and rude behavior Catra had manifested at first, she came back every time.

Adora was one persistent opponent, that wasn't new. But what did she gain from this?

Adora believes in you.

Angella's words echoed in her mind. It made her feel uncomfortable. Guilt was nagging her at the idea of disappointing Adora. That was new. She hadn't felt guilty for a very long time.

Too many things had happened this week. It was emotionally exhausting.

"Your queen came to visit earlier."

"I know, she told us. Thank you...for the help," Adora squeezed her shoulder as she said that. Catra's heart skipped a beat. She shrugged nonchalantly.

"Whatever… She surprised me though. She's different from what I imagined."

"How different?"

"I don't know, she's just a weirdo. She ranted about her personal history…" Catra knew Angella probably did that to break the image of the jailer, the evil enemy. It did humanize her a bit in her eyes. And it succeeded in making her more curious about the rebels.

"She told you how she searched for her own kind?" Adora raised her brows in surprise.

"Yeah. She told me we're the same, in the way that we're the last ones of our species. She also told me she knew Katriska."

"Yes, she did. Their relationship sounded complicated…" Adora frowned. "Katriska didn't get along with Mystacor, which was Angella's surrogate family, and yet… If you listen to Angella, it looks as if she was good friends with Katriska."

"Oh by the way…" Catra scratched her head nervously. "I'm pretty sure Angella knows you babble all your rebel secrets when you're with me..."

"WHAT?! What did you do, Catra?"

"Nothing! Just a detail that slipped off my mouth and gave her a hint!"

Adora smacked her head. Not strong enough to hurt, but enough to mark her discontent.

"If I'm being put in jail for treason because of you…" she joked.

"Imprisoning the mighty She-Ra, what a great idea," Catra cackled. "Well at least, you won't be able to testify for me, maybe they'll consider it."

Catra grinned, but it didn't make Adora laugh. It reminded her that Catra didn't have a very positive picture of her captors.

"Castaspella offered to let me read Mystacor's archives," she changed the subject. "I can check what is true regarding the Magicats."

Catra hummed. "Who wrote them? The sorceresses?"

"...well yeah, it's their archives."

Catra turned her head. Underneath her raised eyebrow, her blue eye pierced through her. ...really Adora? It was saying.

"It's better than nothing!" Adora protested.

"Yeah, yeah… You don't have to do this."

"I want to."

Accept the help she's offering you.

Catra's ear twitched. She hugged her knees tighter. Fucking rebels.

"Your queen said she would forgive me if I joined."

Adora beamed. "Really?! She didn't tell me that. But we were so busy-"

"I don't understand her," Catra cut her off. "I mean I technically understand the advantage of having me by their side. But I really did some nasty things to them. I don't get it."

"It must have been a hard decision for her. But it's the wisest. Sometimes if you want to get out of a difficult situation… You have to bury the hatchet. It doesn't mean forgetting the harm that has been done. But it means...moving on, and trying to improve together, for the best of both parties."

Bury the hatchet…

"We didn't learn these wise goodie-two-shoes precepts in the Horde," Catra snorted.

"We didn't learn much over there…" Adora sighed. She rubbed Catra's sides. The wound here was healed. That was a good sign. She moved up to her neck and rolled her thumbs on the muscles. Technically she was done with the balm, but she...didn't want their session to end just yet.

Catra sighed under her touch. She had always liked massages. They used to give each other some back at the Fright Zone. But it had never born this level of contradictory feelings between them. The tension Adora was easing now was as harsh as the metal of the bars imprisoning her.

"They never taught us about birthdays for example."

"Ugh, Scorpia told me about these. What a bother. I don't see the appeal. I'm glad I don't know my birthday."

"Don't you want to know how old you are?"

"What for?" Catra asked as she leaned backwards, drawn to Adora's massaging hands.

"...I was wondering the same at first, but after seeing so many birthdays this year…I understood how big of a deal it can be. It makes their existence concrete in their timeline, as dignified individuals whose lives matter. The horde on the other hand doesn't care for us. Our own implication in this timeline is irrelevant, we were mere soldiers. We had no importance as individuals, we only had importance as a group. Why bother celebrating something as futile and personal as birthdays?"

"Well, talk about yourself. I, as Hordak's Second-in-Command, was important until now."

"But that's not how you were taught as a kid. Hence why you don't understand birthdays."

"I still care for some people. I don't consider them as trash and I don't need birthdays for that..." The image of Scorpia, Entrapta, Lonnie, and even Kyle popped in her mind. She wondered how they were doing… Scorpia must have obviously been devastated. Catra was sad she had let her down like that.

"I know. Just saying. The Horde molded our mindset. It's difficult to get out of the system. Even me, who have been gone for over a year, I still struggle."

"I bet you do. You weren't a regular soldier, you were the most stuck up of all," Catra smirked.

Adora smiled without answering. They stayed silent for a little while, Adora still massaging Catra, Catra closing her eyes, swaying her tail softly. Enjoying the moment.

But Adora had something to confess. Something that had been burning her soul since the battle.

"I don't know my birthday. But I have an idea of how old I am…" she finally whispered.

"Really?" Catra frowned.

Adora breathed in and out, and finally blurted out what had been nagging her mind for a few days. What Hordak had told her… If it was true, it meant…

"You're from outer space?!"

Catra yelled as she turned around. Adora had never seen her eyes so big. Catra was agape. She checked out every detail of Adora's face, as if she was making sure it was the real princess that was standing before her.

"If he's right then yeah… I'm over eighteen years old, and I come from Eternia, like the First Ones."

Catra had so many things to say. So many protests to enunciate. It could all be a frame to distract She-Ra during the battle. And yet, she remembered how it slipped from Shadow Weaver's mouth that Adora had had an importance in Hordak's eyes since she was a baby. It could also all be true. So many other questions popped in her mind…

But she closed her mouth when she saw the distress on her companion's face. Whatever she was about to say, Adora must have had the same thoughts already since she learned the truth. Catra wouldn't be helpful at all that way. That wasn't what Adora needed right now.

"Eighteen huh…"

Adora looked up at Catra. The feline was smirking.

"Scorpia told me something about that age being the legal point for princesses to drink alcohol and have sex."

Adora's whole face flushed in a second. "I- I think you mean getting married, not...not the sex thing."

Catra's smirk grew wider when she saw the discomfort on her face. "Getting married implies sex if I understood correctly."

"Yeah, but you don't have to get married for that…" Adora rolled her eyes. Then she suddenly became aware that once again, Catra was being bare chested in front of her. She blushed, then handed her the sweater she gave her the other day, forcing it in Catra's arms.

"That would be a bummer, wouldn't it…" Catra grinned.

Adora laughed as she buried her face in her arms. She felt extremely hot right now, but lighter somehow.

Catra hadn't changed. She was still an expert at distracting her attention from something mind-eating...pointing instead to something very embarrassing.

Thank you Catra.


"They want the runestone back there? But why?"

Entrapta frowned. That was an odd request. She hadn't had the time to study the blue rock yet. She had just settled some rudimentary connection with the Black Garnet, to be sure it wouldn't drain out of energy.

"They wouldn't tell me."

Kyle twisted his fingers behind his back. He really hoped his plan would work. He also hoped they wouldn't realize how anxious he was.

He seemed safe though. Entrapta was busy typing on her computer, and Scorpia was jumping everywhere, ecstatic to know Catra was alive and well. She was captive of course, but at least they had her location now.

"I wonder if something happened over there…" Entrapta rubbed her chin. "Do you have the number? Maybe I should ask them directly."

"No! I'd rather not. That's not how we made the deal."

Entrapta raised a brow, "you know I can find and hack whatever device you're using to reach them if I want to, right?"

Dang it. Exactly what Kyle had dreaded.

"You… The deal was… I'm the one who proposed the deal, and you agreed, so we'll do as we said!"

Oh no… His voice was too shaky. Kyle could feel his control slip away from him. He had been managing so well until now.

"I'll be the only one contacting them, and I'll bring you the hair as promised, in exchange for Rogelio's life!"

Entrapta eyed the boy up and down. He was sweating. His pupils were pinpoints. According to her previous observations on human behavior, this looked like a panic response.

"Wouldn't it be easier for me to just contact the rebellion by myself thanks to your… I assume you're using something that has a camera, like a tablet, so your tablet history?"

How did she… Was she toying with him?! Kyle had no idea how to interpret her genuine expression. Scorpia was looking back and forth between them, wondering how to ease the situation.

"I… I gave you the information about Catra, so you need to start working on Rogelio now!" Kyle finally cried. "If you don't, I'll break my tablet, and none of us will have what they want!"

Scorpia gasped as she ran towards him. She hugged the trembling cadet.

Huh… Entrapta was puzzled. He was not as strong as he had let it appear after all. But he was an innocent teenager ready to do everything he could for his friend, even if it was out of his comfort zone.

A brilliant spy, but not very good at handling his knowledge.

He even forgot all he had to do to control Entrapta was threaten her to go tell Hordak the whole truth.

"Don't worry Kyle," she smiled. "I already started working on your friend, and it's not going to be as hard as I thought. Now give me the number, please. I have an old friend of my own to speak to."

 

Chapter Text

Dr. Ferrarius was tapping her fingers relentlessly on the life support machine. She sighed once or twice, making faces as she gave a penetrant gaze to the weird little woman with purple hair. Entrapta, Hordak's scientific right hand. The genius.

Well she wasn't a genius regarding human contact apparently. She didn't catch the doctor's exasperation at seeing her meddle with her patient. She had cringed several times when Entrapta had "observed" Rogelio's thigh stumps, putting wires here and there on the skin to make tests…

Dr. Ferrarius wanted to scream, chase her away, make it stop… But she had always had very little power in the Horde. If she wanted to keep her job and save as many soldiers as she could, she unfortunately had to let these people, her leaders, interfere with her work and her patients' sanity…

At least she had managed to convince Entrapta to wash and disinfect her hands as well as the tech she was handling.

"Do you think you can wake him up, Princess Entrapta?"

"Well, the first tests I made are quite promising," she answered without looking at her. It irritated her. "His spine responds splendidly to the stimuli I sent and actually connects with the tech. When the artificial legs are ready, his brain will be more than capable to control them."

"But what about the coma?"

"That's the part I'm currently working on. I've actually never worked on living beings before, so your help would be precious, if you could enlighten me on how the brain works in that state?"

"You've...never manipulated Lord Hordak's tech before?" Ferrarius widened her eyes.

"No." Entrapta simply answered. She didn't look nervous or worried in any way. Did she realize a life was at stake?!

"Alright then…" the doctor tried her best not to show her concern. "I'll go fetch my notes and Rogelio's file. I'll be right back."

Entrapta watched her leave. The doc judging her hadn't gone unnoticed by the genius princess. But she was used to it by now, she didn't blame her. In fact, the nervosity Ferrarius tried to conceal, threatening to make her burst at every word Entrapta pronounced, reminded her a bit of Perfuma.

Or maybe she was thinking of the flower princess because she actually saw her for the first time in a year just the day before…

She had been in the middle of a conversation with Bow, when Perfuma had barged in, snatching his tablet, and ruined the screen with her tears.

"I'm so glad to finally see you again, Entrapta, I'm so so sorry I failed you…"

It had made her uncomfortable. Entrapta didn't like it. She had had to reassure her, that there were no hard feelings from her side.

"But you're still working for the Horde…" Perfuma had stated sadly.

"For now, I am, yes."

Perfuma had wanted to pursue the conversation, but Bow had gently reminded her that the call had another purpose. Perfuma had looked angry, but she had concealed it. She must have had a lot to say. Entrapta didn't really understand why Perfuma would blame herself so much, more than the other princesses.

Humans developed a sense of responsibility towards other people they cared for and whom they felt the need to protect. Entrapta had realized soon enough that it had been a major pillar in Adora and Catra's dynamics when they grew up, because of how many times Catra had complained about Adora's hero persona... Entrapta had also felt it once or twice, regarding Scorpia and even Catra. But she didn't understand why Perfuma cared so much about leaving her behind and losing her to the Horde, such a long time after it happened.

"Here it is," the doctor came back into the room, hands full of old books and Rogelio's file on top. "You'll find all the biology you need to figure it out in these."

"Thanks, Doc." Entrapta smiled, which made the doctor blink several times, as if she hadn't expected the princess to be able to make a facial expression. It made her snort internally.

She looked through the different books one by one, throwing on the shelf without much regard the ones she wouldn't be needing. She finally settled her choice on two books, one about global physiology, including neurophysiology, and an anatomy atlas. She read the little note on the first page of the book.

Printed in Grayskull Medicine Academy

Odd. Wasn't Grayskull the magic word Adora used to call She-Ra?

Oh well. She would think about it another time. Too many projects were waiting for her right now, and she had to focus more than usual if she didn't want to screw up.

The Rogelio project wouldn't be the hardest task, but it would take a little time to read the books and adapt the tech magic to wake him up.

No, the one she dreaded expected skills she wasn't really used to handling.

The Salineas problem.

"Why exactly do you want the runestone back there, Bow?"

"You called just for that?" Bow looked uncomfortable. "Well...I had a feeling you would ask for the reason, but I thought you'd send Kyle back…"

When Entrapta learned Mermista was sick, it finally all made sense in her mind. Her runestone was not supposed to be moved from its connection point. The magic usually running from Etheria's core through the stone was now blocked, and even if some energy was stored in the shiny blue rock, it would die out quickly.

However Entrapta had connected the runestone to the Black Garnet, transferring its shadow magic to the sea stone. It was enough to maintain it somehow active, but it wasn't natural.

Now why did it affect Mermista to the point of nearly killing her? Entrapta saw this as an evidence that the link between the princesses and their runestone was more than just magic. It must have involved some vital energy, just like Hordak's bio tech. The pieces of metal were more...alive than it seemed at first sight, and that mechanism was probably similar regarding the princesses' magic.

Mermista needed her runestone back at its connection place to call her powers… Without it, she would slowly die. And that...Entrapta couldn't let that happen.

So there she was, heading to Hordak's, with a delicate request in her bag… And she would have to hide the truth about Mermista's illness. Social skills, and lies. Entrapta didn't like it at all.

"I'm risking an awful lot for a simple hair…"

"A hair? What are you talking about?"

"Well Angella's hair of course. That's what I asked for. Kyle told me he would get it, then he came back with your deal."

"My...deal? What?" Bow's voice got an octave higher.

That had been when Bow and Entrapta realized Kyle had played the cards for himself since the very beginning. If Catra had been here, she would have been impressed, even if Kyle had screwed up in the end.

Entrapta wasn't mad at the boy. Thanks to him, she had still managed to get what she wanted, and anyway, she had promised to heal Rogelio, and actually wanted to work on that project.

The deal was on. Bow had accepted, on behalf of the rebellion. Entrapta had to fix the Mermista problem, then Bow would meet Kyle in the Whispering Woods to give the hair. Kyle had accepted the mission, too happy to see things wouldn't turn against him in the end.

"By the way Bow, I made such progress with Emily, maybe someday I can show you…"

"That would be great Entrapta," he said as he smiled.

"Well. I got to go. Tomorrow I'll talk to Hordak."

"Thank you so much, if someone can do it, it's you!"

"Yeah. Oh and don't try to fool me with the hair. If it's not Angella's, I'll know it."

Entrapta's warning had been necessary. She had noticed the discomfort in Bow's voice at her request. He didn't want to give his enemies a part of his queen's body… Which she could understand, given how much power she could hold from that.

Bow had paled, laughed awkwardly, and it had been the end of their call.

Now the hardest part awaited her.

She stopped in front of Hordak's throne room. She had been so lost in her thoughts she hadn't realized she was there until the soldier guarding the entrance waved in front of her face.

A hysterical laughter left her throat, puzzling the guard who didn't waste his time opening the gates. The room was empty when she came in. A ray of light tickled her vision, coming from behind the throne. Hordak was in his lab.

Entrapta breathed in and out, bracing herself. She knocked on the back door.

"Entrapta. I didn't expect you today," he noted with surprise. He had given her so many weapon projects beside the bio tech homework that he truly thought he wouldn't see her for a week. "Are you having a problem with your hand?"

"No, not at all, my Lord," she raised the hand in question. "It's adapting nicely to my body. I didn't see any side effect, or any effect for that matter."

"It's normal, the magic can take a while to start working. Why are you here then?"

"I have good news and bad news."

Hordak raised a brow. This scientist sure was bold to come here announcing him her probable incompetence with such confidence. Any other Force Captain, and even his Second would have trembled in fear, or tried to soothe the expression. She was just...blatantly honest.

"Start with the bad then," he said as he resumed his welding work.

"Salineas' runestone is drained out of energy. I thought connecting it to the Black Garnet would act as a relay, but it's only tarnishing its magic. I can't use it, and if we don't put it back to its original spot, we might lose the stone and its power."

"Really?" Hordak frowned. "Show me the data."

"Right here," Entrapta handed him a tablet. She had run a few tests during the night, proving her hypothesis...at least partly. The Black Garnet wasn't tarnishing the runestone per se, but she needed another argument in her favor. Hordak wasn't as good as her regarding the runestones' math analysis. He wouldn't notice.

"If we lose the runestone…" he rubbed his chin, furrowing his brows. "I wonder if it wouldn't help us in the end. The princesses would lose their recent boost…"

"But if it's lost for good, isn't it going against your plans to reach Eternia?"

"Catra's mask wasn't really destroyed in the end. What if the runestones act like batteries? We'd plug it again in its connection point when I need it… And in the meantime we'd keep it here, inactive, to make the princesses powerless."

That was not where Entrapta wanted this to go…

"Well, I'll run a few more tests and do the maths to prove this, but meanwhile I think it's best if we plug it again...just in case. We're not sure we can activate it again after it dies out."

Hordak stared at her. She wondered sometimes if his red eyes could analyse body language or people's heart race. She hoped not, because her heart was pounding too fast in her chest.

"You really think the stone won't hold on until you finish your experiments on it?"

"Well, to be honest, it's a delicate experiment, I have to be cautious if I don't want to screw the rock, since nobody ever tried that before, so given how much time it would take, I think it's best I try that on the Black Garnet instead. Besides I have many projects on the run… That's the good news I wanted to tell you, by the way. I'm practicing your tech magic!"

"Already?" He nodded, impressed.

"Yes, I heard there was a cadet in the coma with no legs, so I took artificial legs from the bots' store and now I'm studying the boy to see if I can put him out of the coma with your science and the prosthetics."

"Interesting. It's a good exercise to start on. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes."

Entrapta beamed, obviously proud of herself.

"As for the runestone…"

She held her breath without noticing.

"You made an interesting discovery. We already know that a weak runestone affects their powers, and the destruction of one tampers the magic of all princesses at once. If we can understand how the non-mobile stones work, and if we can control the on-and-off side effect when they're moved... "

Entrapta gulped, waiting for his decision.

"You might have a point about this. We can't risk to lose my possible connection to Eternia without being sure it's reversible. Study this hypothesis on the Black Garnet, and we'll bring the other one back to Salineas."

Entrapta smiled as she bowed. Hordak watched her leave, squinting his eyes as he hummed.

"The sooner the hand's magic works, the better…" he murmured. He sat on his throne, but didn't get the chance to think the scene through. The wall screen lit on.

"My Lord, Shadow Weaver is requesting an audience."

"Is she really…" he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Put her on screen."


"I can't believe Bow!" Glimmer groaned. For the twentieth time of the day. "Can you believe it Adora?! Promising Entrapta that?! I mean, what on Etheria was he thinking?!"

Adora, unfazed, shrugged. For the fiftieth time of the day. "He had to take a fast decision. Mermista's life is at stake."

"But he could have called us during the conversation! But nooo, Mister Smart had to talk to her all by himself. If Perfuma hadn't warned us…"

"Glimmer… Now it's done," she tried to say as softly as possible. The sparkle princess stopped walking. Her lips got thin, and she tightened her fists.

"You don't look like you understand, Adora," she replied aggressively. "There is NO WAY I'm giving my mom's hair for whatever experiment she planned with her primal body component or something."

"She said it wouldn't hurt her though. And it's a secret experiment, it's not for Hordak. He won't use it against us."

"I don't care. I'm not putting my mom's life in danger! I'd rather give my own hair. Perfuma said kids have the same body component thing as their parents, so she won't notice."

"No offense Glim," Adora giggled. "But Angella has much longer hair than you. She will notice that."

"That's not a problem, I can make them longer with my staff."

Glimmer had started a formation with Mystacor's sorceresses a few months ago, to master the art of her father's magic. She had a lot to learn, but she made big progress in little time.

"Point is, I don't trust Entrapta, and I want to know if giving my own body part away will really save Mermista."

"And this is why we're going to see Catra right now! As you suggested, may I remind you," Adora smirked.

"I don't know why I suggested that to be honest… Entrapta was working for her. Why would Catra think she's to be trusted by us? And even if that was the case, she wouldn't tell us that."

"I don't know, Catra was betrayed by Hordak. She has no reason to protect the Horde anymore."

"But she doesn't like us."

"She told us about Mermista's runestone…"

"Okay well, since we're going anyway, it can't hurt to try..." Glimmer sighed. "I'm not looking forward to it, but it'll last only a minute…" she whispered to herself. "We come in, we ask, and we leave."

"Yeaaaah, you don't know Catra." Adora laughed awkwardly. Glimmer raised a brow, asking for an explanation. "She's never going to give you a straight answer. If you want to get an honest opinion from her… You need to take a bit of time. Or surprise her."

"Surprise her? And how exactly?"

"I don't know… But just asking her if we can trust Entrapta with a life and death situation..." Adora shook her head. She could already picture the feline's mischievous grin. "Catra will only play with your mind. So don't be that blunt."

"Awesome…" Glimmer grumbled. She observed her friend from the corner of her eye. She was a bit annoyed to see a small smile tucking her lips. Adora was happy to have a good excuse to go see Catra again after her morning balm session.

Pfft. That was ridiculous. They had many nurses who'd be willing to do that. But Adora had to do it herself.

Glimmer knew she was being unfair right now. After all, Catra and Adora had history, but today she was annoyed by Bow, anxious for Mermista, and also for herself… She was going to put her life at risk for Mermista, and she was willing to do it- that was why they hadn't told anything to her mom- but she wanted to be sure it wouldn't be in vain.

She had to be certain Entrapta would fulfill her part of the deal.

"Here we are."

Glimmer shook her head. She still had no idea how she was going to take the truth out of Catra's mouth. But she had to try. And no matter how much she loved and trusted Adora, she needed to evaluate Catra's reaction by herself. Adora was too biased about her old friend for her taste.

"Hey Adora," the voice made Glimmer cringe. "You're back early."

Sparkling eyes met mismatched eyes.

"Oh… You brought company."

Adora nodded, feeling uncomfortable. The tension had risen to its highest level in a second. The two girls wouldn't blink, holding the other's gaze like it was a freaking glaring contest.

"Um… Glimmer wants to talk to you."

"Oh yeah?" Catra smirked. "Why didn't she come by herself? Scared of the evil Horde Commander?"

"You're not as scary as you think you are, Catra…" Glimmer spat her name like it was rotted fish. The feline gripped the bars of her cell.

"Why don't you teleport inside and I'll make you reconsider?"

"I can take you anytime, tail-girl!"

"Come and get me then."

"Woah time out girls!" Adora grasped Glimmer's shoulder before the princess could put a fist on Catra's nose.

"I don't know why I thought it was a good idea- Wait…" Glimmer frowned as she eyed Catra's outfit. "Is this the sweater I gave you Adora?!"

Adora paled as she stared at the piece of clothes… The little unicorn on the chest smiling at her, knitted by Glimmer's own hands...

"Um…"

"Aw Adora, don't you know it's rude to give away your lover's presents?"

"Oh, you're not going there, Horde bitch!"

Before Adora even had the time to open her mouth, Glimmer teleported right above the snickering feline, crashing her on the ground. The guard ran into the prison, hurrying to open the cell for Adora.

"Stop it you idiots!" Adora yelled at the two girls who were rolling on the ground, sending punches in each other's face. Adora grabbed the ear of both girls, who stopped their kids' fight right away, howling in pain. "You- just- Behave, or you won't have any eyes to cry after I'm done with you!"

Glimmer teleported back outside away from her. She rubbed her ear as she glared at Adora.

"Can you let me go now, I can't hurt Glitter from here," Catra groaned.

"Alright, but you behave! And I'll stay here, just in case," she sent daggers to both girls.

"And my name is Glimmer, you asshole!" the princess huffed.

"Like there's a difference..."

"Catra, enough!"

Glimmer was right, it really wasn't a good idea to put the two girls in the same room. Adora didn't understand though. Why was Glimmer so impulsive around Catra? And why did Catra feel the need to tease her that much?! She hadn't acted like that at all with Perfuma.

"You want your sweater back, Glimmer?" Catra pouted at her name. "I don't like horses anyway."

Glimmer snorted but didn't say no. Catra tugged up the hems of the sweatshirt, revealing the skin of her stomach. Glimmer's and Adora's cheeks flushed as they processed what was happening. That wouldn't make things easier at all… Adora caught Catra's hands, stopping the stripping process.

"Yeah, no, let's just not, I'll find you another sweater later."

"And you'd think that after seeing me topless twice a day, you'd get used to it..." Catra tried to free her hands, pesting against Adora's strength, but the princess only squeezed stronger. She tried to catch Catra's gaze. She needed to calm her down… Bickering like this with Glimmer wouldn't bring them anywhere.

But Catra didn't look up at Adora, she was too busy glaring at Glimmer. She squinted her eyes, deciphering the princess's face. She looked pissed, very pissed. And she looked even more upset when Adora closed space between her and Catra.

The prisoner smirked.

Ohoho… She was jealous…

"Can we please all sit down and relax?" Adora sighed, meeting Glimmer's eyes. Her friend shrugged and nodded. Adora looked back to Catra then, and blinked in surprise. Catra's face was weird. Her pupils were dilated, her ears half flat on her head, and she had a weird compliant grin on her face.

"Sure Adora…" she purred. She purred.

She brought her face closer to Adora's, very slowly. Adora's breath hitched. Her grip loosened around Catra's hands, who took advantage of that freedom to slip them on Adora's waist. She could also feel her tail wrapped around her leg, and her body crash against her own.

Catra's cheek brushed against hers until her mouth was close to Adora's ear.

"You know I love to relax with you…" She nibbled Adora's earlobe.

Glimmer hiccuped. She teleported out of the prison, leaving a sparkling cloud behind her. Catra's dark snicker echoed on the walls, ringing unpleasantly to Adora's ears.

"What is fucking wrong with you?!" Adora shoved Catra, bringing back distance between them.

"Oh wow, you cursing, what a rare sight."

The second Adora realized Catra had used...whatever was going on between them, this weird tension that had been slowly growing since the first time they got close a week ago, she raised a wall in her heart. She couldn't let Catra even think she could play with her feelings, or Glimmer's.

"Catra…" she snarled. "Don't you EVER do that again. You hear me? Why are you so… So…" Adora extended her arms, waving them as if the words would appear out of nowhere.

"Take your time," Catra said as she picked her nails.

"You're the worst! What did she do to you, huh? Why are you trying so hard to get under her skin? She just wanted to ask you a question!"

Adora paced in the cell. If she didn't control herself, she could punch a wall.

"I don't like how she looks at me," Catra shrugged. "And now that I know why she looks at me like that, I'm definitely not going to change my behavior."

Adora blushed as Catra's eyes pierced through her. She knew perfectly well what Catra meant, and she wanted to slap the prisoner for that.

"You're just seeing things."

"And you're a dumb-dumb. Seriously Adora, giving me her present to you?"

Adora scoffed, mad at herself for her lack of perspicacity. Why hadn't she thought it through… Among all the sweatshirts she got, she had had to pick the one Glimmer offered her for her first year in the rebellion… That was pretty dumb.

"It's not a reason to tease us that way. I won't let you use me Catra. If you want to...do the thing you did again," she blushed at the memory, but then frowned and sent her daggers. Catra raised a brow. She wouldn't forget that blush. "You got the wrong person."

Catra stayed silent as she contemplated the blonde princess. She was hurt, it was pretty obvious. Adora really felt the thing between them, and Catra had played with it… Catra didn't even know what it was exactly… She just knew it was more than the beginning of mending their relationship.

And definitely more than basic sexual tension.

A pinch of guilt squeezed her heart as she looked in the deep blue eyes.

"You need votes for the trial, Catra. You can't afford to act like a bitch, or nobody from the rebellion will want you."

"Yeah, well, maybe I don't want the rebellion either! I didn't ask for your fucking help, Princess!"

"For the last time, I'm just trying to save your damn life Catra!" Adora shouted, taking a step towards her.

"I don't care, I don't need you saving me Adora!" Catra shouted louder, getting closer as well. "Why are you so fucking persistant?!"

"Because even if you're a jerk, I don't want to see you die!"

Adora had clenched Catra's shoulders at these words. She expected Catra to retaliate, but the feline closed her mouth. Her ears flattened, and her whole body relaxed under Adora's touch. Adora saw some feelings she did not understand in those mismatched eyes. She lowered her head, too tired to try to decipher them.

"Adora…"

A purple ball of light exploded in the prison again, revealing a very red-angry Glimmer, who stood straight in front of the cell, planting her eyes in Catra's.

"Last week, did Entrapta tell you that Adora was alive and that she helped us escape?"

Catra blinked twice.

"WHAT?!"


Shadow Weaver had made a lot of mistakes in her life. Some she regretted more than others.

Stealing the Queen of the Magicats' mask had been her first big mistake. She still bore the mark of Katriska's wrath underneath her own mask…

Letting the new queen live for so long had been another very regretful mistake. Catra… Oh she had despised her the moment she saw the heterochromatic eyes on her kitten face. She should have killed her the first night she met her. She should have never let Adora grow fond of her.

But mostly, and that was probably her biggest mistake, she should have never listened or trusted Hordak. Since the very beginning, that alien had only caused her trouble. Pushing her to steal Katriska's mask, then enrolling her in the Horde with the promise of her revenge against Mystacor, forbidding her to kill Catra… To finally letting her rot in a dark cell.

Now that Catra was gone, Shadow Weaver had a new target in sight.

And she would get to him somehow, then to Mystacor. And if she was lucky, she could eventually kill Catra, putting an end to the magicat race.

She would reign on Etheria, bringing back balance and order, like she always dreamed of.

"My Lord… Thank you for allowing me to-"

"Be quick, Shadow Weaver, I have a tight schedule."

She swallowed a bitter comeback. It wasn't the time to fight. "My Lord, now that Catra isn't Second-in-Command anymore-"

"Octavia is my new Commander."

"...I can still be useful to you. Let me prove my worth to you, Lord Hordak."

"Your magic is weak without the Black Garnet, Shadow Weaver. You lost your past strength."

"If you give it back to me though…"

"No. Entrapta will keep it for her experiments."

Shadow Weaver tightened her fists, trying to push down the rage that threatened to spill. But she was so done.

"I have given everything to you…" she muttered.

"Excuse me?"

"For all these years, I have been nothing but patient, loyal and hard working! You promised me Mystacor!"

"And you promised to help me defeat the princesses. But you only used the power of the Black Garnet for yourself. Your work never helped me improve my battle strategies, and you know it. I have no remorse taking back my word."

"I got banned because of you! For you!" Shadow Weaver roared. "I stole that filthy queen's mask for you, lost everything I had and then pledged to you, and that's how you reward me!"

"I never told you to steal the magicat mask," Hordak spat. "I only shared with you my theories about the runestones."

"You told me conquering the runestones would save the planet! You said it would bring back ancient power! I only wanted to help you! You owe me!"

"And you screwed up, Shadow Weaver. You screwed it all up and then...you sold me. You accused me at Court, and because of you, I lost Mystacor's trust," Hordak snarled. His impassive face turned almost animalistic, and Shadow Weaver felt lucky she wasn't in the same room as him. "I consider myself very merciful I saved you before you got sent to the Forbidden Zone… If anyone owes me anything, it's you... Light Spinner."

Shadow Weaver cringed at that name. She hadn't been called that way for over fifteen years, and Hordak knew it triggered bad memories.

"However…"

Shadow Weaver looked up with hope.

"If you really want to be useful, I guess I could try to find a way to give you more power... "

She bowed respectfully. Finally, she was going to get out of the cell. She would have to stay low for a while, but she could at least study the new situation of the Horde… Especially Entrapta.

"I'll need your mask, Shadow Weaver."

"My mask?" she asked in surprise.

"Yes. When it's ready, you can get out of jail."

Chapter Text

Bow whimpered as he tripped on a root. A smack on his shoulder reminded him of his companion's nervosity.

"Glimmer stop hitting me!" he hissed.

"You're gonna get us caught!" the princess whispered back. She looked around them frantically, checking on the few guards pacing around the castle. They couldn't see them but if Bow kept on being his usual discreet self they might hear them. Glimmer didn't dare to teleport before being completely hidden by the Whispering Woods' obscurity. Her sparkle magic was quite visible.

A few minutes later, they breathed out in relief when they crossed the old war trench, that was now filled with trees, grass and moss. As if the war had happened a hundred years ago.

"Swift Wind! Where are you?" Glimmer called as silently as she could.

"We're here."

Adora and the flamboyant unicorn came from behind an oak tree, looking tense.

"Adora!" Bow and Glimmer exclaimed. "We told you you weren't coming."

"But guys, it's dangerous! What if it's a trap?"

"Adora, for the last time, I trust Kyle. We agreed to meet alone."

"And I trust Entrapta," Glimmer smiled. "Now that I know she didn't betray us at the Fright Zone, I know she's somehow on our side."

Catra's reaction a couple of days ago had convinced Glimmer. The ex-Commander had been so surprised and outraged to learn that Entrapta had hidden this little secret from her, that Glimmer had no second thoughts believing it was real, even if she didn't know Catra very well.

Entrapta had helped them escape, and as she promised to Glimmer, she hadn't told a soul. Except for Emily, probably.

"I don't think Entrapta is on any side really…" Adora pouted.

"At least she cares enough about us to help."

"She's still working for the enemy! She could have been found! Hordak could be waiting for Bow to take him as a hostage!"

"And that's why we don't need you to be captured as well. Again. Besides, I have Swift Wind with me. If there's a problem, we'll fly away from Kyle."

"But…"

"Moreover, we'll meet at the entrance of the Whispering Woods! It's not like I'm going inside the Fright Zone!"

Adora groaned. She thought she was stubborn, but her friends could beat her to it sometimes.

"Don't you have a...healing session to attend anyway?" Swift Wind smirked as Bow wiggled his eyebrows. Glimmer rolled her eyes, huffing as she saw Adora's cheeks go red.

"I don't know… I'm late anyway, I thought I'd skip this one. Catra's wound looks much better now, she doesn't need as much care as before."

"Is everything alright?" Bow raised a brow. He didn't miss the quick exchange of gazes between Adora and Glimmer, and the palpable discomfort made Swift Wind neigh in consternation.

"Nothing important. Are you sure I can't come with you?"

"It's my mission Adora," Bow said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I can handle myself, don't worry. You don't have to protect me."

She looked in his brilliant hopeful eyes. He knew how hard it was for her. He knew how badly she wanted to make sure all of her friends were safe. It had driven her insane more than once this year. Failing Catra, then failing Entrapta, then realizing Entrapta was still alive but never wanted to come back…

It had tortured Adora's mind, and given her more than one sleepless nights. Her sense of responsibility over her friends, the rebellions and innocent civilians had only come stronger from her experience.

That was why Glimmer and Bow had made a pact with her, to make her loosen her obsessional protection grip. She had to let them perform solo missions. She had to learn to trust nothing bad- or worse- would happen if she wasn't there. It had been hard at first, but after a few months, she had made some progress. There was a lot of work left to untie the knot of that trauma pattern, but Adora was on the right track.

Unfortunately...in Glimmer's opinion at least, she had jumped on the opportunity to expand this side of her personality again by protecting Catra's life and future even if it meant losing her mind over it… But that was another debate.

"I'll give Glimmer's hair and come home safely."

Bow showed a little tube, containing a long pink glittering hair. It could easily be taken for Angella's. Glimmer's heart pounded in anxiety as she watched it glow in the dark. She truly hoped Entrapta wouldn't realize the trick… She felt a little bad at the idea of betraying her, whereas the genius had just gained her own trust back.

But she couldn't put her mother's life at risk. She'd rather put her own, for Mermista.

"I don't like this…" Adora shook her head, but she stepped aside to let Bow jump on Swift Wind's back. She knew her winged friend would protect him for her, if anything went wrong.

"Don't worry. You guys won't even have the time to snap your fingers that I'll already be by your side," Bow grinned as Swift Wind extended his wings, ready to take flight.

The two princesses waited for the flying pair to disappear in the night before they headed back to the castle. Glimmer's smile had fallen as soon as Bow couldn't see her. He should be home in a couple of hours. She already knew she would count the minutes until his return.

Maybe she could go check on Mermista. Despite Perfuma's care, the princess got worse pretty fast.

If only they could have met Kyle sooner… But the boy couldn't escape earlier. As for the runestone, he assured them it was at the moment on the road for Salineas. Glimmer could only hope he was telling the truth. Even if Entrapta hadn't betrayed them about Adora's secret… Who knew?

It was a leap of faith.

Glimmer looked at Adora from the corner of her eye. She remembered how annoyed Adora was when she learned about the rebellion's general attitude regarding this war. Growing up in the Horde had obviously molded her in a different way. Faith wasn't something she was used to following.

Glimmer could understand, she herself had never been fond of her mother's unbreakable belief that She-Ra would come save them someday. She had been angry at her passive retreats whenever the Horde got too close to beating them. She was used to seeing this attitude in the rebellion since she was very little, but she never accepted it. She also hadn't trusted She-Ra blindly the first time she met her as Adora, suspicion priming over faith for the prophecy. Objectively, Glimmer understood Adora's frustration and judgement.

And yet… When she saw how Adora cared for Catra, and vouched for her, insisting that she could join them, believing so hard in her redemption… Catra, their enemy, the girl who hurt them so many times, and who kept repeating she would rather die than ask for forgiveness?

Even if she knew part of it was due to Adora's long history of protecting her ex-best friend at all cost, Glimmer still thought she was a bit of hypocrite.


Once again, she's lost. In the middle of the fire. Smoke is suffocating her. She's weeping. Calling for help.

But who would help her? She doesn't recognize anything around her.

Then she feels it. The dark aura. It's coming closer.

She curls her small body up in a ball, trembling from head to tail.

The figure leans over her.

Red eyes.

She screams.

"Catra!"

She opened her eyes, panting heavily. She blinked until her brain fazed out of the nightmare.

Catra was safe, in her cell.

There were no red eyes above her, threatening to kill her. Instead worried blue ones were examining her face.

"Are you okay?"

Catra breathed deeply, closing her eyes again. Her whole body was shaking. She tried to raise her hands to her face, but she realized Adora was pinning her down on the mattress.

"Sorry about that…" Adora pulled away nervously. "You kept wiggling and you punched me when I tried to wake you."

Catra sat up slowly, leaning on the wall. She looked over towards Adora. The princess was sitting almost on the other side of the cell, averting her gaze.

She looked really worried… But Catra could tell she was still mad about the Glimmer incident.

It'd been more than two days ago now. It'd been four sessions that Adora hadn't said a word, hadn't crossed her eyes. She had stayed ten minutes in the cell each time, just what she needed to balm the wound and leave. Catra got surprised, but she respected her silence. She knew better than anyone that forcing her to talk would only infuriate her more. Or at least, that's how she would react anyway.

"What were you dreaming of?"

"I don't really know to be honest…" Catra frowned. "It keeps coming back, but I can never remember what it's about."

Except for the red eyes that kept haunting her.

"It's really affecting you…" Adora met her gaze. Catra must have looked pretty terrified, for Adora to look at her that way. All she could feel was her heart still pounding against her ribcage, and the sweat that made her now shiver.

"It won't last."

Adora hummed, then threw the usual potion gourd to her. Catra chugged it, not even twitching at the saltiness of the beverage anymore.

"I didn't think you'd come tonight," she said hesitantly when she was done.

"Me neither," Adora scooted closer, the balm in her hand. But Catra wouldn't move just yet. She needed to have this conversation face to face.

"Listen, I-"

"Tonight Bow's meeting Kyle for the deal we made with Entrapta."

"You made a deal with her?" Catra furrowed her brows. Hearing her ex-partner's name irritated her as she remembered Glimmer's revelations. She got time to process it, but still… It seemed Catra had been fooled by everybody lately. How humiliating.

"Yes, we did it for Mermista. Entrapta's going to put the runestone back to Salineas. It should fix her illness."

Adora waved a circle with her finger, asking Catra to turn around so that she could see her back.

"And you trust her?"

Adora looked in her eyes. What was she searching in them? Catra wondered...

"Entrapta is a complicated person, but she proved that she still cares about us, and she holds her promises."

Promises… The word lingered in the air between them. It sure carried a heavy meaning for the two ex-best friends. They still hadn't really talked about their argument in the temple last year, but after over a week of slow and heated conversations, it looked as if they could make progress in this direction.

Until Catra played with Adora's feelings to tease Glimmer.

"You're gonna show me your wound someday or you're just gonna stare at me the whole time?"

Catra blinked out of her daze. "Listen Adora…" she shifted on her spot. "I'm sorry. For what I did. The other day," she added, even if she knew Adora would have understood without the precision.

Adora looked in the blue then yellow eyes. Catra hoped she could see she was sincere. She wasn't a person who apologized a lot, so she wasn't sure if her tone and her body language matched the meaning.

"It took you two days."

"You wouldn't talk to me at all."

Sharp words that could cut through metal. Raging emotions lied beneath them, from both sides, for a little scene that could never compare to the amount of harm Catra had done in a year. However Catra had realized that this act she had put on for Glimmer had touched a sensitive string in Adora's heart. Not because she cared for Glimmer's jealousy, but because she had finally witnessed the possibility of change in Catra, only to be once again disappointed by her typical manipulative behavior…

And Adora had made it clear she wouldn't accept that anymore.

"Better late than never," she said bitterly. Catra didn't answer. She took her sweater off and offered her back to her care, as usual.

Only ten days ago, she wouldn't have cared if she hurt Adora's feelings. And she definitely would have done anything to deny Adora the hope to see her change.

However Catra had needed to apologize, because she couldn't stand the guilt growing in her chest whenever Adora came back in the cell, sulking and avoiding her gaze.

And she hated how badly she needed the new version of their...relationship.

"How's Glimmer?" She forced herself to ask. She didn't want them to fall back into silence. It was another thing she wouldn't put up with any longer between her and Adora.

"Stressed out. But good otherwise."

Her tone was still stiff. Catra didn't like it. It was her thing, usually.

"I guess I should apologize to her too, huh?"

"That would be appreciated."

A shiver ran down Catra's spine when Adora traced her column.

"She'll apologize to you too, for starting a fist fight with you."

"Well, I can't blame her for that. I wanted her to."

"It doesn't matter Catra," Adora's rigid voice made her gulp. Here surged Adora's typical determination to bring justice for all sides. Like the time she shamed the rebellion for treating Catra as terribly as the Horde would.

And maybe it also was...how did she call it, bury the hatchet? Something like that. Adora wanted all of them to start getting along, in case Catra would join... How beautiful and stupid of her to cling onto that… Forgetting about basic psychology like jealousy would lose her in the end.

"She looks like she cares a lot about you…"

Adora's hand froze for a second on her wound. Catra wondered what it meant. She wondered if there was more than it seemed between the two princesses.

"She's my best friend."

Catra pursed her lips and clenched her knees, not minding the claws tearing her skin. She used to be Adora's best friend. But it'd been over for more than year. So why did it matter now?

"I wish you two wouldn't hate on each other to that level, but I guess it was stupid of me to expect so much," Adora sighed.

"I don't hate her," Catra said in a thoughtful tone. Adora hummed in surprise, inviting her to elaborate. "I mean, I'm not fond of her, and she pisses me off every time she opens her big mouth, but at least she's honest. She's not a hypocrite. She doesn't like me, and isn't going to kiss my ass just because you decided to protect me. I thought she would be all worshipping you for being She-Ra, but she looks more attached and...attracted to Adora than She-Ra."

Catra smirked a bit. She was sure Adora was flustered. She was so easy to tease.

"None of the rebels only view me as She-Ra, you know. They care about me. They're not perfect, but they're all genuine people."

Catra hated to admit it, but Adora was right. She had been far better treated than anything she expected or thought she deserved. She thought at first it was because of Adora's outburst when she brought Catra to Brightmoon. But actually talking with them, princesses and guards... It had started to change her mind. A bit.

She had always known the rebels weren't bad people. The Horde was the one attacking them after all. But she never thought they could be good people. Catra's definition of good was certainly tainted by her years at the Fright Zone, but she couldn't ignore the respect in Angella's voice when she talked to her enemy, even if she held a big grudge against her, or Perfuma's kindness and determination to help with her wound in spite of Catra's murderous stance, or even Glimmer valuing her opinion somehow…

Even her guard looked fond of her. Especially when she was eating. A few days ago, she had given Catra a brush for her messy hair and other utensils for her personal hygiene that she didn't even know existed.

That wasn't something she observed in the Horde.

The rebels were naive and goodie-two-shoes valuing justice, kindness and generosity. But they were also impulsive, ready to defend their loved ones, and not so keen on forgiving harm easily. A bit like Catra herself. Except for the naive goodie part.

"...I saw that. With Perfuma and your queen…" She remembered how Angella had promised to forgive her wrong doing if she pledged to her. That demanded an immense courage, and forgetting about her ego… Catra would have never done that in her place.

After thinking about it, Catra appreciated the offer and had…actually started to wonder how it would be if she accepted. But no matter how much she put this into perspective, she didn't think she'd fit among them. And her project of conquering the Horde wouldn't leave her mind either.

"It'll hurt them someday," Catra concluded.

Adora smiled. She allowed herself to massage Catra's neck, now that she was done with the balming. Who knew that brooding for two days would bring Catra to open up, apologize and even admit she could be wrong? She must have been very lonely in her cell.

"A warlock from Mystacor is coming tomorrow, to talk with us about the trial. He'll be the one to defend you."

Catra's tail lashed, almost slapping her face. Adora knew it had to annoy her, but at least Catra was done complaining about her help.

"Is he gonna teach me how to cry in public to move the jury even if they probably all hate my guts?"

"I have no idea," Adora giggled. She wanted to talk more with Catra, now that she felt a bit better about her, but the feline yawned loudly. Right, it was very late. Plus the potion always made Catra sleepy.

Adora had to go back to the camp and wait for Bow with Glimmer anyway, who must have been eating her nails out of anxiety. She gathered the balm and empty gourd, then stood up.

"Adora…?"

Catra's face showed nervosity. That was unlike her.

"Can you…" she swallowed. "Can you wait for a bit with me? ...until I fall asleep?"

The nightmare…

Adora smiled and sat down. Catra averted her gaze. She didn't want to show Adora how happy she was. That was sad, Adora thought. Maybe someday she would accept to show genuine emotions like this. Like before.

Adora called the guard.

"Please go tell Glimmer that I'll be here for a while. And can she come fetch me when she's...done with her work?"

The guard nodded and left.

"I forgot about the deal…" Catra's ears flattened. "Go wait for Bow with her, don't worry about me."

"I can wait here, silly. I have no idea when he'll be back anyway."

"But…"

"No buts!" Adora was sick of people telling her what to do today. "Now go to sleep."

Catra huffed, a smile tucking the corner of her lips. She lay down on the mattress, holding the thin blanket up to make a spot for Adora. The princess joined her there, facing her. There wasn't much space, so she scooted closer, and instinctively put an arm around Catra's waist.

The feline's eyes were half lidded. Catra hummed and closed them for good, purring slightly because of Adora's warmth next to her. Adora pushed a rebel strand of hair from Catra's forehead, allowing her to see how peaceful she looked now. She stroke her cheek, brushing over the familiar freckles on her face.

A sore happiness remained in her chest as she remembered the apology, as if Catra had balmed her own wounded heart. She had never apologized once in a whole year. It was the very first time.

Of course it wasn't an apology for everything that happened before. The kidnapping, the destruction, the war in its globality… But it was a start. Adora had known, when she heard Catra's words, that she'd been right to believe in her.

Adora leaned forward, and kissed her forehead, still cupping her face. Her heart beat faster. Why did she feel so strongly for Catra? Why did it have to be her, her ex-best friend and supposed mortal enemy?

An unintelligible sleep word slipped from Catra's mouth as she moved closer to Adora, who put her hand back on the feline's waist and closed her eyes.

She would figure these feelings out later. After the trial.

Chapter Text

Light snores resonated in the dorm. It was barely midnight, but in the Fright Zone, soldiers slept early, and fell fast asleep. It was a necessity, given the level of stamina a single day in the ranks of the Horde demanded.

Only one cadet was pretending to sleep, waiting for the clock to hit the 0000 number. He was fully clothed beneath his blanket. Only his shoes were missing, waiting for him at the foot of the bottom bunk bed.

The clock ticked. The day changed.

Kyle pushed his blanket away, and jumped off his bed as smoothly as possible. He stayed in a crouching position for a few seconds, listening to the noises of his twenty roommates. Nobody was moving. He could leave the dorm safely.

He had done this so many times, but tonight, things were different. Tonight, for the first time, he had to leave the Fright Zone. And the most difficult part, he had to come back. Undetected.

He put his hand to his ear and tapped the little earphone plugged in it. Entrapta had given it to him earlier. She would check on him through the cameras as long as he was in the Fright Zone, and could speak to him with the device. She would make sure he wouldn't cross the path of any security robots or guards. Or worse, Octavia and Hordak's demon spy.

Kyle checked on his belt. He also had a waterproof bag hanging there, with another machine inside, that he would need for the meeting with Bow.

He was ready.

He opened the door of the dorm, trying not to make it creak, and stepped outside, as silent as Catra.

"HQ to Lizard, do you copy?"

Kyle jerked forward as the voice screamed in his ear.

"Princess! You almost gave me a heart attack!" he complained, clutching his chest. He snapped his head left and right, making sure nobody was coming that way, drawn by the sudden noise.

"That is not physiologically possible, you're too young to have clogged arteries. Although according to those books I've been recently reading, you could actually get a Tako-Tsubo infarct-"

"Princess!" Kyle hissed. He tiptoed in the hallways, heading to the direction of the usual air vent he used.

"Alright, alright. Ah, you shouldn't use the vents tonight, it's dangerous."

"Why?"

"Octavia's patrolling on the second floor right now, and with her new 360° biotech-improved infrared vision, she can spot you even through obstacles- whereas it's not usually possible- so if she's coming too close you won't be able to get away from her perimeter when you're stuck in a tube."

That explained how she could see behind her back now...

"How am I supposed to reach the sewer, if I can't use the vents?! There are guards everywhere!"

"Don't worry, I'll guide you there," Entrapta answered cheerfully. Kyle had never been more anxious in his life, and that counted the time Bow and Glimmer infiltrated the base…

"Scorpia is currently on the basement floor, if needed she'll distract the bots so that you can-"

"Take a dip?" Kyle snorted. He wasn't particularly excited at the idea of leaving the Fright Zone by the sewers, but they couldn't use the purging chambers in the middle of the night. It would attract too much attention. He was glad they had unclog the sewers a few days ago at least…

"Exactly, HAHAHAHAHA, excellent, Kyle. Do you have the skiff keys?"

He checked in his pockets. The keys were in place. He confirmed with a hum.

"Great, let's go then. Operation Quartz, begin!"

Kyle rolled his eyes as he took the central stairs. He perked up his ears, heart thumping in his chest.

The Fright Zone wore its name best at night, when everything was silent. It wasn't a natural silence, like outside in the nature. It was an imposed void, a threat to anyone wanting to break the curfew. As if the metallic walls themselves were watching and listening to the traitor who was about to break out.

"Take left."

Kyle almost missed a step at the sudden sound. He couldn't get used to that. He was a solitary spy, only relying on himself, automatically checking for the cameras that could spot him. But tonight he didn't need to mind them, and it only made him more nervous.

Entrapta made him do several detours because of security robots patrolling. It took him a while to reach the basement. This floor was contrasting with the rest of the main base. It was loud and hot, rumbling with machines and robots that didn't need to sleep like humans.

He walked through several familiar rooms on his way, like the food chain factory. A decade ago, Hordak's bots weren't as efficient, and Kyle remembered working there with other Horde soldiers. Adults made the tasteless ration bars, while kids cleaned the room. Now the bots were making themselves the food. It was as tasteless as before, and it also lacked some human soul in it.

Bow had been devastated when he learned what the Horde was eating from Adora, so he had given Kyle some weird chips and fruits and other tasty stuff several times.

Kyle wished he hadn't. It was harder now to put up with their usual ration bars.

"Okay, you need to crawl, like right now."

"What?!"

"Crawl!"

Kyle threw himself on the floor, sweat rolling on his forehead. A big security bot came in and scanned the factory area. How did Entrapta know that crawling would bring Kyle out of the red ray's range by only an inch, that was a mystery. She really was a genius.

Kyle puffed in relief when the bot left.

"Come on, you're almost there."

He stood up and accelerated his pace, holding his chest and begging his vision to stop being blurry. Maybe he was having a Tako-Tsubo thing.

Finally, he reached one of the sewers' opening. Entrapta chose a small one instead of one of the big entrances the Horde used to evacuate the entirety of the Fright Zone water plumbing, bless her.

He checked one last time if he was ready. He opened the sewer, breathed in and out…

"Don't forget to put your earphone in your waterproof b-"

Shit.

Kyle's body dived in the water. He closed his eyes and pinched his nose, trying to forget he was floating in dirt. He kicked the floor beneath him, and finally emerged. He took the earphone off his ear.

"Shit, shit shit…"

It was soaked. He tried to call Entrapta, hoping it wasn't completely ruined, but only silence answered him.

Panic took him over. This was bad. Very bad. He had to come back, abort mission.

But he couldn't. But without Entrapta's help, he would get caught. But there was Scorpia on the basement floor, who could help him. Too many buts…

Entrapta warned him Scorpia's intervention would come in last resort. They didn't want to take the risk of the Horde thinking Scorpia and Kyle were plotting something together. It would only take one unfortunate rumor to make Octavia suspicious. The Second-in-Command was already onto him because of his snooping.

Kyle decided to go with the plan. He would figure out later how to contact Entrapta. Bow would have his tablet with him, Kyle hoped.

While he was thinking, the flow had already taken him far in the sewer. Kyle reached the larger part of the tubes, with ledges on each side of the water, where soldiers and bots could walk when they needed to clean the place.

He raised his body on the left side, standing up groggily on the metal. He exhaled as he shook his limbs, chasing the water and dirt away from his clothes. He tried the earphone again, to no avail. He put it in his bag, then started to run.

There was no time to waste.

There shouldn't be any surveillance here, but one could never know. Thankfully -but sadly Bow would probably say- Kyle knew these sewers by heart. He knew exactly where to stop to find the perfect opening that would lead him outside, in a spot where there were no bots to spot him.

He ran for ten long minutes, hoping his muscles he could never train properly would hold on, until he found the opening. He grinned in relief, but suddenly froze, his mind going blank.

A robot was coming his way. Fast. What on Etheria was it doing here?!

Kyle couldn't move. He couldn't even scream. He was paralyzed.

The robot stopped in front of him. Its purple signal blinded his eyes.

"Kyle! Finally! I'm glad Emily found you!"

"Entrapta?!"

The voice came from the robot. That was Emily… Kyle hadn't recognized it, since most robots look the same to him…

"I really should install cameras in the sewers. I was worried you were found!"

"Sorry about the earphone…"

"It's okay, I'll make a new one. Now go meet Bow, Emily will wait here for your return."

Kyle smiled as he climbed on the wall ladder. He reached the manhole, pushed the metal cover open, and risked the top of his head outside. The opening stood in a narrow dead-end alley between two old watchpoint buildings. Before cameras and bots did the night surveillance, soldiers had to take shifts in there.

Kyle lifted his body from the sewer, closed it and walked out of the dead end. He walked cautiously, body sticking to the walls to be sure he wouldn't be spotted by any cameras. He knew he didn't have to, but he was scared… Maybe somebody else was watching the cameras after all…? But he would have been discovered before then. Still, it released his anxiety to do so.

Entrapta also told him before he left the sewers that she would create a little diversion that would attract the robots of the section, to be sure they wouldn't cross his path. He didn't know what the genius did, but it had been efficient. His way to the garage went completely silent and lonely.

Finally, he reached the skiffs parking lot. He took the first that crossed his path, too much in a hurry to check if it was the most functional. He inserted Scorpia's keys in the headboard, looked around him one last time, and launched the machine.

He yelped at the speed of the thing. He had never driven a skiff before. At least not alone. Lonnie had always been there to take the bar. Maybe he should have thought of this before… After a few chaotic minutes of driving, he finally got the hang of it.

In ten minutes, he reached the entrance of the Whispering Woods. He parked the skiff in front of a weird looking fruits tree- oranges maybe? He couldn't remember- and adventured himself in the Woods, one shaking step at a time.

"Bow…?" his voice cracked. The Woods were so scary now that they had grown back. They were almost back to their original state. As soon as Kyle put a foot on a root, the insects stopped their grinding melodies. It was like the Woods were staring at him. Judging him for belonging in the ranks of their murderers. They didn't want the Horde soldiers on their ground…

Kyle gulped, not enjoying at all this heavy atmosphere. He wanted to pee so bad now.

Suddenly a creaking noise broke the silence.

Kyle screamed, running back to his skiff as if he had seen a ghost.

"Kyle! It's just me!"

The Horde soldier relaxed as he saw Bow come out of the bushes, accompanied by that flying horse Adora mounted.

The two boys smiled genuinely, happy for a second to see each other again...then awkwardness tainted their face expression when they remembered the conditions of their meeting.

"So, um... " Bow scratched the back of his head, then eyed the soaked boy up and down. "Did you get any trouble coming here?"

"A little…" Kyle shrugged. He put his hands in his pockets, switching his weight from one foot to the other. "Nothing I couldn't handle though."

Bow nodded. He wanted to ask more about his friend, but somehow...it seemed inappropriate. Something had broken between them ever since that battle.

"So do you have…?"

"Oh right!" Bow facepalmed. Swift Wind rolled his eyes while the boy fumbled through his bag. He took a little tube out, showing off the pink hair inside. "There it is! ...Angella's hair."

"Great, give it to me!" Kyle opened his own belt bag, revealing a flat cylinder device that he grabbed carefully. Bow frowned as he held out the tube, wondering for a second what that thing could do… And then freezing when he understood.

Kyle seized the tube, opened it and shook it above the cylinder. The hair fell, but floated like a magic field was suspending it in the air. A green light beamed from the machine, reverberating on the length of the hair, scanning every microscopic part of it.

Oh no…

Bow felt sweat run on his forehead. How didn't he anticipate that Entrapta would actually check during the meeting if he was fooling her?!

Swift Wind nudged his shoulder with his snout, trying to relax him. He was right, acting all weird would only make things worse…

"Object- First Ones Descendant DNA- " a robotic voice chanted. What on Etheria was DNA?

"Key- Compatible."

A satisfied smile lightened Kyle's face. He looked up at Bow, who was too flabbergasted to process what the machine had said.

"Entrapta will be happy," the soldier said. "Are you okay?"

"Y-yeah! Definitely!" Bow exclaimed a bit too loud. He didn't understand what had just happened, but somehow it had all worked for the best and his heart was still pumping on the adrenaline of a probable catastrophe. "What is- Um, what does she intend to do with it?"

"Nothing dangerous, don't worry," he answered softly. "I can't tell you more, I don't really know what she's doing. Too smart for me."

"Now, don't depreciate yourself like that!" Bow put a hand on his shoulder. "Look how you tricked us both, it needs some grey matter to make up a plan like this!"

"Yeah, that kind of went downhill though, I'm lucky Entrapta is a nice person."

"She really is…" Bow's face saddened all of a sudden. He had realized, when he saw the princess on his tablet, how much he had missed her friendship, her quirks, her excitement when she showed him her inventions. He wished she could switch sides, come back to them… Bow had the certitude that Entrapta wasn't evil, she wasn't a real Horde soldier at heart.

Just like Kyle.

"So are you, Bow," he broke out of his daze. Kyle was looking nervous, but he looked up at him with grateful eyes. "You're nice, and honest. You didn't trick me, and…" Bow gulped, discomfort nagging his heart.

"...you have no idea what it means to me, Bow. I'm sorry I doubted you."

"It's okay, your doubts were valid, Kyle. You were perfectly right to question yourself about the rebellion... " Bow sighed. "I myself...am learning new things about the rebellion everyday."

Kyle raised his brows, his curiosity peeking. What could have the ever positive archer learned about his side and family to make him look so sad?

"Nobody's perfect in this war, but I won't stop fighting against the Horde Kyle, because no matter what, Hordak's actions are hurting innocent people for selfish reasons. For power."

Bow's gaze pierced through Kyle's. He was trying to call his sense of justice, the soldier felt it. That was how he had persuaded him to spy on Hordak for the rebellion. While most of the time Bow was this gentle soft teenage boy gushing over a pirate's shanties, he also had these sudden burst of inspirational talks that came when people around him needed it most. It was his biggest strength.

"I know right now you need to stay in the Horde, for your friend Rogelio," Bow stated, acceptance in his tone. "But I hope someday, you'll consider my proposal. I know I'm being repetitive, but we want you in our ranks, Kyle. We would be proud to battle at your side."

Kyle blushed. Damn him…

"I- As I told you before…" he shifted away from Bow's touch. "I'm not ready for that. But I'll remember it."

The rebel didn't protest. He understood. At least, he was glad they could ease part of the tension between them.

"Entrapta told me to tell you that the runestone should be home by tomorrow by the way. She wishes the best to Mermista. I hope she'll get better too…"

Bow's eyes watered.

Kyle was a great person, and Bow really hoped they could reunite someday. He never expected to grow so fond of the Horde soldier the first time they met, but Kyle… This guy was worth getting to know.

Bow waved at him as he turned the skiff engine on, and left the Whispering Woods. The archer was relieved to know that he was returning to Entrapta's sides. He trusted her to protect him. Not that Kyle really needed protection, he was invisible to his superiors… But he could use another friend.


"Oh my First Ones, Kyle, this is awesome, HAHAHAHAHA!"

"Princess, please I beg of you, keep it down…"

Kyle looked around him, anxiety creeping its way to his brain again. He was back in the sewers with Emily, walking at a fast pace behind the robot, who made him take a different path than before.

"The key is perfect Kyle! This is incredible! We were right about Angella! And the crystals! Now I can decrypt them! This is HUGE KYLE DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!"

"Yes, yes, Princess, I do but-"

"This is not a coincidence, it can't be… The only descendant of the First Ones on Etheria, waiting to be used for the temple's data… What are the odds Kyle?! I'll do the maths."

"Yes, do it, but in silence, please…"

Emily plugged a metallic finger of hers in the control board of a door, opening it in a second. Kyle breathed deeply at the refreshing air. He couldn't wait to take a shower…

He followed Emily through the countless corridors of the robots storage rooms. No soldiers ever came in here any longer, they had no need for the obsolete bots anymore. But if they ever needed to raise a surprise army, as a last resort… They had some material.

"How was Bow, by the way?" Entrapta asked cheerfully. She was humming, creating an eerie atmosphere in the silent main base.

"Um, he seems good…" Kyle hesitated, but decided to open up. He had to see how far he could trust the genius. "He asked me to join them. The rebellion."

"Oh… And what do you think of that?"

"I have mixed feelings… What about you? You were a part of it once..."

Emily grabbed Kyle by his collar and threw him up through a ceiling hole. Kyle whimpered as he landed on his ass. He groaned. Robots' pathways through the Fright Zone were definitely not his favorites.

"I don't know. For now, I need to decrypt the data, then… Then we'll see."

She sounded less confident than usual.

"Why are these data so important by the-"

"Oh crap!" Entrapta hissed. What was happening?! Kyle had never heard her swear before. "Okay, Kyle bad news but please relax and try to act normally... "

His heart pounded faster in his chest.

"You're on Octavia's radar."


 

Chapter Text

She had never really seen before.

That had been the first thing Octavia told herself after Hordak's experiment on her.

After that bitch had ruined her last functioning eye- to go with the first one- Octavia thought her life was over. What good could she be in the Horde as a blind woman? Thankfully, she had the chance of having a merciful Lord, who didn't want her potential to go to waste.

She would remain faithful to him for that, forever.

When she woke up after the experiment, she first thought her head would explode because of all the informations she was receiving at the same time. A 360° peripheral vision and a shortened latency reaction-time were tricky to adapt herself to. But once she got the hang of it, she knew she had reached a new level of strength.

Catra had no idea how grateful Octavia was that she mutilated her.

No more sneak attacks could bring her down. She was invincible.

And it wasn't the only effect of Hordak's tech. Octavia was now more cold blooded...therefore more precise when she stroke. The disrespectful brat who tried to steal some ration bars the other night could only confirm.

She would be the most alert Second-in-Command Hordak would ever have. She would bring more order than the Horde ever knew in twenty years. She wouldn't tolerate any lack of discipline among soldiers, like Shadow Weaver and Catra allowed themselves to.

And she would start with the midget.

"You again? Didn't I tell you you'd get in trouble if I caught you snooping around?"

The boy looked like he was going to piss himself.

"Breaking curfew will cost you a one way trip to disciplinary detention, soldier…"

"Commander Octavia!"

She tightened her fists. She had seen the Force Captain coming before she called her. She wanted to whip both their faces with her tentacles and suck life out of them.

"Kyle- um I gave this cadet the order to go fetch this robot from storage hangar B420. He got locked up by mistake after the curfew…"

"And it took the security bots two hours to release me!" the soldier exclaimed.

"What did you need that robot for, Force Captain Scorpia?"

"Entrapta asked for this specific model, for one of her experiments."

Octavia growled in frustration. If she was on top with no equals in the ranks of the military, Entrapta was her equal regarding Hordak's consideration. She was untouchable. For now.

"And why did you need this useless boy to do it?" she spat with obvious disdain for Kyle.

"...well I think I have better things to do than fetch things, don't you think Commander?" Scorpia grinned. Octavia had never figured this woman out, and with her new Hordak tech modifying her perception of people...it wouldn't go any better.

She didn't like it.

"What about our new coach?"

"What about her?" Scorpia asked, puzzled. Octavia smirked coldly.

"Coach Lonnie, did you think you could actually hide from me?"

A crutch sound resonated on the metallic floor. Kyle and Scorpia watched, agape, the injured girl coming out of her hiding spot. Lonnie stared at Octavia, determination in her eyes. She would not break out of fear in front of her superior.

This had to change.

"It seems you don't have any excuse for breaking curfew, Coach."

"I had some things to take care of for my first lesson tomorrow, Commander. Blame me all you want for giving myself too much for the job you assigned me to whereas I'm still in recovery."

Such fire. Oh, she would not let this go unpunished.

She was about to drag Lonnie's ass in jail, when Entrapta's face appeared on the wall, her hysterical laughter alerting all the security bots of the storey.

"Commander, if you don't mind, I need that bot and my new assistant right now, this is very important for my experiment! If you would let them all go away? Oh Lonnie, by the way, I think you should level up a bit the XTR797 training program, it seems a bit weak for 5th grade cadets."

Octavia was fuming. How dare she…

"...I'll let this pass for today. But be warned, all of you," she snarled. "I'll have my eyes on you, from now on."

She would get them back.

It went further than asserting her dominance. The midget cadet acted too suspicious to not look into that, and she didn't like how Catra's ex-team protected him… Unfortunately, she couldn't just go to Hordak without having more proof. He relied too much on Entrapta to give up on her, right after kicking Catra out.

"Commander Octavia, what news do you bring me today?"

Octavia bowed in front of her Lord, who was upgrading his demon spy's program.

"Lord Hordak, Force Captain Grizzlor just informed me that the runestone is back in Salineas."

That was the ultimate evidence of Entrapta's importance. Hordak had listened to her. There weren't a lot of people Hordak trusted enough to take their opinion into account and actually change his plans for them.

"Perfect. How is the connection?"

"As far as we know, it seems correct. The gate rose instantly when the runestone was back in the castle."

"Excellent. Tell Grizzlor to be extra careful and reinforce security over there."

She nodded, and proceeded to make her way back outside, but she had a moment of hesitation.

"What is it Commander?"

"I was just...finding Entrapta's request odd. A bit rushed."

Hordak put her eyes on her. She couldn't actually see the red eyes like before, but she felt his silent gaze analyzing her.

"You are my Second-in-Command, Octavia," he simply answered. "If you fear for my soldiers' loyalty, do something about it."

"Even if it's her?" If Octavia could have raised her eyebrow, she would have.

"As long as you don't compromise her work…"

The Second-in-Command smirked. Oh sure, she wouldn't bother Entrapta right away.

Her new cadet assistant would be a much more accessible target.


The sun was already up in the sky. It was way past dawn. Catra had to stop. The night guard had left his shift and the day guard was patrolling now. She would see her if she decided to look through the door's window. But Catra was so close.

Her claw had kept scraping and scraping the bars for three hours now. Soon there would be enough space for her head to slip through the hole. Soon, she would be able to escape that boring cell. She would be able to go back to the Horde, and fight Hordak. She had a plan…

First making her way to Entrapta's lab unnoticed, using the air vents. Then asking Scorpia to gather as much people as she could who appreciated her as Second-in-Command. The more people would help her overthrow the tyran, the better. Entrapta could then work on controlling the robots to make Hordak's followers outnumbered. And when they would be ready to take action, strike.

Simple, but efficient plan.

But for that she needed to work faster on those bars. The trial was too close. If she wanted to escape before their trip to Mystacor, she couldn't afford to lose time. ...like this very night, when she asked Adora to stay with her.

What a great idea really.

Adora left during her sleep, probably to greet Bow back from his deal. Catra would have to talk about this to Entrapta… This among other things.

She groaned, resisting the urge to make a pause. Her finger was in pain, but she had to finish this on time.

Adora would arrive soon with her morning potion and balm.

Adora…

It was becoming harder every day to consider leaving her. She would be hurt. Very hurt. Catra knew it. The princess spent so much time defending her against the whole rebellion… The disappointment the blonde would feel would probably match Catra's own feeling of betrayal last year.

A part of her remembered the thrill of wanting to hurt Adora's feelings, but most of her felt only guilt at that idea now.

Disappointing Angella was also a thought that nagged Catra's mind. Weirdly. She did her best pushing it away in a corner of her mind.

She couldn't join… She had to leave. She had an agenda of her own to follow. She would take the Horde over, and then… Then it was too soon to anticipate.

Catra's ears perked up when she heard the footsteps.

She let herself fall down on the mattress, preparing her usual smug smile for Adora, but it fell when her visitor stepped in the prison.

A fancy young man with antlers on his head, wearing a long yellow-orange robe, came in. He locked eyes with her and nodded in a polite but weirdly excited manner. Catra was sure he was from Mystacor, judging by his horrible taste in clothes.

Adora was following behind. She looked as tired as a few hours ago, when she had lay down next to Catra, her blue eyes looking at her with emotions the feline did her best to ignore...

"Hey Catra," she greeted her with an off tone. "This is Vassilis, the warlock in charge of your defense for the trial."

Bingo.

"He's here to talk with you and hear your version of the story."

"My version?" Catra snickered. It sounded so ridiculous.

"It's essential that I know everything you've lived during this year, Commander Catra," protested the man. He sat and took a pen and a notepad from one of his robe pockets.

"Don't call me that. I'm not Second-in-Command anymore," she said bitterly.

"Well…" Adora looked uncomfortable. "For the Court, you are, that's how they'll refer to you."

"Whatever," Catra rolled her eyes. "We're not at Court here, Catra is enough."

"Alright. So, I've been studying your case Catra," Vassilis scrolled through his notes excitedly. "And I've come up with a strategy that I think might work. We clearly can't play the ignorance card, you were well aware of the Horde's evil doing."

He stared at Catra expectantly, waiting for her to confirm. There was no judgment in his tone. It was just an observation based on facts… What a weirdo.

"Sure."

"Right, so what we really need to do, is play the sentimental card. We need to move the jury. That's where Princess Adora will come in handy."

Adora nodded. "My testimony will mainly talk about our time together in the Horde, to show your true self, your true personality."

"And Adora will also talk about how your mentor tortured you all these years. What's her name again?"

Catra's tail stiffened. Her pupils narrowed into two slits.

"No."

"Excuse me?" Vassilis asked.

"You are not going to expose my whole life in front of strangers."

"Catra…" Adora started, acting like she was tired of Catra's child's games. Oh no, she wouldn't let her go this way.

"I said no. This is private. I don't want anybody, and especially not Mystacor, to know my true self, as you call it."

"But why? I don't see the problem, if it can save you from the death sentence!" Vassilis looked dumbfounded. What was wrong with this guy, did he live in a pit or something?

"I'd rather die than-"

"No," This time it was Adora who cut her off, a pissed tone in her voice. She gripped the bars of Catra's cell. "We are not having this debate again, Catra."

"You never said I had to show my weaknesses at Court," Catra hissed, closing space between them.

"You think it's a weakness? Your kindness? Your loyalty to your friends? Your strength against emotional and physical torture?"

"Anything they can use against me is, especially if it's Shadow Weaver's-" Catra cringed at that name, the rest of the sentence dying in her throat. "I said no."

"If you don't accept to open up, you're gonna end up dead."

"Oh please, I'm not the one who'll open up," Catra spat. "You are. You're the one who'll tell them my pitiful life, whereas you don't even know what I've gone through."

"I can't if you still refuse to talk to me!" Adora yelled. "I've tried my best to guess how you've felt all these years, Catra, but if you don't help me at all, I'm gonna fail this!"

Adora caught Catra's hands through the bars, squeezing them so hard her knuckles were certainly turning white. Her blue eyes were watery, both anxious and furious at Catra.

Once again, Angella's words echoed in her mind.

Accept the help she's offering you Catra. She's not doing it for herself.

A loud scritching noise broke the moment. Catra tilted her head, looking around Adora's shoulder. The warlock was taking notes, a greedy look in his eyes as he stared at them fighting. He grinned when he saw Catra glaring at him.

"Please don't stop, this is gold. Lots of material to work on here."

"Are you shitting me? Go away."

"Vassilis, please," Adora called him gently. "We'll pursue this later, okay? Catra and I need to talk."

"Of course! I'll be waiting in the camp."

Adora accompanied the warlock to the door. She took advantage of this to ask the guard to open the cell for her. Adora stepped in, standing stiff in front of Catra. The two girls glared at each other in silence, waiting for the guard to give them some privacy.

"Why do you always have to make a scene?!"

"Oh, I don't know, maybe it's because you keep pushing my buttons!"

"Catra, I thought we were done with this! you know everything I'm doing right now is for you!"

"Right, like revealing vital information about me to the people that hate my guts!"

"Hey, I don't think you understand there," Adora pointed at her. "You don't have a choice! This isn't Shadow Weaver's weekly pranks confession session, this is a trial about your war crimes."

"Believe me, I know, Princess," Catra invaded her personal space, and put a claw under her chin. "And I don't intend to let these people who don't know me, decide in a day if my whole life is worth saving or not."

This sentence could have passed for genuine for any other person than Catra. But this was Catra. Adora raised a brow, squinting her eyes at her.

"What is that supposed to mean? You don't intend to let them?" she repeated.

Catra pulled away and turned around, facing the wall to hide her facial expression.

"I don't want to tell them my past. I guess I can't stop you from babbling whatever you want…"

"You're damn right, you can't."

"You don't really care about my feelings, do you…" Catra pested.

"What about my feelings?!" Adora grabbed her shoulder and turned her around. "I'm sick of you whining all the time that I don't understand you. Blaming me for something you won't even tell! Make me understand! Talk to me!"

"You wanna talk?!" Catra pushed her. "Okay, let's talk then!"

For a split second Adora regretted her move, as she saw the anger in the feline's eyes. She sure could be scary. But Adora kept her stance, never averting her gaze from the feline. She needed that talk.

"You know…" Catra panted, searching for her words. There were too many things to say. She didn't know where to start. "You know what annoyed me the most about you leaving for the rebellion?"

Adora shook her head. Catra's resolution got stronger as she composed her thoughts.

"It's that you said you finally opened your eyes, you finally realized who were the evil people and who we should be fighting for. That's all that ever mattered to you after all… Being a hero."

"All that ever mattered?"

"Yeah. Fighting the evil princesses for the Horde was the most important thing to you, and when it finally hit you that the Horde wasn't all that perfect…"

"Well, what did you want me to do exactly?! Go back to the Horde and scold them for being evil?"

"That's not the point!"

"What is the point then?!"

"Point is I realized after thinking about it, that you don't really care about the people you want to protect! You just want to be the praised hero…"

"How dare you say that?! You don't know what's happening in my head!"

"I don't need to! Your actions talked for you! You left the evil Horde, you left me, your supposed best friend, for the better looking side."

"Catra…"

"I realized that you never really cared for me…" Bitterness burnt her words. "I was perfect as the weak bullied friend you had to protect against everyone, Shadow Weaver, the other cadets… And you fed that image. You made me feel like I was weak, always in your shadow, always the troublemaker you had to keep on a leash…"

"I never EVER said or implied that! How dare you..."

"...what an idiot I've been! I was the only one who ever loved you for who you truly were, not just admiring your strength and brilliant mind, and yet you threw that away and jumped on the first occasion to play the hero for a greater cause."

"This is not how I thought at all Catra, you're interpreting everything. I truly cared about you, but I also cared about the injustice of the Horde's doing. You make it seem like it was an easy decision, but think about it, I left my whole life behind and even accepted to lose you in the end for that cause!"

"Yeah, exactly! You gave up on me!" Catra's voice broke. "And for what?!"

"Not for glory!"

Catra blinked to chase the tears away from her eyes. Adora wouldn't deny she abandoned her at least.

"Yeah, well it's what it felt like okay?! For all my life, I've been mistreated in the Horde… And you protected me all right, but you never thought I was a victim. Talk about caring about injustice..."

"How could you say that? I never accepted Shadow Weaver's bad treatments-"

"You made me believe, just like her, that I deserved my punishments because I was disrespectful! Don't try to deny it Adora, you were convinced it was a good enough reason for her to treat me like vermin!"

"No! It's not true…" Adora's eyes got blurry. Even if Catra was pushing the interpretation too far, she knew deep down that indeed, she had criticized Catra's attitude many times in the past, and accepted that it was part of the reason why Shadow Weaver never acknowledged Catra's talents.

"...then it magically hit your dumb nuthead that the Horde was evil...and you left," her voice faded. "You just let me deal with the mess you left behind, all alone."

"But I didn't want to leave you. I asked you to join-"

"Oh please, you didn't insist twice when I refused to follow you…"

"Excuse me?"

"Answer me honestly. Did you think about me when you were on your little She-Ra quests with your new best friends?"

"Of course I did…" Adora shook her head in disbelief. "Did you think I forgot about you? I wanted you with me every day…"

"You didn't look so pleased to see me the next time we met."

"Because we were on opposite sides, Catra, and you wouldn't join me!"

"Of course I wouldn't join you." her voice rasped. "Joining wasn't what I needed from you at the time and you know it."

"I know, we covered that already. You would have wanted me to realize the Horde was evil sooner, and defect with you, and not for the rebellion," Adora emphasized this sentence. "Since that didn't happen, you decided to prove your worth to Hordak and to yourself. You wanted to be the best and win the war against us as a proof."

"...that's a way to sum it up."

Silence fell in the cell, but it seemed like Catra's wrath was still scattering around them. Adora could almost hear them. The reproaches.

I'm better on my own than in your shadow.

I won't ever be the weak sidekick you protected to feel better about yourself.

...you never loved me.

Adora was probably imagining too much. But she needed now to make Catra understand her side.

"I'm sorry for everything that happened Catra… I left, and I probably had my share of responsibility in your childhood trauma…"

Adora raised her chin then, ready to expose the inner thoughts and fears she had worked so hard on with her friends to analyze.

"But you know, you weren't the only one who lived terrible things at the Horde. Do you know what it felt like to be told I was nothing before Shadow Weaver took me in? Do you know how it feels to always have such big expectations thrown on me, as a cadet, then as She-Ra? Shadow Weaver pushed me to be on top-"

"Oh boohoo, cry me a river!"

"Don't interrupt me! I never wanted her to treat you that way! Maybe you thought that I wasn't trying hard enough to protect you, but I never did it to feel better about myself, or to feel like a hero or something! I did it because I loved you! And sorry if I tried not to make Shadow Weaver hate me as well-"

"Pfft, like that could happen…"

"You can blame me all you want for trying to live a little better too. I don't care, Catra, I was a kid, just like you! And she manipulated me too, just like you!"

Catra snorted. She turned away from Adora, not wanting to see her stupid face any longer, or she might end up punching her.

"Maybe unlike you, I was too stupid to realize all this. But you never told me what you saw! How was I supposed to guess, when the Horde was all I'd ever known in my life?"

"Yeah, we can agree on that. You're dumb," Catra spat. "You were blinded by the attention Shadow Weaver gave you."

"Yes, I'll admit it. I loved being admired. It is true," Adora replied angrily. "That's how we were raised at the Horde. Being the best soldier was all that mattered. And I'm pretty sure you would have acted just the same as me if you had been her favorite."

"Now we can never know that, how convenient," Catra snickered, glaring at her from the corner of her golden eye.

"Catra…" Adora hesitated. How could she end this well? She felt like she was walking on the edge of a cliff. "You're right."

Catra turned her head again to glance at her.

"I was blind, then I neglected you for the rebellion. I chose to be a hero rather than a friend. And you...you needed to stop feeling weak."

"Hey-"

"You felt like I tried to make you feel weak, so...it means somehow that you really did, for a long time, whereas I personally never saw you as anything else but strong."

Catra huffed, rolling her eyes.

"You needed to stop feeling like the second best. You needed to find yourself alone. I wish you had done it differently, but what's done is done. We made our mistakes. And now look," Adora smiled. "We talked."

"Awesome."

That was such an Adora thing, going straight to the essential, like the good soldier she was.

"And we changed Catra," Adora ignored her. "We changed a lot in a year, and even more in barely two weeks."

Catra's anger wavered at these words. The last two weeks had upset their world for sure.

"Maybe you won't believe that I never wanted to pull you down when we were kids. Maybe you won't believe that I regretted leaving you behind and that I thought about you every day… But I hope you'll believe that right now everything I'm doing for you is real."

Catra only shrugged at that.

"You said you didn't have to know what's inside my head, right?" Adora pursued. "Actions talk better than words sometimes, I absolutely agree with that. My efforts for the trial are only for your sake, Catra."

"Yeah, I noticed…" Catra's ears flattened. She furrowed her brows. "And I don't understand why all of a sudden you're ready to screw your position for me and it drives me crazy."

"it's not sudden. I told you, I've thought about all this for so long… And I wanted to show you. But you didn't give me the opportunity to do that."

"There, it's my fault again."

"Stop it!" Adora scoffed. "I don't blame you anymore. You needed to close yourself to me, I get it. But now...now that you're here, now that you're not working for the Horde anymore... I'm going to show you. So please, let me?"

"It's a bit late for that." Catra didn't believe in her own words.

Adora didn't answer. She wanted to see Catra's face, but the feline wouldn't turn around. So she decided to be bold. It was probably a bad idea… But she wrapped her arms around Catra's waist. The prisoner stiffened, but she didn't push her away. Adora took this as her cue to tighten the hug, embracing her friend and putting her nose in her hair.

"Please don't close the door to me again…"

In her arms, Catra felt like her heart was about to break. Too many feelings had flowed in once they had opened the gates. Pain, anger, but also gratitude. Gratitude for trying to understand, for acknowledging the past. Gratitude for apologizing. Gratitude for listening.

There was also incomprehension. Catra had heard Adora's side many times. It hadn't been the first time that the princess told her her reason to leave. Catra was familiar with her way of thinking. The hero persona, the expectations that fell on Adora's shoulders as Shadow Weaver's favorite, destined to be Force Captain, then the expectations she got as She-Ra, protector of Etheria.

Catra wasn't stupid, she knew Adora had been and still was under a lot of pressure. And the Horde teaching them to suck their feelings and weaknesses in didn't make it easier. Adora stifled her feelings to focus on making a better world and meeting everyone's expectations. Forgetting about how it would hurt people around her. People like Catra.

Catra couldn't understand that. She couldn't, because she had never lived something like that. Just like Adora had never seen how wrong the Horde was before, and how vicious Shadow Weaver acted towards Catra. Little Adora had never seen anything different at the time.

In the same spirit, Catra couldn't understand Adora's point of view. All she could do now, was deciding whether to accept it or not.

"I hated you for so long…" Catra whispered. "It took me six months after being promoted to Second to start feeling indifferent."

"...I hated you too."

Catra's heart skipped a beat. It was more unpleasant to hear than she thought it would.

"I was so mad at you for several months, because you chose this. I did my mistakes unconsciously, but you chose our situation, and it hurt."

Catra pursed her lips at these barely veiled reproaches, ready to push Adora away.

"But then I decided to…accept. And move on. I decided to start wondering what had gone wrong between us, and maybe...try to fix it."

...she hadn't given up on her.

"But I didn't listen to you," Catra admitted. "I didn't care about you or our past. Or at least, that's what I thought."

"What about now?" Adora's muffled voice was weak, uncertain. Fear was obvious in that shaky tone.

Catra leaned her head backwards on Adora's shoulder, sighing. She dropped her weight on her legs, indicating to Adora that she wanted to sit. The princess followed her movement, never loosening her grip on her. Catra made herself more comfortable in her arms, and closed her eyes.

Since the battle, their hugs had felt so much different than any other one they used to share in the Horde. Was it because they hadn't touched each other in a gentle way for so long, that now Catra felt such a desire coming from the Princess? She felt it too, that desire that was entirely new. That desire that was more powerful than physical attraction. And it scared her.

"Do you… Do you want to fix this?"

As much as Catra wanted to say no, she knew whatever had changed in her heart ever since she thought Hordak had killed Adora wouldn't let her hurt her feelings again. She craved for Adora's presence, Adora balming her back every day, Adora light talking to her, Adora arguing with her, Adora sleeping next to her…

She had missed her.

"Maybe."

She knew the blonde was smiling in her hair.

Maybe wasn't a promise. Maybe was a hopeful color in a bland reality. And Catra was sure after her escaping tomorrow, that Adora would bleach that color, probably forever.

So Catra leaned in her embrace, squeezing her arms and offering better access to her neck. Adora nuzzled there, listening to Catra's soft purrs.

She didn't know the feline was savoring this moment like it was their last.

Chapter Text

 Dr Ferrarius had seen many weird things during her time in the Horde. She was born there after all. Raised to be a doctor by the previous one since she was old enough to read. She stopped counting the physically and mentally traumatized soldiers, the failed cyborg experiments, the oddly traumatizing heartbreaks and soldier quarrels she had to take care of over the years.

Yes, the Horde doctor had seen so many different cases in her life she thought she couldn't be surprised anymore.

And yet, the scene she was witnessing today wasn't like anything she'd seen before.

A cadet in the coma. Prosthetic legs on his bed beneath his body. A robot programming the legs. A purple haired mad scientist connecting her own legs to the robot. Another cadet and a coach eating their nails as they watched the experiment. And a Force Captain who was drawing the scene in her notepad.

Ferrarius had to shake her head several times to be sure she wasn't dreaming.

"Are you sure it's going to work?" Kyle asked, anxiety breaking his voice.

"Well, I can't be 100% sure, my experiments usually tend to blow up," Entrapta answered in the most nonchalant tone while she was sticking patches on her thighs. Micro wires inside the patch plugged in her flesh, allowing Emily to collect live bio-information.

"Isn't it risky to use your own body for that?" Ferrarius asked.

"I don't have any disposable legs available right now. Do you want to do it in my place?"

Ferrarius shook her head vehemently. The genius really creeped her out. The doctor decided to focus on the famous Hordak tech magic. She had never witnessed an experiment before, since the leader preferred to work by himself in his throne room.

So far it looked...quite simple minded. Wires connecting machines and living beings together. The doctor had trouble understanding how exactly it would wake Rogelio up.

"Alright! Let's get weird…" Entrapta rubbed her hands together, then opened her laptop. Kyle and Lonnie exchanged a stare. They held their breath together.

The genius pressed enter.

Small hooks erupted from the artificial legs, then planted themselves in the flesh of the thighs. Kyle yelped, plastering a hand on his mouth. Droplets of blood tainted the bed sheets.

It was like the metallic legs had grasped the poor guy's body.

"Do it, Emily," Entrapta braced herself. "I taught her how to code in Eternian," she added, or at least that's what the doctor's ears understood.

The robot's light turned blood red, as it plugged one of its multiple keys in the computer. Hundreds of data appeared on the screen, scrolling so fast Ferrarius didn't even get the time to try to decipher the unknown language.

Eternian…

A humming noise coming from the robot intensified, as if it was overheating. Meanwhile, the heart race beeping from the life support machine increased in speed. The doctor rushed over there, analyzing the vitals.

Rogelio's blood pressure was rising drastically.

"Entrapta, are you sure you know what you're-"

Ferrarius couldn't finish her sentence.

Entrapta screamed. She fell on the floor, her whole body going rigid, and her head smacking against the ground. Soon after, both Entrapta and Rogelio's bodies started to shake in sync, while Emily's whistling noise shrieked in the room.

Lonnie and Kyle smashed their hands on their ears, panic paralyzing them. Scorpia cried the genius's name as she motioned towards her.

"Don't touch her Force Captain!" Ferrarius warned. "They're having a seizure! Help me stop the robot!"

The women reached out to the fuming Emily. At the last second a taser device came out of the metallic body, pointing threateningly to them. Outraged, Scorpia charged at it, avoided the taser and punched the core. Emily planted metallic claws in ground, securing the installation.

Scorpia and Ferrarius tried to snatch the wires, but the robot swayed its giant arms at them. The doctor gasped as she got hit and sent flying in the air. She crashed on the other side of the unit. When she opened her eyes, she saw the lights of the ICU all turn off. Diverse metallic objects suddenly flew across the room until they crashed on Rogelio's body, leaving more bruises.

Kyle was whining as he attempted to protect his friend. Lonnie tried to touch the prosthetics, but the heat was so intense she had to let go immediately. She decided to go help Scorpia who was still struggling with the robot.

This would take too much time...

"The computer, Force Captain!" the doctor yelled.

Scorpia turned her head towards her in surprise. Emily took advantage of this to punch her face. Lonnie turned around the fighting area until she reached the computer. Emily launched a taser attack towards her, but Ferrarius threw herself at the weapon. The shot missed Lonnie, and the doctor's body received a part of the buzz. She collapsed on her knees, spasms shaking her body.

"Doc!" Lonnie screamed. She widened her eyes as she saw the robot aim at her, and unplugged the key in time.

Emily stopped in her movement, her light turning to a soft purple again. The objects on Rogelio's body fell, and the ICU seemed to breathe again.

"Entrapta! Can you hear me?!" Scorpia rushed to her unconscious friend. She shook her, calling her again, but the genius was limp in her arms. "Doc is she…?"

Ferrarius stood up groggily. She managed to check her pulse, her pupils, her breathing that was loud and slow, then took her vitals and exhaled, "don't worry, she's fine." She stood, grabbed an oxygen mask and put it on the girl's nose and mouth. "Keep it in place until the nurses arrive. We'll put her on the bed in a moment."

She put her attention to Rogelio. He had stop shaking as well, and his vitals were correct. However his body was bleeding at different spots, and especially on the thighs… The prosthetics were now clutching his body. She tried to pull them, but they wouldn't move.

Suddenly, the boy did something she never think she'd see.

He coughed.

"Rogelio!" Kyle screamed. Hope lit up Lonnie's face as well as they watched a scaly arm reach to the breathing tube.

The doctor prepared a high-concentration mask, forgetting about her stomach that wanted to vomit from the taser shot. Rogelio gasped loudly when his breathing airways were free from the tube.

"Can you see me? Are you okay?! Rogelio!" Kyle tried to attract his friend's attention.

"Guys," the doctor said as softly as she could while she settled the mask on his snout. But the two teenagers weren't paying attention to her. They only looked at their friend, horrified and glad at the same time to see him coughing his lungs out.

"Kyle, Lonnie, look at me." They glanced at her. "Can you leave me take care of him now? I'll call you when he feels better, okay?"

"But…"

"Please. He's not in the right state to answer. He just woke up."

Poor kids… She shouldn't have let them attend this resuscitation session. They hadn't left her a choice earlier, but right now she wouldn't cave.

Two nurses came in, attracted by the noise earlier.

"I need an IV line for both them. Please Cole, take care of Entrapta. Carla, help me with Rogelio."

The medical rush around them brought the two friends to pull away, observing with anxiety. After managing the team, the doctor turned to them, and squeezed their shoulders, a smile on her face.

"It's amazing, guys. It truly is. Entrapta did the impossible. Now we're going to take care of them both, okay? Please, go back to the nursery with Force Captain Scorpia, the team over there will take care of you alright?"

She gently led them to the entrance of the ICU. Scorpia was crying, she didn't want to leave Entrapta.

"You're next room, okay?" Ferrarius assured them. "We're not going anywhere. But it's too difficult for you. You shouldn't see your friends in that state."

They all nodded in sync, too exhausted to argue. Another nurse welcomed them in the next room, where soldiers kept recovering from the battle. He made them sit and have a glass of water, with extra ration bars they kept in secret in the infirmary.

They stayed there, in silence.

At some point Scorpia couldn't cope any longer. She left the infirmary to have a little walk, leaving Lonnie and Kyle alone in their visitor corner. Lonnie glanced at Kyle, an annoyed spark in her eyes.

"If you have something to say…" Kyle grumbled.

"I have a lot to say. But it's not the right place."

"What are you worried about? Nobody's listening."

"I thought you said we should be careful and watch our tongue and moves…" she muttered. "You're reckless Kyle."

"How am I reckless?" he asked, even if he knew where she was going with this.

"What the hell did you do for Entrapta to decide to heal Rogelio all of a sudden?!"

He shrugged.

"Why the fuck were you out in the building the other night?! Why did Scorpia magically arrive to protect you?!"

"I can't tell you."

"Oh really? Well I guess I'm just going to report to Octavia that you were never stuck in the storage room-"

"You won't do it," Kyle snapped his head at her, an intense stare on his face.

She huffed, crossing her valid arm on her chest. "You'll have to talk to me at some point."

"I don't think so. Now that Rogelio is okay… Everything will go back to normal." His voice didn't sound as confident as he wished it did.

"Oh you think?!" Lonnie shoved him, almost making him fall from his chair. "You really think Octavia is going to let this go?"

"I don't care, Entrapta is protecting me now!" he whined, rubbing his arm.

"You're an idiot."

Lonnie stood as she said those last words. She wasn't angry. Just bitter and sad he wouldn't trust her. She crutched her way out of the infirmary, deciding to go for a walk like Scorpia. Kyle watched her leave, then hugged his knees, burying his head in his arms.

All he wanted was for Rogelio to wake up and recover.

He would think of the rest later.


Castaspella closed her book. She couldn't focus on the complaints and requests of the villages and small kingdoms that were under Mystacor's protection anymore.

She looked around her office absent-mindedly, letting her thoughts wander to the subjects that had occupied everybody's minds for a while now.

The trial.

The whole Alliance would arrive soon at Mystacor. The sorceresses and warlocks had worked non-stop for almost two weeks, to accomodate so many people in the floating castle. The High Council had also had very little time to find a jury, a prosecutor and someone to defend Catra.

Castaspella wondered now if it had been such a good idea to rush things…

But Angella had wanted this to be over as soon as possible. They needed to know Catra's fate quickly, in case of a new surprise attack from the Horde to get the ex-commander and her mask back.

The mask… Thinking about it brought joy and bewilderment in the queen's heart. So many questions remained unanswered.

Hordak keeping the last magicat and the mask with him made sense, it was a great asset. But where did the blue rock come from? Hordak only had the golden one, it was certain. Why did the other one reappear now, at the exact time it was needed?

Somebody was behind all this, and that was why Castaspella had asked her counsellors, Mortella and Isidore, to examine the mask, analyze its energy and check if there wasn't any curse or malicious magic around it.

Up until now, the two mages hadn't found anything. The runestone was clean, powerful, radiant. Just like all the other runestones now. Just like all the princesses, whose power boost had turned them so much stronger than before that no wound from the battle persisted.

All of them, except for one. Catra.

Castaspella heard from Angella that the magicat had been severely wounded during the battle. So had been her niece, Glimmer, but she had recovered in a mere day. Why hadn't Catra healed as well?

Castaspella had searched through the archives regarding the Magicats, but there was nothing specific about wounds in there…

A knock on the door made her jolt in her seat. She invited the visitor in. Mortella and Isidore bowed when they entered, and took the seats in front of her desk.

"What brings you here so late in the evening?" Castaspella asked in astonishment.

"We heard that Queen Angella decided to forgive the Horde Commander, and take her in as her ally," Mortella stated. No question followed, but it wasn't necessary.

"Yes, I was about to tell you…" Castaspella sighed. "I disapprove just like you, but she made a few interesting points…"

"How can she not see that all that magicat has to do is comply to avoid her sentence and then betray us all the first moment of liberty she's given?" Isidore said with annoyment.

"What can I tell you, Angella and She-Ra believe in her redemption," Castaspella shrugged. "Don't forget you're all part of the jury. You can vote whatever you want at this moment. The fate of the magicat depends on all of you. It's the fairest way."

"The magicat can't go back to the Horde since she's been rejected from there… But it is still a dangerous bet," Mortella shook her head. "I still don't understand how Angella could change her mind so easily."

"It wasn't easy, Mortella. She told me it was the hardest decision she's had to take in a while. But she decided to offer Catra this chance, and offer the rebellion the opportunity to fight with a great warrior."

"A great warrior who's been trying to destroy the rebellion for a year…" Isidore scoffed.

"And we haven't done anything to stop her or the Horde," Castaspella replied harshly. "We don't have a right to impose our vision to Angella and the rest of the Alliance when we didn't even move a finger to help them."

"My Queen, you decided with us that mingling in would only bring more damage to the energy flows!" Isidore protested. "You agreed that using our magic could drain the planet's energy!"

"Calm down, Isidore," Mortella frowned. "We were wrong, and it's all in the past now. We've made our mistakes. We're going to fix them."

"Yes, I regret my past decisions," Castaspella agreed. "Now that the runestones are complete, we can use our magic freely without restriction, and we're going to make amends for abandoning the Alliance."

"Make amends…" Mortella rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "It would be hypocritical of us to promise to change and not give the chance to another lost soul to do the same..."

"You're right Mortella," the queen nodded. "The jury will decide if Catra's mistakes are unforgivable or not. We'll respect their decision in the end, as our Sacred Writings taught us to do for a thousand years."

"So if the jury decides so, you would work alongside the magicat?" Isidore raised a brow.

"If I have to, I will."

"And what about She-Ra?" Mortella asked. "She is...pretty attached to the magicat, as I heard."

The three mages exchanged a meaningful stare.

They had to be prepared for every possibility.


She made it.

Catra's heart raced in her chest. She did it. Her thumb hurt like hell now, but it had been totally worth it.

She could slip her head through the bars now. She could escape.

She checked the entrance of the prison. She heard the guard yawn loudly. How did all these nutheads never catch on Catra's nocturnal activities, she would never know. These guys were clearly not made for the job.

She jumped down on the floor, grabbed the rest of the balm on her mattress, and put it in her pocket. Her wound was close to perfect now, but she didn't want to risk messing it up again without having the cure with her.

She leapt back on the wall. It was time.

Time to leave Brightmoon.

Time to leave Adora.

Catra hissed at herself internally. She needed to forget about this. She couldn't stay. She couldn't let the rebellion put an end to her life. Even if there was a chance they might pardon her… She wouldn't risk it.

This was her only chance at escaping.

Catra carefully inserted her head between the bars. She flattened her ears. There was a little resistance, but it went through easily. She then twisted her body vertically, to slip her torso through the interstice.

A breath of air ruffled her hair. She smiled at the comforting noises and smells of the night. It smelt like freedom.

She leaned on the edge, pulling her body further and-

"No…"

She looked behind her. She was...stuck. Her butt was stuck. This was not possible.

She twisted her body in every possible way. She pulled until her bladder threatened to empty itself if she kept pressuring on her pelvis.

"No, no, no…"

This was not normal. Once Catra's head had passed, the whole body was supposed to follow. It had always been that way. She had smaller hips than her fellow cadets, and always used it to her advantage in training. It also served her well whenever she needed to escape from Shadow Weaver, using the tiniest vents of the Fright Zone.

So why did her body fail her all of a sudden?! And why tonight, at Brightmoon, on the very day she was escaping?

"The fucking food…" She facepalmed. The amazingly tasty rebel food that she'd been eating for almost two weeks… And maybe the potion? Who knew.

"Damnit, damnit, damnit!"

She pulled again, punching the wall, scraping the inside of the cell with her feet claws. To no avail.

Her ears perked up when she heard it. The guard was talking to someone. The guard had inserted his key in the door.

"Fuck," Catra jerked her body backwards, ready to fall back on the mattress as if nothing had happened. But unfortunately for her, Brightmoon's cell had decided to punish her for her misdeeds.

The ears.

"Ow, ow ow!"

The ears wouldn't let her slide her head back inside. She couldn't flatten them backwards. She was...stuck. On both sides.

"Well, well, well…"

Catra's tail dropped low when she heard the familiar voice. She groaned. This was NOT how things were supposed to happen…

A sharp slicing noise came from below her, on her left. Then suddenly she felt her presence next to her.

"For an ex-Second-in-Command, you're really awful at planning successful plans…"

"Shut up, Adora."

"I mean, I knew you had something in mind, it kinda slipped off your mouth yesterday, but to think I would find you in that position…"

"Thought I might give you a good show," Catra smirked. "I hope you enjoyed the view."

Adora snorted. She reached for the feline ears. "Try to flatten them? I'll make sure they fit."

Catra rolled her eyes. She did as Adora told her though. The princess held them against Catra's skull, while the feline pulled again.

"Damn, they just won't go…"

"No kidding."

"I guess we'll have to pull harder."

"Or you can push me on the other side, that works too…"

"Nice try, but you're going to Mystacor, end of story."

Catra huffed, but didn't answer. She was so angry at herself she would rip her mattress to pieces if it was in front of her.

Adora shifted behind her. She was standing on her sword, planted in the wall on Catra's left side. The princess found another climbing hold on the other side of Catra, so that now she was straddling her back. Pulling her out would be easier that way.

"What exactly are you doing?! Get off!"

"If you have a better idea, please be my guest." She grabbed Catra firmly around the shoulders, ready to pull. "On three?"

The feline grumbled positively. They used both their strength to the max, but after ten seconds Catra's ears hurt too much to continue.

"Princess," the guard called. "I can go get some help if you want!"

"No! No, no, no, definitely not, there's no need!" Adora answered a tiny bit too frantically. "Go back outside please, I got this."

"Wow, you don't want anyone to know, do you?" Catra asked, astonishment in her voice.

"You're impossible," Adora said as she leaned momentarily on Catra's back. "If people learn you tried to escape…"

"It's not good for the trial, I know," she answered. She didn't sound angry anymore. Just tired. "You know the guard can go tell your queen when you're not looking."

"...I kinda bribed him already to tell me exclusively if you tried anything fishy tonight."

Catra snickered. "I should have figured. What did you promise him?"

"...an autograph for his daughter. And I'm going to give a personal handshake to his kid if he accepts to forget he saw your butt stuck in that window."

"Very funny. Now please get off, you're hurting me."

"Sorry. Let's try again."

"Hey, the balm! Use the balm, it's in my back pocket."

Adora fumbled through the pocket, finding indeed Perfuma's cylinder box. There wasn't much balm left inside, but it would do. Adora dipped her fingers in the greasy substance, then reached to Catra's head. She balmed the back of her ears as much as she could, to be sure it would slip more easily.

A weird sound escaped Catra's throat as she did so. Behind Adora, the tail was swishing vigorously. It made Adora smirk. Catra must have been fighting her instinctual purring…

"This is SO humiliating…" she muttered.

"Yeah, well, you can only blame yourself for that," Adora chuckled.

Once she got satisfied with her work, she put the balm back in Catra's pocket, and went back to her previous position, hands locked around Catra's shoulders.

"Ready? Go!"

They pulled harder than before. Catra whimpered at the pain, but Adora encouraged her with soft words. She could feel her head actually slipping through the bars. Finally the ears passed, freeing the head's way.

What Adora didn't anticipate though, was how she lost balance because of the strength they used to pull Catra backwards. The girls fell, Adora landing on her back, Catra crashing on her right after.

Catra scoffed as she proceeded to stand up, rubbing on her aching ears.

But Adora didn't give her the time to collect herself. She jumped on her feet, grasped Catra's shoulders, and pinned her down on the floor. She leaned her legs on Catra's knees while her hands quickly locked themselves on her wrists.

"What the hell are you doing?" Catra snarled.

"I should be the one asking that. Why Catra?!" Adora yelled. The flickering light of the candle the princess had brought with her gave her blue eyes an eerie beauty. She looked angry. So angry.

"I told you Adora…" Catra averted her gaze. "I can't let them put a rope around my neck."

"It's not going to happen! Angella, Perfuma and now even Mermista who's recovering thanks to you, are on board to give you their clemency, and thanks to the strategy I worked on with Vassilis, I'm sure the rest of the jury-"

"But what if they do, Adora?" Catra stared at her. "What if they still do sentence me to death? What are you gonna do about it then?"

"I…" she blinked. "I won't let that happen."

They both knew what it meant. It made Catra's heart beam, somehow, to know that Adora wouldn't let them kill her. But it wasn't enough.

"Don't you think Mystacor thought about it already? They must know how much you care. I doubt they're gonna take any risks..."

"I am She-Ra," Adora said proudly. "They can't take the chance that I might turn myself against them. They need me."

"I don't know Adora…" Catra's voice lowered ominously. "They've lived a thousand years without you, don't forget that."

Adora let out an angry snort as she released Catra from her grip. She turned away from her, hugging her knees. She hated when Catra made these insinuations.

"I'm not betraying the rebellion Catra."

"Unless they decide to kill me in two days."

She didn't answer.

"And then what?" Catra pursued. "What do you intend to do, once you're a traitor? You didn't plan much, did you…"

"You can talk!" Adora turned again and glared at her. "What exactly did you think you could do, all alone in the Whispering Woods? You want to go back there? In the Horde? Do you even know how to reach the Fright Zone, now that the trees grew again?"

Catra sent her daggers. "I'm perfectly capable of reaching the Horde by myself."

"Up for debate. And what about your mask? It's surprising that you would just leave the sorceresses keep it."

"The mask isn't my priority," she shrugged. That was a little lie. She was extremely annoyed to leave the runestone behind, especially since she knew that a little scratch on the rocks made her suffer like hell. Besides, turning into a powerful beast would have been a great weapon against Hordak…

"Pffft, and I thought you were changing…" Adora said bitterly. "I'm killing myself for you, for the trial, I keep repeating to people that you're worth it, that you could be a great ally, that you're not a bad person, and you…"

"Hey, that's your own fault, I never promised anything Princess!" Catra hissed.

"So yesterday meant nothing to you?!" Adora cried. "When we talked… When we- when we hugged…"

Oh no. Catra couldn't put up with this vulnerability. Two weeks ago she would have loved it, the shaky tone, the anger, the pain, the weakness... But not anymore.

She flattened her ears and closed her eyes as she lied on her side on the mattress, avoiding the sight of Adora hurting.

She heard her move next to her. The mattress shifted softly, but Catra wouldn't open her eyes.

"They're going to kill me Adora."

"I won't let them."

She felt her fingers in her hair, tugging a few strands behind her ear.

"If you truly cared for me, you would let me go. You would let me do my own thing."

"That's my selfish side, and I'm embracing it. I have no guarantee you won't die at the hands of Hordak if I let you go."

Catra felt anger rush through her body. She furrowed her brows, tightening her fists. She opened her eyes, glaring at those stupid loving blue eyes in front of her.

"You're really, really annoying…"

"That's another thing we have in common," Adora smiled.

"You realize forcing me to join is a stupid idea in the long run?"

Adora huffed and rolled on her back. Catra leaned up on her elbow to look at her better.

"I thought you started to like the idea! What about your talk with Angella? What about your past? Don't you want to know more about the Magicats? The rebellion has the answers, Catra…"

Catra groaned. She couldn't deny it was tempting… Joining would bring many advantages to her situation. She wouldn't be the enemy of both sides, for once. She wouldn't have to fight against Adora again, and she could finally learn about her past. Her family. Even if she didn't trust Mystacor, she could at least make her own opinion by looking through the famous archives…

But she wouldn't be considered as an equal, that was for sure. She would be mistrusted for a long time, and she would, once again, stand in Adora's shadow.

Besides, Scorpia and Entrapta were waiting for her at the Fright Zone…

"It's complicated…"

"What do you intend to do with the Horde anyway? Kick Hordak's ass, I assume, and then what?"

"Take it over, yes… And then… I don't want to attack you all again, if that's what you're asking. Hordak's runestone collection doesn't interest me. But I want to rule over the Horde. They know me. They will trust me, much more than you, and-"

"It would avoid spilling more blood…" Adora looked away, furrowing thoughtfully. Catra didn't know what happened in her mind, but she liked the direction it seemed to be taking.

"Listen," Adora leaned up to Catra's level. "Let me try my best at Court. Let me redeem you in their eyes. If you join, then you can make a deal with Angella, give her Hordak's head, in exchange for leading the Horde."

"As if they'll listen to me…" she rolled her eyes. Adora cupped her face, determination glowing in her eyes.

"They will. We'll convince them, together. And we'll end this war the most peaceful way. And if, in the end of the trial, they decide to... " she gulped, not able to finish the sentence. "Well, I'll set you free, and you can get the Horde your way…"

Catra's breath hitched. Adora was serious. What on Etheria…?

"Why...why do you trust me that much?" Catra asked, fear in her heart as she felt it pound against her ribcage. "And how can I trust you too? I'm- I'm-"

It was too much. Way too much. Nobody could be that selfless. That trustful. It had to be a trick. But Catra felt Adora's unbreakable resolution in this strong gaze, like all those times at the training center, when she'd set her objective. And she'd always reached it.

Catra's breathing accelerated. Heat went up to her cheeks while cold sweat rolled on her skin. Too many thoughts whirled in her mind. What to believe? What to do?

"Catra…"

Worry filled Adora's eyes. She cupped Catra's face with a hand, tracing circles on her cheek.

"I promise."

No. No, no, no. Not that. She couldn't make another promise. She couldn't ask Catra to believe her. Last time she did… No, she couldn't…

As Catra was starting to pull away from her touch, Adora did once again something unexpected. She kissed her forehead. Oddly enough, it soothed Catra's panic. Adora's lips lingered there for a while, until Catra stopped shaking under her touch. She parted and stared at her companion's face.

Catra was a mess. Such a mess.

A desperate sigh left Adora's throat. Her heart ached so much for her. It ached when she saw her suffer and struggle. Adora wanted to fix it. She wanted to fix Catra's doubts, she wanted her to start trusting again… But it was something that took time. Adora knew too well about it.

She leaned in again, aiming for Catra's nose. But the feline tilted her face up at the last second. She captured Adora's lips in a swift movement, surprising the blonde who widened her eyes at the realization.

Adora closed them a second later, moving her lips on Catra's.

It started soft and gentle. Lips sucking on each other, testing each other, eliciting a fuzzy feeling in Adora's stomach. But quickly, a fire ignited from Catra's side. She shoved Adora's shoulder, pinning her against the ground as she straddled her. Her kisses turned more ferocious, letting her feelings take the lead.

Adora could feel the frustration, the desperation in Catra's urge to touch her, kiss her… The tip of their tongues meeting brought them higher in their trance. It was dizzying.

Adora wrapped her arms around her back, pulling her in. Their chests pressing against each other's, she felt the burning desire to hold onto Catra like that forever, as if she would disappear if she released her.

Adora had never imagined this proximity would be what she needed. Despite Bow's constant teasing… Despite feeling the sexual tension, several times. And the longing…more times than she could count. Despite all of that her mind had never considered breaking that line before. But, now she knew for sure. The moment Catra had brushed her lips on hers, Adora's questioning left her heart for good.

She wanted Catra close to her that way, for as long as possible.

Catra moaned as she grinded on her. Her lips left Adora's, drawing the line of her jaw with pecks until she reached the neck. She breathed deeply, inhaling Adora's scent, before pressing a hungry kiss on the skin, sucking hard enough to leave a purple mark.

"Catra…" Adora moaned.

The feline froze. She pulled away, leaning on her forearms as she stared at Adora's face.

Uncertainty took the princess when she saw that face she loved so much above her… That face that looked so scared right now.

Golden and blue eyes, glowing with desire, doubt and fear. Lips parted, the lower one shaking slightly. Her long messy hair caging them, only letting a few rays of candle light passing through.

Adora reached out to her face, and rubbed a thumb on her cheek.

"Catra…?"

The feline snapped out of it for good. She jumped away from her, curling up in the corner of the cell.

"You need to go."

Adora's heart broke. She tried to make eye contact with her, but Catra had already closed herself.

The blonde fought against the tears while she waited for the guard she just called in. He opened the door, allowing her out. Adora took her sword off the wall, then looked one last time at the scrawny figure in the dark, wondering if it would ever become easy between them again.

But it had never been easy, had it?

"In the morning, we leave for Mystacor," she said, trying to conceal the feelings in her voice.

Catra didn't answer.

Adora left.

 

Chapter Text

"My princess! Are you sure it's a good idea to go to Mystacor in your state? You're still feeble!"

Mermista groaned so loudly a couple of birds nearby flew away from their nest.

"Seahawk, how many times do I have to tell you, I'm fiiiine!"

Dark circles framed her eyes, a heavy blanket was wrapped around her, but otherwise, the princess was as good as new, walking as fast as she could to avoid the clingy pirate. A single day of recovery with Perfuma's health care and some rest had done wonders on her. She went from a comatose state to barely having a cold in no time since the runestone reached its original spot in Salineas.

Mermista had thanked Perfuma, and Bow as well for the risks he took with the Entrapta operation she had just learned about. She couldn't believe it had just worked… It didn't make much sense to her, imagining Entrapta would accept to put her runestone back there…

The scientist would never stop surprising her. It wasn't a good thing in Mermista's opinion.

"But Perfuma said even a little trip like that could knock you out again-"

"I'm not staying behind Seahawk. Look, everyone's leaving!" Mermista stopped and gestured around them.

Brightmoon was busy like a beehive. Soldiers and civilians were moving the camp inside the castle, since a good part was starting to stand decent enough to live in. Sorceresses were chanting spells to protect the castle and the closest villages, alongside Queen Angella, who was busy testing the new powers of the moonstone.

All royalties would attend the trial. The Alliance, but also all the princesses without runestones, who depended on them for protection. Therefore the free kingdoms would remain safeless for a couple of days, only relying on the military, with no runestone magic. That was why Mystacor had offered their help to assure no Horde attack could harm anyone.

"But you can stay with me, and we'll join them later…"

"Seahawk, stop being so stubborn. I'm a member of the jury, I have to be there on time."

Mermista turned away from him and walked with resolution towards the cart planned for her and the Spinnetossa couple. They were already part of the last to leave, she wouldn't waste anymore time in Brightmoon.

As she reached the cart, she saw four guards coming cautiously out of the castle, spears all pointed to the center of the group. And in the center, stood Catra.

Their eyes met.

Mermista's heart skipped a beat at the sight of the prisoner.

The Horde Commander wasn't the same person anymore, it was clear. With her mask off and her red and black striped criminal outfit, she looked more savage than before. She also looked...more fit, oddly enough for a war prisoner, and her aura looked stronger than ever. She wasn't being dragged to Mystacor defeated. She was going head high, proud and fierce. She looked stunning.

Mermista respected that courage.

She noted Catra's face looked also more peaceful than she ever saw it in a year of fighting her. ...even if she was currently snarling against one of the soldiers whose spear was itching her rib.

Some things happened, huh.

Mermista gulped. She would have to thank her someday.

If the jury allowed her to.


Entrapta wasn't the overthinker type. Well, she often overthought about her experiments and theories, but it wasn't a bad kind of overthinking, it usually brought her satisfaction.

Today though, her projects brought her nothing but sorrow and indecision.

She was pacing on her hair around the lab, trying to forget about her paralyzed legs hanging lifelessly beneath her.

That was the first inconvenience. She hadn't expected Hordak's magic to impair her that way. After Rogelio's successful experiment, she had woken up in the infirmary, all groggy and wet from Scorpia's tears, and mostly...unable to use her legs for the time being. The nice doctor who reminded her of Perfuma had no idea if she would be able to walk on them again.

It didn't matter too much, Entrapta had her hair, and thankfully she hadn't lost any brain cell because of the seizure. It was still a very regretful unplanned event that would get things more complicated.

The second thing disturbing her was her right arm… She still hadn't felt any magic coming from it yet, but as she had decided to study the possibility of getting rid of it sooner or later, she had done a body scan on herself, to see how it was connected to her muscles.

Entrapta stopped pacing. She shivered as she glanced at the x-ray picture of her body on the computer.

The moment she had seen it a few hours ago, she had understood the nature of the device.

...she wouldn't be able to take it off.

"Entrapta, I'm still waiting for your report about our newest long-range missile."

The scientist jolted as she heard the low voice of her boss coming from the screen wall.

"It's on the way, Lord Hordak! I got a bit busy-"

"If you're incapable of holding deadlines, you need to drop some of your side projects. I won't tolerate any delay in our work, Entrapta," the ruler said harshly.

"Of course, my apologies. I can already tell you the missile is ready and operational. I just need to finish that last paragraph in the report-"

"Good. I learned some interesting news from my spy in the rebellion…"

Entrapta looked at his evil grin in awe. Nothing good would come out of this for the rebellion, for sure.

"All the royalties are heading to Mystacor...along with Catra."

Her eyes lit up. It was all true then. Catra was alive and well, with Bow, Perfuma and the others.

"They're going to judge her for her crimes. The entirety of the rebellion's powerful figures...all gathered in the same place… This is like an invitation to strike."

Entrapta gulped. "You think the soldiers can handle a new battle, Lord Hordak? I can't say for them, but as for our robots army, it's too risky, we lost a lot of them-"

"We're not going there, no," he cut her off again. "They must have hurried this useless trial to take advantage of the refractory time between two battles. But we can still cause some damage somehow. And test our new missile by the same occasion."

Entrapta widened her eyes. She hoped Mystacor's magic field was as powerful as the rumors said.

"We'll discuss our strategy in the afternoon."

Entrapta bowed as the image switched off.

Another complication to brainstorm on…

So Catra was on trial. All the princesses would attend it. All of them plus Catra were at risk of being hurt by her new weapon. Should she sabotage her own work to prevent that? If she outdid it, Hordak would notice…

Entrapta resumed her hair-pacing around the lab, as she added the new assault to her problems' list. If she had known joining the Horde would bring her so much overthinking and would require actual social skills…

In the Horde's defense, it all got complicated when Catra got kicked out. ...okay, not in the Horde's defense then.

Catra sounded in big trouble too. If she remembered correctly, the High Court of Mystacor still delivered death penalty, even if some sorceresses had suggested to repeal that sentence. Entrapta hadn't really cared at the time- she had always avoided as much as she could her official duties like voting important laws or paying magical taxes- but now that a friend might actually lose her head because of it…

"Edit to log. Reminder to call Bow as soon as possible to ask for the result of the trial. ...and warn him about the missile? I don't know, I'll think about it later."

Entrapta sighed. She sat in front of her computer, and opened the tab of Project Temple. She read for the umptieth time the data she had collected thanks to Angella's hair.

Excitement made her own hair shiver as she scrolled through the heavy information.

This was it.

The greatest discovery of her life.

The knowledge she had always searched for.

The bomb that would change everything.

"Edit to log. It's still as amazing as the first time…"

Hordak should never learn about this. It was too big. The only one Entrapta would trust with this was Catra. She'd know what to do.

Catra had to get all the crystals and the decrypted data. But how to give it to her?

She put her face in her hands. The cold metal of her right one reminded her of the terrible reality she had to face. She wasn't 100% certain yet, she still had a few tests to run on the device… But the probability was high. And Octavia's recent attitude after her own magic tech implantation reinforced the stats.

...Entrapta couldn't leave the Horde.

"Princess?"

The timid voice pulled her back on Etheria. She turned around, and gave a bright smile at her visitor.

"Kyle! Perfect, I wanted to see you! How's Rogelio doing?"

"...amazing," Kyle couldn't keep the grin off his face as he sat next to her. "He's almost completely recovered, it's incredible. Dr Ferrarius can't believe her eyes, he's already walking! His new legs don't hurt at all, and he's adjusted to them in a couple of hours yesterday. And even if he's still a bit tired, he's in better shape than Lonnie!"

"Great! I'll have to interrogate him and study his medical improvement for future reference," Entrapta smacked the boy's back.

"No problem. And...what about your legs?" Kyle's smile finally dropped. They both glanced down at the inert pieces of flesh that Entrapta had crossed manually on her seat.

"Nothing moving yet. But don't worry about it too much, it's part of the risk you know!"

Her hysterical laughter only made Kyle sadder about all this. He could tell the scientist had raised up some walls to forget about the shock… It really wasn't fair… Why could nothing be easy?

He stood up, letting his spontaneity take over him, and hugged her. The scientist stiffened for a second, then relaxed under the mark of affection.

"Entrapta, I'll never thank you enough for what you did."

She patted him on the back, not really sure how to respond to this. She realized Kyle could become...soon enough...part of the few people she cared about. Something told her she had gained his trust, and she could trust him in return.

"Do you like being my assistant Kyle?"

He looked up at her, surprise in his eyes. "It was a bit stressful, I won't lie, but I'm ready to do anything for you from now on."

His eyes were resolute.

"Perfect," Entrapta smiled. "Because I have an important task for you."


Kyle wandered aimlessly in the hallways of the main base, his footsteps leading him automatically towards the infirmary.

He couldn't shake off his mind what Entrapta had just asked him.

She was insane. He couldn't do it. It was risky, dangerous, completely unprepared… How could she even think it would work?! Besides the implications were far too important…

But if he refused… Catra could die.

Guilt nagged him at this thought. He had never really been friends with Catra. She often picked on him when they were younger, and never considered him as a real soldier- which to be fair, he wasn't- but she wasn't a bad person…

And he had promised Entrapta he would do anything for her.

Dang it, that would serve him right, getting involved with crazy powerful people.

Kyle sighed as he kept walking, lost in his thought. He didn't notice the shadow growing behind him.

He yelped when a cold hand grasped his shoulder, shoving him against the wall. His face paled when he recognized the figure towering over him.

"You're not snooping around today, midget?"

Her voice was deadly cold. There was nothing but threat in her tone.

"So, I interrogated your bunkmates…" her tongue whistled on the last word, enjoying the effect it had on her prey. "And it seemed you were in your bunk at curfew the other night."

Kyle's body started to shake visibly. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out of it. Not even a sound. As if his vocal cords had shrinked in fear in his throat.

"Do you know what it means, soldier?" Octavia brought her soulless face to his level. "It means you lied to me," she whispered, a rasp turning her words into a silent growl. "It also means Scorpia and Entrapta lied to me…"

Kyle's breathing rate increased. His legs turned into jelly.

"I wonder why a Force Captain and Hordak's right hand would bother protecting you of all people… Don't you think it's an interesting question, midget?"

One of her tentacle wrapped around his neck, ready to suck on his skin to extract all energy from him. Kyle closed his eyes, bracing himself. But the tentacle left just as quickly as it came. Octavia pulled away from him, and that was the moment his legs chose to collapse on the floor.

"I have a lot of things to do today, but you know what?" she said as she grabbed him under the arm and dragged him violently towards the stairs.

"I think you and I are going to have a nice chat tonight in the pit."


Adora was agape. Facing the imposing shelf like it was a mountain, she didn't know where to start first. There were over a hundred books about the Magicats in there. About them, or written by them, for some, according to the librarian.

Some of them had for only subject a feast thrown in the honor of one royalty. Some of them explained in details the magicat rituals regarding their worship of the suns and moons. Some of them were cooking books.

"Um…" Adora looked in awe, unable to decide herself.

"Tell me what subject you're interested in, Princess, I'll find it for you!" The rabbit-eared sorceress smiled politely.

"Adora, you should start with basic history books," Glimmer rolled her eyes next to her. "There's no way you can read a thousand years of archives about them."

"Basic history…" the sorceress rubbed her chin "Hmm I think you should start with the lineage of the magicat queens, if you know nothing about their kingdom at all."

She raised her wand, made herself fly up until the middle of the shelf, and took an enormous book off of it.

"But it's...huge..." Adora's eyes widened. "Aren't there some...cute little summaries about the Magicats and Mystacor's history?"

"Oh, if you need a book about our history since the Great Chaos, we have to move to another section," she answered excitedly.

"No, no!" Glimmer waved her arms when she saw the look of distress on Adora's face. "No need, we're good with this one for now."

The librarian grinned and gave the book to Adora, whose back suffered at the sudden weight she hadn't expected. She opened it at a random page and frowned.

"Hey- It's blank!" she scrolled a few pages, then full blocks. "There's nothing here!"

The sorceress chuckled, tilting an ear as she looked absolutely charmed by Adora's ignorance. "Of course it's blank, you have to get the writings from the actual archives!"

The woman took them by the arm and led them to the ceremony room, the one where Adora had fought against Shadow Weaver a year ago.

The room was as beautiful as in her memories. Thousands of Sacred Writings crystals floated in the air, extending their protection on Mystacor.

The librarian took the book from Adora's arms. She chanted a spell, her hand over the cover. A crystal suddenly glowed brighter than the others, up on the ceiling. The sorceress flew up to it, grabbed it and put it above the cover. Purple light beamed from the crystal, surrounding the book in a soft cloudy bubble.

A second later, the crystal stopped, and the sorceress put it back to its place. She joined the girls on the ground and handed the book back to Adora.

"You have a week before the writings fade," she smiled. Adora blinded twice but didn't make any comment. That was a weird way of storing knowledge.

Glimmer and Adora thanked her, and hurried themselves back into the library to find an isolated spot.

The detailed life of the Queens of the Magicats since the Great Chaos - From their birth to their death - Followed by an essay on their influence over the kingdoms of Etheria by Arthus the Wise

"Oh my First Ones, the title doesn't sound promising…" Glimmer snorted. "I hope they didn't write a complete essay every time a queen had a broken claw or something…"

Adora laughed as she scrolled the pages.

"Huh, that's weird, the first queen's name was…Alondra," Adora stated.

"So?"

"It's a bird's name," she answered, but saw that Glimmer was confused. "You...you know, the other name for lark… Right?"

"No? A lark is a lark, not an alondra. Do you call them that in the Horde?"

"We don't…" Adora and Glimmer were both equally puzzled. "Could it be some First Ones language transcripted in our own?"

"Oooh, that's definitely possible!" Glimmer clapped her hands. "But it's still weird that a feline would be named after a bird."

Adora nodded as they started to read about the bird queen. She was actually born before the Great Chaos, and died two years after it, because of the terrible disease that killed half of the Etherian population. Her help had been precious during this short time, since she had helped the sorceresses and warlocks of that time gather, and encouraged them to form an alliance. The future Mystacor.

Adora scrolled again. The next queen was named Oksanyan 'the Welcoming' and lived seventy-three years. It was a young age, and yet her chapter was very long…

Then there was Iskat 'the Defender', 'Soft Hair' Katlyana, Vikatrya 'the Warrior'…

"I can't read all this before tomorrow Glimmer!" Adora whined, banging her head against the book.

"Hey, it's okay, you don't have to!" Glimmer rubbed her back. "Why do you absolutely want to be done before the trial? You think it can be useful?"

"I don't know… Maybe…" Adora averted her gaze from her friend. How could she tell her that she wanted to check if her father's kingdom hated the Magicats to the point of pulling strings somehow to send the last of their kind to the death sentence?

"Wait… Did Catra ask you to check that? She didn't believe you when you went telling her all our secret information?" Glimmer crossed her arms beneath her chest, showing her discontent.

"She did believe me. Your mom couldn't invent all this. But there are things I want to check about Katriska, the last queen…" Her relationship to Mystacor, Angella... and mostly Hordak. Adora needed to know everything that happened from the moment the Horde appeared on Etheria- thus herself- ...to the extinction of Catra's race. "I think I'll only read that last chapter before bed. It'll prevent me from overthinking about...tomorrow."

Glimmer didn't answer. She observed her friend. Adora looked exhausted. And preoccupied.

It wasn't a surprise. She had had long meetings with Vassilis about what she would have to say at Court tomorrow. And she had kept on visiting Catra for her wound. Overall, Glimmer was sure Adora hadn't slept much during the last few days.

"Catra apologized by the way, about...last time."

Glimmer shrugged. "Good I guess."

"Glimmer, I'm sorry too."

The princess stared in surprise. Adora sat properly on her chair, looking all solemn and formal. That was such an Adora-thing to do.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you as much as before. I kept my focus almost only on Catra for two weeks, and I didn't even get the time to ask you how you were recovering…"

Bitterness in Glimmer told her to bite. Attack Adora on that, tell her it was right, she had felt neglected, for a woman who tried to ruin their lives, who didn't deserve her… But the reasonable part of Glimmer told her to suck it in.

Adora loved Catra. Adora wanted to save that b- annoying person. And Glimmer loved Adora above all, so she had to be supportive.

"It's okay… I was busy too. We were all busy with the reparations, then with Mermista's sickness. We didn't have time to talk."

"But now that we do…" Adora said hesitantly. "If you want to talk…"

"Don't worry about me," Glimmer smiled. "Focus on the trial."

"Alright," she smiled. "I'm glad you guys are in the jury, I'll be less anxious when I see familiar faces. I hope you'll like my speech tomorrow."

Glimmer's face shaded for a brief second at Adora's words.

"I practiced hard," Adora pursued. "I'm not so good at speaking in public…"

Glimmer rolled her eyes, concealing the fact that her heart exploded at such cuteness. Adora never trusted herself for inspirational She-Ra moments, whereas she was so good at them when she let her passion speak for her.

"You're gonna be great Adora. You're going to move the jury, enough to make them change their mind, I'm sure of it."

Glimmer only trusted her own words half-heartedly. But Adora needed to hear them now. If tomorrow went bad… Glimmer couldn't imagine the pain her friend would feel. Even though she didn't like Catra, she truly hoped, for Adora's sake, that she would walk out of Mystacor as a free woman.


Catra sighed heavily, attempting to subtly show Vassilis how bored she was. Damn, did this guy ever stop talking?

Maybe if she caught his antlers and pulled hard enough to hurt, he would go away. That was an idea… But Adora would yell at her if she lost her defender just before the trial.

Catra groaned internally.

Stupid Adora.

Stupid, pretty, amazingly soft to kiss Adora…

Catra shook her head. She couldn't let her mind wander there. It only ignited a raging fire in her heart, remembering that night… Adora below her, moaning her name… Adora kissing her… Adora stroking her cheek…

It frightened her.

She didn't know what to do with all these feelings. She couldn't let them blur her mind. She was already so confused about her ex-best friend. Her ex-enemy who was planning to betray the rebellion for her if needed… It made her heart beat even faster than picturing that kiss.

Catra was scared.

Scared to get close again. Scared to get betrayed again.

She couldn't think of it now. It was not the time.

"Warlock Vassilis, please step aside."

Catra snapped out of it at the sound of the low voice. Four big guards entered the prison, magical spears pointing to Catra.

"Horde Commander, the High Court awaits you."



Chapter Text

Thirteen days.

It had only been thirteen days since the battle. And yet it seemed to Catra like it happened two months ago. Time had flowed in a slow motion in her cell, the prisoner waiting eagerly for the little interaction with people she got allowed to have.

Even if she had spent most of the days alone, she felt like that time had been only occupied by Adora. Talking together, arguing together...building up that desire that, Catra realized now, had existed between them for a very long time.

These thirteen days had felt like somebody had hit the pause button on life.

But today it had started again. Time accelerated, bringing her closer to her fate. If only she had managed to escape… If only Adora had set her free when she'd asked her…

The trip to Mystacor had been shorter than Catra expected the next day. The castle only looked far away because it floated above the clouds, but it was a false impression.

When they arrived, she couldn't help but marvel at the beauty of the domain. She hadn't seen anything as mesmerizing. The Fright Zone was a boil on the face of the planet in comparison.

Catra hadn't met anyone on her way to Mystacor's prison. Not even Adora. The guards had locked her in a dark but comfortable cell, and had left after giving her a frugal meal. She'd spent the night all alone, only to be woken up way too early for her taste by Vassilis who'd come to prepare the trial for the last time with her, all excited like Entrapta at the sight of tiny food.

"Faster."

Catra growled in warning when the warlock guard nudged her side with his magical spear.

They had been walking in the hallways of Mystacor for ten good minutes now. Catra couldn't help looking up to admire the general splendor of the place. The sorceresses had made it so the light would bounce on the walls and reverberate at every moment of the day. Even without knowing the castle was in the clouds, one could feel like their heart was floating in serenity. Like there were no horrors happening every day outside.

Tchh, Catra could have forgotten about the war as well, if she had lived here all her life. As long as the energy flows were circulating and the palace looked pretty, nothing really bad must have been happening on Etheria, huh?

Catra could understand why Angella had been so pissed at the sorceresses.

They entered a large hallway with high statues observing them as they walked by. That was when Vassilis felt obliged to explain to his ward the meaning of every single statue and who they represented. Catra really wanted to shove his notepad in his mouth.

"So they're all current or former leaders of Mystacor, or kings and queens of smaller kingdoms. Here's king Micah, Queen Angella's late husband, whose mother's family guarded the moonstone before Angella was found…"

Catra glanced up at the stone face. She could recognize, if she squinted hard enough, some of Sparkle's traits. She liked him better than her.

"And here is...Light Spinner."

Catra met Vassilis' gaze. If his eyes wanted to convey sympathy, it failed. A weird fascination glinted in them instead, as if the warlock was analyzing her whole body language at the mention of her name. It reminded her a bit of Entrapta's way of observing social interaction...in a much creepier style.

"You're ready for this, Catra?"

She shut down her annoyment, and nodded.

It was time.


 

Catra had never felt more out of place. Surrounded by at least two hundred princesses, sorceresses and civilians, their eyes following her as she walked between the benches… When the guards had pushed the door open, a general silence had welcomed her, followed quickly enough by grumbling whispers.

People stared. People glared.

There was anger in the air, but also shock at the sight of the famous Horde Commander.

"She looks like her…"

The chains at her feet rattled unpleasantly on the ground, reminding her of her current status. A criminal.

She didn't feel like one.

"Did you know she had a daughter?!"

"Absolutely not!"

"How can you be so sure?"

"Just look at her! It has to be!"

In the front part of the room, a rectangular space was framed by several heightened desks. Two desks were right in front of the first audience benches. The prosecutor was on the right one, studying his notes. The princesses were sitting at the desk adjacent to him, on the right. Catra recognized all of them except one.

Mermista with a heavy scarf around her neck and tissues in her hand. Perfuma, who waved at Catra. Angella, who put Perfuma's hand down. The couple Catra never remembered the names of. The kid. And the last one she never saw before, a redhead with fox ears. No Glimmer. That was odd.

On the opposite of the princesses stood the desk of the civilian members of the jury. They all sent daggers towards her. If Catra could flip them off…

Finally, at the front desk, facing the prosecutor and the defense, where Catra would stand, were sitting Mystacor's jury, and in the middle, an even higher desk rose, where Queen Castaspella dominated the Court.

Wow, they weren't kidding with protocols.

"I'm telling you, she must have had a kitten and hid it."

"I'm not surprised, it fits her personality."

"Poor Katriska, she would have been sad to see how that one turned out…"

Catra snapped her head and glared so hard at the stupid princesses on her left they whimpered and shrank their bodies on the bench.

The guard grabbed Catra's arm, pulling her towards the left desk. She walked up the wooden stairs with Vassilis, and they both sat on chairs placed on top. It brought Catra much closer to the civilian jury desk than she would have liked.

"Where's Adora?" Catra asked Vassilis as she glanced at the audience behind her. She could see Bow, alone in the middle of chatty princesses squeezing him on the third row… Where was the rest of the boring trio?

"She will be coming in through that back door when I call her, with the permission of Queen Castaspella."

"And after her testimony, she has to leave?"

"No, she'll be staying with us. She can be called back on witness stand, if new facts are revealed during the trial."

"Then what's the point of making her wait behind that door?"

Vassilis blinked in surprise. "It's just how we do it."

Right. In the Horde a designed criminal would just be thrown in the pit. There wasn't any place for these...justice show times. It was too flashy for Catra's taste. She only hoped it was worth it. Would it truly be fair, like Adora promised? Catra still doubted it. But she had to acknowledge that Vassilis was an odd duck who seemed to truly want to 'win this case', as he said.

Castaspella knocked on her desk with her magic wand, inviting everyone to silence. She took a purple shiny crystal out of her robe, and murmured a spell before throwing it in the air. The piece of rock glowed brighter, floating in the center of the room.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let us begin the trial in regard of the war crimes of Catra, Second-in-Command of Lord Hordak."

It looked as if Castaspella's words were drawn to the crystal. Catra was sure she saw letters forming just around the purple object when the queen spoke.

"Members of the jury, I present to you Warlock Hermès, in charge of the prosecution, and Warlock Vassilis, in charge of the defense."

The two men stood up and bowed to the jury, then to each other. The prosecutor was older and looked more experienced than Vassilis, Catra observed. But it didn't mean anything. Catra was the living proof that young people shouldn't be underestimated. However she reconsidered her thoughts as she saw Vassilis rub his hands like a child receiving an extra ration bar for Hordak's annual glorification day.

"Gentlemen, do you swear to follow the rules of our Sacred Writings in the process of the task that has been asked from you?"

They both swore.

So unnecessary.

Vassilis sat down, letting the prosecutor talk first, as it was the rule. Hermès cleared his throat, gave a grave stare around the room, before starting his speech.

"Members of the jury, thank you for attending this exceptional trial today. How long has it been since the last time a person went so far over the line of cruelty that the High Court felt the necessity to gather?"

Oh wow. He went right for the feelings huh. Awesome.

Catra rolled her eyes and sunk deeper in her chair. Adora would probably tell her that a nonchalant attitude wasn't the smartest move right now. But Adora wasn't there yet, and Catra was extremely annoyed and wanted to show it.

She glared back at a few civilians of the jury while Hermès kept on demonizing her.

"Such a young person, and yet the Commander already committed more crimes than all of you together… And in what name?! Hordak's…"

Low hisses resonated in the courtroom.

"For power and destruction...Commander Catra ordered and participated to burning down your villages… Kill and terrorize your people… Take away your runestones!"

He looked specifically in the direction of Perfuma and Mermista, who looked away, discomfort showing on their face.

Catra wondered what good Adora's and Vassilis' work could do. Ten minutes of trial had been enough to set the minds ablaze, and the more Hermès talked, enunciating one by one the different assaults Catra led, the less silent the audience turned. People acclaimed, people shouted words of approval here and there. Castaspella even had to ask for silence twice.

"...and for all these crimes… Members of the jury, Queen Castaspella… What makes this trial exceptional, is that your final choice goes beyond the Commander's own fate," the prosecutor looked at the jury, one by one. "Your choice will sculpt the foundations of the new Rebellion."

Vassilis squinted his eyes, scribbling something in his notepad.

"Will you make the difficult choice of giving this war criminal the maximum penalty in order to set the example, assert your dominance in this war, and give hope to the many innocent people who waited for such a long time for you to save them?"

A few shouts echoed his words in the audience.

"Or will you," anger rasped his voice. "Will you decide to forgive a heartless monster who will betray you as soon as she gets the opportunity, making a fool of yourselves when it happens, and disrespecting all the people who died or lost someone because of her?!"

"Behead her!"

Catra tightened her fists.

"The answer should be obvious," Hermès pursued in a heavy sigh. "The civilians and the smaller kingdoms that you failed to protect are all looking at you with hopeful eyes right now. They need you to be the strong rebellion they needed since the war began, and I think… I think they deserve your consideration."

When the warlock stopped talking, the audience cheered eagerly. Whistles and new death threats came to Catra's ears, but she didn't twitch an ear.

Vassilis stood up, a smile on his face as he embraced the ice cold stares of the jury. Catra felt the sudden urge to thank him for trying after all… But she wasn't delusional. His intervention wouldn't be of any use.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Members of the Jury, Queen Castapella…" he bowed. "My ward is guilty. My ward...is a criminal."

A dead silence welcomed his first words. The prosecutor raised an amused brow, and even Queen Angella frowned in perplexity, wondering where the antlered man wanted to go with this.

"Yes, Commander Catra admitted she did order all these assaults. She caused indirectly the destruction and deaths of many. Corrupted by the Horde's military mind-washing and destruction praise."

He looked at her with pity. She pursed her lips, but refrained herself from growling.

"She is a woman, who has lived nothing else but oppression and terror in the Horde, just like us… Except that in her case, it was her every day life… It was the people who raised her. The people who taught her the values of right and wrong…"

The jury remained impassive. It would need more than that. Much more than that.

"What would you expect from a woman who saw violence on a daily basis since infancy? What would you expect from a child who was taught that her only value as a person lied in being a good soldier, winning for their almighty ruler?"

The audience didn't boo anymore at least. They listened, boiling, ready to explode if Vassilis said one problematic word.

"Soldiers are nothing in the ranks of the Horde. Soldiers barely have a name. The first thing they learn as kids is to destroy the evil princesses… But even among them, Catra wasn't a simple nobody. She was even less than that."

Oh man. What wouldn't she give to claw his face.

"The last magicat…raised, hated and tortured by the rot of Mystacor. Light Spinner."

A general gasp erupted in the room. Castaspella knocked on her desk to gain silence.

"Yes, Light Spinner escaped and joined Hordak, taking the name of Shadow Weaver-"

"Objection, my Queen," Hermès raised. "There is no known proof for that statement, and I fail to see the relevance in the case of the war crimes-"

"Warlock Hermès, you got to say your introduction speech uninterrupted," Castapella said sharply. "You will respect your colleague and do as such. Now Warlock Vassilis, you can only tell in your speech what has already been asserted before. If your witness can assert this, you need to call her now, and reduce your speech by the same time."

Catra didn't understand. Adora told her about Shadow Weaver being Light Spinner. She said the sorceresses had been astound and pissed at Angella for hiding it to them… So it hadn't been made public yet.

Smart Vassilis.

"I will call her later, my Queen," Vassilis bowed again. "So, despised and tortured more than the others by their caretaker, different in many ways, and having no real values of life, death, and morals in general… Only loved by one person, her best friend, the golden child of the Horde, who left her for people she barely knew…"

Here came the Adora part.

"It wasn't surprising that when she got the opportunity to become somebody, to become more than the failure of all the kid soldiers, and prove her best friend she could reach the top without her... She took it without hesitation.

Who can say they never caved to their primal urge to be validated and appreciated by their superior and family?

Who can say they haven't reacted inappropriately to the betrayal of the person they loved most?"

Ugh, really?! Now she just sounded like a needy brat.

"When Princess Adora left the Horde to lend us the strength of She-Ra, she also left her friend behind, alone, at the mercy of their caretaker's cruelty. She snapped the last string of faith Catra had in love. The only person to ever consider her as an equal, leaving… It's not surprising Catra lost her ability to see people for who they were."

Catra really didn't understand, how exactly was this speech serving her? He was only feeding the prosecutor's image of her being heartless.

"And as for listening to Princess Adora who begged her to join us… Who can blame her for still being heartbroken by her friend's betrayal?

Yes, Commander Catra acted for herself. Yes, she didn't think about us, the people suffering from the Horde's attacks, because she was raised on survival instinct only. She was raised to live for her sake, and for the ones she cares about, before caring about anything else."

How could Vassilis even think these people would understand? He was too naive.

"But Catra got betrayed by her side now. Catra is no longer Second-in-Command. Catra learned about her past, learned how Hordak killed her race, the Magicats, one by one.

Catra has as many reasons as all of us now to fight the Horde. And Catra, as you have all seen, is the new and last Queen of the Magicats, carrier of the restored mask, enabling her to turn into the great warrior her people used to be."

"Members of the jury," Vassilis' eyes were glowing in excitement. "Isn't it too beautiful for a coincidence? The last magicat being She-Ra's long life partner? The magicat runestone, reappearing after all these years? The princesses and She-Ra boosted up? Hordak losing the battle he was certainly supposed to win?

No...it looks like the turning point we've been waiting forever since She-Ra came back.

Now do you think the First Ones would want us to get rid of a potential extraordinary ally?"

Oh good one. Catra, in the place of the jury, would have just rolled her eyes, but she could see on the faces of the sorceresses and the civilians a shred of doubt. She remembered how Adora told her about their faith in the First Ones.

"My esteemed colleague is right about this choice being decisive for the future of the Rebellion.

Forgive her...and we can start to make amend for not believing Queen Katriska, fifteen years ago. We can honor the dead Magicats by sparing their last queen and giving her a second chance."

That elicited a new kind of reaction from people, especially the sorceresses. The mention of their past mistake must have stung...

"Thus we can fight together against Hordak, and make him pay for all the lives he took and the suffering he brought to everyone, including Catra.

On the other hand, send her to die…"

Vassilis' usual sparkle turned severe in his eyes.

"And we might as well take the name of the Horde for acting as narrow-mindedly as them."

Heavy murmurs filled the room. Catra saw some civilians look uncomfortable. Queen Angella had a small smile on her lips.

This was...not so bad after all. Not enough, but not so bad.

"My Queen, if I may, I will call now the main witness of the defense," Vassilis exclaimed. "Princess Adora."


Entrapta exhaled as she literally dropped her ass on a chair. Her hair was exhausted now that she had to use them all the time. For walking as well as holding her useless legs in the air.

She rubbed her face whilst browsing the to-do list on her computer. She stopped at the last line… The one she had read several times already since she wrote it.

Call Bow

She bit her lower lip. A shiver ran down her spine. She was scared of that call. Scared of learning what could happen to Catra. And also scared of betraying Hordak again. She knew she had pushed her luck quite far, and up until now it had gone well...until Kyle got imprisoned by Octavia.

The Second-in-Command had spent the whole night torturing the boy...and Entrapta guessed he hadn't talked since she could still overthink peacefully in her lab. But it didn't mean he would hold for long.

Everything could fall apart. She had to act fast.

She dialed the number on her computer, breathing in and out slowly.

The ringtone echoed several times in the lab.

"Come on, Bow… Pick up…"


"Do you recognize this mask, Princess?"

"Yes, it's Catra's mask."

"When was the first time you saw it?"

"I can't remember. She's always had it, except for a few years, because Shadow Weaver confiscated it."

"Why did she do that?"

"Catra would always hide it under her pillow, until Shadow Weaver discovered it when she was ten. She got very mad at Catra, and said useless soldiers like her shouldn't have a special item belonging to them."

"And then what did she do?"

"Catra was trying to get her mask back so she...threw her in the pit. The prison meant for torture. She left her there for two days."

People gasped in the crowd at Adora's words. It was inconceivable in their world... Harming a child that way…

Adora glanced at Catra, cheeks red in shame, her back hunched as if she tried to make herself smaller. Catra stared back, pain and anger in her eyes at the memory of that day. Her anger was partly directed at Adora, for sharing that with so many strangers. Even if it was for her sake...it wasn't her place to do that. And Adora knew it.

Catra averted her gaze. She fixed on her feet, trying to block the flashbacks from the long days she had spent in the pit… But Shadow Weaver's voice was sneaking in her mind again…

Insolent, useless child…

You should be lucky Lord Hordak spared your miserable existence…

Learn to respect your superiors… I'll release you tomorrow, if I don't forget…

Catra's whole body shivered. She planted her claws in her wrist, focusing hard on the pain, as she rocked her upper body back and forth. She could feel her pulse throb under her skin. It soothed her.

Shadow Weaver's voice faded away slowly, leaving her body shaking from head to toe.

She opened her eyes, and realized a lot of people from the jury were looking at her weirdly. The civilians looked torn between concern and suspicion. Angella looked worried. And Adora…

"Can you describe your relationship with Catra, Princess?"

So many emotions lied in those blue eyes, as they took a minute to look at Catra. Catra held it, conscious that air was suddenly stuck in her lungs. A small smile warmed Adora's face.

"She meant everything to me."

Catra didn't blink once while Adora talked. Adora didn't look away either.

She spoke well. She moved people with her words, in a way that Catra would never be able to accomplish. Catra hurt when she talked. Catra knew how to guilt, knew how to manipulate, knew how to stir rage and bitterness from people.

Adora… Adora knew how to soothe people. How to make them relate. She drew a portrait of Catra that could soften the coldest heart. She told about their fondness, their friendship, their mutual support...but also the flaws of their relationship, the damage Shadow Weaver had done to both of them…

People gaped. People whispered.

Catra wondered where she learned to do that.

"When did you learn that Shadow Weaver was Light Spinner?"

"Objection, my Queen, once again, I don't see the relevance of this matter in the trial."

"I'll allow it."

"...she told me over a year ago, when I first visited Mystacor. She used her shadow magic to trick me and terrorize me, and because of her I accidentally broke some of Mystacor's Ancient Writings…"

A grunt of heavy discontent ran in the crowd. Catra wasn't sure it was a great idea to expose that accident…

"So what you're saying is," Vassilis paced in the room, looking thrilled, "Light Spinner, the disgrace of our kingdom, banned for using dark magic on the last Queen of the Magicats, Queen Katriska, who also had a personal fight with her… Light Spinner was also the woman who had to raise the new queen, the last descendant of the Magicats, that she personally hated."

"Yes."

"And for all these years of torture and condescending, you, Princess Adora, who was also Light Spinner's favorite, were the only light in Catra's life."

Catra's eye twitched.

"...yes."

"And when you left the Horde for the reason of finally perceiving how evil it was, she saw this not only as abandoning her, but also discarding her whole life experience. Her trauma. Your friendship, for all these years, suddenly appeared as fake."

Adora nodded, lowering her eyes. Catra didn't know if she was acting it, but Vassilis was in his element.

Why Adora… Taking it all on you? Making it all about you? Was that the smartest move?

"She suddenly had no other choice than survive on her own, and get revenge on Princess Adora and the ones who took her away from her. And eventually prove her worth, show the whole world she was not the weak useless kid Light Spinner had made her believe she was for all her life.

Catra is a victim of this war, just like us. A victim of years of mental and physical abuse, being beaten up, being compared to her best friend, being condescended...to be finally betrayed by the one she loved most. The path she took would have been totally different if only one thing had changed in her story.

And Princess Adora, by her honest testimony, showed us that Catra isn't inherently a bad person. Catra, as the new queen and legal carrier of the mask of Katriska, as a former Second-in-Command who knows everything about the Horde who betrayed her, would be the perfect ally for the Rebellion, and the best one to help us win the war.

Her mistakes are grave, and we won't forget about them. But we can't ignore the past that made her, and we can't throw away the possibility of having a great warrior by our side, especially when the First Ones brought her to be She-Ra's intimate friend."

Vassilis bowed and took his place back next to Catra.

The room was tensed. She could feel his speech had had a little impact on the jury and the audience.

Hermès stood up. It was his turn to speak.

"Princess Adora, when you met the Commander the first time after you left the Horde, you did ask her to join you, is it correct?"

Ouch.

"...yes."

"How many times since you left have you asked her to join you?"

"About a dozen times."

"Have you apologized to her, have you explained to her your reasons for leaving?"

"Yes."

"Have you showed her the atrocities the Horde did on our people?"

Adora agreed again. Each yes broke her face little by little. Each yes atoned Vassilis' speech in people's forgetful minds. Hermès was winning again. He didn't even have to pursue the questioning any further. The conclusion he drew was solid.

Adora had abandoned her, but Adora hadn't given up on her, and Catra had chosen to ignore her apologies. And whatever torture Catra had lived in the past in the Horde, she'd also chosen to ignore the pain she was inflicting to others.

It was a choice.

Adora's time as a witness was over. She joined the defense team, looking so defeated Catra didn't even want to spit "I told you so".

"The prosecution now calls their main witness," Hermès claimed. "Princess Glimmer."

Adora froze.

Catra saw her follow the sparkle princess with her eyes, in awe, without blinking, until she sat on witness stand.

Glimmer glanced at her friend once, a sorry look on her face, before focusing on the prosecutor.

Catra stared back at Adora, trying to catch her gaze. But the princess wasn't turning away from Glimmer, anger and pain twitching her traits as she tightened her fists on her lap.

Betrayed…

"Princess," Hermès started, his voice turning all sweet all of a sudden. "Can you tell us about the time you got kidnapped?"


Bow huffed loudly, trying to make his chatty neighbors understand he was actually trying to pay attention to the trial. An old princess grandma with big rabbit ears that could perfectly hear through the rumble- unlike Bow- was commenting every sentence the warlocks and witnesses said.

What was the point of repeating everything?!

Bow sighed, focusing as best as he could on Glimmer.

Glimmer being the prosecutor's witness… That wouldn't make things easy afterwards…

He could almost hear Adora's complaints from here. She looked devastated. Thank the First Ones she wasn't allowed to turn into She-Ra.

Bow looked around him, listening to the whispers of the crowd. The audience was so passionate about this. Discovering Light Spinner had escaped and become She-Ra and Catra's caretaker was probably the heaviest news of the day.

Bow could feel people's hesitant sympathy for the prisoner. They also saw the big advantage of having her on the Rebellion's side… Especially considering she was now Hordak's enemy. Honoring the Magicats had also touched a string in their heart. Catra's people had been very appreciated in their time, despite their disagreements with Mystacor.

Vassilis had done his part well.

But people still hated how Catra discarded their own misery, and how she participated to the Horde's destructive operations. Just because she had suffered… It didn't excuse her actions. And her stubbornness to oppose She-Ra only made the crowd angrier to realize the slaughter could have been avoided if it wasn't for a lover's spat….

That was what it looked like from here anyway.

The debate was tight.

"Master Archer, your bag is buzzing."

Bow blinked twice, not understanding the grandma's words. She pointed to the backpack he had thrown under the front bench. His quiver and arrows were popping out of it, vibrating periodically.

Somebody was calling.


"So Commander Catra, when she was still a Force Captain, trying to prove her worth to her superiors and get back at Princess Adora for leaving, kidnapped you and Master Bow."

"Yes."

"And at the Fright Zone, she left you in the hands of Light Spinner, knowing perfectly well how she would torture you."

"...yes," Glimmer said with a little voice.

"You would think, members of the jury, that after spending so many years tortured, one would take pity on an innocent woman suffering from the same abuser. That is, if that someone truly had a heart."

Catra could see Adora boil on her seat. She knew what the blonde wanted to say. She probably had a dozen of protests ready to blurt out of her mouth, and she had to bite her tongue to keep them in.

"Commander Catra's evolution moved the most during that time when Princess Adora left and she was alone in the Fright Zone, figuring out who she was… And Princess Glimmer, by her testimony, showed us exactly the person she was becoming. A revengeful, pitiless woman, greedy for power, uncaring of the fate and feelings of others…

How, how can we now trust somebody like this? How can we expect the commander to change in barely two weeks after Hordak chased her away? Do we really want to take that risk and offer her the stick she will beat us with?

...no further question."

Vassilis raised from his seat, frowning as he thought of his strategy.

"Princess Glimmer, how did you escape from the Fright Zone that day?"

Adora's face lit up. Catra rolled her eyes.

"...Adora and I were stuck in front of the purging chambers. I couldn't teleport because of Shadow Weaver's magic. That's when Catra arrived and gave us the sword of She-Ra."

The crowd gasped. Hermès glared at Glimmer. From what Catra could guess, Glimmer hadn't told him everything… The sparkling princess looked her in the eyes. And at this moment…Catra felt like she had to do something. Something real. Something meaningful.

A little smile tucked the corners of her mouth. That was the nicest face Catra had ever made for the princess.

Glimmer blushed, averting her gaze quickly.

"So Catra let you escape in the end, at the most crucial time of her evolution…"

"Yes."

"No further question."

Vassilis was smirking. That dude was enjoying himself too much. But he had studied his case, Catra was impressed.

As for Adora, if she could taunt Hermès for having his words used so easily against him, she would. Instead she just smirked at him, and Catra was sure she saw her discreetly stick her tongue out.

That was a nice turn of events. Probably not enough in Catra's opinion, but it still...changed some things. Even if it was definitely not Catra's crucial moment of evolution bullshit.

"Princess Glimmer, you can join the prosecution desk," Castaspella said. The princess joined Hermès, who was listening to a young woman whispering in his ear as she handed him a file.

"Members of the jury," Castaspella pursued. "If you-"

"I call Princess Adora back, my Queen," Hermès cut her off. Vassilis' smile fell. Adora widened her eyes, forgetting how to breathe. "New facts we cannot overlook have been brought to light, thanks to the archives, with the help of my apprentice."

"Objection my Queen," Vassilis raised from his seat, furious. "The prosecution said only yesterday that all their research have been completed, meaning whatever's written in that file must have been known by Warlock Hermès before the beginning of the trial."

"It appears I haven't done all my research properly, esteemed colleague…" Hermès barely hid the mischievous glint in his eyes.

"My Queen, this isn't reglementary! The prosecutor hasn't even examined the file, and neither have you!"

"And I will hand it over right now, Warlock Vassilis."

Hermès quickly walked to Castapella's desk and gave the orange papers, while Vassilis stood boiling on his desk. The Queen took a minute to study the file. She looked conflicted for a few seconds...

"...I'll allow it."

Catra snorted. What kind of bullshit was this trial? It was nothing else but a performance show. Vassilis grunted as he sat down, giving a nod to Adora who left the desk.

"Hey Vassilis," Catra whispered in his ear. "I don't get it, what's with the new fact thing that can't be mentioned during the trial…?"

"I explained it to you yesterday…" he sighed. Of course Catra hadn't listened. "Before the beginning of the trial, we have to present every single fact we plan on using to the queen, so that she can examine their authenticity, without revealing our strategy of course. The facts that were already known and proven before can be used in our introduction speech, whereas the one we intend to prove thanks to the witnesses are reserved for witness stand. Finally the facts we cannot prove at all are not to be used."

"Oh… So Hermès lied about the thing he's going to ask Adora."

"I didn't think he'd go dirty like that…"

Catra raised a brow, but didn't comment that Vassilis had accidentally blurted out that Shadow Weaver was Light Spinner in his own introduction speech.

"And you know what it's about?" Catra asked.

Vassilis averted his gaze. That didn't sound good.

"Princess Adora," Catra brought her attention on the blonde, her ears perked up, her heart beating faster all of a sudden… She didn't know why she had a bad feeling about this. "Can you please show us your back?"

Adora froze for the third time today. But this time, all colors seem to leave her face.

In the jury, some princesses and Queen Angella pouted. What was going on?

Adora swallowed with difficulty. She turned around, tucked the hems of her shirt up, and slowly lifted it, until her shoulder blades were visible. The crowd gasped again.

But Catra didn't hear them.

She could only hear the pulse in her head, threatening to make it explode. She could only feel her stomach clench, almost about to reject her thin breakfast. She could only see what Adora had hidden underneath her shirt for so many months.

Four long white marks on one side of the column and three on the other, disfiguring her skin.

Seven scratches, making the feline's fingers throb as she remembered the feeling of sinking them in the tender flesh…

"Princess Adora, who did that to you?"

Adora fixed her shirt and turned around. She looked up sadly at Catra. She looked like she was about to cry. Cry because the scars would probably be the final blow to convince the jury that Catra was unworthy of being forgiven. Oh, Adora…

"Catra did."

A tear rolled on Catra's cheek. She didn't even realize before its saltiness tickled her mouth.

"When was that?"

"Last year, during the battle of Brightmoon."

Why didn't she tell her? Why was Catra learning about it now?!

"Were you in your She-Ra form?"

"Yes."

"Now usually, do you keep scars when She-Ra is wounded?"

"No."

Vassilis sighed heavily. Catra didn't know where this was going, but she didn't care at this point. She kept staring at Adora, guilt, anger and pain swirling in her heart.

Thirteen days. She had spent thirteen days in the cell of Brightmoon, visited by Adora twice a day or more, to take care of her own wounded back…

"How extraordinary that the only scar She-Ra kept was made by Commander Catra…" Hermès rubbed his chin as he talked. "I was confused about this detail, so I made some research, and my apprentice found out in our oldest archives, the explanation for this. Princess Adora, would you mind reading it for us?"

Adora took the file. The room was dead silent.

"Energy flows in She-Ra's body, more than in the other princesses'," Adora read. "It gives her strength and high regeneration abilities, so that no physical wound may remain more than a day on her body. However it is known that-"

Adora hiccuped. She looked up in awe at Hermès who invited her to pursue with a nod.

"It is known that heavily emotional wounds can leave scars on She-Ra's body, that can even transcend onto her human form...as a mark of She-Ra's truest enemy. The enemy of the heart."

Enemy of the heart…

Adora looked Catra in the eyes. Despair lidded the blue irises. Was she thinking of their last encounter like Catra right now? Was she also thinking of that kiss that wouldn't leave her mind in peace?

Or...was she doubting her fight suddenly, just because a stupid archive told her Catra would remain her nemesis forever?

Catra frowned. Catra wanted to break her chains, take Adora by the hand and drag her out of this useless showtime. She wanted to grab her face, plant her eyes in her ocean ones, and tell her…

Tell her how much she regretted ever scratching her. Tell her how devastated she was to see her hatred marking her skin forever.

Tell her she had been right to believe Catra could change.

Tell her how much she wanted to kiss her again.

"As you can see thanks to our Sacred Writings," Hermès concluded gravely. "It might have not been a coincidence if the last Queen of the Magicats grew up with the one who would become She-Ra. Everything could have been different, it is true.

But what is certain today, is that the First Ones are giving us right now a powerful warning through those scars. A reminder of who Commander Catra is."

Hermès stared at Catra in silence for a dramatic effect.

"...an enemy."


Bow really wanted to stay but his tablet had buzzed at least three more times. It must have been pretty important for their Horde allies to insist…

Soon the jury would retire to take their decision anyway.

He could wait until then.


"Warlock Vassilis, if you have something to ask Princess Adora in regard of this new event, go ahead."

"Thank you my Queen. Princess, will you please read for us the date of publication of this archive?"

Adora had to search for a while until she found it.

"Year 198 after the Great Chaos…"

"Members of the jury," Vassilis almost yelled. "How can we give faith to a writing made so long after the last She-Ra disappeared? And how can we base our current situation on something written more than eight hundred years ago?"

"Are you saying our Sacred Writings are worthless, Warlock Vassilis?" Hermès snarled.

"Are you saying Catra cannot change because of some white marks on She-Ra's skin?"

"This is the First Ones' will-"

"Gentlemen!" Castaspella shouted. "That's enough. Warlock Vassilis, do you have another question for Princess Adora?"

"...I do," he softened his voice. "Princess, here's my very last question. What do those marks on your skin represent for you?"

Oh, cute naive Vassilis. As if Adora's love could save the day…

"For me…" Adora smiled. It was a soft smile on a tired face. The smile of someone who was healing from heavy wounds. But still healing. "These marks are the reminder of our mistakes…and a promise to erase the real scars in here."

She tapped on her chest as she smiled at Catra.

Stupid, cheesy Adora.

Catra sniffed as silently as possible, blinking frantically to hold back the tears. Vassilis stared at her intently. His eyebrows were raised so high they disappeared under his bangs. She knew what he meant. The jury needed to see her tears.

But they'd seen enough of her weakness for today.


"Members of the Jury," Castaspella said joyfully as she closed the door. The twenty-one people in question had all sat around a table in the back room. Blank identical shaped paper sheets were placed in front of them. "It is time for you to vote. Does any of you need to see the pieces of evidence and the witnesses' testimonies?"

A civilian asked for the archive about She-Ra's wounds. A sorceress asked to read Adora's testimony again. Castaspella put all the files on a table, and left in another room, leaving the jury alone to take their decision.

"Can we quickly get to the vote?" Isidore asked fifteen minutes later, sending irritated looks to the people who were still examining the files.

"Isidore, it's their right to take as much time as they need," Mortella scolded him.

"I don't understand why it would take so long, the outcome is obvious. Vassilis said it himself, she is guilty."

"Whatever your opinion is, you have no right to press the rest of the jury into making a decision hastily," Angella said as she took a file herself.

"With all due respect, Warlock Isidore," a civilian started hesitantly. "This vote is proving itself much more difficult than what I initially expected."

"You can't be seriously thinking of forgiving her…" spat another civilian.

"I didn't think I would, but sending her to death, after everything that's been said? It is too much."

"So because Princess Adora is crazy about her, we have to forget everything she's done to us?!"

"Gentlemen, please!" Angella rose from her seat. "Our votes are supposed to be anonymous, and our debate as neutral as possible. If you're only about to argue, refrain yourself."

"Yes, all your opinions are valid," Mortella nodded. "And the purpose of this jury is to be fair, so no influencing whatsoever," she glared at Isidore as she said those last words. He scoffed but obeyed. Almost an hour passed in silence, until the jury felt ready to decide which motions to propose.

"Alright, if you're all ready, let's proceed to vote the first motion," said Perfuma, who had been assigned to the vote process management.

"In favor for giving Commander Catra the death sentence. Write yes or no."


Bow scrutinized the landscape, far under Mystacor's floating island. The clouds passing by made it more difficult to decipher every detail.

He left the watchpoint, hurrying to the next nervously. Behind him, the captain of the sorceresses' army followed close, arms crossed beneath her chest.

"Are you sure about your info, Master Archer?"

"Pretty sure," Bow protected his eyes from the suns to see better. "The Horde is going to attack today. I know it."

The captain didn't answer, doubt betraying her face.

"Listen, the Alliance receives trustful information from the Horde, and I'm telling you, today, we need to be vigilant. We need to reinforce the surveillance and the magic shield."

"The shield is at its optimal state. The spell has been casted by the High Council a few months ago. There is absolutely no way the Horde can break into it, if they ever do attack us."

Bow raised a thumbs up, but he didn't leave his watch, which only irritated the captain more.

"So Queen Angella sent you to make sure we would be ready?" she asked suspiciously.

"Uuh...yeah."

Bow swallowed the little lie he just made. What could he tell her? That he had just received a call from the Horde's mad scientist asking for information about Catra and insinuating very heavily that Mystacor might be attacked on that very day, hence why he had just rushed in the watchpoints?

She wouldn't believe him.

Should he have interrupted the trial to warn everybody?

...yes he should have. Definitely. But he didn't understand how it was possible for the Horde to reach Mystacor. They just came out of a battle. They lost most of their robots. What exactly did they have left?

Besides, the captain was right. The shield was unbreakable.

Bow relaxed a bit. Now that he made sure there was nobody outside and that the forces were ready, just in case…

How could he warn Queen Angella and the High Council? Interrupting a trial of this importance was not something anyone ever did. But he trusted Entrapta… If she was right and the Horde managed to break into the castle… They had to evacuate everyone.

"Please, stay alert…" Bow insisted before he left.


The air was vibrating with tension in the courtroom. With the jury desks being empty because they were taking their decision in the back room, the audience felt the need to participate in thoughts, asserting their opinions without much discretion.

Catra was blocking them all. All the spiteful comments on Vassilis' work, all the doubts the people had regarding her joining the Rebellion. Even the ones who actually took her defense… She was tired of all this.

She was glancing at Adora from the corner of her eye. She wished Vassilis would just sit somewhere else… Of course he had to take the middle chair, he was her defensor. But now Catra could only hope to catch Adora's gaze.

Why was she avoiding her all of a sudden? After pouring her heart out on so many strangers… Maybe it got her confused somehow. Or maybe she was just so worried she couldn't focus on Catra right now.

Catra sighed. This was getting long. The jury had left almost an hour ago. They had until the end of the day technically… But Catra would go crazy soon if she couldn't move out of her chair. She had slouched for too long, her back was aching.

She peeked again behind Vassilis' back. Adora had her face obstinately turned on her right, closing herself from Catra.

She grunted.

Just as she was about to call her, her ear flicked at a feeble sound on her left. Somebody was arguing behind the civilians' jury desk… They were hidden, but Catra could distinctly hear the familiar voice…

"You don't get it! We might be in danger, I need to speak to Queen Castaspella right now!"

"You are not interrupting the voting process Master Archer. Go back to your seat or I'll have to escort you out myself."

"What don't you understand in the words 'we're going to be attacked by the Horde' exactly?!"

Catra's ears raised. Her heart pounded hard, a glint of hope spreading in her chest. For a second she couldn't help thinking that the Horde was actually coming to rescue her. She had to shake her head to remind herself of the reality.

If the Horde attacked, it would be to kill them all.

"You're saying nonsense, Mystacor's shield is unbreakable. Now go, or I'll have to cuff you."

"I'll bring Glimmer with me then, you can't stop Castaspella's niece…"

"You can't talk to the witnesses right now either, it's forbidden."

"What? Hey! What are you-"

Bow's voice got muffled. What an idiot. They were all idiots here. He was probably right, and he got arrested for that. And how arrogant were these sorceresses, thinking their little shield could block any assault?! Not that Catra minded at the moment… It could only be useful to her.

She became suddenly hypervigilant of her surroundings. The loud grumble of the crowd faded in her mind, and instead she could hear every little creaking noise from the insects on the edge of the window… She could spot every exit entrance. She could locate every guard and every weapon, even without seeing them.

"Catra? Are you okay?"

The felined snapped out of it. Adora was looking at her with concerned eyes. And suspicious eyes. Catra had to calm down. She had to control her body language that Adora was too familiar with…

"Just exhausted, don't worry about it…" she mumbled. Adora hesitated. She looked as if she was about to say something, but before she could overcome whatever was bothering her, the backroom door opened.

Silence fell upon the courtroom.

The jury all took their places one by one. Then Castaspella came out of another private room, and walked up on her desk.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the jury has taken its final decision."

Catra's heart started pounding again. Adora looked at least as tensed as her, and even Vassilis was scratching the base of one of his antlers until it bled.

Castaspella took the official paper Perfuma handed to her.

"Under the laws of Etheria's Sacred Writings, the jury declares Catra, Second-in-Command under Hordak's rule...guilty."

Catra shrugged. No surprise here, they pleaded guilty.

"After hearing with impartiality to both defense and prosecution, as well as the witnesses' testimonies," Catra held her breath. "The majority voted...against the death sentence."

A little whimper from Adora's lips was the first sound to echo in the room, followed quickly by loud protestations from the audience. Whistles, shouts, and boos deafened them all.

"SILENCE!" Castaspella knocked on her desk several times. "However..." that captured everyone's attention again. "Her crimes cannot be forgiven as they are, given the atrocities she committed, hence why the majority voted for another motion that seemed the fairest."

Adora's face fell. Catra frowned. Vassilis facepalmed.

"Until she redeems herself enough to fight the demons that corrupted her soul and free herself,

Commander Catra will be sent into exile in the Forbidden Zone."

BOOM

 

Chapter Text

It was like the world was ending.

There was noise everywhere, exploding in her ears. The whole castle was shaking, making desks, chairs and pillars fall. People screamed, some of them were running away, but most of them were still lying on the ground because of the detonation.

Whatever the Horde had done, they hadn't done it halfway.

"The magic shield has been destroyed! Everybody evacuate now!"

Screams intensified at these words. Smoke filled the air as the door opened. The castle was on fire.

Catra rose from the ground. She had jumped from the desk in time before it fell, and landed next to Vassilis who had crashed ungraciously before her. The warlock was stunned, holding a half broken piece of his antlers in place.

In a swift move, Catra caged him on the ground, pressing her unsheathed claws on his pulse.

"Catra?! What are you doing?!"

"Uncuff me now."

She jiggled her wrist chains in front of his nose.

"I don't have the key…"

"You have magic," she replied coldly. Vassilis gulped, fear showing in his eyes. He took his magic pen out of his pocket with a shaky hand. "And don't try to put a bad spell on me. My claws are quicker."

He put the pen above her cuffs, mumbled a few words, and a second later, her wrists were free. He proceeded the same way on her ankles. Catra stretched, enjoying her new freedom in the current chaos…

She quickly scanned the messy courtroom. The members of the jury were helping people stuck under desks and benches. Sorceresses had all left, probably to fix the magic shield. Castaspella had knocked her head and was being taken care of by a guard. The mask was popping off her robe.

Catra's mask.

She looked back at Vassilis, who was slowly crawling away from her. She smiled at him, much to his surprise, and murmured a small 'thank you', before she leapt towards the unconscious queen.

The guard spotted her too late. She kicked her in the stomach, sending her crash against the desk. Her head made a loud noise against the hard surface, and she fainted.

Catra grabbed the mask and jumped away from them before anyone else could see her. A flash of blond hair appeared in her vision. She went around the fallen desk, crouching to hide from Angella and other princesses who were shouting orders nearby.

A whimper of pain came from the desk. Adora was lying there, her legs being stuck underneath. Catra saw her pull in vain, then attempt to grab her sword that was just a fingertip away from her…

Finally Adora saw her, crawling slowly in her direction. Hope lit her face up, and she opened her mouth, but closed it when she saw the mask in Catra's hand. She seemed to be evaluating the situation, but everything was too blurry, her legs were stuck, panic filled the air, screams and smoke disturbed her senses…

And Catra came closer and closer, until her face was an inch apart from hers.

"...Catra?"

This damn voice… It was the same vulnerable voice she had used yesterday, when Catra had pulled away from that kiss.

"...I'm sorry…" Catra whispered. Before Adora had the time to react, Catra had closed space between their lips. She cupped her face, pulling Adora in for a harsher contact, moving her lips on the princess's mouth. Adora responded to the kiss by instinct, angling her face to give better access, clutching Catra's shirt without realizing.

But as quickly as she had started it, Catra ended the kiss. She placed a last peck on her forehead, mumbled a last apology, and left Adora behind, stuck under the desk.

Her ears flattened when she heard the princess scream her name, betrayal breaking her voice. She chased the guilt away from her mind as she sneaked in the crowd running away. She crouched a bit, making sure no soldier would see her. If the civilians and magicless princesses saw her, it was only in a flash, and the panic was too strong to care about anything else but their own survival.

Catra had the advantage in that scenery. Her whole life had been filled with stressful situations. She had learned how to deal with it, and how to use it.

She couldn't have asked for a better escape plan.

The ex-Horde soldier followed the general movement. The crowd was evacuating chaotically, but they were basically all following the same path in the luminous castle. They avoided a hallway where the smoke was coming from. The sorceresses might have gathered there to control the damages. She had to find another way out.

She had to find it fast, she was getting spotted more and more by people.

Just as she was about to disappear in a corner, the world ended for the second time.

BOOM

After-bomb…

Catra crashed with several people on the wall behind her. The glass window on the other side of the room had completely shattered. People scattered erratically, avoiding the glass that was falling on them.

Catra's ears hurt so bad. She couldn't hear anything but an awful whistle. Her head was throbbing, and her back wound had probably reopen given the pain it was sending through her body…

She couldn't stay here. She was on the ground among a dozen of rebels, who were hurt or just stunned. She had to move before somebody sent help.

Catra stood on shaky legs. Her back ached so damn much. Her hand was so clenched around her mask she wondered how it wasn't already broken. She shook her head and walked away, turning right at the corner. Her ears were impairing her. She lost her balance several times and knocked into a small statue before she took control of her body again.

Finally able to analyze her surroundings, she realized she was alone in the area that had been hit. Alone… Or close.

An entire wall had been destroyed. Heavy rocks had fallen on the ground. On people. Injured people.

And dead people.

Catra didn't have time for that. They would get help soon. She had to find a practical exit now. And the big whole in the wall was actually meeting her expectations perfectly.

She ran in that direction, jumping to avoid stepping on the wounded. Just as she was about to take a big leap through the hall, she heard it.

A small wail.

A plea.

She knew that kind of noise. She had heard it many times in her dreams. In her nightmares…

Everything is hot… Smoke is stifling her again…

She's all alone, and lost… Nobody will help her…

She curls up in a ball….

"Shut up!" Catra yelled, hitting her own head.

She looked down, determined to know the origin of the unbearable noise.

Then she saw him. The little boy. Sitting behind the rock, shaking an unconscious princess. A princess whose lower body was completely crushed under a massive rock. The red pool surrounding her was big. Way too big.

Catra's breath stopped. Her whole body was frozen on the spot. The little boy wouldn't stop calling the woman, asking her to stand up. And Catra's thoughts were exploding, hurling at her to drag him out of here. To help the little boy who was now all alone in the world…

The wall behind him was unstable. Rocks were still falling. He had to get away from here now.

"Dammit…"

She jumped from her perch, landing next to him. The puffy eyes looked up at her with hope. He asked her to help him.

But Catra couldn't give him the help he wanted.

She wanted to tell him that life was unfair like that… But how could he understand?

"You need to go."

Her voice was as harsh as the rock on his mother. She hated herself for that.

"No! Not without mommy…"

"Listen…"

But she couldn't find any word that wouldn't be inappropriate. How could you tell a child that their mom would never come back?

Catra didn't have a mother, but Catra had known love and even lost it somehow.

When she thought Adora died, the world could have ended that she wouldn't have cared. She knew that was what the boy felt right now. Nothing else mattered. And nothing she could say would help him.

When little Lonnie had lost her pet bird twelve years ago, killed by Shadow Weaver when she found out about it, Catra had told her it was stupid to wait at the window like it would come back magically and take her away from the Fright Zone. Lonnie had punched Catra hard in the face. She had deserved it.

Catra sighed heavily. She bent down and caught the boy. She really didn't have time for this…

As expected, the kid shrieked, wiggling in her arms, but Catra tightened her hold. Behind them, the rocks finally lost their fragile balance. She jumped out of the narrow space just in time before they crashed on the ground.

A second later, and they would have been dead.

The kid hiccuped at the sight. His body was shaking so much he couldn't even scream.

She pulled his head in her chest, rocking her body back and forth. As if hiding him would change anything… But that was the only thing she could do. Offering him a temporary shield from the chaos. Offering him a few moments of warmth in the coldness of reality.

Like Adora had done with her so many times after Shadow Weaver had tortured her. Even when Adora didn't know the details, she knew that Catra needed a shield. A shield of love. Adora had protected her as hard as she could, as an abused soldier child herself. Even if she hadn't understood everything. Even if she hadn't been perfect.

The Horde had wrecked them. And now Catra was wasting her only time to escape her punishment for making the wrong choices by trying to provide a kid the same warmth that probably saved her in the past.

Comforting this kid as she could, even if it wouldn't change anything.

...another kid destroyed by the war.

"Catra."

She froze.

Time seemed to freeze with her as she slowly turned her head. Even if she knew who was standing behind her, her heart still beat harder in her chest at the sight…

She-Ra, glowing radiantly in the contrasting dirty hallway, eyebrows furrowed in anger, her sword in one hand...and the mask in the other.

Catra had dropped it during her fall with the boy.

Shit.

Catra spun herself around slowly, revealing the small one still trembling in her arms, petrified by the events.

Adora didn't say anything. Her lips were drawn in a thin line, her eyes sending daggers. Catra knew she wouldn't forgive her for leaving her stuck in that courtroom. For leaving like this after everything she had done for her…

Catra frowned back, holding the silent glaring contest. She had no other choice. She had to escape and Adora knew it. But Adora probably hated that Catra left her behind…

A flashback rushed in her mind at this thought…

"I couldn't go back to the Horde, but I never wanted to leave you Catra…"

"Leave the child and go."

Catra blinked out of her memory. "What?"

Adora threw the mask at her feet. The blue and golden rocks shone, attracting the little boy's eyes. It seemed to break him out of his freezing response, and he started to cry in Catra's arms. He cried loud, very loud, matching the pain that tore his heart to pieces…

Catra softly unwrapped herself from over him, as Adora was coming closer. She turned back into her human form to avoid scaring the kid more than he already was.

She took him from Catra's arms, without looking at her.

She walked away from Catra, without a word.

Catra's heart ached. She wanted to pull her back in a hug. She wanted to kiss her again. She wanted to thank her for holding her promise…

"Adora..."

"Just go."

Her voice sounded heavy from exhaustion.

"Thank you..." Catra whispered loud enough for her to hear. She put the mask on her forehead, chasing the strands of hair that kept tickling her eyes… She finally felt complete.

She jumped on the rocks, then landed on the ledge of the hole in the wall. She took one last glance at Adora before disappearing.


Adora was not good with children… And that was an understatement. She didn't know what to do or say to the devastated boy in her arms, who kept crying and asking for his mom, wiggling as hard as he could to break free…

She walked faster through the castle, heading to the park exit. The crowd had evacuated there for the time being, while the sorceresses were fixing the shield and the broken castle magically, using all their power at once.

They didn't know if the Horde would send another missile. They had to be prepared. But what exactly could they do…? Only She-Ra and the princesses would be able to stop a flying bomb before it hit the castle, and Adora couldn't just watch the skies all day long just in case…

The Horde was taking a new step in technological offense… Just when they thought they had taken the advantage thanks to the magicat mask's restoration.

When she felt fresh air on her face, Adora breathed out. The park had remained untouched, so the medical aid had settled their camp there.

Behind the camp, the people who weren't injured were already leaving the island. Adora couldn't blame them, but she wondered how they could ever feel safe in their home without the protection of the princesses and Mystacor…

Nobody would ever feel safe after that. Not until the Rebellion found a weapon or a way to counter attack the Horde's new tech.

"Adora!"

Perfuma and Frosta rushed at her sides, worry on their face.

"Are you okay? What happened?"

Adora handed the little boy to Perfuma, and collapsed on the ground. She felt exhausted all of a sudden. She coughed several times.

"Did you inhale smoke?" Frosta asked. "You need oxygen, I'll call Spinnerella."

A couple of nurses came to help, checking Adora's temperature and asking her basic questions. Her mind was blurry, she didn't really know what she was answering…

"Don't worry Adora, we're going to help you," Perfuma smiled.

Adora smiled back, starting to feel a bit safer. Maybe she could relax a bit. But Catra's face made her way in her mind, stressing her whole body again. She hoped she was okay…

Even gone, she kept haunting her mind. She saw her everywhere. Right now, she was seeing her unconscious in the arms of a guard.

Wait what?!

Adora's head cleared out in a second, her mind fully focused now.

Three guards were walking fast to the camp, one of them carrying Catra… Mouth open, arm hanging in the air, eyes closed… Knocked out. By their side, Castaspella, Mortella, Isidore, Angella and Glimmer were arguing. As soon as the group saw they attracted attention from the camp, they stopped and turned grave.

The three mages scanned the crowd until they spotted Adora. Their face turned even more severe… Even Castaspella, whom Adora had never seen anything other than joyful.

"Princess Adora," Castaspella started. "You are under arrest."


Lonnie chewed on her ration bar harsher than she needed, making her teeth grind unpleasantly against one another.

She was doing her best to ignore the irritating pacing of Rogelio in front of her.

Ever since the lizard guy had made his first steps on the prosthetics, it seemed like he could run through the whole Fright Zone twice a day. Entrapta's tech had not only given him his legs back. She had made him much stronger somehow.

And Lonnie, who was still struggling with a crutch, found that particularly annoying.

"Rogelio," she grunted. The guy didn't look up. "What exactly do you want us to do…?"

He finally stopped pacing and stared at her.

"He got in this mess because of me," he signed. "I know it."

He signed fast, but Lonnie was part of the cadets who had had to live very close to him, since they were in the same squadron since infancy. Learning how to understand him had been essential. Sometimes she wondered how come Shadow Weaver had never tried to get rid of him like with Catra… But she guessed a soldier who couldn't talk was still a soldier who could obey. Rogelio had never been destined to become anything more than a basic pawn… There had never been any career prospect for him.

Just like Kyle. That was probably the origin of their close bond. Kyle had always been an outcast among soldiers because he was terrible at everything. Rogelio understood that feeling, even if it was for a different reason.

"I know, I know…" she sighed. "But taking him out of the pit against Octavia's orders? She's just gonna put us all in there in the end."

"...we could leave," he said with hesitant hand movements.

"To go where?! And look at me, you really think I can go far with my ankle?"

Rogelio rolled his eyes as he resumed his pacing. Kyle had been locked in the pit for over 24 hours now. Octavia had probably already tortured him several times, and they didn't even know why…

Actually, Lonnie was sure it had something to do with his business with Entrapta. She had warned him… She had told him getting involved would get back at him.

And here they were, powerless in her brand new coach bedroom, exhausted after a hard day of work and training, trying to find a solution…

Lonnie didn't see any positive outcome from this. Either Kyle talked and Entrapta and him were screwed...either he didn't talk and he would die in the pit. Kyle did not have the endurance to survive in there more than two days.

"Entrapta could help us," Rogelio insisted.

"I already asked for her help. She said she would think about it," Lonnie spat. She couldn't help blaming the scientist. She had come to her the day before, accusing her of having put Kyle in unnecessary danger. She had asked her to fix it, use her influence on Hordak to make him release the cadet.

But Entrapta had looked very detached… Very preoccupied. She had answered that Octavia had Hordak's approval to do this, and she had as much authority as herself.

Great.

Things kept getting better and better.

A knock on the door made them jolt, automatically taking their combat stance. It was way past curfew. Nobody was supposed to be out at this hour.

"Coach Lonnie! It's Scorpia, open the door!"

Rogelio and her exchanged a stare. She nodded to him, exhaling as she braced herself. The imposing Force Captain came in, looking around the room she had never visited before. She congratulated Lonnie again for her promotion, but rapidly changed her usual careless attitude for a much more serious one.

"Entrapta wants to see you both. Right now."

Another day, Lonnie would have been suspicious, but their situation and Scorpia's unusual nervousness convinced her to follow without questions.

They travelled in the main building in silence, heart pounding in their chest. Scorpia was carrying Lonnie- to her dismay- since she couldn't walk silently with her crutch. The Force Captain was receiving indications from a little earphone, Lonnie could see it from here. Entrapta was monitoring them to avoid the security bots.

When they finally entered the lab, Lonnie was surprised to see Entrapta waiting for them dead serious, sitting in her chair. She invited them to sit with her. Two big backpacks were resting next to her. Lonnie squinted her eyes. She didn't like what this was suggesting…

"Hi guys," she grinned awkwardly. "So...I have something important to tell you all. It's about Kyle and the Rebellion."

"The Rebellion?"

"Yeah, so…" she looked like she didn't know where to start. "Today, I called Bow, my old friend from the Rebellion-"

Lonnie frowned. She had fought several times with that guy. So Entrapta was a traitor…

"And, well, I just learned the results of Catra's trial."

"Catra?! So she's alive..." Conflicted feelings whirled in Lonnie's mind, but she couldn't help feeling relieved at the news.

"Oooh that's right, you don't know anything about it..." Entrapta scratched her head. "Well yeah, Catra is alive, she's a prisoner of the Rebellion, and today she was judged for her crimes, and she's gonna be thrown in the Forbidden Zone."

"What is that?" Lonnie translated Rogelio's question. A shared question.

"It's the place where all evil is banned." A glint of fascination shone in Entrapta's eyes. "For thousands of years, it has been the place where the most evil people were sent. Very few of them managed to ever get out of it, and from the rare testimonies we got, it seems like it's a place filled with your own demons… And the only way out is to beat them all before you die."

"Charming…"

"We can't let Catra being sent there!" Scorpia exclaimed. "I haven't showed her my new drawings!"

"That's why I called you guys. It is time for you to leave the Horde."

It took them a few seconds to process her words. Even if Lonnie and Rogelio had thought of the possibility, they had never been brought face to face with the decision of actually doing it.

"What do you mean 'you'?" Scorpia finally asked.

Entrapta looked away, discomfort showing on her face. "So let me explain. In these backpacks," she tapped on them, "I put valuable crystals from the Temple we invaded a few months ago. These crystals have to go to Catra."

Entrapta stared at all of them one by one, making sure everybody registered.

"I decrypted some crucial information from these crystals. Information that Catra needs to know. I put all the data on this," she took a tablet out of the first backpack. "And I recorded myself in a video explaining to Catra everything I found."

"Entrapta," Scorpia stood up, fear creeping in her eyes. "Why are you saying it like that?"

"Hold on," Lonnie said. "You want us both-"

"And Kyle and Scorpia."

"-so you want us to go rescue Catra from a place where nobody can come out, just to give her some crystal shit?!"

"No, you'll have to rescue her before she's thrown there."

"What the hell man?!"

"Entrapta, you are coming with us right?" Scorpia grabbed her shoulders.

"We don't even know where she is!" Lonnie raised her valid arm in the air. Rogelio was frantically signing next to her, but she was too consternated to translate.

Entrapta broke free from Scorpia's grip and rose on her hair. A frown disfigured her face in a way Scorpia had never seen before.

"Can you please let me explain everything before reacting?" nobody answered. Entrapta nodded approvingly and sat down. She pulled another little tablet from the second backpack. "I put one of Catra's hair in my tracking device's settings. With that, you can find her wherever she is. She must be in Mystacor right now. I know it's not an easy place to break through, but don't forget we sent two missiles on them today. Their shield is broken, and their defense must be pretty weak."

"This is crazy! They must be on their guard after the raid!" Lonnie crossed her arms beneath her chest. "Why should we go though?! Why not you?"

"That's actually two different issues that don't bear a causality link," Entrapta lowered her eyes. "Kyle knows too many things, and Octavia will make him talk, or kill him. He needs to get out of the Fright Zone, and I gave him the mission of finding Catra and giving these-" she tapped on the backpacks, "to her."

"So that was just before he got arrested…"

"Yes, and so I figured, that you both could go with him and Scorpia… You were a team, with Catra, weren't you? After you rescue her, she will need your help. For what awaits her."

"What is it?" Lonnie squinted her eyes.

"I can't tell you."

"Then I'm not going."

"Buff girl, this is your escape plan too, you know. You're on Octavia's radar just like Kyle."

Lonnie scoffed. She wasn't wrong, life in the Horde was starting to be really exhausting…

"But what about you?" Scorpia asked again. "You are coming with us, right?"

"Scorpia…" Entrapta hugged her lifeless legs. "I can't go."

"But why?! I'm not leaving without you!"

"You have to. Catra needs your help Scorpia. I would come along if I could but…" Entrapta looked at her right hand. She tightened and released her fist. "I would be dangerous."

Scorpia saw her movement. She wasn't stupid, she knew it had something to do with the atrocity Hordak had done.

"It's your hand… I knew it... But… Can't you just take it off…?" she asked, desperation painting her voice.

Entrapta turned around and browsed on her computer. A second later, an x-ray picture appeared on the screen, showing a body figure. The skeleton was flashing normally… And a hypersignal came from the right hand. The whole right hand emitted a bright white signal. Wires came out of it, flashing on their way along the arm...running up until the shoulder...and ending in the column, going up in the spinal canal.

"No. I can't take it off anymore."

Chapter Text

The three soldiers gaped at the x-ray picture. They stared in awe at the wires going around Entrapta's spine like a python sneaking on his prey before stifling it to death.

You didn't have to be a genius to understand this wasn't good.

"...I don't care, you're still coming with us." Scorpia asserted. "What's the worst that could happen anyway?!"

"Scorpia, when the hand starts on working, there's no telling what I could do."

"It doesn't matter, we'll figure things out if it happens!"

Lonnie walked away from the bickering duo. She needed to think… It was overwhelming…

Rogelio put his scaly hands on her shoulders. An attempt to reassure her. Easy for him to see the bright side of this. It was exactly the opportunity he was searching for earlier. They would get Kyle out of the pit, and run away from the Horde… But did he realize they had to fulfill the end of the bargain?

"This is a suicide mission."

"We can do this," he signed. "With Entrapta's device, we can find Catra."

"We have no idea where Mystacor is, how to go there, what to do once we're there… We have no plan. And we have no idea when they're gonna send her to the exile zone. What if we can't find her?!" Anxiety broke her voice. "What are we gonna do then?"

"We'll find a way to get her out of the Forbidden Zone. We can go to Adora, she used to be one of us… She wouldn't let us-"

"Adora didn't stop the trial, Rogelio! We can't trust her!" Lonnie yelled. "And even if we get Catra out… What's next?! We don't even know the big thing she's supposed to do! This is madness!"

Lonnie crouched, holding her head. Her thoughts were going to make it explode. She focused on the other duo instead.

"Of course I want to save Catra," Scorpia was exclaiming. "But I don’t want to leave another friend behind! We’re the super pal trio!"

"But you’ll come back for me whenever you can Scorpia!" Entrapta retorted. "I’ll be here waiting for you!"

"I won't leave you behind with this psychopath who mutilated you! No way! He will hurt you again!"

"He can't, he needs me too much, and he's making me pay already with the hand. Trust me, I know what I'm doing!"

"Oh yeah?! You said the same thing when you healed Rogelio, and look at you now, you can't even walk on your real legs!"

Lonnie pinched the bridge of her nose. She had never heard Scorpia so mad, and it was worsening her growing headache.

Rogelio wrapped his arm around her shoulders. She focused on her breathing, like Mr. Smoothscales had taught her during practice, whenever she was stuck in a program.

Thinking of her old dead coach made her heart ache…

...maybe they could do this. Maybe they could handle themselves, all together in the wild. Maybe it would be better than staying here, putting up with Octavia's tyranny…

"Scorpia, you need to go now, you are running out of time, I'm pretty sure they're going to execute their sentence tomorrow. That's what Bow suggested, so-"

"No problem. We're going now, with you, and that's all!"

Lonnie grunted. She hated change. And for good reasons. And right now, they were about to make the craziest decision of their lives.

Rogelio squeezed her arm. She looked up, deciphering the signs.

"If you really want to stay… Would you blame us if we left?"

"No," she answered. "Kyle needs to get out of here, I get it."

"And you too."

She didn't answer. She watched Scorpia sob in Entrapta's arms. How the hell did the last days end up like this?! Kyle was being tortured in prison, Entrapta was in contact with the Rebellion, Catra was alive but would be soon close to non-existence, and now they just learned they all had to leave the Horde and rescue her with no strategy whatsoever.

Lonnie stood up and joined the hugging pair, wincing at the pain of her ankle. Entrapta was patting Scorpia's back with both hair and hands… What an odd view.

"...Entrapta," the genius looked up at her. "This is crazy. You just dropped this on us like it's a...freaking vacation trip like the princesses do… Why didn't you warn us earlier today?! We could have...at least had a few hours to think about it!"

"I wanted Kyle to leave yesterday actually, but then he got thrown into the pit, and Octavia spent all night long with him… Then today she spent a lot of time questioning him again… And I didn't want anyone to see you in the lab in daylight anyway."

"This is… We have no chance of survival or success."

She hopped around the lab, tugging on her dreads. She couldn't take a decision on the spot! ...they would never get to Catra in time anyway. She'd rather sleep on that and figure out a way to save them all later.

She sighed and stood stiff in front of the scientist.

"I'm not going now. I need time."

The princess stared at her with an indifference that made Lonnie shiver inside. She detangled herself from Scorpia, who was wiping her eyes.

Entrapta went to her computer in silence. Lonnie watched her type something on there, suspicion and fear creeping in her mind…

"You're leaving me no choice."

The wall screens lit up. On one of them, Lonnie could see themselves in the lab...five minutes earlier. Arguing about Entrapta's request. On another screen, she could see Octavia sleeping in her room. And on the last screen…

A chrono.

"You have thirty minutes to get out of the Fright Zone before the system wakes Octavia and Hordak and sends them the video of what just happened here."

"You little shit…"

Lonnie fumed. She tried to pounce on her, but Rogelio locked his arms around her body. Lonnie elbowed him until he let go, and she aimed this time for the computer. But suddenly, Emily came out of a corner, pointing a deadly laser gun at her. The robot opened its body and put the computer inside. Entrapta had planned everything…

"I'm sorry…" the genius smiled sadly. "Observing Catra for a year taught me valuable tricks after all…"

"Entrapta…" Scorpia kneeled, warm tears rolling on her face. "I don't… I can't…"

"Scorpia, If you want to get out of here, I need to be in the lab… I need to check on the bots for you and guide you out," she said softly. "And in the end I'll deactivate the chrono."

But Scorpia only cried harder, punching on the ground. Entrapta wrapped her arms around Scorpia's neck.

"You'll come back for me… I know it."

Meanwhile, Lonnie was desperately trying to fight Emily, but her wounded limbs were impairing her.

"You have no right to do this!" she raged as she finally gave up, falling on the floor. She was shaking. Her ankle was hurting bad. This couldn't be happening.

She looked up at the screen.

00:26:37:59

"She wouldn't do that…" she mumbled to herself. "She wouldn't send us all to death..."

"Do you want to take that risk?" Entrapta asked with her typical stoical air.

"...for fuck's sake!" Lonnie groaned.

Rogelio helped her up. He had a backpack on his shoulders and the other one in his hand. "Come on, Lonnie," he signed. "We'll make it out safely, I promise."

He handed the other backpack to Scorpia, who reluctantly put it over her own shoulders. She didn't look at Entrapta when the princess gave her a third backpack Emily had prepared while they were talking, where the bot had gathered water and food supplies…

Scorpia turned towards Lonnie instead. She took the coach in her arms, and headed out. She sent a last painful stare back at Entrapta, before leaving the threshold.

Entrapta clicked on a button, locking the door behind them. She took her head in her hands, overwhelmed by the events. But she didn't have the time to dwell. She had work to do.

Emily gave her the computer back.

Operation New Rebels was on.


"Scorpia, how can you accept this?!"

The giant didn't answer. She was too busy fighting her tears, focusing on Entrapta's voice who was guiding her through the earphone, and running in silence through the Fright Zone. Next to her, Rogelio was fumbling in the backpack. He found out weapons at the bottom.

He gave a gun to Lonnie, and took one for himself.

Even if Entrapta was helping, they had to be on their guard.

Five minutes later, they reached the prison floor. Two guards were on duty. Octavia had considered it necessary, in spite of the presence of security bots.

"You have 19:44 minutes left."

Scorpia huffed. Delicately, she put Lonnie on the floor. She peeked around the corner, studying the guards.

"Rogelio says you need to create a diversion," Lonnie whispered. "Then he'll come from behind and stun them."

"Good idea. And you...you'll hide in the air vent."

"What?! No!" Lonnie wiggled when Scorpia caught her again. The woman had a colossal strength.

"Some bots are coming this way, according to Entrapta, so you need to hide while we get Kyle out of the pit."

Before she could protest any further, Scorpia had thrown her- but gently- inside the big pipe, along with the three backpacks. Lonnie wrinkled her nose at the weird smell. They never really washed those vents…

"Wait here. We won't be long."

"How long do we have? Scorpia!"

Lonnie groaned. They were already gone. She leaned on the metal and observed through the thin bars. She couldn't see the prison entrance from here, but she could hear Scorpia talking.

She had started the diversion. A few seconds later, muffled shouts and a zapping sound echoed on the walls. A door opening… And then nothing.

For long minutes, Lonnie waited. Her heart was beating too fast. She didn't like this inaction. She was a woman who always rushed forward in battles. She knew her abilities, and knew how to use them. Waiting on the sidelines was not an option for her.

Maybe it wasn't so bad to leave the Fright Zone after all.

It still made her want to puke, but she would get used to it…

She held her breath when she heard two security bots patrolling, their mechanical legs rattling on the metal ground of the building. She hoped Entrapta had warned the other two…

She exhaled when the sound faded. Everything turned silent again. But somehow, it managed to make her even more anxious… As if something was lurking nearby, watching her closely.

She looked up.

Empty white eyes on a baby face met her gaze.

She muffled a whimper. Hordak's spy demon didn't. Its scream resonated in the vents, and probably in the whole storey level.

Lonnie took her gun and shot its face. The demon ran away, crawling on the walls of the pipe. Lonnie followed him close, hurting her ankle and wounded arm in the process, but she didn't care. She had to stop the thing.

It screamed once more, and Lonnie shot, hitting it three times on the back. Finally, the spy slumped on the ground, blue electricity running on its body.

Lonnie shot one last bullet in its face, by precaution, before she sat again and leaned her head on the wall. Her ankle felt terrible now, and she could feel her broken arm again, whereas it had started healing painlessly…

"Lonnie?! Where are you?" Scorpia's voice resonated from afar in the vent.

"I'm coming!"

"No, don't move, change of plans, the noise attracted too many bots. We'll use the vents to leave."

"What?! But Entrapta can't see us here, there's no camera!"

"I'll update her, don't worry."

Scorpia and Rogelio finally appeared in her vision perimeter. They looked breathless and shocked. Lonnie gasped when she saw Kyle in Rogelio's arms… He was clutching his friend's shirt, his eyes closed and face completely wrinkled in fear. His body was shaking...and several blood stains reddened his shirt.

What had she done to him…

"Come on, let's go. We have ten minutes."

They ran along the vents, not caring if they made any noise at this point. A minute later, they faced a dead end. On the ceiling, Rogelio opened a hatch. It was a high vertical pipe with metal ladder steps on the side.

"Entrapta, we reached the vent-" Scorpia read on the hatch door, "Z572X03. It's gonna take us longer than planned to reach the top, and then we'll have to find the skiffs somehow…?"

"Perfect! Let me check… Yeah there's a tower crane up there, use it to drop you on the skiff bay. It's the shortest way out, otherwise you have to go down the pipes, it'll take forever, and the bots are onto you right now."

"Alright I'll tell you when we're on top…"

"Good, I'm stopping the chrono. You can't come back anymore, so…"

Scorpia made a sad face. The sudden urge of dropping everything and going back to the lab took her for a second. But she knew Entrapta was right. They had already crossed the point of no-return.

The guards they had beaten up and locked in the pit instead of Kyle would talk. And the bots must have been gathering where the spy demon had screamed.

They couldn't go back.

Scorpia sniffed. She shook her head, adjusted Lonnie on her shoulder, and started going up the metal ladder. The weight of the two backpacks plus Lonnie slowed her progression more than she expected. Rogelio on the contrary, was almost on top, probably thanks to his new legs' strength.

Finally out, the Force Captain welcomed the polluted air on her face like it was the purest smell of the world. She put Lonnie on the ground, who didn't waste her time crutching her way to Rogelio and Kyle in the control cabin of the crane.

"We did it," Scorpia smiled. "We found the crane! We'll reach the skiffs in a minute now!"

Rogelio made the engine move, confirming with a thumbs up that it was working. Kyle helped Lonnie in the cabin. The toughest part would be to hang onto the hook, with two wounded people and their supply.

"Great!" She could hear Entrapta clap her hands through the mic. "Alright… I'd stay until I'm sure you're safe, but Octavia is awake."

Scorpia's smile fell.

"She's kinda coming my way now… And I have a few other things to do, so um… I guess this is goodbye Scorpia…"

She smashed her pincer over her mouth, hiccuping over the sobs.

"I'll… I'll come back for you… With Catra! As soon as we find her, we'll come back and get you out of here…"

She never imagined she could have so many tears inside of her. The last time she cried that hard was when her father died…

"Yeah, the super pal trio, together again…" Entrapta laughed. She was sure she had a big smile plastered on her face. Entrapta was that kind of careless against danger…

"Promise you'll call… I can't stand not knowing what Octavia and Hordak-" the words died in her throat.

What had she done… She couldn't leave Entrapta behind… She had to go back to her!

"I don't think I'll be able to call Scorpia."

Her heart sunk deeper in her chest.

"I'll try."

Her pincers trembled. Realization hit her harder now that she was about to leave for good.

Entrapta had no idea if she would survive.

"You should hurry, bots are coming your way. Bye Scorpia."

"Wait!"

Scorpia called her several times. But the earphone remained mute. She took it out of her ear, and delicately put her in her pants pocket. She joined the three others who were calling her, trying to forget about her pain. They were not out of trouble yet…

"We have a problem…" Lonnie was blank. Scorpia stepped in the cabin. The crane jib was placed above the skiff bay, and the trolley with the hook was right in front of them. All they had to do was program the trolley, climb on the hook, and let it drop them where they needed…

"It's manual."

Scorpia blinked. She leaned over Lonnie's shoulder. The board was old… Too old.

"Somebody has to stay behind to move the trolley."

Her words had the same effect as a bucket of cold water dropped on their head.

"We… We can go the long way," Scorpia exclaimed. But just as she said those words, a detonation deafened them. The window of the cabin shattered, covering Kyle in tiny pieces of glass. The soldiers crouched in the cabin.

Lonnie peeked an eye over the edge. "Fuck, they're surrounding us…"

"And there are twenty of them downstairs!" Rogelio signed. "They're coming up the crane!"

Scorpia took the earphone from her pocket, and yelled Entrapta's name, calling for help. Kyle was holding his head, and Rogelio was desperately trying to find an automatic button that didn't exist…

Lonnie gritted her teeth.

"Hop on the hook right now," she ordered. The three others widened their eyes. They all started to shake their head, vehemently. She could see a protest forming on Scorpia's mouth.

Lonnie's face turned cold. "Go, now. I won't repeat myself."

She aimed her gun at them.

"But Lonnie…"

She fired at their feet. It seemed like a sudden rage took control of her hand. She let it fire closer and closer to them, ignoring their complaints so easily. She fired until Rogelio, carrying Kyle, had no other choice but take the small leap and wrap his free arm around the hook.

Immediately, the bots started to aim at them. Rogelio curled up into a ball, protecting Kyle from the assault.

"Stop it Lonnie!" Scorpia snarled, jumping around to avoid the hits. "Don't make me give up on somebody else tonight!"

"And you, don't let it all be in vain Scorpia," Lonnie yelled as she shot again. "It's me or all of us! So go, and make this count!"

Scorpia was crying again. She hesitated, but a new raid almost hitting the two boys, coming from the bots who got closer and closer, made up her mind. She joined them, shaking her head again at Lonnie, as if it was all just a mistake and she could come along…

"Find Catra," Lonnie said as she launched the trolley. "Tell her for me that..."

Scorpia raised her brows, but no other words followed. Lonnie closed her mouth, and only watched them get further away from her. Tears were rolling on her cheeks.

Lonnie never cried.

When the trolley reached the jib, the coach pulled the joystick to lower the hook. She had to crouch again because of the bots, so they lost sight of her. When the hook got a few feet above the ground, it suddenly stopped. A shriek came from the cabin. Then, silence.

"Lonnie!" Kyle screamed.

The three soldiers couldn't stay here. They hopped off the hook, crashing on the dirt. Rogelio's legs' strength absorbed the shock more than Scorpia's. Her knees hurt like hell. But she had to get up.

The watchpoint was hurling. They were spotted by the whole Fright Zone now.

Rogelio had already settled in a skiff. Scorpia threw the keys at him while she dropped the backpacks in the vehicle.

"Go, go, go!"

The fugitives launched the skiff full speed. They only needed five minutes to reach the Whispering Woods, where the Horde wouldn't be able to shoot them or track them down.

Five very long minutes.

Kyle was shaking more and more as he saw bots and soldiers aligning at the entrance of the buildings… Rogelio zigzagged when they set fire.

"Speed up!" Scorpia said as she aimed at their opponents. Her shots didn't go far but scared the soldiers enough to gain them some time. They got soon out of reach.

When they passed the first trees of the Whispering Woods, that was when realization hit them again. A new kind of fear clutched their heart when they thought of what awaited them.

There was no turning back.


Entrapta exhaled in relief.

She had done it. She had deleted everything. All the footage of her work during the past few months. All the data she collected on the crystals. Nothing remained on her computer or the Horde data system. She had also erased the footage of all the Fright Zone's cameras during the last two weeks.

Now whatever had happened in these walls since Adora had been captured was gone. It wouldn't delete the obvious suspicions of Entrapta's implication in that mess. But it was necessary that Hordak had no visual proof of everything that happened with the rebels.

There was only one thing she would keep.

"So Emily… You got it?"

The robot nodded. A little light emitted from her, and a hologram of Entrapta appeared in the room.

"Dear future me… If you ever see this, it means you're alive- good for you!- and your friends have come back to save you-"

"Perfect."

Emily stopped the diffusion. Entrapta stared at her robot friend… Emily had grown so much in barely a year… She was now more intelligent and even more human than half of the soldiers of the Horde. She was her best friend and confident…

Tears formed at the corner of her eyes.

"I'm going to miss you..."

The bot made a sad noise, lowering its metal head.

The princess stood up and placed herself next to the Black Garnet. She looked up at the majestic runestone.

"Thank the First Ones Scorpia isn't connected to this anymore…" she mumbled to herself. "After what happened to Mermista…"

She shook her head, refocusing on what was important. She frowned seriously and nodded to Emily. The robot clicked on a few buttons on the central machine linked to the stone. Entrapta put a helmet on her head. Wires ran from the helmet to the machine.

"Okay, let's do this, Em," she breathed in and out, trying to stop her heart from racing. "Set the date to two weeks before Light Hope's Temple's invasion."

The Black Garnet grew brighter. Shadows appeared, lurking around the stone. Entrapta's heart pounded so hard against her ribcage she thought she might throw up.

"Don't forget…" she struggled to talk. Her whole body was shaking in fear. "You must hide, Emily. Don't ever let me find you until it's time."

The bot raised the equivalent of a thumbs up. A joyful laughter mixed with anxiety escaped Entrapta's throat. She inhaled and exhaled one last time.

"Erase my memories now."

Chapter Text

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.

She sighed.

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…

"Adora?"

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."

"Hey-"

"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.

"...I know."

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 what?!"

"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.

"Faster."

"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.

"It's done."

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!"

"Catra!"

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.

"Catra!"

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.

Everything 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…

Chapter Text

"Are you all insane?!"

Angella was out of her mind. Wings extended, hair flowing, eyes sending daggers, and sparkle magic erupting from her body as she couldn't control her wrath… At this moment, the sorceresses of Mystacor seemed to remember that she wasn't any queen. She was an Immortal Being.

Castaspella didn't know how to react. She could barely process what had just happened.

Angella had barged in, protesting against the sentence in the middle of the operation, which had immensely annoyed her. Then Adora and Glimmer had appeared in a sparkle cloud. They had made their way to Catra, punching and kicking guards. Glimmer had been knocked out. Catra had fought back, then had fallen into the Forbidden Zone… And Adora had jumped to save her. But the Forbidden Zone had closed just before she could catch Catra.

The sorceress queen looked at the shaking princess who had changed their lives so much since she had turned into She-Ra the first time.

She was a mess.

The High Council had ordered to chain her up when Angella had dropped her gently on the grass after catching her. Adora hadn't even reacted, too shocked by the vision of Catra disappearing forever in the dimension that swallowed her.

Castaspella felt conflicted. She pitied her for losing her friend, but she was extremely irked that she thought she could go against the law, just because she was She-Ra. That wasn't how an organized society worked.

It wouldn't matter so much though, if it was only Adora.

However, her niece and even her sister-in-law tried to oppose the judgement… It wasn't good for the new Rebellion. If they couldn't even agree on a simple trial, how would they be able to take battle decisions together?

Maybe Isidore had been right, and they shouldn't have mingled in this war at all… The First Ones didn't want this to happen…

"You all went over the line!" Angella resumed. "You rush Catra's exile, you hurt my daughter, now you're trying to put Adora in jail?! What's next, a trial for She-Ra? Will you send her to the Forbidden Zone too, for treason as an excuse?!"

"Angella, control yourself," Mortella said acidly. "And please don't say you, as if you weren't part of the decision."

"I was, and I voted for Catra's pardon! I should have interfered..."

"Angella, I don't understand…" said Castaspella. "You asked for this… You asked for our collaboration in the war, for our help, and for this trial!"

"Yes, but not like this! I didn't ask for your psychorigidity and your lack of perspective!"

"We live in a society, we have to follow rules if we don't want to fall into anarchy."

"Are you kidding me?!" Glimmer raged as she was hugging Adora. "Do you really think we're a functioning society?! We've been at war for a decade, we let the Horde take over our lands and kill the civilians we're supposed to protect. We've barely had any interactions between kingdoms, and Mystacor never moved a finger to help any of us! This isn't a society that can follow laws! This…" she waved her arm, gesturing to all of them. "This is a chaotic sack of rulers trying to assert dominance to please the people without putting themselves into question or looking at the big picture!"

Glimmer panted. She met her mother's gaze. Angella looked at her with so much pride and admiration it made her blush.

"My daughter is absolutely right. I have been weak for so long, retreating in front of Hordak, and only she was strong enough to face his forces. She was also the one who brought She-Ra into the Rebellion, overlooking the fact that she was a Horde soldier at the time."

Adora glanced at them for a second but quickly looked away. She wasn't in the mood to listen. Glimmer tightened her embrace around her.

"Adora hadn't committed any problematic crimes at the time," Castaspella answered softly. "She didn't deserve a trial for that, unlike Catra. And I don't understand how you could imagine that people would forgive everything she's done so easily..."

"It is true, but whatever you say, Catra didn't deserve this sentence," Angella concluded, a hard stare on her face. "If you had put things into perspective… You and the civilian jury- because I know the Alliance wasn't the one who sent her to a fate worse than death- you all would have voted for the motion I proposed."

"This isn't fair Angella, you are blaming us after the harm is done," Mortella crossed her arms beneath her chest. "It's a little too easy. Why didn't you say anything before? Why didn't you try to convince us and the people before, like Princess Adora did? And may I remind you that you were the one who rushed the trial in the first place."

"I know. I've made my mistakes…" Angella's face broke, turning back into its previous sadness.

If she hadn't asked for that early trial… If she hadn't felt compelled once again to follow the laws she was taught to believe fair since she was little… Micah would have opened her eyes sooner if he'd been here, like he did during the time of the first Alliance.

Glimmer was the same as her father, she thought fondly. She never let her critical eye close itself even in hard times like this, and she proved it by getting Adora out of prison to save a woman she didn't like but acknowledged as poorly treated.

Angella had failed again. She hadn't expected the jury to go that far. And she hadn't truly realized what a terrible sentence the Forbidden Zone was before she felt that horrible void's aura lingering in the air…

She had been naive and weak. And she had failed Katriska. Once again.

"What is done is unfortunately done, but one thing is certain now. I won't let myself be influenced by you anymore."

Castaspella was speechless. She didn't understand what was happening.

"You are my family, but you were all so wrong on so many levels… You were wrong about Katriska, about the planet, the runestones, Hordak... And every time I fall back into following you…" Angella said bitterly. "From now on, I'll listen to my instinct. So first of all, I am not letting you put Adora back into prison. And you're going to give us back the sword of She-Ra. And second of all...the Alliance will decide together if we still want your help in this war."

"Angella…"

The queen took Adora in her arms and flew away. Glimmer teleported right afterwards, leaving the High Council dumbfounded on the cliff.

Strange events were unfolding on Mystacor…

So strange the Council didn't notice the little bot hiding in the bushes, zooming on them.


Midnight! It's witching hour!

Oh, Loo-Kee would have loved this! Madame Razz should have told them to come. But Madame Razz would tell them everything afterwards anyway!

They would come back together another time, when Madame Razz is less distracted by her task. They would wander in the halls of the castle together, mocking the majestic statues and growing trees where people would hate to see them.

Hehe, that would be funny.

But first Madame Razz had to enter that secret room that wasn't so secret after all yes? Now she had to take the mask, good, excellent.

And now she had to make sure the guard would see her. Oh, maybe she needed to make some noise. He was too sleepy, he didn't realize Madame Razz slipped in. Perfect. Now that nice soldier was going to hide in that closet and take a good nap…

Hmm, six hours? Yes, six hours should be enough.


Glimmer was playing with her staff, making random objects float in the room under the admiration of Bow. She was glancing from time to time at the bed, where Adora was lying, only showing her back to her friends.

She had been staying still for the whole day, sleeping and crying silently when she thought they couldn't hear her. They had respected her silence, but they insisted on staying with her, to offer her a comforting presence if needed.

She hadn't sent them away.

Glimmer sighed as she let Bow's quiver fall on the ground. She felt terrible about everything that happened.

Her mother was suddenly seeing her as the best of the two of them, but Glimmer wasn't really happy about herself. If she had been true to herself, she would have helped Adora instead of following principles she didn't even totally agree with. She would have talked to Catra a little more to understand her, for Adora. She would have made her best to bring optimal conditions for Catra's trial. She would have convinced her mother to push the trial's date.

But she had let her jealousy set ablaze her grudge against Catra. She had decided to become blind on Adora's arguments regarding the feline, and let her go almost unprepared to face a jury that shred them to pieces.

Glimmer agreed- even reluctantly- that Catra deserved a punishment but also a second chance in this war. And she had known deep down, that Catra would receive a sentence that wouldn't benefit to anyone… But she hadn't done anything to prevent it.

She had finally decided it was enough after Adora was put in jail. But unfortunately it had been too late to react. Her mother had been too astound by the events and still too hesitant to question Mystacor's laws…

All night long the guards had held a firm grip on the princesses, and especially on her, given her teleporting abilities. She hadn't been able to escape before the very end…

She was as much as fault as her mother, and she would blame herself for a long time for that.

"Hey… It's kinda late," Bow whispered. "Maybe we should let her sleep?"

"I'm not sleeping," Adora's voice made them jolt. They hadn't heard her for the whole day. The blonde sat up, face turned towards the open window, as if she was trying to see the Forbidden Zone from there…

She turned around, showing a ferocity in her eyes they didn't expect.

"Are you, um…" Glimmer started hesitantly. "Are you okay?"

"No. I'm not," she pursed her lips. "But I'm done dwelling on all of this."

The rebels stared at her in surprise, waiting for her to continue.

"I made a promise to Catra. And I'm not going to break it again."

"What are you saying…?" Bow asked.

"I'm going to find her, one way or another."

"But Adora, how exactly-"

Glimmer didn't have the time to finish. A cloud of purple smoke erupted all of a sudden in the room with a loud popping sound. The trio raised on their feet, taking a fighting stance by instinct, coughing at the smoke.

"Well, well, you look awfully tired, Mara dear!"

Glimmer frowned but didn't lower her fists when she saw the scrawny figure in front of her. A weird little old woman with big glasses and a broom stuck under her arm, was tapping Adora's hand gently.

Adora had a smile on her face. She put her sword on her back, which reassured Glimmer a bit.

Did she know her…?

"Madame Razz! What are you doing here?"

Oh… That was the famous weird sorceress Adora had met in the Whispering Woods a year ago… The one who led her to the Temple the first time.

"Madame Razz is here to take you berry eating of course!"

Huh? Bow and Glimmer exchanged a puzzled stare.

The weird woman opened her palms. A pile of red berries and a pile of blue ones lied in each hand, glistening under the magical light.

"What does that mean Madame Razz?" Adora asked, as confused as them.

"Don't you have someone to find, Mara dear?"

Three pairs of eyes widened in realization.

"Take the red berries to face your demons and find an old friend on your way. If you succeed, or if you lose yourself in failure and want to go back, take the blue berries to end the story, wake up in your bed, and pretend nothing happened."

Madame Razz put delicately the two little piles on the bed. Then she smiled, waved, put some of her own berries in her mouth, and disappeared in a red cloud.

"What was that?!" Bow's voice grew an octave higher. Glimmer's heart raced in her chest when she saw Adora's face turn grave. She went to the desk, took a little tissue bag used for earrings, and reached for the blue berries.

"No," Glimmer put herself between Adora and the bed. "You are not seriously considering going there, are you?!"

"Glimmer, please step aside."

"Adora! This is way too dangerous! I wasn't kidding when I said nobody ever comes back from the Forbidden Zone."

"Well it's a good thing I have those blue berries with me then."

She pushed Glimmer, put the fruits in the bag that she tied on her belt afterwards, then took the red berries in her hand.

"How can you trust this woman, you don't even know her!" Glimmer panicked. "For all we know these might kill you!"

"Glimmer's right, let Angella examine them at least!" Bow pleaded.

Adora looked up at them, lowering her hand. She was hesitating… Or at least that was what Glimmer thought.

"Sorry guys. I'll be back soon. Cover for me please."

"No!" Glimmer yelled. She jumped in Adora's direction, extending her arms. But Adora had already swallowed the berries.

Glimmer arms only closed on air.

Adora was gone.

Chapter Text

It was cold. So cold.

It was the kind of cold that crept under your skin, sneaked inside your chest, and subsided no matter how much your muscles shivered, no matter how many times you rubbed your hands together.

Catra had to move, if she didn't want the cold to paralyze her. But she had to get rid of those handcuffs in her back first. She had been scratching them for hours with her claws, relentlessly, her heart beating fast as she checked her surroundings regularly.

The fog was so thick she couldn't see further than two feet away.

The rocky ground under her feet was the only indication of the kind of place she had been thrown in. Some sort of mountain…

Her stomach grumbled loudly. Another problem she would have to deal with soon… Was there anything to eat in this place anyway?!

"Fuck…" she cursed several times as she intensified the friction. Her arms were sore, her fingers hurt just below the claws, and she didn't think she was making any progress… She couldn't even check behind her back.

Catra suddenly shut her mouth. Her ears were raised on her head, tail stiff, pupils narrowed into two slits.

The whispers were back.

Catra fell as silent as she could, only hearing her pulse and shaky breath.

It had been lurking around her, hidden in the fog, ever since she woke up on the cold ground… She couldn't understand what it was saying, but feeling it so close, waiting for the right moment to strike gave her goosebumps.

She would gladly provoke it, if she didn't have her hands tied in her back…

A shadow.

Catra snapped her head on her right. No, there was nothing.

Her breath condensating was the only movement in her vision. She couldn't even hear the whispers anymore. They had probably left, but Catra didn't dare resume her work on her cuffs.

"You think you're strong Catra?"

She yelped. Nobody was around her. She was alone.

Yet the sharp whisper felt like it was inside her ear…

A giggle echoed in the fog, far away.

Catra's heart pounded in her chest. She had to move. But now she was truly paralyzed, stuck against the rock she was leaning on.

"Such a brave face for someone so weak…"

Catra jumped on her feet. She steadied her breath as she studied the fog, perking her ears up. It was just like Shadow Weaver's mind tricks. She was used to it. She could endure it. The humiliation, the degrading, the condescending, the inferiority complex… These weren't demons that could break her anymore. She had already faced them all.

She unsheathed her claw and resumed scratching the metal. She wouldn't let the Zone get to her.

"You think you can get out of here by yourself?"

She jumped on the left, her ear twitching. "Enough! Show yourself!" she shouted. Only a creepy chuckle answered her. She took a few hesitant steps, her eyes squinting to see better in the fog.

"So many fears in you…"

She shivered. She bit her lip hard, focusing on the metal.

The whispers tickled both her ears at the same time. "You can feel them too, right Catra?"

"Shut up, you're not real!" She could feel her breath hitch at the sound of footsteps tiptoeing around her.

"What you hear and see...it's all real… All inside your heart…"

"I'm not scared of you!" Catra kicked a rock in the direction of the noises.

"Do you know what's not real though? The feelings she's showing for you…"

Catra froze. A memory popped in her mind. A kiss, sweet moans in the silent cell… A new promise...

"You think she's coming to save you?"

Something cold and sharp ran down her spine. Her wounded back exploded from pain. Her tail raised high in her back. Her feet were planted in the ground. Unable to move.

"You're scared she won't hold her promise once again…"

Another sharpness ran from her shoulder to her neck, scratching on her pulse…

Like a claw.

"But you don't really want her to save you, do you?"

Several claws were caging her throat now. She was completely still, internally shaking under the touch of…

"She messed you up big time…"

Then she felt it. A pressure in her back. A face snickering in her ear. A breath blowing on her cheek. She could easily picture the smirk showing off the feline fangs…

"What if we killed her when she comes?"

Catra yelped. She surged forward, and lost balance because of her ankle cuffs. She stood up with frantic efforts, and ran as fast as she could in the fog, not caring if she was noisy, or if she couldn't see anything.

She stumbled again, rolling on the ground. When she sat up, she saw her.

Little kid Catra, with her scruffy hair, wearing Horde pajamas. She was smiling at her.

"Don't be sad," she said with a brilliant grin. "I brought you a gift."

Catra had only brought Adora a gift once. She hadn't liked the dead mouse so much, so Catra never did it again.

"It'll make you feel better," little Catra smiled again. She extended her arm.

She was holding Adora's head. Blood was dripping from the base of the neck.

Catra screamed again. She stood and ran the other way, desperately tugging on her handcuffs.

"She's so good at charming everyone… She has them all wrapped around her finger… Collecting them like trophies… And you are her most ancient and faithful one…"

Catra raged as she ran, having no idea where she was going, or if she was going anywhere for that matter...

Suddenly she stopped. In front of her glowed two bright red dots… Two red eyes.

"No…"

The nightmare started to invade her mind… She couldn't face that either. She turned around, hopping away from them.

"There's only one way to break free."

Teenager Catra and Adora were fighting in front of her, spears whipping at each other, like an old memory. Teenage Catra shouted, threw her spear in Adora's stomach. The weapon went all the way through her body. She pulled it off, snickering at the sight of Adora collapsing on the ground, red tainting the metal. She looked over her shoulder at Catra, a devious smirk on her face.

Catra charged the horrible vision, but it vanished in a foggy cloud. Catra panted, kneeling on the ground, waiting for the demon to whisper again. But an ominous silence surrounded her.

Then she heard it. The gnawing sound. Gross slurps and moans. She peeked on her right slowly. A figure was forming in the fog, crouching over a stiff figure lying on the ground. The fog was clearing itself around it, little by little. The crouching figure sat up, looking over at Catra. Blue and yellow eyes shone. A clawed finger came out of her bloody mouth with a pop sound. A snicker froze Catra's bones. Her eyes fell on the figure on the ground. Blond hair in a ponytail. A red pool surrounded her, dripping from her shredded stomach.

The scream got strangled in her throat as she tried to keep herself from vomiting.

She curled up in a ball, and closed her eyes. She was shaking hard, her body screamed at her to run again. But she knew there was nowhere to go. The demon would haunt her until she died from thirst or whatever came first. She could at least avoid the terrible images the Forbidden Zone created.

"Aw…" the sultry voice tsked.

She felt it next to her. She felt its cold claws brushing her hair. She couldn't open her eyes. She didn't want to see her.

"Look what she made you become…"

Catra shook her head, trying to chase the hand.

"Whatever you do, wherever you go… It always comes back to her, doesn't it? Even here..."

"Go away!"

"She always owned you. You will never be free from her influence…"

The claw traced her jawline, and grabbed her chin.

"And now she owns you in a different way…"

The claws turned smoother. A second later, soft lips pressed on her mouth, gently sucking on it… Catra's heart beat faster when she recognized the touch. But she didn't dare open her eyes…

Hands cupped her face as the kiss lingered for a long time. Catra couldn't help it. She sighed, leaning in the touch.

She knew she shouldn't, she knew she should push her away. But after seeing herself kill Adora again and again… How could she resist? She needed Adora with her right now, in that dark twisted place…

"Catra…"

Oh, that voice. It made her finally peek an eye open. The feeling of relief when she saw her face made a tear escape and roll on the bridge of her nose. Adora smiled fondly, rubbing a thumb on her face.

Catra knew this was a trick. But she couldn't help it. She let her kiss her again. She let her straddle her hips. She let her grind smoothly on her.

"I missed you Catra…"

Adora had watery eyes, staring at her like she was the most precious thing in the world.

"Will you join the Rebellion with me?"

And Catra couldn't help it again. She was too exhausted. Too hurt. She wanted a way out, even if it was fake. She nodded.

Adora smiled, stroking her face and touching her forehead with her own.

"Will you stay with me forever?"

Catra nodded again.

"Will you follow me wherever I go?"

Her voice had changed. Something ominous lied beneath her tone. Catra looked up at her warily. Her guts told her to shove her, but she could hardly do anything in that position.

"Will you always make sure you're never out of my sight Catra? ...you know I need to protect you all the time."

Catra didn't like that look in her eyes. It was too intense.

"I need you to be there for me Catra. I can't sleep without you being at the foot of my bed… I need to be sure you're faithful to me..."

Catra widened her eyes when she felt her hands move down from her face, to wrap around her neck slowly…

"Will you come with me to the next Princess Prom, as my date? I want to show you off to everybody… "

Catra wiggled under Adora, trying to release herself from her grasp, but she had steadied her body just at the right place to immobilize her.

And the hands were tightening around her neck.

"I could take care of you like before… And I could find you an occupation for the times I'm gone on a mission..."

"Let me go!" Catra finally shouted.

"I can't let you go back to the Horde Catra, or anywhere else actually," she shook her head slowly, her big blue eyes growing cold. "I won't let you get away from me anymore."

Catra gasped for air. She wiggled as hard as she could, panic taking over her.

"You are meant to be by my side forever…"

Adora squeezed harder.

"Stop…" Catra's voice was barely a rasp. Blood was rushing to her face. She was going to die.

But suddenly Adora was yanked away from her. Catra coughed, panting heavily as she rolled on her side.

"Don't worry Catra."

The voice sent a shiver down her spine. She looked up, and regretted instantly.

She saw herself, holding Adora in her arms. She saw her eyes, bloodshot, darkening a face twitched by an insane smirk. She saw her hand, holding a knife against Adora's throat.

She saw herself slit the flesh in one swift move, blood spilling everywhere on her body.

"She won't pull us down any longer."

Catra closed her eyes. This was not real. This was a nightmare. This couldn't be. She would wake up in her bed at the Fright Zone. She would have a good laugh with Scorpia at Entrapta's lab when she would tell them about that silly dream. And she would forget about it.

"Lord Catra, here's the tea you asked for."

Catra couldn't help looking once again. The bitterness of that familiar voice sent a new wave of panic through her body. Not her…

"It's cold Lonnie."

Her other self threw the tea at the buff girl's feet. She was sitting on Hordak's throne, wearing his cloak, caressing Entrapta's thigh who was sitting on her lap as she typed on her computer.

Oh no, no, no…

"Come closer," her other self said, a sadistic glint in her eyes. "Kneel."

Lonnie obeyed reluctantly, sending daggers to the feline.

"You know how I feel about failure… If you can't do your work properly… You need to be punished."

She slipped her hand under Lonnie's shirt, and from the way the girl winced, Catra could guess what she was doing.

"Stop it!" Catra jumped on her feet, but arms locked themselves on her body, holding her still.

"You don't want to watch our success?" the claws gripped her jaw with an incredible strength, forcing her to watch. "This is everything you've ever wanted Catra…"

"No…" she wailed, but she couldn't keep her eyes off of the scene. Her other self was laughing at the humiliation, thriving on bringing Lonnie to tears… "I'm not like this…"

"Um, Lord Catra?" Scorpia appeared out of nowhere in the scene, hiding someone behind her.

"I'm busy Scorpia."

"I know but um… It's the kid, he… He failed the exam."

Her other self pushed Lonnie aside, and stood up, sending Entrapta on the ground without a concern.

"Show him to me."

Catra could see a shadowy figure hidden by Scorpia, standing trembling in front of her other self.

"I don't accept failure in my ranks, soldier" Lord Catra's words were acid. "I thought I made it clear when I saved your miserable existence…"

"I want my mommy…" the kid cried. Wait...Catra recognized that voice. It was that kid…from Mystacor…

"Your mommy?" her other self crouched to his level, pity mixed with a glint of danger dancing in her eyes. "Your mommy's dead, soldier. She is never coming back for you…"

The kid hiccuped. Like he did when more rocks crushed his mother's lifeless body.

"But don't worry, I'll make sure you don't miss her anymore."

She turned to Entrapta, "erase his memories."

"NO!"

"What's the matter Catra? Don't you wish you too could forget about the ones who left you? Who betrayed you?"

"Fuck you! Let me go!"

"You know deep down that Shadow Weaver wasn't so wrong after all…" the claws moved back to her neck, pressing against her pulse. The scenery disappeared, leaving Catra panting, raging and crying in the grip of her demon.

"She taught you to hide your weakness inside, and see the others' weaknesses… She taught you how to use them to survive… It's what you're best at, right Catra?"

"Catra…"

Change of scenery. This time it was a memory. A memory Catra remembered too well.

"What's wrong Lonnie, you're not in the mood?" the buff girl grasped her memory self's wrists, pulling away from the kiss.

"I don't wanna do that with you anymore."

"...why?"

Catra didn't want to look.

"Because it's getting too much for me, and you...you'll never see me...any different. So I'd rather stop."

Tears rolled on her cheek as she watched her past self getting confused, then outraged, then pleading. She had needed Lonnie at the time. Not in the way that Lonnie would have wanted, but...she had seen more in her than a tool. She hadn't wanted to lose her…

"If you...if you leave then…" her memory self panted. "You're not a Force Captain anymore!" she yelled.

Catra closed her eyes. She heard Lonnie shove her against a wall. She didn't want to see the pain on her face again. The hatred she bore for Catra.

"Go ahead. I don't wanna be your Force Captain anyway. You're despicable."

"See Catra… It's better not to get attached. If you had just used her for sex like you intended to, you wouldn't have cried when she left…"

"Shut the fuck up!"

"She is right you know, you are despicable. You knew all along how she felt about you but you kept using her body… Look at how much she hates you right now for breaking her heart…"

"No…" Catra couldn't stop the tears. Lonnie had forgiven her. They had moved on. And Catra had even given her the Force Captain status back, but she had refused, preferring to stay a cadet. It wasn't real, it was just a mind trick…

But why did it work so well?

"What face do you think Adora will make when she realizes how despicable you are?"

"Shut up!"

Suddenly the hard grip of her demon loosened. Catra fell on the ground. She heard an inhuman whimper, and a few flashes blanked her eyelids, that she kept closed. She stayed still on the dirt, curled up in a ball, waiting for the next torture.

"It's okay Katriska, it's gone."

That wasn't a voice she knew. Catra opened an eye.

A weird old lady with huge glasses and scruffy grey hair was smiling at her, sitting cross legged next to her. She snapped her fingers. Catra felt her wrists and legs finally released. She jumped far away from her, standing in a fighting stance, her claws unsheathed. She was shaking, so she hissed to give herself strength.

"Madame Razz is not going to hurt you, dear. Madame Razz is not from here, you see."

Catra didn't relax. "Who are you?"

"Oh that's right! You don't remember!" the lady jumped on her feet. "Madame Razz has something that belongs to you and that will help you refresh your memories."

She slipped her hand in her robe, then handed to her the object that had caused such a mess in Catra's life.

In one leap, Catra snatched the mask from her. She examined it before squinting her eyes at the so called 'Madame Razz'.

"Where did you get that?"

"Madame Razz took it from Mystacor. It belongs to you."

"How will it make me remember?"

"Your mask has another special power, you see," the witch swept the dirt with her broom as she talked. "It holds the memories of all the Queens of the Magicats before you, as well as yours!"

"...what?" Catra looked at the mask. She brushed the shiny rocks and shivered.

"Yes. To see the memories… You need to wear the mask, and push on the blue runestone, while focusing on a queen, a moment, a feeling…"

"That is vague…" Catra said, suspicion tainting her voice.

"It also allows you to share memories with people. For that, you only need to hold their hands and focus just the same on what you want to share."

Catra didn't answer. She observed her with wary eyes.

She didn't like that woman who just popped out of nowhere to save her… It looked fishy. But...she freed her from her demons.

"Why are you helping me? We don't know each other."

"Madame Razz knows Katriska."

Catra's heart skipped a beat. A greedy curiosity awakened all her senses, but she brushed it off, forcing herself back to reality.

"The last people who told me they knew her sent me here in the first place," she spat.

"Madame Razz guesses you'll just have to trust me," a warm smile shaped her wrinkled eyes into two half moons. Catra spent another minute staring at her, indecision driving her mind crazy.

She groaned. What was the worst that could happen?

She motioned to put the mask on her forehead, but froze at the last second when she remembered what happened the last time she did that.

"Don't worry dear, Madame Razz took the Queen of Mystacor's spell off. You can wear it safely now."

She breathed in and out, bracing herself in case the witch was lying. She'd gladly endure that pain rather than the Zone's mental torture anyway.

She put the mask on, pushed hard on the blue runestone, clutching her knee at the pain, and let her head filled with the first person that came to her mind.

"Adora," Shadow Weaver's voice resonated in the room. "This is your new bunkmate. Her name is Catra. She's...quite of a troublemaker. I expect you to hold her into place, and tell me immediately if she causes any trouble."

The tall woman harshly pushed forward a scrawny little figure wrapped in a big cloak. Big ears, scruffy hair, lost mismatched eyes…

"Hi! I'm Adora!"

The bright little blonde hugged her. Catra hissed, jumping away from her.

"I'm sorry! I didn't want to scare you!" Adora held her hands up. Catra curled up in a ball in a corner, watching her suspiciously. Adora's face lit up as she got an idea. She went to her bunk, and took two rudimentary rag dolls from under her pillow. "Do you wanna play?"

Catra didn't answer, so Adora started to tell a story with the two dolls, making faces and funny voices. Catra's traits relaxed little by little, until she got completely mesmerized by the story. At some point, Adora handed one of the dolls to her. A clawed hand appeared from under the cloak. She took the doll, but planted the claws in it unconsciously.

"Hey! Careful, you're gonna tear it!"

Catra dropped the doll and took her previous defensive stance back. Adora looked like she regretted her words. She went back to her bunk, and this time took a metallic little bot from under her pillow.

"Here, take it, it's for you!" She handed the toy to Catra, who hesitantly took it with one hand. "Do you want to be my friend?" Adora asked, hope shining in her eyes.

"...okay." Catra's voice was already raspy. As if she had screamed a lot in her short life. The two kids played for a while, until Catra felt confident enough to loosen her grip around the cloak. The clothes fell, revealing the mask sitting between her legs.

"Oooh, what is that?" Adora motioned towards it, but Catra suddenly closed herself on it, hissing louder than the first time. "Sorry, sorry! So what is it?"

"...I don't know. I just have it. It's mine."

"Huh… You better hide it then, we can't have stuff," Adora said gravely, then grinned. "You can do like me and hide it under your pillow! We can be the secret pillow buddies!"

A small smile lit Catra's face as she looked at the funny blonde laugh at her great idea.

"Oh wait, you don't have any clothes, I'm gonna find some for you, come on!"

Adora reached out to Catra, who took her hand eagerly, for the first time in her life.

"Fuck…"

Catra took the mask off. It was like in the Temple of Light hope, or close. She saw her memories from an outside point of view, but still felt everything little Catra felt.

"Did you enjoy?" Madame Razz asked, a genuine smile on her face.

"...sort of," she relaxed a bit. At least she knew she wasn't lying. "So how did we meet exactly?"

"You can see it by yourself thanks to this now," she pointed to the mask. "Madame Razz was the one who gave you the blue runestone back."

"It was you?!"

A thousand questions barged in her mind. She didn't know which one to ask first…

"But how…"

"If you allow me, Katriska-"

"My name is Catra..."

"There is an important memory I need to show you with the mask. It will answer some of your questions."

Catra hesitated. She looked around her, not really feeling like plunging into another memory in the middle of the Forbidden Zone.

"Don't worry about the demons. They won't come back while Madame Razz is here."

That didn't reassure her so much. As far she as she knew, she was kinda crazy. Catra stared at her for a second, and once again caved. Curiosity would kill her someday…

The witch snapped her fingers. The blue rock pushed itself in the mask, hurting Catra again in the process.

It was hot…

The fire had destroyed what was left of the city. Hundreds of dead bodies were lining the ground. Robots were killing the last survivors, their screams filling the smokey air. The world had ended that night.

A survivor was crawling on the ground. Blood was dripping from the corner of her mouth. She was holding her stomach as she desperately tried to run away from him.

But he was faster than her.

The dark cloaked figure jumped from a blown up building, landing right next to her. He smashed a foot on her back, crashing her on the dirt. She yelped in pain.

He reached down, rolled her on her back, staring at the broken face with delight. Then he grabbed her by the neck, lifting her in the air.

She planted her claws in his hand, to no avail…

"It's over, Katriska…"

She hissed at him. A fire still burnt in her yellow and blue eyes, magnifying her even in that state.

She looked like her. An older version of her, with shorter hair, and maybe something a bit different on the face...

The mask was shining on her forehead. Katriska reached up, a shaky hand trying to lower it on her eyes. But Hordak reacted in a second. He grabbed her wrist, and squeezed until he heard the bones crack.

She roared in pain.

"You wouldn't survive a transformation in that state, am I wrong?"

"Go fuck yourself…"

Hordak cackled. He gripped her neck harsher. Katriska choked, her tail wiggling behind her back.

"I wonder what would happen if I broke your precious mask…"

He reached out to the golden runestone. When his nails clutched the rock, Katriska screamed, despite the lack of air. She lashed her claws on his forearm, but he pulled on the rock harder, a hateful scowl on his face.

The rock finally got ripped off of the mask with a horrible screeching noise.

A second later, giant paws slapped Hordak, as a powerful roar made the last walls of the destroyed city fall. Hordak crashed on a burnt tree behind him, watching the transformed queen whimper in pain, bumping into walls erratically.

Completely out of control…

Hordak put the stone in his pocket. He prepared his shotgun arm, aiming at the beast. The queen dodged the attack, then charged him full speed on. Hordak gasped when she headbutted him. She crashed him against a wall that crumbled under the impact.

Katriska leapt over the ruins and ran away, tripping on rocks and bumping against pillars on her way.

She eventually stopped at the foot of a destroyed shrine. The symbols of moons and suns were hanging sadly on a half broken pillar. She collapsed underneath them, her ears deflated and tail low. Her body turned back into its original form. She raised a shaky hand to her mask, and cried out when she took it off her forehead.

It hurt so much.

She was barely conscious. There was fire almost everywhere around her. It was a miracle she hadn't already passed out from the smoke and intensity of her wounds.

She looked around her, searching for something...anyone still alive.

But there was nobody.

She gripped her mask, gritting her teeth as she tried to move. But her legs were too strained. She had no strength anymore.

This was the end.

A pop sound made her ears perk up. She tilted her head and saw her. A tearful smile lit up her face.

"Ma'am… Madame…" her voice was hoarse and feeble. She reached out to the woman, asking her silently to come closer. The little woman with salt and pepper hair and big glasses kneeled in front of her. "Help me! Madame Razz..."

"Oh, Katriska…"

Madame Razz looked much younger.

"Help me… You gotta take it!"

Katriska leaned on an elbow, and extended her shaking arm bravely, holding out the mask. Madame Razz cupped her face, brushing the traces of dirt and blood away.

"Your time on Etheria is not over Katriska."

"I'm dying… Take it! Give it to-"

"Eat this."

Madame Razz put some green berries to Katriska's mouth. The fallen queen ate them slowly, struggling to swallow.

When she was done, Madame Razz grabbed the mask, eliciting a feeling of relief in Katriska. She let herself fall on the ground, ready to embrace death. Madame Razz rolled the queen on her back, then took her in her arms.

She snapped her fingers. The blue runestone popped off the mask, making Katriska scream again.

"It hurt for the last time. Your connection with the runestone is now severed. Madame Razz is sorry for that…" she sighed. She put some green berries in her own mouth. "And for everything else… Razzle Dazzle."

She put a kiss on Katriska's forehead.

An incredible shockwave broke the remaining of the shrine.

Madame Razz's hair grew longer and whiter. Her back hunched. Her face got more wrinkles. In her arms, Katriska grew smaller and smaller. Her wounds disappeared. Her face and belly got chubby. Her tail turned into a little fluff cone.

When the ground stopped shaking, a little magicat kitten was curling up in the arms of the old witch.

No…

"Always keep that mask with you dear…"

No way…

"Madame Razz took all your memories away from you. So that you can start anew."

It's not possible…

The witch stroke the sleepy kitten face, then disappeared in a popping sound again.

The kitten was all alone now. She looked around her, but didn't recognize anything. She wailed. Pressing on her chest the mask that was too big for her now, she tried to raise on her feet, but lost balance. She whined, coughing from time to time because of the smoke.

Then a cracking noise made her jolt.

The kitten shrank her body behind the base of the shrine.

But the one who made the noise had heard her. A dark cloaked figure appeared in front of the shrine. He saw the fluff of the tail from behind the rock. He crouched and looked around.

His red eyes met the mismatched ones of the kitten.

She shrieked.

Hordak hoisted her up by the skin of her neck. The kitten screamed and wiggled, but he wouldn't let go.

"What on Eternia…" Hordak grabbed the mask, but the kitten kicked him with her little foot. He looked at the eyeholes. "Where is the blue stone?"

Since she was only whining, Hordak looked around him. He took a device from his pocket, and scanned the area.

"No. Living. Presence. Detected."

Hordak frowned. "Who did the magic then…?"

He put the little magicat on the shrine, holding a firm grip on her shoulder. "Are you…?"

He looked on the ground next to the symbols of moons and suns. Katriska's clothes were lying there. Hordak raised a doubtful eyebrow. He snatched a hair from the kitten's head, and put it inside his machine.

"DNA. Matching. Queen. Katriska. Identified."

"This is absurd…"

Hordak took a good look at her. He rubbed his chin, like he was assessing the possible outcomes from an experiment…

Then he smirked, took his cloak off and wrapped it around her small body. The kitten stopped crying. She stared at him with big expectant eyes. Hordak took her in his arms, and walked away from the shrine.

Away from the city in flames.

Away from the genocide he just committed.

"You're going to fit in just fine in my army… Catra."

Chapter Text

Horde soldiers were allowed to possess only one thing.

A name.

None of what they used were theirs otherwise. It all belonged to the Horde. It was all borrowed from Hordak. From a basic toothbrush to the most important thing that defined living beings.

A story.

Their stories were all the same. They were 'adopted' or born in the Horde. Raised in the Horde. Trained in the Horde. They fought for the Horde. Even the rare times they celebrated, it was for the Horde.

Nothing personal, nothing individual ever belonged to them.

Except for Catra.

Why did Hordak let her keep the broken mask? That was a mystery. He might have not thought it through, too ecstatic after his glorious victory.

But one thing was certain. The little magicat learned quickly that the object made her different from all the others. It made her special. Even more special than her best friend, the golden child, favorite of all their superiors.

So Catra had hidden the object for years. She had observed it with fascination at night, when Adora had fallen asleep. She had screamed and shredded Shadow Weaver's robe when the psycho took it away from her. She had cried when their mentor said the mask was the last remnant of the weak species she belonged to, that got extinct by itself because of famine.

She had fought against her magic a few years later, when she tried to snitch the mask from her office. She had suffered long nights in the pit, until Adora released her. She had learned afterwards that Hordak had found it ridiculous to lose a soldier for such a stupid reason, and ordered Shadow Weaver to let her keep the object.

A gesture that had made a lot of noise in the ranks…

It hadn't improved Catra's relationship with the other cadets and her superiors. Suddenly, she had become somehow valuable enough for Hordak to notice her. But it hadn't lasted, as Shadow Weaver became harsher and harsher with her. The cadets despised her even more. And Hordak never gave any new sign that she was special.

Soon she lost her confidence again.

Only Adora had remained there for her in her life. She had been her anchor, her pillar in this world that hated her for no obvious reason. She had given her love and protection.

She had told her she was special, and her mask was a part of her that she should hold onto forever.

"No…"

She had wished, all her life, to understand the meaning behind the object.

"This is a lie…"

Now all she wanted to do was forget she ever saw that memory.

Catra blinked. She was back in the Forbidden Zone, its cold fog dancing ominously around her. In front of her, Madame Razz was staring at her sadly. Catra's survival instincts triggered instantly as she recovered her senses.

She jumped far away from her, making sure she kept her in sight. Madame Razz walked slowly towards her.

"Get a- get away from me!" Catra shouted.

"Katriska, let me-"

"DON'T CALL ME THAT!"

Madame Razz stopped talking. She sat down, picking the dirt off of her broom in silence. She was waiting for Catra to calm down.

But Catra wouldn't give her that pleasure.

She turned around and sunk deep into the fog, embracing the whispers that had been waiting for her eagerly… She'd rather endure that. These demons belonged to her at least.

She couldn't face that monster of a woman...

"You were a nobody Catra… Now look… Your wish came true… You're so special you even have two lives…"

"Shut up! This is a lie!"

Catra clawed the fog around her in vain, following the snickers of her demons.

"Even in your past life you were a failure…"

"No!"

"You couldn't protect your own people against Hordak...Katriska…"

Catra raised her hands, kneeled, and smashed her fists on the ground as she raged. She kept punching the dirt until she heard a crack coming from her right hand. She yelped. But the pain wasn't enough to match her heart's excruciating sorrow. Warm tears flooded on her face, burning her cold cheeks on their way down.

She took the mask off of her forehead. Anger twitched her traits as she examined the blue and yellow rocks. She hated them so much now.

She smashed the mask on a rock. The migraine that threatened to make her head explode was almost a relief. She did it again, several times, hoping she could break the runestone. Hoping she could take the real pain away.

A hand locked on her wrist.

"That's enough Katriska."

Catra immediately pounced on her. She tackled the old witch on the ground, her claw tightening around her neck.

"Give me one good reason to spare your life," she snarled.

"Madame Razz is sorry for everything I've done, Katriska." The claws started to break the skin. "But Madame Razz can at least explain to you some of the reasons why that happened."

Catra fumed, but she released a bit of the pressure from her neck. She didn't move from her position though.

"That'd better be good then. For your sake. Start talking."


"Catra? Catra is that you?"

Adora was standing on her guard, holding onto her sword as she scrutinized the fog. She was sure she heard someone whisper. She walked prudently, watching her every steps to avoid making noises.

"Adora…"

That voice… Adora deciphered a trembling figure on her left. She ran forward, a smile forming on her face when she recognized her.

"Catra!" The feline was wounded. Blood was dripping from her mouth. "What happened?! Let me help!"

Adora kneeled and reached out to her. But just as she was about to touch her face, she froze. Catra was wearing her mask. And her Horde uniform. That wasn't the outfit she was wearing the last time she saw her.

"What's the matter Adora?" her face expression changed in a second from vulnerable to...devilish. "You're scared of appearances?"

Adora felt like a cold bucket of water had been thrown on her head.

The feline threw a claw at her. Adora screamed as she felt her chest burn. She stumbled backwards. She barely had the time to kick Catra in the stomach when she jumped on her. The demon disappeared in a mist, her cackle echoing everywhere around her.

Adora raised her sword. "For the honor of Grayskull!"

Nothing happened.

"What…?"

"Really Adora, calling her to fight against me?"

Adora jumped on her feet, finding the fake Catra smirking behind her. "I'm not the only one playing dirty after all…"

"Where is Catra?" The two girls traced a circle on the ground, never looking away from the other. Adora's heart was pounding in her chest, but her trained mind was calm, assessing the situation.

"Right in front of you…" Fake Catra licked her lips, putting her hands in her pants pockets in a perfect imitation of the original feline.

"No, you're not real!"

"I'm more real than the one you came to save Adora…" she disappeared at these words. Adora suddenly felt a weight on her back. "I'm the Catra you see in your heart."

Claws dug in her back, scratching down the skin. An awful flashback blinded Adora as she felt the pain of the wound. She screamed.

The weight left immediately, not giving her the time to retaliate. She swung her sword around her in an attempt to injure the fake Catra if she tried to jump on her again. She would eventually hit her if she kept swinging...

As a matter of fact- maybe unlike Adora thought she'd hoped- that was exactly what happened. Fake Catra appeared right in the trajectory of the sword. Adora couldn't stop her motion. The weapon cut through the flesh of Catra's abdomen. Surprise, betrayal and pain exploded in her mismatched eyes, as blood burst from the wound. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She collapsed on the ground.

Adora couldn't breathe. She couldn't take her eyes away from the horrible sight.

She dropped the sword.

It wasn't real. It wasn't her. She hadn't killed Catra… Had she? But why was the body remaining on the ground then? Why was there blood on the sword? Fears were not supposed to feel so real, were they? What if it was really Catra who had finally found her?

She started to hyperventilate.

"How can you save the world if you're doubting so much?"

A low whisper aggressed both her ears. She whimpered and turned around. But nobody was there.

"The world needs a hero who knows how to tell the difference between what's real and what's not… Between what's right and what's wrong…"

"Who are you?!" Adora shouted. She rubbed on her ears, but the whispers kept whistling at the same intensity… Like it was inside.

"But how can you be sure of that? Because of Catra, you keep doubting..."

"Stop it!"

"The human host of the mighty She-Ra… Doubting herself at the most crucial times."

Adora reached to her sword… But it had vanished.

"No…" Panic throbbed in her chest.

"Do you know how many people you'll disappoint when you fail at your task?"

A golden light surged from the fog, blinding her.

"Maybe you should let her handle things…"

Golden hair floating in the air. A tiara. Cold blue eyes looking at her with indifference. A giant woman pointing the sword at her.

"Run."


"What you know about She-Ra, what the Rebellion told you about her return that had been predicted a thousand years ago… It's only half true."

"What?" Catra frowned. What did it have to do with her?

"What the Rebellion doesn't know- but the Magicats did- is that it was also written that She-Ra would save the world...with you, Katriska."

Catra pulled away, not trusting herself to spare the woman if she kept that position. "What the fuck are you talking about?!"

"Katriska was supposed to become She-Ra's most powerful ally in the battle against evil… That is how the prediction was made. Unfortunately, when Madame Razz met you, you were already much older than She-Ra."

"Stop," Catra didn't want to hear another word coming from the insane lady's mouth. "...predictions?! What the hell? Are you crazy?!"

"Madame Razz can't say her travels through time ever did some good on my mind and body… But all is true."

"This is fucked up! You're fucked up! This isn't- How- Who the fuck do you think you are to meddle with people's lives?!"

Catra paced around her, occasionally kicking small rocks in her direction. It was insane. It was incredible. It was infuriating.

"Madame Razz...is a very old witch. Madame Razz did some mistakes in her life… Mistakes you can't know of for now, Katriska."

"I swear if you call me that one more time…"

"Madame Razz had to make sure you would meet young She-Ra. It was written that you two would influence each other in ways that would change the world."

"Shut up! Shut. Up!" Catra snatched her glasses from her nose and smashed them. She fell on fours, struggling to contain the screams in her throat.

Mystacor, the Rebellion, Madame Razz… All those fanatics were no better than Hordak. She wanted to kill them all. She would destroy them all.

Her whole life had been a lie. Her two lives actually.

She had been manipulated, controlled by Hordak who kept her in his nest to savor his victory on the Magicats. What a tasteful irony indeed, to have the old queen he fought and whose people he slaughtered as his new Second-in-Command.

She had probably also been manipulated as Katriska. A puppet destined to a higher mission that had certainly determined her life choices until the end. All that only to be erased from Etheria. Katriska's whole existence had been wiped out, like it was nothing.

Nothing but the mask had ever belonged to her. Not even her life. Not even her destiny.

All of this...to become Adora's ally.

"Why?!" she yelled, letting the tears of rage pour from her eyes. "Why is it always for her?!"

"It is not for her."

Catra glared at the witch.

"It is for Etheria."

"Oh yeah?! Well I don't care about Etheria! I didn't ask for this!"

"Neither did Adora."

It was the first time the witch pronounced her name, and it made Catra cringe. She didn't have a right to say her name. Either of their names.

"But Adora accepted the task. I didn't! And I won't!" She stood up, towering over Madame Razz. "I'm done being people's little bitch. My fate belongs to myself."

"Your fate will stop very soon if you don't accept the task, dear."

"You son of a-" Catra threw a claw at her, but Madame Razz blocked it easily. For an old lady…she had some damn strength.

"Madame Razz isn't asking you to forgive her, Catra."

"Don't try to use my name to get on my good side now!" Each word the woman pronounced with her cheery crazy little voice raised her anger to a higher level. She had some guts, acting like she could do anything if she took responsibilities for it…

"You will learn the whole truth soon enough," Madame Razz pursued. "And it will be your choice then, whether to accept it or not."

"Yeah right. This is the kind of fake choice where I'm the bad guy if I say no because I refuse to stop the apocalypse."

Catra tugged on her wrist, releasing it from the witch's grip. She was furious. She was hurt. she wanted to shred something, but there were only rocks in this place.

"This isn't right! I can't ever do shit for my own! I'm always somehow under someone's control. Shadow Weaver, Hordak, the Rebellion, my fucking fate and these stupid predictions... This isn't fair!" she cried out.

"Nobody said the fight for the greater good was fair…" Madame Razz smiled sadly. Catra took a rock and crushed what was left of the witch's glasses. She panted after a minute of lashing out, and resumed her pacing. Madame Razz put her focus on her broom again, waiting for Catra to ask the questions that were burning on the tip of her tongue.

"Why does Adora need me?! She has a bunch of princesses with her. You know what, actually, I don't want to hear your answer," she spat. "None of this is right, you don't deserve a chance to justify yourself."

"You have something that Adora needs, that her friends don't."

"Once again, everything is about and for her," Catra clawed on a rock, then winced at the pain. "I'm sick of it! Why can't I just be free?!"

"None of us is free. Not even Adora, not even Madame Razz."

"Oh please, you can travel through time you said. If you're so powerful, why can't you save the world by yourself?! Why did you have to RUIN my life?"

"Only She-Ra and her allies can undo the harm that has been done."

"Do you always talk in riddles?"

Madame Razz giggled, but a clawed hand squeezing her face reminded her that Catra wasn't here to laugh.

"Adora needs your light. She needs you to show her how things truly are," the witch said. "You influenced her since you were very little, and you will keep doing so, until the day you both save us all."

"You are so full of bullshit…" Catra snarled. "Now let me get this clear. Since I'm so important to your precious prediction, you are going to get me out of here, right? Then we're going our separate ways, and I'm going to live my life the way I fucking want, and if I ever see you again…"

Catra's eyes grew darker. "I swear on Hordak's life, you'll wish you'd never saved mine."

"Sounds good!" she grinned. "But first, Madame Razz thinks you might want to check on your friend."

The witch snapped her fingers. The fog cleared out around them. A figure appeared slowly in Catra's vision. She let go of the old woman, her ears raising on her head when she recognized her.

Adora was crouching on the dirt, holding her head in her hands, shivering from head to toe.

A messy mix of feelings whirled in Catra's chest as she saw the princess a few feet away from her. Why was it always so complicated between them? Just when she thought it couldn't get any worse…

She turned around to talk to Madame Razz… But the witch had vanished.

"Fuck…" Catra's ears flattened when she saw the fog intensify around her. Adora's figure started to get blurry. Catra rushed in her direction before she could lose her.

Adora was sobbing silently. Soldiers didn't show weakness. And if they did, it was the most silent way possible.

Catra crouched to her level, but didn't touch her. She knew what the Zone had done to her and touching her was the last thing that would reassure the princess.

"Adora…" she said softly. "Hey Adora, it's me…"

"Stop it!" Adora suddenly pounced on her. She grabbed her by the collar of her shirt, swung her body over her head and tackled her on the ground. Catra lost her breath for a second. Her wound also decided to manifest itself by burning her back. "Stop faking her! Stop it, stop it, stop it!"

She punched Catra at every word, tears rolling on her cheeks. Catra protected her face with her elbows while she shouted.

"Adora, stop, it's really me!"

But Adora didn't listen.

"She's going to kill you if you don't do anything…" the evil snicker made Catra's ear twitch.

Then Adora whimpered, looking on her left. "She's coming back…" She hopped off of Catra and started to run. Catra jumped on her feet and followed her. Usually she was faster than Adora, but whatever she was running away from gave her wings… Catra pounced and caught her legs. Adora tripped and fell on her forearms. "Let me go!"

"I'm not losing you in that fog Adora!"

She wiggled and kicked Catra, who proceeded to climb on top of her. She made Adora roll on her back, and locked her wrists on the ground.

"Please, Adora, listen to me!"

"Stop torturing me…"

Catra had never seen Adora cry like that. She pecked her cheeks several times, tasting the salt of her tears, but it didn't relax her.

"Adora, please, calm down… I'm going to tell you something only I know. The demons can't possibly tell you that… I was the one who broke your best cadet trophy a few years ago… On purpose," she groaned. It cost her to admit her petty attitude, but at least it got Adora's attention. She was staring at her face intently.

"Is it… Is it really…" she was doubting. "Why do you have your mask?"

"It's...a long story. I'll tell you once we're out of here. If we ever get out…"

She looked like she was finally relaxing… But unfortunately, it didn't last more than a few seconds. Her eyes widened. She hiccuped.

Catra frowned. She sat up and gasped when she saw them.

Two other Catras. Wearing the same black and red striped outfit as her. The same surprised face expression. One of them looked at Adora and said, "what is- this isn't me! Don't let the demons fool you Adora!"

The other one shouted something of the same kind, glaring at both of her clones.

Adora screamed. She pushed Catra, crawling backwards away from them. All three felines yelled "Stop!" at the same time.

"Adora this is all a mind trick, don't pay attention to them, I'm the real Catra."

"You shut up! This place is bullshit, Adora, you should run, I'll find a way to beat these two and I'll find you again."

"No! Adora if you run you'll be lost forever, there's no way we'll find each other in that fog."

"Shut the fuck up, you're scaring her!"

"No you're scaring her!"

"That's it, I'm kicking both of your asses, she'll see who the real one is."

Adora grabbed her head with her hands again as she watched the three Catras fighting ferociously. There was no way she could tell who the real one was now… If one of them was ever real…

"Isn't this what you wanted? Catra, fighting for you, instead of against you…"

"No… Not like this…" Adora sobbed. "I want the real Catra… I'm sick of this place…"

She stood, took a last glance at the furious trio, and ran.

"No!"

The three Catras ran after her, clawing each other on the way. They eventually caught up with Adora at the same time. But the blonde didn't intend to let her demons play with her mind anymore. She punched around her erratically.

Catra didn't know how to break through her doubts… Her clones were too realistic… But there was something they couldn't do. She grabbed her hand forcefully, intertwining their fingers. Adora twisted her arm in a way that would hurt for days, but Catra held on. She pushed on the blue runestone.

"Hey Catra… I'm bored… We've been hiding for an hour..."

"Shhh, please, I really wanna see if it's true that Leech hides a secret stash of alcohol here…"

Teenage Catra smashed her hand on Adora's mouth before she could answer. They were hidden in a closet of an old storage room that hadn't been used in years. Since Lonnie had told them the day before about that new rumor, Catra had decided she would feast on Leech's vodka no matter how long it took to find the stash.

And of course Adora had followed her, even if she had said no at first.

"I can hear something…"

Adora muffled a bored "oh really?" through her hand. But then she focused on the narrow space they could see through the interstice. Two soldiers had just come in. Two older cadets who had recently been promoted...were eating each other's faces.

Catra and Adora turned red. A weird hunger awakened in them, coming from the depth of their bodies. Catra suddenly became aware of her hand pressing against Adora's mouth. She quickly pulled it away.

The couple had obviously decided to have a long fun in the storage room, to the girls' greatest dismay… They couldn't even sit properly in the closet, they were standing only an inch apart, very conscious of their proximity…

Catra glanced at Adora from the corner of her eyes, seemingly unable to not stare at her lips for more than two seconds. She felt a new desire in her… She looked down at Adora's hand. She wondered how it would feel to take it… How would the blonde react if she got bold enough to do it?

The memory broke unnaturally.

Catra felt Adora's hand yanked away from her.

She opened her eyes. Adora was being held. By the neck.

By She-Ra.

Adora screamed. She-Ra brought the sword to Adora's stomach. Catra's blood ran only once in her veins before she jumped on the giant's shoulder. In one swift movement, she pierced She-Ra's eyes. The giant shrieked, dropped the sword and grasped Catra's neck. She started squeezing both girls at the same time.

Catra lashed out on her face and her neck, more and more frantically as she was choking. She found her pulse, and didn't hesitate. She broke the skin, tightening her hold when she heard She-Ra scream again.

The giant let Adora fall on the ground. Then she collapsed like a big rag doll.

Catra panted. She was exhausted. She wanted to find her bed and take a good nap… But she didn't have a bed anymore.

"Looks like she finally saw your true nature…"

Catra jolted at the whispers. She looked over where Adora was sitting. She was staring at her with eyes that Catra had never seen before. Her body was shaking. She was holding the sword so tightly her knuckles were white.

She was scared…

"Scared of you… Catra."

"Adora…" Catra raised her hands, but the sight of the fake blood on her fingers made Adora cringe. Catra put them behind her back as she moved slowly away from the giant. "Take it easy Adora… Don't let the fear in… That's how they work-"

"Even outside the Zone, she would still fear you."

"Shut up!" Catra hissed.

Adora crawled backwards. She glanced back and forth between Catra and the fake She-Ra… Catra could distinguish a dark shadow behind her.

"Please, Adora," Catra pleaded. "Don't listen to them. Please?"

A month ago, Catra would have loved to see that look on her face. But right now, it only made her own fear rise in her chest. Clench her stomach. Breathe heavier.

"She can finally see it. How despicable you really are."

Catra's ear twitched. She had to do something quick, before she caved to her own demons.

"Adora, let me… Let me show you how I feel, please?" she tapped on her mask. "None of this around us is real, but what's up there, it is."

"Oh, that is so easy to say," Adora shivered, but couldn't help listening to her demon. "Her violence looked very real though. She didn't hesitate. She slaughtered She-Ra. She would do the same to you, if she decided you were no longer good for her."

"Please Adora, if you want to get out of here, take my hand… Take it and I'll show you."

Catra extended her arm, reaching out to her. Hopeful, frightened eyes were waiting for her answer… So beautiful in their peculiar heterochromatic way… These eyes that could also look so deadly, so spiteful, so heinous…

"She's only waiting for you to lower your guard to strike… That's how she always does it… That's how she always beat you in sparring when you were kids…"

Adora had never been so paralyzed by fear. The coldness of the fog was inserting itself under her skin, deep until it reached her bones… Her mind was hypervigilant, and yet numb at the same time, unable to make a decision… Her heart was beating so fast she was sure Catra could hear it.

"Adora, fight it!" Catra shouted, her brows knitted together. "None of us will make it out of here if you don't fight. Fight it with me!"

"Right… Fight with her until she betrays you… She tried to escape twice since you rescued her... She never trusted you, and never will… She'll turn her back on you as soon as she can…"

"Adora!"

"She'll go back to the Horde and will attack you and your friends again… She won't stop until she can sink these claws in your neck…"

A couple of tears rolled on Catra's cheeks. Her hand was shaking more and more as the seconds passed. Just behind her, Adora could see a shadow grow stronger. Catra had demons too, murmuring in her ear.

"I'm sorry Adora…" Catra's voice was so small and broken she almost thought it was one of the whispers. But she saw her lips move. The words were hers. It was her apology. "I'm so sorry I hurt you…"

Something popped in Adora's mind. The numbness released its grip on her volition for a few seconds. Just what Adora needed to grab Catra's hand.

This time, it wasn't a clear memory.

Just bits of real life scenes, but also dreams, and feelings. So many feelings.

Adora felt overwhelmed by the intensity of Catra's feelings. She felt them evolve. From the time they were genuine fondness in their childhood, to the growing desire and denial when they reached their teen… To the heartbreaking betrayal.

Adora felt it all.

It was harsh, it was painful.

Then it changed. She felt the indifference, or rather, the acceptance of having let her go. Catra had never grown indifferent.

She felt a pressure on her mouth. Soft, plump lips…

An explosion of new feelings surged in her. Contradicting, mixed feelings. Remnants of a grudge, bitterness, and jealousy… But also gratitude, desire, longing…and guilt. And forgiveness. She felt them all flow in her veins. She heard her thoughts, saw her through her eyes, felt herself through her lips…

Catra was sorry. Sorry about all the crap that happened between them. Sorry for the things she did wrong. Sorry for ever laying a hand on her and her friends.

Catra was also terribly sad, and scared about so many things… Things about Adora, but also things that didn't have anything to do with her. Things she wanted to share with her later.

...Catra was really glad she came for her. And Catra was glad to kiss her again.

The butterflies in her belly soothed her. She felt Catra's hand brush her cheek so lightly, as if she wanted to avoid scaring her off again.

Adora slipped her hand behind her neck, and pulled her in, more roughly than she intended to. She parted her lips a little. Catra didn't hesitate to catch the bottom lip and suck on it. They both scooted over closer while they kissed, their arms locking around each other's body by instinct.

Their kiss grew quickly more passionate, and they barely realized how the coldness of their prison turned warmer. They didn't hear the sound of birds chirping in the silence of the night. They didn't feel right away the wind of the Whispering Woods brushing their hair.

They were too busy knocking each other's teeth in their hurry to feel the other. Too busy caressing their skin and playing with their hair. Too busy moaning and shaking in relief as they fully processed they had almost lost each other again.

Catra finally left her lips, tracing her jawline with pecks instead. Adora arched her neck, sighing at the shiver it sent to her core when Catra nibbled on her pulse. She opened her eyes and gasped.

"Catra! Catra, we're out!"

The feline looked up as well. She had never liked those woods, but damn was she happy to see the leaves of these awfully tall trees bounce by the force of the wind. Like they were welcoming them back from the dead…

"We made it…"

Adora studied Catra's face. She had closed her eyes, enjoying the sounds of the night. She looked exhausted, emotionally as well as physically bruised…but at least relieved. A soft smile soothed her sharp traits, but her brows remained furrowed.

Adora grabbed her chin, bringing her back to reality. She pecked her lips, but pulled away when Catra leaned in for more.

"Catra… What happened...before you found me?"

Adora glanced up at the mask to finish her question. A glint of sadness and...despair flicked over Catra's shiny eyes for a second, before she composed her face.

Catra didn't want to expose her emotions when it was all so fresh.

"Can we talk about it tomorrow? I'm pretty worn out."

"Sure."

As Catra helped herself move with her hand, she yelped at the pain. She had knocked her bones on a rock earlier, and it wasn't the only bruise that hurt. Adora turned into She-Ra by instinct, frowning for a second as she felt her energy flow in her body.

Catra wondered how hard it was to control the formidable spirit in her…

Adora touched Catra's wounds and called her healing power. Soon Catra's body felt much less sore, and only a bit exhausted.

"Thanks."

Catra lay on her back. It seemed like it was a month ago that Adora was balming her wound as they argued and bonded...

"You're coming?" she asked. Adora turned back into herself, grunting against the fact that she couldn't heal herself as She-Ra.

She lay down in Catra's arms, her nose finding its way in the feline's neck. She inhaled her scent, then put a light kiss on the skin before she settled her head on Catra's chest.

The women tangled themselves during their sleep, subconsciously getting as much proximity as they could.

They needed that peace, alone in the woods, far away from the war, the politics, the drama, their fears and trauma… They needed to oversleep after this endless day.

They didn't need to know that a few hours after they fell asleep, Scorpia had pulled her friends from their slumber to tell them excitedly that Entrapta's device was tracking Catra again.

They didn't need to know that at dawn a soldier had alerted the High Council that a weird old lady had stolen the mask of the Magicats. They didn't need to know that Glimmer and Bow exerted themselves to cover for Adora's absence while the whole castle was trying to find the thief.

For now, they didn't need to wonder what would happen to them in a near future.

...they would have plenty of time to think of their problems later.

Chapter Text

When they woke up, they took a moment to remember why they were sleeping together in the Whispering Woods, in a tight embrace. They didn't move from their position. They didn't talk either for a while.

Catra had been the first to emerge. She had let her mind fill itself with the events of the night.

Katriska. The mask. Madame Razz's terrible actions. The manipulation. The greater good. The purpose… Adora and She-Ra.

A sore pain mixed with anger tightened her chest.

She looked down at Adora's face. She was awake now. Catra rubbed a thumb over her cheek. Adora didn't react. She let herself be touched, but she didn't lean in, and she didn't pull away.

Catra had to show her… She had to tell her the truth. Or more like...the lie. The lie of Catra's life. The lie of their relationship. The fate that Madame Razz had worked hard on preparing for them…

Catra's brows furrowed. If she could see that stupid wrinkled face right now…

"Hey Adora."

The blonde shifted on her chest. But she didn't answer. What was happening in her head…?

"I need to show you something."

"What is it?" Her voice was so...empty. So tired.

"Well, first I was wondering... How did you find me? How did you get into the Forbidden Zone?"

"A sorceress called Madame Razz gave me some magical berries to find you."

"Ugh… I'm not surprised… That bitch."

Adora leaned on her forearms, looking up at Catra in confusion. Catra sighed as she cupped her face. She knew Adora would be devastated… But she couldn't keep that from her. She was done with dissimulation.

"Madame Razz was the one who gave me the mask. And she taught me the little memory trick…" Catra tapped on her headpiece. She hesitated, but Adora nodded for her to continue. "All the magicat queens' memories are stored in there."

"Oh wow…" While Adora contemplated the mask, Catra sat up, and leaned against a mossy rock behind them. Adora made a movement to follow her, but eventually she changed her mind and stayed at the same spot.

"She showed me a memory…" Catra didn't want to live that again. But she had to. She held out her hand. "I think you need to see it too."

Adora looked worried, but she took Catra's hand.

Living the memory for the second time was less shocking, but just as painful, because she knew all along where it would lead. She felt Adora's hand shake and squeeze hers when Katriska got turned into a little kitten. She heard her gasp when Hordak called her by her current name for the first time.

When the memory faded, Adora let go of her hand. She was breathless. She was confused. She was horrified.

"Madame Razz did that for a special reason, Adora."

The blue eyes locked on her own. They were begging her to contradict the suspicion she couldn't help having. Adora was not stupid. Everybody had found it so...funny that She-Ra and the last magicat queen got to grow up together… What a happy coincidence, wasn't it…

"She did that so we could meet."

"No…" Adora shook her head. Catra tried to grab her hands, but Adora pulled away, pushing her as she fought against the tears.

"Adora…" She would tell her to calm down, but it wouldn't be fair. She had the right to freak out as well.

"How can you be so… Why did she…" Adora couldn't breathe. "I never wanted this!" She looked at Catra with desperation in her eyes. As if she wanted to assure Catra that she wasn't the grand mastermind of this scheme. As if to convince herself that it wasn't her fault if Katriska's life had been ruined...but failing at it.

"I know... Adora, it's not your fault." Never would Catra thought she would ever say these words. She had spent so much time in a year, blaming Adora for leaving and fucking up what was left of their relationship… "Madame Razz did that. Not you."

"But why?! Why did she need to… I mean…"

"It's another prediction bullshit…" Catra groaned. "I'm supposed to be helping you save the world."

Adora blinked. "What?"

So Catra explained to her. She told her in details everything Madame Razz had said to her. The prediction, unknown from the Rebellion. The fact that it was important for them to grow up together to influence each other somehow… The detail of the witch's time-travelling that had slipped from her mouth… The question of the whole truth that they should learn about soon.

Adora listened in silence. When Catra stopped, she just lowered her head, lips pursed, brows knitted together.

"How can you be so calm about this?" She finally muttered.

"I'm not," Catra cringed. "I had to prevent myself from…" Catra was about to use the word kill, but she remembered Adora's terror when she 'killed' fake She-Ra… "pulling my hair out."

Adora didn't answer.

"But I can't dwell on that," she pursued. "My life has been a lie… But my future is up to me now. I won't let anyone else define it for me."

"What about the prediction?" Adora asked with something in her voice. Something like admiration.

"We don't know what's true and what's not. We can't just trust that old bitch who appears out of nowhere to mess up with people's lives. We need to find things out by ourselves."

What did 'saving the world' mean anyway? Was it fighting against Hordak? Was it saving the planet degradation thing the Magicats talked so much about? Was there something else…?

"Madame Razz helped me out last year… I was confused, I had just discovered my She-Ra powers, I didn't know how to control them… I didn't know what was right and wrong."

Adora looked so hurt. She was torturing herself, Catra could see it on her face.

"Then she helped me, she showed me what the Horde truly was. I finally found out who I had to protect. I had no doubt anymore. I was strong in my resolution."

"...and now?"

Adora looked her in the eyes. She was more than confused. She was completely lost.

"I don't know what's real or not Catra…" Tears rolled on her cheek. "I don't know what's right and wrong anymore. I don't know what to do! I don't know who I should protect!"

"Hey-"

"My whole life at the Horde was a lie, and I thought joining the Rebellion was the right thing to do, but then I realized because of the trial that the people I decided to protect are not all right either! And the innocent civilians who didn't give you a second chance are no better!"

She was yelling now, letting her anger explode.

"And now?! Now I discover that even our relationship isn't real?! That it was all a manipulation made to...save the world or something? This is too much!"

Catra grabbed her face, "hey, look at me." Adora obeyed, still crying. "Madame Razz set us up. But then, everything that happened in the Horde? It was us. It was real. She did the same thing tonight. She sent you to the Forbidden Zone to find me, she showed me the way through the fog, and then...she left us alone. She's a jerk, but she let us do our thing once she was done with her scheme."

"But we weren't even supposed to meet! You should be like…Shadow Weaver old or something! This is weird!"

"Yeah and I'm not. I'm not Katriska anymore. I don't have any memories of that life. I am Catra. I'm here with you. And what we shared...is ours. It doesn't belong to Madame Razz, or anybody else. Fuck them all."

"But how do I know…" Adora sniffed. "How do I know what I want is real? How do I know...that I wasn't conditioned?"

"Come on, if you were conditioned, you would have treated me like shit, that's what Shadow Weaver wished the most..."

Adora breathed in and out. She took Catra's hands that were still cupping her face, and squeezed them. She focused on her breathing, letting the anxiety fade slowly.

"Is this…" Catra hesitated. "Is this what your demons told you?"

Adora nodded. Catra sighed as she put her forehead on Adora's. The princess had spent her life trying to quickly and efficiently sort out her feelings and values, to find the best solution to her problems without overthinking. She had always pushed her doubts inside, sometimes even refusing to face them…

The Zone must have really messed with her sanity.

"Whatever you heard, remember these fears they showed us are amplified to the extreme. I know it, because I even saw some minor fears I only had once or twice, and they managed to break me to tears using them…"

"What kind of fears?"

"...not today."

Adora nodded. "They told me I would fail, if I kept doubting… And I can't help feeling it's true. If I don't know where to put my allegiance anymore…"

"It's normal Adora, and it's good, it means you think for yourself, finally."

"Ouch."

She giggled. Catra smiled, glad to see she could relax enough to accept the joke.

"The Rebellion is not perfect, but we can both agree that they could use your protection against Hordak at least…"

"After what they've done to you, I'm not even sure I want that anymore…"

"Then think about it. Alone. Take some time for yourself to figure this all out."

"I don't think I'll have the time. We have to get Salineas back as soon as possible. The war is not over..."

Catra thought for a few seconds of something to say. How could she help Adora? "Mermista looks kinda cool, even if I never really spoke with her. You can focus on her for now? Take her kingdom back for her?"

Adora smiled. Even when she was the one supposed to have a mental breakdown, Catra kept being here for her, comforting her when it should be the contrary…

"What about you? What do you intend to do now?"

Catra remembered suddenly the awful scene in the Forbidden Zone, when fake Adora had tried to chain Catra to her life like a pet… She should have known they were only fears… Adora had changed. Adora accepted now that Catra's path would not obviously cross hers.

"I need some time too, to be honest. I still want to infiltrate the Horde and defeat Hordak...and I need to interrogate him too. I need to find out...stuff about the Magicats."

"Mystacor has so many archives about them…" Adora sighed. The idea of Catra coming back to the Rebellion after getting out of the Forbidden Zone like the sentence claimed had crossed her mind. But now it didn't feel right. "I don't think you should come back for now though."

"Agreed…" Catra chuckled. "I don't want to see all their pretentious faces. I'm so done…"

Catra remembered the feeling of wanting to be the best. Wanting to beat Adora. Wanting to impress her superiors. Now it was all gone. She was sick of trying to impress anyone.

Their mentors, their superiors, their mother figures… Mystacor with the so-called wise sorceresses… Even Angella… They had all disappointed Catra, as well as Adora, and even the young princesses, she was sure of it.

They didn't deserve the youth's admiration. They had all messed their world up.

"Whatever Madame Razz said, I'm gonna do things for me now. I won't follow anyone else but myself."

"That's good," Adora smiled. Catra was surprised, she didn't even try to point out how Catra had no plan, no friends, no place to go… "Then, when you're back… Maybe we can...try to…"

"Fix things?"

"Yeah."

Adora looked sad and confused again. The doubts weren't totally gone. They would stay for a while, Catra knew too well about it.

"You're not mad that…" Adora started, making an anxious pause. "That you got forced to be friends with me?"

"...nobody forced me, I told you. We were set up, and yes, I'm really mad at this," she said with a harsher tone. "I'm mad that my whole previous life got erased for you, or more like...for Etheria. I'm mad that it seems I can't live for myself, and that my life keeps revolving around you."

Adora's eyes watered at this speech. She swallowed loudly. Catra could only feel a bit sorry that she felt that way… But she wouldn't soothe her feelings for her. Adora had to hear what it was really like.

"But I can tell you what I want Adora. I wanted to be your friend when we were kids. And now I want to fix the mess between us. Because it's not our fault if my previous life got destroyed."

Adora gave her a weak smile. "That's why we need to put some distance between us," she replied softly. Catra smiled back.

"But," Adora said. "Is it enough...to want it?"

Catra grabbed her chin, and kissed her. As she always did, she started off gently, before feeling enough confidence from Adora's side to deepen the kiss.

XXXXXX

Adora didn't waste her time pondering their actions. She lay on her back, pulling Catra with her. Catra straddled her and attacked her neck with her mouth, leaving a trail of kisses and little bites, guiding herself with Adora's noises.

The princess had already slipped her hands beneath Catra's shirt, like she was in a hurry… She desperately wanted to feel Catra, just in case it was the last time they could be together… Just in case Catra decided someday they could no longer mend the sharp pieces of their relationship.

Catra quickly took her shirt off. Before she could lean on Adora again, the blonde had grabbed her waist, asking her silently to stand still. She was enjoying the sight… Catra topless, sitting on her… She was beautiful. Sadness lidded her eyes when she saw all the bruises in a healing process that adorned her skin now… Some of them got caused by Mystacor's weapons, and some others by her demons… And some by Adora herself.

She kissed the purple spots lightly, travelling on her belly, then tracing the line of Catra's abs, up until the valley of her breast…

Catra smirked, watching Adora's cheeks going redder and redder. She started a slow grinding motion on the princess, who tried to match the rhythm, clumsily. Catra grabbed her hand, and guided it on her boob.

Adora squeezed and brushed the soft skin. She flicked her thumb over the nipple, and smiled when she heard Catra pant. The feline's noises intensified when she felt Adora's mouth close on her nipple and suck. She ran her fingers in Adora's hair, untying the eternal ponytail she had always worn since her childhood.

Adora moved to the other boob, while her free hand travelled hesitantly on Catra's ass. She grabbed it as firmly as she could. It made Catra chuckle. She was so soft… Catra had been used to much rougher.

"What?" Adora asked, a little vexed.

"I'm not made of glass Princess… " Catra put her hand on Adora's, and showed her the pressure she was expecting. Adora let go of her nipple. She grabbed her ass with both hands, imitating what Catra had showed her. She pulled Catra harsher, increasing the grinding motion. Catra bit her lower lip as the friction got her higher and higher…

She pushed on Adora's chest with two fingers and a devilish smirk on her face. Adora obeyed to the silent order, laying down again. Catra leaned on her forearms, caging Adora's head between them, and moved so that her thigh was pressing between Adora's legs. The blonde muffled a whimper, then quickly caught Catra's mouth to hide her embarrassment. Catra smirked wider on her lips, very much enjoying that flustered Adora.

She put her weight on her left arm, and slipped the right one underneath Adora's shirt, wanting to feel her breast too. She kept grinding mercilessly against Adora's core meanwhile. Adora moaned when she felt Catra's hand working on her chest, and jerked Catra's butt forward. The feline's breath hitched. She caught Adora's lower lip and pulled.

Adora moved her hands up on Catra's back.

"Don't go higher," Catra warned. "The wound. It hurts again."

"Sorry…" Adora moved her hands down, feeling Catra's perfectly shaped body, her hips, her ass again, then her thighs… Then she decided to get bolder. She played with the waistband of Catra's red and black striped criminal pants, just below the navel, and sneaked a hand inside. Catra stopped the grinding, raising her pelvis to give Adora more space.

Catra moaned on her mouth when she felt Adora's hand cupping her pubis. She started moving again, accelerating her previous pace. She was playing with Adora's nipple, but had to put her forearm back on the ground to get more steady. Adora watched with delight the feline close her eyes and pant as the blonde rubbed lazy circles on her clit with her palm…

She pushed her underpants aside and inserted a finger. Catra snapped her eyes open, an obvious surprise glinting in them. Then she smirked, and sucked on Adora's earlobe.

"You've done this before, haven't you Princess…"

Her voice was so low it was almost a growl. It made Adora shiver in pleasure.

"...once. And you?"

"...you don't wanna know," her teasing tone sent a flash of desire down her groin, as well as a pinch of jealousy in her heart.

Adora slapped her butt, turning Catra's snicker into a moan. Adrenaline burst in Adora's head. She pulled her finger out, then gripped Catra's pants and tugged it down harshly. Catra cackled. She rolled on her side to get rid of the clothes and her underpants, then took her position back.

Adora sat up. She couldn't help staring with fascination. She slided her fingers between Catra's slits again, appreciating how wet she was. She slowly explored the skin around her clit, trying to feel every fold. Catra moaned and nibbled on her lip as she moved on the hand, occasionally guiding it when it felt uncomfortable, or on the contrary...so intense she needed more.

Adora was amazed at how beautiful she looked. She wanted to engrave that image in her mind, to always remember that moment…

She inserted a finger again. Catra leaned in and kissed her. "Another one..." she whispered on her mouth. Adora raised her brows in surprise, but did as she was told. Catra wrapped her arms around Adora's shoulders, putting her weight on the strong princess. She rode Adora's fingers faster, whimpering each time they hit that spot that made her world go blank.

She forced herself to open her eyes. She couldn't believe these were Adora's fingers. Adora was bringing her over the edge, like she had dreamed of and tried to deny so many times…

She kissed her more ferociously, steadying her neck with a hand. She needed to feel more of Adora, she wanted to be closer and closer... But she had to break the kiss when she felt herself getting higher. She panted heavily, leaning her cheek on Adora's. The blonde hooked her fingers, eliciting louder noises from the feline, then sucked on the skin between her neck and shoulder.

Adora was a patient and quite persistent soldier… If her arm felt sore, she didn't let it appear. She kept on her pace, even quickening it, as she let her other hand wander on Catra's body. When she squeezed the base of her tail, Catra arched her back, feeling dangerously close...

She muffled her moans with her forearm smashed on her mouth, but Adora grabbed her wrist.

"I want to hear you…"

"Just… Don't stop…"

"You're so amazing…"

Her loving and admirative tone, her fingers inside of her, her hand squeezing her tail again, and her mouth on her neck… It brought Catra far too fast to her release. Her pelvis grinded almost by itself in fast motions on Adora, then stopped abruptly when she reached the peak. She buried her head in the blonde hair, as she held her face and neck in a firm grasp, feeling her walls clench on those damn fingers.

When she fell from her high, she slouched on Adora's body, breathing loud in her neck, wrapping her arms around her waist. Adora kissed her forehead, murmuring sweet words in her hair.

She was so soft, so hesitant. Probably because she was inexperienced, but she was compensating by how she observed and cared… Catra loved it better than all the expert sex she used to have. She wanted to make her feel as good as she made her. She also wanted to break her perfect soldier facade… The one that Adora used to conceal her emotions.

Catra sat up and shoved Adora on the ground without a warning. A hungry glint shone in her eyes as she took in Adora's face, confused, flustered and anticipating… Adora licked her lips, not daring to talk.

"You have too much clothes on, Princess... " Catra smirked. "You mind if I take some layers off?"

Adora nodded, her mouth dry. She wiggled to help Catra get rid of the unnecessary piece of clothes. Now it was Catra's turn to stare, and Adora felt suddenly very self conscious…

Catra traced the remnant of the scratch her fake self had made in the Forbidden Zone… The wounds were like ghosts now, fading the more time they spent in the real world, but they were still here nonetheless. Haunting the skin like they were haunting their heart.

"It wasn't you," Adora said. She had seen the shadow in Catra's eyes when she looked at the claw mark.

"...it kinda was."

"No. You told me yourself, these were amplified fears. A distorted reality. You wouldn't do that-"

Catra met her eyes, and Adora regretted her choice of words. The scars on her back decided to burn at this precise moment, as a coincidental reminder of their messy past.

"I can't erase what I've done, but I'll make it up to you." she said solemnly. She unsheathed her claws temporarily. "And I'll never use these against you anymore."

Adora nodded, smiling at the promise. She reached out to Catra's cheek, rubbing a finger to convey her trust. Catra purred, but soon enough a smirk tucked her lips.

"Unless you're into that kind of things, but you'll have to beg for it…"

Adora laughed and closed her eyes to enjoy Catra's hands on her abs, rubbing up until she cupped her boobs. Catra dived on the nipple, sucking and licking it as she squeezed the flesh softly. Adora's breathing got heavy. She grabbed a handful of Catra's hair, tugging it hesitantly.

She whimpered when Catra nibbled the pink nub. "Too harsh?"

Adora nodded. Catra noted that Adora would need more edging before going rough… She left a serie of pecks between her breast as an apology, trailing down her ripped stomach. She looped her fingers around Adora's pants, tucking it down little by little. She could feel Adora tremble as her mouth kept going lower. She looked up at her, a teasing smirk and a raised eyebrow asking her permission.

Adora unbuttoned her pants by herself. But then Catra pulled it down in one move, too much in a hurry… She rubbed her hands up and down Adora's inner thighs, spreading her slowly, getting closer and closer to the part Adora wanted her to touch so bad she was a shaking mess.

She kissed her thigh, from her knee to her groin, avoiding her pussy on purpose. Adora was bucking her hips forward now, demanding that friction. Catra chuckled, then licked her belly button.

"Catra…" she warned. Oh, she was not pleased to be teased so much…

The feline kissed the skin down, lower and lower. With her fingers, she parted the lips, then without further waiting, she rubbed her tongue along the slit. Adora's reaction had been worth the wait… She arched her back, letting out a very loud moan that must have awaken the whole Whispering Woods.

Catra watched her with delight as she circled around the clit, edging Adora who had leaned on her elbows to see her face.

"You're having fun?"

"...why'd you stop?" Adora almost whined. Catra grinned and dived again, this time licking directly on the clit, accompanying Adora's erratic hip moves. She retracted her claws and teased her entrance, watching her reaction. Adora bucked her hips down against the fingertips, searching for more contact. Catra slided in one finger, to which Adora responded by tugging her hair again.

She was gorgeous from down here. Catra wondered how she could ever hate her… But she had never hated her per se. She had hated some things she'd done. Some things she'd said. She had hated the shit that happened between them.

But deep down, now Catra knew that she had never managed to hate Adora.

"Catra…"

"You're doing great, Princess…" she said before inserting another finger. Adora adjusted with a long panting. Catra didn't give her a lot of time to rest. She licked her clit again, and slided her fingers in and out at a fast pace, turning them every now and then, hooking them occasionally to get her higher.

Adora didn't know what to do with her hands. She tugged Catra's hair, then she touched her own breast, then she spread her thighs wider… At some point, Catra held out her free hand. Adora grabbed it. Perfect anchor to hold onto.

She stared at Catra the whole time, squeezing her hand as she let her bring her closer and closer to her release… So many emotions made her heart beat. She wanted to see Catra between her legs more in the future… She wouldn't do that with anyone else anymore.

But what if it was the last time? What if Catra met someone else on her quest to find herself? What if she forgot about her? ...or what if she died?

Catra looked up at her. Her mismatched eyes seem to comprehend her sorrow, somehow.

"Hey Adora," Catra said. She brought their intertwined hands to her mouth, and left a wet kiss on her knuckles. "Stop thinking."

How did she do it? How did she manage to understand what Adora was feeling, whereas she had always struggled regarding Catra's thoughts?

"I got you."

And at these words, she inserted a third finger. Adora cried out in pleasure, angling her pelvis to feel it better. She closed her eyes, moaning and losing focus on time and space.

"We'll fix this," Catra whispered. "I promise."

It was that final word or that final flick of Catra's tongue on her clit that made her climax- she wasn't sure which one- making her fall apart under the feline's watch.

She caught her breath slowly, her ribcage rising and falling while Catra climbed up on her. She nuzzled in her neck, wrapping her arms around her waist and her tail around her leg. A content purring made Adora smile. She hugged Catra back, humming at the feeling of her lips brushing lightly on her neck.

XXXXXX

SFW content of the scene :

She desperately wanted to feel Catra, just in case it was the last time they could be together… Just in case Catra decided someday they could no longer mend the sharp pieces of their relationship.

Catra was beautiful. Sadness lidded Adora's eyes when she saw all the bruises in a healing process that adorned her skin now… Some of them got caused by Mystacor's weapons, and some others by her demons… And some by Adora herself.

...

"You've done this before, haven't you Princess…"

Her voice was so low it was almost a growl. It made Adora shiver in pleasure.

"...once. And you?"

"...you don't wanna know," her teasing tone sent a flash of desire down her groin, as well as a pinch of jealousy in her heart.

Adora was amazed at how beautiful she looked. She wanted to engrave that image in her mind, to always remember that moment…

"You have too much clothes on, Princess... " Catra smirked. "You mind if I take some layers off?"

Adora nodded, her mouth dry. She wiggled to help Catra get rid of the unnecessary piece of clothes. Now it was Catra's turn to stare, and Adora felt suddenly very self conscious…

Catra traced the remnant of the scratch her fake self had made in the Forbidden Zone… The wounds were like ghosts now, fading the more time they spent in the real world, but they were still here nonetheless. Haunting the skin like they were haunting their heart.

"It wasn't you," Adora said. She had seen the shadow in Catra's eyes when she looked at the claw mark.

"...it kinda was."

"No. You told me yourself, these were amplified fears. A distorted reality. You wouldn't do that-"

Catra met her eyes, and Adora regretted her choice of words. The scars on her back decided to burn at this precise moment, as a coincidental reminder of their messy past.

"I can't erase what I've done, but I'll make it up to you." she said solemnly. She unsheathed her claws temporarily. "And I'll never use these against you anymore."

Adora nodded, smiling at the promise. She reached out to Catra's cheek, rubbing a finger to convey her trust.

...

Adora was gorgeous. Catra wondered how she could ever hate her… But she had never hated her per se. She had hated some things she'd done. Some things she'd said. She had hated the shit that happened between them.

But deep down, now Catra knew that she had never managed to hate Adora.

Adora stared at Catra the whole time, squeezing her hand... So many emotions made her heart beat. She wouldn't do that with anyone else anymore.

But what if it was the last time? What if Catra met someone else on her quest to find herself? What if she forgot about her? ...or what if she died?

Catra looked up at her. Her mismatched eyes seem to comprehend her sorrow, somehow.

"Hey Adora," Catra said. She brought their intertwined hands to her mouth, and left a kiss on her knuckles. "Stop thinking."

How did she do it? How did she manage to understand what Adora was feeling, whereas she had always struggled regarding Catra's thoughts?

"I got you. We'll fix this," Catra whispered. "I promise."

Catra nuzzled in her neck, wrapping her arms around her waist and her tail around her leg. A content purring made Adora smile. She hugged Catra back, humming at the feeling of her lips brushing lightly on her neck.


 

Bonus : have a little drawing of my babies examining Catra's mask not long after they met <3 (I messed up Adora, I never draw her...)

Chapter Text

They stayed in that position for a while, hugging each other, naked and content, listening to the Woods living around them. They didn't want to go back to reality. They didn't want to think of what was ahead.

But sooner or later…

Adora was the first to pop their peaceful bubble.

"So what now?" she asked, still holding Catra close to her heart.

"Now…I gotta find a way to contact Entrapta."

"I can help you with that."

Catra raised her head suddenly, her ears perking up.

"Bow has been talking with Kyle and Entrapta for a while, so he can-"

"Shhh," Catra smashed her hand on her mouth. "Do you hear that?"

Adora rolled her eyes. A lifetime spent together, and Catra still hadn't processed that if Adora didn't react before or at the same time as her, it meant she couldn't hear whatever ultrasounds Catra perceived.

"Get dressed, we got company."

Adora didn't like her urgent tone. Catra got in her clothes faster than Adora, her ears twitching regularly as she was listening. Finally, she grinned.

"Talk about a fucking coincidence…"

Adora didn't have the time to ask Catra what she meant. The feline leapt in the branches of a tree and disappeared.

"Hey!" Adora ran in the direction she last saw her. She heard a scream from afar. She hurried, her heart beating fast. What kind of new opponent would they have to fight now…?

She tripped on a rock and fell forward. She yelped as she rolled on a slope, protecting her face with her arms. When her descent finally came to a stop, she stood up groggily and grunted.

"Adora! What a surprise!"

Adora hadn't heard that trembling voice in months. She snapped her head on the side. Kyle and Rogelio were perching on a skiff, waving at her. On the ground in front of them, Scorpia was hugging Catra so hard she could see the feline's face turn red.

"What the-" Adora blinked. "What are you guys doing here?"

"We ran away and came to Catra's rescue," Rogelio signed. Adora was about to answer when she saw his legs. His metallic legs. Then as she looked at Kyle, she saw worrying red spots on his shirt, a swollen lip, a black eye… What on Etheria happened in the Horde?!

"Scorpia, I can't breathe…"

The giant princess let her friend go. Catra was about to groan, when she saw the tears that were rolling on her cheeks. She put a hand on her pincer.

"Scorpia, are you okay? What's wrong?" Then she eyed the skiff and the crew.

Scorpia, Rogelio and Kyle… That was an odd combination Catra had never imagined could be possible. What exactly happened to make the two teams mingle? ...and where were the missing members?

"Where is Entrapta? And Lonnie?"

Rogelio and Kyle's heads lowered. Their sad pout made Catra widen her eyes, suspicion making her heart pound in her chest. She looked back at Scorpia's face, raising a brow in expectation.

"They...they couldn't come with us."

"You left them behind?"

Adora would have smacked her head if she could do it discreetly. She walked towards the skiff and helped the boys to put down some heavy backpacks instead.

"I didn't want to," Scorpia whined. "Entrapta made us leave. She blackmailed us so that we'd escape without her. And Lonnie...we lost her just when we were about to get to the skiff. She… She sacrificed herself for us."

Catra's heart skipped a beat. "But they're… They're alive, right?"

"As far as we know, yes."

Catra had always been quick to process and react adequately during stressful situations. But after that exhausting night full of terror, revelations and disappointment… After finally finding a resolution and bonding with Adora... Her mind wasn't ready to accept another drama.

"Lonnie mentioned you," Scorpia pursued. "She wanted me to tell you something, but she didn't say it in the end…"

Adora looked at Catra from the corner of her eye. The feline had a grave face.

"We must go back there, now."

"We can't Catra," Kyle said. Catra glared at him, eyeing him up and down like he was bold to even talk to her. "Um…" he pursued with a weak voice. "The Horde knows we escaped, it's impossible to break in now."

"Entrapta controls the cameras, it should be easy enough to sneak in and leave."

"We barely made it out with her help," Rogelio pointed out. "Octavia has become a control freak, and it's only going to get worse."

"Octavia?" Adora asked. "She's the new Second?"

Kyle nodded. He put a tablet out of one of the backpacks, and handed it to Catra.

"Entrapta has left a message for you. She said only you must watch it."

Catra took the tablet. The play button was waiting for her to push it. The ex-Horde soldier blinked. This was all too surreal. What was so important for Entrapta to bother recording herself in what looked like a few hours long video? What was it that made her literally chase her friends away from the Fright Zone whereas she stayed behind?

She stared at the three fugitives, one by one. How did they end up like this? Deserting the Horde to find her? For Scorpia it made sense, but for the two others?

...what kind of mess did they have to put up with while she was being held in Brightmoon's prison, waiting every day for Adora to come balm her back, and only worrying about the trial and her escape?

"Guys…" she started. They smiled at her, like they had perceived what was on her mind.

"Go watch that video," Rogelio signed. "For now, we need to know what we're getting into."

"We'll talk later," Kyle added.

Catra nodded. She turned towards Adora, who mouthed a silent "go", with a comforting smile on her face. She would wait for her.

So Catra groaned and jumped in a tree, disappearing in the high branches where nobody could follow her.

Whatever Entrapta had to tell her must have been pretty heavy, because Adora was left with the group for what felt like hours. At first, an awkward silence had settled between them, which she found odd considering she knew Scorpia was not the kind of person to let a blank linger. But Scorpia was completely off. The situation must have been hard for her. Kyle was also pretty worn out. He wore the face of someone who had not slept for days….

Eventually, Adora started to talk with Rogelio. The lizard man explained to her in silence everything that happened since the battle. His coma, what Kyle did for him with Entrapta, how it led to the deal with the Rebellion… Then he explained how the Horde had drastically changed in a a couple of weeks, and he, who had been in a coma, had noticed all too well when he woke up.

He told her about Entrapta's injuries, and about the mysterious hand device that linked her to Hordak. He told her about their escape, and the painful separation with Lonnie. He told her how they spent the whole night of their escape tracking Catra, until her signal disappeared. Then, during another very long day, they had tried to find her again. They had lost their path in the Whispering Woods. They'd had to find food whereas they didn't even know what fruits were good to eat. They got desperate. They even talked about surrendering to the Horde.

And finally, a few hours ago, Catra's signal had reappeared, bringing back hope.

His sign language allowed the two others to doze off and ignore the speech, already knowing what was being said. They needed rest and silence for now. So Adora didn't speak. She asked a question in rudimental sign language from time to time.

She couldn't believe everything they had been through… Their bravery was immense, and it wasn't a surprise they were so down now.

"Hey guys," Catra finally climbed down from her tree. She stood in front of them, her eyes lost in the air, like her mind was travelling far away from Etheria. "So…"

"So?"

Catra watched the four pair of eyes stare at her expectantly. They had given her the leader role. She had to commit to it…

"Entrapta…" she started. Scorpia's eyes watered at the mention of her name. "She gave us somewhere to go."

"Where is it?" Adora asked. Catra sent her an apologetic look, one that pinched Adora's heart as she guessed what she was about to say.

"I can't tell you Princess."

Adora tried not to let the disappointment show. But Catra knew her. She tugged her wrist, and excused herself to the others as she dragged Adora through the trees. Once they were alone, she wrapped her arms around Adora's waist, and kissed her gently.

"Don't worry, I'm not mad," Adora scoffed, pulling away from the kiss.

"...just a little bit," Catra smirked. She pecked her neck slowly, then sucked roughly on the skin without a warning.

"You intend to drive me crazy before you leave maybe for years?"

Catra chuckled. "Probably not for years. We need to rescue Entrapta and Lonnie at some point..."

"So you're not going back to the Fright Zone…"

"No, we're not."

Adora wanted to ask so much more. She didn't want her to leave… But she knew she had to let her go.

"I'll be back soon Princess. Don't worry."

Adora cupped her face and kissed her with all her passion. She tried to convey how much she was going to miss her, but she didn't think it was enough.

Catra broke the kiss. "We can drop you off next to Mystacor by the way."

"No need, Madame Razz gave me some of her magical berries to bring me back to my bedroom."

Catra's face twitched. Her tail raised behind her back. "You're not gonna trust her, are you?"

"...I am. It's clearly not in her interest to kill me or send me back to the Forbidden Zone or anywhere else."

"We don't really know what her interest is Adora…"

"I'll be fine. Trust me."

Adora could see the irritation Catra tried to conceal. It made her smile. She stared at every detail of her face, trying to engrave it all in her mind. That disapproving face, these angry eyes, shining more than the runestone on her forehead, her arms crossed beneath her chest like when she was about to brood… This screamed Catra. This was part of the Catra she'd known for years.

This would be one of the last memories she would have of the feline before who knew how long.

"Glimmer learned recently how to send a magical message. I can reassure you that I'm alive and well that way. It can find you wherever you are…but you can't send it back," she said sadly.

"You really are reckless."

"Like you're one to talk."

They shared their last kiss, reluctantly letting go of each other. Catra promised once again she would come back to her. Adora promised she would wait for her, and keep the secret of her escaping the Forbidden Zone- she would share it only with Glimmer and Bow, with Catra's permission.

Then Catra stepped aside, watching anxiously Adora take the berries to her mouth. The princess disappeared in a blue cloud and a popping sound, leaving Catra alone, regretting she let her use that magic…

She shook her head, pushing her worry in a corner of her mind. The three fugitives were still waiting for her, curiosity rising when they saw their new leader come out from behind a tree. From the way Rogelio was smirking at her, Catra knew he had guessed what was going on between her and Adora.

"Okay, guys…" Catra clapped her hands together. "Adora left, now it's just us. I can't tell you everything that I learned from Entrapta, but I can at least tell you where we're going and why."

"Good enough for me," Rogelio signed.

"And what about Entrapta and Lonnie?" Scorpia asked. "We're gonna get them back soon right? Once we're more prepared?"

"As soon as possible. I promise."

"Alright, so what did she say?"

Catra's heart raced in her chest as she remembered the heavy information…

"Hi Catra! I know this must be pretty weird to talk to me through a machine and not face to face, but I didn't really have any other option, and to be fair… It's pretty cool right?!"

"Let's leave right now, we don't have time to waste. I'll tell you on the way. We need to find food and water too."

"I'm leaving you this message because I unfortunately can't leave the Fright Zone… I'll explain to you later, I'll leave some flags on the video sidebar for you to find the topics' times more easily.

So I can't come, but Scorpia and the others will be here to help you in your next quest. I call it…Operation New Rebels.

You see, I learned some very huge info in my research on the data crystals from the Temple of Light Hope. This is the biggest discovery of my life...and it can't fall into the wrong hands, I understand that now.

So I decided that even if you are a very unstable angry feline with trust issues, the stats indicate you probably are the person who could handle this the best way. Besides, the first thing I'm about to reveal is about you.

The second big thing I'll expose in this video...you shouldn't be watching it unless you're in your most emotionally stable state. Trust me, even I got nervous when I decrypted it."

Catra sighed. She pinched the bridge of her nose. What kind of secrets had this crazy woman found…? Catra was scared to know.

Despite her strong curiosity, she had resisted the temptation to see the rest of the video. The part where Entrapta explained what Hordak had done to her had messed her up enough. She would have more than enough time during their trip to learn new disturbing things…

As she let the wind ruffle her hair, perched on the edge of the skiff, she felt a very light pressure on her hand. She raised it and saw a purplish shiny little butterfly, stepping on her skin.

She grinned as the magical creature vanished in the air. She could at least relax on that matter.

"Bye Adora," she said softly. "I'm gonna miss you..."


Mystacor was a mess…

The castle was still partly destroyed, plunged in artificial darkness, wounded people being taken care of in the gardens. The Alliance princesses had been released from their watch after Angella's outburst, but they decided to stay for another day to help with the repairs, like the sorceresses had done for them two weeks ago. To make them even.

As for the High Council of Mystacor, they were struggling between the protection of their domain, the political tension that had arisen with the Alliance, the fear of the future regarding the war that they were just getting involved in, and the disappearance of the mask of the Magicats, stolen by an unknown magical woman.

The guard who had warned them had described an old lady with glasses and a broom… She must have had magical powers for sure to be able to break into the castle and defeat the guard, who had woken up locked up in a closet after a long unnatural sleep…

It was an unknown sorceress, that was for sure. The Council had no idea who it could be. All citizens with magical powers were registered at some point to learn the secrets of their art and none of them matched the description.

The queen had ordered to search in the castle. But nobody had found her. The mask had vanished...right after Catra had been sent into exile. That couldn't be a coincidence. What was the significance of that…? Was it Hordak's doing somehow?

Mortella rubbed her chin as she paced around the room where they had kept the mask. She was so focused she didn't see the little bot that was hiding in a corner, zooming on her with its small lens.

The sorceress stopped in her track. She stared at the table where the mask should have been, then suddenly turned around and sent a ray of purple light in the direction of the bot. Her magic paralyzed the robot, lifting it in the air. Mortella made it float until it reached the table.

"I knew someone was watching us…"

She grabbed the bot with both hands. The machine didn't try to put up a fight. Mortella rolled it in her hands, trying to find something… Annoyed by her failure, she put it down on the table, and crossed her arms beneath her chest.

"Show yourself."

She waited for a good five minutes, before the bot suddenly clicked its metallic legs, moving so that it was facing the wall. A new lens came out of the core, and projected a picture on the wall.

"I knew you were behind this...Hordak."

"Good day to you too, Mortella."

The sorceress raised one of her perfect eyebrows at him, discontent showing on her face.

"Destroying our castle wasn't enough, now you have to spy on us."

"All is fair in war, my dear sorceress."

"We are going to fight you now, Hordak. Our days as a neutral force in this war are over."

"I am aware of that. Your intervention during Brightmoon's battle sent a crystal clear message."

"And you only have yourself to blame for that," Mortella's voice was harsher than the metal of the robot. "You broke our pact, Hordak. Twice."

"Hmm, that's semantics really… In my vision of it, you were the ones who broke it first."

"Whatever you're saying, it's over now. You won't last long with us against you."

"If you say so. Good luck fighting alongside the princesses… Your arguments were a real entertainment…"

The bot self destructed, Hordak's snicker fading with the smoke. Mortella fumed, but composed her face as she left the room. Hordak didn't know who he was dealing with.


"My Lord…"

Hordak's smile fell as he heard the annoying whining voice of his Force Captain. He left his lab, revealing himself in the throne room, where Leech was waiting for him on his knees.

Hordak sat on his throne, tapping his fingers on the armrest. Leech didn't move an inch, respecting the silence his master had imposed.

"What is it?"

"I have...bad news, my Lord."

The tapping noise intensified, echoing ominously in the large room, promising the Force Captain a terrible punishment regarding the information that was about to leave his mouth.

He swallowed dry. "It's about the prisoner."

"Did Entrapta lose even more memories than before?"

"No, it's not her. It's the coach, Lonnie. She escaped."

Hordak raised from his seat. He took a few steps until he stood just in front of his trembling soldier, towering over him.

"And how exactly did that happen, Force Captain Leech?" His low voice was barely veiling the threat lying underneath that question.

"...I don't know. All the cameras were jammed," Leech dared look up at his master, but regretted instantly. "We...we spent the day searching and-"

He couldn't finish his sentence. Hordak had hoisted him up in the air by the neck, squeezing so hard Leech's green face turned a deep purple in a few seconds. He watched his soldier choke and wiggle, trying to escape his deadly grip, then let him fall on the ground. No mercy showed in his empty eyes as he watched him catch his breath heavily.

"Find her."

Chapter Text

9 months later…

The war had been raging for two days now. Plumeria was attacked from all sides by the Rebellion. Frosta's and Mermista's troops were controlling the north front, Angella's got the west, the princesses of the Alliance blocked the Horde's backup coming from Salineas in the east, and Mystacor's forces were protecting the southern side, giving a hard time to any trooper from the Fright Zone to even reach the Whispering Woods because of their storm magic.

They should have been winning. But the Horde were heavy opponents. They still had miles of galleries filled with emergency robots popping here and there around the kingdom, messing with their siege.

They had tried to send a missile on their different camps too, but the princesses had retaliated with the force of the Alliance. They had found a way, a few months ago, to control the rainbow wave power in a new manner. They could now blow it as an anti-missile ray, destroying the Horde's missiles in the air.

Once Hordak had discovered that, he'd spared his new weapons. They were long and tedious to create, and he didn't want them to go to waste.

Unfortunately for them, the tyran had also realized that this new technique took a lot of energy from the princesses, hence why using one little missile during the current battle had served him in the end. The other downside for the Rebellion was that the Alliance had to always stay together to boost their synchronized energy, therefore leave their troops alone on their respective front.

The princesses were having more and more trouble defending the east side. Yet most of the Horde forces of Plumeria were busy fighting on the other front, only a little handful of them blocked the princesses from coming in. Their real problem was Force Captain Grizzlor who was harassing them, sending more and more robots from Salineas relentlessly.

That kept them so busy they didn't really have the opportunity to break through Plumeria, whereas it was now the weakest front… They only needed a little luck, a little push… And they could take that kingdom back.

"Adora!" Glimmer appeared next to the eight-foot-tall warrior. "I know it's risky but… Can't we use our rainbow ray to pierce through Plumeria once and for all?"

"Pierce through- Glimmer, it's a ray that can blow up a missile flying a few miles up in the air. We're going to destroy the kingdom if we do that!"

"Yeah but…" Glimmer leaned on her thighs, panting heavily. "I don't feel great, I think we used too much energy…"

Adora cut a robot in two, then looked around her. The trees of the area were all destroyed, burning or broken, making an artificial clearing in the landscape. Robots were coming from all sides, so the princesses had to form a wide circle around the clearing to protect themselves, while some of their troops tried to break Plumeria's defenses.

As for the princesses themselves… Frosta's ice was thinner than usual. Angella couldn't fly for long anymore. Perfuma's plants were easier to break…

Glimmer was right. The Alliance, alone with some of Spinnerella's troops, was breathless. They would have to retreat soon… And lose Plumeria, because of the Salineas backup that would be able to take the clearing over.

It wasn't fair. This battle was supposed to be theirs. And if they could finally take Plumeria back… The road to Salineas would be wide open.

Adora sighed. Maybe the ray wouldn't be as powerful as the first time, since they were so tired. But there was still a high risk of harming Perfuma's runestone, and fainting from the effort. Then it would all be useless…

Adora was about to talk about Glimmer's idea again, but she stopped in her track, snapping her head in the direction of the valid trees framing the clearing. Glimmer followed her line of sight, frowning in confusion.

"What is it Adora?"

"Didn't you see something? Like a shadow in the branches…?"

"No… I can't see from that far anyway. It must be some more robots!" She shrugged.

Adora squinted her eyes, unconvinced. At this moment, the defense from Plumeria's side decided to attack. They must have received order to strengthen their front when they realized the princesses were weaker.

The rebel troops took shelter where they could under the rifle attacks.

"Adora get down!"

The princess turned her sword into a shield. The bullets bounced on the metal, but they wouldn't stop coming. How many munitions did they have in these galleries?! From the corner of her eyes, she could see new robots from Salineas entering the clearing. Angella shot a purple ray at them, but it wasn't enough.

This looked like the end… They had to retreat if they didn't want to lose more people for nothing.

Just as she was about to call the rest of the Alliance, Adora saw them again.

The shadows, bouncing from branches to branches, from tree to tree, getting closer and closer to the Plumeria defense watchpoints…

Glimmer had seen them too, and was looking in awe, not able to distinguish what these creatures were…

Suddenly some shrieks erupted from the Horde's side. Some rifles stopped, and Adora lowered her shield to see what was happening.

Some people had jumped from the trees, sneaking directly inside of Plumeria. She couldn't see them, but she could hear the ruckus inside the base.

"Adora look!"

On the other side of the clearing, where Angella and the others were being attacked by robots, new people were coming out of the trees the same way, scratching robots on their way down.

Scratching…

...with claws, big pointy ears and a tail swaying behind their back.

Adora widened her eyes.

"For Queen Katriska!" The warriors yelled as they pierced through the lines of robots.

"Hey Adora."

Her heart stopped.

She could see Glimmer looking agape behind her.

Adora slowly turned around and saw her.

Sitting nonchalantly in a tree, leaning on a hand, with her legs crossed like she was at a dinner party.

With that damn smirk on her face, that never failed to make Adora melt inside.

"Long time no see, Sparkle."

Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail. She had a new outfit, dark red and golden, sticking to her skin. Her mask's runestone was glowing brightly, in sync with the intensity of her eyes.

How could she just pop out of nowhere after months of complete silence, just when they desperately needed help? She'd always had a thing for theatrical entrances…

"Well… I'd love to stay and enjoy this awkward silence with you guys, but I think my people need a bit of help."

Catra grinned, showing off her fangs. She jumped off of the tree, walking slowly past the two princesses who were still in shock, and sent a hand signal to her troops

At this moment, Angella seemed to realize who was leading the army of what should be in her vision the ghosts of the past… Angella's jaw dropped even lower, her eyes staring intently at Catra.

The Queen of the Magicats nodded to the Queen of Brightmoon, a grave expression on her face. Then she pushed the golden runestone on her mask before lowering it on her face.

A second later, a magnificent feline stood on fours, roaring so hard in the clearing it made the troopers near her lose their balance.

"Long live Queen Katriska!"

At the end of this acclamation, the Magicats all turned into the same kind of warrior, bigger than the Horde bots, stronger than Frosta's ice, running head first into the Salineas backup lines on one side and Plumeria's defense wall on the other... The Horde had no chance against them. The soldiers inside Plumeria must have been in big trouble as well, facing the feline intruders.

The princesses were still too shocked to move, especially Angella, who kept shaking her head in denial, mouthing the name of the supposedly dead queen like she was trying to understand a secret meaning she wasn't aware of before.

"What are you guys doing?!" Glimmer yelled. "Come on, let's get moving, we can win this now, go, go, go!"

That order took them all back to reality. The troopers shouted for victory, hurrying against the defense wall behind the Magicats, while the Princesses helped the rest of the cat people chase the robots from the clearing.

Adora joined them, searching on her way with her eyes for the biggest of the Magicats… The one who got a mask over the eyes. She smiled when she saw her destroy with one headbutt the wall of Plumeria, showing no mercy for the soldiers on top of the watchpoints.

Adora smiled.

"Hey Catra."

Chapter Text

A year after the battle of Brightmoon, Commander Catra of the Horde has captured Adora, Princess of Power, her ex-best friend, and made her a prisoner in the Fright Zone.

Her success in her new rank and her final victory over Adora has Catra on cloud nine. She brags about her power to Adora and Shadow Weaver, feeling almighty in front of the two women who meant the most to her in her childhood.

However, despite what Catra says, she hasn't grown indifferent to Adora's betrayal when she left her behind to fight against the Horde. She also hasn't really fallen out of love with her ex-best friend. That's why when Hordak orders Catra to behead Adora on the spot, she does what she can to stop it, to the point of giving Hordak suspicion about her loyalty. Octavia, who's been lurking around, envying Catra's position, sees this happen with great pleasure.

Adora gets saved by Glimmer and Bow, who have infiltrated the Horde thanks to Kyle, a nobody cadet who's keen on spying on people and has been giving intel to Bow for a few months. On their way out of the Fright Zone, they encounter Entrapta, who agrees to help them and keep their escape a secret, for old times' sake.

Catra, unaware that Adora is alive at Brightmoon, reconsiders her life goal and her ambitions. Was it really all because of Adora? Can't she do things for herself? What will she do now that Adora is gone for good? She has no time to ruminate as the next battle is on the way, starring Hordak himself as their main leader.

Meanwhile in the Rebellion, people are preparing themselves for the battle. They know Hordak plans to raid Salineas first as a bait and then attack Brightmoon. The Princesses want to stay all together at Brightmoon to end the war once and for all. But for this, they need to sacrifice Salineas. Mermista is furious.

While they wait for the Horde, Adora reflects on her relationship with Catra, and what her ex-friend has become. She knows there is some good in Catra. She knows she still cares.

The battle bursts at dawn, pitting hundreds of robots and tanks against the Princesses. Catra is leading the catapult team on the cliff, and that's where she sees the Princess of Power attacking Hordak. Adora is alive!

Hordak replies with his tech magic. During his fight with She-Ra, he reveals that they are both from the same planet, Eternia. Adora doesn't believe him and hides this information from her friends afterwards.

Catra is fighting to the death against Octavia, under Hordak's orders. Catra has been betrayed! She sets up an explosion and burns her back badly in the process. Octavia catches her and shows Catra off on the battlefield. Hordak threatens to kill Catra unless Adora surrenders, and Adora nearly agrees. It doesn't go unnoticed by Angella, who realizes how important Catra is to Adora. Catra, on the verge of being strangled by Octavia, plucks Octavia's last eye out of its socket, freeing herself from her grasp.

Catra is now after Hordak while Adora tries to keep up with the fight. Seeing this battle reverse against him, Hordak decides to use his secret card. He inserts a yellow rock on Catra's mask, inducing a shockwave on the planet and turning her into a giant feral beast! She's released into the Rebel safe camp, ravaging it before running off into the Woods. Over there, she meets Madame Razz, a funny witch who puts a blue rock on the mask which turns Catra back to herself. A new power wave shakes Etheria, reinvigorating the Princesses.

New allies arrive to bring the Horde down. The Sorceresses of Mystacor, led by Castaspella, magically transport themselves to Brightmoon just when they feel Catra's mask's magic.

Feeling defeated, Hordak orders a retreat. Adora leaves immediately with Swift Wind to search for Catra. She realizes the Woods are finally healing! Is it caused by the power waves? Adora finally finds Catra inside Light Hope's ruined Temple. That place has been guarded by the Horde for about six months after an invasion, and completely destroyed with the crystals and First One tech robbed. Adora destroys the Horde camp all by herself, feeling weirdly drunk on her new power.

Inside the Temple, Catra is unconscious. Adora wants to take her back to Brightmoon, where the severe burn on her back can heal. Catra refuses to follow her, but she's so exhausted she falls asleep in Adora's arms. Adora takes it upon herself to carry Catra to Brightmoon. When Catra wakes up, they're close to the castle. She tries to run away, using the power of the mask again, but is too weak, and is easily taken down by the Rebels. Adora is furious with her allies' behavior. Catra deserves a fair trial and needs to be treated with respect.

Meanwhile in the Horde, Hordak is pissed at himself. He acted recklessly during this battle. He decides to open up about his past and his plans to Entrapta. He reveals he comes from Eternia, a planet outside the Despondos system. His magic isn't working well on Etheria. It took him two decades to improve his tech to a decent level. Hordak thinks he needs the runestones of the Princesses to go back to Eternia, hence his conquering aspirations. To be sure Entrapta would remain loyal to him, he wants to cut her arm off and replace it with a robotic hand of his own design. Entrapta doesn't really have a choice and agrees half-heartedly.

Back with the Alliance, Castaspella and Angella tell the tragic story of Catra's people, the Magicats. They were an important kingdom that disappeared fifteen years ago, wiped out by Hordak. Their story started a thousand years ago, when the Great Chaos killed half of the population. Most of the knowledge from the planet got lost, and She-Ra disappeared from Etheria. Only one prophecy remained: She-Ra would come back when they needed her most.

The world was divided into kingdoms protected by Princesses linked to the old runestones. Some smaller kingdoms were ruled by Princesses without runestones.

Mystacor took the position of pacifier and knowledge keeper. They recruited people like them who could use magic at their will with spells and objects, and taught them how to master the art. They intervened in arguments between kingdoms, trying their best to maintain peace for the planet's wellbeing.

The Magicats were the only ones besides She-Ra that got a portable runestone, within the mask of their queen. They were a special kingdom, very influential as well as altruistic.

The Magicats and Mystacor became strong groups around which people gathered at the time to survive and reorganize themselves.

The Magicats have always disagreed with Mystacor about how to protect the planet. Mystacor, as self-proclaimed experts at analyzing the flows of energies of the planet, thought it would be better for each kingdom to mind their own business as much as possible with few alliances. It prevented wars. The Magicats, on the contrary, claimed that Princesses needed to unite, make alliances, and work together to prevent the deterioration of the planet.

Few people believed them. Etheria seemed to be doing much better over the years after the Great Chaos, and following Mystacor's ways seemed to work just fine. Only a few kingdoms in the far South believed the Magicats were right. A few centuries of disagreements later, these kingdoms cut ties from the North, deciding they couldn't deal with them any longer. Nobody ever saw them again, and they were declared dead in the desert. As for the Magicats, they stayed in their kingdom, Halfmoon, never letting go of their task. They were still beloved by the people despite being misunderstood.

When Hordak arrived out of nowhere on Etheria with his army about twenty years ago, he introduced himself as a space traveller who got lost on his way. For a couple of years, all the Princesses and Mystacor accepted him in their kingdoms, thrilled to know more about his stories.

Katriska, the last magicat queen, was the only one who warned them not to trust him. Nobody listened to her until a Sorceress stole her mask and tried to mess with her runestone under Hordak's influence. That Sorceress, Light Spinner, confessed during trial that Hordak had told her that the runestones had to be united to unlock great ancient power that would save the planet, and that the portable runestone must have been special.

Light Spinner was banished into the Forbidden Zone, and Bright Moon declared war on Hordak. Angella and her husband Micah struggled to create the very first Princess Alliance, as it was not in the traditions. Mystacor refused to join them, convinced it would only disrupt the flows of energy and mess with the planet's wellbeing and the First Ones' will.

Just as the Alliance was about to attack, Hordak invaded Halfmoon and slaughtered all the Magicats. Katriska was killed and her mask lost. The Rebellion blamed themselves for that disaster, especially Angella, who used to be friends with Katriska. The first Alliance decided to honor the Magicats and fight Hordak anyway. They lost the battle. Many soldiers were killed, including King Micah. The Alliance broke apart, convinced their union had been a terrible mistake and they should have listened to Mystacor. They retreated each into their own kingdom, resisting against Hordak until the return of She-Ra. They kept faith that this great warrior would come back soon.

The Princesses all lost a great deal of their power after that massacre. They also realized that what the Magicats had predicted for centuries was finally happening. The planet was deteriorating. Suddenly, with the loss of a runestone, the desert started spreading more, and the Whispering Woods grew smaller.

It all changed when the mask and its runestone reappeared on the battlefield, on Catra's forehead. Its magic was back. Catra is the last magicat, but also the magicat queen. Her blue and yellow eyes are the mark of the spirit of the Queen of the Magicats.

Now Etheria is finally complete, the Princesses are stronger and can win the war, and the planet will stop dying. As for Catra, she has to face a trial for her crimes as the Horde Commander, not as the last Queen of the Magicats. Adora decides to become her defense witness in the trial, and does her very best to make people understand Catra and put her behavior into perspective. The prisoner, on the other hand, is still angry at Adora. She doesn't want her help and doesn't believe the Rebellion can conduct a "fair" trial. In her opinion, they already doomed her, especially Mystacor. Adora doesn't like that Catra is judging them without knowing them at all.

Adora keeps visiting Catra in prison, twice a day, to take care of her wound. She tells her everything she learned about the Magicats and their history with the Rebellion. She talks to her about the trial, and tries to convince her to join the Rebellion as a condition for her pardon. Adora also opens up to her about what Hordak told her about her own two young women get closer, embracing the longing they have felt for so long. However the tension of their long conflict hasn't dropped yet.

Catra gets visited by more Princesses, including Perfuma, who's making the balm for her wound, and Angella, who reiterates Adora's invitation to join the Rebellion. She also explains how she used to be Katriska's friend, and how she let her down. Before leaving she asks about Hordak's plan regarding Salineas, because Mermista has fallen sick in a magical way. Catra says he planned to study the Sea Pearl in the Fright Zone but not damage it. Angella gathers that Mermista's illness comes from the removal of her runestone from its connection point, and is impressed by Catra's willingness to help.

The Princesses decide to contact Entrapta through Kyle to solve the Mermista problem. Kyle, who was mad at the Rebellion because his best friend Rogelio lost his legs and has been in a coma since the battle, wants to use this to his advantage. In the meantime he has learned that Entrapta needs a hair from Angella to unlock some encrypted data from Light Hope's Temple. Entrapta discovered that First One descendant's DNA is the key to these data, and is convinced that an Immortal Being like Angella must be a descendant.

Kyle creates a bargain between the two groups. He tells Bow that Entrapta will move the runestone back to Salineas if the Rebellion provides the hair, and he tells Entrapta the contrary. In exchange for being the messenger, he asks Entrapta to heal Rogelio and bring him back to life. Octavia has ordered the doctor to cut off his life support if he's not out of the coma in a week. Entrapta eventually finds out the deal was Kyle's idea, but honors their agreement anyway. Healing Rogelio's legs will be her first attempt at using Hordak's tech magic.

Glimmer refuses to hand over her mother's hair. She'd rather give her own hair, but doesn't trust Entrapta. She's convinced Entrapta told the Horde that Adora was alive, explaining why Hordak wasn't surprised to see her on the battlefield.

Glimmer visits Catra and asks if Entrapta told her Adora was alive, in an attempt to gauge Entrapta's trustworthiness. A scene of jealousy occurs between Catra and Glimmer, who has a crush on Adora. Adora is mad at Catra for playing with her own feelings just to get to Glimmer. She's also mad that Catra doesn't seem to realize that Adora's trying to save her because she doesn't want to lose her. A positive thing comes out of the exchange, though. Glimmer finally thinks she can trust Entrapta enough to give her own hair, but not Angella's. Indeed Catra was definitely not aware that the genius princess helped them escape from the Fright Zone. Entrapta hasn't betrayed her old friends.

The hair retrieval meeting takes place between Bow and Kyle, who unfortunately attracts Octavia's attention. Satisfied, Entrapta convinces Hordak to move the runestone back to Salineas, with the argument that the stone is losing power when it's out of its connecting point. Only She-Ra's sword and the mask of the Magicats are portable runestones. Hordak thought it would be interesting to make the Princesses lose power by draining the Salineas runestone's powers, but then changes his mind because he needs the runestones operational to reach Eternia.

Entrapta keeps her promise to Kyle. She creates leg prostheses for Rogelio, using Hordak's tech magic. To make it work, she has to connect her own legs to the machine, with Emily's help. It almost turns to disaster. Entrapta and Rogelio have a seizure, and Ferrarius, the Horde doctor, fights against Emily along with Lonnie to stop the process. It ends well for Rogelio who wakes up from his coma able to walk on his new legs. Entrapta unfortunately loses her own walking abilities.

In her cell, Shadow Weaver asks Hordak to give her back the position of Second in Command since Catra is gone now. Hordak agrees to give her another chance. He asks for her mask and promises to free her once he's done tinkering with it.

Back in the Rebellion, Mermista is finally doing better. Everybody is moving to Mystacor for Catra's trial. Adora and Catra meet the defensor, a warlock named Vassilis who looks excited at this opportunity. Before the trial, Catra tries to escape from Brightmoon, but unfortunately for her Adora catches her. They argue, they talk about their conflict and latent feelings for each other… and they kiss!

Adora now knows how deep her feelings for Catra are. Catra on the other hand is confused and rejects Adora after the kiss.

In Mystacor, while Adora and Glimmer are reading about the magicat queens and wondering why the first queen Alondra was named after a bird, Adora apologizes to Glimmer for putting her second since Catra has been around. Glimmer is still a bit jealous inside, but she wants her friend to be happy. She doesn't like Catra, but she knows how devastated Adora would be if Catra was sentenced to death. Still, she feels guilty for not helping Adora prepare for the trial.

Finally the trial happens. 21 persons are members of the jury. 7 Princesses, 7 Sorceresses, and 7 civilians. Queen Castaspella is presiding over the court. Hermès, the prosecutor, appeals to the emotions of the jury. He claims that Catra is a monster and asks for the death penalty to honor the many people the Princesses promised but failed to protect against the Horde. Adora realizes Glimmer is the prosecution's witness. She's pissed, but Glimmer does her best to help Catra.

Vassilis is pleading guilty for Catra. Yes, she did horrible things, and she has to make amends. But he tries to make the jury understand what drove Catra to act like this. He makes Adora talk about their upbringing, forcing Adora and Catra to relive some of their most traumatic memories. His other argument is that Catra is Queen of the Magicats, the last of her kind, and an ex-Horde Commander who knew everything about their enemy, it would be pretty stupid to get rid of her. The Rebellion and the civilians let the Magicats down once, and owe it to them to protect their last survivor. He also calls to the jury's faith in the First Ones. They surely wouldn't have made She-Ra and the last magicat come back at the same time and be intimately linked since childhood for nothing?

Hermès uses his final card: Adora's scars. Catra did not know the scratches she had given Adora in her She-Ra form had persisted. She feels terrible about it. Hermès says that, according to the Sacred Writings of Mystacor, it's the symbol of She-Ra's true enemy. The enemy of the heart.

In the Horde, Entrapta is having issues. First of all, she learned extraordinary and dangerous things through the Temple of Light Hope. It's Etheria's history book! She is scared of everything she's learned and knows Hordak mustn't know any of it. Second of all, Kyle has been put into jail by Octavia, who is interrogating him and might learn from him how Entrapta betrayed Hordak. It's crucial to get him out of there quickly. Entrapta learns, thanks to Hordak's spy, that Catra is currently on trial and might get killed, which would really be a bummer. Last of all, Hordak decides to launch his secret missiles on Mystacor while the whole Rebellion is gathered there.

Entrapta wants to warn Bow but is scared that Hordak might find out. Eventually she calls Bow and warns him that the Horde might do something today. Bow tries to talk with the Princesses, but they're making their decision about Catra, and nobody can disturb them. He's kicked out of the room, and Catra, who heard him, is on her guard.

Finally her sentence is pronounced: she is going to be exiled into the Forbidden Zone, an alternate dimension from which almost no one returns. If she can overcome her demons and escape, the Rebellion will be ready to welcome her back.

Just at this moment, Hordak's missile blows up Mystacor. Chaos spreads among the people, who run for their lives. Catra makes Vassilis set her free from her chains. She gets her mask back from Castaspella, then she gives a kiss goodbye to Adora, who's stuck, and flees amongst the crowd. Another missile crushes a wall, killing dozens of people. Just as Catra is about to flee, she sees a little boy who's trying to wake up his dead mother. Catra saves him from the stones falling around him.

At this moment Adora arrives in the form of She-Ra. She looks pissed, but she lets Catra go.

Catra is caught outside. When she tries to use the power of her mask, a spell Castaspella has set on her mask stuns her. Mystacor had anticipated her escape attempt! Catra is put into jail, and so is Adora, who was seen letting the prisoner go.

Mystacor is furious and imprisons the Princess Alliance. Angella is the only one allowed out to negotiate with Mystacor. But the Sorceresses are out of their minds. They have to act fast to protect their kingdom from the Horde that could strike again.

They decide to send Catra to the Forbidden Zone as soon as possible.

Meanwhile in the Fright Zone, Entrapta decides to act. She explains the whole situation to Scorpia, Lonnie, and Rogelio. She has discovered crucial information thanks to the crystals from the Temple of Light Hope. Some of this information is about Catra. They need to go save her. They also need to keep the crystals away from the Fright Zone. It's too dangerous to keep them so close to Hordak.

Unfortunately Entrapta can't come because of her metallic hand. She doesn't know yet how it works, but she's sure it'll bring them trouble. Besides, she has to monitor the cameras to help them get out of the Fright Zone.

Scorpia refuses to leave Entrapta behind. Lonnie doesn't want to leave the Horde, but now that she knows things too and is friends with Kyle, she might be targeted by Octavia as well. Eventually, Entrapta blackmails them out of the Fright Zone. They get Kyle out of prison and run away with the crystals while Entrapta erases all her data and her own memories until a few weeks before the Horde invaded the Temple of Light Hope. Before she does it, Entrapta orders Emily to keep the secret and hide from her.

Scorpia, Rogelio and Kyle are now alone on a skiff, with only a bit of food and water, and Catra's signal beeping on their tablet. On their way out of the Fright Zone, Lonnie had to sacrifice herself to let the group escape.

In her prison cell, Adora is furious with everybody. She never thought the Rebellion could act so mercilessly. Catra did some awful things, but she doesn't deserve that horrible and useless sentence that leaves no room for redemption. Glimmer appears in the prison. She's been released because Catra is already on her way to the Forbidden Zone. Glimmer decides to help Adora. She teleports her where Catra is, but it's too late. Catra falls into the other dimension right before her eyes.

Angella decides to oppose Mystacor. She thinks the Forbidden Zone sentence is cruel and won't serve either the Rebellion or Catra. Unfortunately she was too late to save Catra. She feels like a terrible queen, and now it's time to become a real one. She orders Mystacor to release all the Princesses, and claims that now they will stay independent from Mystacor.

Adora is devastated about Catra's situation, but she doesn't give up. She tells Bow and Glimmer her decision to go find a way to rescue her in the Forbidden Zone. At this moment Madame Razz appears in her bedroom. She gives Adora magical berries that will help her go in and out of the Forbidden Zone, then disappears. Bow and Glimmer try to stop Adora but she is already gone.

In the Forbidden Zone, Catra faces her demons. She sees her deepest fears materialized in front of her. Fears of what she could have become if she had continued on the path of revenge. Fears of losing Adora. Fear of staying in Adora's shadow forever.

Just when she's about to lose courage, Madame Razz chases them away. She gives Catra her mask back, which she has just stolen from Mystacor, making sure a guard saw her to prevent any suspicion from being directed at the Princesses.

Madame Razz then explains to Catra that they have met before. She was the one who gave her the blue rock on the battlefield. She tells her that her mask has another special property. Catra can use the blue rock to view memories from the past magicat queens and her own. As proof Catra tries and sees her first memory of Adora, back in the Fright Zone when they were around five years old.

Madame Razz shows her Queen Katriska's last memory. Catra recognizes the scene from her nightmares. Houses on fire. Dead bodies on the ground. A queen who looks a lot like Catra is fighting desperately against Hordak. Hordak snatches the golden rock from her mask. Katriska turns into an uncontrollable giant feline. She knocks Hordak out and runs away, until she turns again into herself. She's dying. She can't move anymore.

A much younger Madame Razz joins Katriska, who tries to give her the broken mask. Madame Razz takes the blue rock, severing the queen's connection with her runestone. Then she makes Katriska eat magical berries and kisses her forehead. Katriska turns into a little toddler. She tells her she will have no memories of her previous life, apologizes and disappears, leaving the young child alone. Hordak finds her, realizes she is Katriska, and takes her and her broken mask with him. He names her Catra.

Catra is furious and scared. She can't believe what she just saw. Madame Razz tells her that a thousand years ago, a prophecy was made. The next She-Ra would come back in time of Etheria's greatest need. But there was another part to the prophecy, unknown to the Rebellion: She-Ra would save the world along with Katriska. Katriska, the Queen of the Magicats, would grow up with She-Ra, and both would influence each other their whole lives.

Unfortunately, Katriska was born long before She-Ra. Madame Razz took the responsibility of destroying her first life.

Catra is extremely angry. Angry that her previous life was erased for Adora. Angry that her future is already decided without her having any choice. She threatens to kill Madame Razz if she ever sees her again. Madame Razz apologizes but doesn't ask for forgiveness. Then she shows Catra how to find Adora in the Forbidden Zone.

Adora is completely consumed by her fears. She's scared of She-Ra, and some part of her is still scared of Catra. Scared of Catra as her enemy. Scared that she might be different than what she thought. Adora's demons take the shape of Catra, confusing Adora when the real one finds her. The real Catra fights against Adora's demons but she has to use her mask and share a common memory with Adora to convince her she's the real one.

A demon who took the shape of She-Ra tries to kill Adora. Catra kills it, and the action terrifies Adora, who is still vulnerable emotionally. Her demons try to separate them. Catra cries and apologizes, which finally convinces Adora to believe her.

Catra shares her memories and emotions with Adora in a chaotic blur. It's powerful, painful but comforting. Catra shows Adora how grateful she is that Adora came to find her. She's also sorry for hurting her and her friends. Catra kisses her. It finally breaks their fears. The Forbidden Zone releases them from its grip. They reappear in the Whispering Woods, where they spend a few hours resting in each others arms.

When they wake up, Catra reveals everything she learned from Madame Razz. Adora is distraught. She hates the concept of the prophecy controlling their future. She never meant for Catra's life to revolve around hers to the point of losing her past. She freaks out at the idea that their relationship might not be real. What is real and what is not? She can't handle the secrets and manipulation around her, even if it's for the greater good.

What is right and what is wrong anyway? The Rebellion she swore to protect against the bad guys were actually not all good either.

Adora's demons got her fears right. She's lost.

Catra comforts her as best she can. It's not Adora's fault. This all happened because the 'adults' fucked the world up and manipulated them. But their future, their choices belong to them. They have to discover the truth by themselves and decide for themselves what the right thing to do is.

For this, Catra has to leave. She needs to find out what she can about the Magicats, and take Hordak down. She doesn't want to come back to the Rebellion right now anyway. And she has to find herself on her own, away from Adora. Catra loves her, but she won't let some old witch make her future dependent only on Adora.

The Princess doesn't know what to do. She is so pissed at the Rebellion, the shady sorcerors of Mystacor and the merciless civilians. She doesn't know if she can fight for them blindly anymore. She was blind under the Horde's command for so long, and now she realizes she has done just the same with the Rebellion.

Catra tells her to focus on Salineas. Mermista seems like a nice person. Adora can focus on liberating her kingdom from Hordak, for starters. And then think of what she wants to do.

As for their relationship, even if Madame Razz set them up by reuniting them as kids, the rest was their doing. Adora and Catra became best friends and then more by themselves. This is no trick.

After an emotional embrace, the two women are joined by Scorpia and the two boys, who followed Catra's tracker. They explain the Horde situation and their escape, then Scorpia gives a video message from Entrapta to Catra. She listens to it in private, as Entrapta requested. When she's back, she tells them all that Entrapta gave them a place to go and a mission to follow. Catra can't tell Adora about it. Adora understands but feels a bit sad and worried. She has to let Catra go for now.

Catra promises to come back to her, but she doesn't know when. Adora, in the meantime, will have to keep the secret of Catra's escape from the Forbidden Zone, as well as Scorpia's from the Fright Zone. She can only tell Glimmer and Bow.

After a kiss goodbye to Catra, Adora uses Madame Razz's magical berries to blink back to her room in Mystacor. Catra's crew heads out on their new adventure.

In Mystacor, Mortella finds a little Horde spy bot snooping around. She uses it to call Hordak, and warns him that since he broke their pact, Mystacor will go to war against him. Hordak is unfazed by her threat. He teases her about the trustful relationship Mystacor has with the Princess Alliance. The robot self destructs after the call. Right after that conversation, Hordak is interrupted in his thoughts by one of his Force Captains, who announces that Lonnie has escaped from her prison cell.

Nine months later, the Alliance and Mystacor unite their forces to take Plumeria back. Hordak has developed new missiles tech that She-Ra can counteract with the powerful ray of the Princesses working together, but it takes a lot of energy. The Princesses are on the verge of calling a retreat when they're saved by a new group of warriors emerging from the woods.

The Magicats.

The supposedly dead warriors help the dumbfounded Princesses win Plumeria.

And they're led by a powerful queen. A queen that will raise many questions and bring old conflicts back to the table of the Rebellion. Catra-or rather, Katriska.

Chapter Text

I'm pretty sure you've heard of the Magicats, Catra.

I mean, you're currently the Rebellion's prisoner, and they used to be friends with the Magicats, once, so I can only assume it must have dropped in the conversation! I myself was a child when they disappeared, and I've never really been interested in politics… But I knew what they looked like, and I was aware, when I first saw you, that you must have been a survivor.

I never told you, because there was no point, was there? They were gone. Or at least, that was what I thought, until I decrypted the data from Light Hope's Temple. That piece of marble is a real jewel from the First Ones, I have to say! If I could, I would spend hours in there trying to understand how it works. Emily said we would go someday. When it's all over, you know.

Basically, anything involving Etheria's magic is transcribed and encrypted in that castle. That's how I discovered the truth.

They're not all dead, Catra! And I know where they are!

Isn't that great news?!


"Hey, Adora. It's been a while."

"It has."

"I…um… My troops need me, so…"

"Oh, sure. We… We can talk later. Right?"

"Right. See you later, Princess."


A room.

People whispering.

The anxious expectation.

It dawned on Adora that this situation was becoming too frequent for her taste. She could still feel her anxiety when she'd introduced herself almost two years ago, in this very room, as She-Ra, Princess of Power, but also as Adora, former Horde soldier.

It hadn't been easy. Getting the Rebellion to trust her when she didn't know who she really was…

Adora noted that nothing had really changed, except that this time, she wasn't the one trying to gain the Rebellion's trust.

"Queen Angella, the other queen is ready."

The other queen.

Even if Adora could see the guard was just confused by the turn of events, that name sounded awkward. Suspicious.

"Send her in."

Princesses, civilians and sorceresses all focused their attention on the majestic double door of Bright Moon's throne room. The loud creak made Adora cringe, but she forgot instantly about it when their visitors came in.

Adora had never seen Catra so confident and calm. That little smirk and that glint in her eyes…

Adora had missed this. She had missed her.

Her hair was still up in a ponytail. She was wearing the same outfit she saw on the battlefield of Plumeria yesterday, a golden and red jumpsuit sticking to her figure. She had added a dark red cape that gave her an aura of grandeur. Her mask glowed under the light of the chandelier, making a few princesses gasp in the crowd. They should gasp. Catra looked amazing.

On her right, a tall armored magicat woman with striking purple eyes on a deep brown skin walked at a pace Adora could easily appropriate for herself. That woman was military for sure.

She heard a suspicious whimper from Glimmer next to her, and raised an amused eyebrow at her red faced friend.

"Don't gawk too hard, Glimmer. You're gonna drool."

"Shut up."

On Catra's left stood an old magicat man who looked a bit breathless, trying to keep up with his two companions. The little trio was framed by two magicat soldiers. Where was Scorpia? And Rogelio and Kyle?

"Lucio!" Angella put her hand over her mouth, but nobody missed her bright grin and her wings throbbing in excitement. The old man smiled back at her as the magicats slowed their walk to the throne. Angella cleared her throat, then looked at Catra gravely.

It was like time had stopped in its tracks.

Everybody remembered the last time the two leaders shared the same air. That last time when Angella had finally come to her senses and tried to stop Mystacor's insane actions. Mystacor, whose highest representatives were by Angella's side at the moment, holding their breath to be sure not to miss a single word of the exchange.

Catra wasn't looking at them though. Focusing on Angella only, she didn't spare a glance at the diminished Castaspella, who looked like she was bearing the misery of the world, or the spiteful Isidore, or the ice-cold Mortella.

She wasn't paying attention to the princesses either.

Not even to Adora.

"Commander Catra, in the name of the Rebellion, let me present to you-"

"It's Queen Katriska," the military woman interrupted. Lucio just looked like he ate a rotted escargot. A few disapproving grunts in the crowd made the tall woman's ear twitch. Catra's smile only grew. But she didn't comment. She didn't even apologize for her soldier.

She was unusually silent, at least for Adora's taste.

"Very well," Angella gulped. "Queen Katriska, we thank you for your contribution to Plumeria's victory, and… please accept our most sincere apologies for the treatment you received the last time you were here."

The rumble that echoed in the room at these words annoyed Adora. She thought she would get used to the political game or whatever, but she clearly hadn't. So what, Angella apologized for throwing Catra in a psychological prison that made the death penalty sound merciful. It was only fair. But Adora reminded herself that for a lot of people, Catra had deserved it.

Catra had been a monster.

But now Catra was a savior, a liberator, and mostly… a magicat.

"We have many questions to ask you. Lucio…" Angella looked overwhelmed. She couldn't find her words. "How…?"

"We will have time for this, Angella," he answered with a warm smile. "It's a long story."

"Certainly. However, if it's not too much to ask," she pursued, peering back into Catra's eyes. "The Rebellion and myself have trouble understanding why you are calling yourself...that."

"That is her name!" The armored woman, looking outraged, took a step forward, but Catra grasped her arm.

"Forgive Commander Anya, Your Majesty."

Finally. Adora had missed that voice so much. Hearing a few words on the battlefield had definitely not been enough. She wished she could meet her gaze. They had so many things to say. So much to catch up on.

"It is common knowledge to you that Katriska died in the hands of Hordak, sixteen years ago, isn't it?" Catra's voice was strong and confident. No rage anymore. It suited her. "So how come a girl in her twenties like me was taken in as their fallen queen by the Magicats, who you thought were extinct?"

Isidore whispered something in Castaspella's ear, but he had forgotten how well magicat ears worked.

"Our queen did not deceive us," Lucio answered in their place. The old man smiled at the assembly. "We recognized her immediately. We saw her grow up once, after all."

"But how do you explain your...new youth, Queen Katriska?" Mortella asked.

"I think you heard someone stole this from you after you sent me into exile?" Catra tapped on her mask. The pitch of irony didn't go unnoticed by the assembly. A feeling of discomfort spread in the ranks of the sorceresses when they recalled the situation in question. "That someone was an old witch. She found me in the Forbidden Zone. She confessed to me that she was the one who turned me younger during the battle of Halfmoon. She also took the blue stone with her, and gave it back to me last year, after Hordak restored the yellow one."

Whispers got louder around them. It fit what was publicly known, for sure. But that kind of magic was unprecedented. A huge amount of power was needed just in order to heal wounds.

"Adora, did you know about this?" Netossa murmured. She shook her head. She should look more surprised if she didn't want to rouse suspicion.

"Why didn't you tell us about that witch?" Angella asked.

"If you mean after getting released from the Forbidden Zone, I think you can imagine that I didn't want to jump into your arms after the treatment I received in the Rebellion."

"I meant when the blue stone reappeared, after the battle where Hordak sacrificed you."

"I would have. Maybe. But I have no memories of that moment."

"What about your life before you were turned young again? Do you remember it?" Frosta asked, a suspicious frown on her face.

"Nope. Nothing up there," she tapped her head with a defying smile.

"And, do you have any proof to corroborate your words?" Angella added without hiding the despair in her tone. She really wanted Catra to give them something… Anything to make her story believable.

"...No."

Adora frowned in confusion. Catra had all the evidence she needed stored in her mask. Why was she lying? She obviously didn't want the Rebellion to know about the memory power of her mask.

"How convenient," grumbled Isidore. "But then something has to be pointed out. If what you're saying is true, that witch helped you escape from the Forbidden Zone, thus you defied your sentence!"

"Isidore!" Castaspella shouted. Adora could see Catra tightening her fist behind her back.

"Helped or not, I faced my demons, Warlock Isidore." There was the old Catra again. The fire Adora knew too well behind those beautiful yellow and blue eyes. It comforted her. That was something she could trust. "And here I am, bringing with me the Magicats and more to help you all win this war you've been stuck in for years, so I think you ought to show me a little more respect!"

"Nobody asked for your help-"

"Enough!" Angella interrupted Isidore. "Please, accept our apologies, once more, for my ally's rude behavior. You faced your judgement for the crimes you committed against us. It is enough for us. We are grateful to you now. The Magicats and yourself had no reason to help us after everything that happened last year, but also after we failed to help you against Hordak so many years ago, and yet you still came to our rescue. Thank you again, Queen Katriska."

Anya nodded, satisfied with Angella's answer. Adora fidgeted behind her back. She couldn't wait any longer. "What do you mean 'more'?"

Catra finally looked into her eyes. Adora swallowed, but her mouth was dry and it seemed all of her body fluids decided to turn into sweat. If she could stop her heart from tumbling inside her chest…

Feeling the rest of the room's eyes on her was overwhelming. She stuttered, "I heard- I mean, you said you brought the Magicats and more…"

"What I meant, Princess Adora," Catra answered, almost purring her name. It made Adora shiver. "Is that the desert isn't as empty as you thought."

At these words, one of the magicat soldiers sent a signal to the Bright Moon guard, who opened the doors again.

Three women and a man walked in, joining the magicat trio under the questioning looks and excited whispers of the crowd. Who were these mysterious persons making a theatrical entrance? Were they former Horde soldiers who escaped? The whole room was buzzing, waiting eagerly for the Queen of the Magicats to talk again. The queen in question was taking her sweet time, her peaceful smile back on her face. She wasn't looking at Adora anymore.

Adora scrunched her nose. This didn't look like Catra. Making a show was a thing, but this was too much. This was like her trial, except she was orchestrating and enjoying it this time. All of Bright Moon was, actually. Had she planned it that way, to get their interest and approval? Had she decided to join the political game she denounced upon their return from the Forbidden Zone? Maybe she thought she'd found a way to play it for good, but this Katriska character wasn't the woman Adora knew and loved.

"Rebels of the North," Catra said as she and the magicats stepped aside to make some place for the newcomers, "may I present to you Queen Orla from the Spades Kingdom, Princess Melody from the High Note County, Prince Clover from the Daffodil Kingdom, and finally Leader Huntara from the Crimson Waste."

The four nobilities bowed as the rumble intensified behind them.

"What is happening?" Adora asked Glimmer. "Is there something I'm missing?"

Her friend opened her mouth, but Angella beat her to it. "So it was true… The Kingdoms of the South are still alive."

"We cut ties off with you a few hundred years ago," Huntara shrugged. "We never disappeared."

"You made it hard to find you then," Angella laughed. "I spent quite some time in the desert in my youth, and never found anyone."

Then how did Catra find them? This whole situation was extremely confusing. Adora was not the only one who was getting a headache.

"However, when Queen Katriska came to us a few months ago," Huntara continued, nodding at Catra, "We knew that it was time the North and the South work together again."

"We are so grateful, and of course, we accept your allegiance-"

"Not so fast, Angella."

An icy silence fell over the room at Catra's words.

"We are going to work alongside you, but not for you. We'll fight as our own alliance. The Alliance of the South. In other words," Catra's sharp eyes didn't blink once. "We are not pledging allegiance to the Rebellion."

Adora couldn't prevent herself from smiling. There was the Catra she knew.


"How did you never recognize her, Angie?"

"How could I, Casta? She's my own daughter's age! I suspected she was Katriska's child, not…"

"But she is. There is no doubt. The way she looks, the way she leads… it's definitely her."

Angella clutched the window ledge of her room, staring into the air absent-mindedly. The night was peaceful over Bright Moon. Nobody could tell an extraordinary assembly had taken place a few hours ago. Nature didn't care about the war and the Rebels' internal conflicts.

Breathing the clear air of the domain soothed the queen for a second.

The lazy smoke of a fire was waltzing above a close part of the Whispering Woods, where the Magicats and the Princesses of the South had set up camp. The ex-Horde Commander had declined Angella's offer to settle in Bright Moon after the Battle of Plumeria, and now that Angella knew about the new Princesses, it all made sense. The magicat queen didn't want to expose them before it was time.

"Things have gotten a lot more complicated, haven't they?"

Castaspella hummed. Her smile faded, replaced by that depressed face she had been wearing for many months now. Angella stared at her in silence. She was worried about her sister-in-law.

"People are happy to see the Magicats again. That's a good thing," Castaspella noted. "It will make it easier to work with them."

"But the Magicats don't trust us, and I don't blame them. I don't blame her, " Angella sighed. She wished she could see Catra alone soon and personally apologize for her many failures to the young queen. For failing to intercede on her behalf last year. For failing to trust her sixteen years ago.

Trusting Katriska… maybe that was the first step to making amends. She had to show that the Rebellion was worthy of leading the war with their old allies. That was why Angella didn't pry further into the mysteries of their return, despite some of her own allies' protests.

"I just hope they aren't staying independent because they're hiding something."

"You really think they're the ones who have something to hide?" Castaspella asked harshly.

"What do you mean?"

Castaspella locked eyes with Angella, but quickly shook her head. "Nothing. It was rhetorical."

Angella frowned but didn't answer. There was too much to process already. The Magicats were not dead, and neither were the Princesses of the South. Catra, or more like Katriska, was a long lost queen turned younger by a mysterious witch, and conveniently, she brought back her people and the lost Kingdoms to help the Rebellion fight against Hordak when they most needed it.

Angella was holding the pieces of a puzzle with a blindfold over her eyes.


The Whispering Woods at night brought a feeling of relaxation to Adora that she didn't think she could reach today. The sounds of the bugs, the fresh wind in her hair, the temporary lack of responsibilities… She breathed in and out, and looked up. The three moons were up, lighting the bland, dark blue sky that the woods weren't blocking from her view yet.

She thought of the stars Madame Razz had told her about. The shiny, blinky dots she saw in her memories when she met Light Hope.

Would she ever get to see them again? Was it even real, or some kind of mind trick Light Hope had used against her?

Would she ever get to speak with Light Hope again anyway? She hadn't been able to since the invasion of the Temple by the Horde. Even if the Rebels had reclaimed it from the assaillants, the marble castle was completely broken and had remained silent ever since.

Silence…

Adora frowned.

It was a fake silence, like the woods at night. Like the Rebellion. All the murmurs around her, keeping her ignorant on purpose. These talks saying nothing real. Nothing true. All these lies she'd been fed for all these years. The Horde, the Rebellion, Mystacor, Light Hope…

Adora had so many questions.

But she didn't know where to ask anymore.

She'd never felt more lonely in her life.

"Who's there?"

Adora unsheathed her sword out of reflex. A second later she regretted her impulse, as she came face to face with that tall Commander of the Magicats. That same woman who was currently glaring-with her amazing purple eyes-at Adora. They spent a few seconds staring at each other with tension, before the magicat smirked and lowered her weapon.

"Catra didn't mention you were a sleepwalker, Princess."

Startled, Adora proceeded to put her sword behind her back. "Commander Anya, is that right?"

"Just Anya. Come on, I'll show you the way."

"The way?"

"Well, I assume you're not here to pick daisies, are you?" She put a hand on her hip, looking at her with an air that felt oddly familiar.

"No, I was… I was wondering if I could see her." Adora fidgeted as she spoke. She didn't want to bother Catra. It felt so weird now that Catra was a queen. She wanted to see her, talk to her, and other stuff… But what if it became awkward?

"You're the She-Ra, you can basically do whatever you want, unless it's messing with Catra's heart. In that case, you and I are going to have a problem."

"That's not in my plans," Adora chuckled. Anya smiled in response as she led the Princess to their honorary camp. "Why do you call her Catra, by the way?"

"Uuh, 'cause that's her name?"

"Isn't she Katriska now?"

"Are you She-Ra now?"

"I- no, but- I mean, is it the same?"

"I don't know," Anya shrugged. "You'll have to ask her yourself."

Adora didn't like riddles. She would have tried to get more out of the warrior, but they had already crossed the lines of the magicat camp.

The guards on duty saluted Anya. They even bowed politely to Adora, to her surprise. She let Anya walk a bit ahead of her as she looked around the camp. Most of the soldiers had retired to their tents. Some of them were drinking around the fire, joined by some Southerner soldiers. There was some sparring in another part of the camp, which of course captivated Adora immediately, to the point of stopping her in her tracks. Anya turned back to stand next to her.

"Catra said you're an amazing fighter."

Adora snorted, "She did? It's hard to believe."

A new voice behind her retorted, "Hard to believe? I'm shocked you would think so low of me, Princess."

Adora's shoulders tensed, but she didn't turn around. She held still when a shoulder brushed hers unashamedly, but a smile finally cracked on her face when she felt a tail on her leg. "You once told me nothing's too low for you."

"I am great at pointing out your qualities though," Catra purred.

"That's true. You always said I compensate for my lack of agility and strategic thinking with brute strength."

"Now that does sound more like me."

Anya cackled in the distance. She had already disappeared behind a tent, giving the two women some privacy.

They stayed a few minutes that way, hypnotized by the soldiers' sparring and the cheers from their comrades. Then Catra's hand found Adora's. She gave it a squeeze.

"Come."

Adora broke her trance, turned away from the lively camp, and followed Catra through the darkness.

Chapter Text

Adora is pretty sad. The other kids don't want to play with her today. They said her game was boring and they were on barracks cleaning duty anyway, unlike her. Maybe that's another reason they don't want to play with her, but that's not her fault. She wanted to go with them, but Shadow Weaver said she had to practice instead, because she should always be ahead of the others in training. If she isn't, Shadow Weaver will scold her for lacking discipline.

Shadow Weaver is the only one who likes her games anyway. Adora loves the rare times Shadow Weaver joins her in her stories. She praises Adora's sharp mind, and corrects her when she says something wrong, like the time she pretended Princesses were the good people of the game. She also read her a story once or twice when she couldn't sleep.

Adora feels a bit better now. She's done practicing, and she's drawing something for Shadow Weaver. A drawing of the both of them holding hands. She hopes Shadow Weaver will like it. Sometimes she doesn't react well to Adora's 'childish' displays of affection. At least she's much nicer to her than most of the other kids.

Adora still wishes she had a real friend though. Someone who would get her, unlike all the other kids.

But at least she has Shadow Weaver.

...

She's walking in the mountains. The sword feels heavy on her back. It's slowing her down.

She's calling Glimmer and Bow, but they keep on at the same pace in front of her. They're not listening to her.

She's trying to run, but her legs hurt so much. She wants to stop.

If she stops, she won't ever catch up with them.

She bends down and grabs a rock. She throws it towards the cliff next to Bow's head. That should make him turn around.

At the impact, eyes open on the rocks. A hundred pairs of eyes suddenly focus their gaze on her.

The mountain is watching her. If she throws a rock again, it won't let her pass.

One of the pairs is blue and yellow.

Piercing, blue and yellow…

They're glaring at her. Then they disappear.

A huge boulder falls fast from the top of the mountain. Right over her oblivious friends. She shouts their name.

But they don't listen.


"Adora? Adora, wake up!"

She was still deep in her dreams as her hand went automatically under her pillow, but her mind cleared in a second when she didn't find the object that should be there.

Adora jumped, her shoulder hitting something sharp in the process. "My knife!"

"Ow! Adora, what the fuck?!"

She blinked several times, chasing the remnants of her slumber from her brain. She was not in her room. She was-

"Fuck, you made me bite my tongue!"

"Catra… oh shit, I'm sorry!"

Adora kneeled next to her ex-enemy. Catra glared at her before turning her naked back to her. As she fumbled through the cushions in search of a mirror to examine her tongue, Adora gaped at the view Catra was offering. She hadn't been able to fully contemplate her in the darkness of the military camp during the night… they had been too busy to even turn a lamp on anyway.

The ugly white scar Adora had spent many days taking care of last year was now covered in tattoos. It was almost completely drowned in the sophisticated drawings. A huge bird took up most of the skin, its wings spread on her shoulder blades and the head ending on the side of her neck that had been touched by the fire. The bottom of the bird ended in smoke, coming from a small flame inked on Catra's lower back. Around the flame, a baby version of the feline warrior Catra could turn into was curling up, one eye peeking at the fire.

Adora reached out, but stopped halfway there.

"You can touch it."

She jolted. Looking up, she realized Catra was watching her through a small mirror. She winked at Adora, who smiled awkwardly and closed the distance between her hand and the skin. It was rough beneath her fingertips. Perfuma's balm had done wonders for the healing process, but the scar would still remain permanently. It reminded her of her own scars. The ones Catra had left on She-Ra's skin, unknowingly marking Adora's skin as well because of their emotional bond.

She felt Catra tense under her touch. She wondered if she could still feel the pain. How did she get brave enough to endure what seemed like hours of needle work to ink all that?

"It's beautiful," she sighed. "But why…?"

"Why a bird?"

"Yes, I mean, I remember you chasing Lonnie's pet bird when we were kids."

Catra chuckled at the memory. She leaned back, finding comfort in Adora's chest, who wrapped her arms around her waist.

"That bird was the symbol of the first queen."

"Alondra."

Catra looked up at her in surprise. "That's right. Did you take extra classes I wasn't aware of in the Horde?"

"As if I wouldn't have dragged you there, you lousy student."

"Hey, I only skipped a few times because of the old hag…"

Their tone lost its warmth as painful memories flashed before their eyes. Catra didn't even have to get into the details. Adora was aware of how abusive Shadow Weaver had been towards Catra compared to the other cadets. Catra was still hiding the extent of the harm she had suffered.

Adora kept blaming herself for how blind she had been regarding Shadow Weaver's attitude towards Catra, but also toward herself…

However, another feeling had been nagging her mind for a few months regarding her old mother figure and Catra.

Conflict.

"Anyway…" Catra said, popping Adora's bubble of thoughts. Catra shifted in her arms. "Queen Alondra was the first to wear the mask after the Great Chaos. She was also the only queen who was part magicat, part human."

"Her dad was a bird-human, right? He could fly."

"Yes. So could she. Being from two worlds was hard, because she was different from the people she had to lead. But it was important to her. She belonged to two worlds, and also two eras. She was born before the Great Chaos."

"It must have been difficult to be a leader back then." Adora frowned as her words faded.

The Great Chaos. The catastrophy caused by Mara.

There was so much mystery around that woman. Adora had done research about her in secret during Catra's absence. But nothing had remained from Mara's mistake and disappearance. Nobody but Light Hope knew that Mara was the reason why the Great Chaos happened.

Adora had briefly told Glimmer and Bow about it. Not Catra though. She didn't want to talk about it again to anyone. Not before she could speak with Light Hope. If only she could.

"Yeah, Alondra had a lot to handle, that's for sure," Catra said. "She did a lot for the survivors."

"I'm sure she would have done much more if she hadn't died from disease a few years after the mess," Adora ended sadly. Catra didn't reply. She stood up, grabbed her shirt on the ground of the tent, under Adora's thoughtful gaze. "What's the flame for?"

Catra took a moment to answer the question. "It's her legacy."

"... is it the prophecy?"

She plopped back down next to Adora on the camp mattress that served as a bed. She took Adora's hand and rubbed her knuckles. "More like a mission."

"Ah yes, the anti-planet deterioration mission," Adora said in a military voice.

Catra chuckled. "You still sound like a Horde cadet."

"What?! No way!"

Adora punched Catra's shoulder lightly, grumbling against the unfair calling out. She knew Catra found it cute, but it bugged her a bit. It bothered her that her Horde education came back to the surface at random times. Like it would never leave her.

"Yes way, but don't worry. It's adora-ble."

Catra didn't give Adora the time to retaliate. She captured her lips as she pinned her down on the mattress, muffling Adora's moans. The princess yanked her down on her body, erasing the little space that had remained. Catra broke the kiss, smirked when Adora whined, and dived on her neck instead. Her touch had been hungry last night, desperate to have her princess again. Now it was lighter, softer… she teased Adora with a trail of feather kisses down to her breast.

Adora couldn't get enough of her. She wanted to appreciate this moment to its fullest, aware that this may be their last one for a while. All because of the war. But as always when she tried to focus on her pleasure, an intrusive thought came to nag her mind.

"You still haven't told me…" she propped herself up on her elbow. Catra didn't react, too busy kissing her belly. "What happened back there? What was it like when you found your people?"

Catra crossed her arms on Adora's stomach. She stared at her mask, resting on a pile of clothes. Adora reached out, grabbed a brown curl and twirled it around her finger.

"We almost died in that fucking desert," Catra started. "We ran out of food in a couple of days, and our water supply wouldn't last long. We are definitely not made to survive in that heat. We were at the right spot, where Entrapta knew the Magicats lived, but the thing is, if they don't want to be found, you'll never find them."

"How so?"

"All the Kingdoms of the South use some sort of magical shield, a protection making them invisible and untouchable. They could observe us, but we couldn't see them back. Scorpia, the boys and I were on the verge of calling it off and trying to survive until we reached the Whispering Woods, when they finally took us in."

"So it was less easy than you made it seem yesterday."

"Well, duh. Imagine their shock, discovering a younger version of Katriska coming to them in a prisoner outfit, with Horde soldiers as her companions. They were as confused as you all were yesterday."

Adora hummed in response. She ran her hand through Catra's hair, smiling when the queen sighed in pleasure. It was still hard to process she was really there. Catra hadn't sent any news for so many months… but Adora didn't care right now. Catra had come back to her.

"I showed them the memory of the mask, but they would have believed me anyway. They can tell when I lie, because I never learned to control my body language like them. It's actually pretty annoying."

"Really? I always thought you lied pretty well."

"Humans don't know the finesse. You guys are… a bit dense, to say the least."

Catra's snickers got muffled by the pillow Adora threw at her face. She swapped their position, tackling Catra on the mattress, but the queen didn't intend to let herself be dominated that easily. She folded her legs beneath Adora, and pushed on her stomach with her feet. Adora whimpered as she fell on her side. She was ready to go full on wrestling mode, but she stopped when she saw Catra laughing next to her.

She hadn't seen her look so carefree in such a long time.

For a moment, it was like they were teenagers again. During their sparse free time, they would climb up the pipes of the Fright Zone, Catra always reaching the top first. They would joke, fight and tell stories under the sunset. They would eat some ration bars they had snitched from the kitchen. They would cuddle when one of them got cold. They would imagine what the world was like beyond the fuming buildings of their home.

They had happiness, somehow. They only had each other.

"My Queen," a deep voice suddenly spoke, making the women jolt. "The Alliance of the South is ready for today's meeting!"

"Oh, shit."

Catra jumped from the mattress. In less than a minute, she'd finished preparing herself, cursing several more times, under Adora's amused gaze.

"What are you looking at?" Catra asked as she fixed her ponytail.

"Nothing," Adora giggled. "It's just funny to see that despite being a queen you're still faithfully late to meetings."

"Hey, you're the reason for that right now." Catra grabbed Adora's eternal Horde shirt and jacket, and threw them at her. "Put on some clothes, perv. I need to go."

Adora nodded, trying to hide her disappointment.

"I'll see you later?"

Catra looked back at her just as she was about to exit the tent.

"Of course," she said with a smile. "Don't miss me too much, Princess."


The festive atmosphere that had taken over Bright Moon surprised Adora when she came back from the camp. People from the closest villages, princesses and sorceresses were decorating the castle's main courtyard with magical ribbons and flowers floating in the air. The guards helped setting long buffet tables framing the square space. Swift Wind was giving orders about apples, insisting they had to be the main course of the meal.

Adora waltzed her way through the excited Bright Moon citizens. She smiled awkwardly when she received a flower crown from a Plumerian, but kept it on her head until she disappeared inside the castle.

"What is going on…?" she wondered. She had barely set foot on the stairs when a sparkly cloud exploded next to her.

"Adora!" Glimmer grasped her shoulders. "I've been looking for you all morning! Where have you been?"

"I...um… I was with…" Adora laughed unnaturally, fidgeting her fingers.

"You were with Catra?! Dammit!" She pouted. "I went to their camp earlier, and this infuriating commander made fun of me! She said I was too short to be wandering around the woods by myself. Can you believe that?! And then she lied to me! She said there was no way she would have allowed you near her queen. Ugh, what a pain in the ass!"

Adora raised a brow. Glimmer seemed to get particularly worked up around Anya.

"Anyway, we're having a surprise Rebellion meeting right now. We're late."

"Okay, but first, what's going on outside?"

"Oh, we're throwing a sort of 'welcome back' party for the Magicats and the South. Everyone in the region is coming, and more princesses too, like Peekablue and the Star Sisters. It's been such a long time since I've seen them."

"I've never really bonded with them…"

"Well that's normal. With the war and all, it's hard to make new friends. And they never wanted to join our Alliance meetings since they don't have a runestone or powers, even if it's not an obligation for us. Aah, I can't wait to show them my new magic powers!"

Adora followed the bubbly princess through the corridors in awe. More Bright Moon citizens crossed their path, carrying supplies for the party with brilliant smiles on their faces.

She had trouble understanding the change of attitude. Yesterday, everybody was so suspicious and puzzled, and now they looked like they were celebrating victory over the Horde. There was obviously too much that Adora didn't know about Etheria's kingdoms. She had read about the Magicats' popularity. However, she never imagined their return would inspire such enthusiasm, all the more so because they were led by an ex-Horde commander who had caused many casualties to the Rebellion.

When they stepped into the war room, Adora realized the Princesses were not immune to the joyful atmosphere that had bloomed overnight in the kingdom. Adora sat next to Seahawk who was listening to Perfuma ranting about her land's historical partnership with the Daffodil Kingdom.

Queen Angella stood up when her daughter took her seat next to her.

"Dear friends, now that we're all here, we can start the meeting of the Alliance of the North, with Mystacor's Council as our guests."

"Do we have to call it that…?" Frosta pouted.

"Yes, now that we know there's a South," Glimmer answered softly. "But wait, Mom, hold on. Is Mermista coming?"

Everyone stared at Seahawk, who lowered his eyes sadly. "She doesn't want to. She left me in charge."

"Again," Perfuma whispered. The Rebels didn't break the silence for a few seconds, until Angella cleared her throat.

"I hope Mermista will let herself persuaded to come back to us soon. In the meantime, let's focus on the latest subject at hand. The Alliance of the South."

"I have a question," Frosta spoke again. "How much can we trust Catra on her story? And why did the Magicats hide? Why didn't the survivors come seek asylum in Bright Moon after the battle of Halfmoon? Why are the Princesses of the South back now? Why-"

"One at a time, please!" Angella chuckled. "Catra, or more like Katriska, is trusted by the Magicats, including Lucio, an old friend who knew Katriska and her predecessor very well."

"Really?! How old is this guy?" Spinnerella asked.

"He's about 95 years old. That's still young for a magicat."

"But what about what Isidore said yesterday?" Frosta pointed at the warlock in question, who raised his eyebrows in surprise. "She couldn't have deceived them, right?"

"No, she wouldn't," Adora answered. "The Magicats are her people. The only ones like her in the whole world. She would never hurt them."

Her tone clearly indicated she wouldn't tolerate any contradiction.

"Alright. What about their reasons for hiding?"

"I can answer that one," Angella said. "Historically, when the Magicats lost a queen, they retreated into the protected undergrounds of their kingdom until the new queen was old enough to govern. They called it a lockdown. Everybody assumed they were still inside of Halfmoon, but obviously they had a secret hideout in the desert. After Hordak's slaughter, the survivors must have waited there for the new queen to return."

"Why didn't they just choose a new queen?" Seahawk asked. Being relatively new to the Princesses' meetings, he wasn't caught up on all the information they shared.

"They don't elect their queens," Netossa answered. "When the old one dies, they search for a baby who has blue and yellow eyes. She's the new queen."

"It's a magical thing? It's weird."

"Yes," Netossa agreed. "Since Katriska was still alive, obviously the Magicats didn't find the baby."

"But did they know she was still alive? The Horde could have kept other babies including a new baby queen after the slaughter as hostages, right?" Perfuma suggested.

"That's true," Angella conceded. "But anyways, it doesn't matter. The Magicats were waiting for their queen to come from outside their kingdom."

"Am I the only one who finds it weird?" Adora shook her head. "Why didn't they try to retrieve Katriska or the new baby queen by themselves? Why didn't they act, find the Rebellion, and do whatever they could to save their queen?"

Silence fell over the table. Adora regretted her words as soon as she realized their impact. It sounded pretty suspicious indeed, but as Adora thought about it again, she remembered something important. Something she hadn't properly discussed with Catra yet since she was back.

The prophecy.

Madame Razz and her tendency to twist the world at her will.

Adora shot a glance at Glimmer and Bow. They were the only ones she told about the revelations.

They both looked back at her gravely, as if they had heard her thoughts.

"Madame Razz did that for a special reason, Adora."

Catra's words echoed in her mind. The memory of old Katriska's last moments before she got turned into a five year old child blinded her mind. The pain the mask had shared with her gave her chills.

"She did that so we could meet."

Could the old witch have told the Magicats about this terrible chess play? Did she convince them to let their queen go and wait in the desert for her return?

"I'm supposed to be helping you save the world."

Did the Magicats and even the old Katriska know all along it would happen? Did the prophecy say their queen would have to sacrifice herself? Did they know the baby she would become would have to endure living amongst their murderers?

No, they wouldn't have let Catra almost die out there when she finally came back with Horde friends if they knew about that part.

But if the rest was true, was Catra okay with that?!

"This is something you will have to discuss with Lucio and Katriska, Angella," Castaspella spoke for the first time. The Princesses were surprised to hear her voice. She had turned very quiet over the last few months. She had… faded.

"Why in private?" Isidore asked. This guy would never drop the tone of protest and suspicion in his voice. Adora wondered what good he was to Castaspella. "Why can't they explain themselves in front of everyone?"

"Because some things are not easily told in front of an assembly," Mortella said as she sent daggers to her colleague. "Angella is more likely to learn useful information and bond with our allies if she faces them alone."

"Besides, Lucio is my friend, and I want to reconnect with him," Angella added.

"Yes, let's not forget our goal is to work with the Alliance of the South," Bow reminded everyone. "We need their trust. It'll be easier if we don't try to poke around in their business."

"Of course, but they need our trust too, Master Archer," Mortella replied. "We will need to hear them out on their true motivations to join the battle this late, whether it's the Magicats or the other Kingdoms of the South."

"Maybe Mystacor can explain their own motivations too, then." Everyone widened their eyes at Adora's words. Adora ignored the kick in the shin she received under the table from Glimmer. She held Mortella's inquisitive stare for a few long seconds.

"Castaspella," the sorceress said, turning to her queen. "If I'm correct, you've already explained multiple times our people's reluctance to join the war because it would have disrupted the flows of energies."

"You were only reluctant until the Queen of the Magicats and her mask came back," Adora glared.

"Would you care to elaborate on what you are insinuating, Princess Adora?"

"Ladies, this is a civilized war meeting between partners only. I won't tolerate this score-settling at such a crucial time. We need everyone focused on the near future." Angella said severely. "But tonight, let's enjoy the party. Let's rejoice as we should that we have new allies willing to help us win the war. Bond with them, have fun, and don't drink too much. Tomorrow we hold the first strategy meeting between the two Alliances. Don't be late. Dismissed."

The princesses and sorceresses left in the room in a hurry. Most of them joined the party planning outside. Adora was about to tag along with Netossa and Spinnerella, but a grab of a hand and one sparkly purple cloud later, she found herself in the backroom of the meeting room with Angella glaring at her.

"What was that, Adora?" She asked with more calm than Adora thought she would receive. Bow and Glimmer took a seat, but Adora kept her stance, her military reflexes taking over during a reprimand.

"Nothing."

"Adora," Glimmer took her hand with concern. "I know you don't like that we're still working with Mystacor, but that sounded like an accusation."

"It's not. I was just annoyed with their attitude, trying to put doubts in our minds about the Magicats..."

"I don't understand," Angella shook her head. "Mortella was just agreeing with our main concern, and so were you. You said it yourself, some of the Magicats' decisions have been obscure."

"But I didn't do everything I could to throw the last magicat queen into the Forbidden Zone, did I?"

"We've already talked about this, Adora…" Angella pinched the bridge of her nose. It pissed Adora off. "The Council apologized and recognized that they acted impulsively and with clouded judgement. At the time, they were being attacked by the Horde. It wasn't an easy situation for anybody. And after that, we agreed not to include them in the Alliance of the North, to keep our independence."

"And yet somehow, they still attend all of our meetings." Adora crossed her arms beneath her chest.

"What is it about them, Adora?" Bow asked. "Is there something you aren't telling us?"

She looked at her friends, then at Angella. They weren't judging her. They were only trying to understand.

After Catra had been sent into exile, a long period of recovery had started for the Rebellion. Cutting ties again with Mystacor hadn't gone without consequences.

Angella had made an official speech, claiming the ex-Horde commander had suffered a great injustice from the Rebellion. Castaspella had apologized publicly, in Bright Moon's throne room, for putting the Princesses in custody during those troubled times. She had also pledged allegiance to the Rebellion, but Angella and the Princesses had decided to keep them out of their inner circle.

At least at the beginning. As it happened, they needed Mystacor's forces. It became necessary to include their higher ups to their private meetings. Adora hadn't seen that with a tolerant eye.

She had protested, but her friends had disagreed with her. The Rebellion needed to act fast, and win back Plumeria, and then Salineas, especially after what happened to Mermista a few months after she first got sick…

Adora had caved. But she hadn't forgotten what Catra had told her in that prison where she was taking care of her wounded back. She had thought of it after Catra's departure to the desert. She had thought it over and over as she was pretending to mourn her best friend supposedly lost in the Forbidden Zone.

Mystacor and the Magicats had gone through a thousand years of disagreements.

She had come to realize that maybe Catra was right.

Maybe…

Maybe Mystacor wanted Catra dead from the beginning.

But why?

"Adora?"

Bringing herself back to reality, Adora shrugged. "I don't trust them. That's all."

"But you trust us, don't you?"

Adora averted her gaze from Glimmer's hopeful eyes. She couldn't stand this anymore.

"Yeah, sure."

Chapter Text

Summer nights in Bright Moon had always been warm and peaceful. The villages and smaller kingdoms around enjoyed the calm atmosphere of the Whispering Woods, respecting the regenerative power of the magical forest. Once in a while, a small gathering could be hosted by the moon kingdom, on special occasions.

However, no gathering was thrown in Bright Moon tonight.

It was a celebration.

"Please help yourself to these delicious appetizers. They're from Plumeria!"

"If you're too hot in your suit, there's a coat hanger in the great hall."

Princesses from the East Mountains to the Deep West Valley had come, taking with them many civilians who were all ecstatic at the idea of meeting their long lost allies.

"Have you seen that beefy magicat commander? What a woman!"

"Here's exclusively veggie-based meals for those whose stomachs can't process meat!"

"I prefer that hot Crimson Waste leader…"

Magicat soldiers and Southerners were happily chatting and dancing with the Northerners. It was a scene no princess could have foreseen.

"Ma'am, your hooves are on my plate!"

"Uncle Isidore, teach me how to do magic!"

"I remember the old days, when the Magicats were still living in Halfmoon… what a shame, their kingdom used to be so beautiful."

"Comin' through, comin'- Crap! Watch out!"

Adora knew she shouldn't have picked her favorite three-piece suit for the ball. Here she was, covered in crab sauce, feeling more embarrassed than the waiter who kept apologizing to her.

"It's no big deal. Don't worry about it! I promise, I don't even like that suit." She closed the jacket to hide most of the stains, but the smell was quite appalling.

"My parents were right. I'm a total disaster! I was bound to ruin She-Ra's outfit someday!"

Adora smiled awkwardly as she patted his back. She thought she would even have to give the guy a hug to get rid of him until she saw an out. Glimmer was having a heated argument with Bow next to the buffet.

To join them, Adora had to slip between two princesses who tried to talk to her when they recognized the She-Ra. She pretended to be called for an important conversation by her closest allies. The Best Friend Squad had very serious business at hand right now.

"I'm telling you, Glim. You like her!"

"No way!" Glimmer threw her hands in the air. Her eyes sparkled when she caught sight of her friend. "Adora, please tell Bow that there is no way I'm crushing on a girl who has the audacity to call me a shrimp."

"Who are we talking about?" Adora said in a chuckle, well aware of the identity of the woman in question.

"I don't even know her! I met her yesterday."

"Well, there's no better occasion than a ball to get to know someone," Bow smirked.

"Are you actively trying to make me punch your face? I don't want to know her! I don't care about Anya!"

"Keep telling yourself that, little mouse." Glimmer froze on the spot at the sound of this new voice. "You'd be a lot more believable if you stopped gawking at me though."

Adora had to swallow a laugh when she turned around and discovered the magicat commander standing behind them, a hand on her hip and a mischievous glint in her eyes. Glimmer turned red in a second at the view. Adora couldn't deny she was beautiful, with her high waisted classy pants, her fancy tank top, and mostly the golden snake bracelets framing her biceps. A matching golden choker was wrapped around her neck. Glimmer visibly gulped.

Mermista, Seahawk and Perfuma, who were chatting nearby, headed over to them. Adora took a glimpse at Mermista. It was rare to see her out nowadays. She looked tired, but better than usual.

Soon a circle was formed around Glimmer and Anya.

"I-I just mean-" Glimmer's cheeks turned a bright crimson.

An evil cackle appeared out of nowhere. "I think you got her tongue, Anya." As if she had used Glimmer's teleportation magic, Catra circled around her commander. Adora's heart skipped a beat. She was wearing a gorgeous blue suit, with fingerless gloves. The way Catra's eyes searched for hers made Adora feel dizzy. She had to look away to avoid blushing.

Catra stood next to Anya. In the exact same pose. Smirking the exact same way.

Perfuma and Bow squinted at them. "Wait a minute…"

"You two look like you're-"

"Oh yeah, we kinda forgot to tell you. I'm Catra's niece," Anya shrugged. For a second, only the rumble of the crowd prevented a stunned silence from resonating between them.

"Oooh, of course, Catra is your aunt!" Bow sounded like he had discovered the wheel. Glimmer was still gawking at Anya, and Adora was staring at the two magicat women's faces, wondering how she hadn't made the connection before.

"Yup. That's what she said, Arrow," Catra replied in a disinterested tone. Even their way of nicknaming people was the same. Adora smiled. She was glad Catra had found some family out there. She couldn't help but wonder though, how hard was it to discover you had a niece your age who probably knew you before you were turned younger and kidnapped by a tyrant?

"So, Glimmer," Mermista intervened. "If you want to date Anya like a proper Princess, it means you'll have to ask Catra permission to court her."

"Excuse me?!"

Adora burst out laughing at the sight of her outraged friend. Glimmer was fuming. It was adorable and a little scary too. Catra decided to tease her in turn, but she kept checking on Adora to see her reactions. It had a strange vibe, seeing Catra and Glimmer banter without any death threats. Adora was sure none of them felt comfortable yet, but they looked like they wanted to try their best. It warmed Adora's heart. The rest of the little group enjoyed the cat and mouse fight, too. Seahawk was laughing hard. Anya looked delighted by the turn of events. And Mermista…

Their eyes met. The water princess put on an awkward smile, then averted her gaze. Adora's face fell sadly. At least her friend was out there having fun with them. Her health was more important than whatever sorry feeling Adora was having.

"Something is missing in that picture… where is Scorpia?"

Bow's question brought Adora back to reality. The hugger princess's absence hadn't gone unnoticed, but she hadn't had the occasion to bring it up to Catra since her return.

"Isn't she with the Horde?" Perfuma asked. Glimmer and Bow widened their eyes, panic freezing their tongues. They had forgotten Catra's escape from the Forbidden Zone and her journey with Scorpia, Rogelio and Kyle had remained a secret inside the Best Friend Squad. Nobody else knew what really happened after Catra was thrown into that foggy prison.

Adora fidgeted her fingers as she waited for Catra's answer. The secret had to be revealed someday but she was hoping it could wait until after the victory.

"I contacted her when I was released from the Forbidden Zone," Catra answered casually. She lied so easily… "She joined me and helped me find the Magicats. She's still over there, but she'll come here soon."

"How did you find the Magicats by the way?" Glimmer asked, glad to find a reason to change the subject.

"I got lucky." Catra's response didn't satisfy anyone. Adora felt her anxiety rise up again. It annoyed her how Catra thrived on sounding mysterious.

"Basically," Anya disclosed, "she got lost in the desert and we've kinda been keeping an eye out for a while in case unwelcome visitors try to find us."

"I don't get it," Mermista said in her typical bored tone. "You were out there in the desert watching, and Catra got lost and you found her just like that?"

"...Yes."

"The Magicats have efficient ways to hide," Catra added. "If they don't want you to find them, you never will."

"Wow. I sure would have loved to get that knowledge to hide Salineas from the Horde. Like, everyone in the North actually."

It was like a bucket of icy water had fallen over their heads. Anya raised an eyebrow, crossed her arms and stood to her whole height in front of Mermista. "Salineas, right? I heard of your kingdom. Your father called our queen insane when she warned the North about Hordak."

"OKAY, LET'S GO DANCE!" Glimmer yelled. She grabbed Anya's hand and teleported them to the middle of the dancefloor. Anya glared at Mermista for a second, but quickly focused on the sparkle princess.

"Whatever…" Mermista shrugged as she followed Seahawk, ignoring everyone else with dedication.

"Anybody care to explain what the fuck that was about?" Catra asked. Perfuma and Bow looked at their feet in discomfort, and Adora took it as her cue to separate the magicat from the dismantled group.

She led Catra softly through the crowd, waving to other guests on her way. Satisfied with her spot among the dancers, she turned to face Catra, who took her waist with a smile. Adora felt dazzled by their proximity. Once she wouldn't have even blinked with Catra's face so close to her own. But now seeing her freckles so precisely she could count them, with the music and cheesy atmosphere around them, made her heart beat in excitement. She could see Catra was happy too, in her arms, leading the dance that ironically reminded them of a tenser dance at Princess Prom.

"Adora," Catra whispered. Adora licked her lips, leaning in. "You know I love you, but… you smell like crab."

Catra burst out in laughter as Adora punched her arm. "Way to ruin the moment, Catra!"

"Luckily for you, I like crab."

Before Adora could react, Catra licked her from the collarbone to her ear, earning a whimper from the princess.

"Catra! Everybody can see us!"

"So? Let them."

"Catra!"

"It's not my fault if you taste delicious."

"Oh, First Ones…"

"Turn into She-Ra if you want clean clothes. But I'm not sure I want to dance with a giant."

"Yeah, too bad I only turn into She-Ra if there's a fight. Ha-ha…" Adora scratched her nape awkwardly, avoiding eye contact. The queen frowned.

"You never use her power otherwise?"

"Never." Adora held Catra's stare, internally screaming at her heart to stop hammering. Catra squinted at her. These blue and yellow eyes made her uncomfortable when they scanned her soul…

"Okay."

Adora blinked in surprise. She hadn't expected Catra to let it go. She breathed out in relief, reminding herself to try to sound natural. "Yeah, I just don't feel like I should turn all the time."

"Sure. But if you want to for no good reason, you still can, right?"

"... Right."

"I'd love to turn into the Cat and spar with She-Ra someday."

"The Cat?"

"That's what we call it. The warrior of the mask."

"Oh! And you're Cat-ra."

"Hordak has no originality…"

"Because Kat-riska is original?"

"Hey." Catra pointed a finger at her. Adora thought she'd crossed the line, but the smile on Catra's lips reassured her. "First of all, you don't get to talk about my culture that you know nothing of. And second of all, you don't even pronounce it right. None of you do."

"Oh yeah? How must we pronounce your name, Your Majesty?"

"It's Katrrrishka, not Katriskaaa."

Adora smiled and tested the name again, making Catra snicker when she failed to roll her tongue. The queen kissed the princess's cheek after two failures. Adora fell silent, enjoying the little purr she could feel from the feline woman.

"So what's wrong with Mermista?"

"Oh…" Adora tightened her arms around Catra's waist. "She… she's been pretty down for a while."

"Looks like you all caught the blues somehow."

"What do you mean?"

"Castaspella looks like shit, too, and no offense, but so do you, Adora."

Adora pushed her gently, peering into her eyes in shock. "I don't look like shit! I mean, I'm a bit tired because of all the battles, but it's nothing anybody else isn't feeling!"

Catra didn't answer. She just stared at her face thoughtfully, before shrugging. She asked about Mermista again, to Adora's great displeasure. She wished Catra wasn't that stubborn.

"A month after you left, Mermista got sick again." Adora glanced at the water princess from afar. She was dancing with Seahawk with the usual embarrassed face she wore around the sailor. However, a veil of sadness tinged that expression. It wasn't noticeable to anyone who didn't know the princess. Adora had learnt over time to recognize her facial expressions. "She got so sick we thought we'd lose her. We tried to get Salineas back, but we failed."

I failed.

"We tried to contact Entrapta," Adora pursued. "But we lost all communication with her. We have no idea what happened to her since you guys left. We know she's still alive because of the Horde's tech, but that's all we could figure out."

Catra looked away worriedly. Adora gave her a moment to collect herself. Catra must have been eaten by guilt regarding the scientist.

"And then? How did you heal Mermista?"

"I… I had to…" Adora struggled with her words. Her throat was dry. "I had to break her connection with the runestone."

Catra's eyebrows almost disappeared beneath her mask. "Oh… So she lost-"

"All her power. Yeah. She hasn't been the same since."

Catra stroked Adora's cheek. "Don't blame yourself."

"I- it's hard."

"I know. But It was for her own good. Whatever Hordak was doing to her runestone might have killed her if you hadn't intervened."

Adora looked at her eyes, one at a time. Was it the same Catra as before? Would the old one say the same thing regarding this situation? There was something about her now that Adora couldn't pinpoint. Something new. Something wise.

It was scary.

"Yes, but- I just wish we didn't have to go that far. I'm not even sure I can reconnect them properly..."

Catra cupped her face with both hands, bringing Adora's eyes back to hers. "I'm sure you can. Stop worrying about that now."

Catra leaned in and kissed her. Adora knew how bold it was. They were displaying their relationship to the whole world now, with a single kiss. It probably wouldn't make things easier for both of them, as war partners from two different alliances. Angella would certainly tell her later it was not the time to dive into romance. It only brought conflicts of interest.

But Adora didn't care. She had missed Catra. She wanted Catra. She wanted to show their love to everybody.

They could die during the next battle. This was the perfect time for romance.


It was going well. Or, at least, not so bad. Catra had never expected the Rebellion to welcome her back so warmly. Even if Lucio had assured her the Magicats were highly popular in their time, Catra had introduced herself with more fear in her heart than she would have liked.

Not that she cared about what they all thought about her. If she had listened to herself, she would have snapped ten times since her return and probably gotten herself kicked out of Bright Moon. It took a great amount of self control to remain calm whenever someone expressed their doubts regarding her story. Or whenever a northerner told her how amazing she had become now that she was under the good influence of the Magicats.

She was glad she had brought a punching ball with her. It was Anya's technically, but she had given it to her when she'd realized Catra needed moments to lash out in private. Anya had also helped her a lot, along with Lucio and other magicat politicians, to master a composed face, and to learn how to speak wisely. Their definition of wise, at least.

Not that Catra didn't know how to do that before. She had dealt with Hordak for a year as his commander and had been pretty good at her job. She had also spent her whole childhood trying to survive Shadow Weaver's abuse. Lying and deceiving had been a skill she'd had to gain quickly. But it was true that their ways were different from the Rebels'. The Horde was more direct. Less hypocritical. They didn't pretend to be self-righteous.

Somehow the Magicats knew better than her, despite having retreated from the world for over fifteen years. It had made Catra snort when they'd offered to teach her how to act like an Etherian queen. Her ego had suffered a great deal the first time Lucio had said he could read her like a book and push her buttons at will. Thus had started a very annoying series of lessons that lasted for months, to learn how to speak like the stuck-up sorcerers of Mystacor.

And all of this for what? To win the approbation of people she never wanted to speak to ever again.

She needed these Northerners, though. Just as much as they needed her.

Catra sipped on her champagne thoughtfully as she observed the diverse crowd of the ball. It didn't look like they were at war at all. The atmosphere was quite different from the magicat kingdom, where every day was a training day, or a research day in the tech lab, or an exploration day in the desert.

The Magicats never took a break. Not since the massacre.

But they could enjoy themselves at the right time. Catra watched with amusement as Anya dipped a fakely angry Glimmer. Sparkles was a weird person, denying the obvious attraction she had for her commander-no, for her niece. Catra didn't understand what Anya saw in her. Maybe it was the teasing. She could understand that. She loved to tease Adora.

Catra sighed as she thought of the blonde. She was worried about her. Something was off, and the blatant lie Adora thought she had pulled about She-Ra didn't reassure her. But Catra wouldn't pressure her to reveal the truth. After all, some truths were best hidden for a while. She of all people knew that.

Adora had left her to go to the toilet shortly after their talk about Mermista. Catra suspected it was just because of the discomfort from her lie mixed with her guilt regarding the Salinean princess. She wished she hadn't gone though, because as soon as Catra stood alone near the buffet, a circle formed around her, full of princesses and civilians who wanted to shake her hand and thank her for bringing her people back.

Nine months ago, these very people looked at her with disdain as they sent her with no remorse to be tortured in another dimension nobody ever came out of.

The hypocrisy…

But Catra smiled. She shook their hands. She reminded herself for the hundredth time that they needed each other. For now. After all, she had harmed them, and they had harmed her. One could say they were even. Now they could work together. Maybe.

Catra had to. For Adora. For the Magicats.

"Hey, Catra! I need a word."

Catra jolted as she heard that bubbly princess shout her name. Even without using her powers, Sparkles looked like she had appeared out of nowhere, with her mother flanked at her side.

"You know, you don't need my permission to date Anya. She's a big girl. She can speak for herself."

"What the?! That's not what it is about! Stop bullying me with this… situation. It will not make things easier between us!" Glimmer raged, while Angella hid a sophisticated smirk behind her hand. Okay, Catra admitted, she should stop teasing Sparkles. But it was so damn funny.

"Alright, alright… so what's it about?" Catra turned her back to the circle of princesses who had been talking to her for a good while. Talking to her, about her, without really expecting an answer from her. It was like being back in the Horde.

"Glimmer would like to talk to you in private," Angella answered for her daughter. "And I joined her now to ask you the same."

"What?" Catra frowned.

"Tomorrow, we will have our first meeting as two Alliances, and as partners. Before that, I would like to have a private meeting with you, Katriska. If you don't mind, of course."

"Um… sure, okay."

Why did this queen make everything so solemn? It made Catra uneasy. Not because she put a political barrier between them. That was Catra's doing. No, it made her uneasy because Angella asked for her permission and treated her as an equal. Even when she was imprisoned last year, she talked to her as if no bars stood between them. Catra liked it. Despite everything, despite Angella's partiality towards Mystacor, despite not defending her properly after the trial, Catra still liked her as a person.

Ugh, she hated that.

Glimmer grabbed her hand and took her away from the crowd. The princesses looked disappointed to see the queen stolen from their company. Catra would have preferred to keep zoning out amongst them, rather than following Sparkles towards the Whispering Woods.

Catra looked over her shoulder in a desperate attempt to see if one of her own would consider this as a kidnapping. Anya snickered from afar, and Catra glared at her. Oh, okay, she would spar with her niece later. That would be punishment for letting Glimmer corner her. Not like she would win against Anya, who was stronger and more agile than her. But Catra would never admit that.

"Okay, we're good here."

"So, what's this all about? You want me to apologize for dragging your ass through the mud last year?" Catra smirked as she picked her nails.

"Well, now that you mention it… yes, I'd love you to apologize for attacking me, my friends, my mom, my kingdom..."

Catra's face fell. Panic made her heart go crazy in her chest.

Apologize.

"Oh, wow. That was a joke, Glitter. I'm referring to when I made you jealous in prison. By the way, did Adora keep the sweater or did you burn it when I left?" she snickered. Damn it, Catra couldn't help being mean. She should have kept on with the less harmful Anya jokes.

"And as for me," Glimmer continued, ignoring her, "I apologize for what I've done to you."

Catra furrowed her brows. "What have you done exactly, except trying to steal my kneecaps on the battlefield?"

"It's more what I haven't done, actually." Glimmer looked uncomfortable. That was weird. "I should have helped you during the trial. I should have put aside my hatred for you and tried to understand what you've gone through. But mostly… I knew it wasn't fair to send you to the Forbidden Zone and I did nothing until it was too late. I even tried to prevent Adora from going after you."

Catra blinked in surprise. If there was anything she hadn't expected, it was an apology from Glimmer. It felt awkward. It felt uncomfortable. It was much easier to have a good reason to despise the princess and act mean. The reason being all about Adora, of course. Fighting together with Glimmer, especially now that Anya decided she liked her, would prove itself to be hard. Catra knew the day would come where she should apologize to her, but it was still difficult to accept.

But Catra had started to understand Glimmer's way of thinking now that she had her own kingdom to protect. Even then, the apology got stuck in her throat. Lucio would say right now that she should at least show some fairness. Not that Catra didn't know that. But hearing the old man's words in her mind was too annoying to ignore.

"Well, if it makes you feel better, I kinda deserved your hatred. And I hated you too. You stole Adora from me."

"That's not how I would put it." Glimmer was trying hard not to get angry. That was cute. "But I see your point. And I'm sorry."

Catra's tongue was burning from spikes she was holding back. She had to be fair. They had to see each other as equals, or they would never be able to work together.

"But anyway," Glimmer pursued. "Let's try to move on, okay?"

Catra had to say sorry, she had to say sorry, she had-

"Sure. So what's up?"

Glimmer sighed in relief. The apology would be for later then. "I wanted to talk to you about Adora."

Catra unconsciously adopted a more serious stance. "Go ahead."

"Since you guys are reunited, and I know she trusts you…" Glimmer looked sadder than she thought she did. "She hasn't been doing very well lately."

"No shit." Catra raised an eyebrow. "I've never seen her look that depressed. What happened?"

"We don't know. She doesn't tell us anything."

"She doesn't? Aren't you supposed to be the cool buddy gang or something?"

"Best Friend Squad. And yeah, she used to confide in Bow and me, but it's been at least six months since she hasn't said anything… intimate, you know? She's as closed as a raw oyster."

"How is she doing on the battlefield?"

"Fine, I guess."

"Meaning?"

"Well, she goes in whenever there's a battle, of course, but she always looks reluctant to fight."

Catra bit her lip. This wasn't good. Fighting for a greater purpose had always been Adora's drive. If helping the Rebellion was starting to not be enough…

"I guess it got worse after the Mermista incident?"

"She told you about that?" Glimmer looked pissed for a second. "Yeah, it got awkward between them, and Adora blames herself for failing her."

"Okay. So what exactly do you want me to do? You want me to keep her still while you hold the knife on her throat until she talks?"

"I wouldn't go that far," Glimmer chuckled. Catra was surprised she actually managed to make her laugh. "But if you could make her open up a bit on your side, that would be great. For her."

"Okay, well, I'll see what I can do. Thanks for telling me, Sparkles."

"No, thank you for the help."

They looked at each other, the unexpected gratefulness lingering between them. Aaand, it got weird. Their new dynamic was too confusing for Catra's taste.

"Well, I'll just…" Glimmer scratched the nape of her neck. "I'll go back there, yeah."

"Yeah, sure. Do that. Anya's patient but it would be rude to make her wait," Catra snorted. Glimmer rolled her eyes and teleported herself back to the dancefloor, leaving Catra behind by herself. It would have come off as rude to anyone but Catra, who was glad she could make her way back alone.

She stopped in her tracks when she thought she heard a sound. But behind her, the Whispering Woods were as calm as ever. She shrugged and kept going, unaware of the two shadows running between the trees.


Adora jumped over a giant root blocking her way. She landed on her feet with assurance, feeling her leg muscles flex easily to give her a boost to run again. She had always loved feeling her strength. Her body never failed her. It was something she could trust at all times.

The shadow kept running in front of her. She had seen it earlier, creeping around Catra and Glimmer when they were busy talking in secret…

Adora had made a large detour to come around them. The creep had sensed her presence as soon as she'd set foot into the Whispering Woods, and ran off. They were fast, but it was nothing Adora couldn't handle. She would catch up with them, and force them to reveal their intentions.

Were they a spy from the Horde? Or an assassin? Were they trying to get to Catra or Glimmer?

Fear burrowed deep in Adora's chest, clinging to her furiously beating heart. She glanced down at her hand where she wore the sword as a ring. It was shining on her middle finger. Calling to her.

Overcoming her rampant fear, a more steady feeling was rising in her. A feeling of limitless power. She was strong. She wanted to help.

Adora bit her lip hard, until she felt the taste of blood on her tongue. She focused on the path, only thinking about the fugitive. Chasing her fears from her mind. It was nothing. She could do what she had to do. Find the creep, interrogate them. She didn't need her help.

The feeling of power faded.

She felt like she was catching up with the spy. She could hear them pant from afar. However she scrunched her nose when she realized she was coming closer to the Southerners' camp.

What the hell?

"Stop right there!"

Adora didn't think. She grabbed the ring, turned it back into her sword, and transformed into She-Ra.

"Fuck…" She cursed, clutching the handle. She hadn't even said the magic words this time. Her heart beat erratically in her chest. The power was strong. It was brilliant and amazing. It was appealing. She could dwell in this comfort.

"What do you think you're doing?"

She looked up.

That leader from the South, Huntara, was glaring at her, tapping her foot on the dirt. Behind her, a small lizard guy was peeking at her, fear in his eyes.

"Why are you chasing my messenger around? He's terrified now!"

"Messenger?"

Adora didn't understand. She couldn't process. She had to turn back into herself. Her head was throbbing as she had to focus.

"Hey, She-Ra… are you okay?"

Are you?

Are you okay?

Does it matter to them if you are? Maybe it does. Maybe they just need you when you're strong. When you're She-Ra.

They don't really care about you. They only use you, Adora.

You have to look strong. Not for them. For your sake.

Don't show them how scared you are.

Adora cried out as she turned back into herself. She collapsed on the ground, breathing loudly. White spots blinded her vision and an awful whistle deafened her.

Shit, it was getting worse.

"Hey, hey! Princess, do you need us to call for help?"

"What?" Adora stood up groggily. Only then did she realize that Huntara was kneeling before her and patting her back. "No I'm… I'm fine. I'm sorry about the… I'm…"

"It's okay. Just don't scare us like that in the future, yeah?"

Adora nodded. She forgot to ask what the message was. She just left and threw up in the bushes.

 

Chapter Text

"Portal report - day 134. The First Ones tech I recently found in the Northern Reach allowed us to enhance the extraction of power from the pieces of the Black Garnet and the Sea Pearl. The experiment is a huge success, as we transported a living soldier from the Fright Zone to Salineas! Unfortunately it's still not enough to perform interplanet transportation. We need to be able to localize Eternia before even trying to jump there, and the Despondos system we're currently stuck in is preventing us from finding any planetary signal."

Entrapta turned her recorder off. She rolled on her chair lazily, examining the small blue rock she was holding between her metallic fingers. It was incredible, everything they achieved with a little piece of the water runestone along with the Black Garnet's magic. The main part of the stone was still in Salineas, safely connected to Etheria's magic core, but the little jewel they were using hacked more than enough power from the planet. Thank the First Ones for that, because cutting the stone hadn't been a piece of cake!

Now all she needed was a little something else to make the portal work. She didn't know what yet, but she knew she would find it. Entrapta was closer to discovering the mysteries of Etheria than she ever hoped she would be a year ago.

Or at least, as far as she remembered.

"Edit to log - reminder to track Emily's signal tonight."

She put the machine and the piece of runestone down on her desk. She watched with infinite sadness as one of her little bots played with the blue rock.

Already nine months since her memory loss, huh…

"Do you know why you're in a prison cell, Entrapta?"

She shook her head, chasing Hordak's voice from her mind. Despite her tendency to screw up experiments, such as turning her robots into a murderous army, Entrapta had rarely been scared in her life. Yet this memory still terrified her. That feeling of knowing and understanding nothing was her worst nightmare coming true.

She had woken up in her lab that day, thinking she was preparing the invasion of Light Hope's Temple with Catra, incapable of walking on her legs, with a metallic right arm she had no memory of… Surrounded by Octavia and her men who were pointing their stun guns at her.

After a quick interrogation she had absolutely no answers for, Entrapta had put together that she had betrayed the Horde somehow along with Scorpia, Lonnie, Rogelio, and even Kyle, as surprising as it sounded. The little group had escaped, except for Lonnie who had been caught on the roofs of the Fright Zone.

A few days in her dark cell and a visit from Hordak later, she discovered that Catra was gone as well, fired by Hordak after trying to save Adora. So everybody Entrapta considered as her friend had left, for some reason. Even Emily.

Entrapta was torn between sadness and pride at the idea that her beloved robot was so advanced in intelligence she was able to hide from her creator, blur her signal for nine months, and even protect the Dissidents.

"Edit to log - reminder to ask Octavia if her latest plan against the Dissidents worked. Hordak is getting impatient and wants them defeated as soon as possible."

This group of soldiers who rebelled against the Horde had been founded by Lonnie and was now a real threat to Hordak. Entrapta was 95% certain Emily was the one who broke Lonnie free from her cell a day after her capture. She also probably helped her find a good hideout, as well as a way to communicate with potential new recruits.

"Also remind Octavia not to destroy Emily if she finds her, because she has to be the key to my memory loss."

"I can't make any promises."

Entrapta turned her chair around with her hair. Octavia was standing on the threshold, holding Shadow Weaver by the arm. The old sorceress looked positively pissed by this act of force, but she didn't try to resist as she was dragged unceremoniously into the lab.

"If we want to retrieve all the data we lost, we need Emily in one piece," Entrapta replied calmly.

"You mean the data you deleted," Octavia smirked. Her face was still as uncanny as ever, with the vision device Hordak had designed for her, perched on her head like a helmet. "I'll do my best to get that piece of junk, but if I have to shut it down in battle, it'll be your loss. You ordered that bot to resist you in the first place. It's all on you."

"It really doesn't sound like me to be destroying scientific data…" Entrapta zoned out, completely ignoring the two visitors. Her eyes shone. "It must be terribly exciting data."

Octavia got impatient. "I have to go. Call me when Shadow Weaver is done," she said before closing the lab and locking it.

Entrapta blinked as she felt the sorceress's masked eyes on her. "Here's the Pearl. You have three hours, then Hordak wants it back for the portal."

Shadow Weaver walked slowly towards the scientist. She frankly looked better than when she first started to work again for the Horde. Getting some sort of runestone power improved her health somehow.

"Aren't you tired of receiving such treatment from Octavia?" Shadow Weaver asked. Entrapta thought about it while the older woman fixed the stone on her mask.

"Well, she's not wrong. I did betray Hordak and I need to know why. Besides, Octavia is in a much worse place than me right now. She's kinda failing to bring the Dissidents down. I don't really mind how she talks to me."

"What about Hordak?" Shadow Weaver glanced behind her shoulder, choosing her words carefully. "Are you happy with how he treats you?"

"I wouldn't go there if I were you," Entrapta laughed. "You know I tell him everything now."

Her tone expressed no threat. It was a neutral statement. A simple, terrible fact. Entrapta had become Hordak's eyes, ears, and hand. Shadow Weaver, Octavia, and the whole Fright Zone was being watched by Hordak now. The tyrant had turned stricter than ever after discovering the raging mutiny happening right under his nose. No betrayal would be tolerated.

"Of course. I trust you'll tell him everything I learn with the runestone."

"Oh, definitely! He was so thrilled about all the information you got on Catra yesterday! It's definitely good for you. That's why he's giving you extra time with the Pearl today."

"I noticed. You will thank him for me for his generosity."

"Sure." Entrapta jumped off her chair. Her two magical pigtails supported most of her weight, but she made a few steps with her real legs with delight. They were slowly recovering from an experiment she had performed on Rogelio, apparently. She had no memories of that either. She peeked around Shadow Weaver, who was invoking her magic in the old cauldron that used to be hers before. "Now, what's happening today in the Rebellion?"

"There is an important meeting this morning. A meeting between the two Alliances."

"Ooooh, that's got to be interesting!"


"Do you think Shadow Weaver is alive?"

Catra froze in the middle of tying her hair up. She glanced down at Adora. The princess had this melancholy plastered on her face as she watched a bee's desperate attempt to escape the tent.

"Where is this coming from?" She waited for Adora's answer warily.

"I had a dream about her last night."

"Another nightmare?"

"No. Just a dream. I've been having a few about her lately."

That was weird.

Catra didn't like that soft smile on her face. "What was it about?"

"It was an old memory, more than a dream. It was the time when she taught me how to read."

Catra pursed her lips. She knew exactly what Adora had seen in her sleep. Shadow Weaver had always given personal lessons to Adora, whereas the rest of the kids had to learn it all in class. Adora wasn't the brightest in everything, but she was always ahead of all of them because of that.

Shadow Weaver had started her reading lessons a few months after Catra was taken in the Horde. She had spied with envy on her new and only friend at the time. She had hoped Shadow Weaver would give her private lessons too, all the more because Catra had trouble fitting in as a newcomer.

But the only personal guidance Shadow Weaver had ever provided her was the scolding for behaving improperly, and later, the physical correction. The red lightning magic. She could still feel it running through her skin, paralysing all her muscles. Caging her mind in fear.

"I have no idea if she's still alive," Catra answered coldly. "And honestly, I don't care."

That was a lie. Despite her best attempts to bury her old mother figure in her heart, Catra hadn't been able to stop hoping she would change in her prison cell. As if that kind of person could change. Even during her long stay amongst the Magicats, sometimes Catra felt like Shadow Weaver was sneaking up on her, ready to use her magic on her and call her useless. Shadow Weaver would never leave her mind at peace.

"Sometimes I wonder if she really knew what the Horde was doing," Adora whispered.

Catra stifled a wave of anger. She sat down in front of Adora, tilting her head as she looked at her sad face. "She was Second-in-Command before me. For almost twenty years. Of course she knew what she was doing."

"I know, but-" Adora looked like she was struggling hard to put her ideas into words. "I know she acted wrong, especially to you. But she wasn't cruel all the time, you know?"

Adora sounded uncertain, hesitant. It made Catra even more furious.

"Are you fucking with me?!"

Adora blinked in surprise, realizing her mistake. Catra knew she must have looked broken all of a sudden. Angry and hurt. It was like Adora had ripped open some old scars. Adora's apology was on the tip of her tongue, but Catra didn't give her the time to say it.

"Shadow Weaver loved you in a sick way. She tortured me. She manipulated me again when she was in prison." Catra's words faded. She tried to chase away a painful memory. The memory of the day when Shadow Weaver had almost escaped. She had played with Catra's emotions to get her old guild's mark back. That badge had some magic powder in it. Catra had destroyed it and put Shadow Weaver in the pit for a week.

"She tried that with me too," Adora said gently. "When you captured me, she told me lies about how she had made you my enemy on purpose…"

"See?! Why are you defending her then?"

"I don't know," Adora answered sadly. "You taught me not everything is black and white."

"She is," Catra spat with disdain. "Some people don't deserve a second chance."

Adora knitted her brows together as she watched the queen lace her cape around her neck. "That's rich coming from you."

"Excuse me?"

"You know what I mean. You got your second chance, so why should it be different for Shadow-"

"Are you seriously comparing me to her? What are you playing at, Adora?! You want to forgive her now?!"

"No! That's not what I'm saying!" Adora stood, a pleading look on her face. "I just don't like it when people refuse to put things into perspective! If I hadn't done that with you last year, I would have never defended you when the Rebellion captured you."

Catra felt the intensity of her own glare reflected in Adora's eyes. By the look on her dumb face, Catra could tell Adora was regretting her words. But Catra didn't care. Her lips turned upwards into a snarl.

"Oh yes, how lucky I was that the mighty Adora was here to see the good in me and pull me out of the darkness. Do you want me to kiss your feet maybe? They must hurt like hell when they swell."

The venom in her voice. The resentment. The pain. It felt so familiar. Suddenly they were back to a year ago, fighting against each other on the battlefield. Suddenly they'd forgotten how to communicate with each other again.

"I guess you haven't changed after all," Adora said bitterly. "You're still as resentful as before."

"If you thought being a queen would change who I am, you don't know me at all."

"Oh, but you sure act like it did!"

"What?"

"You act all grand and wise, like the perfect magicat queen who came back to save the people who exiled you."

"Are you complaining that I joined your fight?!"

"I'm complaining because you said you wouldn't!"

"What?!"

"You said you were done with the Rebellion! You said you would do as you please. You said you wouldn't let the prophecy define you! But here you are doing exactly what Katriska did!"

"You have no idea what Katriska did," Catra shouted.

"You follow the first queen's legacy. That's what you told me yesterday! You're playing the game now!"

"The game?! What game? Adora, you're not making any sense. What exactly do you expect from me?! Do you want me to oppose the Horde, or to oppose the Rebellion, or…" Catra squinted as the realization hit her. "Wait… you don't want me to be a queen?"

"What? No!"

"You never thought I'd find a flourishing kingdom after I left," Catra whispered. Her eyes were shining dangerously. "Did you expect me to watch the war from a distance, cheering for you while I talk dirty about Mystacor?"

"No! I never said you wouldn't fight! I just didn't think you'd bring a whole alliance with you."

"So you imagined I'd come back here to be your sidekick again?"

"No, no! That's not it, Catra!" Adora said as she shook her head vehemently. A relatively new memory imposed itself on the two women. A dark room. Holographic memories. A cliff. It had happened two years ago now, but it still hurt. It hurt both of them.

"Answer me honestly, Adora. Do you feel threatened because I have as much power as you now?"

"Absolutely not. That's not what this is about! I'm talking about our destiny, and your choices, and-" she stuttered, looking desperate.

Catra had promised Glimmer she would try to make Adora open up. And she had tried. But Catra couldn't stand her right now.

"I don't know what you expected, Princess," she seethed. "I warned you before I left. I do things for my sake now. My choices don't revolve around you, and if you don't like it you can just leave. I won't run after you this time."

Catra didn't wait for her answer. She exited the tent angrily, leaving Adora heartbroken behind her. She didn't care. She didn't. Adora was just the same as ever. Catra couldn't believe it. Adora thought Catra would come back to be her… her what? Her cute, supportive girlfriend ready to save the world whenever She-Ra decided?

Adora never thought Catra could become a strong leader with plans of her own in this war.

And the irony of it all… everything was for Adora. None of this made sense without her. It was even more infuriating. Getting on the Rebellion's side, joining the battle, defeating Hordak, and fixing the rest of this mess. All of this for that stupid, dumb blonde who didn't understand anything.

In her defense, Adora didn't know the truth.

And maybe Catra had felt guilty for hiding it from her, but at the moment she just wanted to let Adora wallow in her ignorance.

A part of Catra's mind was screaming at her to go back and tell her the truth. The whole truth.

But it wasn't the time.

They had to take out Hordak first, and then the ultimate goal would be revealed. It was too risky to expose herself now and possibly cause the Rebellion to split in half, when the Horde was still a threat to all of them. Catra had to keep the secret, to keep everyone getting along as much as they could. It was already hard enough considering she had to stay independent to protect herself. The Northerners didn't appreciate.

How exactly was she going to keep walking on that slippery road if she was already arguing with Adora?!

They wouldn't have fought in the first place if Adora hadn't brought up Shadow Weaver.

Why did she do it? Adora knew what that did to Catra. And comparing her to the old hag… the nerve she had. Catra was nothing like Shadow Weaver. She'd done some wrong, but it was not comparable to what she did.

Catra was sure Adora knew it. Then what was up with that second chance speech? It sounded weird. Dreaming of good memories with their surrogate mother all of a sudden…

"Queen Katriska! I have a message for you."

A small, half-lizard guy that Catra recognized to be from Huntara's faction was standing behind a tent, looking nervously around him.

"The She-Ra isn't with you?" He asked. When she shook her head no, he relaxed a bit. Odd. "I was supposed to tell you yesterday as soon as I could, but there was the party, and then a little incident happened, and then I was told you were busy… anyway, you need to come to Huntara's camp. Princess Scorpia is back from the Fright Zone."

Catra's eyes shone in excitement. Her morning wasn't completely ruined after all.


"I missed you so much!"

Catra tried to huff. She literally couldn't. Her face got all red and she could feel her joints almost cracking under the pressure of those big loving arms. "Scorpia- Can't- Breathe!"

"Oh, yes, sorry. Too much strength huh?"

The tall princess put Catra down on her feet, her grin widening when Catra grumbled under her breath.

"So, you're back," Catra started more seriously. She crossed her arms beneath her chest. "Care to explain why you haven't given any news in days? I sent people after you… And where are the two dumbasses? Rogelio and Kyle?"

She probably sounded too aggressive for the situation, but she knew Scorpia could hear the pinch of worry in her tone. Scorpia knew her well enough for that. She also knew the more Catra was glaring, the more freaked out she was.

Like right now. Catra was staring daggers, a foot tapping on the ground and her tail swishing nervously behind her back.

She had been very worried.

"Oh, well," Scorpia said with an embarrassed tone, "you see, when we reached the border of the Fright Zone, we started snooping around like you asked us, and then we got captured."

"What?!"

"Yes, but it's fine!" Scorpia waved her pincers. "We got caught by Lonnie!"

"Lonnie's alive?" Catra's ears perked on her head, realization hitting her. A small smile tucked the corner of her lips.

"Yes, she is! And she's doing fine. She's leading that secret group, the Dissidents- it's a really cool name, I think. I mean the Rebellion has some class, but the Dissidents, it's like-"

"Scorpia."

"Right, focus. So Lonnie recruits new defectors from Hordak's ranks every day. They're a big deal now, and they're giving the Horde a challenge. Octavia never caught them once! That's all thanks to Emily, to be honest. That robot is incredible. Entrapta would be so proud. I didn't even get to see her by the way…" Scorpia sounded sad, but her brave smile lit her face again. "But that's for the best, because she would have told Hordak and you said you wanted this operation to be a secret. Entrapta's being controlled by the robot arm thing I told you about, remember?"

"Slow down, big gal." Catra pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to make sense of all the information she had to register. "Let me get this straight. People are defecting from the Horde-"

"Yes, because Hordak has gone crazy since our escape," Scorpia cut her off. "People are unhappy there, and then they hear about the Dissidents, and they defect!"

"So they join Lonnie's rebellious group whose goal is to take down Hordak, I suppose?"

"Well, um, yeah, that's the big idea."

Catra rubbed her chin thoughtfully. That was an unexpected turn of events. If the Horde was already weakened from the inside, the attack Catra and the Alliance of the South had planned would be easier than anticipated. If the Dissidents were willing to help.

… Catra had a feeling that it was a big if.

"What did she say when she found you?" Catra asked warily.

"She was happy to see us. It was really nice." Scorpia said. "But at first of course she was suspicious of us, because who knows, we could have been caught and brainwashed by Hordak to spy on them. Anyway, once she trusted us, she gave us a tour of their base. It's pretty neat."

"Where is it?" Catra squinted when she saw the embarrassment grow on her friend's face.

"Uuuuhhh, I'm not allowed to reveal that..." Scorpia answered as she averted her gaze.

"Oh really?" Catra replied. "What the hell did she release you for then?"

"She didn't release me, I wasn't a prisoner. But she did ask me to send you a message. Or, more like, give you a way to contact her safely."

"Safely?"

"Without being intercepted by Entrapta." Scorpia handed her a tablet. "You can make the call with this device. Its line is jammed. Emily's monitoring it."

Catra took the tablet. She contemplated it for a while, scared of what she might discover if she called Lonnie.

A part of her wanted to bring in Anya and Lucio for this. They almost always tagged along for difficult meetings with leaders.

But this was the Horde. These were Horde soldiers she was about to talk to. Catra's magicat friends couldn't understand everything about this.

For example, they didn't understand why Catra wanted the Horde back so badly. She had been perfectly clear about her intentions when they discussed the plan a few weeks ago.

Catra wanted to take down Hordak with the help of the Princesses, before going on with the ultimate mission of healing the planet. However, she also wanted to get her position back on top of the Horde.

Of course it hadn't gone well at first when she exposed her intentions.

Catra had to explain that she did not intend to become a new Hordak. The purpose was to reorganize the Horde into a functioning society instead of a tyrannical army whose main purpose was to invade other territories. Many Horde soldiers had no real conquering aspiration. They'd just been brainwashed for years by Hordak. They didn't deserve to lose their only home to be dismantled or imprisoned by the Princesses.

Catra wanted to change the Horde and she would do it no matter what.

Lucio disapproved. He tried to talk reason into Catra many times, asserting that the Northerners would not believe her, even more so because she used to be the damn Second-in-command who tried to bring Bright Moon down for a year.

Catra didn't care.

She used to be Hordak's pawn. Now she was a queen, and she was not done with the Horde.

"Scorpia," Catra looked her in the eyes. "Give me a heads-up. Am I gonna be happy with that call?"

"Honestly, I'm not sure," Scorpia answered hesitantly. "But I think Anya and Lucio should be here, just in case."

Just in case Catra needed to look strong and supported.

That didn't sound good.

With a sigh, Catra asked a soldier to go find the magicat commander and the old advisor.

As they were waiting for them, Catra felt Scorpia's eyes on her. She didn't look up to meet her gaze. She was scared Scorpia would see how nervous she was. The princess was perceptive about these things.

"Lonnie doesn't resent you, by the way."

Catra raised an eyebrow. "About what?"

"I mean… You two have history."

Catra's tail swished in discomfort. Had Lonnie and Scorpia talked about her? About that? Catra didn't enjoy that idea, especially considering Scorpia used to have feelings for Catra too…

"Good, I guess. It won't come in the way during the talk."

Scorpia nodded, then focused on buffing a spike of her pincer.

The uncomfortable silence didn't last long. Anya and Lucio barged in a few seconds later. They were worried something bad had happened, but they relaxed when Catra explained the situation and why she needed them with her.

"Alright," Lucio said with a smile. "We'll stay. We won't show ourselves to Leader Lonnie unless you need it."

"I think she's going by Captain Lonnie now," Scorpia corrected. Catra huffed as she let her friend type a special number on the tablet.

The magicat queen held her breath while it rang.

She didn't know why she dreaded this call.

"Well, well, well. If this isn't our ex-commander herself. I thought you'd be more sparkly now that you're a princess."

Catra grinned.

"Hey, asshole. You missed me kicking your ass, didn't you?"

Chapter Text

Expectedly, Adora was early.

It was not that early in the morning, but after the long party that had ended only a few hours ago, the whole castle was still asleep. Adora would have to wait on her own, or try to wake Glimmer, which was not in her best interest. Bow was on a sleepover with Seahawk on his boat, but he'd promised to be back for the meeting. And Swift Wind had disappeared somewhere in the forest, probably to find some horses to set free.

Adora climbed the grand stairs leading to the war room, hoping it wasn't closed. She would gladly take a nap inside and avoid thinking about Catra until the other princesses arrived.

She discovered with surprise that she wasn't the only one who couldn't wait in peace.

Castaspella was sitting on the window ledge, looking outside with no expression. She didn't react to Adora's presence until the princess was standing right in her peripheral vision.

"Hello, Adora. It's a beautiful day to talk about war, don't you think?"

Adora laughed awkwardly. "It's gonna be a positive meeting for us this time."

"That's for sure. Our odds in this war have never been that high," she sighed. Adora sat next to her. The queen intrigued her. Her attitude had changed considerably since the trial. Angella explained Castaspella had been putting herself and her kingdom into question since the Rebels' accusations, but why did she look so down even now? It was like she was stuck somewhere in her thoughts.

It appealed to Adora somehow. She could understand the struggle.

"Are you okay with putting your people in danger?"

Castaspella shrugged. "I'm not thrilled about it, but we need to put an end to Hordak."

Adora nodded. She observed the sorceress queen. She remembered how bubbly she used to be. How confident in her morals and decisions she was before. The last real conversation they'd had was about Catra. She had shown how little she thought of the magicat queen. To be more accurate, Castaspella had just not expected Catra to be redeemable. It hadn't even crossed her mind that her judgment could be unfair, or that the Princesses would protest against it.

She reminded Adora of herself before the trial, when she was so sure the Rebellion was only good and irreproachable. Before Catra's trial made a mess of her conception of people.

"Can I ask you something, Castaspella?"

"Of course, dear."

"What do you think of Catra now?"

She looked at Adora with a little surprise. Adora hoped she would be honest, and not politically correct.

"I think she's a smart queen. She escaped the Forbidden Zone for one, that says something about her."

Adora focused hard on her fingers to prevent herself from fidgeting. No need to look suspicious about the Forbidden Zone subject.

"She found the Magicats," Castaspella pursued. "Or more like the Magicats allowed her to find them. She earned her place back amongst them, and she still wants to fight with us. We are lucky. Very lucky."

"What about the people who doubt her?"

"People are tired, Adora." Castaspella looked deep into her eyes. Adora could almost feel her exhaustion. "They're tired of the war. They want it to end. They trust the Magicats, and the Magicats trust Catra. If they say she is Katriska, and she will lead them to victory, we take it."

"You're not scared that…" Adora tried to find her words. "That things might not be as they seem?"

Her thoughts drifted for a moment, reliving the argument she just had with Catra. She had never meant to say Catra had to become her sidekick. Adora was just confused. Confused that Catra, who had hated on the political game of the Rebellion, was jumping head first into it now. Adora was scared to see how good Catra could be at that Katriska game.

Before Catra left to find the Magicats, she'd told Adora that she would make her own destiny. Her own choices. That she was tired of seeing the pretentious faces of the Rebellion and Mystacor. Adora had liked that. In a world she barely understood where people had decided her destiny for her a thousand years ago, Catra had been the only one to brush it off.

But Catra had obviously changed her mind. And yet she wouldn't stop holding a grudge against Adora for her past mistakes. And Catra wouldn't say sorry for her own mistakes and misdeeds.

Adora didn't mean Catra shouldn't become the queen she was supposed to be. She just couldn't deal with everybody's hypocrisy anymore.

"Nothing is really as it seems," Castaspella spat with the most expressive tone since the beginning of the discussion. "Nothing can really be trusted. But we have to unite at some point. We have to accept being pawns sometimes. Or we die."

Adora frowned. She was about to ask her to elaborate when Angella opened the door of the war room. "Oh, hello! Don't stay outside, come on in!"

Castaspella and Adora followed the queen inside the room and took their seats. Nobody else was here, but Angella had already prepared the war table.

"Adora, dear," Angella asked, "is Catra coming soon? I wanted to talk to her alone for a moment."

Catra speaking with Angella. Why did it make Adora feel weird? Maybe Catra was right. Maybe Adora was so self-centered she couldn't stand to see Catra have projects that didn't include her.

"No idea," she said harshly, averting her gaze. The two queens looked at each other in confusion. Castaspella shrugged and zoned out. Angella wanted to ask more, but she could see by Adora's embarrassed face that it wasn't the time.

"Very well… I guess I'll see her afterwards."


The river was running its course peacefully. Steadily. No obstacle was blocking its way. The few rocks popping off the ground were no match against the flow of the water. They got polished over time, eroded by the unstoppable force.

What good did it do to oppose the river?

Useless rocks.

Catra kicked one of them. She cursed as her foot exploded with pain. The rock was too big and encrusted in the shore.

She fell on her knees. Her reflection in the water was odd. Like a stranger watching her with pity. A stranger with a crown too shiny for her. A stranger with a mask hiding her pain.

"Katriska."

Catra stiffened. "I already told you not to call me that, Lucio. Not in private."

The old man looked sad. He leapt with grace over the river, and sat across from Catra.

"The Alliance of the South is waiting for your report."

"I'll be there in a minute."

Lucio was staring at her every move. Catra hated when he did that. She knew he could perceive every twitch of her ears. Every puff of her tail's fur.

She tried to close her face, but the mere fact that she was down there alone by the river betrayed her turmoil.

"I know you didn't expect that change of plans, but look at the bright side-"

"The bright side? You mean you get me to do exactly what you wanted me to do in the first place?"

"That's not what I meant…"

"Oh come on," Catra glared at him. "Everything's perfect for you now."

"It's not." The old man shook his head. "You infer too much."

"Right, that's on me. Once again. So please, enlighten me, Lucio. How does it feel to know I won't get to rule the new Horde like I wanted to?"

Lucio looked at her with pity. She hated that. "I'm just sad you feel like it's something you need to do."

"Yeah, you'd never understand," Catra said bitterly. "You've never been abandoned by your people for a fucking prophecy."

"Catra, we didn't know."

"You knew enough."

"We acted blindly. It is true, and I'm sorry."

Catra averted her gaze, focusing on the river and trying to prevent the tears from falling.

"We were despaired," Lucio pursued. "We had just lost so many people. We had lost you, Katriska." Catra flinched again at that name. "Madame Razz told us you would return someday. But she warned us that we shouldn't interact with the North anymore until you came back, for your safety and ours."

"And you believed her," Catra ended.

"We had to keep faith. We had hope when we saw no new kitten with the Eyes of the Queen. We knew you were out there, somewhere in the world."

"And not even once did you wonder if I wasn't being held hostage by Hordak?!" Catra stood up, fuming. Lucio looked away for the first time, embarrassment and sadness making his usually impassive ears droop.

"I'm sorry."

"We've had this conversation a hundred times, but you always give me the same excuses. I can't believe I'm still going through with the plan."

"Why are you?"

Catra shrugged as she sat back down. "I already told you. I'm doing it for Adora and the Magicats."

"Even if we failed you?"

"Go figure," Catra grunted. Lucio smiled. He knew that Catra loved her people, even if she got hurt when she learned the truth. The first month among them had been hard, especially when she told them she used to work for Hordak. Mutual distrust and suspicion had been difficult to erase. But soon enough, she had bonded with the Magicats, more than Lucio had expected. The Magicats had fully accepted her as their former and new queen. Catra had agreed on carrying on Katriska's mission, even if it wasn't in her nature to play the hero, as she said. If it meant protecting her people, she would do it.

Lucio had thought for a while, that Catra had finally found her place and purpose in life.

Well, he had been wrong.

"No offense, Catra," Lonnie's voice came back to Catra's mind. "You've been a good commander and all, but you weren't around for a year."

"... I didn't really have a choice, Lonnie. I'm back now, with more people to defeat Hordak and make something better with the Horde."

"Catra, the Horde is not your personal project." These words had hit her. "You can't just come back here to save us and take the lead again as if you were the one who put our insurgence together. We'll gladly take your help, and especially your support against the Princesses, but you're not our commander anymore."

"Who is then?"

"For now, I'm the Captain of the Dissidents. Once Hordak is gone, we are going to put an end to the military nonsense. It's gone too far. We're going to listen to how people actually want to live and change things."

"You think the rest of the soldiers know how to live?"

"If you're saying that out of spite, it's not serving you well."

"Horde soldiers only know one purpose. Fight the Princesses."

"That's not so true anymore. You would know if you came back earlier and joined the Dissidents."

Lonnie had pissed Catra off. She had ascribed intentions to Catra that she didn't have. Maybe that was what Lucio meant when he said Catra read into things too much.

Catra didn't think the Horde was her project. Maybe it was, deep down. But mostly, the Horde was her first home. She had suffered there, but she had also made something of herself for the first time. She had started to change things, too. Lonnie had just jumped on the moving skiff.

And now she was rejecting Catra for not being around enough.

How could she? Catra had had another whole Alliance to build to win a fucking war and fulfill a fucking prophecy.

All Catra wanted was a little part of herself… a little reminder that she was her own person, that she wasn't just a pawn for the bigger scheme of the universe.

"Catra," Lucio said softly. "The Magicats love you. You will always be our queen."

"I know."

"But you don't feel like you fit in."

Catra answered with a tired tone. "I look like you, but I've lived my whole life not being a magicat. It would take me decades to even try to understand you guys. I'm from two worlds, but it feels like I don't belong to either of them."

"Like Alondra."

Catra nodded. She touched the ink on her neck. She could picture the bird tattooed on her back. The symbol for the first queen. The only magicat Catra could relate to. She sighed. "And now the people I grew up with don't even want me around anymore."

"You felt out of place with them, too. You've lived a hard childhood in the Horde. Harder than any other child soldier. They all hated you except for Adora, according to what you told us."

Catra closed her eyes. She tightened her fists to control the pain hurling in her chest. A couple of tears escaped her eyelids and rolled slowly on her cheeks.

The old man silently joined her, wrapped an arm around her shoulders and hugged her. Catra let herself be held, weeping silently in this unexpected father figure's arms. Catra knew Lucio had lost a daughter during the war. Sometimes she wondered if he didn't act like she was his lost kid.

He shouldn't though.

Catra would only disappoint him.


Seven seats had been added around the war table. Seven very empty seats.

Angella was tapping her fingers against the armrest of her chair, staring at the chair reserved for Katriska across from hers. The Princesses of the North whispered loudly around her, as well as the Mystacor trio.

She sighed in a very inappropriate manner for a queen. She wondered if this was Catra's way of punishing her somehow.

"Okay, that's enough," Glimmer burst out. "I'm gonna drag this catgirl here by the tail if I have to."

The princess didn't have the time to stand up from her chair. The door opened, revealing the main trio of the Magicats followed by the Princesses of the South.

Anya's purple eyes were on Glimmer immediately. She wore a big smirk on her face. "Don't squeak, little mouse. We're here."

"Shut up!" Glimmer tightened her fists. Bow had to grab her arm to make sure she wouldn't try to land one on Anya's face.

"Ugh, do us a favor. Go get a room," Mermista groaned. She had finally agreed to join the Princesses, since it was an important meeting this time. Seahawk was still with her though, signaling his importance in the management of what was left of Salineas' kingdom.

Catra spared a glance to Adora as she sat down, but she quickly redirected her eyes to Angella. Adora's heart ached. She regretted that stupid fight. Catra had been back for only three days, and here they were, already arguing over the ghosts of the past. Adora shouldn't have mentioned Shadow Weaver. It was a sensitive topic for Catra. But so was it for Adora.

The rest of the Alliance of the South took their seats in silence, except for Prince Clover, who waved excitedly at Perfuma. These two radiated the exact same positive energy. The Plumerian Princess tapped the chair next to hers for Clover to sit. They hurried over and started whispering to Perfuma without paying attention to the solemn atmosphere around them. At least some of the group were having fun.

"Since we are all here," Angella said, "let us start the first official meeting between the Alliance of the North, the Alliance of the South, and Mystacor. Thank you for attending. To begin with, Commander Glimmer will present the current state of our troops."

Glimmer stood to her height-was she trying to look taller?- and cleared her throat, doing her best to avoid the glinting eyes of Anya. Seriously, couldn't they try to be a little less obvious?

Adora smirked. She automatically tried to find Catra's gaze, but the queen was stubbornly ignoring her. How did Adora let their reunion turn that way? How did she manage to word her feelings so poorly that Catra completely misunderstood her point?

"Thank you, Mo- I mean Your Majesty." Glimmer activated the war table hologram. "The last victory over Plumeria allowed us to gain considerable ground over the Horde. Plumeria is exactly between Bright Moon and Salineas, which is our next goal. The tunnels dug by the Horde under Plumeria have already been clogged or collapsed unfortunately, so we won't be able to use them to ambush the coast leading to Salineas or the Fright Zone."

Glimmer kept on describing the position of each kingdom's army in details, not forgetting to point out which ones needed back-up and supplies. The princess was on fire. When she was done, she sat back in her seat, looking a little breathless. Adora raised a discreet thumbs-up, to which Glimmer smiled.

"Queen Katriska, if you would," Angella invited.

Catra nodded to Anya, who stood up, following Glimmer's example. "Although your plan of taking Salineas sounds promising, it's also pretty much expected from the Horde. We should think bigger. The five kingdoms of the Alliance of the South brought enough soldiers and mages to allow us to strike hard."

"Mages?!" Isidore interrupted. "You have magic?"

"Of course we do, Warlock Isidore," Princess Melody answered very politely. "We always have. We just haven't sent them to Mystacor for centuries."

"You're an embarrassment, Isidore," Mortella scolded. "Magical beings appear everywhere on Etheria."

"How was I supposed to know?! So we'll have to work with your mages?"

"Preferably," Huntara said, staring at the warlock until he felt uncomfortable.

"Let's go back to the battle strategy, please," Angella said. "What do you suggest we do, Commander Anya? Attack the Fright Zone first?"

"No. I say we attack both."

"Both?! At the same time?" The whole table exploded in protestations and concerns.

"This is insane…"

"Our troops have barely recovered from the last battle!"

"We need to stay together to have more magic! We can't split into two teams!"

"Are you trying to get us killed?!"

Catra rose from her seat, an irritated frown darkening her face. The Princesses fell silent. Catra took a few extra seconds before speaking. Adora was sure it was just because she enjoyed the impatient, thirsty look on their faces.

"I brought you five more princesses, including myself. That's more than enough to boost your all-together-power. You are able-" Catra stopped. Adora's eyes flicked to Lucio. She was sure she saw his tail lash against Catra's before she spoke again. "We are able to take them out in one shot. We have to hurry, now that Hordak knows the Magicats are back. He doesn't know about the rest of the Alliance of the South, but I bet he's going to learn of it pretty soon."

"Are you suggesting we would let that information slip?" Frosta asked coldly.

"Don't get on your high horses, princess. I just mean that Hordak loves to spy on his enemies."

Frosta pursed her lips but didn't reply. Perfuma raised her hand timidly. "How are you so sure we can take both places? The last time we infiltrated the Fright Zone, we barely made it out and we lost someone."

The loud laughter of a certain genius princess seemed to echo in the silence of the room.

Catra breathed in and pursued. "The Fright Zone is at its most vulnerable right now, Princess Perfuma. The Horde is currently facing… mutiny."

"Mutiny?" Angella gaped. Confusion spread amongst the Northerners. How on Etheria did Hordak manage to hide this? It was true that the Rebellion lost all communications with Entrapta. The Horde in general seemed to have closed in on itself even more than before since Scorpia's escape.

Adora was as surprised as the rest of the group, but mostly annoyed that Catra hadn't told her about this. She wondered how many other things Catra was hiding from her.

"They call themselves the Dissidents," Catra said, unfazed by the gasps. "They've been recruiting Horde soldiers and attacking the Horde from the inside for several months."

"How do you know about all this?" Adora asked, hoping irritation didn't show in her voice. Catra didn't look at her when she answered.

"I used to be Second-in-Command. I have friends over there."

"Friends…" Mortella muttered. "And your friends never thought of reaching out to the Rebellion once?"

Catra raised an eyebrow, holding Mortella's stare. "No offense, but we learn to hate and mistrust the Princesses before we even start to walk in Hordak's ranks."

Grunts of disapproval made her ear twitch. Catra focused on Angella, who was watching her thoughtfully. The immortal queen spoke in a whisper. "They never planned to ask for our help. Are they strong enough to take him out on their own?"

"They are," Catra agreed. "But it would take them much more time. I think we would all benefit from an alliance with them. When we march on the Fright Zone, they'll join the fight and we can defeat Hordak in a day."

"And they won't turn against us?" Netossa asked worriedly.

"They won't if we leave after victory. They want to keep the Fright Zone."

"Of course they do," Isidore grumbled.

"So," Angella reasoned, "we should risk our lives to free the Horde from their tyrant, only to let another group from within who hate Princesses rule over the most powerful military force to oppose Etheria?"

"It's either this or you fight the Dissidents too. And let me tell you, they're not to be taken lightly."

"What do you mean you?"

Catra stood her ground. "I gave my word to the Dissidents that if they help us defeat Hordak, they will lead the remnants of the Horde as an independent society that won't follow the rules of the Princesses."

Oh, First Ones… Adora put a hand over her mouth to stifle a snicker. Maybe she had misjudged Catra after all. The magicat had no intentions to play the Rebellion's game by the rules. She was playing her own game. It both reassured and frightened Adora. She didn't know how to feel about all this. She didn't know how to feel about anything anymore anyway.

"You gave your word without consulting us?!" Glimmer exclaimed.

"I thought I made it clear that we are two independent Alliances, Sparkles."

"Don't talk to her like that," Bow frowned.

"Queen Katriska," Angella stood up, her eyes sending daggers to Catra. "How exactly can we trust you if you pull secret moves behind our back like that?"

"If it wasn't for me, Queen Angella," Catra snarled, "you wouldn't have the promise of a peace offering with the successors of Hordak. Sooner or later, with or without our help, the Dissidents will defeat him and take over the Fright Zone. It's theirs. They live there and want to change things. If you don't recognize them as a society, they will consider you invaders, and you will find yourself back at square one, fighting against the same soldiers as before."

"And since you already accepted their conditions, that only makes us Northerners the bad guys if we think differently. Isn't that right?" Glimmer said in a matching snarl. "You took the choice away from us. I don't understand what you gain from all this, since you are clearly working for yourself."

"That's what I was wondering too," Mortella nodded. "The Dissidents don't really need you to defeat Hordak. But they need you to defend them against us. So what did they promise you in exchange for your support, Queen Katriska?"

Catra's fists were so tight her knuckles turned white. She was boiling. Adora knew that face. Catra wanted to lie, but she couldn't.

Lucio stood and put a hand on his queen's shoulder. The good old smile cracking his wrinkled brown skin seemed to relieve the tension somehow. "There is something that we Magicats have been yearning for for a long time. Something that has been taken from us by Hordak, and that Queen Katriska promised she would get back."

"Oh…" Angella's frown fell. A comprehensive smile soothed her traits. "They promised you Halfmoon."

"Halfmoon? It's in the Fright Zone?" Frosta murmured loudly to Glimmer.

"The Horde took a lot of territory, including Princess Scorpia's kingdom as well as ours," Lucio explained to the young princess.

"What about Scorpia, by the way?" Mermista asked. "Doesn't she want to get her kingdom back, too? If it's in the middle of the Fright Zone, I doubt the Dissidents will agree to that."

"Scorpia isn't a typical princess," Catra said with something in her tone. Something like pride. Adora pursed her lips, putting the feeling of jealousy in a corner of her mind. "She hasn't been connected to her runestone for a while, and she's not interested in ruling over people. The Dissidents will accept her as an honorary princess, but she won't have more power than any of them."

"When will we get to talk with Princess Scorpia and the leader of the Dissidents?" Angella asked. The tension and the lack of trust was as cutting as Frosta's ice.

"Soon," Catra answered shortly.

"How are the Dissidents hiding?" Glimmer wondered. "Where are they staying exactly? It mustn't be very easy to keep a stable hideout from Hordak for months."

"I have no idea."

"You have no idea, or you aren't allowed to reveal this information?" Mortella narrowed her eyes.

The Queen of the Magicats smirked. "Take it as you wish."


"Hey, Wildcat. How did the meeting go?"

"Could have been worse." Catra slouched on the cushions. She smiled at the sight of her friend who was trying out a new black lipstick Queen Orla had given her. "You're calm for someone who just got back from a trip to the Fright Zone."

"Oh you know, it wasn't all bad. Lonnie's people are constantly on their guard, but they're nice. They made me comfortable."

"So comfortable Rogelio and Kyle decided to stay."

"Well, it's more like Lonnie took them back in. They were her friends, after all."

"Right," Catra cackled. She sighed as she thought of the task ahead. "I hope those dumbasses from the North accept Lonnie's terms. If they don't, it's gonna be impossible to keep going. I shouldn't have agreed that fast to this change of plans."

"But you need their support," Scorpia said with a raised eyebrow. "You need the Dissidents to fight with you against Mystacor if needed."

"Sure, but if I don't have the Princesses on my side, it'll all be for nothing. This would have been simpler without the Dissidents."

Scorpia hesitated before her next sentence. "Are you okay with Lonnie turning you down?"

Catra's ears dropped. She hugged her knees. "I don't wanna talk about it."

"I did everything I could back there. You know, to make her see how great you'd be as-"

"I said I don't want to talk about it," Catra said with a glare. Scorpia apologized and fell silent. Catra stared at her and felt guilty. "Thank you, Scorpia. For everything."

Scorpia beamed. "You're welcome. Seriously though, don't get me wrong, but I think it's a good thing that the Dissidents are here. You have their military support, and you're not gonna be the new Hordak in the Rebellion's eyes."

Catra hugged her knees harder. She felt angry, but she reminded herself that Scorpia was only trying to cheer her up. Most of the time she knew what to say, but the scorpion lady had trouble understanding Catra's attachment to the Horde.

"Whatever," Catra rolled her eyes. "Ugh. This is way more complicated than I thought it'd be."

"Why not tell the Princesses the truth? I'm sure they'll understand."

"I don't know…" Catra answered. Uncertainty weighed heavy on her heart. "I've been gone for a while. I don't know how deep Mystacor's influence runs right now. I can't make any mistakes by rushing in. We need to put Hordak down first. One less obstacle."

"What about Adora? Can't you just tell her? She could convince the rest of the Princesses."

Catra sighed loudly, dropping her head back against the cushion. "Adora is weird. I don't know what happened to her. I want to tell her, but I'm not sure she can take another bomb."

"It's not that much of a bomb. I mean… she might take it well!"

"Ugh, Scorpia, you're too soft."

"You think? People always tell me I'm as tough as nails, but that's because of my exoskeleton. I think."

Catra burst out in laughter. It was good to have Scorpia back.

 

Chapter Text

The Whispering Woods were the heart and lungs of the North. Full of magic and life, they offered shelter to fugitives, food to the hungry, and peace to troubled souls. The woods provided the fortunate inhabitants of the North with protection. The woods kept them safe from the ignorant Horde soldiers who never managed to find their way through the thick forest. The woods also meant death to those who didn't know them. Once lost, few could make it out alive.

However, the Whispering Woods were neutral. They were not good or evil, unlike the people who used them.

In the woods were several villages from the kingdom of Bright Moon.

In the woods blossomed the kingdom of Plumeria.

In the woods was raised a Magicat camp.

In the woods lingered the destroyed temple of Light Hope, where the Horde used to keep base.

In the woods a secret sorceress meeting was about to take place.

"So, it went well, didn't it?"

"That's not how I would put it, Anya."

Mortella looked intensely at the holographic image of the two whispering magicat women coming from a little bot on the ground.

"Well, we couldn't expect them to kiss our boots for doing our own stuff. You said it yourself, Catra. They're as proud as any kingdom."

"It's not about pride. They want mutual trust. But that's not something we can give them right away."

"That's right. But I think you did it all well. You acted like like a queen, but not quite like Katriska. You are still yourself, and that's the most important thing."

"I don't feel like myself, Anya."

"If you want, you can just stop. Lucio and I can carry on our mission."

"No. I can't stop now. I said I would do it."

"But are you okay?"

"As okay as I can be."

"You still have flashbacks?"

Mortella squinted. She couldn't really see Catra's face from the angle the spy bot had used.

"Sometimes."

"We can ask the mages to take a look at you, you know. If Katriska's bad memories are preventing you from sleeping, it's not-"

"Shhh. Did you hear that?"

"No, what?"

"...Let's not stay here."

The bot stopped transmitting the video. Mortella rubbed her chin in silence for a good minute. The low whispers buzzing in her ears disrupted her chain of thoughts.

"Mortella? What is all that supposed to mean?"

The sorceress looked around her. The dozen warlocks and sorceresses of the circle were expecting her to soothe their worry. She stared at Isidore next to her, whose face showed great distress.

"Dear friends," she started, "I think you won't blame me now for calling an emergency meeting for the Council of Shadows. As you can see, our concerns regarding Katriska were not that far-fetched."

"You really think she intends on pursuing the Magicats' ancestral mission?" Isidore asked.

"You heard them. Although Catra is acting like an independent queen who just wants Halfmoon back, there is still no doubt. She has been corrupted by her people."

"We have to do something!" squeaked Flop, another warlock.

"Let's not be impulsive," Mortella answered. "As far as we know, Catra hasn't yet tried to talk about the environment like she used to when she was Katriska. I assume they want to wait until after the victory against Hordak to bring that up again."

"We could lose her during the battle," suggested a sorceress named Alicia.

"That would be the most practical solution…" Mortella zoned out.

"Why can't we get rid of her now?" Flop asked.

"Just think a little," Alicia grunted. "It would look highly suspicious. We pushed Mystacor and the Rebellion to throw Katriska into the Forbidden Zone last year. We can't risk being discovered."

"So we just spy on them and do nothing?" Isidore burst out. "We could lose everything if she convinces the Rebellion."

"For now, she's far from that," Mortella reassured him. "Katriska plays by her rules to protect herself from us. It's obvious becoming friends with the Dissidents when she learned of their mutiny is a precaution in case we all turn against her. The Princesses didn't like that move."

"It was a bit stupid to expose her plans now…" Isidore cackled.

"She had to do it since we're all going to fight against the Horde," Mortella said. "We couldn't just arrive there and discover a secret organization approved by the Magicats."

"Looks like that queen has trouble with politics," said Alicia with a smirk.

"No, she knows what she's doing. Think about it," Mortella replied. "I'm pretty sure she didn't expect the Dissidents to exist. None of us did. The problem of who gets the Horde after victory would have come back on the table sooner or later, but now it's pretty settled. If the North refuses to acknowledge the existence of the Dissidents and their right to own that ugly place, they'll have a new, powerful enemy and no help from the South. So what will likely happen is that the Dissidents will keep the Fright Zone and support Catra for being the first one to defend them."

"So… that's pretty clever actually."

"Yes, and that's why the Princesses of the North are mad. Catra sealed the future of the Horde on her own," Mortella huffed. If she wasn't so displeased with how it disturbed her own plans, she would have almost admired how that young nobody played them all so easily.

"So we still have grounds to make the Princesses hate her," Isidore pointed out.

"But hold on," Alicia intervened. "Why would we give ourselves the trouble of fighting against Hordak if the Dissidents and the South already started it on their own? It's perfectly valid if the North decides to watch from afar in these conditions."

"It wouldn't be diplomatic." Mortella shook her head. "It would be another way of showing our dissatisfaction, which would only increase the tension. Remember what Catra said earlier. She is providing us with a peace offering from the next ruler of the Horde. Anything we say or do against them would be interpreted as a rejection of peace."

"But it's not fair!" Flop squeaked again. "We are being double-crossed by that magicat! Besides, we already did it once… When the first Alliance asked us to join the battle, we didn't mingle."

"That was different," Mortella told the warlock. "Our pact with Hordak at the time compelled us to stay on the sidelines."

"Alright, so we join the battle, we defeat Hordak, the Magicats get Halfmoon back, and then what? We can't let Katriska get that powerful," said Isidore.

"She has to be stopped during the battle," Alicia asserted. "We can all agree on that. And before the fight, we have to attend every single meeting with the Alliances. She won't get a chance to babble about their mission."

"What about She-Ra? What if Katriska tells her everything in private before the battle?" Isidore asked.

"Well, we can't really force them apart. But we don't even know yet the extent of knowledge the Magicats have on the subject. We need to spy a bit longer," Mortella answered. She watched the little machine Hordak had used last year in Mystacor to get information on the trial. The Council had restored it and found out it was a very efficient spying device. "We have to protect our bot with an invisible spell. They are all on their guard."

"Worst case, if it's discovered they'll think it's Hordak who's spying," Flop said with a shrug.

"Let's not risk that," Isidore grumbled. "We already have Castaspella on our backs since she found out about us, and it's getting harder every day to contain her."

"Speaking of which…" Mortella pointed to a figure outside their protection spell. "If you'll excuse me, our queen has answered my call."

The Council nodded and watched the sorceress leave the circle. When she stepped out of the magical line they had traced, all sight of them disappeared. The clearing looked as peaceful and empty as usual, lit by the midday sun.

"Castaspella," Mortella called. The queen jolted at the sound of her voice, and slowly turned around. Mortella was very irritated with her. Castaspella just had to go and get depressed when she discovered the existence of the Council of Shadows. "You were quick to join me."

"You threatened me last time I was late."

"I only asked you to be a little more cooperative, my friend. I'm glad you seem to be taking me so seriously though."

"What do you want?" Castaspella crossed her arms under her chest. Her apathetic, stony expression disturbed Mortella.

"I would like you to be more mindful when you talk to the Princesses."

"I rarely say anything. I don't know how you want me to be more discreet."

"You told Adora you were a pawn."

Shock lit Castaspella's face. "You were snooping again?"

"You proved many times it was a necessary deed, Your Majesty."

"Oh, don't you Your Majesty me. We're past that, aren't we?"

"Anyway, please, watch your tongue. We wouldn't want any princess, and especially not She-Ra, to think something fishy is going on in Mystacor, would we?"

"You know my opinion about that," Castaspella snarled. "If it were only me-"

"Yes, and it's not," Mortella's voice turned harsher. "If you say one word about our Council, if by accident a princess comes across the truth, I won't hesitate to spill another secret. A very inconvenient secret for our New Rebellion."

Castaspella looked like she was boiling inside. "It wouldn't serve you either in the end," she said. "You would be caught up in the middle of the conflict."

"I don't mind. We're meant to stand in the middle sooner or later. But you, do you really want our cute little Alliances to split even before they try to beat Hordak?" Mortella smirked. "I don't think that would be very prudent."

Castaspella opened her mouth but closed it when she found no answer. Her face fell as she fully embraced how powerless she was. Mortella smiled, satisfied, and turned her back to the queen.

"Don't forget your place, Castaspella," she said as she walked away. "You are the nice Queen of Mystacor, so sorry for the mistakes we committed. Act like it if you don't want to start another war."

"You're a monster."

Mortella stopped in her tracks. She glanced over her shoulder, glaring at the queen. "I'm doing my best to keep us surviving, Casta. The Magicats are not as good as you all like to think."

"Mortella!"

"Oh and please, for the love of the First Ones," Mortella sighed. "Try to look cheerful and involved once in a while. Sinking into depression only raises suspicion and makes you look pathetic."

She left her queen defeated in the middle of the forest.

Back inside the circle, the Council welcomed her back with a tense silence. They had all listened to the conversation between the queen and their leader.

"Do you think she's gonna-"

"No, Isidore," Mortella cut him off. "She won't say a word about us. She knows it would doom the Rebellion if we tell the secret behind the Magicats' fall."

"Okay, but now that the Magicats are back, we need to do something," Alicia said gravely. "Everything is going to escalate once someone makes the first move. We should act now."

"I said not so fast," Mortella replied. "We need to learn more about Catra-Katriska. She is not the same opponent as before. We have to know what she knows."

"I still think we can get rid of her!" Flop insisted. "We could ask Hordak to do it for us. He owes us, after all. He didn't follow the pact last time-"

"No," Mortella said harshly. "We can't trust Hordak precisely because he broke the pact. And we can't get rid of Katriska now. Who knows how Adora would react to that?"

"You think she would accuse us?"

"Most likely. Adora has hated us since the trial."

"Can we at least make Katriska look bad to the Rebellion and the people?" Isidore pleaded. "The Magicats are too popular now that they're back. We can't compete."

"Making her look bad," Mortella repeated. She smiled as she remembered a little detail from the conversation between Catra and the magicat commander. The flashbacks. "That's something we could do."


Glimmer kept her stance. She evaluated her opponent's strength in one look. Gripping her staff firmly, she chose the spell to cast. A second later, the heavy bag was set on fire.

Glimmer grinned to herself, and bowed to an invisible audience. "And that is how it's done."

"Wow, that was intense for a sparkling princess."

Glimmer jolted, and turned around in a second, ready to murder the owner of the voice. "What are you doing here?!"

Anya didn't answer the question. She was leaning on the wall of the castle, picking at her claws in a way that reminded Glimmer so much of Catra she thought she was hallucinating for a second.

"Where are your friends?" The magicat asked. "They left you sparring all alone?"

"No… Adora is with Bow and his dads in the castle, and I wanted to be alone. What about you? You were bored so you decided to come annoy me?"

Anya stayed silent.

"Hey, buff girl! I'm talking to you."

"I heard you," Anya said with a smirk as she met her gaze. "I was pondering what answer would infuriate you the most, but I figured ignoring you would probably be strikingly efficient."

Glimmer huffed, crossing her arms beneath her chest. "I don't know who you think I am, but I'm not the kind of girl who will fawn over bullies like you. You need to rethink your approach, 'cause it's not gonna work on me."

"A bully, me?!" Anya gasped dramatically, putting a hand on her chest. "I'm shocked and sad that's how low you see me, Commander Glimmer."

Glimmer didn't answer. She just squinted as she watched the magicat walk around her in a slow circle.

"I was just admiring the fire in you," Anya said in a playful tone. "I saw right away that there's more to you than meets the eye."

"So you'd rather push me over the edge to see my fire than be civil and have a shot at being my friend?"

"Who's talking about being friends? I was hoping we'd be enemies by now. But it's true that you invited me for a dance. You kinda ruined it."

"Oh, don't worry, we can fix this," Glimmer grinned devilishly, as sparkles erupted from her fists. "Come and get your enemy, kitty cat."

Anya's purple eyes shone in excitement. She took a fighting stance, flexing her muscles as she held Glimmer's glare. "With pleasure, little mouse."

Glimmer darted forward, her fist raised. Anya prepared herself to dodge and retaliate, but Glimmer teleported a second before the blow, destabilizing the magicat. She reappeared behind her and almost landed the hit, but Anya was a very fast learner. She leapt aside and took her distance from the princess to reevaluate the fight.

Glimmer wouldn't give her the time to rethink her strategy. She summoned her staff, cast a water spell, and teleported immediately after. Anya had to escape from the water spray coming from the lake, and forgot to check behind her back. Glimmer crashed her sparkling fist on her lower back then her staff on her side.

Anya grunted. Glimmer felt a rush of adrenaline course through her veins. All she wanted now was to win this. She started another teleportation series, landing several blows on Anya who could barely move. The magicat protected her face with her strong arms, waiting for the attack to stop. This was weird. Glimmer was under the impression that Anya wasn't the kind of warrior who gave up. Unless…

"Oh, crap," Glimmer cursed when she realized she was almost out of magic. Anya lowered her arms, smirked and ran towards the castle. "Where do you think you're going?!"

Glimmer teleported again right in front of Anya, her staff pointed at her. Anya was ready this time. She leapt, landed on Glimmer's shoulders, and used her as a trampoline. Glimmer yelped as she fell on her knees. She stood and turned around just a little too late. Anya had bounced again on the wall of the castle, and tackled her. Her claws tightened around Glimmer's neck, and she held still.

Glimmer was breathless. She dropped her staff as a sign of surrender.

"Okay, you win this one," she laughed. "But I can still teleport once, so technically, I'm not done."

"You would be in a real fight, shrimp. My claws would already be in your throat."

"Yeah, yeah, now get off of me."

"Why, you don't like me on top of you? I thought that could be our thing."

Glimmer punched Anya's shoulder. The magicat laughed and released the princess. She lay down next to her, leaning on her elbows and purring as she enjoyed the sun on her face. Glimmer held back a smile at the cute sight. "Do you always flirt when you talk to girls?" She asked. The magicat peeked an eye open and grinned wider.

"If I say yes, are you gonna kick my ass? 'Cause I'm kinda into it."

Glimmer snorted loudly. "Seriously, I don't care, but some girls might take it wrong."

"Lucky me, there's no other girl here."

"UGH!" Glimmer facepalmed. "You know, you really didn't have to tell us you're Catra's niece. I would have figured it out by myself! You're both dumb jerks."

"Hey!" Anya turned on her side, a pout on her face. "How dare you compare me to Catra?! She can't compete with my jerkery."

"Again, that's nothing to brag about!" Glimmer said with half a laugh twitching her voice.

"Alright, then why don't you give me something you're interested in, and I'll see if I can find something related to brag about."

Glimmer frowned at the request. That was a very weird way to ask to get to know each other. She had to find something that would break that smug attitude.

Anya was leaning on her elbow, a wide smile on her face as she waited for her answer. Her purple eyes were really beautiful, their color enhanced by the dark tone of her skin. Glimmer looked away, trying hard not to blush.

Suddenly an uncanny vision appeared above them, making them completely forget about their conversation for a while. Angella was flying and carrying a rather nauseous-looking Catra in her arms. They were heading towards the Whispering Woods.

"What the hell?!" Glimmer exclaimed. "What is happening?"

"Oh right, your mom wanted to speak with Catra apparently, but they never got the time. Guess she finally found a way to kidnap her."

"This is the weirdest thing I've ever seen…"

"Hey, can you fly like your mom, by the way?" Anya asked. Glimmer thought about it for a second. There was no harm in showing her. She sat up. She tugged her cape, revealing two medium sized baby wings folded neatly on her back. Anya looked amazed. She examined them without touching. "They're beautiful."

"Yeah, but I can't use them yet. I mean, I can, but it still hurts. My mom says I have to wait before I try them. "

"That is cool. So you've never tried? Ever?" Anya asked, a very suspicious eyebrow raised. Damn it.

"Okay, don't tell her... but I tried once. Twice. Okay, I tried a lot of times. Ugh, stop judging me!"

"I wouldn't dare," Anya said with a grin.

As she fixed her cape on her back, Glimmer watched her mom disappear into the Whispering Woods with Catra. Seeing the two leaders together gave Glimmer an idea.

"Okay, I know what to ask you," she said. "The subject of my liking is politics. Choose a debate and discuss."

"Huh, okay. I didn't expect that." Anya nibbled her lip while she thought. It was kind of adorable. "Here's a debate. Always punish the people who wronged you as a principle, or forgive them if they show remorse and want to change but take the risk of offending the victims?"

"Nu-uh," Glimmer shook her head. "You're talking about Catra's trial. It already happened and we already saw the consequences. Choose something else."

"I'm not talking about Catra."

Glimmer watched with surprise as Anya's face fell. "What is it about, then?"

Anya hesitated, but eventually shrugged and went for it.

"If I want to be perfectly honest," she started, "when I learned that we would have to come back and save the Princesses of the North… I was pissed."

Glimmer sat up, focusing intensely on her companion. "Is it because of the Battle of Halfmoon?"

"Yeah," Anya whispered. She zoned out, lost in her thoughts. "You know, at school, they teach us a lot about our history with the North. About how very few people ever listened to us."

"Mystacor has a… pretty big influence around here," Glimmer groaned. "But the Magicats were still pretty popular, weren't they?"

"Sure. The planet and the people's wellbeing were more important anyway. Our queens never gave up, unlike the other leaders of the South. Their choice was understandable, but we couldn't leave like them. We didn't want to wait for She-Ra alone in the desert."

"You were waiting for her, too?" Glimmer frowned. That subject irritated her. It reminded her of her mother's inaction that she justified with the damn prophecy.

"Of course. Well, not just waiting. We were trying to change the world meanwhile. For the planet, you know." Anya's expression hardened. "But maybe we should have been selfish instead. We should have left. We shouldn't have waited for Hordak to slaughter us."

"If my mom had listened to the old Katriska maybe it wouldn't have happened…" Glimmer said quietly. "Plus, your kingdom was so close to the Horde! We should have provided you with more soldiers."

"To be fair, we were feeling safe in Halfmoon. We had locked the main gates magically. It was supposed to be enough. There was no way in or out without us knowing."

"But… how did they invade Halfmoon then?"

"They found our secret underground entrance. We rarely used it, and it's not protected because it's hidden. Only a few Magicats knew where it was. Hordak learned of it, obviously. We don't know how."

Anya fell silent. She played with a flower in the grass under the compassionate look of the princess.

"Have you lost anyone in the war?" Glimmer asked softly.

Anya didn't look at her when she answered. "My moms."

Oh, First Ones. Anya had lost everything, hadn't she?

"I'm so sorry…" Glimmer put a hand on her shoulder. Anya tensed for a second, but then relaxed under the touch. "I lost my dad in the battle that followed."

"I'm sorry for you, too," Anya simply said. Glimmer rubbed her thumb on her arm.

"I can understand why you wouldn't want to help us. Instinctively."

"Yeah, well… I had to put things into perspective. I'm just a soldier. I'm not the queen or the ministers."

"The queen… How weird was it with Catra?" Glimmer asked with a smile. "It mustn't have been easy to see this hothead pop up in the desert and shout she's your long-lost aunt turned younger by magic."

Anya chuckled. "I hated her at first."

"Really?! Wow, look at that. Something else we have in common."

She cursed internally when she realized she had just joked about the loss of their relatives, but Anya didn't seem to be offended.

"I mean, Catra isn't really my aunt, you know. Not just because she's younger now. They're different people. Catra governs a bit like her, it's true, and she has kept her strong personality. But she doesn't think the same way. She hasn't lived the same childhood at all, and she knows nothing about her own culture. She is Katriska, and at the same time, she isn't."

"It's weird," Glimmer concluded.

"Yeah," Anya laughed. "I had to mourn my aunt again when Catra arrived out of nowhere. But then I got to know the new her. It wasn't easy, but it was worth it."

"Let me guess, she's the kind of asshole who's worth getting to know."

"That's something Catra and I have in common," Anya said with a wink.

Glimmer rolled her eyes, but couldn't stop herself from smiling. "Can I ask you something? Why are you telling me all this? We just met."

"Um…" Anya scratched her ear. For the first time in three days, she actually looked embarrassed. "Okay, it's gonna sound weird, but I feel like I've known you for a while."

"Huh?!"

"I mean, just-" she stuttered. "Okay, it's not how it sounds, I didn't stalk you or anything! It's just that Catra told me about you."

"She did?"

Now that sounded even weirder.

"Yes. She told us her story, and that includes you. She mentioned you a lot, and then… I… I asked her more about you. Because I felt like you were a bit like me, you know."

"That's still kind of stalkerish," Glimmer crossed her arms beneath her chest. "What made you think that, at the time?"

"Well, for one, you're the Commander of your relative's army."

"Sure. Go on."

"And if I believe what Catra said, you look like you were underestimated all your life and you want to prove yourself."

Glimmer's smile dropped. She gave Anya an incredulous stare. "You're telling me that you've been underestimated? You? Look at you, you're… you're…" Glimmer blushed. "You're big and strong!"

"My, thank you, little mouse." Anya smirked. "I wasn't always strong. I was the tallest and heaviest of the kids, and I lacked agility. Agility is important in our fighting style. I had to work hard to reach my current level and command the magicat army. Even when I got the rank, some of my peers gossiped that I only got it because the last queen was my aunt."

"Oh…" Glimmer understood now. It made sense. It was funny to see that confident-looking woman hide such a relatable vulnerability. She looked so embarrassed now, hunching herself just like Adora did to make herself smaller. Did all tall, hot people do that?

"I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable."

"Yes, you should be sorry," Glimmer stated. The magicat stared in surprise, her ears drooping just an inch. Glimmer stood and traced a slow circle around Anya, who got on her feet as well. A small smile tucked the corner of Glimmer's lips, just enough to show Anya where she was going. "You thought you could just come around here after stalking me by hearsay, and provoke me into a fight?"

"In my defense," Anya replied, her confident tone back, "your way of dancing at the ball made me believe that you actually wanted to spar with me."

Glimmer scoffed, smoke almost coming out of her ears. "How dare you? I dance with more grace than you could ever!"

"Who said sparring wasn't graceful?"

"Anyway, that was your mistake. Never assume what a princess wants."

"My apologies, Commander," Anya bowed her head. "How can I earn your forgiveness?"

Glimmer didn't know why she felt so drawn to this woman. She felt like it was reciprocated, and still didn't really understand why. It was scary and exciting at the same time. But she shouldn't rush into anything. It'd been less than a week.

"Fight me again, and I might forget your outrageous ways."

"Outrageous like the way you gawked at me? I could be offended, too."

"You call me a mouse and a shrimp, and you stalked me," Glimmer retaliated. "I'm not apologizing."

Anya burst out in laughter. It was a delightful sound. Glimmer was about to cast another water spell, when a loud shriek echoed in the clearing. It was coming from the Whispering Woods.

It was coming from the exact spot where they had seen Angella and Catra fly earlier.


"I am sooo excited to see you again, Adora!"

Lance hugged the blonde for the third time in ten minutes, under George's amused stare and Bow's embarrassed one. Adora laughed and hugged him back. Despite what Bow thought, she really enjoyed his dads' warm demeanor. Her regular visits to their library had been rare moments of peace this past year.

"It's really good to see you too, Mr. Bow's dad."

"You need to call us by our names, Adora," George scolded gently.

"Someday I will."

"What are you guys doing here?" Bow asked. "Usually we're the ones who come visit you!"

Ever since Bow had introduced his She-Ra friend to his dads, the two historians had been travelling a lot more than before, researching First Ones artifacts with more passion than ever. Adora had found herself drawn to the excited enthusiastic archeologists. They had taught her everything they knew about the First Ones, Etheria's history, the wars, the kingdoms, the runestones…

Even if they had once been mad at the Princesses for failing to save them, they were now eager to help their son and Adora understand the mess around them. Adora had asked them if they knew anything about Mara. George and Lance had searched a lot but never found a thing about the previous She-Ra. Adora was still grateful for their involvement. She had come to feel more at ease with them than with her princess friends.

So much so that she had almost told them about her origins.

Eternia.

The secret Hordak had dropped on her had become a burden over time. But the more she waited, the less she managed to talk about it. Some part of her still couldn't even believe it. She was... an alien.

From the same world as Hordak.

She was probably involved in the events that led Etheria to its destruction.

What would people think about that?

"Well," Lance answered, "we didn't want to wait for you to come to us this time. We found an extraordinary artifact on our last journey!"

"It was probably from a wall or a floor decoration. We're not sure," George added. He fumbled through a big suitcase, then took out a heavy flat plaque wrapped in a blanket. He handed it to Adora. "Could you read the inscriptions for us? We deciphered some of them, but we want to be certain."

Adora cast the blanket aside, revealing a very rusty and thin piece of metal. It was so old the First One's writings were almost unreadable.

"This one is easy. It says She-Ra," she said as she pointed at the first symbol. "But then I'm not sure…" Adora frowned, focusing on the missing symbols that would give some sense to the words.

"Take your time," whispered Bow. All three men were staring at Adora with the same fascinated eyes. Adora would find them cute if it wasn't disturbing her focus.

"I can read 'She-Ra', 'magic', 'hide'... and 'bee land'?" Adora raised a confused brow. "This last word doesn't make sense, it's half destroyed."

"George!" Lance jumped to his feet. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?!"

"If you're thinking of Beast Island, then yes, darling."

"This is so exciting!"

"Beast Island?" Adora and Bow exclaimed at the same time.

"Do you know about it, Adora?" George asked.

"It's where Hordak exiles soldiers who failed," Adora said, a shiver shaking her bones. "It's a place of death."

"Really?" Lance said in surprise. "Well, for us, Beast Island is a legendary land where She-Ra banished evil beasts that were ravaging Etheria. With a single word, she defeated them and trapped them on the island. It's been a no-go zone ever since. Nobody who tried to reach it ever came back."

"That's a popular old legend," George nodded. "However, this artifact leads us to assume something entirely different."

"Oooh, I know!" Bow said with a snap of finger. "It says 'hide'. What if She-Ra hid something there?"

"Exactly, Bow!" Lance clapped his hands. "We can even go further. What if She-Ra imprisoned the beasts there on purpose?"

"To protect something…" Adora whispered.

An old She-Ra created an island full of beasts. An island where no one could survive. An island where even Horde soldiers got sent to to die.

An island that might hold a secret. Something related to her, Adora.

What if it was the answer to all of her questions?

"Adora! Adora, help!"

The group was on their feet in an instant at the sound of this distressed voice. It belonged to Glimmer…

Adora and Bow rushed to the window. Down there, on the bridge that led to the Moonstone, Glimmer and Anya were carrying a body. A bleeding body with wings.

"Oh no!" Bow put a hand on his mouth before bursting out of the room. Adora and the dads followed him quickly. When they reached the bright runestone, they saw Angella lying on the futon where she could recharge her powers. Her abdomen was bleeding abundantly.

Adora wasted no time turning into She-Ra. For once, she felt the strong assurance that she could do what was right. For once, she didn't doubt herself. She kneeled in front of the queen and invoked her healing powers. When she was done, she reverted back to herself and admired her work.

Angella's wounds were clean and the bleeding had stopped.

But the queen remained unconscious.

"Come on, Mom!" Glimmer cried out. "Wake up!"

"What happened?!" Bow asked as he was hugging Glimmer.

"We don't know," Anya answered. "She was with Catra in the Whispering Woods, then we heard a loud scream. Glimmer teleported us into the Woods, and that's where we found Angella alone. She was trying to fly, but she was bleeding too much. She fainted before she could tell us who did this."

Glimmer was sobbing in Bow's arms. The magicat commander stood up and timidly put a hand on her shoulder.

"Glimmer?" Anya said softly. "I want to stay here with you, but I gotta go find Catra. Who knows what trouble she's in..."

"Of course," Glimmer reached out and squeezed her hand. "Go find her."

"I'll go with you!" Adora shouted. She jogged behind Anya, but turned to her friends before disappearing from the tower. "If there's anything wrong again, call me. I have one of Frosta's crystal comms!"

The two warriors ran as fast as they could in the direction of the forest, their hearts beating erratically as their minds pictured the worse for the other queen. They embraced the darkness of the forest without slowing down. Soon enough they decided to split up and meet around the Temple if they couldn't find Catra.

Adora ran and ran, trying to forget about her fear of losing Catra. She had to be strong.

A loud neigh suddenly aggressed her ears. Swift Wind appeared in the air right above her.

"Adora! You need to follow me right away!"

"Later, Swifty, I have to-"

"It's Catra!"

Adora stopped dead in her tracks. The flying horse landed next to her, breathing heavily.

"I found her all alone next to the temple. She's not okay. Come on up!"

She had barely jumped on his back when Swift Wind took off again, his wings flapping vigorously on each side of his flanks.

Adora bit her lip as anxiety started to take her over.

She felt She-Ra pushing into her mind, demanding to take control.

Adora closed her eyes and tightened her fists.

Not now.

She needed to be Adora.

For Catra.

Chapter Text

Catra whimpered, clutching the skinny purple arms that held her waist as if she feared they would drop her and let her fall to her death.

Catra didn't dislike flying.

She HATED it.

There was nothing natural about it. Sure it had some perks, but it mostly made Catra want to puke.

How could Alondra have put up with her own flying abilities?! Catra only had more respect for the first Queen of the Magicats.

"Are you alright?" Angella asked, an amused pitch in her tone.

"Aside from the fact that you're trying to kill me?!"

Angella let out an elegant laugh. "Don't worry. We'll be there soon."

Catra didn't answer. She closed her eyes instead, hoping it would calm the nausea.

Angella had found her in the courtyard where the party had taken place the night before, chatting with Netossa and Spinnerella about the Dissidents and the plan the Alliances had agreed upon. The queen had asked for a private conversation with Catra, specifying that she wanted to speak in a particular part of the Whispering Woods.

If Catra had known Angella wanted to go there with her own wings, she wouldn't have agreed.

"I'm starting our descent. Beware of the branches!" Angella warned. Catra opened her eyes and gasped at the sight of the trees coming her way dangerously fast. She protected her face with her arms, but Angella handled the flight perfectly. When they landed, Catra had no bruises on her skin, to her surprise.

"Never flying again," Catra grumbled as she loosened her turtleneck, feeling breathless somehow. "So where did you kidnap me to, Angella?"

The Queen of Bright Moon took her time folding her wings and brushed some leaves off her clothes. Then she smiled at Catra and gestured for her to follow. Catra walked beside her, feeling weirdly anxious as she waited for the queen to talk.

"What should I call you in private?" Angella asked. That was an unexpected question.

"Catra is fine."

"Alright, Catra. There are a lot of things I've been wanting to tell you."

Catra didn't break the silence that followed. Angella had this way of inspiring respect that Catra couldn't comprehend.

"How are you feeling amongst the Magicats?"

Catra shrugged. "Fine, I guess."

"Did they welcome you warmly?"

There was no suspicious tone in her voice. Angella was genuinely curious, and even sounded a little concerned.

"As warmly as they could given the circumstances," Catra answered. "Could have been worse."

"I see," Angella smiled. She seemed hesitant to pursue. "Have you found your parents?"

It was like a stone had just dropped in Catra's stomach. She averted her gaze. She had definitely not expected their talk to start that way.

"No. Only Anya survived."

"I'm so sorry…"

"It's fine."

Angella bit her lip, seemingly trying to find the right words. It was an odd situation, in her defense. Not so long ago, Catra would have laughed at the very concept of having a friendly chat with the queen of Bright Moon.

"I suppose you've gathered by now that I've had a personal connection with the Magicats, and especially with Katriska." Angella breathed in and out. "Learning that you actually are my old friend was not easy to process."

"If it makes you feel better, your friend isn't here anymore," Catra replied bitterly. "I don't have any memory of Katriska's life and I don't feel like her, so don't bother having an existential crisis for me."

"That is not what I meant," Angella said softly. "I just wanted to tell you that despite everything that happened in the past, everything that opposed us, I am glad I can now work alongside you and your people."

Catra observed her warily. She stopped walking and faced the queen. "Have I told you how weird you are, Angella?"

Angella raised her eyebrows. "You haven't."

"I did everything I could to defeat you. I destroyed your kingdom. I kidnapped your daughter. I harmed your people. When you offered me a way to redeem myself before the trial, I was unwilling to admit I acted wrong or even say sorry or thank you. Even now, I'm clearly working for my own interests. I would feel threatened and pissed off in your place. Yet here you are, still fair, still…" Catra paused to find her words. "Still treating me as your equal."

Catra felt embarrassed when she heard the vulnerability in her own voice. Angella's soft and comprehensive smile didn't help her compose a straight face. "I just don't get you, Angella," she blurted out, averting her gaze from her.

"First of all," the immortal queen stated, "I believe that everyone deserves a second chance. With that in mind, you shall be treated with respect and have a voice to be heard just as much as any other leader or soldier fighting for our cause."

Oh, this. This unearthed something warm in Catra's heart. For all her life, Catra had tried to gain respect and prove her worth in the Horde, to no avail. And to think all she had to do was wake up as a queen and bring the Magicats back to the Rebellion. Something was equally wrong in that. But for now, it soothed her need for validation.

"Second, you have to take our past into account. I, too, have things to make amends for."

"Yeah, I remember," Catra brushed it off. "You still blame yourself for not listening to Katriska before Hordak attacked Halfmoon."

"It's not only that."

Catra saw Angella's face twitch into a painful expression. Her tail swished in discomfort. She had the feeling she knew what the queen was about to say.

"I'm pretty sure it's my fault."

Catra held her breath, waiting for her companion to pursue. She had never seen the queen so anxious before.

"Hordak infiltrated Halfmoon using a secret entrance to your kingdom," Angella said as she averted her gaze. "Nobody but you-I mean Katriska-and your closest counsellors knew about this entrance."

Angella... Help...

Katriska! What happened? You're-you're dying!

Catra's heart pounded against her ribcage. A familiar feeling of dread spread in her chest. A ghost of the past rising to take over her mind.

Need… Lucio… Please, take me to Halfmoon.

"But you had to-"

"Stop!" Catra shouted. She grasped her head to control the headache. Her breathing wouldn't calm down. The whistling in her ears got stronger. The memory wanted to come up to her.

"Are you alright?" Angella put a hand on her shoulder. It helped Catra focus her mind on something else than the memory. Soon enough, she let go of her head, and she stopped panting. She realized she had scratched her scalp in the process. There was blood under her nails.

"I'm okay. Let's just drop this. Nobody blames you."

Catra didn't give Angella the time to reply. She moved on between the trees, struggling to hold back the tears.

Catra couldn't face her memories.

She couldn't.

Angella caught up to her, and silently indicated the way. After a minute of silence, they reached a clearing full of stones erected on the ground, decorated with flowers, rocks and objects.

… A graveyard?

"Catra, I brought you here because-"

Angella didn't have the time to finish her sentence. Another voice broke the peaceful silence of the Whispering Woods, attracting the queens' attention.

"I'm sick of this, Mom! I'm not going to pray the First Ones for Dad when we could be taking action!"

"Eren, I wish you would stop speaking that way. This is not how I raised you."

Angella and Catra walked discreetly in the direction of the duo. A teenager around fifteen years old, with antlers on his head was standing next to his mother who was kneeling in front of a grave. The flowers were fresh on the stone.

"You mean the way you let the Horde and that feral woman destroy our villages and kill Dad?"

"We've already talked about this, Eren…"

"Yeah, and I don't care if she's your precious lost queen or whatever. She killed dad!"

Catra's breath hitched. This teenager. He had wrath in him. He was hurt and angry. He wanted revenge. It felt so familiar.

"She went to the Forbidden Zone," his mother answered. "She got her punishment."

"And now she's back with all the glory she could dream of and you all kiss her ass like nothing happened!"

"Eren!"

"Hey, kid!" Catra shouted. The two civilians turned around in surprise and reacted very differently at the sight of the queen marching towards them. The mother paled in horror whereas her son tightened his fists.

"Your Majesty!" the woman stuttered. She saw Angella behind Catra and looked like she was about to throw up. "Eren didn't mean it. I'm so sorry!"

"That's not true!" the boy raged. He locked murderous eyes with Catra. "I mean every word. You should have stayed in the Forbidden Zone and died."

"Eren, shut up! You're gonna get us in trouble!"

"I don't care! If I don't speak up, nobody will!"

"Nobody wants to insult the Queen of the Magicats," his mother protested.

"That's what you all think, but if you actually talked to people my age personally, you'd be surprised!"

"Eren," Catra just said. The kid stopped bickering with his mom and looked at her again. His angry face, full of pain, suddenly brought her back to darker times in her own past.

When she felt powerless under Shadow Weaver's abuse. When she was rejected by her comrades for no reason. When she didn't get the praise from Shadow Weaver she thought she would after winning a fight against Adora, after kidnapping Glimmer, after becoming a Force Captain... When she shredded Adora's pillow after she defected. When Hordak betrayed her.

Powerless.

The Horde and her own need for validation had rendered her powerless and hurt.

And she had done just the same to a kid she didn't even know.

"I…" she swallowed. Her throat was too dry. Eren frowned in confusion as he realized what Catra was trying to say. "Eren, I'm-"

"No!"

Eren darted towards Catra with a scream of rage. Catra was so surprised she couldn't avoid his fist. It connected with her face with a violent smack. Catra fell on her side. Her jaw was throbbing. It felt like it was about to explode. She grunted as she realized her shoulder had not taken the hit against the ground that well, either.

"Eren, you idiot!" his mother exclaimed.

Catra looked up. A mix of emotions was swirling in Eren's eyes-fear, ecstasy, rage. "You don't get to say sorry!" he shouted.

"Young man, that is enough!" Angella said severely.

Catra could see he was not listening. He couldn't focus on anything else but her. There was only him and Catra. Only him and the person responsible for the loss of his father. And he obviously wanted her to suffer as much as he was suffering.

But his anger and pain only met Catra's sudden, unbreakable calm. Her piercing eyes didn't show half of the remorse she should be feeling in his opinion, but Catra knew that if she showed pity he would only grow more upset.

Eren's hand hooked in his pocket to reveal a knife, unclasping in a metallic sound. Angella and his mother widened their eyes as Eren raised his weapon above Catra.

The magicat didn't give him the time to act further. She swiftly jumped to her feet, crouching to his knees' level. She swung her leg and swiped his feet off the ground. The teenager fell on his front, losing his knife in the process. Catra grabbed his arm and locked it behind his back, making sure it was firm but not painful.

"Let me go!" the teenager yelped, tears coming out of his eyes. His mother was a crying mess next to them, weeping in Angella's robe.

"Katriska, please," Angella pleaded.

When Eren stopped struggling, Catra finally spoke.

"Eren. I know you don't want to hear this, but I'm sorry."

He opened an eye to take a good look at her. The two other women stared at the magicat with an equal intensity. Catra didn't need to see their expression to know it was an important moment. The ex Second-in-Command of the Horde was finally recognizing her misdeeds.

"What I did was wrong," Catra pursued. "I took someone you loved. I wish I could undo the harm I've caused you and your family. But I can't. And I know whatever I do to make amends won't be enough for you. I understand that."

Angella was listening to her words with fascination. It wasn't how Catra wanted to show her feelings to her fellow queen, but she had to express them to this kid today. Even if it wouldn't change anything, even if it wouldn't ease his mind, Catra had to show she wasn't as heartless as people made her out to be before she became Katriska in their eyes.

It wasn't the grand apology the Rebellion probably wanted, but to Catra it was more important. It was a small heart-to-heart with a kid who'd been destroyed by the war. Just like that toddler Catra had saved in Mystacor when she had tried to escape. These moments meant more to Catra than any big ceremony.

She knew she would have to make one someday, though. A proper public apology.

"You think that's gonna change anything? I hate you!"

"I know."

"I'll kill you!"

The teenager was ugly crying, his voice raspy and desperate.

"I'm really sorry, kid. But I can't let you kill me today," Catra shook her head. "So let's make a deal. When the war is over, if you still hold a grudge against me, come and find me. Whenever you want, even in ten years. I'll be waiting and we'll settle this."

Eren's jaw dropped in shock.

"But this time, you'd better be ready, because I won't just disarm you," Catra concluded dangerously. "This time, I'll fight back."

She finally loosened her grip on Eren. The teenager stood up and eyed the queen warily. His mother hooked her hand around his arm and tugged.

Catra picked up his knife. She clasped it and handed it to Eren. He stared at the weapon, then back at the queen. Finally he put it back in his pocket. He glared at Catra, then followed his mother out of the graveyard.

Catra sighed and sat down, holding her aching jaw. Angella walked towards her.

"This was…peculiar," she said. "You do realize that you might face more of these young people after the war if this kid spreads your word?"

"Yeah, well," Catra shrugged. "I'll need something to keep me busy anyway."

She saw Angella's eyebrow raising. She was seeing through her, but she didn't comment, to Catra's relief. Catra was not the best at expressing remorse.

"Now may I show you why I brought you out here?" the winged queen asked.

Catra only nodded, not wanting to aggravate her tender jaw. She followed Angella through the graveyard. A lot of the stones looked recent. Catra assumed she probably was responsible for a lot of them… She averted her gaze, ears drooping, as she kept on going to the oldest part of the cemetery.

A name caught her attention on their way.

Micah. King of Bright Moon.

Sparkles' father.

He used to be a good friend of the Magicats, too. He'd died during the first war against Hordak after insisting on avenging her people. Avenging her, Katriska.

"Here," Angella broke her daze.

Catra found herself facing an old tomb. A very old one.

"What is this?"

"This is the grave of the fifth Queen of the Magicats. The only one who wanted to be buried here instead of Halfmoon."

Catra raised her eyebrows in surprise. She had never heard of a queen buried outside of Halfmoon. She squinted to read the degraded inscription.

"It's… Vikatriya 'the Warrior'. It's the queen who started the Endless War, right?"

"Yes," Angella smiled. "She had so many enemies it's a surprise she lived to be 150 years old."

"Why is she buried here?" Catra frowned.

"Because she loved the people living here. At the time, Bright Moon was ruled by a mad king. He was not my ancestor, thank the First Ones. I would be ashamed to have him in my family tree."

Catra bit her lip to avoid pointing out that Angella had no family to put on a tree except for Glimmer.

"Vikatriya was furious that Mystacor only tried diplomacy to reason with the mad king," Angella continued. "It was absolutely not working. The people were dying from starvation because he took all their resources. And no other kingdom lifted a finger."

"That's why she started the war."

"Yes. She and the Kingdoms of the South allied themselves against the mad king. In retaliation, he claimed it was against the ancestral rules of the First Ones kept in the Sacred Writings of Mystacor. They assert that wars and conflicts of any kind disrupt the flows of energy and hurt Etheria. That's why it's always been unnatural for us to fight or even mingle in other kingdoms' business. The mad king used the Sacred Writings to convince people that Vikatriya would lead the world to destruction. Some kingdoms of the North thought it actually made sense, and-"

"And the war turned even crazier."

"Spot on. But Vikatriya didn't let go. She was so angry with everybody. So tired of the system. She wanted to change it all. Her stubbornness even earned her some enemies among the Magicats, who were tired of fighting a war for people who never would for them."

Catra's mind drifted at these words. Angry with everybody… Tired of the system... It reminded a lot of what she had felt many months ago, when Madame Razz revealed her prophesized destiny. Catra was so annoyed she had to fix the mistakes of their parents and ancestors.

She had been even more angry later when she'd realized she couldn't change anything until the prophecy was fulfilled.

"So she listened to her people in the end," Angella continued with the story. "She backed away a little. She kept protecting Bright Moon's citizens as best she could, but she stopped leading the main conflict. She lost hope and died hated by a lot of people, including some of her own."

Catra gulped. She didn't like how the story ended. "Why are you telling me this, Angella?"

"I wanted to show you that you are not the first controversial queen, and you won't be the last. But you shouldn't lose hope if you feel like what you are doing is the right thing. Your altercation with Eren corroborates my word. You are in a complex situation, but I know that you've found your path, even if I don't understand it quite yet."

Catra stared at the queen. Angella, the Immortal Being, the embodiment of knowledge and rightfulness…

There was so much she didn't know. So much Catra wanted to reveal right now. But she'd promised herself she would wait. First, defeating Hordak. Then they would talk.

"How can you be so sure that I'm doing what's right for everyone?"

Angella looked at her with surprise. "Because you came back."

"But… I don't get it."

"You found your past. You found your people. I trust the Magicats to want the right thing for Etheria, but even aside from that I know that you have changed. You're moving forward, Catra. You've entered another chapter of your own story. Being Hordak's Second-in-command was a terrible part of your life for us and for you, but it is so insignificant compared to everything you are and could be. It would be a shame to close the door to you now of all times."

Catra's eyes were as big as saucers. Angella's unwavering forgiveness and fairness made her uncomfortable. She didn't really know how to react to that kind of attitude. She preferred to face people like Eren. It was much easier to handle.

"You're so weird…" Catra huffed. "So you're giving me your support now even though you were so pissed earlier that I decided for you all that the Dissidents will get the Fright Zone?"

"I was displeased, it is true. But I understand why you did that. Both Halfmoon and the Horde are important to you. You wanted to be sure there would be a future for the people living there."

Sort of.

"I just wish you would trust us more," Angella said with a sad smile. "I can't blame you for being cautious, but we need mutual trust if we want to win this war together."

"We'll get there," Catra gave her a genuine smile. Angella liked it, she could tell.

"To end the story on a lighter note." Angella turned to look back at the grave. "Vikatriya was remembered as a very belligerent queen, but she was adored here in Bright Moon, and a lot of Magicats remembered her change of heart in the end. She listened to them and tried to do what was best for everyone she loved. She might have failed to stop the mad king and calm the tensions, but the people who loved her remember what she did right."

Catra averted her gaze in discomfort. She didn't want to think of what people would think of her, Catra, by the end of the war. They only saw her as Katriska now anyway. It was easier. Why look at the ex-Horde soldier who assaulted them, when they could see the returned queen, the savior, instead?

If only Catra hadn't ignored the pain she had inflicted on innocent people…

If only she had discovered her origins earlier…

If only she hadn't been so obsessed with winning the war against Adora and the Princesses...

If only Shadow Weaver hadn't destroyed her and pushed Adora and her against each other all their lives…

What the hell are you doing, Light Spinner?!

Catra blinked furi