Huntara is the strongest of the Crimson Waste. That’s the title she chose for herself because she had to. She has been raised by the Horde, made to value strength, both physical and mental, above feelings, and the living conditions of the Waste didn’t change her values that much, but in appearance only.
Because while playing this role, she never lied to herself about her own feelings. She hid them by habit, also she had no reason and no one she trusted enough to share those with. Both in the Horde and in the Waste, there were people who would use them against you. But even hidden, she swore long ago to care about those feelings to truly care about the people of the Waste and not become a second Hordak.
Feelings. They are hitting her pretty hard when she approaches the Ice Palace in the land of Snows. Frosta didn’t do things halfway. Huntara has heard stories about last Princess Prom but even the most enthusiastic description from Kyle tells her that it was nothing in comparison to what she is seeing now.
Kyle, Rogelio and herself, against her instinct she will argue, have their faces glued to the window of the carriage to appreciate the view. The Palace is visible from far away and shining with multiple lights. Standing in the middle of the flat, white land, the glowing mountain of ice is a beautiful and improbable sight, a beacon of hope in the middle of nowhere. If one would ask them later, none of the three would be able to tell how they arrive, got off the carriage and stepped inside, so their minds were captivated by its outside look.
And the inside doesn’t seem to pale in comparison. The walls are actually translucent since they are made of ice and the multicoloured lights shining out are also basking the interior of the building. They can see a glimpse of the ballroom already and it’s magnificent, already full of life as people are starting to arrive.
Upon entering, Huntara leaves the two guys and takes a side hallway that she was instructed to. The guards let her pass without question, relieving some of her tension. She is nervous. She. The strongest of the Waste. This feels as strange as thinking of the Waste full of trees! She chuckles.
She-Ra’s magic has done some of that, bringing the tree line farther into the desert, making oasis greener and bigger than they ever were. But the Waste is still the Crimson Waste and Huntara is still Huntara; she shouldn’t be nervous as she observes the thirty feet long corridor she has to cross to reach the room she is supposed to.
Huntara is the strongest of the Waste. Its ruler. Its leader. She has been arguing with Glimmer, queen Glimmer, for a few days now about what to do with it. She doesn’t want to change the place. It’s a refuge for those who feel left out, for those refusing complicated laws and manners. But she’s not a princess and Glimmer is trying to make her accept to turn the land into something brighter. The queen’s idea of bright is kind and appealing but even with the war over, Huntara believes that an oasis for people unable to accept that ideal is still needed.
She is the strongest of the Waste. Of course when it comes to strength, princesses and their magic powers are something else. Even Flower girl could lift a spaceship like it was nothing only using Cacti roots; that’s ridiculously out of her league. But there usually isn’t any princess in the Waste, therefore her title holds and she won’t let anyone else dictate her ways. The only argument able to make her waver is about the kids. Anyone should have a choice to come to the Waste but children born there don’t have that choice. And Glimmer knows it by now and is pushing very hard to change Huntara’s mind using this.
But Huntara is still the strongest of the Waste and therefore the one in charge. Catra took her title for a time but she has long recovered it by now. She has absolute confidence in her physical strength, and she is fairly smart. At least she fights smart and knows enough of the world. She gained a lot of experience in both military in the Horde and diplomacy after.
She is the strongest of the Waste and right now everything she just thought about is completely irrelevant because it doesn’t help one bit to relieve her nervousness. She can be as strong as she wants, she’s both impatient and anxious at the moment. And she knows it’s normal but she doesn’t like thinking of herself as only normal. She is the strongest and she would really like if that could always put her above normal, but in this rare occasion, it can not!
Huntara is the strongest of the Waste and she’s also a girl in love. She probably should call herself a woman rather than a girl too, at her age, but that makes it even harder and embarrassing. She is nervous because in the room at the end of that corridor is a girl who makes her heart race and her emotions show on her face despite her strength and training. A girl she hasn’t seen in nine days, in person, trackpad comm simply isn’t the same, and that feels like way longer without logical reasons, and she is about to see her again in that foreign, crowded atmosphere.
Huntara is the strongest of the Crimson Waste and her anxiety vanishes when she enters the room and that girl smiles at her sweetly. For a moment she forgets about everything and stands at the door smiling back. She knows she is blushing, she knows their friends will make fun of them and she doesn’t care; she is the strongest, she can silence them. Also her girlfriend is pretty strong too.
Perfuma is standing behind Lonnie who is sitting still on a chair, to do her hair properly and adorn it with a few flowers. She hasn’t known the ex-Horde girl for long but it became quickly obvious that, like Adora and Catra, she isn’t used to dress up. She can do it, she looks really nice at the moment, but it’s all about the details, and thus the princess offered some guidance. Also flowers. Because a party should have flowers, even when you are under a mountain of ice, and a few coloured flecks along Lonnie’s dreadlocks really make a difference.
She suddenly notices that Lonnie is staring at the door, her smile getting so bright that Perfuma simply has to glance the same way too.
“Hey, hi Hunty!” Lonnie breaks the silence after that tender moment they shared looking at each other.
“Hi, Lonn’, hi Perfuma.”
“Good evening!” The princess cheerfully replies. “Give me a few minutes and she’s all yours! Do you want some flowers too?”
“Nah, I’m good.” Huntara looks around and sighs. The room is decorated with a lot of flowers, Perfuma’s room, and the princess herself isn’t lacking in them neither in her hair nor garnishing her teal dress. She glances at Lonnie again and shrugs but her smile stays stuck on her face. “Why not, but…”
Perfuma can guess she is searching for a proper way to say something along the line of not as flashy as yours while still sounding polite. “I can be reasonable.” The princess says softly.
“How was the trip? Did you manage to get along? I’m sorry I didn’t take my trackpad with me, it was supposed to be a short test flight, and I’m not used to have my own yet...” Lonnie starts a conversation with Huntara.
Perfuma half-listens while she finishes her task, curious but not wanting to feel that she is intruding between the two. When Lonnie is all set, the princess creates a little ribbon of coral cacti flowers and arranges it carefully in Huntara’s hair. Since Lonnie doesn’t have to stay still and seated anymore, she stands up and their discussion becomes more awkward and flirty. In her effort to respectfully not listen, Perfuma pointlessly wonders if it’s appropriate to use a marine term to describe the desert plant flower’s colour. She starts to walk out quietly as soon as she’s done when Scorpia dashes into the room, almost bumping into her.
The two pairs stand silently for a moment, each in their little world, frozen in time, eyes to eyes, until Lonnie finally chuckles. “Hunty, this is Scorpia, Scorpia, Huntara.”
“Nice to meet y-” Both start at the same time, making the two others laugh while they start again in turn.
“Sorry, I forgot something!” Scorpia tells Perfuma before she quickly opens a drawer to retrieve her earrings. She’s wearing her black dress again and puts on those carmine jewels that echo the colour of her carapace. “All set!”
Perfuma takes her arm and invites everyone to make their way through the short hallway leading to the ballroom when Lonnie suddenly sighs, looking at the other three. “Life is so unfair.” She says but still smiles while she points at her own height. Scorpia and Huntara are big, imposing, and while slender, Perfuma is pretty tall too, accentuated by the fact that she’s wearing heels. The thought is quickly forgotten though, as they enter the ballroom and instantly all of them feel small.
Perfuma is used to the open, used to the feeling of not having walls around her, only limited by the nearest line of trees, and making her feel the same when she is actually under a palace of ice isn’t an easy feat, but one that Frosta managed to accomplish in style. The ballroom is significantly bigger than last time. It makes sense; in the middle of the war, not all princesses were willing to travel so far, and this time it’s not restricted to princesses and their plus ones.
But making sense doesn’t always let you imagine the result and Frosta, often feeling that she has something to prove because of her age and height, didn’t restrain herself. Perfuma was already here in the morning too, decorating the place with flowers, but the ambience was very different. It was a fun and casual time with the Princess Alliance and a few extras, not yet a majestic party, and it simply didn’t feel the same.
Guests are arriving from all corners of Etheria and most of the power princesses are staying on the side for now, except for Glimmer greeting everyone to show off that she knows them, or at least pretend to, and Frosta sitting on her throne, waiting for each guest to come and greet her. She is smiling politely but her friends are almost certain she’s bored of it already.
Perfuma is calm and relaxed as usual, if not a little excited of course, but Catra and Adora’s arrival manages to startle her. Catra is wearing a long deep blue tight dress, covering her shoulders but otherwise sleeveless, the bottom is cut on both sides to let her legs free and partially showing, and she wears open shoes of the same colour, which seems to be the part she’s most uncomfortable with at the moment. The dress has a few little golden wing-like patterns, the same that usually adorns Adora’s belt, adding a touch of silliness that keeps people from staring too seriously.
Adora’s dress is mostly white, but the top is ample and without shoulders, revealing the same deep blue colours on the inside floating below them. A few giggles erupt among their friends. The dress has a trail of also golden shapes, crossing her chest from her left shoulder down to her right side and continuing in a spiral around her legs. Cat paw’s shapes. Perfuma giggles too. That’s beyond a touch of silliness but doesn’t prevent Adora to confidently walk and smile like she’s proud of it.
Then it clicks in Perfuma’s head. Catra looks adorable but she won’t be comfortable with that, therefore Adora made herself look a little more silly than necessary to have people stare at her instead of Catra. Also nobody will dare annoy the feline girl with She-Ra so obviously showing that she’s with her. Perfuma’s smile twists a little. The latter might not make Catra completely happy though.
“You look… you look great!” Scorpia’s voice suddenly gets Perfuma out of her thoughts.
“Thanks.” Catra answers with a grin filled with both happiness and nervousness.
Perfuma can feel her heart tighten. Jealousy. It’s a problem sometimes to analyse people so much. It’s good for helping them but it also means she understands her own emotions too well. She doesn’t have the luxury of basking in that vague bittersweet feeling, wondering what’s happening and hope. She recognises it instantly and she knows she shouldn’t act on it but it still hurts a little.
Scorpia has stars in her eyes as she tries to formulate a few other compliments to Catra.
Perfuma’s throat is dry, preventing her to speak her mind. She shakes her head slightly and walks away, to a far table to get something to drink. But she isn’t fooling herself for long and the excuse of thirst quickly vanishes. She knows better than speak her mind when she is disturbed by a bad feeling. She doesn’t want to make another mistake. She tries to breathe. It’s so much clearer and easier when she is helping other people.
Seeing Perfuma walk away, Catra decides to go after her and releases Adora’s arm. The princess flinches and looks at her with a slight worry showing on her face already.
“What are you doing?” Adora asks quietly to not get anyone else’s attention.
“Playing the princess for a bit.” Catra smiles and winks to reassure Adora.
Almost stealthily, before Scorpia even notices, Catra sneaks through the crowd and joins Perfuma near a drinks buffet table. The princess is trying to calm down, pretending that she is pondering what to choose but she is still visibly jealous, and upset at her own jealousy.
“I didn’t now so many drinks even existed.” Catra says playfully to start a conversation.
“Catra, I don’t want to talk right now.” Perfuma clenches her fist but that only encourages Catra.
“What, afraid I’m going to steal Scorpia away from you?” She retorts bluntly and grins.
“It’s.. not my problem. It’s not my place to tell her where to look. She has the right to do what she wants...” Perfuma hesitates. “It’s so unfair, haven’t you done enough to her already?”
“Yeah, right, like you can’t do anything about that.”
“Why are you acting like this?!”
Catra’s smirk drops, seeing the princess way more negative than she thought she would be. That didn’t work as intended. Unlike Adora or Glimmer, Perfuma doesn’t often get competitive, doesn’t bite and take challenges. Catra expected her provocation to force Perfuma to try and overtake her but the princess only got more cautious and defensive instead. “Cause you are wrong?” Catra replies more softly.
“I am wrong?! You think you know better than me what’s good for her?”
“Yeah. But it’s not easy for me to explain this all soft and smile like you though…” Catra looks away shyly and the gesture manages to throw Perfuma back into her more familiar role, back being the one helping others open up.
The princess takes a deep breath, closes her eyes for a few seconds and only once her calm is restored she speaks again. “Alright, how am I wrong?”
“I’m not good for Scorpia. I mean even if I didn’t have Adora-”
“Please don’t say that about yourself-” Perfuma can’t help herself.
“Get away from your therapy mind for a minute and listen to me.” Catra interrupts. “I like to lead, I like to be in charge. When Scorpia is with me, she follows like a pet and doesn’t decide anything. I’m not saying it would be all bad now that I care about her and all but that would be a waste. That’s not what she really wants, not what will make her most happy, that’s only a lazy way to forget about her problems. You know better than me how much she can do when she gets a little confident and tries things by herself.” Catra cogitates a little to phrase this like the princess would. “She needs someone who can make her better, not someone doing the better in her place. I can’t be that person, but you can.”
“That doesn’t matter if she chooses you!”
“Are you kidding me?! Are you blind or something? She’s practically begging you to look at her! I can’t help it if I’m looking good enough to distract her. Learn to be a little more distracting yourself!”
“I can’t do that.” Perfuma is conflicted and Catra can read it on her face. The princess is thinking that distracting Scorpia is the same as leading her.
“Sure you can!” Catra smiles mischievously and in a swift motion, she cuts Perfuma’s dress slightly with her claw to reveal a little more of the princess’ long legs and cleavage.
“That’s not what I meant!” The princess erupts while her face considerably reddens.
Catra laughs and quickly disappears in the crowd, letting the princess reflect on her own behaviour like she often asks Catra to. But the feline girl feels her smile vanish and she slows down, brooding over what she just did too, and by the time she joins Adora again, she is shivering, eaten by doubts. She grabs her princess’ arm and tries to calm down. Adora looks at her with concern for a second but smiles soon enough and pulls Catra a little closer.
Catra wanted to help. She hopes it helped. Perfuma is kind, nice, soft, but she has trouble sometimes with her stiff righteous boundaries. Catra only pushed her a little past them to help Scorpia, she tries to convince herself, then notices Scorpia is nowhere to be seen.
“Where is Scorpia?”
“She ran after Perfuma soon after you left.” Adora answers as softly as possible. Catra senses how her princess has no idea what’s happening but still is here ready to comfort her, using the contact of their arms to convey feelings and warmth without making a big public demonstration out of it.
Catra chuckles as her doubts recede. Maybe her help wasn’t appropriate or even needed but at least she’s sure she’s right. Perfuma fears to walk over Scorpia’s free will so much that she doesn’t look at Scorpia straight enough to notice that the scorpion princess is looking back at her most of the time.
And Catra might be a bigger distraction in this dress that she wants to admit, looking not only good but stunning and cute enough that even Frosta is glancing at her from her throne, cracking a smile, without that usual glint in her eyes telling she wants to punch Catra’s face, for once.
Catra relaxes a little, as much as she can in this situation. A lot of people come to greet Adora, well, She-Ra to be precise, and she hurt most of them. The ballroom is beautiful and looks very different than last time, but it’s still the same place. Her princess runs a hand in her short hair, the only part of her that is a little messy at the moment, not all tidied up for the party because otherwise it still reminds her too much of Prime. The gesture helps and Catra sees inside those grey blue eyes that Adora is trying hard not to worry too much over her earlier shiver, trying hard not to hug her tightly right here and fuss over it, and that helps too.
Catra observes her friends around her. She is allowed to call them that, right? At least for tonight? They look happy. Nervous, most of them, like her, but happy. She jumps.
“Aren’t you nervous surrounded by all those princesses?!” She asks Lonnie who is so perfectly calm that it’s weird. More relaxed than Adora, that’s a given. More relaxed then herself, seems easy at the moment. More relaxed than Kyle and Rogelio at her side, very visibly feeling out of place for now, the picture fits. But calmer than Huntara at her other side, or Mermista and Sea Hawk, already starting comfortably for the buffets, that’s a whole different story.
“I was. But I stopped.” The girl answers simply.
“Wha- what?” Catra’s eyes widen.
“Look, ten days ago I was trying to call Glimmer your majesty and you know how that ended. Then I met Frosta who didn’t even try to keep any royal manners other than being polite, and since she’s the only one you call princess, she glares at me when I do too, so I don’t. Do I need to talk about working with Entrapta?” She shrugs. “I don’t think so. Yesterday, when the other power princesses arrived and talked to me like I was their best friend already, I just stopped trying to care about princess manners. Tonight is simply more of them, right? Then there’s nothing to be nervous about.” Lonnie notices Catra looking at her arm, linked with Huntara’s. “Come on, most people here came as couples anyway. Relax! Tonight is gonna be fun!”
‘She’s been like that since she set foot on a starship!’ Rogelio growls and when his eyes meet Kyle’s they both smile fondly like it’s the best thing that happened to her since long ago.
“Please teach that to Adora? Being able to relax at will would really help!” Catra laughs while the princess rolls her eyes.
The ballroom suddenly becomes completely silent when Frosta and Glimmer step up to the little stage in front of the musicians and face the crowd. Catra sighs. Right, before they can all really have fun there are a few officialties to deal with.