It's been so long, hasn't it? Despite everything, you guys are still here and I'm thankful for that. I don't know what to do with this fanfic, whether to continue or simply abandon it, but whatever it is that I do, it will be my choice. The show and its fandom has taken a lot out of me but writing is still my passion, even if it was born from such hateful and toxic environments. So whatever it is that I do, I hope you all will understand.
Thank you for being here and wanting to read my dumb story, and I hope to see you all again soon :)
This wasn't how it was supposed to go.
It was a simple mission. A secret excursion with direct permission from her fa— superior, Lord Hordak. Retrieve the First One's relic and return unharmed. It should've been simple. She, Adora of the Horde, had trained her whole life and was prepared for anything.
At least, that's what she wanted to believe.
Getting the sword was easy. Adora remembered exactly where it was. But when the rebel archer and Princess appeared, followed by a giant monster, that was when everything spiralled out of control. Somehow, she accidentally teamed up with her enemies, escaped to an old temple of sorts and experienced her first magical teleportation.
The Princess made it look so easy. Suddenly appearing from one place to another in a blink of an eye did not go well for her stomach.
Despite the unexpected team-up, Adora was still adamant about bringing back the sword to the Horde. Unfortunately for her, the Princess had a similar idea and she did not like her odds in a 2v1. Thus, she was stuck with them until they let their guard down.
It was... a learning experience. The rebel bowman was so casual around her that it was somewhat uncomfortable. They were enemies; putting your guard down was just asking for a kill. Yet, she stood her ground. Now was not the time.
At Thaymor, she experienced her first party. Oh, Adora knew what a party was: a group of soldiers sent out to do a specific mission, like hunting some escapees or looking for resources or even, on the rare occasion, diplomatic missions. The party in Thaymor however was nothing like she'd ever seen.
She ate cake, pet a horse, danced around and even met friendly people — a rarity in the Horde! She was so happy, she felt like she didn't want to leave.
But she had to. Adora of the Horde had to.
Before she could leave with the sword, Thaymor was suddenly attacked by her allies. Oh, how could she have forgotten? Adora was supposed to lead the invading troops onto Thaymor, a rebel supply depot.
But this... This harmless town was nothing like that.
This was wrong. The Horde doesn't attack innocent people. She trained her whole life to ending the tyranny of the Princesses. The Horde was supposed to free the people of Etheria, not rule over them.
Was she wrong? Was Lord Hordak wrong?
The next ten minutes were a blur. Catra had taken her role and Adora was forced to use the sword to push back against the invading forces. She had rebelled against the Horde, her home. She had fought back against her best friend, Catra. She, through her actions, had rejected her leader's will.
Adora of the Horde was no more.
Now it's just... Adora.
"Hey... You okay?" the Princess named Glimmer asked, looking concerned. Understandable but pity was the last thing she needed.
Adora groaned. Here she was, sitting on the ground, backside on the wall and her arms wrapped around her face. The accursed sword stood beside her, stabbed into the ground like how she found it. What was she going to do now?
"You want some cake? There's still a slice left that wasn't stepped on." Glimmer coaxed, dangling the plate right in front of her. The Princess knew very well that she liked cake. The Horde apparently wasn't lying about Princesses using unusual forms of torture.
"Glimmer?" Oh, it's the other rebel. Quiver, was it? "Did you find Adora— oh, there she is."
He stared at Glimmer holding the cake right in front of Adora, confused. "Uh, what are you doing?"
Without looking up, Adora sighed. "She's trying to bribe me with delectable desserts."
The boy gasped. "GLIMMER?!"
"I WAS NOT!" she argued, flustered. "I was trying to cheer her up after she ran off with the sword. I mean, she liked cake so why not bring her some?"
"What's there to cheer me up?! I betrayed the Horde: my people, my friends and my father! How am I supposed to be happy about this?!" Adora yelled to the sky, distraught and stressed out. Her once well-kept hair had strands all over the place. She sighed, her body slumping down like mush.
"Oh First Ones, he's gonna be mad at me for sure... I'll still take the cake though. But I won't be happy about it."
The cake was good but it was also a lie. A sweet lie that she told herself. Thaymor was her responsibility; had she known that it was a harmless village, she would've pulled back on the attack. Hordak always told her about power and that with it, you can do anything. She had the power but she threw it all away for an old sword and some visions from a creepy ghost lady.
Why was Thaymor even a target? Hordak should've known it was a civilian outpost, or maybe he didn't. He couldn't possibly keep up with every small thing in the Horde. Maybe an order lost through the hellscape that was bureaucracy? Was this the same with the other destroyed villages? She didn't know.
Adora took a bite. The cake was delicious.
Well, she can't go back. Catra would be forced to tell Shadow Weaver about this and in turn, tell Hordak. By the time she got back, there'd be a whole squad ready to arrest her. That's just how the Horde worked.
"So, we're thinking of bringing you back to Brightmoon. You know, since you're She-Ra and all." The boy rebel explained. "Don't worry, me and Glimmer will try our best to get you a place to stay."
"Yeah and you'll love it there! Brightmoon is like the best place to be. Me and Bow grew up there and can show you around."
Oh, his name was Bow? He'd like Catra. Their naming sense fit.
Adora sighed in defeat. Not like she had much of a choice on the matter. Plus, gaining insight into Brightmoon's inner workings could immensely help, should she ever decided to go back. These rebels may be nice to her but they're still rebels. She can't just throw away years of studying and expectations down the drain.
Additionally, it's best to keep her relationship with Lord Hordak a secret for now. If being part of the Horde was a death sentence in the rebel's barbaric laws, then being Hordak's ward was way worse. It could mean multiple death sentences! She didn't know how that worked but when involving magic, it could mean anything!
Adora took another bite. The creamy sweetness quickly calmed her down.
"I'll come but not because you bribed me, okay?! You gave me this cake and I accepted it without any payment! So I don't owe you two anything!"
"For Etheria's sake, it is not a bribe!"
Too long. It had been too long.
The retrieval mission was supposed to be only a few hours. Adora did not have the supplies needed for an excursion that lasted over a day. Even with complications, she should've arrived on base by now. He'd know; he had Imp on watch.
But when the magicat appeared before him, that's when he realized; something had gone terribly wrong.
"She betrayed us! She betrayed the Horde!"
Those words pierced through him, sharper than any weapon. He felt the urge to threaten the cadet for conveying him such impossible information and falsifying records but her bloodshot eyes and wet cheeks did not lie.
She... has left.
Keeping his expressions steady, he ordered all to exit his sanctum, leaving him to think on his own. Sitting on his throne, a slew of harsh emotions flowed through him. His thoughts were muddled and his heartbeat irregular, like swimming in thick oozing tar. He had not felt like this since... his exile.
Old memories resurfaced, many he was fond of. Looking back, he saw the numerous interactions he had with Adora, even the very minor ones that he'd forgotten. How his interest in her stemmed from her non-Etherian blood but into something he was unfamiliar with. He felt pride in her successes; a testament to his own, and disappointment in her failures — much like many of his.
Was it a mistake to nurture her? To allow her a chance of survival?
Hordak scoffed at such thoughts. No, this was a calculated risk. She was an investment that almost paid back tenfold. Just a few more days and she would've been the Horde's greatest commander.
An unprecedented factor has been involved. Or more precisely, an obvious factor.
Hordak's fist tightened. The answer was literally told to him. Had he paid more attention, he would've avoided this. Instead, he took a risk by allowing Adora to retrieve that First Ones' relic. How sloppy of him.
Still, he was curious about this sword. It had the ability to place visions directly into Adora's mind. For a young inexperienced soldier like herself, it may seem like magic or fate.
For Lord Hordak, leader of Etheria's Horde, however...
For now, he ordered her desertion to be kept secret. For now, he needed more details of this sword, which meant he'd need to get a closer look at it. Someone who could get close to Adora while he stayed in the Fright Zone.
Catra, was it?
Adora knew Glimmer was a Princess. That itself was pretty obvious. However, what she didn't expect was Glimmer's mother to be the leader of the Rebellion; the most dangerous person on the planet.
Needing some space, Adora climbed out of the castle window and towards some empty space nearby. She really wanted to run back to the Horde but there are several problems. One, she didn't know how to get back. Two, she was still somewhat afraid of the implications regarding her betrayal. Finally three, she didn't want to be scolded by Hordak.
He never did scold her before but the idea scared her.
"Stupid sword... Stupid magic... Just... Argh!" Adora yelled in frustration, lifting the sword up to chuck it away as far as she could. She paused and with a deep breath, she stopped herself.
"Hah... And why can't I just throw you away?" she asked the sword. The relic remained silent.
Everything went by so fast. All she wanted was to clear her head so she left it to a nearby clearing. She tried to transform again but instead, she turned a nearby horse into Princess Horse. One thing led to another and now, she was on the run. Again.
According to Shadow Weaver, magic and science were just two sides of a coin. The difference was how people utilized them. Adora might not know much about magic but there were perks growing up with the Horde's top scientist/engineer/inventor/etcetera. She thought she could figure it out but instead, it got her into more messes.
After what felt like hours of walking, Adora somehow found an abandoned town of sorts. At the far end, a tale spire stood, more ancient than anything around her. It looked a lot like the First Ones' temple from before and had it been the same place, she would've mistaken it as so.
She contemplated turning back. She didn't want to get into more messes.
At that point, she met an old lady named Madame Razz. A weird old coot living in the forest all on her own, Adora simply thought she was just some crazy person. She kept even calling her Mara.
That was until she talked about the sword.
"You're not my Mara, I know. You don't know who Madame Razz is. You're not quite the same. Her time has passed and now, you have the sword."
This weird lady had answers. Answers that she had been searching for. So Adora did the one thing she could and followed her around. She kept trying to ask for more information but Madame Razz was a crafty one and kept talking about something else.
In the end, they went a picked a few berries. The ones on top of the spire looked the ripest but activating the First Ones' structure was unintentional.
"Are those... stars?" Adora muttered in disbelief as she stared at the twinkling lights in the sky, formed by the spire.
"Oh, stars! We used to watch them right here, underneath the night sky! Do you remember, Mara? Ah, but they're all gone now. So long ago."
Staring at the stars, she felt a familiarity with them. Like she had seen them before, many years ago.
Little Adora stared at the large piece of paper in front of her. It was old and looked as if it would tear apart with the slightest touch but the drawings on it were far more detailed than anything she had ever seen.
"What are you doing, child?" A gruff voice spoke from behind. Startled, the young girl turned to find Lord Hordak, leader of the Horde.
"I was just looking! I swear!" she pleaded, waving her hands frantically.
Hordak, possibly confused, raised a brow. "Do not swear if you are telling the truth. To do so is to prove your innocence by admitting your guilt."
Adora, arms down, stared at the floor and away from his harsh gaze. "Yes, sir. Sorry, sir..."
Hordak walked forward, gently through her, and looked at the object of interest. His eyes widened slightly. Had he left it out in the open? How unbecoming of him.
"I see you found my star map," Hordak exclaimed, rolling the map carefully. "I need not tell you that it is sensitive information, yes?"
With a smile, Adora nodded. "I won't say anything! But uh..." Adora leaned slightly. "What's a star map?"
Hordak paused. He wondered the best way to explain it to a child, especially one of unique circumstances such as herself. "A star map is a map used to navigate across galaxies, from planet to planet, system to system. As the universe is large, there are many star maps for different sectors such as this."
Adora listened to every word and out of curiosity, she asked. "So those points, they're stars?"
In response, Hordak nodded. "Cool... I've seen them in my dreams. I think they're pretty."
"They are gigantic spheres of electromagnetically charged gases burning at temperatures severe enough to vaporise stone and you find them pretty?"
She laughed. "Yeah! I don't know what those mean though."
Hordak hummed. He didn't understand her but neither did she to him. And that was fine.
Adora blinked, snapping herself out of her trance. She was so preoccupied with the stars above that she forgot where she was and how she was not alone. Slowly, she lowered Madame Razz onto the ground and while confused and dazed, Adora shook her head, a futile attempt at clearing her mind.
"What is happening to me?"
Spontaneously like a burnt lightbulb, the light flickered and disappeared, leaving the sky bare as it always been for many years. Madame Razz frowned and sighed.
"There goes the stars again. Where did they go, Mara?" she asked, picking a berry off the ground. She plopped one into her mouth before giving another to Adora. "A berry for your troubles."
"Oh no, it's fine. Thank you." Adora replied with no disrespect. She sighed, still unsure. "You brought me here for a reason and you definitely know something about the sword. You have to tell me!"
Madame Razz shrugged. "What's there to tell? The sword was always yours, Mara." She pulled Adora, basket included. "Now come! That basket is still empty!"
Adora wanted to refuse. It seemed like a waste of time.
Yet, she didn't. And she figured out why.
She knew of the Horde's attempts at expansion. Many tries and many failures. The Whispering Woods was not easy to break through with roots that dug deep, holding up mighty thick trees and monsters that lurked within the foliage. Even the borders themselves were dangerous.
However, looking at the scene in front of her, the empty dead fields full of abandoned and broken war machines, she started having doubts.
"Wicked men destroy what they cannot control. The Princesses used to protect us but nowadays, they stay in their castles, only protecting themselves. Meanwhile, the Horde creeps ever closer, bringing ruin and leaving nothing behind."
Adora's grip on the sword tightened. The Horde she knew existed to bring peace and order to Etheria but at its current state, all it would do was bring destruction on both its enemies and itself. Ruined lands would not grow crops. Ruined lands cannot house workers, soldiers and their families. She had no doubts about Lord Hordak, she truly believed him. But the alien warlord was just one person. One dying person.
Hordak was not immune to mistakes and he rarely asked for help. If she was to do what was expected of her, as Adora of the Horde and She-Ra of Etheria, she needed to rectify these mistakes. She needed to save the Horde from itself.
In the distance, she saw a small but not insignificant Horde outpost. She knew what she had to do.
"For the honour of Grayskull."
One promotion later, Hordak was once more left alone in his throne room. With Adora now... gone, that meant someone else had to fill in her shoes as the next Force Captain. Catra Applesauce Meowmeow, despite her infamous record, was the closest to Adora and among the cadets, one of the best physically.
The first task at hand was to figure out where Adora was. He at least knew she'd be somewhere in Brightmoon, behind the Rebellion's blasted natural defences. But according to Catra and the soldiers from the raid, she had transformed into some sort of Princess. Most likely due to the sword's influence.
Unless the Rebellion were cowardly, they would never let such power sit around and rot. They'd send her out soon.
Until then, he shall wait. The opportunity will come.
It took her about two tries to finally destroy the Horde outpost and save Princess Horse, or apparently Swift Wind as it preferred to be called. It made her feel horrible, being forced to fight against her own people, but it needed to be done. They may hate her for it now but they'll have to accept it. She's doing it for their sake just as much as Etheria.
Through her actions and being vouched by Glimmer and Bow, Adora swore the name of She-Ra to the Rebellion but not her own. Not yet. She cannot put such fealty to a group she just met. Their cause may be just but to what extent, she didn't know.
Her first mission was a simple relief effort for the Kingdom of Plumeria. Unlike other kingdoms, Plumeria stood the closest location-wise to the Horde and was once a member of the Princess Alliance. She recalled its Princess having the power to manipulate plant life and would act as the first-time defence; a wall that protects all kingdoms on land. A formidable foe against the Horde.
When she got there, Adora couldn't help but felt disappointed.
Okay, so maybe entering the kingdom in her She-Ra form was a tad too much. She just honestly liked feeling that powerful. After all, when would she ever have the chance to lift a fully-stocked cart with one hand? The answer: never.
But using magic? That was too much.
Hordak was never the kind to dabble in magic and following his example, neither was she. She read the reports regarding Shadow Weaver before, how her powers stemmed from magic. She was like a Princess and even acted like one. Well, that was before she met actual Princesses and realized Shadow Weaver was nothing like them.
Oh, and also there was another Horde outpost by their borders and was slowly encroaching on them. Queen Angella of Brightmoon forbade being directly involved and the Plumerians were so pushy about She-Ra saving the woods that protected them.
Hordak did not teach her to lie.
"My real name is Adora and I'm sorry, I don't know how to heal your Runestone."
It hurt to tell the truth but someone had to. These people were living in a fantasy because they were afraid of reality. It was slowly killing them. If they wanted to save their kingdom, then they must fight back.
It was peaceful.
One rarely assumed that the Horde was anything close to peaceful but like any civilization, it had its days. Soldiers stood by their posts, technicians with their routine maintenance checks, logistics crews transporting vital supplies across the Fright Zone, etcetera. Peaceful did not mean festive: just calm.
It's funny. Hordak had become so accustomed to his walks. Initially, it was simply to monitor Adora's growth at the nursery and training halls. Now, he simply did them on his own accord. He even went on walks in places Adora didn't frequent, occasionally bringing her with.
There were advantages to this. Primarily, he was able to see first-hand how these areas were doing. Usually, he'd read reports by the supervisors and act accordingly. The secondary advantage was showing Adora the processes that kept the Horde functioning. Every worker, no matter how low their position, had their purpose — a sentiment not shared by a few Horde officers apparently.
Hordak made quick work of them.
At the very least, the Fright Zone citizens seemed to also appreciate his presence. He did not care much of what they thought of him but if it brought them ease, then so be it.
Hordak breathed deeply in and out. He still found the air on this wretched planet to be unclean but after so many years, his lungs had adapted somewhat.
"Shadow Weaver," Hordak exclaimed, watching his citizens below the deck. From the shadows, his dubiously faithful second-in-command strolled out and bowed. "What news do you have for me?"
"My lord, I'm afraid I have some bad news." Shadow Weaver began. "The outpost near the kingdom of Plumeria has fallen. Reports say that it had received reinforcements from Brightmoon. I fear we are witnessing the revitalisation of the Princess Alliance."
His glare intensified. He had not heard of that name for years, not since he banished Brightmoon's king to Beast Island. However, a bunch of younger Princesses was not his main concern.
"Was She-Ra among them?" He asked.
He would not call that parasitic blade Adora. She-Ra was a taint that brought harm to his ward and once he has sufficiently researched it, he would make sure the First One's relic to never come to being.
Shadow Weaver flinched, then nodded. "Unfortunately, yes. She had personally led the charge." She then turned upwards, a hopeful look in her eyes. "Sir, if I may, why not let me retrieve Adora? I assure you that I can get her back. Despite the reports, she still has a purpose to the Horde and with the sword, can become a valuable asset."
And have her bewitch Adora to do her bidding? Not a chance. Hordak knew from the start how Shadow Weaver viewed the non-Etherian girl. Many attempts had been made to pull her to the witch's side but Hordak always stood in the way. Adora may look up to Shadow Weaver but not as much as she'd like.
"No." He said, frankly. "Your place is in the Fright Zone. I will not have you wasting your time on a task someone lesser can attend to."
"B-but sir, I do not need to leave the Fright Zone! With my magic, I can—"
His eyes glowed and instantly, the room grew cold. "I do not wish to repeat myself, commander."
Fear shivering down her spine, Shadow Weaver nodded and retreated back into the darkness where she belonged. He hoped that was enough of a deterrent against her will. While it was true that Shadow Weaver might be able to capture Adora quicker, the risk of her poisoning her mind with his back turned was far greater.
Unfortunately for Hordak, Shadow Weaver was somewhat of a sore loser.
"Give me that sword!"
Salineas, the kingdom whose domain stretched as far as the ocean touched, was a lot less grand than it looked. With the towering buildings and the intimidatingly large weapon called the Sea Gate, one would assume the kingdom would be a bustling hub of commerce.
However, it seemed that the Sea Gate was slowly weakening for many years now and due to the increasing paranoia, many of its citizens left to other places. Well, 'many' was an understatement. The only people left in this city that dwarfed even Brightmoon were its Princess and a sole guard.
This was Adora's first time at the ocean. She had never seen so much water before. Apparently, you can't drink it either so that explained why no one was simply pumping water straight out. The Horde had plenty of water due to its deep reservoirs but the Fright Zone was not a nice place to be. Even before the Horde's arrival, the area was lifeless.
It was only named the Fright Zone after the Horde. Propaganda at its finest.
Getting to Salineas was easy. All she had to do was arm-wrestle some moustachioed weirdo and fought an ocean beast. Once there, however, that was when everything became more complicated.
Salineas apparently had the same problem as Plumeria; its main defences were broken which meant Adora had to fix it with magic. Thankfully, she actually knew how to do it this time since whoever designed the Sea Gate conveniently left some instructions in the form of First Ones' script. So all she had to do was turn into She-Ra and magic the Gate up. Easy, right?
Wrong. Catra was also there.
She had to admit, seeing Catra again was something she did not plan for. It was a bridge that came way earlier than expected and now, she was forced to cross it, however that saying went. Catra had also been appointed as Force Captain, most likely to replace.
Seeing that badge somewhat hurt.
So while Glimmer and Bow handled her other friends — at least, Adora hoped they were still her friends — that left her all alone and unable to protect herself. Catra said a few hurtful things and was adamant about taking the sword.
Which was exactly what was happening.
"If you don't let go of that stupid sword," Her claws extended. "Then I'll take it myself."
She kept saying that, confusing Adora. Why would Catra care about the sword? Was it because of Lord Hordak? He was the only one she told about the sword, not including Catra.
The thought made her worry.
Suddenly, a wave appeared and splashed Catra off the platform and into the ocean below. Adora almost screamed, had she not been too preoccupied with the Sea Gate. The Princess Mermista then appeared, wielding a trident.
"Y-you came!" Adora exclaimed, both shocked and happy.
Mermista scoffed. "Yeah, well, it's my kingdom and if you guys are going out of the way to fix it, might as well help. Also, you turning into a big buff lady kinda convinced me."
Adora nodded understandingly. Muscles were very good at convincing people. And at the rate of things, she was just about done. The citizens of Salineas could finally return home, safe and with their families.
Her mouth quivered.
""Morning, Chief Instructor Cyron!""
The Nursery, a special institution designed specifically to nurture and educate younglings of various ages. Hordak stared at the complex in front of him. He had unintentionally wandered here once more during his walks and saw the area from afar.
He had commissioned for its construction many years ago, back when Adora barely knew how to speak. He realized that he could not invest much of his busy schedule supervising her and thus, had an entire sector focusing on their development. It would've been wasteful to simply build it for her and so, the complex was shared amongst her peers.
Ever since Adora graduated from junior to senior cadet, there was never any reason for him to visit. Yet, he allowed the nursery to stay. If such an institution was beneficial to the Horde, why remove it?
Hordak walked into the main building where most of the children were held. During their developmental years, the younglings stayed in kindergartens and watched over constantly by the caretakers. After that, they'd enter school and officially became junior cadets. They would still spend most of their time at the Nursery but their training had begun by this point.
His steps were not loud but his figure was distinct. Even the shadow cast across the halls was enough to garner attention. The instructors, upon immediately seeing him, straightened their backs and saluted. He paid no heed for it was only natural. It was a waste of time to acknowledge every single salute.
He was, however, allured by the cheers of children.
The large doors at the end of the hall slid open and at the other side, rows upon rows of young junior cadets stood with their chests high. The sudden noise alerted both cadets and instructors. Much like before, the lax teachers immediately changed their posture – a way to show their discipline. It would've worked, had he not seen prior.
"L-Lord Hordak! What a surprise!" said the chief instructor. Cyron, was it? "We were not expecting you, sir!"
Hordak grunted a response. He examined the cadets, each one destined to one day serve the Horde with their skills. The cheers had stopped the very moment he entered the space and was abnormally quiet.
"These cadets… They are to graduate and become senior cadets, is that correct?" Hordak inquired. The chief instructor nodded, avoiding eye contact.
Hordak hummed. The cadets, he did not know much about them. Hopefully, they lived up to their potential and training but should they not, then the only blame was its insufficiency. Still, it's been a while since he watched a cadet's long-awaited graduation. He had only ever seen the ceremony once and it wasn't even the first graduating class.
Silently, he glanced at the chief instructor, prompting him to continue.
He had only ever watched the graduation ceremony once before. It was the only one that mattered.
Dryl, a relatively small kingdom known for its mining and technology development which supplied various nearby kingdoms with precious metals and its subsequent products.
Adora had read about it from the many reports she was forced to study during her time as a senior cadet. It's said that the technology developed there were top-of-the-line, even capable of rivalling the Horde. Due to its location being so close to Brightmoon, it was impossible to invade despite the advantage gained.
Thankfully, Dryl did not supply any kingdom with weapons, only quality-of-life improvements. If Adora had to guess, it probably held the same stance as the rest of the planet: isolationist behaviour and distrust against science, leading to their magic-dependant lifestyle. Still, the fact that it could've supplied the Rebellion with powerful weapons was a dangerous thought, especially since it was able to put the Horde on a standstill with only magic princesses.
She also learned several new reasons to hate Dryl. For example, mazes and killer robots.
"Ggh, come… on… Adora! Urh, why are you so heavy?!" Glimmer shouted, dragging a very drunk-looking Adora across the floor.
Now, if Adora was fully conscious, she probably wouldn't like being treated like a bag of rehydrated cafeteria mush No. 2. Unfortunately, she was not, at least not entirely. Everything around her looked so weird and blurry, and her thoughts weren't straight-laced as they should be. Having trained her whole life, she could confidently say that she had excellent discipline. She'd even brag about it.
Was she really going to be beaten by some weird-looking veiny rock?
Not like that mattered though.
"I MISS MY DAD!" Drunk Adora shouted, tears pouring out of her eyes as she sniffled loudly. She really did try to keep it to herself but the evil rock made it really hard. "Hey, G-Guh-Glimmer, you ever miss your dad?"
Glimmer looked down sadly. "… Of course, I do. Why wouldn't I?" The princess of Brightmoon answered, followed by a sigh.
"Reeeeaally?" Adora stretched.
"Yeah, really. I miss him every single day." She replied. "When I was a kid, we used to sneak out together in the middle of the night and raid the royal pantry for snacks. Mom would get so mad when she found out but we'd just have a laugh afterwards. It was… a different time; a happier one."
Unbeknownst to Glimmer back then, the war against the Horde had existed for a long time. She was a child who didn't understand the world at large and her parents did their best to protect her from the cruel reality. It was tragic that her lesson was so abrupt and unexpected. It was only after the death of her father did she finally understood what was at stake.
Fighting this war, fighting the Horde, it was all personal to her. It was personal to many people as well. Yet, Queen Angella kept trying to keep her out of it, no matter how hard she tried to prove herself. Maybe one day, that sentiment would change. Until then, Glimmer would keep trying, no matter how much it took.
Adora, who had not fully processed her relationship with the leader of the warmongering Horde and Glimmer's relationship with the Rebellion's finest general and wizard, snorted. "Hah, I bet your dad and my dad would be great friends!"
Oh, the irony.
Shadow Weaver had been awfully quiet recently…
She was hiding something. He could tell and he had a feeling it was related to Adora. While in his throne room, Hordak scratched his chin in deep thought. Should he interrupt whatever it was she was doing? A part of him urged to at least attempt something, seeing that the wretched witch's word was worth less than dirt.
Had she only have been more honest, he would've trusted her more. How fitting that her scheming nature would prevent her from earning his trust.
He did not need to say a word. With just a glance, Imp immediately understood his intention and crawled through the ventilation system. In a few short minutes, the creature successfully reached Shadow Weaver's personal room; the same place where the Black Garnet was housed. Connected by various wires and tubes, the Runestone helped provide power to the main facility, though not all of it.
Despite its importance, the room did not have any strong security. It was, after all, a powerful Runestone the size of a skiff. Even if someone broke in, what were they going to do? Steal it? Even the Horde had trouble trying to move the blasted thing.
Though while the Black Garnet had its uses, Hordak didn't like having it nearby. He'd seen the markings before and knew full well which species built them, which only fuelled his distrust of it. Still, it was an important part of the infrastructure, as much as he'd hate to admit.
Imp stared blankly from the dark vents, watching Shadow Weaver's every move. From hellish flames, she summoned herself an apparition of sorts and willed it away on a mission. And from the looks of it, the witch was able to view through shadow spy's singular eye.
Imp continued watching, especially when a certain ex-cadet was in view. Mystacor, huh…
She looked distraught…
For some odd reason, Adora received an invitation to a party. Now, she's only been to a few parties before like that village party with the cake and the tree party with the formerly-dying Runestone and flowery Princess Perfuma. However, she'd never gotten invited before. The first party was just her barging in while the second was inviting She-Ra.
She-Ra and Adora were completely different. One has a sword and big while the other did not and was not big. She needed to differentiate that.
According to Glimmer, the Princess Prom was an event that occurred once every decade and that only Princesses and equivalent were invited. It's a weird formality that has existed from before the Horde as a way for leaders to mingle and discuss politics. At least, it used to be.
Remember when she said she hated Dryl? Well, she hated here more.
Also, Catra was here, again. This time wearing a two-piece suit and an untied bowtie. Why would she even have a bowtie if she wasn't going to tie it? It's in the name!
And when was Force Captain Scorpia a Princess?!
While Glimmer was having her own issues and Bow was somewhere else with Perfume, that left her and the remaining undistracted members of the Princess Alliance as the only ones who could stop whatever devious plans Catra had in store.
So, just Mermista, huh?
"Hey there, She-Ra!"
"AGH!" Adora shouted. Having hid herself behind a nearby ice pillar, she thought her scouting position was perfect. Unfortunately, she was wrong. Turning around, she was face-to-face with Scorpia, eating some buffet food with her claws. "Scorpia? What are you doing here? A-are you distracting me?"
Scorpia huffed with a smile. "Nah, I got other stuff to do. Honestly, I was just interested. This might be the first time we've actually had a good one-to-one talk without throwing fists, or eh, claws."
"Okay..." Adora replied in confusion. "You were interested in me?"
The Princess of scorpions laughed. "Why wouldn't I? It's not always you get to talk to" Scorpia then leaned in to whisper. "the Princess of the Horde."
Horrified, Adora gasped with shock, recoiling away from the hard-shelled woman. "I AM NOT THAT PRINCESS!"
"Sure you are. I mean, it's not like that's a secret back with the troops." Scorpia exclaimed, taking another bite of the hors d'oeuvre. "I've always wanted to meet you in person. Two Princesses, just hanging out on some ready-to-collapse metal balcony, writing each other's military reports. You know, Princess things."
Adora wanted to argue but found her tongue twisted. Since she was under Lord Hordak's personal care, that meant she held a special position. She would've probably inherited his throne too once she got older. And that just reminded her that her caretaker has a throne.
Oh First Ones, was she always a Princess?
"I think I need to lie down..." Adora exhaled, feeling her whole worldview shattered for like the second time since her desertion.
Scorpia nodded sympathetically. "Sure, take your time. Hey, let me get you a glass of water."
Just as Catra planned, the Princess Prom ended with a disaster. Two of the rebels captured and the magical sword with her? Oh, how everything went so well. And Shadow Weaver thought she was brain-dead.
Hordak knew that the plan was orchestrated by the Force Captain but said nothing. A single success was not enough against countless failures. At the same time, putting Catra against Shadow Weaver would only be detrimental to the Horde. If she wanted praise, she'd have to grab it.
"Ugh, let me go!" Glimmer snarled, pulling her arms with all her might. But it was in vain as the magic was strong. A mere half-baked Princess like her could never stand a chance against the Black Garnet.
Hordak watched as the Princess struggle, having dismissed Catra prior. She was feisty, so unlike her mother. "Shadow Weaver."
"My Lord." Shadow Weaver answered, bowing her head in respect.
"I commend you on the capture of the Princess of Brightmoon. Queen Angella has been given until the morning's moonrise to surrender herself to our forces." Hordak praised but barely. She might have done something good but the weight of her past was still heavier. "Additionally, Adora is to be escorted back to the Horde unharmed. Do I make myself clear?"
Shadow Weaver nodded. "Of course, my Lord. I would never cause any harm towards the girl."
"See to it." He replied with a scoff. If she wanted to keep her hands, she better.
Glimmer growled, held back by her restraints. "She-Ra would never surrender to you! I know her!"
She-Ra. Again, that blasted name. His fist tightened to a grip. Even when they have the sword in their grasp, her name still echoed across these halls. After so many years, after all he had done, this Princess dared to think that she knew her?
"You know nothing."
To his eventual despair, neither did he.
Entrapta was… gone…
Funny, Adora had trained her whole life for this moment. The day she would successfully defeat a Princess. This was her purpose much like any other soldier of the Horde. Defeat the Princesses, conquer their kingdoms and bring order and peace onto their chaotic and barbaric lands. She should be celebrating with her co-workers and write beautiful reports to be recorded for the next generation.
This wasn't how it was supposed to go.
She had no co-workers; just allies. She had no reports to write; just stories to tell. And Entrapta wasn't just a Princess; she was also her friend.
Adora knew the Fright Zone like the back of her hand. She should've known which path to take, one that wouldn't have ended the way it did. How could she have been so careless? Was a part of her still part of the Horde? Had she subconsciously planned for the demise of a Princess?
This was her fault.
Pulling the brakes, Adora stopped the skiff dead on its tracks, causing everyone to lurch forward. With the sword in hand, she jumped off the vehicle and walked away, lost and unsure.
"Adora, what are you doing?!" Glimmer shouted in a frantic tone.
Adora sighed. She had fought in this war for only a few months and she was already so tired. "Didn't you hear? The Princess Alliance is over. It was a mistake to even try. And I," Adora paused, biting her lower lip in frustration. "I don't deserve to be She-Ra. Not with who I am, who I used to be. Right now, I'm not good enough."
"Why, because you were part of the Horde? Adora, please… You're more than that." Glimmer pleaded. She then winched as the Black Garnet's energy took hold. Another one of her many mistakes. All she could do was feel even more useless than ever.
Adora closed her eyes, holding herself steady. She can't break down here, not now. "You don't know me, Glimmer. If you knew the truth, you'd hate me. I'm sure of it."
Meanwhile, Bow looked at the two, unsure of what to say. Despite all the hardships they went through and the challenges they faced, Bow could've always tell that there was more than meets the eye with Adora and he wasn't talking about her being the legendary She-Ra. Adora had secrets, ones she could never tell.
He knew full well what that was like.
Jumping off the skiff, Bow grabbed a walkie-talkie and brought it to Adora. "Here." He said, handing it over. "At the very least, take a communicator with you. I know there are things you can't trust us with but if you ever need someone to talk to, just visit. You can always count on us."
She wished she could. She really did.
"Thanks," Adora replied with a smile, pocketing the device. Looking down in her hand, Adora stared at the sword. Even after all that's happened, she could never throw it away. Even Glimmer and Bow wouldn't let her.
But they needed She-Ra. Not Adora. And she knew this.
Once more, Glimmer winced in pain, even when safely strapped on the skiff. Had she truly mastered the power of She-Ra, she could've saved everyone and healed Glimmer. If She-Ra really was the hero of this tale, then that meant She-Ra could fix it.
There was no other option. She needed Light Hope.
She was so close.
Adora was always a strong-willed individual. He admired that about her and was proud of her insistence on moving forward, no matter the cost. However, for once in his life, he had wished it was the other way.
A week prior, she had broken into the Horde undetected and rescued her companions, including the Princess of Brightmoon. Through a well-placed diversion, they had succeeded in their mission, all right under his nose. It pained him to learn this. To think she was just within his grasp, only to be snatched away once more.
Hordak hated this backwater planet and its rebellious natives. All they've done was get in his way.
But it wasn't a complete success. Never would he have guessed that the Princess of Dryl would be left behind. The scientific mind that pioneered the many technological advancements in Etheria. What a prize it was.
Yet, the feeling lingered. Out of all the Princesses, Entrapta was one of the more valuable ones. But he could not bring himself to care. As valuable as Entrapta was, there stood someone else that mattered more.
"Force Captain, I give you full command over the Black Garnet. Do what you wish with it but bring Entrapta with you." Hordak ordered.
Entrapta looked at him and squealed. "Oh my gosh, the Black Garnet! I've always wanted to examine one of Etheria's Runestones but apparently, you're not allowed to touch it without permission."
Hordak rolled his eyes. Such an asinine law.
Shadow Weaver, however, disagreed. "M-my Lord, I find this decision to be very unwise! The Black Garnet is mine! You bestowed it to me!"
"And pray tell, what results have you provided with access to it?" Hordak hissed. "Princess Entrapta was able to decipher the Runestone's purpose in less than a day in what you've unsuccessfully done in several years. You have done nothing but waste my time."
He then turned back to Catra. "Force Captain, you may proceed."
Catra smirked, sharing a short glance with the despairing witch. "My pleasure."
To their surprise, black ethereal flames abruptly spewed from the ground, covering the walls with malicious shadows and breaking all nearby glass. The source of it all, Shadow Weaver, heaved loudly, the sheer scale of such magic straining her. "I HAVE WORKED FOR FAR TOO LONG! YOU WILL NOT TAKE WHAT IS MINE!"
The Black Garnet, the source of Shadow Weaver's magical power, was all she needed. A touch was all she needed. As the witch absorbed the Runestone's magic, empowering her to her very limits, Catra leapt straight at her, intent on ending it. Shadow Weaver, in her defiance, fought back with her newfound strength, throwing bolt after bolt towards the runaway cat.
While the two squabbled in dramatic fashion, Hordak watched the entire scene, unamused by it all. Shadow Weaver was far too attached to the Runestone and that attachment became her downfall. Once this farce of a battle ended, he would make sure that the witch would not see the light of day ever again.
It did not take long as shattered shards bounced off the metal floors, leaving the witch screaming in agony.
She made it worse. Somehow, she made it worse.
Blackened skies covered in red lightning and thick storm clouds, the very earth beneath them breaking apart in its seams and the once impenetrable Whispering Woods slowly reducing to bits. The entire world was crying in pain and she had caused this.
She didn't mean it.
When the temple didn't recognize her and Catra got in the mix, they were forced to relive their old memories. Adora wasn't sure what Catra saw but whatever it was, it's enough to push her off the edge and cause her to drop to her doom. Adora, on the other hand, experienced something else.
Life at the Horde was… difficult. Even though she was directly under Lord Hordak himself, the Horde was unkind to children like her. And yet, never once did she fall to despair. Catra was her best friend, Hordak was her father figure and the others in her class like Lonnie, Rogelio and Kyle were her team. She had all the support she needed.
But the memories showed parts she had forgotten. The overwhelming pressure of being Hordak's future successor, the constant vigilance and discipline she held to maintain an image and of course, Shadow Weaver in her entirety. Her life may have not been so bad but there were definitely ups and downs.
Living in the Horde was suffocating, she realized afterwards. Only when she left was she given the chance to express herself. But the path and sacrifice she had to take to achieve it… Adora wondered whether it was worth it.
The Horde wasn't evil. Even after all that's happened, she refused to accept that notion. It was a community built by undesirables. There were traits that truly scratched her deep but looking at it now, she understood why. All of them, barring the ones born there, were castaways and exiles. They're sad and angry people, betrayed by the world and left with no place to call home.
Adora cannot forget. This was her promise. From the first time she showed rebellion, from the first time she truly became She-Ra…
With the armies of the Horde approaching Brightmoon, she had no time to waste. Her sword lifted up high and her valiant steed Swift Wind nearby, Adora shouted the words of power. In her mind, only the promise she made remained.
She did not pick up the sword to save the world. She picked it to save her home.
"FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL!"
Brightmoon, the capital and base of the Rebellion. From the beginning of the war till now, this kingdom has been at the forefront of the opposition against the authoritative Horde. With the immortal Queen Angella as its leader and backed by powerful magics and Princesses from all corners of Etheria, it stood against the test of time as mighty as ever.
But with the death of the previous king and the fall of the Princess Alliance, Queen Angella was left a shadow of her former self. Brought down by grief, Brightmoon no longer had the upper hand and with each kingdom fending off for themselves, all the Rebellion could do was slow down the Horde's expansionist crusade.
For several decades, Brightmoon was the shining beacon of hope for Etheria.
That ended today.
"Gimme that." Catra hissed, snatching a megaphone from a poor lowly Horde soldier. Turning it on, she aimed it at the castle. "REBEL SCUMS! UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE HORDE, YOU HAVE ALL BEEN LABELLED AS ENEMIES OF THE STATE! USUALLY, WE'D BLOW YOU UP TO SMITHEREENS BUT OUR GENEROUS LEADER LORD HORDAK HAS GIVEN YOU A CHANCE OF SURRENDER."
Catra grinned, her vicious teeth exposed. "Give us the Runestone and pledge allegiance under the Horde, and you all get off scot-free."
Glimmer, in full armour and wielding her father's famed staff, gritted her teeth. Did the Horde really look down on them that much due to all that's happening? The Princess of Brightmoon, with all her pride, wouldn't accept that. Pointing her staff, she yelled in anger. "Why don't you kiss my butt?!"
Catra, slightly taken aback, only smirked in response. "You asked for it."
And with the first cannon fire, the battle was on. The soldiers of the Horde, carrying technological weapons from shock sticks to laser rifles, all charged forward. At the other side, brave soldiers of Brightmoon, wielding nothing but spears and bows, held their ground. If the Moonstone was destroyed or removed, then the kingdom was lost.
Adora— no, She-Ra tried her best to counter the assault. But there was only so much she could do. She was strongest, possibly even the strongest, but this was a losing battle from the start. Glimmer could not use her magic in battle due to her torture and Bow was quickly running out of trick arrows. And while the soldiers of Brightmoon were fearsome, there was little they could do against armoured infantry.
In addition, not every soldier available was here. A third was tasked with escorting the townsfolk away from the battle. Not only was it to ensure their safety but to ensure the legacy of the kingdom if they fell. So long as even one Etherian of Brightmoon lived, then the kingdom has not truly lost, even without the Moonstone.
Low on numbers, low on resources, a technological disadvantage, and on a defending position. Too many factors against them and She-Ra knew this.
Catra was baiting her, to keep her away so she couldn't protect the Moonstone. She knew this but she had no choice. There was no one that could handle her and thus, Adora had her hands full. Yet, she stomped forth and held her sword high. She would protect Brightmoon, even to her last breath.
But Catra wouldn't allow that. No, she wanted her to see the downfall of a civilization; to feel the pain of loss and abandonment; to have nothing left. Adora did not know what Catra saw in that temple that caused her to become this but she knew, it was all centred on her.
One laser shot the queen off the tower, leaving the Moonstone defenceless. Adora, weakened by her fight against Catra and the numerous trained soldiers, could only crawl in horror.
This was the end.
"I… I'm sorry…"
To Glimmer and Bow. To Brightmoon. To Etheria. To the Horde. To Catra. To her… father.
Or so she thought.
That voice! Adora looked up and to her surprise, it was two familiar faces: Sea Hawk and Mermista, riding on a tidal wave of justice! Not only that but her other friends also appeared. Perfuma covered the tanks with lengths of vines and beautiful flowers, stopping them in their tracks. At the same time, Frosta of the Kingdom of Snows also appeared, freezing the enemy in solid ice.
She was genuinely surprised to see her but Adora was okay with that!
The distress beacon was seen across Etheria. Every kingdom knew of their need and so they answered. For the first time, the Princess Alliance truly came together.
This was the end. She'd make sure of it. Lifting the sword, now turned to a shield, she shouted with all her might.
The battle went by quickly. So many things happened simultaneously and Adora was too caught up in the heat of the moment to notice. But with lifted spirits, it was not in vain. Through the power of the Princess Alliance and the sword in her hands, She-Ra cleared the skies and returned the darkness to whence it came, bringing back balance to the planet.
They won. Brightmoon won.
"WE DID IT!" Glimmer cheered, jumping into Bow's arms in joy. "We actually did it! And look, we're all so sparkly and powerful. I feel like I could teleport across the world!"
Mermista lifted her arm and flexed, smirking in delight. "You know, I can deal with all this. Feels really nice."
Adora smiled, watching as her friends celebrated. A victory for the history books, as they say. Adora knew there was more work to be done but for now, they can party as much as they wanted. They deserved it at the very least. Meanwhile, behind her, a cat crawled out of a flipped tank, bruised and exhausted. Seeing the cheers and the rainbow lights, she snarled with deathly intent, something the Princess of Power quickly noticed.
Adora walked forward, still in her regal She-Ra form, and lowered her sword. "It's over, Catra."
Catra, lifting herself with one arm limp, glared. "Is it?! HAH! Don't make me laugh!" She stepped forward, unbeknownst to the rest of the Princesses. "It's not over, Adora. It will never be, not until Brightmoon is destroyed and the rebellion falls! Not until I see the looks on your friends' faces when they find out you failed! THAT YOU WERE TOO WEAK TO SAVE THEM!"
She then spat on Adora's chest plate, a glob sticking off the metal. Adora, however, was unfazed. "I bet they don't even know the real you. About how from everyone in the Horde, you're one of the worst."
Adora said nothing. There was nothing to say. She realized that she couldn't change Catra's mind, no matter how hard she tried. They'll fight again in the future and maybe someday, even kill each other. She hoped that day would never reach. She hoped that she'll achieve her purpose first before that ever happened.
She couldn't promise that, much to her silent despair.
Glimmer, finally noticing the two Horde cadets talking, decided to intervene. "Hey, back off! Run back to the Horde, villain!"
With the Princess Alliance slowly grouping up, Catra cursed and ran off, her tail tucked between her legs. Under her breath, she promised to return with even greater numbers. She promised she'd make Adora's life a living hell as payment for making hers one.
Adora sighed. This has been quite an emotional day. "Hey, Glimmer?"
"Can you grab me for a second? I don't feel so good…"
With weakened knees, She-Ra transformed back to Adora and immediately fell forward, her sword slipping from her grasp. Everything felt so weighted and she couldn't stand straight. She always knew what she was getting into by accepting the sword and its responsibilities but she always had her doubts. Over time, the doubts became clear and her conviction strengthened.
Just… she never realized how much it would take from her.
She was just so tired…
"A-ADORA!" Glimmer shouted, her words sounding muddled. She could barely see through her blurred vision, her friends converging around her. All of them looked worried about her health.
She was safe and can rest, even if a small part of her was still at unease.
"So… You've failed." Hordak spoke, sitting on his iron throne. Below him, Catra kneeled, a firm and determined look on her face. Hordak himself looked unamused but anyone in the room could tell that he was far from simply unhappy. "How disappointing."
Entrapta, on the other hand, thought differently. "On the contrary, the experiment was a huge success! I know more about First One's tech than ever! This is just. The. Beginning!"
Indeed, that was a success. After realizing Entrapta's impressive skills and knowledge, he was banking on her research. Including her scientific mind, it was guaranteed that the Princess of Dryl would enhance the Horde to its greatest. And when it's at its greatest, then surely the conquest would end in their favour and her brilliant blue eyes would return to his side once more.
For now, all that's left was a certain cat...
She had skill and a strategic mind, something that the witch had tried to kick down. But after so many years, it fought back and prevailed. Such qualities were valuable and it'd be a waste to let it rot. She may have failed but Catra had her uses.
"Congratulations, Force Captain. While your mission was a failure, it has provided the Horde with useful information. It seems it was not a waste of time and resources." Hordak spoke. "Considering there is an open position due to Shadow Weaver unfortunate early retirement, I suppose someone will need to fill that role."
It was left unsaid as to who got to be the next right-hand man of Hordak. With Entrapta being too busy with her experiments and Scorpia lacking any achievements in leadership, that left only one person.
Catra smiled. "It will be my pleasure."
Weird; she didn't remember the barracks being this soft.
As her eyes opened and her blurry vision slowly turned clear, Adora found herself in a familiar room — her own. It definitely wasn't the barracks and despite the short time she's been here, it felt comfortable and safe.
Other than the hole in the wall, her room was spotless with every little trinket and decor meticulously replaced and cleaned. Surrounding her were numerous large and heavenly soft pillows, bringing her the comfort and support she needed. Nearby, her sword stood, leaning by the wall.
Upon a glance, Adora immediately remembered. The battle, Catra, everything! All of her memories rushed in like a torrent with every single detailed crystal clear in her mind. Her heartbeat began racing exponentially as she revisited the events of just hours ago.
And just as suddenly, it slowed down.
The battle... They won. She remembered that now. With the strength of the Princesses, they successfully repelled the Horde invasion and protected Brightmoon. In addition, the foreboding weather was banished till the ends of the planet, never to be seen again.
It was wonderful and she felt ecstatic. But then, a certain someone's words lingered.
"I bet they don't even know the real you. About how from everyone in the Horde, you're one of the worst."
Adora sighed. What she said was right; the Rebellion knew nothing about her. They thought she was just some random Horde soldier or an officer. They didn't know the truth and frankly, Adora wasn't sure whether they were ready for it either.
Still, she knew it wasn't going to be easy. She had come to terms with that. She just wished that when the time comes, she'd be ready for it.
But for now, she had time. And she wasn't going to waste a single moment. She wasn't sure how exactly but she'd figure it out and when she does, she'd bring a truce between the Horde and the Kingdoms. And only then, would she be able to stand alongside her father, proud of what she'd achieve.
That was a personal promise.
It was time to get to work.
"Adora, are you awake? I'm coming in." Glimmer said from the other side. Without even a knock, she opened the door and to her surprise, Adora was no longer lying on the bed unconscious. "Holy Etheria! Guys, Adora's awake!"
"Tch, it's about time."
"Oh, how wonderful! We were all so worried!"
"I didn't hold a single doubt in my mind. Such a strong woman would always prevail!"
"Who's Adora? I thought her name was She-Ra."
Eh, maybe work can wait.