The Twelve Apostates
Chapter 1: A Public Statement
An almost foreign feeling pervaded the landscape of Etheria. It was as though a seemingly endless nightmare had finally ceased. The Etherians stood triumphant over Horde Prime's all but shattered empire. Finally, peace had been established on Etheria. The world was now able to set out to rebuild itself and return to living rather than just surviving. Regardless of all of the laboriousness of the work the Etherians had performed, they were simply happy that there was no longer any fighting.
At least… most were happy.
Many, despite the peace that encompassed the planet, still maintained a bitter resentment towards the Horde that was under Hordak. Regardless of the role that he, Catra, Entrapta, Double Trouble, and many of the other Horde leadership played in the fight against Horde Prime, many were still enraged at the destruction that Hordak's Horde had caused throughout the many years before Horde Prime was even known of. Even more enraging was the fact that the Rebellion forgave Hordak's Horde and granted them all amnesty.
Although Etherians were generally a peaceful and forgiving people, there was one Etherian in particular that felt personally insulted by this lenient attitude. This is the story of that person...
It was a new day in Etheria. The sun was shimmering bright and early. Its rays, like fingers stretching across the darkened sky, brought with it a new day. Gradually, the sun filled the sky with its brilliance and a warm glow. Today marked one year that the war of Etheria was over, and to celebrate, everyone worldwide put on festivals, celebrating their still newly-found freedom and unity. As part of the original truce of Hordak's Horde and the Rebellion, Hordak and his followers were promised amnesty for helping liberate the planet from Horde Prime's control. As such, all were allowed to attend the festival and live their lives freely without any jail time or any other punishment.
There was one particular festival that was happening in Thaymore that the Best Friend's Squad were on their way to attend. They had returned from their long journey of spreading magic to the universe; (granted, they only made it to a few planets,) and they were long due for a rest. The four were being escorted in a horse-drawn carriage on their way to Thaymore from Bright Moon.
Adora and Catra sat next to each other while Bow and Glimmer sat side-by-side at the opposite end of the carriage. On the way, Glimmer and Bow were ecstatic about their return to Etheria. Catra was much less optimistic, however.
Adora took quick notice of Catra's dolefulness and scooted closer to her, putting her arm around Catra. Catra let out a slight hiss at this action. Adora pulled back and let out a slight shudder. Catra looked to Adora with a somber face.
"Sorry... Sorry..." Catra apologized, looking away. She then lightly grabbed Adora's hand and put it back on her own shoulder. Adora smiled and leaned in closer.
"What's wrong Catra?" Adora inquired.
"Is it the outfit? I told the tailor you wanted red!" Glimmer indicated, pointing out Catra's outfit. Catra was indeed dressed differently than her usual attire. She was wearing a burgundy-red skater dress. Donning her legs were black leggings that tapered down the feet, revealing her toe claws. Catra cocked an eyebrow at Glimmer.
"It is red." Catra declared.
"Well, if you consider burgundy a red, sure." Glimmer corrected. Catra eyed Glimmer suspiciously then shook her head.
"Whatever, never mind. Look, I'm just a little... I mean, I was the cause of so much pain and destruction... I don't think this world is ready to forgive me." Catra sighed.
"Aw, c'mon, Catra! We forgave you! If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't have been able to beat Horde Prime! You saved Adora, Glimmer, and this world!" Bow declared, pumping his hands in the air. Catra let a small smile occupy her face for a moment, but it quickly faded away. Adora then gently put her hand on the side of Catra's head and pulled her head towards her. Catra and Adora stared deeply into each other's eyes. A few tears began streaming down Catra's eyes and another smile crept onto her face.
"Catra, I love you." Adora indicated, "despite everything that happened, despite the things you did, you changed. You became a better person. If I can forgive and forget, so can everyone else." Adora said, pulling Catra's face closer and gently pressed her lips against Catra's for a kiss. The twinkling and tears in Bow and Glimmer's eyes shone brighter and brighter as they were touched by this moment.
"I love you guys, SO MUCH!" Bow declared, wrapping Glimmer in a hug. The group giggled at the emotions that were permeating the air.
"Thanks... Really, thank you." Catra said, rubbing her nose against Adora's nose. Adora closed her eyes and smiled. Catra then added, "alright, only one thing left to do!" Catra said, taking a swipe at her leggings, ripping several tears down the legs to the chagrin of Glimmer.
"Ah! What are you doing?!" Glimmer demanded.
"This is more my style." Catra grinned.
Meanwhile, the Best Friend's Squad makes it to Thaymore to celebrate and enjoy the festivities.
The festival being celebrated in Thaymore was an absolute blast! Everything you could want in a festival was there: Good food, excellent drinks, loud music, dancing, games with prizes, face painting, storytelling, and it only got better from there. Once the carriage stopped, the Best Friends Squad exited, and made their way into the crowd. Bow and Glimmer were exclaiming their excitement with a lot of 'woo's!' and 'yeah!'
Catra, although comforted from the ride, still ducked her head down in sadness. Adora held her close and looked around. They marched down a path with pavilions on opposite sides which hosted a variety of games and refreshments. At the end of the path was a row of seats in front of a large stage where the music was playing. Most people did not seem to even notice the four. That is, until a singer atop the stage shouted at them through his microphone.
"Hey, everyone! It's the saviors of Etheria!" The singer proclaimed. The sound travelled to the entire festival, and everyone within a hundred foot radius turned their attention to the four. Catra immediately felt her anxiety shift from her diaphragm to the entirety of her body. She began hyperventilating, thinking the moment of verbal reckoning was upon her.
But that did not happen.
Instead, the crowd began cheering and whistling at the four. Catra could hear their names:
"Look! It's She-Ra!"
"Don't forget about Catra! Thank you, Catra!" Suddenly the crowd began chanting their names in order: "Bow-ow! Glim-mer! She-Ra! Ca-Tra!" Catra lifted her head up in absolute shock, looking around at the crowd with all of their smiling faces. Her formerly frowning face started curving upward into a slow smile. Then she grinned. Then she closed her eyes and started laughing. She raised her fist into the air and shouted something she never thought she would:
"Thank you, Etheria! We love you!" Catra proclaimed. The other Best Friends Squad members began laughing and cheering in the air as well. Adora then whispered into Catra's ear.
"See? I told you. They forgive you. And now they love you." Adora whispered as she planted a quick peck on Catra's cheek.
This was an incredibly joyous experience for Catra. She had spent the majority of her life believing that everyone and everything was out to get her. She had to remain vigilant at all times so that those people could not hurt her. Because of the sociality that was engineered upon her, she had a difficult time feeling happiness. Joy was such a foreign feeling to her that when she did feel it, it felt uncomfortable and that she needed to push it away.
But she no longer felt that.
At this point in time, she had finally been able to understand what happiness is, and she was ready to embrace it.
And now, there was jubilance to be had with the festival. The Best Friends Squad tried everything. Catra won a large stuffed dragon for Adora by knocking over a stack of bottles. Adora won an eating contest. Bow made ten bullseyes in a row in archery. And Glimmer won a dance contest; (thanks to her ability to teleport.)
This is easily the most jubilance and fun that Catra had ever experienced. As they all sat down to eat; (minus Adora who was still recovering from the vast amount of food she had consumed,) Catra mused at all the good feelings she was experiencing. Yes, everything seemed to be going great.
...Until it was near the end of the night.
The light was getting dimmer as the festival was coming to a close. Most of the crowd was sitting in attendance of the stage. On the stage, various people; both former members of the Horde and Rebellion, were giving speeches and awards to those that had been instrumental in the fight against Horde Prime. Mermista had just gotten up to give a speech that went something like this:
"So, yeah, I mean, I was a huge part of beating the Horde. I mean, water is pretty deadly against tanks and stuff. But, yeah, it's been a long time rebuilding my kingdom, but it's like, whatever. We totally got this. Anyway, thanks for the trophy. Bye." Mermista said, dryly, as she walked away from the microphone. Almost as an afterthought she ran back to the microphone and said, "oh, bee tee dubs, Salineas is like, the coolest kingdom." After Mermista's resounding speech, everybody gave confused cheers and claps.
Next up was a former Horde officer. He went by the name of Grizzlor. He was a fearful tank commander that ground many towns into dust. Nevertheless, when Horde Prime invaded Etheria, he took up arms against the Galactic Horde. Once Horde Prime was beat, Grizzlor took a vow of penitence, spending his life from then on serving others and repairing all the damage he had caused. When he walked up to the microphone, he was revealed to have been dressed in a rather sharp tuxedo. He had combed and styled the mane around his head and even trimmed his nails.
"I, uh… Hello there." Grizzlor said, awkwardly, "I'm um… I'm not real good with speeches, but uh, I am grateful to be here." Grizzlor then looked around the crowd, took a deep breath, then continued, "but, uh, in case you all didn't know me, I'm Grizzlor. I was once a Force Captain for the… for the Horde." Grizzlor said, almost ashamed. He took a deep breath then continued, "but, yeah… I've done quite a few things in my life I'm not proud of. I'm really ashamed of all the towns I've destroyed and the… the lives…" A few tears started strewing down his face, "I can't even finish that sentence… I'm just so sorry. I'm so sorry for everything I've done."
The crowd replied to Grizzlor's apology with positivity. There were various 'aww's' and a few pockets of people were clapping. Grizzlor sniffled and choked a bit on a sob.
"Th… Thank you. I know I can't make up for what I've done… But I hope to spend the rest of my life making up for the wrong I did."
"Oh, you can certainly make up for what you've done." A distorted voice came from the speakers surrounding the stage. The audience and everyone on stage looked around to see who had just spoken.
Suddenly, a large screen began draping to the floor, behind Grizzlor. When the screen reached the floor, a projector turned on and began playing a video. The video seemed to be footage of Grizzlor being filmed from a Horde soldier's body camera. In the video, the Horde was assaulting a Rebel village. Grizzlor was leading a tank brigade into the village, firing upon the villagers' homes. The tanks rode in, crushing and obliterating everything in their sight, regardless of whether or not they were fighting back. Most horrifying of all was the laugh.
Grizzlor stood atop a tank and cackled like a demon taking pleasure in torture. A citizen ran by him to which he pulled out his energy baton and fired a green laser at the citizen, eliminating him. The Horde soldier whose body camera the footage came from was then tackled by an unseen figure. The person struck the soldier with a sickle, ripping open the soldiers throat. The image was dark so the face could not be seen, but the person grabbed the body camera and took off.
Grizzlor completely trembled as he witnessed the footage. More tears began streaming out of his eyes. He merely fell to his knees and began visibly shaking.
"N...N...No…" Grizzlor whimpered, "No!" He then shouted. The same distorted voice then came on again. Grizzlor turned to the left to see a cloaked and hooded figure.
The cloak was black and draped down to the ankles, covering the shoulders. On the figure's arms were fingerless gauntlets that were armored with plated steel. Under the hood, was a silver mask that was shaped like a skull in the Venetian fashion. That is to say that it was adorned in purple and silver decorations chiseled into the mask. Scratched on the forehead were three lines for an unknown reason. Finally, on the left shoulder was a pauldron with some First One's writing on it that seemed to have been crossed off.
"Who… Who are you?!" Grizzlor demanded. The distorted voice began chuckling as they moved closer.
"I am the one that will reap what you have sown." The figure said with a distorted voice. The figure, despite Grizzlor being large in stature, seemed to pick Grizzlor up with ease and unsheathed a sickle, sticking it right under Grizzlor's neck. The sickle had been serrated and had a hand guard on it, implying that it was created to be a weapon, rather than a farming tool. The figure then placed Grizzlor to face the audience and began speaking.
"Fellow Etherians, I hope that the presentation that was shown before you served as a reminder of the death and destruction that was wrought by the Horde." The figure's voice became much more sinister, in spite of being distorted, "As you can plainly see, this... filth… this garbage..! Took not only pleasure in killing, but demonstrated an absolute bloodlust when he destroyed that town and slaughtered its inhabitants." Grizzlor tried to wiggle away from the figure, to which the figure pushed the sickle a little more into his neck causing him to shriek.
"You shut your mouth when others are talking…" Reaper sneered.
While this was going on, the audience, including the Best Friends Squad were unnerved by the presentation that was going on. In particular Catra who had mixed emotions of rage, guilt, and fear. A great deal of murmurs were permeating the audience and confusion abounded.
"Let me take care of this…" Glimmer muttered as an electronic wind chime-sounding noise followed a poof of purple sparkles, signifying Glimmer had teleported. She had teleported behind the figure and pointed an accusatory finger at them.
"I dunno who you are, but back off! Grizzlor changed! All of the Horde has changed! Let him go!" Glimmer commanded. Without looking back, the figure began to chuckle.
"Princess- Oh, excuse me. Queen, is it now? Glimmer, you of all people should feel nothing but a vindictive rage against these abominations." The figure then turned their head to Glimmer, "after all, how many did the Horde take from you?" Glimmer growled.
"That doesn't matter! It's all in the past! We've moved on!" Glimmer snapped.
"Oh, my dear Queen, it does matter!" The figure snapped back. They then spoke into the microphone, "the Horde people have been too easily discharged from their crimes…" They began breathing harder, "The Horde caused a plethora of destruction and they get pardoned of all those crimes without even an iota of punishment? I don't think so…" They then began chuckling, devilishly and finished with, "I am going to hunt down and kill every single last one of you Horde vermin…" The figure sneered then let out a sigh.
"Starting with this one." The figure indicated as they ripped back their hand, completely slicing open Grizzlor's neck. Grizzlor grabbed hold of his neck, attempting to stop the blood flow to no avail. The figure then kicked Grizzlor forward, into the audience. Blood sprayed out to the immediate audience, inducing a festival-wide panic. While the crowd began scattering, running away from the stage, Adora and Bow ran towards it. Catra simply stood there, her lips quivering in absolute shock. She was completely frozen. Adora looked back and ran back towards Catra.
"Catra? Catra! Come on!" Adora shouted. Catra shook her head and nodded. The two then ran towards the stage. Glimmer was about to tackle the figure when she witnessed a laser light focusing on her leg. She gasped and before she had a chance to teleport away, a laser bolt flew towards her leg, piercing it, and downing her. A loud cry of writhing pain escaped Glimmer's lungs as she fell to the floor.
"Glimmer!" Bow shouted as he drew back an arrow and fired it at the figure. The figure whipped out another sickle and began rapidly spinning them, successfully deflecting the arrow. Bow fired a few more arrows, which led to the same result. Adora unsheathed her sword and shouted her battlecry
"For the honor of Grayskull!" Adora shouted. As she did, she began her magnificent transformation into She-Ra. She then jumped upstage and began swiping at the figure. Knowing She-Ra's sword well, the figure merely dodged as quickly as they could. Though the adrenaline was pumping into She-Ra, and so she was moving rather quickly. She managed to get one swipe at the figure's arm, though the metal that was armoring them managed to stop the sword's blow.
Another laser bolt began flying towards She-Ra, catching her off guard. She held up her sword to deflect the attack, only for the figure to sheathe their sickles and give She-Ra a right hook to the midriff. She-Ra was surprised at the strength of the person as she felt like the wind was nearly knocked out of her.
"Get away from her!" Catra shouted as she sprung from all fours on the stage at the figure. She successfully tackled the person and cocked her arm back to swipe at the person's mask. Right before her claws made contact, the figure grabbed her hand and whispered something.
"I got what I came here to achieve… I'll save you for another day. For now… fear the Reaper." The figure muttered. They then pulled out some kind of grenade, and shoved a thumb through the pin. Catra gasped, believing it to be a fragmentation grenade. She jumped back off the figure. When the figure's thumb pulled the pin, a large amount of smoke was released.
Catra tried to find the figure, but the smoke blocked her sense of sight and smell. She hissed and growled, swiping at a bunch of empty smoke until her claws met something familiar. It was She-Ra's sword.
"Catra! Catra, it's me!" She-Ra beseeched. Soon the smoke began clearing and Catra shuddered as she saw Adora, transformed from She-Ra. Catra's lips began quivering again and she fell into Adora, embracing her in a tight hug, sobbing uncontrollably.
"Catra, Catra, shhh… it's okay." Adora said, soothingly.
"Hey, guys! Glimmer needs help!" Bow indicated as he knelt next to her, bandaging her leg. Adora and Catra made their way over to Glimmer and helped stabilize her while she writhed in pain.
"You're gonna be okay, Glimmer, I promise!" Adora declared. Glimmer let out a groan.
"Yeah, yeah, I know… I just wish we could've, ergh! Stopped whoever that was…" Glimmer muttered. Bow then picked her up.
"I'm going to take her to get medical attention." Bow explained.
"Okay, Catra and I are going to comb the rest of the festival grounds and make sure everyone's okay." Adora explained. Catra eyed Adora, annoyed.
"We need to comb the festival and find whoever did this! Then I'll show them what real forgiveness looks like!" Catra snapped. Adora shook her head.
"When we find whoever did this, we'll stop them. But for right now, we need to make sure that everyone else here is safe." Adora suggested. Catra looked away and let out a hiss, swiping her claw at the pulpit, tearing some of the wood off. Adora put her hands on Catra's shoulders and gave her a look of desperation. Catra paused for a few moments then sighed.
"Alright… Alright, let's get everyone evacuated." Catra reluctantly agreed. Adora smiled and gave her a hug.
"You're going to be fine…" Adora assured Catra. The Best Friends Squad then made their moves getting Glimmer to medical attention and evacuating the festival patrons.
Up in the sky, watching everyone below, was the figure. Donning their backside were wings that looked like a mound of leather had been stretched over a skeleton. Reaper took one last look before flying towards a certain hillside...
While the Best Friends Squad was scrambling to get everything done, two figures watched from afar, atop a forested hillside.
"Well, if you were looking to make a statement, I think you did it, Reaper." Octavia, the former octopus Force Captain of the Horde muttered as she leaned against a tree and was cleaning out the barrel of her sniper laser. Reaper, the one that killed Grizzlor, was leaning against a tree overlooking the festival.
"This was more of a declaration, my dear Octavia." Reaper corrected, "as of this moment, we are declaring war on the remnants of the Horde and those that seek to protect them." Reaper muttered. Reaper then turned to Octavia, and added "not counting you, of course." Octavia's grinning mouth revealed a row of sharpened teeth.
"I appreciate that," Octavia said, chuckling, "as long as we can kill Catra and Adora, I'm all game.
"Indeed. Once the scum of Etheria has been taken out, this world can finally have the peace it deserves." Reaper indicated. Octavia stood up, slung her rifle onto her back and stretched out her arms.
"We're going to need more than just the two of us to pull off this kind of operation, though." Octavia suggested. Reaper nodded.
"I had already thought of that and I already have a few people in mind…" Reaper declared as they paced around, "There are around ten others that I want in our little organization. The ones I have in mind share our ideals and objectives regarding the Horde remnants. They are all people of high grade skills and experience. Octavia sat back down against the tree.
"Who did you have in mind?" Octavia inquired.
"Besides you and myself, someone you're very familiar with: Lonnie." Reaper said.
"Lonnie? As in Rogelio-Kyle Lonnie? Why her?" Octavia inquired.
"Lonnie, though a formerly loyal member of the Horde, was left irate when she labored so diligently for so little gain. She defected before Horde Prime was even heard of. She despises Catra and Hordak almost as much as you do. As such, she will be a welcome member of the team." Reaper indicated. Octavia rubbed her chin for a moment in thought then nodded.
"Okay, that's three. Who else?"
Reaper then handed a file that had a picture and description of each recruit. Reaper then went on to name the remaining recruits:
4. Volt, 21/M: Former Mystacor student-turned assassin. Possesses Electro-kinesis and is a master with stealth and swords. Has performed assassinations for both the Horde and Rebellion. Wants nothing more than to destroy Mystacor.
5. Pyra, 16/F: Claims herself to be the 'Fire Princess.' She has pyro-kinesis which supports her claim. Supposedly, her kingdom was destroyed by the Horde and received very little help from the Rebellion. As such, she wants revenge on both.
6. Tie, 25/M: Former member of the Maker's Guild. Brother of the Rebellion's Tech Master, Bow. Has created monstrous robots and powerful weapons basically using only paper clips and chewing gum. Left embittered when one of his fathers was injured severely by the Horde.
7. Flutterina, 17/F: A resident of Elberon, she was held prisoner for an unknown amount of time by Double Trouble when they took on her identity. Rumor has it that she has been training extensively with magic; in particular illusion magics such as invisibility and hallucinations. She desires nothing more than to kill Double Trouble.
8/9. CeeCee, (Carly and Chloe,) both 19/F: An inseparable twin duo. You'd recognize them from their faces, painted white with black diamonds around the eyes and hearts on their cheeks. They were excellent armament smugglers for the Rebellion. They're both a little… eccentric, but they get the job done.
10. Colt, 31/M: Battle hardened veteran of the Horde. Although raised by the Horde, and proved to be an exemplary fighter and leader, Hordak ordered him to be left for dead when retreating from a Rebellion attack. He survived and was rescued by a Bright Moon soldier. Later, he defected to the Rebellion. Since the war with Horde Prime, he's been trying to settle with his wife, Kira. He may take some persuasion, but his experience with combat is unmatched.
11. Tiburon the Land Shark, unknown age, but believed to be around 100-150/M: A humanoid shark of immense physical power. Served in the Salineas military for several decades before retiring. During the invasion of Salineas, his home was destroyed, fueling his thirst for revenge. He has the uncanny ability to breathe underwater and above the surface.
12. Stalkra, 22/F: My protégé. She approached me when I killed off a particular Horde officer that killed her parents. I've trained her extensively in both melee and projectile weaponry. Most impressive of all is her unique ability to walk on walls and ceilings. Her species has been described as a 'half-human, half-demon,' known as a 'Succubus.'
As Octavia thumbed through each file, and Reaper explained each one, she marvelled at the diverse and exotic individuals Reaper had found. Octavia looked up at Reaper in awe.
"How did you find out about all of these people?" Octavia inquired. Reaper grinned under their mask.
"I've had an entire year to research and decide. I have backups if any of them decline our invitation… but I have a feeling the majority will join, one way or another." Reaper gravely declared. Octavia closed the folders and stood up.
"So what are we going to call this little organization of yours?" Octavia inquired. Reaper chuckled as he turned towards the festival again. They then removed their mask, simultaneously removing the vocoder that distorted their voice.
"The Twelve Apostates…"