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Seacat (She-Ra AU)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Starfox5, Jun 20, 2020.

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  1. Threadmarks: Prologue & Chapter 1: The Weird Girl
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Summary: Life was good for Seacat. Sure, losing your memory in a Horde attack a few years ago wasn't exactly easy, but she had rolled with the punch and rebuilt her life. She's got a name, a spot on a ship - as long as she could keep it from burning - and a sort of family. But now, just when she was trying to chill in one of Sea Hawk’s favourite dives, some blonde weirdo was hugging her and babbling about having thought her dead years ago.

    Disclaimer: I do not own She-Ra and the Princesses of Power or any of the characters in the series.

    Author’s Notes: This story is set in an Alternate Universe. A number of canon events didn’t happen or happened differently in the series.

    I'd like to thank elpenor for his help with this chapter.

    Cover:
    [​IMG]

    Author Note: I commissioned a picture of Seacat by Carnivalkitten:
    [​IMG]

    *****

    Prologue: Four Years Ago

    She was the first who heard it, even over the screams and explosions. A whine that made her sensitive ears hurt and her fur stand up. She turned around, hissing, her hands pressed on her ears, as she tried to find the source of the noise.

    It didn’t take her long. The weird bot in the middle of the village was the source - the whine came from it. She hissed again as the whining grew louder. This was unbearable! She turned, growling, and started to run away.

    Horde Soldiers with weird helmets tried to grab her, but she ducked, sprinting on all fours, her claws digging into stone and soil as she raced through the village, not knowing, not caring where she was running as long as it was away. Away from the noise. Away. Away. Away.

    Gasping, she drew to a stop on the beach. The sea was there. She couldn’t run further. But the noise was still in her ears. And she was boxed in by cliffs.

    No choice. She dashed forward, jumped into the sea, tried to dive into the shallow water. Anything to get away from the noise.

    Until everything went black.

    *****​

    She woke up with a gasp, her fur drenched with sweat. Shaking and panting, she wrapped her thin blanket around herself. She had to calm down. It was just a dream. A nightmare. She wasn’t there. Not anymore. She wasn’t surrounded by the corpses of Horde soldiers and villagers, fallen where they had fought.

    She wasn’t alone in a dead village.

    “Hey, kid!”

    She gasped again, scrambling back, away from whoever had startled her, pressing herself against the wall behind her mattress, one hand raised with her claws out.

    The man bared his teeth - no, he smiled at her. “Hey! It’s me! Sea Hawk! The one and only! You had another nightmare?”

    She shakingly nodded. “Y-yes.”

    “Don’t worry, that’ll get better.” He kept smiling but didn’t approach her. She saw the bandage over his nose and winced. She hadn’t meant to hurt him. He had found her in the village. Had taken her on his ship. Taken her away from that horrible place.

    “We’ll be in Seaworthy soon. Don’t worry, we’ll find help there.”

    Once more, she nodded. More firmly this time.

    “So, ah… do you remember your name now?”

    Her ears dropped, and she swallowed as she shook her head. “N-no.” She didn’t. Didn’t remember any part of her life before the Horde soldiers attacked her village and killed everyone she knew.

    “Ah.” his face fell for a moment. Then he perked up. “Well, until you do, I’ll be calling you… Seacat!”

    She blinked. “Seacat?”

    “Yes!” He beamed at her. “Because I fished you out of the sea and you’re a cat!”

    She stared at him. Then she slowly nodded. And tried to smile.

    He patted her shoulder, and she barely flinched. “Don’t you worry, once we’re in Seaworthy everything will be fine! There are no Horde soldiers there - you’ll be safe!”

    Safe. She nodded. “Yes.”

    But she gripped his hand with hers, and when he tried to pull it away, her claws dug into his skin, forcing him to stay.

    Safe.

    *****​

    Chapter 1: The Weird Girl

    “...and then I said: ‘Damn the blockade! Onward!’ and we smashed through their blockade!”

    “Wow! Really?”

    “Yes, really! Left them drifting with broken oars and ruined rigging as we sailed off into the sunset!”

    Seacat rolled her eyes at the silly waitress listening to Sea Hawk’s boasting. Sure, they had broken through the blockade put up by those deserters from Mermista’s kingdom, but it had left the Dragon’s Daughter III with a damaged stern. And that had cost more to fix than breaking the blockade had earned them. Which meant they were broke again and looking for a cargo in Seaworthy. Preferably one by desperate people who needed the best ship on the sea. Or gullible idiots with more money than sense who could be fleeced for all their worth - Seacat wasn’t picky. She couldn’t afford to. Not with a captain like Sea Hawk doing his best - or worst - to sink their ship to ruin whenever he got a chance.

    She clenched her teeth, suppressed the urge to growl, and took a deep breath. And a large swallow from her ale. Sea Hawk was a decent man. He had taken her in after her… well, after the attack. Taught her to sail the seas. Gave her a home.

    If only he wouldn’t keep trying to set her home on fire. And were a little more responsible.

    She took another swallow before her mouth could decide whether it was meant to frown or smile. That hit the spot. But now her tankard was empty. Sighing, she set it down and stared at the waitress. The silly wench was still looking at Sea Hawk as if her eyeballs were glued to the man’s lips.

    Seacat cleared her throat. Neither reacted. She did it again. And again.

    “Are you well, first mate? You’re not coming down with something, are you?” Sea Hawk asked. “Or are you coughing up a hairball?” He laughed at his own joke.

    She groaned - briefly - at his old, stupid joke. Then she flashed a toothy grin at him that had him wince. “Just wondering what Mermista would think about you flirting with another woman.”

    He gasped in his exaggerated manner, jumping up and holding a hand to his heart. “What? Me, flirting? Never! My heart belongs to my dear Princess Mermista!”

    She snorted in return. “Sure, sure.” And tried not to feel guilty about the way his eyes had looked at her for just an instant. It wasn’t her fault that the prissy princess didn’t return his feelings. Not that Mermista would be a good match for Sea Hawk, anyway. Far too straight-laced. Sea Hawk would be good for her, of course - people like Memista needed some fun in their lives or they’d bore themselves to death ‘doing their duty’.

    Sea Hawk snorted as well and sat down again. “Perhaps you’re a little grumpy because you aren’t flirting?”

    That made her roll her eyes. “No, I’m just grumpy ‘cause my tankard’s empty and the waitress has run off.” And was now busy with another table.

    He made a dismissive gesture with his hand. The hand that wasn’t suddenly gripping his own tankard tightly before she had managed to grab it. Drat. “That’s your own fault.”

    “Yeah, yeah.” She stood. If the Maelstrom didn’t come to the ship, the ship had to go to the Maelstrom.

    She made her way to the bar - carefully. Her bare feet were perfect for the deck of a ship in heavy seas, and her claw marks just added character to the ship, no matter what Sea Hawk claimed, but there was nothing worse than stepping into spilt ale. Well, except for stepping into vomit. That just felt icky on her feet and fur and was hell to get out of her leggings. Even if the stains didn’t easily show on the black fabric.

    Some low-life nobody - looked like a sailor down on his luck - stared at her. Or rather, at her blood red tied-off shirt. She tossed her mane back and put a hand on the hilt of her cutlass, then bared her teeth with a growl. The man paled and looked away, hunching over.

    Good. She neither wanted nor needed such attention. Nor did she need another attempt of Sea Hawk to play ‘protective captain’. Or, worse, prospective matchmaker. She wasn’t looking for a relationship. Or love.

    The bartender was talking to a trio of landlubbers. Rich landlubbers, she thought - the little girl wore expensive clothes. Probably worth more than she was paying her two bodyguards.

    Seacat smirked. Time to show the visitors who was at the top of the pecking order here. She deliberately stepped between the shrimp and the blonde bodyguard, forcing them out of the way. Ignoring their surprised protests, she leaned over the bar top and flashed two coins at the bartender. “Two more ales! And hurry!!”

    “Hey! Who do you think you are?”

    Oh! The shrimp just handed her the perfect opening. Seacat turned, leaned against the bar and grinned. “Me?” She laughed. “You’ve never heard of me? I am…”

    “...Catra? Catra?”

    What? Seacat blinked. That wasn’t how this was supposed to go! The blonde guard she had elbowed to the side was staring at her and... Were those tears in her eyes? What in the Ocean’s name was going…

    “Catra! I thought you were dead!”

    The blonde lunged, quicker than Seacat had expected, and tackled her. Pressed her against the bar with enough force to drive the air out of her lungs, actually.

    “I thought you were dead! For years! They said you were lost! Oh, Catra!”

    Yes, she was crying - on Seacat’s shoulder. That would get her shirt wet. And her hair.

    “You’re alive! You’re alive!”

    Not for much longer if the crazy woman kept trying to crush her ribs. Seacat managed to force out: “Need to breathe!”

    “Adora! You’re hurting her!”

    “Adora!”

    “Oh! I’m so sorry! I still don’t know my new strength, I mean… sorry!”

    The woman finally released her and Seacat took a deep breath. A few deep breaths. Air had never tasted sweeter than right now. Not since her first swimming lesson with Sea Hawk. She flashed the woman a toothy smile that usually served her well to keep grabby sailors away before she had to claw their faces off and make another bartender mad.

    It didn’t, not today. The woman - or girl, she looked much younger with a watery smile - beamed at her. “Catra!”

    “The name’s Seacat,” she corrected the girl. Unless… No. Her village had been wiped out. She had been the only survivor. If anyone had known her, they’d have found her. Sea Hawk had asked around in every port for months after he had taken her in.

    “Seacat?” A dumb expression made the girl look even more… well, dumb.

    “Yes, Seacat,” she repeated herself.

    “Like sea and cat?” the guy asked.

    She glared at him. It was a perfectly fine name. Sea Hawk’s choice, but still. It might not be the most original name, but it was hers. She had earned it.

    The blonde was shaking her head. “No, no… it’s been years, but I wouldn’t mistake… it’s you! Catra! My best friend!”

    What?

    “Don’t you recognise me? It’s me, Adora!” The girl gripped her shoulders. “We grew up together! You used to sleep on my bed!”

    What?

    “What?”

    “Adora?”

    Seacat winced and shook herself free while the shrimp and the other guard stared at the blonde. She suppressed the urge to rub her shoulders - the girl had a grip of iron. Could probably weigh a frigate’s anchor by herself.

    But… Seacat wet her lips and took a deep breath. This was just a misunderstanding. It must be. Neither she nor Sea Hawk, not even Mermista had ever found any other survivor from her village. On the other hand… “You’re from... Gullpeak?” Her voice faltered a little saying the name, and Seacat clenched her teeth in frustration. She was stronger than that.

    “Uh… Gullpeak?” The blonde blinked at her with her mouth half-open.

    “Our... my home village,” Seacat said, doing her best not to show any disappointment. Not that she’d have actually harboured any real hope. It was just a misunderstanding, as she had thought. Or… was this a con? Some scummy lowlife trying to trick the amnesiac girl? It wasn’t as if Seacat’s past was a secret. Not with Sea Hawk having made up a shanty about it.

    “Home village?” The blonde was still staring at her.

    But the other guard was rubbing his chin. “Gullpeak… I think I’ve heard the name before.”

    Seacat sighed. Loudly. If they were con men, they weren’t good at it. At all. “Yes, my home village. The place I was born and raised, you know?”

    She pushed off the bar and got into the blonde’s face. You had to get up and personal if someone crowded you - it threw them off balance. And you were close enough to sucker-punch them - or gut them - if you had to. Few people who didn’t know her expected her claws to be able to cut through leather and light armour.

    But Blondie didn’t look off her game. She looked confused. “But… we were raised in the Fright Zone. Together.”

    What? Seacat leapt back, somersaulting, and landed on the bar top, hissing. “You’re Horde soldiers!” It was a trap! The blonde flinched - Seacat knew it! She drew her cutlass and lit the blade.

    The other guests flinched, and the closest bunch moved away. Seacat ignored them, growling at the Horde soldiers with flat ears. They had wiped out her village!

    “Nonononono!” The boy stepped in between them, waving his arms as if he were capsizing in a skiff. “She isn’t a Horde soldier! We aren’t Horde soldiers!”

    The shrimp joined him. “We’re members of the Rebellion. I’m Princess Glimmer of Bright Moon.”

    What?

    “Are you in trouble, first mate?” Great. Now Sea Hawk had to butt in. And he struck a pose. “Don’t worry, your captain has your back! The sacred laws of the sea bind captain and crew together!”

    Flashing his teeth, the captain stepped closer to her and mumbled. “What’s this all about, anyway? Friends of yours?”

    “I’ve never seen them before!” Seacat hissed in reply, crouching on the bar top and keeping her cutlass pointed at the group.

    “What? Catra! Did you lose your memory or something?” The blonde pushed through her friends and stepped so close, Seacat would just have to lean forward to pierce her stupid face.

    “Of course not!” she growled, unfortunately at the same time Sea Hawk blurted out: “Why, yes, she did, in fact. Didn’t you know that?”

    She glared at the captain as the three newcomers gasped. As usual when he was in full form - and slightly drunk - he ignored it.

    He took a deep breath, struck another dramatic pose, hand on his cheek, and said: “She lost her memory in the same attack in which she lost her family. A poor orphan, the sole survivor of her village! When I first saw her, I knew I could not abandon her to a life in an orphanage and decided to take her in and raise her as the second-best sailor in all the seas!”

    He had planned to find her a foster family until Mermista had commented that she wouldn’t have expected him to be so caring, but that was neither here nor there. “Don’t tell my life history to strangers,” she spat. At least, he wasn’t singing.

    “But it’s dramatic!” he retorted. “Besides, it makes me look good. And it makes you more likeable.”

    She growled at him - she didn’t need nor wanted pity. “Yeah, yeah. It’s ancient history.”

    “It’s been four years,” he said. “Although time flies when you’re on an adventure! And life’s an adventure!”

    “That makes… no sense,” the male guard commented. “Wouldn’t it…”

    “Four years ago? That’s when you disappeared!” Blondie blurted out.

    Seacat snorted. “What a coincidence!” Even a dumbass con man would’ve known to say that.

    And yet, the blonde nodded with an earnest expression that almost looked convincing. “Yes! There was a mistake during a field exercise! You were sent to the wrong coordinates and never returned!”

    “Mistake?” Seacat snarled. “Field exercise? Are you trying to claim that I was a Horde soldier?” She hopped down from the bar top and landed in front of the girl. If she dared to...

    “Yes!” Blondie blurted out. “Well, a cadet - like me!”

    Blondie was a Horde soldier? Hadn’t they just denied that? “You’re a Horde soldier?”

    “She deserted!” the other guard butted in. “Before her first mission!”

    That seemed to finally make the idiot realise that Seacat was about to claw her stupid face off and she took a few steps back, shaking her head. “I’m fighting for the Rebellion.”

    “Anyone can say that!” Seacat snapped back.

    “Indeed,” Sea Hawk added. “Taking on a fake identity is quite common on adventures. While I prefer to solve my problems with blade and bravery, guile and trickery are not without merit.”

    “I’m Princess Glimmer of Bright Moon,” the shrimp repeated herself. “A member of the Princess Alliance.”

    “The future Princess Alliance. Or the reborn Princess Alliance,” the guy added.

    “You don’t look much like a Princess,” Seacat told her.

    “And you’ve seen many Princesses, have you?” the shrimp shot back with a scowl.

    “Oh, I’m very familiar, practically family, with Princess Mermista!” Sea Hawk blurted out, as Seacat had known he would. “And as my trusted first mate, she’s also very familiar with Princess Mermista.”

    Too familiar, for Seacat’s taste.

    The shrimp made a frustrated noise - and disappeared in a cloud of sparkles to reappear in the booth Sea Hawk had vacated. A moment later, she returned to her guards’ side in the same way. “There!”

    “Oh...a demonstration of a Princess’s power!” Sea Hawk hit the palm of his hand with his fist and nodded several times. “Impressive!”

    Seacat rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes, impressive. But it doesn’t prove anything else at all.” It probably didn’t prove that the shrimp was a princess, either, but Seacat didn’t know enough about magic to know if a sorceress could do the same.

    And it certainly didn’t prove Blondie’s story! Seacat wasn’t a Horde soldier!

    “Catra!” Blondie tried again as if she had read Seacat’s mind. “You’ve lost your memory! At the same time, my best friend disappeared! Doesn’t that tell you something?”

    “Yes, it does,” Seacat replied. She waited until the girl’s expression brightened before she added: “It tells me that you didn’t think your story through. Not even the Horde sends children into battle!” Mostly because they had more than enough bots and soldiers already, but that was neither here nor there. The girl looked more hurt than foiled, though. And that made Seacat feel… nothing. Certainly not guilty.

    Blondie shook her head, sending her silly ponytail flying. “It was a mistake! You weren’t supposed to be there - you were supposed to go to a safe outpost like me and get some field experience!”

    “Gullpeak!” Guard guy slapped his fist like a miniature Sea Hawk. “I remember now! That was a village that was totally wiped out by some secret Horde weapon four years ago! Yes!”

    She was about to claw his face off for his stupid smile - that was her family’s death that he was smiling about! - but Sea Hawk’s hand on her shoulder held her back.

    The guy had the grace to flinch. “Uh… sorry. I got carried away. History is kind of… not my thing, but one thing of mine.”

    “I am not a Horde soldier,” Seacat repeated herself through clenched teeth.

    “No one here is a Horde soldier,” the guy said quickly, clapping his hand. “So… how about we continue this very informative talk with a little more privacy?”

    Right. Half the tavern was staring at them. Seacat groaned - she should’ve known better than to hash things out at the bar. She would never live this down.

    *****​

    “So! Introductions!” the shrimp said as they sat down - with the three strangers on one side, and Seacat and the captain on the other side. “I’m Princess Glimmer of Bright Moon. This is my best friend, Bow, and our best friend, Adora.”

    And they made fun of her name? Seacat clenched her teeth. A deep breath later, she snorted. That made the shrimp frown at her and Blondie look… she couldn’t place the expression. “The Horde cadet.”

    Blondie winced at that before rallying. “I’m not with the Horde. I mean, I was - but not anymore.” She sighed. “It’s complicated.”

    “She deserted,” the shrimp said, “and joined the Rebellion.” There had to be more to the story, going by the glance she shot at the other two.

    Seacat made a mental note of looking into that. You could never know enough about potential friends and enemies.

    “And you were looking for your long-lost best friend after you heard the famous shanty of Seacat!” Sea Hawk clasped his hands to his chest and beamed at the three.

    Bow-guy smiled, rather weakly. “Actually, we never heard that shanty.”

    “If we had, we would’ve come at once!” Blondie added.

    Sea Hawk’s eyes widened, as did his smile. “Ah, it’s really...Ow!”

    Seacat glared at him and pulled her claws from his thigh. This wasn’t the time. Actually, it never was the time to sing that particular shanty.

    The princess cleared her throat. “We came here because we need a passage to Salineas.”

    “To see Princess Mermista,” Bow-Boy added.

    “And you naturally chose me! The best and bravest captain sailing the sea! And the one whom Princess Mermista holds so dear in her generous heart!” Sea Hawk flashed his teeth at them in what he thought was a dazzling smile.

    Seacat smirked when she saw the slightly embarrassed expressions on the three.

    “Uh, actually, we ever heard of you, either.” Bow-Boy looked like he wanted to apologise for that. As if a landlubber would have heard of Sea Hawk. Well, a bounty hunter probably had.

    Which was why they couldn’t trust any stranger. Though… these guys weren’t bounty hunters. And Seacat didn’t think that the captain had ever set a princess’s boat on fire. Apart from Mermista’s, of course.

    “Oh.” Sea Hawk’s face fell - but only for a moment. “In any case, you came to the right people! I and my first mate are the crew to hire for a trip to Salineas. Or to anywhere, actually. As long as it’s on a coast.” He stood, put one boot on the table and pushed his chest out. “No matter the danger, no matter the odds, the Dragon’s Daughter III will always reach her destination!”

    “What happened to the Dragon’s Daughters I and II?” Bow-boy asked.

    “They went down in flames,” Seacat replied.

    After reaching their destinations!” Sea Hawk was quick to add.

    While reaching their destinations,” Seacat corrected him. She ignored his confused glance. They needed money, but they didn’t need those weirdos’ money. And if the shrimp was desperate enough to hire them anyway, that meant they could charge more money - enough to make it worth travelling with Blondie. The way the girl was staring at her made Seacat’s skin… crawl. Definitely crawl. Not shiver.

    “You’re hired!” Blondie declared.

    “Perfect!” Sea Hawk replied at the same time that the shrimp blurted out: “Adora! We haven’t made a decision yet!”

    “But they have a ship, they know the princess, and it’s Catra!”

    “Seacat,” she corrected Blondie through clenched teeth.

    Instead of being taken aback, the girl’s smile grew. “That’s the same hissing I remember!”

    “Uh, we can’t agree on hiring them before we know how much this will cost,” Bow-Guy cut in. He seemed to be the least stupid of the three. Not that that would make him smart, of course - Blondie was obviously dumb, and the princess was, well, a princess. And anyone who knew princesses knew that they weren’t smart. Mermista was the best example of that.

    But this gave her another opening. Seacat smiled, showing her fangs - which, unfortunately, made Blondie’s smile grow even more sappy - and quickly noted a number down on a scrap of paper. “Here’s our fee, Brain!” she announced as she held it out to the boy.

    It was very satisfying to see their mouths drop after they read the note. Guess your allowance doesn’t cover this, huh?

    “Those are… many zeroes. Very many zeroes,” Brain managed to say.

    Seacat grinned at him. “Operating a ship isn’t cheap.” Especially if your captain had the habit of setting it on fire whenever he had the chance.

    “Oh, yes,” Sea Hawk agreed - for once.

    “But… this much?” Shrimp held up the paper, and Seacat winced.

    She reached out to grab it, but the captain had already seen the number. “What? Oh, that must have been a mistake. That’s two zeroes too many, actually,” he said. “You must forgive my first mate - I was the one who taught her maths.”

    Seacat slapped her face and growled while the three weirdos blinked in surprise.

    “Uh… OK… so, we can definitely pay the fee then,” the shrimp told the captain.

    “Marvellous! To adventure!” Sea Hawk declared, holding out his hand.

    Seacat sighed while the two shook on it. Now she was stuck travelling with a weirdo - a Horde cadet - who thought she was their long-lost best friend or something. And a princess, but that particular pain in the buttt paled compared to travelling with Blondie. Besides, the shrimp couldn’t be as bad as Mermista, could she?

    *****​

    After having their three passengers pay their bar tab - they actually believed Seacat that this was how things were done! - they made their way to the harbour. Seacat led the way, next to the captain, with the three members of the Rebellion trailing behind them. She wasn’t actually trying to lose them, but if they couldn’t keep up…

    Not that she was losing them, anyway - she could hear them talk behind her.

    “Are you sure that she’s your friend, Adora? She doesn’t seem to like you at all.”

    “That’s just how she is. You have to know her better to, uh, know her.”

    Seacat rolled her eyes and clenched her teeth again as she felt her ears twitch. She didn’t have to glance over her shoulder to know the stupid expression Blondie had.

    “Well, she is firmly set against the Horde. That’s a good thing,” Brain said.

    “Except that she is so firmly set against the Horde, she doesn’t like that Adora was part of the Horde.”

    “Right. That’s not a good thing.”

    “But we both left. Why won’t she accept that?”

    Because it wasn’t true! Seacat balled her hands into fists, almost piercing her palms with her claws.

    “She will. Once we can talk about this, once I can tell her all about our friendship, she will understand!” Shrimp said.

    No, she won’t. “I can hear you,” Seacat sing-songed through clenched teeth without looking back.

    “Uh…”

    “Right, I forgot all about her hearing! I mean… sorry?”

    Seacat huffed and stepped up her pace. Fortunately, the trio remained silent until they reached the Dragon’s Daughter III.

    *****​

    “Alright,” Seacat said, loudly, as soon as they had boarded the ship, “stay on this deck and don’t touch anything but the railing. Especially don’t meddle with the rigging - we don’t want to capsize because you unfurl the sail in the middle of a gale.”

    “Indeed, we don’t. Losing a ship to capsizing is one of the worst ways to lose a ship,” Sea Hawk added. “I should know, for I have experienced them all!”

    Seacat closed her eyes, then blinked. If the weirdos reconsidered...

    “What?”

    “Are we sure about this guy?”

    “I trust Catra! She loathes water. She would never board a ship that’s at risk of sinking!”

    What? She laughed. “Your Catra hated water?”

    Blondie looked confused. “You hate getting wet.”

    “What?” Seacat glared at the girl. “I don’t! I like to swim! I love to swim!”

    “You can swim?”

    “What sailor can’t swim?” Seacat retorted. Swimming was an important skill for a sailor - especially for a member of Sea Hawk’s crew.

    She felt the captain’s hand on her shoulder - he had snuck up on her again, somehow - before she was pulled into his side. “I taught her personally! It was an adventure! I’ve been bloodied less fighting pirates, but after a long, hard and painful struggle, I succeeded!”

    She rolled her eyes and shrugged his arm off. “Yes. I can and like to swim.” As long as she could clean the saltwater off her fur before it dried.

    “Really?” Sea Hawk blinked. “You like it?”

    “When I’m not forced to because our ship’s on fire,” she quickly clarified.

    “Oh.” Sea Hawk looked sad for a moment - but Seacat wasn’t fooled. She knew him too well. “My first mate likes swimming!” Yes, there he went, hanging on the rigging and all but singing.

    “Are we really sure about these guys?” Brain asked.

    “They just need to get us there,” Shrimp replied.

    Blondie, though, was staring at her. Seacat met her gaze with narrowed eyes, cocking her hip. Maybe now the girl had realised that she was Seacat, not Catra.

    But the girl beamed at her. “That’s exactly how you used to stand when we were cadets!”

    Oh, for Maelstrom’s sake! She growled at the idiot and turned away. “I’ll cast off the lines.”

    “And I’ll set course for Salineas!”

    *****​

    “Ahem…”

    Seacat hissed as she turned her head to glare at Blondie. “Don’t disturb me while I’m working. Do you want us to capsize?”

    “Uh… I thought you were just storing ropes…”

    Seacat scoffed. She had managed to keep Blondie at bay by busying herself while they left port, but it seemed that the annoying girl didn’t get the message. She just had to meddle, had she? “The lines control the sails. And the sails are what drives the ship - uncontrolled, they can wreck a ship.”

    “Oh.” The blonde took a step back with a dejected expression. Seacat briefly felt the urge to apologise but suppressed it.

    “Even a ship as advanced as the Dragon’s Daughter III doesn’t sail herself,” she said instead. “Do you think sailors spend their time doing nothing between ports?”

    “No, no, of course not! I just… wanted to talk…” Blondie’s shy smile was a pitiful sight.

    Seacat pressed her lips together as she finished tying up the spare lines. “Are you going to try to talk about your missing friend again? The Horde soldier?”

    “No? Yes? Maybe?” The girl’s smile grew forced.

    “Save it!” Seacat snapped. “I’m not her. I’m not a Horde soldier. I never was a Horde soldier. I’m not your friend. And I don’t want to be your friend!” she hissed in the idiot’s face.

    Blondie gasped. “But…” Seacat saw her swallow and blink - and were those tears in the blonde’s eyes? “Sorry…”

    Once more, Seacat had to suppress the weird urge to apologise as the blonde turned and walked away. She scoffed at her own weakness. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She wasn’t this ‘Catra’. She wasn’t a Horde soldier. The sooner Blondie accepted that, the better. For both of them.

    *****​

    Seacat liked being the lookout. Climbing the rigging was fun - and no one was as fast at the top of the main-mast as she was. No one not cheating by using magic like the shrimp, that was. She scowled at the show-off, but not for long.

    Here, she felt on top of things. On top of the world. At peace. Just her and the sky and the sea. If the wind was blowing strongly enough, she wouldn’t even hear the captain’s shanties. She took a deep breath, enjoying the smell of the ocean. Soon, they would be arriving at Salineas, and the three passengers would go and annoy Mermista. And Seacat and Sea Hawk could set out again, and leave all this… stupidity behind.

    She grinned. After all, the three hadn’t hired them for a round trip.

    “Oof.”

    What? Seacat quickly glanced around. The sea was calm. They were still a good way off the reefs that dominated the straits of Salineas and made the Sea Gate the key to controlling sea trade. So…

    She glanced down and growled. Blondie was climbing the rigging. And smiling widely at her.

    “Ahem. Sorry… I just felt the urge to climb.”

    Oh for Maelstrom’s sake! “Really?” she replied, putting all the doubt she could muster into it.

    “I used to climb a lot in, ah, the Fright Zone.”

    Seacat growled, and the girl winced.

    “Usually to follow, uh… my friend.”

    Of course. Seacat smiled. “So, you’re used to high places and strong winds?”

    Blondie nodded enthusiastically. “Yes!”

    “Good. You can take over lookout duty until dinner.” Seacat bared her teeth at the idiot. “And don’t slack off, or we might hit a reef and sink!” she snapped as she slid down the other side.

    As soon as she hit the deck, she chuckled. That should keep Blondie out of her hair for a few hours - the girl wouldn’t slack off. She was far too serious for that, Seacat knew. Always doing her duty…

    She frowned, then scoffed. The girl was an open book. Everyone would’ve known that after spending a few hours with her. Yes.

    “Uh… what’s Adora doing?” Brain asked,

    Seacat rolled her eyes. She didn’t want to talk about the annoying girl. “She relieved me from lookout duty so I could do my other jobs on the ship.”

    “Really?”

    Honest and gullible. No wonder he was a friend of Blondie. “Yes, really,” she replied.

    “And what does a lookout do?”

    “Looks out for ships, reefs and other dangers,” she explained.

    “Reefs?”

    “Yes, reefs,” she repeated herself.

    “But… the ship flies.”

    She sighed. Landlubber, yes. “It sails over the sea,” she told him. “It doesn’t really fly. Steer it over land - or a rock, or a too shallow sea - and it’ll crash. The magic holding it afloat over the water doesn’t work over land.”

    “Oh. That’s why we only have small skiffs on land, not big huge cargo ships.”

    “Exactly. That’s a completely different magic.” Honest, gullible but smart. She flashed a smile at him. “You’re the brains of your group, aren’t you?” A little more information about the trio wouldn’t hurt at all.

    He blushed a little. Adorable. “Ah, well… I’m a master bowman and a tech master. Well, working on the latter, but I’m close.”

    “Ah.” She cocked her head and looked at his quiver. Men loved to talk about their weapons. “You made the arrows yourself?”

    “Ah, right.” He beamed. “I’ve got a wide range of arrows for all occasions! Whatever we’ll face, I’ll have an arrow for it!”

    She snorted. “Really?”

    “Oh, yes!” He pulled out a shaft with a hefty arrowhead. “This one shoots glue!”

    “Glue?” She took a step back. Glue and fur didn’t go well together. Not at all. “Don’t point it at me!” she hissed. She didn’t want to have to shave off her fur ever again!

    “Uh, sorry.” He smiled weakly. “Didn’t want to scare you.”

    “I am not scared,” she growled. She wasn’t scared, She hadn’t had nightmares in months. Huffing, she turned away. “I’ll be busy doing… stuff.”

    “Stuff?”

    “Important stuff.”

    Like napping in her hammock. Away from bothersome passengers.

    Seacat couldn’t wait until Blondie and her friends were gone from her ship.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
  2. Counter_Guardian

    Counter_Guardian I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Interesting stuff. Wonder how much things will change with Catra not being in the side of the Horde to push some things through.
     
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  3. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    It's a toss-up between Shadow Weaver wasting resources due to her fixation on Adora (and lack of Catra's cunning) and Lonnie doing a decent but not quite good enough job in the field. A lot of the operations Catra pulled off were crucial fo the Horde.
     
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  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: The Battle of Salineas
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 2: The Battle of Salineas

    “Hey, Adora! Look what I found!”

    “Catra?”

    She raised her hands, gripping the struggling mouse tightly. “I caught it!”

    “Oh! How?”

    “I was faster!” She smiled, showing her fangs. She had caught the stupid mouse! It would never eat her rations again. Or Adora’s.

    “Great!” Adora scrunched up her nose - she was thinking. “Now what do we do with it?”

    “Uh…” She hadn’t thought about that. “Eat it?”

    “Ew!” Adora made her icky face.

    “Kill it?”

    “Kill it?” Adora looked scared.

    She shrugged. Wasn’t the mouse bad? And it ate their food! But to kill it…

    Suddenly, the mouse twisted in her grip - and bit her!

    She yelled and threw the bad mouse away - at the wall. It hit with a crunch and fell down. And she was bleeding! “I’m bleeding!” she sobbed.

    “Oh, no!” Adora was there, gripping her hand. “We need to go to the infirmary!”

    She shied away. That was a bad place!

    “Come on!”

    “No!” She shook her head.

    But Adora didn’t listen. She dragged her away!

    *****​

    Seacat blinked. What a weird… what dream? She squinted at the porthole in her cabin. Was the sun setting already? Dinner time, and no one had woken her up? Between that and Blondie being dumb, no wonder she was having stupid dreams that made no sense!

    Shaking her head, she climbed out of her hammock and went out on the main deck. Everything looked to be fine. Blondie was still up in the rigging - how long had she stayed up there? It had been hours! - the other two passengers were staring at the sunset, and the captain was at the wheel.

    She blinked. Wait! They had set out from Seaworthy to Salineas. The sun shouldn’t be setting that close to their bow - not if they were on course...

    She pressed her lips together and quickly climbed up the stairs to the conn. “Captain!”

    Seacat saw him flinch, as she had known he would - he knew her tone. “Yes?” And she knew the too-wide smile. “Isn’t it a brilliant day for adventure?” He spread his arms and puffed up his chest, briefly letting go of the rudder. “I mean, it’s now a brilliant evening, but you know what I mean.”

    Oh no! She sighed as she frowned at him. So that was why he hadn’t set a course directly for Salineas. As if she wouldn’t notice - she knew the local seas as well as the back of her hand! “We’re not on an adventure - we’re transporting passengers to Salineas,” she reminded him.

    “It can be both! Instead of a boring cruise our passengers could have a harrowing adventure!”

    She closed her eyes while Sea Hawk posed, flexed her claws, then grabbed the captain by his bandana. “We’re not being paid for adventure! We’re being paid for transporting the Shrimp and her friends to Mermista. And we need the money!”

    “Ah… now that you mention it...” His smile widened. “Offering them an adventure should liven up the voyage and make them hire us for the trip back as well, don’t you agree?”

    “No, I do not.” she spat. “Change course to Salineas!”

    “Hey! Who’s the captain of this ship?”

    “And who handles the money?”

    “That’s a good point!” He raised his index finger in her face. “However, I have a counterpoint!”

    “What?” she growled.

    “Reef ahead!” Blondie’s voice rang out - she had strong lungs. “And wrecks! Many wrecks!”

    “See? We’ve already arrived! Adventure!” Sea Hawk yelled. He let go of the wheel and pointed to the sky.

    “Shipwrecker’s Reef? Turn about!” she snapped back, grabbing the wheel herself. Then she saw the sea serpent emerge from the water. “No…” Too late. Now they had to fight a monster. And with a bunch of useless passengers on board. Damn Sea Hawk!

    “It’s a monster!”

    “It’s a sea serpent!”

    “It’s an adventure!”

    “For the Honour of Grayskull!”

    “Everyone, hold...what?” Seacat tore her eyes from the approaching monster and saw an impossibly tall blonde woman in shining - literally shining - armour rush towards the railing. And she was wielding Blondie’s sword.

    She kept staring as the woman jumped incredibly high - as if she had grown wings - and came down on the serpent’s head, shattering teeth with her sword. “Maelstrom’s maw!” Seacat cursed as both disappeared underwater. “She’s crazy!” And damned… She forced that thought away.

    “Oh, no - she does that all the time,” Shrimp said in a rather smug voice.

    “Don’t worry, she’s got this,” Brain Boy added, leaning against the railing as if he had no care in the world.

    “Got it!” the blonde yelled from the water as if she had heard them. “Wait, no!”

    And she was pulled under - or dived, Seacat couldn’t tell.

    Fighting a sea serpent by herself? With just a sword? Seacat shook her head.

    Then Blondie surfaced. “Now I’ve got it!” she announced with a beaming smile. Blondie? The weird girl had slain a sea serpent? And had changed into a giantess for it??

    Behind Seacat, Sea Hawk dropped the harpoons he had taken out of storage. “I guess my brilliant plan to impress our passengers didn’t account for that twist,” he said.

    Seacat couldn’t help it - she laughed. “But your plan to entertain them so they’ll hire us again might’ve worked,” she said as Blondie, helped by her friends, climbed back on board, babbling excitedly about her fight.

    Wait - that was a bad thing, Seacat reminded herself. Then her eyes widened as she realised what she had seen. There was only one explanation for this.

    Blondie was a princess! A bloody princess! A former Horde soldier was a princess? How was that possible? Princesses were born to royalty! Did they lose her as a baby? No, that only happened in stories. Stupid stories for little girls who hadn’t yet learned that the world wasn’t a tale, and that no one would be coming to claim them as their lost grandchild and take them away to a life in safety and luxury.

    Seacat shook her head. “How can you be a princess?” she yelled, claws digging into the railing where she stood.

    Blondie blinked at her. “I’m She-Ra, Princess of Power.”

    “I don’t care about your title,” Seacat growled as she handed the conn over to Sea Hawk. “How can a Horde soldier be a princess?”

    “Former Horde soldier,” Brain Boy cut in.

    Seacat ignored him as she jumped down to the deck and stalked towards Blondie. The girl had shrunk to a more normal size, and her clothes covered her arms and legs again, hiding those toned muscles. Well, being all wet, they didn’t hide them completely. A white undersuit wasn’t the best choice for swimming or diving, and her ponytail was limply hanging down her back. Not that Seacat cared.

    “Ah, well…” Blondie grimaced as she tugged on her jacket. “I found this…”

    “That’s a secret,” Shrimp interrupted her, teleporting between them with her arms spread. Did she think Seacat would attack a woman - a princess! - who could take out a sea serpent with just a sword? Well, they were rebels...

    “Really?” Seacat narrowed her eyes at the shorter princess. “A secret?”

    “Yes, a secret.” The princess frowned at her - and then at Blondie. “Crucially important information for the Rebellion that cannot get out.”

    Blondie looked surprised and then guilty. Seacat almost laughed at her expression.

    Instead, she nodded. That something was a secret was valuable information by itself. But it was obvious, of course - everyone knew that the power of the princesses had kept the Horde away, even when they were just defending their own realms. And it wasn’t as if anyone but the Horde would profit from spilling the secret. She still wanted to know the secret, of course. But this wasn’t the time. So she scoffed. “Two princesses. We should’ve charged more for this trip.”

    “Hey! Just because I’m a princess doesn’t mean I’ve got money!” Blondie protested. “We didn’t have any money in the Horde! I actually don’t have any money now.” She blinked in that stupid manner of hers. “I don’t need money, do I?” she asked her friends.

    “Bright Moon will cover all your expenses,” Shrimp replied.

    Seacat huffed. Some people had all the luck while others struggled and earned their keep. “Whatever,” she spat and turned around to find something to be busy with. Anything to take her mind of stupid impossibly tall and toned blonde princesses straight out of a children’s tale!

    “What is this place, anyway?” Shrimp yelled after her. “I didn’t read about a ship’s graveyard on the way to Salineas when I planned this mission!”

    Seacat stopped and grinned without facing them. “The Captain set the course,” she told the princess. “Ask him.”

    “What?”

    She hid her smile and climbed the rigging while the three passengers went to question Sea Hawk. It wouldn’t teach her captain a lesson - she knew him too well to hope for that - but it would at least be amusing to watch.

    *****​

    They reached Salineas without too much delay, but the captain wouldn’t be bragging about this trip when he next claimed the Dragon’s Daughter III was the fastest ship on all the seas. Which was more or less correct, of course. Though she was also one of the smallest ocean-going vessels.

    Salineas’s port was emptier than usual, Seacat noticed as they approached the breakwater - which would also break any ships that foundered on it, of course. Instead of the dozen ships usually waiting to pass through the gate after reprovisioning, she could only see two - and those were ships of Salineas’s navy. And the guards on the mole outnumbered the people fishing there.

    “Something’s not right,” she muttered.

    “Hm?”

    Seacat felt her fur bristle, but she managed not to jump. How had Blondie snuck up on her? She turned around especially slowly to face the princess. “What?”

    “What’s not right?”

    “Eavesdropping,” Seacat answered with a toothy grin.

    “What?”

    Blondie just had to ruin her quip, didn’t she? “Eavesdropping isn’t right,” Seacat explained.

    “Oh.” Blondie blinked. “I wasn’t. Eavesdropping, that is. Not intentional, I mean.” She bit her lip, then smiled again. “I just wanted to talk to you.”

    But Seacat didn’t want to talk to her. She frowned. “We’re about to make landfall - I’m busy here.”

    “Oh.”

    That should’ve been obvious. Seacat cocked her head, pointedly looked at where the other princess and Brain Boy were standing at the railing, and nodded. “So, can I go back to keeping us from ramming the pier?”

    “Oh. Of course! Sorry! We can talk later!”

    Seacat sighed. She should’ve told the girl to get lost. But then Blondie would’ve cried or something. And that would have made a bad impression on the other princess, who still had to pay them. And on Mermista as well. Probably - it was hard to tell with the Princess of Salineas.

    The Dragon’s Daughter III came to a stop right at the pier, leaving less than a handwidth between the hull and the wall. It was a perfect example of great seamanship by Sea Hawk - not that the landlubbers would have realised that. But Seacat did, of course.

    She jumped over to the pier and secured the ship with the lines hanging there. “She’s tied up, captain!” she yelled with a smile.

    “Good work, first mate!” Sea Hawk replied before swinging on a line to land next to her. “Ah! The shores of Salineas! Fairest port on all the seas, and home to the fairest princess in the world!”

    Seacat rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah.” Of course, the man had done this just to impress the princess. Who wasn’t at the pier, anyway. Ah well. She turned to their passengers. “I’ll have the gangplank ready in a moment so you can disembark!”

    “No need!” Blondie yelled back and jumped herself, followed by her friends teleporting directly on to the pier.

    Seacat frowned - they didn’t have to act as if they couldn’t wait to leave the ship, did they? Before she could say anything, though, Blondie was in her face. “So… the ship’s all secured now, no danger of sinking? So, can we talk now?”

    Maelstrom’s mother! Seacat clenched her teeth. She couldn’t blow up at the idiot - they hadn’t paid their fare yet.

    “Adora! We need to speak to the princess first. We can’t leave her waiting, or she might be offended,” the shrimp called out.

    “Oh…”

    “And we have to deal with customs,” Seacat said. “Sorry,” she added with a toothy smile. The harbourmaster of Salineas was usually a pain in the butt with all her required paperwork, but today they only had three passengers to declare, so it shouldn’t take long at all. Just long enough to see the trio well on their way to the palace.

    “That can wait!” Sea Hawk declared. “Mermista can’t wait!” Before she could stop him, he turned to the approaching guards. “Ho! Dear fellows! We require an audience with the princess! Tell her Sea Hawk has arrived with a diplomatic delegation from Bright Moon!”

    Seacat shook her head as the guards snapped to attention. Well, even if that meant Sea Hawk wouldn’t be here to help her deal with customs, it would also stop Blondie from bothering her.

    But Sea Hawk slapped her on the back. “Come on, first mate! Dear Mermista will be overjoyed to see you as well!”

    Oh, no.

    *****​

    The city wasn’t as lively as usual, either, Seacat noted on the way to the palace. She saw fewer guards about, and fewer merchants boasting about their wares. Very few merchants, actually - most of the shops she saw were closed.

    Something was wrong. They hadn’t been to Salineas in some time - enough time to let Mermista cool down after the latest ‘unfortunate misunderstanding’, as Sea Hawk called it - but the last time they had visited, the city had been buzzing.

    Even so, Blondie seemed impressed, Seacat noted - the girl was looking around as if she’d never seen a port town other than Seaworthy, and she was probably not listening to what Shrimp and Brain Boy tried to tell her about Mermista and about making a good impression.

    Well, that was none of her business. Seacat stepped up her pace until she was walking right next to Sea Hawk. “Captain,” she said in a low voice, “do you know where all the people are?”

    “Oh?” He blinked, then looked around. “No, can’t say I do!”

    She sighed, but it wasn’t as if she had expected anything else.

    At least the palace looked the same, and the majordomo had the usual frown on his face when he saw Sea Hawk and Seacat. “Princess Glimmer!” the arrogant prick sad, beaming at Shrimp before he bowed. “Princess Mermista will be receiving you and your friends. If you’ll follow me?”

    “Thank you,” the shrimp replied.

    Seacat frowned, then stepped closer to Blondie. “Shouldn’t you rate a welcome as well?” she asked in a whisper, “being a princess and all?”

    “Ah… It’s complicated.” Blondie smiled at her. “But I don’t mind.”

    Yeah, right. A princess not minding not being treated as a princess? Seacat snorted. On the other hand, perhaps Blondie wasn’t used yet to being a princess. The way she acted, she must have been a recent pick or however you became a princess.

    “So… you’ve been here before, right? Sea Hawk told us about your visits.” Blondie beamed at her.

    Seriously? Was she trying to get information like that? Or was she trying to chat? Seacat narrowed her eyes. “We’ve visited before,” she said carefully.

    “Oh. So...”

    Fortunately, they reached the throne room, and Blondie fell silent as the majordomo announced them. “Princess Glimmer of Bright Moon. And friends.”

    “And the one and only Sea Hawk!” the captain added in a loud voice.

    Seacat grinned at the way the prick’s frown deepened.

    But then Mermista loudly sighed. “Ew. Who let him in?”

    Seacat winced - it seemed they hadn’t been away long enough.

    “Guards!” the majordomo bellowed at once. “Remove the captain at once!”

    “No, no!” Mermista raised one hand, the other still propping up her head where she was slouching on her throne, “if he’s already here he might as well stay.”

    “My dearest Mermista! It’s been too long! I’ve dreamed of you...” Sea Hawk stepped forward with a wide smile.

    “For now,” the princess added with a frown, which shut him up.

    Seacat frowned - that was typical of the princess; stringing Sea Hawk along with mixed signals.

    “And look what the cat dragged in.” Mermista nodded towards her.

    “They’re a diplomatic delegation,” Seacat replied, deliberately misunderstanding the princess’s intent. “From Bright Moon.”

    “I know that. I didn’t mean them.” Mermista’s glare was lacking her usual intensity, Seacat noticed.

    “I’m Princess Glimmer of Bright Moon,” the shrimp announced, taking a step forward. “Our parents fought in the Rebellion together.”

    The Princess wasn’t impressed, though. “Yes, that particular disaster is well known in Salineas. Let me guess: You want to renew the alliance and fight the Horde together.” She sighed.

    Shrimp was taken aback, and before she could say anything in response, Mermista stood and walked over the wall behind her. A wave of her trident turned it into a window showing the Sea Gate. “We could’ve used help before the Sea Gate started crumbling right when Horde flotillas increased the pressure on my kingdom.”

    Seacat felt her ears perk up. That was news. Very unwelcome news. “Is that why the port’s deserted?” she blurted out.

    Mermista glared at her for a moment, then shrugged. “People don’t want to stay in a city that will fall as soon as the Sea Gate stops working. Who would have guessed?” she added with a cynical smile.

    That was more like the Mermista Seacat knew. But her attitude was… she wasn’t giving up, was she?

    “My dearest Mermista! As long as my ship is sailing the waves, no Horde vessel will reach your shores!” Sea Hawk declared, pointing at the ceiling.

    “So… that’ll be for about half an hour until it’s burned to the waterline?” Mermista shot back with a wry smile.

    “Make it an hour,” Sea Hawk replied with a grin.

    Mermista chuckled with a wry smile. “Thank you.”

    This was very alarming. She had never seen Mermista like this. And Seacat very much didn’t want to die in a futile charge against an enemy fleet that only served to prolong the battle for half an hour. No, she didn’t want to die, period, she reminded herself.

    “That’s why we’re here - to rebuild the Princess Alliance,” Princess Shrimp declared. “Together, we can beat the Horde!”

    “Sure, like our parents beat them, right?” Mermista sighed again. “Without the Sea Gate protecting us, we’re pretty much dead.”

    And if the Horde controlled Salineas, they’d control the sea routes - the Sea Gate protected the only safe passage between the Maelstrom and the Eastern Reefs. That would spell disaster for any independent captain.

    “We’re here to help you!” the shrimp tried again. She was stubborn, Seacat had to admit. Of course, that stubbornness might get her killed here. Well, she’d be in good company - it wasn’t as if Seacat would abandon Sea Hawk, and her captain would never abandon Mermista. Not when she was fighting for her life.

    “This is First Ones’ writing…”

    Seacat turned - she had almost forgotten about Blondie. The girl was staring at a colourful display with… runes?

    “Who’s she again?” Mermista asked.

    “She’s Adora. She’s got a magic sword,” Brain Boy said.

    Seacat really needed to reconsider his nickname. On the other hand, Shrimp and Blondie were even worse, weren’t they?

    *****​

    As it turned out, Blondie could read the lost language of the First Ones. Which supposedly meant she could repair the Sea Gate, which apparently somehow had lost or was losing its connection to the runestone.

    It didn’t make much sense to Seacat, but she wasn’t a sorceress. She wasn’t really interested in knowing details. This was just a way to pass the time until Mermista either sent the three weirdos away or made an alliance and then spent a few days encouraging Sea Hawk before blowing up at him and driving him away again. Sea Hawk would never change. The sooner Mermista realised that, the better for both of them.

    On the other hand, she needed something to keep her from being bored while waiting for the inevitable breakup. “So, you can do magic?” she asked as the group walked over towards the Sea Gate, to check if Blondie was correct.

    “Ah… yes?”

    “That didn’t sound very confident.”

    “It’s a theory,” Blondie replied, frowning a little. “But a sound one.”

    “Yes,” Shrimp butted in, “Magic is connected to the runestones.”

    “And how are you going to repair it? Hit it with your magic sword?” Seacat joked.

    “Uh…”

    “Seriously?” She started at the girl. “You’re planning to hit to repair it?” That wasn’t how repairing anything worked.

    “Not directly. But I will use my sword.” Now Blondie was pouting. She looked almost adorable like that. Seacat snickered.

    “What’s so funny?” Blondie asked, frowning at her.

    “Nothing,” Seacat chuckled again, “I’m just imagining how you’ll repair the gate with your sword.”

    “Hmph.”

    Before the other girl could think of a response - or Shrimp could butt in again - they reached the Sea Gate. “Up close it does look different,” Seacat remarked.

    “Oh? Are you an expert?” Shrimp asked.

    Seacat rolled her eyes. She didn’t like the princess’s tone. Or expression. Or attitude. At least when it was aimed at herself. “Any sailor passing through the gate as often as we do would notice such changes,” she said.

    Mermista cleared her throat, glaring at her as if it was Seacat’s fault that the princess’s gate was failing. “As I was about to say, the gate’s magic has grown weaker since my father’s time, and the process goes on. If you think you can restore its power, feel free to try.”

    Blondie nodded with a determined expression. Seacat was tempted to ask if they had agreed on a reward yet, but it was none of her business if Mermista decided to get some free help without committing herself to an alliance. And if the princess had decided to do that, she’d be angry at Seacat for spoiling her plan. Which would put Sea Hawk into a bad spot.

    “For the Honour of Grayskull!”

    Seacat didn’t gasp as she watched Blondie turning into some seven-foot warrior with coiled muscles and legs that didn’t seem to end. She just took a deep breath. And stared. So, that was a princess’s magic at work.

    “Uh... now… how best to do this…” Blondie said as she eyed the barrier.

    “Don’t ask me - you’re the one with the magic repairing sword,” Seacat replied with a smirk.

    “I wasn’t asking you!”

    Hah, she got a rise out of Blondie! Seacat chuckled. “You didn’t exclude me, either.”

    “She didn’t have to,” Shrimp added, “this is serious. If you don’t have anything helpful to add, you’re not supposed to interrupt!”

    Seacat sighed and rolled her eyes. “I was just joking.”

    “And this is no joking matter! The Horde will conquer the kingdom if we can’t restore the gate!”

    “I know that!” Seacat snarled at the shrimp.

    “Just… point it at the barrier, or the runestone, and direct the magic like that?” Brain Boy suggested as he stepped between Seacat and his friends.

    Obviously, the princess didn’t mind him interrupting. Seacat scoffed and walked over to where Mermista and Sea Hawk were standing.

    “She’s going to use her magic sword to repair the gate by hitting it,” she told them.

    “I know! Isn’t it impressive?” The captain was always too optimistic.

    “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Mermista, of course, was more realistic. “Sea Hawk told me that Adora claims to be a childhood friend of yours.”

    Oh that damned… Seacat pressed her lips together. She wouldn’t insult her captain in front of Mermista. Not now, at least. “She also claims that we both are former Horde soldiers,” she said after a moment.

    “Why would she lie about that?”

    That was a good question, but Seacat didn’t have to answer any question if she didn’t want to. And she very much didn’t want to answer this question.

    Fortunately, Blondie finally did something right and distracted the Princess by pointing her sword at the gate and… pushing some light through it? Magic? Seacat felt her fur bristle again and quickly ran her hand over her tail - no need to let everyone know she was a little… impressed. Certainly not worried. Or afraid.

    “It’s working. The leaks are closing!” Sea Hawk yelled.

    “That’s the least of the gate’s problems,” Mermista replied.

    Well, it seemed that Blondie wasn’t just good for beating up monsters, but could also restore ancient magical artifacts to their original power. Well, she couldn’t sail a skiff through a storm!

    Brain Boy joined them. “Adora’s at it, but fully repairing the gate will take some time,” he told them. “I hope it won’t take too long, though - even She-Ra gets tired.”

    “She can always take a break,” Seacat said, shrugging.

    “Ah… that might be problematic,” the boy replied. “She’s kind of stuck.”

    “Stuck?” Seacat looked at the blonde again. “What do you mean, ‘stuck’?”

    “Uh…” Brain Boy’s smile grew a little forced. “She can’t pull out. The, uh, magic is too strong.”

    Seacat took a step back. That was bad. Pretty bad. On the other hand, it was also a little funny. More than a little. To see Blondie - She-Ra - stuck like this, unable to pull out… She chuckled before she reminded herself that this was important. “I hope she slept plenty, then,” she said.

    “Oh, yes. Don’t worry about it! As long as no one bothers her, she will be fine.”

    That was asking for trouble, in Seacat’s opinion and experience. Just as she was about to point that out to the fool - perhaps with the help of her claws to make a point or three - a bell started ringing.

    The bell from the lighthouse.

    An enemy fleet had been sighted.

    Mermista took off towards the lighthouse, with Sea Hawk in tow. Seacat glanced at Blondie, who was still standing there, pouring or pushing magic or whatever into the gate, then ran after her captain.

    She couldn’t do anything here, anyway.

    “What’s the enemy’s position and composition?” Mermista barked as soon as a commander of her guard came into view.

    “They’re approaching from the south and are about half an hour out. Six frigates, half a dozen troop transports,” the woman replied, “and one bomb vessel.”

    Mermista cursed, as did Seacat. A bomb vessel was useless in naval combat, but it could shell fortifications into rubble - or crack the Sea Gate. That was an invasion fleet, not a raiding fleet. “And with most of our fleet escorting the evacuation convoy…”

    “Fear not, my love! We will stop them! No matter the cost!” Sea Hawk declared.

    “And how?” the princess shot back, apparently unimpressed. “We have one frigate and a sloop available.”

    “And the Dragon’s Daughter III!”

    “Which is a fast courier,” Mermista pointed out. “Not a warship.”

    “Every ship is a warship if you know how to use it!”

    Seacat groaned. “You’re going to set her on fire and ram the enemy, aren’t you?”

    “Exactly! I might have missed out on a harrowing adventure on the way here, but I shall not shy away from this one!” Sea Hawk put his foot on the nearest railing and pointed to the sky. “The sea is my witness: They shall not pass while I still draw breath!”

    The captain was entirely serious, Seacat could tell. As could Mermista - she wasn’t scowling any more. In fact, she was smiling at him.

    Seacat sighed. “I’ll get her ready to sail, then.”

    Sea Hawk blinked, turning his head away from Mermista - who had probably been about to kiss him - and looked at Seacat. “I think you should better…”

    She gave him her best glare. They were a crew! If he actually told her to stay here...

    His smile turned a little forced. “...uh, hurry, then.”

    Satisfied, she nodded, then started running towards her ship. The evacuation of the civilians proved to be quite handy - if she’d had to deal with a terrified mob of people trying to escape…

    “Hey! Seacat!” Princess Shrimp appeared in front of her in a shower of sparkly lights.

    “No time!” Seacat yelled as she jumped over the girl, landing on all four and continuing to dash like that towards the pier. Getting the Dragon’s Daughter III ready to sail - ready for battle - would take some time. Time they didn’t have.

    “Wait!” Once more, Shrimp appeared in front of her.

    “No time!” Seacat took the next corner.

    “Wait! What are you doing?”

    “Getting ready to fight!” she yelled back as she once more had to dodge the stubborn princess. Wasn’t it obvious?

    “We can help!”

    No, they couldn’t. They weren’t sailors. They didn’t know how to sail a ship into battle. On the other hand, they could fight. Probably.

    “What about Blondie?” Seacat reached the ship and jumped on board, not bothering with the gangplank.

    The shrimp appeared on deck, panting even though she hadn’t actually run. “She can’t join us; she tried - she’s stuck there until the Gate is restored.”

    “So, she can’t pull out until the Gate’s satisfied?” Seacat’s joke went over the shrimp’s head. It wasn’t really funny, anyway - if they ever needed a bloodthirsty, slightly insane giant warrior with a magic sword on their ship, it would be now. “Who’s watching her?” If the fool was stuck, she was pretty much helpless, after all. And she would be an easy target for Horde scum hiding in the city...

    “Uh… drat!” Shrimp disappeared.

    Seacat quickly started to set sails. The wind was, fortunately, in their favour - the Horde would have to tack against it to approach them. As she pulled on the line with all her strength, she saw the sloop was also setting sails, but the frigate was lagging behind. Great.

    “Here we are! Set sails! Onward!”

    The captain had arrived. “I’m already setting sails,” Seacat replied.

    “I know, but it was the thing to say!” He flashed her a smile as he scrambled up to the conn.

    Seacat shook her head, not bothering to hide her smile, as she tied the line, fixing the mainsail. The captain would never change. And she didn’t want him to. Even if he was about to get her killed alongside himself - the odds of pushing through half a dozen Horde frigates, even with the Salinean vessel helping, were bad. Very bad. And the odds of surviving the battle...

    A column of water shot up in the air next to the ship, startling her. What the…? She flinched and dodged to the side as the water arched towards here, then hit the deck, splashing her. What… no, who?

    Mermista stood there, trident in hand, smirking at the drenched Seacat.

    “You aimed for me!” Seacat yelled.

    “I didn’t see you,” the princess lied with a grin. “Sorry.”

    Seacat huffed but was smiling herself.

    With the princess on board, their odds had just improved. Greatly.

    They might actually survive this.

    *****​

    As expected, they were the first out of port. With the wind blowing steadily, Sea Hawk then slowed down to let the others catch up. Well, at least the sloop; the frigate was still setting sails. If that were her ship, Seacat would keelhaul half the crew. Or all of them.

    “Raise the Princess’s flag!”

    “What?” Seacat turned from watching the Salinean ships to stare at her captain.

    “We’re the flagship; it’s only proper that we announce that fact,” Sea Hawk replied. “You wouldn’t want to enter battle improperly dressed, would you? That’s the same for ships.”

    Seacat hissed in annoyance at the reminder of a particularly embarrassing incident in Crimson Port. “We don’t have a flag like that!”

    “We do, actually! I commissioned one for exactly such a moment!” he announced with a wide smile.

    “For sailing to face an enemy fleet that outnumbers us four to one in a desperate battle to the death?” Mermista asked.

    “Well… I was more thinking of a honeymoon cruise, but this also works! Adventure!”

    Seacat opened the chest with their spare flags with a kick and started going through them. And yes, there it was: A Salinean flag with a crown. Huffing, she scaled the rigging and raised it on the mainmast.

    She slid down a line to land next to the captain and the princess. “This will draw the attention of the entire Horde flotilla.”

    “Good!”

    She rolled her eyes. As if Sea Hawk would have it any other way. “So, what’s the plan?”

    “We’ll go after the bomb vessel,” Sea Hawk said.

    “Yes,” Mermista agreed. “The troop transports and escorts don’t matter as long as the Sea Gate stands. The real threat is the bomb vessel. With She-Ra restoring the Sea Gate, we just need to keep the Horde from destroying it before it’s repaired, and that requires taking out that ship.” She pointed at the horizon, where the enemy fleet was rapidly advancing.

    Sea Hawk nodded with a smile, and Seacat couldn’t tell if he had come to the same conclusions or if he simply had wanted to hit the enemy flagship. It didn’t matter, anyway - this was a solid plan. Or, as solid as they could get in their position. “So, we just need to evade the six frigates already manoeuvring to cut us off, and then sink a ship about… five times our size?”

    “Exactly!”

    Well, she’d faced worse odds. While playing cards, mostly. And she had lost most of the time.

    Glancing back, she saw that the sloop had caught up, but the frigate was just leaving port. “What a bunch of layabouts!”

    “The ship’s performance so far is lacking,” Mermista agreed. “I’ll have to rectify that after the battle.”

    “First, we have to make it through the battle,” Seacat reminded her.

    “Naturally.” The princess scoffed as if that had been too obvious to mention.

    “You’re suddenly…” Seacat trailed off, glancing at Sea Hawk. She bit her lower lips. Pointing out that the princess wasn’t as gloomy any more, even though they faced death in battle, would only cause problems. Perhaps even sink what small chance they had to survive this.

    But, oh, she wanted to rub it in the princess’s face. Or not - that would give her more ideas about Sea Hawk.

    Scoffing herself, she jumped over the railing, landing lightly on the main deck, and ran towards the bow. They’d soon be in range of the screening frigates, which had formed up in a line now, still headed to intercept them. She ran a quick calculation in her mind. It would be close, but if they timed it right, and if the Horde was unprepared for their actual speed…

    “Signal the Salinean Shark to change course and head east, then south!” Sea Hawk yelled.

    She quickly grabbed twe flags and started signalling. That would force the enemy to split up their ships. If only the dumb frigate were here. Then the sloop could draw two away, the frigate would keep two more busy, and they would only have to outsail two enemy ships Instead of...

    She watched as the flags on the Horde’s lead ship changed. She didn’t know their code, but it wasn’t as if they had too many options. There! The last two ships in the line changed course, tacking as they did so, and were on the way to intercept the sloop.

    That left four frigates still bearing down on them. Four to one. Not good odds. Definitely not good odds. The only thing that would give them a chance to pull this off was Mermista’s magic.

    Seacat was sure the princess would never let them forget it, either.

    If they survived.

    A loud explosion made her jerk and her tail puff up before she realised what had happened.

    The bombardment had begun. She turned and watched the Sea Gate. How long would a shell take to hit it? Oh. That long.

    The explosion covered the Sea Gat in smoke, but the steady wind quickly cleared it. And the gate had held!

    Seacat’s smile vanished as she remembered that Blondie was stuck to the gate. If the gate blew up with her right next to it…

    They had to hurry and sink the bomb vessel!

    But there were four ships between them and the - now anchored - bomb vessel. Four frigates, every one of them carrying enough cannons to blow the Dragon’s Daughter III out of the water if they managed to get close enough.

    The Dragon’s Daughter III was faster and had the wind at her back, but that wouldn’t be enough to break through. Not if the Horde commander was even somewhat competent. The cannons on Horde frigates had a reach of about one mile. Effective range was about half that, but if they put out enough shots, some were bound to hit anyway.

    So far, both the Horde ships and the Dragon’s Daughter III were headed almost straight towards each other, bow facing bow. That meant only the lead frigate could fire, and only their chase guns - and with the wind directly at their back, Sea Hawk could easily swerve enough to throw off their aim. The Horde flotilla was tacking against the wind, which slowed them down, but they could always turn away and present their broadsides.

    The Dragon’s Daughter III could outrun them - but they couldn’t outrun them and get close to the bomb vessel. Which fired again, making Seacat flinch. That was a huge gun on that damn ship.

    They were still closing. Now there were about four miles left between them and the Horde lead ship. She licked her lips as she estimated their speed. A few more minutes, and they would be in range.

    She spotted two small flashes at the bow of the Horde ship. They were firing already? Had they improved the range of their guns? Then she saw the splashes, far ahead of them, and grinned. No, just an overeager crew. Or an impatient captain.

    Mermista joined her, gripping the railing with one hand. “How competent is the enemy?”

    “Hard to say,” Seacat replied. “Unless they are trying to bluff us, they aren’t the best sailors on the seas.” She glanced at the princess. “You wouldn’t happen to be able to conjure a huge wave to sweep them away, would you?”

    Mermista snorted. “Sure. I’m just waiting to use my power to make it more dramatic.”

    Seacat had to chuckle herself at the joke. “Pity,” she said.

    “But I can raise waves powerful enough to reach the decks of the enemy. That should throw off their aim. And some of them overboard.”

    That would help, but it wouldn’t decide the battle. And... “On all four frigates?” Seacat asked. The leading frigate fired again. This time, the shells hit closer to them, but still about a mile short.

    Mermista winced. “Not unless I make the wave weaker.”

    “Great.” Seacat clenched her teeth. “You told the captain.”

    “Yes.”

    The bomb vessel fired again. Now they were going head to head with the frigates. If the enemy started to turn away from the wind now to present their broadsides, the Dragon’s Daughter III would be able to quickly turn the other direction, evading their field of fire - and the Horde leader would block the other ships. And if the enemy turned into the wind… well, that would slow them down so much, they would be able to sail around them.

    But the closer they got, the more dangerous it would be to try and evade them. The enemy would be able to close the distance quickly enough to catch them with a broadside, and that would be the end of it. And of them.

    “What’s his plan?” Seacat asked the princess. He better have a plan!

    “We’ll fly past them.”

    “What?” She whipped her head around and almost missed the next salvo from the leading horde ship. This time, they fell short a few dozen yards.

    Mermista grinned at her like Sea Hawk used to when he was pulling off a stupid stunt that might get them killed - or become the talk in all the ports.

    They were about a mile out, and at their speed, that was shrinking rapidly. Soon, the enemy would turn. And Seacat realised what the captain was planning. “If we survive this, I’m going to kill him,” she spat as she quickly wrapped a line around her arm, tying herself to the ship.

    Mermista laughed as she copied her. “Not before I get him!”

    Less than three quarters of a mile left. The Dragon’s Daughter II was now swerving back and forth rapidly, and the chase guns spoke again. One shell went wide, but the other shell hit the sea so close, a column of water drenched both Seacat and Mermista.

    And the enemy was turning away from the wind.

    “There they go!” Seacat yelled as the guns of the enemy came into view.

    “Hold fast! This will be our finest adventure!” Sea Hawk yelled back.

    Seacat held her breath as she saw the full broadsides of four frigates turn their way. They were about six hundred yards away from the leading ship. What was the captain waiting for?

    “What’s he waiting for?” Mermista echoed her thoughts.

    Then the guns started to fire, and Sea Hawk yelled: “NOW!”

    Mermista waved her trident, and the Dragon’s Daughter III was lifted up, far above the sea, by a huge wave, and propelled forward.

    “Yes!” the captain shouted as the first frigate’s broadside passed beneath them, the shells harmlessly punching through the wave.

    The second frigate fired her own broadside, with the same result. And the third and fourth were rapidly trying to turn away from the wind to bring the flying Dragon’s Daughter III into the arcs of their guns - without success.

    They were shooting past the bow of the first frigate, so close that Seacat could see the Horde sailors struggling to bring the chase guns to bear without success. As soon as they cleared the bow, the enemy captain had the other broadside fire - but they were too close and too high for the cannons to get a bead on them, and the magical wave wasn’t affected by mere shells.

    The second frigate had still been turning away from the wind and was now turning back into the wind to bring her other broadside into play - but they were too slow; the Dragon’s Daughter III was opening the distance too quickly for them. And the other two ships were still too far away.

    Yes, they had…

    “Ugh!” Seacat heard Mermista say.

    A moment later, the wave crashed, and with it their ship. They hit the water hard - Seacat could hear wood cracking and splintering even over the roar of water splashing around them - and if not for the lines wrapped around her limbs, she would have been thrown overboard. Even the mainmast seemed to sway far more than it should be able to.

    But they were still going fast. Still had the wind at their back. And there was no enemy ship left between them and their target. No warship, at least - even damaged, the Dragon’s Daughter III could outsail a troop transport.

    Guns fired behind them - the three trailing frigates finally having been able to aim their cannons - but they were too far away. And too slow to catch up.

    Seacat untied herself and dove for the hold. If that cracking had been any indication…

    She dropped into the hold and cursed. Cracks ran along the hull, centred on the keel. Sooner or later, the keel would break - or the ship would snap in two.

    She jumped, grabbed the lid of the hold, and pulled herself out. “She’s done for, captain!” she yelled. “Keel’s cracking!”

    “She’ll hold on for a few more minutes!” the captain yelled back. “Long enough! Set her on fire!”

    “What?” Mermista all it shrieked. “Now?”

    “Yes, now!” Seacat snapped, running towards the oil barrels. Next to them, a splash showed that the enemy was now firing their chase guns.

    It wouldn’t do them any good, though - they were eating up the distance to the bomb vessel. Seacat barely registered that the sloop was fighting two frigates now as she started to splash oil around the hold and deck.

    “Where’s the dinghy?” Mermista asked.

    “We don’t have one,” Seacat told her.

    “What? Where will we be going once all this is on fire?”

    “Overboard, of course!” Seacat replied, pouring the last of the oil on the spare sails in the bow. Hadn’t Mermista expected this?

    “Sea Hawk failed to mention that part!” the Princess confirmed her suspicion.

    “He tends to do that.” Seacat drew her cutlass, the blade glowing as she stuck it into the deck. Flames erupted from the tip at once, rapidly spreading over the oil-soaked deck.

    Seacat was already scrambling up to the captain, who was still handling the rudder. “Ship’s set on fire!” she reported, sketching a salute.

    “Noted!” he replied, laughing loudly.

    With the wind at their back, they didn’t have to deal with smoke reaching them, but between the sails and the smoke, steering the ship would be difficult. Not that that would be a problem - the enemy ship was still anchored and hadn’t set any sails yet.

    “First Mate, prepare to abandon ship.”

    “Aye aye, Captain!”

    They were about four hundred yards out now. Seacat saw the horde soldiers running around in apparent panic. Still no sails going up, but someone must have cut the anchors loose.

    It wouldn’t save them, though it meant they had to steer the ship even closer to ensure they’d hit it.

    And that would be cutting it a little closely.

    Two hundred yards. More creaking and cracking filled the air - did the mainmast just shift?

    “Abandon ship! Abandon ship! Adventure!”

    Seacat cursed and flung herself over the railing. She hit the water, going under, then swam for the surface. Treading water, she glanced around. Where was… there! Sea Hawk broke the surface, followed by Mermista!

    “I was supposed to be the last one to leave the ship!” Sea Hawk complained.

    “I wasn’t about to leave you there!” the princess retorted.

    “Look!” Seacat shouted, interrupting the argument.

    The Dragon’s Daughter III, now fully ablaze, rammed into the bomb vessel. Her bow crumpled, stuck in the enemy’s iron-plated hull. Then the mainmast fell - onto the Horde ship, scattering crew and burning pieces of rigging all over the deck.

    “It’s beautiful!” Sea Hawk yelled. “What an adventure! Look at her burning!”

    The fire was indeed spreading quickly - very quickly. Half the enemy deck seemed on fire, and the crew was already jumping overboard, which was… Oh no!

    The first explosion ripped the ship’s forecastle apart and toppled one mast. Another blew part of the main deck away.

    Then the entire ship vanished in a fireball, and everything went dark.

    *****​

    She woke up sopping wet and retching, coughing out water from her lungs. And she was on a deck - she could feel hardwood beneath her.

    “Are you alright?”

    Some sailor - Salinean; she could tell from the uniform - was staring at her. She nodded and waved him away. She was fine.

    “...did my duty! I came as fast as possible, Princess!”

    “You arrived when the Salinean Shark was still fighting two enemy frigates! And you ran from the enemy!”

    That was the princess chewing out someone. Seacat was very familiar with that tone thanks to Sea Hawk.

    Sea Hawk! She gasped, jumping up and almost falling down as she slid over the wet deck until her claws found purchase. Where was the captain? Oh. There he was. Standing next to and slightly behind Mermista as she was snarling at a Salinean captain.

    “I had to save you, Princess! That was the only reason I retreated behind the Sea Gate. Besides, the Shark was beyond hope.”

    And that was Captain Slowpoke. Or Captain Coward.

    “It was beyond hope because you couldn’t get your ship out of the port in time!”

    “Indeed - that was among the sloppiest feats of seamanship I’ve ever seen,” Sea Hawk chimed in.

    “But princess! This is a frigate, not a sloop, or a courier ship! Getting ready to sail takes some time!”

    “And why weren’t you ready already?”

    Seacat chuckled, then coughed some more, spitting out salty seawater. Blergh. So, they were safely behind the Sea Gate, which apparently - she checked; yes, it shone as if new - was restored completely. That meant the invasion had failed.

    They had managed to beat a Horde fleet with a fast courier! And a princess and a sloop, but who was counting?

    People would hear about this for weeks!

    *****​

    “Catra! There you are! I was so worried!”

    Seacat closed her eyes and clenched her teeth in frustration. Blondie. Of course she had to be at the pier to welcome them back! Sighing, Seacat turned to face the girl. “I told you before, my name is… Maelstrom’s mother! What happened to you?”

    Blondie looked like she had fought an entire tavern in a brawl - and lost. One eye swollen shut, multiple bruises - and those were just the visible ones - and she was limping. Seacat took a few steps towards the blonde, reaching out to her before she realised what she was doing and stopped, snapping her arm down.

    But Blondie was beaming at her. “Oh! I’m fine. Some Horde spies attacked us, but we fought them off. Well, Glimmer and Bow did - I was stuck while I restored the Sea Gate, so I couldn’t defend myself. But I’m fine!”

    “Those bloody cowards!” Seacat spat.

    “But what about you? You look like…”

    “Yes, I look like a drenched cat,” Seacat replied, rolling her eyes.

    “No! I mean, yes, you do, but… you look hurt!”

    She was hurt, but like hell would she tell Blondie that. “I was a little too close to the enemy flagship when it blew up, and the shockwave hit me.”

    “Oh, no!”

    “But I’m fine - it doesn’t even hurt anymore.”

    “Oh.” Blondie nodded, as if she believed her. Maybe she did. “Sorry about your ship.”

    Seacat shrugged. The Dragon’s Daughter III had lasted longer than she had expected. “You get used to it.”

    “And you sunk the bomb ship and saved the Sea Gate! And all of us!” Blondie flashed a stupid smile at her. “This was so brave!”

    And Blondie was far too close for comfort. If she hugged Seacat’s aching ribs… “I didn’t do it for you!” she snarled at Blondie.

    “That’s exactly what Catra would say!”

    Seacat clenched her teeth and fought the sudden urge to claw the blonde’s face off.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: The Outposts
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 3: The Outposts

    She was facing her enemy with her staff raised across her body. Ready to strike and ready to parry a strike. Just like the trainer had said. And shown.

    And her enemy was doing the same, blue eyes staring at her over bared teeth and under a blonde lock of hair.

    She licked her lips in response, flashing her fangs. Stay cool. Cool. Her tail flicked back and forth behind her, but there was nothing she could do about that.

    The blonde took a step towards her, staff held ready, still baring her teeth. Threatening her.

    She started circling the blonde, her claws scratching the padding on the floor as she sped up. She was faster and quicker on her feet. She just had to wait until her enemy stumbled and then she could…

    The blonde attacked! Striking with her staff. Fast!

    She parried, and almost got her staff hit out of her hands. And there came another blow! Once more she parried, as she had learned, but she was driven back anyway - and she stumbled! The blonde thrust her staff at her, and she jumped to the side, her top almost getting caught on the tip.

    Close. Close! Closer!

    She darted forward, her staff sliding over the blonde’s, but before she could strike, her enemy twisted her grip, lifted - and her staff went flying.

    But she had claws! She ducked under the staff and jumped, headfirst, into the blonde. Both of them fell down, and she started scratching.

    Until the trainer pulled her away, holding her at the neck. It hurt, but all her hissing wouldn’t make him let go.

    “I said staff training, not… biting and scratching like an animal!”

    “But you also said anything goes in a fight!” Adora piped up as she rubbed her scratched arm.

    She cringed - talking back to a trainer meant getting punished. But the man nodded, even if he growled, then dropped her on the ground. “Again. And this time, staves only!”

    Adora’s beaming smile turned into a smirk as she gripped her staff again.

    “This time I’ll beat you, Catra!”

    She snorted in return, and then it was on.

    At the end of the training, they were covered in bruises - and some scratches for Adora - but they were friends.

    *****​

    Seacat shook her as she woke up. Another stupid dream. Stupid Blondie. Even when she was half a world away, the girl managed to bother Seacat.

    She stretched, resisting the urge to dig her claws into her mattress - Mermista didn’t like it if her guests left holes in the bedding. Or scratches in the furniture, no matter how fragile they were built. Then she rolled off her bed and went to get dressed. Breakfast waited.

    She left her room, still retying her hair into a ponytail, and made her way to the kitchen. She didn’t bother knocking on the captain’s room - he hadn’t slept a single night there since the Battle of Salineas. At the big doors that separated the princess’s quarters from the rest of the palace, she stopped and cocked her head, her ears twitching.

    She couldn’t hear any yelling or furniture breaking, so Mermista hadn’t lost her temper yet with Sea Hawk. Which was, for a change, a good thing - they were still waiting for the ship the princess had promised them to replace the Dragon’s Daughter III, and while Mermista probably wouldn’t go back on her word, you never knew with princesses.

    “The princess is resting,” one of the two guards Seacat had ignored so far told her.

    “Just checking.” She grinned in return and went on towards the kitchen. She was hungry, and the kitchen staff, even with half of them not yet having returned after the evacuation, made the best breakfast, ever: lots of fresh roasted fish!

    She felt her nostrils flare as she approached the kitchen - yes, that was the heavenly smell of fish covered with the special palace sauce. She licked her lips, then wiped her chin, just in case she might’ve been drooling, and entered. She’d risked her life for the whole kingdom, so she deserved a special breakfast!

    The kitchen staff agreed with her - they were smiling at her and even had a plate already ready.

    She thanked them - always be polite to those who make your food, as Sea Hawk had taught her - and left again, carrying a plate and a pitcher of some red fruit juice she’d claim was blood if someone bothered her.

    Life was good for a hero!

    *****​

    “And this is the Dragon’s Daughter IV!” Sea Hawk said, spreading his arms wide. “A marvel of shipbuilding, the crown achievement of the Salinean Royal Yards!” He stood at the princess’s private pier, staring at the small ship tied up there.

    “It’s a refurbished courier ship,” Mermista said in a flat voice. “Originally built in Seaworthy.”

    “But rebuilt here!” Sea Hawk wasn’t going to let a small thing like reality dim his enthusiasm, Seacat knew. “A token of your love for me!”

    “I couldn’t exactly let you get stranded here, could I? I’d never be rid of you.”

    Seacat frowned. The princess was smiling as she spoke, but this sounded as if Mermista was already getting sick of the captain. “It certainly looks fast enough,” Seacat said. “Though it’s a little wider in the beam unless I’m mistaken.” She wasn’t, of course - she had checked the ship last night.

    “It is, but it also has a bigger cargo hold!” Sea Hawk confirmed it.

    “So, we’re going to make good money shipping cargo,” Seacat said. If the ship was nearly as fast as the late Dragon’s Daughter III but could hold about a fourth more cargo, then that would result in good profit margins. They just needed a few easy runs from Seaworthy to the Kingdom of Snows, for example.

    “Not just any cargo, but important cargo! Crucial supplies for the Rebellion!” The captain beamed at her. “Delivered straight to the soldiers fighting the Horde on the frontlines! It’ll be an adventure!”

    There went Seacat’s profit margins. “Usually, dangerous deliveries pay extra-well,” she commented, glancing at Mermista.

    “Exploiting the fact that my love’s kingdom is at war would be extremely gauche, first mate! Especially after Mermista gave us such an excellent ship as a gift.”

    “As a replacement for the ship we sank saving her kingdom,” Seacat corrected him.

    “We saved her kingdom together with my dear Mermista!”

    “Without my powers, you’d have ended on the bottom of the sea without getting to ram the Horde bomb vessel first,” the princess commented with a grin. Seacat bared her teeth in a matching grin and was about to enter negotiations when the princess grew serious. “I hate to ask this of you, but almost all Salinean ships are currently busy transporting our evacuated people back to the kingdom - or guarding the transports. And what ships we have available would take too long to supply our forward posts.”

    Which would mean they would have to be abandoned - or they’d fall to the Horde. Seacat suppressed a growl. That would be unacceptable. The Horde couldn’t be allowed to advance further into Salineas - or anywhere else. So, as much as it grated, they would have to do this. Afterwards, though, they could return to making money.

    “Rest assured, my love, we will fly to supply the Salinean eye!”

    “‘Salinean Eye’?” Mermista sounded confused.

    “Aren’t your outposts the eyes of your fleet, looking for Horde ships?” Sea Hawk beamed.

    “In a manner of speaking, yes. But there’s more than one such post.”

    “But that wouldn’t rhyme!”

    Seacat sighed. The captain was about to sing. “I’ll check the ship,” she said. “See if there are any issues that need to be corrected before we can sail.” Trying to plug a leak in a hold full with cargo was a nightmare.

    “Duty calls, evening falls, out we sail into the squalls…”

    Seacat jumped down, grabbing the rigging to slow her fall, as a shanty started behind her. The captain was a great man, but he was a much better sailor than singer.

    *****​

    True to Sea Hawk’s shanty, they were leaving port in the evening - to better hide from Horde spies, or so Seacat had been told. It made sense - she was sure that the cowards who had attacked Blondie and her friends hadn’t been the only traitors in port. On the other hand, anyone would have noticed the cargo delivered to their new ship, and it wouldn’t take a genius to realise where they might be going. Now, whether the Horde had any ships left to try and catch them was another question. The Horde generally weren’t the best sailors, to say the least. And the favoured firepower over maneuverability.

    “Ah! Adventure! As much as I love my dear Mermista, I cannot resist the call of the sea!” Sea Hawk declared, pointing at the horizon.

    Seacat made some noncommittal noise as she scaled the rigging. The basic build of their new ship was the same as that of the Dragon’s Daughter III, but there were a few differences. It wouldn’t do to miss a line in the middle of a storm - or a battle. And her eyes saw perfectly fine in the dim light of the moons. Perks of being a cat. Like claws and superior balance. Blondie would be half-blind in her place.

    She froze for a moment, growling with anger at herself. Blondie was gone. Back to Bright Moon. Far away from the sea. Why was she still thinking of the idiot? She had a task to do! An important task!

    *****​

    “About ship!”

    Sea Hawk’s command rang out over the deck, and Seacat moved to get ready for the turn into the wind. “Ready!” she yelled.

    In response, the ship began to turn into the wind, losing speed as the sail stopped moving her forward and the wind started to push back on the bow. But they were fast enough to complete the turn without having to pull the lines to help the turn along, and soon the Dragon’s Daughter IV was sailing along the next leg of their course as they tacked towards their first destination.

    Seacat checked that the lines were fastened and everything else was in order, then dropped by the cabins, grabbing a bite to eat - dried fish - from the pantry before joining the captain on the afterdeck.

    “She’s a beauty, isn’t she?” Sea Hawk exclaimed with a beaming smile.

    “Our new ship or the princess?” Seacat asked with a grin.

    “I was talking about the ship, although, of course, my dear Mermista is a beauty without equal on all the seas!”

    Seacat reached out to hold the steering wheel in place as the captain put one boot on the chest nearby and pointed towards the sky.

    “I guess so,” she said. “She runs well enough,” she added - they had put the ship through her paces all morning after a rather quiet night, “but she could be a little faster.”

    “You only have to be fast enough to evade dangers and catch your enemies! The closer you shave it, the better the adventure!”

    “And the more dangerous,” she replied before swallowing the rest of the dried fish.

    “That’s what I said!”

    “Just don’t set this ship on fire until we’ve got enough saved up for the next.” Wait! That wouldn’t stop him. “And remember that people - Mermista’s soldiers - depend on us delivering them their supplies.”

    He blinked as if he’d forgotten this. Then he nodded. “You’re right! The love of my life would never forgive me, at least not for months, if I let her down!”

    She couldn’t resist. “Unless you do it gently,” she mumbled.

    “Huh?”

    “Nothing.” She bared her teeth in a grin, but he wasn’t deterred.

    “Ah!” He beamed at her again. “You shouldn’t be jealous of our relationship! As I’ve told you a hundred times, love will find you, too! One day.”

    “Yeah, sure.” She snorted, almost turning it into a scoff. “I don’t need that kind of stress in my life.” Just watching Sea Hawk and Mermista wrecking their relationship every few weeks was enough to know that.

    “Ah! Shying away from a challenge, first mate? I wouldn’t have thought you were a scaredy…”

    She growled at him in return, making a point of flexing her claws next to his hand on the wheel.

    He coughed, holding a fist before his mouth. “Although, seriously, romance is nothing to be afraid of. Romance is the spice of life! The soul of adventure!”

    “I’m not afraid,” she hissed. “And I’ve got plenty of adventures.” Especially with Sea Hawk.

    “Of course! But there could always be more! More passion! More adventure! More life!”

    “More food,” she retorted. It wasn’t her fault that she hadn’t found anyone interesting - interesting and interested - yet. “I’m going to grab some more fish. Do you want any?” He wouldn’t - he didn’t like fish as much as she did - but she always asked.

    “I’ll get some hardtack later.”

    She made a face at that. “Bleargh.”

    “A sailor’s stomach can easily handle hardtack!”

    “But a sailor’s tongue shouldn’t!” she shot back before jumping over the railing and landing on the deck below.

    Unfortunately, by the time she returned with some hardtack for the captain and more fish for her, Sea Hawk had found a new subject that Seacat hated even more than her love life.

    “So!” He nodded at her. “That passenger claimed to know you.”

    “She’s stupid. And a princess. And a former Horde soldier!”

    “Well, why would she lie about you being a missing friend of hers?”

    “Just because she thinks something is true doesn’t make it true!” Not even princesses could do that. “You know how I was found - I wasn’t wearing a Horde uniform. And not even the Horde uses child soldiers, anyway!”

    “Oh! Now you admit that you were a child?” He grinned at her.

    She snorted in return.”I was young and stupid.” And she had wanted a berth on a ship. His ship. To wait on land, not knowing if he’d return…

    “And now you’re old and wise?”

    “Just wise,” she shot back.

    “Disillusionment isn’t wisdom,” he told her.

    “Close enough,” she replied, eating another fish.

    He hummed in return and focused on his own ration.

    She knew he’d bring it up again - he had that annoying habit of not letting things drop - but not for the next few days. Probably. Longer if they ended up in an adventure.

    She snorted again - hell, she was almost looking forward to one!

    *****​

    “I don’t think they’ll need our supplies any more. Or anything else.” Seacat forced herself to sound flippant, almost joking, as they approached the pier. The alternative was hissing and growling with anger. The Salinean outpost had been razed. Half the top of the lookout tower was gone, the ramparts broken. But those could be repaired. The soldiers, though… She couldn’t see anyone, but she could smell a hint of rotting meat. Rotting flesh.

    Sea Hawk nodded slowly. “Ahoy!” he suddenly yelled. “The Princess sent us!”

    No one moved, though - and the rock upon which the outpost had been built was small enough for the captain’s voice to carry to every corner.

    They stopped at the pier - flanked by the reefs that kept larger ships away. “They were informed about our trip,” Seacat said. “Whoever attacked them must have struck after we set out.”

    “Two nights ago. Perhaps one,” the captain agreed. “And they didn’t warn Salineas - they must have been surprised. A direct hit from a bomb vessel’s mortar would do that, but...”

    She nodded. The whole outpost would’ve been flattened by such a shell. “But if they managed that, why would they still bombard the outpost?” She growled under her breath. The answer was obvious. “Treason. Sabotage.”

    “Sabotage the communications, then shell the outpost at your leisure,” Sea Hawk said. “Not much of an adventure.”

    “But effective,” she retorted before she jumped over the railing and landed on all fours on the pier. She checked the lines hanging. They were cut. “Someone left in a hurry,” she yelled as she tied up the Dragon’s Daughter IV.

    Sea Hawk joined her. “The crew might have fled after they realised their communications had been sabotaged.”

    Seacat nodded. It was possible. The outposts couldn’t be held against a determined attack. That was why they had a fast cutter, after all. Smart sailors knew when to cut and run.

    But the stench… it was more than a hint now. She clenched her teeth. “Or whoever sabotaged communications took the cutter as well.”

    “Let’s check the outpost’s interior.” Sea Hawk drew his sword and started up the stairs leading to the outpost proper.

    He wasn’t charging ahead and he wasn’t yelling about adventure. That was a bad sign. She clenched her teeth as she followed him.

    By the time they reached the outpost’s gate, she was pinching her nose shut and didn’t need to look at the centre of the courtyard to know what had happened to the crew.

    She did it anyway. The attackers had piled up the stripped bodies of the defenders there, forming a large heap.

    “Horde scum!” she hissed. They had taken everything! Murdered everyone!

    “But why would Horde soldiers take the uniforms and weapons of Salineans?” Sea Hawk asked. “They have ample supplies of the latter, and no use for the former.”

    Seacat blinked and almost breathed through her nose - which would have been a very bad experience. “Pirates?” But pirates knew better than to massacre their victims. Especially Salinean sailors. There would be no mercy, nor any way to finagle a pardon after turning privateer against the Horde for a while. And pirates would know that, so why… She gasped. “Horde scum turning pirates?”

    “After losing their bomb vessel, the surviving officers might have decided to turn pirate rather than face the consequences of failing.” Sea Hawk looked around. “They had traitors in Salineas. Perhaps they had traitors here as well.”

    “Someone must have shown them the way through the reefs,” Seacat agreed. “So... now we’ve got Horde scum roaming the seas as pirates.”

    “Not for long, if I have anything to say about it!” Sea Hawk raised his sword. “We shall hunt them down and bring them to justice!”

    Just the two of them? Against at least a frigate, probably more than one? Seacat snorted. She should’ve known better than to wish for adventure. But to let Horde scum get away with this?

    They’d make them pay. Somehow. Probably involving another burning ship.

    *****​

    Thick smoke was rising from the outpost’s courtyard when they set sails again. They had turned the heap of bodies into a funeral pyre. A burial at sea might’ve been more appropriate, but to lug two dozen bodies around with them? Seacat shuddered at the mere thought of it. The stench would’ve been unbearable. Better to burn them.

    “Let’s hope the second outpost hasn’t suffered the same fate,” she said as they passed the last reefs and Sea Hawk changed the course.

    “They would’ve had to be in much faster ships than frigates to cover the distance in the time they had,” Sea Hawk said. “Of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t be attacking right now - with the stolen cutter, they might even attempt a coup de main.”

    Seacat scoffed and bared her fangs. “Then let’s find out just how fast our new ship can go!”

    “Indeed! Adventure!”

    *****​

    The second outpost was two days worth of sailing from the first with average winds and an average ship. Or a ship with a crew who had to grow familiar with her. But with a fast ship and a great crew taking all reasonable risk? One day was doable - barely.

    Seacat grinned when the outpost’s top appeared on the horizon, the Salinean flag flying above it. Then she licked the back of her hand - which tasted salty - and rubbed it against her cheek. She hated it when saltwater dried on her fur, but there hadn’t been time to groom herself properly. And she would’ve ended up being drenched twice more, anyway.

    “Huzzah! We are on time!” Sea Hawk cheered. “What an adventure! We’ve got the fastest ship on the sea!”

    “And the craziest captain!” Seacat yelled back as she collapsed the telescope.

    “I didn’t hear you protesting on the way here!”

    She snorted. “Would you have listened?”

    “Listened? Yes. Followed your advice? No!”

    She snorted again and scaled the rigging. Time to get a closer look from up top. She grabbed on the mast with one hand, pulled the telescope out of her belt with the other and snapped it open one-handedly with a practised motion.

    There was the outpost. She could see soldiers on the ramparts, and… two cutters in the sea? One at the pier, and another approaching.

    She couldn’t see the people on the deck of the second cutter, but she was sure that this was the one the Horde-pirates had taken.

    Sliding down the line, she landed gracefully on the deck. “Captain! The Horde scum’s about to storm the outpost!”

    And they were still about half an hour away unless the wind turned. And yet… “I’ll signal them!” she shouted. She rushed to the chest with the signal flags, kicked it open and grabbed them. A moment later, she was rushing up the rigging again, flags held in her mouth. Now the idiots in the outpost better be having their eyes on them!

    She wrapped her leg around a line, dug the claws of one foot into the mast - it could do with some scratches, anyway - and leaned out, waving the flags to signal ‘danger’ and ‘trap’.

    She kept repeating the signals, squinting as she tried to see if there was a reaction from the outpost. Was that a soldier running? The second cutter was almost at the pier! What were those idiots doing?

    Right before the cutter reached the pier, the cannons on the outpost fired. She dropped the flags and grabbed the telescope again.

    The soldiers had reacted too late, despite Seacat’s best effort - the horde scum was already on the pier. She saw two soldiers running up the ramp leading to the outpost’s gate, but both fell before they reached the halfway point.

    The cannons on the rampart spoke again, and she saw the cutter’s mast fall. But it was too late - there were dozens of the scum already on the pier. Why hadn’t they used cannister shot? That could’ve swept the pier clear!

    And now the horde rushed forward, storming the ramp. Seacat held her breath. If the Salineans were quick enough to reload, they could out a shell right into the horde… but they weren’t. The pirates reached the wall, where the cannons couldn’t fire.

    Seacat cursed. “They are at the walls,” she yelled to the captain. “The idiots didn’t manage to stop them!”

    “Then it falls to us to save them!”

    “Without setting us on fire!” she shouted.

    “No promises!”

    Seacat cursed again. She had liked their new ship.

    “Find us a route through the reefs!”

    “Aye aye, Captain!”

    She grabbed the telescope again. She had seen the route - part of it - that the cutter had taken. But the entrance… Her fangs dug into her lower lip as she studied the rocks jutting up from the sea ahead of them. The real danger were the ones that didn’t break the surface, of course. The ones that were just deep enough to escape notice, but high enough to rip open the hull of any ship that sailed over them.

    This or that passage? Was that a shadow, or a reef in the middle? She squinted. That was… a reef. Which meant it was the other. “Starboard!” she yelled.

    “Starboard!” Sea Hawk confirmed. “Huzzah!”

    They entered the reefs, and Seacat climbed on the very top of the mast, to get the best angle possible to guide them as Sea Hawk slowed down - a little, at least. There was another reef lurking beneath the surface. “Backboard!”

    “Backboard!”

    The ship turned, in time.

    “Starboard!”

    “Starboard!”

    “Backboard!”

    “Backboard”

    Turn by turn, they sailed through the reef.

    Until they suddenly had a clear path to the pier. And the pirate cutter there. The ship’s mainmast had fallen, but part of the rigging had kept it from ending up in the sea. Still, that cutter wouldn’t sail anytime soon. The other cutter, though, the one stationed at this outpost, looked whole - and there were people on it. Enemies! Seacat counted half a dozen Horde soldiers.

    And two to three dozens assaulting the walls of the outpost, but who was counting? “Let’s board them!”

    “Huzzah!” Sea Hawk replied, and the Dragon’s Daughter IV turned, barely avoiding the first cutter, before it scraped alongside the second, bumping into the other ship with enough force to send half the Horde scum stumbling.

    But not her. Seacat had grabbed a line a moment before the ships touched and was already swinging over to the cutter. She drew her cutlass with her free hand, slashing with the glowing blade as she flew past one of the pirates still standing.

    The man went down, screaming, hands gripping a ruined face, and Seacat let the rope carry her onward. Another horde soldier stepped into her path, and she let go, slamming into the merman with her feet, digging her claws into his protruding belly, leaving long gashes when she jumped off.

    He screamed, dropping his weapons to keep his guts in, and Seacat howled, landing on the still moving deck with one hand and both feet down, claws scratching the wood as she slid to a stop and swung her blade with the other hand.

    The remaining four of the scum turned to face her, wielding stun batons and knives, and she laughed in their faces. The biggest of them, a lizardman, hissed and charged her while the rest spread out, trying to encircle her.

    Pathetic. She met the lizard blade to blade, then let herself fall down on her back when he swung the baton, kicking out with her feet before raking her claws over the horde scum’s legs.

    He screamed but didn’t fall, stabbing at her in a frenzy with both blade and baton. She rolled to the side, evading the first attacks, then back, dodging the second, before she deflected the blade with her cutlass and cut the baton off with the backhand stroke.

    A roll over her shoulder saw her back on her feet, and the lizard swung again. She forced his blade down, then jumped, lashing out with one leg after the other, kicking him in the chest and face.

    He stumbled back, reeling, his head thrown back, and Seacat lunged, whirled and slashed his throat with her blade, almost decapitating him.

    “Finally done? You’ve been getting slow!”

    She growled at Sea Hawk, who had jumped on the deck as well and was standing over the bodies of the other tree enemies. “He was their leader!”

    “Just because he was the biggest doesn’t make him their leader.”

    “I also got two on the way in!”

    “Then we’re even!”

    She snorted and looked around. The pirates attacking the outpost had noticed them by now, and a dozen of them were rushing towards them. Bad odds without surprise.

    “Another challenge! Adventure!”

    Not for Sea Hawk, of course.

    But she wasn’t looking forward to fighting outnumbered six to one. Not without an advantage, preferably an unfair one. “We need to secure the cutter!” she yelled.

    “Not quite!” Sea Hawk shouted back. He was running towards the cannon in the bow. But he wouldn’t get it loaded and aimed in time, even with her helping!

    She rushed towards him anyway, but he waved her off. “Get our ship clear!”

    She gasped - he was crazy! - but obeyed, dashing towards the railing, then jumping off, throwing herself towards the Dragon’s Daughter IV, which had started to drift away.

    She missed the deck and railing, but her claws found purchase in the hull, and she quickly scrambled up on deck, then rushed to the wheel. The wind hadn’t changed, so she threw the ship into a turn towards the wind, slowly starting to gather speed as the bow swung around.

    Then she glanced back. The pirates had almost reached the cutter. What was Sea Hawk doing? “Captain!” she yelled, then held her breath. The first pirate jumped on the cutter’s deck, and…

    There went Sea Hawk, jumping on the railing, grabbing the rigging and swinging his sword - and cutting through the rigging.

    The mast swayed at once, and the rigging ripped, pulling him up as if he had been fired from a cannon. He flew in an arc, narrowly missing the cutter’s falling spar, before splashing into the water.

    Seacat released her breath.

    But the pirates rushed to the railing, one of them climbing on the bow, peering at the water, eager to shoot at the captain as soon as he surfaced

    And the cutter’s powder store blew up, the ship’s entire bow section vanishing in an explosion.

    For a terrible moment, Seacat saw the bomb vessel blowing up. The explosion travelling underwater, killing all the Horde sailors in the water and almost killing her despite the distance.

    But this wasn’t a bomb vessel’s powder magazine going up, well below the waterline. This was a powder storage chest for a cutter’s pivot gun blowing up on the deck. Granted, a big one - the navy rarely skimped on ammunition - but even so, it shouldn’t have… The captain had been thrown almost clear - at least away from the bow…

    She clenched her teeth. Sea Hawk couldn’t be…

    “Huzzah!”

    Her eyes darted to the side. There was a head visible in the sea, an arm waving… She sighed with relief, sagging for a moment, then growled and yelled: “You idiot cut it too close!”

    “The only good call is a close call!”

    She glanced back at the pier as she turned the ship into the wind so Sea Hawk could catch up. There were no pirates on it. No, she couldn’t see any pirates, she corrected herself. But there were about a dozen or more pirates still left at the outpost’s gates. Caught between the Dragon’s Daughter IV and the outpost’s walls. Or, rather, caught between the walls and the rocky shore, with a damaged cutter their only way to escape.

    “Ooof!” Sea Hawk pulled himself over the railing, groaning.

    She dug a fang into her lower lip. So he had been hurt by the explosion. “That was too close,” she told him as she helped him up.

    “But it was a beautiful explosion!”

    “You didn’t even see it.”

    “I felt it!”

    That made her growl again as she shook her head. “Stick to setting ships on fire.”

    He laughed at that, then turned to point at the outpost. “A dozen more notches for our belts!” he exclaimed, tapping his buckle.

    She didn’t miss how his hand strayed upwards, rubbing his belly, afterwards. “I think the garrison can handle them.” If they didn’t, then Mermista needed to deal with whoever set up those outposts.

    “Perhaps. But we still are needed to keep the pirates from escaping!”

    “We need to treat your wounds,” she spat. Explosions could damage the inside of your body. Sea Hawk could be bleeding out inside, or something - the Healers at Salineas had been concerned about that, after the last battle. “And that cutter won’t be sailing anywhere with a broken mainmast!”

    “I’m good for another harrowing battle against impossible odds!” He pointed at the outpost. “And look! They’re retreating - they’re coming straight at us!”

    “We don’t need to fight them. We can set the cutter on fire and trap them on the island,” Seacat pointed out. Or set the cutter on fire with the pirates on it.

    “Or we could blow the cutter up. In a big beautiful explosion!”

    Fortunately, the garrison finally developed a spine and sallied, a dozen soldiers chasing the pirates down to the pier. By the time the Dragon’s Daughter IV had turned away from the wind and was sailing towards the cutter, half the pirates had been overtaken and killed, and the other half was battling the soldiers on the damaged cutter.

    And the captain was in the rigging, brandishing his sword. “Get us closer! I want to rush them from behind!”

    “You just want to beat my score!” she yelled as she brought their ship closer.

    “I already beat it with my explosion!”

    She blinked, then scoffed. “That doesn’t count!”

    They reached the cutter, bumping against it, and Sea Hawk jumped on the other deck before the ships separated again. Seacat saw him cut down the last pirate standing, then face the soldiers with a flourish.

    “I’m the one and only Sea Hawk!” she heard him yell. “Feel free to thank me for the timely rescue!”

    The officer leading the ragged troop looked as if she had bitten into a rotting lemon.

    Seacat was still chuckling at the sight as she guided the ship to a gentle stop near the pier - close enough to use it as an anchor.

    *****​

    The officer commanding the soldiers wasn’t really grateful, Seacat found out quickly. It was clear that she had to force herself to be polite to them. Granted, they had blown up her cutter, but that had been necessary. And they had another cutter anyway, only slightly damaged.

    Seacat waited to point out that, of course. As long as the woman was busy ordering the soldiers around she was already stressed enough. Though Seacat did need answers to a few questions. “Did you find out where the rest of the pirates are hiding?”

    “We haven’t even started questioning the survivors!”

    “I meant, did they say anything? Offered you a deal? Named their patron?

    “No, they didn’t. They just attacked - if not for your warning, we might’ve lost half our troops before we realised what was going on.”

    Seacat grinned widely. “So, I saved the entire outpost?”

    The woman froze for a moment. Then she pressed her lips together in a frown. “We could have held out until relief forces arrived.”

    “Sure.” Seacat flashed her fangs. “You had them right where you wanted them. After we killed half of them for you. And sunk their ship.”

    “That was my cutter!”

    “Not any longer - they had taken it,” Sea Hawk cut in. “According to the law of the sea, that means it was an enemy ship and a legitimate target for us.”

    “And we didn’t even blow it up completely - half the ship you could probably raise and repair,” Seacat added. She looked round. “Well, if you had wood to repair them.” The rock didn’t look like it would grow trees anytime soon.

    The officer - what was her name again? Seacat hadn’t really paid attention - looked even more annoyed now.

    “The Salinean Navy thanks you for your assistance.”

    “Anything for my dear Mermista!” Sea Hawk beamed. “Now we just need to find the pirate frigate.”

    “Pirate frigate?”

    Seacat sighed. “The pirates are former Horde scum. And they stole the cutter from the other outpost in the area. That means they must have had a ship to reach the outpost before stealing this one. And the last Horde ships we saw in the area were frigates.” And troop transports, but those wouldn’t make plausible pirate ships.

    “A frigate.”

    “Possibly more - we didn’t sink them. Oh, by the way, could you send a few men to unload the supplies for the outpost?” Sea Hawk asked.

    “You’ve brought supplies?” She wasn’t the smartest officer, in Seacat’s opinion.

    “We did indeed! We braved pirates and monsters and Horde patrols to supply you!” Sea Hawk raised his fist to the sky again. “And we let no one stop us!”

    “I’ll send a crew to unload the ship.”

    “Thank you, my dear!”

    “And please share everything that the prisoners say,” Seacat added.

    *****​

    A few hours later, the officer’s attitude still hadn’t improved - apparently, she was the commander of the outpost which explained a lot, in Seacat’s opinion. But the hold of the Dragon’s Daughter IV was empty and they knew the name of the Horde captain who had taken her ship and turned pirate rather than returning to the Fright Zone and answer for her failure.

    Octavia.

    It was a dumb name, in Seacat’s opinion.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
  6. GraphiteCrow

    GraphiteCrow Daemon of Slaanesh

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    of course, it was female Davy Jones who became the Pirate, who else fits so thematically?
     
  7. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    Eryk, Adipose1913 and Starfox5 like this.
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: The Serpent’s Maw
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 4: The Serpent’s Maw

    “Hey, furball!”

    She turned, her eyes narrowing. Furball. She hated that word. When she saw who had yelled, she hissed.

    It was a Horde soldier - an adult, not a cadet. Some fishwoman with tentacles on her back. And a frown on her noseless face. “My name’s not furball!” she hissed.

    “Who cares. You’re a furball.”

    “And you’re a dumb face!” she spat.

    “What did you say, you ugly little piece of…”

    The fishwoman stomped towards her, but she wasn’t scared. She knew she was faster than anyone else in this place. “I said you’re a dumb face!” she repeated herself. “You don’t have a nose and no ears?”

    “Oh, you!” The fishwoman lunged, webbed hands reaching for her, but she was already dodging, dropping to the floor and rolling against the woman’s knees. As dumb face stumbled, she jumped up, grabbed the flailing arm and pulled herself up like in the training hall. “Dumb face!” she snarled, lashing out with her claws at the woman’s face.

    She grinned when she heard the screams. Call her furball, would she? With her hands clutching her bleeding face and one eye covered, the dumb face couldn’t do any…

    She was flying through the air. Something had hit her.

    She crashed against the wall, her breath knocked out of her, and fell to the ground. She’d been hit, but what could’ve… Blinking, she saw the tentacles flailing around the stumbling woman. Oh. That had.

    Blinking, she tried to clear her head when the fishwoman suddenly glared at her, showing razor sharp teeth. “I’m going to kill you, furball!”

    She gasped, which made her ribs hurt, and jumped to her feet, which made everything else hurt, and scrambled away on all fours. This time, she avoided all the tentacles and the woman’s legs, and she was up the stairs, heading for the vents, before the dumb face could recover.

    *****​

    Seacat woke up in the middle of… well, morning. What a weird dream. She tried to recall what she had dreamt, but she only remembered tentacles and some monster. Probably the fault of Sea Hawk singing weird shanties about Kraken and mermaids again.

    And speaking of faults… She rolled out of her hammock and checked up on the captain. She found him sleeping in his bunk. No fever, no clammy skin, no paleness. She sniffed the air. Probably a little too much rum.

    Well, if he had a headache today, it was no fur off her butt. It was a beautiful day, no cloud in the sky, a calm sea and a steady wind blowing on their back. Perfect for sailing - or hunting.

    Perfect for leaving this dump of a rock. Or something. Looking at the outpost above the pier, then at the cutter, where the mainmast still hadn’t been fixed, she scoffed. No wonder the outpost had almost been taken by three dozen pirates - the garrison must be the dregs of the service, as the captain would call it. Had called it, actually, after the third glass of rum.

    Well, if the sailors didn’t get their act together, then that was their problem. Sea Hawk and Seacat had saved them once, which should be enough. She grabbed some dried fish for breakfast, mixed milk powder with water to wash it down, then started preparing the Dragon’s Daughter IV to set sail.

    The captain appeared on deck sometime around noon, groaning and rubbing his stomach. For a moment, she was concerned, but then he shook his head. “I think that fish was bad.”

    She narrowed her eyes at him. “It wasn’t!” She’d had four of them!

    “Well, perhaps mine was bad.” He grabbed some hardtack and jerky for himself - neither of them would have wanted to dip into the outpost’s supplies, not after checking the cargo - and started munching while he walked towards her. “Everything set?”

    “Except for you, everything’s shipshape,” she replied.

    “Hey!” He glared at her for a moment before laughing. “Sailors giving you trouble?”

    “Haven’t seen them today at all, other than from afar,” she replied, nodding towards the ramparts. “Probably too scared to come out from behind the walls.”

    Both had a laugh at that. “My dear Mermista won’t be happy about our evaluation of this garrison’s performance.”

    And neither would be the garrison commander, Seacat thought. “So… we’re returning to Salineas, then?” They hadn’t received a new mission, after all, nor new cargo.

    “Not quite!” Sea Hawk grinned at her. “How could we face ourselves if we left while some pirate frigate roamed the seas?”

    Quite easily - it wasn’t as if Seacat needed a mirror. “You want to take on a Horde frigate with her?” she asked, making a sweeping motion with her hand.

    “I prefer to think of it as looking for an adventure! All we need is the right opportunity, and even a frigate won’t stand a chance!”

    “You really don’t like the number four, do you?” she asked, shaking her head.

    He blinked. “Well, three is the better number, you know, but four can be nice.”

    She rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean,” she scolded him.

    “Yes, but do you know what I mean?” He grinned at her.

    “I don’t want to know,” she replied with a toothy smile. “But I’ll ask Mermista about it.”

    “Ah… I mean… perhaps we should focus on our mission!” Sea Hawk smiled weakly and went towards the wheel.

    Seacat smiled. Eight times out of ten, if she didn’t understand one of the captain’s joke, threatening to ask Mermista shut him up.

    *****​

    As they sailed past the cutter, Seacat took the time to wave at the handful of Salinean sailors working on the broken mainmast before she scaled the rigging, once again taking up a lookout position on top of the mast. She had to focus on the reefs guarding the outpost. Fortunately, she was an old hand at that - and her sharp eyes were perfect for this duty.

    Half an hour later, they were on the open seas, quickly picking up speed after setting full sails. She tied up the last line, then climbed up the stairs to the conn. “Everything’s set,” she reported.

    “Good.” Sea Hawk adjusted their course a tiny little bit towards the wind, almost past the point where the sail would start to slacken.

    “So… how long are we going to roam the sea, looking for a pirate frigate?” she asked as she leaned against the railing, her hands resting on her hip and the hilt of her cutlass.

    He grinned at her. “Oh, I was thinking of about a week.”

    Seacat narrowed her eyes as she made a quick calculation. They could cover quite a lot in a week, but blindly roaming the seas wasn’t Sea Hawk’s style - or hers. So… Ah! “Serpent’s Maw?”

    He nodded with a smile. “Exactly! Where else would a Horde turned pirate go? They cannot use Horde ports, and with Salineas standing proud, they cannot reach the northern coast.

    Seacat nodded. The ports of the northern coast were closed to pirates, but there were always some smaller villages where pirates could do trade. It wasn’t as if a fishing village had much of a choice, anyway - if they didn’t trade, the pirates would just plunder. But south of Salineas, the Horde controlled the coast - and a village caught trading with pirates would be wiped out. Like Gullpeak had been...

    She shook her head. “There’s a little problem with your plan, though.”

    “Oh?” He looked at her with exaggerated surprise.

    “We’re kind of wanted in Serpent’s Maw.” Setting their port ablaze tended to make people mad at you.

    “Oh, the one and only Sea Hawk and his trusty first mate certainly would be crazy to even consider sailing into a pirate haven like Serpent’s Maw. However, no one is mad at a mysterious and handsome pirate and his trusty first mate!” Hit bumped his chest with a fist. “It’s a perfect plan! A daring adventure!”

    She blinked. “There’s a flaw in that plan as well.”

    “How so?”

    She pointed at herself with her thumb. “I’m a little distinctive. There aren’t many sailors who share my looks.”

    “Ah, but that’s nothing a good disguise cannot handle!”

    “I hope you don’t think that a hooded cloak will do,” she retorted with narrowed eyes.

    “Err… of course not! Perish the thought! I have something much more sophisticated in mind!”

    “Really.” She kept glaring at him, but he didn’t waver.

    “Really!”

    Seacat sighed. It would be a hooded cloak. She knew it already.

    *****

    Three days later - the winds had been favourable - they were approaching Serpent’s Maw. Seacat pressed her lips together as she looked round the ship. They had changed the sails, even painted a garish skull on the mainsail with some leftover paint in the hold, but… “I don’t think this will fool anyone who saw us in Salineas,” she said.

    “Oh, but the Horde spies in Salineas wouldn’t have been able to reach this pirate haven even if they had set sails the same night we left the port. So, don’t worry, our disguise is foolproof. Remember: No one will expect the famous Sea Hawk to sail a ship with such an ugly figurehead!”

    She glared at him. She was no carver, but she had done her best. It wasn’t her fault that claws that could easily cut steel didn’t make her a master carver. “Time to put on our disguises, then,” she said.

    “Oh, yes!” He beamed. “This will be fun! Exciting! A tale to tell our friends and enemies!”

    “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” she sighed as she went below decks to change. It would be hot. Unbearably hot. At least for her.

    She stared at the disguise hanging on a hook next to her hammock. In hindsight, a simple hooded cloak would have been better. But that would mean admitting that Sea Hawk’s first half-baked plan was good. And that she had been wrong to criticise it.

    And she could bear the heat for one day - it would be cooler in the evening, anyway. Still...

    “Why do we actually have a full-body leather suit on board?” she complained as she returned to the main deck, fiddling with the many ties and clasps that lined its front. Handling those was almost as much a pain as wrapping her tail around her waist and stuffing her feet into boots.

    “Ah.” Sea Hawk, who had taken the time to change into black leather pants, black shirt, bandana and a black cloak, actually blushed. “That was supposed to be a gift for Mermista, but there never seemed to be the right opportunity to give it to her.”

    She closed her eyes. She shouldn’t have asked.

    “But it’s perfect for hiding your fur, and, ah, everything else!”

    “Let’s just get this over with,” she hissed through clenched teeth.

    “Right! But not before we add the crowning touches!”

    “‘Crowning touches’?” Seacat knew that the captain was spending too much time with princesses.

    “Our faces are quite distinctive. Who else has a naturally shiny moustache?” He cocked his head at her, and she growled back. She had fur, not a moustache! “So, I’ll be wearing a dashing but not quite as handsome full beard, and you…”

    She recoiled from the black face mask he presented to her, baring her fangs, then blinked. Why had she done that?

    He frowned at her. “It’s made from light wood. You’ll hardly feel the weight.”

    He was correct, of course. And it made a lot of sense - the mask would hide her face, only leaving the eyes exposed. And while her mismatched eyes were distinctive as well, not too many knew about them. Still, why did the thought of wearing the mask make her feel so disgusted? And angry? It made no sense! But she wouldn’t let some stupid feelings stop her. So she shook her head and grabbed the mask. “Alright.”

    “And the bandana, to hide your ears!”

    She growled again. That wouldn’t be comfortable at all - she had tried that before. And the heat would be murder. And with the mask, she wouldn’t be able to easily drink.

    But it would be a cold day in hell before she’d let Sea Hawk alone in a pirate port. Not again. “Alright,” she snarled.

    The things she did for the captain!

    *****​

    “Remember: We’re the Red Beard and his right hand, the Black Death!” Sea Hawk said as they entered the port.

    “Yeah, yeah.” Rookie pirates with a stupid name - they would fit right in with the scum here. “Why did you pick a red beard, anyway?”

    “It’s supposed to be blood red,” he replied. “You know, menacing in that gauche pirate-y way. And it was easy to paint on our flag!”

    That made her snort, which in turn made him smile.

    Then they had to focus on the next turn as they turned towards a free berth among the ships in the harbour. About half a dozen pirate ships, and a few merchantmen. She tried to identify them - Mermista would love to know who was trading with pirates here.

    Seacat couldn’t spot a Horde frigate, but that didn’t have to mean anything - the pirate crew wouldn’t sail their ship into the Serpent’s Maw without feeling out the port beforehand; the Horde had a reputation for brutally dealing with pirates, after all, and if the pirates thought they were under attack, they would fight. Well, those who couldn’t run from a frigate. But at least one of the merchantmen had a damaged rigging and hull - not a greedy scumbag, then, but a victim of pirates. Perhaps the Horde’s?

    A bunch of dockworkers were already gathering at the berth they were steering to. Armed dockworkers. Seacat grinned behind her mask. If they planned to board them, they were welcome to try - cutting down pirates was almost as satisfying as cutting down Horde scum.

    But the captain was already yelling: “Ahoy! ‘Tis the Red Beard! Most dangerous pirate captain on all the seas!”

    “Never heard of you!” one of the workers, a lanky goat woman, yelled back.

    “Really? I shall have to rectify that! I and my trusty first mate, Black Death, have made our way here through hordes of Horde frigates, to prey upon the fat merchantmen of the northern coast!”

    “You mean you’ll end up dangling from a Salinean spar, dancing the noose dance!” the woman yelled back. “Do you have cargo to unload?”

    “Not yet!” the captain announced as they drew alongside the pier. “We’re here for supplies, first. A prepared pirate is a successful pirate!”

    Seacat didn’t like the laughter that followed his comment. Her snarl hidden by her stupid mask, she jumped over the railing and landed on the pier. And almost stumbled - with her tail wrapped around her waist and trapped there by the stupid suit, she wasn’t as balanced as she should be. Still, she made enough of an impression even landing on both feet - in stupid boots - and one gloved hand to send the workers back a step or two. “You think you’re funny?” she growled.

    Most shrank away - if they were pirates, then they were smart ones. Or cowardly ones. The goat woman, though, stood her ground. “Wrapped in leather as if you were sailing the Frost Sea? Here in Serpent’s Maw? That is funny!”

    When the idiot turned to call the others of her group, Seacat moved. She closed the distance in the blink of an eye, the glowing blade of her cutlass singeing the fur on the goat woman’s throat.

    “Don’t kill her!” the captain yelled. “We’re here to resupply, not to sate your bloodlust!”

    No one would miss pirate scum - not that Seacat actually was bloodthirsty; she simply didn’t hold back when fighting the kind of people who needed killing, and this was an act anyway. So she took a step back, not taking her eyes off the group, as she sheathed her blade. “You’re in luck,” she growled. “Next time, I’ll cut your throat.”

    The goat woman swallowed, rubbing her neck. “You’re mad!”

    “That’s what I keep telling her!” Sea Hawk butted in. “Makes most port visits exciting, but you should see her in a fight!”

    Even though Sea Hawk was merely acting as a pirate would, Seacat liked hearing such praise.

    And she liked seeing the goat woman retreat at a pace just shy of actually running.

    This hare-brained mission was starting out better than she had expected. But even now that the sun had set, it was still far too hot in the tight leathers, and Seacat had to struggle with the urge to lift the mask to feel cooler air on her face, at least. But that would be stupid. “Captain?”

    “Onward, first mate! Onward to… the tavern!”

    Where she wouldn’t be able to drink and where the air would be hotter than outside and filled with smoke and the stench of unwashed pirates. Sometimes, having a better nose than the captain - or most anyone else she had ever met - wasn’t a good thing.

    They walked towards the waterfront, a pair of drunk pirates staggering out of their way after a glare from Seacat, and soon were faced with a row of taverns and brothels. “They’re not even trying to be discreet,” she muttered.

    “It’s a pirate port, my dear first mate! This is what pirates come for - this, and the opportunity to sell their loot and stock up on supplies!”

    Which was their cover as well. “Let’s go,” she muttered. “The sooner we find them, the sooner I can get out of this.”

    They entered the first tavern, Sea Hawk heading straight to the bar while Seacat looked round. Lots of lowlives, but she didn’t see many wearing parts of Horde uniforms. Fresh deserters wouldn’t have many spare clothes, would they? She also didn’t see anyone who knew Sea Hawk or had a grudge against him - which usually went with each other, at least among pirates - either.

    At the bar, Sea Hawk was already drinking beer and telling stories. “And then, we crossed her bow - you know how slow those frigates turn - and were past the reef before she could come about again, her cannons unable to reach us!”

    The bartender, some burly fishman without a nose, nodded with polite but fake interest, but the three pirates nearby openly scoffed. “What a load of seal piss!” the largest told Sea Hawk. “You don’t outrun Horde frigates so easily!”

    “Perhaps you don’t!” Sea Hawk shot back with a laugh. “But the Red Beard? Greatest pirate of all the seas? Outwitting and outsailing Horde scum is child’s play!”

    The pirate sneered in response. “No one’s ever heard of you!”

    “You just did, didn’t you? Hah!”

    Seacat rolled her eyes behind her mask as she reached the bar behind the captain. He was overdoing it. Again.

    But the pirate facing the captain was now staring at her. Had he missed them entering together? That would make him even stupider than he looked.

    “And who’re you supposed to be? ‘Black Leather’? ‘Black Mask’? ‘Leatherface’?”

    “This, my dear fellow, is Black Death, my first mate!” Sea Hawk announced. “Please do not annoy her - I’d like to finish my beer without blood splattering all over the bar.”

    Seacat wanted a beer as well, but that wasn’t in the cards for now. So she shifted her stance a little, hand on the hilt of her cutlass. Perhaps the idiot would get the message.

    He didn’t. The pirate scoffed, glancing over his shoulder as he talked to his mates. “Friends! Are we going to let a pair of idiots talk to us like this?”

    “You just did, didn’t you?” Sea Hawk laughed loudly.

    Not for the first time, Seacat was impressed by how quickly the captain made enemies. Of course, she had been expecting that, and by the time the pirate started to draw his sabre, she was already moving. Her foot hit his groin with enough force to drive her claws into the reinforced leather of her stupid boot, and the idiot fell to his knees with a stunned whimper.

    “Huzzah!” Sea Hawk lunged past her, his sword piercing the closest pirate’s thigh. That man shrieked as he fell down, gripping his bleeding leg.

    Seacat, meanwhile, kicked the kneeling idiot into the head and sent him into the path of two of his friends. All three went down in a heap, and he wasted no time kicking the other two in the head as well. It was obvious, after all, that they weren’t using them.

    Whirling, she brandished her blade, looking for the next opponent, but the rest of the tavern’s patrons were laughing and jeering, not looking for a fight.

    A pity - but they had half a dozen more taverns to visit. She grabbed the untouched beer of the first pirate and started for the door. The shadows of the side alley next to this dive should allow her to drink it without anyone seeing her face.

    Seacat certainly needed a drink if she had to stomach more of those lowlives. She could only hope that they’d find the Horde scum quickly.

    *****​

    Three taverns and two more barfights later, they finally got lucky. Seacat saw a largish group - about a dozen - sitting in a corner, and all of them were wearing at least one piece of the Horde naval uniform. More telling, though, the apparent leader, a large fishwoman, matched the description that the captured pirates had given: Eyepatch, tentacles on the back, and a surly attitude even when she was drinking.

    Seacat grinned as she followed Sea Hawk to the bar. “Saw them?” she whispered as she leaned against the bartop next to him.

    “Of course!” Sea Hawk stage-whispered back. “And there’s a table free next to them!”

    While the captain ordered two beers, Seacat studied the room. There was a sort of tension present. The table next to the Horde pirates was the only one free, and the way the rest of the patrons kept eyeing the new guests… She smiled. The Horde scum wasn’t welcome here, not even among pirate scum.

    Even scum had standards.

    “Come on, first mate!” Sea Hawk lifted two tankards with one hand. “To our table!”

    They hadn’t even reached the table yet when they drew the attention of the Horde. A burly human wearing the ripped remains of a Horde jacket as a vest rose from his seat. “This table is taken!” he told them.

    Sea Hawk stopped and stared at the pirate. “Are you blind? It’s empty. Well, now it’s taken since I’ve staked my claim on it! The Red Beard’s claim!”

    “We’ve got more crew coming. Get lost!” the pirate snapped as he walked towards them. Behind him, the others laughed - but a few were pushing their chairs back and gripping weapons.

    “They can take it up with us, then!” Sea Hawk said, baring his teeth at the man. “Red Beard and his trusty first mate, Black Death! We’ve been outsailing and outfighting Horde scum for years!”

    “What?” The man took another step towards them, hand on his weapon now.

    Seacat noticed that the other pirates nearby, who had been watching with interest, probably hoping for a fight, had fallen silent. And the Horde pirates at the table had lost all humour.

    The captain, of course, ignored everything. “I said we’ve been outsailing and outfighting Horde scum for years, so we aren’t to be intimidated by the threat of more of you.”

    “Did you just call us Horde scum?” That had been their leader. Octavia. Her dumb face matched her dumb name.

    “Why, yes, I did, didn’t I?” Sea Hawk snorted. “After all, either you are so fond of the Horde, you decided to raid their laundry and steal their uniforms, or you are Horde soldiers.”

    That sent whispers and mutters through the room as everyone was now watching.

    The fishwoman stood, slowly walking over to them. “We’re not Horde. Were pirates. Like you.”

    “Not like us,” Sea Hawk said at once. “For I am the one and only Red Beard, and this is the mysterious and bloodthirsty Black Death! And you are Horde scum.”

    Octavia looked around, narrowing her single eye. She must not like the glares from the others in the tavern. “We deserted,” she spat. “Decided to turn pirates - like, I wager, many others here.” She grinned at the rest of the room.

    “Deserted? All of you? Including a captain?” Sea Hawk scoffed again. “Did you take your ship as well?”

    “And what if we did?” Octavia replied.

    “Oldest trick in the book,” The captain flashed her a smile. “You claim to be deserters, to check out the port before you come with your ship, and gain the port’s trust. And then, when your ship arrives, it’s let into the harbour since you’re known - and, suddenly, Boom! Boom! Broadsides into the ships anchored here! Down goes the pirate flag, up goes the Horde flag, and the battle is over. For such a feat, the Horde would probably forgive a lot, wouldn’t it? Even desertion?”

    “What?” “I knew it!” “Traitors!” The other pirates got up as well now, brandishing weapons.

    The fishhead looked so surprised, Seacat bet that the idiot probably hadn’t even thought about such a ruse.

    “Oldest trick in the book!” Sea Hawk declared. “And you’ve used a false flag before, haven’t you? Horde Scum.”

    Seacat drew a hissing breath. The captain was again a little too clever for his own good.

    “How would you know that?” Octavia snapped.

    “I found your handiwork,” Sea Hawk replied. “Massacred the entire garrison, did you? A whole Salinean outpost.”

    The mutterings grew louder, but the pirates also looked more nervous now. Less willing to deal with Horde scum in their port.

    And the deserters from the Horde looked spitting mad. At Sea Hawk and Seacat.

    She took a step away from the captain so they could cover each other better in the fight that was coming and raised her chin. “Bet I can cut up more Horde scum than you can, captain,” she said loud enough to carry through the room.

    “Just ensure that they are recognisable,” Sea Hawk replied. He sounded unconcerned, but she saw he was tense. “We might cash them in for the bounty the Salineans are undoubtedly placing on the ‘pirates’ who massacred an entire outpost of theirs.”

    A number of the other pirates took a step forward upon hearing that, but not too many. The cowards must be baulking at the thought of facing Horde scum.

    The Horde leader scoffed loudly and took a step forward. “You call yourself a pirate, yet talk of bounties? Are you a lapdog of the princesses? Or a traitor?”

    Seacat bared her teeth behind her mask. This could get very ugly if the other pirates followed up on that.

    “Hah!” Sea Hawk sounded undaunted by the prospect of fighting an entire tavern of pirates. “Trying to accuse me of being a spy to distract from your own plan? Predictable! Tell me, did you disguise yourselves as pirates to massacre the Salineans so the princess would blame the real pirates? Have them hunt down the pirates who survive your upcoming attack? Such a fiendish plan fits the Horde!”

    “Lies! We are pirates!”

    “Of course you would say that!” Sea Hawk shook his head, then glanced over his shoulder at the other pirates in the tavern. “I say they are Horde spies! Who is with me?”

    For a moment, Seacat was sure it would work. The pirates were angry. Angry and drunk. And they outnumbered the Horde scum. But most importantly, Sea Hawk now had them listening like a good captain would.

    But then another voice cut through the angry murmurs. “Wait! I know that voice! That’s… You’re Sea Hawk!”

    And Seacat knew that voice. When had Scurvy entered the tavern? Or how had she missed him?

    “Preposterous!” Sea Hawk yelled. “I’m the one and only Red Beard the Pirate!”

    “You are Sea Hawk! Lads, this is a Salinean spy!”

    Seacat had known Sea Hawk’s relationship with Mermista would be the death of her one day!

    She drew her cutlass and turned the move into a slash at the Horde Scum in front of her. The bullheaded pirate stumbled back, avoiding her blade, but crashed into the pirates behind him, stopping their advance. That gave Seacat enough room to whirl around, cutting down the pirate trying to sneak up on her from behind.

    “Have at you, Horde scum!” Sea Hawk yelled next to her, and a charging Horde fishman impaled himself on his sword. Seacat ducked under a wild swing from a pirate with a blade as long as she was tall, then swept his feet with her legs while she dodged a thrown knife from another. Rolling to the side, then over her shoulder, she came up in a crouch. A quick lunge later, the taller pirate sunk to his knees with his hands trying to stem the blood from his slashed throat.

    She slid past him, jumping to the side to avoid a sword as she parried an axe, and sunk the claws of her free hands into the sword wielder’s arm. Whirling, she parried the axe again and again, guiding it towards the floor until the pirate wielding it got it stuck in the boards. Her cutlass opened his belly before he could recover or retreat.

    Nearby Sea Hawk had dropped two Horde deserters and one pirate. But there were too many, and they were caught between the Horde scum and the pirates.

    “A pouch of gold for whoever brings me Sea Hawk’s head!” Scurvy yelled.

    “What did I ever do to you, Scurvy?” Sea Hawk yelled back as Seacat frantically parried thrusts and slashes from two pirates working together, yielding ground as she was driven towards her captain.

    “You set my ship on fire!”

    “That doesn’t count! I do that all the time to my own!”

    Seacat would have laughed if she hadn’t been about to die. Those pirates were too skilled. She sidestepped another lunge, parried a slash at her belly, deflected the next attempt to stab her, then whirled to riposte - and a blade flashed towards her face. She jerked back, but she was too slow, stupid boots and suit! Something tugged at her face, and something broke, and she fell on her back, rolling over her shoulder without thinking, pushed herself to stand… and her broken mask fell to the floor.

    Well, she never liked the thing anyway. Here the two pirates came again at her, and she was with her back to Sea Hawk, out of room to retreat. This would not…

    “YOU!”

    Despite herself, Seacat turned her head towards the guttural scream. She wasn’t the only one - the two pirates about to cut her to pieces did the same.

    The Horde fishwoman, Octavia, was screaming with rage and coming straight at… Seacat? And the stocky fishwoman was barrelling through her own crew to reach her! Seacat moved to the side without thinking, placing the two skilled pirates between her and the madwoman. Octavia ran into them before they could react, flinging one of them away with her tentacles and the shoulder-checking the other to the side. “I’LL KILL YOU!”

    Seacat ran at her, then jumped, flipping over the stupid pirate, her cutlass lashing out - but tentacles snared her sword arm, and she was pulled to the side and smashed into the ground.

    That knocked her breath out of her, but as she was lifted into the air again, she recovered in time to swing her free arm at the tentacle holding her, her claws cutting straight through it. Instead of hitting the ground again, she was thrown clear and rolled over a table and a bench before she came to a stop under the next table.

    The Horde scum howled even louder than she had screamed, tentacles flailing wildly around her and braining one of the two deadly pirates. His partner yelled something and dashed forward, his blade cutting off another tentacle in what looked like a parry.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer Horde scum! Seacat thought as she rolled out from under the table and jumped to her feet, ramming her cutlass into the belly of an approaching fat fishman. She dodged his wild swing by jumping backwards onto the table, then backflipped onto the next.

    Where was Sea Hawk? There! Back to a wall, he was fending off three goons.

    And Octavia had gone berserk! Seacat saw the Horde scum cutting apart one of the pirates held in her remaining two tentacles before beheading the other on the ground.

    “Hey! Horde scum!” Seacat yelled, waving her blade at the pirate. “Got a haircut?”

    Octavia screamed with rage and charged through another group of pirates to get the Seacat. As planned!

    Seacat jumped off the table, landed next to a swinging pirate, ducked under his blade and rammed her claws into his groin. She didn’t let go but used his body as a battering ram to press through more pirates as she headed towards her captain.

    By the time she reached the captain, her human battering ram had also served a human shield several times and was bleeding all over the place. She dropped him and cut one of the two pirates Sea Hawk hadn’t killed yet down from behind. Then she glanced over her shoulder.

    Octavia was, again, coming straight for her. And her crew had started fighting the pirates trying to stop her! It was now or never!

    “Captain!” Seacat yelled again, pointing at the door.

    “Huzzah!”

    She took that as agreement and grabbed the groaning pirate her captain had just cut down. A quick throw and the scumbag hit Octavia’s legs just when she was already reaching for Seacat. The fishwoman couldn’t compensate and stumbled, falling to the floor, and Seacat danced away from her.

    Sea Hawk jumped over the pirate, somehow avoiding the tentacles, and landed next to her. “To the ship!” he yelled, pointing with his blade at the door. “Adventure!”

    Seacat ran straight at the closest pirate - they had been giving them more room - howling and hissing. He broke and tied to get away, turning his back to her. Perfect. She rammed her cutlass into his kidney from behind, grabbed his neck, and charged ahead, straight into a cluster of pirates between her and the door.

    They scattered, and she kept going. At the door, she pulled her blade out of the dying pirate and kicked him to the side.

    Sea Hawk passed her, pulling the door open. “Freedom! Huzzah!” And he had something wrapped in his cape.

    She followed him outside, pulling the door closed behind her, then ran after the captain on all fours.

    They were close to their pier and had a small lead. Long enough so the clumsy pirates wouldn’t be catching up to them before they reached their ship. But not long enough to set sails and get away before they stormed the Dragon’s Daughter IV.

    “Huzzah!” Sea Hawk snapped his arm, and something - a bottle - arced through the air, landing on the deck of the pirate ship next to them. And broke into flames.

    “Burning oil?”

    “Rum, actually. What a tragic waste!”

    Another burning rum bottle flew towards the next pirate ship as they ate up the distance to their ship. Screams started to be heard from the first ship Sea Hawk had set on fire.

    “You plundered the bar?” When had he done this?

    “I recovered stolen loot!” he yelled back as he set another ship on fire.

    There was the Dragon’s Daughter IV! Seacat jumped on her deck and started cutting the lines tying her to the pier.

    Sea Hawk kicked a stack of crates over, then set them on fire with his last bottle, forming a burning barricade. That would hold the pirates off long enough for them to set sail.

    She would never criticise his arsonist mind. Not for another week, at least!

    But as she pulled on the mainsail’s line, Sea Hawk already steering the ship away from the pier, she heard Octavia cry out again.

    “CATRA!”

    *****​
     
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 5: The Princess Prom Part 1
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 5: The Princess Prom Part 1

    The guards passed below her - dumb and clumsy guards; they didn’t ever look up on their patrols. Grinning, she watched them turn the corner, then twitched her ears until she heard the automated doors close behind them.

    Releasing the breath she had been holding, she gripped the pipe upon which she had perching and swung around it, letting go when she was below. She landed lightly on her feet, as always, and crouched, then froze for a moment - that had been a little louder than expected. Claws on steel weren’t sneaky.

    But she heard nothing, no footsteps, no alarm. Whew!

    Smiling, she padded ahead to the corner. The guards had gone right, but her goal was left. The food storage! Stupid trainers never gave them enough food, and she was hungry. And so was Adora, but the idiot would never complain, much less do something.

    Unlike her! She was doing something. She was being decissisis-something! She was sneaking food!

    Lowering her head, she peered around the corner. Clear! All the way to the food locker! Wetting her lips, she took care to keep her claws from digging into the floor and making noise, and quickly moved to the door. Still no one. She looked left and right, then listened at the door. It would be bad if someone else was sneaking food right now.

    But she didn’t hear anything. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door. Or tried to. It was locked, and the code that had worked last time didn’t work any more. She would go hungry! And Adora would go hungry, too.

    Growling, she glared at the stupid door. Why didn’t the code work any more? It had worked before. She wanted food! She drew her leg back to kick the stupid door then gasped. That would make noise! And her claws would… damage... the door…

    Beaming, she raised her hand, flexing her claws. It was just a metal door. And her claws could cut metal!

    A few swipes later, the door was open, and she had food! Plenty of food! Enough for her and Adora!

    She pulled her top off and filled it with the tastiest ration bars before leaving again. Adora would be so happy!

    At the door, she peered left and right again. Nothing, just shadows. Shadows that moved - no, there was a mask moving through the shadows… Oh, no! Not her. Not...

    *****​

    Seacat woke up with a gasp, then blinked. Why wasn’t the ship moving… Right. She was in Salineas. In the palace, not on the Dragon’s Daughter IV. She shook her head, then stretched extensively, wincing at the pain she still felt in her bruised side. It was getting better, though.

    But she’d had another weird dream. Something about food and whatever. She probably shouldn’t have made a trip to the palace kitchen before bed. On the other hand, going to bed while still being hungry made for weird dreams as well.

    Yawning, she went to the bathroom for a long, luxurious shower. Mermista wasn’t good enough for Sea Hawk and also a prissy princess, but she had the best shampoo in her guest rooms. And she hadn’t yet realised that Seacat only ever used half a bottle per day and swiped the rest for the next trip. And this being her second day back in the palace, she could hide a whole bottle in her pack.

    Showered and dressed in her usual, comfortable clothes - no sweaty leather suit for her ever again - she headed to the kitchen for breakfast. The sun was already… hm… midmorning, she noted after a quick glance out the window. And Mermista and Sea Hawk had been ‘celebrating’ late last night, so they wouldn’t be up already.

    Which meant Seacat wouldn’t be bothered by anyone until noon or something. The guards certainly wouldn’t annoy one of the heroes who had set Serpent’s Maw ablaze and sunk half a dozen pirate ships. And brought back vital information about the defectors.

    It was perfect! Breakfast, then napping!

    *****​

    “Seacat? There you are!”

    She frowned as she squeezed her eyes closed. “I’m asleep,” she said.

    “No, you aren’t! And you shouldn’t be! Adventure awaits! Or, in this case, lunch! With my dearest Mermista!”

    “I’m on a diet.” She still had her eyes closed. The sun felt warm on her fur, and there was just the nicest breeze of air through the open window to keep her from sweating.

    “There’ll be salad too.”

    “Salad isn’t food.”

    “That’s perfect for a diet! Come on, first mate! You don’t let royalty wait!”

    She raised her head and glared at him. “Shouldn’t you have breakfast first?”

    “We skipped it. Come on!”

    She sighed. When he was like this, the captain wouldn’t take no for an answer. And since he usually didn’t bother her like that unless it was important, it probably was important. If not, she’d scratch something or someone. “Alright, alright,” she muttered, stretching and poking her claws into a pillow as she got up. “Let’s go eat.”

    *****​

    “...and after reviewing your report, it’s clear that I’ll have to reevaluate Commander Krila’s posting,” Mermista said as she cut a smoked salmon on her plate.

    “Well, she wasn’t as bad as the commander of the other outpost,” Sea Hawk said before taking a bite from his own meal. “She didn’t lose the entire outpost and get her troops killed.”

    So, that was the stuck-up officer’s name. Seacat made some agreeing noise while she reached for her second serving. Mermista might insist on turning a perfectly fine meal in the royal dining room into some bothersome planning session, but Seacat had her priorities straight. And she wasn’t responsible for the Salinean sailors.

    “Only because you arrived just in time to save them,” the princess replied. “Without your warning, they would have suffered the same fate.”

    “That’s what we do - and why you love me!”

    Seacat didn’t have to look up to know her captain would be flashing his best ‘roguish smile’ at Mermista.

    “That’s why I tolerate you,” the princess corrected him, and Seacat frowned for a moment before swallowing the rest of the salmon on her plate.

    Sea Hawk laughed. “That’s what you say now - but last night told a different story!”

    Ugh. Seacat cleared her throat before things could get sappy. “So, will you replace her then?”

    Mermista frowned. “That’s a complicated decision. She was sent to the outpost because she didn’t perform adequately as the first officer of a Salinean frigate.”

    “And you don’t want to reward her for almost losing the outpost.” Seacat nodded. “Will Captain Slowpoke be sent to the other outpost?” That idiot didn’t deserve to command a ship.

    “He would deserve it, but then - we can’t let pirates and Horde ships roam the Southern Sea undetected. We do need competent soldiers there, as your recent adventure has proved.”

    “And it was an adventure! We outfought an entire tavern filled with pirates and Horde scum, cut our way clear to our ship while setting fire to all the pirate ships in the harbour and sailed away faster than anyone could catch up!” Sea Hawk jumped up and pointed at the window. “No one but the one and only Sea Hawk could’ve pulled this off!”

    “Seacat’s report isn’t quite as optimistic about the number of burned ships,” Mermista remarked.

    “That’s because she worries too much!”

    “That’s because I can count,” Seacat retorted. “We set fire to half a dozen ships, and at least two managed to control the fire before the ships were beyond saving.” She scooped up the last of the cream sauce with a boiled potato. Excellent!

    “Details, details! What is important is that we had another harrowing adventure!”

    “We also failed to kill the Horde scum captain,” Seacat added.

    “Ah, yes. Octavia.” Mermista nodded, then glanced at Sea Hawk as the captain sat down again.

    Seacat felt the hairs of her neck rise and narrowed her eyes. “What?” she spat.

    “She went berserk when she recognised you. And she called you ‘Catra’,” Sea Hawk said.

    Seacat forced herself to shrug. “She probably saw me at the Battle for Salineas and mistook me for this ‘Catra’. I doubt that she could tell me from another cat.” Seacat wasn’t a Horde scumbag. She was a victim of the Horde.

    Mermista glanced at Sea Hawk again, then cleared her throat. “But She-Ra grew up with this Catra.”

    “And Blondie last saw her friend years ago,” Catra said through clenched teeth.

    “Four years ago,” Sea Hawk added.

    She glared at him. “Coincidence.” It was. Just coincidence. “What’s more likely: That I’m the only cat in Etheria, or that there are more of us around to the East? Occupied by the Horde?” She snorted. “I didn’t appear out of thin air, did I?”

    “Well, no, but…” Sea Hawk started. “Don’t you think this ‘coincidence’ is worth investigating?” He smiled at her.

    “No!” She spat back. “We’ve got more important things to worry about. Like the war against the Horde. And the pirate attacks.”

    “Speaking of the war…” Mermista held up a scroll. “Bright Moon is working on expanding the Princess Alliance. So far it’s just Bright Moon, Salineas and Plumeria.”

    Seacat shrugged. She wasn’t a princess. This was politics. On the other hand, it was also a distraction. “So recruit more. That’s how you joined, right?” The shrimp had been busy, last Seacat had heard. Not that she cared about Bright Moon or Blondie.

    “Exactly. And there’s a perfect opportunity coming up for such.” Mermista smiled in a way that told Seacat she wouldn’t like what came next.

    “We’ve been invited to the Princess Prom, which will be held in the Snow Kingdom.”

    Seacat frowned. That meant a trip through the Northern Sea. Which was cold, as the name suggested. They’d have to worry about icebergs in the sea, too. All in all, it would take about two weeks to reach the kingdom - and that was with average wind. And all so a bunch of princesses could dance and eat for an evening!

    She noticed that Mermista was holding out a letter to her. “What’s this?” she asked as she took it.

    Mermista shrugged. “Bright Moon sent a letter to you.”

    Bright Moon? Blondie, of course! Seacat frowned and stared at the envelope as she held it up. No glitter. That was the Bright Moon seal, though. She noticed the princess and the captain staring at her and huffed. She broke the seal by sliding a claw under it and cutting, then opened the envelope and pulled the letter out.

    And blinked.

    “What is it?” Mermista asked, leaning forward. Sea Hawk was leaning to the side, too, as if he could stretch his neck two yards to read over Seacat’s shoulder.

    She shook her head. “It’s an invitation. To the prom. From Blondie.”

    What the hell? Couldn’t the woman find another date? It wasn’t as if she were ugly. Ah.

    “Oh!” The captain nodded. “Bold of her.”

    “Bold?” She scoffed at him. “Transparent is what it is! She just wants to bother me the whole evening about her missing friend!” She scowled - she wouldn’t have thought Blondie would be so underhanded! The woman had seemed to be far more straight-forward. Too honest for her own good, actually.

    Seacat blinked again. “I bet this was the shrimp’s idea!”

    “I do hope you won’t call her that at the prom,” Mermista commented.

    “Who says I’m going?” Seacat shot back.

    “Well… we’ll be sailing to the Snow Kingdom - my dear Mermista has invited me along, and what better ship to take than the fastest on all the Seas?,” Sea Hawk said with a beaming smile. “So, since you’ll be in the kingdom anyway, why would you want to spend the night in some tavern drinking cheap cold beer if you could enjoy the biggest event of the decade? Think of all the food!”

    She definitely wasn’t thinking about all the food the princesses would eat, even though the buffet would be stocked with the finest selection from all of Etheria. “At least I won’t be bothered there!” she spat.

    “Really?” Mermista snorted in that eye-rolling manner of hers. “So, you think Adora invited you to the prom just so she can nag you, yet you also expect her not to look for you if you decline her invitation?”

    She didn’t have to make it sound stupid. Seacat scowled at her. “I can hide.” Or she could wear a disguise. Not a leather suit, though. A cloak would suffice.

    Sea Hawk frowned at her. “That doesn’t sound like much of an adventure. You should meet any challenge head-on! With bravery and guts! Or with a cunning plan!”

    “This isn’t a challenge. Or an adventure. This is just an annoyance,” Seacat retorted.

    “Such an annoyance, you’d rather hide?” Mermista shook her head with a pointed sigh. “Well, if you don’t think you can handle a princess…”

    Now Seacat was the one to roll her eyes. She knew what Mermista was trying to do, and she wasn’t falling for it. She wasn’t Sea Hawk who could be baited into anything with a challenge. “I could handle her - or anyone else - just fine. I just don’t want to.” She pressed her lips together as soon as she had spoken - she shouldn’t have said that. It sounded like whining. And Seacat didn’t whine. The most she did was complain - perfectly justified, mind you - about some things like the weather, the food, or, or some stupid princess.

    But Mermista was smirking at her, and Sea Hawk was giving her that disappointed look as if she had failed to set sails in time.

    So what? She hadn’t done anything wrong. She didn’t need or want to go to that stupid prom. Least of all with Blondie.

    “Well, if it annoys you so much, I’ll talk to Adora and ask her to cut you some slack. Can’t have my first mate get annoyed into hiding, after all.”

    “I’ll tell her myself!” Seacat snarled. She could fight her own battles.

    “No, no, if the thought of spending time with her annoys you so much, you’d go into hiding, then it’s clearly my duty as your captain to step in. The sacred law of the sea that binds captain and crew together would demand no less!” He stood and raised his hand to point at the ceiling. “No need to be afraid, my dear Seacat, I shall protect you!”

    Seacat growled. She didn’t need protection. Not from Blondie. Or from anyone. And she wasn’t afraid of her, either. She saw Mermista smirking and clenched her teeth. This could not stand! She wasn’t some… whatever. “No,” she spat, “I can deal with this myself! I’ll go with her to the stupid Prom, and she’ll realise she’s got the wrong person!”

    *****​

    Leaning against the railing as they entered the harbour, Seacat shivered despite her fur and the heavy jacket and pants she was wearing. The Kingdom of Snow was as cold as she remembered from her last trip. Snow and ice everywhere. Why would people actually live here? Well, apart from the Northern Sea having the best fishing grounds of Etheria. And the crystal mines that supplied most other kingdoms. The Dragon’s Daughter IV would be taking a cargo of crystals back to Salineas. And enough dried fish for months. Mh.

    “Ah! The Shining Star of the North! The Mysterious Jewel of the Northern Sea!” Sea Hawk announced, pointing at the glittering houses forming the capital of the kingdom.

    “We’ve been here before. It’s about as mysterious as a melted iceberg. They have travel brochures with suggested tours,” Mermista drawled. “And the light being reflected by all the snow and ice hurts my eyes.”

    “Oh, but think of the night of mysteries that awaits us in the palace there! Dancing! Eating! Plotting and politics! Adventure awaits!”

    “Making nice with people who barely know where my kingdom is located and don’t give a damn about the war we’re fighting. Fun.”

    “Indeed, fun! What tales could they tell that would measure up to our daring deeds and harrowing adventures? We will be the life of the party!”

    “Unless we freeze to death first.”

    Seacat shook her head. The captain and the princess’s relationship had weathered the trip much better than she had expected - they weren’t fighting, yet - but she wasn’t looking forward to the trip back. Two more weeks on the Dragon’s Daughter IV would see the couple at each other’s throats. Fun indeed.

    On the other hand, perhaps this would convince Sea Hawk that Mermista wasn’t the best woman for him? The captain deserved someone who could stand him for longer than a month. Although finding a woman who could stand him for a few weeks in the first place had proven difficult so far.

    They reached the pier, and Seacat went to secure the ship and to haul down the mainsail. By the time she had finished, Sea Hawk and Mermista had handled the port master’s paperwork - not that there would be much, not when travelling with a princess. One of the few advantages of transporting Mermista.

    “Are you done?” the princess asked, sounding more than a little impatient. Or annoyed.

    “Aye,” Seacat replied in her best drawl. Mermista knew exactly how long it took to tie up a ship, and she knew that Seact had been fast.

    “Finally! Then let’s go to the palace!”

    “I thought the prom wouldn’t start until the evening,” Seacat said, making a point of looking at the afternoon sun. They would’ve arrived two days earlier, if not for an unfortunate encounter with one of Sea Hawk’s exes. Fortunately, they had still arrived in time.

    “It does,” Mermista replied. “But you didn’t plan to get ready for the social event of the decade on your ship, did you?”

    “Hey!” Sea Hawk protested at once. “The Dragon’s Daughter IV is the best ship to sail all the seas!”

    “But it’s not the best closet or changing room,” Mermista retorted. “Onward, I say! To the palace!”

    “Onward! To Adventure!” Sea Hawk jumped over the railing and landed on the pier, fist raised high.

    “To the Princess Prom! If you dare set the buffet on fire, I’ll gut you like a fish!” Mermista followed him with slightly less grace - in Seacat’s opinion.

    She took a last look around the deck. Everything was shipshape. Too bad.

    Then she followed the couple.

    *****​

    By the time they reached the palace, Seacat wished she’d worn boots. Her feet were, if a little chilly, perfectly fine for a ship’s deck, properly swept clear of snow and chipped ice, but the Snow Kingdom apparently thought that a few inches of snow covering their streets was acceptable.

    It wasn’t. She took some relief in digging her claws into the polished floor of the palace in retaliation as they entered. At least it was warm here, even though the walls looked as if they were made of gleaming ice.

    She caught Mermista glancing over her shoulder at her and dug her claws in extra-deep on the next step.

    “Are you claws frozen stiff?” the princess asked. “You’re usually not that clumsy.”

    “They’re fine,” Seacat spat back, clenching her teeth.

    “Really? That’s good to hear. I still remember when you froze to the railing on our first trip to the Snow Kingdom,” Sea Hawk cut in.

    Seacat wasn’t cold any more at all - she felt positively warm at the embarrassing memory. “That was three years ago!” And she had been young and stupid then!

    Mermista giggled, but, fortunately, didn’t rub it in. “Let’s go to our quarters to get ready.”

    Finally! That should keep everyone busy for some…

    “Cat-Seacat! There you are!”

    Catsycat? Oh, no! Seacat turned and felt her tail poof up. Blondie was coming straight at her.

    “Blondie.” She glared at the woman.

    “It’s Adora, actually.” Apparently, Blondie couldn’t read moods since she was beaming at her. “You came! I wasn’t sure - Glimmer said you would, but Bow was sceptical, and… oh! Hi, Sea Hawk! Hello, Mermista!”

    “She-Ra,” Mermista nodded at her with her polite smile. The same smile she usually gave to Seacat when Sea Hawk had overstayed his welcome, and they were leaving.

    “Hello!” Sea Hawk himself was beaming.

    “It’s Adora, actually,” Blondie repeated herself. As if Mermista would have missed ehr the first time. “It wouldn’t be appropriate to attend a ball as She-Ra, I was told. Swords aren’t allowed at the Prom. Or any other weapons.” She nodded.

    Seacat frowned. No weapons? Well, she had her claws if anything happened. And if the other guests didn’t have any weapons, that would put her at an advantage. And… “So, She-Ra won’t be attending the prom?” she asked.

    “Uh,” Blondie looked confused for a moment. “Technically, I’m She-Ra even if I’m not, you know, being She-Ra. Transformed, I mean. But I was planning to attend like this.” She ran a hand down her front. “Only in a dress, of course. Uniforms aren’t suitable for the Prom, either.”

    “Unless you’re a soldier,” Sea Hawk replied.

    “Well, I am a soldier. Kind of.”

    “You’re a princess,” Seacat told her. “But more importantly… why are you wearing a Horde Uniform?” They must have had more than enough time to get her better clothes than… that.

    “Err…” Blondie rubbed the back of her head. “They’re comfortable? I didn’t really think about it since I always change clothes when I change into She-Ra, so…” She shrugged. “And they’re sturdier than civilian clothes!”

    “How pragmatic,” Mermista drawled.

    “Yes!” Blondie nodded with a smile. “Anyway, Glimmer is still in a meeting with Frosta, and Bow’s checking out the local crafters or something, but I heard you were expected to arrive today, so I decided to look for you.”

    Well, today was the last day they could’ve arrived without missing the event. Still… “You waited for us?”

    “I guess?” Blondie smiled at her. “I’m not a crafting or diplomatic type, so it wasn’t as if I had anything else to do.”

    “I’m flattered,” Seacat said, making a point of showing what she really meant with her expression.

    The other woman gasped. “Oh! No, I didn’t mean it like that…”

    “Then how did you mean it?”

    “I mean... I just… I didn’t want to, uh, stalk you.”

    “Ah.” Seacat nodded. “I can see how waiting hours for our arrival and then jumping me as soon as we enter will avoid that, yes.”

    Blondie blushed at that. “It didn’t seem like that when I thought about it.”

    The woman was either very stupid or a very good liar, in Seacat’s opinion. “Well, you saw that we have arrived. I’d love to stay and chat, but unfortunately, we’ll have to spend the next few hours getting ready for the Prom, so… I guess we’ll meet up at the prom?”

    “Before the prom, of course,” Mermista butted in. “You’re her plus one, remember?”

    As if Seacat could forget that.

    The princess turned to Blondie. “Forgive her; she was raised on a ship. By Sea Hawk. The prom is an entirely new challenge for her.”

    Blondie perked up. “Oh, I’m the same! Glimmer was so surprised - and a little shocked - at what I didn’t know about the prom. I had to redo all my plans every time she corrected a mistake!”

    Seacat blinked. She shouldn’t ask, shouldn’t give the woman another opening, but… she had to know. “Plans?”

    “Oh, yes - this is a diplomatic mission, after all. For the Princess Alliance!” Blondie nodded enthusiastically. “We need to convince Princess Frosta to join the Alliance. So, I planned for every eventuality.”

    Ah. Seacat nodded. That made sense - she knew better than most that having a plan or two ready helped when things turned bad. Which often happened with the captain in charge. Though diplomatic missions were a little beyond her. Seacat was a sailor, not a princess. Diplomacy was Memista’s business; not that she was very diplomatic in Seacat’s experience.

    But she probably would hold back her attitude when talking to other princesses.

    “So… do you need help getting ready? For the prom?” Blondie asked.

    “We should manage,” Seacat replied.

    “Come by our quarters an hour before the prom starts,” Mermista said.

    “Why so early?” Seacat asked as they left Blondie.

    “We need to coordinate outfits, of course.”

    Seacat had a bad feeling about that.

    *****​

    As it turned out, Seacat’s fears had been unfounded. Mostly. The shampoo in the bath hadn’t wrecked her fur, for one. Apparently, Sea Hawk hadn’t forgotten that particularly embarrassing incident in Seaworthy and must have informed the palace’s staff. ‘Best shampoo in Bright Moon’, indeed! More likely, of course, Sea Hawk had mentioned it to Mermista, and the princess had organised things.

    In any case, Seacat’s fur was soft and shiny. Not poofy. And her hair had been styled without turning it into some absolutely impractical construct that wouldn’t survive a strong gale, much less a storm. And her claws were polished and painted in shiny black. She had rarely looked better, if she was honest. And the bathrobe was soft and fluffy - it would be perfect if it had a hole for her tail. As it was, each time her tail moved, the hem was lifted a little, from her knees to her thighs, though that wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t as if she were going out in it.

    But the clothes lined up for her… “Most of those dresses don’t even have a hole for my tail!” she protested.

    “That’s normal - the hole will be added once you’ve chosen your dress,” Mermista said.

    Seacat shot her a frown. That didn’t match her own experiences. And shouldn’t the princess be worried about her own dress?

    “I picked out my dress before we set out for the Kingdom of Snow,” Mermista told her with a smirk as if she had read Seacat’s mind.

    Seacat huffed, but didn’t push further. Instead, she pointed at the other row of clothes, smaller, but apparently heavier. “And what’s with the uniforms? I’m not a member of the Navy, much less an officer!”

    “Those are styled after officers’ uniforms, they aren’t actual uniforms,” Mermista explained. “As I’ve been told, after our victory at sea, naval uniforms became fashionable in Salineas.”

    Seacat snorted. “Would’ve been better if actually serving in the navy would’ve become fashionable,” she muttered.

    “What a noble sentiment! You and Sea Hawk could have commissions but for asking,” the princess replied as she walked over to the row of dresses.

    “No, thanks,” Seacat shot back. “I like being able to choose my own fate.” And it went without saying that Sea Hawk wouldn’t fit into the Navy. Setting frigates on fire would quickly grow too expensive for any kingdom.

    “That’s an incentive to rise through the ranks,” Mermista replies, pulling out a white dress and holding it up, eyes flicking back and forth between it and Seacat. “I think not.”

    Seacat rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me that you haven’t planned my outfit already, and this is just for show.”

    The princess’s grin told Seacat that she was right. “We still have time to try on a few dresses.”

    Seacat glared at Mermista. “Shouldn’t we wait until Blondie arrives so we can ‘coordinate’ outfits?

    “I already know what she’s wearing,” Mermista replied, peering at another dress. One that looked like it was made out of plants. “And I know what you’ll be wearing.”

    Seacat blinked. “And what’s this, then?” She pointed at the dresses and suits.

    “That’s Sea Hawk’s doing.” Mermista’s grin made her look like a shark. “This is your first ball, after all, and he wanted to be prepared for all eventualities.”

    “Ah.” Seacat swallowed her first comment. Of course the captain would do such a thing. And it explained the capes on half the dresses and all of the uniforms. She glared at Mermista, but only half-heartedly. It was hard to stop the captain when he got going; Seacat knew that better than anyone else.

    But she was also pretty sure that Mermista hadn’t even tried to stop him. Though she was less sure about the princess’s reason for that.

    A knock at the door interrupted the sudden silence.

    “Enter!” Mermista said, loud enough to be heard through the door, but not yelling.

    Seacat told herself that a sailor didn’t need to be able to do that. A sailor needed to be able to yell as loud as possible so they’d be heard in the worst of storms.

    Then she blinked. Blondie entered with a weak, shy smile. Dressed in… oh. That was a nice dress. Simple but stylish. Red - and a darker red, almost like Seacat’s preferred shirt, to set it off. It reached mid-calf. No cleavage, but most of the shoulders and arms were bare. Toned arms.

    She resisted the urge to whistle. Instead, she said: “I expected more ruffles and lace.”

    Blondie actually blushed, looking at the floor near Seacat’s feet. “Ah… that’s an interesting...”

    “Please excuse her; she’s got some strange ideas about princesses,” Mermista said. “Beats me where she’d got it from - the only princess she knows is me.”

    “Exactly,” Seacat said, flashing her fangs.

    Blondie smiled, even chuckled at that. “So… what are you wearing?” She peered at the dresses, almost ignoring Seacat and Mermista.

    “Err…” Seacat licked her lips, turning to the clothes. She only had to…

    “This one!” A bundle of clothes hit her in the chest before she had turned completely to face Mermista, and only her fast reaction allowed her to catch it before it hit the ground. “Go and try it on!”

    Seacat frowned - this was exactly why she didn’t want to join the navy! - but she wasn’t about to argue in front of Blondie.

    She glared at the princess anyway, then walked into the bathroom. At least the princess had gotten her favourite colours - black and red - right.

    But when she unfolded the bundle, she knew at once that this had been Sea Hawk’s pick. It was a suit with a cape. A half-cape, so it wouldn’t exactly make her trip up or hamper her tail’s movements, but still!

    On the other hand, she had to admit once she had put the clothes on and checked herself in the mirror, it looked dashing. Black leggings and jacket, red shirt - with a higher collar than she usually wore - and black half-cape covering her left shoulder. Fingerless half-gloves that matched her leggings. No shoes, of course.

    All in all, not bad at all, if she did say so…

    “Seacat! Did you get tangled up in the fabric again?”

    She rolled her eyes as she opened the door. The princess made it sound as if she had trouble dressing herself. “That was a cargo of silk, ropes and linen,” she said, “and I had to jump into the hold or get crushed by the mainmast when that cannonball smashed its base.”

    “And then you got stuck!” Mermista said, laughing.

    Not for long, and only because she hadn’t wanted to destroy part of the cargo! But before Seacat could come up with a comeback - probably involving the princess’s on/off relationship with her captain - Blondie started laughing as well.

    It wasn’t that funny, in Seacat’s opinion. But the other woman kept laughing for almost half a minute before she finally stopped. “Oh! Oh, no - I’m sorry. I just…” she shrugged, blushing again. “But you look very nice.”

    Seacat huffed, even though the princess sounded honest. Then again, of course she looked nice - she always did! She nodded. “Thank you. So, do we pass muster?” she added, looking at Mermista.

    The princess made a point of studying her with a frown on her face and making humming noises. “Let’s hope you’ll do.”

    “You picked out the clothes,” Seacat told her.

    “But you’re wearing them.”

    She rolled her eyes. “Shouldn’t you get ready as well? You’ve got half an hour left.”

    Hearing Mermista gasp was very satisfying. Seacat smirked and stuck out her tongue as the princess positively rushed out of the room and into her own quarters.

    “Catra used to have the same expression when she managed to pull a prank on, well...!”

    And there went her good mood. She turned to face Blondie. “I’m not her.”

    “Sorry, I forgot.”

    “‘Forgot’? What do you mean?”

    “Ah…” The other woman grimaced. “It’s like… you know…”

    Blondie was a pathetic liar. Seacat narrowed her eyes, flattened her ears and leaned closer. “What do you mean, you ‘forgot’?”

    “Well, ah, I know you don’t like it when I tell you about Catra. So I didn’t want to.”

    “When you call me Catra, you mean.” She showed her fangs.

    Instead of being intimidated, Blondie blushed again. “Sorry. But...”

    Seacat frowned. Best to nip that in the bud. Mermista wouldn’t like it if they made a scene in the middle of the prom, and Sea Hawk had been looking forward to this. “It’s an instinct. I’m sure that every cat like me does the same thing. Ears moving, tail swishing, claws scratching…” she raised her hand and flexed her claws.

    Blondie nodded with a smile. “That makes sense.”

    She sighed. “But you still think I’m your missing friend.”

    The other woman blushed again. “Well… yes?” She laughed, but it sounded a bit forced. “But I know you don’t like being reminded of that, so I shouldn’t do it.”

    “Yes, you shouldn’t.”

    Blondie nodded several times with a very earnest and hopeful expression.

    Seacat clenched her teeth. This was more awkward than she had feared. And it was all Blondie’s fault. “Let’s go.”

    Once more, the princess nodded with a stupidly happy expression. This was probably a mistake, but Seacat wasn’t a quitter. Sea Hawk and Mermista would never let her forget it if she fled, anyway. And she could always hide at the buffet.

    *****​

    “Adora! And Seacat.”

    Right. The shrimp was there as well. Seacat nodded at the princess as they joined them in the line waiting for the prom to open. She, at least, was wearing a properly ruffled dress. Very princessy.

    “Hey!” And Brain Boy was there as well. Although he was with another girl… princess. “Perfuma, this is Seacat. Seacat - Princess Perfuma of Plumeria”

    “Hello,” Seacat replied. At least he got her name right.

    “Oh! I’ve heard of you!” The princess beamed at her.

    Seacat narrowed her eyes. That wasn’t always a good thing. “You have?”

    “Yes! Adora told me so much about you!”

    Blondie’s smile looked very forced when Seacat glanced at her. “Ah… Perfuma is a very good listener. If you ever have some problems and want to talk about them…”

    “Oh, yes. It’s the least I can do.”

    “What exactly did she…”

    “Hi!”

    Seacat didn’t jump back. She merely straightened very fast. Another princess? With… moving hair?

    “Ah. Entrapta, this is Seacat. Seacat, Princess Entrapta of Dryl.”

    “Hello.” Seacat was meeting too many princesses for her taste. Then again, this was the Princess Prom.

    “I’ve heard about you.”

    Seacat glared at Blondie, but the other woman was looking at the wall.

    And then the princess was in her face. “You’ve lost your memory, right? I can help with that! Probably. Possibly. I’ve got some ideas, at least. Interesting ideas. Hardly more dangerous than any other experiment. What do you think about neurological stimulation? The brain is basically running on electricity, and so are bots! And I’m very good at making bots. Unless some First Ones’ Tech gets out of control, but that hardly happens. About once a month, which is a very good and safe ratio! So, what do you say? Mind a little brain scan? It won’t hurt. I think. Or not much.”

    Seacat felt her tail puff out again as she took a step back. She hadn’t understood half the princess’s words, but she recognised danger when it was staring her in the face. “No. I’m here to dance, eat and enjoy the evening. No time for anything else.” She grabbed Blondie’s arm, lightly dug her claws into it to make her point, and bared her fangs at her. “Right?”

    “Oh, right, of course. Ow.”

    “Oh, and there are our friends! See you later!” Seacat ignored the protests and dragged Blondie over to Sea Hawk and Mermista, who had finally made an appearance. The princess wore - surprise! - a dress in dark green and blue colours that made her look a little like a mermaid. Sea Hawk was dressed in a matching suit. With a cape, of course.

    “Hello!”

    “You’ve met Blondie already today,” Seacat snapped, glancing over her shoulder. The other princesses were still a little away. Perfect. “Did you know she has a friend who wants to carve open my skull?”

    “What?”

    Seacat smiled, showing her teeth, as both Mermista and Sea Hawk stared at Blondie. Turnabout was fair play.

    *****​

    Author Note: I commissioned a picture of Seacat by Carnivalkitten:
    [​IMG]
     
  10. GraphiteCrow

    GraphiteCrow Daemon of Slaanesh

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    hmm, how much will this story be railroaded by Canon? should we be expecting most of the story to be similar to the events in the show just with Seacat shoved onto the princess side even if she doesn't want to be there?
     
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  11. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    I won't be following canon. Catra's absence has derailed a lot already, and the story will follow her, mostly nautical, adventures. The Prom happens because it happens every 10 years, but without Catra, the Horde can't really do 90% of their canon moves - or even think of them.
     
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  12. Adipose1913

    Adipose1913 Understanding is a three-edged sword

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    This is a fun au, eagerly watched to see how they set the prom on fire.
     
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  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 6: The Princess Prom Part 2
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 6: The Princess Prom Part 2

    “Your friend wants to cut open Seacat’s skull?” Sea Hawk, his back to the still closed door to the palace’s ballroom, gasped before his eyes narrowed and he started glaring.

    “No, no! It’s a misunderstanding!” Blondie protested. She shook her head.

    Seacat grinned. That was the reaction she had been hoping for.

    Mermista, though, sighed. “Ugh. Entrapta got enthusiastic, right?”

    Spoilsport.

    Blondie nodded, visibly relieved. “Yes, but she doesn’t want to cut into anyone’s skull. She just wants to do a brain scan.”

    “She can scan your brain,” Seacat muttered. It was obvious that Blondie’s brain needed more help than Seacat’s.

    “Hey!” The other woman frowned at her. Seacat bared her teeth in return.

    “Did you ask her to do this?” Sea Hawk was still frowning.

    “I, ah, well…” Blondie fidgeted with her fingers. “It’s like... She overheard me talking to Glimmer, and when I mentioned amnesia, she was all fired up about finding out how to treat it - she said something about memory leaks.”

    “I’m not a ship that’s leaking,” Seacat told her. “And I’m fine.” She didn’t actually need her missing memory. She had been doing fine for years without it!

    “But…” Blondie pressed her lips together.

    “We’re here for the Princess Prom, not to get into my head,” she told the other woman. “Right?”

    “Of course!” Blondie nodded rapidly. She really was a bad liar.

    “Just keep Entrapta away from me,” Seacat snapped. “I like my brain where it is.” And how it was.

    “But it… Right! No brainy talk! I mean, no talking about brains!” Blondie once nodded several times with a serious expression.

    “Good.”

    “Hello!”

    And there was Princess Brain Scan. Seacat took a step back, moving closer to her friends, as the group exchanged polite but pointless greetings. She wasn’t afraid or nervous. She was merely concerned. A little. Which was completely justified. On the other hand, she wasn’t about to let a princess scare her. She straightened and stepped forward again. She still kept Blondie between her and the weird princess.

    “Mermista! You’ve missed the meeting before the prom!” the shrimp complained.

    “Unfortunately, I arrived too late to take part.” Mermista sighed as if she weren’t lying through her teeth. “Our ship was slower than planned.”

    “We had to take a small detour,” Sea Hawk corrected the princess. “It was an adventure, actually!”

    The story that followed had not much to do with what had happened, but it kept everyone entertained - though Mermista was rolling her eyes a lot - until the prom finally opened and they could enter.

    Or could wait in front of the open door, as it turned out, since there was a special order for the guests to enter. “Can you imagine that?” Seacat whispered to Blondie. “You arrive first, and then have to wait until some slowpokes arrive just because they are supposed to be in front of you. If anyone ran a harbour like this…”

    “Technically, you were the last to arrive,” the shrimp cut in.

    Seacat frowned at the princess. “Who enters the harbour first is not important. Who gets their cargo unloaded and delivered first is the winner. We were among the first to wait here.”

    “Because Mermista skipped the meeting and so could finish getting ready earlier than everyone else,” the shrimp retorted.

    “If I had attended, I’d have made everyone late,” Mermista defended herself. “Besides, you were probably gossipping about the prom anyway.

    “We were not! We were discussing alliances!”

    “And dates,” the plant princess added with a beaming smile.

    The shrimp blushed a little - but it seemed she was more angry than embarrassed. “That’s part of alliances,” she all but spat out. “Something anyone taking alliances seriously would be aware of!”

    “But we weren’t talking about engagements or marriages,” the other princess retorted with a frown.

    “Guys, guys!” Brain Boy - perhaps she needed a better nickname for him, seeing that he had just stepped between two angry princesses - smiled. “Let’s just enjoy the prom, right? We can talk politics in the morning.”

    “And nurse our hangover,” Mermista muttered. “Because I’ll need a few drinks.”

    Seacat nodded in agreement. She had a feeling she’d need some drinks as well.

    *****​

    She-Ra, and with her Seacat, was among the last of the princesses to be called in. Whether that was because she was the youngest princess or the most famous, Seacat couldn’t tell. Blondie certainly made an impression - everyone was looking at them as the servant announced her.

    “She-Ra, Princess of Power. And her date.”

    Seacat shot the man a glare - she had a name! A very good name! - but he ignored her. And Blondie was all but dragging her towards the host, Princess Frosta. Who looked almost as bored as Seacat probably would have been in her place. And was about ten years old.

    Well, at least a princess her age would have a good dessert buffet at her party.

    But first, they had to introduce themselves. Even though Seacat was sure that the princess had met Blondie before and didn’t really care about a sailor.

    “Bow, hold it for three seconds,” she heard Blondie mumble under her breath. It probably hadn’t been aimed at Seacat. Not that she needed it, anyway - she’d been drilled about all the rules of this ball by Mermista for half the trip here.

    “So, they didn’t trust you to behave, either?” Seacat whispered as they slowly walked towards the Snow Throne or however it was called.

    “What? No, no, I planned this out for weeks. Rules for presenting yourself, rules for dancing, rules for eating.”

    There were rules for eating? Other than ‘no snatching food from others’ plates’, as Mermista had put it? Seacat clenched her teeth. No, this was easy - she just had to watch how others ate, and then do the same.

    Oh, there they were!

    “Princess Frosta!” Blondie bowed, Seacat following her a fraction of a second later. One, Two. Three. Smile! Without flashing your fangs. And no giggling at the ten-year-old princess trying to look serious and grown-up. Mermista had been quite firm about that.

    “Princess She-Ra. Seacat. Welcome to the All-Princess Ball.” Frosta nodded without changing her expression. And she knew Seacat!

    “Thank you.”

    “Yes, thank you.” Seacat nodded. That should be it. She pulled on Blondie’s arm, and they made their escape.

    “Whew!” Seacat exclaimed as soon as they were out of earshot. “The hard part is over! It’s party time now!”

    “Ah…”

    “What?” Seacat frowned at Blondie. “You’ve had weeks for your diplomacy! You don’t need to work now, do you?”

    “No, no. I was just… surprised.”

    Seacat rolled her eyes. “Let me guess: Your friend was all serious and never did anything for fun, huh?”

    “What? No, no. Cat… My friend actually liked, ah, goofing off. But you were always so serious when we were travelling together.”

    Of course, she had been serious! Someone had to be serious in the crew, and Sea Hawk wouldn’t be serious even when faced with a mob of deadly pirates or Horde Scum. “I’m a sailor,” she told the blonde. “We’re serious when working. We have to be on the open sea.”

    “That rhymes!” Blondie coughed. “Sorry.”

    Seacat huffed. At least she didn’t mention Sea Hawk. “Let’s get something to eat.”

    “Alright!” The way Blondie perked up, she must have been starving herself for this evening. She looked more eager to sample the food than sailors who hadn’t eaten anything but hardtack and salted meat for weeks, washed down with lemon juice.

    They made their way through the crowd - some of them were still staring at Blondie as if she were… well, she actually was ‘a legendary princess returned in Etheria’s hour of need’, as Mermista’s head servant had put it, but still! Such staring should be against the rules - it made Seacat want to check her clothes for stains and run her hand through her hair, and that would definitely make matters worse.

    But, fortunately for her temper and stomach, they reached the buffet without anyone actually bothering them. She sniffed the air - ah, so many delicious smells!

    “Are you purring?”

    Really? She glared at Blondie. “That’s not something you ask a cat! It’s rude!”

    The other woman gasped. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry - I had no idea!”

    Blondie looked so honestly sorry, Seacat almost told her that she had been joking. “Let’s eat!” she said instead and grabbed the biggest plate she could find. Blondie followed her example, she noted with a glance. Well, she was a fighting Princess, not some dainty useless princess who hid in their palace and didn’t do anything. She would need the food to keep in shape. Those muscles…

    Seacat huffed and focused on the dishes, licking her lips at the selection of seafood. Oh!

    “You really like fish, huh?”

    Seacat narrowed her eyes. “Like your friend?”

    “What? No, no. We never, uh, ate anything but rations. I was just noticing your selection.”

    “Only rations? Horde rations?” Seacat gaped. She had tried those… things… in the past. To be raised on that…

    Blondie frowned. “It wasn’t that bad. They don’t taste very good, but they provide you with everything you need. And the taste keeps you from overeating.”

    “The taste keeps you from eating,” Seacat replied before sticking out her tongue and making gagging noises. “I’ve tried them before.”

    “Oh? When?”

    “That was on the Dragon’s Daughter I. We’d raided a Horde outpost but then sailed into an enduring calm and ran out of actual food waiting for the wind to pick up.”

    “Oh! Couldn’t you fish?”

    “I didn’t catch enough to feed everyone.” Not after Sea Hawk had eaten the good bait, leaving them with bits of rations

    “Ah.”

    They spent the next few minutes shovelling food into their mouths and making satisfied noises. Then the shrimp decided to join them. “There you are! I’ve been looking for you.”

    Seacat swallowed a particularly tasty morsel of fried Ice Fish, and nodded at the princess. “And you found us.” She didn’t add ‘good for you!’, but the face the shrimp made looked as if she heard it anyway.

    “It’s really good!” Blondie said, nodding happily, then coughing a little. Swallowing a fistful of roasted meat would do that to you.

    “I told you, didn’t I?” The princess grinned, then sighed, “If only Bow would be here.”

    Huh? “Did he leave?” Seacat scanned the crowd. Why would anyone leave the ball so early? Unless… oh.

    “I meant ‘here’ as in ‘here with us’,” the princess explained with a pout that made her look barely older than Princess Frosta.

    But he was at the party, wasn’t he? There he was, about to dance with his date, the plant princess… Oh. Seacat grinned. “You’re jealous!” she said, pointing at the princess’s face.

    “What?” The shrimp glared at her. And Blondie grimaced behind her friend’s back, shaking her head at Seacat.

    She ignored it. If they meddled with her private life, it was only fair to meddle with theirs. “You wanted him to come as your date, not… who did you come with, anyway?”

    “I am technically here with Entrapta,” she replied. “But she went to gather data on social interaction’ or something before we even formally greeted Frosta!”

    Oh! So, even princesses broke the rules. Wait - of course, princesses got to break the rules.

    “And Bow is perfectly fine to go with anyone he wants to this ball!”

    Seacat snorted. “As long as he’s with you, you mean.”

    The shrimp’s glare grew even hotter. “That’s none of your business.”

    “So? It’s amusing.” Seacat bared her teeth in a wide smile. “You should just take your heart in hand and charge full speed ahead!”

    “What?” Both the shrimp and Blondie looked confused.

    Seacat frowned. That was what Sea Hawk would say. Had said, when she asked him about his relationship with Mermista after a particularly loud breakup. But they didn’t know the captain as well as she did. “You should tell him that you want him.”

    And now the shrimp was blushing. As was Blondie.

    “I don’t… I mean, not... “ The shrimp shook her head. “He’s my best friend. We were supposed to attend this ball together, I’ve been waiting for this for years, and now…”

    ‘Best friend’, huh? That didn’t look like a best friendship to Seacat. “Did he know that?”

    “What? Well, of course! We are best friends, we always go to parties together!”

    Seacat shrugged. “Should’ve asked him out, then. Before your rival did it.”

    “She’s not my rival!”

    Seacat smirked. The princess was fooling herself. “Anyway, seems you didn’t know your friend as well as you thought you did.” She speared the last piece of fried shark with one claw and popped it into her mouth. Mhhh. Delicious!

    “You’re purring?” the shrimp blurted out.

    “UH! Glimmer, it’s rude to say that to a cat!” Blondie whispered into her friend’s ear. Seacat’s ears caught it, of course. “She’s sorry; she didn’t know about that,” the woman went on, a little louder.

    “I’ve never heard of this!” the shrimp protested.

    “See? She’s telling the truth.” Blondie beamed at her.

    “This sounds fishy!” the shrimp said, glaring at them.

    “No, this smells fishy. Deliciously fishy!” Seacat retorted. “I’m getting seconds.” She sauntered the few steps back to the buffet, tail swinging back and forth. Blondie was staring at her, she noticed with a subtle glance over her shoulder. Then she caught herself purring again and frowned. She really needed to get a handle on that.

    When she had finished filling her plate and returned to her supposed date for the evening, the shrimp was gone.

    “She went to ask Bow for a dance,” Blondie explained.

    “Cool.” She started eating the tasty morsels again. “Do you think they’ll fight over him?”

    “What? No, no. They’re friends. Well, Bow and Glimmer, but Perfuma is, at least, an ally. Probably a friend, too - well, I think of her as a friend.” Seacat found herself frowning for some reason, but Blondie’s eyes widened. “Oh, no! What if they do end up fighting? This could tear the alliance apart! I didn’t consider that possibility when I laid down the relationship web!”

    “The ‘relationship web’?”

    “Yes! I marked out all known relationships, so we’d know who was dating whom and who can’t stand each other.” Blondie bit her lower lip for a moment. “But I didn’t consider this. Not at all. Oh, no…”

    Tsk. Seacat pierced another morsel with her claw - roasted Ice Fish, one of the best and most expensive fishes she knew - and waved it in front of Blondie’s nose until she looked at it with crossed eyes.

    “Uh… what?”

    “Roasted Ice Fish. Try it. And stop worrying about a lover’s spat. Sea Hawk and Mermista fight each other all the time, but still love each other.”

    Blondie opened her mouth and blinked. “But…”

    Seacat silenced her by pushing the morsel into her mouth. Blondie closed her mouth reflexively, and she withdrew her finger and claw with a grin. “It’s good, hm?”

    The other woman swallowed, blinked again, then nodded and stared at Seacat’s plate.

    She shook her head. “Nu-uh. Go get your own fish! I’m not hand-feeding you without you returning the favour.” Then she blinked. That had sounded less… something… in her head.

    Fortunately, Blondie laughed and went to fill her own plate, and neither of them spoke much until more fish had been eaten.

    “So… ah… What do you do when you’re not being serious on a ship?” Blondie asked once they had put their empty plates down.

    Was she trying to compare her to her friend again? Seacat snorted. She had the answer to that. “I carouse.”

    “You what?”

    She grinned. Blondie didn’t know the word. Well, she hadn’t been raised by the captain. “I go out drinking and partying,” she explained. Like every sailor worth their salt.

    “Oh.” The other woman looked surprised - and a little taken aback.

    “Never done it yourself?”

    “I, ah, don’t drink much.” Blondie looked embarrassed. Justly so, of course.

    “I bet you’re a fun drunk,” Seacat told her, smirking.

    “I wouldn’t know.” But the woman was blushing far too much for that to be true.

    Seacat grinned and leaned a little closer. “Really? You’ve never been drunk?”

    Blondie shook her head vehemently. “We, ah, didn’t really have much alcohol as cadets in the Horde, and after I became She-Ra, well… I can’t drink and fight, can I?”

    “Of course you can!” Seacat objected. “Drunken brawls are great!”

    “I’m not talking about brawling,” Blondie retorted with a frown. “I’m talking about fighting a war!”

    Seacat frowned in return. Blondie was correct - trying to fight a naval battle while drunk would be stupid. Very stupid. Sea Hawk had tried it, once, and never again, or so he’d told her. But that didn’t mean she had to admit it. She sniffed. “Well, I was talking about brawling. You know, having a fun fight. Not a serious one.”

    “Oh, like sparring?”

    Seacat blinked, then nodded, “Kind of. Just drunk, too.” She grinned. “That’s important.”

    “I guess so…” But Blondie didn’t look convinced. More worried, actually.

    She huffed. “I’m not going to start a brawl here.” Mermista had made both Seacat and Sea Hawk promise, after all. Several times. And it would be stupid with all the princesses around. On the other hand… She suddenly noticed Blondie was all tense and glaring. “What’s wrong?”

    “Horde,” Blondie spat.

    What? Seacat whirled, hand going to her hip - where the hilt of her cutlass would have been, if she’d been allowed to carry it. A Horde attack? Here?

    “The woman there, with the claws and tail,” Blondie said. “That’s a Horde Force Captain.”

    Claws and tail… Oh. Not a cat. A bug. A huge bug. And that armour… fighting her would be tricky, but a woman so big couldn’t be quick. Certainly not as quick as Seacat. And Seacat wouldn’t let Horde Scum get away. Not here. Not anywhere. “Someone must have smuggled her inside! Let’s get her before she reaches Frosta!” She dashed across the dance floor, almost sending some stupid couple stumbling, and jumped on the stairs leading up to the Snow Throne, landing between the kid and the Horde scum. “Watch out! She’s a Horde spy!”

    The bug woman blinked, frozen by surprise. “What?”

    Seacat hissed. All she had to do was to keep the scum from the princess before the guards would dogpile the spy. She blinked. Why were the guards pointing their weapons at her?

    “This is Princess Scorpia. She’s a guest,” Frosta said behind her.

    “Uh…” She glanced around. Mermista was glaring at her while holding back Sea Hawk. Blondie was standing at the foot of the stairs, faced with two guards, and looking lost and stupid. Shrimp was glaring as well. And everyone else was staring at her. Damn.

    “I’m sorry,” she said. “I was told she was a spy.” She looked pointedly at Blondie. This was all her fault!

    “She’s a princess, and therefore invited,” Frosta said as if that was obvious. “I won’t tolerate violence against any guest - by anyone. And I won’t break with centuries of tradition and abolish the neutrality of this event!”

    “I haven’t attacked her!” Seacat protested. It was true.

    But it was obvious that the princess didn’t see it that way. And Mermista was gesturing towards her. And frowning, as if they had just set something on fire.

    Seacat pouted and moved to the side, letting the Horde Scum pass before heading down to Blondie.

    “Why didn’t you tell me that she was a guest?” she hissed to the other woman.

    “I didn’t know!” Blondie protested.

    “I thought you had a plan for everything!” That was what she had said, at least.

    “Obviously, I hadn’t planned for the Horde attending this event!”

    “‘Obviously’.” Seacat glared at her.

    “Obviously!”

    “Seacat! What the hell were you thinking?”

    Seacat closed her eyes. Just what she needed - Mermista was furious. At her. That wouldn’t do - it wasn’t Seacat’s fault. Not this time. “It’s her fault!” she said, pointing at Blondie. “She told me the bug woman was a Horde spy! I only tried to help!”

    “And you did!” Sea Hawk said with a smile. “Selflessly jumping between an enemy and a princess is what we do! Adventure!”

    “Causing a diplomatic incident is what you did!” Mermista snapped. But she was glaring at both of them, now!

    “I never said she was a spy!” Blondie protested. “I said she was Horde!”

    “That’s the same thing!” Seacat shot back.

    “It’s not!”

    “Well, what was I supposed to think?” Seacat replied.

    “What were you thinking!”

    Oh, great. The shrimp had arrived as well to yell at her.

    And at Blondie, apparently, since she shook her head. “I wasn’t thinking anything - I just recognised the Force Captain and pointed her out to Ca-Seacat!”

    “Ugh! You weren’t thinking - you got that right!” Mermista scoffed. “Seacat was raised by Sea Hawk! You don’t point out Horde scum to them without keeping them on a leash!”

    Seacat glared at the princess. Everyone knew that in a fight, you needed to be quick and decisive. You couldn’t stop to overthink every action!

    “A leash?” Blondie was staring again.

    “I wasn’t talking about a literal leash!”

    “You better were not!” Seacat snapped.

    “Not outside the bedroom, at least!” The Captain nodded, rubbing his chin.

    Seacat stared at him, blinking. She wasn’t the only one.

    “Uh… do you mean…?” Blondie started.

    “No, he didn’t!” Mermista snarled, flushed with anger or embarrassment. “Besides, we have a diplomatic crisis to fix here! Focus on that!”

    “I’m no diplomat,” Seacat retorted. “Besides, shouldn’t me trying to protect the princess score us some goodwill?”

    The shrimp winced a little. Not a good sign. “Ah… Princess Frosta is a little… sensitive about her age. And about not being taken seriously.”

    Blondie nodded. “Oh, yes! Totally!”

    Seacat sighed. Typical. “It still isn’t my fault. I was only trying to help!”

    “Well, stop trying,” Mermista told her. “We’ll fix this… somehow. Just go and… dance or something. Without fighting anyone! Both of you!”

    Seacat glanced at Blondie, who frowned. “We can’t just let a Horde Force Captain wander around here, doing who knows what!” she protested.

    Seacat nodded in agreement. The woman had a very good point. “You can’t trust Horde scum!”

    “We’ll keep an eye on her,” the shrimp said. “I’ll set Bow and Perfuma on her. You just enjoy the party. Without fighting. We’ll handle Frosta.”

    “But…” Blondie started to say, yet everyone else was leaving already. She sighed. “It wasn’t my fault.”

    “It certainly wasn’t my fault!” Seacat told her.

    They stared at each other for a moment, frowning and glaring.

    “Let’s blame the Horde?” Blondie said, smiling weakly.

    Seacat huffed. It was still Blondie’s fault. On the other hand, she wouldn’t have said anything without the Horde scum visiting the prom. She nodded curtly.

    “Great!” Blondie beamed at her as if things were perfectly well again. “So, uh… should we dance?”

    Dancing? Seacat looked at the dance floor. Couples turned around each other. Hm. Perhaps… then she blinked.

    The Horde Bug was walking straight towards them! And she was smiling. Smiling far too widely and friendly for Horde Scum. Probably gloating that she had managed to trick them into making a scene. “There you are!”

    Seacat took a step to the side, just as Blondie did the same. One more, and it would be easy to flank the woman.

    “Whoa!” The Horde Bug raised her pincers. “I’m not here to fight! I’m just here to say hello and play nice.”

    Seacat blinked. “‘Play nice’?”

    “Yes!” The tall woman beamed at her. “That’s what I was told to do: Be friendly and play nice. Show the princesses that the Horde isn’t evil.”

    The Bug Woman was either the worst spy in Etheria or the best, Seacat thought. This was… She actually didn’t know what it was. Weird, in any case.

    “Well, you can try, but we know that the Horde is evil!” Blondie bristled. “We were, I mean, I was raised there!”

    “Oh, yeah - you’re the Force Captain who deserted on her first mission.” The Horde Bug nodded, apparently not fazed at all. “Adora, right? I’m Scorpia. But you probably knew that already.”

    “She also answers to Blondie,” Seacat added, then grinned at the shocked look that earned her from Blondie.

    “Blondie?” The bug woman sounded confused. “Ah, a nickname. Cute!”

    She frowned at the Horde scum. It wasn’t meant to be cute. It wasn’t cute, period.

    Blondie had to ruin it, of course. “Ah, I guess so,” the woman said, with a faint smile, before frowning again. “So you were sent to deceive us about your intentions!”

    “Uh…” The Horde Bug was frowning, though more in a confused rather than angry way. “I guess so? Though can you really call it deception if everyone knows about it?”

    Seacat still couldn’t tell if this was an act or if the woman was that naive. But why would the Horde send such a naive spy? Wait, Bug Woman was a princess, so they probably didn’t have any choice.

    “Not everyone knows just how evil you are, or they’d already be fighting you!”

    Well, Blondie wasn’t any less naive, it seemed. Seacat sighed and rolled her eyes.

    The Horde Bug laughed, one pincer behind her head. “Ah, I guess so. Though we’re just doing what other kingdoms did before.” She shrugged, and Seacat briefly wondered how her black dress had survived that. “It’s just, well, war, I guess?”

    “War against civilians! I was at Thaymor and Plumeria!” You attacked peaceful, harmless civilians!”

    “And you wiped out my home village!” Seacat added.

    The bug woman looked actually taken aback. “Really? But that makes no sense. Why would we destroy a village? The goal is to conquer it, not to destroy it. On the other hand, things don’t always go according to plan. You know, first casualty in war and all.”

    “I think that’s meant to be ‘truth is the first casualty in any war,” Blondie corrected her. “And that no plan survives contact with the enemy.”

    “Right! I guess you really paid attention at Force Captain orientation.”

    “We studied that as cadets.” Blondie looked even angrier.

    “Right!” More nodding. “Anyway - I also got a message for you. From Shadow Weaver.”

    Seacat felt the fur on her back rise for no reason. Shadow Weaver… She shook her head. There was no reason to be frightened of someone she had never met. And yet… She felt a shiver run down her spine. What the...

    Blondie spat: “I don’t want to hear it.”

    The bug woman blinked, then nodded. “She said you’d say that. That’s why she gave it in writing.” The woman craned her neck and stuffed one of her pincers down the front of her dress, then pulled it out with a letter held in it. How she managed that without tearing the envelope or the letter, Seacat had no idea. “Here!” She held the letter out to Blondie.

    After a moment of more glaring, Blondie reached out to take it, and Seacat had to step in, grabbing her hand. “Seriously? It could be poisoned! Or cursed!”

    “What?” Bug woman looked at the letter, tilting her head. “No, it isn’t!”

    Blondie looked torn for a moment before she raised her chin slightly, jaw set. “I know Shadow Weaver. And I don’t trust her.”

    “Well… That’s, ah, a problem.” The bug woman moved the letter around a little. “But I am really supposed to give you this message.”

    “I’m sure,” Seacat said. “Just drop it on the floor.”

    “Really?” The Horde scum perked up. “Alright!”

    “No, she was joking,” Blondie interrupted. “If the letter is a trap, then that would endanger others. You can’t just drop it on the floor.” After a moment, she added: “And if it’s no trap, then that’s a private message on the floor. Which is also not OK.”

    Seacat rolled her eyes. “Let’s get your friend Princess Shrimp to look at it.”

    “Princess Shrimp?” Bug woman blinked. “I don’t think I’ve met her. Or heard of her. And I was briefed on all the princesses for this night.”

    Blondie sighed. Loudly. “It’s Seacat’s nickname for Princess Glimmer of Bright Moon.”

    “Oh.” The horde scum beamed at Seacat. “You give everyone nicknames? That’s cute! What’s mine?”

    “It’s ‘Horde Scum’,” Seacat replied, baring her fangs.

    It got the far too cheery woman to frown, finally - Seacat had wondered what it took to get under that chitin skin. But she’d… “That’s a little generic, isn’t it?”

    Seriously? That was what the Horde Scum took offence to? ‘A little generic’? “What about Horde Bug?”

    The woman kept frowning as if she took that seriously. Then she nodded. “I’ll call you Wildcat, I think. Because, you know, you’re all wild and hissing. And a cat.”

    Seacat scoffed. Who cared what Horde Scum called her?

    Blondie, though, looked very much confused. “Uh… so… about the letter?”

    “Right! Can I give it to your friend?”

    “No! We can’t just drop this on her.” Blondie shook her head. “But we can go ask Princess Frosta. She’s the host, so she’s responsible for everyone’s safety.”

    “And she invited you, so you’re her problem,” Seacat added, baring her fangs again as she took a step closer to Blondie.

    “Good! Let’s go, then!” And the bug woman turned and walked across the dance floor. The couples dancing moved out of her way like sardines parted before a killer whale.

    Seacat looked at Blondie, but the woman was already following the Horde spy. Typical.

    *****​

    Princess Frosta, for all her young age and brattiness, got things done, though. One of her underlings took the letter - Seacat took a step away, just in case - and didn’t drop dead or started screaming. Then the letter was taken away to be examined by a sorceress or something. Presumably in an explosive-proof room.

    And Bug Woman turned to them. “So… with that done…”

    “We’re done, yes,” Seacat said, baring her teeth. “Enjoy the rest of your evening!”

    “Ah, right, uh…”

    But Seacat had already grabbed Blondie’s arm and led her away. After they were out of earshot - she checked with a glance over her shoulder - Seacat scoffed. “The nerve of the Horde scum! Acting all nice while plotting our deaths!”

    “Uh, yes.”

    That wasn’t the firmest agreement Seacat had ever heard. By far. “So… you know Shadow Weaver?” She felt her tail starting bristle and suppressed the urge. She was stronger than this.

    “Ah, yes. She, ah… kind of raised me and my friend.”

    “Oh.” She shouldn’t have asked. Now the woman would assume… something.

    “But she was the worst m...parent. Always taking favourites and manipulating us, and…”

    Seacat raised her hand. “No need to go into details. I get the picture. I do.”

    “You do? Uh, that’s good, I guess.” Blondie’s smile wasn’t the brightest Seacat had ever seen, either. She looked pretty shaken up - for a woman who attacked sea monsters for fun.

    So Seacat nodded towards the dance floor. “Well, while we wait for Princess Frosta’s expendable minions to test your letter for traps, wanna dance?”

    A smile lit up Blondie’s face. “Yes!” She blushed and ducked her head a little. “I mean, yes, I would like to.”

    Seacat grinned and stepped on the dance floor, then held out her hand. “Come on, Princess!”

    Blondie took it, and they started dancing. Fortunately, it wasn’t formal ballroom dancing, even if they were in a ballroom. Seacat would have been lost if she had to fit into some big production where every step had to be perfect as you traded partners multiple times while moving like a ship in formation.

    But she knew, from several visits to the Grotto and some lessons from Sea Hawk and Mermista, how to dance. She met Blondie’s eyes, then started to circle in step with the music.

    Blondie matched her. She was surprisingly graceful, what with how toned she was. That her dress was cut on one side almost to the hip helped, of course - she could move easily like that, and it also showed her...

    Seacat blinked, then focused on Blondie’s face instead of her legs. Releasing her hand, she whirled, then switched hands, circling again. Then they drew close, arms rising, letting Blondie twirl beneath their locked hands before they separated again.

    And once more they circled, switching hands, drawing close and apart, eyes meeting every time. On and on…

    The song ended, and Seacat took a deep breath. That had been… fun. Blondie blinked, her bright smile dimming a little. She looked almost as if she were shy. “So, shall we…”

    The orchestra started a new song, and Seacat grinned widely. She knew this song. And this dance. Lighting-quick, she grabbed Blondie’s hand again. “Not so fast!”

    The other woman gasped in obvious surprise as Seacat drew her in close, one hand on her bare back. She could feel her tense for a moment as her claws touched her skin, then she relaxed.

    And they danced. Closely. Seacat could almost feel Blondie’s heart beating as they turned, and she felt her own beat a little faster when the woman put her muscular arm around her waist.

    Turning, twisting, legs moving so close, but not quite touching - but their chests did. And then she dipped Blondie, and for a moment, time seemed to freeze. The others on the dance floor faded into the background. Their faces were so close, all Seacat would have to do to touch, to kiss her would be tilting her head just a little. Just a little...

    She blinked, almost gasped, and drew back, pulling Blondie up with her until both were upright again. A deep breath brought her shivering under control. And her fur kept Blondie from noticing how flushed she felt.

    Not that the woman was looking at her right now - she was looking anywhere but at Seacat. They kept dancing, but more sedately. Seacat could breathe without her chest pressing into Blondie’s. And she needed to breathe. That had been… weird. Very weird. That sudden urge to… Seacat wasn’t Sea Hawk, but she had flirted and danced before. But she hadn’t lost - almost lost - control like that. Never. It had always been… different.

    “That’s a good orchestra,” she said. “Really catchy song, too.”

    “Yes.” Blondie started to nod, then stopped. “Really catchy.”

    They turned twice around each other without either saying another word. Then the song ended, and they were left standing on the dance floor looking stupid.

    Seacat straightened and looked at the buffet. “I could do with dessert,” she said.

    “Dessert sounds good, yes,” Blondie replied.

    “Good.”

    They were halfway to the buffet when Seacat noticed that she was still holding Blondie’s hand. Her first impulse was to release it at once. But that would’ve made her look as if she were scared or hadn’t noticed what she was doing. So she gripped the hand a little harder and only released it once they were at the buffet and she had an excuse.

    *****​

    Seacat was halfway through an ice cream dish for which she’d have cheerfully fought Admiral Scurvy’s best ship in a rowboat when Princess Shrimp arrived in front of her and Blondie.

    “There you are!”

    “Yes, here we are,” Seacat replied in the kind of tone reserved for little children who had managed to tie their shoes or something. Hadn’t they gone through this before?

    The shrimp narrowed her eyes, but Blondie managed to swallow the mouthful of ice cream that she had just shovelled into her mouth in time to cut her friend off: “Glimmer! What’s going on?”

    The princess shifted her glare to Blondie as a result. “What is going on? I’ll tell you what is going on!”

    “Good.” Seacat grinned, then grabbed another spoonful of that heavenly ice cream.

    “Oh, you!”

    “Glimmer!”

    “Alright. What’s going is that Horde scum fake princess! She’s been making the rounds and talking to everyone! And I’m the only one keeping an eye on her because Entrapta is stuck ‘analysing’ what ‘data’ she collected. Mermista and Sea Hawk are off somewhere ‘private’, and you two were flirting on the dance floor for ages!”

    Wow. Someone was jealous. Seacat smirked and stepped closer to Blondie just to rub it in. As Sea Hawk always said: Never miss out on an opportunity to show off!

    “Oh. What about Bow and Perfuma?” Blondie asked.

    “What about them?” the shrimp snarled. “They’re busy having fun! I’m the only one doing my duty for the Rebellion!”

    “I’m not a member of the Rebellion,” Seacat pointed out.

    “What?” Blondie gasped.

    “You aren’t? But Sea Hawk and Mermista are!”

    “I’m just Sea Hawk’s first mate,” she told them. “I never formally joined anything.” She was fighting the Horde for her own reasons.

    “But your ship belongs to him,” Glimmer said. “And he’s a rebel, so that makes it a rebel ship.”

    “So?” Seacat shrugged. “Besides, if I were a member of the Rebellion, I would be under Sea Hawk’s command. Just as I am, actually. And he hasn’t given me any orders other than to enjoy myself and not start a diplomatic incident.” Which she had, but that hadn’t been her fault.

    “But…” The princess was gaping at them.

    “You’re on your own here, shrimp.”

    “That’s… You know what? Fine! I’ll handle this myself!”

    And she disappeared in a sparkly cloud of glitter.

    “That wasn’t very nice,” Blondie said a moment later.

    Seacat glanced at her. The other woman was frowning. She sniffed in return. “You don’t seem to be very concerned about the Horde Bug either.”

    “Uh…” Blondie blushed with embarrassment. “Diplomacy and surveillance aren’t my strengths.”

    “You don’t need to sneak around here,” Seacat said. “You can just walk up and talk to whoever she’s talking to.”

    “I’m sure that’s against some rules. Or impolite.”

    “So?” Seacat grinned widely.

    “That’s exactly what my friend would say,” Blondie replied. Then she gasped. “Sorry!”

    Seacat couldn’t tell if she had slipped or if she had used this to get back at Sea Cat for driving her annoying friend away. She waved her hand. “Forget it.”

    “Glimmer is right, though - we need to keep an eye on Scorpia.” Blondie nodded with a firm expression.

    Seacat sighed.

    *****​

    “...and that is why it’s so important that everyone considers how their actions affect others. We’re all part of the same world. Interconnected. A small plant growing in one place might change the weather patterns in another region.” The plant princess was oozing concern as she talked.

    “But you can’t always consider that. Sometimes you have to act right now. I mean, not right now as in here at the prom, but hypothetically.” The Horde bug blinked. “A plant can affect the weather? Seriously?”

    “Oh, yes. Not easily and not at once, but if they grow and multiply, plants can change the climate. The Crimson Waste was once a lush forest, people say. Until the plants died and the climate changed.”

    “Interesting. But back to the main topic: Sometimes you need to act, or react, without being able to plan for hours.”

    “But that doesn’t mean you can’t consider your actions and their consequences afterwards.”

    Seacat stepped to the side, next to Brain Boy, and whispered: “How long ago did they start talking?”

    “About a quarter-hour,” the boy replied.

    And the two princesses didn’t seem planning to stop anytime soon. “I don’t like this,” Seacat muttered.

    “It’s very suspicious,” Blondie agreed. “Horde Force Captains aren’t that nice.”

    “Hey!” Brain Boy spoke up. “You’ve never met her before, right? Maybe she is that nice?”

    “It’s an act,” Seacat insisted. No one was that nice talking to their enemies.

    “And perhaps seeing that we’re nice, talking with us, celebrating with us, will show her that she’s on the wrong side.”

    Seacat stared at Brain Boy. He really needed a new nickname since that was the biggest load of whale shit she had ever heard. Well, outside of a tavern where Sea Hawk had a tiny little bit too much to drink.

    Horde scum didn’t change sides. And they weren’t nice.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2020
  14. GraphiteCrow

    GraphiteCrow Daemon of Slaanesh

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    Poor Scorpia, she is just trying her best!
     
    Eryk and Starfox5 like this.
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 7: The Princess Prom Part 3
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 7: The Princess Prom Part 3

    “Come on! You can’t keep defending! That’s not how you win a fight!”

    “You can’t keep evading, that’s not how you win a fight!”

    She wasn’t evading - she was circling her opponent, probing for an opening. Forcing her to keep turning until she stumbled or something. Her opponent was stronger, but she was faster.

    She twirled her staff, then stepped to the side. There! She lunged, bringing her staff down then thrusting it forward, straight at the other’s stomach, driving her breath out of...

    But her opponent parried it, guiding it away and up in a far too smooth move, and she found herself corps-a-corps with her opponent - struggling against her superior strength. She clenched her teeth as she found herself being forced back. If she could redirect… no, the other was too skilled for that. Too familiar with her own moves.

    And she had pulled that trick in the round before this one.

    Snarling, she pushed back anyway. She wasn’t a quitter. She wasn’t going to lose like some… some loser. But she was committed - if she retreated now, she’d get hit with the staff. Damn. Damn. Oh! She grinned. She had an ace up her sleeve. Or rather, up her toes. Sort of.

    She pushed back again, as much as she could, with a hiss, then dropped on her back, letting the other’s staff pass over her head while she struck with her feet at…

    And something heavy fell on her, knocking the breath out of her. Her opponent hadn’t gone with a blow - she had dropped her staff and dropped on her!

    She gasped for breath, twisting her body, but her opponent was stronger and heavier, and on top of her. One arm was across her throat, fixing her in place, the other sneaking around her neck for a full chokehold, her hips pinned by hers.

    But she wasn’t helpless - she still had her claws. She could drive them in the neck of her opponent, and… NO! This was just a sparring match. And they were friends. But she hated losing. Especially to her. On the other hand, this was… wasn’t so bad. Even if she had trouble breathing, what with the other’s heavy body pressed against her, pinning her on the ground, and…

    “Yield?”

    “Yield,” she agreed, taking deep breaths as soon as the other withdrew her arms. “Good fight.”

    “Yes, good fight.” Her friend smiled at her. The stupid hair poof had survived the match, too - it was always a treat when she managed to mess it up.

    For a moment, they smiled at each other, breathing heavily. Her friend still hadn’t gotten up. Was still lying on her.

    And she didn’t want her to move. “Well…”

    “Adora! Catra!”

    She froze, a shudder running down her spine. Shadow Weaver! This was going to hurt.

    *****​

    Seacat shook her head and resisted the temptation to accidentally shred a pillow or two. What a stupid dream! It was all Blondie’s fault - she hadn’t had such stupid dreams until she’d met the woman. The only dreams she’d had were nightmares about her destroyed village. And her own death.

    And while those had been bad and had her wake up shivering more often than not, they had been based in reality. She remembered staggering through her village, seeing corpses strewn around everywhere, having no clue what had happened, or who she was.

    She hadn’t woken up afraid of someone she had never heard of before. Or, even worse, all hot and… bothered about Blondie.

    She scoffed and shook her head. They’d just danced. That was all. Besides, it would be very stupid to start anything with a woman who still thought Seacat was her missing horde scum friend.

    She stretched, yawned, stretched some more, and rolled out of bed. A glance at the sky outside told her that it was… wait, this was the Kingdom of Snows; the sun rose much earlier in summer. So… it was mid-morning.

    She blinked. Why was she awake already? Sea Hawk and Mermista wouldn’t wake up until noon. They had drunk too much during the ball, and Seacat was sure that they, unlike her, hadn’t gone straight to sleep after the ball ended.

    Not that she wanted to know for sure, anyway. On the other hand, with all the princesses in probably the same state, this was a good occasion of getting something to eat without getting bothered. Princesses weren’t hard-working sailors, so they wouldn’t be used to getting up early to set sail with the tide after a night of carousing.

    Right! She yawned again and walked over to the bathroom. Time to get presentable.

    *****​

    “...and we have another meeting with Princess Frosta in the evening, which we all will attend,” Princess Shrimp said glaring at Mermista.

    Seacat sighed after swallowing another bite of Ice Fish stew. What was it with Princesses and turning mealtimes into planning sessions? Lunch shouldn’t be work. Hell, she’d like to see a princess try and set sails while eating! No, Sea Hawk might think it was a good idea.

    “Not you, though,” the shrimp went on.

    Seacat blinked. The princess was looking at her? “Not that I mind getting out of a boring meeting where I would be out of place anyway, but why so specific?”

    “We, ah, kinda blamed you for the whole incident with the Horde princess,” Brain Boy said, smiling in a rather embarrassed way.

    “What?” Seacat glared at him, then pointed at Blondie. “It was her fault!” And the woman hadn’t said anything other than a greeting to her today so far. It wasn’t exactly as if Seacat wanted to, well… and they hadn’t done anything, anyway, but... It was rude.

    “I didn’t call her a spy!” Blondie protested.

    “So what? Any Horde scum is the enemy! Why would you call her out to me if you didn’t want to fight her?” Seacat retorted.

    “Because we were at the Princess Prom and not on the battlefield?” the shrimp cut in.

    “So? The enemy is supposed to respect that?” Seacat scoffed in return.

    “Well, they did,” Princess Plant said. “They didn’t attack anyone. They didn’t even spy on anyone.”

    “As far as we know,” Brain Boy said with a slight frown.

    “I think Scorpia was honest. I didn’t spot any lie,” the plant princess went on. “She didn’t seem like a good liar, anyway.”

    “That’s what she wanted you to think!” the shrimp said. “She almost sabotaged the alliance just by showing up!”

    “She benefited from Seacat almost starting a fight in front of our host,” Mermista added.

    Seacat glared at the princess. “I was defending our host! Better safe than sorry!”

    Sea Hawk, of course, nodded in agreement. “Indeed! When the enemy suddenly emerges out of the fog, best act swiftly and decisively! That’s the hallmark of a hero!”

    “No, that’s the hallmark of an idiot,” Mermista shot back.

    Sea Hawk gasped. “But dear! What if this had been an assassination attempt?”

    “It wasn’t!” Princess Plant objected. “Scorpia might be Horde, but she seems quite decent and honourable to me. We talked a lot, and I’m a good judge of character.”

    Seacat rolled her eyes. That was Brain Boy’s fault. If he had kept the princess entertained, she wouldn’t have fallen for the Horde ploy. Really. “If she were a decent woman, bug, whatever, she would have deserted!” she said. “Like Blondie.”

    “She might still see the light,” Plant Princess said. “I talked to her about all the evil the Horde is doing, and she was quite shocked.”

    Ugh! Seacat made a point of rolling her eyes. “Really? She didn’t notice what the Horde was doing? While fighting for the Horde? Did she think all those villages were accidentally wiped out? Yeah, right!” Hell, the princess’s own kingdom had been invaded a bit ago, hadn’t it?

    Blondie must have gotten something down the wrong pipe since she started coughing. “Anyway… if she deserts, we’ll know. Shouldn’t we focus on, ah, recruiting Frosta?”

    “Yes,” the shrimp agreed. “And that’s what we’ll be doing at our meeting in the evening, which everyone except Seacat will attend. Especially you, Mermista.”

    “Ugh. Why me?” Mermista complained between eating her roasted shark steak.

    “You’re a key member of the Princess Alliance!” shrimp retorted. “What kind of example would you set if you wouldn’t attend a crucial diplomatic meeting?”

    “The kind of example that tells a ten-year-old princess that we’re a cool group who doesn’t, like, waste their time on mandatory meetings?” Mermista asked with a grin.

    “But you do,” Seacat blurted out. After everyone turned to look or, in the shrimp’s case, glare at her, she pointed at Sea Hawk. “He told me.”

    “I didn’t. I just said I’d rather have an adventure than a meeting,” her captain replied.

    “We all knew that already,” Mermista said. She sighed and rolled her eyes. “But if it makes you happy, I’ll attend the meeting. Hell, the kid might think it’s very grown-up and be flattered.”

    Seacat chuckled at that.

    “Ahem.” Brain Boy clearing his throat drew the attention of the room to himself. “Did the Horde envoy actually succeed in making people think they’re not evil?”

    “Well… the data I gathered about that is inconclusive!” The Hair Princess spoke up for the first time. Apparently, she had finished her tiny fishes. “I was mostly focused on observing and collecting data on interpersonal relationships and public displays of affection - hidden and in public - so I didn’t gather enough data on politics and diplomacy to draw valid conclusions.”

    “I think she showed that there are decent people on both sides of the war,” Princess Plant said.

    Seacat sighed. There was proof that the Horde’s plan had had some success.

    The rest of the meeting was just bickering and blame-shifting. At least that was what Seacat took from it. And none of it was her fault, anyway. No matter what the princesses thought. And who would trust anyone who fell for a Horde ploy, anyway?

    As soon as Seacat had finished dessert - which wasn’t leftovers from the prom’s buffet, as she had expected - she stood. “I’ll check the ship, Captain,” she announced and left without waiting for an answer.

    There was even more snow in the streets - and this was summer! - but this time, Seacat had come prepared - she was wearing oversized boots. They were uncomfortable and felt unnatural, and they would ruin her footwork should a fight break out - unless her claws ripped them apart, at least - but they kept her feet warm. It was still a bad trade-off. How people managed to live in this kingdom beat her.

    The Dragon’s Daughter IV was covered in snow as well, and ice had started to cover some of the more exposed parts. She sighed - it would take her some time to get it shipshape. There was no way around it, though - Sea Hawk had taught her that their ship had to be ready to sail at a moment’s notice. If a mob was pursuing you, you couldn’t spend half an hour sorting out the rigging before setting sail.

    But it meant she would be chipping ice and sweeping - or, worse, shovelling snow for some time.

    *****​

    Seacat had dealt with the ice on the rigging and most of the snow when Blondie arrived. “Hey!” the woman said as she stepped close to the railing but stayed on the pier.

    She briefly paused, nodded at the princess, then heaved the next load of snow off the deck and into the water. “Finally done with the pre-meeting?”

    “Uh… sort of? I think?”

    “You think?” Seacat cocked her head.

    “Well… Mermista and Sea Hawk left, and Glimmer and Perfuma were starting to repeat the same arguments about Scorpia, so Bow and I slipped out. I don’t know if they noticed.” Blondie grinned, almost mischievously, for a moment.

    Seacat approved. She chuckled. “Won’t the shrimp be mad?”

    And that was a wince. A guilty wince. “So… what are you doing?” the woman asked.

    Seacat rolled her eyes, both at the blatant attempt to change the subject and at the stupid question. What did it look like she was doing? Dancing? “I’m shovelling snow off the deck.”

    “Uh, right. Right.” Blondie nodded. “So…”

    “So?” It came out a little sharper than she had intended, but Seacat had things to do.

    “What are you going to do now?” Blondie blurted out.

    “Now?”

    “Please don’t say something about checking the ship or chipping ice or whatever. You know what I mean!” Blondie said, frowning.

    “I actually don’t know,” Seacat told her. “It depends on Sea Hawk.” And Mermista, but that was a subject they didn’t need to get into.

    “Oh. Because it’s his ship, right.”

    Seacat nodded. “And I’m his first mate.”

    “Right! And you’re not a member of the Alliance.”

    “I’m not a princess,” Seacat said. Unlike Blondie.

    “Bow’s not a princess, either.”

    So what? Brain Boy followed the shrimp. She scoffed. “Are you trying to recruit me?”

    Blondie blinked. “Ah… No? I mean, I’m not trying to recruit you, like, begging you to join.”

    “Unlike you all do with Frosta,” Seacat mumbled.

    Blondie blushed in return. “The Kingdom of Snows is the largest and one of the most powerful kingdoms of Etheria.”

    “You’re still begging.”

    “We’ve got a meeting in the evening.”

    “And you’ll beg her then.”

    Another frown - even a glare - followed. “Do you have to make it sound like…”

    “Like calling it what it is? Yes.” Seacat scoffed. “You shouldn’ lie to yourself. That never helps.”

    Blondie opened her mouth but didn’t say anything for a moment. Then she closed it and glared at Seacat some more.

    She grinned at the woman in return. Score! “So, why did you come here? Too cosy and warm in the palace?”

    “No. I wanted to talk to you.”

    Uh. “Ah.” Seacat tensed, then forced herself to relax. Somewhat. “About your missing friend?” Who was definitely dead if she hadn’t resurfaced in four years.

    “Only if you want to. I was...”

    “Well, I don’t!” Seacat interrupted her.

    “... yes, I expected that.”

    “Good.” She nodded. Firmly.

    “But I, ah, liked talking to you. At the prom. When you weren’t all serious and...”

    “So you came to talk to me while I’m working.” Seacat nodded in a slightly exaggerated manner. “That makes sense.”

    Blondie flushed again. “I can wait until you’re finished.”

    “I might take the whole afternoon,” Seacat retorted.

    “I’ve got nothing else planned.”

    She clenched her teeth. She could busy herself all afternoon, of course. But that would mean staying out in the cold all afternoon. She sighed, then pointed at the broom leaning against the railing. “If you’re going to stay here, at least help me finish faster, then.”

    Blondie beamed at her.

    *****​

    With the woman helping - putting her strength to good use - they finished in good time. All the rigging clear of ice, the whole deck free of snow. As it should be.

    “So…”

    Seacat clenched her teeth. Of course, having finished their work meant that Blondie expected to talk now. “Not here. I’m freezing.”

    “Oh, right!” Blondie nodded, sending her slightly frazzled ponytail bouncing. “Back to the palace, then?”

    It would be warm and it had free food. On the other hand, it was at the other end of the city, on top of the hill. And people - princesses - would be bothering Seacat there. “No.” She shook her head. “Let’s hit a tavern here in the harbour.”

    “Alright.”

    Seacat took them to her favourite tavern in the kingdom - well, her second-favourite, but her favourite one had banned her after a brawl had gone a little out of control during her last visit. “Hot wine for two,” Seacat ordered at the bar, then headed towards a free table in the back.

    “Hot wine?” Blondie asked.

    “Best cheap drink in town,” Seacat explained. It wasn’t as if anyone would want cold drinks with this weather. “Would you prefer hot tea?”

    “Well…” Blondie smiled a little weakly.

    Seacat groaned. Was she for real?

    “Trying hot wine sounds fine!” the other woman blurted out. “I haven’t drunk much wine, actually.”

    Oh! Seacat grinned. Time to see if she could get the princess drunk!

    *****​

    “...and then she shaid ‘idiot’ and left me. ‘Aven’t sheen her since - she never returned.” Blondie wrapped her arm around Seacat’s waist and pulled her into her side. “Until I’ve mesh you!”

    “I’m not your friend,” Seacat spat, trying to wriggle out of the woman’s grasp. But Blondie was too strong, even when she wasn’t seven foot tall and killing sea monsters for fun. She couldn’t hold her drinks, either - Seacat had matched her glass for glass and was only slightly tipsy.

    “You’re not my friend? But… You hate me!” Blondie wailed. “It’s all my fault! I shouldn’t have lesh you go!”

    “That wasn’t what I meant!” Seacat protested.

    “I’m never leshing you go again! Never!” Blondie declared as she pulled Seacat into her lap.

    Getting the princess drunk hadn’t really been one of Seacat’s better ideas. She was trapped with some drunk princess who still thought Seacat was her long-lost Horde friend.

    Once more, she tried to wriggle out of Blondie’s grasp but stopped after a moment. Trying that in the woman’s lap was… weird. Very weird. “I’m not Catra,” she hissed. She didn’t want to claw the woman, but she didn’t want to spend the rest of the day here. Not really. No, really not!

    “I know! You’re Sheacat! You’ve losht your memory! And itsh all my faulsh! I shouldn’t have lesh Shadow Weaver shend you away!” Blondie hugged her with so much force, Seacat thought for a moment that she’d transformed into She-Ra without Seacat noticing.

    She should call for help… no! That would be too embarrassing. Everyone would know, and Mermista would never let her forget it. “I wasn’t sent away. I wasn’t in the Horde to begin with!” she hissed. She wasn’t Horde. Couldn’t be Horde. She was a victim of the Horde! What would her friends think if she were actually Horde? And had posed as a victim for years?

    Growling, she grabbed the offending arm that trapped her on Blondie’s lap and dug her claws into the skin - not breaking through. Not yet.

    “Ow!” Blondie stared at her.

    Yes!

    “That hurt!” The woman pouted.

    Just a little, Seacat told herself. She hadn’t even drawn blood. Hell, Mermista and Sea Hawk had had rougher nights. Or something. Not that she wanted to know such things.

    Then Blondie beamed at her. “But itsh a good hurt. Tellsh me you’re shtill alive!”

    Oh, no! Once more, the arms tightened around Seacat’s poor body, and she struggled to breathe. “You’re hurting me,” she complained. “Can’t breathe!”

    “Oh, no! I hursh you. Yesh. You left! Left me alone!” Blondie sniffled. “Itsh all my fault!”

    Seacat agreed with that. Why would the woman drink so much wine if she couldn’t hold her liquor nearly as well as she could hold Seacat? Wait! That was an idea that would solve this - or get her maimed. But at this point, she was willing to risk it as long as she could escape this… situation. She forced herself to smile. “Hey, Blondie!”

    “And you call me Blondie! I’m Adora! You even forgot my name!” More sniffling followed.

    Seacat rolled her eyes. “Hey, Adora!”

    “Yesh?”

    “Can you change into She-Ra?”

    “Yesh!” Blondie happily nodded. “I can.”

    Seacat waited. Blondie kept smiling. Oh, right. “Could you change into She-Ra? Right now?”

    “Oh, that’sh what shou meant!”

    Blondie reached for her sword, and Seacat used the opportunity and jumped straight out of the woman’s lap, putting the table between her and the princess.

    “For the Honour of Greyshkull!”

    Seacat had to squint as light enveloped Blondie and the woman suddenly grew a foot or two. In height. And a few pounds in hair. She didn’t quite stare as the clothes changed into a shining white outfit - dry this time. That was… She swallowed. It was a sight, yes. She-Ra was… impressive. Tall. Toned. And…

    “Oh no, what have I done?”

    ...wailing?

    She-Ra shook her head. “What have I done?”

    Seacat blinked, then shrugged and shifted on the bench, acting as casually as she could manage. “You got drunk.”

    “I got drunk!”

    “Yes.” And now she was sober.

    “But… I called you Catra! Even though I know you don’t like it and told myself a dozen times not to do it! And I grabbed you!” She-Ra shook her head, sending her wild yet still perfectly styled mane flying. “I did exactly what I shouldn’t have done!”

    “Well, you were drunk.” Seacat shrugged again. As she had hoped, the transformation had sobered up the woman. Which was really unfair - Blondie probably never had a hangover. She could drink as much as she wanted, then change - and everything was fixed without having to drink Sea Hawk’s special anti-hangover cure.

    “Yes. I…” She-Ra’s eyes narrowed. “You got me drunk!”

    Seacat grinned. “No. I got myself nicely tipsy. You got yourself drunk when you tried to keep up with me.”

    The princess blinked. “But… you knew…”

    “I didn’t know you were such a lightweight,” Seacat said. She had hoped to get the woman drunk, but she hadn’t known it would be that easy. “You’re much heavier than I am, after all.”

    “Hey!”

    Seacat raised her brows at the woman. “Who had trapped who in their lap?”

    So She-Ra could blush, she noticed. Quite noticeably. “Uh… sorry. That was… the hot wine!”

    “Sure,” Seacat drawled.

    “Sorry. I didn’t know… I mean, I never got drunk before. There was this First One artefact with the virus, but… We never had alcohol in the Horde.”

    “What?” She stared at She-Ra. “No booze?”

    “It was against regulations!”

    “So?” As if that would stop a sailor - or soldier.

    “It was against the rules,” She-Ra repeated herself.

    Seacat sighed. “And you’re all about following the rules, huh?”

    The other woman blinked, opened her mouth, then closed it with a snap, grimacing.

    Seacat rolled her eyes. “Don’t say it.” She didn’t need to hear how that was just what Blondie’s missing friend had always told her.

    She-Ra mimed pinching her lips shut with her fingers. “I’m not saying it.”

    But she was thinking it. Seacat knew it. At least the woman wasn’t hugging her any more. Seacat could do without getting squished against Blondie’s chest. Or squirming in her lap, getting all weird.

    She really could do without all of that. Nodding firmly, she ordered another glass of hot wine. She needed a drink after all of this.

    *****​

    When Seacat woke up, her head hurt. A lot. And the sun was busy trying to kill her by driving daggers through her eyes. Or something. She groaned and threw an arm over her eyes, shielding them from the evil sun. It wasn’t enough, though. So she rolled on her side, curled up, and pulled the blankets over her head.

    Or rather, she tried to - they refused to cooperate.

    Without opening her eyes - the sun was just waiting for such a mistake - she pulled again. Harder. Still without success.

    Growling - her headache was getting worse - she grabbed the sheet with both hands and heaved with all her strength.

    The blanket finally settled on her, shielding her from the sun, with a startled yelp.

    She blinked. A yelp? Blankets didn’t yelp! People yelped. No, no… She couldn’t have... Sea Hawk had taught her better than that. Mostly by showing what not to do, but still!

    She kept her eyes firmly squeezed shut and patted herself down. Top and bottom - she was in her sleep clothes. That was a good sign. She sighed with some relief.

    “Why did you do that?

    And Seacat froze again. That was… She pulled the blanket off her and rolled on her other side. “Blondie!” Then she hissed, as the sun shone straight into her sensitive eyes, and her head hurt like one of Sea Hawk’s first attempts at baking. Through squinted eyes, she stared at Blondie, who was just getting up from the floor. Fully clothed, Seacat noted.

    “Why did you kick me out of your bed?”

    “I didn’t see you,” Seacat replied, then blinked and shook her head - no, no, that hurt. “Wait. Why were you in my bed?”

    “I wasn’t!” the woman replied. But she was blushing, “Well, not in, uh, that sense. I was just… I’ve fallen asleep on your bed.”

    “Why were you on my bed, then?” Seacat asked through clenched teeth.

    “That was your fault.” Blondie nodded with a slight grin.

    “What?” Seacat felt her ears flatten. “What do you mean?”

    The woman recoiled a little. “Uh… you were drunk and, well… you had fallen asleep while clinging to me. With your claws!”

    Seacat blinked and quickly inspected her claws. “No blood…” She hadn’t licked it off, had she? That would be gross.

    Blondie held up her jacket. Two sets of rips were visible on its back. Familiar sets.

    “Ah.” Well, that wasn’t Seacat’s fault. Blondie should have kept her out of her lap. Or worn a tougher jacket. “Obviously, you managed to free yourself, though.”

    “Ah, yes, but by then it was late, and… well… I fell asleep.” Blondie blushed again. “Sorry.”

    “You fell asleep on my bed.” That was her explanation?

    “Yes. Obviously.” Blondie nodded in that earnest manner of his. “I’m sorry. I just… I was tired, and, well…”

    “Too tired to head to your room.”

    “Yes.”

    Seacat sighed. That was a very stupid excuse. If the woman didn’t look so… whatever, then Seacat would kick her out of her room. With claws. Although Blondie also had taken Seacat back after she’d gotten stone-drunk. And she was looking at Seacat with such a hopeful expression… “Whatever. My head hurts too much to think this through.”

    “Oh.”

    “Not everyone can transform into She-Ra to cure a hangover,” she pointed out.

    “I didn’t know that would work. I never got drunk before.”

    “Well, good thing I thought of it,” Seacat said with a grin. “What time is it, anyway?”

    “Uh…”

    Of course she wouldn’t know it. Seacat squinted and looked outside, braving the glaring sun. “Close to noon.”

    “Ah.”

    Well, it was time to get up and get ready for lunch. Seacat pulled the covers away and slid out of bed. Her headache didn’t like it, but she managed not to flinch as she rolled her shoulders before stretching her arms and legs.

    “Well, I’m gonna get a shower. You should probably do the same, you’ve slept in your clothes.” And she could smell a few taverns and drinks on them. She glanced over her shoulder and noticed that Blondie was staring. That felt good, she realised, and she put a little sway into her walk - not much; her head was still hurting, but enough to be noticeable. Seacat did cut a nice figure, after all, especially… She blinked, a few steps from the bathroom, and turned. “Wait. Did you strip me before I fell asleep?”

    Blondie blushed but shook her head. “No, no! When I finally got you loose - I mean, got you to stop clinging to me - you started to strip off your clothes and complained that you were too hot!”

    “Oh.” Seacat winced, and not just because of her headache. That sounded… well, she could imagine herself saying that. It was still embarrassing. She curtly nodded - which made her wince again - and walked into the bathroom.

    As soon as the door closed behind her, she sighed. As far as carousing went, last evening obviously had run into some trouble.

    *****​

    A long shower and several gulps of water directly from the tap later, Seacat was ready to face the rest of the world - and Blondie - again. She pulled the bathrobe, a far too soft, slightly too short thing with far too many decorative snow and ice motives, on and opened the door.

    “...and we were all worried about you! You didn’t show up for the meeting! It was a miracle that Frosta still decided to join the alliance!”

    Great. The shrimp was here. And Brain Boy. Berating Blondie.

    “But Glimmer! I couldn’t leave Cat-Seacat alone! She was far too drunk!”

    “You could’ve told us! We would’ve sent someone to look after her! Probably Sea Hawk to keep him from setting the palace on fire!”

    What? Seacat frowned. No one talked bad about her captain in her presence. “Hey!” she snapped.

    All three whipped their heads around and stared at her. Had they forgotten that they were in Seacat’s room?

    “Oh, you’re finished,” Blondie stated the obvious with a weak smile that twisted a little as her eyes wandered down to Seacat’s legs.

    Brain Boy looked away, but the Shrimp was glaring at her, Seacat noticed. Then the princess’s eyes widened, and she turned back to stare at Blondie. “What did you… Did you skip the meeting for.. this?”

    Seacat was tempted to run with this - it was the perfect opening. Walk slowly and with her hips swaying over to Blondie, sit in her lap and run a hand over her face, and let the princess’s imagination run amok. But she still had a headache, and a screaming princess would only make it worse. “Simmer down, shrimp,” she said instead. “If we had been doing what you’re thinking, we would have taken the shower together.”

    That’s what Sea Hawk and Mermista did, in any case.

    “I wasn’t!” the shrimp blurted out, but she was blushing. As was Blondie. And Brain Boy.

    “Wow!” Seacat shook her head, then struggled not to wince and ruin the effect - that had been a stupid move. “You need to get out more.”

    “I get out plenty!” the shrimp spat. “But I don’t get so drunk, I can’t find my room.”

    “That’s her fault,” Seacat said, pointing at Blondie. “She got me drunk.”

    “You got me drunk first!” the woman protested.

    “I also got you sober again, so that doesn’t count,” Seacat told her with a grin.

    “What? I changed into She-Ra.”

    “I asked you to.”

    “But…”

    “Oh, shut up! Both of you! You can sort out who got who drunk later!” the shrimp interrupted them. “We’ve got more important things to worry about!”

    “Shouldn’t you have said that first, then? Instead of worrying about what we did while we slept together?” Seacat cocked her head. Slowly so it wouldn’t hurt.

    “Oh, you!” The princess snarled at her. “This doesn’t concern you. This is Princess Alliance business. And as you told us, you aren’t a member of the alliance.”

    “I’m not a princess,” Seacat replied. “But this is my room, so if you want to talk about ‘Princess Alliance business’, you should leave.” She made a face as she imitated the shrimp.

    “And we will!”

    “Though you might let Blondie take a shower first.”

    The shrimp clenched her teeth in a very impressive - and funny - way as she growled at Seacat.

    “What? It’s not my fault,” Blondie complained. “You barged in here before I could get ready, and she was in the bathroom.”

    “Well, I’m not any more, so feel free to use the bath while I change,” Seacat said.

    “Enough!” The shrimp grabbed both Brain Boy and Blondie, and all three disappeared with a pop and a cloud of glitter.

    Seacat closed her eyes and sighed. Her head really hurt.

    *****​

    Blondie, shrimp and Brain Boy were absent when Seacat reached the mess - dining hall, she reminded herself - of the palace. But Sea Hawk and Mermista were there. Grinning. Well, Sea Hawk was grinning. Mermista was smirking or something.

    Seacat rolled her eyes. “Nothing happened,” she told them as she took a seat across the table.

    “That’s not what we heard!” the captain exclaimed. “You were last seen cradled in the arms of She-Ra, who carried you to your room as gently as if you were a bride on her wedding night!”

    “I was drunk,” Seacat replied.

    “Stone drunk,” Mermista added.

    Crap. Had the princess seen her? “I had a little too much to drink,” Seacat admitted.

    “I’ve paid your tab at the tavern.” The smirk grew worse.

    “Most of that was Blondie’s!” Seacat protested. It could be true, anyway. She reached for some bread and smoked fish - she better start with a light meal. Her stomach still felt a little queasy.

    “I would hope so, or you’d be dead,” the princess retorted.

    “Now, now - my trusty first mate wouldn’t die from a little booze!” Sea Hawk shook his head. “Though it was an impressive tab, I have to admit. Almost as impressive as when I won a drinking competition against Scurvy!”

    “You needed a Healer afterwards,” Mermista told him with a frown. “And it was a near thing.”

    The captain nodded, beaming at her. “As I said, impressive!”

    “Ugh.” The princess sighed and turned to Seacat. “Be more careful in the future. And don’t get She-Ra drunk.”

    “She can’t get drunk,” Seacat told her. “Trust me, we’ve tested it.” She did remember that. And that explained her tab, too!

    “Whatever. Just be more…” Mermista gestured with her right hand. “...be less like Sea Hawk.”

    “Aw!” The captain pouted. “But how can she be happy if she doesn’t pursue her love with all the passion she can muster?”

    “My love?” Seacat narrowed her eyes, putting down the mug of milk she had been sipping from. Her headache was down to some easily ignored dull throbbing, but if this continued...

    “Please!” Mermista rolled her eyes. “You’ve got the hots for each other. We saw you dancing, remember? If the song had gone on, you’d have started making out on the dance floor!”

    “We wouldn’t have!” Seacat shook her head, then winced.

    “Sure you wouldn’t have.”

    “There’s no shame in love, no matter what,” Sea Hawk said, standing up. He pointed to the ceiling. “Be true to your feelings! Love is the ultimate adventure!”

    “There is nothing like that between us!” Seacat snapped. Yes, her headache was back. “Yes, she’s attractive. And I’m hot. But that’s all. Hell, we slept together, and nothing happened!” She blinked. That had sounded better in her head. “I mean…”

    Mermista blinked as well. “You tried it? Well, you were too drunk, I guess…”

    “Oh, no! How awful! You must be so disappointed!” Sea Hawk said. “And poor Adora…”

    “No! It wasn’t because I was too drunk! We didn’t even try!” Seacat glared at both of them until they started to laugh. Then she glared even harder at them. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go - Sea Hawk and Mermista were the ones with the weird relationship! Seacat didn’t have a relationship. And she didn’t want any, anyway!

    Huffing, she focused on eating her fish.

    Sea Hawk cleared his throat, covering his mouth - and probably his grin - with his fist. “I’m sorry, Seacat. We shouldn’t have made fun of you.”

    “Of course we had to!” Mermista cut in.

    “No.” The captain even frowned at the princess. “This might be her first serious relationship. This is a very delicate affair. I should’ve realised this much sooner, and taken steps to help her.”

    What? Seacat stared at him, her fish forgotten. “‘Help me’? With what? And how, exactly?”

    “Why, with relationships, of course. While I wouldn’t call myself an expert…”

    “All your exes want to kill you,” Seacat pointed out. “You’re hardly a good example to follow.”

    He gasped. “Not all of them! My dear Mermista here doesn’t want to kill me!”

    “Not yet, at least,” Mermista said.

    “Not this week, yet.” Seacat scoffed.

    “Ah, you wound me!” The captain put a hand on his chest for a moment, then withdrew it. “In any case, as your captain, the sacred bond forged between us compels me to help you in this difficult moment!”

    “It’s not a difficult moment!” Seacat snarled. “We drank together, and we slept together - we just slept in the same bed. She didn’t even pull her clothes off! End of discussion!”

    “You slipped twice in one conversation,” Mermista said, smirking again. “That’s a clear clue!”

    “A clue?”

    “Yes! Like in a Mermaid Mystery. You might try to lie to the detective, but such clues betray you!” The princess nodded in what she probably thought was a smart, superior manner.

    Seacat scoffed again. “This isn’t a novel. This was just a shore leave.”

    “We’re still here,” Sea Hawk said.

    “But we’re leaving, right? With the next tide?” Seacat leaned forward. “You settled matters with Princess Frosta, so there’s no need to dwell, and Mermista, you really need to return to Salineas before it falls to the Horde in your absence.”

    “Ah… Yes. In theory. But I was told that there’s another matter to discuss with the alliance. Which couldn’t be discussed last evening thanks to someone dragging She-Ra through all the taverns of the harbour.” Mermista glared at her.

    “Hey! I didn’t drag her through every tavern in the kingdom.” Seacat hadn’t entered the ones where she was banned, of course.

    “Just most of them?”Sea Hawk grinned.

    “Really. This is…”

    “There they are!” Seacat interrupted the princess, pointing at the trio who had just entered the dining hall. Shrimp, Brain Boy and Blondie. And they looked angry - or annoyed. Whatever. Important was that they were here and could serve as a distraction. “Hey!” Seacat yelled, waving. “We saved you a spot!”

    Blondie looked relieved as she approached them, and, for a moment, Seaca felt guilty for using her like this. Then she remembered that this was all Blondie’s fault. If she hadn’t carried Seacat to her room last night, the captain and Mermista wouldn’t have heard anything about it.

    So she waited until they were seated and blurted out: “So, what was in that Horde letter?”

    Blondie’s smile vanished at once. “Not you too! I already told Glimmer and Bow that it’s just a personal message of no importance. Shadow Weaver is trying to manipulate me, that’s all. And she won’t succeed. Now, that’s all.”

    “And we keep telling you that it’s important information that concerns the entire Alliance!” The shrimp replied. “If she’s trying to blackmail you…”

    “She won’t succeed. She has no hold over me any more,” Blondie said. “End of discussion.”

    It was quite obvious that that wasn’t true - otherwise, the woman wouldn’t be so worked up. Then again, it was her business, not Seacat’s.

    Of course the shrimp didn’t see it that way. “But…”

    “Glimmer.” Brain Boy finally acted like he had a brain and stopped the princess. “We have to trust Adora.”

    “Yes!” Blondie agreed. “Have I given you any reason to distrust my judgement?”

    Seqacat really didn’t like the glance the shrimp pointedly sent her way. Not at all! She might not want or need a relationship, but that didn’t mean being interested in her was a mistake or anything!

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
  16. Dur'id the Druid

    Dur'id the Druid Making the rounds.

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    I writing this after reading chapter 4. I love the concept of this story, but I think it really suffers from bad set-up and over use of 'As the Author Wills, So Shall It Be'. There is no scenes that have been allowed to develop on their own, the characters are stuck in a stereotype that doesn't change, and the entire story just seems to keep re-hashing the the premise for moments of comedy because that is what the author wants it to be and nothing more will be allowed. There is no growth or evolution, just stereotypes and robotic emotions the characters and readers are told to emulate.
     
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  17. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    What exactly do you see as "the author wills it"? I actually write by letting the characters act and react, not according to a script - I've only got a very rough outline for the story. What growth would you have expected, actually?
     
  18. Dur'id the Druid

    Dur'id the Druid Making the rounds.

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    Consequences for Seacat pretending that she never even had amnesia. Adora trying different things to confirm that Seacat was or was not once Catra, like actually talking instead of just declaring what she believes without even trying to lay out the reasons why she thinks so to Catra. Or anyone really. Everyone following Adora just because she is Adora and their friend. Some self-awareness how they come across to strangers who just met them and honest reactions to these stranger's quirks. What you have so far are just reaction scenes that exist semi-independently from each other, with little consequences from one scene to the next.
     
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  19. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    I don't understand the first sentence - Seacat never pretended that she never had amnesia. (Sea Hawk even wrote a shanty about her loss of memory.)

    With regards to Seacat's identity, pretty much everyone is already convinced that Seacat's Catra; it just makes too much sense. The timeline lines up, the description matters, the quirks and manners overlap a lot - it's just too much of a coincidence. Even Seacat knows it, but she's too stubborn (and afraid of losing he friends/family) to admit it so she denies denies denies. (Just like in canon where she went all the way down due to her issues and stubbornness.) That Adora just blurted out all that is based on her character - she's really bad at lying or being subtle.

    And they (Adora and co.) did dial the pressure back after realising how Seacat reacted to it; that's why Adora's been far more restrained. They didn't exactly tell Seacat that, though - since this is 3rd person limited POV, there is stuff going on that Seacat isn't aware of. But pretty much everyone, from Adora to Sea Hawk, is trying to gently make Seacat remember without pushing pressure on her. Emphasis on "trying" since none of them are actually that good at it. Sea Hawk's the best, but even he's not really perfect.
     
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  20. Dur'id the Druid

    Dur'id the Druid Making the rounds.

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    She has been pretending it from when she met Adora. Yes, others have pointed out that she has, but she has not acknowledged it even in her own thoughts. Even the scenes of memory coming back just happen for a bit, then it's back to the stereotype. It's great that 'everyone knows' but you never show that in the first few chapters I read before losing interest. You also never really show Catra being stubborn. Just declarations, denials, brush-offs and sit-com comedy. And the rest is pretty much the same. You say this stuff is going on off-screen, but it is not actually in the story.
     
  21. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Sorry, she is not pretending that she never lost her memory. And her stubborness is shown in her constant denial despite mounting evidence such as dreams.
     
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  22. Dur'id the Druid

    Dur'id the Druid Making the rounds.

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    And that half-shown conflict is pretty much the entire story. With everything outside of that having no more depth to it that a Teletubbie. Maybe up to the level of a power rangers monster of the episode. *shrug*
     
  23. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    I think your expectations simply don't fit the story. Well, can't please everyone, so *shrug*.
     
  24. Dur'id the Druid

    Dur'id the Druid Making the rounds.

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    True. There is a reason I usually use this as a signature on forums like this;

    The weak adore pairings, the strong adore plot. Give me that plot. Give me powerful characters with strong development. Give me competent composition and the active voice of GOD. Suspend my disbelief, engage me in a story, immerse me in the characters, and I will read anything.
     
  25. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    But you didn't ask for plot - not for the naval engagements, not for the war - you asked for quicker romance, and angsty "why won't you remember?" moments.
     
  26. Dur'id the Druid

    Dur'id the Druid Making the rounds.

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    I did? I thought I was asking for romance than was more real, has more depth. Though any angst at all beyond the peanut gallery that quickly gets to 'we are all friends here, we follow Adora' commentary would be an improvement. We seem to keep talking past each-other here. Meh, it is what it is. Do or do not and all those pithy saying that sound like wisdom. :)
     
  27. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    I don't understand what you mean by "we're all friends, we follow Adora". The BFS is all friends - but Mermista and Sea Hawk certainly don't follow Adora blindly. Really, as far as I understand, you feel the story should focus on Adora telling Catra repeatedly what she already told her, and then have Catra react to that, presumably with acceptance, therefore getting to the romance part more quickly. Whereas I think they'll have other duties, mainly the war, and Catra's not willing to accept the truth, and Adora knows not to push too hard. Then again, you only read to chapter 4, so you missed the Princess Prom, which sees more interaction - then again, it's probably not angsty enough for you.
     
  28. Dur'id the Druid

    Dur'id the Druid Making the rounds.

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    *facepalm* Why do you keep on bringing up angst as if it is the end all and be all? Stop obsessing over one or two honestly minor points.
     
  29. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Because you said this:
    This story basically centres on Seacat having adventures, fighting a war, and recovering her memory despite her best efforts to deny the truth (and getting attracted to Adora). Adora chose not to attempt to convince Seacat of the truth by repeating what she already said. The rest of the gang(s) meddle, but the war's a little more important for most. The whole thing won't be resolved in six chapters by Adora and Seacat talking it out.
     
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  30. Threadmarks: Chapter 8: The New Frigates
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 8: The New Frigates

    “Psst! Adora!” She peeked down from her bunk. The blonde was asleep. “Hey, Adora!”

    Without opening her eyes, the girl below briefly groaned. She didn’t really sound awake. It didn’t matter.

    She whispered: “I can’t sleep. Can I sleep in your bed?”

    Another groan.

    “I’ll take that as a yes.”

    Grinning, she pushed herself off the bed and landed lightly on the floor without making a sound. Well, without making much of a sound - her claws hit the concrete. She tilted her head and listened, her eyes twitching. The others in the barracks didn’t react. Good.

    A moment later, she was on the bed. It wasn’t big, but it was big enough for two. Especially if one of them was as nimble as herself. With a satisfied sigh, she made herself comfortable, stretching out at the foot of the bed - Adora’s legs were perfect as a pillow. Much more comfortable than her own, empty bed. Warmer, too.

    Curling up, she purred and closed her eyes.

    But before she managed to fall asleep, her pillow moved. “Hey! What the… Catra!”

    She didn’t open her eyes and growled in response.

    “What are you doing here?”

    She scoffed. Wasn’t it obvious? “Sleeping.”

    “But you’ve got your own bunk! You were ready to fight for it!”

    “And?” She still had her own bunk. That didn’t mean she had to sleep in it. It was hers either way. She’d claw anyone who tried to take it.

    “‘And’?” She heard Adora sigh. “Never mind. But don’t use my legs as pillows.”

    “But they’re comfy.” And warm. Like Adora.

    “And they’ll fall asleep if you spend the night on them.”

    Huh? “Should they stay awake?”

    “Not that kind of asleep. They’ll be all tingly and numb and stuff in the morning!” Adora came close to hissing - she must be mad.

    But she couldn’t just give in. That would make her look weak. And you couldn’t look weak. To anyone. Not in the Horde. What could she do? Oh! “Alright,” she whispered back. “I’ll change.”

    “Good! I really need… what are you doing?”

    That was closer to a shriek than a hiss, she noted with a grin as she snuggled up to her friend, placing her head on Adora’s tummy. “That’s not a leg,” she whispered.

    “But… ah, alright.”

    She heard and felt the blonde sigh and smiled. That was even better. She took a deep breath, basking in Adora’s scent, and fell asleep.

    *****​

    Seacat woke up with a frown. Another weird dream. Very weird. If she had to dream of sleeping in Blondie’s bed, why couldn’t she dream of something more… exciting? But no, instead she dreamt of some Horde children sleepover.

    She made a gagging noise and rolled out of her hammock. It was Blondie’s fault, anyway. If the woman had come by to see them off, instead of avoiding her and going off with the shrimp and Brain Boy for another ‘Important Meeting of the Princess Alliance’ - Seacat made a face - then she wouldn’t be dreaming of her. They would’ve settled things. Made it clear that nothing happened or would happen. Just two women drinking together. Like crew.

    She nodded to herself and stretched, then rolled her neck, taking deep breaths of the cool - but not cold - morning air at sea. The sun was rising - she was on time. A week out from the Kingdom of Snows, the temperature had much improved. No need to watch out for drifting ice any more, either. That had been a pain - a fast ship like the Dragon’s Daughter IV could wreck itself if it ran into even a small patch of drifting ice, and if there was fog, you often barely saw the things in time to avoid them.

    After grabbing some hardtack and a dried fish, she climbed up to the bridge, where the captain was manning the conn. “Ah, there you are! Just in time!”

    “Of course,” she replied with a slight frown. It wasn’t as if she’d oversleep at sea. That was limited to shore leave, when it didn’t matter.

    He yawned. “Just keep us steady - the wind doesn’t look like it’ll change.”

    She nodded. “Aye-Aye, captain.”

    “I assume my dear Mermista is still asleep.”

    She grunted in response. Of course, the princess was still asleep - she never got up in time.

    “Slept well?” the captain asked.

    She shrugged. “Can’t complain.” She wasn’t about to discuss her weird dreams with Sea Hawk. He’d either think she was pining for Blondie, or that it was a sign for an adventure or something. And dreams were just dreams. Weird or not.

    “You know, we left without properly saying goodbye to our allies…”

    Seacat glared at him. “We have a mission, and they have a meeting. Everyone’s doing their part.”

    He chuckled. “Don’t let Princess Glimmer hear that!”

    Ah? Seacat grinned. Of course, she’d do exactly that! Once they met again.

    *****​

    An hour later, the captain was asleep, and Mermista was awake - well, the princess was up, but she was still yawning and looking half-asleep as she stumbled on deck.

    “Morning!” Seacat yelled.

    Mermista grumbled a response that didn’t seem to consist of any words, then spent a minute leaning over the railing and staring at the sea. Finally, she turned and climbed the stairs leading to the bridge.

    “We’re on course, and there haven’t been any problems,” Seacat told her.

    “Ah, good.”

    Seacat narrowed her eyes a little behind the wheel. She expected some snarky or grouchy comment, not some half-hearted agreement. Something wasn’t right.

    The princess took a step to the railing here and looked out over the sea again. As if there was anything interesting out there that Seacat hadn’t seen. Well, perhaps Mermista was sensing something in the water…

    But then the woman turned and smiled at her. “So… did you enjoy the Princess Prom?”

    Definitely something afoot. “The food was great. The company was a little too princess-y. And it would have been a lot better if we’d have kicked Horde Bug’s butt.”

    “That’s diplomacy for you,” Mermista replied. “Everyone lies and plays nice while trying to get one over the other.”

    Seacat huffed in response. “Doing what’s expected is a recipe for defeat,” she quoted the captain.

    “We made a powerful ally, so it’s not as the whole thing was a failure.”

    “And a lot of princesses got the completely wrong impression of the Horde,” Seacat retorted. “They’ll be harder to recruit.”

    “Only until they see the Horde’s work first-hand.”

    “By then it’ll be too late,” she replied. “But that’s a problem for you and your friends. I’m just a sailor.”

    Mermista snorted at that - but once again, no follow-up comment appeared. Nor did she blame Seacat for the Horde spy’s reception. “So… you liked spending time with Adora?”

    Oh, no! “I couldn’t exactly tell She-Ra to get lost, could I?”

    Now Mermista’s expression turned into that frown Seacat was so familiar with. Although it was usually aimed at the captain. “Of course you could. And you did that often enough to me. And to other princesses.”

    “Well, you’re…” Seacat trailed off. A friend? Not like the others? Familiar? “You’re you,” she said instead.

    “Why, thank you.” Mermista bared her teeth. “I feel so proud.”

    Seacat shrugged in response, baring her fangs. “You helped blame me for the whole Horde thing,” she told her. “And the shrimp really needs to be told more often that she doesn’t get to order everyone around.”

    Mermista started to nod, then sighed. “Ugh. That was supposed to go differently.” She shook her head and sighed again. “Anyway, let’s restart.” An almost creepy smile appeared on her face. “Do you like Adora?”

    “What?” Seacat stared at the princess. What kind of question was that?

    “You spent a day drinking with her and the night in the same bed.” Mermista grinned. “If you don’t like her, then something went really wrong.”

    “That’s called getting drunk,” Seacat shot back. She didn’t hiss, but she growled a little. This was getting too personal, and what relationship she had was no one’s business but her own. Not that she had any relationship, anyway!

    To her surprise, Mermista looked concerned. “Do you regret what happened?”

    Ugh. “Nothing happened, which I told you already. Several times!” She almost turned the wheel because of the stupid question.

    “Ugh.” Mermista looked to the side. “I should’ve expected that. I’m no good at this.”

    “Then don’t do it!” Seacat snapped. That should’ve been obvious.

    “Someone has to, and Sea Hawk isn’t exactly…”

    “Exactly what?” Seacat glared at the princess. If she was bad-mouthing the captain…

    “What? No, he’s not… Ugh. Look, he’s convinced you are in love with Adora. That kind of colours his advice to you.”

    Love? What the…? She shook her head. “There’s nothing between us! She thinks I’m her dead friend, that’s all.” Really.

    “Alright.” Mermista nodded, but Seacat couldn’t help feeling that the princess wasn’t completely convinced of the truth of her words. “Anyway, if you want to talk about whatever happened or didn’t happen or should have happened, you can come to me, OK?” She grinned. “No teasing, promise!”

    “You already teased me,” Seacat replied with a growl.

    “Ah, I guess I - we - did. But we didn’t realise just how complicated things had become, back then.”

    “What? Complicated?” Seacat blinked. Was her and Blondie’s… tavern tour the talk of the alliance or what?

    “Yes. We thought it was just a drunken fling, you know? Drinking, dancing, dallying?”

    “Dallying?”

    The princess gave her a flat stare. “Sex.”

    “Oh.” She blinked and tried to remember the word. It sounded like something to use when talking to princesses. “Anyway, we just drank and danced, and didn’t dally. It’s not complicated at all.”

    Seacat smiled, but Mermista gave her another of those stares that she usually reserved for Sea Hawk when he did something stupid.

    “What?”

    *****​

    “Well, we found the Horde squadron roaming the Southern Seas!” Sea Hawk, standing at the steering wheel, beamed. “Success! And it took us only three days after setting out from Salineas!”

    “It looks more as if they found us,” Seacat corrected her captain. Then she flinched when another shot from the closest Horde frigate chasing them fell a little too close to the Dragon’s Daughter IV. Not close enough to damage them, or splash them, but too close for her liking.

    “Nonsense!” The captain, of course, was unflappable. “Our mission was to verify its presence before Mermista’s navy starts their own operations, and that’s exactly what we did!”

    “We still need to escape to actually report in,” Seacat pointed out. And that was proving a little harder than expected. “We should’ve left them behind already,” she added. “Instead, they’ve kept up.” Granted, that was because of the wind blowing straight from their aft. If they were tacking against the wind, the Dragon’s Daughter IV would’ve outpaced the frigates easily - but even so, the much larger Horde ships shouldn’t have been able to keep up.

    “That is quite odd, yes,” Sea Hawk said, rubbing his moustache.

    “Quite dangerous too,” Seacat pointed out as she pulled on a line to straighten the mainsail just a little bit more, to edge out a tiny bit of additional speed. They had set every square inch of sail they could, and it still didn’t seem to be enough. If they couldn’t sail away, they would have to fight. Ram the closest frigate, then board it… Seacat would fight to the death before she’d let herself be taken by the Horde scum.

    “Indeed!” He sounded cheerful. “It’s a harrowing adventure! Imagine the tale we will be able to tell my dear Mermista after this!”

    “We need to escape them first before we can boast about it.” And it didn’t look like the Horde would let them escape. Even worse, they still had no clue how the damn frigates were so damn fast. Usually, Salinean ships were faster and handled better than their Horde counterparts, and the Dragon’s Daughter IV outsailed either easily. But if the Horde suddenly had improved so much, then that changed the whole balance. And not in the Alliance’s favour. “How are they doing this?” she spat. Then she gasped. “Did they manage to finally get a skiff’s magic to work over water?” And on a ship the size of a frigate? That would… the Horde would dominate the seas!

    Even Sea Hawk looked worried now. For a moment, then he shook his head. “I doubt that. They would’ve sent out skiffs to harass us in that case. No, it has to be something else. Some added propulsion, indeed, but not like a skiff.” He pulled his telescope out and handed it to her. “See if you can spot something that’s different about these frigates.”

    “But…” She glanced at the sails. If she didn’t keep adjusting them, they would lose speed. And even the slightest loss of speed could prove fatal in this situation.

    “We need the information. Salineas needs it,” he told her.

    She clenched her teeth and nodded, then raised the telescope.

    The sails of the frigates, billowing with the wind, hampered her view, of course - she couldn’t spot much. And even with the Horde scum spread out, she barely caught glimpses of the decks. Yet… “Their wakes! Their wakes are different!”

    “Oh?”

    “Yes!” Seacat had seen the wakes of Horde frigates before. The difference was small, but it was there.”

    “Perhaps a new hull shape?” Sea Hawk speculated as another shot hit the water a few dozen yards off their stern.

    “I’m no shipbuilder,” she retorted. “But whatever it is, it has to be what makes the Horde Scum so damn fast.”

    “But not fast enough to catch us!” Sea Hawk yelled.

    “Not so far…” Seacat started to say, then looked at where he was pointing.

    And smiled. “A squall!” There was a medium-sized rain cloud in the distance - once they reached it, they’d be all but invisible to the Horde scum.

    “Yes! Just in time to save us from relentless pursuit, a squall appears! That’s what I call a harrowing adventure!”

    “Don’t sing the shanty before we actually make our escape,” she muttered. But it looked like they would make it out of this mess.

    The next shot was so close, part of the water thrown up was carried by the wind to the Dragon’s Daughter IV.

    Seacat raced down to the main deck and started adjusting the mainsail again. They only needed a smidgen more speed.

    Another shot - no, two. And the ship bucked from the force of the blast behind it. The sails fluttered for a moment, and Seacat pulled with all her weight to correct that. They only had to hold out a little longer.

    The Dragon’s Daughter IV swung a little to starboard - Seacat gasped, then realised that the captain was adjusting the course since the wind was changing a little. If it kept changing…

    The next shots fell further behind them. And the wind was still turning. And she could feel the first drops of rain on her fur as she raced to the foresail.

    Yes! Seacat bared her teeth in a fierce smile as more and more drops hit her face and upper body and splashed against her leggings. They would make their escape!

    *****

    “...and as soon as we disappeared in the squall, we changed course, and by the time we were out of the rain, the Horde scum was far off the course, unable to catch up any more as we tacked back!” Sea Hawk finished with a wide smile, arms spread.

    “Uh.” Mermista didn’t look impressed - she was slouching on her throne, Seacat noticed. She wasn’t bored, though - she looked annoyed. “We already knew you escaped, since you made it back here.”

    “But not how! A feat of daring seamanship, a harrowing adventure, an escape in the last second, before mysterious foes caught up…”

    “Speaking of catching up,” the princess interrupted the captain. “How exactly did they manage that?”

    “That’s a very good question.” Sea Hawk nodded with a serious expression. After a moment, he added: “We don’t know, though.”

    “Ugh.” Mermista rolled her eyes, even more annoyed now. Frustrated. And not in the Sea Hawk way.

    “They had a different wake,” Seacat said before the princess could start an argument. “We don’t know if they have a different hull, or if there’s something else.”

    “We wondered if they managed to get a skiff’s magic working on water, but they would’ve used skiffs against us in that case,” Sea Hawk said. “And they didn’t. So…” He shrugged.

    “The Horde frigates were always slower than our own frigates. The Horde’s yards were focusing on quantity, not quality,” Mermista said. “And their designs showed a lack of experience. Salineas, however, has a naval tradition reaching back centuries.”

    As expected of an island kingdom, of course. Yet… “That doesn’t mean they’ll stay behind forever. With all their weird magic and tech, they could’ve found a way to, ah, even things out,” Seacat said.

    “More than even things out,” Sea Hawk said. “If they can almost catch the Dragon’s Daughter IV, the fastest ship on all the seas, then they will outsail any frigate.”

    Which meant the Salinean fleet would be horribly outmatched. Even the best skill and experience wouldn’t help if the other side had such an advantage.

    Mermista’s expression showed that she was fully aware of this. “We need to know what they did to their ships.”

    “Exactly!” Sea Hawk beamed. “And I have a plan for finding out!”

    And Seacat had a sinking feeling in her stomach.

    *****​

    Splitshard, once a thriving port according to Sea Hawk, now the largest Horde naval base in the Southern Sea, looked busy. At least as far as Seacat could tell looking through a telescope from a mountaintop a few miles away, across the bay. The Horde scum was filling the piers, a few marching in formation, most running this and that way, like ants on an anthill, carrying sacks of supplies back and forth between warehouses and piers.

    Warehouses that had the typical look of horde buildings - massive, flat-roofed and ugly, with lots of pipes running up and down the walls and across the roof. Warehouses that had replaced whatever buildings had stood there before the conquest. There wasn’t much left of the original town - the walls had been turned into massive fortifications, earthworks dotted with turrets and barbed wire and most of the town had been remodelled, Horde style. A few older houses still stood, forming a small quarter in the landwards part of it, but they looked run-down as well.

    She clenched her teeth. Whatever the Horde touched, it ruined. Like her own home.

    Seacat took a deep breath and forced herself to focus on the harbour. They couldn’t do anything about the town, not yet. They were here to find out what made the new frigates of the Horde fleet so damn fast.

    “Hm…” she heard Sea Hawk next to her. “All the ships look the same.”

    They did. Typical Horde frigates, utterly exchangeable. They didn’t even have proper names, as far as Seacat knew. Just numbers. But that was enough to identify the frigates they sought - or, rather, their absence. “I don’t see the ships that chased us,” she said.

    “Must be still at sea,” the captain replied. “But I doubt that those were the only of their class.”

    “Yes.” That wouldn’t be the Horde’s style - they were big on uniformity, as Mermista called it. But the Horde frigates in port did look like the old, familiar ones. Sails, cannons, decks… She narrowed her eyes. That frigate in the corner was sporting additional portholes in the hull, at the stern. Large ones. Or… air intakes?

    She pointed it out to Sea Hawk.

    “Well-spotted!” He praised her. “And most of the frigates have them, or so it seems - that must be a sign of the new modification.”

    “Yes.”

    “Now all we need is to sneak in and find out what exactly was done to them!”

    Sneak into the largest Horde naval base in the area. And out again.

    Great. “No disguises!” she said.

    “Of course not!” Sea Hawk scoffed. “We already used that plan to infiltrate Serpent’s Maw. We can’t use the same trick twice. Not in close succession, at least!”

    That was good to hear. But… Seacat frowned. “What’s your plan, then?”

    “We’ll swim, of course!” The captain beamed at her. “We need to inspect the hull of the Horde frigates anyway, so we might as well start in the water already! And they’ll never expect that!”

    “It’s a naval base,” Seacat pointed out. “They’ll be watching the sea.”

    “For ships and boats. But not for people in the water. And we’ll be diving!”

    “Diving.” She felt her ears flatten against her head. Diving. “You said swimming.”

    “It’s the same, just underwater.”

    In theory. “We should have Mermista to help with that.” Without the princess’s power, Seacat didn’t think they would have an easy time swimming that far underwater.

    “She’s needed at home - with rumours of new Horde ships spreading, the Salinean people need her. But don’t worry - I’ve got a perfect plan!” Sea Hawk almost stood up and pointed to the sky, but she managed to drag him down before he exposed them.

    “Not here,” she hissed.

    “Sorry.” He grinned in return. “But you’ll love it!”

    *****​

    She didn’t, in fact, love it. “Snorkelling?” She asked, looking at the devices the captain had laid out on the deck of the Dragon’s Daughter IV, which was currently hidden in a small cove further down the coast.

    “Yes! With snorkels, we can stay underwater as long as we need to - long enough to pass the entrance to the harbour!” Sea Hawk raised his arm and pointed towards the sky, which was darkening already as the sun was setting.

    “Unless they have patrols underwater - they have fishpeople in the Horde,” Seacat reminded him.

    “Fishpeople might be able to breathe underwater, but they cannot see in the darkness - unlike you. As long as we wait until the sun has set, we shall be like ghosts in the night, floating past them with no Horde soldier the wiser!” Sea Hawk nodded to his own words. “Although some fishpeople have very good noses, so we’re in need of a small distraction. Just in case.”

    “A distraction?” Seacat frowned. Then her eyes widened as she remembered what else the captain had brought with them. Fish oil. Concentrated fish oil. “No! I have a good sense of smell as well!” And she couldn’t stand the stench.

    “You’ll be underwater, and unless you suddenly start breathing water, your nose will be fine,” the captain retorted.

    “I won’t stay underwater,” she said. “And the stuff reeks. You want us to coat ourselves with it?” Her lovely fur… She shuddered.

    “Only a little, to dampen our own scent.” He nodded, “I learned that when I was sneaking into the Underwater Grotto after I was banned for the first time. They have fishmen bouncers.”

    “I know - I’ve been there, remember?” Seacat reminded him. She hadn’t been banned, after all.

    “Yes, of course. Anyway - just a cup of oil, spread over your skin - your fur - will fool the best noses in the sea. Although it won’t fool sharks if you happen to be bleeding.”

    He was looking at her expectantly, but she didn’t ask how he had found out that tidbit - they would be here all night if he launched into another tale. And they had a mission. “If this doesn’t come out of my fur, I’ll keep dousing you in it until it’s gone.”

    He laughed.

    *****​

    An hour later, they were ready. And stinking. Seacat had to plug her nostrils; the fish oil stench was so bad, it had even put her off of having fish for dinner. At least when snorkelling, she wouldn’t smell it.

    And they wouldn’t have to swim the whole distance - they could use planks disguised as driftwood as floaters to approach with the rising tide most of the way. In theory at least.

    She checked her belt and cutlass again so she was sure she wouldn’t lose it in the water. Without her leggings, it rubbed her thigh a little, but that wouldn’t be a problem in the water. “I’m ready.”

    “So am I!” Sea Hawk struck a pose and flexed his muscles.

    “Save that for Mermista,” she replied.

    He pouted for a moment, then smiled. “I will! I might tell her of this adventure when we’re in her private bath!”

    “You should also use the fish oil so she can get a better impression,” Seacat told him with a smirk.

    “That’s a…” He blinked, then frowned at her. “That’s a nasty trick you tried to pull on me!”

    Seacat giggled and grabbed her plank. It was time to start their mission.

    *****​

    Even with the planks, and the rising tide dragging them along, it was a long way to the base. By the time they were approaching the entrance to the Horde harbour, Seacat wasn’t worried about the state of her fur any more - she wished she had slathered more grease and oil on her. The water wasn’t very cold here in the south, but she was still feeling it.

    “Aright!” she heard Sea Hawk whisper from ahead of her. “Now we’ll have to snorkel. Follow my lead!”

    “Yes,” she replied, more loudly - he didn’t have her ears. A moment later, she saw him mount his snorkel and slide under the water, though still holding on to the plank. She followed his example, biting into the mouthpiece when the cold water covered her head and entered her ears. That was one reason she preferred swimming to diving - her ears weren’t made for underwater.

    She realised quickly that the snorkel must have come into contact with the fish oil; she could taste the oil with every breath. But they were already committed - even underwater, she could see the lights of the base’s garrison sweep over the sea ahead of them. It wouldn’t help them, though. Not to spot two divers.

    She told herself that a few more times as the tide carried them closer and closer to the harbour entrance. Then she spotted something ahead, underwater - something massive and long. She held her breath for a moment before she realised that it was the chain that secured the harbour’s entrance. The links were as large her entire torso, she noticed as she slipped above it. There was no way even a Salinean frigate would be able to force her way through that. Smaller boats, though, might work, she noted.

    But they were now inside the harbour - and no alert had been sounded. As far as she could tell, at least. And Sea Hawk was still ahead of her. Things were going well. All they had to do now was to find one of the modified frigates and inspect their stern and hulls.

    The captain had stopped moving, letting her catch up. “That one,” she whispered as soon as she reached him, pointing at the second frigate at the pier ahead.

    He nodded in response and went under again, only the snorkel peeking out of the water. Time to lose the planks - they wouldn’t make it out of the harbour with them anyway; not against the tide.

    Sea Hawk was a good swimmer, better than her, she had to admit, but he was pacing himself - she could easily keep up as they swam towards their target.

    The Horde frigate quickly loomed over them - she had to crane her neck to look at the masts with the reefed sails for a last check before she focused on the hull. Sixteen gunports on one side; that hadn’t changed. She couldn’t check the cannons themselves, since the ports were closed, but the chase guns on the foredeck looked like the same guns she was familiar with. There was no one on the foredeck, as far as she could tell, but there would be a watch on the bridge; the Horde wasn’t incompetent.

    And indeed - as they swam along the hull to the stern, she could see two figures on the bridge, leaning against the railing. Damn! If they looked down… She quickly reached out to Sea Hawk and tugged on his arm until he looked at her. Then she pointed down.

    He didn’t argue - he simply dived down. She followed. If they swam under the keel of the ship, they could surface for air on the other side, and then start diving to inspect the stern.

    As she dived, she ran her hand over the hull - it was plated, but with a different material than usual. That alone wouldn’t explain the higher speed, though. All the Salinean ships had sheaths on their hulls as well, and the Dragon’s Daughter IV’s hull was kept immaculately clean thanks to its construction.

    She glanced towards the stern as she cleared the keel - there was something sticking out of the keel at the aft… And there was something moving there! Someone - a fishman!

    If the Horde scum raised the alarm, Seacat and Sea Hawk were dead - they couldn’t escape the harbour. Not with everyone looking for them.

    No time to resurface - if the enemy had spotted them, it would be too late. She clenched her teeth and swam towards the figure, drawing her cutlass halfway to her mark.

    Seacat hated fighting underwater - she couldn’t use most fencing techniques Sea Hawk had taught her, and the water’s resistance made her feel sluggish and slow. But she knew how to fight - be it against sea monsters or Horde scum. Same difference, anyway.

    The fishman - she couldn’t make out his exact type, but he didn’t have tentacles and wasn’t a shark - was doing some work on the thing protruding from the keel. Fixing a hole or something? It didn’t matter right now. What mattered was that he was so focused on his work, he didn’t notice her until she was almost on top of him. But when he saw her, he didn’t hesitate - he immediately tried to flee.

    And the man was fast - if she hadn’t been about to strike, he would’ve escaped. But as it was, her energy blade caught him in the chest as he whirled, and he bent over, clutching his ribs.

    That gave her enough time to grab onto his flailing arm with her free hand, digging her claws into his flesh. He tried to shake her off as she drew her cutlass back for another stab at him, but without success - she wrapped her legs around his waist before he managed to free his arm at the cost of her claws carving deep gouges into it.

    Blood started to colour the water around them, yet the fishman was still fighting - he struck at her with his good arm, and she only managed to deflect the blow so it hit her shoulder. That also stopped her from stabbing him - her thrust went wide.

    At least he had stopped trying to drag her to the surface with him, but her air was starting to run out. Damn. She had to finish this quickly! He hit her in her side, hard enough to make her lose air but not hard enough to dislodge her, and she lashed out with her left hand, slashing across his face.

    He recoiled - a familiar reaction, somehow - and hit her with both flailing arms. If not for the water softening the blows, she would’ve been doomed. But she needed air!

    She struck again, this time going for his gills. Her claws sliced through the soft flesh there and tore into his throat. They got stuck on something, almost entangled, but then he hit her again, and as the force of his frantic blow finally forced her away from him and dislodged her snorkel, it also forced her claws to come free - taking half his throat with them.

    Seacat lunged again, holding on to the thrashing, dying Horde scum. He couldn’t surface. Not alive, not dead - that would alert the watch on deck. But she needed air. Damn, she needed to breathe.

    She pushed herself up, using her legs to push the fishman down herself towards the surface, grabbing frantically for her snorkel. If she stayed underwater she should be safe. But the snorkel was full of water - and she didn’t have the breath left to blow it clear.

    She had to risk it. She surfaced and gulped down air, chest heaving, then quickly emptied the snorkel and dived below the water again. If anyone had seen her… But no lights came searching for her. And she could breathe again - although the air faintly tasted like blood through the snorkel.

    Blood… damn, any shark within miles would soon smell the blood in the water. And any fishman with a sensitive nose, too. Where was Sea Hawk? And where was the Horde scum?

    She took a deep breath and dived again, swimming downwards as fast as she could. Where was… Oh! Sea Hawk was there, sticking the fishman’s corpse to the hull? She should’ve thought of that! That way, it wouldn’t surface and tip off the Horde sailors on watch.

    She swam to him, then pointed at the pipe the Horde scum had been fixing. It was large - and aimed straight at the rudder. And open. That must be what made the frigates faster! But how did it work?

    She gripped it - metal, and quite thick - and peered inside. There was something glowing dimly, very dimly, inside. But even her sharp eyes couldn’t make out what it was. And she needed to breathe again.

    She had enough air left to clear her snorkel, so she didn’t have to actually surface, but it was still too close for comfort. How long would it be until the fishman would be missed? Did he have a schedule to report in? An upcoming shift change? She didn’t know how the Horde ran things. She should have asked Blondie about such things.

    No - this wasn’t the time to think about what she should’ve done. She had a mission to finish. If only she knew…

    Sea Hawk surfacing next to her interrupted her thoughts. He pointed forward, towards the bow of the frigate. Oh! She nodded and sank a little, then swam along the hull towards the bow.

    Yes! Below the waterline - way below - there was an opening in the middle, protected by a grate. The same width of the pipe in the back. So…. water would go in here, and out in the back. Somehow pushing the ship ahead.

    The captain pointed up again, then swam up. Seacat followed him. This time, he surfaced, so she did the same, resisting the urge to shake the water out of her ears.

    “We’ve got it,” he announced. “Now it’s time for a distraction!”

    Distraction? Her eyes widened as she saw him pulling a bottle from his belt. What was he trying to do with his spare fish oil...? No, that wasn’t fish oil! Of course, Sea Hawk wouldn’t sneak into a Horde base without planning to set something on fire!

    As she realised this, the captain quickly pulled the cap off the bottle, revealing a wick stuffed into the top part. He pulled it out, then activated his energy sword and set it on fire.

    Seacat dived under the water - just in case he missed his throw. When she resurfaced, she saw flickering lights above her, on the frigate’s foredeck. And she could hear cries from the watch.

    It was past time to get the hell out of the harbour. As fast as she could, Seacat swam towards the exit at snorkel depth. Which wasn’t as fast as she liked, what with the tide still rising. But she was still faster than Sea Hawk, if not by far.

    And as much as she didn’t like to admit it, the distraction was working - everyone seemed to be headed towards the frigate, instead of hunting for them. Then again, it wouldn’t take them long to realise that saboteurs were in the water, and start searching. They had to hurry and get out of the harbour so they could go with the tide, further into the bay, away from the base.

    She kept swimming, expecting searchlights to go off at any moment. But they didn’t. Not until they had passed over the chain again and entered the bay proper, where the tide pulled them away from prying eyes, to the floaters they had stashed in advance to help them cross the bay to the Dragon’s Daughter IV.

    *****​
     
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