ave / stories / Party Crasher Memories ch.4

The cave got wetter the deeper they went, and colder. The rocks here had never felt the warmth of the sun, and it showed. Catra was still shivering, but it was definitely the cold this time. The silhouette in front of her was still alien and terrifying, but they were also hurt. They needed her, and despite their habitual backstabbing, Catra knew they wouldn't turn on her. They needed her. She liked that kind of power. It tickled an old craving of hers, a craving she had shared with the trickster in front of her, and she didn't care enough to ignore it and suppress it.

Eventually, the corridor widened into a small cavern. Flashing the lamp around, Catra made out a couple bundles of stuff, and a rugged canvas laid out in the center, probably serving as both table, bed and bedcover. In a single swift movement, the lizard slithered down and sat themselves, two glowing yellow embers staring back at Catra from the dark.

"Take a seat. Come on, feel at home - it's just a cave."

Catra sat down, and became acutely aware of the moisture seeping into her clothes and fur. "So um, nice cave you got here? Must be real warm at night . . ."

"Oh shush, kitten. You know it's terrible. Now, bring it out. Show what you got me."

"Well, you didn't really say what kind of supplies you wanted . . ." She took her backpack off and tossed it at the lizard. They snatched it easily and started rummaging through it. Apparently, their night vision was not quite as good as Catra's.

"Some light maybe?"

"Sure, suit yourself." She took the lamp and shined it right in their face, a wide grin on hers. In an instant, they were over her, growling, the lamp rolling on the floor somewhere to the side. The little light reflected off their angry eyes, their perfect, bloody face, and their very, very sharp teeth.

"Catra, kitten . . . how about we make an agreement? You don't do stuff like that anymore, and I promise not to kill you before we are done."

"I um . . . I'm sorry."

Sliding back, they picked up the lamp and hung it on a rock on the ceiling. Somehow, they managed to light up only a small circle on the canvas without lighting up themselves or Catra. It occured to her that this was probably the first time they intentionally avoided a spotlight. The bag, having been tossed aside, was now pulled back and rummaged through properly.

"Dear, finally some food. Pastries, hm, cake, ew, more pastries - do princesses eat anything else? -, some pastries for dessert- oh! That looks good . . ." They took out a chunk of meat - the leg of something Bow had caught a few days back, if Catra remembered correctly. It seemed to disappear in their thin silhouette with a loud gulp. Stretching their back with a groan, they went back to looking through the bag.

". . . come to think of it, I've never seen you eat before?"

"Oh, I try not to do it in front of people. You're welcome for the show."

"Yeah. So uh, what exactly happened to get you . . . well, here?" Double Trouble had found the medkit and was slowly disinfecting their wounds, tying up the worse ones with bandages. It seemed like they knew what they were doing.

"Well, I was hanging around, scamming off idiots, when an old - hmmm, what should I call it - acquaintance of mine came looking for me."

"The kind where you fucked them up first?"

"Family, actually. And - ow! - they had a few nasty tricks up their figurative sleeves. Kind of embarrasing, really."

". . . what tricks?"

Double Trouble put down the flask of alcohol, a bit harsher than needed. "A curse, Catra. I can't shapeshift anymore."

"That . . . does sound terrible." She thought about it. Having such a great power, something so integral to them taken away . . . no wonder they were miserable. "It doesn't explain the bruises, though."

"Yeah, well, some people don't really take well to lizardfolk. Terribly, really. Gave me a run for my money, as they say. Though I had a bit more than money on the stakes . . ."

"In Brightmoon?" She thought back to her first time in Brightmoon, as a civilian, how people had scowled at her. "Yeah, I can imagine. How did they recognize you, though?"

They scoffed. "Catra, who do you think I am? No one recognized me, I was a nobody. I just happened to have scales on my back, and to rub a few people wrong. Not being able to change my shape doesn't mean I can't act, Catra. And act I did the best I could, until some drunk from Selenius took his dagger out. Then it was all pitchforks and torches for me."

"And for some reason you, the great escape artist, decided to hide in a cave in the middle of the kingdom instead of running away?"

They reached a hand across the light and tapped her on the nose "'Greatest'. While that might seem like a good idea, it is what got me here in the first place. I'm not worried about the townsfolk - I can't go out without risking her finding out where I am. Honestly, I'm surprised I got this far. She could have used a scrying spell, but I guess she's too stuck up to cast it."

"I mean, if you need help with a curse, we could ask King Micah . . . ?" Catra knew it was a bad plan. If they had gone through the trouble to hide from villagers with pitchforks and torches, introducing them to the King himself would be disastrous. And how would she even introduce them? "Your Honor, this is the thieving traitor that was with me in the Horde and tried to blow this place up?" Then again, Micah was just innocent and clueless enough for this to work.

"King Micah?" They tilted their head, apparently raising an eyebrow in the dark. "Oh, Micah! That old bastard, I forgot about him. So he's in Brightmoon. He is a bit strong for a hostage, though - and it's not really my style. Tell me about him, I need something to get him going."

"I- no, Double Trouble, I meant to ask him for help with the curse. He's a good person, he'd help someone in need."

They took a long pause, probably judging whether Catra was making fun of them. "I really don't like it when you describe me like that, kitten. And I don't think he of all people would help me."

"Why not? He's pretty powerful, I'm sure he'll know how to fix . . . well, whatever's wrong with you."

Double Trouble sighed. "Yes, he would. Some family he is - he created this curse."

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