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Separate Ways · She-Ra Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Every Letter I Ever Wrote You
To LiGhT spiNER

THaNK you so mucH FoR THE buildiNG blocKs.

FRom CasTaspElla

To Light Spinner,

Today we we went to a big library in Bright Moon. They use paper books here which is really wierd, but I think you would probably like it. Micah got in trouble with the librarian for talking! Also it had a shop which is where I brought you this postcard. The picture is of the Moonstone which we are going to see tomorrow!

I’m going to ask Mom if you can come with us next time we go on holliday. Its weird not having you around.

Your best friend,

Dear Light Spinner,

You are cordially invited to Castaspella’s 12th Birthday Party Sleepover on the 9th March.

It’s just the two of us and some movies! Mom says we can stay up as late as we want because it’s not a school night.

See you there,

Ariel’s totally checking you out.

Don’t be like that, Munroe’s not gonna spot us passing notes.

Pay attention to me

Dear Light Spinner,

You’re not going to see this, but I’m bored and stuck in detention so I’m just gonna write you a letter so it looks like I’m busy. Can you believe Munroe gave me detention? He’s literally famous for being lax about note-passing. Ugh.

Sorry I got you in trouble too, though.

For what it’s worth, I think you should ask Ariel out. She’s probably gonna say yes, and you need a break from all that work you’ve been doing. School isn’t everything, Light, remember? Your mom told us that.

Besides, you could probably get that scholarship even if you did no work for the rest of the year. You’re scary smart. Go have fun!

Dear Light Spinner,

CONGRATULATIONS! I’m so proud of you! You had it in the bag, obviously, but it’s so cool that you get to study under Gladwell herself! You’re gonna be such a good sorcerer. Just don’t forget us little people when you’ve made it, alright?

I’m going to visit you as often as I can when you’re in Mystacor, and I’ll write you all the time when I can’t. You’re not getting rid of me that easily!


Light Spinner,

How’s that huge new room treating you?

Seriously, though, hope you’ve had a fantastic week. Micah mentioned running into you in his letter, the dork. You know he still writes home every week? It’s disgusting.

Everything here has been pretty much the same as always. School sucks, homework sucks, magic club stopped early because someone lost control again. It’s a lot less fun without you around, though.

It’s Micah’s birthday next week so we’ll be in Mystacor to visit. I’ll come say hi!


Light Spinner,

I’ve wanted to write you for weeks but literally nothing has happened here. Ugh. Your letters are literally the highlight of my week, because they mean I can live vicariously through you. And the fact that the highlight of my week is reading about your research says a lot.

Figured I could at least keep you up to date on school gossip, though. Figgis is retiring at the end of the year, which is probably for the best, but they were doing, like, interview lessons for his replacement? Weird, I know, but they did one with our class and I hope they pick her because she was amazing. I almost cared about what she was saying, which is an accomplishment I thought beyond history teachers. Also I’m 99% sure she owns a skateboard. She looks very much like the kind of person who owns a skateboard.

Oh, and I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but I’d rather not keep it from you: Ariel and Karliah started going out. If it’s any consolation, everyone still thinks Ariel was a bitch to you? I’m sorry you had to hear it in a letter, though, but I’m not gonna be about to tell you in person for a month or so.

Good luck with your project!

Sup nerd,

Guess who’s just been accepted to Mystacor Academy?

See you next week!

Dear Light Spinner,

Just to get it out of the way, I wanted to make one thing absolutely clear: archaeological digs are the worst. You are so lucky you missed out on this trip. My god.

We’re in the middle of goddamn nowhere (which from what I’ve seen is pretty much all there is to the Crimson Wastes), at the bottom of a ravine. My job? Cataloging coins. There are so many coins, and they’re all exactly the same. You’ve either got moon-imagery silver coins, or scorpion-imagery gold coins. And I have to write down the same details for every single one we find. I’ve given up taking measurements of each one: I just lay them over each other and see if they match the last one I cataloged (they always do), and then just copy the last report. Good news: I’m allowed to use magic, at last, so I don’t even need to use my hands. I’m considering taking up knitting to give me something to do, that’s how bored I am.

Still, I can’t complain. I asked for an assignment that wasn’t more book work, and that’s exactly what I got. The site’s pretty cool, too: we’re slowly uncovering what looks like an early First Ones temple? Like, really early: back when they were using stone for buildings. It’d be way more interesting if there was anything more than coins here.

Missing you,

P.S. One of the other students (Elfias? I’ve literally never met him before this trip) keeps hitting on me and it’s really awkward. How do I get him to stop?


I don’t even want to know how you knew that. You’re like a library genie. Princess Ishara is coming to pick it up tomorrow, and we’re all working overnight to excavate the whole thing. It’s huge! Nobody could believe that the Crimson Wastes even had a runestone, so this is super exciting. Gladwell’s going to be so impressed with you.

Dear Light Spinner,

Ha! Told you the Crimson Wastes were lame. Don’t tell Ishara I said that, though, ‘cos she’s big and scary and has actual claws.

I’m glad you’re having a better time there than I did, though. And just think: a whole celebratory feast, just for you! Your mom must be freaking out. Do try and enjoy it. This is a vacation, so you’re not allowed to do any research while you’re away, ok?


Light Spinner,

I’ve been thinking about what you said last week. What if Gladwell is wrong? Look, photomancy is definitely more your thing than mine, but I can’t quite shake the feeling that there’s much more to darkness than just the absence of light. What if it could be manipulated, just like light? How could we confirm/refute that?


Light Spinner,

I believe I’ve made significant progress since we last spoke on the subject, and I wanted to see if you could replicate my results. Please find enclosed a copy of my research notes.

If you’re back in Mystacor by the weekend, I’m planning on ordering takeaway and watching a movie for my birthday. Wanna join?


P.S. Say hi to your mom for me!

Dear Light Spinner,

So Micah just married an immortal queen and I’m not even a little bit bitter about being single. I am a little bit drunk, though. There was an open bar. And you weren’t here so I didn’t have anyone to dance with, so I spent most of the night at said open bar because the alternative was embarrassing myself at karaoke and I wasn’t quite drunk enough for that.

You probably wouldn’t have had that much fun even if you weren’t ill, but I would have kept you company. And I’m pretty sure Angella would have let us sneak off into the library if you wanted to go somewhere quiet and read. Turns out she’s pretty chill. Way cooler than Micah.

I’m going to come back and fuss over you tomorrow, hangover or not. If you’re not resting up in bed when I get back, I’m gonna be disappointed.

Miss you,

P.S. Gladwell can’t sing. Never let her try.

Dear Light Spinner,

My thesis got accepted! Thank you so much for your help with it: I’d never have been able to make that connection to Hardwicke if it weren’t for your work with the Garnet. You & Ishara both get a lot of love in the acknowledgements, don’t you worry. And now we’re both going to be properly qualified, so we can work on a follow-up paper together!

Gladwell is very excited to see what you can do with umbraturgy, in particular, and I’m not all that surprised. Your photomancy skills are insane: everyone in Mystacor reckons you’re going to take this new field by storm. It’s honestly a bit uncomfortable having everyone comment on my thesis by saying how good you are going to get with the topic, but I’m mostly just excited to be creating such a buzz.

Hope Ishara is well!


Dear Light Spinner,

Oh my god, you were amazing tonight! Youngest guest lecturer at the academy in two centuries, and you had all of us absolutely speechless with that final display. How have you already got the practical side down when we’re still developing the theoretical framework? You’re actually a photomancy genius. You’ve got to teach me asap.

Sorry I couldn’t stay for the afterparty. Micah called, said that he needed me in Bright Moon urgently. I’m literally writing this while on the road there, so sorry if the writing’s a bit shaky.

Hopefully you’ll get this before I’m back, or that’ll be weird to explain.

See you soon,

Dear Light Spinner,

Everyone in Bright Moon is raving about your research. Turns out our little obscure academic research? Hugely popular here! Micah’s been singing your praises (the dork) and the nobility have been getting me to do simple shadow-manipulation all week. I feel like one of those dropout sorcerers who does kids’ birthday parties, and everyone is always asking to see if I’ve had news from you about further discoveries. I mean, seriously? I know you’ve been pumping out papers, but I’m literally only here for two weeks.

I’ve been thinking about what you said about power the other week. You’re not wrong: Gladwell is definitely trying to hold you back, but I don’t think it’s malicious. You’re her star pupil! I think she’s just nervous. Umbraturgy is a whole new field of magical research, and she’s right to be a little wary about diving into something with so much potential for danger without some sort of safety net.

But that got me thinking about boundaries of knowledge. Elphias’ latest paper (I assume you’ve read it, because this is you we’re talking about, but if you haven’t go read it now!) was incredibly exciting, showing that the potential limit to energy transmission via Spinner Resonance is orders of magnitude above anything achievable in traditional photomancy, and if we don’t explore these high-energy spells then we’re cutting ourselves off from ever truly understanding magic fully. Let’s just take it one step at a time, though. At the very least, it’ll keep Gladwell happy.


Dear Light Spinner,

I was at dinner the other night with Elphias and Jayne. Did you know they’ve started to call you Dark Spinner? Such a lame nickname. You could do way better. Dusk Spinner, maybe? Shadow sounds pretty cool, but the alliteration would grate after a while.

They agree with us about the power thing, by the way. I suggested the four of us work together on it sometime? We can take turns spotting for each other and try to stay safe.

Pass my love on to Ishara,

Get back to Mystacor. Urgent. Do not use umbraturgy.

Dear Light Spinner,

What were you thinking?! It’s one thing to campaign to try and repeal the ban, but another altogether to have a full-scale umbraturgy experiment running in your room. Gladwell told me it was “spitting dark lightning”, which frankly sounds like the single most frightening thing I have ever heard. You’ve got to take these things slowly, and safely. I don’t want you to end up in a hospital for months. It’s bad enough Jayne’s still stuck in one.

You were always such a stickler for the rules at school. This one is actually serious, Light. Gladwell told me this was the only chance she’s going to give you: next time, it’s not just temporary suspension you’ll be facing.

I’ll see you in a month. Say hi to your mom for me!


Dear Light Spinner,

Is photomancy really so boring that you can’t bring yourself to study that for a while? You are not going to “literally die” just because you’re no longer pushing boundaries on a whole new field of magic. Photomancy might be an old field, but I’ve no doubt you can find something new there.

Alternatively, perhaps what umbraturgy needs is a more rigorous theoretical framework? Gladwell did only ban practical umbraturgy, after all. If you can find some some way to theoretically contain the decay, perhaps Gladwell will allow you to test it out. Make sure to run it past her, though.

I stopped by the hospital yesterday, checking up on Jayne. Good news: she’s awake! She’s definitely feeling weak, though, and I don’t blame her. Her arm doesn’t look like it’s healing up, but the doctors are saying that there’s no sign the decay is spreading. And she can move her fingers, which is definitely not something any of us expected.

Elphias and I are meeting for drinks on Sunday. You’re back by then, right? You’re welcome to join us, if you are.


Dear Light Spinner,

Angella’s pregnant! Did you know immortals could get pregnant? I didn’t!

She dropped the news casually over dinner, tonight. It was just a few close friends and family, but she said it so calmly most of us thought we’d misheard her. Micah says next time he sees you, he’s going to ask you to be godmother, so I figured I’d give you a heads up on that one.

Anyway, I’ve ordered in some patterns so I can knit her some baby clothes. I can’t believe I’m going to be an aunt! This kid is going to be spoiled rotten, I’ll make sure of it.


Dear Light Spinner,

Some good news from Elphias: he thinks photomancy can be used to create a kind of barrier between skin and shadow. His proposal isn’t just to use light as a shield to push back the darkness, but to transform the darkness into light as it approaches the skin. I don’t think it’ll work at higher energy levels (can you imagine the heat given off by a photomancy spell with the energy of your dark lightning?) but it’s a good start. Of course, we’d need to secure Gladwell’s approval to test it, which might not be so easy.

I’m glad to hear that Bright Moon is treating you well. You needed a break! Hope Micah is giving you some breathing room, though. I don’t think he understands just how much umbraturgy meant to you.


Oh my god what have you done? Gladwell just told me she found another dark lightning setup in the catacombs and there were notes with your handwriting. Please tell me that was someone else working off your last experiment’s notes. I’m literally shaking.

Dear Light Spinner,

You idiot. You absolute idiot.

Why? What part of “just study the theory till we know it’s safe” do you not understand? Umbraturgy is dangerous, Light, and it sounds like you’re pushing well beyond the limits that did Jayne serious harm.

I’m going to keep working on my own to find proof that we can work safely, and when we can I’m going to do my damnedest to get you back, but promise me that you’ll stay safe while you’re away from Mystacor. Please.

I’ll try to visit when I can. Pass on my love to Ishara, and for the love of god don’t do any umbraturgy. I don’t give a damn if she lets you near that Garnet, I don’t want to travel all the way out to the middle of goddamn nowhere to find that you’re in a coma.


Dear Light Spinner,

Please write me as soon as you can. We could see the explosion in the Crimson Wastes from Mystacor. Are you okay? Please tell me you had nothing to do with that.

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#1 · 2
· · >>Zaid Val'Roa
The important part of a backstory is rarely the end. We already know how things are going to turn out. And to its credit, this story acknowledges that, there's no attempt at a shocking reveal or overwrought underlining of tragedy at the end. The final letter simply is, and, haunted by the title, trusts us fill what happens afterwards.

If not the end, the important part of a backstory seems to be the process. And how does the story fare on that front?

We start in innocence. For a character like Shadow Weaver, who edges out Hordak as most clichéd villain on She Ra, the contrast stands out. But otherwise, it looks like things are pretty thin on the ground. The tragic slide-into-evil form runs on character choice. We have to know the character well enough to understand their decision.

It's impossible not to bring up Catra here. Promise gives us the same contrast of innocence and bitter experience as Every Letter does. But it also gives us Catra pride, her hurt, her need to be ackowledged – and gives us a point where it's not obvious which way she'll turn. She chooses poorly. Here, on the other hand, Light Spinner progresses more or less directly from innocence to eminence to obsession to catastrophe. There's no real complexity there, and the progression ends up feeling shallow.

Except …

Except, I've missed something, haven't I? This isn't just an epistolary, this is a one-sided epistolary. The bulk of this story isn't the end or the process. It's in the structure and theme. It's not about Light Spinner. It's not really about Castaspella either. It's about Light Spinner as she is perceived by Castaspella, a subject irreducible to either of them alone. Loneliness haunts this story. Light Spinner has, as it were, chosen not to speak to us. She is aloof, distant. She communicates only by her actions, none of which seem responsive to anything but her own aims. Casta is in her orbit, begging for attention (literally, at one point.) And when at last Light Spinner flares out and sinks into darkness, we can imagine Casta left adrift.

All sorts of events mentioned in passing have significance. From stuff like Light Spinner's illness during the wedding to the identity of Ishara (a quick visit to Wikipedia confirmed my suspicions). And then there's the coins: Moon and … scorpion? Now there's an odd contrast. But it all fits. Every Letter is very much a story that lives in the stuff that isn't told. That's damned hard to do (I've failed at it myself), but it succeeds admirably. I'd say this has a good shot at first place.
#2 · 2
I like epistolary stories, and I think you've done a pretty good job here. Though one-sided, I could get a good glimpse of Casta and Shadow Weaver's friendship and how it developed since their infancy up to they going their separate ways. The story as a whole is quite understated, and as >>Scramblers and Shadows said, the small mentions of the world beyond Casta and Shadow are what paint the backdrop for the story's unfolding drama.

I also agree that the progression feels a bit shallow. I would've really liked a few more letters sent on the early years of their friendship so we could see, well, the friendship come to be. Going in, we already know how their story will end, so your job is to make the reader invested in their relationship. We know it will all come down to broken promises, friendship in ruins, and Light Spinner in the dark side. So, we've got to get invested in this friendship so the climax has a real emotional payoff.

This story is... somewhat successful in that regard. Even though we only see Casta's side of things, we still can imagine enough of Light Spinner's responses to fill in the gaps ourselves. Hell, I'd argue getting just her side of the story helps us empathise with the feelings of isolation and confusion Casta has regarding Light Spinner's fall from grace, so kudos for that.

Still, I go back to what I said. I would've really appreciated a couple more letters to really get a firm grip of their friendship. Even if it's just mundane things. Hell, specially if it's just mundane things. Sharing secrets, complaining about their parents, talk about magic stuff. But hey, isn't that what you did in the first half of the story? Indeed! I just wanted more. I wanted you to go deeper. To show me how this friendship shaped Casta and why it means so much to her.

Just a bit of work could elevate this story from good to great. And know that you've set the bar quite high for the rest of the stories this round.
#3 · 1
Alternate Title: TFW Your Best Friend Becomes an Evil Sorceress

Childhood friendships usually come to an end, but usually not like this.

Hey, author, you did good job today. I have a soft spot for epistolary stories; you can get away with a lot in this style, like not having to describe settings in intricate detail, or the every fucking stitch on a character's suit. It also lets you get away with cramming a lot in very short scenes. How many scenes are in this story?


God I'm a sucker for prequel stories that inevitably foreshadow events we already knew about going in. Like, we already knew Light Spinner was gonna turn into Shadow Weaver; we already knew the Black Garnet was gonna corrupt her and give her magical powers and all the shit.

What's fun and interesting, and the author knows this too, is seeing how all this came to be. How Castaspella (what a name) started out as Spinner's best bud and watched her, with more and more distance and desperation over time, turn into the evil baddy-bad guy we know her now as. The fact that we never hear Spinner's side of the story only makes this more fascinating to watch unfold, because Spinner's words don't matter here, but rather the consequences of her actions, which can be clearly seen through Casta's eyes.

Now, this entry does run into a bit of a character problem, and I'm not blaming the story itself for this. I'm gonna talk about Shadow Weaver for a second and why she's such a horribly bland villain. Okay. So in She-Ra there are basically two big baddies who need a spanking, Hordak and Shadow Weaver. Both are incredibly stereotypical in how cartoonishly evil they are, but Shadow Weaver arguably gets the worst of this since we get far more screen-time with her. From the second you see her you probably think, "Oh hi blatantly evil person, how are you doing today?" And that's the show's fault more than anything; I can't blame this entry for dealing with a really boring villain's origin story.

I can sort of blame the author for giving Shadow Weaver an origin story in the first place, but I think it's telling of the writing quality on display here that I don't think this is such a big problem. You can make a good story out of a bad villain if you try hard enough, and "Every Letter I Ever Wrote You" certainly did; in fact I'd say it's a contender for top of the slate, the king of the hill, the big cheese, the top dog, the head honcho, the alpha bitch, the...


Basically, I like this entry a lot. Clearly a lot of thought was put into how the reader would get a clear picture of everything from Casta's words, and as she's developing as a character no less; when we first see her she's a little kid who can barely write, and upon a second reading I realized the typos in the first few scenes were likely intentional. The fact that how she addresses Spinner over time changes depending on both her age and the state of her doomed friendship is another testament to how much attention the author paid to his/her craft while making this lovely little story.

I can dig that shit, yep yep yep!