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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility · She-Ra Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
The Master's Tools
The sound of thunder broke across the evening sky above the Liminal Woods. It swelled out of the east, rose like the sun toward the vault of heaven, and finally drifted westward over Bright Moon. It faded for a moment, lost as the wind shifted or the layers of the atmosphere conspired to reflect it back into space, then returned with a vengeance. Louder, closer, back toward the Liminal Woods, completing a great circle around the middle kingdoms.

Razz squinted at the sky. Though it was cloudless and the stars had not yet emerged to confuse her rheumy eyes, she couldn’t spot the intruder. “I don’t see it.”

The Eternian guard posted by Razz’s door looked up from her tablet. Her feline ears twitched, and those golden eyes scanned the twilight. Finally, she raised a paw and pointed. “There. About to cross above that peak. Two finger-widths above the horizon.”

“Huh.” Razz followed the claw, found the mountain, and waited. Sure enough, a few seconds later a dark dot crossed her view. It sparkled occasionally as the flat panes in its sails caught the setting sun and scattered its rays all across the world below. “How’d you find it?”

The guard was already back to reading her tablet. Red flashing text scrolled across the glass to the beat of panic. “It’s a scout craft. They travel almost the speed of sound. You have to look ahead of the thunder to see them.”

Ah. “Such magic they have.”

“Not magic.” The guard didn’t even look up. “Technology.”

Razz had heard that word before. It seemed a useless distinction – if magic and technology could both give life to metal and set it flying through the air, what was the difference? She’d grown old enough now to understand that small-but-glaring differences could mask enormous but subtle similarities. In the past she might’ve launched into such a lecture for the young guard, but the poor thing seemed busy enough with her tablet. And exhausted. And hungry. Razz wondered if there was much left in the pantry to share.

A new sound intruded before she could go check the larder. A high-pitched whine that shook her teeth; a discordant brassy peal of wounded trumpets heralding the arrival of something new, greater and filled with malice. She and the guard looked up at the sky, where a pair of crescent moon silhouettes cut across the stratosphere. They passed directly above the Liminal Woods, their course bending slowly toward Bright Moon.

“Condor-class bombers,” the guard said. “Too low, though. They must not know we repaired the lances. They’ll hit the engagement zone in a few—”

Whatever else she had to say was lost in an explosion of light. The sky turned bright as day. A rainbow-colored flash cut a straight line from the horizon to the bombers, leaving Razz blind and blinking away spotted afterimages. They danced in her vision, bleeding through all the colors of a bruise. When she looked back at the sky there was only one silhouette, standing on edge as it turned back east. A rain of debris was all that remained of the other. The larger pieces glowed all the way to the ground.

“How many people are in those?” Razz asked.

The guard shrugged. “Ten, maybe? Sometimes it’s just robots. Either way, good riddance.”

The casual cruelty cut deep. Razz closed her eyes. “Such a loss.”

A snort. “For the Horde. More losses like that and we might’ve won the war.”

“We will win yet. You must have faith, young friend.”

“I had faith. It got me here.” The guard glanced down at her tablet, tapped something out, and walked out onto the terrace. She might’ve been graceful once, but her prosthetic legs allowed only a hobbled, stuttering gait now. Another loss, so small in the course of things that it scarcely merited notice, especially as the cremated remains of ten souls fell like snow onto the woods.

“The Queen will be here soon,” the guard said. “Wait inside, please.”

It was phrased like a request, but it really wasn’t. Razz gave the sky a final look and retreated back into her home to await Bright Moon’s master.




There was no way Queen Angella could fit through the door of Razz’s house without stooping. Razz was a small woman, bent with age, and the queen was a titan even before one factored her wings and armor into the equation. Really, it was a miracle she could pass the threshold without crawling.

Specifically, the Queen was in possession of the miracle known as power. She grasped the lintel with a single hand and lifted, cracking the the oak beams as casually as one might brush aside a shower curtain. Her shoulder struck the doorframe a passing blow and left a shoulder-shaped hole. Dust rained down from the ceiling. The floorboards shook with each gentle kiss of her silver boots.

She approached the table without preamble, pulled out a chair, and sat. Something cracked, and for a tense moment it looked like the chair might surrender to gravity. But the First Ones smiled on Razz (or, rather, her furniture), and with a final creak of protest, it held.

In all the kingdoms of Eternia, the bards sang, there was not a woman so fair as Queen Angella, whose voice could charm a thousand suitors and whose face inspire a thousand sculptors. Never had so rare and radiant a maiden graced the world but that when she was born the First Ones themselves were struck dumb with awe, and they touched Angella with their power, choosing her as one of the new world’s immortal lords. A love-struck angel begged her to take his wings. The sun itself blessed her hair to shine with its own light. The birds fell silent in her wake, ashamed of the feeble worthlessness of their song.

The last time Razz had seen her, the Queen was wearing a comfortable silk robe faintly adorned with the crest of Bright Moon. Fit for a queen, but not a warrior – now she wore the famed and terrible Cota de Plata de la Luna, a suit of silver armor that paid tribute only to power. It was brutal and stark and beautiful in the way a well-crafted knife or drop of blood could be beautiful. It cared nothing for the queen’s femininity; its solid, blank breast obliterated any sense of sexuality. A man could have worn it just as easily, or even one of those magical robots the guard spoke of.

Part of the armor near the Queen’s right shoulder was melted. Streaks of black carbon graced the rest. Razz wondered if they would buff out easily or need to be painted over.

The Queen set her helm on the table. It was large enough that Razz couldn’t have lifted it with both arms. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and didn’t move.

Razz waited. She looked at the guard, who just shrugged.

No help there, then. She cleared her throat, and when that got nothing, she spoke. “Your majesty?”

Angella woke with a start. The chair creaked again and sank a few inches. They stared at each other.

Finally, “I’m sorry. Razz, is it? Thank you for welcoming me.”

Welcoming? It took all of Razz’s willpower not to look at her battered door. “Anything for Bright Moon’s Queen.”

“It’s funny you should say that.” The Queen held out her hand, and the guard passed her a tablet. She flipped through a few virtual pages. “You’re ignoring my order to evacuate the Liminal Woods.”

“Well, almost anything, then.”

“Why?”

“Aside from the fact that it is my home and people, as a general rule, are attached to their homes? Perhaps that it is a queen’s duty to protect their subjects, not force them into retreat?”

“I am protecting you. Everything I have done these past four years has been to protect Bright Moon. It does not please me to ask this of my people, but I must. No one can stay in these woods.”

Razz tutted. She stood and gestured for the queen to remain seated. For a few minutes they were silent as Razz went through the ritual motions of setting out tea for her guest, and a bowl of sugar, and a tourene of honey, and a plate of tiny crumpets seasoned with wild ginger plucked from her lawn. She boiled the water and steeped the leaves and added only a bit of sugar, because she suspected the Queen was not a woman who needed much of that, and when everything was properly done she sat again.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I should’ve had that ready when you arrived. You were saying?”

The Queen ignored the tea. “I said you’re leaving. Today.”

“And why should I do that?”

“Because the Horde is coming.” The queen put the tablet on the table and waved her hand in the air above it. A map appeared, floating serene as you please above the tea. “The Liminal Woods lie on Hordak’s path to Bright Moon. All our attempts to stall them have failed, and—”

“They’ve come before.” It was impolite to interrupt a queen, but it was also impolite to try and kick someone out of their own house, so Razz figured they were even. “They fight, they lose, they leave. So it was, so it will be again.”

“We won’t be here to fight them this time. Bright Moon can’t afford to match the horde soldier for soldier. They eat their losses like a rich meal, while we mourn every single death. Facing them on even terrain is a fool’s errand.”

“We outnumber them. The other princesses will send—”

Now the Queen interrupted. “The other princesses will do nothing. The Alliance is broken. Bright Moon is alone.”

Razz froze. A cold shock passed through her. “But… Plumeria?”

“Gone. Perfuma has sealed them within the forest. They are hiding with their precious trees and planning new peace celebrations.”

“Salineas, then?” Mermista was the first to join the Rebellion. She pledged every drop of water to King Micah. “She couldn’t abandon us.”

“She could. She has.” The Queen stood and took up her helm. The crown of her head nearly brushed Razz’s ceiling, so she refrained from putting it on just yet, but she made her way to the door. The guard stepped aside for them, and Razz followed her out.

Night had fallen in the Liminal Woods. Stars intruded on the eastern sky, thought not near the horizon, where the sickly glow of the Horde’s capital chased away darkness at all hours. The trees whispered their evening song as the wind danced through them.

“Mermista has closed the gate to her kingdom.” The Queen’s voice had lost its anger, its edge. She recited the turns against Bright Moon with all the emotion of an accountant summing figures. “So too Dryl, and the Kingdom of Snows. They’ve all forsworn their oaths to King Micah, for he is dead. He fell in battle three days past.”

The breath fled from Razz’s lungs. She closed her eyes. When she could finally speak, it was only to whisper, “I’m sorry.”

No answer. The queen stared at the eastern horizon for long minutes. She might have been a statue – Razz couldn’t even see her breathe.

A faint, distant thunder broke the silence. They all turned to follow it. The same scout aircraft from before, perhaps, invisible now in the dark of night.

“Do not mourn for him,” Angella said. Each word sounded ripped from her heart. “He died as he would have wanted, fighting for the freedom of all Eternians. He is the luckiest of us.”

Razz was an old woman. Not as old as the immortal Queen, of course, but old still. She felt the centuries creaking in her bones on cold mornings; she sifted through memories like a librarian through a catalogue of books. Some days it took her hours to remember what had happened the day before, so preoccupied was she with events decades ago. And those years had given her the wisdom necessary to see a lie so plainly spoken. And also the wisdom to let it pass unchallenged.

“He is,” Razz said. The words tasted like sawdust. “But we cannot stop fighting now. That will invite the Horde to chase us to the ends of the world.”

“We won’t have to fight them. These woods will become our shield. An impenetrable barrier keeping out our foes.”

Razz looked around at the woods. It was dark, but not so dark she couldn’t make out the tall, stately trunks of each tree. They were beech and maple and ash and there were sycamores in the low areas that filled with water after the rain and atop the hills there were groves of cedar. The most threatening thing about the Liminal Woods was the wild rose bushes that grew in places. A child could walk from one end of the woods to the other in a day.

“I’m not sure they can do all that,” she said.

“Not yet. But they will.”

“What do you mean?” A faint sense of alarm grew within her, crowding out the shock of King Micah’s death. “What are you doing, Angella?”

“I’m doing what I have to.” She reached into her armor, and when she pulled out her hand light leaked from her closed fist, like she had caught a falling star. Its cold glow cast giant shadows on the trees around them. A true fragment of the Moonstone. With it, Angella could wield powers matched only by a handful of beings on all of Eternia.

“Just as you will,” Angella continued. “You will leave the Liminal Woods and let me transform them. They will become our wall, an impregnable barrier behind which Bright Moon may thrive unmolested. And woe to our enemies who trespass within them.”

“Your majesty, no.” Razz laid a hand on the Queen’s arm – it was the highest point she could reach. “This is a mistake. We cannot defeat Hordak by hiding from him. Go back to the other princesses, rally them. They fought for Micah and they will fight for you as well. They just need someone who will lead them. Otherwise the horde will devour us one by one!”

Angella shrugged her off. “My duty is to defend Bright Moon. The other kingdoms must protect themselves. We’ve learned the cost of fighting Hordak, and it is too high to bear. Better this… stalemate, than to constantly bleed.”

“You don’t understand what you’re doing, Angella.” Razz ignored the glare from the guard and stepped in front of the Queen. “These woods aren’t just trees. They are a living part of Eternia, as much its spirit as you or I! There are First One archives here, just waiting the Hero’s return! You would pervert that? Destroy it, twist it into something unnatural? Risk our best chance at defeating the Horde?”

“The Hero.” Angella closed her eyes. “You know, Razz, I once thought Micah might be the one? His spirit seemed so pure. So brave. So kind. Who else could deserve it more? I asked myself that, and the answer is: no one. There is no one left in this fallen world who deserves the Hero’s power.”

“They will come—”

“Then they will be too late!” The Queen’s eyes snapped open and pinned Razz on the spot. “I know you, Razz. I know you are more than just some old woman living in the woods. Don’t think you can deceive me with platitudes and promises of a hero to come. If they were going to save us, they should have appeared by now, before so many died!”

“I…” Razz swallowed. “I am just an old woman, your majesty. Maybe I know something of magic, maybe I do not. But I know for certain that we must have faith that the Hero will return. Not in our time, but in hers. Until then, we must endure. We must fight. We need someone to make the hard choices that—”

“Hard choices?” The Queen barked out a hollow, joyless laugh. “You speak to me of hard choices? I sent my husband to his death! And what have we gained? The loss of our allies, the destruction of our army, and the enemy at our doorstep. I am sick of making hard choices! I only have one left, and it is very easy, and if you will not leave, you will be a part of it!”

The Queen opened her hand. The true fragment of the Moonstone filled the woods with light like the dawn, but it was a cold dawn, silver and empty and cruel. It floated there, contemptuous of gravity, rising higher with each heartbeat, and with each heartbeat its light grew in strength. Soon Razz could not stare straight at it, and she held up a hand to shield her eyes.

“Angella, please!” The air was filled with a roaring whisper, as if all the people in the world were muttering in her ears. The sound swept out from the clearing into the woods. “This is what Hordak wants! To divide us! He wants us to build walls, not just against him, but against each other! These are his tools!”

Angella couldn’t have heard her, not over the cacophony, over the billion whispers pouring out of the Moonstone fragment. But the Queen turned to her nevertheless, and she spoke, and somehow Razz heard.

“Then he is wise.”

And then the time for speech was over, and the time of whispers began. They spilled out from the moonstone without end, a torrent that soaked into the trees, filling them, growing them, twisting them. Making them something greater than they were, something no longer of nature but out of nature, and the woods a wound in the world, a vast, bleeding maw that chattered and whispered and seduced and whispered and rumored and whispered and whispered and whispered until nothing remained in Razz’s mind but whispers and the promise given by Queen Regent Angella, Master of Bright Moon, First of the Immortals and the world’s last, best hope against the Horde. And that promise came true.

She became a part of the woods.
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#1 · 1
· · >>QuillScratch
Alternate Title: The Thin Green Line

I feel a bit conflicted about "The Master's Tools," and not in the way you may be thinking.

I've read this story twice now, and every time I read it I come out ultimately mixed about it; yet after a certain amount of time I remember the good bits far better than the bad bits, until I read it again and think, "Oh, right..."

An explanation is in order.

First, some unapologetic dick-sucking: this story has the best opener of any of the entries this round. Easily. Not to say the others are bad, but while you can try to argue one of the others is better, you'd be fighting a losing battle. The opening paragraph of this story is beautiful and yet foreboding as hell. I don't even need to quote all of it; if you've read it, you know how good it is.

I will try to sum up why I love it, though. I love how at the very beginning you think it's going to be a lame-ass description of the weather, which is something too many fanfics (even good ones) are guilty of; but then it turns out the thunder is not coming from nature, but from the enemy. From a distance we are given a description of war and terror, and while we don't see any fighting happen Lord of the Rings-style, we know some serious shit is going down. This is such a great way to let the reader know what the stakes are right from the get-go.

For a good portion of this story, the prose is top-notch, honestly some of the very best of this round. Just take a look at how Angella, whom we know very well from the show, is described in her introduction:

In all the kingdoms of Eternia, the bards sang, there was not a woman so fair as Queen Angella, whose voice could charm a thousand suitors and whose face inspire a thousand sculptors. Never had so rare and radiant a maiden graced the world but that when she was born the First Ones themselves were struck dumb with awe, and they touched Angella with their power, choosing her as one of the new world’s immortal lords. A love-struck angel begged her to take his wings. The sun itself blessed her hair to shine with its own light. The birds fell silent in her wake, ashamed of the feeble worthlessness of their song.


God, it's like seeing her for the first time again. She is so beautiful that even the birds find their tunes inadequate when faced with her beauty. She may be extremely old, yes, but she's also eternal; she'll never grow old. She is, for intents and purposes, a supernatural being.

This is important to bring up, because I suspect that the conversation between Angella and Razz which takes up the bulk of the story is more than just strategy talk, or even strictly a matter of Good vs Evil.

There is a thematic through-line in "The Master's Tools" that, if the author didn't intend it, still acts as a lovely blueprint for the central conversation. Now, you may recall that the battle between Bright Moon and the Horde is one of Good vs Evil, simple kids stuff; in the show it's very much an archetypal fantasy conflict, like Star Wars. What this story does, though, is make it ultimately a battle between the natural and the unnatural, or Nature vs Mankind if you will.

Consider the following exchange between Razz and a random guard:

“How many people are in those?” Razz asked.

The guard shrugged. “Ten, maybe? Sometimes it’s just robots. Either way, good riddance.”

The casual cruelty cut deep. Razz closed her eyes. “Such a loss.”

A snort. “For the Horde. More losses like that and we might’ve won the war.”


In the show, the Horde uses a lot of robots; in fact we see more robots in combat than actual people on the Horde's side. The cynical reason for this is that She-Ra is a cartoon for a little babies, and using robots instead of people will make much of the violence easier to please the censors. But in the context of this story, the forces of Bright Moon being natural and not robotic are put in sharper contrast with much of the Horde's forces, which are man-made.

The eerie unnatural forces at work in the opener only reinforce this: the Horde is an affront to nature.

That might make you think, then, "So does that mean Angella represents nature here? But she's a supernatural being." A-ha, that's what I thought too. Really it would be Razz who represents nature considering, considering where she lives, her lifestyle, and the fact that she becomes attached to the woods (now the Whispering Woods) by the end. Indeed Razz, as a personification of nature, is immediately in danger of the Horde's violence and conquest, and when Angella speaks of her being in danger she is in fact referring to Razz and the greenery that surrounds her.

This leaves a question: How does Angella fit into this?

Going back to the passage of her introduction, Angella is heavily implied to be something that exists beyond both nature and mankind; she, if anything, represents magic. And being beyond the boundaries of the natural and the unnatural, magic can be used by either side, for good or for ill. It goes without saying that Angella wants to use her magic to aid Razz, and by extension the side of nature, which she ultimately does.

The final line is a tad awkward in conveying this, but I'll get to that.

Anyway, my point is that, upon reading this a second time and thinking about it some more, I'm convinced the author was playing on at least two fields here: backstory and allegory. We get a glimpse at what Razz was like before we see her in the show (another character whose lack of screen-time allows for quite a few possibilities, eh?), and we also get what is essentially a debate between magic and nature, with nature resisting the assistance before ultimately giving in. It makes for a bittersweet ending, with a bittersweet message. The natural world in real life could use some magical help, I'm just saying.

Before we jump off the positive train and dive into some things I'm not too keen on with this story, and why I ultimately have some mixed feelings about it, let's talk about how the dialogue is paced.

It would be very easy to veer off into talking heads territory (not Talking Heads, because that would be amazing) with stories like these, where you basically have two characters who sit in a room and argue with each other until one of them inevitably loses or quits. And yeah, you could argue that not much actually happens here, but there are subtle asides nestled beside the lines of dialogue that usually I have a good idea as to how each character (especially Angella) is feeling in the moment.

Take this line, for example:

“Mermista has closed the gate to her kingdom.” The Queen’s voice had lost its anger, its edge. She recited the turns against Bright Moon with all the emotion of an accountant summing figures. “So too Dryl, and the Kingdom of Snows. They’ve all forsworn their oaths to King Micah, for he is dead. He fell in battle three days past.”


You gotta literally read between the lines here (lol), but the way the change in Angella's tone is described before she drops a pretty big emotional bomb on both herself and Razz is pretty great. At first you don't even realize it's happening, but Angella's preparing herself to say something you would not normally say without tearing up, if such a thing happened to you. She's a queen, she's supposed to be regal and stoic, so it makes sense that she would put up this figurative barrier, especially since this is Angella years before the show, and by extension her bonding with Glimmer.

“You don’t understand what you’re doing, Angella.” Razz ignored the glare from the guard and stepped in front of the Queen.


I just like this touch. It's easy to forget the guard is there, so I'm glad the author didn't.

But that's it.

That's about all I've got for positives without quoting a few more specific lines, but considering this review is already well over 1,000 words long (and will become much longer, trust me), I'd say the author has had enough dick-sucking from me.

Now it is time to embrace the jank sprinkled throughout this story...

First, let's get some typos and little inconsistencies out of the way, because frankly these don't matter much; I just wanna point them out so the author can fix them with more ease.

Stars intruded on the eastern sky, thought not near the horizon,


Should be "though."

and the queen was a titan


It cared nothing for the queen's femininity


She stood and gestured for the queen to remain seated.


The queen put the tablet on the table


To be honest, I would normally give zero shits about when people's titles should be capitalized, but there is a consistency issue here, because sometimes Angella is referred to as the Queen, and "Queen" isn't capitalized when you'd think it would be. Most of the time the author capitalized it, but then slipped up occasionally. Just saying.

Bright Moon can’t afford to match the horde soldier for soldier.


This occurs far less often than the "Queen" slip-ups, but it's worth mentioning that the Horde is always capitalized; there is no grey area with this, as far as I can tell.

You know what gets repeated many times, though? Eternia.

Now, I was talking to Gardez in the Discord server not long ago, about this very thing. I defended it because it seemed like the author was mixing a few elements of He-Man into the She-Ra universe, which is what the show would've no doubt done had He-Man not been such a legal hellhole. So at first I considered it a nice touch.

But then I realized something...

Eternia and Etheria are entirely separate planets.

Oh.

Even supposing this was no longer the case, and Eternia got renamed as Etheria at some point, how and why would this have happened? Keep in mind that this story happens before the show, but not too long, since Micah is the father of Glimmer and Micah's death (oh yeah, spoilers, lol) is written as happening very recently here. So the fact that Etheria is consistently referred to as Eternia here leaves me with a few questions. Ultimately I think it's a recurring continuity error; I don't even know what else it could be, now that I'm thinking about it.

It's Etheria, ya dingus!

Okay, enough of that. The bigger problems I have with this story (there are only a few of them, I promise) can be raised in the form of questions.

For one, what exactly is the function of the first scene? Don't get me wrong, I love the opening paragraph, and some lines of prose along with the aforementioned lines from the guard, but doesn't this feel a bit awkward? I always forget that this story is two scenes and not one, because the first is short and expository, and I get this feeling that you could combine these two scenes into one in a relatively seamless fashion. Would also introduce Angella sooner.

Second, what exactly is the relationship between Angella and Razz? We know a decent deal about them, and we can tell from a few lines of dialogue that Angella knows Razz is not an ordinary woman, but my idea as to the history between them is pretty foggy. Some extra context would help here, along with a couple other areas, like the reason why there's a war going on in the first place.

Third, is the "Hero" supposed to be He-Man or She-Ra? This goes back to the questionable He-Man connection, perhaps the one thing where I'm honestly not sure what the author was going for whether it was a success or not. Considering how distracting it is and how many questions it raises about the world and mechanics of this story, though, I can't exactly call it a success myself. This is what I mean by context being absent in parts where it should really be there to clear things up.

There are several lines of dialogue, particularly from Razz, that I can't help but find... stilted? Unintentionally humorous? They don't seem natural to me, and I don't remember Razz sounding this unnatural.

Get a load of this gem, to see what I mean:

“This is what Hordak wants! To divide us! He wants us to build walls, not just against him, but against each other! These are his tools!”


This line... is hilarious. To me. Not only does it bring to mind a certain real-life figure, but it partly drops the title of the story at the very end with all the grace of a fucking sledgehammer. I feel like it's bad, but it's also pretty funny.

The final line is also a tad weird to me. Combined with the previous paragraph it sounds like Angella became part of the woods, but it's actually supposed to be Razz.

And that's about all I have to say about "The Master's Tools," holy shit. Over 2,000 words, and I haven't even gotten to the entries that have considerably more going on in them yet. God help me...

But overall, I quite like this story. It has some of the best prose this round, some of the best pacing once you get past the first scene, Angella is written here with a kind of subtlety I wish the show had more of, the subtext of the conflict is juicy and even poetic, the character interactions are more believable and even poignant, and I find myself quite enjoying it whenever I think about it after the fact.

Reading it is a bit of a mixed bag, though. It could use more polish in terms of consistency and pacing, and the exposition could use some serious smoothing out. I'm still curious as to what the author intended by the He-Man connections, but I don't think they were successfully executed.

Aw well.

Best of luck, and I can guarantee this a good spot on my slate.

It's a very small slate, but I hope the sentiment still counts.
#2 ·
·
Author, there's an idea you use a couple of times in this entry that I really, really wanted to see you make more of, despite the fact that it's really rather irrelevant to the story you're telling:

Razz had heard that word before. It seemed a useless distinction – if magic and technology could both give life to metal and set it flying through the air, what was the difference? She’d grown old enough now to understand that small-but-glaring differences could mask enormous but subtle similarities.


I could talk about the Clarke-esque message here, but I think we really need to focus on the context of this piece as a She-Ra fanfic to fully get the most out of it. I don't think it can be disputed, especially after Entrapta's change of allegiance, that She-Ra portrays a war of magic against technology, of nature against machine. It's there as a core aesthetic reminder that the Princesses are Good because they are Natural, and the Horde is Bad because they are Not, and as blunt as this tool is in the show it's certainly not a bad shorthand for the nature of the war (think back to the opening shot of the show, where natural landscape gives way to a vast, imposing, industrial complex—this aesthetic literally sets the tone for the show).

So when I saw this first reference to this idea, I wanted very much for this story to at least attempt to peel back the covers on the war itself, and to unmask the "enormous but subtle similarities" between the two sides of the war in some significant way, even if only metaphorically. And I think you have the very beginning of that in your penultimate paragraph, author, with the beautifully unnatural descriptions of birth of the Whispering Woods—if this is a motif you want to build on, I thoroughly recommend tying this paragraph in some way to the Horde's transformation of the Fright Zone, or to foreshadowing of Entrapta's own wrecking of the balance of Etheria.

With that out of the way, I'll admit that I struggled with this piece. And I'm not wholly sure why—to me, the writing seems perfectly fine (there are some fantastic gems in there, and I'll touch on one in a minute), but I just couldn't find myself gripped by it. Do you need a stronger hook? Perhaps. As much of a fan as I am of these more laid-back, quiet openings, perhaps they do need to be followed up by something stronger to keep the reader invested, and in this case I think it would help a lot.

I want to take a moment to talk about a few specific quotes from the piece that I think are either brilliant, or places that could use more work. And what better place to start than with one that >>No_Raisin has already praised:

“Mermista has closed the gate to her kingdom.” The Queen’s voice had lost its anger, its edge. She recited the turns against Bright Moon with all the emotion of an accountant summing figures. “So too Dryl, and the Kingdom of Snows. They’ve all forsworn their oaths to King Micah, for he is dead. He fell in battle three days past.”


Except unlike Raisin, I don't like this. Don't get me wrong, Raisin is right about the strengths here, and I think it's an excellent idea to give us that pre-buffer of emotion as Angella prepares herself. But I'm not convinced that "She recited the turns against Bright Moon" is the right line to go with, here, if only because you then go on to recite the turns against Bright Moon. You tell us that she does something, and then show us her doing it, and for me, at least, that creates a redundancy here. Can you create the same effect Raisin describes without that? I think so, and I think it'd be well worth exploring.

They spilled out from the moonstone without end, a torrent that soaked into the trees, filling them, growing them, twisting them. Making them something greater than they were, something no longer of nature but out of nature, and the woods a wound in the world, a vast, bleeding maw that chattered and whispered and seduced and whispered and rumored and whispered and whispered and whispered


Look, author, I don't like the ending of this entry, but this little bit right before it? Almost perfect. I am currently trying to avoid keysmashing in excitement over that use of "vast, bleeding maw" imagery with the whispering motif (no, fuck it: safasdasgfdsdsgsfgdsfs that's so goooooooooood), and my everlasting love of anything remotely resembling stream-of-consciousness has me almost drooling over the end of that quoted section. I'd love to see you do more with this, author: is there anything stylistic you can do here, beyond the repetition, to give that stream a more whispered feeling? Because honestly I have no idea if you can, but I'd love to see you try. I'm also a little bit put out by the sentence break here, because "Making them something greater than they were" is a weak fragment to open with (even when we're heading towards stream-of-consciousness, and here that's because you transition via a coordinating conjuction, which sets that first bit of the sentence up to be a main clause when it isn't), but you follow it up with the gorgeously-worded "something no longer of nature but out of nature" so I'll quite happily forgive you for that.

But then we get to the ending and I no longer quite know what to think. I'm honestly still a little confused as to what's happening, here: like Raisin, I wasn't sure who was becoming part of the woods (close reading has me agreeing that it's probably Razz, but it's the big ol title that threw me), but I'm also not wholly sure why. When I first read this piece, very disconnected and struggling to engage with it, my initial reaction was "oh, huh, it must be a voluntary sacrifice as a conclusion of a character arc"... but it isn't. In fact, it very much sounds like Razz becomes part of the woods entirely without her consent, and narratively that just throws me. I can't read this as even a remotely satisfying conclusion, author (nor even as a tragic conclusion, which by their very nature are unsatisfying but at least in an appealing way). Am I reading this wrong? I'm very interested to know what you were going for with this ending, author, because if you wanted me to feel deeply unsatisfied, you're gonna have to do more to sell to us that that was your intent.

Honestly, I want to try and unpack more things in this story, because looking back over it now there are so many places where it just misses the mark on something for me, but I also know I don't have long to review the others so I'm just going to wrap it up here with an invitation to discuss other passages in detail in chat sometime, author. I know I've been a bit overwhelmingly negative here, author—just consider me to have seconded all the nice things Raisin has said above, though, because this story has a huge bunch of promise and some gorgeous little details in the text that slow the piece down and ground it in the people present in a way that just seems very Razz to me. I think it could do with a little work (but then, what writeoff entry couldn't?), but I am certainly glad I read it—mostly because it's got me thinking about the cool motif I opened this review with. Thanks for entering!