Hey! It looks like you're new here. You might want to check out the introduction.

Submitted for Your Approval · She-Ra Short Story ·
Organised by QuillScratch
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
A Stab in the Dark
"And this is why Salineas is so well protected…"

Catra ignored Octavia's grumbling voice as she concentrated on trying to catch up with the homework Shadow Weaver had given her. Who needed to learn about stupid coast cities that would fall to the Horde by the time she graduated anyway? No. She needed to impress Shadow Weaver to prove to her that she was just as good as Adora. Besides, she'd heard there were some refresher courses once you made captain, so really, what was the point of learning that stuff now?

"I heard Shadow Weaver say that her anniversary of her 'greatest magical achievement' is coming up."

Catra's ears twitched, and she looked up from her pad. "Really?" she asked. Even though she knew Shadow Weaver cared for her as well as for her best friend, she still always heard about news and plans from Adora rather than her mentor herself.

The blonde girl nodded, a grin spreading across her face. "So she gave me a project!"

Glancing around to make sure Rogelio, Kyle, and Lonnie—who were closest to them—were occupied taking notes, and that Octavia was not looking their way as she scribbled things on the whiteboard and muttered to herself, Catra leaned in closer to Adora. "What kind of project?"

"She wants me to do a "clean up" of one of the old Horde areas," Adora explained, "something about wayward inconveniences."

Catra's eyes widened. That was a LOT of work for a single person to do alone. But together... "Hey…" she whispered, glancing to the front to make sure Octavia wasn't listening, "you think I could help you with it?"

Adora blinked. "You want to?"

"I mean." Catra felt a bit of a chill building at the base of her neck, and licked her lips nervously. Maybe Shadow Weaver hadn't asked her to do it too, and she usually got angry if she interrupted, but this was a big deal, right? 'Surely she wouldn't mind?' "What about we do it together? As a team?"

Adora's eyes studied her and she nodded slowly, a smile growing on her face. "I think that's a great idea!" she whispered back. "If we work on it together, there's no way it's not going to be awesome!"

Catra felt a confident smirk building up. "I know. I thought of i—" She jumped when a tentacle slammed onto her desk.

"Are you too busy to pay attention, brat?" Octavia asked.

"I uh…"

"Having to train you lot is bad enough," the octopus hybrid said, leaning in to stare at her up close with her one eye. Her breath smelled of fish. "But having to deal with rejects like yourself that can't even pay attention is worse."

"Hey, that's not—"

Octavia's head snapped away from Catra, focusing on Lonnie. "Did I say you could speak?"


"Well, you can now," Octavia said, straightening up. She smiled cruelly. "Tell the reject that she should be paying attention in class."

"U-um, Catr—"

"I said," Octavia repeated, "to tell the reject to pay attention in class. Unless you want all of you to get some extra… homework."

Catra and Lonnie looked at each other. The human girl gulped, lowering her eyes apologetically. "P-pay—"

"Don't do it, Lonnie!" Adora spoke up suddenly, pushing back her chair and standing up. "You don't need to be so mean, Octavia."

Octavia growled and glanced at the blonde girl, serrated teeth showing clearly through her snarl. "I didn't ask you to intervene, brat!"

"It's not right!" Adora insisted. "I'm the one that distracted Catra, I should be getting punished, not her!"

"Bullshit!" Octavia snapped. "We all know that Catra is the problem one. If it was your fault, I would have punished you. But I didn't, so the blame falls on her."

"Only because Shadow Weaver would eat her hide and spit it out for picking on her personal pet," someone whispered.

Octavia whirled, eyes centering on Kyle and Rogelio, who had carefully blank faces. She looked around the classroom at the other cadets, all of whom were studiously looking at the whiteboard, the roof, their notes… everywhere but her. "Who said that?"

Catra ignored the rest of Octavia's rants. She didn't need the older captain-to-be cadet's approval after all. There was only one person she cared to impress in all the Horde, and this was her chance.

Octavia's fist slammed on the desk, making Catra jump, hair standing on end, tail straight. "I said—" she growled "—you're all going for a run!"

Catra glanced outside through one of the small windows. "But the storm—"


"Alright! Alright!" Catra followed the other grumbling cadets outside until they reached one of the hatches, which Octavia opened. The blast of cold air and rain hit them all hard in the face and chilled her despite her fur. The wind howled just outside, with the rain going almost horizontally with the strong winds. In the distance, thunder rumbled threateningly.

Octavia shouldered past all of them and stepped into the rain, turning to grin at them, completely unbothered by the inclement weather. "Well then, cadets! Since you don't have the time to learn with your brains, you'll learn with your bodies. Run! Three laps around the main structure!"

One by one the cadets stepped outside and started splashing away.

"I hate her," Catra muttered, leaning into the warm water pouring from the shower. Through the steam she could see the shapes of several other female cadets, all them shivering as they jumped into the warm water. She hissed as the warm liquid hit a spot where she had scraped her skin when she had slipped and fallen into the mud. "Who does she think she is? Making us run in that weather?"

"A graduate," Lonnie said to her left. "Although how they let her be the one to train us will forever remain a mystery. She barely passed her own test."

A loud sneeze made her glance worriedly to her left. "You okay, Adora?"

Adora cleaned her nose and stepped under the warm water of the shower, sighing in contentment as it visibly washed the grime and mud from her body. "Yeah… I think I'm fine," she said, grabbing a bar of soap and starting to lather her arms up. "This shower should definitely help."

"We should be thankful she thought the laps were enough," Lonnie said as she washed her head. "But really, I thought things could only get better after Grizzlor got sent to oversee Horde bases in the disputed territories." She sighed. "Instead, we have fish face."

"I wish I could meet the idiot that assigned her to teach us," Catra muttered, extending her claws. "I'd share my thanks with them."

"Maybe you shouldn't," Lonnie said, "I mean, Octavia already hates you for scratching her eye out. I'd think antagonizing other higher ranked Horde soldiers would be a bad idea."

"It was self-defense!"

"She's blind in one eye forever." Lonnie shrugged, looking away. "No matter the reason behind it, she's going to hate you for it."

Adora sneezed. "I think Lonnie is right, Catra," she said, sniffling. She turned around so that the warm water was cascading onto her back and shoulders. "She already doesn't like us, and we're only a couple of months away from the final test to become officers. If we can put up with her for just a little longer, we'll never have to worry about her again."

Catra didn't like how that made it sound like was somehow her fault. "Fine. Whatever." She crossed her arms. "It's not like she matters."

"At least we got lucky and she forgot her homework threat," Lonnie added, turning off her shower. "I'm heading back. See you two later."

Catra huffed, but also turned off her shower and waited for Adora to do the same. She frowned, noticing how her friend was still breathing heavily. "Are you okay Adora?"

"I'm alright," Adora said. "Come on, I just need to rest."

"I keep telling you, Adora," Catra said grabbing a towel and drying her hair, still trying to keep an eye on her. "Cardio. You really need more cardio."

"Right." Adora yawned. "What I need is sleep. Come on. We'll have a lot of work tomorrow to get that stuff done for Shadow Weaver."

Catra's mood improved immediately. She could feel the tip of her tail twitching in anticipation. "Oh yeah."

"Oh, no." Catra muttered. "No." She helped Adora turn to lay flat on her back, leaning back with the subsequent coughing. "Nonononono."

She quickly went through the basics, setting her friend up a little more into a seating position so she could breathe easier, and checked her temperature. "Oh, no."

"You're saying that a lot," Adora wheezed.

"You're burning!" Catra hissed, pushing Adora back down when she tried to get up. "Stay down. I need to call the medic."

She bit her lip. This was so stupid. Adora was sick and now they wouldn't be able to do that assignment for Shadow Weaver. She sucked in breath. 'No, that's not important. Adora is more important,' she thought.

"But the project…"

Catra's ears twitched. She looked down at Adora, who was struggling to stay awake. "What about it?"

"I know it's important to you."

'Oh, &#$@ me sideways,' Catra thought, looking down at her best friend. She felt warm and stupidly happy for someone that was supposed to be panicking about Adora's well-being. She swallowed. "There's nothing we can do."

Adora turned and nodded to her footlocker. Catra jumped over her and landed gently next to it. Opening it up, Catra found a pad. She looked up to Adora.

"It has the location of where the cleanup needs to be done."

"We're supposed to do it together," Catra muttered, pressing the pad against her chest. She looked up when she felt Adora's hand on her shoulder.

"No." Adora shook her head. "I'm supposed to do it on my own."

Catra frowned, looking down and away.

"But if she thinks I can do it," Adora continued in between wet coughs, "that means you can too. I have faith in you."

There were times when Catra liked Adora. And then there were times when she really loved Adora. "I'm still calling the medic."

Adora smiled weakly and gave her shoulder a squeeze before letting her go. Catra quickly made her way to the transmitter next to the door and called the medical office.

Shadow Weaver's voice echoed in the silent ruins.

"In the Northern Sector of the Fright Zone, there is a structure unlike anything the Horde has constructed. It's an ancient altar, predating the arrival of the Horde by several centuries. To my knowledge, only one member of the original inhabitants remains alive. But that is not relevant to your current mission.

Within this structure, you will find a wall that has been destroyed. Follow it down and find the guardian. Obtain the treasure it protects and come back to me."

Catra stood in front of the half-collapsed stone building. The ruins were clearly old. Much older than all the metal and tubes and broken cables that had been piled on top of it as the Fright Zone had grown around the remains of the structure. From the look of things, it seemed to have been at some point the origin of the Horde's city, with old technology slowly evolving into new, then leaving it behind as the whole headquarters expanded around it.

She carefully stepped in, eyeing the broken columns and collapsed rock warily, as if the shadows would reveal any sign of life within the dusty structure. The walls were all decorated with old paintings of the people that she assumed used to live here. It looked… grand-er once she was inside, and it had probably been intended to impress visitors, but that was hard to accomplish given its diminutive size in comparison with the monolithic technology of the Horde around it. Once you took that away… yeah, it looked more impressive.

She followed the wall carefully until she found the place that Shadow Weaver had described. A caved-in hole that went deeper and deeper until everything faded into darkness even to her eyes. She couldn't smell much from within, only musty dirt and… not much else. Still, Shadow Weaver had said that there was a guardian of some sort in there, so she wasn't going to pretend she was safe.

This might be Horde territory—and she might be a cadet for the Horde—but it had many dangerous secrets that would kill you if you weren't careful… or were just being stupid. "This is stupid," she muttered, crossing her arms and starting to pace back and forth in front of the tunnel. "This is not even my mission, all I need to do is go back. I'll tell Adora that I was just worried about here, and that's all. Shadow Weaver doesn't care about what I do anyway. She always says I'm lazy and just making excuses."

She stopped in front of the collapsed wall, feeling a breeze creep past her ankles and make its way out of the depths below. Ears flattened she gazed accusingly at the waiting tunnel. "Gah! Adora, why did you have to get sick? This is so stupid! You should be here so we could go down there and kill whatever needs killing and Shadow Weaver can just shower you with praise and pretend I'm just a decoration."

'But if Adora is not here and I do it all… can she really still say that?' Taking a long, deep breath to calm herself, Catra squared her shoulders and made her way into the tunnel, carefully measuring every step, and sticking close to the walls. After a few minutes of absolute darkness, she slowly realized that it was getting progressively lighter.

She descended more and more until, surprisingly, she reached another stone hallway, in a much better state than the room above. Small shafts, presumably reaching all the way to the surface, allowed thin rays of light to reach the hallway, which was by no means fully illuminated, but she was able to actually see around her almost clearly.

Something was up ahead. She could feel it moving, even if she couldn't see it or hear it yet. There was some sort of presence lurking in the depths of the cavern, somehow still alive after this whole place had been overtaken by the Horde. Catra hadn't paid much attention to history class. All she knew was that there was some old kingdom that had bent the knee when Hordak had arrived. And that was it.

It had been the smart thing to do. Probably. "I mean," she whispered to herself as she slowed down and crouched, "they're still alive, right? Or one of them is, in any case. Better one than none."

She reached the end of the hall and stopped completely, looking into a vast cavern from the relative safety of the hallway. It was some sort of temple-like structure, with a raised dais directly opposite from her, where some sort of altar stood. It seemed to be designed to hold something large in it, but it was currently empty. "That can't be right," Catra whispered. "Why would Shadow Weaver send me—I mean, Adora—all the way here if whatever was here is already gone?"

No. There had to be a clue. Some sort of hint in the room. It was too quiet for her to just jump in, especially after feeling that presence earlier. The walls.

She switched sides within the entrance to the room to study as much as she could. Several large, crystalline structures decorated the top of the room, glowing slightly red. Sunlight seeped through a larger white crystal at the top of the cavern-turned-temple, illuminating the room and giving her a clear the complex drawings on the walls themselves. They depicted several people, all bowing to their king and queen, who sat on thrones right in front of…

"The Black Garnet?" Catra's whisper was accompanied by dawning realization of where she was, exactly. 'This is the room where they used to keep it! Hordak took it from here and gave it to Shadow Weaver!'

"But what else could she possibly want from here?"

As if answering her question, she noticed a small glint of red on the altar. She narrowed her eyes, focusing. It was… a silver chain, with some sort of gem embedded in it. It was almost black, reminding her of the Black Garnet itself. She glanced around, but there was nothing else of value that she could see, and the mission was very clearly about obtaining something that was being guarded.

But what kind of guardian did that pendant have? She remained still, but couldn't hear anything, and the presence she had felt earlier had quieted completely. There was nothing. No noise, no shifting… other than her own. And yet, there was a sense of anticipation. 'But is it real? Or is it just my imagination?' she thought. She tried to calm herself. The pendant was right there, tempting her with its shiny surface, the way it glittered and drew her in.

She gulped taking a few silent steps back. And then she was running the last few feet into the room, jumping through as fast as she could, rolling on the floor and dashing instinctively to her left just as something smashed the ground right where she had landed. A chittering sound made her hair stand on end, and she barely had time to scream before something large and hard slammed into her, sending her sprawling until she smacked against a rock formation. She coughed and rolled, again barely avoiding whatever had attacked her initially. She glanced at the rock formation… it was gone. Scrambling to her feet, she took off towards the walls, taking a running leap to grab onto a crack on it and then jumping to the next when that exploded into pieces, using her claws to climb higher onto a ledge—and hopefully out of reach—before glancing down at what had attacked her.

"What the hell are you?!" She glared at the creature below her. 'How did it even get here? The Horde should have killed that thing! Is this the stupid guardian Shadow Weaver wanted Adora to kill?'

Giant insects were nothing new. She hadn't faced many, save for the odd creature captured by the Horde on the outskirts of the Whispering Woods, but they were more beetle-like. This thing was… it had pincers and a giant tail with a stinger, and chitin armor and had eight legs like a spider, but spiders shouldn't have tails and pincers!

The creature didn't follow her, choosing to remain in place, but it was ready to attack: its body was tense, and the pincers held forth half open, with its tail raised. She could see a bit of venom glistening on the very tip of the stinger. Around it, she could see the several spots where it had tried to impale her, missed and instead cracked the stone with the sheer power of its strike.

Catra half-walked, half-crawled along the ledge she had reached, and below her, the monster followed her movements, turning around to face her. She noticed its tail would twitch whenever she made a sudden motion or start moving towards the altar. "I wonder how much control you have over that?"

Slowly a plan formed in her mind, and she smirked. It was risky but she might be able to do it. Catra crawled around the edge until she was at the right angle for her plan to come into effect. The guardian was facing her still, and just behind and to the right of its tail, she could see the altar. She licked her suddenly dry lips. 'Shadow Weaver better appreciate this,'

"Alright bug," she growled, "let's see if you can handle this!"

The bug's pincers and tail twitched again when she set of running along the ledge, it's legs clattering on the floor as it turned fast to follow her movements, but it was reacting, rather than anticipating, and that was exactly what Catra wanted. She moved faster, timing her next move… when the opportunity presented itself, she took a mighty leap, just as the bug finished repositioning to face her. But it was too late for it.

She sailed over its pincers and landed hard right between its eyes. Without wasting a second, she pivoted and launched herself to the right, straight at the altar, just as the creature's stinger smashed into its own skull, cracking through the exoskeleton. The bug screeched for the very first time, ripping its tail from its head and curling onto itself as the damage and poison took their toll.

Catra panted as she turned around from the thrashing creature and studied the pendant she had found. It was silver and the gem in the middle shone with power. Surely a prize worthy of Shadow Weaver's approval.

She glanced at the bug, who had stopped moving completely and grinned.

Adora was looking much better when Catra arrived. She slowed down when she noticed that they weren't alone. Shadow Weaver stood next to Adora's bunker bed.

Slowly, Catra made her way into the room, anticipation building within her.

"What do you want, Catra?" Shadow Weaver asked, making her flinch and look away. "Can't you see I'm speaking with Adora?"

"Catra?" Adora turned to face her, smiling weakly. "You made it?"

Remembering what she was bringing with her, Catra straightened and nodded. She smirked confidently and raised her hand, showing both of them the pendant.

"Where did you get that?" Shadow Weaver asked, her voice almost a whisper.

"Catra offered to help me with my mission," Adora explained from where she lay. "We were planning to go together this morning but… well, I got sick."

"I see." Shadow Weaver hovered forward, taking the pendant from Catra's hand. "So you went on your own, into the abandoned Trial Chamber of the Black Garnet…" she said softly. "And the guardian?"

Catra couldn't help but cross her arms and grin. "Dead."

"Most impressive…" Shadow Weaver said, and Catra's eyes went wide.

'This is it! She's finally going to—'



Shadow Weaver had turned away from her, and was facing her friend, who was staring at the Horde's second-in-command in utter bafflement. "This is what it takes to be a true leader. When something happens that you cannot avoid, use your—"she tilted her head to glance briefly at Catra "—assets. A brilliant choice, if I say so myself, to send your minion to do your work for you."

She heard Adora's growl. "Catra's not my minion! She's my friend!" But it didn't help the cold feeling in her stomach, or the deep stab of pain in her chest, as if someone had ripped her heart out.

"Of course she is," Shadow Weaver said in that sickening motherly voice of hers that she only used for Adora, clearly dismissing the complaint. "Of course she is. But let's not take away credit where it's due, alright Adora? You did well, my dear." She raised the pendant to study it in the light. "Now, you rest, and I will put this away."

Catra watched Shadow Weaver leave the room, feeling like she had been chewed by a giant lizard, spat and left on the side of the road to die.


She looked up, feeling numb at Adora, who was looking at her with a worried, hurt look on her face.

"I'm so sorry, when I get better I'll clear it up. You did all the work, I would never—"

"Hey," Catra heard herself say with a laugh, "it's okay. The old hag just…" She gulped. Her usual excuse wasn't coming out as easily as before. "She just—"

Catra didn't finish speaking, she walked up to the bunker and fell to her knees next to it, burying her head into the sheets, feeling Adora's stomach under her and her friend's hand stroking her back.

"I just wanted her to acknowledge me," she said, her hands digging into the sheets as Adora kept stroking her back slowly. "I just wanted her to accept me. I thought… if I did this—"

"I know."

"Why Adora?" Catra cried, giving up on holding her feelings back. She felt the sheet getting wet with her tears, but she didn't care. "All I've ever wanted was her approval!"

"I don't know, Catra."

"What did I do wrong?" she asked again, knowing that Adora didn't know. Adora was too kind. Adora cared. Adora loved her. Shadow Weaver… didn't care.

She didn't listen to Adora's words, her thoughts going to the giant bug she had tricked into stabbing itself. And she wondered if she kept trying to please the old hag… maybe one day she'd know how that felt.

Maybe one day she'd get Shadow Weaver to bring around her own doom.

And then, whoever else stood on their way.

One day. It would be her and Adora… and others would do anything to earn their approval.

The End
« Prev   1   Next »
#1 · 1
I don't recall seeing Octavia before this season, but it stands to reason she came from somewhere, so it's nice to see her here. And good job of working in Catra as the reason for her injury.

Some editing problems here, but not more serious ones than any of the other entries have.

By now, I've looked at who the participants are, and I know I've only got veteran ponyfic writers on the hook. It's really hard to judge these, because they're all good. As people have lamented many times before, it's a shame someone has to come in last, because none of them deserve it. They seem quite even in my eyes. The one about Hordak was one where I understood what the character motivations were, but I didn't have as good a handle on exactly what was happening. The Bow story was the opposite. Here, I understand both. The Hordak story gave me the most unexpected plot.

Anyway, back to this story. I think it could have used a little more gravity to Adora's situation. As it turns out, she just has a one- or two-day bug, so it's not that serious, and I don't know that Shadow Weaver would have been that peeved to wait that long for the mission. Adora didn't communicate that she had a sense of urgency about it. Of course, it may be a case of she was ordered to do it then, so she'd better obey, but some sort of weight behind her need to do it without delay would have helped.

I'm a little surprised this hadn't been dealt with before, or that Catra wouldn't know what to expect there. By now, Scorpia's one of the Horde soldiers, and she should have known, right? She would have been especially equipped to do that mission, too. The guardian might have let her take the pendant uncontested if it recognized her authority over that kingdom. Honestly, just because of the venue, Scorpia seems very conspicuous in her absence. Even as Catra realizes this place is related to the black garnet, Scorpia doesn't get a mention, even though it's in her family's lands.

Having Catra responsible for Octavia's eye is a nice way to make the world seem bigger than the story, like there are other things going on outside the confines of the narrative that would be interesting, but not vital, to know.

I'd like maybe a little clearer establishment of setting at the beginning. You open with dialogue, and in the very next sentence, I get that it was Octavia speaking and Catra listening. Maybe it's my fault for making assumptions, but with Octavia being a season 4 character and this obviously taking place in the Fright Zone, I'm thinking it's present day. So when the next line of dialogue comes, I still don't know that anyone but Catra and Octavia are there. It's not something Catra would say, so it must be Octavia, but it sounds odd for her as well. A couple paragraphs later, you finally mention a blonde girl, but with me still in the present-day mindset, I don't know who that is, and I'm trying to think back to whether Octavia had blonde hair. It's finally evident in the sixth paragraph that Adora is there and this must be happening in the past. Anything you can do right after that first paragraph to clue me in to the time frame or explicitly name Adora as being there would alleviate my confusion.

In all, I like this as a more in-depth look at the favoritism Shadow Weaver showed Adora, and Catra's desperation to earn recognition. The show has mentioned both a number of times, but has never really demonstrated them more than once, and even then, kind of superficially.

It's going to be very tough to rank these stories.

EDIT: Catra being the one who injured Octavia is actually from the show, which is a detail I'd forgotten.
#2 ·
· · >>Wanderer_D
This is a difficult one to review. It hits all the beats that the (rather limited) traditional idea of story structure says it should, so it's sufficient. But that's just the problem: It doesn't really go beyond sufficient.

One of the things fanfiction can do very well is dig deeper into the source material, tease out implications that aren't investigated, show us what isn't there but could be. The emotional core of this story is Shadow Weaver's favouritism towards Adora, and the effect that has on Catra. And there's the problem: It doesn't dig deeper. It just revisits what the show has already given us. I could already see what was going before the fight, because I'd already walked down this route before.

A couple of other issues:

The fight with the guardian starts very abruptly. Not just in the middle of a paragraph, but in the middle of a sentence: “just as something smashed the ground right where she had landed.” It's jarring, and deflates any sense of tension or urgency.

The delivery is incredibly blunt at times. We're only four sentences in when the whole theme is unceremoniously dumped on our heads: “She needed to impress Shadow Weaver to prove to her that she was just as good as Adora.” And at the end, we get another, similar faux pas in Catra's dialogue. Or, rather, three in quick succession: “I just wanted her to acknowledge me,” “I just wanted her to accept me,” “All I've ever wanted was her approval!” When your characters explain your theme, it's like a comedian explaining the joke. It removes pretty much any emotional impact.

The prose is often quite awkward. We get “The blonde girl” referring to Adora, and even “The human girl” referring to Lonnie. The sentence structure is repetitive. In Octavia's confrontation with Catra, we keep getting the form, “‘Dialogue,’ character said, verbing.” A lot of time, it felt like the verbing was unnecessary and could've been cut without the scene losing anything.
#3 ·
>>Scramblers and Shadows Ah, thanks for the observations, I'll make sure to go over the story with those in mind before I post it!

Edit: Ye gods, thanks for pointing out the very real Blonde/Human/etc girl thing I did there. That's what I get for not editing before posting :P