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Majestic Darkness vs. Horrid Light

"If" is such a powerful word. What if the reasonings for our duo were different? What if the personalities of our two favorite females were altered ever so slightly? And most of all, what if Catra became She-Ra?
Synopsis

Playing out as a Role Swap AU of the series, Cat-Ra is a She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Alternate Universe Fic written by Monokub. The fic has Catra take on the role of She-Ra after she finds the Sword of Protection instead of Adora, joining the Rebellion as an Anti-Hero while Adora remains with the Horde. The fic adheres mostly to the show's basic Myth Arc, with each set of chapters sharing the same general plot as their respective episode. However, the drama rises as the finer details and differences pile up and cause the story to diverge more and more from canon, due to a hot-tempered and selfish Catra not exactly being the hero everyone was hoping she'd be, and the kindhearted Adora taking to the role of villain better than anyone could expect.

The story is currently in its fourth season, and can be read here and here. Semi-official fanart by Peterson Muldoon can be seen on his Instagram account here (must have an Instagram account to see).

Features examples of:

  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul:
    • While the general dynamic of Adora and Catra's relationship starts out the same, Adora's Sanity Slippage and Catra's new sense of morality combined with her ruthless nature cause their relationship to become even worse than it was in canon. To the point where, by Season 4, Catra legitimately wants to murder Adora.
    • In canon, Catra's and Frosta's only real interaction was when Frosta punched her in the face. Here Catra and Frosta bond over pranking and develop a sibling-like relationship.
    • In canon, Scorpia considers Catra her best friend and develops a crush on her. Here she and Catra barely know each other and admits she doesn't even know Scorpia's name in "White Out".
  • Adaptation Name Change: The plots of some episodes are altered so much that the titles are changed to better reflect this.
    • "The Battle of Bright Moon" is changed to "No Happy Endings".
    • "Roll With It" is changed to "Princess Royale".
    • "Light Spinner" is changed to "Future Of the Past".
    • "Remember" and "The Portal" is changed to "A Parting Wish".
  • Adaptational Badass: Orbko (aka Emily's Kid Sister), the robot faced in the Season 2 premiere, is more powerful with its learning and shapeshifting abilities than its canon counterpart. It also ends up developing free will, thanks to Entrapta being able to make use of the Kingdom of Snow's resources with Frosta having joined the Horde.
  • Adaptational Protagonist: This is a Role Swap AU exploring What If? it was Catra who touched the Sword of Protection. It would be she who got accosted by Light Shadow's whispers and visions, who would befriend Glimmer and Bow and join the Rebellion, and most importantly, who would become the new incarnation of She-Ra. As such, Catra is now the Chosen One and the protagonist, while Adora becomes the Deuteragonist (with less screen time).
  • Audience Participation:
    • After changing Catra's reaction to the First Ones' virus to acting like an actual cat, Monokub ran a poll about whether the virus' second appearance should do the same thing, or make her act drunk like Adora in canon. Drunk won.
    • For the dream world at the end of Season 3, many of the flashback scenes were submitted by readers.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: As powerful as Orbko is, Entrapta mentions that it would take a mountain of First Ones tech to make more of her. Also, unless provoked, she is completely immobile.
  • Bathos: Once she takes over command of the Horde, Adora attempts to rename herself Despara to reflect her new approach to life, and instill fear and respect. Much to her indignation, none of her friends can take it seriously. Scorpia can barely contain her laughter and even Kyle cracks up over her declaration.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me:
    • After Catra points out to Adora that Thaymor's people are completely harmless, Adora has very serious doubts as to whether The Horde are the good guys like she always believed. However, with the aid of some very serious gas-lighting, Shadow Weaver manages to convince her of The Horde's (obviously false) virtues due Adora's belief that the woman who raised Adora her whole life couldn't possible be lying to her to such a degree. While she does eventually turn on Shadow Weaver, by that time this faith has transferred to The Horde itself, as she swears up and down that they are her family and the good guys, refusing to even humor anyone's claim to the contrary.
    • This ends up becoming Frosta's entire reason for continuing to work with The Horde after a point. After seeing the horrible living conditions in The Fright Zone (which even Adora admits to), the fearmonging The Horde uses on its cadets on top of it strict training, and hearing Entrapta say she's done almost nothing but build weapons, the only reason Frosta doesn't turn her back on The Horde right then-and-there is because she likes Adora specifically and Adora has similar thoughts on family to Frosta. Later subverted as they realize they shouldn't be fighting for a side they don't believe in whatsoever just because of a single person.
    • This causes a problem fairly early on when Catra and her friends visit Perfuma's kingdom. Glimmer gets irritated because Catra is milking the attention for all it's worth, setting up what seems like a plot about how Catra needs to not be so cocky. This crashes hard once Catra can't turn back into She-Ra, and the crowd turns on her, leading to Glimmer learning that the crowd praising her was one of the very, very few times in Catra's entire life that she's actually had praise and positive reinforcement.
  • Black Comedy: Regularly, but a special shout-out to the first episode, which Catra spends part of worrying she hallucinated Light Hope and has permanent brain damage from her fall.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Subverted. As Frosta realizes how much she has actually bonded with Catra and the other princesses, this is what she begins to tell herself as she struggles with what group to side herself with. She eventually admits to herself that the only reason this was even a question is because Adora is a kind person who shares similar views on the importance of family.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him:
    • Catra tries to do this in order to save Glimmer, pointing out to Shadow Weaver that she's unnecessary for the Horde's plans, and insulting Glimmer in hopes she wouldn't try to save her in turn. Glimmer is convinced and is hurt by Catra's cruel words. Shadow Weaver is almost fooled as well, until she realizes the magicat is uncharacteristically avoiding eye contact and hiding her face during the princess's tearfully apology for being a bad friend.
    • Adora does this to Scorpia so she wouldn't get in trouble for trying to break her out of jail, pretending that she was only using Scorpia the entire time and that she wasn't even a halfway decent pawn at that.
  • Broken Ace: Both Catra and Adora can be considered this. Both are skilled fighters who have gained extraordinary powers. But thanks to Shadow Weaver, both have an enormous amount of personal issues that keep them from realizing their full potential. Both seem to have begun to grow out of this by Season 4, though Catra moreso than Adora.
  • Broken Pedestal: Adora suffers this hard towards Shadow Weaver and later Hordak, hastening her own fall to villainy.
  • Broken Tears:
    • Catra cries these after Adora states she will never forgive her.
    • Adora cries these after the pressures of the job get to her.
  • The Bully: Lonnie was a horrible one to Catra in their childhood. Catra naturally is thrilled at the opportunity to pay her back after turning against the Horde, though she can't bring herself to fully commit upon seeing Lonnie similarly fears the dark, realizing she may have also been on the receiving end of Shadow Weaver's abuse. When they meet again later, Lonnie explains the childhood bullying was at the insistence of Shadow Weaver.
  • Cassandra Truth: In "The Princess Royale" (the fic's version of "Roll With It"), Catra explains during a fight with Adora that she was actually the one meant to fall off the skiff and find the sword. Adora immediately deems this to be a flimsy lie and says how unlikely it would have been for the "right" events to occur. Catra admits she has a point.
  • The Comically Serious: Adora is this when she deals Drunk Catra.
  • The Corrupter:
    • Shadow Weaver has to put a lot more work into keeping Adora on her side than Catra, with quite disturbing results.
    • After enough time using the shadow powers, Adora starts seeing a dark version of herself she christens Aroda, who's constantly pushing her to be more ruthless. It's actually a parasite brought out by the Spell of Obtainment trying to completely take her over.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Pretty much sums up Catra's experience as She-Ra. First, Catra finds that the sword only works whenever it feels like it (i.e. almost never when she actually needs it). Then, it starts to continually force her to relive traumatic memories of her past. Come the back half of Season 1, and she learns that she was never supposed to be She-Ra, but she made things go so Off the Rails that she has to become the new She-Ra anyway, dashing her hopes of reconciling with Adora. Not only does she have to come to terms with that, but it also turns out her bond with it is incredibly fragile and affected by her emotional state, meaning the Hair-Trigger Temper Catra has to reign in her feelings or else risk irreparably damaging the Sword of Protection and losing the power of She-Ra all together. To say Catra is unhappy about all of this is an understatement.
  • Darker and Edgier: Between the brutality of Adora's shadow powers and the Horde being even more powerful thanks to having access to the Frost Kingdom's resources, the fanfic is definitely darker than the canon series.
  • Dirty Coward: Discussed. Adora eventually comes to this conclusion about Catra in her own version of the iconic scene from "Promise," believing Catra was never a true friend, using her purely as a scapegoat in order to cause trouble and get out unscathed. For her part, Catra is adamant that she and Adora's friendship was real, but completely recognizes that this was terrible behavior and is remorseful about it.
  • Doorstopper: Monokub just can't help himself from making each episode several quite sizable chapters. As of August 2020, the story consists of 1,456,237 words over 130 chapters. It becomes a bit downplayed in Season 4, thanks to the tighter episodes not giving as many opportunities for new material.
  • Enemy Mine: Zigzagged. Shadow Weaver tries to invoke this with The Rebellon when she escapes to Bright Moon at the start of the third season. When she first appears to Catra, the magicat just tries to kill her. She stops when Shadow Weaver is finally able to get a word in and explain why sought out Catra... only for her to become amused and redouble her efforts, only being stopped by the others. Only once Catra calms down the next day do they accept whatever intel and advice she has.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While Shadow Weaver planned to use the shadow band to corrupt Adora, she was horrified to learn that the parasite that infected her now infected Adora.
  • Fake Relationship: Bow and Catra pretend to be dating in the fic's version of "Reunion", with Catra additionally weaving a tale about Glimmer also having a crush on him.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Part of the reason Catra was able to see through Aroda's fake Adora during the doppelgänger fight was because she forgot to give that one a shadow.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Catra falling down the hole instead of Adora is a foreshadowing of them swapping fates in the fic.
    • The glitched messages and forced flashbacks that the First Ones' sword gives Catra throughout the first season, as well as her inability to transform with it reliably, were all signs that she isn't The Chosen One.
    • During "Flutterina", we occasionally switch to the titular character's POV. Her thoughts are exactly what you'd expect from a young girl, foreshadowing that the fic would pull a Not His Sled at the end of the episode.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Aroda takes over the author's notes during the alternate reality at the end of Season 3.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: The reason that Lonnie bullied Catra since they were little is under Shadow Weaver's influence. When Lonnie tells this to Catra, she isn't convinced and refuses to forgive her.
    Lonnie: She scared us and pushed us in ways that were exhausting! And as bad as it was, she said it would only be a taste of what would happen if we let anything happen to Adora because of you!
    Catra: She made you... fear her?
    Still, having this in mind did nothing to quell the anger in Catra's heart as she stomped over to her. With a seemingly-calming hand on her shoulder, she caught Lonnie off guard as she grabbed her shoulder again harshly, throwing her into the crates and caring for naught as they tumbled on top of her.
    Catra: Oh, well that just makes it all better then, huh? You guys decided to pick on me throughout all my life, made my life miserable, JUST so you could have an easier one?
    Saying it alone was enough to leave a bad taste in her mouth. Feeling it was an entirely different story.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Shadow Weaver spends the first season manipulating Adora with the intent of making her more cruel and ruthless. As such, when this newly hardened Adora realizes what kind of person Shadow Weaver is, she betrays her to Hordak without a second thought while giving her a brutal Breaking Speech.
    Shadow Weaver: I've created a monster.
    Adora: No, you've created your replacement.
    • Orbko was designed to learn from and adapt to any obstacle that interfered with its mission, and the results far surpassed Entrapta's expectations. Unfortunately, when its priority to defend itself and its orders not to harm Frosta come into conflict, it decides that its own programming is an obstacle and overwrites it to reclassify Frosta as an enemy.
  • How Do I Shot Web?:
    • Catra has a much harder time getting the sword to work. It turns out she was never meant to have it.
    • In Season 4, Adora is able to copy the powers of anyone she touches, with a very strict learning curve.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Catra has an even bigger one than in canon - on the one hand, she's She-Ra, on the other hand, all of her issues about never measuring up are only aggravated by this (especially when it turns out she's technically not She-Ra, but rather an instance of Closest Thing We Got), and so she develops an even more showy attitude to cover up her insecurities.
  • Inner Thoughts, Outsider Puzzlement: Whenever the sword forces Catra to relive a memory, no matter where she is or what she may be doing, it causes her to stop that activity and instead stand completely still and stare off into space, to the minor concern of others. Catra even uses this to her advantage at one point, pretending to do this while fighting Adora in "No Happy Endings" so she can sneak in a free hit while Adora's guard is lowered.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Aroda. Her existence in the fic is a large reason the story is darker than canon. She pushes Adora to be even more dangerous than canon Catra and Adora could ever be, made Shadow Weaver an even worse parent and rotted away Adora's body and soul.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Like in canon, the universe forms one of these in order to distract everyone from the fact it was being destroyed at the end of Season 3. Notably, Catra doesn't know where her paradise scenario came from once she comes to her senses, as she never wished for a family. Turns out it was Queen Angella, who had come to view Catra as a second daughter and had wondered what it would be like if she actually grew up as such.
  • Master of Disguise: As in canon, Double Trouble is very good at impersonating people and approaches Catra under three different identities with her none the wiser to prove just how effective their shapeshifting is.
  • Misery Builds Character: Shadow Weaver's second reason for constantly treating Catra poorly, as she tells Glimmer. Shadow Weaver believed that Catra's need for validation was the only reliable driving force the magicat had, so withholding it was the best way to make her reach her full potential.
  • Missed the Call: As per canon, Adora was supposed to be She-ra. However, because Catra grabbed the blade, and all the events that spiraled from that, Adora winds up being ineligible for the role.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: This is the major reason why Catra joined the Rebellion. After years of the guards and other adults of the Fright Zone looking down on her and believing her to be a freak, the children doing the same with the adage of constant bullying and harassment, and Shadow Weaver's non-stop mental and emotional abuse, Catra has absolutely no love for The Horde itself.
  • The Mole: Frosta serves as this, allying with the Horde as a result of Catra's terrible behavior at the Princess Prom casing a bad light on the Rebellion in stark comparison to Adora's far more respectful and kind actions.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Many of Catra's actions, intentional or not, have a tendency to ruin things somewhere down the line; from her reckless behavior making situations immediately worse, to her harsh behavior and attitude turning people away (leading Frosta to become a double agent for the Horde), to almost everything surrounding Adora (that wasn't Shadow Weaver's fault, anyway).
  • The Nicknamer:
    • Catra does this a lot, but most notably with Glimmer, who she always calls "Pinky" (because of her pink hair) unless the situation is serious. One of Glimmer's diary entries even has the princess complain about this, questioning why that's the nickname the catgirl went with when her color scheme is mostly purple.
    • Scorpia gives Adora the nickname "Shadowbunny", much to her confusion and minor annoyance.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Despite the fact that the point of attending the prom is to convince Frosta to join the Rebellion, Catra immediately gets off on the wrong foot Frosta by calling her a brat, and continues to cast a poor impression of Rebellion members throughout the rest of the night. Even Catra's attempted apology partway through the festivities is ruined by her once again insulting the child, though that instance was at least prompted by Frosta badmouthing Glimmer.
  • Not His Sled: "Flutterina" ends with The Reveal that Double Trouble has infiltrated the Rebellion disguised as Bow rather than the titular character. Bow is being held captive by Adora in the Fright Zone, while Flutterina is an actual little girl who is excited to join the group.
  • Oblivious to His Own Description: In "The Coronation", Glimmer admits that she's unable to use her powers when asked to get the group out of danger, as her grief over her mother's death has prevented her from feeling comfortable recharging at the Moonstone. When Catra tries to call her out for hiding this information, asking "What kind of person can't use her powers and doesn't tell her friends about it!?", Bow and Glimmer spend several seconds staring at her in irritated disbelief. She doesn't get it.
    Catra: What kind of person can't use her powers and doesn't tell her friends about it!?
    It took her a matter of five seconds before she noticed the silence emanating from her friends before looking back to them, seeing a mix of irritation, boredom, and disbelief as they both raised an eyebrow to her.
    Catra: ... What? ... WHAT?
  • Oblivious to Love: Like in canon, Catra and Adora are completely oblivious to how they feel about each other, despite the many signs. Catra also failed to realize Spinerrella and Netossa are a couple despite seeing them flirting.
  • Obviously Evil: Just like in the show itself, The Horde is this to a tee. It is so obvious that Frosta immediately realizes The Horde's warmongering tendencies when given a tour of The Fright Zone and her faith in them is greatly shaken. Between the fearmongering about the princesses, the conscription at a young age, the capture of peaceful towns, and the mass production of weapons, it seems like Adora is the only one who can't see it. And by the time she does, she no longer cares.
  • One-Word Title.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Oddly enough, the First Ones are guilty of this. Adora was still intended to become She-Ra. Catra was only meant to deliver the Sword of Protection to her. Unfortunately, all attempts to make Catra aware of this are through either corrupted messages that can't be understood at all, or forced memory dives that are easily mistaken as being meant for Catra to self-reflect on. By the time this can be properly conveyed, Adora's heart has become so darkened that she's not worthy to wield it anymore.
  • Power Incontinence: In Season 4, Adora is able to take other people's powers. The downside is that she's thrown into using them with no training and can't control them at all.
  • Real After All: In canon, "Flutterina" was just an identity Double Trouble made up to infiltrate the Rebellion. Here, she actually exists and joins up with the Rebellion at the end of her titular episode.
  • Recursive Fanfiction: Cat-Ra has one in the form of Cat-Ra: Prank Buddies, a side-story taking place early on during the second season (specifically before Frosta's status as The Mole is revealed in "Princess Royale"), written by one of the fic's most prominent reviewers. They wanted to see a story in which Catra and Frosta bond over their shared love of pranking, as the fic only mentions the duo doing so in passing, and Monokub liked the idea so much that they suggested they write it themselves.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: As a side-effect of her Shadow powers, Adora's eyes glow red when she is angry.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Catra does not take being slighted well and will go to great lengths to get revenge on whoever wronged her, regardless of how detrimental it is to her own well-being. Outside her interactions with Adora and the Horde, the best example of this is the episode "Huntara", where after the titular character cuts Catra's claws in addition to stealing the sword, the desperate insanity of her revenge plot (Catra training a giant snake monster to attack her so that, when she summons it later, Huntara will get caught in the chaos) has a terrified Glimmer note that she should warn her mother about how serious Catra takes her claws.
  • Role Swap AU: Naturally, with Catra taking on the role of She-Ra and joining the Rebellion, while Adora stays behind in the Horde and quickly rises in rank.
  • Sadistic Choice: Double Trouble, (as Adora), gives one to Catra. Chase after Adora and the Horde, or stay back and save her friends. Catra naturally and begrudgingly chooses the latter.
  • Secret Test of Character: Adora gives one to Double Trouble when they approach her as Scorpia. Adora tricks them by claiming Scorpia calls her "Sunflower" instead of "Shadowbunny".
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: At the end of "Coronation", both Catra and Adora switch up their looks. Catra is convinced to do so by Castaspella and Shadow Weaver so others will think better of the company Glimmer keeps, while Adora does so as part of a deliberate Evil Makeover and Meaningful Rename.
  • Shout-Out:
    • During the events of "Princess Royale", in addition to her plant golem Imagine Spot from the canon episode "Roll With It", Perfuma fantasizes a "Sailor Moon" parody.
    She-Ra Scouter Perfuma: (to Catra) "Just raise your hand to the sky and shout 'Pretty Princess Power'!"
    • In addition to the old show, Bow's fantasy parodies "Castlevania".
  • Super Senses: This Catra, like canon, has shown to have superhuman hearing. Even whispering 20ft away isn't enough to stop her from hearing you.
  • Take a Third Option: The story's take on the scene in "No Princess Left Behind" where Catra lets Adora go with the sword instead has Adora giving Catra the choice to come back to the Horde, or leave without the sword. Catra manipulates their friendship to give Adora a hug making her think she's coming back, only to steal the sword and run.
  • Take That!: Catra turns the sword into a collar in Season 4, saying that making it a bracelet like Adora did in canon would make it way too easy for an enemy to steal in a fight.
    Catra (to Huntara): "Well, where else would I keep it? Over my arm where it could get cut off?"
  • Too Much Alike:
    • Catra realizes during one conversation that Frosta reminds her of herself at that age. Frosta takes it as a compliment when told this, before Catra explains that this a bad thing, since the attitude she had at the time led to a lot of regretful behavior. As such, she urges Frosta to not repeat the same mistakes she did growing up. The exchange causes Frosta to start treating Catra as a Cool Big Sis, with the duo further bonding over a shared love of pranking.
    • Similar to the show, the main reason Shadow Weaver abused Catra. She states that pretty much everything about Catra's behavior and personality reminds her of herself, a fact neither is exactly fond of. However, she does go on to say that the one aspect that she is proud of Catra for is their shared resilience in the face of adversity, calling it her greatest trait.
    • Part of the reason Catra gets under Angella's skin so much is because of how much Catra reminds her of her own daughter Glimmer.
  • The Unchosen One: Catra. Her limited ability to use the sword throughout the first season was a result of the Finder's Protocol, which allows the holder to use a fraction of the sword's power during their quest to give it to the rightful owner; in this case, Adora. By the time Catra realizes this and decides to fulfill that mission, the sword had already transferred ownership over to her, though the bond is still a weak one that she must actively work to maintain.
  • Tsundere: Catra is still this, but is better at being nice to people than her canon counterpart, thanks in part to getting things such as "Positive Reinforcement," that she never got in the Fright Zone.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: When she was younger, Monokub!Catra was shown to be way more innocent and kind-hearted than she was shown to be in canon and was also very happy to make new friends. Emphasis on "was", before a trick by Lonnie that ended with Catra being trapped and left scared and crying in a dark cell.
    • This text from Chapter 19 really drives it home:
    In some regards, this was the happiest moment of Catra's life, one where she felt pure joy at the prospect of making new friends and making Adora proud of her again for being able to do this.

    And it would be the last time she ever smiled so innocently.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Glimmer and Catra, thanks to the former's stubbornness and the latter's standoffish behavior often clashing. They never hesitate to help and defend each other, though, which is a major factor as to why Adora first thought Catra was being brainwashed by the princess. Softens up as the two become closer, with Glimmer eventually dropping most of this behavior while Catra eases up on the snark.
    Catra: "Haha, Glimmer. How's my best buddy?"
    Glimmer: "...You're definitely sick, aren't you?"
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Due to staying with the Horde, Adora retains the belief that the Horde are the good guys and that conquering Etheria will make it a better place. However, between her feelings of betrayal concerning Catra, her good intentions starting to backfire on her, and the corrupting influence of her powers, she becomes more and more ruthless in her methods.
  • Wham Episode: The ficís version of Flutterina ends with the reveal that this Flutterina is the real one and that Double Trouble has instead captured and replaced Bow.
  • What Is This Feeling?: Catra is frequently unable to properly articulate a good chunk of her emotions, which when mixed with her standoffish attitude, makes her difficult to read even for her closest allies. At one point, Frosta even muses how Catra is virtually incapable of defining feelings of fondness and friendship after hearing the magicat describe her relationship with everyone as "annoying but tolerable".
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The "1000 Review Special" chapter is a homage to Screen Rant Pitch Meetings, tackling the first two seasons. Similarly to those videos, it sums up the series in a parodic manner, lampshading missed opportunities and where the story didn't quite work.

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