TALES of MINETERNIA
Demonking of Grayskull
By T. F. Cooper (Based on King of Castle Grayskull, by Donald F. Glut)
When Vulnar the Bold struck down the ice dragon, Frigranamyr, ending Eternia's eight million years-long Ice Age, his victory brought great misfortune to the ancient hero's people.
Frigranamyr's fellow dragons, Meranamyr of the Oceans, Dunamyr of the Deserts, Vulcanamyr of the Mountains and Sheenamyr of the Jungles tore apart Vulnar's Ice Mountain kingdom and set it adrift on the Sea of Blackness, where it would never be seen again. Vulnar's warrior brothers defended their floating country fiercely, but were eventually driven off, by their own people, who tired of battle. Their exile purchased a peaceful passage into oblivion for Vulnar's kingdom, but would forever mark their homeland as the Isle of Shame.
The brothers survived their expulsion and founded another kingdom in their grandfather's native Vine Jungles, near Mount Heuay. In a vast gorge that would come to be called the Valley of Vulnar, did these betrayed heroes finally lay their eldest brother to rest, with the Sword of Power, key to a great fortress of mystery and magic, at his side.
Until their final, fatal battle, many months ago, the descendants of these warriors, who called themselves the Vulnarians, honored their forefathers through arcane rites and tournaments of will and strength. Heuay, their fierce goddess of truth, decreed that the inheritor of Vulnar's weapon must be pure of body and spirit and his back strong enough to shoulder the burden of man's hard destiny. Truth must pass through this He-Man as light through a pane of glass, undiluted by worry for his own welfare or that of those close to him.
For this reason, the way between Lord Adam, the last inheritor of Vulnar's Sword of Power, and his beloved Lady Teela of Eternos had always been hard.
There was a time, before the Sword of Power and Lord Adam's becoming the He-Man, that the warriors were inseparable, and nothing born of man or fashioned by his hand could long stand against them. Many battles had they shared at his good friend Duncan's side, back to back, slashing a broad, crimson path through the enemies of Eternos, the just and enlightened city of King Randor. Rest was elusive, and when time permitted such things, it was all the more elusive, for these young lovers had lusts that were not so easily sated. They ate, drank and loved like hungry lions between kills!
The world was their banquet table. Its bloodstained ruins, their stony bed!
Now, the nightmare so long dreaded by the warriors of Eternos had come to pass.
The Sword of Power, ancient key to the most terrible weapon in the known universe, belonged to the Enemy of Man - the undead lord of the wastelands that called itself Skeletor. Castle Grayskull and all its eons-old, cosmic secrets were the demonking's to command.
From the Shadow Lands of the Dark Hemisphere, did Skeletor send, with mere force of his will, the vile Priests of Infinitias to lay waste the kingdom of Randor. Twenty nine years ago, united by their lust for power in the Shadow Lands, they unleashed a monster from the human brain's most primitive regions ..and incarnated him within the mortal flesh of an ancient Eternian king, ..Keldor the Great. Raised to great power in the Dark Hemisphere, his high priests - savage Beast Man of Gore, the bloodthirsty Mer-Man of undersea Moratain, Trap-Jaw of subterranean Sybronn and three-eyed Prince Tri-Klops of Infinitias - as if possessed of a single will, attacked Eternia and found His Majesty, King Randor, repaired to his warrior ways, armed to the teeth and pitched into battle against them.
Rallying to war, the armies of mountainous Clampes and of Myzargard, of green Lorinth, the Golden Isles and of the nearby Rio Republic, the old king drove back the Shadow Land forces from Eternos, ..while far away, in the forests of Graylot, the golden-maned son Randor thought long dead awoke to find his massive forearms chained above his head.
In a dungeon.
Lord Adam found the weight of the korodite harness he usually wore strangely absent from his broad, naked shoulders, and he looked down at his chest to find it no longer there - that his devilbeaver pelt and boots were also gone. Now, his eyes searched the darkness around him for the Sword of Power ..and found not even a glimpse of its silvery metal.
Something else stirred him, as he shrugged off the blinding, suffocating dank of his prison.
He-Man was not imprisoned here alone. A gentler scent and breathing rhythm than his own charged his senses. "Have I gone insane? Lady Teela, ..is that really you?"
"Aye, Lord Adam - it is," the shadowed figure chained beside him spoke. When she leaned forward into a faint, dull shaft of flickering light, he could see that the Captain was naked to the waist. Her pale breasts, once bound by an elaborate, golden breastplate, were bared before her. "I don't know where we are, and I dread the knowing it too well, but we must escape! We must be free, before our enemy carries out his plans!"
"Hold on, captain," He-Man grunted, his massive muscles racked with pain. "There is likely no end to the abuses we've endured at our enemies' hands. We're much weakened,..but, we'll know vengeance soon enow."
"I care not how many stand against us!" snarled the brave captain, staring forward into the shadows, "I'll see these shadows made red with Infinitian blood, when finally I slip these bonds! I swear it!"
Bizarrely shaped, pod-like lanterns protruding from the shadows flickered alive, one and all. Weaving in and out of the green-gray, stonework of the walls and between the lanterns, were great, metal consoles, flickering with spectral light and heat. Images from every corner of the Eternian planet played in crystalline orbs, bulging from and half-submerged in the massive face of this ancient machine.
"Eodwar's Schemes!" He-Man exclaimed to himself with disbelief, as he strained against his bonds. His eyes narrowed, adjusting to the dim light. "I know this place. This ..is Castle Grayskull?!"
"You talk in your sleep, He-Man," a familiar voice cracked from the darkness before him. A burst of violet light flared brilliant as a sun - then, dulled to a warm glow, under which the masked and hooded owner of the voice was revealed. His ram-headed Havoc Staff born high in one gauntleted claw, Skeletor laughed. "After your adventure on the banks of the Great Teela River last night and the plasma bolt Lord Mer-Man fired into your brain, ..very little magic was needed to bleed the secrets of Heuay's temple and of your own Sword of Power from your lips."
Sauntering from the darkness to sit at the Lord of Destruction's feet, a perfect mirror of Man-At-Arms' daughter groaned ..and shed her comely guise. The warm, pink of her skin warped to pale lavender. Long, darkly violet tresses fell over her bare shoulders and back. "Did you think your Lady Teela had returned to you, Heuay Man? Love is not the wild, swift tiger you hoped, ..but, a deadly and watchful hawk, stalking its prey."
Leaning forward on his throne, Skeletor stroked the creature's dark violet hair, as though she were a pet, and the events of the past night came flooding back into He-Man's brain.
His capture by Lord Mer-Man and the warriors of undersea Moratain.
The bizarre experiments administered by Skeletor's scientists that had left no portion of his body unknown to their instruments, ..and his seduction and abuse at the hands of a woman - a thing - impersonating Captain Teela. The color of rage reddened He-Man's face. His nostrils flared, and there was no part of his body, upon which her scent did not mock him. "Scircee, ..the changeling-witch of Ban-Shi Island? That was you last night, ..at the river? You're a fool, if you think I won't take your head for what you've done!"
"Fool, Vulnarian?" Lady Scircee sneered, over a shoulder. "At wild, fierce loveplay, you may have no equal, ..but a heartsick boy might've shown my charms more resistance. For a few hours' pleasure, you have betrayed all of mankind ..and his Ancients! Show him, milord - Scircee begs you! Show him the blade!"
The King of Snake Mountain laughed - hellfire flickering in the empty sockets of his Mask of Destruction - and leaned forward from his stolen throne with a dreadful confidence. The blade in his black gloved claw, the realization of man's worst fears! "Behold, He-Man, ..the Sword of Power, once more rejoined to its darker sister, mine own Sword of Chaos! When you and the gentle lambs of Eternos are all rotting on hooks, know that the destiny of Eternia rests in Skeletor's hands, ..and that Grayskull has a new master!"
"You did this?" Teela asked, glaring in He-Man's direction. "You traded the Sword of Power to lie with that - that witch?! You truly have gone insane, ..and you've betrayed us all."
"I am a man, Teela, .." He-Man answered distractedly, turning to Skeletor, "- as weak for want of woman, as any other, ..but, the Lord of the Wastes sent his Lady Screech to lie with me for other purposes. Purposes more base than even murder."
"Slow, but clever, Vulnarian," Skeletor nodded. "Why would I send fair Scircee to kill you, when I might conjure at will warriors from the jungles and seas ..or even from the zombie hordes of subterranean Sybronn to end your pestilent existence?"
"Slaves," He-Man said with disgust. "The Lady Screech is barren or ruined somehow, ..and our time together yielded no offspring. You wanted to breed us like beasts and enslave my progeny ..to a conquered Grayskull!"
The Enemy of Man cackled. "Though I am far from human, your primitive species interests me greatly. I watched you and Lady Scircee for a time and found your coupling to be fascinating, ..but, sadly unproductive. Perhaps, we'll give one of the lizard-folk a try next!"
"Another chance, Lord Skeletor," the Lady Screech begged, cringing at her hooded and black-robed master's knee. Her white teeth glistening with primal ambitions. "Bid me take him now, by force, and I will yield from these loins a legion of He-Men to command! Raise Scircee above the heads of all your priest-kings of Infinitias, and it is yours!"
The Lord of Destruction pointed his Havoc Staff at Lady Screech, and a large, dark bird flew fearfully from where she had rested at his feet. "Begone, witch! The new age, my age, will not be wrought from the mutant trash of the Shadow Lands, but from the ancient technology in these walls! Those black engines of destruction and creation are still here, and so long as I wield these swords, they are mine to command! For now and forever, ..Grayskull is mine!"
On legs densely woven with muscles, the big, golden-maned warrior hurled himself at the demonking's throne. A sound like the kind wounded animals make echoed along the dungeon walls, as cables of blinding, blue light crackled over He-Man's naked flesh, after which he fell to his knees.
"...make you ..p-pay, ..Lord of the Wastes," sputtered He-Man. His otherworldly strength exhausted. "I ..will know ..vengeance."
"Haste, Lord Adam of the barbarians," Skeletor hissed, dismissively. "It is always the mark of the lowly born. For that reason, I have taken great patience in the planning of my ascension, ..as well as a few trophies to discourage your vengeance!"
From his black marble throne, Skeletor gestured, and a large orb of darkly golden crystal spun before him. Inside, as if frozen in time, two familiar faces were visible.
"No!" Captain Teela cried, looking on. She strained against her bonds, shaking her head in disbelief. "It-it cannot be! Father? Ruin-Zo?!"
Their bodies arched and twisted.
Their arms upraised, and their faces stretched in silent screams of terror and shock, He-Man knew the two men submerged in the globe of dark , orange crystal. It was the work of Skeletor's Fright Fighter, a deadly, insect-like, flying machine assembled from the trash of Grayskull's ancient, long-dead scientists. "By the All-father, what have I done?"
"Father!" Teela sobbed, struggling under her chains, as the globe descended toward her, ..and Skeletor looked on. When her bonds, mysteriously disappeared, she collapsed on her knees before it. Inside, Man-At-Arms and Teela's lover, the darkly handsome Sergeant Roberto Ruin-Zo, stared blankly from their crystalline prison. "Father, please! Ruin-Zo! I am here! Teela is here to - oh, gods! No! No-ooo!"
"Like flies in amber," Skeletor cackled to her from across the dimly illumined dungeon and rose to stand. "You may save one, Captain - only one, ..but you may have neither!"
"They're alive?!" He-Man marveled, still bound to the dungeon wall. "For what dread purpose, Skeletor?"
Glaring at the Vulnarian, Lady Teela rose to stand. A suit of gray metal forming over her flesh! "What sorcery is this? Tell me how, demonking! What must I do to free them?"
The Lord of the Wastes extended a claw, and a pair of silvery blades flew into the captain's hands from the stonework of Grayskull's walls. From the empty sockets of his skull-like mask, crimson light flickered, and He-Man's chains vanished! In the barbarian's hand, a single spear, formed of what looked to be iron, took shape from the empty air.
"So, you will watch one of us murder the other?" He-Man's eyes narrowed, full of mistrust. "Then, what demon? Why have you returned?"
At his most imperious, Skeletor was as mesmerizing as he was grotesque. The King of Snake Mountain lowered himself onto his throne, and the inflexible gold of his Mask of Living Death did appear, however fleetingly, ..to grin. "Skeletor only brings mankind that which the cesspool of his soul begs to taste. Perhaps, I will restage this scenario with His Majesty King Randor and his beloved Marlena. Perhaps, I will put a dagger in the hand of every new mother ..and watch the cradles all over Eternia overrun with infant blood! Hahahahaha! Perhaps, ..I will make you watch!"
"I will watch the filth run from where your soul should be, vile demon," the bronze-skinned giant seethed, aiming his weapon for Skeletor's head, "when I tear you apart!"
The Lady Teela stepped forward, blocking He-Man's cast with her blade. "That is my father encased in that amber! My father ..and, next to him, the only man, I will ever love! I will gladly bring Skeletor your head to save them!"
A shriek split the air, and He-Man grunted at the hot pain freshly ripped into his left shoulder. He saw his red blood running down over the swelling muscles of his arm, but all that remained of his attacker was the faintest trace of her musk on the air. "There is no honor in this, good Teela. This carnage!"
"Do not speak to Titus Duncan's daughter of honor, Lord of Vines," Captain Teela growled, swinging her broadsword for Lord Adam's throat. "Not, when you've spent your last drop so cheaply! Whether my father is saved or not, your life is forfeit to me! I care not how honorably it is given or taken!"
Clutching his Havoc Staff in one gauntleted hand, the King of Snake Mountain cackled - a crimson glow blazing defiant in the blackened, empty sockets, where eyes should have been - and leaned forward from his stolen throne with a dreadful confidence. "Then take his life, woman, ..if you would see your father and lover live! Kill the Vulnarian ..and bring forth the Age of Destruction!"
Before her feet hit the floor, He-Man found Lady Teela's blades in flight against him, again. Though he was as strong, as she was fast - though he deflected her blows as one nursed at the flaming teat of war, He-Man was awe-struck at the ferocity of Teela's assault. An attack this swiftly pressed and skillfully executed was not something he was used to fending off.
Without killing an opponent.
Never had a weapon been so heavy in his hands, even as Lady Teela hurled the twin blades toward He-Man's neck and chest. His love for Duncan's valiant daughter all but crippled him in battle against her and, if only for a moment, something He-Man likened to fear crawled into his brain. Death at her crazed hands was assured and with it, the ensuing subjugation of Eternia by Skeletor's black-hearted priests. He-Man had not the heart to kill her, but knew that he must kill Teela or die, lest all hope die with him.
He-Man turned to find mad Teela in the air, her beautiful body twisting high above his head - the silvery twin blades spread out at her side, like wings. He remembered the lithe and pale, red-haired girl she had been, and how, even in his youth, he had worshipped her fiery beauty at play in the trees of the Vine Jungle. As she descended upon him, her booted heels hammering his chest, he realized that he had stared too long.
He-Man was suddenly pinned beneath her.
The twin blades resting on either side of his throat, he felt Captain Teela's hot breath falling full on him ..and no quarter from her deadly whims. "Weakness for you has brought us to this, Teela. Death for Duncan ..and Ruin-Zo! Grayskull and Eternia in Skeletor's hands! Heuay's temple, destroyed! Death at your hands would be just and honorable. Kill me."
The Lord of Destruction stood up from his throne, mesmerized by the tableau of human suffering before him.
Pride! Rage! Shame! Regret! All so painful! So gloriously torturous! A banquet of despair, upon which any demon might gladly gorge, ..until bloat and senseless with pleasure!
Skeletor wrung his hands with feverous anticipation. "Do it, woman! Kill him! He's dishonored all the gods've made him. He is nothing! A lust-crazed beast with no care for honor ..or love! He has betrayed you and all men. Kill He-Man, ..or Ruin-Zo dies!"
He-Man's steely gaze met hers, and nothing stood between the naked Vulnarian's heart and her vengeance - nothing, but the end of the world. Teela threw down the mystical weapons in her hands. "I won't do it, demon - not even to save them! Better my father and lover die in that amber prison, than see me made one of Snake Mountain's eunuchs!"
From behind his grotesque, golden mask, the Lord of Destruction uttered ancient words, and raised the unified Sword of Power in his gauntleted hands. Merged into one, single weapon, its weird energies bathed the grayish stonework of the dungeon in an eerie, blue glow. "So be it, woman! You feared to follow your father and lover to Oblivion - now, they will follow you! You and all mankind!"
Grayskull, its every stone and mortared crevice, shook! The mysterious machines embedded in its ancient walls glowed, as though an inferno blazed behind them.
Dazed, they did not notice the empty suits of blackened armor stirring alive from the shadows. Dull, crimson light flickered lantern-like through the eyelets of their empty helmets. Weapons of every shape and purpose materializing in their soulless hands, they marched toward Skeletor's enemies - the stonework of the dungeon floor raped under their metal heels.
"We're finished, He-Man!" shouted Captain Teela, assuming a defensive stance. "You saw it with your own eyes! The demonking has merged the Swords of Power and Darkness into one! Grayskull and its secrets are his!"
"Hold, good Teela," He-Man called to her, as his devilbeaver pelt and boots formed over him from thin air. He looked down in disbelief, as yet another possession stolen from him by Skeletor's henchmen was returned to him in similar fashion. "My harness and pelt, mysteriously returned to me! Something's wrong here. Different. Something's changed! We've got to get to the ramparts!"
Back to back, He-Man and the Captain of the Guard hacked apart the metal shells of Skeletor's lifeless army, forging a treacherous path to a winding column of stone-worked steps. Even as one suit of armor fell under their savage blows, another three moved into its place, wearing down their guard. Drawing them farther and farther apart with each successive attack!
Before He-Man's eyes, a sharp blow cracked against Teela's forehead, nearly decapitating her, and Man-At-Arms' valiant daughter went down under a hail of kicks and spear points. Battering back the metal throngs, He-Man pulled Captain Teela back onto her booted feet. "Within Grayskull's walls, my korodite harness's protective energies are increased a hundred-fold! Stay close, woman, ..if you want to live!"
Awakened into the kind of bloodthirsty fury, for which she was known and feared, the flame-haired vixen attacked the enemy with fist, heel and blade, ..until, mysteriously, the armored drones fell, as one, lifeless to the floor into piles of rusted metal. "This fight was a diversion, Lord Adam! Every second brings Ruin-Zo and my father closer to death! Yet, there's something else, ..something Skeletor doesn't want us to know!"
Under his golden mane of hair, He-Man knelt beside her, studying the stonework at their feet, as Captain Teela looked on. He touched his hand to the rocky floor, and lowered his head to it, such that he resembled a beast tracking its prey. His nostrils flared, as he got back to his feet and led Captain Teela up the steep, rocky stairway. "By the gods, woman - can't you feel it? Grayskull is cold. The entire world ..is dead."
As He-Man and Teela rushed onto the ramparts, Grayskull rumbled. Massive chunks of its mortar and brick crumbled into their path, down the stairs behind them and farther below, into the dank of its dungeon.
"He-Man, what's happening?!" Captain Teela screamed, shielding her face with a silver-gauntleted forearm. Blinding golden light flashed overhead. Dagger-like shards of black mortar took flight for her head, throat and chest.
An explosion of light and heat forced He-Man backwards, and bold Teela followed, as the big Vulnarian pulled her, with one hand, into the protection of his arms. The whine of those ancient death-machines echoed along the ramparts, and great chunks of Grayskull's stonework shattered before its fiery onslaught. "Down, girl! He's controlling Grayskull's cosmic ray cannons!"
The Ancients had enemies.
It is believed that the first of Grayskull's masters were descended from a fierce, bloodthirsty race, the masters of great and deadly machines capable of unleashing their fury on the backs of any, who dared defy Grayskull. The ragtag hordes of primitive Eternia, fearing annihilation, were cowed into caves and the low, forested places that might hide them from Clan Grayskull's flying machines. Terror was the order of the day, and fear of Grayskull's awesome power endured the ages ..and became legend.
He-Man and his beauteous, fire-maned comrade knew all too well what Grayskull's cannons could do, as Oblivion was bloat with the fortress's fallen foes.
Now, hearts raced!
Muscles honed for hot war-making swelled and sprung!
Booted heels and bare hands flattened against stone, barely keeping Skeletor's mortal enemies free of the gruesome end the demonking intended for them. All the while, like some monstrous, ghostly blade, the beam of golden fire cut through metal and rock, until black smoke billowed out from Fortress Grayskull's ramparts!
The dark and vulgar train of a violated bride.
A chilling silence gripped the air, and the whine of the ion cannon ground to a stop. But for the faint crackle of nuclear fire in the rubble scattered across the parapet, nothing appeared to stir. On his belly, He-Man pushed his way out from under a pile of broken rock to his comrade's side. "Teela, are you alright?"
Her back flattened against a large stone block and auburn tresses dangling in her eyes, the battered Captain of the Guard struggled to breathe. Her powerful lungs choked with cosmic ash. "Can you feel it, Adam? He is still here -- everywhere!"
IMPIOUS MONKEYS! INSECTS! AT LAST, GRAYSKULL IS MINE!!
ITS WEAPONS AND POWER ARE MINE, ..AND WITH THEM, I WILL RAZE THIS GODS-FORSAKEN WORLD OF MY ENEMIES!
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, YOU WILL SEE THE GOLDEN SEA RAKASH VAPORIZED!
I WILL LEVEL THE MYSTIC MOUNTAINS WITH A BREATH ..AND SEND THE BACKWARD, COWARDLY PESTILENCE THAT IS MAN SCURRYING BACK TO HIS MUD-HOLES!
Only to senses sharpened in the perilous Vine Jungles of Eternia could the presence of evil be clearly felt. "And who claims the mud-holes now, Lord of the Wastes?! Show yourself!"
Before their eyes, a fiery sphere of golden energy took dread shape. Its wild glow flickering into a grotesque and gargantuan phantasm, a disembodied skull, the brilliance of which filled the dungeon.
BUT, YOU! YOU, WILL I SEE REDUCED TO MEANINGLESS ASH! HERE! NOW!
COSMIC SECRETS BEYOND MORTAL COMPREHENSION ARE NOW MINE TO COMMAND ..AND WITH BUT A THOUGHT! I AM A GOD!
"You are nothing, demonking!" He-Man protested, meeting the apparition's stare with steely calm. "In every heart, a great power stands between man and Destruction! Grayskull is that power, ..and it is beyond your reach! The soul and mind of man is beyond your reach!"
NOTHING IS BEYOND REACH OF THE GODS, ..AND THOUGH THEY HAVE FORSAKEN YOU, I NEVER WILL! I WILL HOUND YOU TO THE SHORES OF DEATH, VULNARIAN! INTO THE BLACK BOWELS OF OBLIVION!
Breathlessly, Captain Teela looked on as stone blocks cracked apart under He-Man's fists!
Huge limestone blocks, laced with silver and each as big as a man, were shattered to dust before her eyes. When she peered through the jagged hole he'd made, she trembled and held fast to her blade. "Grails of Procrustus! Th-there's nothing there! Eternia is gone!"
"The Ancients moved this fortress into another dimension," the golden-haired Vulnarian answered wearily, "- a dead dimension, where Grayskull is an empty ruin, and its legend means nothing!"
THEN, STONE BY STONE, I WILL DESTROY THIS CASTLE, ..UNTIL THE MEEK ANCIENTS YOU SERVE BETRAY YOU TO SAVE THEMSELVES ..AND SET YOU TO KNEEL BEFORE ME, THE KING OF CASTLE GRAYSKULL!
Through the empty sockets of his ancient mask, Skeletor looked upon them.
Lightning crackled around him, biting into his flesh, forcing him to his knees, but a glare and a primal roar was all that he gave. Once more, the Vulnarian stood. "The twin Swords of Power in your grasp defy you, King of Snake Mountain, ..as do I!"
FOOL! YOU EVADE ONE TRAP ONLY TO FALL PREY TO OTHERS MORE DEADLY! IT IS MANKIND, WHO WILL PAY FOR YOUR DEFIANCE, AND YOU WILL BE POWERLESS ..TO STOP ..
A blinding, scarlet flashed from behind the fiery mask, and the giant skull there darkened to a faint, violet haze. Then, the black-robed Lord of the Wastes staggered forth from it ..and collapsed to one armored knee. "I ..am the King of Castle Grayskull, ..the most terrible power in the known universe, ..and of Eternia! You will pay for your defiance ..with your life ..."
"We're no longer on Eternia, Lord of Demons!" the half-naked man-god groaned, digging his steel-hard fingers into a massive, stone block. Though it was many times his size, with a grunt, the Vulnarian raised it high above his head. "You have no power here! This battle is over!"
Arms thick and cabled with muscle pitched the grayish-green rock forward!
Icy blue eyes, swollen and narrow with rage, saw the would-be king of Castle Grayskull disappear beneath it ..and over the fortress's ramparts. A great flash erupted from beyond Grayskull's walls, and, for a second, space and time seemed to split apart.
Skeletor was gone. The Sword of Ancients lost with him.
At the other end of the parapet, where Point Dread joined Grayskull every twenty years, a solitary figure stirred swiftly toward them.
Over the length of the ramparts, roaring the warrior-woman's name, Sergeant Roberto Ruin-Zo ensnared his beloved Teela between lean, muscled arms, and she kissed him, brushing the dark hair from his eyes. Ambling closely behind him, Man-At-Arms, miraculously restored to life, lumbered wearily over the castle's gray stonework, followed by He-Man's faithful Battle Cat, whose name was known to only him.
From the rocky center of Castle Grayskull's colossal, triangular bailey, a great, golden structure took shape, cracking apart the stonework beneath it. Lightning crackled over its metallic surface, flashing upwards and into the sky like the tentacles of some savage, ocean-born behemoth! An eerie calm pervaded the bailey and the skies over castle Grayskull, ..and the legendary pyramid stood, where the masters of the world once guided Eternia's destiny.
"The Hall of Wisdom, Lord Adam?" marveled Lord Adam's large, armored tiger, looking on in amazement. "Not since the death of your Vulnarian kinsmen, have I set eyes upon it. By all that is wild, what've you done?"
Humbly, He-Man knelt before it, and a voice echoed from where the pyramid had risen. Alone, in the terrific, scaled skull and hide of a hooded dragon, the Mighty Teela stepped forward - the silvery Sword of Ancients held out before her.
Into wide and grateful hands, did He-Man reclaim his weapon. "Holy Warrior, Friend of Man, once again you have honored our faith the gods. Though I saw this weapon lost to us with my own eyes, I never believed it beyond your reach, ..even in the fiery maws of Oblivion. On behalf of all mortalkind, you have my thanks."
Skeletor will find a great weapon drifting just beyond that dread realm, and he will set it loose in the world of men, upon his return... Many will die, and Eternia will never be the same... You will dwell here with the gods, in the Hall of Wisdom for a time, Adam, ..to prepare for the destruction to come... The Ancients have spoken!
"No!" Teela protested, rising to stand. She was Man-At-Arms' daughter in spirit, if not blood, and such was her courage that she dared challenge the gods. Though she found both Duncan and Sergeant Ruin-Zo at her sides, she would have gladly stood alone. For this golden-haired Vulnarian, she would have stared down all the devils of Oblivion. "Though, I've chosen another, we are kindred, Adam. You belong with us ..in the world of men."
The bronze giant kissed Teela softly, and a cautious look passed between himself and Sergeant Ruin-Zo. "It is the will of the gods, Teela. Good journey. May the gods bless you and Ruin-Zo with many fit and handsome sons."
The Holy Warrior cast a stern glare down into the faces of her mortal charges ..and raised her golden Rod of Order. An eerie, green radiance flared from her staff, and the heroes of Eternos were turned most fearfully from it.
Come, He-Man of the Vulnarians... Come and prepare for war!
Before the eyes of the assembled warriors and beyond the craggy castle walls, the bleak, barren, but familiar moors of Eternia could be seen once more. Souls soared to find Grayskull returned to Eternia, but, there was also regret. A bright light appeared before them, and followed by his faithful tiger, He-Man of the Vulnarians disappeared into it.
And Captain Teela collapsed sobbing in her father's arms.
He-Man, Skeletor, Eternia and all associated characters, names, images, comic books and minicomics are registered copyrights and/or trademarks of Mattel, DC Comics, Hallmark, MVC, Image Comics, CrossGen or other concerned copyright/trademark holders. All rights reserved.