Five hundred years before the common age, before the rule
of Randor and the construction of Eternos, Queen Hatshepsut ruled atop a throne from the
Dark Side of Eternia, her general, Nessus the Dark Centaur, spreading her armies of
goblins over the developing Bright Side. But this is the tale of Xandr, a man whom the
people called He-Man. Raised by monks, he forever wandered the barren wastelands of the
Bright Side, driven by a terrible, magical sword left to him by a giant eagle, after his
temple burned to the ground and his foster fathers blood spilled from a
Masters of the Universe
The Dark Age
City by the Sea
You are adventurer # to journey to the land of Sarnath.
_ Nick Alimonos, copyright 10/20
A Stranger in Akkad
Wrestling to keep seated aloft the
slippery, blackish-green surface, He-Man planted his double-headed battle ax once more
into the skull of the giant swamp snail, gripping a slime-coated antenna with his other
hand as black blood spattered against his naked, broad chest. With that, its head splashed
down into the cold, murky bog, and He-Man slid of the slain snails head, freeing his
ax before trudging to a beach of dry, black earth. There he stood, a lone figure under a
turquoise disc, the planet, Infinity, masking a quarter of the wine dark, Eternian sky,
and its small violet companion, the cratered moon, Eon. Gazing back over his kill, he
could make out the gold-brown hill that was the snails body, and the serpentine neck
protruding from it, now submerged. The sword strapped to his back, the Sword of Grayskull,
whose hilt reaching over his shoulder was the face of a yawning, sharp-toothed skull,
quivered for lust of battle, magic fire running down its smooth, steel shaft to his
ankles, singeing his hairs. But it was unnecessary. The attack had come by surprise and
from below, and the hungering snail that was the death of many travelers, had met its own
fate by his ready ax.
Shaking off the horror, as well as
mud, He-Man spotted a winged, man-like creature soaring over the reddening horizon. He
gripped his axs handle. But as the creature came closer, he loosened his grip.
The gray-skinned bird man spread his
blue feathered arms apart, touching the ground softly no more than a yard from the lone,
Stratos, he called again.
What brings you from the cloudy peaks of Avion?
The man called Stratos stared hard
into the warriors soft, blue eyes. Moons ago, a messenger climbed the cloudy
peak of Avion, seeking our aid in our splendid, golden city. He was a groundling, such as
yourself, from the great city of Sarnath, the city by the sea. They are at war, he said,
the groundlings with the waterlings, the people he called, mer-men.
With a stroke of his hand, He-Man
wiped another layer of mud from his body, beautiful as a nude god, save for the fur cloth
at his loins and the leather boots strapped to his feet, revealing a great scar across the
muscled creases in his flesh, from his left breast to his right hip. What does this
have to do with me?
We are a peace loving people,
He-Man. We cannot aid them in war. But the Council of Azrael decided that we should help
Sarnath, by sending you to them. Theyve heard stories, of your cunning in battle. I
was sent to find you, to deliver the plea of Urukagina, High Priest of Sarnath.
What is this plea? And why
should I help them? Lead their armies into battle against the mer-men, and
Urukagina promises his virgin daughter to you in wedlock, with a dowry such as to make you
Combing a braided lock of golden hair
behind his shoulder and running his fingers through his short, blonde beard, he answered,
finally; Where is Sarnath?
I could lead you. But you would
lag behind without my wings. Whereas I could reach it in a day, you would in a week.
How will I find it, then?
Beyond this swamp, over that
hill, is the village, Akkad. Find it, and follow a road that leads out. Someone there will
And so, in the crook of a river
beside a series of irrigated fields, He-Man reached the cluster of huts and dirt roads
that was Akkad. The crudely shaped huts were no more than thatched straw roofs, dried mud
and cow dung bricks stacked for walls with some spaces left brickless for windows, and
single, splintered doors leading to an only room.
Wandering through the streets, He-Man
was greeted by no one. Though there were few villagers moving hastily about, they averted
their eyes or hid stares beneath their hoods, perhaps due to his awesome size or the array
of weaponry jingling with his every step. Children were curious enough to approach him,
but their parents were quick to snatch them away. Most certain, he was a stranger, and in
these hard times villages were unwelcome to strangers. Two things could be expected of a
stranger, that he was ill and seeking mercy, a beggar, or a poor thief. And he did not
look like a beggar.
The first to speak to him was a woman
sitting in the dirt, her back against the wall of an abandoned ruin, a single sheet of
earthen cow hide draped over her. Though middle-aged, lines split her blackened face so
that she looked much older. And strewn across her visage were long strands of dark hair,
as if theyd never been cut, fleas crawling between them. Stooping low to talk to
her, a stench like dried urine assaulted him, and he was besieged by the flies that lived
round her, and the mosquitoes that nibbled at her flesh. Beneath her veil of lice plagued
hair, however, he could see her perfect, brown eyes unstained, seeming to him as though
theyd been washed too often and no tears were left to fall.
What do you want? he
One copper piece, she
answered, rattling the tin cup beneath her cow hide, for one hour. She forced
a smile, but it was more heartbreaking than merry.
He reached into the pouch at his
waist, tossing four gold coins into the cup. It was enough to buy her food for a year, and
a good set of clothes.
Falling on her hands and knees, she
emptied the cup, counting the four gold coins and two copper pieces, examining the gold,
tasting it. She lifted her eyes to him, then, staring awe-struck as if he were a god.
As he turned to walk away, she
touched his shoulder, letting the cow hide drop. She had been naked underneath it, but now
he could see her pale, sickly green skin speckled with purple and blue welts, her jutting
ribs, her knees like rocks bent inwardly.
No, he said, turning back
Please, she murmured,
of all the times Ive lent this body for copper, let it now be for gold.
He snatched the cow hide up and
thrust it in her arms. I said no.
Forgive me. She cast her
eyes down. Would you like . . . my daughter instead? She motioned to a bundle
laying against the crumbling wall, in it, a young girl he hadnt noticed.
S-Shes older than she looks . . . and she has experience . . .
Sit, you filthy whore! he
cried, pushing her down. And with this, he added, slipping another ten gold
pieces in her palm, buy back, if you can, her innocence.
At last, finding no inn and no
tavern, He-Man accosted a bent, bearded man carrying a rusty ho and with the other hand
leading a hump-backed, blue ox hitched to a makeshift plow.
Excuse me. Can you show me the
way to Sarnath?
The old farmer laughed, seeming
fearless for what he was. You mean you dont know?
I am from a land far off and
these parts are foreign to me.
I can tell. Still, Sarnath is
at the center of the world. All roads lead to Sarnath.
But where is it?
Look there, he said,
pointing to the West. Do you see it? And there, against the backdrop of the
giant turquoise moon ducking below the horizon, there was the silhouette of many towers,
like mountains in the distance.
Yes. Just follow sight of it
till you get there.
But I thought it would take a
week on foot . . .
It might, he replied,
trotting off. Those towers are taller than you think.
Thank you, kind sir.
The farmer turned back to him.
Tell me, son, why do you seek Sarnath?
I was told they needed
Then be forewarned: Sarnath is
doomed! The gods will destroy it for it is a wicked place. A land of riches, without
hunger, without illness, true, but those who go there hunger for want of the soul.
Its easy to love the gold and forget the love for fellow man. For those who live in
Sarnath live to forever quench their greed, their appetite for wine and meat, their lust.
And soon, forget your brother, forget your sister, forget your mother and father-
Do not preach to me, old man! I
have no brother, nor sister, nor mother . . . nor father.
Peace be with you, then.
And the slow turning wheels of his ox cart marked his exit.
With the old mans words still
lingering in his mind, He-Man found a shady tree as day turned to sullen night, and with
sword drawn ready in hand, he fell into a restless sleep, dreaming of his mother, of
goblins and daggers.
High copper stoned walls walled
Sarnath, square towers guarding each end under blue banners, golden trident heads and
golden tassels hanging from their edges, swaying in the brisk wind. And at the dizzyingly
high archway in the middle, there was a river of merchants, carriages, and chariots
bursting from its banks as they pressed, many at once to flow within, as others from
another side spilled out.
All was in a state of military
readiness when He-Man reached the gates. There were soldiers dressed in bronze from head
to foot, with bronze tridents, bronze helmets sprouting blue horse hair crests and bronze
shields laying at their feet, both helmet and shield displaying their symbol, the trident
head. And they approached him, one speaking out; From where are you?
I am from a land far off,
And what business do you have
I was summoned by your
What? The priest summons no
But I am He-Man . . .
You! You are the He-Man?
I had been told that you were
ten feet tall. You dont look ten feet tall to me . . .
I assure you, good soldier,
that I am He-Man, and tomorrow we shall fight side by side. Now let me through.
The soldier turned to his comrade,
whispering; What do you think? Should we let him through?
Well . . ., the other
replied, he doesnt look like a mer-man.
I know that! But is he the one?
Is he the He-Man?
If not, Urukagina will
Then I shall escort him. Come
with me, warrior.
As they walked through the busy
streets, the merchants selling carpets, blue melons, orange starfish, and countless other
things beneath striped tents, the musicians playing their finely tuned lyres, flutes, and
beating their drums, the women dancers dancing lasciviously, the rich mens white
marbled homes with their green inner courtyards, their sweet-smelling flowers of
rainbows every hue, their nude statuettes pouring out a never ending jug of water,
and the copper stoned towers with their many parapets looming high above them, all
stretching outwardly in a multitude to the roaring blue sea, which every eye could look
upon for Sarnath rested on a high plateau, the soldier spoke with He-Man.
So, did you really kill the
two-headed giant of Abu-Zabu?
No, He-Man replied.
Really? But if you didnt
kill him, who did?
I dont know. Ive
never seen a two-headed giant, nor even heard of a place called Abu-Zabu. I think it is a
Turning the corner, the two
pedestrians confronted an immense rectangular field in the very center of the city, lined
by six obelisks etched with writing, dividing the field into two perfect squares: in one,
a perfectly square pool with crystal blue water, in the other, a copper pyramid casting
its shadow over the whole city, with steps leading to its flat peak and a doorway leading
through those steps to its inside.
What is that?
It is the Temple of Sargon.
Here you will meet his lordship, the High Priest Urukagina.
He-Mans brown leather boots
echoed against the clean, white marble floor of the temple, leaving a trail of dried mud
and dirt with his every step. Soon to greet him was a tall man in a long white robe with
gold trim and a pointed hat that made him look even taller, lean like the staff he carried
in his left hand, a staff topped with a small gold trident head in a golden circle. And in
the midst of this mans yellow-pale face, between the creases stretching from his
bony cheeks to his jutting adams apple, was his knife-like nose, and his eyes, black
like black pearls.
Welcome! the mans
voice boomed, a voice betraying his gaunt frame. You must be the warrior Ive
heard so much of . . . the He-Man.
And you must be the priest,
That is correct. Come, warrior.
From the looks of it, you must be famished, and in need of a good bath and fresh clothes.
Let my servants take those heavy weapons. Youll have no need of them here.
Two women in plain white robes
approached him from both sides, but he pushed them away. No. I am never without my
sword. You may take my ax, but never this sword.
The ax, then. Servants!
He-Man handed the double-headed ax to
one girl, who with great effort and both arms carried it away. Tell me now, priest,
what is this war about? All else can wait.
Urukagina led He-Man to another
chamber. I will be honest with you, He-Man. I am not fond of you. You are a
barbarian: uneducated, ill-mannered, of ignoble birth.
He-Man grimaced. How do you
know all this about me?
By the looks of you, parading
around half-naked like a wild animal, like . . . a barbarian.
Naked, barbarian, these are
your words, not mine. I dont know them.
Allow me to enlighten you. Do
you see this great city, its measure, its grandeur? This is civlization! This is where man
rises from his barbaric roots, and unlike the wild animal, becomes civilized. Here we have
writing, temples built to the rightful gods, our gods, and laws, laws for all man can and
cannot do. These things bring order from chaos, and with order comes power, the power to
build such great cities . . . as this. Sarnath is more than what is here. We mine for gold
in the South, have colonies all across the sea, and trade goods with every other civilized
city in the world. Sarnath isnt just a city, it is an idea, an idea that will spread
to every corner of the planet! And soon, I fear, your kind will be no more, just scattered
remains of a people long ago . . .
And what if some people
dont want to change their ways?
We will change them.
It is for their own good. They
are inferior, after all. They dont know any better.
If I am inferior, what do you
need of me?
I need you to lead my armies,
for the enemy they face is strange and terrible, and fear seizes them so they cannot
The tales of your exploits,
written in our own language, may inspire them to courage, if you are to fight with them in
the front line of battle. I know it is much for me to ask. This is not your war. But these
foul mer-men threaten our very existence! There are countless numbers of them, sprouting
from the sea. For two months we have kept them at bay, but every night they inch their way
closer. Last night, they were at the very gates! As many as we kill, so many more come the
next night. If they should reach beyond these walls, all will be lost, our fair city, our
temple, civilization itself! This is why I sent for help, first to the people of Avion,
promising my fair, virgin daughter to their king, and now . . . to you.
I dont understand. Why
would mer-men that live in the sea, want to plunder your city, and with such undying
They are evil! the priest
cried suddenly, that is why. Must there be another reason? Believe me; I have seen
them, hideously ugly, reeking of the sea and gibbering unintelligibly, with no regard for
life! They kill for the pleasure of it, mindless of their own destruction. And for this
they must be wiped out, all those spawned of Golgotha. So the ancient scripture
Urukagina led him under another
archway to a single room seeming to make up the whole temple, vast as its outside and
empty, save for the square pool at its center and the single stone sculpture rising from
it vaguely discernible in the distance.
To what gods do you pray?
the priest asked.
To the winged goddess,
Zo-Ar, He-Man replied.
A heathen god, no doubt. Let me
tell you of our god, Sargon, and of the beginnings of the universe.
High above them now was an idol of
carved, white marble, a handsome, bare breasted god whose pupils were giant pearls, with
hair like the angry sea coiled about a kings crown, and a beard curled like a cloud.
In his left hand was a stone trident raised high. And he stood on a chariot sea shell,
latched by golden reins to two life-size, humpback whales, though both smaller than the
god and his chariot. Supporting all this, at the base of the idol, was a larger sculpture,
a poorly crafted squid of red coral, its ten tentacles, crumbling with age, just touching
the surface of the still water.
In the beginning, many
thousands of years ago, there was only cold and darkness. That was when the world was
covered in water, when all living things swam and lived in chaos, and Golgotha, the
squid-god, ruled. Then came Sargon who hated the chaos and wished to bring about order and
through order, civilized men. And so, Sargon with his trident defeated Golgotha,
imprisoning him at the bottom of the sea. Then he made dry land, warming and lighting the
land with the sun, so that men could thrive.
He-Man thought for a moment.
And you believe the mer-men are somehow . . . related to Golgotha?
Yes, Urukagina replied,
pointing to an unraveled scroll on a marble podium below the idol. It is prophesied
in the scriptures that someday, Golgotha will escape from his prison Abyss and with armies
from the sea, attempt to reclaim his ancient throne. There is no doubt in my mind that the
prophesy has come to pass.
Suddenly, there came a sobbing from
the other side of the idol. And there, sitting by the edge of the pool at Sargons
back, tears forming circles in the water, was a young woman. Bending over her was a
man-shaped behemoth with a long leathery snout, jutting teeth, and small, pointed eyes,
dressed in scarlet, deep blue, and gold, with a rippling, velvety cape of scarlet and
knee-high boots of solid gold. And standing upright on the floor with its looped, leather
shaft in his four fingered hand was an immense hammer shaped like a golden bell, a hammer
no man could lift.
He-Man, this is Grimosse, my
guardian. He takes care of my daughter.
Guardian . . . of the same
guardians who turned on their mage creators and killed them?
Yes. But I assure you, Grimosse
is trustworthy. He has been with us for many years.
The woman stood, cheeks still
streaming from her blue eyes. And He-Man noticed her dark hair, the ornate, gold headdress
she wore, like a chandelier with many hanging jewels, the white robe with gold trim, split
down the middle just enough to cover her nipples, the pink sea shell shielding her
womanhood, and the gold chain wrapping round her bare ankle to her middle toe.
Urukagina gestured to her;
Merneptah, my daughter.
Father! she cried.
You cant make me marry him! I wont!
How dare you show me
disrespect! he scoffed back. I am your elder. I know whats best for you.
Grimosse, take her to her room.
But there was no need. She ran out of
the temple, hands over her eyes, before the monster could react.
A Thief in the Night
Hours spent mulling over all that was
and was to be, all the priest had said, and as best he could removing the faces of horror
stricken, dying men from his memory as he would soon see again, He-Man settled into an
uneasy sleep. His hand rested, as always, on his sword. And there, in that small, simple
room he had requested, for he desired none of the luxuries offered that might soften him
or honor him more than those who were to die by his side, He-Man slumbered, only the pale
turquoise moon gleaming through a square window.
Shouts echoed in his dreams as he was
thrown violently into a momentary sense of vertigo, wondering where he was. It was dark,
warm, and humid. And then, like a sudden gust of wind, the memories of the past few days
returned to him, and he realized the shouts were real and that he was awake.
Could it be an attack? he
murmured to himself, shaking the dread from his trembling flesh as he clutched his sword
and leaped out of bed. But as he sprinted down a dim, lamp lit corridor, following the
sound of the voices in a confused uproar, he doubted it was an attack. No orders were
being made. Nor was there the familiar scream, unmistakable to those whove heard it,
of a man when Death approaches him suddenly.
The shouts carried him to an open
arch of bright, white light, through it, the inner shrine of the temple. Gripping his
sword with both hands, he lunged forward, only to find the priest and two soldiers,
staring up at the idol of Sargon.
Sacrilege! the priest
cried, waving his gold, encircled-trident-head staff. Get her!
Climbing the face of Sargon, with a
knotted rope tied round her waist to a hook in the ceiling, was a woman clad in brown
leather boots reaching up to her thighs, a thin loin cloth, and her small breasts in a
bronze brassier. Strapped to her back was a strange, ornate sword of jade and gold,
unfettered by the single brunette braid of hair dangling to her heels. And her whole right
arm was fitted with a metal glove with a claw she was using to scale the idol.
Ill get her down!
the younger of the two soldiers touted, ready to hurl his spear.
Stop! the priest cried.
Youll damage our god!
Who is she? He-Man asked,
running up to them.
A heathen! he answered,
a vagabond! A thief come to rob the very eyes of Sargon, as though He would not see
Those giant pearls?
All ready, He-Man could see her,
clinging to the sloping nose of the statue, reaching for the creamy white orbs, each the
size of a human head.
What would be worse,
asked He-Man, having her take out the statues eyes or pitting it with spear
It is said that when the eyes
of Sargon are removed, the end of Sarnath is near . . . All right, guards, get her down by
The soldiers hesitated, watching as
her gloved fingers dug into the tear ducts of the god.
What are you waiting
for!? the priest cried.
W-We cant, the
young soldier replied. Well both be damned. Its hubris to desecrate the
idol of Sargon.
Do not fear. Sargon and I speak
as one. My commands come as though from God himself. Now throw your spears!
The spear shot from the young
soldiers hand, but fell far short of the girl, never touching the idol, dropping
lifelessly to the ground. The second spear rose higher, passing by her head - clashing
against Sargons cheek, then tumbling down.
Alarmed by this, she flipped
backwards from Sargons nose, all the while, reaching for her sword. As the soles of
her boots touched the surface of the gods raised arm, she cut the rope at her waist.
Then the hilt of the sword became a bow, and with a readied arrow sliding from her glove,
she stretched the string back with her armored arm, aiming at the priest.
No! the young soldier
cried, throwing himself before Urukagina as the arrow sliced through his chest, and there,
at the priests feet, gasping out his last breath.
Blood . . ., Urukagina
intoned, backing away. It will stain the floor. There must be no blood shed in the
temple! Guard, take him away! But before the second soldier could react, an arrow
cut through the back of his head, its metal tip protruding through the bridge between his
We must take care of the girl
first! said He-Man, and twisting the blue plumed helmet from the young
soldiers head, he sent it spinning to heaven, like a groaning athlete throwing the
discuss. It crashed into her shin with tremendous force, knocking her off of the
gods arm, and with a scream, she plunged down to the rim of the sea shell chariot,
balanced on her naked stomach. Her sword, meanwhile, slipped from her grasp, clanging to
the marble floor at the feet of He-Man.
Urukagina. Perhaps the scrolls speak truly of you.
But He-Man ignored him, facing the
girl. There is nowhere left to go. Even if you could still reach the pearls,
youd never escape the city. Come down.
Slowly, the girl walked down the
sloping path that was the rim of the stone chariot, climbed down to the gods feet,
and down to Golgotha, the squid god, and finally, with water up to her waist, trudged
across the pool towards them. Then in the time it takes a frightened womans heart to
beat once, she darted between the two, reaching for her bow-sword. But He-Man was quick to
kick it from her grasp. It scraped along the floor as he grabbed her by the back of the
neck, pulling her towards him. She thrashed in his massive arms, blurting words that had
no meaning to them, before thrusting her metal fist into his jaw. He stumbled back,
stunned, as she sprinted to the double door.
Dont let her get
away! the priest scowled.
He-Man ran after her, but she moved
swift as a great cat. Only when reaching the doors of solid bronze did she hault,
straining in vain to open them.
Suddenly the doors flew open,
knocking her back, and six soldiers brandishing tridents spilled into the room. She
turned, only to find He-Man, towering before her. For the first time, then, he noticed
her, like two shining moons, the sorrow in her turquoise eyes. And as two of the guards
seized her, she spoke these words to him; Voithemai! Emaiste ap ton ethio phili. Min
voithas eftoos tous armatolites! Oli xedoun, eSarnath tha thialathi!
What did she say to you?
the priest asked, startling him.
She said that . . . Sarnath is
More heathen lies!
Whats going to happen to
She will die, of course. She
was destined to die the moment she looked upon this shrine. No heathen eyes may behold
Sargon and live.
After helping burn the bodies of the
two soldiers, He-Man returned to his room. But this time it was even more difficult to
sleep. The room and his bed seemed small and empty, and nothing was there to comfort him
but his cold, sharp sword with the skull face of Death on its hilt. His mind wandered back
to the girl. What He-Man had not told Urukagina, and he knew not why, was that the thief
in the night was of his own tribe. Her braid, though much longer than his, was in the
traditional style of his people, down the middle of her back as was customary for women.
And she spoke his native tribal language forgotten to all but a few. She knew it; she
pleaded for him to help her. But he would not. She was a thief and a murderer; what good
could she be, even if she were the last of his people? Still, a force like Fate drove him
to leave. He had to speak to her before her execution. But where would they keep such a
prisoner, he wondered, the dungeon of Sarnath? As these thoughts crossed his mind, a young
soldier came running towards him, dread in his eyes.
He-Man! he cried.
Thank the gods Ive found you!
What is it, man?
As in answer to his question, a
trumpet sounded, followed by many more trumpets. To arms! the man said.
Mer-men stalk the shores of Sarnath!
Ocean of Blood
Four squares of men lined the wall of
Sarnath facing the sea, their bronze tipped spears and tridents staked upright in the
sand, their round, wood and bronze shields, three feet in diameter, leaning back against
their knees. As He-Man scanned this array of soldiers, a sea green horse with skin like a
dolphin and a single large fin for a mane galloped towards him, its hind legs much smaller
than its front, its high breast up to his head. And upon this maritime mount, with bronze
armor ablaze by the light of the torches flickering in the moist night air, there was a
soldier highly decorated with a blue plume in his helmet and a blue cape flowing from the
left shoulder of his bronze breast plate, his face obscured by the central ridge shielding
his nose. Are you the one come to lead the charge, he asked, are you the
It is an honor to meet you. I
am Diomedes, commander of this legion. He pointed behind him to three other mounted
men. Sarpedon, Aeneas, and Polydorous, weve been waiting for you.
How many are you?
Four thousand infantry on the
beach. We fight close and in formation. Four legions - four walls of spears. When the
trumpet calls, keep in front . . . spur them to battle.
Ill do what I can.
Diomedes turned his steed around,
then looked back; He-Man, have you seen them?
No, He-Man replied.
Whatevers out there,
however horrible, dont hesitate to kill it. They are merciless.
Diomedes rode back to his men, as
He-Man thrust his sword into the sand, and falling to his knees with his palm resting on
the nub of its handle, prayed this prayer; Goddess, give my soul wings to fight with
courage . . .
As these words flew from his heavy
beating breast, a white glow flashed before his eyes, flawless beauty in a womans
face, of both eternal youth and aged wisdom, a face no mortal woman could possess, and
round her her white feathered dress melting in the dark of night. He looked upon her with
amazement, his eyes glaring. But she comforted him with soothing words; Have no
fear. It is not destined that you die this day. For you will be the father of a great line
of kings who will inherit the world . . . Her image faded like the white in the blue
of a crashing wave, leaving her voice to echo; . . . and all the universe . .
The trumpet, a long, round sea shell,
sounded. And He-Man raised his massive two-handed sword, as a rainstorm of arrows from
behind the high defensive wall arched over his head, falling far in the distance where the
green and violet moons shown in the water and muddled voices not human groaned in ways
that cannot be described. Diomedes war cry followed. He-Man ran out in front, blind in the
darkness, as four thousand men jogged behind him, their spears and tridents bristling like
the hairs of a monstrous porcupine. At last, as he came upon the shore where the sand was
hard and he could hear the roar of the tide, he saw silhouettes of things not unlike men
creeping in the moonlight, but with webbed hands and feet, and fins protruding from their
faces. Then a putrid stench, like many dead and decaying fish, filled his nostrils, and he
staggered back gagging as a figure closed in on him. He swung his steel madly, hearing a
gurgling shriek, and black blood oozed down its shaft. With the first taste of blood, the
skull-faced sword came alive in his hands, pulsing and burning with hunger as the body
slumped face down at his feet, the mer-mens grayish-green scales glittering in the
Sounds mixed and clashed in
disharmony: commands lost in furious battle cries, bizarre gurgling, the ensuing shouts of
triumph and the agonizing howl of the dying. Night turned to day as mer-men become living
torches ran through the crowd with tails of fire, their flesh melting and smelling even
more foul, their screaming unbearable. The wall of armored men thrust their spears and
tridents through slits in their shields, impaling the scattered mer-men, then trampling
over them, marching to the tune of a piper and the beat of a drummer. Then came mighty
Diomedes, his green steeds hooves splashing as he launched a spear from his palm,
gorging a hole in the back of a fleeing mer-mans head. Sarpedon, meanwhile, was
thrusting his trident into a mer-mans belly, letting the black blood spill as he
wrenched the three bronze points from the wound, pulling out the mer-mans pink
entrails. Not much further fought Aeneas, felling mer-men left and right with his agile
sword. Polydorous, all the while, led his troops in a wedge shape through the throng of
aquatic invaders, shooting arrow after arrow atop his charging mare, cutting a path strewn
with dead bodies. And for a time it seemed the mer-men had no way to defend themselves,
that they could do nothing but be struck down. Then like the tide swelling back to the
coast, they flowed against their attackers. Their hard, hooked finger nails tore through
the soldiers exposed legs and arms, hurling them down before their jagged,
shark-like teeth sank into their enemies naked throats. Other mer-men with live
squids sprayed ink in the soldiers eyes, blinding them, while invisible death came
from the shells of mollusks, sending men gasping to the ground. Still other mer-men hurled
missiles made of the barbs and stingers of poisonous sea creatures: anemones, sting rays,
and jelly fish. And when these weapons from the sea ran out, large rocks dealt just as
much injury and death.
Both armies were deadlocked; the
mens superior military tactics clashed with the overwhelming number of mer-men
sprouting from the sea. Now fearless Diomedes had thrown all his spears, and as he fought
close to the water where the mass of sea dwellers was thickest, they swamped around his
horse, ripping its flesh with their hooked hands. The beast neighed wildly, and Diomedes
was thrown into the crashing waves, cold water pouring through his armor, his plume and
cape muddied. The mer-men were quick to crowd around him, then, as Diomedes men
sprinted to save him, fearing for his life more than their own. But he was too deeply
immersed in the mer-men multitude. Lifting a spear from one of the many dead bodies laying
around him, Diomedes sent it spinning into an encroaching foe, penetrating through his
scaly hide where the neck meets the collar bone, blowing out the back of his shoulder.
Another spear Diomedes thrust between a mer-mans ribs, but as he went to pry the
wooden shaft loose, its bronze, angled point snagged the creatures backbone, and he
was unable to free it. Suddenly a large rock from the hands of a mer-man standing waist
deep in the sea struck Diomedes in the side of the helmet, sending him reeling. A second
mer-man pushed his face into the sand where the tide rose up to drown him. Then came
Sarpedon, riding through the subhuman army with his legion behind him, like a raging river
cutting through a field. And from his mount he cast a fishing net over a lot of them,
stabbing relentlessly with his deadly trident, till the sea turned black with their blood.
Even the mer-man clutching Diomedes felt the pangs of Sarpedons trident as all three
metal prongs bit into his back.
Diomedes, are you all
He coughed mud from his lungs.
Thanks to you, my friend.
Here, said Sarpedon,
jumping down. Take my steed. Ill fight on foot.
It was not long before the
mer-mens number doubled, then tripled, till there seemed to be a countless number of
them, as every drop of water in the sea, teaming round every man. And every time the tide
unraveled to wash the bodies off the shore, wave after wave, more of them came. Soon
Sarpedon fell as a sharp stinger gashed open his intestines, and in the salty water the
life flowed out of him, and darkness came over his eyes. Quick to follow was Polydorous.
Having spent all his arrows, the mer-men pulled him down from his green horse, stripped
him of his armor, and beat him to death with coral rocks. With these two great commanders
gone, their legions lost hope, and the mer-men pushed forward to the city wall.
Sarpedon and Polydorous are
lost! Diomedes cried, riding up to He-Man, and I am injured. Why do you
hesitate? You must lead our men back to the city and fight off these monsters!
Like a frenzied lion, He-Man fought
his way to the city wall, swiping off the heads of mer-men as he went. Once this new
threat came to their attention, they turned to attack him, three at once. But He-Man was
prepared. Spinning out from his palm, his double-headed ax sliced the air with a
tumultuous whir, lodging itself in the middle ones soft skull. Of the two remaining,
the one on the left charged at him with a stinger. But He-Mans voracious, six-foot
blade met with his neck, and the mer-mans head rolled from his shoulders, blood
gushing from the open wound. The third mer-man turned to flee, but He-Man ran after him
with a ferocious cry, slashing at his back. With that, the sea dweller fell on his
stomach, and pinning him down with his boot, He-Man finished his life with a downward
thrust through his brain, the edge coming out the center of his amphibian face. Suddenly a
large stone landed by He-Mans feet, tossing up sand, and facing the thrower with
rage flaring from his reddened brow, he lunged forward before the mer-man could react.
Relishing the blood, the Sword of Grayskull sliced through the scaly hide, flesh, and
bone, leaving the green leg, from hip down, to writhe bodiless in the sand. The fallen
mer-man gazed up at him then with his round, yellow eyes, lifting his webbed hands to ask
for mercy. But He-Mans heart had hardened, and he plunged the hot steel shaft into
the mer-mans bowels, killing him.
With a legendary hero having joined
the fray, the soldiers of Sarnath rejoiced and inspiration pushed them onward. He-Man, in
turn, lopped off another mer-mans head and raised it exultantly, standing with his
bare, muscular torso caked with blood and dirt, framed in the glow of the turquoise moon,
his blonde braid swaying like a war banner, crying; Do not fear these enemies, my
friends, they die like worms beneath our feet! And if you should be struck down, what
better way to die than in defense of your own city!? Is there no greater honor a man may
hope for!? Envy your comrades whose bodies lay here! Envy your brave commanders, Sarpedon
and Polydorous, that you might attain such honor! Fight I say! And do not return to your
wives and mothers in shame, living to a great old age and having men forever call you
coward! With these words, the mens hearts boiled with passion, charging
headlong against a sea of green foes.
When the golden rays of the Eternian
sun peered up from the sea, mer-men climbed the walls of Sarnath. Using no ladders, a
sticky substance coating their hands and feet moved them up like spiders. Archers standing
on the ramparts shot straight down at them, picking them off one by one like flies, or
kicked them back down as they reached the top. Huge catapults launched flaming boulders
from inside the city, crushing and setting dozens of them to flames. And still other
soldiers employed cauldrons filled with boiling oil, frying the mer-men and smearing the
wall with a hot, slippery substance difficult to climb.
The number of soldiers left to defend
the city were dwindling, and more dead bodies littered the ground from the wall to the
water than were fighters standing. The Sword of Grayskull felt heavy in He-Mans
arms, so much so that when he drove the blade into another, rather large mer-mans
chest, he toppled over, putting all his weight into the blow. Then as He-Man lay atop him,
face-to-face to catch his breath and rest his arms, the creature, choking on his own black
blood, gasped these final words; Damn you, human! He-Man jumped up, shocked,
never having known the mer-men could speak, and even more surprising, that they could
speak a human language. As he became suddenly aware of his surroundings, he saw the few
remaining soldiers, Diomedes as well as Aeneas, cheering, for the mer-men were retreating
back to the sea. But something about this whole ordeal was bothering him. Now that the sun
had taken its place in the morning heaven, he scanned all along the lighted beach, and
could not easily find a place where a man could lay without touching the rotting corpse of
a mer-man. Amazed, he couldnt help but wonder why: why would such intelligent
creatures attack them with such undying resolve, throwing their lives away like ashes in
The burning of piled mer-men bodies
the following night made light for the celebration. In the temple of Sargon, seated at the
head of a long, rectangular table of deep green marble, was the High Priest Urukagina, his
daughter, Merneptah, beside him, red and white roses in her bundled hair and a gold
serpent choker twined round her lean white neck biting its own tail. Grimosse the
guardian, that long snouted, leather skinned monster was next to her, towering above them
all, and He-Man, newly bathed, combed, and scented with oils, sat across from her. Joining
them also were the two brave commanders: Diomedes and Aeneas. Women servants had just
brought bowls of a seafood soup, silver dishes full of shrimp, clams, oysters, octopus,
calamari and caviar, followed by yellow, horned crab, a buttered lobster the size of a
large dog, freshly caught salmon, and fillets of tuna steak and great white shark bleeding
in sauce like red meat. And in copper grails swirled the reddest wine.
Urukagina stood. To you,
He-Man, we, the people of Sarnath, owe everything, our city, our freedom. I am confident
that the mer-mens threat is no more. Never have so many died before our great wall.
What few cowards remained returned to the sea, and there they shall forever stay, fearing
the wrath of Sargon and his chosen city, the all powerful Sarnath! Diomedes and Aeneas
fought just as bravely. But they fought for the lives of their wives and children. You,
He-Man, warrior-nomad from a distant land, had no such cause. So how can we repay you?
Nothing can be done to fully show our gratitude, for nothing is worth more to us than the
sanctity of our city. All I can do is fulfill my promise to you: Merneptah, he
gestured to her, my eldest virgin daughter, that she with princely dowry be yours in
lawful marriage. Your wedding will mark the celebration of our victory over the
mer-men! She turned away from them, pain showing on her handsome face. And
Grimosse black beady eyes followed He-Mans every move, his stony teeth jutting
like hills from his long, brown snout, a new vein coursing from his collar bone to the
edge of his tall neck.
The tension broke when the
brown-bearded Diomedes half-stood, wine spilling over his hand; A toast to you,
He-Man! May all your children grow to be just as brave!
Merneptah shot up suddenly, sobbing,
and knocking the chair down behind her, she ran out of the room.
Come back here at once, young
lady! Urukagina cried, but as she did not heed him, he added; Grimosse, bring
The table shuddered beneath the
giants four fingered hands as he got to his feet, clad in solid gold boots, and
glancing at He-Man one last time, he thundered off.
Forgive me, He-Man, the
priest said. It is the age, I fear. Most fifteen year old girls act this way. But I
am certain shell grow out of it. And if she does not, spare not the rod. Teach her
to respect you more than her father. I would have beaten her more, but as I am the voice
of God, I hadnt the time.
Can I . . ., He-Man
started, . . . talk to her?
Urukagina paused. It is . . .
highly unorthodox, but you may. You will find her locked in her room. Follow that
corridor, turn left at the third arch, then right at the twelfth door. And one more thing
. . . Grimosse is certain to guard her . . . chastity, so no man would dare defile her
before the proper time.
On her broad bed of pink and red
flower petals, Merneptah lay weeping, a man-made waterfall roaring behind her, spilling
into a pool of small fish which varied, bright and beautiful color were beyond naming.
Along the walls were paintings of long oared ships, leaping dolphins, and young, nude boys
fishing. Grimosse, motionless and intimidating as a statue, stood beside her. All this
He-Man could see, peering through the gaps left by the etchings of ornate patterns in the
wooden shutter separating one part of her room from the other. But the sound of the
falling, splashing water drowned out her voice, so he could not hear what she was saying
when she fell on her knees, wrapping her arms around the monsters ankles, tears
streaming over her porcelain cheeks dripping off her chin.
The scene was too much for him to
endure, and He-Man decided to leave Sarnath and never return, never claiming his prize. It
was not in him to force a young girl to marry him, though she was rich and beautiful.
Besides, he thought, he was a nomad, a wanderer, how could he give up such a life for one
of sedentary wealth? Then the face of another formed in his minds eye, and he made
for the dungeon. Finding one of his own would have to be reward enough.
Outside the pyramidal temple, the air
was wet with fog like white cotton and wafting through it a think gray haze carried the
salty scent of burning flesh. Beyond one of the stone obelisks guarding the temple,
reaching high enough to scrape the flickering stars, He-Man could spot a fire, and could
hear the sound of men bellowing as if in drunken sport. He made for the fire, never
without his sword, to find a gathering of archers, some still in their armor, all without
their shields and helmets. And there, tied to a stake by a long rope, stripped of all but
her loin cloth, was the woman thief who had come in the night to defile the temple god.
The white of her eyes lacked no luster as she stared into the flame, the round emeralds
within darting back and forth like a wild animal being hunted.
Theres nothing sweeter
than victory, eh? one of the archers muttered.
And nothing more bitter than
defeat, He-Man replied. What goes on here?
The man pulled his bows string
back in response, armed with an arrow, then let it go haphazardly. It went whizzing
several feet away from her. Apparently, the archer was drunk; they all were. If they
hadnt been, she surely would be dead by now. Were just having some
fun, he explained, before her execution tomorrow. Join us! Another arrow
went flying, too close this time, and she was forced to leap from its deadly path. But her
movement lacked all the grace it had the night she came to Sarnath. She was tired of this
game. Regardless, the archers cheered with appreciation, as if they wished her to survive,
or enjoyed watching her behave like a trained animal doing tricks.
Let me try, He-Man said,
stepping forward while dismounting his six-foot sword from its place between his shoulder
blades. They parted to let him through. Knowing him sober, real fear shown in her eyes
now, mixed with contempt as she stared at him. But as he raised the hot blade to his lips,
he whispered; do not harm her. Then, arching his arm far back as a man would
throwing the discus, the sword went spinning into the bark of the stake, cutting the rope
and freeing the woman, who, hesitating a mere second in disbelief to glance from the rope
come loose in her palms to He-Mans eyes once more, went dashing off, the fog closing
someone gasped, stumbling over his bow. Then a few poor shots were made, but He-Man halted
them, crying; Save your arrows! Ill catch her!
The woman thief was much swifter than
the men chasing her, but she was exhausted from dodging arrows, had been without food for
days, and in the white of the fog and the black of night, amidst the countless streets and
alleyways of the city, she collapsed. When He-Man found her at last, the archers were
close behind, and two sober guards came to return her to the dungeon.
I will go with her, said
He-Man at last. His lordship, the High Priest, wishes me to ask her some questions
regarding her . . . people, so that we may find and civilize them.
Very well, said the
guard. Follow me.
In waking, the woman found herself
bundled in the fetus position in a stony, moss covered corner. The brooding warrior,
He-Man, was there, watching her. She glanced at him, then turned away.
It wasnt my fault,
he said. I would have let you go, but they came to take you away.
She did not reply.
I understand you stealing that
pearl; it must be worth a fortune, enough to feed you . . . your family perhaps, for
months. But you tried to kill the priest! Two men are dead because of you. Why? Is that
Please speak to me! he
cried. We are the same blood in a land of strangers. If I could do anything, say
anything to stop them from killing you . . . All right, at least give me your name. You
can do as much.
Were all going to
die, she whispered. You cant save them; you cant even save
What are you talking about? The
mer-men are beaten!
No, she said quietly.
You know nothing. It is written in the scriptures, in their own holy books; Sarnath
is doomed by the gods. The High Priest knows this, but he wont admit it, hes
afraid to face his destiny. She stared blankly, words escaping her lips as though
not her own. It is only a matter of time . . . a few days perhaps, a week;
everything here will be gone, including us.
If this is so, tell me your
name. He paused. What difference does it make if were all going to
Thelana, she replied
My name is Thelana.
I am He-Man.
I know. Everyone knows who you
Actually, my name is Xandr.
Its short for Alexander. But the people, they call me He-Man. There was a great
warrior once, living a long long time ago . . . they called him He-Man too. No more
was said for a great while. Then, he asked; What happened there? pointing at a
wound in her rib just below her left breast.
This . . ., she smiled,
happened a long time ago. I dont even remember how. But once, she added,
showing him a scar behind her naked thigh, from the rim of her buttox to the cup of her
knee, a sword got me, during a battle. And here in my lower back, an arrow went
through; I nearly died. See the grooves around my ankle? Some creature bit me when I was
crossing a river . . . bastard tried to drag me down.
Youve had your share of
She pulled herself up, leaning
against the wall. How did that happen? she said, motioning to the great scar
across his chest.
The tale is long.
Tell me. Im not going
anywhere. Are you?
He took in a deep breath. In my
eighteenth year, I was wandering through some woods in the North, looking for some game
and a tree to sleep under, when I came upon a cottage by a stream, a stream coming down a
mountain overlooking the woods. Whoever lived there was a crafty builder, I thought, for
he had built a wheel to turn by the force of the running water. And so I went to this
house and knocked on the door, and there met an old blind man who had with him three
daughters. They were nine, twelve, and fifteen. Their mother had died years ago giving
birth to the last, the fifth girl. I assumed the plague had taken the other two, so I
never inquired as to their whereabouts. In any event, the old man invited me to stay and
live with him if I would chop wood for his hearth, for he was blind and feeble and the
eldest daughter could help but little. And so, I lived with this kind family for many
months, from the time of early Spring to the coming of Old Father Winter, just when the
snow begins to fall from His beard glazing the earth white. All the while, I chopped more
wood in a day than the old man could in a year as the girls gathered plants for our
One day, when I was out cutting
down a tree, I heard screams coming from the cottage. Leaving my work quickly, I found the
old man and the two girls sobbing hysterically, pulling their hair. I tried to calm them
so they would tell me what was the matter, but it was a long while before the eldest
daughter cried; He took her! Then I realized, the nine year old was nowhere to
be seen. Who took her!? I asked. The ogre took my child as I knew he
would, the old blind father replied. Hearing this, I grew angry. What
ogre? I shouted. So he told me his story. He told me how his fifth daughter, only
six years old, disappeared one afternoon, and that after searching for many days, he came
upon her tiny bones in a cave up in the mountain, clean of blood, and also, her bracelet
that she was never without, so he was sure he had found all he would of her. At this
terrible sight, the poor old man was struck blind, and retracing his steps, for he knew
the woods well, he came back to his cottage in despair. The year following, the old man
heard the voice and stomping of the ogre, and the screams of his fourth daughter as she
too was taken away to be eaten. Every day since, he prayed to the gods for the ogre never
to return. But apparently the monster had. When I was out chopping wood, the ogre had
taken his third daughter. Now all that remained of his five children were two, the other
three eaten. For this the fool blamed himself, for not having left the mountain after his
first was taken, but he assured me he would leave right then and there, though he hated to
leave the home he had built with his own two hands - where he had lived with his late
wife. But I stopped him, promising he would never lose another child to this ogre.
So I left to search the
mountain myself, finding a cave where other human and animal bones lay. And in that cave I
slept, waiting for the ogre to return. And when he did, I killed him with my ax, though he
left me forever with this scar, with the spiked club he used to carry.
What of the old man and his
daughters? Thelana asked.
I brought him the head of the
ogre, and to my knowledge, his daughters sleep to this day without fear.
She almost laughed. It sounds
like a fairy tale.
Life is a fairy tale.
Then believe me when I say that
doom is coming to Sarnath!
I believe that someday, Sarnath
will be gone, as all things in this world. But not by tomorrow. Not by the hands of
Do me a favor, please.
Leave the city. Leave this very
Thelana, I-I cant.
Fine, she said, facing
the wall. But dont let me keep you. Go . . . go back to the priests
daughter and collect her dowry.
Just go, she said softly.
All right! he cried.
Im going! Guard! Guard! Open this gate! The guard came, and He-Man left
her alone, the ringing of iron against iron resonating throughout the cold, dark dungeon.
Day of Doom
Awake He-Man! It was the
crystal voice of the feathered Goddess. This is a day of great ordeal. As her
rosy-white cheeks melted away, it was soon replaced by a hideous grinning face with
rounded teeth like hill tops and eyes like flecks of glimmering obsidian buried deep in
leathery flesh. Then a gold moon appeared, quickly growing larger till suddenly, He-Man
realized what it was, and rolled out of bed as the massive bell-shaped hammer smashed his
small wooden bed to bits.
Grimosse! he cried,
reaching for his sword. Why!?
Be-cause . . . you hurt
Brandishing his blade, he backed away
from the menacing creature. What!? I did no such thing!
Yes! the monster
asserted, cracking the limestone tile where He-Mans feet had been.
When? How? He-Man
She not mar-ry you. You make
her cry. Grim-osse not like see her cry. Grim-osse kill you! He swung again, their
metals ringing, but even He-Mans great two-handed sword trembled at the might of the
giant mace, sending waves of force through his fingers, wrist, up around his shoulder.
Listen to me Grimosse . . . I-I
dont want to marry Merneptah! But his words were lost. Already, the giant had
tackled him to the ground. He-Man fell on his back with a grunt, his sword skidding from
his palm, as Grimosse raised the hammer again. Simply dropping such a weight on a man
would be enough to collapse his ribs, shatter his skull to pieces like the chips of an egg
shell, and the guardian wielded it like a child with a new found toy. But before the
inevitable could occur, a single drop of water splashed atop Grimosses head,
followed by a deafening roar like the turning wheels of the thunder gods chariot,
and the floor shuddered and quaked beneath them. As the long-snouted monster looked up in
alarm, a column of water funneled through the square window, continuing to pour into the
room till it reached well over his golden boots and He-Mans nose. Soon, the wall
around the window fractured, and finally, caved in. Next thing they knew, they were
swimming. But it was not long before the waters height fell, washing out the doorway
down the hall so they could stand and breathe again.
The event was so strange and
startling, Grimosse seemed to forget his reason for being there, as He-Man rushed to the
window gasping; By all the gods!
The high wall round Sarnath was
broken down the middle, and through it extended the sea. Streets were now rivers. Low-land
homes by what had once been the beach were gone, vanished beneath the waves. Of all the
towers, only their roots remained like cloven tree trunks, their masses toppled, no longer
proudly scraping the orange sky but strewn in segments on the houses, markets, stadiums
and theaters that were by them, a web of pools between, the sea dashing up against the
ruins spraying into the damp, misty air. And rising up from the chaos and destruction came
a great wail from a great multitude, and those who were not drowned or buried beneath
bricks looked to the temple, to the High Priest as to God himself, Sargon, to help them,
save them. Then He-Mans awe wide eyes focused on a lone woman survivor, and the
mer-man that was beating her as she screamed out her last breath. And there were others,
mer-men so populous, like blades of grass poking up from the marsh.
Thelana! his mind cried; I must save
her! He turned to Grimosse. Find Merneptah! Dont let the mer-men get
Grimosse gripped his hammers
handle. Mer-nep-tah . . .
He-Man treaded off. Go!
And the monster followed, parting with the warrior as they exited the room.
The sea spilled from the level floor
down the stairwell leading to the dungeon, where He-Man, pushing his way through the
throng of guards trying to get out, found himself up to his waist in water inching its way
higher. Soon, all but his neck and shoulders were dry, and he was alone but for the
prisoners trapped in the cells on either side of him. They were all going to drown, he
knew, and they begged for his help, but he ignored their pleas; he had time to save one,
Finally, he heard a womans
shouts slicing through the horde of male voices; I can fight for you! You need me!
Open up! The word open shocked him, for he realized with all the
commotion that he had forgotten the most simple thing: the key. Why hadnt he asked
the passing guards, he agonized; can I bend these bars? He tried, but only after a minute
did they begin to change from a perfect vertical line of iron to a slightly curved one.
And now the water was wetting his chin, and he could hear the prisoners praying to Sargon
that he might deliver them. No, it was impossible; he had to turn back. He had to leave
her, to let her drown. If only now he could fight an army to save her, as once he could.
But the sea was more powerful than all the armies of all the world combined, more powerful
even, than the mighty He-Man.
Within the temple shrine, Aeneas and
Diomedes fought bravely, Diomedes with his thrusting spear and Aeneas with an ornate gold
and jade sword. As bodies of mer-men and humans littered the floor and mer-man blood oozed
from the cavities left by the fierce Sarnathian warriors turning the white marble tiles of
the shrine black with small pockets of red, the immense idol of Sargon crumbled from the
strain of the river gushing from the new opening in the ceiling bringing down fragments of
the ceiling with it. Finally, the chins of the humpback whales crashed down with a
resounding crack tearing loose from the gold reins of the gods sea shell chariot,
this followed by the triumphant arm of Sargon dropping, trident in its stone hand,
shattering into a thousand pieces on the floor. Then the whole of the god split in half,
rubble raining down on defender and attacker alike, and Sargons head teetered
between the two halves of his broken torso. Seeing this, their god fallen and mer-men
teaming round them threateningly with stones and stingers, Aeneas and Diomedes plunged
What shall we do? Aeneas
cried, fending off a mer-mens webbed hand as a throng of enemies pushed his ankle
back against the rim of the sacred pool.
I dont know . . .,
Diomedes sighed, flooring a mer-man with his spears bronze point; we must find
the priest, if he is not dead already.
Keep them from our
shrine! cried the other, as best he could to boost their waning faith, it can
be rebuilt . . .
Then the two witnessed a strange
sight: many of the mer-men were not attacking, but rather, were staring with their great
bulbous eyes at the idol beneath, the red coral squid, reaching out to it, touching it,
making strange, inhuman gurgling noises.
He-Man had fought his way to Diomedes
and Aeneas, but so tightly confined was the struggle, they hadnt even noticed his
arrival. As he stepped over the bodies of human and mer-man to join with them, to offer
them hope as he had before, a mer-man lifted a spear from the palm of a dead soldier and
hurled it into Aeneas open mouth. Diomedes continued to fight for another minute before he
realized his friend and ally was killed, red draining from Aeneas lips, staining his
teeth as they bit down hard into the wooden shaft lodged between them. But it was his body
splashing backward into the sacred pool that alerted Diomedes. No Aeneas! he
cried, reaching to lift his friend from the water. NO! And that was his final
word, as bits of his skull and pieces of his brain scattered from the force of a rock
clutched in webbed hands.
Running through the arch of
Merneptahs bedroom, He-Mans blood froze and he stumbled to a stop, half
paralyzed by the vision before him; Grimosse, the monster, was on his knees, tears
streaming off his hideous leather face. And in his arms was the beautiful young girl, a
tiny dagger in her hand, her bleeding neck grown limp and the head drooped on her
shoulders, like a scarlet flower languishing and dying when its stem has been cut by the
I found her this way, the
monster sobbed. I-I dont know what happ-ened . . . I made to pro-tect her . .
. Now, what I do?
He-Man brushed a tear from his own
eye with the back of his wrist. Come . . . this is no time to grieve. We both have
loss, but now we must fight.
Yes, said Grimosse,
grasping his hammer. I fight with you. I be your guard-i-an. I must guard. I made to
Turning to leave, He-Man met the High
Priest standing solemnly in the archway. Urukagina . . . your daughter . . .
I know, said the priest,
have you seen what those disgusting heathens have done to my temple! Stop
The guardians giant frame flew
headlong into the swell of mer-men, heads bursting like bubbles of black blood against the
round end of his bell-shaped hammer. Their stingers broke like straws against his hard
leathery skin. Pieces of the idol used as missiles did not seem to hurt him. Four of them
alone could not drag the giant down, hanging on his arms, holding his solid gold boots,
leaping on his bent back. Then with a terrible groan he would pound the floor with his
mighty mallet, throwing them off, repelling those around him. And so he continued to fight
in a crazed frenzy like a starved, rabid lion in a fence of docile sheep, wallowing in
their blood, crushing heads with a single blow.
He-Man, meanwhile, held his
two-handed sword in one hand and in his other his ax, dealing death just as quickly as
Grimosse. As the blade of his ax sunk into the skull of one mer-man, three others felt the
sharp sting of the Sword of Grayskull as it left deep gashes across their scaly chests.
All the while, the High Priest
Urukagina climbed atop the marble, shell shaped chariot of Sargon to watch the battle from
above. And having rescued the sacred scrolls, he held them in his arms as a new mother
would her infant. Suddenly there was another rumble echoing throughout the temple for all
to hear, and the priest covered his head in terror as the head of Sargon toppled from its
base, rolling down the idols broken chest like a huge boulder, bouncing over the
chariot, till finally, the dueling armies parted from its path and it came crashing to the
floor. And for no other reason it seemed, Grimosse, He-Man, and the mer-men stopped
fighting. A bizarre voice pervaded the silence then, followed by the sound of clanging
metal against stone, and the mer-men parted in rows allowing a single, large mer-man to
pass, this one unlike the others, for he held, like a staff in one hand, a gold trident
much like that of Sargon, and he wore a kind of yellow armor made of shells. He-Man boldly
walked between these rows of sea dwellers, accosting their apparent leader.
Why? he asked. Why do you wish to destroy us and our city? Answer me if
you have the power to speak!
I can speak your language
well, he gurgled as if his mouth were filled with water, are you
No, said He-Man.
But you cannot speak our
language . . .
You have not answered me!
He-Man cried, lifting his bloody sword. Answer or lose your tongue!
By this time Urukagina had descended
from the idol. Do not listen to him, He-Man. He is a heathen and cannot be trusted!
Kill him! Kill him now while you still can!
NO! He-Man growled.
I wont kill him or anyone else till I have my answer.
Alright, you will have your
answer, said the mer-man. Ten thousand years ago, where this city stands now,
there was another city, the city of Ib, as splendid as Sarnath. It was our city, He-Man,
our city. And we lived here in peace with you humans, you in the primitive hovels you
built around us.
After a time, your villages
grew in abundance, and when your number rivaled our own, a hate for our kind was spawned,
and a fear, and an envy of our wealth and access to the sea. So one day an army rose up
against us. But we had no defenses. No walls. No weapons. We had not known war till you
taught us the meaning of it. Our women and children were slaughtered mercilessly. Our
priests murdered, defenseless in their own temples as they prayed to the one you
call Golgotha, whose true name your human tongue cannot pronounce. And when we at last
surrendered and begged for peace, the remainder of us were tortured, left to dry in the
sun without moisture, or used as living torches for light. All of our splendid buildings
were burned, and nothing remained of the once proud city of Ib but this idol you call the
squid-god. You used it to mock us even in our near extinction, building your human god
Lies! the priest cried.
He-Man waved his ax threateningly.
Silence! Let him finish. Finish, mer-man.
But that was not the end of
it, he continued. What few of us survived escaped into the sea where humans
cannot follow. There we slowly rebuilt our homes, underwater where we knew you could not
live, on land you would have no purpose taking. And in time we came to forget the
massacre, though we harbored a deep hatred and fear of you. Then one day, when Sarnath had
become a great city, a fisherman caught a large egg. To him it looked like a giant pearl,
and so he sold them as such. But they were our unborn children. Soon the eggs were wanted
throughout the world, and divers by the thousands robbed them from us for the high price
they would bring, and in this way Sarnath became the wealthiest city in Eternia, and it
was not long before eggs became the citys main export. We sent delegates to explain
what the eggs were, and that they belonged to us, but you already knew and did not care,
and upon sight of my people, my people were murdered.
And so you know, He-Man, our
story, and why our seething hate grew as such to sacrifice all our lives if need be, to
destroy Sarnath and all humans!
He-Man turned to the priest. Is
Here, the mer-man said,
if you do not believe me, look with your own eyes. And he removed an eye from
the statue head of Sargon, cracking it open on the floor. Inside was a small fetus much
like a human baby, petrified and brittle, turning to dust at the warriors touch.
He-Man pulled the priest by the robe
now, crying; Is this true!
Yes. Yes its true,
he answered. But what does it matter? They are savages . . . barbarians! They
dont deserve to live! The world would be better without their kind polluting
Damn you, priest! He-Man
cried, fire in his eyes. You are to blame for all these deaths! Look at them!
he cried, forcing the priest down with the sword edge pressed against the back of his
neck, pulling him up by the hair.
Urukagina glanced around the room, at
the bodies of men and mer-men, at Diomedes and Aeneas, and he trembled. Spare me,
He-Man! Show mercy!
Youve made me a part of
this- a murderer, damned me a thousand times over, and I am to spare you?
Please . . . Sargon help
me! he cried at last.
Burying the Sword of Grayskull up to
its hilt, He-Man murmured; Your god is dead, as the priests sullen
yellow eyes grew vacant and still.
Suddenly, the leader of the mer-men
shrieked, falling on his knees clutching the tail of an arrow jutting from his right
shoulder. Behind him He-Man could see a couple of mer-men holding down a woman in the
pool. In her hand was the string of her gold and jade bow, and between her toes its shaft.
Thelana! he cried, reaching out to her.
Now the mer-men were enraged,
attacking Grimosse and He-Man again, though their leader commanded them to stop. They did
not hear or would not listen.
Thelana, meanwhile, tripped the
mer-man holding her with her foot while kicking the other in the crotch. She then leaped
up, turned her bow into a sword, and cut a path towards He-Man.
You shouldnt have shot
him, he said swinging his blade. He was going to set us free.
I-I didnt know, she
grunted, lopping off another head.
And I thought you were
So did I, till the roof of my
cell caved in and I swam out.
Saved only to die now . .
., he muttered.
It doesnt matter,
she said. At least we die fighting.
A shadow darkened the battlefield,
then, like a storm cloud passing over the sun. And all looked up to see a flock of gray
skinned, flying men with feathered arms in countless number. One of them swooped down from
the hazy, orange sky, reaching out to He-Man.
Stratos, my friend!
He-Man exclaimed. I didnt expect to see you.
The Council of Azrael came to a
new decision; we are to let the city be destroyed, but save the survivors. Now take my
Stratos flew up from the mob of angry
mer-men clutching He-Man, a bird-woman carried off Thelana, and three large bird-men
helped carry Grimosse. And as they sailed away amongst the clouds towards the lofty city
of Avion far far from the sea, they looked back at what was once the vast and beautiful
Sarnath, and the mer-men rejoicing, dancing round a single object under the gibbous
turquoise moon and its eternal partner the smaller violet crescent moon, standing alone
amidst the ruins and the flames, the most ancient crimson coral idol, Golgotha, the