The Return of Shokoti

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The Return of Shokoti
© Nick Alimonos, August 11/98

The golden-white Sands of Time lay still, unchanged for the thousandth eclipsing of the giant green moon, Infinity, by the smaller violet Eon, unchanged since the Great Cataclysm of Eternia which gave rise to the age of cult empires, and to the one great goddess, the “Living Darkness,” Shokoti. For nearly two thousand years the desert has slept, as she entombed in her pyramid, the House of Darkness. Two years ago there was but a flicker of her power, sparked by the unearthing of her tomb, merely her spirit, and it was vanquished in a black tarn. But her body was never found and resurrected. Never did Eternia witness her true power. Never did the eyes of Shokoti open, before now . . .

Chapter 1

Enveloped in the howling of a golden-white storm, four strange figures emerged over a hill of sand. The most awkward of these was perhaps the helmeted, green faced man, with a lower jaw of scarlet iron, teeth like a saw, and a mechanical arm with a hook for a hand. Beside him stood something between a lumbering hulk of red fur and a hairy, stooping man. The third member of this awkward group was a pale, stone-faced woman, dressed in blue and black with a cape and a crown of crystals. The fourth of them, and by far the most menacing, was a tall black shroud. Gold ribbons with magic symbols painted in red fell from the sides of his hood to his feet. And nothing could be seen of him but his blue hand, clutching a silver staff topped with the skull of a ram.
“Let’s hope we don’t run into any more of those desert sansker,” said he with the metal mouth, stepping lightly, and watching the ground with every step.
The cloaked figure turned to the woman, aiming his staff at her threateningly, as from his hood came a high pitched echo; “If your spell had brought us closer to the tomb, we wouldn’t have run into them!”
“Any closer, Lord Skeletor,” she replied, “and we’d have teleported inside the walls!”
He turned to her again, letting the light of the red waning sun fall on the yellow skull that was his face. “Foolish wench! You know the dangers of the Sands of Time! You should have let me do it. Your sorcery pales before mine.”
“Oow!” she crooned. “One of these days, Skeletor!”
“Enough! You know I can kill you with a thought. Don’t tempt me. Now let’s move on,” he concluded, pushing his staff into the sand. “It must be near.”
“If you’re so powerful,” she said, trailing after him, “what do you need of me?”
“You are a pawn, Evil-Lyn, in my plan to takeover Eternia. Nothing more.”
“One day,” she murmured, “you will learn humility.”
“What was that!?”
“Nothing, my Lord, I said ‘one day, you will . . . appreciate me.’”
“That’s not what I thought you said . . .”
“Just over that rock,” the green faced man cut-in, “Look!”
“The House of Darkness,” Evil-Lyn intoned.
“At last!” Skeletor cried with glee.

The four of them cleared several more sand dunes before reaching the thin, stone pyramid, rising hundreds of feet into the air, its pointed tip broken by the centuries of erosion. At the base of the pyramid was a ruby-red, thirty foot door, etched with two columns of vertical symbols running parallel, around a gold mask of a horned woman with eyes that seemed to stare into their own, whichever way they turned.
“Beast Man,” Skeletor commanded; “open this door.”
“Ugh, yes, master,” the hairy brute replied, lifting the door open from its base, as Skeletor and his minions ducked within the tomb.
Once inside, the mechanical armed man unhooked his hook hand, replacing it with a lamp, illuminating the dusty passageway.
“Well done, Trap Jaw,” Skeletor said. “Now, Evil-Lyn, guide us to the burial chamber.”
Down many dark halls the foursome trespassed, and through many immense rooms. In one such room was an altar, a stone throne, and a pool of tar where a sixty foot broken statue lay half submerged in the blackness. They passed quickly through these rooms, however, for the stench of the decaying corpses of small creatures, creatures whose bodies were but a mass of tentacles and lidless eyes, was enough to make one surrender his supper. Finally, the four came to a set of winding steps leading down.
“This must be it,” said she. “I can feel the Heart pulsating.”
“Let’s see it,” Skeletor replied.
Evil-Lyn reached into her cloak, and a red orb glowed in her hand, and the whole room, as well as they, turned red. “I-It is reacting to our approach . . . It knows!” she exclaimed.
“Let’s not hesitate. Come!” Skeletor commanded, snatching the orb from her hands and leading them with its light, down the steps.
In the adjacent room they came to a stone circle door, ten feet in diameter, etched with the face of the smiling horned woman. Skeletor laughed. “If only that fool, He-Man, had found this!”
“Malaktha, the Royal Archaeologist, died exploring this tomb,” Evil-Lyn explained. “They say a loose brick fell on his head.”
Skeletor hid the orb away, and reached out his hand as if to touch the air. “Yes, I can feel the evil. Malaktha was too good for it, and it killed him.”
Evil-Lyn smiled. “Perhaps.”
“Beast Man!”
“Yes, master?”
“Open this door.”
“Yes, master.” Beast Man pushed on one edge of the circle, then on the other, grunting all the while, but even his great strength could not budge it.
“Trap Jaw! Don’t just stand there!”
“Yes, master.” The green faced man joined Beast Man, pushing with all his mechanical arm’s might, but the door remained as it had been.
“Let me try,” Evil-Lyn said. “Away boys.” The two henchmen stepped behind her, and as she raised both arms into the air, her cape undulating in the ensuing blast of cold, stale air gushing from within, the door slowly slid away.
“Well done, witch!” Skeletor commented, before pounding his metal staff against the stone floor, disappearing into the darkness. The rest followed, reluctantly.
The chamber behind the circular door was round with a vaulted ceiling, in the center of which was an enormous statue of a kneeling bull demon holding a stone box in its outstretched hands. “Y-Yes, the evil is stronger here,” Skeletor mused.
“Where is it?” Evil-Lyn’s voice echoed. “Do you see it?”
“Ugh-uh, what are we looking for?” Beast Man asked.
“The Wand of Demons,” Skeletor replied. “With it, I can free Shokoti’s soul from this orb, and bring her back to life.”
“I still say that’s a stupid plan!” Evil-Lyn scoffed. “Let’s take the Wand of Demons and leave. We can learn to wield it ourselves!”
“That’s why I’m the master and you are the servant, Evil-Lyn. You think small. Shokoti was the most powerful sorceress in all Eternia before me. With our magic combined, nothing will stop us, not even He-Man and the Sorceress of Grayskull!”
“And what if she decides to make YOU her slave?”
“No one is that powerful. I can cast any spell with but a thought. I’ve graduated to the highest level of wizardry.”
“And I’ve studied my history. Shokoti was half-human. Her father was an archdemon, her mother a temple priestess of the Zoar Cult.
“I’ve read of whole armies falling beneath her wand, entire continents crumbling to her whim! Arts lost to the Ancients, Skeletor, that even YOU are not aware of!”
“Lies!” Skeletor returned, “lies to intimidate her enemies. And when my plans come to fruition, the same tales they will make for me.”
“We shall see, Skeletor. But the Wand of Demons is nowhere to be found.”
“Wait . . .,” he intoned, releasing the red glowing orb. “The Heart of Darkness grows brighter by the statue.”
“The stone box, it must hold her remains.”
“Beast Man!” Skeletor called. “Bring down that box.”
“Yees, master,” he grumbled, “whatever you say, master.” And Beast Man climbed up the kneeling statue, wrenched the man-sized box from its stone hands, and with the help of Trap Jaw, brought the box down carefully.
“Now, open it,” the Dark Lord commanded. And they did so, sliding the stone lid off and sending it crashing to the floor, breaking it in half.
“By the Ancients!” Trap Jaw exclaimed, eyeing the gold sarcophagus, shaped like a woman, within.
Beast Man and Trap Jaw lifted the sarcophagus from its stone casing then. But as they removed the cover, a strange sound filled the room. It was like a woman’s sigh or a deep breath; which they could not discern.
Beneath the gold cover were the mummified remains of a woman, ornately dressed in jewelry: bracelets, earrings, necklaces, all made of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, opals, and jade. Most of her bones had turned to dust, and much of the cloth used for wrapping had disintegrated. Only her backbone and skull, and the large horns protruding from her head, remained intact. And there, between the remains of her arms crossed over her rib cage, was a wooden claw.
“That’s it!” Skeletor cried, snapping the fingers of the corpse as he pried the claw loose, “the Wand of Demons!” Then, he fit the glowing orb into the wooden claw, as a red mist surrounded them, pouring into the eyes of the horned skull.
“Rise Shokoti, Living Darkness! Wake from your eternal sleep . . . I, Skeletor, summon you! Wander no more the halls of Death’s realm, but rise, rise and join the living!”
As Skeletor chanted, waving the wand over the body, the walls rattled, and dust and debris fell all around them. Beast Man and Trap Jaw cowared into the corner. Evil-Lyn, meanwhile, took hold of the wand. “No!” she cried. “It’s too dangerous!”
Skeletor slapped her across the cheek, sending her to the floor. “Get away from me, wench!”
Evil-Lyn crawled back away with a horrified look. “Behind you!” she said pointing.
“You think I’d fall for that old trick? I know what you want,” he said, turning to the wand, “and you shan’t have it!”
“No!” she cried again. “Look!”
A scratching noise came from the sarcophagus, and Skeletor turned to see the skeleton, standing upright, a faint glowing, like dim candle light, emanating from her hollow eye sockets. Then a voice, deep and commanding, echoed throughout the chamber; “Who are you?”
“I am Skeletor, Lord of Destruction. I have summoned you to join me, join me as my queen, and together we shall rule Eternia forever!”
“I am Shokoti, the Living Darkness. I have no peers. You will kneel in my presense.”
“Never!” he scoffed. “Listen to me, witch, I brought you to life, I can send you back if I want.”
“Nooo,” the lich moaned, raising its hand, and an invisible force knocked Skeletor back against the wall, and the Wand of Demons fell from his grasp.
“You can’t do this to me!” Skeletor screamed, clenching his magic staff. “Do you know who I am?”
The lich moved to Evil-Lyn, who remained paralyzed on the floor, and resting its bony hand on her forehead, whispered one word; “flesh.” With that, Evil-Lyn’s skin seemed to crawl away and dress the lich, till nothing was left of her but bones. Then there was fresh laughter, of a middle aged woman’s voice, and a tall, voluptuous woman with copper skin, long white hair, and horns jutting from her skull, stepped into the red light of the fallen wand. And by the light Skeletor could see, nothing where her eyes should have been, nothing but an inky blackness.
“Ahh, it feels good to be alive,” she said, lifting Evil-Lyn’s skull from off the floor.
Skeletor got to his feet with the help of his staff, momentarily stunned by Shokoti’s full female form. “I am your master now! Obey me or be destroyed!”
Shokoti turned to him, as if she hadn’t noticed him standing there, and a gust of wind came and tore his black cloak to many pieces.
“Wh-What are you doing!?” Skeletor cried, flailing to save his cloak.
The scraps of cloth wrapped themselves around her, enough to hide her nakedness and fit her feet from sole to thigh. Then she made a belt of Evil-Lyn’s skull, hanging it over her loins.
“Enough of this! I’ll teach you to toy with me!” And Skeletor raised his staff, and a bolt of lightning arched its way toward her. Before exploding in her face, however, it sparked, fizzled, and did no harm.
“Beast Man! Trap Jaw! Get her!”
The two henchman were reluctant to obey, not knowing whom to fear most, yet both ran towards her. As Trap Jaw came near, brandishing his hook, she turned to him, and his jaw and mechanical arm rusted instantly, and fell off. Beast Man, meanwhile, took hold of her arm, but to his terror it was deathly cold, a coldness unlike ice, that seeped into his veins, running through his hand to his shoulder, and throughout his body, leaving him paralyzed.
“Eeeya!” Skeletor wailed. “I’ll take care of you myself!” Two fireballs raced from the eye sockets of the ram’s skull atop his staff, then, growing in size as they approached her. But Shokoti merely breathed them into her nostrils, as if they were but smoke, and spit a cloud of flame from her mouth, searing the hairs of Skeletor’s stomach.
At last, Skeletor eyed the wand, snatched it up, and pointed it at her, crying; “Aha! With this, your very essense, you must obey me!”
The Living Darkness did nothing but stand there, letting her squid-like shadow creep beneath his feet, watching as ever so slowly, the darkness overcame him.
“No!” Skeletor cried as his hands faded away. “No . . . !” Soon, he was gone, and nothing remained but the wand.
Shokoti picked up the Wand of Demons, gazing into the orb to see Skeletor, banging on the glass to be let out. She walked back to the statue of the bull demon, then, that once held her coffin, and touched it. A bit of stone flaked off where her finger had been, and now there was flesh underneath.

Chapter 2

Adam slouched in the gazebo bench, sighing, when a girl caught his eye jogging through the glade. She was lightly clad in white and gold, a woman warrior’s dress, with sea blue eyes and long, reddish-brown hair bundled atop her head behind a gold tiara.
“Teela!” he called, sitting up.
She waved to him and jogged up the steps under the gazebo’s roof. “Adam, hi. I got your letter.”
He slid across the bench to let her sit. “Really?”
“Yes,” she replied quickly, pulling a neatly folded piece of paper from her belt. “I have it right here.”
“So . . . what do you think?”
She opened it as if to read it, but her eyes never touched the page. Rather, she looked into his face, into his passive, blonde and blue-eyed face. “Adam, I-I was a little surprised. It’s not like you.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” he said softly, cupping her hands.
She pulled away. “Adam, I’m flattered but . . .”
“But . . .?”
She couldn’t bare look into his eyes. “There’s someone else.”
“I really can’t say.”
“Please, tell me.”
“No really, I can’t.”
“Tell me, and I’ll never bother you again. Please, I have to know.”
“Well,” she sighed, “if you must know . . . god!” she buried her face in her hands, “this is so embarrassing!”
“Who is it?”
“It’s He-Man.”
“He-Man! But I’m . . . I mean, I understand,” he said softly.
“Oh, Adam. I love you too. But I see you as a brother. We’ve known each other all our lives! We grew up together. You’re handsome and fun, but, don’t take this the wrong way, sometimes you seem a bit, well, childish. I need someone, you know, more mature.”
“Someone like He-Man?”
“Well, yes.”
“I understand.”
“You’re not upset are you? The last thing I want to do is hurt you.”
“It’s OK, Teela. I’m just going to sit here for a while.”
“All right, Adam.” She stood. “Hey, I hear Man-E-Faces is in town, performing his famous play, ‘Hamlar.’ Everyone’s going. I’d like you to be there.”
“Sure Teela,” he replied, forcing a smile. “I’ll be there.”

At the Royal Stables, Adam found his sister, combing her white stallion’s mane. “Adora!” he called. “I need to talk.”
Adora had the same blonde hair, the same blue eyes. She was in every way his identical twin, except for his large physique; hers was sleek and feminine. “Sure, Adam, what is it?”
“It’s about Teela.”
“Did she read the letter?”
He sighed. “Yes.”
Her expression saddened. “It didn’t go well, huh? She doesn’t feel the same way?”
“Well . . . yes and no.”
“How’s that?”
He rubbed his chin. “She said there’s someone else, but that someone is me, she just doesn’t know it!”
He nodded.
“What are you going to do? Are you going to tell her?”
“I don’t know if I should. If she truly loves He-Man, she should love Adam too, right?”
“Not if she thinks you’re two different people!”
“What would you do in this situation?”
“I don’t know. The Sea Hawk loves me, but he doesn’t know I’m She-Ra.”
“How can you keep it from him?”
“I have to. That’s what the Sorceress said we must do.”
“But why can Man-at-Arms and Orko know, and Teela not know?”
Adora jumped on her horse, riding slowly beside him. “Maybe she was afraid that those closest to you, your parents and Teela, would get too emotionally involved to let you do your job. But how can they not have figured it out? Every time He-Man’s around, you’re not, and vice versa. And you look exactly the same! No hero’s mask to hide your face . . .”
Adam reached behind him, pulling out a sword as if from nowhere. “Don’t you know? Magic! The same way this sword turns invisible when in its scabbard, so it has the power to confuse anyone seeing me into thinking He-Man’s someone other than Adam, or that She-Ra is someone other than Adora. Hey, I just thought of something.
“What if Teela love’s He-Man, but for all the wrong reasons. What if she loves him for his strength, his fame?”
She laughed. “You’re talking now as if ‘he’ was someone else! But yes, it could be. The power of Grayskull is enough to win any woman’s heart. But she believes you and He-Man are two different people, and you’re asking her to choose one of them. How can she do that without betraying her feelings?”
“But why He-Man? Why not Adam? We’ve always known each other. Do fond memories mean nothing beside power?”
“Why don’t you start acting differently around her. Show her you can be every bit the man He-Man is, without the sword.”
“Thanks Adora. I’ll be seeing her tonight in the theater.”
“Yes. Will you be there?”
“Of course!”

All the court officials of Eternos had assembled in the theater. At the very foot of the stage was seated the royal family: King Randor, Queen Marlena, Prince Adam, Princess Adora, and next to them, Man-at-Arms, friend of the royal family, famous inventor, and former Captain of the Guard, and his daughter, the new Captain of the Guard, Teela.
As the curtains parted, a strange creature appeared. It looked like a small, floating red robe with a large black “O” on its front, a pointy, wide brimmed hat, and a purple scarf. Nothing could be seen of its body save for its blue hands and large, round yellow eyes.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen,” it said with a scratchy, child-like voice, “before we continue with tonight’s performance, I would like to dazzle and amaze you with a bit of magic.”
“Oh no!” Man-at-Arms groaned.
“I will now attempt to juggle this giant egg, this battle ax, and a toaster oven.” These things seemed to come from nowhere, astounding everyone but Man-at-Arms. Then, the creature tossed each one up into the air, catching them without fail, before tossing them up again. The audience clapped, but Man-at-Arms stared coldly with his arms crossed.
Finally, when all three things: egg, battle ax, and toaster oven, were in the air, the creature took a bow, but the juggled items never fell. They just vanished as quickly as they had appeared. The audience clapped again. Even Man-at-Arms stood up clapping. “Bravo!” he said. “Well done, Orko.”
Orko bowed in Man-at-Arms direction. “Why, thank you.” Then, suddenly, the toaster oven came crashing to the ground, the ax sliced through Man-at-Arms’ chair, right between his legs, and the giant egg broke against his face. “Eh . . . ladies and gentlemen,” Orko muttered, floating away from the stage, “you’ve been real great. And now, back to the show!”
“Orko!” Man-at-Arms screamed, yolk dripping from his mustache and chin. “I’ll get you!” He then climbed up on to the stage, and as he ran after the little floating creature, the royal family laughed hysterically.
The laughter silenced, however, when the lights dimmed and a strange looking man walked on stage. His head was like a blue bucket attached to his shoulders, with an opening for his face. But the face in the bucket’s window changed; it turned to reveal another face, of an older man with a gray beard. And he spoke, as if to an invisible other; “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?”
His face changed again, to that of a young man with a blonde beard. This face, in a very different voice, replied; “Not so, my lord, I am too much i’th’ sun.”
An elderly woman cut-in; “Good Hamlar, cast thy nightly colour off, and let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. Do not for ever with they valie’d lids seek for thy noble father in the dust. Thou know’st ‘tis common-all that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity.”
“Ay, madam, it is common,” Hamlar replied.
“If it be,” she asked, “why seems it so particular with thee?”
“Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not ‘seems’. ‘Tis not alone in my inky cloak, good mother, nor customary suits of solemn black, nor windy suspiration of forced breath, no, nor the fruitful river in the eye . . .” His eyes welled-up, and turning away, as if from her, he continued; “nor the dejected haviour of the visage, together with all forms, moods, shows of grief that can denote me truly.” Torn between despair and rage, it almost seemed he could not go on, but he did, swallowing hard; “these indeed ‘seem’, for they are actions that a man might play; but I have that within which passeth show-these but the trappings and the suits of woe!” The stage darkened, and the audience jumped, bursting with applause.
Adam turned to Teela. “Wow, that was something, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, Adam, simply wonderful. Are you . . . are you crying?”
“Me?” He backed away, wiping his eyes. “Eh, no, of course not!”
“Oh. For a second there, I thought . . . nevermind.”
“Just surprised you like this stuff.”
“Well it’s better than training.”
She laughed.
Adora, overhearing the conversation, kicked him in the shin, where Teela couldn’t see. “Ow! All right,” he muttered. “Um, Teela, would you like to go some place with me, when the play’s over?”
“Like where?”
“Meet me at the royal fountain, just to talk. I hear it’ll be full moons tonight.”
She smiled.

Teela met Adam by the fountain resembling He-Man, a life-size, marble, muscular man holding a sword, with water sprouting all around him. She sat on the rim of the fountain pool, where they chatted long hours of old times. Then came a long silence, when Adam gazed into the water at her reflection, at her hair cascading off the shoulder to the arch of her back, by the light of Infinity and Eon.
“Teela,” he sighed. “You look really beautiful tonight.”
She turned to the statue, as if it could save her from this moment. “Adam . . .”
“I’m sorry. I just can’t help it. You’re just . . . irresistible.”
He moved closer to her. “How do you know he feels the same for you? I know you haven’t done anything with . . . him.”
“Wait a minute, how do you know!?”
“Call it a hunch, I just do,” he answered softly.
“Well, I have to try. You know the law of Eternia; you can only love one, and one all your life, or be excommunicated forever. So I can’t take a chance, knowing that someday, he might choose me.”
He pressed against her now. “Does that mean you have feelings for me? That if he didn’t exist you would . . .”
“I don’t know!” she said, wrinkles in her brow. “I don’t know how I would feel! This is all so confusing.”
He looked into her eyes, combing her hair gently. “Search your heart. Is there no place in it for me? Say so and I’ll stop.”
“You know, in this light, you look an awful lot like . . .”
He moved to kiss her, and she received his tongue with parted lips.
“. . . He-Man.”
Adam pulled away. “What?”
“No, no, you couldn’t be.”
“Couldn’t be who?”
She stood. “I-I’m sorry. I have to go now.”
“Wait a minute!” he cried, walking after her. “When can I see you again?”
“Maybe never!” she shouted back. “Or maybe tomorrow,” she whispered to herself.

Chapter 3

Beyond an endless chasm, over a bridge of bone, lies an ancient limestone castle with three hundred foot towers and the face of a skull. Deep within lives this grim abode’s only resident, a solemn, middle-aged woman, the Sorceress, dressed in brightly colored zoar feathers, orange, blue and white.
The Sorceress sat, locked away in the castle’s dusty library, flipping through a book entitled “The Krelm,” when a powerful, evil force startled her, crashing through her psyche. Tossing the book down, she ran through the castle’s many dank corridors, up a winding flight of steps to its highest parapet. And there, before the chasm where the bridge dropped off, was the eyeless, horned woman smiling.
“Who are you?” the Sorceress asked.
“You know who I am, but fear to believe it,” the other woman replied. “I am the Living Darkness, come to reclaim her rule.” Then she added; “I see this place remains. But I don’t recall the skull-face. That must have been your last ruler’s alteration. I will have to change that.”
“Shokoti . . .,” the Sorceress intoned. “Castle Grayskull is no longer this world’s political headquarters. The knowledge contained here has been long forgotten. And Skeletor is not the ruler of our world, but of the Dark Side of Eternia. Our ruler is King Randor of Eternos.”
“Who is this King Randor, and who are you telling me this place is forgotten, a lowly zoar priestess and a mere sentinel no doubt?”
“I am here to protect the castle’s secrets, yes, but I am no priestess. Now what do you want here, and how is it that you’ve returned after all these centuries, in the flesh?”
“Nevermind that,” she scoffed. “I am back, and if Grayskull has been abandoned, it shall be again what it once was, with me at its throne!”
“Your time has come and gone, Shokoti. I cannot allow Eternia to fall into tyranny again. Know that I will do everything in my power to stop you.”
A dark-red glow surrounded the horned woman, like ultra-violet light, and she lifted into the air, as if the forces of nature yielded to her, till she was eye-level with the Sorceress standing on Grayskull’s highest tower. “You’re no match for me! Surrender, or be damned with Skeletor in the Wand of Demons!”
The Sorceress leaped off the tower as two white beams of light shot from her hands. Shokoti let out a wail as the beams struck her, and like a smoking pyre plummeted from the castle’s heights.
Getting to her feet, Shokoti found the Sorceress standing beside her, hands posed for another spell. “Your power is great for a priestess, but incomparable to a goddess!” she cried, as bolts of lightning raced from her finger tips.
“Flowers,” the Sorceress murmured quickly. And a small rainbow trailed her hand, changing the bolts of lightning into a shower of gentle, blue, red, and yellow plant buds.
“Snakes!” Shokoti hissed, and the flowers beneath the Sorceress feet became a thicket of writhing serpents.
Lifting her legs into the air and spreading her feathered cape, the guardian of Grayskull became the orange, blue, and white Eternian falcon, zoar, soaring from harm’s way.
The Living Darkness grinded her pointed teeth, engulfed in a red fiery glow, and transformed herself into a winged, black dragon, with shimmering, metallic scales. Nothing of her original form remained but her demon’s horns. The dragon lurched its man-sized mandibles at the magnificent bird, then, grazing but a few of its feathers.

For miles over the harsh, barren landscape of Eternia, over craggy red hills and through steep canyons, the chase ensued, for zoar was swift, and the dragon tiring. At last, Shokoti stopped to rest in her human shape. The falcon, in turn, confronted the witch in her own true form.
“Give up, Shokoti, and return to your tomb in the Sands of Time.”
“You have succeeded, only, in luring me from the castle!” the witch retorted, and vanished.
Alarmed, the Sorceress closed her eyes and envisioned the castle, only to be swallowed in fire as her form solidified. Her feathered dress in flames, now, her face blackened, she fell rolling to the ground as Shokoti stood over her, laughing.
Drawing breath still, the Sorceress cast out her hand, and a perfect glass cube appeared within which the half-demon was imprisoned. No sound escaped the magical cube, as the ball of fire cast by Shokoti’s own hand, hitting the seemingly impenetrable glass wall and exploding in her face, couldn’t be heard by the winged heroine standing outside it.
For a brief moment the Sorceress believed she had saved her world. But in the cube she saw the horned woman’s silent scream, watching till the scream assaulted her ears and the glass walls shattered.
“I’m through toying with you!” Shokoti cried, and the Sorceress, in a moment of weakness, found herself a flying marionette. Around and around she spun with the turn of the witch’s finger, and then, with a violent hand motion, was flung against the castle wall, and there collapsed.
The Living Darkness approached the still, fallen body of her foe, but was quite taken aback when the point of her black boot passed through as if it were not there.
“Over here!” a voice echoed.
Shokoti turned to see another Sorceress, and a little ways off, another Sorceress, and up in the tower, yet another Sorceress.
“Which is the real me?” the Sorceress’s asked in unison.
“You call THAT magic!” she scoffed. “Children’s tricks! I’ll show you magic!” The eyeless evil raised her arms up, then, shouting; “Winds, obey me!” and her long white hair danced in the sudden gust. “Storm clouds, gather and quake!” And the sky over Grayskull turned black. “Let loose the most foul things of the sea, rivers, and lakes!” And with that, lightning streamed down to kiss her uplifted hands. There was rain, then, a most putrid, vile rain. Drops ate through plants, turning them to ash, and made the Sorceress’ exposed skin rise up and boil. All under the Hellish storm withered but Shokoti, who reveled in the smoking puddles. The Sorceress could do nothing but crawl under the castle’s ledge, draped under her feathers.
“Now,” Shokoti intoned, the brief storm having passed, “I will enter my new home.” With her hands, she gestured for the draw bridge to lower. The Sorceress, however, used what last bit of magic she possessed to push it back up. And in this way the two struggled, both grimacing, grunting, and trembling as if giving birth. But at long last, Grayskull’s guardian slipped into unconsciousness, and the draw bridge came crashing down.

The Grayskull Library

Part 2

Chapter 4

Man-at-Arms sat in a stool examining a man shaped machine on a raised platform. The machine had one arm, two legs, and a transparent torso through which one could see the many gears and sprockets that turned to give him motion. His silver head was nothing but a blue light wrapping half-way round his face where another man’s eyes would be, and a red plate on a hinge where a mouth would be. Next to the mechanical body was a revolving, multi-barrel gun.
“What are you working on, Duncan?” asked Adam, strolling into the laboratory. At his side was a green, yellow striped tiger.
“I’m just making some improvements to Roboto. This weapon,” he added, pointing to the gun, “can fire six rounds of two-inch, heat-seeking missiles per second.”
“That’s a lot of firepower. Let’s hope he doesn’t malfunction and turn on us like he did that one time.”
“Ow!” the tiger whimpered. “Why’d you have to go and bring that up? I’m gettin’ outta here!”
“Don’t worry, Cringer,” Duncan replied. “You’re forgetting I’ve given Roboto free will. It won’t be so easy for Skeletor to tamper with him again. And we need all the firepower we can muster in our war with the Dark One.”
“I’m still gettin’ outta here!” the tiger said, shivering. “That robot gives me the creeps!” And he ran off.
Duncan laughed.
“By the way,” Adam said, “do you happen to know where Teela is? I’ve been looking all over the palace for her.”
“I think she’s sparring with your sister. If she’s not at the gym, try the bath.”

The sound of gushing water from many shower heads filled Adam’s ears as he stood in the marble-tiled locker room of the Royal Guard.
“Do you think Teela’s in there?” Cringer asked.
“Probably. Now run along, cat. I need to speak with her privately, you understand?”
“Sure, Adam. I hate baths anyway.”
Adam walked to his locker, hanging his clothes neatly from a hook. He then stepped into the bath, an immense, rectangular room of white marble walls, lined with golden shower heads, knobs, and soap dishes. With all the steam and square pillars, however, it was difficult to tell who was there, though he could make out many of the men and women of the Royal Guard.
“Teela!” he called.
“Here!” Her voice came from behind a pillar.
He greeted her, turning the knob next to hers. Across from them, under another shower head, was Adora.
“Looking for me?” Teela asked innocently, kneading more shampoo into her hair.
“Um, no, not really,” he replied, soaking under the downpour. “I was just, eh, working out.” He smiled, then turned to his sister. “Hi Adora.”
“Funny, I was in there just a minute ago,” Teela replied. “Didn’t see you.”
“Well I wasn’t in the gym. I was, uh, jogging around the palace. Yeah, that’s it.”
Adora turned to her brother. “Hand me that bar of soap, will you? Mine’s just about done.”
After scrubbing himself down, he tossed it to her.
“Thanks Adam.”
“So, Teela, I see your father’s working on another invention.”
“Yes,” she said. “He’s been at it for aeons, it seems.”
“It should come in handy when Skeletor and his minions invade.”
“I don’t think we ever need worry, with He-Man and now, She-Ra, to protect the city.”
“Even He-Man and She-Ra need help, sometimes,” Adora cut in.
“That’s why we train so hard,” Teela replied. “Now if only Adam would lend a hand once in a while-”
“So, how went the sparring?” he blurt out.
“Teela kicked my butt,” Adora quipped. “See this bruise . . .,” she said, showing him a purple mark on her left thigh. “She’s pretty handy with that bo staff, Adam! You’d better watch out!”
“I’ll be careful,” he said, laughing. Adam tried to think of something more to say, but his mind went blank. For the next five minutes there was a cold silence. Then, without saying a word, Teela cranked the pipes shut, and strolled out.
“How did it go last night?” Adora asked.
“Wonderful and terrible,” he replied, turning off his shower.
“Did anything happen?”
“We kissed . . . D-Did she say anything to you?”
“No, nothing.”
He sighed.
“Well, don’t wait for me! This hair takes forever to wash. Go after her!”

Adam ran out of the bath, still dripping, finding Teela on the terrace just outside the locker room. She was drying under the sun while braiding her hair. Spotting a fire-flower nearby, he plucked it up, laying it on her lap. “Like you,” he said softly, “rare, beautiful, and dangerous.”
“Oh, Adam.” She smiled. “You don’t give up; do you?”
“Teela, last night . . . when we were together, we shared a magic moment. You can’t tell me that’s not true.”
“All right,” she admitted, sniffing the red, torch-like bud. “We did.”
“May I?” he asked, gesturing to help with the weaving of her reddish-brown locks.
“Thanks,” she replied, turning his back to him.
Tying off the braid with a red ribbon, he leaned back against the wall, hands behind his head. “It’s such a nice day, not a cloud in the sky. Let’s spend it together.”
“I don’t-”
“What could happen? Don’t you trust me?”
“Just as friends?”
“Of course.”
Adora walked out, toweling her long golden hair, when a look of surprise fell on her face, as if she didn’t expect to see them sitting there. “Sorry, am I interrupting?”
“No,” said Teela, “not at all. Would you like to join us?” Turning to him, then, she asked; “You don’t mind, do you, Adam?”
“Well, no,” he answered through clenched teeth, “of course not.”
“Wait,” said Adora. “I just remembered . . . I have to go feed Spirit.”
“All right,” Teela replied, rolling her eyes with suspicion, and with a smirk on her face, as Adora toweled herself back to the locker room. “Good journey.”
Adam hopped to his feet. “Come on. Let’s go for a swim.”
“Now? We just took a shower. Besides, it’s getting dark.”
“What?” he exclaimed, looking up into the red, Eternian sky slowly turning sooty black. “But just a minute ago it was . . .”
“You’re right,” she said. “It’s only twenty-six o’ clock; it shouldn’t be dark for hours!”
Suddenly, a web shaped crack appeared on the wall beside them, followed by a tremor tingling their unclad feet. “An earthquake, in Eternos?” he muttered.
“Look!” she cried. “It’s raining ash! What could this mea-”
Another shock wave passed through them, knocking Teela off her feet. Adam was quick, however, to catch her in his arms.
“I am, uh . . . going to find Cringer,” he said.
“At a time like this!?”
He ran off.
“Be careful, Adam!” she shouted. “Find shelter!”

Once Adam found a secluded corner in the locker room, he raised his magic sword and said; “By the power of Grayskull!” With that, a bolt of lightning, coming from seemingly nowhere, struck the tip of the sword, trickling down the metal shaft. Reaching his uplifted hand and cursing through his body, there was a sudden explosion, consuming him in an aura of blazing, white and gold fire. Boots, a brown fur loincloth, and a silver garment with the red symbol of the Ancients, appeared on him. And when after a split-second the transformation was complete, when he could feel the god-like strength in his very bones, he placed the opposite end of the sword in his other hand and cried; “I HAVE THE POWER!”

He-Man was soon to appear on the terrace, finding Teela, still in shock.
“He-Man!” she cried.
He gripped her by the shoulders, in a deep, calm voice, saying; “Teela, find your father. Evacuate as many people as you can from the city.”
“All right, but where are you going!?”
“To stop the volcano.”
“To stop the what!?”

The streets were crowded with the citizens of Eternos in a panic. Golden towers hundreds of feet high threatened to come crashing down on them. Fires broke out. Debris fell from the crumbling bridges above them. When He-Man arrived, the people were encouraged, though they trampled over one another to reach him. But he could not save them all. Many would die; he knew. The best he could hope for was to save the city from ultimate destruction.
Pushing and shoving, he plowed through the masses, but even his great strength could not overcome their overwhelming number, slowing him to a snail’s pace.
“Let me through!” he cried at last, brandishing his sword. With that, they made a path for him, praising his name as he went by.
After a short sprint, He-Man reached the main aqueduct that brought and stored the city’s water from the river. Few people were here to get in his way, as they had fled from the ominous, black mountain from which a black cloud of smoke now billowed, raining ash down on the city. There was a technician, however, an overseer of the aqueduct, torn between fleeing or seeking a place to hide.
“He-Man!” he cried. “You must save us! Everything’s breaking up!”
“If this volcano erupts, a lot of lava’s going to be pouring into the city. We’ll need a mote to stop it. Can we use the aqueduct?”
“Impossible! Even if you could destroy the dam, how could you control the river? It flows away from the mountain.”
He-Man rubbed his chin, deep in thought, when suddenly, there was another quake, opening a fissure beneath his feet. Quick to side-step it, the workings of a plan formed in his head. “If the ground is solid rock, how can it be so unstable?”
“There’s a labyrinth of caves beneath us. The earthquakes are collapsing them.”
Without warning, the earth shuddered and cracked, tearing the city in half. A deafening explosion could be heard from above, and fireballs now rained down on the people, crushing them, setting their homes ablaze. The volcano had erupted, and a river of liquid rock was slowly making its way to the city.
He-Man lifted himself off the ground, then helped the technician up, crying; “Get out of here!”
“What about you?”
“I’m staying!”
“You’re a brave man, He-Man. Good luck!”
He-Man wasted no time. Standing before the tall, concrete wall that held the river from flooding, he smashed his fist into the ground with all the power of a god, creating an earthquake of his own, and a gorge hundreds of feet in diameter opened up below him. He, in turn, fell fifty feet, and was buried beneath a thousand tons of earth. Having fallen into a hard, rocky niche, however, he suffered mere scratches, and was soon able to climb back to level ground. In the mean time, the lava had reached the base of the mountain.
The sound of He-Man’s fist against the dam wall was like a thunder clap. And as the dam crumbled from the force of that single blow, He-Man was swept away by the torrent, the river, all the while, gushing into the gorge, forming a lake. Filling and breaking through its newly made boundary, then, the river changed course, running parallel to the mountain.
Regaining his senses, He-Man swam to dry land, gasping for breath. Soon afterward, he watched, as the liquid fire and cool water clashed and hissed, devouring him in steam.
“He-Man!” a familiar voice called from above.
“Duncan!” He-Man replied, lifting his eyes to the green boat swooping over his head, a boat with orange wings and a bird’s head. Called the wind raider, it was one of Man-at-Arm’s greatest inventions. At the controls now was Man-at-Arms, in the adjacent seat, Teela, and sitting behind them, Roboto.
Man-at-Arms made another pass over the river, before setting the wind raider down with a thunderous roar. The three passengers jumped from the craft, then, to join their hero.
“If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Duncan. “Well done, He-Man, you saved us all.”
“Isn’t he wonderful, Father?” Teela added, her blue eyes glittering in He-Man’s direction.
“Yes,” Duncan replied. “But the volcano hasn’t been active for thousands of years. How could it just blow . . . without any warning?”
“We can figure that out later,” said He-Man. “There are others in need of help, so we mustn’t waste time.”
“By the Ancients!” Duncan gasped suddenly, his face turned pale.
“Wh-What is it, Duncan?”
“Look!” he cried, pointing to the horizon.
Though the rest could see it, none said a word. The black cloud of ash had formed into the face of a horned woman. And from her moving lips came these words; “PEOPLE OF ETERNIA, HERE ME NOW. YOU HAVE WITNESSED BUT A SMALL SAMPLE OF MY POWER. BRING YOUR KING TO ME, TO MY THRONE IN CASTLE GRAYSKULL, SO THAT HE MAY KNEEL BEFORE ME. OR IF YOU DO NOT, YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN WILL DIE! YOU HAVE TILL THE ECLIPSING OF THE SUN TOMORROW.”

Chapter 5

“He-Man, please, you must save my son! He’s trapped!” the peasant said, pointing to the pile of bricks that was once his home.
“You’ve done enough all ready,” Man-at-Arms cut in. “Roboto can work the rest of the night without tiring, you, my friend, cannot.”
“No,” He-Man protested. “I won’t rest till everyone’s been found.”
A strange looking man approached them then, strange for his metallic head was like that of an elephant, and in his hand he carried a small ax. “Most of the fires are under control, Man-at-Arms. They should die down by morning.”
“Keep up the good work, Snout Spout.”
“Will do,” he replied, hosing down another small fire with a stream of water from his elephant’s trunk.
He-Man, meanwhile, burrowed through the debris in search of the child, when Teela came running.
“Any news!?” he inquired, a tone of fear in his voice.
“I found her!”
“Is she . . . all right?”
“Yes, but we can’t get her loose. Come on!”
“Go, He-Man,” Duncan urged. “We’ll save the boy.” Roboto nodded in agreement.
He-Man turned to her. “I’ll follow you.”

Once the main support of a bridge between two towers, the ten by sixty foot iron column now served to staple Adora’s leg to the ground. Seeing her laying there made He-Man’s heart throb. He dropped to his knees, taking her hand.
“Adora! Are you all right?”
“Yes,” she said. “But I think my leg’s broken.”
Teela was quick to join them. “I gathered some of the village people to move it, but we couldn’t. We tried everything to get her leg free save for sawing it off!”
“No need for that,” He-Man replied. He slipped his fingers beneath the column’s surface, and with a mighty heave, raised it entirely over his head, tossing it into the street. A crowd that had gathered cheered, and Teela called two men-at-arms to carry Adora on a stretcher.
“Now all we have to do is find Adam,” said Teela.
“Oh, I’m sure he’s safe,” Adora replied, turning to her brother with a wink and a smile.

In the throne room of the Royal Palace, a grim king and queen sat with their daughter, Adora, and their subjects: Man-at-Arms, Teela, and Orko, the court jester. They were awaiting Prince Adam, who Man-at-Arms and Adora assured was safe, for Man-at-Arms also knew of the twin heirs secret identities. Finally, the prince arrived with his pet tiger.
“Adam!” Queen Marlena exclaimed. “Where have you been? We feared the worst!”
“Sorry, Mother, didn’t Duncan tell you I was safe?”
“Yes, but I couldn’t stop worrying until seeing you myself.”
“So, did you find Cringer?” Teela quipped.
“As you can see,” he replied. “I found him hiding in the kitchen closet, then once the volcano erupted, well I . . . hid in there myself.” He smiled.
“Oh Adam . . .” she sighed, rolling her eyes.
Man-at-Arms cleared his throat. “I’m afraid we have more pressing matters to discuss.”
“Yes,” said the king. “Who was that woman in the sky? And how could she have caused all this?”
Duncan was quick to answer. “I believe, your Highness, that it was Shokoti.”
“That name sounds familiar,” said the king.
“Wasn’t that the empress of Eternia during the time of the Great Cataclysm?” Teela asked. “The one whose tomb was just found by Malaktha?”
“Yes,” Duncan replied.
“But how can that be?” the king asked. “She’s been dead for centuries!”
“When Malaktha first found the tomb two years ago,” Adam cut in, “she seemed to have come back to life, but He-Man destroyed her.”
“Apparently, she still lives,” Duncan said.
“If so,” said Adam, “why has she been silent for two years?”
“Well, Malaktha died last year while searching for her burial chamber. Maybe that has something to do with it.”
“Yes, and her burial chamber was never found!”
“W-w-witches, t-t-tombs,” Cringer stuttered. “I’m outta here!” And he ran away.
King Randor turned to Man-at-Arms and Adam. “How can you be so certain it is she? It could be another mage, Evil-Lyn or Skeletor, in disguise.”
“Perhaps,” Duncan replied. “But none of them ever had the power to do this! Shokoti is said to have been worshipped as a god, and if so, she may have had the power of a god as well, the power to make a dormant volcano erupt.”
“What does it matter!” Adora interrupted. “Whoever she is, she has the power to level Eternos. Now we must decide what we’re going to do about her ultimatum.”
The king stood and said; “I will go.”
“No!” Adam protested. “You can’t go.”
“I must. If giving my life means saving my people, than I’ll gladly do it.”
“But she’s evil!” Duncan argued. “What’s to say she’ll keep her word, that she won’t destroy the city anyway?”
“He-Man and She-Ra must do what they can to stop her,” the king asserted. “But I must go to buy them time.”
Queen Marlena turned to him. “If only there was another way . . .”
“Wait a minute!” said Orko, speaking up at last. “I’ve got an idea!”

Later, in another part of the palace, another, more private meeting was being held, consisting of Man-at-Arms, Adam, and Adora.
“I can’t believe Shokoti’s taken over Grayskull,” said Adam. “Skeletor’s been trying to do that for decades.”
“If she has, what’s happened to the Sorceress?” Adora asked. “I hope she’s all right.”
“There’s only one way to find out. Use the crystal in your sword to contact her.”
Adora reached behind her, pulling out a sword that was in every way like Adam’s, save for the opal shaped crystal embedded in its hilt. Into the crystal, then, she called the Sorceress’ name. “I-I can’t make her out,” she said at last.
“Keep trying,” Adam replied.
Suddenly, Adora gasped, and the sword slipped from her hand, falling to the floor with a clang.
“What is it, Adora!?”
“The crystal,” she said, “where the Sorceress’ face appears when I call her name . . .”
“What about it?”
“I saw a face, but it wasn’t hers.”
“Who was it?” asked Duncan.
Adam turned to Duncan. “This sounds bad.”
“That’s an understatement!” Duncan corrected. “But let’s not worry about the Sorceress now. She may still be safe, and if everything goes as planned, we just might be able to take back Grayskull.”
“Right,” Adora agreed. “Now you said you had a job for me. What do you need me to do?”
“If we are to defeat Shokoti, we must learn as much about her as possible,” said Duncan, “how and why she came back to life, if she has any weaknesses . . .”
“Tomorrow, when we head for Grayskull, you’ll go to the House of Darkness as She-Ra, to learn what you can,” Adam explained.
“Where can I find this . . . House of Darkness?”
“It’s a stone pyramid in the middle of the Sands of Time,” Duncan replied. “Flying over the desert with Swift Wind, you shouldn’t miss it.”
“All right,” she said. “I won’t fail you.”
“And sis, good luck.” The two siblings embraced.

In the dark of the night, Adora searched the stables for Spirit, her steed. And when she heard his familiar neigh, she led him to a secluded clearing, and raising her sword, cried; “For the honor of Grayskull!” With that, colorful sparks flew from the crystal in the sword, and she was bathed in a shower of gold. And as a magic blue flame coiled about her, a gold, eagle-wing headdress and a white top with a golden star appeared on her, a red cape hung from her shoulders, a short, white skirt girdled her waist, and gold, knee-high boots fastened themselves to her feet. Her transformation complete, she turned the sword horizontally, proclaiming; “I AM SHE-RA!” Raising the sword to her horse, then, a white beam blasted from the crystal, and in another shower of gold, Spirit became the rainbow winged unicorn, Swift Wind.
Her leg no longer broken, She-Ra leaped on her aerial mount, and took to the double moon lit sky.

Chapter 6

The flying unicorn beat its magnificent, yellow, pink, and blue wings over the sea of golden sand. For hours he soared, from darkest night to the crack of red Eternian dawn. At long last, She-Ra pointed down, crying; “there, Swift Wind! Do you see it?”
“Yes,” he replied, swooping down to the stone pyramid.
“Be careful, my friend,” she said. “The Sands of Time blow fiercely, and there are . . . other dangers. Get as close as you can.”
Twenty feet off the ground, and thirty feet from the pyramid, a blast of wind came, knocking them back. She-Ra gripped the reins tightly, and Swift Wind fluttered his wings to keep from reeling backwards, but it was to no avail. The sand was like small needles, pricking every inch of her exposed skin, and blinding them both. Swirling around and around, it soon formed a golden funnel, She-Ra and her winged companion at its center. Turned sideways, then, she plunged head first into a sand dune, as the relentless wind continued to carry Swift Wind further away.
After the storm had passed, She-Ra unburied herself and slid on her belly to the base of the dune. She then spent the next few minutes spitting sand out of her mouth, combing it out of her hair, and brushing it from her clothes. When she was done with that, she suddenly realized that the pyramid was nowhere in sight, nor was Swift Wind. Alone in the desert, scantily clad and without water, how would she survive, she wondered? All she could think to do, was lift her cape over her head and neck, and search for the pyramid where at least there would be shade.
Suddenly, there was a sloshing sound. Hearing this, She-Ra bent her knees, scanning the ground. But there was nothing to be seen but sand. She made a few more steps, and there came another sloshing sound, behind her. Looking in that direction, she saw nothing. Even the dunes appeared untouched.
“Come on,” she murmured, sliding her sword from its scabbard as her heart pounded. “Where are you?”
With the next sloshing sound, it appeared almost as if the sand itself had moved.
She-Ra squinted her eyes from the glaring of the sun, gripped her sword’s handle with her palms sweating, and whispered to herself; “Wait a minute, that dune wasn’t there bef-!” What she had mistaken for a dune reached out its webbed claws and tore into her mid-section. She swung her sword down quickly, but the claw and the dune were gone.
“Sansker . . .,” she said to herself, circling lightly in a battle stance, “. . . why sansker, of all things?”
A sand colored tail vanished into the dune sixteen feet away. For a second she figured it had gone, or at least, was distant enough to let her breathe easy. But the next thing she knew, the creature’s cobra like body was upon her, its six inch fangs inches from her throat. She leaped away only to be snared by its ready tail, the lower half of its body. It coiled about her waist tightly, then, and squeezed.
She-Ra could feel her life slipping, as her ribs pressed into her lungs, making it more difficult to breathe. Once dead, she knew, the sansker would devour her. Try as she may, she could not break free. Though her hands were loose, and all the strength of a goddess was at her disposal, the thick layer of slime coating the sansker’s body, and the round shape of its tail, made it impossible to grip. Nor could she angle her arms to cut the tail. Her only hope was one: to toss the sword at its head, roughly the length of it, twelve feet away. Hitting the body was easy, but the sansker had three hearts, and was not easily killed with a single stroke to the chest. And so, mustering all her remaining strength, she flung the sword with a prayer, and it sliced through the sansker’s small head, killing it instantly.

Using the slime from the sansker to cool her body, as the sansker cooled its own body, She-Ra trekked thirty minutes before finding the pyramid. She entered the pyramid, then, using the glow of her magic sword to explore the same dusty chambers her brother had two years earlier. And there, in the last room, she found a stairwell descending down.
Nothing but the stone box, its broken lid, and the empty sarcophagus remained in the burial chamber. Even the statue, large as it was, was gone.
“Well,” she said to herself. “I guess this means it’s really her, back from the dead. But how, why?”
Almost in answer to her questions, there was a grumble. She searched for the source of the sound, finding a green faced man laying on the floor, with no mouth, a rusted metal arm, and rusted legs.
“Who are you?” she asked, kneeling beside him.
He grumbled some more, and pointed to a rusted, saw-toothed jaw.
“Is it . . .,” she said, “ . . . is it your mouth?”
He nodded wearily. She grabbed the jaw and held it where his mouth should be, and he spoke. “Water,” he said. “Do you have water?”
“I’m sorry,” she replied. “I don’t have any. But I will get you some, as soon as we get back to Eternos.”
“I’ve been lying here for days, praying someone would come, but I didn’t truly believe someone ever would.”
“Who are you? What is your name?”
“I am Trap Jaw. I was one of Skeletor’s henchmen.”
“Skeletor, I knew it! What happened here?”
“We came to bring back Shokoti, but there was a terrible fight. She imprisoned him in a . . . in a glass ball; she killed Evil-Lyn, and she rusted me.”
“Rusted you?”
“Yes, just by looking at me. She has great power, you know, greater than Skeletor’s, or anyone’s. Eternia is doomed, I tell you. My master has doomed us all with his insanity!”
“But you said she rusted you, how do you mean?”
“Can’t you see? I’m mostly machine: my arm, my jaw, my legs. With them rusted, I am powerless. Beast Man was the only one who could help me, but the coward, he ran off into the desert! I hope the sansker got ‘em!”
“I will help you,” she said, placing his flesh arm around her shoulder.

She-Ra and Trap Jaw made it to the pyramid door, where they met Swift Wind. Laying Trap Jaw gently over Swift Wind’s back, then, she leaped on his saddle, and turned towards Eternos.

Part 1

The Grayskull Library

Part 3

Chapter 7

Skimming over the blue-gray clouds in the flaming tail that was the wind raider, sat Man-at-Arms, He-Man, Teela, Roboto, and King Randor.
“We should be landing any minute,” said Man-at-Arms. “Are we all clear on the plan?”
“Yes, we’re ready,” said Teela, clutching her bo staff.
“Even you, King Randor?” he asked.
“Yes,” he replied.

Breaking through the hazy firmament, the wind raider descended swiftly like a bird before the thick mist wafting from the bottomless pit surrounding the castle. But as the five of them approached, peering through the vaporous veil, they stumbled back in awe.
“By the Ancients!” Man-at-Arms exclaimed. “Do you see what I see?”
“Yes,” said He-Man stoically.
The whole front of the castle had taken a new shape. Gone was the familiar skull face. Where it had been, now was the face of the demonness, her horns jutting outwardly like small, twisted towers. And an immense, inky black cloud loomed over the bleak edifice, raining bolts of lightning down upon it, electrifying the air.
“WELCOME TO THE HOUSE OF SHOKOTI!” a voice echoed from within the walls. Then, its lips, her lips, spread wide as if to swallow them whole. “ENTER ME!” the voice sounded again. “COME IN ME.”
Hesitantly, the heroes passed through the oral doorway, into the main room of Grayskull. By the faint, lurid glow of the Wand of Demons, they found their way. Thirteen steps up, in the stone mouth of some bizarre creature, on the Sorceress’ throne, they saw Shokoti sitting. Fondling her crystal wand, strange shadows danced across her cold visage, and Man-at-Arms envisioned an orgy of prisoners, though he could not figure why. He-Man wished to accost her, but some invisible hand held his tongue. She was the first to speak.
“Draw near, King of Eternia.”
The man in the gold crown and blue cloak moved to the foot of the stairs.
“Now, come to me.”
He climbed slowly, keeping his head high.
“Kneel before me,” she said, as he ascended the thirteenth step.
“What I do,” he replied, “is for the good of my people.” And he dropped to his knees.
“Kiss my feet.”
“I will do all that you ask, if you promise to harm no one else.”
“Fool!” she scoffed, smacking the crown from his head, sending it skipping down the stairs with a clamor, to where He-Man stood. “I make promises to no one! Kiss my feet!”
“The blame is mine to bear,” he replied. “Let your wrath fall on me, and me alone.” Placing his lips on the toe of her boot, her head cocked back in laughter, and every hall and chamber filled with laughter.
He-Man, meanwhile, quietly raised the crown, clenching it in his fist. To Man-at-Arms, then, he nodded his head, signaling for him to shout; “Now!”
With that, the bearded face of the king turned to that of a scaly, green monster, and grabbing Shokoti by the waist, he lifted her over his head and flung her down the stairs.
“Good work, Manny!” Man-at-Arms cried.
Short of three steps, the horned woman tumbled, at which time Roboto’s mechanical arm opened into a revolving gun, and six, small, silver projectiles blasted from its fiery shafts, punching holes in her arms, legs, chest, and belly.
As the smoke cleared, the heroes could see the fallen goddess, much of her garments and body charred, lying still and contorted on the stone steps. But there was no blood.
“Well,” Man-at-Arms intoned, “that’s that.”
Suddenly, laughter echoed in their ears once more, and to their horror, the horned woman sat upright, picking the cavities in her body as if they were naturally a part of her. Man-E-Faces, seeing this and still in his monster form, wrenched the stone chair from its base and hurled it down. Before crushing her, however, strings of lightning leaped from her finger nails, rending the throne to pieces. The remaining four rushed at her, then, He-Man with his sword, Teela with her bo staff, Man-at-Arms with his mace, and Roboto, reloading his gun.
The first to fall was Roboto. Turning her finger nails to him, the lightning vaulted throughout his every gear, till his blue glowing visor dimmed, and the hum of his engine silenced.
Teela, all the while, mere feet from the demonness, drew her staff back to strike. But her effort, though great, was to no avail, for it was still a mortal effort. The evil goddess simply turned towards her, gazing with her eyeless eyes, and Teela froze in mid-jump, one foot planted on the ground like a ballerina, becoming a life-size, porcelain doll, with white, glassy skin, and rosy red cheeks.
Next was He-Man, halted by a giant, human hand bursting from the ground. And as he wrestled with that hand, a pillar grew from under Man-at-Arms’ feet, leaving him stranded just below the ceiling, fifty feet off the floor.
Last was Man-E-Faces, running down the stairs to tackle the demonness. On the ninth step, however, his foot stuck, for the flight of steps had become mud. The next thing he knew, he was up to his neck, and still sinking.
Of all the heroes, now, only He-Man continued the fight, still pushing the hand, finger by finger, into the ground, grumbling; “I’d hate to see the rest of this guy . . .”
Eventually, the most powerful man in the universe exhausted the bodiless limb, and it vanished, into the earth from whence it came. Turning to the porcelain doll, then, he tapped it with his magic sword, changing it to flesh.
“He-Man!” Teela exclaimed. “What’s happened?”
“No time to explain,” he said, directing his sword towards the demonness.
Shokoti paced across the room calmly, her face impassive as stone. “So, He-Man, still alive after all these centuries. I knew it could only be you, to best one of my creations, as you vanquished my ghost two years ago.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I do remember you, or your ghost. I defeated you once, and I can do it again.”
“No,” she replied, raising the Wand of Demons, its red sphere glowing brightly. “I am flesh now. I have the power of Skeletor and your Sorceress combined, as well as my own power, at my command. And soon, I’ll learn the secrets of the Ancients, and rule this universe as they did eons ago!”
“No!” He-Man cried, lunging at her. But the floor beneath him and Teela disappeared, and they plunged down and down, screaming into darkness.

Chapter 8

He-Man and Teela awoke to find themselves chained to the walls of a dark prison cell, sitting across from one another, manacles on their wrists and ankles. His chains, however, were much thicker than hers, thick enough to hold a giant. Each link was the size of a watermelon, the solid iron shafts like sink pipes.
“Teela, are you hurt?”
“Just a little sore,” she groaned. “And I can’t find my staff.”
“My sword is gone too.”
“Where do you think we are?” she asked.
“It looks like the dungeons of Grayskull, or the House of Shokoti, I should say.”
“Why is she keeping us alive? She could have killed us by now.”
“Who knows. We don’t seem to pose any threat to her. She may want to keep us around for her amusement . . . to torture.”
“What about the others? Where is my father? Do you think they’re still . . . alive?”
“I don’t know,” he said softly.
“Oh, He-Man, things look hopeless! Don’t they?”
“Things are never hopeless,” he replied, and he ripped the chain, holding his arm, from the wall.
“But Shokoti . . . we can’t beat her. She’s so powerful!”
He placed his freed hand on her thigh, and she quivered. “Are you cold?”
“A little,” she replied, “more nervous though.”
“Worried about what’s going to happen to us?”
“No. I am a warrior. I’m prepared to die, even to be tortured.”
“Then, what is it?”
“Well, we’ve never been alone together, like this.”
“Yes,” he replied, ever so gently caressing her cheek. “Yes we have. You just don’t know it.”
She looked into his familiar, shimmering blue eyes. “What do you mean?”
He broke the other three chains with ease, sliding beside her. “I can’t . . . I can’t tell you. I-It’s a secret.”
“What does that matter now?”
“Teela, we’re going to get out of here.”
She closed her eyes. “I know, but . . .”
There was a long pause between them. “If we die,” he said, breaking the silence, “at least we’ll die together.”
She clasped his hand in hers, feeling his warmth on her face. “There’s something so familiar about you; I just don’t know what it is, like a man I’ve known all my life, but somehow . . . I don’t know.”
“It’s not my fame? My strength you love?”
She wrinkled her brow. “No! I never cared about those things!”
Taking her limp body firmly, he sank his lips deeply into hers. “How was that?” he asked, pulling away at last.
“Magical . . .,” she murmured. And when she opened her eyes, she stared at him in a way she never had before, a surprised, knowing expression on her face.
“Let’s go find Shokoti,” he said, tearing her chains apart, helping her to her feet. He-Man approached the iron portcullis, then, the door to their cell, and wrenching it from its foundations, tossed the door aside.

What they found beyond their cell, shocked them. It was an immense, gladiator arena, and every seat was taken by silent, black robed figures, their faces hidden in shadow. In the middle of the arena, extending out from the wall, was a platform, and on it, a throne of solid onyx. And sitting on that throne, in a funnel of red light shooting upwards and fading into the starry, open sky, was the Living Darkness, Shokoti, fondling her wand like a scepter.
“I don’t remember this part of Grayskull,” He-Man remarked.
“That’s because it’s my new addition!” Shokoti replied. “What Grayskull always needed, an entertainment center!”
“For whose entertainment?” he asked, stern faced.
“For the ruler of the universe, of course,” she replied, smiling. “And you, my pets, are the main event!”
“We won’t be part of your games, you sick, twisted bitch!” Teela cried.
“Oh, we shall see . . . Now, let me introduce you two to your newest playmate!”
The earth shook, and the walls rattled, and from one dark corner of the arena came a monstrous, hulking mass of muscle. Standing roughly nine feet tall, he had patches of brown and black skin, a small head protruding from his round, massive shoulders, a jutting lower jaw of many blunt, yellow teeth, bull horns growing just over the red slits that were his eyes, and a perpetual, oafish grin on his demonic face. And with each and every step he made, the earth shook more.
“He-Man!” Shokoti intoned. “Meet Seizmos, guardian bull demon from the lowest depths of Hell, every bit as strong as you, but is immune to pain, and has no heart. Allow me to demonstrate.” Shokoti raised her wand, then, and in the center of the arena, in a flash of light, a green, reptilian creature appeared.
“It’s one of Skeletor’s henchmen, Cobra Khan!” He-Man exclaimed. “She plucked him right out of Snake Mountain.”
Cobra Khan glanced around his new environment, bewilderment evident even on his reptilian face. A single factor was soon to grab his attention, however, the body of Seizmos looming over him, dominating his view. But before he could react, the demon pushed his enormous foot into his chest, stomped him into the ground, and busted his ribs. Wrapping all four fingers around his skull, then, Seizmos twisted off his head, leaving the spinal chord to dangle from its base.
Shokoti clapped and cheered; “Excellent!” and the figures in the black robes hummed.
Teela turned to He-Man, terror in her eyes. “Is that going to happen to you?”
“No,” he said, pushing her aside.
He-Man approached the demon fearlessly, standing but a few feet away, hands on his hips and his neck arched back, to get the demon’s whole ugly head in sight.
But Seizmos was unimpressed. He stooped low to examine him, as a man would a mouse, and laughed; “You are the great and powerful He-Man the legends speak of, a mere human? Hah-ha-ha-ha, you look like a weakling to me.”
He-Man, in response, plowed his fist into Seizmos’ stomach, then jumped up, punching him in the jaw.
Seizmos stumbled back from the force of the two blows, surprised, but undaunted. “You will die!” he snorted, smoke billowing from his nostrils.
He-Man lunged at him, his arms around the monster’s waist, but this time, Seizmos was prepared. Snatching him up with one hand, the bull demon drove him, head first, into the ground. And as the dust cleared, he stomped on him, burying him in the dirt.
“No!” Teela cried at last, running up to them, “leave him alone!” She leaped on the demon’s back, then, pounding on his head with her fists. But she was like a gnat to him, and with a single sweep of his hand, she flew across the arena, landing somewhere far off.
He-Man, meanwhile, lifting himself off the ground wearily, reached back behind Seizmos’ ankle and pulled with all his might. The muscle-bound behemoth came thundering down, and the champion of Eternia was quick to sprawl on top of him, hammering the demon’s face repeatedly till his knuckles bled. Finally, as he drew his arm back, he saw the demon no longer moving. But in that moment of doubt, Seizmos awoke. Picking him up by the hair, he dragged He-Man like a rag doll, face down in the dirt again, and with a flick of his wrist, sent him skidding back against the arena wall, leaving a trench in his wake and a burn on his side. Seizmos then tromped over to where he lay. And as He-Man got to his feet, shaking the dizziness from his head, he swung at him, but missed, and the wall behind them crumbled around his gargantuan fist.
Minutes of grunting and panting ensued, as He-Man wrestled to free his head from Seizmos iron grip. But he overcame his gigantic foe at last, throwing him over his shoulder. Grabbing the bull demon by the horns, then, He-Man swung him in circles, sending him through another part of the wall. And finally, lifting a huge piece of fallen debris over his head, He-Man crushed the demon’s skull.
The sound of Shokoti clapping, and the robed figures humming, filled the arena once more. “Well done, He-Man. You’re better than I thought!”
“Enough of this!” he cried. “Let us go! I’ll fight for you no longer!”
“Oh, but you’ll love your next opponent!”
He raised his fist. “Anything you throw at me, I can kill.”
“I know you can,” she said, a wicked tone in her voice.
“But I won’t. There’ll be no more blood shed by me today.”
“No, you will fight, and you will kill your next opponent! And there she is!” Shokoti proclaimed, pointing down at Teela.
His face become pale, He-Man backed away, shaking his head. “No . . . I could never . . .”
“Yes! Kill her, or be killed by her. The choice is yours.”
Teela turned to the demonness. “He-Man could never harm me, witch! And you can torture me all you want; I’ll never raise a finger against him!”
“Mortals!” she scoffed. “You are mere puppets under my control!” Beams of black radiated from her eyes, then, and Teela could see, to her horror, that He-Man’s pupils were melting, turning the white’s of his own eyes to lifeless black. “Now!” the demonness commanded, with a voice like waves of energy, cursing through them; “You WILL kill her! Kill Teela!”
“Yes,” He-Man replied lifelessly.
“And to make things more interesting,” Shokoti continued, “I will return to you your weapons!” She spread her arms, then, and in another flash of light, a sword and bo staff appeared, crisscrossed in the center of the arena.
“He-Man!” Teela cried. “Listen to me . . . I-I’m your friend. Don’t do this!”
“No!” he screamed, swinging at her. “You must die!”
“He-Man, you’re being controlled!” she said, rolling out of his way. “Fight it!”
He lifted his sword, examined it for a moment, and swung at her again.
Teela jumped back, inches from the path of his blade, before snatching up her bo staff. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she said. “But I will if you force me.”
Letting out a blood chilling scream, his sword clashed with her bo staff. In a flurry of motion, then, she smashed the wooden shaft of her weapon against his knee, delivered a second blow to his face, followed by a prod to his stomach. And when, for a brief moment, he let his guard down, she looked into his eyes and said; “I-I’m sorry.”
Suddenly consumed by rage, he cleaved her staff in two. Weaponless, she kicked her foot up to his head, but he caught her by the shin, and threw her to the ground. As she crawled from him, then, he paused, a frightened, desperate expression on his face. “Teela, I . . .”
“Yes!?” she replied, hope stirring in her soul.
“I-I can’t control it,” he murmured, raising the sword over his head. “Please, f-forgive me.”
Before bringing the blade down through her neck, she gazed into his eyes once more, saying; “I love you, Adam.”

Chapter 9

A hair’s width from the skin of Teela’s neck, He-Man stopped his sword from cutting off her head. Not knowing whether she was alive or dead, Teela dared look up from behind her trembling hands, seeing his inky black eyes swirl away and their white return. Lowering the sword slowly to his side, then, he turned from her to face Shokoti.
“If you want Teela dead, you’ll have to kill her yourself. I won’t do it, because we love each other, and that is greater magic than you can muster.”
“So be it!” Shokoti cried. “I will destroy her and you . . . I will destroy you both!” With hands of flame spread high, she hurled a fireball down at them that grew larger as it grew closer, till bursting on the ground like a fiery bubble with a ten foot diameter, a split-second before He-Man pushed Teela and himself from its path. That ball of fire was soon followed by another, and another, so that fire rained down on them, and the whole arena was pot-marked with explosions. He-Man and Teela, all the while, leaped from place to place to keep alive, but the air was growing unusually warm, and burn marks blackened their skin and clothing from head to foot.
“We must get out of here!” He-Man exclaimed.
“How? There are no exits!” Teela replied.
“We’ll just have to make one,” said he, knocking part of the wall down with his fist, behind which was a dark vacant space of unknown boundary. Taking her by the hand, then, he escaped with her through the opening.
“Where are we going, Adam? I can’t see a thing!”
“Neither can I. But at least it’s cooler in here.”
“Stop,” she said, panting. “I need to catch my breath.”
A white light bathed over them, as she heard the sound of sliding metal. “We can see by the sword,” he said.
“Look! Over there! Isn’t that the treasure chamber?”
“Yes. We’re in Grayskull all right. From here I can find our way out.”
“Let’s go.”

For what seemed like an eternity they ran, down hallways, through rooms, and up stairwells, till at last they came to the main throne room where they had started. Strangely enough, the throne, the raised dais, and the stairs leading to it were all gone. Only the chains holding the draw bridge closed remained. So He-Man turned the wheel, lowering the draw bridge, and they hurried over it and out of the castle.
“Wait a minute,” said Teela.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “The air . . . it seems different, stale, cold. There’s no wind.”
“You’re right,” he replied, turning back. “There’s something very wrong here. Look!”
Grayskull stood, strong and solitary as ever, now baring the face of Shokoti, but the mists obscuring its features were gone, and no bottomless chasm surrounded it.
“What could this mean?” she asked.
“Anything. But it can’t be good. Let’s try to find the wind raider and fly back to Eternos to make a new plan. If you’re tired, I can carry you.”
“No,” she said. “I’m all right.”
They continued running for another ten minutes, the landscape never changing, the wind raider nowhere to be found, when suddenly, He-Man crashed to the ground with a resounding clang! as if hitting some invisible barrier.
Teela knelt down beside him. “Adam, are you all right?”
“Yes,” he said, rubbing his forehead.
“What happened?”
He stood, reaching out his hand. “A glass wall,” he murmured.
She flattened her hand against it as well, feeling along its height and length, reaching well over her head and more than many steps across. “It seems to go on forever,” she said at last.
“If this is Shokoti’s way of keeping us here, she’ll have to think again!” he said, punching the wall, but his fist snapped back with another clang! to no further effect.
Suddenly, a woman’s soothing voice sounded behind them; “You cannot escape that way.”
He-Man and Teela turned to see Skeletor and the Sorceress, along with Man-at-Arms, Man-E-Faces, and Roboto.
“Sorceress! Duncan!” He-Man cried. “You’re alive!”
“Yes,” said the Sorceress. “But no better than dead.”
“I don’t understand. Where have you been all this time, and what’s Skeletor doing here?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know!” Skeletor scoffed.
“Well if it weren’t for you . . .,” Manny grumbled.
“Enough!” the Sorceress cut in. “If we are to get out of here, we must work together.”
“Where exactly is here?” Teela asked.
“Look,” the Sorceress said, pointing up.
He-Man and Teela turned to see, to their horror, Shokoti’s face, covering one fourth of the sky.
“By the Ancients!” He-Man exclaimed. “She’s huge!”
“No, He-Man,” the Sorceress replied. “We are small, and trapped in her wand, the Wand of Demons. It is one of the most powerful and dangerous artifacts ever created. With it, Shokoti can imprison us, Castle Grayskull, the whole universe. Size is not a factor.”
“This glass wall,” said He-Man, “it’s the outer edge of the wand, isn’t it?”
She closed her eyes. “Yes. And the more she imprisons, the more power she can draw for herself. Shokoti has been draining all of our strengths to cast her spells.”
“There must be a way out,” said He-Man, clenching his fist.
“There isn’t,” Man-at-Arms replied. “We’ve tried everything. I’ve even made a bomb that could level a building. No good.”
“Then we are doomed,” said He-Man.
“What does it matter, anyway?” Teela asked. “Even if we could get out, we can’t beat her. We’d just end up here again.”
“Not necessarily,” the Sorceress replied. “If she could be held down, there is a spell Skeletor and I could use to send her back to her grave: reverse resurrection.”
“Reverse resurrection!?” He-Man muttered.
“Yes, if Skeletor can remember the exact words he used to bring her back to life, and say them in reverse, with my help, it might work.”
“It is a foolish plan,” Skeletor protested. “Even if we could get out of here, I don’t remember the words I used.”
“But Skeletor, you must remember, for the sake of us all!” the Sorceress exclaimed.
“For my sake!” Skeletor corrected. “I could care less for any of you!”
“Why, Skeletor!” He-Man screamed, lunging at him.
Teela held him back. “No, He-Man!”
“Well . . .,” he sighed, turning from them. “I’m not going to give up. I’ll hit this wall with everything I have until it cracks!” And he punched it again.
Skeletor laughed. “Go on! Exhaust yourself! At least I can delight in seeing that!”

Surrounded by a bottomless chasm, shrouded in an ever rising mist, beneath a black cloud, stood a flight of stone steps leading to the open mouth of a stone creature, and in that mouth, a throne, all by itself in the middle of a seemingly endless, flat, rocky plain. And in that throne was the horned woman, stroking her red crystal ball with wicked joy.
“Ahem!” a voice sounded suddenly.
Shokoti looked up to see a small, floating creature, a red robe with a black letter “O” and round, yellow eyes, with a purple scarf and a pointy, wide-brimmed hat.
“I am Orko the Great!” he said, pulling back his sleeves from his four fingered, blue hands, “the most powerful magician in all Eternia!”
“You?” she said, resting her chin in her hand. “I’ve never heard of you.”
“Well you know me now. Release my friends, or I’ll blast you into oblivion!”
Shokoti laughed. “Little man, for this amusement, I’ll let you live. But don’t try my patience. Go now before I change my mind.”
“No!” he exclaimed. “I won’t leave without my friends. Release them, or I’ll cast a spell on you sooo terrible . . .”
Her horns fell on the arm rest of her throne in laughter, as the wand loosened from her grasp.
“Hey, don’t tempt me . . .,” he threatened, shaking his blue finger at her, “. . . I’m warning you!”
She nearly fell off her seat, continuing to laugh, as the wand slipped further down.
“Hey, I really mean it!” he said, magic sparks flying from his finger tips. “This is your last chance.”
Her cheeks nearly burst, the wand now teetering between her thumb and the palm of her hand. “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
“All right, you asked for it! Now let’s see here: Etherian wind and Trollan sand, steal that wand from her hand!” There was a flash of light, then, blinding the demonness, and diving down from the black cloud came the rainbow winged unicorn, Swift Wind, and riding atop him, She-Ra. And as they came swooping over Shokoti’s head, She-Ra leaned over, nearly slipping off her saddle, snatched the wand up and flew away.
“No!” Shokoti screamed. “Come back here with that!”
She-Ra ignored her cries, and flying over a jagged rock, hurled the glass sphere down with all her might. Unbeknownst to her, at the same time inside the sphere, He-Man was punching the glass wall with all his might. And when the two impacts hit from both outside and inside, the Heart of Shokoti shattered, and a red mist poured out, and in another flash of light, He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Man-E-Faces, Roboto, the Sorceress, Skeletor, and even Castle Grayskull appeared.
“You!” Shokoti cried, her trembling finger pointed at Orko. “This is all your fault!”
“I . . . uh, think that’s my exit cue,” said Orko, and he pulled his hat down and vanished within his hat.
“Adora!” He-Man called.
She leaped off her aerial mount, landing next to him. “Hello, brother.”
The most powerful siblings in the universe stood side by side brandishing their identical swords, Skeletor and the Sorceress behind them, all facing the enraged demonness.
“It’s over, Shokoti,” said He-Man, stepping forward. “You’re not so powerful without your wand.”
“I don’t need the wand to destroy you, all of you!” she cried. Fiery beams blazed from her empty eye sockets, then, striking He-Man’s deflecting blade, arching over and glancing off She-Ra’s blade, and streaking back finally to strike Shokoti in the chest, knocking her on her back in a smoking heap.
The Sorceress turned to the twins; “You must keep her here if we are to succeed. There is no other way to kill her.”
“We’ll do our best,” said She-Ra, “though I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
“I’ll explain later,” said He-Man. And they ran towards the throne.
The Sorceress, meanwhile, reached out to Skeletor. “Join hands with me, and unspeak the words you once used to bring Shokoti back to life.”
Reluctantly, the tall, grim, dark figure, placed his hand in the palm of the small, colorfully winged woman. “All right,” he whined. “Now, if I could just remember the words . . .”
As He-Man and She-Ra ascended the steps to the throne, Shokoti rised up, saying to them; “I’ve been too kind. That must come from my mother’s side. She was a good woman, much like your Sorceress, full of morals and what not.” She sank her finger nails into her chest, her flesh opening like clay, but there was no blood, only dark, empty holes. “But that didn’t save her. She learned, as have I, as will you, the true nature of the universe, power! The strong rule rightfully! It is how it has always been and how it will always be! Now I think it’s time you met my father’s side of me.” Reaching her hands into the holes in her chest, she spread herself apart like some human fruit, her naked breasts hanging lifelessly to the side, leaving a single gap down the middle of her body through which nothing could be seen but hollow blackness. A large green tentacle spotted with eyeballs and mouths with jagged teeth, curled out of her body, then, followed by many other tentacles. Soon, the horned woman’s skin fell away in a wrinkled bundle like cast off clothing, and all that remained was the green forest of tentacles, eyes, and mouths, with one large, vertical row of jagged teeth running down the middle of its squid-like body, above which were the familiar horns of the demonness.
“I’ve, uh, seen worse,” said He-Man, backing away.
“Sure you have,” She-Ra replied with a smirk, swinging her sword as a tentacle reached out to grab her.
The twins fought a losing battle as the monster advanced and they retreated down the steps, hacking away at the tentacles hungry to envelope them. Man-at-Arms, meanwhile, armed Roboto with his double barrel laser gun, and Man-E-Faces blasted away with his own gun. But it was all to no avail. The demon absorbed the hits, and grew new tentacles as fast as its old ones were cut off. Inevitably, a tentacle from behind wrapped tightly around He-Man’s waist, gnawing at his skin with its many mouths as it nearly crushed his bones. Only his indomitable will saved him; any other man would have been torn to shreds. But soon, the creature brought him to its waiting, vertical mouth. Before biting him in half, however, he wedged his hands between its teeth and held its jaws apart. She-Ra ran to save him, but she was quickly caught up in its tentacles as well. Man-at-Arms, Roboto, Man-E-Faces, and Teela were all to follow.
Just then, Orko popped in.
“Orko!” the Sorceress exclaimed. “Join hands with us.”
“Me?” he replied, pointing to himself. “You need me to help?”
“Yes, even your small magic can help tip the scale.”
“All right!” he said, taking her hand.
“Now hurry, Skeletor!” she cried. “Not even He-Man can hold that thing for long!”
“Good!” Skeletor replied. “Good riddance! It’s almost worth dying to see him be eaten by that thing!” He laughed.
“All right, all right, I think I’ve got it. Now, repeat after me:

“Living the join and rise, rise but, realm Death’s of halls the more no wander. You summon, Skeletor, I . . . sleep eternal your from wake. Darkness Living, Shokoti, rise.”

“I . . .,” He-Man grunted, sweat falling from his every pore. “I can’t hold it any longer.”
“Don’t give up, brother!” She-Ra cried, also struggling to free herself. “Please, for all of us.”
“I . . . I . . . ugh . . . can’t!” he gasped, as the teeth began to close around him.
Suddenly, a white light surrounded Skeletor, the Sorceress, and Orko, and it spread, washing over the monster. In Shokoti’s own female voice it wailed; “Nooo!” And the next thing they knew, all but the three mages were laying on the ground, a gold sarcophagus in their midst.

Chapter 10

The black cloud looming over Castle Grayskull had dissipated, and as the large green moon and the small violet moon ascended into the sky, the red Eternian sun melting into the horizon cast the castle’s familiar skull-face in silhouette. And there, atop its highest tower, a cool, southerly breeze set the feathers of the Sorceress’ cowl to a flutter, as she turned to the battle worn heroes: He-Man, She-Ra, and Teela.
“Never again will Skeletor, or anyone else, have access to Shokoti’s remains. She will forever be entombed in a room in Grayskull.”
“I certainly hope so,” He-Man replied, resting on the hilt of his sword. “Of course, this gives Skeletor one more reason to takeover the castle.”
“I don’t think so,” said Teela. “I don’t think he’ll try bringing HER back again.”
“Too bad we couldn’t capture him,” She-Ra cut in.
“Well,” Teela replied, “it’s hard to catch someone who can disappear at will.”
“Fortunately for us,” said He-Man, “Shokoti was vain enough to think she could defeat us all.”
“Perhaps her only flaw,” the Sorceress replied.
Teela turned to She-Ra. “You know, it still amazes me. All this time, how could I have not known that you’re really Adora, and that He-Man is, well, Adam. Now that I know, it seems so obvious.”
“A problem we’ll need to remedy,” He-Man said.
The Sorceress turned to Teela. “The secret was kept from you for a reason, and the magic of the swords was to assure that neither you, nor anyone else, would discover the true identities of He-Man and She-Ra. Only a few know the secret: Man-at-Arms, Orko, and myself.”
“But why not me?” Teela asked, turning to He-Man. “Couldn’t you trust me?”
“It’s not that,” he said, gripping her. “Teela, from birth the Sorceress has known.”
“Known what?”
He looked into her perfect blue eyes, the only part of her face not blackened by ash, swollen with bruises, or bloodied with cuts. “That we were meant to be together, to rule Eternia as king and queen. It is our destiny. I was never so sure myself before now.”
“And as lovers,” the Sorceress cut in. “You could never keep your minds on the present, on ridding Eternia forever from the evils of Skeletor.”
“But I know now,” said Teela, “there’s nothing that can be done about it . . . is there?”
“The Sorceress,” He-Man said softly, caressing her cheek, “can erase your memory.”
“No!” Teela cried, her eyes darting back and forth between them. “We can’t go back to being what we were. Not after this. Not after we’ve come so far . . .”
“Do not fret,” the Sorceress said. “Your memories and feelings of love will not be lost. I will keep them safe. And when the time comes, you will remember as if those memories and feelings were never forgotten.”
Teela sighed. “Well . . . if it’s best for Eternia . . .”
He-Man held her tightly, as though fearing she would slip away. “Wait, Sorceress! Just let us be together, once more.”
“One last kiss?” Teela whispered.
Beneath a canopy of stars, framed in the light of the green moon, two lone silhouettes, a man and a woman, stood atop Grayskull’s highest tower, their lips joined for what seemed like an eternity.

The following day . . .

“Adam!” Teela cried. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”
“Sorry, Teela. Did we have practice?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “Now get that fishing rod out of your hand and follow me.”
“Come on, Cringer,” he said, getting to his feet. “Let’s go.”
She groaned. “Oh, Adam, when will you ever learn to be responsible!? Why can’t you be more like . . . like He-Man? I bet he’s never late for practice.”
“Well who knows,” Adam said, winking at Cringer. “One of these days, I might turn out to be just like him.”

Part 2

The Grayskull Library