TRIAL OF A HERO
The sun sank lower and lower, beneath the mountains. The clouds which skimmed the beautiful skies of Eternia darkened into a deep blue shade, as they blended into the evening sky above. With each passing hour, Faker watched as the sun continued to sink, and the clouds and skies continued to darken….. into blackness.
Faker rose to his feet. He drew his sword, and held it in front of his blue torso. The blade of his sword was stained with blood. This blood had come from thousands of innocent people, whom Faker had murdered within the last three years. He had killed so many people he had lost count, and never once had he been found. But the killings he had committed meant nothing more to him that to prepare for the final killing of his greatest enemy ever: He-Man, hero of Eternia.
Faker felt his blood pump intensely through his body. It was the main thing that kept him alive- his great thirst for revenge upon the man who had defeated him three times before. Faker’s defeats ran through his evil mind….. the time he was knocked down the abyss of Castle Grayskull, the time he emerged, only to be turned blue by the Sorceress after one more battle with He-Man, and then the time He-Man cast him adrift at sea in a wooden boat off the shore of the fishing village, Marxall. The boat had eventually been washed up on the other side of Eternia….. and through the past three years, Faker had slowly and cautiously made his way back to the side of the planet where his enemy lived. Walking the planet alone, killing anyone who dared cross his path, while He-Man no doubt assumed he was dead. Whenever Faker had heard a story about some great battle that He-Man had won, it only fuelled his desire for revenge even more. For he would be the man who would finally defeat He-Man and bring evil to the throne of Eternia.
Now he was approaching the city of Eternos. He-Man was often seen defending this city. Faker had walked a long way, over three years, and he would not let it come to no good. He would challenge He-Man one last time, and this time he would finish him once and for all. He had trained supremely hard, and surely must be able to beat his enemy by now.
The thing Faker wished for, more than anything else, was to regain his old power of being able to impersonate He-Man. When he was created, by Skeletor, the lord of destruction, he had looked exactly like He-Man. He could have fooled anyone into thinking he was He-Man….. but then the Sorceress went and turned him blue, and shortly afterwards the magic turned his hair from blond to bright red….. so that no-one could possibly mistake him for He-Man. It would be a whole lot easier for him if he could impersonate He-Man once again….. but what was done was done, and he would not waste time trying to do something he couldn’t. He would challenge He-Man to one final fight, and he would win.
He walked on, his bag slung over his muscular, blue shoulder. After walking several miles, he saw gleaming towers in the distance. He had reached Eternos City. And towering above all the other buildings, was a gigantically tall tower, covered in shimmering lights, its top emanating a red beam which circled above it. Faker realised at once what this building must be. It was the new Eternos Arcology, which would be home to thousands of people, with many special features inside. No-one lived there as yet, but the building was to be opened at a special ceremony tomorrow. He-Man would no doubt be at the ceremony. Faker would use that chance to strike. He would lure He-Man away, and challenge him to fight. This would be the best time to seize his chance to strike. Faker made his way to a small spot outside the main gates of the city. It was bustling with all the night energy of its citizens, excited about the ceremony tomorrow. Faker sat down in a hidden spot between a clump of trees, and pulled out some sticks from his bag, and lit a fire to keep him warm through the night. The fire burned away slowly, and through its flame, Faker stared at the shimmering lights of the city. It may be happy at the moment….. but tomorrow, once he had challenged He-Man….. the city would be in its worst state ever. He-Man would fall….. and Faker would make himself ruler of Eternia. His reign of terror would begin soon.
As the sun rose over Eternos City, Tri-Clops made his way briskly along the grassy area which surrounded the great city. Looking upwards, he focused his front eye on the newest tower to grace the city….. the Eternos Arcology. The building glimmered in the sunlight with immense radiance. It sure was a beautiful sight….. but wouldn’t it make a brilliant base for the evil warriors to work from?
Tri-Clops knew that there was going to be a special ceremony held in Eternos City square today. The Arcology was right in the centre of the square, and it was going to be opened by some important official in Eternos. No doubt there would be preparations going on in the square just now. Eternos was going to be a happy place this afternoon.
Tri-Clops was sickened by the thought of those blasted citizens of Eternos, celebrating so happily. Skeletor’s army had been trying for SIX DAMN YEARS to overtake Eternia, and had met with nothing but failure. Many times had Tri-Clops wanted to jack in his job as spy, but had kept it just for the money. He was at most times a loner, simply wandering Eternia trying to pick up chances to commit crime, and looking out for anything that could be of interest to Skeletor. He knew Skeletor had been hoping for a chance to invade the ceremony this afternoon, and do something to make it hell for the heroic warriors, even if it didn’t result in him taking over the city. Hopefully, Tri-Clops would be able to find something that he could report back to Skeletor, and make the chance to strike.
He knew it would be risky to enter the city alone, since by now his image had been splattered all over the streets of Eternos on posters, to tell the citizens that he was a criminal and should be avoided. So instead, he decided to find a small, secluded spot where he could watch the city in secret, and hopefully pick something up. He looked over at a small clump of trees not far from the city gates. He would go and sit there, to watch the city privately.
Trudging his way along the grass, he made his way over to the clump of trees. But then, he stopped and hesitated as he saw the faint flicker of a dying flame between the tree trunks. There was a small fire, burning slowly and dying away in the midst of the trees. Tri-Clops knew he must not jump towards it, as chances were there may be a heroic warrior there, on patrol. So he backed off several feet, then he switched his helmet to his X-Ray eye. The X-Ray vision enabled him to see right through the tree.
And Tri-Clops couldn’t have been more astonished at what he saw. Lying asleep on the grass, by the fire, was a huge, muscular form which looked EXACTLY like He-Man. Other than its blue skin and bright red hair, it was a complete replica of Eternia’s champion. And Tri-Clops realised at once who this being must be. It could not be anyone but Faker, the evil version of He-Man created by Skeletor, many years ago. Faker had been defeated by He-Man and fallen down the abyss of Grayskull, but had apparently emerged a few years later. Tri-Clops remembered accompanying Skeletor to the village of Marxall, when Faker had struck there- in the hope that Skeletor could get Faker back in the evil army. But Faker had refused to rejoin forces with Skeletor- his ambition was to defeat He-Man and take over Eternia all himself, with absolutely no help. He had been defeated once again by He-Man, and cast out to sea in a wooden boat….. and he had been presumed dead ever since. How could a living being survive at sea, in just one small boat? But nevertheless, Tri-Clops’ helmet eyes were not deceiving him- this was unmistakably Faker. The spy made his way closer to Faker’s sleeping form.
Once he was about three inches from Faker, the blue version of He-Man suddenly shot up, startling Tri-Clops and causing him to suddenly draw his blade and step back at once.
Faker got to his feet, his red eyes blazing in fury. "Who dares attempt to attack Faker?" he growled.
Tri-Clops slowly inched closer, ready to fight. But then, he realised there was no point in fighting. Skeletor would no doubt want Faker back in his army. He would be a great advantage, being almost as strong as He-Man! If Tri-Clops could persuade Faker to rejoin Skeletor, at least that would be an excuse not to fight someone who was so much stronger.
"Stop!" called Tri-Clops, "I don’t want to fight you. I was just curious. My name is Tri-Clops, and I’m one of Skeletor’s spies. You’re Faker, aren’t you? You used to be in our army….."
"I WAS once in your army, but no longer!" hissed Faker, obviously completely insane. "I was the killer of thousands of people throughout the past few years. And I shall be the killer of He-Man." he swished his blade through the air. "I need no help in defeating my enemy! And you, therefore, shall perish at my hands." He advanced towards Tri-Clops, his blade held to Tri-Clops’ chest, ready to stab him.
Tri-Clops threw a quick kick at Faker, before hurling himself backwards. Then he dropped his blade, and held his arms out to stop the fight. "Please!" he shouted. "Just listen to me. I have to talk to you!"
"Okay, weakling." said Faker. "I’ll give you three minutes to say what you want, then it’s curtains for you."
"Alright- I’ve just gotta say that no matter how much we hate one another, we shouldn’t be enemies. If you wanna take over Eternia for yourself, then that’s fine by me. But you really would be a great recruit for Skeletor’s army. Not just because Skeletor created you- because you’re also nearly as strong as the real He-Man and could help us cause the downfall of Eternia."
"I don’t want to help anyone cause the downfall of Eternia!" hissed Faker angrily.
"Okay then- Skeletor will help you. If you just work together with Skeletor for a while, then you might have a better chance of beating He-Man! Then once you’ve destroyed He-Man, it’s between you and Skeletor. You’re stronger than him, so you’d beat him and take over Eternia yourself. That’s gonna be the best choice, Faker. King Hiss is working with Skeletor, because even though he wants to rule Eternia himself, he knows it would be best to work with Skeletor until He-Man is defeated. You should do that, Faker. If you try and fight He-Man all alone you’ll only lose."
"He-Man is mine to defeat!" said Faker. "I shall challenge him myself, and I need no help!"
"Maybe- but listen, you gotta understand that you’ll only lose again with the way you’re going now. Think about the other times you challenged He-Man- admit it, you got beaten pretty quickly, didn’t you? And it’s only gonna be the same if you simply challenge him again. And even if you did beat He-Man, there’s still the whole heroic army, the palace guards and the magic of Grayskull to get past before you can take over Eternia. The odds of you winning would still be one in a million. Face the facts, Faker- you’re never gonna make it on your own. Come on, just rejoin Skeletor’s army. You don’t have to like him or anything- you just need to work with an army before you can defeat He-Man."
Faker lowered his sword, and began to ponder. After a few moments of silence, he said "Yes. You do have a point. But what if Skeletor tries to deceive me in some way?"
"You can defeat him." said Tri-Clops, relieved that Faker had seen the point of what he was saying. "Don’t worry about anything."
Faker fell silent again for several moments. Eventually he said "Alright. I will rejoin your army. But I must make it clear to Skeletor that I’m not going to work as some kind of servant to him, and once we have won, it is between us. Lead me to your base."
"Great stuff, Faker!" said Tri-Clops. "Just follow me!"
Faker and Tri-Clops set off into the distance, past the city and along the dusty path that led to Snake Mountain. The green-suited spy and the muscular blue-skinned warrior walked off into the horizon, side by side. Behind them, the city of Eternos remained happy….. unaware of the great evil which was about to be bestowed upon it.
Skeletor stood atop Snake Mountain, the sunken, red eyes in his fleshless skull blazing out and glaring down at the vehicle bay below. Two Bad and Trap Jaw were making improvements to one of the Fright Fighters. Although he had still not taken over Eternia in six years, Skeletor could feel that the strength of his army was increasing, with the recruitment of several new, powerful and efficient warriors, along with more advanced machinery and vehicles. Hopefully, the day he finally defeated He-Man would not be far off.
King Hiss came up to join Skeletor on the roof. He had been thinking of possible plans to destroy He-Man.
"We must admit," Hiss said, "He-Man continues to defeat us regardless of how heavily our army outnumbers his. I’m beginning to think we’re never going to win if we just carry on using the usual magic schemes, battle challenges and all that. If only there was some way we could banish He-Man, once and for good!"
"We will come up with something very soon!" said Skeletor. "What we need most importantly is to eliminate He-Man permanently from this planet! Without him, the heroic army would be defeated in no time!"
"Maybe if there was some way we could turn them against He-Man….." considered Hiss, "but how could we do that?"
"I will think of something….." suddenly Skeletor’s wrist-radio began to beep. He heard the voice of his technician, Comtech, over the radio.
"Lord Skeletor." came the technician’s low, monotonous voice. "I have received a message from Tri-Clops. He wishes to speak to you urgently."
"I’ll be down at once. Over and out."
Skeletor and King Hiss made their way down to Comtech’s lab. It was a complex room full to the brim with machinery, all sorts of electronic devices and computers used by the technician to perform his experiments. Much of the equipment had first been developed by Modulok in his brief time working as Skeletor’s scientist, but Comtech had improved much of it since his recruitment into the evil army.
Comtech sat at his main computer controls, a control panel raised high and opposite a giant screen onto which commands were transmitted. Comtech was a tall man, wearing a tight black suit. His skin was pale and his head was completely shaved, and he always wore a pair of large black headphones. Skeletor ascended the steps to the platform on which Comtech’s control unit stood, and bent down to the radio system.
"Come in, Tri-Clops." he said.
"Master- I’m on my way to Snake Mountain at this very moment. Outside the Royal City, I found none other than Faker, the evil version of He-Man!"
"Faker?! But he was killed several years back, wasn’t he? Cast out to sea by He-Man?"
"Maybe he was cast out to sea, but he wasn’t killed. I have him here with me now, alive and well. Says he’s been making his way all through Eternia for three years, to challenge He-Man again. And he’s gonna rejoin our army!"
"Are you serious, Tri-Clops? The last time I saw Faker….."
"Yeah, I know, but I sure am serious. I’ll arrive at Snake Mountain soon. You’ll see him for sure then!"
"I await your return eagerly. Over and out."
The radio line went dead, and Skeletor stepped down from Comtech’s platform to rejoin King Hiss. "This is better than I could have hoped for." he said.
"Tell me more about this." said King Hiss. "Who exactly is this Faker?"
"He hasn’t been seen on Eternia for three years. The last time he was seen was at the fishing village of Marxall, where he was defeated by He-Man and cast out to sea. This was just before I unleashed you from the timeless dimension! Faker was an evil version of He-Man, who I created so he could impersonate him….. but he was turned blue by the Sorceress, which prevented him from being able to impersonate him again. Faker always had the potential to be my finest warrior….. I never dreamed I’d see the day when Faker would agree to return to my army. I will provide him with a warm welcome!!!!! Come, King Hiss. To my chamber."
King Hiss and Skeletor made their way up to Skeletor’s chamber, and Skeletor sat down on his bone throne. After waiting about half an hour, they heard a knock on the stone door.
"Enter." said Skeletor.
The door swung open, and Tri-Clops stepped in. "Here is Faker." the spy said. And just behind him, in walked the large figure of a blue He-Man, with bright red hair, carrying a gleaming sword identical to He-Man’s sword of power apart from the many smeared crimson bloodstains which decorated the blade.
Skeletor feasted his evil eyes upon the figure. It was indeed Faker, his own creation, still alive and well.
"By all evil….." exclaimed King Hiss, "He looks almost exactly like He-Man! He could be our greatest warrior!"
"Faker always had that potential." said Skeletor. "But he chose to be a sole villain rather than work alongside myself. But now, Faker, you finally return. State your business here."
Faker stepped forward, towards Skeletor on his bone throne. But unlike most visitors to Skeletor’s chamber, the blue He-Man did not bow or kneel.
"I have made the decision to rejoin your army." Faker said. "Tri-Clops has convinced me that I stand no chance against He-Man with the way I have been going. Therefore, I wish to rejoin forces with you, so together we can cause the downfall of Eternia."
"And you shall never betray the great Skeletor again?"
"Until we win, I shall not betray you. But you must understand that I am only working with you to defeat He-Man. Once he is down, it is between me and you- for I wish to rule Eternia myself."
"It is between you, Skeletor and ME." interrupted King Hiss. "I too desire to rule Eternia, just as I did thousands of years ago."
"Then I shall accept your alliance, Faker." said Skeletor. "Your strength will truly be a supreme help in my quest to defeat He-Man."
"But He-Man is mine to defeat." said Faker. "I have wanted to destroy this man since the very moment you created me. You must let me have him! I intend to challenge him very soon….. and once he is down, we will work together to destroy the heroic warriors and take Grayskull and Eternia for our own!"
"So you intend to challenge He-Man." said Skeletor, lowly.
"I do!" hissed Faker. "I want nothing more than to kill that man! I shall challenge him to a fight- and this time I will win!"
Skeletor glanced at Faker for a few seconds, and then threw his skull back in demonic laughter.
Faker lunged towards the warlord. "What provokes such amusement?!" he screamed. "What brings you to laugh at the great Faker? You will be sorry….."
"I will not!" snapped Skeletor, thrusting the havoc staff in front of Faker’s face. "I laugh at what you say because if you believe you can defeat He-Man simply by challenging him to a fight, you are a fool. I learned that I cannot win a simple fight with He-Man after I had only just met him! For much as I hate to admit it, He-Man is physically stronger than me. In a simple, fair fight, I would stand no chance. And neither would you."
"What do you mean? I was nearly as strong as He-Man when you created me. With the amount of training I have done within the past three years, surely I must be stronger than him by now!"
"I think not." laughed Skeletor. "Strong you may be, but has it not occurred to you that He-Man, too, grows stronger? Each time he battles, his strength increases! And no matter how much you have trained- He-Man will still be stronger. In a fair fight, He-Man would have you down as quickly as he did all those other times you fought!"
"But I must destroy him! There is no way I can ever give in to He-Man!"
"You don’t have to." said Skeletor. "You just need some other kind of scheme. A fair fight is not the way to do it. But together, we shall think of a scheme that will enable you and I to defeat He-Man."
"But what should we do? Damn, if only I could still impersonate He-Man….."
"That’s it!" said Skeletor, suddenly jumping to his feet. "When I created you, physically you were an exact replica of He-Man! If you could once again be like that, just think of the many wonderful schemes we could enact!"
"It surely would be an advantage." said King Hiss. "Even his voice is similar to He-Man’s."
"But how can I become like that again?"
"Our magic should be able to do it." said Skeletor. "We need Evil-Lyn!"
"You called, Skeletor?" said Evil-Lyn, his beautiful but sinister sorceress, entering the room. Setting her eyes upon Faker, she said "So he has returned! I knew your finest creation would return to us someday."
"Evil-Lyn-" began Skeletor, "our magic has become stronger throughout the many years we have worked together, and with King Hiss on our side, that makes us even more powerful. We must use our magic to make Faker once again an exact replica of He-Man!"
"We can do exactly that." said Evil-Lyn. "If we just crowd in a circle round Faker….."
Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, and King Hiss all stood in a circle around Faker. Then Evil-Lyn ordered "Now- concentrate hard! Shoot all your magic from your fingertips- and we shall have Faker once again the way he was when we created him."
The three evil warriors spread their arms out, and shot magic beams from their fingertips towards Faker. His blue form was quickly surrounded by soaring beams of evil magic. The beams whirled around his muscular body, as the three evil masters of magic continued to concentrate hard, summoning all their magic powers and beaming them towards Faker.
As the beams swirled all over Faker’s body, the blue pigment of his skin began to fade. It faded and faded….. until his skin was completely white. At the same time, his hair began to turn lighter, the red fading and being replaced by blond. His skin then slowly began to turn darker….. becoming a sharp, heavy tanned colour. As Skeletor, Evil-Lyn and King Hiss concentrated, Faker became an exact replica of his extreme enemy. He was once again identical, in every aspect, to He-Man.
As the spell was complete, the evil warriors lowered their arms and the beams of magic faded into thin air. Faker took a glance down at his body. "I’m He-Man again!" he shouted. "You’ve done it! I look exactly like him! I can impersonate my enemy once again!"
"And just to avoid confusion, I’ve made it so you can change back to your blue form if ever you wish." said Evil-Lyn. "Just so the warriors here don’t think He-Man’s in the building all the time."
"Thank you." said Faker. "You have returned to me the power I have coveted the most for four years- ever since the Sorceress turned me blue. Now I can defeat He-Man!"
"We must enact some scheme quickly." said King Hiss. "With an evil replica of He-Man, we can perform schemes that will pull the heroic warriors apart."
"But what shall we do?" asked Evil-Lyn.
The evil warriors were silent for a few seconds as they considered ideas. Then suddenly, Faker threw his arms into the air and screamed "I HAVE IT!!!!!!!!"
"What, Faker?" said Skeletor. "What scheme has come to mind?"
"IF THIS DOESN’T DEFEAT HE-MAN, NOTHING WILL!!!!!!!!" bellowed Faker. "WE HAVE DONE IT THIS TIME!!!!!!!! THIS IS TRULY THE GREATEST SCHEME EVER!!!!!!!!!"
"I cannot wait to hear it." said Skeletor. "Now, Faker! Tell me your scheme right now!"
The square of Eternos City was full of citizens gathering around the newly built Arcology, ready for the ceremony in the afternoon. The sun gleamed down on the beautiful, shimmering structure which towered high above the rest of Eternos City. The people of Eternos gazed up in wonder. It truly was a masterpiece.
And the people raised their gazes even higher, and erupted into a massive cheer as Stratos and the birdmen suddenly jetted into the bright sky, zooming over the top of the Arcology, each holding a huge banner with the words ‘ETERNOS ARCOLOGY- OPENING CEREMONY TODAY’. They attached the banner to the top of the tall tower, then slowly spread out their wings and drifted with grace to the ground.
"Bravo, Stratos!" called King Randor, entering the square, with Queen Marlena, Teela and Extendar following behind. "This is a wonderful start to the day!"
Stratos made his way slowly towards the Royal Family. "I’m most proud to be able to help, your majesty!" he said.
"Are you ready for the air show you’re putting on today?" asked Queen Marlena.
"I sure am!" replied Stratos, his long, blue wings blowing in the gentle summer wind. "We’re gonna get Buzz-Off and the Bee People to come over and help us out. They should arrive soon. And Sy-Klone the aerial ace says he’ll help us too, so I think our show’s gonna be our best yet!"
"It’s an honour to know we have friends in such amazing people as yourself, Stratos." said Randor. "Good luck with the show!"
"Thank you, your Majesty! And good luck with the ceremony!" Stratos flew swiftly back to his birdpeople, flapping his wings in the breeze.
King Randor turned to Extendar. "Are you going to do anything for us at the ceremony?" he asked. "You can extend to almost the height of the Arcology- the people will love you!"
"I might do something if enough people ask!" laughed Extendar. "Hey, have you any idea if the Sorceress is gonna come?"
"I’d doubt it." said Marlena. "She would be too busy guarding Grayskull. But you never know. It definitely seems like thousands of people all over Eternia are coming today. Fisto’s even bringing along some of his friends from his old dojo!"
"I do find it a shame that Adam can’t attend." said Randor, lowly. "The Prince of Eternia really should attend occasions like this. I fear for what his absence will do for his reputation."
"Hey, it won’t harm him at all!" said Extendar. "You know, I was pretty surprised to find out about just how many female admirers he has in this city. They go mental when he goes past sometimes. And anyway, what he’s doing now should be good for him!"
"It should be, dear." Marlena said to Randor. "He’s off on a break, travelling all round Eternia. He’ll learn a lot more about our world. He’s probably on the other side of Eternia at the moment….. but he’ll be loving it, and it’ll be a good experience for him."
"Yes, I guess so." said Randor, lightening up a bit. "It will be good for his independence too. It’s just a shame that he had to choose his vacation at a time like this, but still I wish the best for him."
At that moment, a young man approached the King and Queen, holding a video camera. "Greetings, your majesty, my name’s Mendoc, and I film special events. You don’t mind if I film the whole ceremony, do you?" he said. "Just so I can broadcast the highlights on all the viewscreens across Eternia, so people who couldn’t come can know what it was like?"
"Of course not!" said Randor. "Film whatever you like. I would most appreciate a recording of this occasion!"
"Thank you very much, your Majesty." said Mendoc. "I’ll start right away!" he went and joined the crowd, with his camera.
Just then, out from one of the windows of the Arcology came Man-At-Arms, descending on a rope. When he reached the ground, Teela and Extendar ran over to him.
"What were you doing in there, Father?" asked Teela.
"I was just making sure all the machinery worked properly. I must admit, I’d love to live in that building myself. Besides all the individual homes in there, there’s all sorts of activities, shops, leisure facilities, machinery….. it’s like a city within a city. I’ll envy the people who move in there. And the metal it’s made from is entirely immune to all forms of lasers, bullets and shot beams….. meaning it’ll be safe from attack by Skeletor."
"That sounds great." said Extendar. "I might find myself a place within there sometime!"
Man-At-Arms took a glance at Teela. She looked strangely glum for such a special occasion. "What’s wrong, Teela?" he asked. "You don’t seem as bright as usual today."
"It’s nothing." she replied lowly. "Well, it’s nothing too serious, anyway. I’m just wondering why He-Man isn’t coming. It would be so much better with him here."
"Well, you never know." said Man-At-Arms. "He-Man can be a bit unpredictable at times. He might show up as a surprise at some point."
"I don’t know." said Teela. "I haven’t admitted this yet….. but I find it pretty boring that Lord Marlach is opening this building. I mean, I’ve nothing against him, I know he’s important here and all that, but….. he just doesn’t seem very special. He’s hardly an idolised celebrity or anything. It would be so much better if He-Man could open it….. and we’d get loads more people here, too."
"I think that would be a little risky, Teela." said Man-At-Arms. "If it was definite that He-Man was going to be here, we’d have so many people coming that even this square wouldn’t be able to handle it!"
"Guess so." said Teela. "But I’d still prefer if He-Man did it, no matter what the risks may be."
"You still don’t know." said Extendar. "He might show up at some point." The mighty cyborg warrior whispered quietly to Man-At-Arms "Do you think he will come, Duncan? Adam’s on the other side of the planet, most likely."
"I’d say it’s unlikely that he’ll show up….. he was pretty tired and stressed after all the latest battles. That’s why he had to take this break, but perhaps he’ll just make a surprise appearance."
"I hope he’s okay, wherever he is." said Extendar. "I was a little worried about him. He was very worn out and seemed like he could suffer some kind of breakdown at any moment. After all, it must be stressful for him- living a double life and having to conceal his secret identity, battle against evil and get enough rest. I feel sorry for him."
"I should think his break will do him good." said Man-At-Arms. "It’s what he needs, and we still have enough warriors to defend the city in the meantime."
Just then, they heard King Randor shout "Lord Marlach! Welcome to the celebrations!"
They looked round to see Lord Marlach, a richly and elegantly dressed man of about forty, step into the square. He went over to King Randor, and shook his hand. "I’m honoured to be able to open this Arcology!" he said to Randor.
"Likewise, it is an honour to have you open it for us. Now that you are here, we may begin the ceremony! I’m sure that most people have arrived, and even if some haven’t, it lasts until midnight. There’s plenty of time for them to arrive!"
"No problem then, your majesty." said Marlach. "Let’s get going!"
The city was filled with the sounds of joy. But not a soul in the city knew just what was lurking in their midst. Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, King Hiss and Faker had positioned the Fright Fighter in a small spot between two tall buildings. No-one had seen them yet. The ceremony was several yards away, and each of them fixed their eyes sharply upon the distant celebration.
Other than Faker. His eyes were down, concentrating only on his sword as he wiped the many blood stains away with a damp cloth.
"This scheme is truly perfect." hissed Skeletor. "We may not be able to destroy He-Man directly….. but we can still have him destroyed. And this scheme will ruin him….. even if he does not die, he will be reduced to being one of the most wretched beings on Eternia!" the red eyes in Skeletor’s skull gleamed with a terrifying blaze. Evil-Lyn’s crimson lips formed into a sinister, scheming smile, and King Hiss wringed his hands, awaiting impatiently the chance to strike. Each of them was sure that they were about to cause the true downfall of He-Man.
"Tri-Clops reported no sign of He-Man in the city." said Evil-Lyn. "It should be safe to carry out our scheme….. any moment now."
Faker finally looked up, setting his eyes on the crowds in the square. "I’m ready now….." he hissed. "But we must bide our time. We must strike at the perfect moment….." He tensed his muscles tightly. He was nervous, fearing that he would do something to mess up the TRULY MAGNIFICENT scheme he had come up with. But he knew the consequences could be a dream come true. This would be the final defeat of He-Man. It truly would…..
A fanfare erupted in Eternos City square as the ceremony began. King Randor stepped in front of the crowds, Marlena at his side.
"People of Eternia!" he began. "It gives me great pleasure to be able to introduce you all to our opening ceremony for the magnificent new Arcology in our city. We have all of Eternia’s finest architects, builders and engineers to thank for this marvellous structure, which will house thousands of people upon its opening. The endless features within the tower make it almost a world of its own, which one could spend days exploring. It is an honour to have it in our city! And we must also give our special thanks to Duncan, the Royal Man-At-Arms, who has done his best to ensure that all the machinery in the tower works at its best. So do not let me keep you waiting- let us open this wonderful building! And to open it, we have none other than Lord Marlach, one of the most respected noblemen in all Eternia! Please give him a round of applause!"
The crowd burst into applause, cheering loudly as Lord Marlach walked up to the main doors of the tower, which had a light paper chain across them.
"I am delighted to open this building for you all." said Lord Marlach. "I’m sure it will make a luxurious home for all who come to live within it. So here goes!" he pulled out a large pair of scissors, and cut the chain open. "I declare the Eternos Arcology….. open!"
The crowd erupted into a cheer. "Thank you, Lord Marlach!" said King Randor. "And let the Royal Ceremony begin!"
Randor shook Lord Marlach’s hand. Then Marlena did the same. Then the King and Queen joined the rest of the crowd as they began to join the games, music and special attractions, while others went in to explore the Arcology. It was the happiest day Eternos had seen in a long time.
Teela’s mood was relieved with the nature of the crowd. The absence of He-Man began to mean less to her as she joined in the celebrations. But then, she reached a peak of excitement as she saw, approaching the square, none other than the mighty form of He-Man himself, looking handsome as ever, with his powerful muscles and dignified stride. He was holding the gleaming power sword in one hand!
"Extendar!" she said, nudging Extendar’s metal torso in excitement, and pointing at He-Man. "He’s here! He-Man’s coming! Look over there!"
"Wha….. oh, yeah!£ said Extendar, turning round. "Welcome, He-Man! I never expected to see you here!"
More and more people in the crowd noticed He-Man, and turned to watch him. But surprisingly, He-Man didn’t respond at all. He just made his way towards the Arcology, as if oblivious to their reaction. What was wrong? Could he be about to protest against the opening of the Arcology?
The crowd stared at him curiously, as he walked right up to the Arcology’s entrance, where Lord Marlach was standing. He looked as though he was about to speak out.
But he didn’t. The crowd watched in horror, struck dumb with shock, as He-Man thrust his power sword towards Lord Marlach. Marlach stepped back in shock. "He-Man? What’s wrong with you?"
He-Man still said nothing. The heart of each person in the square almost stopped at the most unbelievable sight they had ever seen. He-Man was raising his sword high….. then he plunged it down, into Lord Marlach’s chest. Marlach screamed in pain as blood gushed out from his chest. Then He-Man stabbed him again. And again. And again, brutally and remorselessly. Lord Marlach fell to the ground, too weak to scream anymore. The shocked crowd of onlookers watched, unable to believe what they were seeing. All of them were too shocked to even speak or make a move- even the heroic warriors. Although Marlach lay on the ground helpless, He-Man continued to stab him repeatedly, in the chest, in the neck….. all over the man’s body, until Lord Marlach lay on the ground, motionless. He was dead. He-Man had killed him. He-Man turned his back to the crowd, and walked off, without a word or a single sign of remorse or feeling in his now blank and terrifying eyes. He was soon lost from view.
And the crowd was left standing still, unable to speak, or even move. Each of them prayed to the gods that they had imagined this. The sight they had just seen had left them too shocked to do anything. They could not accept that it had been real.
He-Man had just killed a man, with full intention, before their very eyes.
In a hidden spot in the city, He-Man was greeted by the gruesome, black-caped figure of Skeletor, beaming down from the Fright Fighter. He-Man crossed his sword along his body, and his skin turned blue as he resumed the form of Faker.
"I have done it, Skeletor." he said.
"Excellent work, Faker!" said Skeletor triumphantly. "Now we have won! We have finally destroyed He-Man! NOW HE WILL BE SEEN AS NOTHING BUT A COLD-BLOODED MURDERER!!!!!! AT LONG LAST, WE STAND TRIUMPHANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Eternos City Square, although almost full with thousands of people, was entirely silent. No-one could overcome the shock that had just befallen them. How could the hero of Eternia have simply entered the square, stabbed Lord Marlach to death, and then left? What could be wrong?
Eventually, one man screamed out in fury. "He-Man is a killer!" he bellowed. "He murdered Lord Marlach! He has blackened this wonderful ceremony!"
Another man answered, his fist raised into the air, and shaking. "Hunt down He-Man! He shall pay for this crime!"
Within seconds, the Square was in an uproar over the terrible crime it had just seen, committed by none other than Eternia’s champion.
"Be calm, people!" called King Randor, stepping in front of the crowd. "You must be calm about this situation!"
"Calm?" screamed a man at the front of the crowd. "When our ‘hero’ has just committed a murder?!"
"As terrible as the case may be, you must take it as easily as possible! We do not want you to endanger yourselves! I don’t know what has come over He-Man to make him kill someone….. but we must deal with it quietly!"
Quickly, Teela and Extendar rushed over to the bloody corpse of Lord Marlach, lying sprawled on the ground in front of the tower’s doors. Looking up at Teela’s beautiful eyes, Extendar saw a faint tear trickle down her face. The warrior woman was actually weeping.
"He can’t have done it." she sobbed. "He-Man wouldn’t kill anyone! I can’t have seen this!"
"I don’t believe it myself." Extendar said, gasping for breath. "No, it wasn’t true. He-Man has been one of the best friends I’ve ever had. It can’t have been him!"
"Well unless I’m blind, that sure enough was He-Man." said Mendoc, walking over to them with his video camera. "I’ve got the whole thing on film."
"Quick- Stratos!" called Randor. "You and the birdpeople calm down the crowd! I fear they could riot!"
Stratos made his way towards the huge crowd. Slowly, and shakily, with a look of shock and fear on his face.
"I cannot believe it." he said, shaking his head. "I wanted to stop him- but I couldn’t make myself move. I never dreamed I’d see anything like that. Please someone tell me this is just a bad nightmare! I haven’t woken up yet!"
Queen Marlena joined them, her head hung lowly as she brushed away a tear. "I….. understand you." she sobbed. "How could he have done this? This can’t be true! It can’t be!"
"I must deal with the crowd." said Stratos. "They‘re all as shocked as I."
He and the rest of the birdpeople made their way towards the angry crowd, to calm them down from their fury.
As the body collectors covered up the bloody corpse of Lord Marlach, and laid it out on a stretcher, carrying it away, Randor and Marlena gazed at one another, shocked and unsure of what to do.
"This whole ceremony has been ruined." said Randor. "But why? What could cause He-Man to stab a man to death? I don’t understand!"
Marlena shook her head, and in a moment of great pain and sadness, leaned forward and hugged her husband. "I don’t know what to do." she sobbed. "How could this happen? How could he….. damn, please tell me this isn’t happening!" she slowly let go of Randor, and collapsed to her knees, her face buried deep in her hands.
Several heroic warriors entered the square, unaware of what had just happened.
"What’s wrong here?" asked Fisto, who had a group of strong-looking men around him, all old friends who had trained at his dojo. "What’s this commotion about?"
"He-Man just….. killed Lord Marlach." said Randor. "I know, it sounds unbelievable, but….. he just came into the Square, stabbed Marlach to death, and left."
"But it can’t be!" said Ram Man. "He-Man wouldn’t kill anyone! This can’t be true!"
"I’m afraid it is." said Randor. "For proof, the young man over there-" he pointed to Mendoc, "has the killing filmed. But I don’t understand….."
Fisto and Ram Man looked at one another in shock. Were they actually hearing this? Man-At-Arms just sat alone by the tower, staring at the ground. "No….." he could be heard muttering to himself, "It can’t have been He-Man….."
Extendar and Teela walked up to the King and the grieving Queen. "What can we do now?" Extendar asked, lowly. "That can’t really have happened, surely something….."
"I’m afraid we have no choice." said Randor. "We must accept that He-Man just came into the Square and killed Marlach. So therefore, we must treat this as a crime. He-Man must be found straight away."
After helping Marlena to her feet, and laying his hand upon her shoulder in an attempt to calm her down, Randor turned to the crowd and cleared his throat. The angry members of the crowd, held in control by Stratos and the birdpeople, turned to listen to their king.
"I am sorry," began King Randor, "that such a special occasion had to be ruined in this way. I understand that all of you are shocked by what He-Man has just done, as are we all. But I beg that you do not cause further havoc by rioting or rebelling. I promise that we shall sort this situation out at once. So please all disband and return to your homes. We will deal with the murder of Lord Marlach as quickly as we can."
The crowd slowly began to dissolve, split apart and leave the square. The birdpeople kept them under control. Each member was thoroughly upset by the terrible crime that had just taken place- and even more bewildered by who had committed it.
Several lawmen stepped into the square, wearing their bright, shiny metal armoured suits. "Fear not, your Majesty." one of them said. "It is clear that for an as yet unknown reason, He-Man has turned against us and become a murderer. But we’ll hunt him down at once. We’ll see to it that he doesn’t get away with this crime."
"Thank you….." replied Randor, "but I just cannot believe it….. He-Man has always been so dignified….."
Extendar and Teela went over to where Man-At-Arms sat in shock.
"That can’t have been He-Man." Man-At-Arms said flatly. "He wouldn’t do that. He just wouldn’t."
Extendar, too, was suspicious of whether or not the killer had truly been He-Man. After all, Prince Adam was on the other side of the planet….. surely nothing could have driven him to madness, and caused him to return to Eternos to kill someone? "I don’t think that was He-Man at all." he said. "He would never do anything like that."
"And his eyes….." said Teela in fear, "they looked so….. evil and remorseless. That was not the He-Man I know. I don’t know what’s happened."
"Well whatever has happened….." said Man-At-Arms, "we really must find out. As this is truly the day Eternia stood still."
Prince Adam walked briskly up the steep slope. He watched the ground carefully, cautious not to trip over any small rocks on the path. The hill got steeper as Adam got higher, but he continued to stride with all his strength, never once stopping or stumbling. Then he reached the top of the hill, and looked up.
And he saw, straight ahead of him, the lustrous red sun of Eternia bathing the village below in its beautiful radiance, the distant mountains contoured against the blue skies. The view from this hill was breathtaking. Adam had never seen such a beautiful sight in ages. The exquisite beauty of the view filled his entire body with a great sense of peace, until in a moment of ecstasy, Adam leaped into the waterfall which rushed gently down the hillside. Suffusing his entire body with the cooling liquid, Adam let it sweep him right down the hill, until it curved into the land, where Adam sprung out, his arms outstretched in extreme joy. He waded back onto the grass, and spun with happiness, at one with Eternia.
It was wonderful for Adam to get a break from constantly fighting against the evil of Skeletor and his minions. Up until his break, things had been getting seriously tense back in Eternos. Skeletor just wouldn’t give up with his schemes, especially since he was always getting more and more Snake Men joining his forces. And as He-Man, Adam had been having to fight more than ever before, and the strain it had on him was taking its toll. What was even worse was the way that even though Adam was worn out from all his good deeds as He-Man, his father, King Randor, was constantly moaning at him about how he never did anything to help Eternia. And while his mind was consumed in true love for the beautiful Teela, she was only interested in He-Man, and now and then even she would rant at him for not doing anything. He knew that she loved him a bit as Adam too, but the frustration of not being able to tell her his secret, along with the constant strain of the battles against Skeletor, had almost caused Adam to reach breakdown. In a depressed mental state, he had actually slashed his wrists a few weeks ago, and realising just how bad his life as He-Man was making him feel, The Sorceress had advised him to take a break before he suffered any kind of breakdown, mentally or physically. She had told him not to worry about defence of the palace or Grayskull- there were still enough warriors to see to it most of the time, especially since She-Ra tended to visit Eternia more often, having weakened the Horde’s rule on Etheria.
The Sorceress had always been so good to him, solving all his deepest problems. Now he was taking a break from everything- from his life as He-Man, from Skeletor, from his parents, from Teela. And he wasn’t missing a moment of it- not even Teela. Although he loved her with all his heart, it was so tedious not being able to tell her that he was He-Man. And now he was travelling Eternia, learning about what a peaceful world it would be if Skeletor was driven away. His depression had been entirely relieved by his break. He was so much happier now than he had been in ages. Until now, he hadn’t had a whole week of peace ever since becoming He-Man for the first time! He knew that back at home, King Randor had been holding a ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Eternos Arcology. It had been held two days ago, and he knew that Randor would be disappointed that he couldn’t attend. But it didn’t matter that much to him. He had badly needed a break for ages, so he hadn’t seen the point of calling it off, even to attend a Royal Ceremony.
He had not called home once during his break. He just wanted to escape from all the pressures of everyday life. But he knew he would have to call sometime to see how the ceremony had gone. He hadn’t visited any news stations to find out, so he knew virtually nothing about it.
Adam gazed over at the village ahead. It looked a nice place- so he decided he would go and have a drink there. Slowly, he made his way over to the distant village.
But as he neared the village, he heard a cry from not far off.
"Help! Somebody help me!"
Adam spun round, to see a group of men from the village atop a hill by an overturned cart. One of the men had fallen out of the cart and into the stream, and was being washed away violently, at risk of drowning.
Adam wanted to save the man himself, but the current looked incredibly strong- not one that he could manage to fight. But if he was to save this man’s life, there was only one choice. He had to become He-Man!
Adam quickly ran, unseen, over to another hill. He looked around him to ensure that he was completely out of sight, then he took out the mighty power sword, held it above his head, and shouted:
"BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL…..
I HAVE THE POWER!"
The flash of light that he had seen all too many times emerged from the sword and began its all-too-familiar routine of pouring down on his body and transforming him, with a flash, to He-Man, mightiest man in the universe.
He-Man ran towards the stream, where the villager was drowning. "Don’t worry!" he called. "I’m coming!"
He leaped towards the stream, ready to dive into the water and save the man. But to his surprise, the man only began to scream even more as He-Man drew near.
"NO!!!" the man screamed. "Keep away from me!!!!!"
"But….. I’m here to save you!" said He-Man.
"Keep away from him, you evil maniac!" called one of the men from the top of the hill. The men ran down the hill intensely, and brandished spears once they reached He-Man.
"What….. what’s wrong? I want to save him….."
Several of the men held their spears directly towards He-Man, blocking his every path. "Alright, we’ve got the bastard trapped, now!" said one. Then he turned to another man. "Dirk- you try and save Voldar!"
The man saluted, then dived into the stream, and after a long struggle, splashing madly against the raging current, finally managed to drag the drowning man out from the water.
"Get him away from me!" screamed the man, pointing towards He-Man.
"Don’t worry- he can’t escape now!" said one of the men with the spears. "We’ll keep this guy in place- Dirk, you go and get the nearest lawmen!"
"Right away!" replied Dirk, and ran back to the village with his friend, dripping wet from the stream.
"I don’t understand." said He-Man solemnly, looking around the group of men, with their spears. "I am He-Man, leader of the masters of the universe. I came here to save that man- I didn’t want to hurt him."
"You lying bastard." said one man. "We’ve heard all about what you’ve done."
He-Man was seriously confused by now. "But what HAVE I done?"
"Ah, look at him now." said the man sarcastically. "Trying to act the innocent. Well he can’t fool us. We’ll have him where he belongs pretty soon!"
A few moments later, the high-pitched sound of a siren filled the skies. He-Man looked to the skies to see a Law aircraft hovering above. Now this was ridiculous. What on Eternia could cause these men to call the Law about him? Surely they couldn’t have mistaken him for an evil warrior?
A Lawman descended on a rope, then took out his gun, threw a stun beam at He-Man, and then dragged him up onto the aircraft. "Thanks for alerting us to his whereabouts." The Lawman said. "We’ll sort this bastard out before too long!" Then the rope was pulled up, and the stunned He-Man was lifted onto the aircraft.
Once on board the craft, He-Man was lumbered into a seat, and an electronic belt appeared from nowhere, holding him in place, unable to struggle. Then the Lawmen took off.
Eventually, He-Man regained movement. He could not understand what was happening. These Lawmen were actually ARRESTING him! But why?
"Why are you arresting me?" He-Man asked. "What exactly have I done?"
The Lawman scoffed in mockery. "You bloody well know." he said, shaking his head.
The aircraft moved on and on, until it hovered above the gleaming towers of Eternos City. He-Man kept on trying to make attempts at asking the Lawmen exactly why they were arresting him, but it was no use. They just ignored him.
He-Man could see the Arcology, towering above the other buildings. The aircraft hovered past the tall tower, and towards Law HQ. The craft zoomed through a window in the top floor, into a large, empty room, where it landed slowly. Then the door slid open with a whoosh, and the two Lawmen got out from the cockpit. Drawing towards He-Man, one of them flicked a switch on a small control box, and the electronic belt vanished. Then both Lawmen dragged He-Man out from the craft, and through several corridors and hallways, up to one of the questioning rooms.
"We’ve got him." one of them said, to an older man sitting in the room, who was dressed in a shiny, metal suit, except his was blue, unlike their silver suits.
"Thank you." the older man said. "Hopefully I can question him quietly."
The iron door slid shut, and He-Man was left alone in the room with the older man. He was entirely confused. After a week away from everywhere and everyone familiar to him, he had suddenly been arrested, out of the blue, and taken for questioning at Eternos Law HQ. This didn’t make sense.
"Excuse me asking," said He-Man, politely, "but what exactly have I been brought here for?"
"There’s no use trying to hide." said the man, shaking his head. "You have been arrested for the stabbing and murder of Lord Marlach of Eternos, outside the Eternos Arcology, two days ago."
He-Man’s eyes opened wide in shock. This could not be possible. MURDER?!!!!!
PART 6"It’s all a mistake." He-Man said plainly. "I would never dream of committing murder."
Outside Law HQ, Man-At-Arms, Teela, and Extendar were desperately awaiting signs of He-Man. None of them were convinced of his guilt.
"He must have been under some kind of evil spell." Teela was saying. "Because his eyes….. do you remember that time when Skeletor turned him into a rampaging beast with the magic of the Tower of Terror?"
"Yes, I remember that battle." said Man-At-Arms. "I had to go to the plain of Joritrea to destroy the tower."
"His eyes were so cold and staring then. I’m sure that Skeletor must have unleashed some kind of magic like that on him again- as the way his eyes were….. it instantly reminded me of that time." she shuddered at the memory.
"He’s not guilty. Simple as that." said Extendar, staring daggers at a banner across the street with "JAIL HE-MAN" written on it. "I’m amazed that so many people are convinced he’s turned against us."
"They probably just want something to make a fuss about." said Man-At-Arms. "I must speak to He-Man about this, because I feel as though there’s a voice in my head that’s trying to tell me he IS guilty. I have to see for myself that it isn’t true. Hopefully, by the time he comes out of questioning, he’ll have convinced the Lawmen that it’s all an evil scheme." He took a quick glance through the main door, and saw two guards, dragging He-Man between them. "Look- there he is!" he shouted. "We must go inside and see him!"
The three warriors ran through the main doors and into the building. They instantly rushed up to He-Man, as he was dragged along by the guards. "He-Man!" cried Teela. "Please tell me it wasn’t you….."
"Don’t worry." He-Man said. "It wasn’t me. I have no memory of the killing. And I’ve been worried sick that you’ve all turned against me."
Teela gazed into his handsome, brown eyes. This was the normal He-Man, the man she had known and loved for six years. "Don’t worry, He-Man. I know you’d never commit murder. I knew it couldn’t have been you! So you can come free now?"
"I’m afraid not." said He-Man. "That video taping of the killing has got the Law convinced I’m a murderer, and I can’t seem to change their minds. I’m gonna have to be tried."
Man-At-Arms, Teela, and Extendar looked at one another in shock. It couldn’t be! How could the Lawmen truly believe He-Man was a murderer?! "But you can’t be tried….. they know you’d never kill anyone….."
He-Man shook his head. "I’m afraid not. I hope you will help me in Eternos Court….."
"Come on! Stop telling these people lies!" said one guard, in a harsh and rough voice, and the two of them dragged He-Man away from his friends, and down to the cells.
Man-At-Arms, Teela and Extendar made their way out of the building. They looked at each other in dismay. "This can’t be happening." said Man-At-Arms. "You can tell by just speaking to him….. he’s so noble. He would never commit murder."
"I don’t understand this." said Teela. "I know it can’t have been him- and if it was, he’d have been under an evil spell. But we’ll stick up for him, won’t we Father? We won’t let He-Man get convicted of a murder he didn’t do?"
"Of course we won’t, Teela!" said Man-At-Arms.
"We’ll help He-Man through every step." said Extendar. "We shall make sure that He-Man receives JUSTICE! He-Man is no killer- and we must prove it!"
PART 7Later that day, in the Royal Palace of Eternos, Man-At-Arms stood on the balcony, with Extendar, Teela, and the King and Queen. He held his mini information system in his right hand. An announcement shortly came through.
As the sun rose over Eternos City the next morning, denizens continued to roam the streets making scenes about the murder of Lord Marlach. But above all the chaos, a spark of glowing light hovered across the morning sky. As it reached the Royal Palace, it began to descend, much to the delight of the small group of heroic warriors on the balcony.
"Here he comes." said Rio Blast, to Teela, Extendar, and Sy-Klone as they gazed up at the strange light. It plunged lower and lower through the morning breeze, until it softly hit the balcony. The glow subsided, revealing the figure of a man wearing a green cowboy hat, a red band over his eyes, and a blue suit with lasers attached to the sides, sitting in a small space shuttle.
"Howdy, Rio." he said.
"Pleasure to see you again, Blastar." said Rio, shaking his hand. Blastar stepped out of his shuttle to greet the warriors.
"My friends," said Rio, "I’d like you to meet Blastar, my old mate from the Starband Marshals. Blastar- I’d like you to meet Teela, the captain of the Royal Guard- and a magnificent warrior."
Blastar shook Teela’s hand. "Pleased to meet you." he said, in a voice more gentle than Rio’s, but dignified and charming. "You sure do look very beautiful."
"Why, thank you." replied Teela.
"And this is Extendar-" Rio continued, "he’s one of our finest warriors- and he can grow to the size of, uh….. well, a pretty big guy. And this is Sy-Klone- who we on Eternia know as the Human Tornado."
"Great to meet you." said Blastar. "I’ve heard many yarns about you throughout the universe, so it’s a pleasure to see you in the flesh. I’m afraid I’m not as powerful as Rio, as he has all those built-in lasers- mine are just attached to my costume, but….."
"Don’t underestimate yourself, Blastar." said Rio. "Your lasers sure pack a punch!"
"Well, I hope so." said Blastar. "I’ve defeated loadsa intergalactic criminals with ‘em. I‘ve met He-Man before, when he saved me from a spell by Skeletor, and now I hear he’s being accused of murder, I’ve come to help prove his innocence as best I can."
"We’re glad to have extra help on our side." said Extendar. "It seems most people in Eternos think he’s guilty."
"We wanna go to Snake Mountain today, and see if Skeletor has anything to do with it." said Sy-Klone. "He could have framed He-Man for the crime!"
"Then let’s not waste time." said Blastar. "We’ll set about our tasks right away!"
Shortly afterwards, Rio Blast and Blastar stood outside Eternos Law HQ, talking with the Law boss.
"I know I’ve never had much of a say in the way we run," said Rio, "but I think all this about He-Man being guilty is jumping to conclusions a bit soon. We reckon there’s some evil spell behind it all. I hope the Law still believes that no-one’s guilty unless proven, so I just wanna make sure you keep this business under control."
"We’ll take it into account." said the Law boss. "Many of our recruits tend to treat people as though they are guilty, whether or not it’s proven. But we still have plenty of recruits who share your views about He-Man’s innocence. We don’t have much control over what people believe in the city, but….. we’ll make sure no riots or anything start."
"Thanks very much. And remember to call on me and Blastar if you ever need help."
"I will, Rio."
"We’re goin’ over to Snake Mountain in a second to see what we can find out. We’ll let you know if we find anything."
"Thank you. Good luck."
The Law boss went back inside the building, and Rio and Blastar returned to their friends, just outside the palace. "He’s gonna keep it under control," said Rio, "but they can’t promise to keep full control over people’s actions in the city. He’ll make sure it doesn’t get out of hand, but can’t stop all this crap about ‘execute He-Man’ and all that."
"Well, we heroic warriors have more responsibility than the law, so we will stop this chaos." said Teela. "Let’s be going."
Just then, the gates of the palace opened, and a large, bee-like creature with bright yellow wings stepped out, with a tall and muscular warrior by his side, with a beard and a giant metal fist.
"Buzz-Off! Fisto!" exclaimed Extendar. "Great to have your help!"
"We’ll have the real killers exposed in no time." said Buzz-Off. "Come on then, let’s leave for Snake Mountain!"
"Hey! Don’t forget me!" came a voice from nearby, and they looked around to see Ram Man, hopping towards them on his springy, green legs. "Let’s get on the Battle Rams and cruise down to Snake Mountain before Skeletor can do anything else to frame He-Man!"
In the main chamber of Snake Mountain, almost all of the evil warriors were gathered, in celebration of Faker’s success in framing He-Man. The cloaked figure of Skeletor, his red eyes blazing with evil glee, stood above them by his throne, with Evil-Lyn, King Hiss- and Faker himself, holding his sword across his blue chest, its blade stained with the blood of Lord Marlach.
Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, and King Hiss each held a shining, golden drinking cup in their hands. They drank from them, and then held them aloft.
"I offer a toast-" said Skeletor, "to Faker- my own creation- who has landed He-Man in the position of most hated man on Eternia." Slowly, the three evil warriors closed their glasses towards one another, and as they touched, a loud chime was heard from the mystic metal the glasses were made from, echoing throughout the whole of Snake Mountain.
"You have done well, Faker." Skeletor said. "Now everyone is turning against He-Man- even his closest friends. Once He-Man is convicted of the crime- as he will be, with the video as proof- he will be jailed, and without him, the heroic warriors will stand no chance against my power. Then I will sit on the throne of Eternia- and spread my evil all over this planet- and I shall even be able to take Castle Grayskull for myself! And all thanks to you, Faker. You have thought up the greatest scheme ever."
Faker smiled lightly, so lightly that the smile was unnoticeable to the crowd of evil warriors below. He had thought up the greatest scheme ever- but once Eternos had fallen, Faker would dispose of Skeletor and take Grayskull and Eternia for himself. But for now, he would keep quiet about that.
"When we battle the heroic warriors, Faker-" said Skeletor, "you must stay hidden. For if anyone finds we have an evil version of He-Man on our side- even if you appear blue at first- that will instantly give away our scheme."
"I will, Skeletor." said Faker.
The crowd of evil warriors talked quietly, but excitedly, amongst themselves. All were in awe of Faker’s marvellous scheme which had almost caused the downfall of He-Man.
Just then, Comtech entered the room and approached Skeletor. "My computer tells me that He-Man’s trial will take place tomorrow at Eternos City Court." he said. "Many witnesses of the murder will attend."
"Excellent." said Skeletor. "We shall wait eagerly for the conclusion. Once He-Man is found guilty, we may begin our attack."
"Skeletor!" called a voice from the crowd of warriors. Skeletor looked round to see that the mercenary Blade was holding one of his swords in the air.
"Why don’t we just strike right away? There’s always the chance that He-Man will be found innocent, so maybe we should strike before they can find anything out, while He-Man’s still being held!"
"No, Blade, we must not strike this quickly! We shall see how the trial progresses. If there are any signs that He-Man may be found innocent, we shall strike. Whatever happens- we shall win."
"At this rate, we’ll definitely win." said Evil-Lyn. "Even the heroic warriors are turning against He-Man."
Just then, the whole room shook violently as the evil warriors heard a rumbling sound from outside.
Quickly Evil-Lyn took out her crystal ball. In it, she saw several heroic warriors outside Snake Mountain. "Er….. maybe I spoke too soon." she said. "Several heroic warriors are attacking Snake Mountain."
"So, some still support their old hero, then?" said Skeletor. "Well, they are fools to attack Snake Mountain. They are no match for our army! Warriors- attack!"
Outside the mountain, Teela, Extendar, Sy-Klone, Rio Blast, Blastar, Fisto, Ram Man and Buzz-Off were assembled. "If there’s no way we can get in unseen," said Fisto, "that blow of my fist should alert them."
"It sure has." said Teela, as Tri-Clops, Webstor and Whiplash appeared on the rope bridge.
"Are you warriors out of your mind?" called Whiplash. "I thought it was against your code to attack an enemy’s base without good cause!"
"We do have good cause, scale face!" called Sy-Klone. "We’re here to find out how you framed He-Man for murder!"
Whiplash just laughed. "So, you think we framed He-Man, do you? Well, in fact we’re hoping that he’ll get free, just as much as you are. Because now that he’s turned evil, he would make a superb recruit to our army!"
Whiplash quickly turned and winked at Webstor and Tri-Clops. "Just act as convincingly as you can." he hissed.
"You’re not fooling us." said Teela. "We know Skeletor must have something to do with this crime!"
"If only he did!" said Webstor. "For He-Man would make a superb ally!" he raised his four thin, bony arms above his head. "We hope that He-Man shall be freed- we need him on our side!"
"I’ve had it, let’s attack them!" said Extendar.
"Wait, no…" said Sy-Klone, holding him back.
"What’s up with you, Sy-Klone? Are you out of your mind?"
"No, it’s just- what if they are telling the truth? Webstor and Whiplash seem pretty honest to me."
"When can an evil warrior ever be honest?!" said Teela. "Stop being so gullible, Sy-Klone, and let’s sort these goons out!"
"STOP!" came a loud, deafening shout as Skeletor appeared on the rope bridge, along with Evil-Lyn, King Hiss, Trap Jaw and Two Bad. "Do you fools want something from me?"
"We wanna know how you framed He-Man for murder!" called Extendar.
"FRAMED?!!" said Skeletor, and threw his bony head back in laughter. "I should have known you’d come up with some kind of nonsense like that! Accept, my hated enemies, accept that your old ‘hero’ has turned against you! He has become as evil as anything in Snake Mountain!"
"Thanks to a spell of yours, no doubt!" said Ram Man.
"Spell? I have tried spells before to get He-Man on my side, and failed. Why would I try again? The old muscle-bound fool WAS pretty stressed when I last fought him. And that’s why he went and flipped his lid. Just remember to tell him at the trial that he’s most welcome to join my army!"
"Don’t try that- we know you have something to do with it!" said Teela. "Come on, warriors. We must make our way inside- see if we can find anything!"
Tensing their muscles, the band of heroic warriors rushed towards the mountain.
"Quick- I can get us inside!" said Extendar, extending his limbs, neck and torso until he was almost as tall as Snake Mountain. "Cling to me- all of you!" he called, and each heroic warrior leaped towards the tower of power and grabbed onto his huge body.
Then Extendar reached his left foot inside the hollow window towards the top of the mountain, reached through, then grasped hold of the peak and forced his right leg inside. Then, slowly, he shrank his body back to normal size, and as his limbs slipped down the mountain side, each of the warriors leaped through the window.
Once they were all inside, and Extendar had shrunk to his normal size, Teela said "Now we can search the place for clues- but we can’t expect to get through without a fight."
"No, in fact, how about a fight now?" came a gruff and hoarse voice, and the warriors spun round to see a white-haired creature dressed in black armour, with a hook for a right hand.
"Karg!" Teela exclaimed.
"I’m glad you still remember my name." Karg hissed. "Feel free to search the mountain as much as you like. For you will find nothing of interest. In fact, I can even guide you through the place, if you like!"
"Maybe we should let him guide us." said Sy-Klone. "You never know, if the evil warriors are telling the truth-"
"What’s up with you, Sy-Klone?" snapped Teela. "If we were mad enough to let him guide us, he’d only lead us into a trap! We’ve gotta fight to get past him!"
"Fine then." said Karg. "But nevertheless, you will find nothing." he backed off slightly as the heroic warriors came rushing towards him. Ram Man was all set to spring towards Karg, but Karg quickly flicked a switch on his armor, which sent a freeze ray springing from his hook, which hit Ram Man in mid air. The mighty warrior froze, then crashed to the ground heavily.
"You don’t think you’re any match for us on your own, do you?" said Teela.
"No….. but maybe with some of my companions!" Instantly, Strongarm and Saurod sprang out from the shadows towards the warriors. Before they could react, Teela, Extendar and Fisto were smashed across the room by Strongarm’s mighty metal arm, while Blastar, Rio Blast and Buzz-Off were caught in a shower of sparks from Saurod’s mouth.
"You’re not gonna get me so easily!" said Sy-Klone, spinning around rapidly until he was merely a blur, and flying right over their heads. But as he spun through into the next room, Comtech emerged from the shadows, and summoning all the electric energy from his machinery, sent an electric fireball shooting from his hands, hitting Sy-Klone as he spun and knocking him to the ground.
As Sy-Klone lay still, Comtech took out a small control panel, fiddled with the buttons, and sent a computer signal into Karg’s mind.
*Faker is hidden inside my scanning machine.* said the computer voice which Karg heard in his head. *The machine looks unused at present, so it will not be suspicious to the heroic warriors even if they see it.*.
Quickly, Karg sent a signal from his mind into Comtech’s panel. *Excellent work, Comtech. Now we must try to convince them that we have nothing to do with the murder.*.
With one mighty thrust of his legs, Extendar broke past Strongarm and Saurod.
"Quickly, you deal with Karg!" he called to the other warriors. "I’ll take a look inside Comtech’s lab!"
The technician barely reacted. "Feel free to look inside my lab." he said flatly. "You’ll find nothing in there."
Extendar leaped inside Comtech’s lab, and took a glance at each machine. He emerged moments later, and said "Just a load of computer stuff. Nothing of any help."
Then Comtech, unseen, walked over to the scanning machine, and winked.
Skeletor made his way through the dark, dusty corridors of Snake Mountain, banging his staff heavily on the ground. In the hope of fooling the warriors, he shouted "I will not have people looking through Snake Mountain for something I do not have! We must get them out of here at once!"
Up in the chamber, Sy-Klone said "Did you hear that, Teela? It seems there isn’t anything here at all!"
"He’s bluffing, Sy-Klone." said Ram Man, recovering from Karg’s freeze ray.
"Actually, maybe he is telling the truth….." said Buzz-Off, "he was out of our range just then."
"What are you guys on about?!" said Teela. "How can you believe-"
"Believe what, warrior woman?" said a deep, gruff voice. Teela spun round to see Skeletor and a whole host of evil warriors enter the chamber.
"Skeletor! You’ll pay for this-" said Blastar, rushing towards Skeletor, firing his lasers.
"So, Blastar! We meet again!" said Skeletor, blocking the bolts with the eyes of his havoc staff.
"You’re not gonna keep this secret for long!" said Rio Blast, bringing out all the lasers in his body. But before he had the chance to fire, Beast Man and Spikor leaped upon him, and as Beast Man’s claws and Spikor’s spikes scraped his body, they completely cut off his attack.
"STOP!" shouted Skeletor. "There is no use in trying to fight us. You will find nothing in Snake Mountain that corresponds with the murder of Lord Marlach. We have proof, however, that we did not frame He-Man for the crime." He glanced at Evil-Lyn. She took out her crystal ball, and created an illusion in the sphere. But it was all her own creation….. the event seen in the ball was created by her own magic.
The image was of Skeletor sitting on his bone throne, before being approached by Tri-Clops, holding a miniature information system. "Listen to this!" Tri-Clops was saying, as an announcement about He-Man killing Lord Marlach came through over the system.
"He-Man? A murderer? This is too good to be true!" said the image of Skeletor.
And with that, the image faded from the crystal ball.
"You see?" said Skeletor. "Does that not prove that we didn’t frame He-Man for the crime?"
"Well….. I guess so." said Buzz-Off.
"No!" said Teela. "You can bet it’ll be some trick….."
"You’ll never give up your ridiculous accusations, will you Teela?" said Skeletor. "Now leave this place at once! We have no time for fools like you, looking for things we don’t even have! Leave at once or I will destroy you!"
"We’re not leaving-" said Teela, "I still think-"
"No, we must leave." said Sy-Klone. "Let’s just accept- Skeletor has nothing to do with it. And we’re no match for the whole army anyway. Let’s go."
"No, we gotta go." said Sy-Klone. "I still think He-Man’s innocent, but let’s face it- here isn’t the place to look."
Reluctantly, Teela turned away and followed Sy-Klone and the other warriors. Before they descended down the rock face, out of the window, Teela looked back, scowled, and muttered "I’m not fooled. You’ll hear from me again."
As the heroic warriors left, Skeletor turned to Evil-Lyn. "Congratulations!" he said. "They had no idea that your crystal ball can now conjure up false events. Now they believe we had nothing to do with it!" Then, as Faker emerged from Comtech’s lab, Skeletor said "And well done to you, Comtech. You successfully kept Faker hidden. Now we shall have no more trouble with those infernal warriors- and when they tell the court what they saw here- He-Man will be found guilty in no time."
Later, that evening, Teela and Extendar were down at Eternos Law HQ. A guard led them to He-Man’s cell, and opened the door.
"Teela!" exclaimed He-Man, who looked weak and exhausted. "You wouldn’t believe how lonely it is down here!"
"He-Man….." Teela began, "I will defend you in the name of Grayskull at the trial tomorrow. I am only allowed to speak to you briefly- but I must tell you what I have found. Today I went with Extendar and some other warriors to Snake Mountain- and we found nothing. Skeletor denies framing you, and Evil-Lyn showed us this image in her crystal ball of Skeletor being surprised when hearing of the murder."
"But we’re damned sure it was fake." Extendar said. "Luckily I don’t think it can be used as evidence….. but we will fight to save you."
"Sy-Klone’s got himself convinced Skeletor isn’t to blame." said Teela. "Rio Blast, his mate and Ram Man are still suspicious- but Sy-Klone’s absolutely convinced Skeletor had nothing to do with it. And Fisto and Buzz-Off are just unsure. But you have our support, He-Man, and that of my father. We will clear your name. I promise."
"Thank you, Teela. I….. I couldn’t be more grateful….."
Teela reached forward to hug him. But the guard stepped in her way, and said "Hey you, you can’t go within ten inches of a murderer! Now get out of here, before he can tell you any lies!"
Teela threw out her fist, about to hit the guard in the face. But then she realised the trouble she’d be in for it, and instead, just scowled at him, and muttered "Bastard."
Then she looked back at He-Man, as the guard dragged her and Extendar out, and she said "I’ll free you, He-Man! I swear it! Skeletor won’t get away with it! I’ll free you in the name of Grayskull!"
"Get out of here!" yelled the guard, as the cell door clanged shut.
Teela turned her back to the cell door, and slowly made her way out, Extendar by her side.
"I’ll free him….." she muttered, "He is no killer….. he’s innocent!"
He-Man was led into Eternos City Court by two Lawmen. Gripping his muscular arms tightly, they took him through many corridors, until they reached a flight of stairs. They ascended the stairs, which led to what looked like a remarkably small room. But as they reached the automatic doors, which pulled aside as they approached them, He-Man saw that this room was actually a small box in the wall of an extremely large room….. Eternos City Courtroom. The Lawmen ushered He-Man inside, roughly, and the automatic doors slid shut behind him. He then heard a humming sound, and a red beam materialised between the two doors, locking them tightly. He-Man was now trapped within this small box….. the box of the accused.
He sat down, and looked out onto the huge courtroom before him. The room was bright and sparkling, the walls made from shining blue metal. There were many other boxes in the walls, all around the place, in which important officials were seated. A very large box, placed on the ground, had a sign in front of it saying ‘Witnesses’. And there were many people inside this box, who had witnessed the murder. There were several large viewscreens around the room, presumably to screen video evidence. Although most of the people in the courtroom were seated in boxes in the walls, there were also plenty of seats covering the ground. There was a section where several other important officials sat, and another, larger section for visitors. In a box in the right-hand corner of the room was a computer system, with a man seated in front of it. This must be the verdict machine. Information from the trial would be typed in by the man, and the computer would decide whether He-Man was guilty or innocent. The wall to He-Man’s right had only one box- a very big box, in which there was a huge desk, with a middle-aged, smartly dressed man sitting at it. This man had to be the judge.
Looking down at the ground, He-Man saw that there were more and more people entering the court, and sitting on the ground seats. And a sensation of trust and hope came over He-Man when he saw Man-At-Arms, Teela and Extendar amongst the visitors. THERE were some people who at least believed in his innocence. And then he noticed Sy-Klone….. Ram Man….. Fisto….. Buzz-Off….. Rio Blast, with Blastar at his side, then Stratos- accompanied by several other birdmen….. more and more heroic warriors were entering to see their leader’s trial. But would they defend him? Teela had implied that several were unsure…..
He would find out soon. For when the courtroom was almost completely full, the Judge flicked a switch, and a beeping sound filled the courtroom, and the people fell silent.
As the sound of the people’s voices faded, the Judge began to speak.
"Good morning, people of Eternia." he said, in a solemn and formal voice. "I am Judge Stardak, and today I bring to trial a man who is believed to have stabbed to death Lord Marlach of Eternos, at the Royal Ceremony held at the Eternos Arcology, on the 3rd day of the 23rd week. I shall hand the doings over to the nobleman Jarik of Eternos, who shall do the majority of the questioning throughout this trial. If anyone who is not being addressed wishes to speak at any point, please may they raise their hands rather than speak out loud, and wait until they are permitted to speak. Lord Jarik- I hand things over to you."
Jarik stepped up from one of the seats, and took out a microphone. He was a man of about 35, dressed in a business suit. He turned, and looked up at He-Man’s box. Through the microphone, he said "Defendant- your name please."
"He-Man." He-Man replied solemnly.
"You were called He-Man as a child?"
"Well….." He-Man fumbled through his mind for an answer, "Yes. I was brought up in a mountain tribe, so I was trained to be a warrior from birth." He was instantly struck with guilt. So the first thing he had said on this trial had been a lie. Damn, what a great way to begin, he thought. But then, he had to lie to keep his other identity secret. Most people believed the mountain tribe story by now, anyway- he’d used that story for years, whenever anyone asked him of his origins.
"And do you swear, He-Man, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"
"I swear upon the honour of Grayskull." He felt pretty bad about saying this, when he had already told a lie.
"He-Man- you are here today to be charged with the stabbing and murder of Lord Marlach of Eternos. Do you plead guilty, or innocent?"
"Thank you very much, He-Man."
Jarik turned to address the court in general. "The overall description of events suggests that He-Man approached Lord Marlach as he opened the Eternos Arcology, and simply stabbed him brutally to death, then left the scene. The witnesses in the witness box, and all the available persons who were present at the scene of the crime, have been interviewed separately prior to the trial, and their versions of events are all very similar." He turned to the witness box. "Do any of you disagree with what I have just said? If so, please raise your hands."
None of the witnesses raised their hands. "Very good." continued Jarik. "So the description of the event as we have it is accurate. A video recording of the event also proves your description. Is there anything else that any of you wish to add to the report?"
One woman raised her hand. "Speak, Madam." said Jarik.
"The most unusual thing about the event was that He-Man looked much more evil than usual. His eyes were much darker. You could see the thirst for murder in them….. which is something that none of us have ever seen in He-Man before."
"Thank you, Madam. Your words shall be taken note of."
He-Man gave a half smile. He was pretty sure he’d be found innocent. The whole thing would be handled slowly, without arguing, and it would eventually become clear that something evil was to blame.
Just then, one of the visitors, a man unknown to He-Man, raised his hand. Jarik pointed to him. "You wish to speak?"
"I have a question- I would like to know why none of the heroic warriors did anything to stop He-Man from killing Lord Marlach?"
"Can any member of the heroic warriors answer this man’s question?"
Stratos raised his hand, and Jarik permitted him to speak. "I wanted to do something to stop him the whole time." he said. "But I just….. couldn’t. My body had gone rigid with shock….. my mind just would not let me believe that the hero of Eternia was killing someone before my eyes. I tried to act….. but I just couldn’t."
"Then your reaction is much similar to the majority of the witnesses." said Jarik. "Were any other heroic warriors present at the time of the murder?"
Man-At-Arms, Teela, and Extendar raised their hands.
"You may speak." Jarik said to Duncan.
"I felt much the same as Stratos. I simply could not believe what I was seeing, and this prevented me from being able to act."
"Same here." nodded Teela in response.
"Me too." said Extendar. "I almost ran towards him….. but the crowd around me was so thick that I could not make it."
"Thank you, heroic warriors." said Jarik. Then he turned back to He-Man. "He-Man- you are pleading innocent. Yet everybody who was present at the scene of the crime is unanimous that they saw you kill Lord Marlach. How do you explain this?"
"I have absolutely no memory of doing anything of the sort." He-Man said. "I believe that the evil forces on Eternia are somehow responsible. Maybe someone managed to take on my exact form with a magic spell. Or maybe the killer was in fact a magical creation. Whoever it was- and however much they may have LOOKED like me- I swear that it was not me."
"Then where were you when the murder took place?"
"I was on patrol around Eternia, a long distance away from Eternos. I didn’t even know of the killing when it took place."
"Well, there are no reported sightings of you anywhere else at this time. You were next seen near the village of Tarin, where a group of men caught you and reported you to the law. It is thought that you attempted to commit a second murder here, as you ran towards a drowning villager."
"I saw the man drowning, and I ran towards him to save him. I had no intention to hurt him."
"Yet the men say that you appeared to be about to attack him."
"They imagined it!" said He-Man. "I was running to save him, and I see no reason why I should have been trying to hurt him, when I have been saving people from situations like this for six years."
"There’s a perfect reason why you’d have been trying to hurt him- you just killed Lord Marlach, didn’t you?" shouted an angry voice from the other side of the court.
"Please!" shouted Jarik. "Speak only when permitted. This trial is intended to be taken slowly, without arguing. Now onto the motive. We all know of how He-Man has been famous all over Eternia for six years, for saving the planet from the evil forces which plague it. He has been seen as a noble warrior for as long as we have known him. Eternia may have been overtaken by evil by now, were it not for He-Man. In fact, I believe that He-Man would be the last person whom any Eternian would expect to commit a murder. If anyone here disagrees with this, may they raise their hand."
No hands were raised. He-Man saw many heads nodding around the courtroom.
"Then it is agreed. However, the description of the case states that He-Man had become exhausted from the constant pressure of fighting and defending Eternia, so that levels of stress accelerated, to the point that it caused He-Man to lose control and stab a man to death with no real motive." Jarik turned to face He-Man’s box. "He-Man- do you confirm this? Were you feeling stressed in the weeks before the murder?"
"I was indeed." said He-Man. "That’s why-" he caught himself in mid-sentence, before he could say he had taken a break- that would blow his secret. It was making him feel so guilty, having to lie about his identity when he had sworn to tell nothing but the truth. "I….. had become largely stressed by constant battling against Skeletor. Having been defending this planet from him for six years, I was beginning to fear that I may never be able to rid Eternia permanently from this warlord- and I was indeed on the verge of breakdown."
"So does that not provide a reason why you might flip your lid, and kill someone?"
"No. That’s the simple answer- it does not. I was on the verge of breakdown, but stress could never cause me to kill someone. When I was the power of Grayskull, I swore never to abuse it. And the thought of any innocent person losing their lives to murder has always sickened me. I would never even dream of killing anyone- even with my stress levels at their highest."
"Then let us see how a close acquaintance of yours may describe your stress." He turned to the visitors. "Duncan of Eternos- please stand up."
Man-At-Arms got to his feet.
"Duncan, you are the Royal Man-At-Arms and have been so for more than 20 years. And I believe you are also one of He-Man’s closest friends."
"Well, yes, if not THE closest." replied Man-At-Arms. "I help him in his battles many times. I have not been able to fight as much since sustaining serious injuries, but I still help him a lot."
"Then how would you describe He-Man’s condition in the weeks that preceded the murder?"
"He was under a heavy load of stress. The constant pressure of having to defend Eternia was wearing him out, and he was on the verge of breaking down. I advised him many times to take a rest. Luckily there were no serious crimes by the evil warriors in the few days before the murder, so He-Man did get a rest and I didn’t see him those days."
He-Man looked down at his friend in sympathy. Man-At-Arms was having to do just what He-Man had to- partially lie to protect He-Man’s secret identity. Man-At-Arms must feel guilty about it too. Because of course, he knew that He-Man had gone for a break as Adam….. but he just could not tell the court and blow the secret.
Jarik continued to question him. "Duncan- do you feel that He-Man’s pressured state would lead him to go overboard and kill someone?"
"Absolutely not." replied Duncan. "Firstly, He-Man would never dream of killing anyone- it’s completely against his oath to kill anyone intentionally- even an evil person. His level of stress was never so bad that it could drive him mad or anything. And secondly, He-Man had had a brief rest before the murder, so I should think that by then, he would have been feeling much better."
Jarik turned back to He-Man. "Do you confirm this, He-Man? Had your level of stress got better before the murder?"
"Much better." replied He-Man. "I mean, I was still on patrol, but there was no danger- I felt a million times better."
"Are you sure of this? Nobody had seen you in the few days before the murder. Therefore, perhaps you were in fact only feeling more stressed, which drove you to kill Lord Marlach?"
"No." said He-Man. "Not at all. I tell you, I felt much better, and even if I had been feeling worse, I’d never have killed anyone."
"I must remind you, He-Man, that thousands of people say they saw you commit the murder. There is no proof to back up your claim that you felt better before the killing."
"And I must say-" said a man sitting amongst the important officials, "when you asked He-Man if he had been feeling stressed, he said ‘That’s why’ and then stopped and said something different. Does that not suggest that he was about to say something that would give away his guilt?"
"Absolutely not-" said He-Man, "I was just going to say that’s why I needed to rest."
"This whole thing seems more suspicious to me." said another of the officials. "In fact, I have sat through many trials before, and many of them have been trials of murderers. And the majority of the murderers have denied their guilt, which was later proven- and they have acted in much the same way that you have."
"I tell you-" insisted He-Man, "I am innocent. Once I did think I had killed a man, when I thought I knocked a statue down on him. I felt so guilty that I decided to surrender all my powers, and I dropped my sword down the abyss of Grayskull! It turned out I was tricked by Skeletor, but why would I actually intentionally kill someone after this incident? I felt so guilty about abusing the power of Grayskull!"
"He has abused the power of Grayskull! He’s a killer!" shouted another man.
"Let us handle this quietly, please!" said Jarik. "It is not verdict time yet. We must investigate further before making any conclusions."
Just then, Teela raised her hand. He-Man felt his heart warm, knowing that she would defend him with all her determination.
"Speak, Teela." said Jarik.
"He-Man is no killer." Teela said. "I have known him for as long as my father has- and pretty well, too- and I know he’d never kill anyone. He is the most just, honest and noble man I have ever met."
"That is the opinion of many people here-" interrupted Jarik.
"No! Let me continue."
"You will do as the court asks-" called the Judge.
"No I won’t." said Teela. "Free speech is allowed on Eternia, is it not? And I insist, I have never known anyone more worthy of respect than He-Man. Nobody is perfect, but He-Man is the most damn closest to perfect that I have ever met. He has sworn to protect this world from all evil, and never to abuse the power of Grayskull. Even if he had killed Lord Marlach under stress, he would not be pretending he was innocent! He would feel so guilty that he would confess all and surrender his powers to Grayskull! He would simply NEVER kill anyone! Even under the greatest levels of stress! And I am telling you- I saw this murder take place before my eyes- and I was as shocked as all the other people present. But the person I saw was not He-Man! His eyes were dark….. evil….. bloodthirsty, like the eyes of a killer! Not at all like the eyes you see now. Just look at He-Man. Does he look like a murderer? Can those noble, honest eyes belong to a killer? His eyes were the complete opposite at the time of the killing- and if you asked me If I had ever seen his eyes like that before….. yes, I have. And that was several years ago, when Skeletor inflicted an evil spell upon him, which turned him into a rampaging zombie. He damaged several buildings under this spell, as some of you may remember….. but it was all under an evil spell. When the spell was broken, he did not remember anything that had happened. So why should this not be the result of an evil spell? If the killer WAS He-Man, he would have been under the influence of evil magic, that prevented him from remembering afterwards! And if it wasn’t- Skeletor could definitely create an evil illusion of He-Man with his magic! The man in that defendant box is not the right man. You should get over to Snake Mountain right away, and put SKELETOR in that box!!!" She shook her fist in determination, and the entire courtroom burst into applause.
As she sat down, Duncan and Extendar patted her on the back, and Duncan said "Good stand, Teela.". He-Man was consumed in admiration and love for this girl- she had done him so much good. If she could help prove his innocence, he would love her for eternity- not that he wouldn’t anyway.
"Well, I appreciate your defence of the accused, Teela." said Jarik. "Perhaps the person we should be looking towards is Skeletor. So let us examine the evidence and see what we find. Firstly, may we take a look at the sword of power."
A man brought He-Man’s gleaming power sword forth to the evidence desk, and Jarik took hold of it. "This is the sword of power- the sword apparently forged thousands of years ago by the Elders of Eternia. It is this which is responsible for He-Man’s power, and he uses it to battle against the forces of evil. But now, has this sword become a murder weapon? It has no blood stains. But does that prove anything? He-Man could easily have wiped away the blood."
"There’s nothing really to suggest that the sword is or isn’t a murder weapon." said one official. "Only that everyone says that’s the same sword he killed Lord Marlach with, and the sword on the video definitely does look like that."
"Then let us take a look at the video." said Jarik. "Firstly, would Mendoc of Eternos step up?"
A young man stepped up from the witness box. He must be the man who filmed the murder, thought He-Man. He was fairly short, with curly black hair and a red shirt.
"Mendoc," said Jarik, "you are the man who caught the killing of Lord Marlach on film. You are an experienced cameraman, we understand?"
"I am." replied Mendoc. "I film many important events so they can be shown on viewscreens all across Eternia. Eternia just wouldn’t be the same without me."
He-Man shook his head at the young man. Now this was just what he needed- someone who boasted about how skilled he was.
"So you had gone to film the ceremony, I believe?"
"Yes, and while filming Lord Marlach opening the Arcology, I caught He-Man on film, killing him. Thanks to me, you have complete proof that He-Man is the murderer."
Down on the visitors seats, He-Man saw Teela, Duncan and Extendar glaring angrily at Mendoc. He was pretty sure he saw Teela mouthing "What a creep".
"If this is definite proof, we shall view the video of the killing right away. If anyone feels they may be disturbed by the sight of the murder, I advise them to look away. Now may we please view it."
At that moment, each of the many viewscreens around the courtroom flickered into action. And on them, He-Man saw the same sickening video he had been shown at Law HQ. The image of the Arcology being opened by Lord Marlach….. the cheering of the crowd….. then the sudden appearance of the fake version of himself. He found it difficult to watch it himself, as the evil being who had somehow taken on his exact form brutally stabbed Lord Marlach to death, without warning, and then simply left the scene.
As the video sequence ended, the screens all turned off, and He-Man scanned the many faces in the courtroom. He saw expressions of shock, people covering their faces in horror, others shaking their fists in anger, and others just shaking their heads and looking plain sceptical.
Jarik turned to address the entire court. "I think there is no doubt that that was He-Man." he said. The group of officials, and many other people around the courtroom, nodded their heads in complete agreement.
But Teela’s hand was raised. "Hold on a minute." she said. "That may have looked pretty much like He-Man, but how can we be sure it was him? No offence, but you lot just aren’t experienced with handling the evil warriors of Eternia. You’ve only dealt with simple criminals before. But this case is different- because it is obvious that the evil warriors are to blame. You don’t know just what sort of things they can do. Like I made clear before, they could have cast an evil spell on He-Man that made him kill Lord Marlach, and then forget the murder. Or they could have just created some evil replica of He-Man to do it for them! Just use your brains and think about it! Skeletor would do anything to rid himself of He-Man, so he could take over Eternia- and if he can not destroy He-Man in a fair fight, why not try framing him for a crime, so He-Man can be jailed and Skeletor can take over Eternia? It’s blatantly obvious that this is the evil work of Skeletor, and He-Man should be freed at once!"
Jarik paused. He-Man’s heart pounded against his ribs with hope- Jarik seemed to be taking Teela’s words seriously. He-Man felt even greater relief when Jarik said "You seem to have a point, Teela. You are right that we in the court have never had to deal with magical cases, or evil warriors before. So maybe we should be taking a closer look into what the evil warriors might have to do with it."
Extendar raised his hand. "And you must have noticed the change in He-Man’s eyes. If he had committed the murder intentionally, why would he be looking so innocent now? You’d see the guilt in his eyes."
"Excuse me," said one official, "but if you ask me, He-Man is showing guilt. As my friend said before, murderers often act the way He-Man has today- and since He-Man shows no guilt in his eyes, all it indicates is that he is not ashamed of his crime. He has turned evil- and must be dealt with at once."
"Nonsense!" shouted Man-At-Arms.
"Insult a court official and you risk being put in contempt!" called the Judge.
"Please, let us keep order!" called Jarik. "A courtroom is no place for arguing. I am not saying He-Man is definitely innocent, but maybe we should be seeing what the evil warriors might have to do with it."
Just then, Sy-Klone raised his hand. "Speak." Jarik said, pointing to him.
"The evil warriors have nothing to do with it." Sy-Klone said. "A group of us heroic warriors went to Snake Mountain yesterday to see what they knew, and Evil-Lyn showed us-"
"Stop! Who is Evil-Lyn?"
"She’s an evil sorceress who helps Skeletor. Anyway, she has a crystal ball which can show you events from the present or past, and it showed Skeletor being told of the murder by his spy, and he didn’t know anything about it. So although I think He-Man is probably innocent, the evil warriors have absolutely nothing to do with it."
He-Man covered his head with one hand in dismay. Now this was going to BLOW all his chances of hope!
"Then it’s proven, isn’t it." said one official. "He-Man is guilty."
"It….. definitely does seem proven." said Jarik.
The court burst into an uproar, and there were shouts of "He-Man is a killer! Jail him!" which conflicted violently with Teela, Duncan and Extendar’s shouts of "Sy-Klone, you fool! What is wrong with you? The evil warriors hoaxed it! He-Man is innocent!"
Amidst the uproar, Judge Stardak flicked a switch and silenced the court with the beeping sound. "Well, from what we have learned today, it really does seem as though the defendant is guilty. Let us hear what the computer verdict is so far."
The man in the computer room called out "The computer says that He-Man is guilty."
Extendar, Teela and Duncan leaped to their feet, shouting "No! It’s wrong! You can’t….."
"Silence, you three!" Judge Stardak shouted, "Or I will put you in contempt of the court. From what we have seen, He-Man seems guilty, so I shall call the case off for the rest of the day and we shall resume tomorrow at the same time. Duncan of Eternos- I order you to return the power sword to Castle Grayskull. The weapon is not intended for use by someone who is evil, so you must take it back at once."
Reluctantly, Duncan went over to the evidence desk, slowly picked up the sword, and put it in his belt.
"Now if you would all leave for today, and we shall continue the case tomorrow. In the meantime- Good Journey."
He-Man sank his head into his arms, over the bench. So that was it. He was going to be convicted of murder, and there was no stopping it. Those bastard officials were completely determined that he had to be guilty, and now Sy-Klone had gone and made things even worse by falling for a trick by the evil warriors.
He-Man looked over the courtroom, and shook his head in sadness as the many people left, most of them completely convinced he was a bloodthirsty killer. How was he going to be proved innocent now? Just when things had been getting better for the first time in ages, the evil warriors had gone and made them even worse. He-Man wondered if perhaps he WOULD reach breakdown soon. But he remembered that if he had no hope, things would never turn out for the best. He had to keep faith that somehow, he would be proved innocent in the end. And that faith was largely fuelled by the sight of Teela, standing directly below him, whispering "Don’t worry, He-Man. I will get you out. I swear it!"
Man-At-Arms, Teela and Extendar reached the Royal Palace. They settled down on one of the large balconies, as they watched the crowd of heroic warriors coming down the street, returning from the trial.
Man-At-Arms looked over the street, and shook his head sadly. "Well, day one of the trial was a real disaster." he said.
"It’s all Sy-Klone’s fault." said Teela. "Damn it, I was just getting the court convinced that it was the work of the evil warriors, and then Sy-Klone goes and ruins it. I’m gonna be having words with that guy later."
"I don’t know how he can be fooled by such an obvious hoax." said Extendar. "It’s clear that Evil-Lyn must have conjured up that image so we’d think they weren’t to blame. Now he’s gone and blown it."
"Well, as stupid as it may have been of him to speak out about that, you mustn’t be too harsh with him." said Man-At-Arms. "Evil-Lyn’s crystal ball is known amongst the warriors for showing actual events, not imaginary ones. She has used it to spy on us several times- in fact, I don’t think I have any memory of a time when it has conjured up an imaginary event. That’s probably just a power that we didn’t know about- but still, Sy-Klone was just going by what he knew."
"Maybe so," said Teela, "but still, when Whiplash and Webstor were lying to us, he believed they were being truthful. It baffles me how easily fooled he can be at times."
"Who can be easily fooled?" came a voice behind them. They looked round to see a group of heroic warriors emerging onto the balcony- and Sy-Klone was amongst them.
"What on Eternia did you think you were doing, Sy-Klone?" snapped Teela, walking towards him. "How can you be fooled by an obvious hoax? Don’t you realise that Evil-Lyn would have conjured up that image in her crystal ball to make us think they had nothing to do with it? You’ve fallen for an evil trick, and if He-Man gets thrown in jail, it could be all your fault!"
"Whoa, slow down Teela." said Sy-Klone. "I was just saying what I saw. I mean, Evil-Lyn has always used that crystal ball to show actual events, hasn’t she?"
"Maybe so- but who’s to say it can’t conjure up false events too?"
"I don’t know- but I’m just pretty sure the evil warriors had nothing to do with it. Just from the way they were acting."
"Damn you, you idiot!" snapped Teela. "You’re just too gullible. They were putting on an act to try and fool us. Now you’ve gone and got the court even more convinced that He-Man’s guilty! You have stuck up for the evil warriors in court- which is unforgivable for a heroic warrior! You don’t deserve to be in the army after what you’ve done!"
"Teela, please, calm down!" called Man-At-Arms, rushing over to her, laying his hand firmly on her shoulder and holding her away from Sy-Klone in case she lost her temper. "I know you’re angry about everything that’s happened, but we must try to take it easy. Sy-Klone may have made a mistake, but saying he doesn’t deserve to be in our army is going too far. Now just listen to him and see things from his point of view."
"Just listen, Teela-" began Sy-Klone, "I didn’t mean to do us or He-Man any bad. And it’s not like I believe He-Man’s guilty or anything- I’m totally convinced he was framed. But I can tell you in all honesty that I don’t think Skeletor has anything to do with it. I could be wrong, you never know- and I’m sorry if I am wrong- but you’ve gotta remember that there’s other evil forces on Eternia besides Skeletor. There are some smaller armies, which don’t usually pose much threat, but still get in our way from time to time. And it’s not too rare to come across evil sorcerers, who enact the occasional scheme upon us. I think it’s more likely that someone like that has used a magic spell to take on He-Man’s exact form, and then framed him. I think we should look elsewhere for the solution to our problem."
Teela fell silent for a few seconds. Then she said "Alright- I’m sorry I lashed out at you like that. It’s just that it makes me furious how Eternia’s greatest hero could be seen as a murderer by so many people, and I’ll do anything to prove his innocence. Now I still think you’re wrong….."
"Well, you never know." said Buzz-Off. "Maybe we should try looking somewhere else. I mean, we don’t know for sure that Evil-Lyn’s crystal ball wasn’t truthful, do we? We get annoyed about the court jumping to conclusions about He-Man- so let’s not go jumping to conclusions ourselves."
"I still think Skeletor’s probably to blame-" said Teela, "but you’re right, there’s no proof that they were hoaxing it. Maybe we should look somewhere else….. but where? We hardly know any other evildoers’ bases….. how are we ever going to sort this out?"
"There’s one definite way we could sort it out." said Man-At-Arms. "See the Sorceress about it! She could help us much better!"
"You’re right!" said Extendar. "She’ll be of way more help to us than anything else on Eternia- so let’s get to Grayskull right now!"
"And I need to go anyway," said Man-At-Arms, "as the Judge asked me to return the sword of power." He tapped on the sword in his belt. "Even though of course, it is no murder weapon. Anyway, come on, Extendar."
"Wait-" said Teela, "Can’t I come? I wanna help He-Man just as much as you two do."
Man-At-Arms looked his daughter in the eye. He wanted to take Teela with him- but unlike him and Extendar, Teela did not know that He-Man was also Prince Adam. Talking to the Sorceress about the case would be likely to involve mentioning Adam’s break….. so it would be risky to take Teela with them. Yet how would he be able to explain to her that she could not come, when she wanted to defend He-Man so badly?
"I’m sorry, Teela." he said. "I know how much you want to help He-Man- but I feel you’d be able to help even more by staying here. While Extendar and I discuss it with the Sorceress, you could go on patrol and see if you find anything."
"Well….. you know I’d prefer to come with you."
"Of course I do, but you must stay here. You’ll still be able to help….."
"You can come and help me and Blastar!" interrupted Rio Blast. "We’re gonna sort things out in the city a bit, and talk to the Law and stuff. We could do with some backup!"
"Oh….. alright then." said Teela. "But you will tell me what the Sorceress can do, won’t you, Father?"
"Of course I will, Teela." said Man-At-Arms. "I’ll fill you in on everything she tells us. Extendar and I shall leave now. Good luck in the city, Teela."
"I hope the Sorceress can prove He-Man’s innocence." Teela said. "Good journey, Father."
Man-At-Arms and Extendar left Teela with the other warriors, as she prepared to set out with Rio and Blastar. They went over to the vehicle bay, boarded the Attak Trak, and set off for Castle Grayskull.
The heroic warriors were unaware that their every movement was being watched by Skeletor through his orb. "The fools!" he hissed to a small group of evil warriors- Faker, Evil-Lyn, King Hiss, Beast Man and Tri-Clops, who were by his side. "They are going to Grayskull to get the Sorceress’ help. But even she will be of no use to them. For Evil-Lyn, King Hiss, and myself have placed a magical mind barrier around Snake Mountain, which will prevent the Sorceress from seeing Faker in her mind’s eye. So for once, she will be completely unable to help them."
"Who knows?" said King Hiss. "Maybe the Sorceress herself believes He-Man’s guilty. After all, only a select few heroic warriors are TOTALLY sure that he is innocent."
"I know the Sorceress well enough." said Skeletor. "She would never believe He-Man to be a killer. But nevertheless, she will still be powerless to stop our scheme. We cannot see for sure, since the magic of Grayskull prevents my orb from spying on the interior of the castle- but I am entirely convinced she will not be able to help them."
"Skeletor!" said Faker. "I think this is the longest I’ve ever lasted in years without killing anyone. Can we fight soon? I nearly raped the Sorceress once- can I just get inside Grayskull and trick her before killing her?"
"No, Faker." Skeletor replied sharply. "As I have said many times, you must remain hidden- or our scheme will be blown out into the open."
"But what if I just go in when she’s alone? I’ll go in the same form as He-Man, pretend I‘ve been freed, and then just slash her to death. I’ve gotta kill someone!"
"For the last time, no!" Skeletor bellowed, as his red eyes lit up in rage. "Do you not remember what happened the last time you fought the Sorceress? The incident you told me about the other day?"
Faker thought back to the time he had defeated her in Grayskull….. and had her lying helpless on the ground. He shuddered, and gripped his face with his hand as he remembered how she had suddenly sprung up and almost beaten him unconscious, having been faking her helpless state the whole time. No, he did not want to risk THAT again! What a NIGHTMARE that had been….. he hadn’t even expected her to be able to fight physically!
"Er….. I remember." he said. "I shall stay away from the Sorceress."
"If you want to slaughter someone, go and slaughter the Orc slaves in the mines." said Skeletor. "Our time to strike has not yet arrived. And now since He-Man has had the sword taken from him, his energy may begin to drain. After all, we’ve never known for sure just how the sword gives him his power! Our victory is not far off, Faker….. but for now, we must bide our time. Once He-Man has been jailed….. we may strike."
The Attak Trak made its way over the rugged terrain towards Castle Grayskull, the colossal, magical fortress of mystery and power. As they approached the abyss which surrounded the ancient castle, the jaw bridge creaked open before them, and the warriors got out of the vehicle and went over the jaw bridge and into the mouth.
As they entered the dark fortress, the jaw bridge raised magically and slammed shut behind them. In the light that seeped in through the windows, they made out the beautiful figure of the Sorceress coming towards them. She looked as exquisite as ever, dressed in her falcon headcrest and costume, her long, feathered wings embracing her body as they flowed to the ground. Extendar’s eyes lit up in admiration as she approached them.
"Greetings, my friends." she said, in her soft, gentle voice. "There is no need to tell me why you are here- I am aware of the dismal event which has befallen Eternia."
"Yes, and as you may have heard, the courtroom judge ordered me to return the sword of power to Castle Grayskull." said Man-At-Arms, taking out the gleaming sword from his belt, and handing it to the Sorceress. "He says it doesn’t deserve to be used by a murderer. But we all know He-Man can’t possibly be guilty of murder….. it’s just, how do we prove it?"
"It is a difficult task." said the Sorceress, leading Man-At-Arms and Extendar through to the throne room, where she put the sword on a metal stand by the throne. "But we must do our best to prove He-Man’s innocence. And especially since I don’t just think He-Man is innocent- I know he is."
"Of course!" said Extendar. "You’re always aware of what form He-Man is in!"
"Exactly, Extendar. When Adam calls on the power of Grayskull to become He-Man, the power is absorbed from the depths of the abyss, and from the many hidden chambers in the castle. I always hear the energy as the transformation occurs, or see it illuminating the abyss. And when he changes back to Adam, I see the energy return. And at the time the murder was committed, he was in the form of Adam. So there is no doubt that the murderer was not him."
"If only we could give that evidence to the court!" said Man-At-Arms. "But there’s no way we could- it would give away Adam’s secret. He must feel pretty bad, having to lie in court to protect his secret identity. But even if we did tell that to the court as evidence- they would probably still disbelieve us, since we have no way of proving it."
"But if we got the Sorceress to speak for us in court," said Extendar, "surely they’d believe her! Why would the ever-just and powerful Sorceress of Grayskull tell lies?"
"Well, just remember that most of the officials will do anything to make He-Man sound guilty." said Man-At-Arms. "I don’t know why they’re so determined he has to be guilty."
"You are right, Duncan." said the Sorceress. "Speaking out in court would be hard, even for myself. Remember that many of these officials see their positions as positions of power- which begins to corrupt their minds. In some ways, they are no better than the evil warriors. And there is no way that we can tell the court anything that will give away Adam’s secret. So unless the gods come and help us, the only thing we can do is try to find who the true killer is, and expose him."
"Well, we’re pretty sure Skeletor has something to do with it." said Extendar. "Yet some of the other warriors are totally convinced he hasn’t. We tried searching Snake Mountain for anything to prove it, but we had no success. It only made things worse, because Evil-Lyn showed us some fake image in her crystal ball that got Sy-Klone convinced Skeletor was innocent. It showed Skeletor being surprised at the news of the murder, but I’m damn sure it was a fake."
"It most likely was." said the Sorceress. "Evil-Lyn’s powers of magic grow stronger by the day. But I, too, sense that Skeletor has some connection with the case, and we must find out exactly what it is."
"It will be pretty hard." said Man-At-Arms. "We could really do with Zodac to come down and tell us the real killer."
"Maybe we should ask him for help?" said Extendar.
"Extendar, no-one can ask Zodac for help." said the Sorceress. "He only acts when he feels it is completely necessary. If we are lucky, maybe he will come and help us- but in case he doesn’t, we must search for the killer ourselves."
"Can you visualise who the killer is with your magic, Sorceress?" asked Extendar.
"I am afraid not." said the Sorceress. "Some kind of evil spell prevents me from seeing close enough in my mind’s eye. So all I can get is a blurred image of the killer, which is so distorted that it is unrecognisable."
"How do we search for the killer, then?" said Extendar. "Skeletor- or whoever is behind it all- has obviously taken pretty heavy precautions to try and depict himself as innocent."
"What we need," said the Sorceress, "is a tremendous amount of HELP. We have already had one visitor from another world to help us- Blastar, of the Starband Marshals. And since we need more help, I know the very person who we should look to. I shall enlist the help of He-Man’s twin sister- She-Ra."
On the planet of Etheria, at the edge of a Horde Slave plantation in the center of a dismal, barren landscape, Adora, Princess of Eternia, and her comrade, Glimmer, knelt and watched, their eyes fixed sharply on the Horde minions and Troopers as they watched cruelly over the worn-out slaves in the mines.
Adora and Glimmer knew their task would not be hard- it was just a question of when to strike. Adora had been determined to rid Etheria of the rule of the Horde ever since she had been released from Horde Prime’s brainwashing spell, several years ago. She was tall, and attractive, rough-looking but both tough and gentle in nature, with straggly, blonde hair, heavy crimson lipstick and tight, black leather clothing covering her slick body. For the first twenty years of her life, she had been aggressive, psychotic and dangerous- but this had all been under Horde Prime’s brainwashing technique. When He-Man, her twin brother who was also Adam of Eternia, had entered her life and presented her with the Sword of Protection, she had come to her senses- and used the sword to become She-Ra, princess of power. Many times did she save Etheria in this form- but in the form of Adora she was also seen as very powerful and now struck fear into the hearts of the Hordesmen just in the way she had once done so with the ordinary Etherians.
Glimmer was her closest ally, the leader of the Great Rebellion, and one of the few people who knew that Adora and She-Ra were the same person. Glimmer had an intensely rebellious image, her wild hair dyed bright pink and her clothing deep purple and blue. She was a strong leader and had aided Adora many times in the battles against the Horde.
After several years of battle, the Horde’s rule of Etheria was finally beginning to weaken. The rebels were getting closer and closer to destroying the Horde, and Adora had more time to visit her brother on Eternia. Hordak, the leader of the Horde, had also made several attempts on Eternia himself, as he had a small second Fright Zone on Eternia, which he sometimes transported his army to- but his attempts to take over Eternia had been as unsuccessful as those of his ex-sidekick, Skeletor.
Adora and Glimmer watched the Horde members sharply as they forced the slaves to work. The slaves were all worn out, broken and battered from their cruel treatment- but Adora and Glimmer had destroyed many Horde slave plantations with great ease; and this would be no exception.
"You ready, Adora?" asked Glimmer.
"You bet I am." said Adora, gripping her pistol tightly. "Just give these guys a few more moments, and we’ll jump on ‘em."
They watched patiently as the Troopers began to line the slaves up in a straight, long line for slave inspection.
"They wanna make sure that the slaves don’t have anything on them that could help them." said Glimmer.
"Well they may have nothing on them-" said Adora, "but they sure have help nearby. Come on, Glimmer, this is the point when it’s easiest to attack- let’s get in there!"
The two warrior women made their way slowly and stealthily towards the mine. They quickly froze as they saw the doors of an underground tunnel slide open with a crash, revealing the tall and sinister figure of Hordak, his red bat symbol gleaming on his chest as the eyes of his white metal face shone brightly.
"Any slaves possessing any suspicious objects," he said, in his deep and booming voice, "must be killed at once. And with me I have my most trusted assassin, who shall make short work of them- Mosquitor!"
A second figure emerged from the underground tunnel, a figure even larger than Hordak, a type of android with a huge, black metal body, his chest emblazoned with the Horde bat symbol. But the most obscure thing about this being was his head- it was large, red and incredibly long horizontally- the end being a type of thin nozzle through which he sucked up his victim’s blood.
"GIVE….. ME….. BLOOD." Mosquitor said, in a deep, striking and metallic voice.
"You shall have the blood of any slaves with any possessions upon them." said Hordak. "And even if there are none….. I will let you have one or two anyway!"
Hordak laughed, a savage, evil laugh which echoed throughout the wasteland. The slaves froze in terror, each fearing that it could be them who would be given to Mosquitor.
"Now, Troopers-" said Hordak, "inspect these fools one by one- and throw a few random ones to Mosquitor!"
"Mosquitor’s having no-one!" shouted Adora, "Not while we’re around, anyway!"
And before Hordak could react, she leaped into the mines, coming down on two of the troopers with a heavy cross-up kick, causing the robots to crackle and crumble to the ground at once.
"Adora!" exclaimed Hordak. "So you dare to trespass on the slave mines? Well, you have made a mistake….. for you will only end up becoming my servant once again!"
"You’re mistaken, metal face." Adora said. "Come on, Glimmer, let’s get him!"
Adora blasted Hordak with her pistol, and he stumbled back. He turned his arm to cannon mode- but before he could fire, Glimmer shot two bolts of energy from the palms of her hands, and the warlord fell back.
"Mosquitor- get them!" he shouted as he fell. The android made his way towards Glimmer, seized hold of her shoulders, and injected the nozzle of his head into her neck. Adora heard the sound of the gushing of Glimmer’s blood as it was drained by Mosquitor- and slowly, the android’s chest began to fill with blood…..
"Help!" called Glimmer. "I can’t break free!"
Adora was just about to leap towards Mosquitor and high-kick him- but just then, the ground began to shake violently, as if there was a planetquake. Adora stepped back as the ground rumbled beneath her feet. Nearby her, Hordak stopped in amazement, and even Mosquitor paused from sucking Glimmer’s blood for a second. What could the rumbling be?
It was no planetquake- it was just extra help! Adora saw this as the Rock Breaker burst through the ground, the strange-looking machine propelled by Carlos, Adora’s close friend and Etheria’s top scientist.
"I had the feeling you could do with help!" Carlos said. "And as for Mosquitor… he’s no problem for me!" he took out a device from his jacket, and fired it at Mosquitor, who was instantly frozen by a thick veil of ice spreading over his body.
"What do you think of my new invention?" Carlos asked. "The Icer. Named it after that guy who tried to overtake the ice kingdom. I made it for when Frosta isn’t available!"
"It’s pretty wei….. oops, it’s pretty smart." said Adora. "Now let’s break up these mines!"
"That device cannot stop me!" said Hordak angrily, converting to rocket mode and zooming away from them, to the other side of the mines. The Troopers turned and charged at the heroes.
"Slaves- you can go free!" called Glimmer. "Take your chances and leave while the Troopers are concentrating on us!"
"Thanks for your help, heroes!" called one of the slaves, as the whole lot of them fled from the mine and across the barren landscape.
"Troopers have to be the easiest opponents to defeat." said Carlos. "They fall apart after just one blow."
"Then let’s see how you fare against the Batmex!" shouted Hordak from the other side of the mine, as a huge portal opened in the sky, out of which flew a group of pilotless Batmex machines.
"They should be no problem." said Adora. "Especially not with a dose of She-Ra!"
She leaped quickly into the underground tunnel, took out the Sword of Protection, held it aloft and shouted:
"FOR THE HONOUR OF GRAYSKULL…..
I AM SHE-RA!"
A huge burst of light erupted from the jewel in her sword, and showered down over Adora. Then a coil of bright energy emerged, and spun around Adora’s body, turning her into the beautiful She-Ra, with flame red hair and a golden tiara, dressed in a bodysuit covered in gleaming jewellery.
She-Ra smashed open the doors of the tunnel, and shot beams from her sword all around the mine, crushing more and more troopers to mere scrap metal. At the same time, Glimmer fired her beams at the Batmex crafts, as Carlos struck them with his spinning device, causing them to spin off into the distance until they were gone from sight.
"Now to put an end to this mine!" said She-Ra. "Sword to Bazooka!"
She-Ra’s sword turned into a Bazooka, and she ran wildly through the mine, firing the weapon repeatedly and instantly blowing all the Troopers and slaughter devices to pieces. Then she reached the end of the mine, where Hordak stood.
"Now, it’s against my code to kill anyone intentionally- even tyrants like you." she said. "So I’ll spare you- but if you put up any more plantations like this- you’re sure gonna feel tremendous pain in that metal head of yours."
"Don’t be so sure, She-Ra." growled Hordak. "You may seem close to winning- but I still have the power to defeat you- just wait until you next hear of me!" and with that, he converted to rocket mode, and took off into the air, and was soon gone from sight.
"Well, as usual, that wasn’t too hard." said She-Ra, as her sword reverted to normal.
"We’ll leave Mosquitor here." said Carlos, tapping the frozen body of Mosquitor on the shoulder. "The freeze ray will wear off, eventually, but at least he’s out of the way for now."
"Let’s get going back to Bright Moon." said Glimmer. "I’ve gotta rehearse my singing for that talent show tonight- even though I’m gonna win anyway, since I’m up against Bow."
Carlos jumped into the control seat of the Rock Breaker, and She-Ra leaped in beside him as Glimmer sat in the back.
"I’ll look forward to the show tonight." said Carlos, "Though I’ve gotta be off tomorrow to this planet called Ilashia, to show the scientists there one of my latest inventions. But, She-Ra, I’m afraid I have something to tell you that’s….. a little discomforting. That’s one of the reasons why I followed you here."
"What’s that?" asked She-Ra.
"Well….. it’s gonna sound a little strange." said Carlos. "It’s quite widely known, although you’ve been too busy to have heard it….. it’s to do with He-Man. He’s been in a spot of trouble….. I heard it over the information system."
"What’s wrong?" asked She-Ra.
"He’s….. well, I know it sounds weird, but….. he’s been arrested for murder. He was actually on trial yesterday."
She-Ra’s eyes opened wide in shock. "He-Man? A murderer?!!!"
"He can’t be!" said Glimmer, "Together with She-Ra, he’s the least likely person I know to kill someone!"
"Well, I know he’s not guilty." said Carlos. "So you don’t need to worry about that, but unfortunately I’m not close enough to Eternia to know for sure who the real killer is. All I can tell you is that he’s been framed. I just thought you might want to go over to Eternia and give him some help."
"You bet I will." said She-Ra. "How could anyone think He-Man’s a murderer? Carlos, get me off to the Crystal Castle now….. wait, hold on, my sword….."
She took out her sword, which was glowing, and she saw the face of the Sorceress in the jewel.
"She-Ra….." the Sorceress said, softly, "you must come to Eternia at once, to help your brother, who is in grave danger!"
"Sure thing, Sorceress- I was just about to set off, Carlos just told me what happened. See you there."
"We await your arrival." said the Sorceress, and her face faded from the jewel.
"I’ll get you to the Crystal Castle at once!" said Carlos.
As the Rock Breaker made its way to the Crystal Castle, She-Ra and Glimmer were in shock about the news they had just heard.
"He’s no killer." Glimmer said. "Carlos, could you call off that thing on Illashia? She-Ra could do with your knowledge, or your lie-detector!"
"I’m afraid there’s no way I can call it off." said Carlos. "It’s pretty important. But don’t worry, if I sense I‘m desperately needed, and I can get those other scientists to give me a break, I’ll come to Eternia and help you, She-Ra." Carlos stopped the Rock Breaker as he saw the image of the beautiful, gleaming Crystal Castle in the distance.
She-Ra got out, and made her way towards the magical fortress. "Good luck on Illashia, Carlos." she said. "And good luck, Glimmer, in the talent contest. Now I must go to Eternia to help my brother."
"Good luck, She-Ra!" said Glimmer. "Call me if you need help!"
She-Ra waved goodbye to her friends, and entered the gleaming doors of the Crystal Castle.
Light Hope emerged from the ground. "She-Ra." he said solemnly. "I know why you have come. I wish you the best of luck on Eternia."
"I will fight to clear my brother’s name." said She-Ra, approaching the glowing portal to Eternia. "I’ll call you if I need your help."
"Good journey, She-Ra!" said Light Hope. "I pray that He-Man will be found innocent."
She-Ra moved closer to the portal to Eternia, and slowly, she entered the bright light connecting the two worlds. She was still taken aback at what had happened to He-Man….. but she was needed on Eternia, and whenever anyone needed her help-especially her brother- she would give it without second thoughts.
In the Interdimensional Portal Chamber, in the depths of Castle Grayskull, a red glow could be seen to shimmer from behind the doors to planet Etheria. The doors sprung open, and out from the portal stepped the beautiful form of She-Ra.
"Welcome back to Eternia, She-Ra." said the Sorceress, walking over to the princess of power with Man-At-Arms and Extendar at her side.
She-Ra stepped towards the Sorceress, and hugged her like a long lost friend. Although they saw each other more regularly than they used to, the Sorceress was always the perfect welcoming for She-Ra, when she visited Eternia. Her soothing presence would ease all of She-Ra’s stress.
"You don’t know how glad I am to see you again." said She-Ra. She turned to Man-At-Arms. "And you too, Duncan. And you, Extendar." she hugged both of them in turn.
"It’s always a pleasure to have you here on Eternia, She-Ra." said Man-At-Arms. "It’s just a shame that it’s under sad circumstances, this time."
"I sure am….. pretty much taken aback by what I’ve heard. So what exactly happened? How did He-Man, of all people, come to be arrested for murder?"
"Well, it’s a long story." said Extendar. "He’s been framed, we think- we don’t know who framed him yet, but I’ll explain everything that we’ve seen. It started with-"
"Wait," said Man-At-Arms, "She-Ra’s only just arrived, we mustn’t keep her standing around here. Let’s go to a more comfortable room where she can relax."
"Sure thing." said Extendar. "Come on."
Extendar, Man-At-Arms and the Sorceress led She-Ra down the corridors to one of the sitting rooms, filled with comfortable furniture, neon lighting and several bookcases. She sat down comfortably, the other three joined her, and Extendar related to her the whole story, right from the murder of Lord Marlach to the present moment.
"The trial is continuing tomorrow." he said. "It’s great to have you with us, we need all the defence that’s possible to prove He-Man’s innocence."
"I will do my best to defend my brother." She-Ra said, brushing her flowing, red hair aside. "Damn, I’d never have expected anything like this to happen. I’ll clear his name- and I’ll get hold of whichever villain was sick enough to frame him this way, and make them pay."
"It’s refreshing to have someone so strong-willed as you on our side, She-Ra." said Man-At-Arms.
"No problem, Duncan." said She-Ra. "I’m always here to help my brother- especially now that the Rebellion is finally coming close to defeating the Horde. Can we go to Eternos now? I have to visit my brother, in Law HQ. And I must see my parents again, too. I never see enough of them."
"Of course we can go to Eternos." said Man-At-Arms. "We’ll leave now."
"I will continue to try my best to get through to the killer with my magic." said the Sorceress. "And once again, She-Ra, I am thoroughly grateful that you have come. Good luck defending He-Man in the trial tomorrow!"
The warriors bade farewell to the Sorceress, then they left Grayskull, stepped into the Attak Trak, and set off for Eternos.
As Man-At-Arms drove the Attak Trak through the busy streets of Eternos City, She-Ra observed the sights around her. She could instantly see that the trial of her brother was the talk of the place. As they passed Eternos City Square, where the beautiful Arcology now shimmered above the city, she saw the many banners, with things such as ‘HE-MAN IS A KILLER’ and ‘JAIL HE-MAN’ written on them. She shook her head in sorrow. How could people be so convinced that He-Man, the most noble and trustworthy of all men, could be a ruthless killer? In a moment of guilt, she remembered that even though people would no sooner expect her to kill someone than they would He-Man, in her days as Force Captain with the Horde she had slaughtered many people to death, sadistically and without remorse. She shuddered at the thought of how people would only become even more convinced of He-Man’s guilt if they knew what his sister had done.
It was refreshing for her to see several banners on one of the gleaming streets with ‘HE-MAN IS INNOCENT’ written on them. At least not everyone had turned against He-Man. And it was even more refreshing as the Attak Trak pulled up besides Law HQ, and she saw her brother’s close ally, Teela, standing near the doors with two cowboy warriors.
She leaped out of the Attak Trak and shouted "Teela!"
Teela looked around, and her stern expression loosened into a smile as she saw She-Ra. "She-Ra!" she cried out, and the two warrior women rushed towards one another, and hugged in friendship.
"Wow, it’s great to have you here!" said Teela. "You’re gonna be brilliant in helping us to set He-Man free!"
"It’s my pleasure!" replied She-Ra. "It’s great to see you again!"
"But when are you gonna stop stealing my hairdye?" joked Teela.
She-Ra laughed and said "Hey, my hair’s darker than yours!". Teela and her had had that joke since they met, because of the similarity between their hair colours.
"Hey, aren’t you gonna introduce us to this heroine?" said Rio Blast, stepping forward to Teela as he eyed up She-Ra.
"Oh, sure thing Rio!" said Teela. "You’ll know a fair amount about her- this is She-Ra, princess of power and He-Man’s sister! She-Ra- this is Rio Blast, formerly of the Starband Marshals. He’s a heroic warrior and Lawman. And this is his friend, Blastar, who’s come over from his homeworld to help us!"
"Pleased to meet you guys." said She-Ra, shaking their hands.
"Great to meet you, She-Ra." said Blastar. "I’ve always wanted to meet you, being He-Man’s twin sister. It’ll be great to have your help!"
Man-At-Arms and Extendar stepped forth. "We’ll just have to do our best to speak out for He-Man on the second day of the trial, tomorrow." said Man-At-Arms. "She-Ra should be a great help!"
Then She-Ra looked towards the Law HQ building, as bright and shimmering as the rest of the buildings of Eternos, but more executive in appearance.
"So my brother is held in there." she said. "I only learned of it today, and I cannot understand how anyone can believe He-Man to be a murderer. Even if there is a video disk that shows it- it’s obvious that something evil is behind it all. I must go in to see He-Man, and let him know I am here for him."
"I’ll come with you." said Teela. "I’d give anything to see him….. at any time."
"We might as well all go in." said Man-At-Arms. "To show him that we’re ALL here for him."
The group of warriors walked towards the automatic door, which slid open as they approached it. A Law guard stepped in front of them as they entered the building.
"May we see He-Man, please?" Teela asked firmly.
"Providing that you only see him two minutes." the guard said. "And that only two of you go in. We don’t want killers getting the idea that they’re popular guys."
Teela lurched towards the guard. "How can you say that? He-Man is no killer!"
"Stop giving me crap and just pick two of you to get in the cell!"
"This is ludicrous!" shouted Man-At-Arms. "We are all his friends, and we are naturally here for him, so we are all entitled to see him!"
"Well, he’s also a killer, so you never know what….."
"Whoa, stop!" called Rio Blast, holding out his hand to silence the guard. "There’s no proof that He-Man murdered the guy- despite whatever was said in court before, and it’s very likely that He-Man was framed. So that gives us all the right to see him. And so says a fellow member of the law, so you’d best go along with me."
The guard hesitated. Rio Blast was, indeed, a fellow lawman, and a respected one, so he might as well respect his wishes. "Alright, then." he said. "All of you can go in, but don’t be long."
"Whew, nice work Rio!" said Teela, patting Rio Blast on the back.
"No probs." Rio replied. Then he turned to the guard. "Take us to He-Man!"
The guard led them towards He-Man’s cell, and pulled the door aside.
She-Ra was shocked when she saw her brother as he raised his head, noticing their entry into the room. She had not seen him in a worse state since the time that….. that time she would rather forget, when in her last few moments of evil, she had tried to kill him.
He was leaning over the wooden table in the cell. He looked badly worn out, tired, stressed and exhausted. His facial expression was strained and melancholy, his blond hair hung loosely over his shoulders, dirty and badly greased.
"She-Ra!" he said, weakly. "Thank the Elders you’ve come!"
She sat down on the small chair on the opposite side of the table. "I will do my best to help you, He-Man. What has happened is seriously wrong- and I shall put a stop to it."
"You’ve no idea how bad it is for me….. stuck here in this cell, with no company. I can only eat one meal a day, and I’m not allowed to wash often. If this is just a Law HQ cell….. I dread to think of what a prison cell would be like."
She-Ra glanced around the cell. It was as unpleasant as a Horde dungeon. It was dirty and shabby, with shoddy white brickwork for the walls, and besides the table, the only thing in the room was a dilapidated bed. It was no place for a man like He-Man.
"Don’t give up hope, He-Man." She-Ra said, laying her hand gently over his. "We will fight to clear your name in court, and stop you from going to prison. Whoever has framed you for this crime- we will expose them."
"I’m so glad I can count on you, She-Ra!" he said. "I feel as if….. the whole of Eternia thinks I’ve turned evil!"
"Not everyone is fooled by this trick." said Teela. "I’ve been all through the city today, and I met some people who hope you’ll be found innocent. Just wait until the trial continues- and we will prove your innocence. We’re gonna do everything we can!"
"Thank you!" he said. "I pray you succeed!"
"We will, He-Man." said Blastar. "I haven’t come all the way to Eternia for nothing- and neither has She-Ra."
"Your time’s up, I’m afraid….." came the voice of the guard.
"We have to go….." said She-Ra, getting to her feet, "but good luck. Just you look out for me tomorrow!"
"And me too." said Teela. "Your hope shouldn’t run out yet!"
"Thank you….. my friends." said He-Man.
The warriors left the cell.
"I’ve rarely seen him in such a bad state before." said She-Ra. "I hope the courtroom officials see the light."
"Well, from what we saw yesterday they seem to want him to be guilty." said Extendar. "We must keep our fingers crossed until the trial continues."
The automatic doors of Law HQ opened, letting them back out onto the streets of Eternos.
"You know, I really love this city." said She-Ra, glancing around at its illustrious towers. Then she saw a poster saying ‘HE-MAN IS GUILTY’ above a tower door. "Let’s hope it can be cleared of these sight spoilers."
"We’ll see, She-Ra." said Man-At-Arms. "Just wait until tomorrow."
Then Teela said "I’ve gotta help Rio and Blastar out in the city a little more. There’s an area on the West Side where the citizens fear riot over the murder. We’d better be going. Anyway, great to have you here, She-Ra. I’ll see you again soon."
"Nice meetin’ you." said Rio. "Let’s be goin’!"
She-Ra shook hands in turn with Rio and Blastar, then the two cowboy warriors left, with Teela. She was left with Man-At-Arms and Extendar.
"What do you wanna do now, then?" said Extendar.
"I must see my parents." said She-Ra. "Let’s go to the palace!"
Man-At-Arms and Extendar entered the Attak Trak, and She-Ra stepped in behind them as the Trak set off for the Royal Palace.
Before long, the Trak was cruising into the vehicle bay at the palace. Man-At-Arms and Extendar got out, and She-Ra followed.
"It’s always strange to see the building which should have been my home." said She-Ra. "I hope I can defeat the Horde soon, so I can come and live here permanently. But I can’t see my parents in this form. I must become Adora."
She took out the Sword of Protection, held it aloft, and the sword emitted a brief flash of light, changing her back to Adora.
King Randor and Queen Marlena were watching the skies of Eternos from one of the balconies. They were feeling grim with all the business about the killing of Lord Marlach going on.
"I don’t believe the courtroom is almost entirely convinced He-Man did it." said King Randor. "It seems there is little chance of him not being jailed at this rate….. but what will Eternia do without its champion?"
"Well, Teela and Duncan are doing all they can to help He-Man….. but I’m not sure if they’re doing that well. I just wish someone would reveal the truth."
"Mother! Father!" came a voice behind them. The King and Queen turned round, and were astonished to see their daughter, Princess Adora, running towards them.
"Adora!" cried Marlena, throwing her arms round the girl she just never saw enough.
"We never expected you to come here just now!" said Randor.
"She-Ra has come to Eternia to help He-Man in court." Adora said. "I took the chance to come with her, to see you!"
"It‘s a pleasure to have you here, Adora!" said Marlena. "We miss you so much when you‘re away!"
Duncan and Extendar walked into the room. "She was pretty anxious to see you!" Duncan said.
"Will you be helping He-Man in court?" asked Randor.
Adora struggled to think of an answer- she knew she could not appear as Adora, as she had to attend the trial as She-Ra. "Well….. maybe." she said. "I might go and see more of Eternia, but whether or not I’m at the trial- He-Man will have my support."
"How are things going on Etheria?"
"Fine." she said. "We’re getting closer to beating the Horde. I can’t wait until we do, so I can come and live with you permanently!"
"Adora, you’ve lightened our hearts." said Randor. "With this murder business, your mother and I have felt so distraught that even Orko’s magic shows could not relieve us. But your presence has- and we’re very pleased to have you here. Please come down and eat with us- the Royal Chef should be finishing our meal any moment now!"
"I sure will!" said Adora, and went with her parents down to the dining hall.
"Well, at least that’s eased the King and Queen’s moods." said Extendar. "It’s just….. will anyone be so at ease tomorrow."
"Like I said before, we’ll just wait and see." said Man-At-Arms. "Let’s just remind ourselves that we now have She-Ra to help us, while the Sorceress will continue to use her magic, and even if He-Man does go to jail- we can still fight to get him out."
And at that moment, in the depths of Snake Mountain, Faker shook his sword impatiently as he observed the details for the second day of the trial, revealed on Comtech’s giant computer screen. "He’s about to be found guilty!" he shouted. "At last, I shall have the revenge I have waited six years for!!! The wait has been worthwhile!!!"
The following day, He-Man was once again led into the box of the accused, in the wall of Eternos City Courtroom, by two Lawmen. As had happened the day before, the red beam formed between the doors behind him as they slid shut and locked, and He-Man sat down and looked out over the courtroom.
Judge Stardak was seated at the large desk in the big box on the wall to He-Man’s right. The man with the computer was seated in the small room in the corner, and Jarik was seated amongst the officials.
The officials- those bastards. They were clearly trying to make He-Man sound guilty, for reasons unknown. He-Man felt badly worn out, dirty, and weak- all from the stress of the case so far, which was no good for him after all the strain he had been under before that. He felt like a shambling wreck.
But all hope was not lost- as the visitors poured in, He-Man observed Man-At-Arms, Teela and Extendar amongst them- with He-Man’s faithful sister, She-Ra, at their side, the glittering jewels on her bodysuit almost illuminating the courtroom area around her.
Then in came the same warriors who had attended the trial the day before. They sat on the visitors’ seats. More and more people entered the courtroom- seemingly more than the day before. He-Man felt tense, knowing that many of them probably believed he was guilty- but he tried his best to keep himself calm. There was no use losing sweat over this case- especially when he knew he was innocent.
Once the courtroom was completely full, Judge Stardak hit the switch on his desk, and the same beeping sound emitted, filling the courtroom and silencing the people.
"Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen." said Judge Stardak. "Here we begin day 2 of the trial of He-Man. And I am glad to let you know that we hope to reach a verdict today. May I please request of you all not to speak out without permission. If any of you wish to speak during the trial, please raise your hand and wait until you are permitted to speak. I shall now hand things over, once again, to Lord Jarik, who shall do the questioning and conducting of the case. Lord Jarik- over to you."
Jarik arose from his seat, and lifted the microphone from its stand. Then he began to speak. "Thank you, Judge Stardak." he said. "First of all, I shall summarise the events of the trial yesterday. The defendant, He-Man, pleads innocent to the murder of Lord Marlach of Eternos. Evidence tells us that he was feeling stressed in the weeks preceding the murder, which could possibly have led him to go over the top. The witnesses’ views agree with one another, and it has also been said that He-Man’s eyes appeared to look different at the time of the murder. The video disk appears to directly show He-Man killing Lord Marlach. Yet He-Man still denies the murder, and it has been suggested he may have been under an evil spell when committing it, or possibly, the killer could have been an impostor or a magical illusion. Yet the observations of one of the heroic warriors tell us that Skeletor and his forces have nothing to do with the killing."
He-Man saw Teela glare at Sy-Klone, who just sat there, seeming not to notice.
Jarik continued. "The computer yesterday gave its most likely verdict as guilty. Today we hope to reach a final conclusion, and now we shall persist with the case." he turned and looked up at He-Man.
"He-Man- do you still plead innocent to the murder of Lord Marlach?"
"Yes." He-Man replied firmly.
"And may you tell the court, once again, your version of what happened?"
He-Man knew that Jarik was asking this to see if He-Man’s version of events differed from what he had said the day before. If it did, it would suggest he was guilty. So he repeated what he had said the day before. "I was on patrol around Eternia, doing my usual good deeds, until all of a sudden those men by that small village caught me and reported me to the law. It came as a surprise, as I knew nothing about the murder."
"Thank you, He-Man." said Jarik. Then he turned to address the court in general. "When He-Man was caught by the law, he was on the edge of the village of Tarin. There are no reported sightings of him between then and the murder, two days previously. Neither do we have any reported sightings of him elsewhere at the time of the murder- which could suggest that he did, indeed, stab Lord Marlach to death. But it has been suggested that since the village of Tarin is so far from Eternos City, could he have gotten there within the space of two days?"
One of the officials raised his hand. "Speak, sir." said Jarik.
"Of course he could have got there." said the man. "I commute over Eternia regularly, as I do business all over the place- and I usually use the monorail system. I’ve travelled to the other side of the planet, well within two days, using the monorail. It’s pretty fast transport. And being automatically driven, there’s no driver to notice when criminals get on- and since many of them have cabins, He-Man could easily have hidden in one of them. It wouldn’t have been hard for him to get to Tarin unseen in two days- and it’s logical to think he’d have chosen to flee somewhere so far away. Having just committed murder, he’d have fled to a place really far from Eternos- so he wouldn’t get caught."
"I have an explanation for why he tried to save that drowning man-" said another official, "if he was trying to save him and not kill him. He’d have done it so people would think he wasn’t to blame for the murder. It’s obvious."
"Thank you very much." said Jarik. "Does anyone here have any contradictions to the information provided here?"
She-Ra raised her hand. He-Man was filled with relief, knowing that his sister was about to speak out against these bastard officials who were doing all they could to make him seem guilty. "Yes, I do-" she said, "Maybe it is possible to get all that way in two days unseen- but why would He-Man-"
"If you would be quiet for a second." interrupted Jarik, pointing towards her. "I know who you are, She-Ra, and I was just about to call you up to speak. You may voice all your opinions in a few moments." He stepped closer to She-Ra’s bench. "You are She-Ra, He-Man’s sister and defender of the planet Etheria."
"I am indeed." She-Ra replied.
"And you have defended Etheria from evil forces in much the way He-Man has defended Eternia, for the past few years?"
"That’s right." she said. "Well, I’ve tried to free Etheria- it’s ruled by an evil force, you see. But I’m weakening their rule."
"Then being in much the same position as He-Man, and being his sister, you must know him very well, even though you spend most of your time on another world?"
"Yes." she said. "Although I live on Etheria, I see He-Man from time to time and we sometimes share adventures together. I probably know him better than most people….. well, maybe anyone in this room."
"And being his sister, I assume that you grew up with He-Man."
The moment Jarik asked this question, He-Man felt panic- and he was pretty sure She-Ra must be panicking inside too. Because of course, she had not grown up with him, as she had been serving the Horde all her youth- but she could not tell the court that, as it would give away her double identity. As far as most Eternians knew, she had been from the same ‘mountain tribe’ as He-Man and had indeed grown up with him. She was going to have to lie- but could she lie convincingly?
"Well, er-" She-Ra seemed to struggle slightly for an answer, "yes, I grew up with He-Man. In his mountain tribe."
"And did you ever notice any signs of murderous instincts?"
"Never. He-Man was noble right from the start. He was….. brought up to believe murder was totally immoral. Nothing he’s done would ever suggest he might kill anyone."
"So do you think he has changed, or do you think he‘s been framed?"
"I think he’s been framed, of course!" She-Ra said. "Like others have said, He-Man would never commit murder, even if he was under stress. I have fought alongside my brother many times. And many times have I seen him save lives. Occasionally he has killed an enemy- but on these occasions, he has had no choice to, it has been a case of kill or be killed. And he has said to me many times that he does not like killing living beings, even if he has no choice but to do so. So it doesn’t make sense to assume he would commit murder. Even if he had flipped his lid and killed Lord Marlach, he would not be denying it now. He would be deeply regretting it, and pleading that you jail him! And he would definitely never have gone on the run! I know He-Man much better than you, and I know that there is no chance that he could be guilty!"
"Thank you, She-Ra." said Jarik. He turned back to face He-Man’s box.
"Do you confirm what your sister has just told us, He-Man?"
"Every word she said was right."
"So you have killed enemies on several occasions?"
"I have, but like she said, I have had no choice to. I have killed on occasions like when evil beings have me trapped and are about to kill me- and my only way out is to kill them. And never have I enjoyed killing these beings- even though they are evil. Everyone has a right to live, no matter how much evil they have wrought. On some occasions when I have killed evil demons, I have had to ask the Sorceress for assurance that what I did was not against the power of Grayskull. So since I feel bad about wasting lives- even when I have no choice- there is no way I would kill someone with absolutely no motive."
"Look at him, trying to cover up for himself." He-Man saw one of the officials whispering to another.
He had finally had enough of these officials doing all they could to make him look guilty. Before he could think, he lost his temper and shouted out. "Well I’m only telling you the truth!!! Did I not swear to the court, upon the honour of Grayskull, to tell the whole truth? Yet whatever I say, you will always twist it round to make it sound like a lie! If that’s your attitude, there‘s no point in continuing this case!"
Judge Stardak shouted in reply "He-Man, verbally attacking the courtroom officials does you no good! And if you continue to act this way, you will be in serious trouble, even if by some slim chance you are found innocent."
"Then I apologise." said He-Man, sweating. "But you gotta understand how I feel. I get arrested out of the blue and charged with murder, and when I just try and explain what’s happened you all accuse me of lying! Why should I bother? If all you’re going to do is make every word I say sound guilty, then you might as well just shut me in that jail with no trial!"
A small round of applause followed from He-Man’s supporters.
"Please calm yourself, He-Man." said Jarik. "We are just trying to consider all the possibilities. Many of the murderers we have tried here in the past have told us nothing but lies."
"But like all my friends are saying- I have always believed that killing someone intentionally and without cause is totally immoral. It is against the power of Grayskull! If I was evil, like Skeletor, I would crave power- so therefore, I would not kill someone if it meant having the power of Grayskull taken from me! And I must also let you know that if I had committed the murder, the Sorceress would have come to me herself and wiped away my power!"
"How does the Sorceress know whether you’re guilty or not?" called one official.
"She would know, because she can tell with her magic."
"Exactly." called out Extendar. "And she has tried to use her magic to get a vision of the real killer, but can only get a blurred shape. If you want proof, go to Grayskull and ask her in person."
"Well this doesn’t sound like proof to me." said the official. "This ‘blurred shape’ will obviously be He-Man, but she refuses to accept it, because she doesn’t want to admit he’s guilty! This ‘Sorceress’ doesn’t sound a very trustworthy person at all!"
"You BASTARD!" shouted Extendar, jumping to his feet and shooting out his neck and torso. The other people in the courtroom looked up in amazement as he grew before their eyes. "The Sorceress is probably the finest person I know! All you’re doing is trying to make He-Man sound guilty! Courtroom officials and important businessmen you may be, but as people you’re no different from Skeletor and the evil warriors!"
"Cyborg, sit down and stop insulting the courtroom officials!" shouted Judge Stardak, angrily. "One more move and I will put you in contempt of the court!"
Reluctantly, Extendar sat down, staring daggers at the officials.
"I must say, Extendar," said Jarik, "that what you say about The Sorceress gives us no evidence in favor of He-Man, and I find your outburst most unacceptable for the court. Please refrain from making further outbursts of the kind. Now if we may continue with the case quietly, I think our next step should be to interview some other people who have worked alongside He-Man in the past. Stratos of Avion- please arise."
The blue-winged birdman rose to his feet.
"Stratos, Lord of Avion, I believe you have worked with He-Man for six years."
"That’s right." Stratos said. "I allied with him only a short while after Skeletor first attacked. He made an attack on Avion, stealing the Totem of the Sky, and when my people realised the extent of this threat to Eternia, we pledged our alliance to He-Man. He-Man and I have shared many adventures together since."
"So you are one of his closest comrades. And you were also present at the time of the murder?"
"Yes, I was- and like I said yesterday, I wanted to stop the killing, but I was rigid with shock and couldn’t believe what I was seeing."
"And do you believe He-Man to be guilty?"
"Not at all. I’m not sure if he was under a spell or if it’s some trick by the evil warriors, but I’m totally sure he’s innocent. I can tell you just what his other comrades have said- he’d never kill anyone. Several times he actually saved his opponent from doom when he got the chance. He’d just never kill anyone intentionally."
"Thank you, Stratos. May the warrior known as Ram Man please arise?"
Stratos sat down, and Ram Man stood up. He was not wearing his springy-legged costume, he was just dressed in a vest and leather trousers.
"I believe," said Jarik, "that you have been allied with He-Man for as long as Stratos?"
"Well, yeah, just before Stratos actually, but only a few days longer. Yeah, I’ve worked with He-Man nearly right from the start. Take the number of battles I’ve had aside He-Man, multiply it by a few thousand, and you’ll get the number of times I’ve hurt my head since!" Many people in the courtroom laughed aloud at Ram Man’s comment. Even He-Man, distraught as he was, managed a hollow laugh. Ram Man had been working with him for six years, and had never lost that sense of humor!
"Well, thanks very much Ram Man," said Jarik with amusement as the laughter died down, "but aside from hurting your head have you ever noticed anything strange about He-Man?"
"He-Man strange? No way! I’m siding with Stratos and She-Ra and everyone here! He-Man’s innocent alright."
"Are you sure you‘ve never noticed any suggestion of murderous instincts?"
"Of course not! I’d say if I had. He’s always been a great guy, pretty easy going most of the time. Yeah, he got stressed alright before the killing, but you could hardly blame him, having to fight all the time. And I saw him plenty of times when he was under stress, and he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to save Eternia no more- so why would he go and kill someone? And I was at Snake Mountain when Evil-Lyn showed us that image, and I don’t reckon it was real." He raised one of his muscular arms and shouted "He-Man is innocent!"
"Thank you, Ram Man." said Jarik, and Ram Man sat down. "Now may the warrior named Dash-Shel, better known as Sy-Klone, please arise."
The blue and yellow skinned cyborg rose to his feet, the radar screen on his chest flickering. He-Man noticed an expression of annoyance on Teela’s face, and she whispered something to Man-At-Arms. He could not quite make out what it was, but no doubt she’d be hoping that Sy-Klone didn’t blow He-Man’s chances again. Although Sy-Klone had always been a good friend of his, He-Man felt pretty annoyed at him at the present moment. Even though he probably hadn’t meant to, Sy-Klone had yesterday got the court even more convinced that He-Man was guilty by falling for what was probably an obvious trick by the evil warriors. Being of a high-spirited, quick and sometimes rash nature, Sy-Klone could fairly often reach conclusions without giving them much thought. Unfortunately, this time it seemed to have landed He-Man in trouble.
"Yesterday, Sy-Klone," said Jarik, "you told the court that you and a group of other heroic warriors went over to Snake Mountain, where an evil sorceress who worked for Skeletor showed you an image in her crystal ball of Skeletor hearing the news about the murder, having known nothing of it. So you think this, therefore, proves that the evil warriors did not frame He-Man?"
"I think it’s sufficient enough evidence to say they didn’t." said Sy-Klone.
"So you believe that He-Man is guilty?"
"Well, no, actually- I’m totally convinced he isn’t, but I just don’t reckon Skeletor had anything to do with it. I’ve never seen He-Man do anything that would suggest he might kill someone. So I reckon some other evil being has probably framed him- but it’s not Skeletor."
One official raised his hand at that moment. "I think that since a heroic warrior believes Skeletor was not to blame, then we have right to believe him."
"What a load of nonsense!" shouted Teela. "And don’t bother shouting at me for speaking out without permission- Sy-Klone could easily be mistaken, it is probably a trick by the evil warriors, and there are many others of us who saw this image who don’t think it was real at all!"
"Like me!" called Ram Man.
"And me- and Blastar too!" shouted Rio Blast. "Evil-Lyn could hoax anything with that crystal ball of hers, I betcha!"
"Well let us discuss it tactfully!" said Jarik. "Please refrain from arguing in the courtroom. There seems to be dispute between the heroic warriors themselves over whether the image was faked or not. Thank you for your information, Sy-Klone. Now if any heroic warrior feels that He-Man was guilty, could they please speak out."
No heroic warriors raised their hands.
"Then does any heroic warrior feel they have ever noticed murderous instincts in He-Man?"
Still no hands went up.
"Then what is the explanation that you offer for the case?"
Snout Spout raised his hand.
"Speak, please." said Jarik, seeming to gaze with curiosity at Snout Spout’s metal elephant head.
"Basically," said Snout Spout, "most of us are totally unsure. He could possibly have flipped his lid- but none of us have ever seen him do anything suspicious, and we find it hard to imagine him committing murder."
"So it is the general belief that while the evidence may suggest He-Man is guilty, none of you could ever imagine him committing murder."
"Exactly." said Snout Spout.
One official raised his hand. "Lord Jarik, I think that is the way that everyone in this court felt. I believe one hundred per cent that He-Man is guilty- yet I would never have imagined that he would commit murder. I was as shocked by the news of the murder as anyone here is- but while I could never imagine him killing anyone, it seems to me that there is not the merest doubt that he killed Lord Marlach. I think his friends and comrades are only sticking up for him because of their friendship, which prevents them from accepting that He-Man has become a killer."
"You could be right, sir." said Jarik.
He-Man was about to speak out himself- he was tired of these people acting as though he was guilty beyond doubt- but Teela spoke out first.
"You officials are totally incapable of thought!" she said angrily. "Of course we’re not sticking up for He-Man just because we like him! It’s because framing him for murder is just the kind of trick that the evil warriors might use, and we can see just by talking to him that he’s totally innocent!"
"Captain Teela- murderers CAN put on an act, you know." said the official. "That would explain the apparent ‘change in his eyes’ after all. And anyway, we’ve had proof that the evil warriors didn’t do it, from the blue man’s account."
"That isn’t proof!" shouted Man-At-Arms.
"Accept it! Does he seem guilty to you?" said Extendar.
"You should look into what the evil warriors have to do with it!" cried She-Ra.
"Will you please be quiet!" shouted Jarik. "I do not want to have to tell anyone in this courtroom to keep quiet again. It is time you accepted the rules of the court, and abided by them."
"How do you expect us to," shouted Teela, "when you-"
Judge Stardak interrupted her. "You say another word, Teela, and you’re in contempt of the court!"
"Yes, Teela, if you wish to speak at any point, abide by the courtroom’s rules and raise your hand." said Jarik. "Anyway, I think as my colleague said, about all of us FEEL that He-Man would never kill anyone- but we must not let our liking of the man deceive us."
Blastar raised his hand.
"Speak." Jarik said, pointing to him.
"Your honour," said Blastar, "I have come to visit Eternia from my homeworld. I’m a lawman there, and I used to be in the Starband Marshals with Rio Blast. I just came here to help defend He-Man- because I can tell you, I’ve been on Eternia before, when I fell under a spell by Skeletor. He possessed me with a magic spell, and sent me to kill He-Man. And I just could not resist the spell- I almost DID kill He-Man. Luckily he managed to break the spell before I could do any real damage- but what if Skeletor had put He-Man under the same kind of spell that he put me under? It could easily be possible. I know I could remember what I did under the spell when my senses returned- but what if Skeletor strengthened it so it would wipe He-Man’s memory? You really do need to look into what’s going on at Snake Mountain- I know the warriors and myself failed to when we investigated- but if we get the whole of the Law force, the whole army, and all of the King’s guards there- maybe we’d have a chance."
"I feel there is no need for that when we have proof that Skeletor had nothing to do with it." said one official.
"Damn! Are you agents of Skeletor in disguise or something?" shouted Extendar. "When are you going to accept that that isn’t proof!"
"But it is proof!" replied the official.
"Silence!" called Jarik. "I hate to disagree with a fellow courtroom official, but it is NOT proof. All we have is Sy-Klone’s account. None of us have actually seen this image that Skeletor’s sorceress presented in her crystal ball. I think that maybe Judge Stardak should call the case off for today, and we should arrest Skeletor or this sorceress of his in connection with the murder."
"Now you’re talking!" said Teela.
All of a sudden, the people in the courtroom were distracted by a sudden burst of light amongst the visitors’ benches. The light circulated round a hooded and robed figure on the back bench. The figure’s robe dropped to the ground, revealing none other than Evil-Lyn herself, beautiful yet sinister, with her evil green eyes and her sparkling exotic jewellery.
The people gasped in amazement, and as the light died down, Jarik asked "Who on Eternia are you?"
"I am Evil-Lyn." she replied. "I am Skeletor’s sorceress, and second-in-command. I just came here to make sure that our army is not being accused of having any part in the murder."
He-Man shook his head in anxiety, thinking What in the name of the Elders is she going to do…..
"You could be just the person we need." said Jarik. "What do you have for us, Evil-Lyn?"
"I have this." she said, and approached Jarik, then brought out her crystal ball. In it, the image of Skeletor appeared, sitting in his throne in Snake Mountain. Tri-Clops approached him, with a mini information system, saying "Listen to this!" Then an announcement came over the information system about the murder, and Skeletor said "He-Man? A murderer? This is too good to be true!"
The image faded from the crystal ball.
"Thank you, Evil-Lyn." said Jarik. "You have helped us greatly. And thank you to Sy-Klone for notifying us of that in the first place."
"It’s a dirty hoax!" shouted Teela. "She’s created it with her magic!"
"Teela, you have been warned….." said Judge Stardak, "unless you want to be in contempt?"
"I think it is time to accept," said Jarik, "that the evil warriors have nothing to do with it. He-Man’s close acquaintances are merely blinded by friendship."
"Nonsense!" shouted Man-At-Arms.
"I am glad to have been of help." said Evil-Lyn. "Just to clear my army’s name, of course. I swear that we knew nothing of the murder until the moment I have just shown you, and we are as confused by it as many are."
"Thank you for helping us, Evil-Lyn." said Jarik. "You may resume your seat."
As she walked back to her seat, she was jeered at by several heroic warriors. "You evil bitch!" they shouted. "You hoaxed that image!"
But she just ignored them, and went back to her seat.
"Well there’s no doubt that He-Man’s guilty now." said one official.
"I think it may be time to make judgements." said Jarik. "I see no need for further investigation."
He-Man looked down in despair. His chances looked blown now. How were the court ever going to be convinced that he was innocent? He looked up once more over the courtroom, over the sea of faces of people who thought he was a bloodthirsty killer. Then he raised his hand.
"Yes, defendant, you wish to speak?" said Jarik.
"Your honour," spoke He-Man, "I know the evidence may all seem to suggest that I’m guilty. But I can tell you in all honesty- I had nothing to do with the murder. I had been under stress, but I never even dreamed of killing anyone. I was in danger of a breakdown- not being driven to madness. I could not have been more shocked when I was arrested, out of the blue, and charged with murder. And I swear that however much the killer on the video looks like me- it is not. I can only beg that you accept my words, and look elsewhere for the true killer. As it is not me."
Man-At-Arms raised his hand. "You should listen to him, you know. Does he sound like a murderer? He is as noble as ever, and there is no way that man could be a killer. I urge you to continue this case for several more days, rather than going for a verdict now."
"Well, sad as it may seem, Duncan-" said Jarik, "many murderers tend to be good actors."
"He is not acting!" said She-Ra. "Even if Skeletor didn’t have anything to do with it, there are still other evil forces on Eternia that could have framed He-Man!"
"Let that be the opinion of some, then." said Jarik. "Now let us screen the video evidence one last time. Those who may be disturbed- please look away."
The video screens flickered on, and He-Man once again saw the film of him approaching Lord Marlach outside the Arcology, reaching the sword towards him, stabbing him to death, then leaving the scene. Then he hung his head again. Surely it was all over now.
"Now we shall go for the verdict." said Jarik. "This will take several minutes of private discussion between myself and the officials as the final information is entered into the computer. May everyone please be patient as we leave to reach our verdict."
All the officials got up, and followed Jarik out of the courtroom, through a small door in the wall. And there followed the seven most tense and frustrating moments of He-Man’s life. The entire courtroom sat in silence as they awaited the verdict. All He-Man could hear was the whirring of the fan in the ceiling, all he could feel was the faint breeze of cool air.
But inside, he felt his heart pounding, his blood pumping intensely through his mighty body. Sweat oozed rapidly from his pores, his forehead felt cold and damp. What would happen if he was sentenced to prison? How long would he be held for? Would his innocence ever be proved? Would the true killer ever be found? Who was the true killer?
And if he was jailed, how would Eternia cope without him?!!
After what seemed like an age, the door in the wall opened. Out stepped Jarik and the officials.
"The computer will bring out a verdict in several seconds." said Jarik, and sat down amongst the officials.
Then the man in the computer room walked out.
"What then," said Judge Stardak, "is the verdict for the case?"
The man turned to face the whole court.
He-Man covered his face in horror, as murmurs instantly spread throughout the whole courtroom.
"NO!!!!!" screamed Teela.
"It’s all a mistake!!!" cried Man-At-Arms.
"My brother’s innocent!" said She-Ra.
But the officials all looked pleased. "Thank goodness another killer is being brought to justice." one said.
"Our view on the case," began Jarik, "is that He-Man had been under great stress from his heroic duties towards Eternia, which led him to lose control and murder Lord Marlach. It is also quite likely that having been taught strictly since his childhood that all forms of killing were immoral, He-Man’s dark side struggled to be free from these rules, and caused him to stab Lord Marlach to death. We see no doubt that He-Man is guilty of murder."
The court was in an uproar, and He-Man heard a strange mixture of satisfied voices mixed with the cries of angry people.
"If you would all be quiet, I shall bring out the sentencing." said Judge Stardak. "He-Man- whether you regret it now or not, and regardless of your heroic past, you have stabbed an innocent man to death intentionally, and have abused both the power of Grayskull and the morality of mankind. Therefore, I have no choice but to sentence you to life in jail."
"NO!" cried Extendar, shooting his whole body to full size, reaching right up to the Judge’s box, gripping him by the shoulders and shaking him violently. "He-Man’s my best friend! He would never murder anyone! It’s all an evil trick!"
"Get down this instant, or you are in contempt!" screamed Judge Stardak, thrusting Extendar away from him. But Extendar stood tall, above the rest of the court, who stared up at the gigantic being in amazement. He shouted "This murder is all the work of evil! We must free He-Man! He is no killer!"
"You may all leave now." said Judge Stardak, ignoring Extendar. "He-Man is to be taken to Eternos jail this very moment."
He-Man heard the doors slide open behind him, then felt two grotesquely tight grips on his arms. He was being dragged away by two Lawmen.
"Fight for me!" he shouted to Teela as they dragged him away. "Help to get me out! The evil forces cannot get away with this!"
Teela watched him being pulled away, and shed a tear. "I will, He-Man. In the name of Grayskull, I will."
As Teela, Man-At-Arms, Extendar and She-Ra left the courtroom, they passed Evil-Lyn, looking smug and scheming. Teela turned and spat at her. "You won’t get away with this! We’ll expose you! Your scheme won’t succeed in the long term!"
Evil-Lyn just laughed. "What scheme? Like Jarik said, ‘don’t be blinded by friendship’." Then she vanished into thin air, teleported back to Snake Mountain.
As they emerged from the building, Teela could barely conceal her anger. "We must fight to free him, Father. We’ve got to. We must start right away!"
"Don’t worry, Teela." said She-Ra, drawing her sword, and raising it high. "We shall fight to free him- FOR THE HONOUR OF GRAYSKULL!"
In the chamber of Snake Mountain, a huge band of Evil warriors waited silently and anxiously. Then, in the center of the dark chamber, a mystical, bright light began to form.
"She’s arriving!" growled Beast Man.
The light formed into a human shape, shimmered, and died down, revealing the form of Evil-Lyn.
She approached Skeletor in his throne. "What is the verdict, Evil-Lyn?" he hissed.
"Guilty." she replied, with a sinister smile. "Sentenced to life in jail."
At that moment, the entire room erupted into a cheer. The crowd of evil warriors all raised their hands in extreme triumph.
But none of them were more content than Faker. His red eyes blazed with evil delight. "At last!" he cried. "I have had my revenge on He-Man! After six years, I have finally succeeded!"
"And at last we have He-Man out of our way." said Skeletor. "Now it will be easy for me to take over Eternia."
"When shall we attack, Skeletor?" asked King Hiss.
"Let us bide our time a little further." replied Skeletor.
"Do we have to?" said Faker. "I’m getting sick of just lurking around this mountain with no real enemies to fight."
"Never forget, Faker, you must remain hidden." said Skeletor. "If anyone sees you, it could mean that He-Man is instantly let out of jail. So as we attack the city, you must remain at Snake Mountain. Maybe tomorrow the rest of us will strike….. and make our first steps towards crushing the city!"
"And no-one will call He-Man to help," said Evil-Lyn, "because as far as they are concerned, he is no better than us. It will be easy!"
"Then I will take the throne….. then Grayskull….. then with my supreme power, I will take over the universe. And you, Faker, may destroy He-Man in person….. once Grayskull has become a fortress of evil, He-Man’s power shall be wiped away- you will be able to kill him easily."
"And then….." Faker hissed quietly, "It is between you and I….."
The streets of Eternos were in an uproar over the court verdict, the news of which travelled quickly throughout the city. The denizens looked to the skies as a Law plane zoomed overhead, towards Eternos Jail. It was this plane which was carrying He-Man to jail.
Several angry members of the crowd tried throwing rotten food at the plane, but Extendar grew to full size and threw it back at them.
"He’s not guilty!" shouted Teela as she pushed her way through the crowds. "We must let him free!"
"Right on Teela!" came a voice from within the crowd. Teela and the heroic warriors looked round to see a group of protesters waving a banner with the words ‘HE-MAN IS INNOCENT’.
"Excellent!" Teela called. "At least some people are on our side!"
Teela, Extendar, Man-At-Arms and She-Ra pushed their way through the manic crowds, through several streets until they reached Eternos Jail. It was not far from the Square, where the Arcology towered above the chaos.
The Jail was less elegant than most buildings in Eternos, it was just a simple, metal edifice. Each window was blocked with pulsating electro-bars, preventing anyone from escaping. They approached the door, where a prison guard stood, a burly and rough figure.
"May we see He-Man?" asked Teela.
"No way." replied the guard. "It’s not visiting time yet. And I’m not sure He-Man will be allowed visitors for at least today, being our newest convict. He’s gonna have a happy time in jail, I’m telling you."
And in his dank, uncomfortable, dirty prison cell, He-Man sank to the ground in distress. This prison cell was a million times worse than the Law HQ cell. The walls were made from shoddy, dirty, rough brickwork, and the only thing in the entire room was a wooden bench with a pillow on it- not even any sheets. It was like being imprisoned in Snake Mountain. Except at least there he’d be able to escape- the glowing red electro-bars over the door and window would electrocute anyone who dared to shake them too hard, preventing any possible escape.
The life of a hero had taken its toll on He-Man, and just as he had thought things were getting better, some evil being had gone and framed him for a crime, getting him locked in this foul jail, possibly for life, as the whole of the planet believed he was a bloodthirsty psychopath. Was there any hope? Would even She-Ra and Duncan be unable to get him out?
He-Man sank into a corner, his sweat-covered hands clutching his head in agony. In his heart, He-Man cursed the true killer. He prayed to the Elders that they would be found. Otherwise, this could truly mean the end for Eternia.
At the Royal Palace, the mood was a mixture of anger and sorrow, as the heroic warriors returned.
"You don’t need to tell me." said King Randor as the warriors entered the main hall. "I have heard the verdict. I do not believe that a hero like He-Man should be jailed for this crime. It is beyond my wildest dreams."
"I’m beginning to wonder if maybe he is guilty, since the court are so convinced." said Buzz-Off.
"There’s no chance." said Marlena. "The court just loves convicting people. They always twist everything they say to make them sound guilty. But even I never thought they could do that with He-Man….."
"Surely you can order them to release him, your highness?" said Extendar to King Randor. "After all, you are the ruler of the whole planet!"
"That may be so," said Randor, "but unfortunately I have no power over the running of the law, or the courtroom services. I am just meant to assume that they are always right. It would be incredibly hard for me to persuade them to free He-Man, since they are so convinced he is guilty."
"Well Rio and I will see what we can do to change the law’s mind." said Blastar.
"Yeah, sure thing partner-" said Rio, "though I know my bosses, and they’re pretty tough guys. But we sure will do our best."
"And I guess it’s up to us to find the real killer." said Teela.
"I will go to Grayskull again and work with the Sorceress to find the murderer!" said Man-At-Arms.
"We’ve also gotta help change public opinion!" said Extendar.
"Let’s just see how public opinion is at the moment." said King Randor. He led Marlena, Teela, Duncan, Extendar and She-Ra up to a balcony, and they looked out over the streets of Eternos. There was a huge commotion outside, figures running all over the place, people erupting into mad hysterics in the middle of the street. And there was also a group of young boys, aged twelve at the oldest, waving signs in the air and shouting "He-Man is still our hero! He is innocent! Get him out of jail!"
There was also a man running through the street carrying a microphone, saying "If you believe He-Man is innocent, join me! We must convince the Law, and get him free! And we must find who the real killer is!"
A group of people instantly rushed up to him and joined him as he ran through the street.
"You see." said King Randor. "There is still hope. It’s not just us who think he’s innocent. And if we can unite everyone….."
"We could get the whole planet together and maybe convince the law!" said Adora, coming onto the balcony, having slipped away and resumed her Adora form.
"Exactly, Adora." said Randor. "Duncan- if you would get me your microphone-"
"I will, your highness." replied Duncan, and instantly left the balcony, to return moments later with a portable electronic microphone. He handed it to the King, and the King spoke.
"People of Eternia!" he said, and each figure in the street turned and looked up at their King, addressing them from the tower. "You are all affected by what has become of our hero, He-Man, having been sentenced to life in jail. And if you believe it is a fair decision, and that he did indeed kill Lord Marlach, then I shall not force you to change your views. But I do, however, urge you to think of the times you have seen He-Man. Throughout the past six years, you have seen him save lives. You have seen him defend our world from all forms of evil. You have seen him commit many noble acts- helping with the slightest problem, and speaking out his firm belief in justice. You have all been in awe of his humanity, and eternally grateful for how he has saved this planet which would be possessed by the rule of evil if he were not around. Never have you seen a more noble champion. Does it make sense, therefore, that this firm believer in justice and righteousness would simply commit murder? And then deny it, in front of a whole courtroom? That would not be the same person who has saved this planet from near destruction. Make your conclusions for yourselves- but I have reached mine firmly. This is all the work of some evil force, somewhere on Eternia. Be it Skeletor or not- some evil is at work. He-Man has been framed for this crime. He does not deserve to be seen as a murderer. And it is our duty to find the true killer, and bring him towards the court, so true justice can be done! If you agree with what I say, raise your arms!"
A huge cheer ran through the crowd, and they raised their arms wildly.
"Then let justice prevail!"
"Excellent, Randor!" said Teela, as the King turned away from the crowd, who began once again to run wildly through the streets- except more exuberantly than before. "We may have a fair amount of people who think he’s guilty- but we’ve also got a great share of people who still believe in him!"
"I just dread to think of how he must feel in that jail." said Marlena, brushing away a tear as she thought of her son being subjected to the torture of living in a prison cell. For of course, she had always secretly known that He-Man was none other than Adam, her son. She just hadn’t admitted it.
"I also dread to think of what it must be like for him." said Randor. "The jails of this city are almost as unpleasant as Snake Mountain. I have always felt that their conditions are too vile, even for criminals, and I must do something to change them."
"But if we work together, with all the help we can get from the citizens," said Teela, "he won’t have to be in jail for much longer. We need to fight to find the real killer- so let’s get to work right away! It is all up to us- to FREE HE-MAN!!!!!"
Teela stood alone on one of the balconies of Eternos Arcology. Because of the disastrous outcome of the opening ceremony, very few people had moved into the building, despite how exquisitely beautiful and technologically advanced it was. As Teela had looked around the building, and had a full insight into its wondrous inner world, felt its cooling breeze and experienced many of its special features, including the electro and sea worlds, she felt saddened that such a stimulating, luxury building, into which a great deal of work had been done, should go to waste like this. But hopefully it was only to last in the midst of the killing. Once she had proven He-Man’s innocence, the murder would be forgotten and the building would be used as the paradise it should be.
She stood at the edge of the balcony, before the unbearable heat of Eternos City, which did little to make her job less strenuous. But then she looked down at the massive crowd below, tearing down the ‘JAIL HE-MAN’ banners and ripping them to shreds, waving signs in the air depicting the words ‘FREE HE-MAN!’. The campaign she had just started looked like it was working pretty well.
And down by the entrance to the Arcology, Ram Man stood holding thousands of sheets of paper, on which the people who wanted He-Man freed signed their names.
"We’ve got over five hundred, Teela!" Ram Man shouted.
"Great work!" said Teela. "Don’t give up- it may be hard work, but we need it to rescue He-Man!"
Then she looked over the square, and spoke at a loud volume to address the whole crowd.
"Hear me, people!" she said. "At twenty-five o’clock tonight, we are marching towards Eternos City Court, to show the court the strength of our campaign! We will MAKE them rethink their verdict! So wherever you go, shout out for He-Man’s freedom and distribute your banners….. your leaflets….. everything to spread the campaign! And if you know anyone who might want to join us- don’t just ask them to, TELL them! For the sake of Eternia’s safety- we must get He-Man out of that jail!"
The crowd cheered wildly, thrusting their signs up high. And the campaign was not just confined to Eternos City Square- all through the nearby streets, there were protesters running around with their signs, fixing up banners, distributing leaflets. The streets of Eternos had never been so crowded before. And outside the jail, a group of protesters hung up a huge banner saying ‘HE-MAN DOES NOT BELONG HERE’, but were forced to take it down by Lawmen. A riot almost started, but the protesters were cleared away by a squad of gun-armed jail guards.
Outside the Court, there were already several protesters- they were actually camping outside, with their sleeping bags and signs. Although several Court guards attempted to force them to leave, they simply would not move, and said there was no chance of them leaving until the court changed its verdict about He-Man.
Protesters could be seen all over the city.
That evening, as the skies darkened and the twin moons of Eternia came into view in the sky, an extra presence joined the city. A terrifying siren sound in the air was followed by the appearance of several evil Rotons and Fright Fighters, darting through the sky and firing energy beams down on the city. Denizens hurried away in panic.
And if the threat of the flying machines wasn’t bad enough- marching towards the city could be seen a whole host of evil warriors, weapons at the ready, led by the Lord of Destruction himself, Skeletor.
"Alert the heroic warriors!" a man called out. Within seconds, the sky machines were met in mid-air by cruising Wind Raiders, Jet Sleds and Battle Rams, as a whole group of heroic warriors marched towards the rest of the evil army.
"ATTACK!" shouted Skeletor, as his minions stampeded through the streets. The streets of Eternos quickly became the least safest place on Eternia, filled with the beat of war as the citizens locked themselves in their homes.
But several unfortunates were quick to regret locking themselves in their homes. For a group of evil warriors- Strongarm, Whiplash, Rattlor, Saurod and Blast-Attak, advanced like zombies towards a row of houses. Strongarm pulled back his mighty metal arm, then he brought it crashing down to the ground. The buildings shook violently, and several walls began to collapse.
A man came rushing out of one of the houses. "Leave my home alone!" he shouted. "What is the point of this?"
"The point is to enable Skeletor to rule Eternia!" hissed Saurod, and shot a burst of sparks from his mouth, sending the man fleeing back into the building.
"That fool will regret staying in his home." laughed Whiplash. "He does not know exactly what we have planned for him!" and the reptile man spun around, then thrust his tail into a wall, which instantly cracked and crumbled to the ground. The band of warriors marched inside the house, and noticing a young woman running for cover, Rattlor leapt towards her, seized her, extended his neck to full length, and took a bite out of her neck. She fell to the ground, blood dripping from her neck, and the man they had seen before ran through the door, shouting "How dare you hurt her! You evil demons- how dare you do this to my house!"
"I think it’s your turn, Blast-Attak!" said Whiplash, and the android moved slowly towards the terrified people, and stood still before them. Quickly, the other evil warriors ran from the scene, and then Blast-Attak ignited auto-destruct mode, blowing the entire building apart, along with the people in it!
The android reformed, in the centre of the ruins, and the evil warriors, around the pile of rubble that had been the house, erupted into a cheer. "One more step towards utter destruction!" said Whiplash.
Across the street, the evil warriors had the upper hand in the battle by far, with Skeletor blasting Rio Blast and Fisto off their feet with his havoc staff, as Blade cut through Snout Spout’s chest with his swords, and Snake Face turned Mekaneck and Stratos to stone.
"Keep fighting, warriors!" shouted Skeletor, "Without He-Man, Eternos will fall to us in no time!"
"I think you might have spoken too soon, Skull face!" came a strong, female voice, and Skeletor looked up to see She-Ra running towards the battle, zapping the stone bodies of Mekaneck and Stratos with her sword, returning them to normal. Behind her were Man-At-Arms, Extendar, and the Sorceress herself.
"Give up, Skeletor!" said the Sorceress. "We know your scheme!"
"What scheme, Sorceress?" laughed Skeletor, firing at her with his staff. She leaped out of the way, as Extendar grew to full height, reaching his arms to the skies and knocking several Rotons and Fright Fighters out of the air, crashing to the ground. She-Ra then rushed towards Skeletor, and said "I have power equal to He-Man’s you know. With me around, it will be as hard for you to conquer Eternia as ever!" With that, she fired a blow from the Sword of Protection at Skeletor, knocking him back. The Sorceress then glided towards him, and fired a bolt of magic at him before he could react. The Lord of Destruction fell to one side, stunned.
"You have to deal with me too….." said a hissing voice, and the Sorceress and She-Ra spun round to see King Hiss, ripping off his fake human skin and revealing his hideous green snake heads beneath. Two of his snake heads spat a deadly poison from their mouths, and hit the Sorceress in the face.
"I’m weakening!" she cried, losing her balance and falling to her knees. "She-Ra- quickly, stop him before he can do anything more!"
She-Ra leaped between the Sorceress and King Hiss. "No-one can harm the Sorceress without dealing with She-Ra first!" she said, holding the Sword of Protection at the ready. King Hiss spat his poison at She-Ra, but she blocked it with the sword and the jewel backfired it on him. He ducked and pulled his false skin back over his head- but it did him no good, as when he was not looking, Rio Blast aimed his lasers at him, delivering five shots in the space of three seconds and knocking King Hiss off the ground and hurling across the street.
Just then, the Sorceress got to her feet, her strength flooding back. "Thanks, She-Ra." she said. But Skeletor was also recovering, and came charging maniacally towards the Sorceress, his red eyes blazing at her- but then he was sent flying back by several bolts of light from the Sorceress’ fingertips, combined with a blow from the Sword of Protection.
"Quickly, Extendar!" the Sorceress shouted, looking up at the gigantic cyborg warrior as he thrust his arms rapidly through the air, sending the evil flying machines retreating in terror. "Help us clear these warriors away!"
"Anything for you, Sorceress!" he replied, and stamped his left foot on the ground, which shook as if there was a planetquake, sending evil warriors darting in all directions.
As they ran, She-Ra fired bolt after bolt at Skeletor- he countered her bolts with the havoc staff, but he was obviously no match for the Princess of Power.
"Our warriors are retreating!" called Evil-Lyn, caught in the grip of Clamp Champ’s capture weapon. She kicked the guardsman in the thigh, and just managed to break free. Rushing towards Skeletor, the evil warrior goddess said "We have no chance at this moment! We must wait for another chance to strike, and launch a surprise attack!"
Skeletor looked around him. His evil warriors were retreating like mad, and only himself, King Hiss, and Evil-Lyn remained. "You are right, Evil-Lyn." he said. "Heroic warriors, I shall leave this place now. But you haven’t heard the last from me!"
Just then, Teela and a group of campaigners arrived on the scene, having heard the chaos of the battle. "Skeletor!" she cried. "What are you doing here?"
"It is obvious, you fool. I am merely making the first steps towards conquering this city. Soon I will rule all Eternia!"
"You villain!" called a man in the crowd. "You can never rule!"
"Why not?" mocked Skeletor. "I couldn’t be any worse than He-Man, could I?"
A silence fell over the army of heroic warriors. Many of them were still unsure of whether or not the murder really had been a trick.
"So just feel glad that He-Man has been jailed….." said Skeletor, "as maybe my doings will be milder than his….. but that is unlikely!" laughing like a maniac, he teleported himself, Hiss and Evil-Lyn back to Snake Mountain.
"We know he must be behind the murder!" said Teela. "If only he could see just how strong my campaign’s going!"
"And he can never rule when we have She-Ra and the Sorceress with us." said Rio Blast."
"Not forgetting Extendar." added Man-At-Arms, as the cyborg shrank to normal size.
"No, Duncan, not forgetting Extendar. Boy, I wish I could grow to that size! Skeletor has no chance!"
"He has still caused a fair amount of damage to the city." said She-Ra. "Just look what happened to that house." she pointed to the rubble of the home which Blast-Attak had blown apart.
Buzz-Off then appeared in the sky overhead. "And a group of his minions also wreaked havoc a few streets away." he said. "They reduced a tower to a mere wreck."
"We must be careful in case Skeletor makes further assaults!" said the Sorceress.
"We’ll be able to do it." said She-Ra. "It’s just that I’m not used to defending Eternia….. I don’t know Skeletor’s warriors as well as I know the Horde. Most of their powers I’ve no idea about. So you never know….. they may just break past me. We’ve gotta get He-Man out of jail, or Eternia could fall to the rule of evil."
"Well, like I said," said Teela, "our campaign’s going pretty well. Hey, it’s almost the twenty-fifth hour. Come on, protesters. Let’s get to the city Court- and any heroic warriors who want to join us, just come along!"
Within the next three quarters of an hour, there was a massive band of protesters outside the city Court. They waved their signs and banners intensely, repeatedly chanting "Let He-Man Out!"
Teela looked across the huge crowd of protesters. She was impressed at how many people she had gathered in such a short space of time. She was convinced the Court would free He-Man now!
There were quite a few heroic warriors amongst the crowd too. Rio and Blastar were there, along with Fisto, Ram Man, Stratos….. even Rotar and the energy zoids were there! She was even more surprised to see the mindless Man-E-Faces amongst the crowd, and even Lizard Man, who was rarely seen in the streets of Eternos - this was going unbelievably well!
And as the doors to the Court slid open, Teela ascended the steps, and presented the long sheets of paper, filled with thousands of names, to Lord Jarik, who emerged from the building.
"What is this?" he asked.
"This is a list of all the people who want He-Man freed from jail. And in case you’re blind, this huge crowd consists of all the people on this list. We all believe He-Man is innocent, and we demand that you release him from jail!"
Jarik skimmed through the list of names. Teela watched, proudly as his eyes opened wide when he saw just how many names were on the list. Then he handed the list back to Teela.
"Well, what do you think?" she said.
Jarik just laughed. "We have already taken campaigns into consideration!" he said, in patronising tones. "Your campaign is useless. Riot as much as you like, but it’s not going to change our decision. As far as we can see, we have the murder filmed, which is downright proof that He-Man is guilty. Now Bye Bye." and with that, he simply shut the door in Teela’s face.
"You bastard!" said Teela, angrily. She turned round, and saw that the angry faces and shouts of the crowd indicated that they much shared her fury.
"Don’t give in!" she called out. "We will find a way to break past these pompous court officials! Just keep fighting- and we’ll have He-Man out of that jail!"
Just then, her wrist-radio began to beep. "Come in." she said.
"Teela, it’s Duncan here." came her father’s voice. "I’m afraid I just saw what happened- the Sorceress and I were watching it on the viewscreen of Castle Grayskull."
"So you’re in Grayskull!" said Teela. "I wondered why I couldn’t see you around here!"
"Yes, I went with the Sorceress, She-Ra and Extendar. We are going to discuss all possibilities for revealing the true identity of the murderer. You keep going with your campaign, Teela. And we will ransack our brains looking for ideas to find the murderer!"
"Great stuff, father!" she said. "I’ll press on! Hope you come up with something."
"And I hope your campaign succeeds in the end! Keep it up! Over and out."
And in Castle Grayskull, Man-At-Arms and the Sorceress returned to the library, where Extendar and She-Ra were discussing what actions to take. "We shall remain here for as long as it takes to find the true killer!" said the Sorceress. "We shall work day and night! We must rest at times, of course, but we must never give up our search for the killer. We will work to get He-Man out of jail- and expose the true killer to Eternia!"
PART 16The jail cell was almost pitch black as the night fell. He-Man peered through the electro-bars over the window. In the light of the twin moons, there was a group of protesters outside, waving their banners and signs saying ‘SET HE-MAN FREE’. And He-Man could hear the shouts of the campaigners from several streets away, echoing through the streets of Eternos. It had been quite a relief to hear that not everyone had turned against him, after all. The jail had an information system, which could be heard even in the prisoners’ cells, and He-Man had heard the announcement earlier about the amount of protesters in the city, headed by none other than Teela.
He shot up, finding himself facing once again the blackness of his jail cell, feeling the rugged, dirty surface beneath him. He was back in his physical body. But it no longer mattered anymore.
Had that experience been real?!!!!! Even if it had only been going on inside his brain, it sure had felt real. And it had elevated his mood immensely. He leaped to his feet. The jail cell no longer felt as uncomfortable as before. His problems no longer felt so threatening. They were still there- but after the experience he had just had, he had enough faith that someone- somewhere- would be able to get him out.
He looked outside onto the street. He saw a banner saying ‘HE-MAN MUST BE FREED’ and smiled. He would be free soon. He was downright sure that he would. He did not know how, or when, or who would get him out- but he knew he would get out of this place.
Feeling refreshed and sheltered, he let himself fall back against the wooden bench of his cell, and fell asleep as his head hit the pillow, his mind totally eased and free from stress and tension.
And he dreamed of Teela.
For several long days and nights, The Sorceress, She-Ra, Extendar and Man-At-Arms searched endlessly for the evil being who had framed He-Man. Man-At-Arms spent long hours in the Grayskull Library, looking through all kinds of ancient books to find out if there was any kind of ancient magic that could have created an evil He-Man. The Sorceress constantly tapped into her mind to try to visualise the killer….. but the image became no clearer. She even took off in the form of Zoar, and scanned the surface of the planet for any sign of anyone who could possibly be the true killer. But she found nothing. Extendar and She-Ra ventured out across the planet, secretly spying on Snake Mountain and Viper Tower….. but they saw nothing that offered them proof. On several occasions they were called back to Eternos to help defend the city against attacks by Skeletor’s warriors. They could not help but fear that without He-Man, the planet could soon fall to the rule of evil.
As evening fell one night, after just over a week of searching for the killer, Extendar and She-Ra returned to Grayskull, meeting the Sorceress and Man-At-Arms in the library.
"How did you go?" asked Man-At-Arms, looking up from his book.
"Well, we managed to fend them off." said She-Ra. "But they have damaged more of the city. Several buildings are completely in ruins, and there were bodies scattered all through one street. I fear that they may take over the planet soon. I believe Skeletor intends to use the Arcology as a base when he has conquered the city."
"And they’re still denying anything to do with the killing?" asked Man-At-Arms.
"I’m afraid so. And there still seems to be a fair amount of people who actually believe the evil warriors weren’t involved."
"How’s Teela’s campaign going?"
"It’s still pretty strong. The protesters have been going wild in the square, outside the prison, and outside the Court. But the Law have clearly made up their minds- they have no intention of even considering releasing He-Man."
"We’ve gotta get him out soon, or this planet’s gonna blow." said Extendar. "But how are we gonna do it? We’ve been here over a week and found nothing."
"We must not give up our search, Extendar." said the Sorceress. "However difficult it may be, if we set our hearts on finding the true killer, we have a much greater chance of freeing He-Man."
"Did you do what I asked you to, Extendar?" asked Man-At-Arms. "Did you go to the palace and get my battle log?"
"What? Oh yeah, I did." Extendar opened up a slit in the chest of his cyborg body, and pulled out a small book, full of entries by Man-At-Arms. It was Man-At-Arms’ battle log, in which he recorded every single battle that he or He-Man had ever had. Extendar handed the book to Man-At-Arms. "But why did you want me to bring this, Duncan?"
"It’s so I can look and see if there’s anything that’ll give us an idea about the real killer. There may have been some one-off villain who we’ve forgotten about, who’s pulled this scheme up on us. I’ve recorded every battle we’ve had since the start here, so it could take me a while to read the whole thing. You can continue your own searches while I read through this."
"Sure thing, Duncan." said Extendar. "I might as well read the books of the ancients and see what I can find." he went over to the ancient stone bookcase, pulled out a dusty old book, and sat down with it on the couch. She-Ra sat by him and looked through it with him, as the Sorceress sat still, deep in meditation.
After a few moments of silence, the Sorceress suddenly shot up to her feet, as if in shock.
"What’s up, Sorceress?" asked Extendar.
"I thought I almost had a clear vision of the killer. It was clear for a split second, then it faded again."
"Then give it another go!" said Extendar. "You could be on your way to getting a clear image! I wish I could meditate like you, it sounds a great experience!"
"Anyone can learn to meditate." replied the Sorceress. "Last week I had this vision of hovering above the jail, and seeing He-Man breaking through the roof. I hope there was some reality in the vision I saw."
"Maybe there was." said She-Ra. "I was talking to Teela when I was in Eternos. She said that she’d heard a guard at the jail, saying that He-Man had been talking nonsense about having some vision of the Sorceress above the jail. Who knows….."
The Sorceress smiled in excitement. Their meditatory visions must have joined, for that second! She must have made He-Man feel a lot better!
"Then I shall continue." said the Sorceress, sitting down again. "Maybe I could get right through to him through meditation." she closed her eyes, and crossed her legs, sinking back into the depths of her mind.
"So, how’s things at the palace, Extendar?" Man-At-Arms asked, as he flicked through the pages of his battle log, without looking up. "I haven’t been there for more than a week."
"The Royal Family are coping okay." said Extendar. "I think Queen Marlena’s pretty worried….. I know she’s always known secretly that Adam is really He-Man. She knows it’s her son who everyone’s calling a murderer. I get the idea she’s gonna speak out about He-Man being Adam if he’s in that jail much longer- that’s another thing I’m worried about, she might blow his secret identity."
"Then we must not give up our search for the killer." said Duncan. "If I continue reading this….. wait a second, what is this….."
"What’s up, Duncan?" asked She-Ra. "Have you found something?"
"I think I have!" said Duncan. "This is one of the first battles we ever had….. The Shaping Staff! Skeletor created an evil He-Man, called Faker!"
The Sorceress suddenly looked up, jerking into action again. "Faker! Of course! He lured me out of Grayskull, pretending he was He-Man!"
"I think He-Man has mentioned him to me!" said She-Ra. "Wasn’t he knocked down the abyss?"
"He was, but he definitely came back." said Extendar. "I was looking for him three years ago, in the village of Marxall. He killed two fishermen there!"
"Yes," said Man-At-Arms, "He-Man knocked him down the abyss after a brief battle….. but he did come back, let me find the date!" he flicked rapidly through the pages of his journal, eventually stopping and saying "Aha! Here’s where he came back! I wasn’t present to see him this time….. but the Sorceress was!"
"Yes, I was." replied the Sorceress. "He tricked me again into thinking he was He-Man, and attacked me in the night. And then I tricked him," she smiled at the memory, "he thought I was totally helpless, and then I just jumped up and….. kicked his butt!" she laughed out loud.
"Now, that’s strong language coming from you, Sorceress!" laughed She-Ra.
"I totally fooled him!" the Sorceress laughed. "And together with He-Man, I defeated him….. but when did he come back?"
"Well, it says here that you turned his skin blue after he was defeated." said Man-At-Arms. "And if I remember correctly….." he flicked through more and more pages, "Yes, it was a year later that he invaded Marxall! Here it is! At one point he leaped upon me in one of the streets! That definitely was a memorable battle….. especially the way He-Man defeated him, casting him adrift in a wooden boat!"
"Yeah, I remember that!" said Extendar. "The guy was a real psycho, I remember….. totally mad for revenge on He-Man, but He-Man seemed to kick his butt within seconds. But cast adrift at sea in a wooden boat? Has he been seen since?"
Man-At-Arms flicked through more and more pages. "I can’t find any other reference to him. No, that was the last we saw of him."
"Then he can’t have survived, can he?" said Extendar. "I mean, he was unconscious, and adrift on the sea in a simple, small wooden boat? He couldn’t survive that!"
"He could." said the Sorceress. "He survived two years in the abyss before he made his first return. He was almost as strong as He-Man, so I think that if he survived the abyss, he could easily survive at sea. However unlikely, it is still possible."
"But….." said Man-At-Arms. "He was blue then. He may have been an exact replica of He-Man when he was created, but at this point his skin was completely blue….. and I don’t see how he could have restored it. I’m not entirely sure about this….."
The warriors sat silently, considering the thought. Then Extendar said "No, it can’t be Faker. If he wanted revenge, he’d have come back long before now anyway. No, it’s not him. Let’s continue our search."
The next morning, as Teela dressed herself after showering, staring at the reflection of her slick, beautiful form in the steamy mirror, the sole thing on her mind was He-Man and the strength of her campaign. She was still sickened by the thought of him in jail, and the way the Court and Lawmen had snubbed her campaign so far. Attacks by the evil warriors had demolished more and more of Eternos in the last few days, and she was worried that the planet would soon fall to the forces of evil. She could not understand why the Court was so convinced He-Man was guilty, when it was so blatantly obvious that it was the work of Skeletor. It could not be coincidental that virtually the moment He-Man had been sentenced to jail, the evil warriors had started attacking the city. She would make sure the campaign strengthened more and more, until she could finally get He-Man out. The protesters were due to make a large appeal in the city square tomorrow night, so hopefully by then, the Court would have seen more sense.
She unlocked the door of the washroom, and as she stepped out, she saw Sy-Klone crossing the hall.
"Sy-Klone! What are you doing here?" she asked.
"I just came to see how things were going." the cyborg replied. "You know, I felt great when Adora came here. I really like her."
"Yeah, I know you do." said Teela. "No need to tell me all that again. But you know she loves the Sea Hawk, don’t you?"
"Yeah, I do." said Sy-Klone. "But she’s a really nice girl, anyway. What I was gonna say is that I’m pretty disappointed that she’s nowhere to be seen. I only saw her for a few split seconds, then she was gone."
"Marlena says she’s gone off to see more of Eternia. You’ve gotta remember, the poor girl was brought up by the Horde, who brainwashed her and turned her evil for twenty years. She wants to see what life on Eternia would have been like if the Horde hadn’t captured her. But I know how you feel, I’m missing her too- we usually get on pretty well. And I thought she’d at least stay and help the campaign."
"Yeah, well let’s just hope she comes back soon."
"I’d better go for breakfast." said Teela. "I’ve gotta be quick, I’m meeting some protesters in the city in half an hour. We’ve gotta get He-Man out of jail- haven’t we, Sy-Klone?!"
"Ah, come on Teela, it’s not entirely my fault he was put in jail." Sy-Klone said. "I still don’t reckon Skeletor was involved."
"Then you shouldn’t have made it sound like you were sticking up for him."
"I didn’t! Well, I didn’t mean to, anyway. But I’m fighting to get He-Man out as much as you are. I still think he’s innocent."
"Oh yeah? Well, I haven’t seen you amongst the campaigners at any time!"
"Er….. well….. alright, I’ll come and help you today."
"Alright then." said Teela. "See you then." she turned away from him and made her way down the corridor.
"Wait up, Teela!" called Sy-Klone, whooshing down the corridor towards her, at super-speed. "You needn’t be in a mood with me. I’m sorry if you do think I got He-Man in jail, but….. I’ll make up for it. I’ll help you today. Come on, Teela, you gotta forgive me."
She turned and looked him in the eye, at first firmly, but then her expression softened. "Alright then, I’ll forgive you….. for now, anyway. But you’ve gotta prove you’re honest about helping me. If you vanish after five minutes, I’m not gonna be too pleased."
"I won’t. Don’t worry. Come on, I’ll join you for breakfast."
Teela and Sy-Klone made their way down the corridors, and took the lift down to the dining hall. Marlena and Randor were already there, and Orko was hovering above the table, practising tricks.
"Good morning, Teela." said Randor. "And Sy-Klone? I didn’t expect to see you here."
"I just came to see how Adora was." he said, as he and Teela sat down at the table. "But once again, she’s not here."
"I’m also rather disappointed at how she’s hardly spent any time with us." said Randor. "She always makes good company."
"You needn’t worry, Randor." said Marlena. "She just wants to see more of Eternia. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’s gone to look for Adam. He is her brother, after all."
"You shouldn’t worry." said Orko, above the table. "She’s just gone to find out more about the planet. Much how I felt, after I’d just come down from Trolla!"
The Chef arrived at that moment, laying plates of food before everyone at the table. Teela thought for a second that she saw Marlena wink at Orko, but she could not be sure.
"I understand that your campaign is working very well." said Randor to Teela.
"It’s going fine, but we’re still not convincing the Court. We’re making an appeal in the square tomorrow evening. Let’s hope for the best- maybe the Court won’t just snub us next time."
Marlena’s expression fell glum as the subject of He-Man’s imprisonment was brought up. Noticing her sudden change of mood, Randor turned to her and said "Why do you feel so uncomfortable talking about it, dear? We’re all distressed at the thought of He-Man in jail, but Teela’s doing her best to get him out. And over at Grayskull, Duncan and the Sorceress are doing their best to find the real murderer."
"I know that." said Marlena. "It’s just….. you don’t understand. There’s something else I feel I need to speak up about, and….. I’m just unable to."
"You can tell me." said Randor.
"I….. I don’t think I can tell anyone. Please don’t ask me to say more."
Teela, Randor and Sy-Klone looked at Marlena curiously. What could it be that she felt she had to speak up about, but could not?
"It’s okay, Queen Marlena!" said Orko, "I think I know what you mean. You can talk to me about it if you want." He turned to address the others. "It’s best to keep it private," the magician said, "so let’s not ask her too much!"
"If that be the case, then let us switch our conversation to other matters." said King Randor.
So for the rest of their meal, they excluded the topic of He-Man in jail, but Marlena still looked troubled. What could be bugging her so heavily?, Teela thought. But whatever it was, it was obviously none of her business. So she decided to mind her own, and as she finished her meal, she set out to conduct her own business. "I’m going to meet the protesters now." she said, rising to her feet. "Coming, Sy-Klone?"
"Sure am." the cyborg replied, arising and joining Teela.
"Good luck in your campaign, Teela!" said King Randor. "May the Court see the light!"
"Thanks very much, your highness. Now come on- we’ve no time to lose!"
Teela and Sy-Klone set out of the palace grounds, and into the streets of Eternos. They saw that there were already several bands of protesters scattered around the streets. When the people saw Teela, they instantly rushed over to the great fountain of the city, and assembled around it. Teela and Sy-Klone went over to them.
"Good to see you all assembled here!" said Teela. "Today we have Sy-Klone to help us, and we hope that more people will join our campaign later on. Ram Man is currently patrolling the city, looking for extra names to add to the list of protesters. Now we must remember that we are making a full appeal in Eternos City Square tomorrow night. Absolutely no-one whose name is on the list should be absent from it! And we must continue working to convince the Court of He-Man’s innocence!"
Blastar raised his hand. "Rio and I are still trying to talk to the law chief about it." he said. "He still shows no sign of changing his mind, but we won’t give up."
"Then keep working at it!" said Teela. "The harder we work, the more chance we have of getting He-Man free! Now let’s get distributing our leaflets around the city!"
The crowd of protesters instantly moved apart, walking through the streets, handing out leaflets to passers-by.
One young man stood outside the doorway of a café, handing leaflets to every person who emerged. Several people just ignored him, and others instantly went off and binned the leaflets- but at least he was getting the word across.
Two hooded men, wearing long, dark robes, emerged from the café door. They instantly looked suspicious. One of them said, in a strange hoarse voice, "I’ll take a leaflet, please….."
"Er, alright….. go on."
The strange man reached out, very slowly, to take a leaflet. His sleeves were so long that his hands could not be seen. The young men felt uneasy as the robed man reached forward….. and his anxiety turned to terror when he saw that it was not a hand emerging from the sleeve….. but a HOOK.
He jerked back in fright, as the strange man’s robe fell to the ground….. revealing his gruesome form, with tight black armour and a long mane of white hair….. he was Skeletor’s general, Karg.
"Quick, Whiplash- destroy him!" ordered Karg, as green scaly hands emerged from the other man’s robe, ripping away his veil, revealing the scaly reptilian form of Whiplash. Before the young man could move, Whiplash coiled his tail around him, and repeatedly smashed the young man on the ground, causing the ground to shake violently! Every head in the street turned as the young man cried out in pain.
Teela and Sy-Klone saw what was happening. "Quick!" cried Teela. "It’s Karg and Whiplash- we must stop them!" They rushed towards the evil warriors, as the people scattered throughout the street in terror at the sight of them.
Sy-Klone leaped into the air, and began to spin at super speed. He spun so fast that he was merely a blur….. and charged towards Whiplash, knocking him back and causing him to drop the man. Rio and Blastar then arrived on the scene, and lifted the body of the injured man, laying him out on a bench. Then they turned to Karg and Whiplash, and Rio said "Okay Hombres. You’re under arrest!"
He opened up all his laser cavities, and fired bolt after bolt at the warriors….. but Whiplash was more than a match for them, his powerful body feeling little pain as he spiralled towards Rio, smashing him back with his tail as he advanced upon him. "You fools stand no chance!" he laughed.
Sy-Klone spun around rapidly, and rose into the air. Then he suddenly dropped down, on top of Whiplash, and gripped the reptilian warrior by the neck. "Okay, Teela, I’ve got hold of this guy!" he said, as Whiplash struggled. "You take care of the white-haired thing!"
"No problem!" said Teela, leaping towards Karg with a high kick. He rose his hook into the air as if to fire a bolt at her, but she gripped hold of it in mid-air, and twisted his arm back as she descended. Then she gripped hold of his neck, and called to Rio as he picked himself up. "Rio! Blastar! We’ve got hold of these guys, you can arrest them!"
"Oh no you can’t….." hissed Karg, "You are unaware who else we brought with us!"
And as Teela looked up, there came a massive explosion from inside the café. The loud bang caused Teela and Sy-Klone to drop their enemies, who ran for cover, and the whole building was reduced to rubble within seconds. In the centre of the rubble, pieces of metal began to pull themselves together, forming the shape of Blast-Attak.
And before they could take action, a shadow fell over the street, blocking out the sun. Teela looked up, to see Comtech in his computerised flying machine. He fired a beam of electrical energy down on a row of shops, and they exploded in a burst of lightning.
"More destruction caused to your precious city!" laughed Whiplash. "Soon Skeletor will take over!" And before the heroic warriors could act, several metal arms emerged from Comtech’s machine, and gripped hold of Karg, Whiplash and Blast-Attak, pulling them inside with Comtech. Then the vehicle jetted off back to Snake Mountain.
Teela and Sy-Klone shook their heads as they observed the damage that had been done to the buildings. What further destruction would the evil warriors cause, with the absence of He-Man?
"We must set about clearing up the damage immediately." said Teela. "Come on Sy-Klone, we must clear away this rubble."
Throughout the rest of the day, all that could be seen in the street was heroic warriors carrying away the corpses of people who had been unfortunate enough to be inside the buildings when they had exploded. Friends of the deceased sat nearby the remains of the buildings, in mourning. It was a tragic sight, and many could not help but feel that evil was finally taking over.
As night fell, an eerie silence fell over the street, as a cloud of lightning formed in mid-air, and spread out to reveal the gruesome image of Skeletor, projected by his holosphere.
"People of Eternia" he spoke, "the war is coming to an end. All this time, you have believed that He-Man is your hero. Your savior. Your source of justice. You always believed that he would save you from me. But instead- he has only caused the downfall of this planet. By betraying you all, and committing murder, he has been rightfully jailed. And this leaves the way open for the rule of Skeletor! Stand by, citizens….. for before long, you shall be kneeling at my feet."
The image faded into the night sky.
"This planet’s gonna fall to Skeletor soon." said one man. "I know it! But He-Man is not evil!!! We need He-Man back, urgently!!!"
"We do indeed." answered Teela. "We know he was framed for that murder. Yet the Court still refuses to believe us. Tomorrow, when we make our appeal in the Square, we must hope that they will see the light, and realise that this planet risks falling to evil if He-Man is not released. We must pray that things work out for the best!" she raised her hands into the sky, and uttered a prayer. "May someone, something, anywhere in the universe, please help us! May they reveal the identity of the true killer, and help us to free He-Man from that jail! We need the help of the greatest gods in the universe- to enable us to FREE HE-MAN!!!!!"
And far, far above them, in the peak of the night sky, was a faint silhouette in the light of the moon. It was the silhouette of a man sitting in a hovering grey metal chair, totally unseen by the people below. He wore a red metal mask, with large, dark eyes, looking solemnly down on the streets of Eternos.
"Yes." he said quietly. "I will help."
Over the giant stone structure of Castle Grayskull, a bright yellow light appeared in the evening sky. It spread out, and poured down over the castle, illuminating it brightly in the darkness.
The light seeped in through the windows of the castle, just as Duncan, She-Ra, the Sorceress and Extendar emerged from the library.
"Well, the Grayskull Library is no good." said She-Ra. "It doesn’t have anything good in it! Or at least nothing that can help us. Hey wait- what’s that light?"
The yellow glow was filling the corridor, spreading over the ancient walls of the castle. The Sorceress smiled as the glow spread out. "I think we could be about to receive the help we have longed for."
In through the window, sitting in his hovering chair, flew Zodac, the cosmic enforcer. He flew into the middle of the corridor, and landed before the warriors, as the bright yellow glow slowly faded, as the room once again slipped into darkness.
"Greetings." he said solemnly.
The Sorceress stepped forward to him. "Greetings, Zodac." she said gently. "What has brought you to Grayskull, cosmic enforcer?"
"As you all know, the balance of good and evil has been slowly tipping….. in favor of evil. It is my task to put a stop to this. I must free He-Man from jail- and I know the identity of the killer."
"You know who the killer is?" said Extendar. "That’s great! Who is it?"
"Patience, my friend." said Zodac. "Before I allow the killer to be revealed, I must bring forth those whom I have been conversing with. Possibly the wisest spiritual beings in the universe- the Elders of Eternia."
The heroic warriors watched in amazement as Zodac spread out his arms, and out of the shadows emerged a huge group of transparent spirits, mostly elderly men, dressed in robes, glowing with white auras. They were the spirits of the Elders of Eternia, who lived in the shadows of Grayskull, and only emerged at times of extreme importance.
One of the spirits stepped forth. He was similar to the others- elderly, with a white beard- but he was also muscular, as if he had been a warrior in life.
"Greetings, defenders of Eternia." he said. "I am He-Ro- the most powerful wizard in the universe."
The warriors gasped in amazement. "He-Ro!" exclaimed She-Ra. "Is it really you?!"
"Yes, it is I." replied He-Ro. "I who freed Eternia from the rule of the Snake Men, thousands of years ago. The legends of the time foretold that a man named He-Man would come to defend Eternia, on the world’s blackest day. Now He-Man has defended Eternia for six years. I have helped him once before when he was in great danger, and now that he has been jailed for a murder he did not commit- I shall not allow this great legendary hero to succumb to such a fate. Together with the Elders of Eternia, I have looked into the sphere of truth. It is this sacred object which has shown us the identity of the true murderer."
He-Ro held out his hand, and a glowing sphere appeared in mid-air, and floated downwards, landing in the palm of his hand.
"Now watch," he said, "and the truth shall be revealed."
The sphere began to glow brightly, then it emitted an image of Lord Marlach standing outside the entrance to the Eternos Arcology, after opening the building. Then came the same sight that had been seen on the tape- He-Man walking towards Lord Marlach, pulling out his sword, and stabbing him to death brutally, before leaving the scene. But then, the image followed He-Man as he left the scene of the crime. It showed him walking down several streets, before he reached a small, secluded side street. A shadow fell over him, and a large vehicle descended before him. It was an evil Fright Fighter! Then He-Man crossed his sword along his body, and his skin turned blue. Skeletor was beamed down from the Fright Fighter, and he said "Excellent work, Faker! Now we have won! We have finally destroyed He-Man! Now he will be seen as nothing but a cold-blooded murderer!!!!!! At long last, we stand triumphant!"
The image faded. The heroic warriors felt triumphant- at last they knew who the killer was. They also felt a sense of frustration, having rejected the idea of him being the killer a few days earlier. "So the killer is indeed Faker!" said the Sorceress.
"And to think we disregarded that possibility!" said Man-At-Arms. "It still baffles me how he could still be alive- but thank you, He-Ro, for revealing the truth! Without you, Eternia would be completely lost!"
"It is my pleasure, Man-At-Arms." replied He-Ro. "I saved Eternia thousands of years ago, so I am more than happy to help to save it today. Now you must go to Snake Mountain, and find Faker."
"Thank you, He-Ro!" said the Sorceress. "And thank you Elders of Eternia." then she turned to Zodac. "And thank you too, Zodac. Now we can expose the killer, and free He-Man!"
"We all wish you good luck." said He-Ro, and a huge flash surrounded him, the Elders and Zodac, and engulfed the corridor. The warriors shielded their eyes, and then the light died down, and Zodac, the Elders and He-Ro were gone.
"We must get to Snake Mountain right away, and find Faker!" said Extendar. "Come on- let’s charge upon that place!"
"I’m not sure that’s a good idea." said She-Ra. "If the evil warriors saw us approaching, they would instantly be prepared, and they would outnumber us. We would not stand a chance. They would also be able to hide Faker before we could find him. We would be better to try a more subtle approach."
"You’re right, She-Ra." said Man-At-Arms. "But what other way is there?"
"We could try going underground." said She-Ra. "But it would be hard….. it may be impossible for us to make our way there by going underground."
"No it would not, She-Ra." said the Sorceress. "Going underground is actually a very good choice. For there is a way that we can get to Snake Mountain underground. We must travel through a place where Duncan, Extendar, and I, have been before. We must travel through Karg’s Underworld."
Using Sky Sleds from the vehicle bay of Castle Grayskull, Man-At-Arms, She-Ra, and Extendar flew down into the abyss of Grayskull, followed by The Sorceress, in the form of Zoar. They piloted the sleds down vertically, until Zoar called a halt and beamed a message to them telepathically.
"Before us is the part of the rock that Karg used to drill a hole between his caverns and Grayskull, in our dangerous adventure in the caverns! He-Man used his sword to seal the hole once the battle was won- but I can use my magic to open it up again!"
She reached out her right wing, and fired a bolt of magic towards the rock. Slowly, a hole began to form in the rock face, revealing a dark tunnel, leading through to the underground world.
"Programme the Sleds to return to the castle." said Zoar. Each of the warriors programmed their Sleds to return, then they leaped through the hole before them as the Sleds automatically flew back to the castle.
The heroic warriors now found themselves in a dark underground world, made up of many dark, rocky caverns.
"The Underworld of the Skar-vins." remarked Man-At-Arms. "Just as I remember it."
"So let’s get this straight." said She-Ra. "Karg’s the evil warrior with white hair and a hook for a hand, isn’t he?"BR> "Yes." replied the Sorceress, resuming her human form. "He is one of Skeletor’s most important warriors. And he is one of the Skar-vins, a race of strange creatures who live in this underground world. It was here that we had one of our most dangerous battles ever- when Karg retrieved the doom crystal for Skeletor. Its evil power was so great that it almost destroyed us. This was also the occasion when He-Ro helped us previously- it was only with his help that we got away."
"We’d better be on our guard then." said She-Ra. "If these Skar-vins nearly destroyed you before, they could be quite likely to try again."
"We have nothing to fear from the Skar-vins anymore." said the Sorceress. "They were a threat to the masters of the universe- but following their defeat in the battle, their emperor chose to make peace with us. They may be evil, but they are a lot wiser than other evil creatures, for they realised that peace was the best solution when they could not defeat their enemies. They are more likely to help us than destroy us."
They walked on, until they came across a huge cavern, glowing with radiant blue light from the fungus on the walls.
"This is the cavern where Skeletor unleashed the Doom Crystal upon us!" said the Sorceress. "I recognise it!"
"And I recognise you." came a deep voice. The warriors looked around to see a tall Skar-vin man, resembling Karg in appearance. He had the same kind of thick, white hair, but he was dressed in long robes with a gold chain around his neck. It was Varlon, the emperor of the Skar-vins underworld.
As Varlon walked towards them, the Sorceress said "I remember you. Your name’s Varlon, and you’re the Skar-vins’ Emperor!"
"I am indeed, Sorceress of Grayskull." he replied. "But what brings you down into our underworld again? I hope it is not an attack, since if you remember, we agreed to make peace."
"Don’t worry." she replied. "We are simply using your underworld as a means of getting to Snake Mountain. Skeletor framed He-Man for a murder by using an evil version of He-Man called Faker, and we must get into Snake Mountain so we can capture Faker and prove He-Man’s innocence! We thought it better to travel through your caverns, since a direct assault on Snake Mountain would only allow Skeletor to prepare to fight us, and fend us off!"
"I understand." replied Varlon. "And I am happy to help you get to Snake Mountain. But I must warn you- it could take some time."
"That doesn’t matter!" said Extendar. "All that matters is that we get there, so we can get hold of Faker!"
"Alright then." said Varlon. "Follow me, and I shall lead you there."
Varlon led the heroic warriors through several caverns illuminated by blue fungus. Bats and strange creatures flew overhead. Eventually they reached one cavern where there was a whole set of Skar-vin homes, built into the rock, over the running underground streams and rivers below. There were strange-looking Skar-vins all over the place- and a commotion began when they noticed the heroic warriors. There came cries of "Look! Heroic Warriors!" "The Overground heroes have returned!"
"Do not worry." called Varlon. "They are merely passing through our world. I am simply escorting them to Snake Mountain. Please allow us safely past."
The Skar-vins cleared a space in the center of the cavern, so that Varlon and the heroic warriors could pass through.
As they passed through several caverns full of Skar-vins, She-Ra said "There sure are a lot of them."
"Indeed." replied Varlon. "Our underworld is a busy place, but completely separate from the world above. We have advanced our technology greatly in recent years."
"How have you been doing with your technology since the battle?" asked Man-At-Arms.
"Still advancing," replied Varlon, "but using only the resources that are available in our underworld. So we are no longer making giant drilling machines- just simple tools, weapons and devices from the ores found in the various types of rock. Our technology can never be advanced as we planned at the time of our battle- but this no longer matters to us, for we have accepted it. Neither do we have any involvement with the upper world- the jail has been dismantled, and we definitely do not steal from your laboratory any more."
"I’m pleased to see you have seen the error of your evil ways."
"Well, our traditional enemies have always been the humans, right back to the earliest days of our race. So we could never be true allies with humans, and many of us would sooner pledge ourselves to Skeletor- but we have accepted that greed and thirst for power is not the way of nature, and that we must make do with what we have got."
"If only all evil warriors had your sense!" said Extendar.
"Many evil beings are nothing if not power hungry." said Varlon. "And let me be honest, I did not like Skeletor that much either. I am just hoping that our long lost brother Karg will soon leave him and return to our home."
"Well, soon we hope to crush Skeletor’s forces so Eternia can be free again." said Man-At-Arms. "But we can not do that without He-Man- so we must move on, to find the real killer!"
Varlon led them through more and more dark caverns, over underground streams and rivers, as underground bats flapped past and water serpents slithered below. The journey was long and tiring, so they had to stop from time to time for rest. At one point, they sat on some smooth rocks at the side of a cavern.
"It should not be long now." Varlon said. "We are nearing Snake Mountain."
She-Ra turned and whispered to the Sorceress. "You don’t think he’s leading us into a trap, do you?"
"I do not sense any falsehood in his tones." whispered the Sorceress. "The Skar-vins are respectable by comparison with other evil races, and nevertheless, if he is we are capable of beating them. Since the destruction of the Doom Crystal, the Skar-vins have possessed fairly little power."
Man-At-Arms was engaging in conversation with Varlon. "So are you going to work on some kind of transport system in these caverns?"
"Well, it is rare that any Skar-vin will go as far as Snake Mountain, we really have no business there. And of course, if there was some kind of transport system in these parts, Skeletor would probably try to use it to enslave us all. So we have no intention to build up these particular caverns- but in the more densely populated ones, we hope to develop some kind of vehicle. Our scientists are working on it."
"And to think I was nearly killed down here." said Man-At-Arms. "But nevertheless, you have left those ways behind now. I must thank you for your help. But we must move on- we have to find Faker as soon as possible!"
Man-At-Arms got to his feet. The others arose after him, and together they made their way out of the cavern, and progressed through the dark underworld in the direction of Snake Mountain.
Eventually, after passing through several rocky tunnels, Varlon came to a halt. A rocky, steep tunnel led upwards. "Here we are." he said. "We are directly beneath Snake Mountain! That tunnel leads right to the caverns under the mountain! From here you can make your way upwards, to find he whom you seek."
"Thank you for your help, Varlon!" said the Sorceress, shaking his hand. "If we manage to free He-Man, you will be one of our most important aids!"
"My pleasure, Sorceress." replied Varlon. "And good luck!"
The heroic warriors bade farewell to Varlon, and made their way upwards through the steep tunnel. As they emerged, into the pitch black caverns beneath Snake Mountain, The Sorceress called "Be careful! Unlike in the Skar-vins caverns, here we have no glowing fungus to light our way! We must watch our step!"
She-Ra took out her sword of protection, and the gem in the center lit up. "This should do it!" she said, as the light from the crystal illuminated the cavern. "Now let’s make our way up! It shouldn’t be too hard. Karg’s Underworld was pretty easy!"
"Yes, Karg’s Underworld was easy….." came a hissing, reptilian voice, "so let’s see how you fare against Whiplash’s Underworld!!!"
And before the warriors could respond, She-Ra found herself caught in the grip of a scaly, reptilian tail, which smashed upon the rocky ground heavily. They had entered the territory of one of Skeletor’s most dangerous warriors- Whiplash.
Moments later, the heroic warriors were inside the dark, foreboding underground lair of Whiplash. The fires burned with intensity, and evil demons were scattered around all sides of the cavern, hissing and spitting poison, their eyes shining in the darkness.
She-Ra was caught tight in Whiplash’s tail. He smashed her on the ground violently, before letting her drop, bruised and half-dazed.
"You made a mistake passing through here!" he laughed, his reptilian fangs dripping blood, which trickled down his scaly, dark green skin. "No doubt you fools have come to find out what connection we have with the murder, haven’t you? Well you shall find out nothing- not when my pets have dealt with you!"
A slimy, serpent-like demon with glowing eyes shot out from a wall, and coiled itself round Man-At-Arms. "Hold on, Duncan!" the Sorceress called. "I can deal with this creature!" she held out her arm, but before she could fire, found herself caught by the grip of a huge green demon, appearing from nowhere and grasping her in its grotesque, yellow claws.
"I’ll save you, Sorceress!" shouted Extendar, and shot out his arms and torso to reach her. But the head of a red, dragon-like demon emerged from the wall, spitting poison into his eyes, then reaching out its claws and striking a blow. He fell heavily to the ground.
"Now to bring Kraal my latest victims!" laughed Whiplash. He picked up the body of She-Ra, and carried her past the flames, up the steps which led to the portal to the Realm of demons.
"You fiend!" shouted She-Ra. "What are you doing here anyway?!!"
"I had better explain myself, Princess of Power." He hissed. "I am Whiplash, servant of Skeletor. Here in my lair, I keep all my deadly pets from the Realm of Demons. When I capture someone above ground, I take them here, and deliver them to Kraal, Ruler of the Realm of Demons. He is one of the most dangerous Gods in the universe, and makes short work of my victims once I have delivered them to him. Sometimes I kill them myself- in which case I simply leave them here, so my demons can eat their flesh." he looked over menacingly at a heap of decaying skulls and bones, in the darkness close to the steps. "And since you are still alive, She-Ra, I shall deliver you to Kraal! He shall be impressed with my capture of the most powerful woman in the universe! Maybe if you are lucky, he will even spare you and make you his servant!"
"You can never pass me to the Realm of Demons!" She-Ra said, struggling to get free.
"I am afraid there is no escaping me!" laughed Whiplash, and shouted "Kraal! I bring you a most dignified victim!"
In the light of the portal materialised the evil face of Kraal, God of all Demons, his fangs dripping blood, his eyes blazing with fire.
"Kraal, this is She-Ra, the Princess of Power herself! It is my pleasure to deliver her to you!"
"Excellent work, Whiplash." Replied the deep voice of Kraal. "She shall be the next to face the wrath of Kraal! Pass her through the portal, to the dimension of her doom!"
At the other side of the cavern, the Sorceress struggled to get free from the grasp of the great demon. It looked all set and ready to devour her. But at the top of the steps, Whiplash was about to deliver She-Ra to the Realm of Demons and his God Kraal- she had to stop him!
As she struggled, she kicked the demon in the right eye, and it screamed aloud and loosened its grip on her. "She-Ra!" she called, and fired a bolt from her right hand, hitting Whiplash on the back. He stumbled back, loosening his grip on She-Ra. He looked round, and laughed. "You think you can stop me this easily, Sorceress? You are sorely mistaken! Your beloved Princess is set to meet her doom- at the hands of my almighty God!"
"She-Ra!" the Sorceress called. "Your sword! Use it! It can react against Kraal’s magic!"
Struggling her arms free from the demon’s grasp, the Sorceress gripped tight hold of her head, and concentrated on her mind power. She had to transmit as much of her power as possible into the sword! She-Ra’s power, combined with that of the sword and the Sorceress, could put an end to Whiplash’s scheme!
Whiplash passed She-Ra towards the portal, which began to suck her in. All that She-Ra could see was the demonic face of Kraal, blazing fire into her eyes. But she felt a pulsating feeling on her back. It had to be the sword! Kicking violently, she reached her arms free from Whiplash’s grasp, and pulled out her sword, which was glowing intensely.
"Your sword can not help you in this case!" laughed Whiplash as She-Ra was sucked closer to the portal.
"That’s….. what….. you….. think!!!!!" said She-Ra, transmitting all her mental power into the sword. The jewel began to glow bright red. And she thrust it towards Kraal’s mouth! As the energy from the sword reacted with the energy of Kraal, a huge explosion emitted from the portal, and Whiplash fell back heavily, right down the steps, and She-Ra tumbled to the ground! The face of Kraal was blocked out by the intense flames roaring from the portal. She-Ra’s sword had been too powerful for Kraal to handle, which had caused the explosion! Before she could be engulfed by the flames, She-Ra leaped up and rushed down the steps, over the fallen body of Whiplash, towards her friends. The evil demons scattered about the cavern in terror at the sight of the fire, and the Sorceress, Extendar and Man-At-Arms broke free.
"Quickly- we must escape before the fire gets us!" shouted She-Ra, and together, the four warriors began to run from the cavern, as the flames grew larger and larger.
"Kraal! Hold the fire back!" shouted Whiplash as the heroic warriors fled. But the cavern suddenly went up in a huge burst of flames, and Whiplash ran for his life, collapsing to the ground helplessly a few metres from the cavern- safe from the fire, but badly injured and worn out.
The heroic warriors ran intensely through several caverns, before stopping to gasp for breath. They panted hurriedly as they recovered from the shock of the fire.
"I think we’re safe from Whiplash and the fire now." said Man-At-Arms, "but we must press on! First I shall call Teela back at the city to inform her of our progress!" he punched in Teela’s code on his wrist-radio.
"You’re through to Teela." came her voice.
"Teela!" panted Man-At-Arms. "This is Duncan- we’re through to Snake Mountain! How is your campaign going?"
"Still strong, but we’ll just have to wait until our appeal in the square tonight, to see if we’re successful!"
"We’re just steps away from finding the killer." said Man-At-Arms. "The name of the killer is-"
Just then, a long, skinny, green arm emerged from the shadows and cut off Duncan’s wrist-radio with one punch. Then the creature gripped hold of Duncan, Extendar and the Sorceress all at once, and entangled them in its long, green arms.
"Ssssqueeze!" shouted Duncan.
She-Ra watched as her friends were caught in the grip of this thin, sharp-toothed snake creature. They had entered Snake Men territory!
Ssssqueeze stood there hissing, as he curled his arms tighter and tighter round Duncan, Extendar and the Sorceress.
"Don’t think you can hold them for long, scale face." said She-Ra, holding out her sword. "For I doubt if you are as strong as the power of Grayskull!"
Ssssqueeze tightened his grip on them even more. The warriors struggled, but could not break free of the snake man’s grip.
She-Ra quickly ransacked her mind for a way to save her friends. She could easily slice those long arms off with her sword….. but Grayskull forbade her from inflicting serious damage on any living creature except when totally necessary. She knew that if she tried firing at him, he would only squeeze them so tight that their breath could be cut off. What could she do?
"I think it’ssss time to give these warriors to Ssssnake Face." hissed Ssssqueeze. From out of the shadows stepped the zombie-like Snake Face- aside him was the Snake Men’s ruler- King Hiss.
"So, these fools have invaded us from underground then? Then we shall teach them a lesson- that no-one who invades Snake Mountain this way can escape alive. Snake Face- deal with them!"
The gruesome snake man moved closer to the warriors, and unleashed the long, red tentacles from his hollow eyes and mouth. The Sorceress, Extendar and Man-At-Arms were instantly turned into stone statues. Ssssqueeze let go of them, and said "And now for She-Ra!" He thrust out his arms, ready to grab her- but she quickly fired a bolt from her sword at him, so he fell back against the rocky wall.
"You….. can….. not….. escape….. me!" hissed Snake Face, in his hoarse, whisper-like voice. He thrust out the tentacles from his face, but She-Ra thrust out her sword and said "I think you have forgotten a bit about me!" She blocked Snake Face’s gaze, and the effect was backfired….. turning him- and King Hiss- into stone!
With them out of the way, She-Ra quickly spun round, and fired gentle blasts from her sword at the stone forms of Duncan, The Sorceress and Extendar. They quickly reverted to normal.
"You won’t lasssst long!" hissed Ssssqueeze, jumping to his feet, ready to thrust his arms out at them.
"Against all four of us? I don’t think so." mocked She-Ra, as she and the other warriors quickly switched into battle pose.
"Erm….. I guess not." said Ssssqueeze. "Go on then."
As the heroic warriors turned away from him and ran through the dark cavern, She-Ra laughed "He has to be one of the most feeble warriors I’ve ever seen, giving in that easily!"
"Well let’s just hope that they are as feeble!" called Man-At-Arms, as he noticed Tung Lashor and Kobra Khan blocking their way.
They ground to a halt. "Face your doom, suckers!" hissed Kobra Khan.
"No- face YOUR doom!" shouted Extendar, growing to full size and leaping forward, knocking the Snake Man back and smashing them each against the walls, rendering them both unconscious.
"Yep, they were as feeble." Extendar said as he shrank back to normal size. "Now let’s move on!"
The heroic warriors ran as fast as they could through the network of tunnels, until they reached the ground floor of Snake Mountain. There were several different routes which they could take- but which would be the best?
"Which way?" said Extendar.
"I don’t know!" replied Man-At-Arms. "Let’s just choose one at random!"
Suddenly two dark figures leaped down from the ceiling, in front of the warriors. The first was a spider-like creature, with four skinny black arms and legs- Webstor! The other was a shadow ninja, his face concealed by a black hood- Ninjor!
"How about facing us first?" laughed Webstor.
"Most happy to!" said She-Ra, hurling herself forward at Webstor. He gripped hold of She-Ra’s sword with his upper two arms- and gripped hold of She-Ra herself with the lower two! Then he began to ascend on his rope. "Now you die!" he laughed, as he rose to the ceiling.
Quickly, the Sorceress took action. She transformed to Zoar, the fighting falcon, and flew up to the ceiling. Then she cut right through Webstor’s rope, and Webstor began to fall to the ground, still clutching She-Ra and her sword! So Zoar swooped down and took hold of the sword in her claws. Then she quickly let go of it, and She-Ra caught it as she fell. "Sword to vaulting pole!" she shouted, and the sword glowed and became a vaulting pole, which She-Ra touched to the ground before she could hit it, and vaulted over safely to the ground. Her sword reverted to normal, and the Sorceress reassumed her human form.
"Well fought, Sorceress!" congratulated She-Ra.
"More than can be said for Webstor." said the Sorceress, looking down at the fallen, unconscious body of the spider warrior.
"Anyway, we may have won- but we gotta help Duncan and Extendar!"
They looked over at their companions, who were doing battle with Ninjor. Man-At-Arms was knocked back by a karate chop, stunned, while Extendar had grown to half his full height, countering the ninja warrior’s blows.
"Allow us to help!" said the Sorceress, as She-Ra and herself raced forward, both crashing into Ninjor at once, blowing him off his feet and into the wall….. and the wall slid aside, revealing a hidden doorway.
Recovering, Man-At-Arms got to his feet and joined his friends. "That must be a secret passage! Let’s take that route." he said.
"Yeah, maybe Faker’s hidden inside it!" said Extendar, shrinking to normal size. "Come on!"
The warriors leaped over the fallen body of Ninjor, and into the dark passage. They climbed up a huge flight of spiral stairs. Snakes occasionally thrust out of the walls, but they posed no threat, as She-Ra simply cut them away with her sword. They made their way hastily up the stairs, hoping that their quest was coming to an end.
Up in the chamber of Snake Mountain, Skeletor was rejoicing with Evil-Lyn and Faker. "Thanks to you, Faker, He-Man has now been imprisoned for over a week!" he said. "And the attacks by our forces on the city have caused greater damage each time. Later on, we shall attack the city- and maybe this time, I shall steal the crown of Eternos!"
"Or I shall steal the crown….." hissed Faker, silently, "once He-Man is dead….."
Suddenly they heard the sound of rapid footsteps. Skeletor looked round. The footsteps seemed to be coming from behind the hidden door in the right hand corner, behind which lay the secret passage to his throne room! "Who’s in the passage?!" he snarled. "Evil-Lyn, take a look!"
The evil sorceress ran over to the hidden door, and cast her hand sideways, opening it with her magic power. She ventured into the dark passageway….. and was shocked to see She-Ra, Man-At-Arms, the Sorceress and Extendar approaching! She quickly ran back to Skeletor, and said "It’s heroic warriors! Somehow they have uncovered our secret passageway!"
Shocked, Skeletor leaped to his feet. "Heroic Warriors?! By the Fires of Sumason….. Faker, you must hide!"
"Right away!" replied Faker, running through to Comtech’s laboratory, so he could hide in the scanning machine. He was through the door just before the heroic warriors burst into the chamber, ready for combat.
"Okay then! Where is he?" demanded She-Ra.
"Where is who?!" snarled Skeletor, banging his havoc staff on the ground in anger.
"You know who." said She-Ra. "We’re here to find FAKER, the being who you used to frame He-Man! Now where are you hiding him?!"
Skeletor’s mind shot into a state of panic. How on Eternia had they found out? But he knew he had to cover up for the scheme. "What do you mean? Faker? How could I have used him? He met his death years ago!"
"We know he didn’t!" said Extendar. "You can stop lying now, Skeletor- for the Elders of Eternia revealed us the truth, so there is no denying it!"
Blast it, thought Skeletor. He had to kill these puny warriors before they could foil the greatest evil scheme ever. "Evil-Lyn- kill them!" he shouted, and the evil sorceress leaped in front of them, thrusting out her force field to paralyse them.
She-Ra thrust out her sword, and said "You’re making a mistake using that force field with She-Ra!" and she backfired it on Evil-Lyn, who was instantly paralysed by the effect of her own magic.
"Okay, Skeletor, now WHERE ARE YOU KEEPING HIM?!!" demanded She-Ra, as the heroic warriors rushed up angrily to the Lord of Destruction.
"No matter where in this building you look, you will not find Faker!" growled Skeletor. "Now face your doom, ‘heroes’!" He fired a bolt from his havoc staff at the warriors. She-Ra smashed it aside with her sword of protection. Extendar grew to full height, and Man-At-Arms pulled out his laser pistol. And they engaged themselves in the fight with the evil Lord of Destruction.
As the warriors sprung into combat, the Sorceress concentrated on using her mind to track down where Faker was being kept. She quickly took on the form of Zoar, and followed her mind signal. It led her into Comtech’s laboratory! She burst through, shocking Comtech, who shot up from his computer, shouting "What’s that bird doing in here?! You shall not escape!" He quickly fiddled with the keys on his computer, and shot a laser beam at Zoar as she darted through the air, all over the lab. He fired laser after laser at her….. but she just kept on dodging them. She was too quick for him! But he could not let her discover Faker. He concentrated harder and harder, firing in every direction she flew in! She could not win!
But the Sorceress could sense, in her mind, that Faker was hidden in the scanning machine. So she must trick Comtech into revealing him! She flew closer to the machine, darting through the air around it….. and Comtech fired in that direction. So she dodged every blast, over and over again, until he missed his target fatally….. and hit the scanning machine, which blew open, revealing the muscular blue form of Faker.
Reverting to her human form, the Sorceress said "Now we have you, Faker! Now to expose the real killer!"
"But…. But how did you find me out?!" stammered Faker.
"Just come along!" shouted the Sorceress, raising her arm, ready to fire at him.
"I can beat you, you feeble wench!"
"Can you now? Remember Castle Grayskull….. four years ago?"
Faker clenched his teeth with embarrassment at the memory. Even if he could beat the Sorceress now, he did not want to face fighting with her again! So he looked over at Comtech, and said "Quickly, Comtech- we must destroy the heroic fools before they can capture me!"
"Right away." said Comtech, jumping down from his computer console, and firing a bolt from his wrist blaster at the Sorceress. She jumped aside, just as a blow from Extendar knocked Skeletor flying back into the lab.
Skeletor got to his feet, and his eyes lit up with rage. "Blast it! Faker has been found!"
"And soon he will be found guilty- of killing Lord Marlach, and framing He-Man!" said She-Ra. "Quickly, Extendar- get hold of him!"
The cyborg thrust out his torso and arms, and gripped tightly hold of Faker.
"Now we have him!" said She-Ra. "Quickly- we must get back to the city!"
The heroic warriors turned and rushed out of the chamber, Extendar gripping Faker tightly. They ran down to the vehicle bay, and leaped into a Fright Fighter. Man-At-Arms took the machine off to pilot it to Eternos. Faker struggled to break free from Extendar’s grip- but the Sorceress managed to hold him in place by reaching out her arm to fire at him each time he almost broke free.
And they jetted off wildly, in the direction of Eternos!
Skeletor swished his arm through the air, freeing Evil-Lyn from the force field. Then, together with her and Comtech, he ran down to the vehicle bay- only to see the heroic warriors piloting a Fright Fighter in the direction of Eternos.
"No! We must not let them expose Faker! This scheme can not be foiled!"
"Then we must take action." said Evil-Lyn. "We must beat the heroic warriors to Eternos!"
"We must do that at once." said Skeletor. "Evil-Lyn- assemble the mercenaries. They may have Faker- but we will ensure that He-Man stays in prison! Quickly- get the army together!"
At twenty-one o’clock, as evening fell over Eternos, Teela and the protesters began their appeal in the city square. Nearly the whole group of campaigners were there- the rest were all protesting outside the Court and prison. Most of the heroic warriors had joined them, along with the King and Queen. On the balconies of the Arcology, shimmering against the evening sky, were people waving banners and signs.
"I’m pretty damn frustrated just now." Teela said to Ram Man. "My father called me earlier saying he knew the name of the killer, but something cut him off before he could tell me. Whatever it was, it must have damaged his wrist-radio, because I haven’t managed to get in contact with him. If he’d managed to tell me, I could have used it as evidence!"
"Never mind." said Ram Man. "Knowing the court, they’d probably accuse you of making it all up. But we’ve been doing really well, so hopefully they’ll release He-Man tonight anyway!"
"He’s gotta be out of that jail." said Teela. "He HAS to be!"
Over in the corner of the square, Rio Blast and Blastar were desperately trying to persuade the Law chief to urge the court to reconsider.
"The Court’s decision is the Court’s decision." he replied. "We don’t have much influence over it. I’m afraid we’re not in a position to help."
But the people all around the Square were waving their banners like mad, shouting "FREE HE-MAN! JUSTICE TO ETERNIA! SET HIM FREE!" The square was in a complete state of chaos, and the whole source was He-Man’s supporters.
Teela stood atop a large stage, which had been set up specially for the appeal. "We are here tonight," she began, "to demand the freedom of Eternia’s greatest champion- He-Man. We have over 10,000 names of Eternian citizens, who want our hero freed this instant! It is obvious that he must have been framed! Think of all the good things he has done in the past- and think of how it just does not make sense that he would kill someone out of the blue! We urge the court, SET HE-MAN FREE!"
"SILENCE!" came a shout, echoing through the whole street. The crowd fell as silent as possible, as Jarik approached, carrying a microphone. With him were several court officials, carrying a portable viewscreen.
"Clear a space." Jarik ordered the crowd, and the crowd cleared a small aisle, for Jarik to approach the stage. Several crowd members booed and jeered at Jarik and the court officials, as they approached the stage, carrying the portable viewscreen.
Jarik ascended the steps to the stage, where he could address the whole crowd. The court officials positioned the portable viewscreen on the small props table on the stage.
"So, you want He-Man freed." said Jarik, through the microphone. "You believe that the Eternos Court has actually reached a false verdict."
A huge cheer ran through the crowd, and cries of "We want He-Man out!" could be heard.
"Well, I’m sorry you seem to want He-Man out that badly, but I must inform you that the Eternos City Court has absolutely NO intention, whatsoever, of releasing He-Man. As far as we are concerned, there is no doubt that he is a convicted murderer, and so therefore should remain in jail. We advise you to disband at once, as your campaign is of no use to you."
A huge jeer ran through the crowd. Thousands of people booed Lord Jarik at once, and Teela threw him an angry glance. Then out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of an evil Fright Fighter, descending a few streets away. She whispered to Ram Man "I saw a Fright Fighter. The evil warriors might be attacking."
"Don’t worry." said Ram Man. "The forces are all ready for possible attacks."
Ignoring the booing from the crowd, Lord Jarik flicked a switch on the viewscreen, and said "Here we have proof that He-Man was the murderer. And if you might be disturbed- don’t look away, because then you’ll still be afflicted by your ridiculous belief that he is innocent."
Further boos came from the crowd, as the screen flickered on. The scene of He-Man approaching Lord Marlach as he opened the Arcology appeared on the screen. Then followed the familiar sequence of He-Man stabbing Marlach to death, then simply leaving the scene of the crime.
"Satisfied now?" said Jarik. "For this, as we know, is complete proof that He-Man is the killer, and it is proof enough for us to retain our decision."
He was met with further hissing and booing, from the angry faces of the crowd.
"Do you want me to play the video again?!" he snapped angrily, as Teela shook her head in fury. "Do you not realise that the Court has made the right choice? Well you better had, and you should disband at once for your campaign is doing nothing to change our decision! For the last time- He-Man is guilty!"
Then, a deep voice, seeming to come from empty air, said "He-Man is innocent!"
"Who said that?" asked Jarik, looking around him.
"I." came the voice again, as a mysterious light appeared in mid-air. The crowd watched, dumbfounded, as the light descended, and out stepped several spiritual forms, of elderly men in long robes. They stepped onto the stage to join Jarik, bright white light surrounding them.
"Wh… who are you?" stammered Jarik.
The leader of the spirits stepped forth. "I am He-Ro."
Each member of the crowd gasped in amazement. Could this really be He-Ro, the man who had saved their world….. so many thousands of years ago?!! This was too amazing to be true….. but looking into his face, he looked just like the old portraits depicted him- only slightly older!
"You….. you can’t be He-Ro." said Jarik, flinching back. "He-Ro has been dead for….. thousands of years. No, you can’t be….."
"I may have died many years ago….." said He-Ro- "But I have always been here in spirit. I emerge only at times of great crisis- and this is a time of VERY great crisis. For our great hero of legend has been imprisoned, for a murder that he did not commit."
"Are you saying….. He-Man is innocent?" gasped Jarik, as the members of the crowd smiled with triumph and amazement.
"Yes." said He-Ro. "May the Elders unleash the sphere of truth!" he commanded, and the Elders behind him raised their arms, as the glowing sphere of truth appeared in mid-air, and floated into the center of the stage.
The crowd, Jarik, Teela, and Ram Man watched in amazement, as an image appeared in the sphere. It was an image of He-Man, stabbing Lord Marlach to death outside the Arcology. It was the same scene as was shown on the video, only from a different angle.
"So? It….. erm, still shows the same thing." said one of the officials.
"It is not over yet." said He-Ro.
As they watched, they saw that unlike the video, the sphere followed He-Man’s progress as he left the scene of the crime. He walked on, until a few streets away, he was approached by an evil Fright Fighter. The crowd gasped. So Skeletor must have something to do with it! They watched on, and they saw He-Man crossing his sword over his body….. and his skin turning blue, his hair bright red! And Skeletor beamed down from the Fright Fighter, as the blue He-Man said "I have done it, Skeletor." and Skeletor replied "Excellent work, Faker. Now we have won! We have finally destroyed He-Man!"
And the image faded.
Everyone in the square, but especially Jarik and the officials, was struck dumb with amazement. An air of excitement ran through the crowd, and Teela smiled in triumph as Jarik stammered "So….. so He-Man ISN’T the murderer!"
"Here is your murderer!" came a shout, and then came Man-At-Arms making his way through the crowd, followed by the Sorceress, Extendar and She-Ra. And he was gripping hold of the blue He-Man, as seen in the sphere!
The crowd cheered wildly, as if in ecstasy, as Man-At-Arms dragged the blue He-Man up onto the stage before them all. "This is Faker- the man you’re REALLY looking for!"
"So…." stammered Jarik, embarrassed, "so we were wrong. Well, er… I guess there’s only one thing to do… let’s get this Faker guy in jail- and GET HE-MAN….. OUT!!!!!"
The crowd went wild with triumph. At last the truth had been unveiled! As Rio Blast and Blastar, together with the law chief and other lawmen, dragged Faker off in the direction of the jail, Teela smiled in triumph, and went over to He-Ro. "Thank you, He-Ro." she said. "You’ve….. you’ve done brilliantly."
"It is my pleasure, Teela." said He-Ro. "But it is all thanks to your father, and the Sorceress, She-Ra and Extendar, that Faker has been exposed."
Teela went over and hugged her father. "Well done, Father." she said. "You’re brilliant!"
A few streets away, a muscular figure came striding out of Eternos jail….. as another figure, identical but for his blue skin, was dragged in! A huge crowd rushed to greet He-Man on his return to freedom, as The Sorceress, Man-At-Arms, Teela, She-Ra and Extendar appeared teleported before him!
He-Man rushed up to Teela, and hugged her. "Thank you Teela!" he said. "Thank you for all you’ve done!"
Teela blushed faintly. "The real hero is….. well, he’s approaching now!" she looked up, and saw He-Ro and the Elders descending upon them. He-Ro held the Sword of Power in his hands. "Here, He-Man!" he said. "I am proud to present you with this sword that you still deserve!"
He-Man took hold of the sword, held it above his head, and shouted "BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!"
A huge flash of light erupted from the sword, as He-Man’s strength flooded right back.
Sy-Klone approached the crowd, and said "Well, I was wrong about Skeletor. But at least you’re free now!"
"You’re forgiven, Sy-Klone!" said He-Man. "Now that Faker’s been jailed, we can….."
He was cut off by a terrifying siren sound, as the Collector appeared in the night sky overhead! It beamed down a huge band of evil warriors, led by Skeletor, his eyes blazing bright red with anger!
"So! We are too late! Faker has been jailed! But it is not all over for us yet. Tri-Clops and Blade- you’ve had lots of experience with escaping from prison. Free Faker!"
A loud chant ran through the crowd of evil warriors of "FREE FAKER!" It was like another campaign!
"Well, if you want Faker free-" He-Man said, "You’ll have to fight me first!" he was joined by the Sorceress, She-Ra, Extendar, Teela, Sy-Klone and Man-At-Arms. The citizens sprung aside as the street erupted into combat!
Silently as possible, Tri-Clops and Blade slipped away from the fight, and smashed a window into the jail. They ran through several corridors….. until they reached Faker’s cell. Blade slashed the bars with his swords, leaving the way open for Faker to come free.
"No jail can hold me for long!" said Faker. "And now to enact my long-awaited revenge on He-Man!"
Quickly, Faker, followed by Tri-Clops and Blade, ran through the corridors and leaped out through the smashed window, into the street. He-Man was fending off Beast Man and Spikor- but Faker stepped in their way, and thrust his sword in front of He-Man.
"Faker!" exclaimed He-Man.
"Yes, it is I." said Faker. "That jail could not hold me for long. Now do not try to run away- your death is fast approaching. He-Man, I challenge you to a final battle!"
He-Man held out his power sword. "I accept."
The two enemies, one flesh-coloured, one blue, became immersed in mortal combat.
Throughout the streets of Eternos, the clashing of metal was heard, as Faker and He-Man’s identical swords countered one another. Citizens leaped aside in terror at the sight of the two almost identical warriors battling violently against one another.
"Come on, He-Man!" shouted Fisto. "You can do it- and I’m always here to give you a hand!"
Faker kicked He-Man violently across the street. "Ignore the cheering of your foolish friends…. I shall be the true victor!"
As He-Man picked himself up, he knew the city could be badly damaged if they continued to battle within its streets. He must lead Faker away! He sprang away from him, down several streets.
"Go for it, He-Man!" shouted a man at the end of one street.
He-Man looked round- it was Quinn from Marxall, the fisherman who had helped He-Man battle Faker three years ago!
"Quinn! I never expected to see you again!"
"I knew the murderer was Faker all along!" Quinn said. "You bet I was amongst those protesters- an’ I’m as glad as the rest you’re out! Now kick his butt like you did in my home town! And me and my cutlass are always here to help!"
Although He-Man knew that Faker would come after him any second, he still managed to smile. "I’ll call if I need you!" he said.
Spotting Faker a few yards off, He-Man continued to inch away.
"Come back, you coward!" shouted Faker. "Don’t tell me you’re scared, ‘most powerful man in the universe’!"
He-Man couldn’t care if he looked like he was scared- he had to lead Faker out from the city. He soon came across an empty Fright Fighter. It was the one that Duncan had used to take Faker to the city. He leaped into the cockpit, and took off. Knowing Faker would follow him, he piloted the Fright Fighter away from the city, until he found a barren, secluded spot- a small, rocky and dusty valley. He touched the vehicle down. It was not long before Faker arrived on the scene.
"Now….." said Faker, his eyes blazing red as he brandished his gleaming sword, "I shall have my revenge! Revenge, on the man who knocked me down that abyss! The only man I need to destroy in order to take over this planet! For six years, I have waited for revenge on you, He-Man! And now I shall have it!"
"You know, Faker….." said He-Man, "You haven’t changed a bit. Though I haven’t seen you in three years, you’re still just as over-confident as you were then. And if you remember, although you may be almost as strong as me….." he threw a massive punch into Faker’s face, "I AM STILL STRONGER!"
Faker fell back, onto the dusty ground. But he picked himself up again, and charged forth. "You shall kneel at my feet before you die!"
But He-Man simply thrust Faker over his head.
The two enemies battled on and on in the light of the twin moons of Eternia. Their swords clashed repeatedly against one another, as they fought on and on into the night. And as He-Man looked into the light of the moons, then down onto the beaten form of his enemy, he knew the battle was coming to a close. He charged forward at Faker, struck his blue chest with a mighty blow from the power sword, and sent Faker flying back.
Faker’s head hit the rocks heavily. He lay there for several moments, before He-Man slowly approached him.
"So, Faker." he said. "Do you surrender now? Do you realise, that you can never possibly be a match for the power of Grayskull?"
Slowly, Faker staggered to his feet, and stumbled across the rocky valley. His head was hung low, his eyes shining to the ground with sadness. His body looked weak and badly beaten. He had lost. For the final time.
Faker staggered over to a tall, leafless tree, and pulled away a crooked twig. Fixing his eye tightly on the twig, he set it alight, and held it across his chest. Then he turned to He-Man.
"He-Man….." he said weakly, "I….. I am….. no match for you. I have tried….. in vain to beat you….. once again. My mind has been fuelled for six years….. with my thirst for revenge upon you. But….. I shall never be able to have that revenge. I have trained….. with the sole aim of beating you….. but it was all in no use. Even….. framing you for murder did not work. I killed….. thousands of people….. to prepare for killing you. And now….. for my last victim."
"There is no way you can kill me now." said He-Man, holding his sword across his chest to protect himself from the flame.
"Not you….." said Faker, "me."
He spread the burning twig across his chest, and touched the flame to his blue skin. Slowly, the flame spread across his chest….. over his torso….. over his legs….. until his whole body was consumed by flame. He-Man watched as Faker’s blue skin turned a coal black as the flame ate away at his flesh. He fell to the ground, and slowly his skin began to crumble away, until there was nothing left of him but a heap of black ash on the ground.
The fire died down. Faker was no more.
He-Man stood there, in the center of the rocky valley, bathed in the light of the twin moons, in the gentle breeze of the summer wind. The breeze slowly swept the ashes of Faker away….. into the wind.
Then He-Man turned around, and took one glance at the beautiful mountains ahead of him, silhouetted against the dark skies. Time to head back to Eternos. He entered the cockpit of the Fright Fighter, and took off, the greatest and most dangerous experience of his whole lifetime drawn to a close.
He-Man landed the Fright Fighter in a street in Eternos. He was greeted by the sight of his warriors battling vigorously against Skeletor, led by his faithful sister, She-Ra. He jumped out from the Fright Fighter cockpit, and joined his warriors, who erupted into a cheer on seeing him alive. Drawing the power sword, he said "Care to face me, Skeletor?"
"He-Man….." hissed Skeletor, "You are still alive! And what of Faker?"
"Faker is dead." He-Man replied.
"Faker has been ‘dead’ before and come back….."
"No, he really is dead this time. I saw him burn himself away. Your scheme, as dangerous as it may have been, has been foiled. Once again, the masters of the universe are victorious."
Skeletor’s eyes lit up with rage. "You have defeated me again and again, He-Man….. throughout six years. And now you have foiled the greatest evil scheme ever! And no doubt you believe I should give in. But no, the Lord of Destruction shall never give in! Someday, He-Man. Someday, I will come up with an even greater scheme! Before long, He-Man, I will cause the true downfall of Eternia!!!!! So for now, my army shall leave you. But keep watching out….. as I’ll be back!"
With that, he teleported his whole army away in a cloud of smoke. Once he was gone, He-Man was surrounded by a huge crowd of his friends and companions, overjoyed at his release from jail. In the middle of them all, were King Randor and Queen Marlena.
"I’m….. so glad you’re free." said Marlena.
"It is a joy to have you free again, He-Man." said King Randor. "And it just proves that no matter how bad an effect Skeletor’s schemes have on us, the power of Grayskull can always overcome them. Now if you do not mind, I would like to hold a celebration for you at the palace."
"It is an honour, fa….. er, Your Majesty." He-Man said. "Let’s get to it!"
The hall of the Royal Palace was filled with joy and exuberance as the heroic warriors held their celebration of He-Man’s freedom. The whole army was there, all hailing He-Man with admiration. He-Man was pretty tired after this experience….. but he was overjoyed that he was in the clear, and had had many more supporters than he realised. He thanked She-Ra, Man-At-Arms, The Sorceress and Extendar for all they had done to get him out.
"Well, we would never have got you out without the help of He-Ro!" said Man-At-Arms. "We had actually dismissed the possibility of Faker being the killer, shortly before! So we have the power of the ancients to thank!"
"We also have Varlon, of the Skar-Vins’ underworld to thank." said the Sorceress. "Although the Skar-Vins were once deadly enemies, it was Varlon who helped us to get to Snake Mountain underground!"
"Then I am eternally grateful to him as well." said He-Man. Then he turned to Teela, and smiled. And she smiled back. She had clearly noticed his admiration for her.
"And I want to thank you." said He-Man. "You did brilliantly with your campaign. I mean….. I couldn’t stop thinking about you when I was in jail. You are a real heroine."
"Well….. thank you." said Teela. "You’re….. well, you know you’ve….. I’ve never said it before, but….. hey, can we go somewhere private?"
"Sure we can." said He-Man. He turned to the others. "Excuse us a second." he said, smiling at Man-At-Arms. Man-At-Arms smiled back. At last Teela was getting what she deserved, after all her work!
Up on the balcony, He-Man and Teela sat together, looking over the magnificent spectacle of Eternos City, the towers illuminated by the twin moons and the gleaming stars. It was an exquisite sight. And in the center of it all was the Arcology, its laser beam circulating above in the night sky.
"The Arcology really is beautiful." said Teela. "Loads more people are going to live there, now you’ve been cleared. And I’m really pleased you were."
"You were a great help." said He-Man. "And not just in this case….. every adventure we’ve ever had together, you’ve helped me a lot. I really appreciate that."
Teela blushed. "Thank you." she said.
"And….. you know how I was feeling really stressed before the murder? Obviously, I felt much worse when I was put in jail. But thinking of you seemed to ease my mind a lot….. just knowing what a great friend you are made me feel so much better in jail. I owe many good things in my life to you."
She smiled. "The same here." she said. "And you know….. Prince Adam said something very similar to me, before he left for his break. It’s a shame he hasn’t been around to see all this, but….."
"Don’t worry." said He-Man. "He knows everything. I’m pretty sure of it." He smiled at her. "There’s a lot that Prince Adam hasn’t told you. and there’s a lot that I would love to tell you, but….. I just can’t."
She looked into his eyes. She could see his love for her in them….. just how she had always seen it in Prince Adam’s eyes. "So….. what can’t you tell me, then?"
"Let’s just say….. let’s just say I’ll tell you another time." and he winked at her. "Or maybe Prince Adam will."
Suddenly, it struck her. She realised just what he was trying to get across. Yes, that had to be it….. or could it?! She would have to wait, hoping that she was right! "OK He-Man!" she smiled. "I’ll wait for it!"
His mind filled with delight, He-Man sat closely at Teela’s side, looking over the beautiful gleaming towers of Eternos. Teela had nearly got it- and he could not wait for the right day to come! But for now, this beautiful starlit night was just what he needed, easing his stress, and reminding him of the magical world Eternia was, and how no matter what schemes the forces of evil came up with….. the masters of the universe would always win.