Over the past few days I've read through parts I and II and I'm quite pleased with what I've read! Most of the characterization seems accurate and "feels right" when compared to the sort of gestalt personalities that have I have in my head. I like how you've managed to pull together elements of the best motu has had to offer. You've made some clever decisions and interesting choices. It all works fairly well together. Your work has managed to galvanize the writing bug that's been persistently biting me lately, so congratulations, it's no small feat to get someone as lazy as me to do anything! :P
I'm not really an "orger." In fact, I found your work rather by accident, but I'm glad I did and look forward to more.
Thank you for the hours of stimulating reading. And I wouldn't worry so much when you don't have pictures, I'm in it for the words.
Hi logandelanoche! I'm so sorry I missed your post--it looks like you made it way back at the beginning of my semester, and it was a crazy one (semester that is) so I never made it back to respond. I hope you're still around and are able to catch this update! :skgrin: And thanks for the compliments, they were greatly appreciated! Now, on with the update...
Stratos’ keen, eagle-like eyes spotted Tri-Klops’ Doomseeker from a mile away. As quickly as he could he threw a camouflaging tarp over the generator he had just finished installing, and then ducked beneath one himself. At least once a day—or was it night? He couldn’t tell in the dark hemisphere—Stratos was forced to go through this annoying exercise.
He heard the drone whiz by, searching for invaders in Keldor’s domain. Stratos carefully removed one of his feathers and slipped it out from beneath his tarp. Before the quill was even half-way out a blast of energy obliterated it. Looks like I’ve been spotted, he thought to himself.
Stratos leaped into the air, taking the tarp with him. He flew around the Doomseeker, wrapping it tightly in the plastic covering before it could get a good look at him. Just as quickly as he struck Stratos slammed the machine into the ground. For extra measure he pulled out his laser blaster and fired, blowing the device into oblivion.
Pulling out his communicator Stratos sent a silent alert to Man-At-Arms.
“It’s okay, Stratos, I’m in the clear,” Duncan replied a few moments later. “Is everything all right on your end?”
“I just had a run-in with one of Tri-Klops’ toys. I destroyed it, but it may have been able to transmit a warning to Snake Mountain first.”
“Have you finished installing the generator?”
“Yes, and it was the last one on my list.”
“Excellent. Ram-Man and Mekaneck have also finished with their sectors. I just installed the last reinforcer in my area, and now I’m waiting to meet-up with Shalandor and Nami.”
“Do you want company?”
“Thanks, but no. They’re emerging from the surf now. Head back to the Hall of Wisdom and join the others. I’ll meet you all back there once I have heard Shalandor’s report. Man-At-Arms out.”
Stratos checked the tarp covering the generator one last time before launching himself into the air.
Tri-Klops burst into Keldor’s throne room, carrying with him a holo-disk. “Lord Keldor, we may have a situation!”
Keldor hated it when his servants burst into his throne room and they knew it, so whatever Tri-Klops had to say must have been important. “What is it?” he growled.
“One of my Doomseekers was just destroyed in Sector 12.”
“That’s it?” Keldor replied, tapping his fingers on the side of his throne. “For all we know it was eaten by a Sand Devil! Besides, why aren’t they still out looking for that worm Modulok?”
Tri-Klops turned his visor toward the ground sheepishly. “They are still searching, Lord Keldor, but we haven’t had any luck yet.”
The wizard used his Havoc Staff to blast the warrior out of the chamber. “Get out of my sight! You disgust me.”
Evil-Lyn had witnessed the exchange from the base of the dais. “He may have a point, my darling. The Elders could be making a preemptive strike against us.”
“Doubtful,” Keldor replied. “They’re not clever enough to think ahead like that. Besides, the time to launch my final assault against the Elders has come.”
He descended the steps of his throne, and led Evil-Lyn to the secret chamber where he had incorporated the Orb of Agony into a potion.
“What is it?” she asked in disgust, raising her hand to block the noxious fumes of the blend.
Keldor pointed the Havoc Staff at the cauldron and whispered a spell too softly for Evil-Lyn to hear. The skull atop the staff began to glow with pink energy, and then a sickly, yellow-green liquid began dripping from the staff’s horns and into the vessel.
“That should be enough to finish it,” he said to himself.
Turning to face his love Keldor explained what they were looking at. “Some time back I emptied the Orb of Agony’s power source into this special concoction—made of poison pulled directly from Despondos—and allowed it to ferment. It has created a potent little brew that shall destroy the Elders once and for all!”
Keldor removed a series of empty vials from his cloak and in an instant they were filled with the liquid from the cauldron. “Soon, Eternia will be mine!”
Duncan, Shalandor, and Nami made their way into a drinking establishment not far from the beach. Man-At-Arms was struck by the Mer-Woman’s beauty, with her sparkling green scales and long orange hair.
She smiled at him coquettishly. “You’ve changed your appearance quite a bit since our initial meeting,” she said.
Duncan quirked his eyebrows, but then realized what she was talking about. He ran his fingers through the scraggly beard that had grown around his face. “Yes, well, living in a desert for ten months will do that to a man.”
The trio grew silent as their drinks were delivered by a seedy looking server. Once the man was gone Shalandor began his report. “We sent word to you because we have finished our part of the mission.”
“How is that possible?” Duncan asked, choking on the blue liquid he was partaking of. “We just finished our piece and you had so much more territory to cover!”
Nami leaned in to whisper the answer. “Your enemy has kept ours quite busy. The more time Mer-Man spends on the surface the weaker his grip on the seas becomes.”
“We’ve been able to move about quite freely,” Shalandor continued. “The creatures of the ocean have also aided us—placing and protecting the generators and reinforcers at the given intervals.”
“And you’re sure everything is wired properly?” Duncan asked. “We can’t risk a potential weak spot in the wall.”
Shalandor took a deep drag of his drink—a thick green liquid, topped by a layer of algae. “Yes,” he answered resolutely. “And your Fleet Admiral’s most trusted men have made several dives to check for themselves.”
“That’s wonderful news,” Duncan replied.
All conversation stopped as the server returned. “Are you three getting anything else?”
“No, thank you,” Nami replied sweetly.
“Then pay-up and get out,” the man snarled. “I’ve been watching your lot, and I don’t like the looks of all the whispering you’re doing.”
Duncan and Shalandor started to protest but Nami placed a hand on both of theirs. “We will pay as soon as we are done with our drinks,” she replied calmly, “and then we will be on our way.”
The server waited another moment before grunting and stomping away.
A few minutes later, they had emerged from the establishment. Duncan walked his underwater allies toward the surf. “I’m not sure when the Elders are going to order the activation of the wall. You should clear the affected areas as quickly and quietly as possible.”
Shalandor and Nami nodded before disappearing into the green water once more...
Captain Randor was in a strange, dark place. It was cold and he sensed that he had been in this place before, despite the choking mists that made all landmarks invisible. He saw something move beyond the fog, and he drew his sword instinctively. “Hello?” he shouted. “Who’s there?”
A towering figure stepped into view, holding a magnificent sword that matched the man’s grandeur. His face was obscured by shadows, but Randor could make out long, wavy hair, and a heavy cloak. “It is time,” the figure said, his voice echoing around them.
“Time for what?” Randor asked cautiously, still holding his sword.
The Elders, sans their usual ethereal glow, came out from behind Randor and approached the large figure. Before the captain could say a word they all knelt before the sword-wielding giant.
The mists began to part slowly, revealing hundreds of other men and women surrounding the group.
“Father?” Randor gasped, realizing that the late Captain Miro stood amongst them.
The gray-haired spirit turned his eyes to the man the Elders were bowed in front of, as did the rest of the crowd.
“Father, what is happening?”
The tall man spoke once more. “My children have dwelt in the shadows long enough. It is time for my blood to protect reign over Eternia once more.”
Another being emerged, and to Randor it seemed to be a young man made entirely of shadows. The shadow-boy approached the giant, and accepted his breathtaking sword. He held it aloft, and…
Lightening flashed outside, followed by a trumpet of thunder, and Randor awoke. His heart was beating quickly, and a cold sweat had formed upon his brow. The captain sat up and rubbed his eyes.
Marlena, awakened by her husband’s jostling, propped herself up on one elbow. “You had that dream again, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” he sighed. He turned to face her and ran a hand through her disheveled, brown hair. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”
She pulled his hand away and kissed it. “You’ve had that same dream each night for over a week. Have you ever considered that it might be more than just a dream? Perhaps you should consult the Elders.”
Randor just shook his head and tucked himself back under the blankets. “And tell them what? ‘I’m having a dream where I see you all bowing to some stranger, who then hands a sword over to someone that doesn’t exist. Oh, yeah, and my father’s there, too.’”
Marlena elbowed him. “There’s no need to be sarcastic. I’m serious about this. Sometimes, what we think of as a dream turns out to be a premonition.”
He thought it was a foolish notion since neither he nor anyone in his family had ever been noted as having premonitions in the past, but he didn’t have a chance to voice that opinion. His communicator beeped softly on a nearby table.
The captain made his way toward it in the dark and answered the summons. “Captain Randor here.”
“Captain Randor, the Elders request your presence in war room at the Hall of Wisdom.”
“Acknowledged.” He could see his wife’s outline in the dark. “Go back to sleep, darling and we can finish our conversation another time. Hopefully I’ll be back before the night is over.”
The war room was cleared of all but the most essential guards. The Elders had gathered, and with them were Ram-Man, Stratos, and Mekaneck. All three of the young men had already spent the better part of two hours relishing in food and much-needed hygienic rituals.
Randor arrived and was overjoyed to see his friends once more. He joyously critiqued each in turn. “Ram-Man, you’re actually starting to look somewhat svelte,” he said, patting the larger man’s shrunken belly.
“Yeah, you don’t find the kind of spread I’m accustomed to in the wild.”
Randor smiled. “And Mekaneck, I trust you didn’t have any trouble with sand getting in all the wrong places?”
The soldier extended his neck slightly. “Nope, no clogged gears here.”
When he came to Stratos Randor had to stop and take stock of the situation. “How is it that you’ve actually grown larger since you left? Did you get Ram-Man’s rations by mistake?”
Stratos’ cheeks turned slightly pink. “No, I got the same amount of rations as the others. I’m just a little puffy right now.”
“What do you mean ‘puffy’?” Ram-Man asked.
Randor could barely stifle his laugh. “I think he means his feathers expanded after a good bath.”
“Exactly,” Stratos replied sheepishly.
Duncan entered the room and it was painfully obvious that he had not been at the Hall of Wisdom long enough to get cleaned up.
“Going for a new look?” Randor asked, directing his attention to the other man’s beard rather than his stench.
“It’s all getting shaved off soon…except, perhaps, the mustache,” Duncan retorted. “And before anyone says anything else, I’m just going to drop off my report and then head for a shower.”
The Elders and Randor read Duncan’s report, followed by the others, while the Man-At-Arms got cleaned up. By the time he returned (completely clean-shaven), the Elders had created a long table for them to sit at.
“You got rid of the mustache,” Stratos commented.
“Made me look too old and serious,” Duncan replied. “Now, on to business, shall we?”
Duquaine spoke from the head of the table. “While you all were busy constructing the foundation for the wall other operatives have been coordinating with Captain Randor to evacuate those peoples who are willing to abide by the laws of goodness and light.”
“How have you been able to evacuate them without Keldor’s men noticing, Your Excellencies?” Mekaneck wondered.
“The Speleans and Caligars have assisted us by allowing the evacuees to utilize the tunnels in Subternia,” Zilora answered.
“Still, Keldor must be at least mildly suspicious,” Duncan challenged.
“Perhaps,” Randor replied, “and, after the wall is erected, we may find agents of evil on the light hemisphere; but this is still the best chance we’re going to have for peace.”
“Exactly,” Duquaine agreed. “We sense that Keldor is readying a massive attack against the good people of Eternia. When this happens, it is imperative that his forces be driven back, and the wall be activated at once!”
Many thanks to the awesome Emiliano for giving me permission to use his sketch of Skeletor's skeleton warriors!!! Now, on with the show...
The Sorceress was standing upon the top-most tower of Castle Grayskull gazing at the beautiful stars and moons above. A soft night breeze combed through her wings and played against the fabric of her clothes.
Her heart was heavy and she felt as if she stood at the edge of a metaphorical abyss—not lost on her was the reality of the bottomless abyss, created by Hordak in ancient times, that encircled the castle. The Sorceress had spent her entire life within the walls of Castle Grayskull, learning its secrets and how to defend them. She had known that her mother would not always be there to keep her company, and so she had allowed herself to start leaning on Duncan as a companion. But she had been forced to let that go as well.
More and more, the Sorceress found that she talked to herself. It may not be a sign of the most stable mind, but she didn’t care—after all, who was there to point that out?
“I hate this wretched place!” she shouted. Adopting a quieter, sadder tone of voice, she continued her counsel. “I am forever alone; yet, how can that be? How can I train a successor if I have no heir?”
“You must be patient, Sorceress.” Zodak had appeared behind her but she did not turn to look at him.
“Words easily spoken for one that is free to roam the cosmos.”
“Perhaps. But they are also words spoken by one that can see into the future from time-to-time. Your loneliness will not last forever.”
She sighed but did not argue. “What has brought you here?”
“I have been instructed to augment your power, so that when you add Grayskull’s might to the Elders' wall it will be even stronger.”
“Then we were right—the time is near?”
“Closer than you think,” Zodak replied. His eyes, and the tattoos along his body, began to glow.
A similar glow surrounded the Sorceress before being absorbed by her body.
“It is done.”
Castle Grayskull’s guardian finally turned, but Zodak was gone. She was alone again.
On the return trip from the Hall of Wisdom Stratos flew ahead of the others so that he was even with Captain Randor’s Sky Sled. “Are you sure your wife won’t mind us dropping by for breakfast so early in the morning?”
“What difference does it make?” Randor laughed. “Either way I’m still the one that's going to get stuck doing the cooking and cleaning—let's just say that I'd rather face an angry pack of Ice Hackers than my wife's culinary skills!” The two shared a laugh.
At that moment, Mekaneck’s head and neck-extension snaked between them, only to return seconds later. He stopped mid-retraction. “Something’s going on in Eternos!”
“He’s right!” Stratos concurred, focusing his eagle-like eyes. “There are clouds of smoke all over the city.”
Randor activated his communicator. “Man-At-Arms, are you receiving any sort of signal from Eternos?”
“No, sir,” Duncan’s voice buzzed back a moment later. “There’s some kind of electrical interference jamming the signals coming in and out of the capital!”
Mekaneck extended and retracted his neck once more. “There’s a massive fire near the West Gate!”
“The Armory!” Randor gasped.
When the first explosion went off Marlena brushed it off as a fragment from a dream. When the second and third explosions lit up the pre-dawn sky it was enough to convince her that something was wrong. She clambered to the foot of the bed where she could peak through the room’s only window. Marlena bit down on her fist to stifle a gasp as a squadron of sentient skeletons marched down the street beyond.
As quietly as she could Marlena ducked down and crawled to a large chest in Randor’s study. Inside, she stealthily removed bits and pieces of the armor her husband had worn when he was a lad. The piecemeal suit didn’t fit her perfectly, but it was enough to shield her somewhat, at least. Next, Marlena made her way to a cabinet on the other side of the room and fished out an old sword and shield that Randor no longer used.
The captain’s wife finished not a moment too soon—the study’s outer wall exploded inward, sending a barrage of splintered wood her way! She looked up, expecting to see a group of skeletons moving toward her, but instead she was looking at what appeared to be a straggler in the group. The creature was not armored like the rest, but instead wore the tattered remains of a green dress.
Marlena readied herself as the undead monster lurched towards her. It started to reach for her and Marlena raised the sword defensively...but the skeleton stopped. It lowered its arm and seemed to be peering at the sword’s blade. It returned its attention to Marlena, but instead of attacking it started moving its jawbone silently.
“If you’re trying to speak to me, I can’t understand what you’re saying—no words are coming out.” Marlena’s voice was trembling. The creature pointed to itself, and then to the blade of her sword.
“Your reflection?” Marlena surmised. “Is that why you stopped?”
The creature nodded before taking a few steps back so that it was no longer in striking distance. It pointed at the sword, and then back at itself. Careful not to let her guard down, Marlena positioned the sword so that she could see the skeleton’s reflection as well.
“By the Ancients,” she gasped. Staring back at her was an image of a young, blue-skinned woman, with long, black hair: Shokoti, although Marlena did not know it.
Shokoti’s bewitched bones moved its jaw again, and with the aide of the witch’s skin-covered reflection Marlena was able to decipher what was being said to her: “Keldor.”
The creature nodded. The jawbone started moving again, much faster this time, and it was all Marlena could do to keep up with the image of Shokoti’s lips. “Keldor turned against you,” she deduced. “And you want me to destroy you so that you won’t have to serve him?”
Shokoti nodded but Marlena was unsure. The creature before her had admitted to serving Keldor; but, at the same time, it had asked her to free it from its servitude. What was the moral course of action, if there even was one?
Outside, more explosions rocked the city, and people everywhere could be heard screaming. Marlena resolved herself to the task before her. “For the good of Eternia Keldor’s forces must be destroyed—including you!”
Marlena lifted the sword and charged at Shokoti’s frame, and in one quick swipe she had severed the skull from the rest. The ancient head hit the floor and shattered into countless pieces, followed by the rest of the frame. Randor’s wife swallowed hard. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, not realizing the ancient evil she had just dispatched.
Marlena turned her attention to the hole in the wall, and saw people running to and fro, screaming and flailing their arms in terror. Without a second thought Marlena charged into the thick of it, still carrying the sword and shield.
Randor and the others landed at the site where the Armory had once stood. Now the building was a pile of burning rubble that blocked the West Gate completely. Dozens of men, dressed in red and orange armor, were doing their best to douse the flames, or contain them at the very least. So far though, the Fire Brigade was having very little luck.
“Captain Randor!” the stout Fire Chief shouted. “Every time we think we’ve got it under control another case of ammunition explodes!”
“What happened?” Randor asked as he pulled his cloak over his nose to block the thick, black smoke.
“We were attacked by Keldor’s forces!” a freckled, red-headed teenager jumped in. The boy had only seen seventeen summers but he was dressed in the same red-and-orange-armor as the others.
“Not now, Snout!” the chief barked before returning to his conversation with Randor. “We were attacked by an army of livin’ skeletons being led by Keldor’s goons. They knocked out our communications system first and then blew up the Armory.”
“And they’ve been pouring in through the other entrances to the city ever since,” the boy jumped in again. “No one can get in or out!”
Randor regarded the young man. “Who are you, and how do you know all this?”
The chief interrupted this time. “We call him ‘Snout’, sir, ‘cause he’s always sticking his nose where it don’t belong! We tolerate him because he ain’t got no other family.”
Randor nodded and turned to Duncan. “Have you called for back-up?”
“No,” Man-At-Arms replied. “Whatever is jamming Eternos’ communications is affecting us, too. Who knows how long it will take the Eternian Guard to realize something’s wrong. We may be these people’s only hope.”
Ram-Man disembarked from his Sky Sled. “Don’t worry, I’ll knock this pile of debris out of the way!”
“No!” the Fire Brigade’s leader shouted. “The flames are still too hot, and you might accidentally crash into another case of explosives.”
“Why don’t we try my Hose Nose?” the boy asked eagerly.
“What’s a ‘Hose Nose’?”
While the boy ran to the Fire Brigade’s transport the chief explained. “It’s this helmet the kid invented. He claims that it can blast a jet of water harder than anything we have now.”
“It’s true!” Snout retorted as he rejoined the group. In his hands he held a large steel mask in the shape of an elodon’s head, complete with large ears and a long trunk for a nose. “When I tested it in a simulator I was able to put out a three-alarm fire in record time! Please let me give it a try—I’ll be able to push the rubble aside using hydro-pressure and squelch the blaze at the same time!”
Randor looked toward the chief. “Would it make matters worse if he tried?”
“I suppose not.” Turning to his junior the chief cautioned, “You’ve only got one chance at this, Snout, and then I’m yanking you out of the way so the real firefighters can get back to work.”
Randor meanwhile was addressing his own men. “Man-At-Arms, take Ram-Man and Mekaneck into the city using your Sky Sleds. Start moving the people in this direction and if the fire’s not contained yet Stratos and I will start flying people over ourselves.”
As the three heroes took off Stratos and Randor returned their attention to the chief, who had his eyes on Snout. “How does this Hose Nose thing work?” Stratos asked.
“Not exactly sure,” the chief answered. “Somehow or another he can control the thing using his brain—”
“Some kind of psychic interface?”
The chief shrugged. “Beats me. He connects the mask to that big red tank on his back—it holds the water—using those thick black tubes sticking out of the back of the helmet.”
Snout turned toward them, his head now looking like that of a metallic elodon. The long trunk lifted into the air, and a small opening underneath showed his smiling mouth. “Ready!” he announced before lowering the trunk again.
The firefighters gladly took a moment’s respite to allow someone else to battle the blaze. Snout aimed the trunk at the carnage like a blaster-rifle, and suddenly a torrential arc of water lashed at the Armory’s remains. The spray was so powerful that it actually started to push the wreckage aside just as the boy had promised, without running the risk of someone upsetting an ammunition case at point-blank range.
Everyone started cheering and the other firefighters picked up their hoses and started spraying at the fiery remnants.
Snout lowered the trunk and ran back to rejoin the others. “I did it!” he hollered. “The fire should be much more manageable now!”
“More importantly, we can start evacuating the people through the large gap you created!” Randor added.
The chief smiled proudly and clapped the boy on the shoulder. “Never doubted you for a second, Snout!” Unseen beneath the mask, the boy rolled us eyes and grinned.
“We had better get moving,” Stratos said solemnly before leaping into the air.
Randor nodded. “You’re right. Hopefully Duncan and the others have people moving in this direction already. Let’s go!”
“Can I come too?” Snout asked. “You might need my help again!”
“I don’t think—”
“He might come in handy,” the chief interrupted, “I can see smoke from other fires. You might be able to use our newest star firefighter.”
Reluctantly Randor agreed. “Very well, but you have to stay very close to Stratos and me. Who knows what we’re going to find in the city proper.”
“Yes, sir,” Snout replied, saluting with the trunk of his helmet...
One of Keldor’s skeleton warriors had cornered a young girl, less than six years old, in a dead-end alley. It moved toward the trembling child and raised a rusty axe over its skull. She screamed for her mother and squeezed her eyes closed.
The little girl heard a strange sound and then a soft voice said, “It’s okay, sweetheart, that monster won’t hurt you.”
The girl opened her eyes slowly and saw a woman—Marlena—standing over a pile of bones. When the little one saw the severed skull she screamed again. “It won’t hurt you,” Marlena said soothingly as she crushed the cranium with her boot, finally calming the child down.
“I want my mommy,” she whimpered.
Marlena reached out and took the girl by the hand. “Then we’ll find her, but I need you to stay right next to me, okay?”
“Okay.” The child tucked herself between Marlena’s side and her shield so that she wouldn’t have to face any more of the scary bone monsters.
“Pure chaos,” Duncan muttered. He had seen battles and ambushes before, but none that compared to this! Living skeletons filled the streets, outnumbering the living two-to-one; homes and shops everywhere showed signs of damage or destruction; fire danced rampantly across Eternia’s capital city.
“Look out!” Ram-Man shouted, using his massive hand to swat away one of the skeleton warriors that had sneaked up behind Duncan.
“Thanks,” the Man-At-Arms shouted, snapping out of it. He leveled the laser cannon that he had built in to his gauntlet and blew away ten on the undead creatures.
“I’ve found the city’s guards!” Mekaneck announced as he retracted his head and neck. Before he continued he used a massive club that he had purloined from one of the skeleton warriors to pummel a particularly aggressive attacker. “They’ve been rounded-up and they’re being held in the Garden of the Bitter Rose.”
“That explains why no one else is helping us,” said Ram-Man, before hurling himself at a group of evil ones.
“I resent that,” Marlena shouted, as she battled her way past a group of skeletons nearby.
Mekaneck and Duncan rushed over to help their captain’s wife. “What are you doing out here?” Mekaneck asked. “You could have been hurt, or worse!”
“As if there was a safer place to be?” She used her elbow to knock the skull off of another creature and it collapsed into a pile of bones. “Besides, I’m taking care of myself quite well, thank you.”
“So we see.”
Marlena picked up the little girl, and handed her to Mekaneck. “Sweetheart, I want you to go with my friend. His name is Mekaneck, and if you tell him what your mommy looks like he might be able to help you find her above the crowds.”
“I’m on it,” Mekaneck replied before pushing his way past another wave of warriors on his way to safety.
“We need to get the people moving toward the West Gate,” Duncan filled Marlena in. “Randor and Stratos are there helping them get around the Armory fire.”
“That’s going to be difficult,” Marlena replied. “Most of the civilians have already been captured and they’re being held by one of Keldor’s men nearby.”
“Who’s holding them?” Ram-Man asked as he rejoined his fellow heroes.
Suddenly, a massive, metallic arm punched through the wall of the building behind the human battering-ram. It wrapped around the stocky defender and pulled him right back through!
“I only know of one villain capable of such an act,” Duncan whispered to Marlena as he pulled her to safety on the other side of the street. “He was one of the criminals Keldor freed the day he stormed the Eternian prison.”
“Who is it?”
“A cyborg that goes by the name of Strongarm.”
“The name seems appropriate,” she retorted.
The extendable arm reached through the gaping hole once more, only this time it managed to ensnare both Duncan and Marlena in its vice-like grip...
Randor, Stratos, and Snout navigated their way through the chaotic streets of Eternos, directing frenzied citizens back toward the West Gate and battling their way through the skeleton warriors that crossed their paths.
“I can’t believe this is the same Eternos I grew up in,” Randor said under his breath.
A small orb dropped from the roof of a nearby building and exploded upon contact with the street below.
“I’m on it!” Snout shouted, pushing between the others so that he could hose down the blaze. Within moments it was contained.
Stratos took to the air and flew up to the roof where the bomb had been thrown from. He returned a few minutes later, his feathers looking slightly ruffled. “There were three of those skeletons up there, but I took care of them.”
“Did you see anything else of importance?”
“Aye,” Stratos replied. “I spotted the thing responsible for interfering with our communications.”
“What is it?” Snout jumped in.
“It’s not a ‘what’, it’s a ‘who’. The natives of the Glass Isles call him Fangman. He has the ability to channel electricity—similar to those of his ancestors, the electric-eels.”
“I’ve heard of Fangman before,” Randor said warily, “but I’ve never heard of him uniting with another villain. He’s said to be incredibly mistrustful.”
“Well, apparently Keldor was able to find a way to sway him. Regardless, I think we can restore communications and call for help if we take him out.”
“Agreed,” Randor nodded. He turned toward Snout. “I’m assuming, based on that wonderful helmet of yours, that you’re skilled with circuitry?”
“Then you’ll come with me and—after I've found a way to neutralize Fangman—you can work on repairing the communications array. Stratos, I want you in the air looking for citizens in need of help.”
Stratos nodded and took to the sky as Randor and Snout broke off in Fangman's direction.
When Marlena regained consciousness she found herself chained, with Man-At-Arms and Ram-Man bound by the same metal coils to the right and left respectively. They were sitting on the floor of a large, darkened warehouse. Cries of fear mingled with cries of pain, creating a melancholy magnum opus that filled the vaulted space.
“Duncan…Ram-Man…are you all right?” she whispered.
“I’m fine,” Duncan replied, “but Ram-Man’s still unconscious.”
“Can you free us?”
“Not with the way Strongarm tied us together. If I activate any of my weapons that are capable of cutting through these chains, I’ll injure either you or Ram-Man in the process.”
“Silence!” Strongarm shouted, slamming his mighty metallic arm against the stone floor. The entire makeshift prison went silent. “Your new master is about to speak.”
A purple glow illuminated a catwalk high above—it came from Evil-Lyn’s staff, and at her side was Keldor. “People of Eternos,” the Overlord of Evil began, “the conquest of your great city was the last stop before the whole of Eternia falls before my might.”
“Eternia will never belong to you, Keldor!” Marlena shouted.
The wizard smiled and brushed aside Evil-Lyn’s staff as the witch made ready to destroy Randor’s wife. “Brave words, girl, but who is going to stop me? Even now, the Elders’ defenders are being plucked apart.”
“You may have captured us, Keldor, but the woman is right!” Duncan retorted, careful not to identify Marlena as Randor's wife lest he endanger her. “Eternia will never be yours! The Elders and Captain Randor’s forces will stop you.”
“Ah, yes…Captain Randor…I do so look forward to finally facing him in true combat. For now, though, I must take my leave of you, loyal subjects. There is still much to do.”
The glow from Evil-Lyn’s staff died away and their shapes could vaguely be made-out as they exited the warehouse via a door at the far end of the catwalk...
After battling past another squadron of skeleton warriors Randor and Snout finally caught their first glimpse of Fangman. The blue-scaled warrior, clad in red armor, had blown-up a large section of the street and now had his long, blue tail coiled around the thick cables that ran below street level. His arms and legs seemed to crackle with electricity.
“He’s tapped directly into the power source for the array,” Randor whispered. “This is going to be more difficult that I had anticipated.”
“How do we neutralize him without getting zapped?”
“I wish I could tell you, Snout. Give me a minute to think about it…”
Stratos flew behind a nearby building as Keldor and Evil-Lyn emerged from the warehouse where the prisoners were being kept. They mounted a large brown gryphon and took to the skies, and he was about to follow them when he decided that it may prove more useful to investigate what the pair had been up to in the building.
Stratos swooped down to one of the dilapidated warehouse’s cracked upper windows and barely contained his gasp when he saw the number of people trapped inside. I’ve got to free them, he thought to himself, but how? Just then he spotted Man-At-Arms and Ram-Man. “By the Ancients, they’ve been captured, too!”
The Lord of Avion reasoned that if he could at least free his friends they might be able to help free the other prisoners before Keldor’s reinforcements arrived. He flew around the building looking for an easy way in. Fortunately for him, three large windows had been shattered during the attack on the city. Stratos darted into the building, and dove toward his captured friends.
“I don’t think so!” Strongarm shouted, as he extended his arm to grab the feathered defender.
“Neither do I,” Stratos retorted, as he maneuvered out of the way. He reached the spot where the other heroes were bound and called on all of his strength to lift the captured trio to the safety of the catwalk above.
“You won’t get away from me that easily, bird-brain!” Strongarm extended his cybernetic arm once more and pulled himself up. He swung at Stratos, who ducked at the last second. Strongarm laughed wickedly. “You’ll tire out soon enough!” He swung and missed again.
Meanwhile, Ram-Man had finally regained consciousness. “What’s going on?” he asked, noticing the chains binding him to Man-At-Arms and Marlena.
“There’s no time to explain! You’ve got to use your strength to break these chains, or we’re all doomed!”
“You got it!” Ram-Man took a deep breath, and as he did so his chest expanded. At the same time, he was pushing outward with both of his mighty, meaty arms.
Duncan and Marlena were both feeling the squeeze of the chains as Ram-Man tried to break them, and just when it seemed as if the metal links would start biting into their flesh they exploded in a shower of steel.
Man-At-Arms was on his feet in a flash and activated the laser cannon attached to his gauntlet, and fired at Strongarm giving Stratos a moment to catch his breath. Ram-Man joined in the attack, catapulting himself toward the villain.
Strongarm tried to strike the incoming hero, but Ram-Man’s force was too much for him and the cybernetic arm folded as a result of the collision. “No!” he shouted, as he clutched his broken mechanical appendage. “You haven’t seen the last of me—once my arm is repaired and Keldor has defeated your armies you’ll all be sorry!” With that, Strongarm turned and fled the building as quickly as he could.
“Should we pursue him?” Stratos asked.
“Negative,” Duncan replied. “We need to rescue the people and then we must stop Keldor—I think he’s going after the Elders next!”
“I think I can help you with the first part,” Marlena announced. She unsheathed her sword and held it aloft. “Duncan, can you give me a spotlight?”
He nodded and used a lighting unit stored in the piece of armor over his left shoulder to oblige.
“Citizens of Eternos! Tonight you have witnessed first-hand the terrible forces at Keldor’s disposal. Even the heroes we look to for protection are strained. We can no longer sit idly by, as more and more of Eternia falls before the dark one. We all must join the fight and raise arms to protect our world! Who's with me?”
A cacophonous cheer erupted from the people below, and many of them threw their fists into the air as a sign of support.
Marlena continued when the cheering died down. “I ask that women with children follow Man-At-Arms and the others to the West Gate, where an escape route now exists. The rest of us shall march toward the Garden of the Bitter Rose and free the Eternian Guardsmen trapped there.”
Duncan shut-off the light when she was done and asked quietly, “Are you sure about this?”
“The only thing I’m more sure of is my love for Randor. Eternos—and Eternia, moreover—is my home, and I will not let it fall to that villain. I will protect it with my dying breath, if need be.”
Stratos came over and placed a hand on her armored shoulder. “You are truly a defender equal to any of us. Good journey, Marlena.” Duncan and Ram-Man nodded their agreement.
She blushed and smiled. “Thank you, all of you. I suppose I’ve learned from the best. Now, go, and stop Keldor once and for all...”
Thanks! This is the Marlena I've always felt was lurking just beneath the surface! We saw her hold her own against a couple snake men on the MYP cartoon, and here she is, younger, stronger, and kicking all kinds of (_!_) I'm am extremely grateful to see a writer giving her the attention she's due. Great work! I can't wait for more!
Glad to see you're still here, logandelanoche! And thanks for the compliments--I'm a sucker for feedback! Marlena has always been one of my favorite characters in the MOTU-brand universe and I incorporate her as often as I can in my writings. I don't know if you're familiar with the Filmation series as well as MYP, but the episodes "Rainbow Warrior", "Fraidy Cat" and "Search for a Son" were all excellent Marlena episodes that demonstrated her level-headed, fearless approach! And now, on with the show...
Tucked into the shadows of an alleyway, Man-E-Faces could see where Randor and Snout were hiding as they planned their assault against the unsuspecting Fangman.
When the initial attack on Eternos began the actor had been sound asleep in his room at a nearby inn. As soon as he realized what was happening, Man-E-Faces used his monster-persona, combined with his talent for muted footfalls (acquired from years of work backstage at various theatres), to elude Keldor’s forces.
Suddenly, a hand grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. The figure looking at him through thick green goggles had his finger pressed to his lips. “You’re not safe here,” the stranger whispered. “The West Gate is clear—you must evacuate.”
Man-E-Faces yanked his shoulder free. “I’m not going anywhere, especially since I may be the only one that can stop that thing around the corner.”
The stranger studied him for a moment. “You’re that actor, aren’t you…Manny Facer?”
“That’s ‘Man-E-Faces’, and yes I am. Who are you, since you’ve picked this most inopportune moment to make introductions?”
“Mekaneck, one of Captain Randor’s men.” An uncomfortable silence followed before Mekaneck finally broke it. “I got a look at scales over there,” the long-necked Master said in reference to Fangman, “as I was surveying the perimeter. It looks like he’s tapped into the power supply for the communications array somehow. What makes you think you can stop him?”
Man-E-Faces’ head began to spin rapidly beneath his blue, cybernetic dome. When it stopped, the actor had adopted the stilted voice and guise of a silver robot. “I will simply ask the operating system to shut-down, thereby eliminating the power supply.”
Mekaneck nodded skeptically. “Uh-huh. And how are you going to talk to a machine?”
In response the actor held up his left index finger, and it transformed into a long silver rod with a flashing green light at the top.
Mekaneck was impressed, though he still wasn't ready to admit it. “Okay, so how are you going to…hook-up with the operating system?”
“The array’s primary antenna is on the roof of this building. I should be able to connect to the system using that.” Man-E-Faces could see that Mekaneck still had his doubts. “We do not have time to waste. Captain Randor was here before I arrived, and he is most likely formulating a plan of attack as we speak. If the power supply is not shut-down then Keldor’s warrior will be able to electrocute him.”
Mekaneck needed no further convincing. “Hold on to my neck and I’ll lift you up to the top of the building.”
“We’re wasting time!” Snout whispered impatiently. “We’ve got to strike at Fangman now, before more of the skeleton warriors arrive.”
Randor remained silent for another moment, his eyes closed as he tried to map out the best course of action. “Fangman is an unknown enemy at this point. All we really know about him is that he serves Keldor and he’s channeling massive amounts of energy.”
“So how do we stop him?”
Randor was quickly losing his patience and starting to regret his decision to bring the boy. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” he snapped, “if you would give me a moment’s peace! Neither of us carries a device to deflect or absorb the energy if he unleashes it against us, which means we cannot attack him directly. Instead, we must find a way to shut-down the power source that he’s feeding on.”
“Well why didn’t you just say so?” Snout asked enthusiastically.
“You know how we can shut off the power?”
“Sure! I’ll short-circuit it.”
Before Randor could stop him, the boy had darted out into the middle of the street and revealed his position to Fangman. The captain had no choice but to step out in an effort to protect him. “Get back, Snout!” The captain leveled his blade against Keldor’s warrior.
“What’s this?” Fangman hissed bemusedly, never once moving from his spot.
Snout continued to move forward quickly, until he was mere feet away from the villain. Randor was trying his best to keep up, but either fear or the few years’ difference in their ages was enough to keep him at least ten paces back.
“Let me wet your whistle for the beating Captain Randor’s going to give you!” Snout shouted.
Time seemed to slow for Randor as he watched the events unfold before him: Snout raised the trunk attached to his helmet, as he prepared to douse Fangman and the cables the monster was feeding on. But, Keldor's warrior realized what was happening a split-second beforehand, and he reached out and grabbed the hose so that it misfired. When the electro-charged creature came into contact with the cold metal of Snout’s Hose Nose device, the current pumping through his scales leaped toward the boy’s face and danced wildly across the helmet!
A flare of sparks filled Randor’s eyes, followed by a horrible thud. When his vision cleared the captain could see Snout’s limp body at his feet. Smoke wafted off every inch of his body, curling as it danced into the pre-dawn sky. The tank of water that had been affixed to Snout’s back had exploded into nothingness. As for the Hose Nose device, it looked slightly duller than it used to, but the raw, burned strips of skin he could see beneath the mask looked even worse...
Man-E-Faces had inserted his robotic digit into the interface for the primary antenna. Via the connection he had established, the actor felt the energy spike as Fangman grabbed onto…something metal. Man-E-Faces couldn’t be sure what had been struck, but he hoped that it wasn’t his moody new ally Mekaneck.
The actor lost track of all else around him as he made contact with the primary computer that controlled the communications array. It took a lot of forcing and prodding, but Man-E-Faces was finally able to 'convince' the computer to shut-down the entire array’s power supply.
He watched satisfactorily as the red light atop the antenna above him winked out, followed by the lights from other antennas nearby.
Mekaneck plowed into Randor, knocking him to the ground as a bolt of energy whizzed through the space where he had been standing. “Sorry, sir, but it looked like you were in trouble.”
“Thanks, Mekaneck, I would have been.” Another blast came their way, but both men managed to dodge it.
“You can’t evade me forever!” Fangman hissed. He held up his hands, preparing to fire once more, but the brilliant blue energy that crackled around them dissipated swiftly. “What on Eternia?” He examined his hands, and then looked back at his tail to make sure it was still connected to the wires beneath the street.
“Man-E-Faces must have done it!” Mekaneck shouted.
“Man-E-Faces? He was here?”
The actor crashed to the ground, but a terrible looking monster’s face had replaced the metallic one. “Been here a while,” he grunted before reverting back to his normal appearance.
“Curse you all!” Fangman cried, untangling himself from his former energy source. “You may have stopped me, but you’ll never stop Keldor and—”
“And Strongarm?” Man-At-Arms asked, as he and the others joined Randor’s group. “He’s already been taken care of.”
“No matter! You will all still kneel before mighty Keldor!” Before the heroes could stop him, Fangman darted toward an open grate that dropped into the city’s sewer system. The reptile disappeared into the darkness below, not to be seen in Eternos again that day.
Mekaneck started to follow, but Duncan stopped him. “Let him go, we’ve got bigger problems.”
“What is it, Duncan?” Randor asked.
“I think this was all just a precursor, and perhaps even a diversion, from an assault against the Elders and the Hall of Wisdom.”
“Blast him!” Randor shouted angrily. “I want everyone to commandeer the fastest ship they can find and head toward the Hall of Wisdom. I will join you there, but first I must find Marlena.”
“She’s fine,” Ram-Man assured him. “She’s leading the revolt here.”
Randor smiled proudly. “That’s my darling.” He turned then to face Man-E-Faces. “Thank you for all of your help, I assure you that you will be properly rewarded for your bravery at another time. For now, though, Snout needs to be taken to a Healer. Can you—”
“Honored to serve,” the actor interrupted, as he scooped the still-unconscious lad into his arms. As the actor walked away his voice trailed off with him, but he seemed to be recounting for the unconscious youth a story about his tutelage under a Healer for a past show.
“Now,” Randor said determinedly, “it’s time to put a stop to Keldor’s evil once and for all!”
The Sorceress entered the Elders’ chamber in her falcon guise. Upon landing she resumed her natural state and greeted the others with a sense of dread. “Keldor and his greatest warriors are about to strike. Even as we speak, they make their final preparations in a secluded grove nearby.”
“Yes,” Steagor replied, “we have sensed it, and we are ready to do what must be done.”
The Sorceress nodded sadly. “And I am ready to do my part. But I confess that I will miss being able to talk openly with others that feel the true weight of ensuring Eternia’s future.”
“Do not be sad, Sorceress,” Vulcan replied. “We may cease to exist as you know us now, but we will never be too far gone to lend a friendly ear. Besides, take heart in knowing that you are helping to return the bloodline of King Grayskull himself to Eternia’s throne.”
Gnarl chimed in. “The heroes have arrived. Man-At-Arms will need this”—a long, silver shaft appeared in the Sorceress’ free hand—“to activate his mechanical devices. With your help, the Mystic Wall that arises today will help neutralize Keldor until the Hero is born.”
The Sorceress took one final look at the Elders before flying up to one of the viewing balconies. She had scarcely cloaked herself in the shadows when the massive doors to the chamber swung open and Captain Randor entered, followed by his most powerful lieutenants. They all dropped to one knee in salute to the august assemblage that governed their planet.
“Ah, Captain Randor—” Duquaine started, but was cut short.
“Please,” Randor interrupted, “forgive the intrusion. Keldor and his forces are moving on the capital.”
“Yes, we know. We were just discussing h—”
“You know?” Randor leapt to both feet. “You must evacuate! If Keldor’s forces breech the Hall of Wisdom you will be vanquished, and all the power of Eternia will be his!”
“Your forces will defeat him,” Zilora said calmly, as explosions began to rock the outside corridors.
“And you, Randor—as king—shall rule Eternia in our place.”
The young captain could scarcely believe his ears, and was certain that he had misunderstood because his attention had been drawn to the incoming attack. “King?” he echoed. “I’m merely a soldier!”
A massive explosion rocked the sacred chamber and large chunks of stone and debris rained down on them all. Through the settling dust Evil-Lyn’s shadowy form could be seen by the glow from her staff. Keldor stepped through the entrance his witch had created, and displayed a devilish grin before giving a silent command to his fellow invaders to attack.
“Battle positions!” Man-At-Arms ordered over the din.
The forces of good and evil began their latest battle in an undying war. As swords and armor crashed against each other, filling the air with a bloody harmony, Randor saw the Elders vanish in a flash of white light. He didn’t have time to ponder the disappearance, as he could hear Keldor’s battle cry calling to him.
Keldor’s blade was parried by Randor’s at the last possible moment. The two men stared each other down, with looks of pure anger and hatred. Keldor saw the last obstacle to his destiny, and Randor saw his father’s killer.
“How long I’ve waited for this, Randor!” Droplets of spit flew from the fiend’s clenched mouth.
And so the men began their dance, the one that each had ached for with every fiber of their being. Keldor’s sword split into two blades, which he swung at his hated half-brother furiously. It took all of his skills to do so, but Randor was able to deflect each of the successive blows.
In an effort to catch his breath the appointed king catapulted himself onto a massive granite pillar. Keldor was relentless though, and he called on unnatural forces to lift him into the air and bring his blades right through the stone perch. Randor barely had time to leap onto the nearby staircase for safety.
But Keldor followed him there too, once more aided by an unnatural agility. The sword play began anew, but a brief whiff of something foul filled Randor’s nose. He noticed Keldor hesitate for a flicker of a second before taking a step back, and that’s when he knew that something was about to attack him from behind!
Randor ducked just as a massive gryphon’s talon carved through the air where his head had just been. The true son of Miro spun around and saw the one called Beastman commanding the savage creature. The hero could feel Keldor’s gaze boring into his back, but he dared not look away from this latest threat either.
Suddenly, Stratos flashed by and took Beastman out before he could do any more harm. With no one to command it the gryphon stood motionless.
Thank the Ancients…and Stratos, Randor thought briefly, as he turned his attention back toward the evil group’s deadly leader. The men engaged their swords with furious intent once more, so much so that many of the smaller battles nearby came to a complete standstill to watch.
Finally, with beads of sweat threatening to wash away his features, Randor managed to ensnare the hilts of Keldor’s twin swords, and he used his new-found leverage to strip his half-brother of them. As the swords crashed to the marble floor below Keldor appeared to cower for the first time.
Randor pointed his blade at the murderous one. “It ends here, Keldor,” he proclaimed, his chest heaving as his lungs fought for air.
“It would appear so,” the blue-skinned one acquiesced, secretly reaching into the shadowy folds of his cloak. “But appearances can be deceiving,” he retorted, as he threw a vile of his deadly potion at Randor.
As soon as his eyes caught sight of the ominous looking capsule, Randor activated the mechanical shield in his gauntlet and held it up to deflect the thing. Most of the potion ricocheted off, striking the unprepared Keldor instead before he could leap to safety!
The evil one’s face began to smoke and carried with it a terrible burning smell. Keldor wailed in agony as he clutched at his visage, and writhed in seeming terror.
Randor noticed a similar cloud of smoke coming from his shield, and looked down only to find that it had been mostly eaten away by the acidic toxin. He discarded the now-useless disk and moved closer to Keldor, keeping his sword at the ready.
Beastman saw what was happening and realized that he could pay off his debt to Keldor by saving his life, the same way Keldor had saved his. The brute tossed Stratos aside and made for his gryphon.
“In the name of Eternia,” Randor pronounced, “I arrest you, for crimes against the—”
“My face!” Keldor finally managed to choke out with a piercing cry. Still clutching his miserable countenance, the villain ran madly toward the edge of the staircase and hurled himself over the edge. Beastman’s gryphon swooped in at the last second and scooped up the menace.
“No,” Randor whispered as Keldor managed to escape yet again.
Kronis and the other evil warriors had also seen what happened, and knew that their attack on the Hall of Wisdom had failed as quickly as it had started. “Retreat!” Kronis barked, leading the others toward their concealed ships nearby...
Randor marched down the remaining stairs and looked toward Duncan. “Pursue them,” he ordered.
When the chamber was finally cleared the son of Miro marched hesitantly toward the Elders’ plinths. “Council members?” he called, his voice echoing eerily in the empty chamber.
A long silence followed, but then a woman’s voice—the Sorceress’ voice, though he did not know it—spoke directly into his mind. Gone, she replied.
He looked about wildly for the mental intruder but found nothing.
Your men shall succeed in pushing the forces of evil back to the dark hemisphere the Sorceress continued. Peace will come to Eternia, but only for a time.
“And then?” Randor called out, sensing that the speaker would hear him.
A hero shall emerge to protect Eternia.
“How will I know this hero?” he asked. But a response did not follow. “How will I know this hero?” he repeated, shouting this time.
But the Sorceress was already gone, knowing that she needed to catch up to the heroes in order for the Mystic Wall to be created.
“Captain Randor!” multiple voices called simultaneously, as the large chamber filled with members of the Eternian Guard. One of them, Lieutenant Rotar, explained why they had not rushed to his aid earlier. “Keldor’s witch used her magic to block all of the entrances and exits! We could only watch as you were ambushed.”
“I understand,” he said haltingly, though few of the day’s events made any sense to him. “Were any of you injured?”
“No,” Rotar replied, “at least not as badly as Keldor was. You really showed him! Plus, you gave the Elders time to escape.”
“Perhaps. Now, I—”
Suddenly, the Hall of Wisdom began to shake violently. “By the Ancients, what happens now?” The tremor continued, followed by the sparking of large, bluish-white fires.
Anyone standing outside would have borne witness to a spectacular sight! First, the olden citadel—once called Castle Eternia, and then the Hall of Wisdom—was wrenched from its moorings! The entire structure hung in midair, sending terrified citizens fleeing for miles lest it fall.
Then, a massive column of the same bluish-white fire, seen by Randor and his men inside, swallowed the entire fortress, seemingly obliterating it entirely. When the eldritch flames vanished, only the fortress’ broken foundation remained.
Evil-Lyn and Kronis were mounted on one gryphon, and nearby Beastman’s mount carried Keldor in its deadly talon. They were flying as fast as they could toward Snake Mountain, but Evil-Lyn could tell that Keldor was fading fast.
She reached out and tried to connect with his mind, but was met with a horrifying sensation, which she could only assume was akin to having scalding tar poured over every internal organ. The sorceress swooned but Kronis was there to catch her.
“Such pain,” she whispered, covering her mouth to keep the creeping bile from spilling out. “He’ll never make it all the way back to Snake Mountain.”
“What do you suggest?”
“I…I don’t know. I must try to reach out to him again.” Hesitantly, Evil-Lyn reached out once more. Keldor, her psychic voice called gently. Keldor, how can I help you?
The Lord of Destruction gave a halting reply, and with each psychic word his confidant was greeted with a dagger-like prickling in her brain. Won’t make it…to Snake Mountain…only one can…save me…
Who, Keldor? Tell me who it is, and I will take you to them!
She was taken aback, as Keldor had told her about the wicked would-be leader of the army that was supposed to belong to Shokoti’s son. Evil-Lyn knew that he had been trapped in another dimension centuries ago, but had no idea that he might still be alive, much less willing to help Keldor.
Evil-Lyn snapped out of her shock when Keldor started speaking again, driving those mental daggers back into her brain. His sanctuary…to the south-west…closer than Snake Mountain.
But how can he help you? And why would he help you now?
Studied…Book of…Ancients…he will help…
The connection was severed and Evil-Lyn sensed that he had lost consciousness. “I’m taking Keldor for help,” she said to Kronis at once. “We need to lighten the load on the gryphon so it can go faster, which means you need to ride with Beastman.”
“No way am I riding backwind of him!” the other snorted. “I’ll take my chances on the ground with the others.” With that Kronis jumped, his descent slowed by Evil-Lyn’s magic. Next the witch used her power to encase Keldor in a magical sphere, which she brought over to her own mount.
“What are you doing?” Beastman shouted over the rush of the wind.
“Saving his life!” Without another word she pulled the reigns on the gryphon, and it started flying in the direction of Hordak’s bygone sanctuary...
Man-At-Arms and the others were in hot pursuit of Keldor's retreating forces. “Evil-Lyn and Keldor just branched off from the others,” Mekaneck transmitted over all frequencies.
“But they’re still inside the perimeter of the wall,” Duncan replied. “As long as they don’t break out of that perimeter they can go wherever they want and it won't matter!”
That’s when Man-At-Arms heard a rustle of wings to his left. At first he thought it was Stratos, but then realized that Stratos was flying closer to the ground and to his right. He turned his head for a brief second, and was shocked to see the Sorceress—still in her human form—flying fast enough to keep up with his Sky Sled.
She looked down at Stratos and then back at Man-At-Arms. A slight smile played upon her lips as she remarked, “We don’t all require the aide of a jet-pack to keep up with your machines, Duncan.”
He grinned. “And here I was, about to say how nice it was to see you.”
“Well, if that’s how you feel then maybe you don’t need this…” She held up the silver rod that would remotely activate the mechanical components of the Mystic Wall.
“By the Ancients, I can’t believe I forgot that!” Man-At-Arms replied as he gratefully took it from her hand. Checking his instruments he barked into the communicator, “Time to land, folks, we’re here!”
The heroes brought down their vehicles, and Man-At-Arms took the silver rod along with him. He made his way to the spot where the primary generator lay, buried beneath the dark soil, and plunged the metal shaft deep into the ground. It sparked and coursed with energy as it made contact with the generator.
It’s up to you now, he said to the Sorceress via telepathy.
Castle Grayskull’s guardian landed silently, and aimed the Staff of Zoar at the tip of Man-At-Arms’ invention. Powerful arcs of energy erupted, combining science and magic like never before. The newly created force traveled with the speed of light, activating each of Man-At-Arms’ generators and reinforcers in-turn.
Mer-Man screeched to a halt, his glassy eyes widening. “What are they doing?” he shouted, grabbing the attention of Kronis, Tri-Klops and the others.
A pulsating barrier started to rise out of the ground, dancing and warbling in the dim light like a pool of thick oil! It grew higher and higher, until it seemed as if the heavens themselves would be pierced by the strange partition.
“I can feel its energy from here!” Fangman gasped.
Tri-Klops’ headpiece was whirling about. “It’s incredible! It stretches as far as my eyes can see!”
“No worries,” Kronis said calmly. “It can’t be surrounding us completely. There’s no way it can reach around the seas, right Mer-Man?”
But the oceanic warlord just shook his head. “I can’t make contact with any of my servants beyond a few miles of the shore. That wall’s interfering with my powers.”
“Then we’ll just have to break it down,” Beastman grunted. “They can’t keep us trapped forever.”
“And besides,” Strongarm added reasonably, “what about all of the innocents that are trapped on this side? Surely they wouldn’t leave them here.”
“It will be many years before Keldor can penetrate, much less bring down, the Mystic Wall,” the Sorceress assured the heroes.
With the exception of Duncan, they were all staring at the mysterious, winged woman. “We all hope that you’re right,” Stratos replied, “but who are you, and how do you know these things?”
“You will learn who I am when the time is right, noble Stratos.”
“Will you be rejoining us at the Hall of Wisdom?” Duncan asked Castle Grayskull's guardian.
“The Hall of Wisdom is no more.” They all gasped, but before anyone could question further she explained. “Look now toward the Fertile Plains, near Mount Eternia. There you will find the newly created Palace Eternia, home to King Randor and Queen Marlena.” As she spoke the Sorceress started to fade away, until she had disappeared completely from sight...
Randor and the Eternian Guardsmen that had been with him found themselves in the middle of an immaculately manicured courtyard. None of them showed signs of their recent struggles, least of all Randor himself. He found himself adorned in crimson and bronze garments, with a flowing cloak of soft Snow Beast-hide.
The man brought a trembling hand to his brow, and ran it across a cold, golden circlet.
There was another burst of fire, akin to that which had consumed the Hall of Wisdom. Marlena appeared in place of the flames and looked wide-eyed toward her husband. She, too, looked refreshed, and had been dressed in new raiment. The woman that had just helped to lead the citizens of Eternos to safety wore a floor-length, ivory colored gown that exposed her shoulders and slender neck. Her long brown hair had been pulled back, and was held in place by a golden crown that appeared far more regal than her husband’s.
The couple raced toward each other and embraced tightly. “What happened?” she asked. “We had just finished freeing the others in Eternos, when this strange fire sprang up around me!”
“I know, the same thing happened to us”—he pointed toward himself first and then toward the guards that were still mulling around confusedly in the courtyard—“I think it’s the work of the Elders.”
“Yes. They disappeared during Keldor’s attack on the Hall of Wisdom, but before they did they said something very strange…”
He started to tell her three times, only to stop and shake his head as if he couldn’t believe it himself. Finally, he brought the words to bear: “They said that I would lead Eternia in their place…as king.”
“Excuse me, sir,” a guard interrupted. “One of my men went through that entryway over there. He found a staircase that led to a throne room built for two.”
“You’re saying this is some kind of castle?” the stunned Randor asked.
“Randor!” Marlena gasped. “Look at those marble carvings!”
He followed her gaze, and realized that carved into each of the columns was Randor’s family crest. “Could it be…?”
Well, this is it: this concludes (finally) Part 3 of Dark Legacies. Part 4, the shortest of them all will be up later. In the meantime, enjoy...
Evil-Lyn landed the gryphon near the dilapidated citadel Keldor had led her to. She dismounted and took her dark love into her arms. He was so weak that she had to support his full weight. “How do we get in?” she asked.
Keldor ran his shaking hand across an ordinary stone in front of them, and a massive doorway revealed itself. “Inside…to the Great Hall…”
Evil-Lyn knew some of Hordak’s history. He may have originally been intended to serve as Keldor’s general, but in Shokoti’s absence he had become a great evil in his own right. One that could easily challenge Keldor if he ever renewed his interests in Eternia. “What makes you think he will help you?” she asked. “Surely there’s a way to counteract the Orb of Agony's magic back at Snake Mountain.”
“Snake Mountain…too far away,” Keldor answered. “Hordak is…only hope…studied Book of….Ancients.” The two stumbled closer to the Great Hall, and with each step Evil-Lyn could sense his life-force ebbing away. “Only one chance…quickly!”
The doors before them parted, revealing an enormous chamber. In the center of the room a steep staircase led up to a simmering, smoking cauldron. Evil-Lyn could not even fathom who—or what—maintained the fires beneath the pot. She led Keldor up the steps, trying her best to quell the rolling waves of nausea that threatened to overtake her as gelatinous globules of Keldor’s face fell to the ground. His weight finally became too much for her, and she dropped him to his hands and knees as they reached the cauldron.
Pulling away an ooze-covered hand from his melting face, Keldor pulled out another vile of the poison that had been meant for Randor and the Elders. He dropped it into the tub. “Activate it…with your magic,” he instructed Evil-Lyn.
She reigned in her nerves and summoned the darkest magic she could think of to her fingertips. The witch unleashed her power, and the resulting explosion sent her hurtling through the air before slamming her into the ground. The blow was enough to temporarily knock her out.
Above, the otherworldly red flames that danced around the pot began to take shape, and curling smoke coalesced into a frightening representation of Hordak’s visage. “Why do you summon me?” the apparition demanded.
“I’m dying,” Keldor answered. “Save me, Hordak…so I can continue my conquest of Eternia.”
Despite the difference in time and space between them, the ancient villain could sense the psychic similarities between the mewing creature before him and the witch Shokoti. It amused Hordak greatly that this feeble villain—undoubtedly his would-be master—was now begging for his life.
“There will be a price,” Hordak warned.
Keldor’s legs slipped out from under him, and all that was holding him up now were the arms resting on the lip of Hordak’s cauldron. “No price…is too great,” he retorted.
“Then let it be done!”
The Great Hall went pitch-black, except for the eerie flames that danced in the image of Hordak’s face. That same fire spewed out and enveloped Keldor’s prone body.
The sudden spike in power, coupled with Keldor’s screams of agony, was enough to awaken Evil-Lyn from her comatose state. Shielding her eyes against the blinding light of Hordak’s raw power, she could make out Keldor’s limp form as it arose into the air before being swallowed by a rushing cloud of dark smoke.
Beyond the smokey veil, Keldor, in a strange limbo between life and death, underwent a startling transformation! It was almost as if he could feel his internal organs stop working and shrivel up. Since there was nothing left to push the blood through his veins, Keldor was left with an unnatural feeling of being numbingly cold all-over.
Stranger by far, though, was the force that ravaged his face. It sucked away the poison eating his flesh, pore-by-pore, but it didn’t just stop there—it was almost as if his skin was being pulled away with the chemicals.
When it was finished, Keldor felt slightly lightheaded.
“Keldor?” Evil-Lyn whispered, as his body was lowered back to the ground.
“Keldor is no more,” Hordak answered as his visage faded away, “now there is only ‘Skeletor’!” The proclamation was followed by a blood-curdling laugh.
The last of the smoke dissipated, and the one now called Skeletor turned to face Evil-Lyn. But she recoiled in horror. He marched down the stairs, filled with more strength and energy than he had felt in quite some time, and met his confidant. Reflected in the purple orb of Evil-Lyn's staff, Skeletor could see what had brought such a reaction out of her.
Hordak had saved his life, but in the process the Horde’s leader had completely eradicated the once handsome face that belonged to a man named Keldor. All that remained was a terrifying, disembodied skull. It floated, like a ghostly apparition, above Skeletor’s seemingly dead body.
The image filled him with mad amusement, as it would undoubtedly strike fear in his enemies. Skeletor felt the urge to laugh rise up from his belly, and by some enchantment it managed to ring-forth from his detached cranium. He brushed past Evil-Lyn as he cackled, and pulled up the hood of his purple cloak.
Evil-Lyn followed him out of the sanctuary, and didn’t even notice as the doors sealed behind her. “Keldor—”
“Skeletor!” he corrected.
She ignored the rebuke. “What did he do to…to your face?”
But Skeletor did not answer. For the first time he and his consort were seeing the Mystic Wall. “By the dark spirits,” he muttered. “It appears my enemies were busy while we were inside.”
Forgetting momentarily the terrifying change in her beloved, Evil-Lyn pointed her staff toward the distant wall and placed the fingertips of her other hand on her brow. “The energy behind it is generated by an uncanny combination of mechanical and mystical forces!”
Skeletor mounted the gryphon. “No matter. It shouldn’t take long to bring it down, and once we do Randor will find his former half-brother an even more deadly foe.”
Skeletor took off without waiting, abandoning Evil-Lyn in the middle of the barren landscape. As Evil-Lyn watched him fly away, she made a silent resolution: Keldor, the one she had loved, was gone—replaced by a shattered reflection named Skeletor—and if she could not have her dark love, then she would at least have his powers! Either way, her heart’s dark desire would be quenched.
And when Skeletor returned to snake mountain he found a defiant Kronis sitting on his throne, FUBAR'd him, and had him rebuilt as Trap Jaw, an echo of his own grisly transformation!!! :tjmad:
I'm a little sad to see the end of this chapter, but I can't wait for the next one!:skgrin:
Thanks again for the great stories!
I cannot for the life in me understand how I can have been ignorant of this riveting cycle of tales for so long...! But it was my loss entirely - and equally that of anyone here who has not yet read them. I shall MOST CERTAINLY be reading the rest with the utmost interest.
To me, this is the most successful narrative history of the Eternian mythos that I have yet had the pleasure of reading. It has resonance, depth (not least in the compelling characterization of the protagonists - whose motives and attributes are made so plain and intriguing) and a convincing and involving style. I have read published work by (alleged) professionals which cannot match this - and I am a writer by trade myself.
I particularly like the way in which somewhat differing canons of the lore are twined together in a relatively seamless fashion; not an easy conjuring to bring off well - but this work does so. It creates a genuinely concrete and credible background to the - inevitably - better-known events of the He-Man era - and provides a narrative which not only works at several levels, but also grips and satisfies.
Those who - like me - were unaware of this treasure in our midst would be very well-advised to seek it out and spend some enjoyable time reading a thoroughly well-crafted and involving tale; one I would myself be proud to offer up for its entertainment, elegance of style and innate wit!
Amazing writing, images, and just generally all around awesome. Everyone should read this!