May 31, 2010, 10:08pm
Great to know you're still with me, Dennis, but believe me when I say I know all about being busy! I'm going to try really hard to keep busting these segments out quickly during the summer while I'm in between semesters at school--they've been written for years, so there's really no excuse, LOL! Unfortunately, I can tell you now that since this story is / was based around the MYP / MVC mythology Hsss' freedom still relies on Kobra Khan a couple decades from 'now', and it won't be included in this particular story. However, if you're a Hordak fan you can still expect a reappearance or two from him...
Speaking of this story's rootes in MYP / MVC, part of the delay in posting some of this stuff more quickly is the result of watching the evolving MOTUC storyline courtesty of the bios. Part of me was tempted to scrap the idea of posting the rest of the story, but too many people have expressed in intrest in it over the years for me to do that. I've also been working on-and-off on a sequal since completing "Dark Legacies" oh-so-long-ago, and so I may work some of the new concepts from MOTUC into that.
At any rate, on wtih the show. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated so I would LOVE to hear from others who are still reading also...
King Trinok, a grossly overweight, blue-skinned warthog with a penchant for feathers and gold, was salivating at the thought of his upcoming feast. As he made his way through the labyrinthine corridors of his palace, plodding his way toward the coliseum where his dinner would be prepared for all of his subjects to see, Trinok reflected on Beastman’s past.
Once, the creature and his kind had served Trinok, and he was the ruler’s most powerful enforcer. That all came to an end, though, when Beastman’s mate—far more dangerous and conniving than her husband—attempted to poison Trinok. The plot was foiled in time, and in retaliation the king had all of Beastman’s brethren slaughtered. Only Beastman himself escaped.
You weren’t so lucky this time, were you, old friend? Trinok thought, as he joined the crowd in the coliseum. “It’s time he joined that mangy mate of his,” he commented to his vizier.
Just then, Beastman and Keldor stumbled out of the tunnels beneath the amphitheatre, finding themselves, inadvertently, in the center of the arena.
Trinok realized that they must have managed to escape somehow, but he was not about to be denied his dinner, or his revenge. “Kill them!” he squealed.
A group of pig-soldiers came out of nowhere, their weapons brandished, and they surrounded the fleeing duo within seconds.
The battle began immediately, with Keldor relying primarily on his mastery of magic, and Beastman relying on his unmatched strength and savagery. Trinok’s men were dropping like flies between their combined skills.
The spectators were cheering, thirsty to see blood spilled in whatever form it might take. Trinok, however, was less than amused. He tore off his feathered cloak, and made to drop on the orange beast from the viewing platform above. His adviser tried to stop him but it was too late, for Trinok had already catapulted himself into the air and was falling fast toward the unwitting Beastman.
Keldor saw what was about to happen, and refused to let his potentially strongest henchman be crushed beneath the morbidly obese king. The Overlord of Evil unleashed a torrent of magic unlike any he had ever created before, and channeled it directly at Trinok.
Beastman froze as the stream of energy passed harmlessly overhead, awestruck by the spectacle. He was only vaguely aware of a crashing sound behind him, and even less cognizant of Keldor’s remarks immediately afterwards.
The Lord of Destruction still had his hands out in front of him, a field of energy crackling around them, and Beastman was certain that Keldor had intended to kill him with that beam of energy. “No…please!” he begged.
Keldor started to ask what Beastman was blubbering about, but stopped himself when he realized what must have gone through the simian’s tiny brain. His duplicitous mind kicked in at once, and he easily played upon the fear he had just instilled in the creature. “Follow me,” he commanded simply.
With the pig-men hot on their trail, Keldor and Beastman ran as fast as they could toward Keldor’s chariot. When they arrived, the blue-skinned warlord began bridling the horse.
“You have chosen wisely,” Keldor said approvingly. “With your king dead and your people hunting you, you know this can no longer be your home. There is nowhere to turn, Beastman. You will serve me, or die.”
Verifying that the Havoc Staff remained untouched, Keldor continued. “If we hurry, we can reach the water by nightfall.”
Everything was happening so quickly, and that angered the brute. But then he remembered the incredible power Keldor had demonstrated at the coliseum, followed by the sound of Trinok’s squeals. It finally dawned on him that Keldor had used that power to save their lives and end the king’s tyranny. Kneeling at Keldor’s feet, Beastman submitted humbly. “Lead on…my master.”
Zodak awoke from his meditation, small beads of sweat dotting the top of his head. He looked out the windowed side of Point Dread and saw that the snow on the mountains around his home had started to melt. It was a strange sight since he had started his meditation at the beginning of winter.
Another Eternian spring, brother, he thought sadly. I wish you could see it. Suppressing his emotions, as he always did when they threatened to emerge, he stood up and sent a telepathic message to the Elders and the Sorceress:
I have had a vision of the near future. I must speak with you at once…
June 4, 2010, 01:37pm
As always, feedback is appreciated...
Duncan and Marlena brought their Sky Sleds to a halt near the foot-bridge leading to Castle Grayskull. They disembarked and the young woman realized that she felt oddly comfortable around the old ruins.
Duncan came and stood beside her and placed a reassuring hand upon her back. “How are you doing, Marlena?”
“Fine,” she replied with a smile, “but, what are we doing here, Duncan?”
“I was asked to bring you, but I’m not at liberty to say why.” He led the way to the edge of the foot-bridge, where they stood patiently until the ancient jaw-bridge spanned the gap.
The two made their way inside and Duncan directed them to the throne room, following empty sconces that would flicker to life as they neared. As they crossed into the enormous chamber Marlena was stunned to find the Elders standing alongside a woman with large, white wings.
Captain Randor’s wife bowed before the Elders. “Your Excellencies, I did not expect to see you here,” she stammered. “I thought Duncan was playing a joke by bringing me to this ugly place.”
“Welcome, Marlena,” Vulcan replied. “I assure you, this is no joke. Allow me to introduce the young woman to my right: the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull, defender of its awesome secrets and powers.”
The Sorceress nodded her head in salutation. “Welcome to my home.”
“Oh!” Marlena gasped, her cheeks turning read. “Please forgive me, Sorceress, I didn’t mean—”
“It’s alright,” Zilora soothed. “Next to the Sorceress, the castle’s best defense is its appearance. After all, who would imagine that great power lurks behind these deceptively crumbling walls?”
“I feel we should speed things along, my friends,” Steagor interrupted.
Duquaine smiled at his peer. “You’ll have to forgive Elder Steagor, Marlena. His old age hasn’t improved his lack of patience.” The comment broke some of the tension in the air and everyone chuckled.
“We have wonderful news for you,” Sumana pushed on moments later. “We have been told of a vision, one of you and Randor bringing two young children into this world in the not-so-distant future.”
Marlena regarded the Elders strangely, still wondering if some kind of joke was being played on her. Finally, she realized they were being serious. “I…I don’t know what to say. We want children very badly but the timing doesn’t seem right, especially with the loss of Miro, and now this Keldor character running amok.”
“We cannot speak to the timing,” the Sorceress replied. “By the time you give birth the threat of Keldor may well be extinct. What we can assure you of, beyond any shadow of doubt, is that your children will walk a path of greatness.”
“And during times of darkness and strife, we Elders and the Sorceress will always be at their side,” Duquaine stressed. “They will never be unprotected.”
Marlena nodded numbly, still reeling from their prediction. “Twins?” she asked herself. After a few moments she began to smile, as she warmed up to the idea. “Our parents will be ecstatic, not to mention Randor’s reaction!”
“Remember, this may not happen for some time—years, perhaps.”
“It doesn’t matter! Today I am the happiest woman on all of Eternia!”
The Elders discreetly nodded at Duncan, who escorted Marlena from the castle. Once the pair was gone the Sorceress spoke more freely if not still cryptically. “Our words will hold no comfort for Marlena and her husband when the inevitable happens and their joy turns to sorrow.”
“Perhaps,” Zilora replied, “but their loss will only be temporary. It is as Zodak said: ‘For the universe to remain in harmony, there must be a balance between the forces of good and evil.’”
The Sorceress sighed. “Yes, and the handful of innocent planets in Despondos will need a guardian just as much as Eternia does. Still, my heart aches for Randor and Marlena.”
“As do ours...”
June 4, 2010, 02:15pm
Captain Randor and his forces arrived in a fleet of Water Raiders. Two hours earlier, the Eternian Guard had received a distress signal from Orkas Island. The citizens reported a massive battle taking place, between the crab-like Crustace-Men and a group of invaders led by a blue-skinned warrior wearing a red helmet.
“Be on-guard,” Randor cautioned his men as they set foot on the island shore. “The Crustace-Men aren’t known for their kindness.” The son of Miro unsheathed his sword. “We must also be on the look-out for Kronis—based on the reports, I fear that he is the leader of the invaders.”
From out of nowhere a burned, human carcass landed at Randor’s feet. The human shell’s jawbone had been completely ripped off: Kronis’ sick calling-card. “Welcome to Orkas Island,” the evil general called out from atop a nearby dune. The charred jawbone of his latest victim still rested in his hand.
Randor leveled his sword at the other man. “Stand down, Kronis!”
“I don’t think so, Randy!” Kronis pulled out a stun-blaster and fired, simultaneously jumping behind the dune for protection.
Randor barely had time to dodge the blast. “Follow him!” he shouted, leading the way as the Eternian Guardsmen charged over the sandy mound.
The scene on the other side was a startling one: Kronis, along with a great number of his fellow escapees from the Eternian prison, had managed to subdue the Crustace-Men. They all sat docilely on the sand while the caves wherein they lived billowed thick, black smoke.
“You are looking at the newest recruits in Keldor’s army,” Kronis said darkly.
“They have no interest in the outside world, Kronis. They will never follow your evil master.”
“Ah, but they will…with help from my new friend: Mer-Man.”
A green-scaled creature, carrying a trident and sporting armor fashioned from yellow coral, stepped forward. His real name was unknown, so his subjugated people simply called him “King Mer-Man”. Already the tyrannical ruler of the waves, he longed to rule the surface world as well.
“Mer-Man once hired me to take care of a particularly troublesome sea captain that was hunting his people,” Kronis explained. “Given his ability to control creatures of the water I thought he would be a great asset to me during this campaign. Show them, Mer-Man…”
The fishy creature grinned, and turned to face the most menacing looking of the Crustace-Men. Holding aloft his trident, Mer-Man gurgled, “Hear me, son of the seas, and attack our enemies!” A florescent glow illuminated the trident’s pikes as he spoke.
The large crab-man stood up, and charged toward Randor and his men. The creature’s gigantic red claw snapped the captain’s sword in half. Randor's opponent tackled him to the ground in a flash, sending a plume of sand into the air.
“Instruct the others to take out the rest of them,” Kronis ordered.
Less than a minute later the other Crustace-Men were either charging at the guards head-on, or otherwise burrowing beneath the sand to come up for a surprise attack. The ensuing battle did not go well for the heroes. It didn’t take long for the attackers to neutralize their adversaries’ weapons, forcing them into a physical confrontation that they had little hope of winning.
Meanwhile, Randor was still engaged with the largest of the Crustace-Men. He tried to kick the crimson-shelled beast away from him, but the monster caught Randor’s knee in the vice-like grip of his massive pincer. The captain’s kneecap snapped loudly enough to bring a momentary halt to the fighting nearby, and it sent Randor into a state of shock.
Kronis laughed manically nearby. “It looks my new friend has given a new definition to bringing an opponent to his knees!”
Two of Randor’s lieutenants tackled Clawful, sending him tumbling down the side of the dune. Kneeling beside his fallen commander one of the guards shouted, “Destroy the Crustace-Men!”
“No,” Randor countermanded numbly. “It’s…not their…fault.”
A First-Lieutenant lifted Randor and draped him over his shoulder. “Retreat!” he shouted, as he ran lead the charge back toward the Water Raiders. Many of the guards were weak in comparison to the mightier Crustace-Men, and they never left Orkas Island that day.
When it was all over, Kronis and Mer-Man approached the one that had shattered Randor’s knee. “Mer-Man tells me you are called Clawful, yes?”
The red beast seemed to think about it for a minute. “Yeah,” he finally answered, “I’m Clawful.”
Mer-Man leaned in and whispered to Kronis. “His is the weakest mind in the group, which made it the easiest to control.”
Kronis nodded. “Nevertheless, I believe both of you”—he turned to face Mer-Man as well—“would be a great asset to Keldor.”
“I serve no one,” Mer-Man replied matter-of-factly.
“You should think about it. I haven’t spent much time with him, but from what I’ve seen this is the man to follow. He’s evil incarnate! I’ve never seen so much power in one guy before.”
“What’s ‘incarnate’?” Clawful asked dumbly.
Mer-Man rolled his large, glassy eyes. Then he pondered the offer. It would take some time for his underwater palace to be rebuilt following a recent revolt, and he would need someplace to stay in the meantime. “Very well. I will go with you, Kronis, and judge this Keldor for myself.”
“Me, too!” Clawful added eagerly.
“Excellent,” Kronis replied. “We will return to Snake Mountain at once. He should be back from his expedition by then.” Waving to the rest of Keldor’s army, Kronis led the way back to their ships victoriously...
June 5, 2010, 11:44am
Great installment again, Brett...
I like the idea of the Crustace-Men being mentally controlled by Mer-Man, but otherwise not evil at all... well, Clawful might become evil later on, but nevertheless...
I am looking forward to seeing the story continue (hopefully quite soon).
June 5, 2010, 03:40pm
Thanks! I enjoyed writing that part quite a bit for a few reasons. First, I wanted to show the increases in Keldor's followers--starting wtih a motley crew of ex-prisoners, followed by an entire population, and soon (as you will see in an upcoming installment) even the dead; all the while collecting his lieutenants along the way. Second, I wanted to include the story of the injury to Randor's leg--as you may recall, there was a lot of speculation during the run of the MYP series as to the nature of the device around his knee, and so I wanted to answer that mystery. And third, I wanted to put some meaning / sense of irony behind Kronis' eventual fate at the hands of Skeletor. But now, enough from me. Here's the next part...
Duncan was making his early morning visit to the Healer’s suite. Dekker had been there ever since Kronis had pierced his leg with a broken spear. It struck the young man as odd that the Healer had not released him yet. Usually, she was able to mend a wound in no time.
“I hope you brought me something to eat,” Dekker grumbled from his bed.
Duncan held up a bag of pastries and tossed it at his mentor. “I bring you something to eat every morning.” He pulled up a chair and sat beside Dekker, who started munching softly on a sweet tasting bun. “How are you this morning?”
Dekker sat aside the rest of the bun and brushed the crumbs from his hospital garb. “I’ve been better,” he sighed.
Duncan tried to smile. “You’re ready to be out of here, I’m sure.”
“Yes…and no. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get out of here.”
Duncan gave a wry smile. “What do you mean? You’ll go back to being the best Man-At-Arms Eternia has ever seen.”
Dekker looked at his pupil, who was starting to get a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “The Healer has had a devil of a time fixing me up. The wound’s become infected—third time already—and even if she’s able to clear it up, my leg probably won’t ever be the same again.”
“You shouldn’t think like that, sir. You’ll be fine, I’m sure of it!”
“Well, even if I’m good as new, it will be too late. I’ve already sent a messenger to the Elders, carrying with him my resignation as Man-At-Arms.”
“No,” Duncan gasped, rising to his feet.
“Yes. The message also contains my recommendation that you take my place as the new Man-At-Arms.” Before Duncan could protest, Dekker continued. “You’ve studied under me for a long time; you’re innovative, you’re heroic, and you’ve designed some new weaponry that I wouldn’t have even thought of in my wildest dreams!”
Duncan was about to argue, when an unexpected visitor to the medical unit caught his attention. “Marlena?” he called, as she walked past Dekker’s door.
The young woman back-tracked and saw Duncan and Dekker in the room. “Hello,” she said wearily. “I’m so tired I didn’t even see you in there.”
“What are you doing here?”
“You haven’t heard?” The two men shook their heads, and she rubbed her eyes before launching into an explanation. “Randor and his men ran into some trouble with Keldor’s forces yesterday. During the battle his knee was shattered. The Healer’s been working on him all night long, but the bones are so fragmented that she’s having a difficult time.”
Duncan offered the young woman his chair. “That’s terrible! How are you two holding up?”
“Fine,” she answered, “just tired. I haven’t even had a chance to tell Randor the good news, yet.”
Dekker’s ears perked up. “Good news? Well spill it, girl! I could use some good news this morning.”
Marlena smiled as she told the story of her strange encounter with the Elders and the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull.
“Wow,” Dekker muttered afterward. “Those must be special kids if you’ve got the Elders and the Sorceress talking to you.”
“That’s what they tell me.” She stood up, and lightly pecked Dekker on the forehead and patted Duncan on the arm. “I should get back to Randor.”
When she was gone the retiring Man-At-Arms looked at Duncan and grinned. “The Elders must like you, or they wouldn’t have asked you to take Marlena to Castle Grayskull for such an important meeting. Now I'm sure they won't object to you becoming the next Man-At-Arms.”
Duncan just shook his head.
Keldor and Beastman had scarcely made it through Snake Mountain’s main entrance when Shokoti approached them. “Did you get what I wanted?” she asked, unable to hide the sense of eagerness in her question.
The warlord regarded his mother, who seemed to have aged even more since he saw her only days before. “I have it,” he answered. He reached into a pouch on his belt, and pulled out the tiny container holding the Shaman’s life-force. Haphazardly, he tossed it at Shokoti as he pushed past her.
She caught it, but just barely. She uncorked it at once and introduced it into her body. Shokoti underwent very few changes—a few less wrinkles, and a little less arch in her back—but it would be enough to give her at least another year or so to see her life’s work come to fruition.
Keldor grows more powerful by the day, she thought to herself as she watched her son disappear into the shadows. He is not as easily controlled as I had always planned. Shokoti decided that it was time for a new plan—one that just might require destroying her own son if it meant achieving her life’s work. With the wheels of her mind turning anew, the ancient Infinitian retreated to her private chambers.
“Who was the old hag?” Beastman grunted quietly, breaking the silence that the pair had shared for hours.
“My mother,” Keldor replied nonchalantly, stopping beside the entryway to a cavernous chamber.
“Oh, I didn’t mean—”
Keldor waved away the rest of the apology. “She plans on destroying me and usurping my power, but she will fail.” Keldor led the way down a long staircase and pointed into the darkened recesses at the base. “These are the dungeons, of which I am putting you in charge. You will find suitable clothes and lodging areas within.”
Beastman stared into the darkness, his yellow, simian eyes pushing past the shadows with ease, and sniffed approvingly. “Lots of space. Good for keeping my pets.” Beastman had displayed for Keldor his unique ability to control animals on their way back from the Berserk Islands.
Just then, Modulok came running up to them. “Lord Keldor, I’m glad you’re back. There is something I think you should see at once!”
Keldor nodded, and then looked at Beastman. “Clothe yourself, and then come find me...”
June 5, 2010, 07:46pm
When Beastman, now adorned in proper armor, joined Keldor and the tiny scientist a short while later, they were staring into an enchanted pool that was showing them a towering citadel made of metal. Robotic devices flanked its silver walls, and buzzed around the skies nearby.
“…of completely unknown origin,” Keldor was saying about the alien structure. The Lord of Destruction’s voice sounded almost ravenous as he added, “Ripe for the taking. It must be mine!”
When Modulok first shared his discovery with Keldor, assimilating it had not been his intent. “Why must we risk everything you have built for technology you already have? I could study this place from afar…provide you with replicas of his drones, possibly more.”
Keldor had started pacing with anticipation, his hands clasped behind his back. “Your grasp of all things technological is laughable at best. With the tower’s resources I will become unstoppable. This is an opportunity I cannot ignore. Everything at my disposal will be used to accomplish this objective. All my forces will accompany us. Trust me. One way or another…its power will be mine!”
The blue-skinned wizard spun about, and pointed directly at the scrawny scientist. “Now. Gather the troops! We leave at once!”
“Yes, sir! Right away!” Modulok jumped.
“Beastman,” Keldor said, turning his attention to the great brute, “here is your chance to prove your usefulness.” He reached up and patted the fury creature on his shoulder before turning around again. “Now come. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Duncan sat in the courtyard of the Healer’s compound. He still could not believe that Dekker was giving up his noble title, or even still that Dekker was relinquishing that title to him!
Marlena came out and joined him. “When I came out for air the last time, you were sitting in that exact spot.”
“You haven’t moved in three hours,” she reiterated.
“Oh, right,” he replied absentmindedly. “I guess I’m just caught up in my thoughts. Dekker has resigned, and he recommended me as his replacement.”
She placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder and smiled. “I can’t think of a more appropriate person for the job.”
“But I couldn’t even protect the prison compound from Keldor—how can I protect all of Eternia?”
“You shouldn’t blame yourself, Duncan. Keldor has proven himself to be a lethal force on more than one occasion, but you’re a great warrior. The fact that you’re still here, after going toe-to-toe with him, is a testament to your abilities.”
“Thank you,” he said forcefully. “I’ll try to remember that.”
An astral projection of the Sorceress shimmered into view before the two friends. There is trouble in the Chaos Wastes, she warned. Keldor has just launched an all-out attack on a cloaked citadel not far from Snake Mountain.
Duncan and Marlena exchanged a glance. To the unspoken question between them Marlena replied, “Randor still can’t move his leg.”
Duncan nodded, and then looked at the Sorceress. “Can the Eternian Guard make it to this citadel before Keldor conquers it?”
I cannot see the outcome of the battle, but if he manages to gain control of the tower’s defenses I fear that your men would be destroyed. However, if you cannot prevent him from taking the fortress, he may gain a powerful ally…and events would be set into motion that would have dire consequences.
Duncan nodded gravely as the image of the Sorceress vanished. He and Marlena hurried to a communications hub that would link him to all of the Eternian Guard barracks in a twenty-mile radius. “Now hear this:” he shouted into the microphone. “This is Duncan, acting Man-At-Arms.
“As of this moment, I am assuming command of all Eternian Guardsmen within the sound of my voice. A battle is taking place in the Chaos Wastes, and Keldor himself leads the attackers. It is time we bring this monster down once and for all!” He ended the transmission with the coordinates he expected the soldiers to meet him at.
Turning to Marlena, as he donned his silver battle-helmet, he said, “Let Randor know what’s going on as soon as possible...”
June 9, 2010, 11:03am
While the battle raged outside, Keldor had managed to break into the citadel. The blasted defensive systems were more than he had anticipated, particularly the tiny, flying drones that were capable of firing deadly lasers.
He sliced through one, and three more came flying at him. He took a deep breath, and muttered to himself, “Impressive little toys.”
Just as they opened fire, a concealed doorway behind him slid open. Keldor jumped through the opening, avoiding the onslaught, and landed in a defensive crouch.
The door slid shut before the drones could follow him, and a voice behind Keldor began speaking. “Welcome,” said an older man, sitting on a mechanical seat. “Can I assume you’re here to claim my weapons technology as your own? You’re not the first to attempt this, you know.”
Keldor grinned as he looked at the frail being. “I promise I’ll be the last.” He held up his duel swords, and lunged forward.
The villain’s strike was intercepted by the blade of a third man, who had dropped down from the shadows above. This one was young, and strong. He wore emerald-green armor, and a strange faceplate that incorporated a ruby.
“Looks like this won’t be so easy, eh?” the old man in the chair asked delightedly.
Keldor and the old man’s bodyguard began their duel, and the bodyguard was doing a good job of driving Keldor away from his master. The old man continued speaking while the two fought.
“I guess you weren’t expecting my swordsman. I need to keep some flesh and blood around this place. He has helped me quite a bit over the years. Though he can’t see, I assure you that you’ll find his skill with a sword to be far greater than your own.”
“Good for him!” Keldor retorted, as he barely managed to block another thrust. Backing away slightly, the Lord of Destruction’s hand began to glow. “I do not rely solely on my blade,” he proclaimed, as he unleashed a torrent of magical energy.
Outside, Kronis found himself staring at the underside of a giant, robotic foot that was aiming to crush him. He fired wildly with his laser blaster, but the shots ricocheted off harmlessly. At the last possible moment, a great force knocked him out of the monster machine’s path.
“You should watch where he’s going, chrome-dome,” Beastman grunted.
“And you should watch your back, furball,” Kronis retorted, as he blasted away an attack drone that had swooped in behind them.
A small transport grinded to a halt beside them, kicking up a plume of sand. Modulok popped out of the top-hatch. “I’ve triangulated the source of the machines’ power!” He pointed toward an ordinary looking, steel rod about halfway up the citadel. “If we take out that antenna, the machines won’t be able to receive new orders; they should automatically shut-down!”
“I should be able to blast the antenna,” Kronis replied, but those giant sentry robots are in the way.
Beastman unfurled a large whip, and used it to take out three nearby drones. “Leave the big guys to me!” He closed his yellow eyes, reaching out to any nearby beasts of the sands.
Three giant Sand Crawlers erupted from the desert floor, and started making their way toward the sentries. Within moments, they had rendered the robots inoperable.
“Quickly, before they release reinforcements!” Modulok instructed.
Kronis set the power level on his blaster to the highest setting, and then aimed at his target. The laser connected, and the attack drones started to fall from the sky.
“We’ve done it!” Beastman cheered.
“Not yet we haven’t,” Kronis corrected. “Keldor hasn’t come out yet.”
The future Man-At-Arms was in the lead Wind Raider, and all the troops he could muster were in line behind him. He wasn’t sure what to expect when they reached the Chaos Wastes, but if Keldor had really unleashed his entire army it couldn’t be good.
They were getting closer to their final destination, but there was still a lot of ground to cover. The force was flying over the Sands of Time, and beyond that they still had the Sands of Fire before they could reach the Chaos Wastes.
Overhead, the sky was starting to turn dark, and the winds were becoming more turbulent. “We’re nearing the dark hemisphere,” Duncan said into his com-link. “Brace yourselves.”
Keldor raised his hands, and massive balls of fire illuminated his surroundings. He was standing shin-deep in odoriferous water, and his swords were embedded in the silt at the bottom. Rotting bones littered the room. The bodyguard was also there, having accidentally fallen through the trap-door that had been intended solely for Keldor.
“So…where were we?” Keldor asked, pulling his swords out of the sludge at their feet.
“I believe I was about to kill you,” the bodyguard replied, as he trudged closer to his enemy.
“No, that’s not it.” Keldor swung at the other man with his sword, forcing the swordsman to lose his balance in the water. At the same time, the Overlord of Evil unleashed yet another magical assault, which knocked the bodyguard’s faceplate right off his head.
“No!” the blind warrior shouted, reaching up to cover his eyes, which seemed to blaze with purple flames. “The magic must be contained!”
Keldor looked quizzically at his opponent, crouched in the water and rocking with agonizing moans. It all made sense now: the bodyguard had been afflicted by a spell that would rob him of his sight, and the old man had given him the mechanical visor to stave off the effects.
Keldor fished the faceplate out of the foul-smelling water. “Did you say contained?” he asked, realizing how he could manipulate the noble warrior into doing his dirty work for him.
When the swordsman did not answer, Keldor pushed on, adopting a tone of genuine concern. “That’s what he told you…isn’t it? Of course! He wanted you to think he had saved you…he wanted you to owe him…to serve him! It’s not a bad idea, really…you are quite useful with that sword.”
The villain changed his tone again. “Swordsman…you have been deceived.”
The Sorceress spoke to Duncan telepathically. The battle has ended, and Keldor’s forces are victorious. Turn your men around, while you still can!
He couldn’t believe it. No, there must still be time! This might be our best shot at getting to Keldor!
He has already persuaded the new ally I warned you of into joining his cause. This new warrior is his most cunning yet—plus, Keldor now controls the citadel and its war machines. You must turn back. Now!
Duncan pounded his fist against the console angrily. After taking a moment to regroup, he activated the com-link once more. “Turn around, men, we’re too late.”
He had lost, yet again, to the vile son of Shokoti.
Keldor exited the citadel, followed by the bodyguard, whose armor and sword were splattered with his former master’s blood. Keldor’s chief warriors joined him near the citadel’s entrance.
“Beastman, summon a creature that will take me back to Snake Mountain as quickly as possible.”
The great brute nodded, and moments later an enormous gryphon, hailing from the Desolate Mountains, landed nearby. Keldor and the swordsman mounted the feathered creature as he gave his final instructions. “I want every valuable piece of equipment and technology harvested, and brought back to Snake Mountain. Modulok will be in charge, since he’s the only one of you with a modicum of technological know-how.”
With that, the gryphon took to the air, carrying Keldor and his newest warrior back to Snake Mountain. Below, the other evil warriors looked at the weak scientist with disdain.
“Yes…ahem,” Modulok choked. “Let’s get started, shall we?”
June 9, 2010, 02:47pm
Hey Telkan2 can't believe I've missed this story. I read a lot of the great fan-fiction on here and Dark Legacies is right up there!!!! I have spent all afternoon reading the story. Now need to find the first 2 parts and read them. Keep up the good work!!
June 9, 2010, 04:26pm
June 10, 2010, 08:10am
Cheers Telkan I have just read Part 1 and all I can say is WOW!!!! What a great story its now time for part 2 thanks again!!!
June 10, 2010, 08:05pm
Even if I repeat myself, Brett... great installment again!
I would like to send you a private message about an idea for a fanfic project I thought about for quite a while now...
Is this ok for you?
June 20, 2010, 12:19pm
I'm glad you enjoyed Part I, iron bear--I hope you'll enjoy the rest of the story as it unfolds as well! And even if you do feel like you're repeating yourself, monstarmaster, you go right ahead. I don't mind. As for sending me a message about a new story, go for it!
Evil-Lyn could hear Masque, her guardian and teacher, whispering to someone. The young witch had spent her entire life in the castle and never once had there been a visitor. As stealthily as she could, using the magic she had received from the Pool of Shadows to cloak herself in darkness, Evil-Lyn crept toward the darkened entrance of Masque’s sanctum.
The voice she heard was that of a woman, but she dared not look to see who it was.
“…No longer necessary.”
“She will not be queen?” Masque questioned.
“There will be no need for a queen because there will be no king. My son is not as easily manipulated as I once thought, which has forced me to rework my plans. Henceforth, Eternia will be mine alone.”
“Yet, surely she can still be an asset to you.”
“I’ve made my decision, Masque: Send her to retrieve the Orb of Agony, so that I may use it to destroy my accursed spawn, and then eliminate her.”
Evil-Lyn’s curiosity got the best of her and she barged into the room. The other woman’s astral projection vanished before she could discern who it was. “What’s going on in here?” Evil-Lyn demanded.
Masque turned to face her, a blue fire burning in his eyes. “How dare you enter my private quarters in such a manner!”
She quirked an eyebrow. “What’s wrong, Masque, are you afraid I overheard your plan?”
He pulled out a shiny dagger from his belt. “I suppose I will have to dispose of you first, and then retrieve the Orb myself.”
He rushed toward Evil-Lyn, who thrust her staff between his knees, causing him to trip as he ran. The dagger clattered to the ground and both of them scrambled to get it first.
Masque stretched his leg, tripping the young woman. As she fell he reached out and struck her with his fist. The young sorceress rolled with the punch, and returned with a powerful blow of her own.
Evil-Lyn wrapped her hand around the blade first, and she placed the sharpened edge at the base of her guardian’s silver mask. A rivulet of blood ran from her swollen lip, and there was a fury in her eyes like never before.
“I never trusted you,” she said coldly, “but I played along while there were still skills to be learned. But now, it’s you who’s no longer necessary.”
With a flick of her wrist Evil-Lyn dispatched Shokoti’s servant. As his elaborate, silver faceplate fell to the floor, his body began to dissolve into nothingness.
Evil-Lyn tucked the knife into her waistband, and then picked her staff up off the floor. She absorbed the discarded mask of her mentor into the orb of her staff before leaving to gather her meager belongings...
June 23, 2010, 01:37pm
Modulok watched in secret as Keldor called his chief evil warriors into the throne room of Snake Mountain. Among them was the blind swordsman, who now went by the name Tri-Klops, and who served Keldor unquestioningly thanks to the magical enhancements of his new visor.
The scrawny scientist turned to leave but had to stifle a shout as he came face-to-face with Shokoti’s wrinkled visage. The ancient sorceress hardly tried to hide her true, aged form these days. “You startled me,” he gasped.
“What are you up to, worm?” she demanded suspiciously.
“I’m going back to the techno-citadel,” he replied as he brushed past her.
Shokoti grabbed his arm with a feeble grip. “It’s been two months since Keldor overran that fortress. Aren’t you finished harvesting the materials within?”
He wrenched his arm free. “I’m going back to make sure nothing was missed.” It was a lie. All of the known weaponry had already been brought back to Snake Mountain, but there was something else in the stronghold that Modulok had not reported to anyone…
Shokoti could tell he was lying but let him go anyway. In the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter. Soon, the forces Keldor had amassed would belong to her…as would his youth and vitality.
Duncan entered the Elders’ chamber at their behest. Captain Randor was there as well, but the expression he wore was a grave one.
“How’s your knee, Randor?” Duncan asked, looking toward the mechanical brace his friend wore.
“Doing a little better each day,” the son of Miro replied. “Hopefully, I won’t have to wear this brace for the rest of my days, but it’s still too soon to tell.”
“Welcome, Man-At-Arms,” Duquaine greeted. Duncan still couldn’t get used to his new title.
“How may I be of service, Elders?”
Zilora answered his question. “We have been discussing Keldor’s growing threat with Captain Randor. We believe there may be a way to stop him.”
“It’s drastic,” Randor warned, “and it would only be used as a last resort…if you could even do it.”
Duncan raised his eyebrows, but the thought of a challenge quickened his pulse. “What are you talking about?”
“Building a wall,” Randor answered. “A giant force-field that would contain Keldor’s forces on the dark half of the planet.”
Duncan was stunned by the idea. “But there are still decent people that live in the dark hemisphere!”
“It would only be a last resort,” Gnarl reminded.
“And as Keldor’s influence grows those decent people you mentioned will migrate closer to the security the Eternian Guard can offer.”
Man-At-Arms pondered the idea. Finally, with a sigh, he said, “I could probably devise something.” He continued speaking, but his voice lowered slightly as he started working the plans out with himself. “…It would require reinforcers spaced at very specific intervals…the field generators will need emergency back-ups, and back-ups for the back-ups…” He trailed off as he left for his workshop.
“If anyone can do it, it’s Duncan,” Randor noted.
“Yes,” Duquaine agreed, “but we must hold out hope that such a wall will never actually be needed.”
Evil-Lyn had never actually entered the ruins of Zalesia, yet she had an uncanny knowledge of the floor plan. She pushed through a veil of spider webs as she made her way down a long, narrow staircase. The only light was a soft, purple glow coming from the orb atop her staff.
At the base of the stairs, the young, white-haired enchantress could tell by the echoing sound of her boots that she had entered a room with a high ceiling. She increased the intensity of the light coming from her staff, and found herself in the center of a vast library.
Torches, hanging in sconces along the wall, blazed to life without warning, and a soft voice said, “Welcome.” A specter appeared, a being of shadow and silver light. “I am the Faceless One. What has brought you to my home?”
“I am Evil-Lyn,” she answered, lowering her staff. “If the words of my former teacher are to be trusted, then you are my father.”
The Faceless One was stunned, although he was incapable of showing even as obvious emotion such as that. “That is impossible. I have been trapped in this form, condemned to roam these deserted halls, for centuries.”
“I know,” Evil-Lyn replied. “You were condemned by the Council of Wisdom for your part in releasing Serpos.” She regarded him angrily before adding, “And when the Snake Men turned their attention on Zalesia, you tried to sacrifice me to save yourself!”
“No!” the Faceless One shouted. “That’s a distortion of the truth! Yes, the Council of Wisdom trapped me here for releasing Serpos, but I had no choice. It was the only way to save my child from the Snake Men! And I never attempted to save myself by sacrificing her! I handed her over to one who said they could guarantee my daughter’s safety!”
“Lies,” Evil-Lyn hissed, although a secret part of her longed to believe him.
“You do not believe me, and I certainly have reason to doubt your word after so many years have passed, stranger. There is only one way to test the truth.”
“Then do it,” said Evil-Lyn.
“Open your mind to me.”
Evil-Lyn nodded as she closed her eyes and tilted her head upward. The Faceless One, meanwhile, called upon an ancient spell as he focused his mental powers on the spirit of the intruder. In an instant they had both relived each other’s lives.
When the psychic link was broken, the witch sank to her knees, barely able to contain her tears. “You sacrificed yourself to save me…and I came here to destroy you.”
“We were both deceived,” the Faceless One tried to comfort. “You were obviously taken into the hands of someone with a deep connection to the forces of darkness.” The Faceless One lowered himself, and tried in vain to wipe away his daughter’s tears but his fingers phased right through her. “Thank the Ancients we have been reunited!”
Evil-Lyn chuckled slightly, but then shook her head. Sniffling, she replied, “The Council of Wisdom warned you that I would be an abomination, and they were right. Because I existed Serpos devastated Eternia, and you were sentenced to an eternity of loneliness.”
“You were never an abomination! You were my pride and joy!”
“But I have been trained in the ways of evil! I am enmeshed with the same dark forces my abductor was.” She picked up her staff and stood. “No,” she said resolutely. “My destiny seems to have been predetermined. It seems I was meant to be a tool for the agents of darkness.”
“Please, don’t go, Lyn,” the Faceless One pleaded.
“Evil-Lyn.” She looked at the specter once more and wiped the last vestige of tears from her eyes. “I’m glad I know the truth now, and so very sorry that I cannot be the person you wanted me to be.”
The Faceless One did not speak as she left the library. I have waited countless lifetimes to be reunited, Lyn, he thought to himself, and I will see you again one day...
June 24, 2010, 09:52pm
Sorry, everyone--no images for this portion, but I have some more coming up...
Modulok held out a glow-rod as he made his way through what was left of the techno-citadel. With the aide of Keldor’s lackeys he had transported almost all of the valuable equipment back to Snake Mountain in just a little over a month. However, there were a couple hidden treasures that he had kept for himself.
He entered the control room belonging to the former master of the fortress, whose fetid remains still laid propped up against his seat. He approached the carcass’ mechanical chair and pressed a cleverly hidden switch under the armrest.
To the left, a large concealed door yawned open.
The evil scientist made his way into a hidden workshop and marveled once more at the enormity of the place and the gadgets it housed. There was even a flying transport! But the most precious device in the room was a tall, metal arch with a control panel at its side.
Modulok laughed to himself as he rubbed the cold, steel frame. “The old fool should have thought about the ill begotten uses such a creation could unleash.”
Turning his attention to another console behind him, Modulok activated a hulking red- and gold-colored droid, with two heads and four legs, that he had uncovered on his last visit. Once, the automaton had apparently served as the techno-wizard's majordomo, and clearly knew all of the ins-and-outs of the citadel's numerous secrets, but now it served only Modulok.
“What is your bidding, Modulock?” the recently rewired robot inquired.
“Load this equipment into the transport, Multi-Bot.” Pointing at the metal arch, he added, “And be particularly careful with that piece.”
An hour later, the transport blasted its way out of the citadel, carrying the scientist, Multi-Bot, and the purloined equipment.
“Where are we going, Modulok?” the two-headed droid asked as it piloted the ship.
“The Darklands. That’s where Station Zeta—my old laboratory—sits. Keldor knows nothing of it.”
As night fell over Eternia, Captain Randor found himself at home staring angrily at the contents of a package he had just received. Randor threw down the updated reports contained within, and sat back in his chair while rubbing his eyes.
Marlena came up behind him, still wearing a brown jumpsuit and white lab coat from her father’s workshop. She massaged his shoulders tenderly. “What is it?”
“I just received word that Keldor’s forces launched simultaneous attacks on the Plains of Perpetua and Whispering Valley. The Guard was able to drive them back—barely—but we lost two-hundred men in the process.”
“Who were our commanding officers?”
“Ram-Man and Lord Stratos of Avion; but, they did the best they could,” he muttered doggedly. “And these weren’t even Keldor’s top soldiers, just random henchmen trained by Kronis. It seems like every day Keldor is able to convert more followers to his bloody cause.”
He sighed, and lifted up the reports once more. “The casualties are listed in here. I need to send word to their families, but I don’t know how to begin.” Giving voice to a mock-letter, Randor read, “My deepest sympathies that your son or daughter perished at the hands of my brother’s army.”
“Half-brother,” Marlena corrected. “You are not responsible for Keldor’s actions. You are a good, and noble warrior. You are Eternia’s champion!”
“Some champion. I couldn’t even protect my own father from that devil!”
“And Miro couldn’t protect himself. Does that detract from his countless accomplishments over the years?”
Randor turned and looked up at his wife, initially offended. But before he said anything he realized what she was implying. “I love you,” he said softly, rising to kiss his wife instead.
“And I love you.”
Keldor stood atop Snake Mountain, peering down at his ever growing domain. Far below, Clawful was leading a large caravan of wagons carrying hundreds of oblong boxes.
“Everything is ready for our next mission,” Kronis reported, as he emerged behind his leader. “Tri-Klops’ Doomseekers were able to confirm the location of the Orb of Agony for you.”
“Excellent. And the attacks on the Plains of Perpetua and Whispering Valley?”
Hesitantly Kronis answered, “They were foiled. The men report widespread destruction, and numerous casualties amongst the Guard, but they were not able to overcome Randor’s forces entirely.”
“No matter,” Keldor replied easily. “Those attacks were merely a diversion to draw their attention away from Clawful’s mission.”
Kronis peered over the edge, and stared at the caravan that had just come to a halt. “Those boxes…are they…”
“Yes,” Keldor confirmed. “Even the undead shall serve me!” He raised the Havoc Staff into the air and the skies grew angrier than usual. The necromancer began muttering a strange incantation and crimson lightening sprang from the sky.
Below, Clawful regarded the tempest above him. “Some storm.” Suddenly, all of the caskets he and his crew had secretly unearthed over the last week began to shake violently. “Whoa! I’m getting out of here!” The Crustace-Man ran as fast as he could into Keldor’s fortress.
The boxes began to crack and splinter as the remains within started breaking their way out. Within moments, a multitude of reanimated skeletons had left their encasements and were mulling about.
“Incredible!” Kronis marveled.
“Yes,” Keldor acknowledged, “and easily controlled and replaced. Bring them in, Kronis, and fit them with armor. When we return from our mission tomorrow, you can begin training them...”
June 25, 2010, 12:11pm
It was just a little after dawn the next day but Evil-Lyn had already accomplished a lot. After dispatching the vicious, horned Furlongs that guarded the top-secret alchemy storage facility she had managed to sneak into the building via the air-ducts.
She had to admit, the place was impressive! Book shelves seemed ready to break under the weight of thousands of ancient tomes; strange, one-of-a-kind beasts lurked in tall containers filled with a liquid that kept them in stasis; magical trinkets cluttered shelves and tables like disposable knick-knacks. And then there was the enormous stained-glass window, depicting a witch and a wizard, which dominated the eastern wall.
The young witch was filled with ideas as she looked around—spells and totems that could likely be used to rewrite history surrounded her! Perhaps there was a way to go back, and grow up in the arms of her father like she should have? Or a way to resurrect Masque and make him pay all over again? She entertained the notion for a few moments before filing such thoughts away; she was on a very specific mission and couldn’t be bothered with daydreams. Besides, if she could make it into the building once she could always do it again.
Suddenly she heard a crashing sound, and then another! She ran up the stairs to the second level and pulled the shadows around her like a cloak. Just then, the wooden door leading into the room exploded in a shower of splinters!
Kronis, Beastman, and Tri-Klops made their way into the chamber, though Evil-Lyn hadn’t the slightest idea who they were or whom they served.
“Where is it, Tri-Klops?” Kronis asked, staring up at the enormity of the chamber.
“I’m not sure. Some form of magic prevented my Doomseeker from transmitting back the images it captured. But I know for a fact that the Orb of Agony is in here somewhere.”
“This place gives me the creeps,” Beastman grunted, tapping on the side of one of the containers that held a tentacled monster. It wriggled a tentacle in response, casuing him to flinch.
The Orb of Agony, eh? Evil-Lyn thought to herself. They must also work for Masque’s associate. I had better hurry, before that rag-tag bunch of dolts finds it first.
“We’ll start on this level, and work our way up,” Kronis instructed. Along with the other two Kronis made his way to a nearby shelf and began tossing aside anything that didn’t appear to be an orb.
Meanwhile Evil-Lyn crept, unnoticed, around the upper level.
Keldor waited patiently outside atop one of the gryphons Beastman was so adept at controlling. He would have gone in for the Orb of Agony himself but knew that his three cronies would be no match for the magically inclined keepers of the facility if one happened to show up.
As if on cue, an old woman in gray robes appeared out of nowhere. “Who are you?” she gasped, noticing the broken entryway behind Keldor.
He stepped down from the gryphon, placing himself between the woman and the building. “I am either your new master or the one who is going to destroy you.”
The old woman actually laughed. “I don’t think so, brash one.” She clenched her wrinkled eyes together and a ring of fire erupted around Keldor.
The Lord of Destruction casually walked through the flames, grinning derisively. “A parlor trick, witch. Allow me to show you some real magic.” He closed his own eyes and a cage of fire sprang-up around her…and then it began to close in. Keldor smiled as the old woman was burned alive.
Afterwards, inhaling deeply, he said to himself, “Such a wonderful scent in the morning air.”
Back inside, Evil-Lyn could barely contain the delight she felt watching the other three thieves conducting such a futile search. In her hand she already held the Orb of Agony. (It was only by chance that she stumbled across it, but it had caught her eye because it so resembled the orb in her staff.)
Beastman threw a priceless crystal over his shoulder, breaking it instantly. “Keldor said it would be here,” he grunted, continuing to forage for the orb. He came across an interesting box, and scratched his head. Orbs are round, he remembered, and tossed it.
Kronis had just stumbled upon a pouch of gold. Hoping it wasn’t cursed he decided to pocket it. Then, turning to Tri-Klops he called out, “What does this Orb of Agony look like, anyway?”
“Like this,” Evil-Lyn answered, declaring her presence. Keldor’s servants spun around, and she held up the pinkish orb so they could see it. As they looked at it eagerly, she added, “But I stole it first.” Then, she tucked it into a pouch near her waist, and turned to leave. Come and get me, boys…if you can!
Kronis, ever the soldier, was the first to charge after her. “Hold up there, girlie!” he barked. As he got closer he leapt into the air to tackle her, but he was instead blown away by a magical burst from her staff. The discharge, coupled with his own momentum, sent Kronis flying all the way back to the other side of the room.
Evil-Lyn turned and watched as Beastman made the next move. He came lumbering across the marble floor on all fours, growling the entire way. When he was close enough she leaped into the air—her staff twirling like a blade above her—and brought her full might down upon him. As her feet hit the floor, she was briefly able to see him stumble before he fell.
Tri-Klops’ fists came out of nowhere, catching the witch off guard. He was able to back her into a corner, and for a flicker she thought that he might just get the best of her. His right fist came at her fast, but she was able to move just enough so that it went through the wall. Using his surprise to her advantage, she used her magic to attack him the same way she had Kronis.
All three were down, giving the young witch a moment to breathe. She quickly circled the area, admiring her handiwork. Evil-Lyn had just come to Tri-Klops’ limp form, when a voice deemed her work to be, “Impressive.”
She turned and saw Keldor standing beyond the broken fragments of the door. He stepped in, and something about the man—his confidence, his voice, the coloring of his skin coupled with his jet-black hair—piqued Evil-Lyn’s interest like nothing had before.
The wizard came closer but she was not so enamored with him that she had lost her senses. She held up her staff so that it was mere inches from his chest, but Keldor merely looked bemused.
Beastman and the others were starting to regain their senses. The ape-like one started laughing, and both Keldor and Evil-Lyn turned to look at him. “You’re gonna get it now!”
Evil-Lyn brought her weapon closer to Keldor but he casually pushed it aside with the tip of his finger. She put up little resistance. “I am Keldor,” he said, “future ruler of Eternia.” He noted the way she had single-handedly brought down three of his greatest warriors. “I could use someone with your talents.”
“Hmm, I’ve heard of you,” she lied, “and I like what I’ve heard”—she moved so that she could circle him and admire all sides—“but I like what I see even more.”
Despite himself, Keldor smiled just a little. And I like what I see, too, he admitted to himself. The son of Shokoti knew that his appearance was advantageous when he desired female companionship, but none of those low-class women in the dark hemisphere had ever sparked the same kind of interest that this one did.
Evil-Lyn had removed the Orb of Agony from her pouch and seemed to be handing it to him. “A gift,” she offered. But as Keldor reached for it she pulled it back. She leaned in close to him, drinking in his scent and looking deeply into his dark eyes. “To celebrate our new…alliance.” She finally handed him the orb and started walking. She stopped for a moment and turned back. “There are other objects in here, besides the Orb of Agony, worth taking.”
“You’re probably right,” Keldor noted. He joined her near the door and placed a hand upon her shoulder. “My men can take care of the rest. I wish to familiarize myself with my newest ally.”
Without another word, the two made their way to the gryphons outside, leaving Kronis and the others behind. “Uhm, what just happened?” Beastman asked.
“You got me,” Tri-Klops replied, while Kronis just shrugged...
July 4, 2010, 03:14pm
Captain Randor entered Duncan’s workshop. The Man-At-Arms was asleep in his chair, papers and maps scattered all over his desk. Randor approached his slumbering friend and gently awoke him.
“Randor,” he yawned. “What brings you here?”
“I heard you weren’t at training today so I was just coming to check on you.”
Duncan looked at his chronometer and realized that he had slept through the entire thing. “And I was supposed to show them how to use the new laser-rifles we’ve built. Oh well, I guess that will have to wait until tomorrow.”
Randor pointed at the map his friend had been sleeping on, which was slightly spotted with drool. “What were you working on all night?”
Duncan stood and poured himself a mug of highly caffeinated liquid. “Just toying around with that idea you and the Elders proposed.” He made his way back to the desk and pushed aside some stray papers that were covering portions of the map.
“I’m basing this on the notion that Keldor is operating out of Snake Mountain, which we still haven’t been able to confirm. But, my idea is to have the wall run across the Sands of Time here”—he traced a line with his finger, just slightly west of the Hall of Wisdom—“and then carry into the water.”
“The water?” Randor interrupted. “Is that necessary?”
“Of course! Otherwise, what would stop Keldor from just taking a boat around the wall?” He began tracing more lines with his fingers as he spoke. “To the south, the wall would extend into Harmony Sea. Then it would head east toward the Ocean of Gnarl, before hooking to the north to meet the Sea of Rakash.”
“And from there it would meet with its point of origin in the Sands of Time,” Randor concluded.
“Precisely.” Duncan took a long sip of his drink, which was still hot enough to burn his tongue slightly.
“That would neutralize Keldor.”
“Unfortunately it would also trap any decent folks that stayed behind. In particular, I’m worried about the Fire People.”
“We’ll get the message out somehow. If the Fire People choose not to leave, then that is their choice. Besides, I’m sure even Keldor would think twice before attacking them.”
“I’m also at a loss with Subternia.”
“Don’t worry about Subternia. I’ve been conducting secret talks with the Caligars and Speleans. They are just as worried about Keldor conquering Eternia as the rest of us, so they have agreed to protect Subternia at all costs if we decide to build this wall.”
They stood in silence for a few moments, and then Randor asked, “How would you extend the wall into the water?”
Duncan sighed. “It will be a very dangerous endeavor. Deep-sea divers will be required to make it to the ocean floors. A field generator will have to be implanted every few miles, and a reinforcer every ten miles.”
“That will be dangerous indeed, especially if my suspicions are correct and the tyrant that leads the Mer-Men is the same one that was helping Kronis on Orkas Island.”
Duncan nodded his agreement. “It should be simple enough to mass-produce the equipment, but if we need to actually put this thing together it would take at least a year.”
“At least that would give us time to evacuate anyone who wants to join us on this side of the planet.” Randor clapped Duncan on the shoulder. “You’ve done phenomenal work, Duncan. Next time I talk to Dekker I’ll have to let him know how proud he should be of you—” A beep from his gauntlet interupted, and upon reading the tiny message that scrolled across the readout he sighed. “There's been some kind of incident with the envoy from Andreenos. I should go check things out, but I'll come back later.”
Once Randor was gone another visitor arrived. The falcon that Duncan knew all-too-well flew into his workshop. Upon landing, it transformed into the Sorceress. “Hello, Duncan.”
“It’s good to see you,” he responded, giving her a hug. “It’s not often that you take your true form outside of the castle.”
She nodded. “I grow weary of only seeing people through the eyes of my mind or a falcon.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t been able to visit you lately. Between the appearance of this Keldor figure, and my promotion to Man-At-Arms—”
“No apologies are necessary, friend.”
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked, pointing at his steaming mug.
“No, thank you, I’ve tasted that sludge before.” They both laughed, recalling the expression on her face the first time Duncan had given her a cup. Casually, she made her way over to his desk and pointed at the map. “The Elders and I have been discussing this.”
“What are they saying?”
“Unfortunately, we all agree that it will be necessary sooner rather than later. They will let you know when the time is right, but that time is coming.”
“I was afraid of that.” He sighed and rubbed his aching eyes. “It feels like the Elders are counting on me alone to stop Keldor with this blasted wall idea!”
She placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “The Elders respect both you and your talents greatly! That is why they have asked you to undertake such an important task.”
The Sorceress continued speaking, but now it was via telepathy. The Elders and I already know that the wall will not contain Keldor for long. However, with our magic, and your technology, we will be able to hold him at bay until a hero emerges that can put an end to his evil forever.
“Thank you,” Duncan said aloud. “Knowing that bit of information eases my mind quite a bit.”
She smiled. “Remember, Duncan, I’m here whenever you need me.” With that she reassumed her falcon form and left for Castle Grayskull.
Man-At-Arms summoned a messenger, and handed him the blueprints for the generator and reinforcers that would gird the wall. “Take these to the chief engineer and tell her that I want a prototype for each device ready by the end of the day.”
The messenger saluted, and then took off...
July 29, 2010, 02:54pm
Squirrel that can type
wow, quite impressive, so far.
September 1, 2010, 04:13pm
Thanks, Lewd_Squirrel, glad you're enjoying it. Here's the next part...
Originally Posted by Lewd_Squirrel
Keldor and Evil-Lyn disembarked from the gryphon and made their way toward the entrance of Snake Mountain. Unexpectedly, a ferocious panther pounced from a rocky ledge not far above.
“Look out!” Keldor shouted, pushing Evil-Lyn aside as he dove to the ground.
The purple-furred beast was larger than any panther either of them had ever seen. Its eyes glistened like emeralds, and its teeth were yellowed and blood-stained. It roared loudly and swiped at Keldor with its massive paw.
The dark wizard felt his leg and realized that the cat’s claws had raked his blue flesh. The panther made to take another swipe, this time at Keldor’s face, when Evil-Lyn shouted, “Stop!”
The creature lowered its paw and gave a low growl in the witch’s direction. She walked over to it slowly, and reached out to stroke its head.
“Wh-what are you doing?” Keldor stuttered.
“Shh,” she whispered, scratching the thing beneath its purple chin. “It didn’t really mean you any harm. Someone has placed an enchantment on it—to soften you up a little.”
Evil-Lyn stared into the cat’s eyes and her own eyes began to glow. “I’ve removed the spell,” she finally said. The panther hopped off of Keldor and laid at his side submissively. “It looks like you have a new friend,” she said as she gesticulated a healing charm over Keldor’s wounds.
Once he could, the Overlord of Evil stood up and looked at his feline attacker. “If he goes after my enemies the same way he did me, then you’re right.”
The panther roared as if he was responding to Keldor’s statement.
“Very well, cat. I think I shall call you…Panthor.”
The panther roared again.
“Not very original,” Evil-Lyn commented, “but he seems to like it. Now, who do you think put the spell on this beast?”
Keldor eyes darkened. “Trust me, I know exactly who it was.”
Shokoti was shocked to see her son enter the throne room—visibly unhurt—followed by the panther she had unleashed from Beastman’s pens. A dangerous looking woman also trailed after him.
“I always wanted a pet growing up,” Keldor said mockingly, reaching down to stroke Panthor. “Thank you, mother, for finally giving me one.”
Shokoti hoisted herself out of the throne. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she lied. In truth, when she sensed Masque’s destruction, Shokoti had decided to use one of the more dangerous animals in Snake Mountain to weaken her son so that she could steal his life-force.
Keldor placed himself on the throne with a flourish of his cloak. “Pathetic old witch, you still do not grasp how much I truly know!”
The throne room walls started to shimmer and various images faded in-and-out of view as Keldor spoke. “This entire fortress serves as my eyes and ears! I know of the prophesy you received about me, I know of the army you raised in the past, and I know that you wanted to use the Orb of Agony against me so that you could usurp my place!”
“Lies!” she protested. “Yes, there was a prophesy, and yes I created an army for you—but I would never try to harm you…I’m your mother!” The ancient witch knew how much danger she would be in if he really suspected her machinations.
Keldor brushed her protests aside. “And what of the bride you were secretly grooming to help you control me once I was victorious?”
Shokoti’s mind was reeling! For the first time Keldor was allowing her to see clearly into his own mind, and she realized that he really did know her darkest plans.
“And what was the name of your shadow friend, the one who is supposed to be training my future wife…Masque?”
Until the mention of her tutor's name Evil-Lyn had merely been enjoying the spectacle, but suddenly her past was coming into focus! “It was you,” she muttered, as her staff began to glow with a deep, crimson light.
Keldor stopped his musings and looked at his companion strangely. Shokoti also turned to face the girl, her face drained of its coloring. It was then that the pieces fell into place for the Lord of Destruction as well, and he realized that he had inadvertently recruited the young woman meant to be his consort.
“It was you that kidnapped me while Zalesia was burning,” Evil-Lyn accused, her voice rising with each word. “You created that monster that raised me, and made me think that I had been abandoned! And it was you that instructed Masque to destroy me!”
Shokoti’s mind was working as fast as it could, which was not nearly as fast as it had in her days on the Council of Wisdom when deception was second-nature to her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about! I created Masque ages ago but he went his own way,” she lied.
Keldor chimed in, enjoying the irony of the situation. “But you were there the day Zalesia fell, were you not? You’ve often taken great pride in the curse you and the other Council members placed on the man that unleashed Serpos.”
This merely added fuel to Evil-Lyn’s fire and she produced a wave of magical energy that shook the throne room.
Shokoti managed to put up a feeble shield, but against the younger magic it was virtually ineffective.
Looking down at the dazed old witch, Keldor said, “I think your days of manipulation and plotting are finally over, Shokoti. A pity so many of those days were wasted on plans that you will never see come to fruition. Goodbye...mother.”
The warlord took out the Orb of Agony and tossed it to Evil-Lyn. She accepted it with a nod of gratitude and marched over to Shokoti. Holding the orb directly over the hag, Evil-Lyn called on its full power to afflict her enemy with every type of pain imaginable!
Shokoti writhed about on the floor, screaming loudly. Her long gray-black tresses turned white, and she tugged at her hair until it fell from her scalp in bloody, matted chunks; she gnashed her teeth with such fury that they shattered, but not before biting down on her tongue so hard that she severed it; she clawed at her face until it was raw; her body began to seize, and the more it pounded against the stone floor, the more her brittle bones broke.
For over an hour, though it would have seemed far longer to Shokoti, the afflictions grew steadily more gruesome. Eventually, even Keldor had to look away.
When it was finally over an exhausted Evil-Lyn returned the orb, and Keldor summoned two of his servants. Pointing at his mother’s limp form he said, “Chain it to the side of the mountain. Once the weather and the vultures have left nothing but her bones, I will make her into another of my skeleton warriors. Perhaps then she will actually be of some use...”
September 2, 2010, 03:04pm
Captain Randor stood proudly next to Marlena’s father and mother. They were gathered in the Mission Control Room of the facility that housed the Eternian Space Program. Together they watched a tiny, shimmering speck enter the planet’s atmosphere via one of the monitors.
Marlena’s mother, High Priestess Catrine, had tucked her head into her hands. “I don’t think I can watch this,” she said.
Her husband, the head of the program, pulled his wife into a comforting embrace. “Shh,” Glen soothed. “You don’t have to watch if you don’t want to, but I promise nothing’s going to go wrong.”
Catrine looked up at the monitor briefly, but then buried herself once more.
“I want to see this first-hand!” Randor announced proudly as he rushed from the room.
He quickly made his way to the safest corner of the launch pad and watched eagerly as the Rainbow Explorer touched down on the tarmac gently. Glen and Catrine joined him less than a minute later. All three clapped and cheered as Marlena emerged from the ship.
“I did it!” the young woman proclaimed as she jumped into Randor’s waiting arms. When she let go of him she was still bouncing with excitement. “The Rainbow Explorer performed beautifully! And you’ll never believe what I saw!” she added breathlessly.
Glen was practically as giddy as his daughter. “Tell us!”
Marlena took a deep breath, barely able to suppress her smile, and looked at each of them in turn. Haltingly (for effect), she announced, “I saw signs of civilization on Phantos! It looked to be at least one major city, maybe more!”
“Extraterrestrial life…this close to Eternia,” Randor marveled, “and we’re only just now gaining the definitive proof.”
“We’ve suspected for a while,” Marlena replied. “There were signs of it, such as unexplained radio waves and such. But I actually saw them!” She kissed Randor spontaneously. “I’ve got to complete a report on this. The Elders should know at once! Oh, I can’t believe it!”
As his wife and her parents continued talking about Marlena’s adventure, Randor’s communicator was calling for his attention. He held the tiny device, embedded in his gauntlet, close to his face. “This is Randor.”
A messenger for the Elders answered him. “Captain Randor, the Elders have requested your presence in the Hall of Wisdom. When you arrive please report to the war room immediately.”
“Acknowledged.” Randor relayed his summons to the others, and, after telling his wife how proud he was of her once more, boarded a Sky Sled.
Tri-Klops used one of the many features of his visor—the x-ray vision—to look into Keldor’s throne room before entering. Through the thick, wooden doors he could see the wizard embracing Evil-Lyn. Tri-Klops immediately deactivated his x-ray vision and knocked on the chamber door.
“Enter,” Keldor bellowed a moment later, sounding thoroughly displeased.
By the time Tri-Klops opened the doors Keldor was seated upon his throne and Evil-Lyn was stroking Panthor nearby. “Forgive the interruption, Lord Keldor, but I have just finished cataloging the items sent back from my former master’s citadel.”
“And?” Keldor snapped.
“There’s not much, but I know of at least a handful of items that are not on this list. Major items that could not have been overlooked.”
Keldor leaned forward, his frustration at being interrupted having seemingly been pushed to the wayside. “Like what?”
“He had a secret laboratory where he kept his most important creations. Some of the things from that laboratory are here, so I know it was found. I cannot, however, locate three major pieces: a droid, a cargo ship, and, most significantly, a dimensional gateway maker!”
The master of Snake Mountain slammed his fists against his throne and grabbed the Havoc Staff as he stood up. Evil-Lyn and Panthor both perked up, bracing themselves for whatever might happen next. “Where is that worm Modulok?” he demanded.
“My Doomseekers cannot find him anywhere on the premises. The last time he was seen was the day you obtained the Orb of Agony.”
“He dares betray me?” Keldor shouted. “Dispatch your Doomseekers and hunt him down! I want to make him into an example of what happens to those that betray the mighty Keldor!”
Tri-Klops nodded as he backed out of the room, careful to close the throne room doors behind him. Before walking away he spun his visor around so that he could secretly peer into the room again. Evil-Lyn had already made her way up the stairs of the dais and was doing her best to calm the angered necromancer down.
September 3, 2010, 03:36pm
Randor approached the steel door leading into the war room and it slid aside silently. Upon entering he was surprised to find that the usual soldiers manning the consoles were gone.
Sumana, the Elder, sat in the command-chair and faced the highest-ranking members of each branch of Eternia’s military: General Tataran, the stony-faced Goblin that had worked his way all the way up the rungs of the Eternian Guard; General Hawk, fittingly the commander of the Eternian Guard’s Air Force given her background as an Avionian; and lastly, Fleet Admiral Faulk of the Eternian Guard’s Navy.
The three military leaders turned to face Randor. “What’s he doing here?” Hawk asked, turning back towards Sumana. “I thought this briefing was for the heads of the Guard.”
“He is here at the request of the Elders as are the rest of you. Please have a seat and I will explain everything.”
The four figures each took a seat at a console but turned so they could face the Elder. “Fleet Admiral and Generals, you are all to be commended on the superb job you do in leading your respective branches of Eternia’s military.”
The leaders smiled smugly and uttered their thanks. Their smiles were soon to disappear, though, as Sumana continued her speech. “Eternia is facing the dawn of a new day, though. The forces of evil—which we have been able to contain in the past due to their divisibility—have now gathered under one leader: Keldor.
“Captain Randor, like his father before him, leads a specialized force that deals with the threats we Elders find most troublesome. Keldor has become such a threat, yet far worse than any before him. Therefore, the Elders have unanimously agreed to restructure the Eternian Guard’s chain of command. Effective immediately.”
Hawk gasped and Tataran pounded his fists. Randor’s head was reeling, and he wondered if Sumana was actually about to propose what he thought.
“You will all retain your ranks, duties, and command of your respective forces,” Sumana soothed. “However, if you encounter a situation that is linked to Keldor, then Captain Randor is to be notified at once and he assumes immediate control of whatever forces he needs.”
“No!” Tataran barked, practically leaping out of his seat. “I will not hand over the control that I’ve earned to this boy!”
Hawk jumped in, turning her large eyes towards Randor. “How many times have you actually encountered Keldor? I’m willing to bet you’ve only seen him in your dreams.”
The captain held up his hands. “Wait, my friends, I did not ask for this.” All eyes were on him now. “It doesn’t have to be me, but the Elders are correct; we should have a point-person in command when Keldor is involved. It may be the only way to stop him.”
Fleet Admiral Faulk spoke for the first time, in a decidedly measured tone. “Her Excellency and Captain Randor are right. That devil’s coordinating his attacks with deadly accuracy. He attacks by sea and land at the same time, or land and sky at the same time, and the people are sitting ducks because our right hand doesn’t know what our left hand is doing.”
“He still hasn’t answered General Hawk’s question,” Tataran snapped. “The boy might know everything in the world about Keldor through the reports he gets, but how many times has he actually fought him? How many men has he seen die at that demon’s hands? I’ve seen more than I can count! Just last month, in Arcadia, I lost seventy-two men!”
Sumana had heard enough. “May I remind the general that I am from Arcadia? When I cast my vote with the Elders to reorganize the military I took the lives of those seventy-two men into account, in addition to the three-hundred sisters that I lost!”
Tataran glared at the Elder.
“May I also remind the general that Captain Randor watched his own father perish by Keldor’s blades?”
An uneasy silence filled the room. When Sumana spoke again her voice had returned to its normal, calm tone. “I have explained to you all how this will be. If you are unwilling, or unable, to serve Captain Randor in the event of an attack by Keldor, then perhaps the next person in your chain of command will be, or the next after him.”
Tataran spat in the Elder’s direction. “The humans of this planet look up to the Elders, but you are all weak. Those who follow your ways will fall under Keldor’s boot. I will not march into death because of the boy.” He tore off his military insignia and tossed it to the floor. “I will return to my people, and form an army entirely of Goblins—all under my control—and then we shall see who survives Keldor’s attacks!” With that he stormed out.
Hawk tore off her sigil next. “My brother Stratos may hold Captain Randor in high regard, but I do not think he is up for the task you are assigning him. I will not sit idly by while he assumes control of the Air Force, and leads my men into certain death.”
“Please, Hawk,” Randor beseeched, “I do not want your men’s blood on my hands any more than you do! Besides, we’ve known each other personally for a long time. If I accept the Elder’s offer I want you to be the one that teaches me the things I may not know about the Air Force.”
The bird-woman paused. “No,” she finally answered. “Avion has its own Air Force, where my rank will be honored rather than diminished.”
“Well, Fleet Admiral Faulk?” Sumana asked once Hawk had left.
“As I said earlier, I think your plan is the right one.”
“Thank you,” the Elder replied. The admiral left a few minutes later, giving the stunned Randor a pat on the shoulder on his way out.
“You seem surprised,” Sumana observed once they were alone.
“Shocked is more like it,” he corrected.
“You should not be. We Elders have always been able to count on the noble men of your bloodline to protect this planet, and you are just as courageous and wise as they all were.”
“But Tataran and Hawk were right, I haven’t faced Keldor one-on-one.”
“And neither have they. Hawk has never come close to any of his more powerful warriors and Tataran has only encountered Spikor. As for your battle with Keldor, it will come—most likely more than once. Your destinies are intertwined.”
Something in her inflection caught Randor’s attention. He looked at her suspiciously. “You know, don’t you?”
“That you are half-brothers? Yes. Your father came to us shortly after Shokoti tricked him, and then again when the whispers connected Keldor to her.”
The captain sat in silence for a long while, going over everything that had transpired in just one day. Finally he asked, “I’m probably going to regret this, but can I make a suggestion?”
“With Tataran and Hawk out, and rather than dealing with another leader down the line who doesn’t think I should be involved, wouldn’t it be easier to just name me the head of those two branches now? For the most part I would still rely on the next person in the chain of command, of course, but that way there wouldn’t be any questions if I step in.”
She smiled. “You are ambitious, young one.” He started to recant, thinking that he had gone too far, but she continued speaking before he could. “It would probably cause some dissension in the ranks…but, if there are officers who are willing to let pride stand in their way when it comes to protecting this planet from the forces of evil, then they can join Tataran and Hawk. I think it seems to be a logical choice if you think you can handle it.”
He gulped. “I can handle it. I just ask one more thing: Let me retain my current rank…like my father before me.”
She smiled. “Of course, son of Miro. I will confer with the other Elders and we will let you know our decision soon.”
Within three hours, the Elders had contacted Captain Randor to accept his proposal. Unlike Tataran and Hawk, the servicemen and –women of the Eternian armed forces had no qualms with the restructuring.
Now, with both the Eternian Guard’s Army and Air Force under his command, and the Navy willing to follow his lead, Eternia had found in Randor a suitable force to challenge Keldor...
September 3, 2010, 08:19pm
It didn’t take long for word to reach Keldor of this latest turn of events. Less than a week later a foul smelling Goblin who had been amongst those Keldor 'liberated' from the Eternian prison brought his master news of Tataran’s fall from grace.
“…And now, he’s forcing the rest of us into his service!” the goblin huffed. “Says he plans to build his own army so that one day he can take you and the Elders out!”
Keldor stroked his goatee. “This is a very interesting turn of events,” he mused. With no further explanation he commanded, “Clear the chamber…except Evil-Lyn.”
With the others gone she ascended the steps of the dais and sat upon the topmost step so that she could gaze up at him. “Why do you find the goblin’s words so intriguing, my darling?”
He wanted to hate when she called him that but Keldor couldn’t dredge up that particular emotion when the witch was around. “I have shared many of my deepest confidences with you, Evil-Lyn, but one that I have never spoken to you about regards Captain Randor.”
She ran the tip of a long, blood-red fingernail softly down the length of the exposed part of his thigh. “You can tell me anything, Keldor.”
“You had the displeasure of knowing my accursed mother—and then the pleasure of destroying her—but you know nothing of my father.”
Evil-Lyn stopped what she was doing. One of the things she had learned very quickly upon joining Keldor’s ranks was never to discuss his past.
“When the old witch broke free of her pyramid,” he continued, “she lured a modern-day man into her clutches. That man was Captain Miro, father of Randor.”
Evil-Lyn’s purple eyes went wide. “Is Randor your half-brother?”
“Most unfortunately. On the day I freed Kronis and the others from the Eternian prison I dispatched Miro. Randor was there that day, too, but I did not engage him. In fact, I’ve always planned my attacks with him in mind. On the day we finally meet on the field of battle I want to face a warrior truly worthy of me.”
“And you think that he is that warrior now, since the Elders have entrusted him with the leadership of the Eternian Guard?”
“Indeed.” Keldor arose from the throne and helped his consort to her feet, and together they made their way toward the throne room’s doors. “I have a special assignment for you, dear Evil-Lyn, but there is something I must do first…”
The dark wizard pulled her into his embrace, and she drank-in deeply his scent. She felt his whiskers tickling her chin, and she felt his hands wrap around the small of her back. They had kissed before—numerous times—but this one felt different to Evil-Lyn. Her entire body tingled, in a way it hadn’t done before, and the top of her head started to feel heavier.
When he pulled away, the young witch discovered that he had completely transformed her clothing. Purple armor adorned with stark bones covered her upper torso, and long black boots protected her legs and feet. A tattered purple cloak trailed from the base of her body armor and intricate vambraces covered her ivory forearms. The most amazing change of all, though, was the headdress that had appeared atop her head. It was like a terrible, awe-inspiring crown!
“Keldor,” she marveled, “it’s all so beautiful.”
He smiled in return. “My future queen—the queen of a darker Eternia—needs fitting adornments.” They kissed once more and then he opened the doors to the throne room. “Come, Evil-Lyn, it is time for that assignment I mentioned. You will need some back-up…”
An evening at the theatre…what joy, Randor thought sardonically. In truth he could think of at least two-dozen ways to better utilize his time. However, it wasn’t often that his beautiful wife asked to do something like this, so he could indulge her at least this once.
“The Countess of Eternia!” Marlena squealed, pointing toward the painting that advertised the play they were about to see. “It’s supposed to be phenomenal! Plus, this is his comeback performance!”
“And who is he again?” Randor asked, tugging at the burnt-orange tunic beneath his blue overcoat.
She pulled her husband’s hands away from his clothing, and then smoothed her own green gown nervously. “We’ve had this conversation three times already! He is the most famous stage actor on all of Eternia.”
Marlena walked closer to the advertisement, and traced the azure, cybernetic headpiece he wore. “He was doing a special performance at an orphanage in Aradan when Keldor’s forces attacked. He saved the children, but then the roof collapsed on him.”
At the mention of his enemy’s name Randor’s interest had piqued. “This actor sounds like quite the hero. He was fortunate to have survived.”
“He only barely survived,” she corrected. “His body was completely crushed beneath the rubble.” Marlena pointed at the headpiece she had traced moments before. “It is only through an elaborate system of cybernetics, some of which were designed by my father, that he’s still alive.”
Randor nodded. “An incredible story. I’d like to meet this young performer—Man-E-Faces—after the show.”
“You and all the women here,” a female patron standing in line behind the couple chortled.
Following the show (and some strong persuasion) Randor and Marlena were led into Man-E-Faces’ dressing-room. “Come my friends,” he boomed, “I always have time for fans who seek an autograph.”
Marlena happily provided her program, which Man-E-Faces scribbled a message on. Randor merely extended his hand. “I am Captain Randor of the Eternian Guard.”
Man-E-Faces stood up at once. “An honor to meet you, sir. Your prowess in the field is legendary even to one who keeps his faces buried in scripts.”
“Thank you,” Randor replied. “It is an honor to meet you as well. Marlena, my wife, told me how you risked your life to save the children of that orphanage. That was truly heroic.”
“I’m sure any decent citizen would have done the same.”
“Not necessarily. Your bravery and selflessness is the mark of a very special man—the kind of man that I would heartily embrace in my ranks.”
“In your ranks?” the actor echoed. “You want me to join the Eternian Guard?”
“I think you could be an asset to us, yes, but I am not going to pressure you. Just remember my offer and if you decide that becoming one of Eternia’s defenders should be your next role let me know.”
Man-E-Faces smiled broadly. The mere suggestion was enough to instill a sense of pride in the actor deeper than anything he had felt before. “Thank you, Captain Randor. I will take your offer to my agent and consider it seriously.”
Randor nodded kindly as he escorted his wife from the dressing-room. “What do you think?” he asked once they were out of the theatre.
“I hope he decides to join you as a defender,” she replied. “Even without field experience his ability to act and disguise himself would make him a good spy.”
He pulled her closer as they walked away and said, “My wife the tactician—that's just what I was thinking...”
Marlena eyed him playfully. “Plus you want to work with the man behind such an amazing performance, don’t you? Admit it.”
He shrugged and chuckled. “I’m afraid such information is confidential...”
September 4, 2010, 09:01pm
The next day the Sorceress summoned Man-At-Arms to her home. It still amazed Duncan how the castle’s illusions seemed to lead her visitors directly to the guardian no matter where she was in the fortress. This time he found her standing in one of the windows that looked, from the outside, like a giant eye socket.
“Welcome, Man-At-Arms,” she said, without looking at him.
Duncan could tell from the tone in her voice that she wasn’t overly happy to see him. “It’s been a while since we talked,” he acknowledged. “Ever since our last visit I’ve been busy constructing the equipment we’ll need to build the wall.”
“I know and that is why I have summoned you. The Elders and I have shared another vision and the time grows near. You must begin laying the foundation for the wall at once!”
Duncan hesitated. “Is this coming from you or the Elders?”
“We came to this conclusion as a group, but you may check with them if you do not believe me.” After an uncomfortable pause she added, “I would never suggest such a drastic action unless it was paramount to Eternia’s protection.”
He blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m sorry if I offended you, Sorceress, I did not mean—”
“You must hurry, Man-At-Arms, time is of the essence.”
“Very well,” he sighed. “I will begin assembling a team to help me at once.”
“Make sure you can trust them,” she cautioned. “We cannot risk Keldor learning of our plan to contain him.”
“Agreed.” He turned to leave but then turned back. “You should know that I have never stopped—”
“Nor have I,” she interrupted, finally turning to face the man. The faintest hint of tears kissed her eyelashes. “But I have come to accept that our destinies, though they follow a similar course, are simply not meant to intertwine.”
He nodded sadly. “Your responsibilities keep you chained to the magic within this castle, and mine to the defense of Eternia.”
“I have always, and will always, value what we share…even if it is only a friendship.” The Sorceress received an embrace from Duncan. “Good luck with your mission, Man-At-Arms. For all of our sakes, I pray that it is a success.”
Captain Randor was sitting in the war room’s command chair. Around him the soldiers monitoring the sensors were keeping a keen eye out for any signs of Keldor’s forces.
The door slid open and Marlena entered, escorted by two guards. “It certainly didn’t take you long to make yourself right at home,” she teased.
He arose from the chair and dismissed the guards with a nod. “Sorry about them but anybody without the proper clearance level must be escorted at all times in the Hall of Wisdom’s upper levels.”
“I understand, darling, don’t worry. I just wanted to see how things were going. You’ve had this post less than a week and, other than last night, it’s as if I never see you anymore.”
He escorted her out of the room. “Let’s talk someplace more private.” The couple was just about to leave the room when Man-At-Arms arrived. “Duncan, why don’t you join Marlena and me?”
The small group made their way to the highest tower in the Hall of Wisdom—the same tower from which Shokoti had opened the gateway to Despondos in centuries past. Randor unfastened his cloak and draped it over his wife, who was shivering at such a high altitude.
“Marlena, I know I’ve been spending a lot of time here lately but we’ve been working on something big. I think you should know what it is.”
“I was just teasing you, Randor. I understand—”
“No, Marlena, you should know just how big this thing we’re working on really is.” He and Duncan exchanged glances before he went on to explain. “We’re going to trap Keldor and his forces on the dark hemisphere.”
“How are you planning on doing that?” she asked.
Duncan answered. “The plan is to create a giant wall around that half of the planet. I already have some of the components necessary to create one, and once the pieces are in place we can activate it. Then, the Elders will reinforce it magically.”
Marlena shook her head incredulously. “What about all of the people on that side of Eternia? And the natural resources? Isn’t this too drastic of a step?”
“Initially I felt the same as you, but Keldor’s forces are growing in force and brutality each day. The people are clamoring for a solution.”
Randor nodded. “The Council is holding a special session tomorrow, allowing anyone with ideas on how to stop Keldor to come forward. If a better suggestion arises—which we are all hoping for—then we will investigate it.”
“Otherwise the Elders will start evacuating the decent people on that half of the planet in secret.”
Marlena sighed. “I still think it’s a drastic action, but I will trust your judgment.” She hugged him tightly before returning his cloak. “I’ll leave you to your work.”
Once she was gone, Randor looked at Duncan sadly. “She’s disappointed in me. She thinks I’m making a terrible mistake by going along with this.”
“Forgive me, captain, but we must do what is best for Eternia regardless of what Marlena or anyone else thinks.”
“You’re right. Now, tell me, what had you run off in such a hurry earlier this morning?”
“I was summoned to Castle Grayskull.”
“That old pile of stones where the bird-lady and the Elders told Marlena about our children?”
“Yes,” Duncan replied with a slight smile. “The ‘bird-lady’, as you called her, is the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull. She is very closely connected to the Elders.”
“I had assumed as much. What is so special about her?”
“It is not the Sorceress per se, but rather what she protects.” Seeing the next question forming on Randor’s lips Duncan cut-in. “I’m afraid I can say no more at this time. Please understand, Randor.”
“I trust you, my friend. If you are not at liberty to discuss what you know of that old castle’s keeper then so be it. Can you at least tell me why you were summoned?”
The Man-At-Arms nodded. “The Elders and the Sorceress have determined that the time to start building the wall is now.”
“But what about tomorrow’s Council session?”
Duncan shrugged. “I was instructed to start building the wall, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to need some help though.”
“A small team of trustworthy and discreet warriors,” Randor presumed, stroking his brown beard. “I have some suggestions: Stratos of Avion, your good friend Ram-Man, and Mekaneck have all proven themselves in these dark times.”
“With such varied skills and powers amongst them, it should make laying the groundwork go by fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the bulk of what needs to be done is underwater and none of the men you mentioned are exactly suited for deep-sea diving.”
“You’re right, of course.” After a moment's thought he said, “Fleet Admiral Faulk recently became acquainted with the leaders of an underwater rebellion. They seek to overthrow the despot Mer-Man, and they’re willing to help us do the same to Keldor.”
“Should we risk trusting new allies with such sensitive plans?”
“When I was briefing the Elders earlier today I mentioned these rebels, and His Excellency, Gnarl, spoke highly of them. He was going to encourage Fleet Admiral Faulk to form an alliance with them—we help their rebellion overthrow Mer-Man, and they help us stop Keldor.”
“By putting into place the underwater components needed to build the wall,” Duncan concluded. “Do you know any of their names?”
Randor thought for a second, trying to recall. “The leader of the rebellion is a man named Shalandor. His second-in-command is a Mer-Woman named Nami.”
“Then it would appear the foundation for our plan is set. I just hope, for the sake of all of Eternia, that we’re doing the right thing...”
September 5, 2010, 06:50pm
Early the next morning the doors to the Hall of Wisdom were opened to all those who wished to discuss the threat of Keldor, and it turned out to be a far larger multitude than anyone had expected.
Citizens from all across the planet had gathered in the Council Chamber, and they were wedged in tightly along the viewing balconies above, all the way down the giant staircases, and on the main floor itself. Hundreds more stood in the hallways outside and on the former castle’s grounds.
Security was on high alert, and from the war room Randor and his top warriors were keeping careful watch on all that transpired. “The people need this,” the captain reminded himself.
“But you’re worried that Keldor will use this open invitation as a chance to strike at the Elders,” Marlena concluded. She leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Have faith in your abilities to defend this fortress.”
He looked at his beautiful wife and gave a half-hearted smile. Then, noticing the monitor behind her, he whispered, “It’s starting.”
The Elders appeared upon their pedestals in a flash of light and all murmuring in the room ceased. Duquaine raised his hands and said, “Welcome, citizens. Since there are so many delegations we will begin these proceedings immediately. The group from Targa has the floor…”
And so it began. The people, some of them alone and others serving as part of a delegation, made their cases before the Elders. Most of what they had to say was the same: Keldor must be stopped; hundreds were massacred by Kronis and others like him; Keldor’s using an army of ferocious skeleton warriors to carry out his attacks; Beastman is terrorizing anyone who passes through the forests; Seaside towns are besieged by Crustace-Men and servants of Mer-Man.
The meeting lasted well into the night but the Elders were determined to hear everyone present. Though he had tried not to, Captain Randor couldn’t help but doze in his chair periodically. It wasn’t that he was unsympathetic to the plight of the people, but their words were all the same.
Marlena shook him subtlety so that none of the guards would notice. She handed him a small loaf of bread. “I figured you hadn’t eaten all day so I brought you something to eat.”
“Thank you, darling,” he replied, taking her hand and kissing it gently. He broke away for only a moment. “Lieutenant Driscoll, how many more are there?”
“I think only one more group after this one,” she replied, the weariness in her voice as evident as that in Randor’s.
“We have heard your words, Chief Odell, and we will do all that we can to keep you safe from Keldor’s army,” Gnarl concluded, as the tiny, fuzzy white leader of the Pelleezians hobbled away.
“And finally, we will recognize Madam Zenia and the delegation from Darkwood Forest,” Sumana proclaimed, waving the motley group of three forward.
Their leader was an elderly woman so feeble that it seemed the two men with her were merely there to help her walk. She was covered in dark blue robes, with just a few strands of dirty white hair peeking out from under her hood. The woman’s escorts didn’t look much fitter than she did.
“Thank you for seeing us, mighty Elders,” Zenia croaked, before launching into a hacking frenzy. One of her aides patted her on the back until the lung spasms stopped. She nodded at the man kindly before continuing. “My name is Zenia, and I speak on behalf of the Tree People of Darkwood Forest. Because of our close proximity to Snake Mountain we are under constant threat from Keldor.”
The Elders remained silent while she spoke, but as soon as she was done Duquaine started. “Your companions do not have the tribal tattoos found on most male Tree People, and none of you appear agile or strong enough for life in the trees.”
“You are very astute, Your Excellency,” Zenia replied. “The men with me come from Koridor—I adopted them when they were babes. As for looking equipped for life amongst the leaves, I’m sure I don’t need to remind beings as aged as yourselves how deceiving looks can be.”
“Indeed,” Duquaine retorted. “Speaking of which, this masquerade bores us.” He held up a single hand and the three Tree People shattered like fragments of a broken mirror.
In their places stood Evil-Lyn, Kronis, and Mer-Man!
Looking at the villains the Elder said satisfactorily, “This day was made all the longer knowing that you three stood in our midst...”
September 5, 2010, 06:55pm
“Red alert!” Randor yelled, jumping from the command chair. “Get the Elders out of there, then the civilians! Then surround those three monsters!”
“Wait!” Marlena shouted as he rushed toward the door. “Look outside! It’s Beastman, and he’s controlling four Sand Devils!”
“I have to get to the Elders,” Randor replied, unsheathing his sword. “You take control up here and use the fortress’ defenses against Beastman!”
Before she could protest he was already out the door. The guards in the room had all turned to face Marlena expectantly. Reluctantly, she settled into the command chair. “This can’t be too different than flying a ship, right?”
“I want the controls for the Hall’s outer defense systems transferred to this chair.” They looked at her wide-eyed. “Now!” Marlena barked, and at once they did as she had instructed. “While I deal with that ape I want all exits sealed.”
“But that will trap the civilians inside!”
“That’s better than exposing them to what’s outside at the moment.” She looked down at the keypads and the tiny monitor on the arms of the chair. Marlena punched in a sequence on one of the pads and an image of Beastman and the Sand Devils appeared on the monitor.
The civilians in the Council Chamber were trying their best to exit the Hall of Wisdom but the doors were locked. Their cries reverberated throughout the fortress.
“Like lambs to the slaughter,” Evil-Lyn said coldly. She and her fellow warriors were standing calmly in the center of the chaos, surrounded by a group of armed Guardsmen.
“Let me through,” Randor shouted, pushing past the frenzied people as he rushed down the stairs to the main floor of the chamber.
“Help the captain down the stairs, Mer-Man,” Evil-Lyn instructed.
The scaly dictator gurgled his gleeful acknowledgment. He pointed his powerful trident toward the top of the staircase and a massive stream of water arced from the weapon. The water flooded the marble stairway and swept away everyone there.
Since Randor was near the bottom of the stairs when Mer-Man unleashed his attack he was bowled over by a wall of slipping and sliding men and women.
“What foul mission has brought you here?” Zilora asked calmly.
Evil-Lyn smiled. “This one…” She raised her hands toward the ceiling and dark magic crackled like lightening around her fingertips. The witch’s eyes started to glow, and suddenly an explosion of darkness blasted the Elders!
The last of the Eternian Guards outside the Hall of Wisdom disappeared into the vacuous mouth of a Sand Devil. Beastman stroked the leathery hide of the behemoth creature. “Good girl,” he grunted. He scratched his furry head and looked at the doors expectantly. “Where are they? Evil-Lyn said they’d come running out any second but that was a while ago.”
Suddenly, laser fire erupted from unseen cannons along the top of the fortress. Beastman dove toward the ground and covered his head. One of the giant Sand Devils took a direct hit and collapsed.
“They must have failed,” Beastman muttered to himself, barely dodging one of the large energy bolts. “I can’t take on this place by myself!” He shimmied up the back of one of the Sand Devils and commanded it to retreat.
“Ha! I think I scared that great ape,” Marlena shouted. “Are there any other threats lurking out there?”
“None that our sensors can detect, ma’am.”
“Then unseal the main exit and get those civilians out of here!”
September 5, 2010, 07:01pm
Randor regained consciousness but the weight of the other people had the captain helplessly pinned to the floor. From his current vantage point all he could see was Evil-Lyn’s ongoing onslaught. The Elders were blocked from his line-of-sight.
“The doors are open!” a civilian woman screamed, and the people started flooding out of the mystical fortress.
“No reason why Evil-Lyn should have all the fun,” Kronis remarked as he grabbed a fleeing girl by the arm. He pulled out a hooked blade from his belt and pressed it against the child’s cheek.
“You’re right,” Mer-Man agreed, throwing his trident so that it pinned an old man against the wall.
“No,” Randor gasped as Kronis and Mer-Man went after the helpless civilians. The people piled on top of him were starting to move, and he was able to start freeing himself. Randor had just regained use of his arms when he felt the cold tip of a sword press against the nape of his neck.
“Hey, Mer-Man,” Kronis called, “we’ve got a whole pile of victims here.” The blood-thirsty soldier lifted his sword into the air and brought it to bear against Randor with all of his might!
A second sword intercepted the hit, saving the captain’s life. “Back off!” Marlena shouted, using a smaller sword to push Kronis back.
“You’re no match for me, girlie!” He swung again, but Marlena dodged and thrust with her own weapon. She managed to inflict a deep cut across Kronis’ chest. He looked down in amazement at the blood dripping from the wound. “That one’s going to leave a scar.”
Randor had finally managed to extricate himself. Finding his sword again, he stood poised next to his wife. “And I thought I was the warrior.”
“Maybe it runs in the family,” she replied with a smirk.
Not far away, Evil-Lyn was still attacking the Elders with every ounce of energy she possessed. Her magical assault had been met since the beginning by a wall of sparkling, blue energy. The Elders sat calmly on the other side of the field, while the witch seemed to be fading fast.
Keldor! she cried out telepathically. I can’t…keep this up…much longer!
Through the telepathic link we have maintained I have learned all that I need to know about the Elders’ powers.
Evil-Lyn felt the psychic link sever. She clenched her eyes even tighter, her tears mixing with her sweat, determined to give the Elders something to remember. Her lips felt dry, and she was starting to feel more than a little light-headed, but Evil-Lyn pushed even harder. All at once, her extremities went numb and she felt herself losing consciousness.
The heroes and villains all turned as a sudden silence filled the chamber. Evil-Lyn was sprawled on the floor, while the Elders remained protected behind their energy wall.
“Grab her!” Kronis shouted as he pulled out a tiny remote device from his belt. He then fled the Hall of Wisdom, followed seconds later by Mer-Man, who carried Evil-Lyn’s limp body in his arms.
Randor, Marlena, and a handful of guards followed them out, but the villains had already loaded into the transport Kronis had summoned, and were on their way back to Snake Mountain.
Keldor was most pleased by the day’s events. Thanks to Evil-Lyn and the psychic bond he had shared with her, he now had a much better grasp of the Elders’ powers. They were almost unfathomable, but he was determined to find a way to make those powers his own. All in due time.
The wizard placed his palm on the cool surface of an ordinary stone in a darkened hallway of Snake Mountain. A small section of the wall pulled back, revealing a hidden chamber. Inside, a solitary cauldron held an odoriferous, yellow-green liquid.
Keldor held up the Orb of Agony, which he had kept hidden since it was used to destroy Shokoti. “This should help me weaken the Elders enough to defeat them. It will destroy them, of course, but it will give me time to drain their powers first.”
He paused for a moment and smiled. “When it’s ready I should probably test it first…and I think my dear half-brother is the perfect person to help me with that.”
Keldor cackled wickedly and held the Orb of Agony toward the ceiling. Suddenly, the mystical object split in half and the wizard brought it down to examine its contents. A pool of thick, green plasma sloshed about inside—the source of the Orb of Agony’s magical power.
Keldor added the sludge to the concoction in his cauldron and it started bubbling intensely...