Summary: Adam saves his father's life, but in doing so endangers himself. His family and friends rally around him, but the only one who can save Adam is...himself.
I haven't posted on here before, but I've had a few people e-mail me and suggest posting my He-Man stories on this site...so I'm taking a stab at doing so. Hope this works!
And of course, I don't own any of these MOTU characters, nor do I make money off of this.
Adam's Strength: Chapter 1
The sun shone brightly as the crowd gathered for King Randor’s address. It was the first stop on his tour of Eternia. Since they were in Anas, a large town only a few hours from the palace, the entire royal family was in attendance for this address. Later, Randor and Prince Adam would continue on their own, leaving Queen Marlena in charge at the palace.
The King stood proudly on a small raised platform, waiting for the signal to begin. To his left stood Marlena. Adam stood off to his right, slightly behind, with Teela and Man-at-Arms at his side. Randor couldn’t help but be pleased that his son had managed to show up at a function on time.
“It sure is a gorgeous day,” Adam commented. “Maybe we can head out and do some fishing later, eh Cringer?”
Teela shook her head, even as her eyes scanned the crowd for possible dangers to the royal family. “Don’t you ever think of anything but fun, Adam?”
Adam winked at Duncan. “Sure, Teela. Food!”
Duncan chuckled as Teela huffed. Orko appeared next to them suddenly. “Did I miss anything?” the little Trollan asked.
“The king is about to start his speech,” Duncan replied. “Quiet now.”
A sudden shuffling to the right of the raised platform drew Teela’s attention. She motioned her guards over. Adam kept his casual stance, but his eyes drew over the crowd carefully. Something wasn’t right. He could feel it in the air, and his stomach grew tight. It was times like this that it was difficult to be a prince in full view of the public, and yet have the secret ability to become He-Man. He hated looking as if he were running away.
The King was waiting for the commotion to stop, but it only grew louder as the guards approached. Then, one of the “citizens” suddenly threw off her cloak, revealing none other than…
“Evil-Lyn!” Teela shouted. She and Duncan immediately ran over to assist the guards.
Adam’s first thought was the find cover so he could transform into He-Man, but something, some instinct, caused him to pause. He glanced over the crowd one last time, and it was then that he saw another figure aiming something at King Randor. Evil-Lyn was only a distraction, he realized. His heart in his throat, he reacted instinctively.
“Father! Look out!” he yelled, pushing Randor out of the way. The blast caught Adam square on; he could feel pain pulsing through his body, and his mind seemed to explode with memories and feelings. Then there was nothing.
“Adam!” Queen Marlena screamed. Teela and Duncan, facing off against Evil-Lyn, looked over in shock, and ran to the platform, the evil witch forgotten. Randor, who had hit his head rather hard, fought the dizziness that threatened to overwhelm him as he heard Marlena’s sobs. He stood groggily to see his wife kneeling by the still form of his son, who didn’t seem to be breathing. Then he heard a familiar evil laugh. Turning, he saw Skeletor throw aside his cloak.
“Well, Randor, I may have missed this time, but getting rid of that pest of a prince is some consolation. And once my new prize here is re-charged, I’ll be back for you. Then you can join your precious son in oblivion!” Cackling, Skeletor faded away, taking Evil-Lyn with him.
Teela clapped a hand to her mouth as she fell to her knees next to Adam. Her father was already feeling for a pulse.
“He’s gone,” Duncan whispered brokenly. He shook his head in disbelief, an emptiness quickly growing inside of him. “He’s gone.”
“Noooo!” Teela and Marlena screamed almost simultaneously. Marlena collapsed onto Adam’s chest, and found that she couldn’t breathe.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As she struggled to inhale, she heard his heart beat once.
“Duncan, he’s not dead,” she said frantically, sitting up again.
“Your majesty, I understand how you feel,” Duncan managed through his tears, “but-“
“No, I heard a heartbeat!” she argued. “I don’t think the blast killed him. It put him in some sort of suspended state!”
“Then we must get him to the palace immediately,” Randor said, grasping at this hope. “The healers can-“
“No,” Duncan interrupted. “I need to get him to Castle Grayskull. This is magic, and the Sorceress is more likely to be able to help him.”
“Then we’re all going,” the King asserted. Duncan took one look at him and knew better than to argue. If it put Adam’s secret at risk, he and the Sorceress would have to deal with that later.
They hefted Adam into a Wind Raider with Cringer and Marlena, who refused to leave her son’s side. Teela, Orko, and the King took another one. No one spoke a word; they were too busy silently praying and fighting for control.
The Sorceress already had the drawbridge opened when they arrived. When her connection with Adam had been severed, she had contacted Man-at-Arms. By that time, they were already en route to Grayskull.
“Quickly, bring him in,” she urged Duncan. The others landed a minute later and helped him carry the unconscious prince inside.
The Sorceress laid her hands on Adam’s chest, and a warm white light began to glow around them, slowly encasing his entire body. The others gathered waited anxiously, expecting to see Adam rise up at any moment. After ten minutes, however, the light disappeared, and the Sorceress nearly collapsed. Duncan rushed over to help her. She spent a moment catching her breath.
“This magic is not of Eternia, and it is very powerful,” she said at last. “It seems to have attacked Adam’s mind. He is in a dream-like state, but so deep that I cannot reach him. I’m afraid there is nothing my magic, or even the power of Grayskull, can do. If we do not find a way to reverse this soon, Adam will die.”
Marlena gasped and turned to Randor, who held her with a look of disbelief on his face. Orko dropped to the floor next to Cringer, and clung tightly to the tiger.
“There’s got to be something we can do,” Teela said almost frantically. The thought of Adam, her best friend for so long, no longer being there, was too much for her to even contemplate. “What about Granamyr?”
“Granamyr…” mused the Sorceress. “Yes, I will try to contact him immediately, though we rarely have luck in that manner. He-Man has always had to seek him out in person.”
“Well, then, by the Ancients, send He-Man up there,” Randor commanded.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible right now, King Randor,” the Sorceress replied. “He-Man is far away right now, and not even I can contact him.” Silently apologizing, she made a small motion with her hand, casting a spell to move their minds past yet another coincidence of He-Man and Adam being unavailable at the same time. She turned to Duncan. “Man-at-Arms, come with me, and we will attempt to contact Granamyr.”
The two of them left, leaving the king and queen and Teela with Adam’s still form. A shaky breath broke the silence as Randor fought to control himself.
“He saved my life,” he whispered. “My son, the one everyone has called a coward…” He moved closer to Adam, and Marlena walked over to him, placing her arms around him. “You saved me. And I wish with all my heart that you had not. I would rather it be me lying there in that bed.” He turned to Marlena and bent his face against her, hiding his tears. Marlena pressed her head to his shoulder and cried silently, wondering if this was the end of Adam…if even He-Man could save him this time.
Teela had been watching them, but she couldn’t take any more. She rushed out of the room, tears flowing freely down her face. It’s my fault, she thought. I was sworn to protect them all. I let them down. But most of all, I failed Adam. I failed my best friend.
Adam couldn’t figure out where he was. He couldn’t see anything at all at first. Then he had the sensation of falling almost endlessly. He became so used to the sensation that when it stopped, it was a surprise. He looked around and still saw nothing, except for a small light. He took a hesitant step forward, towards the light. Then he heard his mother and Teela scream, and he whirled around, running away from the light as fast as he dared. He ran for what seemed like forever, before he came to his senses.
“There’s nothing here,” he whispered to himself. He couldn’t tell direction, because it was too dark. But for the first time, he noticed that it wasn’t total darkness as it had been. It was slightly brighter, like the difference between a completely cloudy night and a clear night with stars but no moon.
He turned back the way he’d come and saw the light was still there, beckoning him. He took a breath. “Why do I feel drawn to it, yet…it doesn’t feel as if I should go to it?” he wondered. “And where am I? I don’t understand.” Again he started to take a step to the light, but felt the presence of the Sorceress drawing him in the opposite direction. He stood still for a moment, wanting to call out to her, but he was unable to move or even speak. As her presence withdrew, he regained both abilities.
“Think Adam, think,” he muttered. “What happened? How did I get here?” He snickered a bit, need some sort of emotional release. “Not that I know where ‘here’ is…” Adam felt a bit foolish talking to himself out loud, but it made him feel better about this place of nothingness, and it was helping him to think things through.
“You saved me,” his father’s voice suddenly whispered. “And I wish with all my heart that you had not. I would rather it be me lying there in that bed.”
In a bed? Adam shook his head, struggling to understand. Slowly he remembered the day’s events. “That blast,” he realized. “It was magic.” He wanted to change into He-Man, but without knowing who was watching him or where he was, that might not be the best idea.
“And if I’m not losing my mind, but am hearing my family, there’s something going on I don’t understand. Still, I’d feel better about this with my sword in hand, more ready,” he admitted to himself. He reached back to pull out the Sword of Power.
Thanks for the comments and the friendly welcome! Hope you enjoy the next installment!
Teela stood looking out over Eternia from the northern watchtower. Orko came up behind her.
“Are you okay, Teela?” he asked quietly.
“No,” she answered through her tears. “And if Adam doesn’t get better, I’ll never be okay again. I failed him, Orko. I was supposed to protect him.”
“Aw, Teela, there wasn’t anything you could do,” Orko answered sympathetically. “Adam chose to push his father out of the way. It was his choice, not yours.”
Teela shook her head violently. “If I hadn’t allowed myself to be distracted by Evil-Lyn, I would have been able to save the king. Adam wouldn’t have had to do it.” She heard footsteps and turned to see Man-at-Arms. He knew his daughter, and he knew the range of emotions she was feeling.
“Teela,” he began. She stared at him, fear and hope warring in her green eyes.
“Can Granamyr help?” she asked, refusing the beat around the bush. Her knees gave out as Duncan shook his head, and she sank to the ground.
“It’s my fault,” she sobbed. “I was supposed to protect him. It was my JOB!”
“Teela,” Duncan tried again, “maybe it was partly your fault, but not any more than it was mine. We both latched onto Evil-Lyn as the danger, and didn’t pay attention to anything else.” Her weeping continued, and he had to raise his voice. “Teela, we don’t have time for regrets now. We have to go to Snake Mountain!”
That caught her attention. “What?”
“Granamyr can’t help us because he either needs to know what talisman was used to cast the spell, or he needs to delve into Adam’s mind…or both. He’s already on his way to Grayskull. The Sorceress is also working on contacting Zodak to see if he can help somehow. You and I have to go to Snake Mountain and see if we can learn something about that talisman. We’re not giving up yet, Teela.” Duncan tried to infuse confidence into his voice.
Doing something to help was the crutch Teela needed. She stifled her sobs, wiped her eyes and stood up. “How long do we have?” she asked quietly.
“I don’t know,” Duncan answered. He didn’t tell her the rest. Granamyr had a suspicion as to what Skeletor had used, but it seemed unlikely. No one had ever survived the magic of the Talisman of Kaspanya for more than an hour. It had already been four hours.
“There’s something else,” Duncan added. His daughter looked at him questioningly. “Adam’s heart rate has actually increased since we came to Grayskull. The Sorceress isn’t sure if it is Grayskull’s magic, or if he can hear us talking. She wants us both to stop and talk to Adam for a minute before we go, just in case.”
Teela bit her lip and nodded. There was a lot she wanted to say. She just wasn’t sure she could do it, even with Adam’s life on the line.
“Ah, there you are,” the Sorceress greeted them. “Time is of the essence, so we must get you on your way quickly. But I think that Adam can hear some of what we say when we speak directly to him. It is not a cure, but I believe that giving him reason to fight this spell will buy us more time.”
Duncan asked to be alone with Adam for a moment, and the others left the room. He swallowed a few times and cleared his throat.
“Listen, lad, you and I have been through a lot together,” he finally said to the still prince. “You’ve made a lot of sacrifices over the years in order to protect those you love. I have been proud to serve by your side. But I can’t help you on this one. You need to fight this, Adam. Come back to us. He-Man is just an amplified version of what is in your heart. You can break this spell. I believe it. Please come back to us.” He lowered his head for a moment to compose himself, and left the room. At his nod, Teela entered hesitantly. Her tears came again at the sight of Adam lying on the bed, motionless. In spite of his clumsiness, he was strong inside and out. He had held her many times over the years when she needed comfort, and she knew the feel of his arms well. She couldn’t believe that he wasn’t going to move when she talked to him.
“The Sorceress says you’re in a dream-like state, but that she thinks you can hear us,” Teela said softly. “It was so awful, seeing you lying on that platform. I really thought you were dead. Don’t you EVER do that to me again,” she added ferociously.
After a brief silence she went on. “I hate seeing you lying here, barely breathing. You have been my best friend forever, Adam. You HAVE to come back to me. What would I ever do without you? No matter what I say about you running from every confrontation, your sense of honor, your wit, your compassion…they mean much more to me than your ability to fight. You’re my best friend, and I know I don’t say it, but…” She paused and gathered her courage. “I love you,” she finally breathed. If Adam remembered this, he’d think she meant it as a friend. But she was starting to wonder if that was all it was.
Adam was getting tired. The light behind him seemed to have started pulling on him right at the time he found his sword was missing. He continued to walk away from it, but each step was more and more difficult. To top it off, he felt incredibly alone…and frightened.
“Listen, lad,” Duncan’s voice came from in front of him. Adam tilted his head to hear better, and found his eyes tearing at his mentor’s words. But what really gave him the strength to continue on was the last part. “He-Man is just an amplified version of what is in your heart. You can break this spell. I believe it. Please come back to us.”
If He-Man’s courage was within him, then he didn’t need the Sword of Power to fight the pull of the light, Adam realized. He pushed on, then stopped as Teela’s voice reached him. He smiled as she almost threatened him, and silently thanked her as she explained a little about what was going on. His body was lying on a bed, probably in Castle Grayskull, he realized. So everything around him was in his mind…or something like that. And for his family and friends to sound so worried, he must have been—or was even now—close to death.
Adam was so busy figuring this out that he missed part of what Teela said, tuning back in as she said, “…your sense of honor, your wit, your compassion…they mean much more to me than your ability to fight. You’re my best friend, and I know I don’t say it, but….” There was a pause and then a faint whisper, so quiet that Adam believed he must have imagined it. Nevertheless, the idea of it gave him renewed strength to move away from the light.
Teela and Duncan made it to Snake Mountain in record time. Unfortunately, they were also captured in record time.
“Where do we even begin looking?” Teela whispered to her father.
“We’ll check Skeletor’s laboratory, but I don’t think we’ll have much luck there,” he answered. “I suspect he hasn’t let it out of his sight.”
“Right you are, Man-at-Arms!” came Skeletor’s annoying voice. “This has been a terrible day for the two of you, hasn’t it? First you failed to protect the prince, and now you’ve gone and gotten yourselves captured!”
Teela took a flash bomb from her tunic. “Guess again, Skeletor!” she cried as she threw it. It blinded him for a moment, but Evil-Lyn was behind him, and didn’t get the full effect. She quickly captured the two of them in a box-shaped forcefield.
“You’ll pay for that, Teela,” Skeletor said as he rubbed the sockets that should have contained eyes. “But I guess you already have, with your best friend dead.” Teela choked back her response as her father’s hand applied pressure to her arm.
“Tell me, Skeletor, what was that thing you used on Adam?” Duncan asked curiously.
“The Talisman of Kaspanya,” Skeletor answered nonchalantly. “A little something I picked up from the Horde. Don’t worry, after I deal with the King and Queen, I’ll make sure you experience its full effects.” He laughed menacingly.
“Why did you wait, Skeletor?” Teela asked, realizing her father was trying for information they could use to help Adam. “Why didn’t you attack the whole royal family at once?”
“Never mind that,” Skeletor snapped. “I’ve got things to do—namely, to contact the Sorceress and demand He-Man turn himself over to me! Otherwise, there will be two more deaths to mourn!” Laughing gleefully, he left, with Evil-Lyn trailing behind him.
Teela turned to Duncan. “Well, we got the information. Now what?”
“Now we try to contact the Sorceress through telepathy,” Duncan said grimly. “And hope that what we have is enough to help.”
“Father,” Teela said hesitantly. “Why does Skeletor think Adam’s already dead?”
Duncan looked at her and decided not to lie about this one. “Because no one has survived it. Normally the victims are dead within an hour.”
Teela paled, but found courage in his statement as well. “How has Adam lasted so long, then?”
Duncan sighed, knowing that the power of Grayskull had probably protected Adam to some extent, since the prince carried the sword with him everywhere. But he couldn’t tell Teela that part. “I’m not sure,” he finally answered.
Adam had indeed survived longer than anyone else who had experienced the power of the talisman. Unfortunately, exhaustion was starting to set in. He felt as if he had been traveling for hours now, and the best he could say was that it sort of looked like a cloudy day now—everything was gray. That was fine, except that there was nothing there to see.
That changed as a loud purr started suddenly. Adam could almost swear that he felt Cringer. He didn’t know that Cringer was actually rubbing his hand from within Castle Grayskull.
“A-A-Adam?” Cringer whimpered. “Please don’t give up.” Words failed him, and he went on purring for a while, knowing that if Adam was listening, he would understand.
And Adam did. In spite of the fact that all he wanted to do was lie down and sleep, he moved on—smack into the spell’s next stage.
“Well, it’s about time you got here, son,” King Randor roared at him. Adam gaped in astonishment. Where there was nothing before, he was suddenly now in the palace. Although this was like so many other times in his life when he’d been late, mainly thanks to his He-Man heroics, he recognized this scene in particular. It had taken place about six months ago. He’d been more than an hour late for Teela’s birthday party.
Most times, the power of Grayskull allowed him to handle being He-Man without too many side effects. Wounds were usually healed, and exhaustion was eased when he called on the power of Grayskull to transform into He-Man, although as Adam he sometimes had to catch some shut-eye. But there was no magical help for the psychological challenges—the constant weight of trying to save the world from evil.
That day, it wasn’t a challenge from Skeletor that nearly undid him. It was Mother Eternia. An earthquake had let loose in the vicinity where Adam was exploring by himself. He’d changed into He-Man to try to save a family. He’d managed to save everyone except the toddler, who escaped from his mother’s arms. He’d been crushed by a rockslide, and died in He-Man’s arms. The family didn’t blame him. But Adam still felt responsible.
No one at the palace knew this, though. Not even Duncan knew where he’d been that day.
“I’m sorry, Father,” Adam heard himself say quietly. Only he hadn’t spoken. Surprised, he turned and saw that what he was seeing was like a play—someone who looked just like him was standing there, playing the role he had played those six months ago. “I was out in-“
“Fooling around again, I suppose,” his father interrupted. “Can’t you take any responsibility? Showing up this late for Teela’s party is unacceptable!”
Adam watched himself as the holographic-like Adam hung his head, feeling beaten from every side, wondering if it was all really worth it. A part of the real Adam knew that the spell was bringing up one of his worst memories to force him to retreat back towards the small tunnel-like light. Most of him, though, didn’t care. He took a step backwards.
“Randor, perhaps we should discuss this later,” Marlena quietly suggested. Randor nodded curtly. Teela ignored Adam.
The scene faded, to be replaced by the throne room only hours later. King Randor’s mood had not improved much.
“It is embarrassing that the Crown Prince cannot handle his own responsibilities,” he stated flatly. Adam flinched, knowing what was coming. He slowly realized that this time, he was actually in the memory. It was a relief not to be watching himself. Maybe he could just walk out of this…
“I’m sorry, Father,” he repeated instead. His feelings from that day swirled inside him in full force. “There was an earthquake, and a family in danger. I had to find He-Man.” It was as close to the truth as he could say.
“Was everyone alright?” Marlena asked with concern.
Adam shook his head sadly. “A small boy got away from his mother and was crushed in a rockslide. He died in He-Man’s arms.” His mother gasped.
“Perhaps if you had assisted instead of wasting time looking for He-Man, that wouldn’t have happened,” his father snapped. Adam blanched and grew rigid.
“Randor!” Marlena said.
“I did everything I could do,” Adam ground out. “I couldn’t catch the boy and I couldn’t stop the rockslide. All I could do was move the rocks and hold him.” His voice broke at the memory. Marlena’s eyes widened, and Adam realized he’d slipped up. Randor, as usual, didn’t notice.
By now, Adam was so caught up in the memory that he didn’t even realize it was one. It all felt real to him. But Randor’s next words caught him by surprise, because in reality, Randor had apologized and they had moved on. But this time…
“That’s because you’re a failure, Adam. You always have been, and you always will be. And I’m tired of it. From this day forward, you are no longer my son.”
Faced with one of his greatest hidden fears coming true, Adam felt an incredible flood of emotions—anger, shame, and just plain exhaustion from having to deal with hiding the truth from everyone. He turned and ran in self-preservation—back towards the light. Once back in the grayness, away from the memories, he suddenly felt a strong magical presence; one he’d known before but couldn’t place. As before, the presence of another magic froze him completely. When it left, he collapsed, physically and emotionally drained, and slowly realized what he needed to do.
“I have to face my fears,” he gasped. “I can’t get out of here unless I do.”
Evil-Lyn167, thanks for the comment! I'll try to get over to ready your story...hopefully sooner rather than later!
Granamyr, the oldest and wisest of the dragons, had been probing Adam’s mind, and was able to witness most of Adam’s memory. Already suspecting the Talisman of Kaspanya, he probed gently, avoiding freezing Adam the way the Sorceress had. But when Adam ran from his memory, Granamyr made his presence known, freezing Adam in his flight. Then he had to withdraw quickly before he caused any damage to Adam’s mind.
The old red dragon had shrunk his size to fit into Castle Grayskull, but he still dwarfed the Sorceress as he turned to her.
“There is something you have not told me about this prince,” he accused her in a rather lofty tone.
The Sorceress inclined her head slightly, but otherwise ignored his statement. “Were you able to learn anything?”
“It is indeed the Talisman of Kaspanya that has been used on him,” Granamyr answered. He glanced at the King and Queen, who stood over Adam with Orko and Cringer. “I do not understand how he has survived this long. It is one of the most powerful spells in the known universe.”
“What can we do?” Randor asked resolutely.
“There is nothing you can do,” Granamyr responded. “If we try to use magic to break the spell, it will only hasten his death.” Marlena’s grip on Randor’s arm tightened. “Prince Adam has made it to his worst fears. To escape the mind maze in which he is lost, he must confront each one. If he can do that, he may awaken. It will take more inner strength, courage, and wisdom than anyone has ever shown when faced with this spell. Even then, the talisman will have to be destroyed, or it will regain its hold on him at some point in the future.” The great beast paused, then looked at Randor. “Actually, you can help him. His first memory, and his first fear, was about you. He was…not prepared for it, but I believe he now knows what he needs to do.”
Randor was shocked. “Me? Why would his fear be about me?”
“Because you are so hard on him,” Marlena told him softly, answering for the old dragon. “He’s afraid of what you really think of him.” The King looked at her as if to argue, and then swallowed. In front of everyone there, he took his son’s hand and began to speak.
“Adam, I’m sorry for all the times I’ve been too hard on you,” Randor’s voice came through. Adam, who had caught his breath and was in the midst of climbing back onto his feet, hesitantly stepped back toward the voice. He glanced behind at the light to make sure he was going directly away from it. The pull was growing stronger. The magic was now affecting his physical body, making the mental battles that much more difficult.
“I hope you understand, my boy, that I love you. No matter how many times you’re late, or how many lamps you knock over, nothing can change that. But it’s my responsibility to prepare you to take the throne one day, and I’m afraid it makes me a hard taskmaster at times.” There was a pause. Adam could sense his father’s love for the first time in a long time. “And I know I don’t say this enough either. I’m proud of you, Adam. You may not be the best warrior, but your diplomacy and compassion have won us many allies over the years. Your wisdom is also incredible, for a man of your age. In those ways, you actually remind me of…of He-Man.” There was a thoughtful tone to Randor’s voice with this last statement.
Adam stopped walking, shocked. Surely he doesn’t know, he thought. It must have been a coincidence. Randor wasn’t that perceptive…was he? With renewed determination, Adam moved forward again.
The Sorceress, who had momentarily disappeared, returned as Randor finished speaking. “I’m afraid I have bad news. Man-at-Arms and Teela have confirmed that it was the Talisman of Kaspanya used on Adam, but they have also been captured. Skeletor is demanding that He-Man turn himself over at Snake Mountain in exchange for their release. Otherwise, he will use the talisman on them.”
Randor reddened. “And we cannot reach He-Man.” He shook his head. “I don’t understand it. He appears whenever anyone is in danger, but here lies Adam, in the most danger he’s ever faced, and He-Man is nowhere to be found. It’s not the first time. In spite of their ’friendship,’ the crown prince does not seem to be very high on He-Man’s list of priorities.” The Sorceress started slightly, surprised at his vehemence.
“There is something more you should understand,” Granamyr interjected, knowing the Sorceress wanted Adam’s secret kept. “This talisman can only attack one person at a time. Its sole purpose is to destroy that one victim. As long as Adam lives, it cannot affect another human being. So your Man-at-Arms and Captain of the Guard should be safe, for now.”
“That’s why you said it could regain its hold on Adam,” Orko muttered, almost to himself.
Granamyr looked to him. “Yes. And why it must be destroyed.”
“Just because the talisman cannot hurt them, does not mean that Skeletor couldn’t do something else to them,” Randor said heavily. He rubbed his forehead. “Sorceress, we really need He-Man. Can you please try contacting him again? If we can’t reach him, we’ll have to see if any of the other masters can help.” Randor, however, was reluctant to pull them away from Grayskull and the palace. Everyone was expecting Skeletor to attack while the royal family was preoccupied, and now that he had Teela and Man-at-Arms, he had even more reason to do so.
“Of course,” the Sorceress agreed immediately.
“That’s because you’re a failure, Adam. You always have been, and you always will be. And I’m tired of it. From this day forward, you are no longer my son.”
The memory didn’t catch Adam off-guard this time, nor did the statements from his “father.” He took a deep breath and did something he’d always wanted to do.
“I’m not a failure. I’m…I’m He-Man,” he told his “father.” “Everytime I run away it’s to turn into He-Man, to save someone’s life or stop Skeletor’s evil plans. And no matter what you say, you can’t take away that fact. Or the fact that I love you.”
Adam pushed past the imaginary Randor, whose mouth was hanging open, and the walls dissolved in front of him, putting him in another part of the palace. He closed his eyes for a second to regain his focus. He’d deliberately tried to not remember this part. Now he had to figure out how to handle it. Although he was prepared to handle memories, the fact that the spell took an imaginary twist at a vulnerable moment was disconcerting, and he wasn’t sure what was about to happen.
He stood before Teela’s door. Once again gathering his thoughts and trying to ignore the aches that were beginning to flood his body, he knocked softly. It flew open immediately, just as it had that night.
“What do you want?” Teela glared at him, fire spitting from her eyes.
“I’m sorry Teela,” he said in response. Even though he’d tried to forget this night, the words came tumbling out just as they had so long ago. It was as if he couldn’t alter the memory until the spell did. “I was out near Rock Haven, and an earthquake struck. I went to find He-Man, because there was a family there who needed help. Then I stayed until…” his voice faded. “Until everything was over.”
In spite of her anger, Teela knew Adam well. She recognized the shadows in his eyes and the catch in his voice. “What happened?” she asked more gently.
Adam sighed. “The little boy got away from his mother and went running after something—Ancients know what it was. There was an aftershock, and it caused another rockslide. I—and He-Man—tried to get him, but we didn’t see him until it was too late. All we could do was dig him out.” Adam’s blue eyes filled with tears. “He-Man took it really hard. The most powerful man in the universe, and he couldn’t get to the little boy in time.” There was a trace of bitterness to his voice, and he heard it too late.
Teela drew back. “He’s human, Adam! Just because he has super strength doesn’t mean he can do everything, save everyone! I can’t believe you’re blaming him for the death of that little boy!” She was practically shaking with anger.
“I’m not,” Adam protested, but in fact he was blaming He-Man, and they both knew it. “I just meant that he took a vow to protect the innocent, and I’m sure—“ He didn’t get to finish, as Teela ripped into him.
“You’re just jealous, that’s your problem,” she snapped. Her finger actually waved under his nose. “He-Man is everything you’re not—a true warrior, with an incredible sense of responsibility. He doesn’t need you to tell him how to do his job!” With that, she shoved Adam out of the room and slammed the door.
Adam hung his head. Unfortunately, none of this was his worst fear; it was all memory. Every bit of it had happened. So where did the spell come in on this? Where was his worst fear? Hearing footsteps behind him, he whirled around and faced it. He-Man walked past with Teela, and her voice drifted back to Adam.
“He’s such a coward. I can’t believe I ever even thought of him as a friend. I can’t stand him anymore.”
Adam focused his mind on what Teela had said to him earlier. “You’re my best friend, and I know I don’t say it, but….” He still believed he’d imagined the whispered, “I love you,” but he held on that hope as he moved after Teela and He-Man.
“Teela,” he said, reaching for her arm. She turned to him with a raised eyebrow, anger still evident in the way she held herself. “You once said you wanted someone with my wit and He-Man’s courage.” She gasped, since she had said that to He-Man, not Adam. “I’m right here. I AM He-Man. And I love you. Even if you don’t love me, you will always have my heart.” Everything faded then, except for He-Man, who suddenly had a malicious grin on his face.
“Aw, how sickeningly sweet. You annoying little twerp. This isn’t over yet. The worst is yet to come,” he said before he too faded away. Adam stood in shock for a moment. A wave of dizziness passed over him, and his knees gave out. There was another danger here, he realized then. Getting out of here was going to require more than facing secret fears. It might require a fight.
And as weak as I’m getting, he thought, I might not survive it.
Adam remained on the ground for a few moments, trying to gather his strength. He glanced behind him at the light, and discovered that as its pull had increased, so apparently had its size. He got to his feet and gazed at the light. Peace radiated from it. He was so weary, he realized, of everything: fighting Skeletor and never getting anywhere; keeping secrets from his loved ones; being thought of as a coward; feeling that his life was not his own; and the overall exhaustion he couldn’t seem to escape. The light sang to him of peace and rest. He took a step towards it.
“Adam, stop!” his mother’s voice came, desperate in its worry. “Stop whatever you are doing! You have to fight this. I KNOW you have the strength within you to break this spell and return to us. We love you. We need you. Fight, Adam, fight!”
Adam turned suddenly, breathing heavily. He’d almost forgotten where he was. The spell’s power was growing stronger.
“I will not let it beat me,” he muttered. “I’m getting out of here!”
He strode forward, ignoring the weakness, and immediately found himself on the palace grounds. Two girls ran forward to greet him, with his blond hair and Teela’s green eyes, yelling, “Daddy, Daddy!” Astonishment and love for the two of them immediately filled his heart, and he bent down and scooped them both up in his arms, a huge grin splitting his face.
“It’s about time you got home, my ‘He-Man,’” Teela teased as she approached him. She gave him a proper kiss, but her eyes told him how much she had missed him. “Is Skeletor finally gone for good?”
“Uh…” Adam hesitated, confused. Where had he just been? He didn’t remember seeing Skeletor, much less defeating him.
“He may be gone, but I’m not,” a gruff voice called out. Adam looked up to see Hordak and his minions dropping to the ground from a ship. “I’ll take those children with me.”
“No,” Adam whispered. Then again, “NO!”
“Who’s going to stop me, whelp?” snorted Hordak. “You? You’re nothing; without your sword, you can’t become He-Man!” He grabbed Teela and threw her to Grizzlor, who held a knife to her throat. With a black mist, Shadow Weaver took the children from Adam’s arms; he couldn’t hold on to them. She and Catra held them tight. One of them looked up at Shadow Weaver.
“My daddy’s gonna bash your brains in,” she told the witch matter-of-factly. Adam’s stomach clenched at the trust shown in him by his daughter.
Hordak transformed his arm into a blaster and pointed it at Adam, and evil grin twisted his face. “With your family as my prisoners, you’ll have to obey my every command, ‘He-Man,’” he spat with venom in his voice. “I’ll rule Eternia through you, and learn the secrets of Grayskull.”
It was a fear that haunted Adam every time he became He-Man—that he would have to choose between the life of an innocent and the fate of the world, possibly even the universe. But this…this was the reason he kept his identity a secret. As he recognized one of his greatest fears brought to light, Adam began to remember where he was and what was going on. He remembered that his sword had been missing earlier. He reached back and found nothing, as he’d expected.
If this is all in my mind, then I can control it, he thought. Being without my sword is just another fear. He concentrated for a moment, then reached again, this time coming up with the Sword of Power. Feeling both triumphant and more anger than he could ever remember, Adam tossed it easily from hand-to-hand, just as he did when he was He-Man. Hordak’s face grew fearful, and he quickly fired at Adam. The prince blocked the shot and sent it directly back at Hordak, and the scene dissolved.
With the danger passed, Adam felt the dizziness return. Each round of these memories and dreams seemed to take more and more out of him. He sat down, placed his head on his knees, and struggled to ignore the pull of the white light.
“We’re losing him!” the Sorceress cried out frantically. “The spell has begun attacking his body!”
“Adam!” Cringer yelped. “Fight it!”
Orko was tired of feeling useless, so he tried to find the words that would encourage his friend. “Adam, please keep going. Eternia needs you. Teela and Man-at-Arms need you, too. Skeletor has them!”
Randor looked at Orko blankly, trying to figure out why Adam would be needed to rescue the two of them. Fortunately, a new, anxious voice interrupted them.
“Where is he? Where’s Adam?”
“Adora!” Marlena cried out.
“Thank goodness,” Randor breathed.
Adora ran into the room and straight to Adam’s side. Tears had been falling ever since her twin had gotten hit by the talisman. She had been in the middle of a fight, but she knew immediately his life was in grave danger. She swiped at her eyes as her parents both came up and put their arms around her. Her brother was so still, and his breaths were shallow and few between. She placed a hand on his head; he was burning up. She wasn’t sure she’d ever seen anyone so sick, except perhaps when Hordak ate that doomberry pie Skeletor had sent him.
“I came as soon as I could,” she told the king and queen. “I knew something was dreadfully wrong. He’s dying, isn’t he?” Her heart stopped as Granamyr nodded. The great dragon was the only one responding. The others wouldn’t meet her gaze. “Isn’t there anything we can do?” she asked in a whisper.
“Talk to him, Adora,” said the Sorceress. “He has been put under a powerful spell by Skeletor—“
“It should have been me,” the king interrupted. “It was intended for me. Adam saved me.” His voice choked on the last word, and he turned and strode out of the room. Marlena cast a worried glance at Adam and went after her husband. Adora watched them, surprise on her face. Adam saved Father without being He-Man?
“Can’t the magic of Grayskull heal him?” she asked. “Perhaps She-Ra could-“
“I’m afraid not,” interrupted the Sorceress. “Any attempt at curing him by magic will only harm him. Science can do nothing either. Adam alone holds his fate in his hands. The best we can do is talk to him. He seems to be able to hear us.”
At Cringer’s and Orko’s urgings, Adam struggled to his feet and trudged on. He was feeling much worse this time. Even the thought of Duncan and Teela being held captive by Skeletor didn’t give him any additional energy. He knew that his body was losing the fight against this spell. He ached all over, as if he had run a marathon, swum across the Eternian Ocean, and come down with a fever. It’s in my mind, he told himself, not knowing that his body truly was fighting a raging fever. He focused on thoughts of his family and friends, and ignored how his body felt.
Suddenly, he was faced with his worst fear. Like the last one, this didn’t start with a memory, it just appeared. Bodies surrounded him. The ground was covered in blood. As he walked, he recognized the bodies of Ram-Man, Man-E-Faces, Stratos, Buzz-Off, and all of the other Masters. He cried out at the sight of Orko, Battle Cat, Duncan, Teela, his parents, even Adora…all dead. The stench of death was heavy in the air, as was the complete and utter silence that spoke of a great battle.
Reluctantly, Adam made his way towards Castle Grayskull, which loomed before him in the darkness. He already knew in his heart what he would find there.
The Sorceress lay in the doorway, her lifeless eyes staring up at him as if to ask why he hadn’t prevented this, and Adam shuddered. He forced himself to continue on. There, on the throne of Grayskull, was Skeletor. This Skeletor was twice his normal size and radiated power; he’d obviously already learned the secrets of Grayskull. He ruled Eternia, and soon would take the universe. Adam knew all of this as he stood there, sword in hand. This threat, more than anything else, was what drove him to protect Grayskull. It was the reason he became He-Man. It was why he feared failure in his task as Eternia’s champion.
“So the cowardly Prince Adam has managed to last longer than any other person against the Talisman of Kaspanya,” Skeletor cackled. “It will do you no good! Your body is weakened with disease, and your mind is exhausted! You cannot win! And I have already claimed Grayskull for my own! There is nothing you can do to stop me! Nothing!” He raised his havoc staff and fired a blast at Adam, who tried to dodge but wasn’t fast enough. The blast hit him in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. He lay still, completely spent.
I must get up, he thought. He said I’ve lasted longer than anyone else. I mustn’t give up. I can beat him.
He raised himself to his hands and knees, then heard a new voice.
“Adam! I know you can hear me,” Adora said. “Listen carefully. Adam, you must remember that He-Man’s heart is your heart. His mind is your mind. Without you, there wouldn’t be a He-Man. Use those powers, my brother. Use your hero’s heart and mind to break this spell and come back to us, now!”
“What’s this?” Skeletor snapped. “Somebody’s CHEATING!” Adam still felt weak, but he set his jaw and sprang to his feet with renewed determination. Skeletor sent another blast at the prince, but this one missed as Adam dove to the side. He deflected the next blast right back at Skeletor. When it hit the evil villain, the façade faded away, leaving someone Adam didn’t recognize.
“Who are you?” he demanded. The figure’s long black hair flowed around bony shoulders. The pale face twisted into the same sinister smile Adam had seen on He-Man’s face earlier. The eyes were nothing but black emptiness, reminding him of Skeletor. But this thin man was not He-Man’s eternal nemesis.
“I am Lord Kaspanya, whelp,” the creature rasped. “You may as well give in to me now. I will never leave you until I have conquered you. Your soul will be mine. I have waited long for a soul with strength such as yours, so that I may be free of this wretched prison.”
“You’ll not have me,” Adam responded, tightening his grip on the sword. The villain laughed.
“The only way I will ever leave your mind is for you to destroy my talisman, and if you do that, I am free. Either way, I win.”
“I don’t think so,” Adam challenged. But doubt lingered in his mind. He couldn’t unleash this evil on the world, but if he didn’t, it seemed that it would eventually kill him. Was there any way out of this?
First thing’s first, he told himself. I have to break this spell, and wake up. Adam looked around and suddenly realized that Kaspanya’s spell was already weakening. The walls of Grayskull were becoming hazy. With a yell, he suddenly charged up the steps to the throne, right at Kaspanya. He expected the blade and staff to meet, but instead he went right through the wizard, and in a burst of light, it was over.
A/N: This forum set-up seems better-suited to shorter chapters to me (about 2,000 words, as opposed to the 3,500-4,500 some of mine get to). So that's why this is Chapter 5, Part 1. Feel free to let me know if you disagree.
Adam bolted upright in the bed, startling everyone around him. He looked around wildly for a moment, not sure that he had really broken the spell, especially since they were all staring at him as if they’d never seen him before.
“Incredible,” Granamyr whispered. “He broke the spell!” Adora let out a sob of relief and threw her arms around her brother, holding him tight.
“Adam!” Marlena cried. She and Randor had just re-entered the room, and they raced over to embrace their son as well.
“You’re alive,” Adam murmured as he hugged his family. “You’re all alive.”
“Us?” Randor asked, drawing back slightly, but still maintaining contact by leaving a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “You’re the one who has been on your deathbed all day.”
Adam shook his head as if to clear it. “I know. You wouldn’t believe…” he trailed off, eyes haunted. Cringer raised himself onto the bed and Adam hugged him wordlessly.
“We know some of it,” his mother said gently. “Granamyr was able to enter into your mind a few times to find out what was going on.” For the first time, Adam noticed the old dragon on the other side of the room.
“Granamyr,” he breathed. “You’re here?”
The old dragon shrugged. “The Sorceress seemed to think it would be important to He-Man that I help you,” he explained. Adam missed the tightening of Randor’s mouth as the king listened.
“How are you feeling, brother?” Adora asked gently, as she and Marlena both felt for a fever. It seemed to be gone, but Adam was trembling a bit with the effort of sitting up. “I think you’d better lie back down,” Adora said, pushing firmly on his shoulders. Adam complied willingly.
“I don’t know how I feel,” he answered her. “I’m too drained to feel anything. Re-living bad memories, arguing with my family,” his father flinched at this one, but Adam was staring off, not paying attention, “fighting, confronting Kaspanya…it felt so real.” His voice drifted a bit, but then he spoke up again. “I owe all of you thanks. I could hear you. It was your encouragement that kept me going.” One day he would explain it better, but he couldn’t bear to do so now. He couldn’t re-live the memories and fears.
“Prince Adam,” Granamyr said, with his frown a bit more pronounced than usual. “You say you came face-to-face with Lord Kaspanya?”
Adam nodded, and repeated what the sorcerer had said to him.
“Is it true, Granamyr?” Randor’s voice was full of fear. Adam looked at him, surprised by the normally unflappable Randor.
“I believe the sorcerer is telling the truth, Your Majesty,” Granamyr said. “But I also believe we can win this, with Orko’s help.”
“ME?” the little Trollan asked in disbelief.
Granamyr nodded. “It is actually quite simple, my little friend. Come with me, and I will explain it.” He and Orko began to retreat to another room.
“Wait,” Adam called. “Granamyr, who is this Lord Kaspanya, and how did he come by such powerful magic?”
“Kaspanya made a deal with Evil itself,” Granamyr began. “Kaspanya wanted power over whether people lived or died. Evil wanted souls. And so Kaspanya agreed to collect souls and pay any additional price, provided that he would be able kill anyone he focused on. With its twisted way of thinking, Evil gave Kaspanya exactly what he wanted—Kaspanya was given this ultimate power. But Evil likes to torture even its own servants, and it placed him into a stone talisman. Only when the talisman was focused by another could Kaspanya use his power to kill. And he could not leave the talisman with this power until he had collected the number of souls agreed upon, or until he collected one that was so powerful, it would pay his debt in full.” He gazed upon Adam thoughtfully. “You are a man of unusual inner strength, courage, and determination, Prince Adam. I am not sure any other person in this world could have defeated the spell as you have. Because of you, we have a chance to separate Kaspanya from his magic.” Beckoning to Orko, he turned and left the room.
There was a small silence. Randor found it difficult to accept what Granamyr had just said. “Courage” and “Adam” were not usually spoken in the same breath. He looked on his son with new eyes, his thoughts racing.
“Do you think the wizard was telling the truth?” Marlena asked her son. Adam had closed his eyes, and for a second they all feared that he had slipped back into the coma-like state. Then his blue eyes slowly opened.
Adam hesitated to worry his family, but he couldn’t lie about this one. “Yes. I can still feel the spell. Kaspanya’s waiting for another chance.”
Adam’s eyes closed, then he strained to rouse himself again. “Orko said Skeletor has Teela and Man-at-Arms,” he remembered slowly. “Is that true?”
“Yeah, and he said He-Man had to surrender or he’d use the talisman on them!” Orko exclaimed.
“Orko!” Marlena chided. Randor shot a hard stare at the Trollan.
“Ooops,” Orko said, covering his mouth.
“What?” Adam asked, sitting up again. Randor gently pushed the prince back down.
“We’re trying to get in touch with He-Man right now. He’ll handle this. You need to rest.” Randor looked even more upset than before, and Adam couldn’t figure out why. Maybe he’s more worried about Teela and Duncan than he wants to let on, he thought.
“Your Majesties,” the Sorceress ventured. They turned to her. “I believe it might be appropriate for the two of you to return to the palace. Adam should stay here, so that I can fortify him with the power of Grayskull until we resolve this, but given the absence of both Teela and Man-at-Arms, I believe you are needed at home.”
Marlena wanted to stay, but Adora promised her parents she would keep an eye on Adam, as did the Sorceress. Comforted by this, the queen finally allowed herself to be convinced that it was best to go, but resolved to return first thing in the morning.
As soon as the royal couple left the room, Adam turned to the Sorceress. “I have to go after Teela and Duncan. But when you tried to enter my mind, and when Granamyr used his magic in full force, I was frozen. I couldn’t move at all. Is it safe to become He-Man?”
The Sorceress shrugged and looked to Granamyr, who had just re-entered the room with Orko. “At this point Adam, you may know more about Kaspanya’s magic than we do,” she replied slowly.
Granamyr nodded his great head. “You are the first person to survive the talisman this long, and the first to wake up at all,” he said. “We are in uncharted territory. But if the two magics do conflict, it would most likely cause you unspeakable pain.”
“Let me handle this, Adam,” Adora said. She lifted her sword.
“FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL,” she shouted. A swirl of lights surrounded her. “I AM SHE-RA!”
Adam hesitated as he watched her transform, weighing what he had learned. He already knew what he would do, in spite of any risks. He had sworn an oath to protect the innocent, and he would do so at any cost.
“I can still feel a connection to Kaspanya,” he finally said. “But I have faith in the power of Grayskull to prevail, should the two powers conflict.”
“Adam, no one is questioning which is more powerful. The problem is that the conflict would take place within your body,” the Sorceress cautioned. “If you can still feel a connection to Kaspanya’s power, this could be very dangerous. The talisman cannot be used on Teela and Duncan so long as it is focused on you. They are not in immediate danger. Let She-Ra handle the rescue.” The princess of power nodded, her eyes pleading with her brother to relent this once.
“I can deal with pain. I can’t deal with harm coming to Teela or Man-at-Arms,” Adam answered firmly. “If Skeletor can’t use the talisman against them, he’ll find something else.” Adam slowly got to his feet. He knew he was being stubborn, but he couldn’t get rid of the thought of Teela and Duncan in Skeletor’s dungeon, or the image of them dead outside Castle Grayskull. It might be foolish, but he had to see that they were all right. He raised the Sword of Power and shouted:
“BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!”
In a flash of light, his body was transformed, and at first he felt nothing but the familiar wash of warmth.
“I HAVE THE POWER!”
As Grayskull’s magic grew stronger and flooded him completely, he felt pain unlike any he’d ever experienced before. It felt as if a river of fire were pouring into every pore; he could almost feel every cell in his body screaming in agony. Eternia’s champion fell to his knees, gasping.
“He-Man!” She-Ra rushed to his side, but so great was his pain that he pushed her away. He closed his eyes and willed himself to be still, to allow Grayskull’s magic to work within him.
“What do we do?” Orko asked.
“Hush, Orko,” the Sorceress whispered, holding up her hand. “This is a battle between two powers, and there is nothing anyone can do. Keep quiet, and let He-Man focus Grayskull’s magic inward.”
Ever so gradually, the pain subsided, until at last it was bearable. He-Man was able to open his eyes. He mentally searched for Kaspanya’s presence, but he could no longer sense it. He climbed shakily to his feet, accepting the hand She-Ra held out to him.
“Are you all right?” She-Ra asked him gently.
He-Man nodded, flexing his arms gingerly. “I’m weak and sore, but I’ll be all right by the time we get to Snake Mountain. There is one more thing I have to do, though….” He pointed his sword towards Cringer, who was transformed into Battle Cat in a flash of light.
He-Man looked to the Sorceress. “I can no longer sense the connection to Kaspanya. Does that mean the spell is completely broken?”
“I doubt it, He-Man. I believe it more likely means that he has withdrawn, quite possibly taking most of his power back to the talisman itself. But I am sure that he maintains some sort of connection so that he can attack again.”
Granamyr smiled. “Leave Kaspanya to Orko, He-Man. He knows just what to do.”
Skeletor had placed Teela and Duncan in a hidden cell, and put two of his henchmen on watch—Webstor, who clung to the ceiling above, and Trap Jaw at the door. The two prisoners were chained and gagged.
“What was Skeletor so giddy about when you checked in?” Webstor asked in a bored tone. They’d been down there for more than three hours.
“You web-brain, the talisman’s glow is back. It means Prince Adam’s dead, and Skeletor will be able to use the talisman on He-Man when he gets here,” Trap Jaw explained. He wondered how anyone could be so stupid. They all knew Skeletor’s plan.
“Oh, is that all?” Webstor asked. “I’m surprised he didn’t die right away. He’s supposed to be a coward.”
“Yeah, go figure,” Trap Jaw answered, scratching his metal jaw with his laser attachment.
Teela and Duncan looked at each other in horror. Teela felt her eyes well up and spill over. She wanted to scream out her rage and despair, but the gag prevented any significant noise. It’s all my fault, she thought. My best friend. Adam…no, no, no…please don’t let it be true. Oh, Ancients, please please don't let it be true.
Tears threatened Duncan as well, but he tried to be brave for his daughter. There was still hope, he realized. Until he knew otherwise…. Sorceress, he called, closing his eyes. Sorceress.
Man-at-Arms, I hear you.
The talisman glows again. Is…Adam…is he…?
He-Man is on the way, Duncan.
Duncan’s tears overflowed from the relief that flooded him. Teela, he said to the Sorceress. She needs to know he’s okay. I can’t talk to her.
Duncan watched as Teela’s face took on a startled expression. Hope suddenly returned to her eyes as she looked at her father, and he could tell that even under her gag, she was smiling.
She-Ra summoned Swift Wind from Etheria, while He-Man contacted Mekanek and Stratos on the communicators, and asked to meet him and She-Ra outside Snake Mountain. Then the twins, Orko, Battle Cat, and Swift Wind left Castle Grayskull—and stopped short at the end of the drawbridge.
“Your Majesties!” She-Ra exclaimed. “Are you back so soon?” She cast a nervous glance towards He-Man. How would they explain Adam’s absence?
“Yes, She-Ra, we turned back when we heard He-Man’s voice on the communications line,” Randor said. He-Man watched his father carefully, trying to gauge his mood. The King had been acting a bit oddly, and He-Man felt that it was due to more than the fact that his son had nearly died. Randor could be difficult to read when he put on the royal act, and he was playing it to the hilt right now—back straight, shoulders relaxed, chin up in the air. But He-Man’s eye finally caught the twitching muscle in Randor’s jaw, the same spot that twitched when he himself got when he was angry. “Could I speak to you for a moment, He-Man?”
“Of course, sire.” He-Man dismounted and resisted the urge to moan aloud as his muscles protested. He followed Randor slowly until they were a dozen yards away from Marlena and She-Ra, who both watched them with open concern.
“I want to know what problem you have with my son, He-Man.”
“I beg your pardon?” He-Man was sure he’d heard wrong.
“I’ve watched you for years now. If Teela is in danger, you appear. Grayskull, you’re there. The palace, the queen, Man-at-Arms, me…if Skeletor lifts so much as a finger against us, you are suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, there to protect us. But not Adam. This was not the first time my son’s life has been threatened in some manner, although it was by far the most serious. And where were you? Nowhere to be found.” Randor’s voice was getting louder; the women could hear him easily now. “You can never be ‘found’ when Adam is in danger. Now that Teela’s been captured, you’re dashing off to the rescue again. But where have you been all day when we needed you, when Adam needed you?” Randor stood there, rigid, eyes staring directly into He-Man’s in challenge.
He-Man had not a clue what to say. He couldn’t tell Randor the truth, nor could he deny the truth of the king’s statements. He couldn’t very well point out that there was nothing He-Man could have done anyway. Randor obviously didn’t care about that.
Adam had grown accustomed to making excuses for his absences and actions, but as He-Man he was rarely had to do so. He couldn’t seem to come up with a valid excuse. Intermingled with his indecision was shock that Randor had even noticed that He-Man never rescued Adam—at least, not that anyone had seen, although Adam made sure he told stories of He-Man “showing up” to help him. Randor’s observation was insightful, and Adam had never prepared himself for it.
She-Ra, too was shocked into speechlessness. The honor that prevented either of them from killing another living being also kept them from lying. Instead, they kept their answers truthful but vague, and the sword’s magic protected them from being questioned too closely. For the king to suddenly be on this line of questioning meant that the sword’s power over his mind was fading for some reason. It meant that he was now believing what he had personally witnessed, not what Adam had told him over the years when he said things like, “He-Man showed up and took care of it.” She glanced at her mother, and saw something akin to…relief?
For a full minute, He-Man simply stared back at Randor, trying to think of something to say. Then, without warning, the king’s face grew blurry, and before he knew what had happened, She-Ra was holding him up on one side, with Battle Cat on the other.
“Easy, brother,” She-Ra whispered into his ear. “I’ve got you.”
“He-Man, are you all right?” Marlena asked, worry evident in her voice.
He-Man shook his head a little to clear it, but the action did not help. After what seemed to be an eternity, he straightened up to look at Randor, who was trying to ascertain if He-Man was truly unwell, or if he was being played for a fool.
“King Randor, I assure you I have nothing but the highest respect for your son,” He-Man said, his voice not quite as commanding as normal. “I came as quickly as I could.” That, at least, was the truth. He turned to his mother and offered her a smile. “I’ll be fine, Your Majesty. Thank you for your concern.”
Randor studied He-Man for a moment. His normally clear, blue eyes did seem a bit glazed and shadowed, and his mouth was drawn tight as if he were in pain. Randor realized that he’d never seen Grayskull’s champion in such a condition before.
“By the Ancients,” he murmured. “I can see you’re not well, He-Man. I’m very sorry for…accusing you like that. I hope you understand, it’s just that I love that boy, and I almost lost him today.”
He-Man’s face softened for just a moment before pain gripped it again. “I understand, sire,” he said quietly.
“Your Majesties,” She-Ra said, watching her brother’s face closely, “I wondered if you would be interested in a little trade…”
A short time later, He-Man, She-Ra, Orko, and Battle Cat were on their way in the Attack Trak. The king and queen had been taken back to the palace by Swift Wind. He-Man breathed a sigh of relief, as he was able to lie down and rest in the back of the vehicle. They were almost to Snake Mountain before he came up to sit next to She-Ra.
“You know, I think Father’s beginning to figure us out—or at least you,” She-Ra said. “If he’s starting to question the coincidences and why he hasn’t actually seen you save Adam, then the sword’s magic is not affecting him as much. He’s beginning to see the truth.”
“This morning I would have laughed at that idea,” her brother responded. “Now, I think you might be right. I just don’t know what to do about it.”
“What do you mean? If he figured it out, the Sorceress wouldn’t erase his memory, would she?” the princess asked, alarmed.
“I don’t think so,” He-Man answered, “but that’s not what I meant. I’m concerned that if we aren’t the ones to tell Father, his pride will be so stung it’ll take him forever to get over it.”
“I don’t know him as well as you do, but I think we’re going to have that problem even if we are the ones to tell him,” She-Ra agreed.
Orko chimed in. “Maybe if he figures it out, he’ll be so proud of himself that he won’t be mad at the two of you,” he suggested hopefully. The twins exchanged glances, their expressions clearly indicating that that particular idea was highly unlikely.
He-Man, came the Sorceress’ voice. Teela and Duncan are not in the usual dungeon. Battle Cat will have to track them down.
“That’s far enough, Trak,” He-Man said, spotting their two allies. “You’d better wait here.”
“How are you feeling, He-Man?” She-Ra asked as they got out of the vehicle. She noticed he was moving much more slowly than normal.
“I’m better,” he said, refusing to admit that every movement caused pain. It was just a stiffness that would work itself out, he assured himself. As they approached Stratos and Mekanek, he saw She-Ra staring at him again. “I’m stiff, but I’m much stronger,” he assured her.
After everyone had greeted each other, He-Man explained the plan. Mekanek, Stratos, Battle Cat, and She-Ra were to sneak into Snake Mountain to free Teela and Man-at-Arms. He-Man would surrender in order to draw their attention. Orko would follow He-Man at a distance, to assist with the destruction of the talisman at the proper time.
“I don’t like this, He-Man,” She-Ra finally said. “With what you’ve been through today, putting yourself in this position is asking for trouble.”
Stratos raised an eyebrow. “What happened to you today?”
“Nothing,” He-Man said, glaring at his sister. “Let’s just say I’ll be glad when all this is over.”
“You’re in no condition to be taking on Skeletor single-handedly,” She-Ra insisted.
“I agree with She-Ra,” Battle Cat rumbled. Stratos and Mekanek looked alarmed. For two of He-Man’s staunchest supporters to be arguing with him was highly unusual, especially in front of others. In fact, neither of them remembered it ever happening before. Perhaps there was something really wrong with the champion.
“I have no choice,” He-Man stated in a dangerously quiet voice. A muscle in his jaw twitched, and She-Ra thought of their father. He-Man suddenly didn’t look quite as weak as he had a few moments ago. “Skeletor wants me in exchange for them. I know we cannot trust him, but I will not put Teela and Duncan at risk. They aren’t in the normal dungeons; they’re hidden. If we go in there without me surrendering to them, and don’t find Teela and Duncan in time, Skeletor might harm them. Surrendering to them will buy you time to find them and rescue them.” And I have to get that talisman or Adam will be a prisoner forever, he added silently.
There was silence. No one liked it, but they all knew he was right. Besides, no one was going to argue with the most powerful man in the universe when he was angry…not even his sister.
He-Man waited for the others to get close to Snake Mountain. He’d pointed them in a direction where there were fewer sensors, and chose his approach in an area where the sensors would pick him up almost immediately. He hoped this would keep the attention off of the rescue party.
Eternia’s champion gritted his teeth as he finally walked forward. As He-Man, he rarely experienced long-term injuries or weakness. Grayskull’s power usually healed him, but the Sorceress had warned him that wouldn’t be possible this time, since the strain had been caused by Grayskull’s magic in the first place. He’d never had to fight a lengthy battle on his own feeling this poorly. His thoughts drifted towards what would happen if Skeletor, believing the talisman to be fully functional again, trained it on him.
The smell of death and decay reached him. It always smelled this way around Snake Mountain, but now it reminded him of the dream scene at Grayskull, with bodies strewn all over the place…
He-Man shook his head to clear it. Focus, Adam, he told himself. He concentrated on the gray and black landscape, and the horrible snake twisted around the mountain before him. Suddenly, Evil-Lyn appeared before him.
“He-Man, how nice of you to visit us,” she cooed. “I haven’t seen you in weeks. I’ve missed those big, gorgeous muscles of yours.”
Bile rose in his throat. “Cut the chatter, Evil-Lyn,” he demanded. “I’ve come as Skeletor requested. Tell him to let Teela and Man-at-Arms go.”
“I don’t think so, Muscle Boy,” she said, her voice still soft but her eyes sparking with anger. “First we get you, then we let them loose.”
He-Man had fully expected this, and played along to give She-Ran and the others as much time as possible.
“No way am I going to trust you, witch,” he said, trying to bait her a little. “Let them go first, and I give you my word that I will come quietly.”
Evil-Lyn looked at him sharply, then suddenly started purring again. “Why He-Man,” she said softly, walking in a circle around him. “You look positively awful. What have you been doing to yourself?”
“Let Duncan and Teela go,” He-Man ordered again, quietly.
“Very well,” she said. Talking into a communicator, she continued, “Skeletor, He-Man has given his word. You can release them now.”
“Good! Bring him to me!” Skeletor’s voice returned.
“I’m not going anywhere until I see that they are safe and sound,” He-Man insisted, straining to keep his voice strong. His legs were already growing weary from standing there.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Evil-Lyn said. “They’re already back at the palace. See for yourself.” She held out her crystal wand, which showed Teela and Duncan back at the palace, looking confused.
“How do I know you haven’t conjured up a false image?” he challenged her, positive that’s what she’d done.
Evil-Lyn had the gall to look offended. How I would love to wipe that look off her face…He-Man shook his head. Violent thoughts weren’t going to help.
“You can come inside and see for yourself that our dungeons are conspicuously empty,” Evil-Lyn invited. “But first I need your sword.”
For the first time, He-Man smirked. “Did you really think I’d let you have both me and the Power Sword? I don’t have it. I left it where it’s safe from your evil hands.”
Evil-Lyn glared at him. “You think you’re so smart,” she rasped. “Wait until Skeletor gets a hold of you!” With a wave of her wand, she encased him in a floating energy field, wrapped tightly around his torso and legs.
Now I have to hope I can distract Skeletor long enough for the others to find Duncan and Teela, he thought.
Having to rely on Battle Cat’s nose was slow going. It was nearly a half-hour before Battle Cat could even pick up Duncan’s and Teela’s scents, and with each passing moment, She-Ra became more concerned about He-Man.
Oh well, at least we haven’t been detected yet, she thought in relief. Just then, the sirens started to blare for the second time. Oops. Either we’ve been spotted or Orko has.
Beastman, Tri-Clops, and Kobra Khan suddenly appeared around them.
“Give up, you fools,” Tri-Clops commanded. “We have you surrounded!” Evil-Lyn suddenly appeared as well, making his statement true.
Still, She-Ra smirked as she drew the Sword of Protection. “I don’t know, I’d say you’re severely understaffed for this task.”
Everyone seemed to spring into action at once. Battle Cat leaped at Beastman, his claws tearing into the evil warrior. At the same time, Kobra Khan tried to use his sleep gas on everyone. Mekanek, who was closest, extended his head above the gas, as Stratos flew above it. She-Ra took a deep breath and blew it out of the tunnel, blocking one of Evil-Lyn’s spells with her sword at the same time.
Tri-Clops landed the first blow for the evil warriors. Shooting a laser beam out of his eye, he clipped Stratos’ wing, sending the gray Avion to the ground. Mekanek took out a blaster and stunned Kobra Khan relatively easily, but Tri-Clops was on a roll, and kept Mekaneck dodging this way and that. Beastman was useless to his fellow minions, as Battle Cat had severed a tendon in his leg, and now stood guard over him.
Evil-Lyn shot several blasts at She-Ra. After a few backflips, She-Ra managed to deflect one towards Tri-Clops, and he was put into a sound sleep. Realizing she was the only one left standing, Evil-Lyn quickly retreated back to the cell where Teela and Man-at-Arms were being held, to regroup with Trap Jaw and Webstor.
As soon as He-Man and Evil-Lyn entered Skeletor’s presence, He-Man knew he was in more trouble than he’d bargained for. The Sorceress had been right; Kaspanya had not fully withdrawn, and in the presence of the green and purple talisman around Skeleltor’s neck, an invisible tendril of magic leapt from the stone and reached out; He-Man could feel it in the air, and then it touched him. It was only a small amount of the power, but He-Man’s body suddenly felt as if it were on fire again. He clenched his jaw and wondered how long he could survive this war between the two magical forces.
“He-Man?” A hand slapped across his face and he focused in on Skeletor. “Pay attention! How am I supposed to gloat if you’re practically sleeping!” He glared at Evil-Lyn. “What did you do to him?”
“Nothing, Skeletor,” she denied. “He was almost this bad outside. He looks sick.”
“He-Man sick…” Skeletor mused. “I would think the power of Grayskull would prevent that. No matter. It simply adds to my moment of triumph to see my old enemy reduced to this!” He cackled gleefully, then lifted the talisman in his hand. “And now, to rid myself of you forever. Say hello to Prince Adam for me!”
Have to get them more time, He-Man realized groggily. He muttered something aloud.
“Eh? What’s that you’re mumbling?” Skeletor said. He was perfectly content to prolong this moment, since He-Man was obviously in so much distress.
He-Man rallied his strength and met Skeletor’s gaze. “I said, if this is your moment of triumph, why use the talisman, Skeletor? Let’s go at it, just you and me. No weapons, no magic. Just think of how much more satisfying it would be for you.” Skeletor seemed to light up from the inside, and He-Man knew he almost had him. Unfortunately, the intruder alarm started screaming just then.
Skeletor turned quickly to Evil-Lyn. “It must be a rescue party. Go stop them. I don’t want to lose my bargaining chips.” She nodded and disappeared.
“I knew you lied,” He-Man spat at Skeletor.
“Of course I did,” Skeletor snapped back. “Do you take me for a fool? Now where were we?” he asked with some delight, lifting the talisman again. A spark flew from it to He-Man, and the hero flinched.
Skeletor stared at He-Man thoughtfully. “Interesting. Does the Talisman of Kaspanya bother you, He-Man?” Eternia’s champion said nothing. “Is that what’s caused you to look so awful? But how could that be? I set the spell on Prince Adam, not you.” He continued to stare at He-Man, trying to puzzle it out. Suddenly a look of surprise came to his face, his eyeless sockets widening and his teeth parting.
“It can’t be,” he muttered.
He-Man felt his blood drain from his face. Did he figure out my secret?
After She-Ra healed Stratos’ injury, Battle Cat found the scent again, and he led them straight to Teela and Duncan, who were behind a false wall. As soon as they entered the cave-like area, a brilliant flash of light blinded them all. Before they could recover, Stratos and She-Ra were both encased in webbing, and Trap Jaw had stunned Mekanek. Teela and Duncan watched helplessly as their would-be rescuers were overcome in a single moment.
But the evil warriors had not counted on Battle Cat.
Sensing that the danger to He-Man was growing with every second, Battle Cat’s ferociously protective nature was kicking in full force. When Trap Jaw pointed his cannon on him, Battle Cat turned his armor towards the villain. The stun blast bounced harmlessly off of the tiger’s saddle. Battle Cat used that minute to leap up and tear through She-Ra’s bonds, and then charged headlong into the cell, smashing the metal bars to pieces.
Her back stinging where Battle Cat’s claw had gone a little too deep, She-Ra dropped to the ground and with a sweep of her leg, knocked Evil-Lyn to the ground. She wasn’t disappointed to see the witch hit her head hard and black out. Picking up the Sword of Protection from where it had fallen earlier, she managed to turn and block Trap-Jaw’s blast. Seeing both of her enemies focused on her, She-Ra waited for a heartbeat, and then jumped into the air, somersaulting between them. Webstor’s net missed her and wrapped around Trap Jaw, and Trap Jaw’s blast stunned his colleague.
“That should hold you for a while,” She-Ra said. She ran over to Duncan and Teela and quickly broke their chains.
“What a relief,” Teela said, pulling a face as she dropped the gag. “Thanks, She-Ra.”
“Yes, thank you! Uh, where’s He-Man? I thought the Sorceress said he was coming with you,” Duncan asked as casually as he could manage. He could tell from She-Ra’s eyes that something was wrong.
“He surrendered to Skeletor to buy us enough time to find you,” She-Ra quickly explained. “I fear he is in great danger. We must go, now.”
After freeing Stratos, they put the still-sleeping Mekaneck on Battle Cat’s back and raced towards Skeletor’s throne room.
“How did you do it?” Skeletor asked He-Man.
He-Man stared at him blankly, not sure what he meant.
“Prince Adam isn’t dead, is he?” Skeletor demanded. “You took on the curse of the talisman for him, somehow. That’s not supposed to be possible. How did you do it?” He shook his head. He-Man closed his eyes, relief washing through him that Skeletor had jumped to the wrong conclusion.
“Never mind, I don’t really care. All that matters is that by doing so, you’ve doomed yourself!” Skeletor cackled in delight and lifted the talisman for the third time.
“So you’re really going to let that rock do your dirty work, eh bonehead?” He-Man asked, re-opening his eyes and trying to remain calm. “You can see how weak it’s made me. Are you still afraid to face me, man-to-man?”
Skeletor stared at He-Man thoughtfully for a moment. He knew very well what the muscle-bound buffoon was trying to do, but the idea held an incredible amount of appeal for Skeletor. To crush his enemy with his own hands…. He took careful stock of the hero’s appearance. There were dark circles under He-Man’s eyes. His body glistened with sweat, and he wasn’t even doing anything. Slight tremors seemed to be running through him as well. Skeletor snapped his fingers, and the energy field disappeared, dropping He-Man to the floor.
He-Man drew in a great breath. Although the talisman’s power was not affecting his mind, the war between its power and Grayskull’s power continued to ignite a fever within him. The stone floor felt wonderfully cool, but He-Man knew he couldn’t stay there. He slowly drew his feet under him and stood, careful not to let either of his knees touch the ground. He knew it was a foolish pride, but the thought of even looking like he was kneeling to Skeletor sickened him.
He had no sooner climbed to his feet than Skeletor took a swing. Surprising them both, He-Man caught it in his hand—for only a split second. It was more of a deflection than a stop, and proved to them both that the hero wasn’t himself.
“I don’t think you’re going to win this one, He-Man,” Skeletor grunted as he kicked He-Man in the stomach. He-Man went flying back, and was grateful to land against a wall so he didn’t have to work at standing back up.
How pitiful is that? he asked himself with a groan. It was time to stop feeling sorry for himself, he decided. He straightened up and called on reserves he didn’t know were there. As Skeletor approached and threw another punch, He-Man dodged it and threw out his arm, connecting with Skeletor’s side and knocking him to the ground. Skeletor swiped his leg around, trying to trip He-Man, but the hero jumped up and avoided the impact. Skeletor leaped up, prepared to swing again at He-Man. With all his strength, He-Man drew back and punched Skeletor in the face, and the villain went reeling back, still on his feet, but barely. He-Man leaned back against the wall, panting heavily.
“I’ve had enough of this!” Skeletor exclaimed. “I know that for once I could beat you in a fair fight, He-Man, but I’m not interested in fair fights. I’m only interested in getting rid of you!” He held up the talisman and fired it directly at He-Man.
He-Man let his legs collapse, hoping to dodge the bolt, but he could see it change direction, reaching out for him. The connection was binding it to him. There would be no escape.
Suddenly, Orko was there in front of him, holding something up and muttering a spell. The bolt froze in mid-air. Then, it separated. A ghost-like version of Kaspanya, looking rather bemused, stood to the side, and the rest of the bolt flew into the crystal in Orko’s hand. Both Kaspanya and the crystal disappeared, and the talisman shattered.
“NO!” Skeletor raged. He pointed his havoc staff at Orko and began firing blasts at the Trollan, who flew around the room dodging them. “He-Man! Catch!” the Trollan yelled. His extra hand appeared from within his hat, tossing He-Man the Sword of Power.
Adrenaline surged as he watched his friend being attacked; He-Man sprang to his feet and caught the sword. With the raging fire gone from his body, he was finally able to focus. The soreness and weakness that plagued his body seemed like a minor annoyance after the pain he’d experienced earlier. He lunged at Skeletor, knocking him down, and the two began wrestling on the ground for the havoc staff. Skeletor managed to get a foot onto He-Man’s stomach and push him off. He-Man fell onto his back and his head smacked the ground; his vision darkened for a few seconds. He forced himself to roll, and felt the heat from one of Skeletor’s magical bolts hit the ground where he’d just been laying. He pulled himself into a crouch, and tried to sweep Skeletor’s legs out from under him. Skeletor leaped to the opposite side of the room and the two of them stood there, panting heavily and glaring at each other.
“You’re mine, this time, He-Man,” Skeletor muttered. He lunged forward, and the staff and sword met with a clang. With a twist of his wrist, He-Man disarmed Skeletor, but the villain wasn’t done. From his hand, he shot a bolt at the hero, which He-Man easily deflected. Then Skeletor began using both hands, firing rapidly. He-Man blocked most of them and dodged the others, but one of the blasts finally caught He-Man in the arm, and it numbed the entire limb. Skeletor went in to press his advantage when a blanket appeared out of nowhere, covering his face.
Orko chuckled. “Guess you forgot about me, bone brain!”
He-Man gave Orko a tired grin. “Nice going, little buddy.”
Just as Skeletor pulled off the blanket, the rest of the rescue party burst into the room. Seeing he was outnumbered, Skeletor disappeared. “This isn’t over yet, hero!” his voice echoed.
“He-Man!” She-Ra ran to him and threw her arms around her brother. “I was so worried,” she confessed.
“Why?” Teela asked with a smirk. “He-Man can take care of Skeletor any day.”
“But he—“ She-Ra’s voice dropped as He-Man held up his hand to forestall an argument.
“Let’s get out of here before we start with explanations,” he said. With a huge effort, he swung himself onto Battle Cat, and the heroes left Snake Mountain without further incident.
He-Man leaned back in Battle Cat’s saddle, the soreness and stiffness in his body becoming more and more apparent as the adrenaline rush faded. He was so preoccupied trying to stay awake that he missed the concerned looks thrown his way by his friends.
Upon reaching the Attack Trak, the heroes squeezed in, except for Battle Cat and She-Ra. “We’ll follow you to Grayskull,” she told them. “I’m afraid we won’t all fit in there!”
He-Man glanced over. “She-Ra, can I ask you a favor first?” he said softly, for her ears alone. He stepped back outside the vehicle and motioned to his still-numb left arm. “Skeletor caught me with one of his blasts. Could you…?”
“Of course, brother,” She-Ra said. She stared at him, and he could see the mixture of concern, love, and anger in her blue eyes. For a moment, he wondered if he would get a hug or a lecture. Finally, though, she simply took his arm, healing it easily. She attempted to heal the rest of his body as well, but as the Sorceress had indicated, Grayskull’s magic couldn’t seem to fix damage done by itself. Actually, she realized, there wasn’t anything actually wrong with He-Man. His body was just…fatigued.
She looked up at him. “I’m sorry. That’s the best I can do.”
He-Man nodded, having expected as much. “Thank you…for healing my arm and for not lecturing me.”
She-Ra glanced away, then up at her brother. “I’m still furious with you, but the truth is, I’m not sure we would have rescued Teela and Duncan without Battle Cat. So if you hadn’t been so stubborn…” her voice trailed off.
“By the way, Skeletor gave me a great cover story,” He-Man said, mainly to change the subject. He explained it quickly. She-Ra nodded.
“Perfect,” she said. “You’ll need some rest—you AND Adam. I think I’ll stick around for a while to make sure you get it.” She waved as she and Battle Cat took off. He-Man sighed and pulled himself into the Attack Trak.
“So what’s going on?” Teela asked impatiently. Her nerves were on edge, and she had difficulty sitting still. She put the Attack Trak in gear and took off. “What’s wrong with you, and how’s Adam? Is he okay?”
“As far as I know, Adam’s fine,” He-Man answered, leaning back in his seat. “He broke the spell, but Kaspanya still retained some sort of connection to him. It could have attacked him again at any time. To prevent that, I used the power of Grayskull to take the connection from him and place it on me.” Another half-truth, he thought. He was so used to them, but so tired of them, too.
Understanding dawned on Duncan’s face. This will explain to everyone why they are both out of it for a while, he realized. Good lad! His thoughts were cut short as He-Man’s eyes drifted shut.
“We’d better hurry and get you back to Grayskull, son,” he said aloud.
“I still don’t understand,” Teela ventured. “What did taking that connection from Adam do to you? You looked like you were falling asleep on the way back from Snake Mountain!”
“It was nothing, Teela. I’m fine,” He-man said, trying to avoid the question, but unable to keep his eyes open. His voice didn’t help either; it sounded faint, even to his own ears.
“Obviously, it was nothing,” Stratos responded dryly. “That’s why you’re falling asleep talking to us.”
He-Man sighed and roused himself again. Stratos and Mekanek were staring at him with both curiosity and concern. Duncan looked at him with an eyebrow raised. Even Teela was craning her neck around to see his face, and she was supposed to be driving. None of them had been present, of course, and he found it hard to find the words—and the energy—to describe what he’d been through. He really didn’t want to re-hash it. Orko saved him from answering.
“The magic of Grayskull and the magic of Kaspanya fought within He-Man’s body,” Orko said, awe in his voice. “I’ve never seen anyone in so much pain before. The power of Grayskull won, but it left He-Man really weak and sore. Being near the talisman at Snake Mountain established a connection, and he was in pain all over again.” He-Man didn’t know whether to thank Orko or smack him for revealing so much.
“Thank goodness you’re all right,” Stratos said, Mekanek agreeing quickly. Teela was silent, while Duncan stared at him with real worry in his eyes.
“What did you do to Kaspanya?” He-Man finally asked Orko, trying to change the topic.
“Granamyr gave me a crystal that separated Kaspanya from his power. The power was trapped inside the crystal, and they were both sent to different dimensions,” Orko answered. “That was the easy part, really. Adam and you did the hard parts.”
“If you had to use the power of Grayskull to remove the spell from Adam, how did it affect him?” Teela suddenly asked, sounding very worried and a bit angry.
He-Man wanted to promise that Adam was fine, but the truth was, he had no idea what would happen when he reverted back to being the prince.
“I don’t know, Teela,” he finally answered. “We had to leave as soon as I was able. We had no idea if Kaspanya would try to re-establish his hold through the spell.”
He could sense her tension even from where he sat. He sighed again, sinking lower into the cushions. First his father, now Teela. At times he questioned whether they even cared about Prince Adam. It looked as if he now had his answer, but it seemed to be at the expense of their respect for He-Man. For some reason, that idea bothered him more than he wanted to admit, he realized as he drifted off to sleep.
“He-Man. He-Man, wake up,” came a voice, hands shaking him firmly. He-Man opened his eyes and saw a blurred Duncan in front of him.
“Come on, lad, let’s get you into the castle,” the older warrior said. He attempted to help He-Man up, but the hero brushed away his friend’s hand.
“I think I can make it, Duncan,” he said wearily. He hauled himself to his feet with effort and left the Attack Trak. She-Ra and Battle Cat were waiting. He-Man leapt up behind his sister and turned to Stratos and Mekanek.
“I want to thank you both for helping today. We couldn’t have pulled off that rescue without you,” he said. Then he turned to Orko. “And thank you, my little friend, for coming to the rescue not once, but twice.”
Orko chuckled uncomfortably and blushed so brightly they could see it through his clothing.
“I hate to sound rude,” He-Man continued, “but She-Ra and I have something very important to discuss with the Sorceress. I know you’re anxious to see Adam, but I’d appreciate it if you could wait here for just a moment.”
The others nodded, easily accepting that He-Man and She-Ra were privy to some of Grayskull’s secrets, of which they knew nothing. Battle Cat carried the twins into Grayskull.
“I am pleased to see you both back safely,” the Sorceress greeted them.
“The others think I took the spell from Adam onto myself to save him,” He-Man told her succinctly. He was beginning to nod off again. He dismounted stiffly and She-Ra followed, a frown on her face.
“We shouldn’t have let him do it. It almost killed him,” she said flatly.
“That’s an exaggeration,” her brother argued without much force. She whirled on him.
“Then why couldn’t you tell Teela that Adam is okay?” she challenged. “You don’t know, do you? You don’t know what will happen when you become Adam again.”
“No, I don’t,” he admitted. Forestalling her arguments, he held up his sword and called out, “Let the power return!” In a flash, the Prince of Eternia had returned, and he immediately collapsed.
“Adam!” She-Ra was standing close enough to catch him. She carried him into the next room, where he’d been lying only a few hours earlier, and the Sorceress followed her. She quickly felt his pulse. It was strong and steady.
“It’s all right, Adora. He’s only sleeping,” the Sorceress assured her. “You’d better change back while I go and get the others.”
A few moments later, Teela entered quietly but quickly, followed by the others. She kneeled by the bed and reached up to tenderly brush a lock of hair back from Adam’s face. She wore an expression Adora had never seen on her before, a mixture of tenderness and love.
“Where are He-Man and She-Ra?” asked Mekanek.
“They have gone into chambers deeper within the castle, to better aid He-Man’s recovery,” the Sorceress answered smoothly. Since the prince was sleeping, Stratos and Mekanek bade everyone farewell and left.
“How is He-Man?” Teela asked, a little timidly. “I was a little rude earlier. I’d like to apologize.”
“I’m afraid that he is in much the same condition as Adam,” the Sorceress replied. “Neither of them have any injuries, but their bodies have been pushed beyond their capabilities.”
“How could Adam possibly have withstood something that almost broke down He-Man?” Teela asked in awe.
“You must understand, Teela, that the magic caused them two very different pains. Adam’s mind was attacked—his determination, his will, his wisdom, his courage. He had to face his fears. The spell caused a serious fever as well, but it left as soon as the spell was broken. For He-Man, the attack was completely physical—it was like a war fought between the magic of Castle Grayskull and the magic of the Talisman of Kaspanya, and it was fought within his body.”
Adora shuddered as she listened to the Sorceress’ description. Her brother had suffered incredibly today, and she couldn’t help but wonder how it would affect him.
“Why did he do it?” Teela asked, a bit angrily. She couldn’t shake the image of He-Man, exhaustion and pain showing in every movement. She was only now beginning to understand how close Skeletor had come to winning.
“To save his friends,” Adora whispered, staring at her brother. “Adam broke the spell as much as anyone could, but the curse of Kaspanya was that once he’d touched you, he could return at any time. Any time Adam was depressed, in mourning…Kaspanya would have been back.” She paused, then turned to Teela. “We tried to tell He-Man not to go to Snake Mountain, but Skeletor wanted him in exchange for you and your father. He was afraid if he didn’t go, Skeletor would harm you.”
“Oh,” Teela said softly. She felt admonished and cherished at the same time. And her feelings for He-Man only grew stronger in that moment, even as she reached up again to touch Adam’s cheek and assure herself he was alive.
Word spread quickly across Eternia about both Adam and He-Man. Both the king and queen were distraught over Adam’s relapse, which they believed occurred when He-Man took the curse off of Adam. Randor was full of chagrin when he learned that He-Man had nearly sacrificed his own life to do so. Marlena returned to Grayskull immediately. The Masters were kept on full alert, as Randor expected an attack from Skeletor.
Well-wishers poured into the palace for Adam, not knowing he wasn’t there. Duncan dealt with them as they came. They left behind gifts and stories that made him choke up. Adam is so busy pretending to be a goof and saving the world as He-Man, that I think he’s forgotten how much he touches the lives of others as just…Adam, the old soldier thought.
A few brave souls, wanting to wish He-Man well, went directly to the doors of Grayskull. Teela gained the duty of greeting people outside of the castle and accepting their gifts on behalf of He-Man.
“I’m sorry, but we can’t allow anyone into Grayskull,” she repeated over and over. They, too, told stories of how He-Man had touched their lives in some way. It was nearing the end of the day when, through one of these stories, Teela learned something that disturbed her deeply.
A man approached her, a farmer to judge by his clothing. Like the others, he was disappointed but not surprised that he couldn’t see He-Man. He introduced himself as Clemence, and began to tell Teela about He-Man saving his family from an earthquake. It wasn’t an unusual occurrence, in fact it was something that had happened too many times for Teela to pay close attention. She was getting tired by this time, but something tugged at her. There was a sadness in his eyes, in spite of his gratitude.
“Where did you say you were from?” Teela asked when the farmer had finished speaking.
“Rock Haven,” he replied. “It’s about four hours south of the palace, if you’ve a vehicle. Longer if you’re walking.” He grinned, and Teela smiled in return. Then her mouth went slack.
“Oh,” she said softly. “I remember now. I’m so sorry about the loss of your boy.”
Clemence bowed his head. “Aye, thank you. He-Man tried hard, but even he has some limits.”
Teela’s eyes narrowed. He’s said nothing about Adam, she realized. She thought fast, wanting to ask the question in a way that would not cast Adam in a poor light. “Was He-Man the only one who showed up to help you?” she finally asked, as casually as she could manage.
“Aye, we live pretty far from town, on a large farm. Thank goodness he did find us, or we’d all have died that day. Please tell him we wish him a speedy recovery,” Clemence said. “I’d best be going now.”
“Farewell,” Teela answered, fighting to keep her temper under control. As soon as he was out of sight, she turned on her heel and marched into the castle.
He lied to me, she thought furiously. Adam lied. He was probably off in some field sleeping when He-Man was helping that family. A small voiced asked how he knew about the incident at all if that was the case, but she immediately dismissed it. He said he was helping He-Man and he wasn’t. He lied. He even sounded like he blamed He-Man for that boy’s death. How dare he! He lied. He lied. The words kept cadence as she marched to the room where Adam lay, apparently still sleeping. In her fury, she’d pretty much forgotten that he had been through so much.
The Sorceress appeared before her as she reached the room. “Teela, I do not know what is wrong, but Prince Adam is still very weak and in need of complete rest. Whatever your problem is, you must leave it out here, and not take it into this room with you,” she said firmly. With her voice softening slightly, she added, “If you wish to talk about what is troubling you, I will be more than happy to listen.”
Teela seriously considered shoving the Sorceress out of her way at first, but quickly decided that the idea was foolish. She did want to talk with someone, but not the Sorceress. She just didn’t know her well enough, although she did feel a certain…connection with her. No, the person Teela really wanted to talk with was Adam, because he’d always been her best friend and confidante, and even now that he was the problem, her instinct was to turn to him. Teela bit her lip, realizing that wasn’t possible. She really needed…Duncan. Her father knew Adam better than anyone, and might even know what had happened that day.
The Sorceress was still staring at her, and Teela sighed. “Alright, I’ll behave myself. Let me put these in there.” She lifted the packages in her arms. “One of them has the muscle relaxing herbs the healer wanted Adam to take. Apparently he can look forward to feeling like one big cramp when he finally wakes up.” The Sorceress studied Teela for another minute, then nodded and stepped aside.
Teela entered the room and her remaining anger was swept away. Every time she had come in to check on Adam, he had been motionless. Now, although he was still asleep, his face was contorted in pain, and one leg was pulled up, his arms unconsciously wrapped around it. Adora struggled to pull his arm away so Marlena could massage the cramped muscle. The Sorceress had come in behind Teela and immediately went over to Adam and placed her hand on his head. He gradually relaxed, slipping back into a peaceful sleep.
The Sorceress turned a tired smile to Teela. “He’s already been ‘one big cramp,’ as you said, Captain,” she noted a bit dryly.
“How many times has that happened today?” Teela asked in a low voice, her anger finding a new outlet. Adora and Marlena exchanged a look she couldn’t identify.
“Only three or four,” Marlena said, her voice making it plain that she didn’t expect the Captain of the Guard to make an issue of it.
With barely controlled anger, Teela set the boxes down. “Most of these are gifts for He-Man,” she said as she rummaged through them. “But one has herbs that are supposed to relax muscles to help prevent cramping. The doctor didn’t expect it to hit Adam today, so I wasn’t in a rush to bring the herbs up. I’ve had them for over an hour.” Her tone spoke volumes, indicating that she didn’t appreciate them not sharing information.
Marlena smiled in acquiescence to Teela’s point and nodded her head in thanks as Teela gave her the box containing the herbs. “Adam always has been an unnaturally fast healer,” she said. “Most of us lose that ability to rebound quickly as we get older, but I think he actually heals faster now than when he was a boy.”
“Don’t forget that Grayskull’s magic is helping him through this time,” the Sorceress reminded them gently. “But I fear he will still have a long recovery ahead.”
Teela was about to comment when she noticed Adora’s face. “Adora? Is something wrong?”
Adora shook her head quickly. She couldn’t tell Teela she’d been wondering how long Eternia would be without He-Man, and how long She-Ra could be away from Etheria. “No, Teela. I just know this is going to drive Adam nuts.” At least that much was true.
“Stop…talking…like I’m…not here,” a weak voice from the bed muttered.
“Adam! You’re awake!” his mother cried.
Already his eyes were drifting shut again. “Barely,” he whispered. “Go…home.”
“We’ll take you home tomorrow, Adam,” Teela assured him. The arrangements had already been made, provided he was ready to travel.
Marlena had prepared the herbs in a drink and put a straw between Adam’s lips. “Drink,” she commanded. “It’ll help with the cramps.” She’d also discovered that the water provided by the palace healers had some nutritional value as well, which he certainly needed.
Adam complied only because he was terribly thirsty. The last thing he wanted was a drug. But the liquid soothed his throat and gave him the ability to speak for just a moment before lapsing back into sleep.
“You all need to go home,” he re-stated. “I need…to stay here. Skeletor…will attack.”
Adora understood immediately, and she was furious. He wanted to be at Grayskull, away from watchful eyes, in case Skeletor attacked and He-Man was needed. At the palace, the healers would be around him almost constantly. Here, he had privacy—especially if he sent them all home. He-Man is the last thing he needs to worry about, she thought. Why does he have to be so incredibly stubborn?
Marlena and Teela bought the idea right away, though.
“Grayskull is more secure than the palace,” Teela said thoughtfully. “Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to keep him here for a few days?”
“I agree,” Marlena answered. “That is, if you have no objections?” she asked, turning to the Sorceress.
Knowing what Adora was thinking, the Sorceress nonetheless felt compelled to agree with Adam, Marlena, and Teela. She felt sure that there was more to this than they had seen thus far, and that Skeletor had additional surprises up his sleeve. Even in his weakened state, He-Man could be what tipped the scales in their favor.
“I do not have a problem with it at all,” she finally said. “Adam has been a good friend to all of us, and it is my pleasure to help him…and you.”
Adam was already sleeping again. At the urging of the Sorceress, the other three women decided to return to the palace for the night to get some rest. Teela was once again stewing over Adam’s lies, and Adora was furious with him for not taking care of himself. Marlena noticed the tension and could only wonder what was wrong with the two of them.
With everyone gone and the room becoming peaceful again, Cringer crawled out from under the bed and jumped on top of it. Stretching out next to Adam, he purred until he fell asleep.
The expected attack came just before dawn. Adora woke early, restless for a reason she couldn’t explain. She went down to the stable to see Spirit.
“I don’t know what’s bothering me, Spirit,” she said to him, stroking his nose. “Adam’s fine now. It’s something else; something I can’t put my finger on. Maybe a quick look around from the air will help me feel better.” Taking a quick look around, she raised her sword and called, “FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL….I AM SHE-RA!” After transforming Spirit into Swift Wind, she leapt onto his back and they took off into the sky.
“Let’s head towards Grayskull, Swifty,” She-Ra said. For a moment she just enjoyed the wind in her face, but then, out of habit, she began scanning the ground for signs of trouble—and found it almost immediately. She gasped, drawing back on Swift Wind’s mane, and the flying horse hovered for a moment.
“Oh my stars,” she whispered. Thousands of Skeletor’s robots were headed towards the palace. Several horrid-looking monsters and dangerous animals were following as well. The Collector, no doubt carrying Skeletor and his minions, was flying low right over the robots.
“Quick, Swiftie, back to the palace before they see us,” She-Ra whispered. The pegacorn complied, needing no further urging. He flew his fastest back the way they had come, and landed on the palace grounds within moments.
“She-Ra, what’s wrong?” Teela called. She’d gotten up early to go through a training session with her guards before heading over to Grayskull.
“Skeletor is attacking. He’s got thousands of his robots headed this way, along with a few monsters and the Collector,” She-Ra yelled. “We have to alert everyone!”
Teela spoke into her communicator, and within seconds a siren was ringing throughout the palace grounds. Soldiers raced to laser cannons and vehicles. The Royal Guard took their stations at the key entrances to the palace.
Within moments Randor and Duncan were outside. She-Ra explained again what she had seen.
“I don’t understand this,” Duncan said, shaking his head. “Skeletor knows those robots are not a match for us.”
“But he’s never attacked with so many of them,” Randor disagreed. “We may be overwhelmed by numbers. Our soldiers are flesh and blood; they will tire eventually. And I’m concerned about those beasts. I’m sure they are being controlled by Beastman.”
“I may be able to help there,” She-Ra answered. She mounted Swift Wind and took off into the sky.
“Teela, I want you to command the air attacks,” Duncan instructed her. “I’ll handle the ground troops.” Teela saluted and raced off to her wind raider. Duncan turned to his king.
“Sire, please remain in safety. I know you would rather lead your troops, but there’s something bothering me about this. There’s something we’re missing.”
Randor nodded slowly. “I’ll do as you ask, Man-at-Arms…for now.”
After sleeping for 20 hours straight before telling the women to go home, Adam slept like a log for another eight. The Sorceress was able to rouse him enough to get him to drink some of the fortified water, but she didn’t put any of the herbs in it. Instead, she used her magic to relax his muscles. Adam had no recollection of any of it. He was still sound asleep when the attack on the palace came. Sensing She-Ra’s distress even in his sleep, he began to toss restlessly.
He jerked awake and immediately felt spasms in his back. There was no one in the room, which meant either he’d been dreaming or-
“Adam, He-Man is needed!” It was the Sorceress, calling out to him from the south tower.
He pulled himself into a sitting position with a huge effort, every muscle protesting. His sword was propped up against the wall, thankfully within reach. He grabbed hold of the hilt and attempted to pick it up, but could only drag it towards him.
“BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL! I HAVE THE POWER!” Pointing his sword to his pet, he turned the trembling tiger into Battle Cat.
He-Man found himself standing and he shook his head in wonder. It always amazed him how Grayskull’s power simply lifted him to his feet, no matter what condition he was in when he called upon it. He took a few hesitant steps and found that even though his muscles were still stiff and sore, as He-Man his strength had not abandoned him. He would have to be careful, because he wouldn’t be as quick and agile as usual, but at least he wasn’t helpless. The champion mounted Battle Cat and together they moved to the doorway of Grayskull, knowing that Skeletor was on the other side launching some sort of attack.
“Lieutenant, keep the cannons trained on the left side! Moss Man, see if you can short-circuit some of these robots!” Duncan yelled at the top of his voice. Skeletor had added a few new tricks to his toys. These were designed to attack from a distance, and were shooting bombs onto the palace grounds. A few dozen soldiers were seriously injured, and a few had even died. But the Masters and the soldiers were handling the robots quite easily, really. Their numbers had already been cut in half. Teela and her airborne fighters had barely been touched, and they’d easily made scrap metal of the robots.
It doesn’t add up, Duncan thought. What is Skeletor trying to accomplish?
She-Ra couldn’t communicate with the monsters following Beastman’s orders. He had too much control over them. So she did the next best thing, and attacked the Collector. Stratos and Buzz-Off joined her as she peeled away the roof and dropped inside.
“Who do you think you are, coming in here like this?” Beastman snarled as he grabbed her from behind. Whiplash smacked Buzz-Off to the ground, but missed Stratos. She-Ra threw Beastman over her head and into Webstor, knocking them both unconscious.
“Well, that takes care of THAT problem,” she said, staring down at Beastman. She ducked as Whiplash’s tail came at her, and as it passed over her she grabbed it, swung him around and threw him out the opening in the roof.
“Happy landings,” she called after him. She turned to Stratos and Buzz-Off, who was back on his feet already. “Watch my back for a moment. I have to get the animals to go home.” She concentrated, her fingertips touching her temples lightly.
Beastman has been defeated, for now. Go home, my friends. You are free once more.
A few thankful roars sounded out, then the creatures turned and headed in various directions. She-Ra turned to her friends.
“Search this ship. These can’t be the only three here,” she said. But after a few minutes, it was obvious that they were.
“Duncan,” She-Ra radioed in. “We’ve taken care of Beastman, Whiplash, and Webstor, but they’re the only ones here. Have you seen any sign of Skeletor?”
“Negative,” Duncan’s thoughtful reply came back. After a few seconds, his voice gained panic. “It’s a distraction! He’s got to be attacking Grayskull!”
She-Ra, came the Sorceress’ voice then. Come to Grayskull immediately. Skeletor is attacking!
“No! He-Man!” She-Ra cried out. “Buzz-Off, Stratos, come with me! We must fly to Grayskull!” She whistled for Swift Wind and jumped on his back. “Go Swift Wind! As fast as you can, to Grayskull!”
Teela’s heart jumped into her throat as she heard her father’s communication with She-Ra. “Adam!” she breathed. She pushed the button for the radio. “Man-at-Arms, I’m heading to Grayskull. Lieutenant Bleve, you’re in charge of the air defenses now.”
Duncan’s voice came back over the radio. “I’ll send additional help as soon as we can spare them.” Teela felt a twinge of relief. She’d half-thought her father might try to argue with her. But as Adam’s body guard, she had to be there to defend him if Skeletor got inside the castle. And with He-Man in who knew what kind of condition, it was a distinct possibility.
Sorceress, I’m approaching the drawbridge, He-Man told her. What’s happening? Do you want me to go out? If the castle’s defenses were holding, he didn’t want to invite Skeletor in by opening the drawbridge.
Skeletor has built a machine that magnifies all of their magical powers. I have established a forcefield, but it is taking all of my power to maintain it. Go out quickly, and do not allow the beam from the magnifier to touch you.
He-Man and Battle Cat raced out and the drawbridge closed behind them. Just in front of them, Skeletor and several of his minions stood, directing their magical powers at a machine that looked like a small vehicle, which then combined the magic into one larger, more dangerous, beam. Kobra Khan sat inside and controlled the machine, while Evil-Lyn and Skeletor focused their magic into it, and even Tri-Clops and Trap-Jaw kept a steady stream of power flowing from their various magically powered body parts. The red beam was melting away the forcefield, He-Man realized. The Sorceress was essentially continuously re-creating the forcefield, and she was beginning to tire.
He only had a few seconds to take all this in. Skeletor couldn’t help but notice that the drawbridge had come down. He was disappointed to see He-Man in such good shape, but not particularly concerned.
“Kobra! Aim the laser at He-Man!” The machine shifted direction. He-Man jumped off of Battle-Cat’s back and the great cat jumped in the opposite direction. The laser bounced harmlessly into the forcefield. Drawing his sword, He-Man prepared for the next attack, but it didn’t come from the machine. Instead, Clawful suddenly had his huge pinchers around He-Man’s arms.
“Hold him there!” Skeletor cried. He-Man struggled, but his stiff muscles made him less flexible, and he couldn’t quite break Clawful’s hold. So as the magnifier shot another laser at him, he did the only thing he could think of—he jumped as high as he could, taking Clawful with him. The two of them landed on top of the machine, putting a dent in the roof but not doing any serious damage.
“Clawful, I think it’s time we danced,” He-Man said, and spun around quickly, which sent Clawful flying through the air into a mud puddle. Hearing Battle Cat roar, He-Man turned around in time to see the giant tiger tackle Panthor in mid-air.
“Kobra Khan, you have three seconds to get out of there,” He-Man said, hoping it could really be this easy. But as he drew back his fist to destroy the machine, he was hit with a blast from Skeletor’s staff. It knocked his sword away from him and sent him to the ground. He remained there for a few seconds, stunned but not completely out of it.
“At last I have you!” Skeletor cackled with glee. He re-directed his havoc staff towards the machine. “Kobra Khan, fire!”
“Sword to shield!”
“What’s that?” Skeletor looked up to see She-Ra dropping from Swift Wind’s back, her shield already in hand in preparation to defend her brother.
“Very well, woman, see what you can do with this!” Kobra Khan put the machine to full power and blasted her. The shield held, but She-Ra began sliding back…towards the edge of the abyss.
“He-Man,” she grunted. “I could use…a little…help!”
He-Man struggled to his feet and put his hands to the shield, his head still a bit foggy. He wasn’t going to be much help in his condition, but fortunately reinforcements arrived just then. Teela fired at the machine, setting off small explosions, while Buzz-Off and Stratos lifted Evil-Lyn up and dropped her in the mud puddle where Clawful sat, his vision still spinning.
With Teela’s shot to the magnifier disrupting the power flow, the laser suddenly stopped. He-Man and She-Ra tumbled forward.
“Shield to sword,” She-Ra called as she jumped up and ran to the magnifier. With one swift slice, she cut the machine in half.
“Curse you both!” Skeletor shouted as he and his henchmen got into the basher and took off. “I will get you for this!”
“These bad guys all sound the same, don’t they?” She-Ra asked with a grin.
“They sure do, She-Ra,” He-Man chuckled. He gave a tired wave to Stratos and Buzz-Off, who seemed in a hurry to get back to the palace. Teela, however, landed her sky sled and walked over to the twins.
“I’m so glad you’re both all right!” she said. “We were so worried when we realized Grayskull was the real target. My father tells me that the remaining robots have been destroyed,” she added.
“What’s all this?” He-Man asked, his eyebrow raised.
“Skeletor tried to distract us by attacking the palace with thousands of robots,” She-Ra explained. “He also had some animals under Beastman’s control, and the Collector there, to fool us into thinking they were all part of the attack.”
“I’m sure glad you figured it out when you did,” He-Man said. “You really saved the day, all of you.”
“How are you feeling, He-Man?” Teela asked a little hesitantly.
“I’m better today, Teela, thanks for asking,” he responded. “Maybe not as quick as normal, though, or I would have avoided that last blast,” he added with a sour face. She-Ra laughed, her earlier frustrations with her brother gone. She still wished that he’d take better care of himself, but in this case, he’d been right to stay at Grayskull.
“It happens to all of us, He-Man,” she teased him. “Now I’d better get going back to the palace to see what I can do to help.” She mounted Swift Wind and took off. Teela watched her go, then straightened her back and turned to He-Man. This might not be the time, but patience had never been Teela’s strong point.
“He-Man, if you’re feeling up to it, could I talk to you for a moment?” she asked, a little uncertainly. There was anxiety in her voice, and He-Man felt a touch of alarm. When his father had asked him that question the other day, it hadn’t been for a good reason. Looking into Teela’s troubled green eyes, He-Man suspected he wasn’t going to like this conversation any better.
“Sure Teela. What’s on your mind?” Battle Cat had wandered over and lay down, and He-Man and Teela also sat down, leaning against the animal. He-Man couldn’t help but give a sigh of relief at being able to rest. His body ached all over. He caught Teela staring hard at him with a mixture of confusion and concern. He offered a guilty grin, not knowing how much he looked and sounded like Adam at the moment.
“Sorry, it just feels good to rest,” he apologized. Teela shook her head lightly.
“That’s okay. Look, if you’d rather talk another time…this is serious, but it can wait.”
“No, Teela, go ahead,” he said, even though a part of him wanted to chicken out. Let’s get this over with. Teela bit her lip and looked off at the sky for a moment, then abruptly turned back to him.
“Was Adam with you when you rescued the family from Rock Haven?”
For the second time in only a few days, He-Man was surprised speechless. He’d told her about that as Adam. Why was she suddenly questioning it? Teela took his look of shock to mean she’d upset him, and she rushed to explain.
“I’m sorry if this is painful for you to think about, but I need to know. It’s really important,” she told him. Her eyes pleaded with him.
“Yes, Adam was there,” He-Man answered slowly. “Why do you want to know that, Teela?”
Relief and confusion written on her face, Teela got up and began to pace. “The father brought a get-well gift for you yesterday. He kept talking about you as if you were the only one there. I finally asked him if anyone else had helped you. He said no, that it was just you.”
He-Man chose his words carefully, relying on Grayskull’s power to aid him in telling the truth without revealing his secret. “People in distress often miss things. He probably just didn’t see Adam.” Of course he wouldn’t have, he mocked himself silently.
Teela sighed with relief. “You’re probably right. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to hear this from you. Adam’s been my best friend forever. I’ve always trusted him. I don’t know what I’d do if he betrayed our friendship by lying to me like that.”
He-Man swallowed hard, his face burning with shame. “Uh, Teela, why aren’t you asking Adam about this?”
“I wanted to,” she answered softly, sitting back down and toying with some rocks on the ground. “Even though I was hurt, he was the first one I wanted to talk to about it. But he was only coherent for a minute or two last night, and today…” she lifted one hand, indicating the craziness of it all. “I saw you first, and couldn’t wait any longer.” She looked down, embarrassed. “Now that I know he was telling the truth, I don’t want him to find out I ever doubted him.”
He-Man nodded his understanding. Part of him was hurt that she’d believed he was lying, but he really couldn’t blame her, given Clemence’s story. He knew he needed to transform back to Adam soon, but he hesitated. Teela seemed so vulnerable right now; he really wanted to stay and talk with her...realizing he was acting just the way Adam would if Teela were confiding in him, He-Man forced himself to get up.
“He-Man?” Teela’s hand on his arm stopped him. “Thanks.”
“Anytime, Teela,” he told her with a smile. “Are you going inside to see Adam?”
“Yeah,” she said. “You know, I haven’t seen him fully awake since…since the other day.” Her voice and eyes dropped. “I hope he’s okay.”
“Well, let’s go see.” In spite of the ache all over his body, He-Man bowed and motioned her forward, just to make her laugh, which she did. They walked towards the castle together, Battle Cat trailing after them. The Sorceress lowered the drawbridge for them.
“He-Man, do you actually live here?”
The champion was surprised by her question. It was one he’d expected for many years, but no one had ever asked. Fortunately, he had an answer for this one.
“No, the Sorceress is Grayskull’s full-time keeper. My task is to fight evil and protect the innocent. That takes me all over Eternia,” he replied as they entered Grayskull.
“Greetings, He-Man, Teela,” the Sorceress said. “Thank you both for your help today. Skeletor spent a long time planning this. I hope we will finally have a few days’ rest as he tries to come up with a new plan.”
He-Man nearly slumped with relief. He just couldn’t remember a more trying few days as Grayskull’s protector.
The Sorceress noticed Teela’s gaze going to the next room. “Prince Adam isn’t there, Teela. I sent him to another part of the castle when Skeletor showed up.” He-Man hid a grin. Yes, right to the drawbridge and out, he thought. The Sorceress raised an eyebrow at him, letting him know she’d heard his thought. “He-Man, if you would be so kind as to let Adam know that Teela is here to see him?”
“Of course. See you around, Teela. Come on, Cat.” Teela watched as he walked away, strength and confidence in every movement, even though he was also clearly in pain. There was a lot about He-Man she admired, but she had to admit that he was mostly a mystery to her. She had no idea where he came from, who his parents were, or how he was chosen to be Grayskull’s champion.
“He-Man is a mystery because he must be,” the Sorceress said. She smiled at Teela’s startled expression. “I’m sorry, Teela. When someone within Grayskull is concentrating on one thing so completely, it is hard for me not to know what it is.”
Teela’s face turned bright red, but she decided to take advantage of the moment. “Why must he be a mystery?”
“If Skeletor, or any of He-Man’s enemies, were to find out anything about him at all, they could use it against him. His family, his friends, his home—all of them become targets. That is why he cares about so many, but calls so few his friends. And of them, fewer still know anything about him.”
Teela turned to the Sorceress, sympathy in her eyes. “That must be an incredibly lonely existence.”
“It is far more difficult than you know, my dear girl,” the Sorceress answered, looking deeply into Teela’s eyes. She had the feeling that the Sorceress was trying to tell her something, but she didn’t know what it could be.
“Teela!” a voice called down the hall. They turned to see Adam, one hand on the wall, walking towards them. Cringer watched him carefully, as if he expected Adam to fall over any second. With a cry of relief, Teela ran to him and hugged him hard, welcoming the feel of his arms around her as he returned the hug. They stayed like that for a moment, then Teela felt a tremor run through him.
“Are you okay?” she asked, pulling back to study him. He didn’t look too bad, except for the exhaustion lining his face.
“I just can’t seem to stay on my own two feet for very long,” he joked weakly. In truth, he was in constant pain, as if he’d strained every muscle in his body. “I don’t suppose you’ve come to take me home?” His face fell as Teela shook her head. Now that Skeletor had tried the expected attack, Adam was eager to get home.
“I only have a sky sled, and you’re in no condition to ride on it. Besides, Cringer wouldn’t fit.”
“I think we may be able to take you home, if you don’t mind riding with your parents,” his father’s voice suddenly joined in. He and Marlena walked over and hugged their son.
“I’m so relieved to see you up and about,” his mother said, her blue eyes shining with unshed tears.
“I’m okay, Mother, really,” Adam said, hugging her again.
“I’m glad to hear that, brother,” said Adora. Spirit followed her in, and Adam knew what was up in a glance.
“You’re returning to Etheria, aren’t you?”
“I’m afraid so, Adam,” she said sadly. “Hordak has attacked another village, and is making the people his slaves as we speak.” She turned to the others. “Would you mind terribly if I had a few minutes alone with Adam before I left?”
“Of course not,” Randor said, giving his daughter a hug good-bye. “Please be careful, young lady.”
After hugs and good-byes were exchanged all around, the others left. The Sorceress began to leave as well, but Adam stopped her.
“We need to talk with you,” he said. Adora saw that he was growing weak again, and grabbed his arm. They walked over to the stairs in the main throne room, and Adam sat down gratefully.
“What is it?”
“The king seems to be, um, catching on, so to speak,” Adora said, and explained what had happened.
“Teela also seems to be picking up on things,” Adam added. “And truth be told, I think Mother already knows our secret.”
“It is inevitable that the three of them will figure it out,” the Sorceress said calmly. “And it is not surprising that it is happening now.”
“What?” the twins asked together.
“Adora, you have no family on Etheria. Your parents do not see you enough to see make the connection. Your friends in the Rebellion have known you only a short while. Therefore, you have no need of a...disguise, such as Adam has used. But you, Adam…these three are the people who, other than Adora, love you the most. For years, your efforts at making yourself different from He-Man kept them from seeing the truth. I believe that Marlena, being your mother and not of Eternia, broke through the sword’s magic some time ago, but for whatever reason, has never chosen to talk to you about it.” She paused a moment, collecting her thoughts as the twins absorbed her words.
“Adam, when you saved your father and broke the spell during the last few days, your true nature was revealed to Teela and Randor. Your courage and determination were what saved you—the traits they see as belonging to He-Man, not you. The sword’s magic will not hide the secret from anyone with a pure heart who wishes to truly know who you are, and from whom you do not want to hide the truth.”
Adam was startled. “So, you’re saying that this is partly happening because I want it to?”
“Yes, but that is only a small part of it. The sword’s magic can sense when a person is ready to know, that they will be able to allow you, the Prince of Eternia, to do what he must do to protect not only Grayskull, but the entire planet. And that they will be able to guard your secret as closely as you have guarded it.”
“So what do I do? Tell them? Or act even more cowardly and irresponsible than before, to try to keep it a secret longer?” Adam asked, a touch of bitterness in his voice as if he already knew the answer. Adora looked at him sympathetically. She did not have that problem, since she’d been raised as a warrior by the Horde. No one expected her to run from trouble, and they all believed her when she said she was going to find She-Ra. Adam had never been able to use that excuse, because it would only make the Crown Prince of Eternia even more of a target for Skeletor and others if it were believed he alone knew how to contact He-Man.
“No, Adam. The time for that is past,” the Sorceress said gently. Adam looked up, hope lighting his face. “One of the reasons you had to keep your secret from your loved ones is because they could not handle the truth. They could not sit by and watch you place yourself in danger day after day. You have been He-Man for a long time now, and your parents and Teela now know that you are capable of handling the challenges you face.”
“You must continue to protect your secret as you always have,” she warned. “Let them figure it out and come to you in their own time. To tell them prematurely would be to put their acceptance of your destiny at risk. However, it would be reasonable for you, after your experience, to be more true to your nature. No one will question it if you seem to take your responsibilities more seriously and stop being late—when your duties as He-Man do not get in the way, of course. The sword’s magic will continue to protect you. You must still be careful, and you may not want to improve your, ah, clumsy habits too quickly.” The three of them chuckled.
Adam sobered quickly. “That will relieve some of the pressure, but I will still have to disappear to become He-Man each time. I’m afraid this newfound respect my father and Teela have for me won’t last long.”
“We shall see, my dear prince,” the Sorceress said noncommittally. She turned to Adora. “I believe you have a town to save.” With a wave of her arms, she created a portal to Etheria.
“This will take you just outside the town, Adora.”
“Thank you, Sorceress.” She turned to Adam. “I’m coming back as soon as I help the rebellion free that town. I’m afraid Skeletor isn’t going to give you time to rest if he can help it.”
“Take your time, Sis,” he said, standing to give her one last hug. Adam watched as she left, feeling that familiar emptiness that seemed to be there whenever they were separated. After the portal vanished, he sat down heavily, resting his head on his arms, which rested on his knees.
“Adam, are you all right?” the Sorceress asked. Her brow was furrowed and concern showed in her green eyes.
“I didn’t want her to know,” came his mumbled voice. “She’d only worry more, and be angry with me.”
Rather than ask additional questions, the Sorceress gently probed his mind, and was shocked by the raw pain, both physical and emotional, that was there.
Cut that out, Adam told her.
“I’m sorry Prince Adam,” she said softly. “Both for invading your private thoughts and for not fully realizing the extent of what you’ve been through. And…for this.” She touched his shoulder lightly as he looked up, and then he was sound asleep.
Adam woke up the next day to full sunlight and a stiffness in his body that he couldn’t explain for a minute. He tried to sit up, but his muscles didn’t want to obey. He slowly realized that he was in his own room, and felt incredibly grateful for that fact. Slowly the events of the last few days began to filter back into his memory, and he let out an involuntary groan.
“Good morning, sleepyhead,” said his mother’s soft voice. He turned his head to see her sitting in the chair across the room, calmly knitting.
“How did I get here?” he croaked out, his mouth dry and his mind feeling a bit numb.
Marlena quickly got up, and had a straw in his mouth within seconds. “The Sorceress said you were being stubborn, and didn’t let her know how much pain you were in. She used a sleep spell on you, and we brought you home.” Adam drank greedily for a moment, then glanced at her suspiciously.
“This isn’t drugged again, is it?” he asked. “I can’t even move as it is.”
Marlena shook her head. “That’s the leftovers of the Sorceress’ spell. She wanted to make sure you rested all night. You can only get out of bed if I allow it. Once I do, the spell’s done.”
Adam pressed his lips together as resentment boiled up. He’d been through enough the last few days, he didn’t need to be hovered over. “Mother, may I?” he asked dryly. His eyes wandered towards the bathroom, and she understood.
“Yes, you may,” she answered sweetly, patting his cheek. “Do what you need to, and get right back into bed. I’m going to go have some brunch now. I’m sure Teela will be in soon.”
Adam’s eyebrow raised as he sat up gingerly. “Mother, I just need rest. I’m not sick or in any danger. I don’t need a baby-sitter.”
“Who said anything about a baby-sitter? Teela’s been in here three times to see if you were awake. She’s anxious to see you,” his mother chided gently.
“Oh.” Marlena kissed the top of his head before she left.
“I’m so relieved you’re all right,” she told him again. “I’ve never been more terrified for you.”
He grinned at her. “Not even when I fell off the balcony as a kid?” he teased.
“Not even when you were captured by Skeletor,” she threw over her shoulder as she left. Adam smirked, wondering which time she meant…of course, she only knew of a few, not the dozens of times Skeletor had captured him as He-Man. Thank the Ancients for friends, he thought. Adam sat there for a moment, gathering his strength, and went to soak in a tub of hot water.
Who would have thought this could feel so good? His strained muscles relaxed a little. His eyes closed, his mind drifted. Bodies surrounded him. The ground was covered in blood. As he walked, he recognized the bodies of Ram-Man, Man-E-Faces, Stratos, Buzz-Off, and all of the other Masters. He cried out at the sight of Orko, Battle Cat, Duncan, Teela, his parents, even Adora…all dead.
Adam jerked upright, sloshing water everywhere, gasping for breath. He buried his face in his hands. He’d always feared losing out to Skeletor, failing his family, his friends, and all of Eternia. But having a mental picture of it was so much worse.
Feelings as if his responsibilities were physical weights weighing him down, Adam slowly dried off and got dressed. In spite of his morose thoughts, it still felt wonderful to have clean clothes on again. He came out of the bathroom still drying his hair, and paused in the doorway. Teela had been looking out his window and whirled around as he came out. Their eyes clashed for a moment, each reflecting the loneliness, confusion, and longing in the other’s. Then she ran across the room and threw herself into his arms, almost knocking them both over.
“Hey, didn’t we have this greeting yesterday?” he teased her, surprised. She kept her face buried in his shoulder as she began to speak.
“I’m so sorry, Adam. It was all my fault. I should have protected you better. Please forgive me.” Her voice was breaking. She wouldn’t raise her face, and he knew that Teela, his tower of strength since they were kids, was crying…over him.
He pushed her firmly away and tilted her chin up until she met his eyes. “Teela, you have nothing, nothing, to be sorry for. You did what you were supposed to. You investigated a potential threat. You had no way of knowing it was a set-up.” He wrapped her in his arms again, pulling her close. “Besides, Granamyr said there are only a few people on Eternia who could have survived that spell. I’m betting you might be one of them Teela, but what if you aren’t? I would have lost you,” he said tenderly.
“Better the captain of the guard should die than the prince,” she whispered, pulling away. He grabbed her arm before she could turn away completely, and their eyes met again. She was shocked by the raw pain and determination she saw in his eyes.
“Better I should die than my best friend,” Adam replied hoarsely. They stared at each other for a full minute, Adam gradually pushing the image of his friends’ bodies out of his mind. Teela was watched in awe as his face suddenly turned blank, as if he’d turned off his emotions.
Adam walked away from her, fighting to regain control. He’d never felt so overwhelmed and on edge, and he knew it was the aftereffects of all he’d been through. He propped a few pillows up on the bed and half-laid, half-sat on it. Teela went around to the other side and sat next to him. He stared straight ahead, refusing to meet her gaze, until her hand reached over and touched his cheek.
“Talk to me, Adam. You’ve always been there for me. I know I’ve really given you a hard time in the last few years, but I can tell something’s really wrong. What is it?” she asked
Adam swallowed hard. He needed to tell someone. Adora would be best, but it would most likely be a few days before she returned. Duncan should be his next choice, but…Teela was here, asking, and he found that he wanted to explain it to her. Teela waited in silence.
“In order to break the spell, I had to face some of my worst fears,” he finally said. “I had to re-live the night that boy was killed by the earthquake in Rock Haven.” Teela paled when he said this, but he wasn’t looking at her. Instead, he stared hard at a small black spot on his wall.
“It took what really happened and made it worse. My father disowned me. You…well, our friendship was over.” Adam’s voice was so low she had to lean in to hear it. “The next fear was even more horrible. Hordak kidnapping my children, holding my wife hostage. But the last…” His voice broke, and Teela slipped an arm around his shoulders.
Adam took a deep breath, knowing he had to finish now that he’d started. “You were all dead,” he whispered. “You, Mother, Father, Adora, Duncan, Orko…everyone of the masters. Skeletor had taken over Grayskull, and he was about to rule the universe. And it was my fault. I had failed to stop him.” He rubbed at his eyes, swiping away the tears that threatened to fall and Teela hugged him hard. He took a ragged breath.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to dump all that on you,” he whispered.
Teela smiled at him. “What are best friends for?” she asked, her tone still gentle. She was confused by his words. No one would ever expect Adam to be the one to stop Skeletor, so why was he thinking of it as his responsibility? She didn’t know what else to say, so she just held him until he fell asleep again, comforted by her presence.
Adam woke an hour later, his head pounding. Teela was gone, but his father was entering, followed by one of the servants, who carried a tray of food. Adam suddenly realized he hadn't eaten since he'd been blasted by Skeletor, three days ago. His mouth watered eagerly.
"Thank you, Gwen," he nodded to the servant as she placed the tray down next to him on a small table. "How's Roger doing?"
The young blond blushed. "He's doing well, Your Highness. He proposed last week."
"That's wonderful! Congratulations!" Adam said enthusiastically. She cast a nervous glance at his father, who had watched this in thoughtful silence, bowed and left. Adam took a bite of the brown bread with melted butter and closed his eyes in ecstasy.
"You must be careful not to get too personal with the staff, Adam," his father cautioned mildly. "It could cause rumors."
Adam’s emotions were still raw; his normally mild temper flared. He took his time chewing to give himself time to calm down. "I don't think it's wrong to be friendly with them, Father," he finally said, matching Randor's tone. "They are people, just like you and me."
His father sighed. "Adam, I don't want to cause an argument. I'm just trying to say that you need to be kind and polite, but reserved. You have the unique ability to draw people out, and it does you credit. I just don't want to see that turned against you by some bitter rival for the throne."
Adam perked up. "Rival? Is there something I should know about?"
Randor waved a hand, and some of his typical impatience with his son crept into his voice. "No, no, no. Surely you know that there are always those of power who want to take over the throne. It's nothing specific right now, just always...there." Adam nodded slowly, taking another bite of the bread.
"Adam, Granamyr..." his father began. He stopped, then started again. "Granamyr said your first fear was about me." Adam nearly choked on his food. Staring at his father, he was struck by the sadness he saw there. "Why?"
Adam looked down, fiddling with his untouched soup for a moment. I should have known this was coming, he realized. He didn't want to have this conversation, but after a few moments it was obvious that there would be no timely intervention by his mother, Teela, or even Skeletor this time. He sighed heavily.
"I know I've been a big disappointment to you, Father," he admitted in a low voice. His eyes met his father’s, then dropped back down. "It's often occurred to me that you might prefer to have Adora take the throne, or someone else, and to be honest, that doesn't really bother me all that much." He paused, gathering his courage, Randor watching him intently. "What does bother me is the thought that one day, you might be so disappointed in me, so angry, that you disown me." And, given the fact that He-Man's duties will always have to come first, it's actually a very real possibility, he added silently.
"Oof," Adam gasped as he found himself pulled up into a bear hug.
"I know I've been...demanding, and often harsh," Randor admitted to his son, his tone also low. "I'm afraid that's not going to stop. It's my job to get you ready to take the throne, and I'm going to do my best to do that. But I hope you know that I...I love you, son. I've never been so scared in my life as when I saw you lying on that platform, and Duncan said you were dead."
"You thought I was dead?" Adam pulled back, eyes wide and searching his father’s face.
Randor nodded miserably, and Adam was shocked to see tears standing in his father's eyes. "You had no pulse. It was the worst few seconds of my life."
“I-I knew my life was in danger, but I didn’t realize…” Adam’s voice drifted off. In all his time as He-Man, he’d never come that close to death. How ironic that he’d almost died as plain old Adam.
Randor gave his son another hard hug, then stood up and walked over to the window to compose himself. Neither of them knew what to say.
Randor stayed until Adam finished his meal. There wasn’t a lot of conversation, but for once neither of them was uncomfortable with that. Randor kept staring at Adam, thankful just to have him alive, and slowly realizing that he knew very little about his son. Adam was grateful beyond words for his father’s candor; for the first time since he became He-Man he felt that he knew where he stood with the king. He had serious doubts about it lasting beyond the next time he had to run off to become He-Man, but he buried those thoughts and let himself dwell on his father’s words.
As his father left, Duncan came in, much to Adam’s relief. No one else but Orko knew exactly why he was in such a horrid condition, and it would be nice not to have to watch what he said.
“How are you feeling, Adam? And don’t sugarcoat it,” Duncan warned, taking a seat in the chair next too the bed. “The Sorceress told me you hid it well, even from her, as to the kind of shape you were in, and she has no qualms about using a mind spell to find out exactly what’s going on.”
Adam grimaced. He was already lying down, but he didn’t want to be forced to do so again. “Sometimes I think you two are worse than my parents,” he complained.
“If your parents knew what you do during your ‘free’ time, they’d be even worse than the Sorceress and I are,” Duncan countered.
“Interesting you should say that,” Adam drawled, trying to change the subject. He told Duncan what the Sorceress had said about his parents and Teela.
“I’m sure she’s right,” the older warrior grunted. “But you didn’t answer my question. How are you feeling? Obviously well enough to try to distract me.”
Adam grinned a little. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.” Duncan glared at him. “Oh, all right. I’m exhausted, and it hurts to do anything. I feel like I strained every muscle in my body.”
Duncan nodded. “You and I haven’t had a chance to talk, but between the Sorceress, Orko, and Teela, I think I have an idea of what you went through. I’m surprised that battle with Skeletor yesterday didn’t set you back more, actually.” Adam said nothing. “Adam? Did you get hurt yesterday?”
“No, I just…I had a hard time eating without sloshing soup all over myself,” he admitted. “I couldn’t even raise the Power Sword yesterday.” His eyes drifted closed as he yawned. “It’s not easy being this weak when you’re used to being He-Man. It would be depressing, if I were awake enough to be depressed,” he finished softly.
Man-at-Arms watched the prince sleep for a few minutes. He’d hoped Adam would talk more about the whole thing. The Sorceress had told him that Kaspanya’s spell could cause a lot of emotional turmoil for Adam, as it had given a picture to his worst fears. Worse yet, she wasn’t entirely sure if it was completely defeated. The crystal had captured the magic aimed from the talisman, but a small portion of it, she believed, had remained on He-Man. If so, it wasn’t powerful enough for her to detect, but it could grow stronger. Only time would tell. But it was her last statement that had truly frightened him.
Physically, Adam will recover. But I am concerned about his inner strength, his heart which makes him He-Man. No one should have to deal with all he’s been through…and if the spell has not been defeated, his trials are not yet over.
Adam woke, gasping for air. He’d been dreaming, and in his dream, Hordak had killed his two beautiful little girls. He had held them as they died. He looked down at his hands, half-expecting to see them covered in blood. Cringer, sleeping next to the bed, rolled over and started purring. Adam couldn’t help but smile. Cringer always purred when he sensed Adam was distressed. It felt good to know he wasn’t alone.
A tray of food had been left for him, and he sat at the chair near his window while he ate. He was annoyed to find that he was already worn out by the time he was done eating. If Skeletor attacks anytime soon, he may achieve his goal of killing me, Adam thought wryly. He-Man’s heroics are taking a toll on my body.
Nevertheless, he decided, he had to get out of his room for a few minutes. He could surely make it down the hall and back, just to stretch his legs a little. He was no more than ten feet down the hallway when he heard a voice from behind.
“Just where do you think you’re going?”
Adam stopped guiltily and turned around. “Teela! What are you doing up here?”
“Checking on you,” she answered, hands on her hips. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“Just taking a short stroll,” he assured her. “I’ve been cooped up in that room all day.”
“Prince Adam, you’ve been assigned bed rest, and that’s what you need to do,” Teela snapped at him, worry in her eyes.
“Teela, I’m fine. I’ll go rest in a few minutes,” he argued.
“You might overdo it! You should be resting!” Her voice was growing louder.
“Get back in bed and go to sleep!” she insisted.
The irony of it suddenly hit Adam, and he started laughing, which caused his stomach muscles to protest. He doubled over, but couldn’t stop laughing.
“Adam! Adam, what’s wrong?“ Teela cried. She bent down to try to see his face; he finally wound up sitting on the floor, tears streaming down his face from the pain in his sides, but he still couldn’t stop. He knew it wasn’t quite that funny, but the emotional release felt so good.
“Are you laughing? Adam?” Teela was getting more concerned, and he tried to stop long enough to explain it to her.
“You’re…telling ME…to go to sleep,” he finally choked out. “After all…the times…you’ve yelled at me…for napping!”
Teela began to chuckle, which sent him laughing harder, and finally she joined in, sitting beside him on the floor and wrapping her arms around him.
“Okay, you win,” she finally said, wiping the tears from her eyes. “We’ll go down the hall and back, but I’m walking with you.”
Adam shook his head. “No need. I just used every bit of energy I had on laughing. I’ll be lucky to make it to my room.”
“Well, it’s a good thing I came down here to see what the noise was about, then,” came Duncan’s voice. Adam looked up to see his mentor standing there. “Care to tell me what was so funny?”
“You just had to be here, Father,” Teela said, standing up quickly. She smiled down at Adam. “Let’s get you back to bed.”
Adam gritted his teeth, took the hand Duncan offered him, and forced himself up. Duncan watched his face closely and was ready when a wave of dizziness caused the prince’s knees to buckle. He grabbed Adam, and Teela quickly held him up on the other side.
“I’m sorry,” Adam whispered. Teela and Duncan responded, but he didn’t hear them. Exhaustion seeped in and he fell asleep as soon as he got into the bed.
“I’m sorry Father,” Teela said quietly. “He was out in the hallway, wanting to go for a walk, when I found him. I tried to get him back to bed, which he thought was funny, and the next thing I knew, we were both sitting on the floor, hysterical.”
Duncan’s lips twitched. “I can see how Adam would get a kick out of that, given your normal attitude towards him.” Teela smacked him lightly as they left the room.
The bodies of his family and friends lay around him. He saw Duncan first. Then his parents. Tears streamed down his face. Adora lay near them, her body broken and twisted. Further away was…Teela, her green eyes staring into nothing. His heart broke, and he cried out his pain and anguish.
“Adam! Wake up!” Hands shook his shoulders. He jerked awake, grabbing the arms and ripping the hands from him with abnormal strength.
“Ow! Adam, it’s me,” Teela gasped, nearly falling to her knees. Adam’s eyes suddenly focused in on her, and he let go.
“Ancients, Teela, I’m sorry,” he said, collapsing back on the bed. “Did I hurt you?”
She shook her head, rubbing her arms lightly. “I came in a while ago with your breakfast, and you were tossing and turning. I wasn’t sure if I should wake you. Then you just let out this…unreal cry. As if you were breaking inside. What was it?” Her eyes searched his face, taking in the haunted look and the lines of exhaustion that stayed there even after three days of rest.
“Just a dream,” Adam muttered.
“Don’t tell anyone, Teela, please. I don’t want to worry them. It’s just memories of the fears from the spell. They’ll go away,” Adam assured her. She hesitated. “Please Teela. I’m asking you as a friend. Don’t make me order you as the prince.”
Her back stiffened with the threat, but the look on his face stopped her from making the retort that flew to her tongue. Adam didn’t want to go that route, she could tell, but he would try if he had to. He really couldn’t, actually, because her first duty was still to the king, not the prince. This was almost a test of some sort, she sensed. Of their friendship, and something more…
“I won’t tell your parents,” she said softly. “But you have to promise me you’ll tell my father or the Sorceress…someone who can help you through it. Because this scares me. I don’t like what it’s doing to you.”
Adam stared at her a moment, then nodded curtly. “If they continue, I’ll talk with someone. Thanks.”
Teela stared at him uncertainly for a moment. This wasn’t her happy-go-lucky prince. This was someone weighed down by things she only partially understood.
Adam wanted nothing more than to be left alone, but Teela looked so uncharacteristically lost, he couldn’t find a way to ask her to leave without hurting her feelings. She still hadn’t left by the time he’d used the bathroom and come out, and rather than be rude, he invited her to sit while he ate breakfast.
“I guess you arrived just in time when Skeletor attacked Grayskull the other day,” Adam commented, for lack of anything better to say. Battles with Skeletor were always safe discussions.
Teela shrugged. “I guess. I couldn’t believe He-Man was out there fighting them off after all he’d been through. He was actually holding his own pretty well until Skeletor caught him off-guard with a blast.”
“And then there’s me. I can’t even walk down the hall without practically passing out,” Adam said, surprising them both with the bitterness in his voice. Where did that come from? he wondered.
“Adam, why do you insist on comparing yourself to him in the most ridiculous ways?” Teela demanded. “You two are completely different!”
“Oh? How so?” Adam knew he should stop the conversation, but curiosity got the better of him for once. He knew what she’d say. Let her dig herself out of this, he thought. The uncharitable thought was completely unlike him, he knew, but he didn’t feel quite like himself either.
“He-Man has the power of Grayskull giving him extraordinary strength, and you’re a normal man!” Teela exclaimed, clearly exasperated. “He’s a warrior, and you’re a gentleman! He’s courageous, and you’re-“ she broke off, turning red.
“A coward,” Adam finished softly. Hurt and shame filled him, and he dropped his eyes, toying with his food. He’d apparently played his role too well. In spite of what the Sorceress had said, he couldn’t see Teela or Randor ever figuring out the truth. And he certainly wasn’t going to willingly endanger them by telling them.
“No,” she whispered. “Saving your father like you did—that was courageous, Adam. Breaking that spell took courage too.” Her voice gained in volume slowly as she began to sort through things. “There have been other times you’ve come after me when He-Man couldn’t be there. You’re one of the most courageous people I know when you have to be.” She stopped and stared at him until he met her eyes. “I don’t understand, Adam. You’re obviously not a coward. So why do you disappear every time there’s trouble?”
“I still don’t think we need him for this,” Evil-Lyn complained to Skeletor as they waited near the Sands of Time.
“Silence, witch. I’ve studied this spell for years, and even combined our magic cannot complete it,” Skeletor replied, scanning the desert for the third member of their party.
“And what spell might that be?” Count Marzo asked from behind them. “Something you think will defeat the mighty He-Man, I understand?”
Skeletor whirled around with an evil chuckle. “Marzo, how nice of you to join us. Yes, I have a plan to make He-Man the most hated man in the universe. Are you interested?”
“Absolutely. Please, do tell me more,” Marzo replied, with a twisted smile and an evil glint in his eye.
The queen and king took a stroll immediately after breakfast, their first quiet time together since the attack four days ago.
“Have you been in to see Adam much?” Marlena asked her husband. She herself had spent hours on end just watching her son sleep, thankful that Skeletor had failed. Orko and others had come in, but Adam had slept through most of the visits. Randor nodded.
“We had a good talk yesterday,” he told her. “I never wanted to believe that you were right, that he doubted my love for him. But you were. I hope he feels better about it now.”
“And you?” Marlena prodded, sensing there was more.
Randor hesitated. “I don’t really know my own son,” he admitted. “I know that others believe he is a coward, and that’s why he runs from battles. I know he’s gone from here for hours on end. I think perhaps Duncan may know why, but he’s never said anything definitive. I’ve realized that Adam has a life I know nothing about. I love him, I’m proud of what I do know about him, but…he’s hiding something from us, Marlena.”
She nodded. “I agree. I’ve thought so for a long time.”
Randor turned to her with hope in his eyes. “Do you know what it is?”
“No,” she said softly. “I have ideas, but I don’t know anything for sure.”
Randor nodded sadly. After a few minutes it became clear she’d said all she was going to say. He kissed her gently, and they went their separate ways for the day, his mind heavy with her words.
Adam stared at Teela, not sure how to answer her question. The sword had always protected him from questions like this, or Grayskull’s wisdom had provided him with a vague answer that shouldn’t have satisfied the questioner, but did anyway. Always answer honestly, Adam, the Sorceress’ voice came back to him from years ago. You must not abuse the power of Grayskull by lying.
“Because I have to,” he finally answered. If Teela was still under the full strength of the sword’s magic, that would be enough to satisfy her.
“Why do you have to?” Teela didn’t know why she was being so persistent. She just felt that she needed to know.
“I can’t tell you that,” he muttered. You must keep your secret at all costs, the voice from his past came again. If your enemies ever find out you are He-Man, the lives of all those you love would be in danger.
“I said I can’t tell you!” he snapped, his patience broken. He propped his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands. “Just go away, Teela, please. I need some rest.”
Something made her stay put. For the life of her, she couldn’t explain it. Normally she would have snapped back at him, but today, she felt nothing but peace and patience as she stared at him.
“I’m not leaving, Adam, until you tell me,” she said calmly. He lifted his head and glared at her.
“Then you’re going to have a really long wait, because-“ he broke off as a knock sounded and his mother came in.
“Good morning!” she said cheerily, then stopped short, taking in the sight before her. Teela looked completely comfortable, while Adam looked as distressed as she’d ever seen him.
“Am I interrupting something?” she asked innocently.
“No,” grumbled her normally good-natured son. Marlena stared at him with wide eyes.
“Adam was just going to tell me why he always disappears when there’s trouble, even though he’s obviously not a coward,” Teela informed her with a self-satisfied smirk. Adam folded his arms and put his head down, groaning.
“Because he’s keeping a promise,” his mother answered smoothly. Adam’s head jerked up, his startled expression almost comical.
“What promise?” Teela asked, annoyed for the first time since she’d started the conversation.
“I don’t know,” Marlena answered honestly. “But that’s the only thing I can think of that would keep someone with courage from partaking in a fight.”
Teela shrugged and stood to give Adam a hug good-bye. “This isn’t over,” she whispered in his ear. “You owe me for keeping your secret.” His heart lurched before he realized she was talking about his nightmares.
Adam awoke from a nap in late afternoon, drenched in sweat. The dreams just seemed to be getting more and more detailed, and each time he woke he felt less rested instead of more. Now he was left with a feeling of deep depression, something he barely recognized, and only because he’d seen it in others. Although he’d been upset over the conflicts created by his dual role as He-Man—especially the ridicule of his father, Teela, and others—the fact that as He-Man he did an immeasurable amount of good kept him from being down for long. This was almost suffocating. Cringer, sensing his mood, jumped up onto the bed.
“What’s wrong, Adam?” he asked timidly.
Adam threw an arm around Cringer and hugged him tightly. He didn’t answer, and Cringer’s worry grew. Adam always talked to him. When he was sure that Adam had fallen back to sleep, he crept out of the room, and ran to Duncan’s workshop.
“Man-at-Arms?” Cringer called in his trembling voice. Duncan and Teela looked up from working on one of Duncan’s many inventions.
“Cringer? What are you doing down here?” Duncan asked.
“I’m worried about Adam,” the tiger answered. “There’s something really wrong with him.”
“I agree,” Teela added quickly. “He…wasn’t himself this morning.”
“Adam has been through a terrible ordeal. We must give him time to heal,” Duncan assured the two of them.
Teela shook her head. “No, Father. There’s more to it than him needing rest.”
“What do you know about it, Teela?” her father demanded.
“I-I can’t say,” she admitted. “I promised Adam I wouldn’t tell his parents if he agreed to talk to someone about it. I don’t feel right telling you behind his back.”
Duncan nodded. “All right. I’ll go speak to him.”
Adam had woken up again when his parents brought in his dinner. Feeling even worse than before, he got up and sat at the table without a word.
“How are you feeling, Adam?” Marlena asked, kissing the top of his head. Adam shrugged, which caused pain to ripple through his neck and shoulders. It was the only thing he seemed to be able to feel.
Eyeing his son critically, Randor cleared his throat. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to come down earlier, son. There was an uproar in Northern Eternia today; some rogues causing trouble. A few of the masters took care of it, but I had to personally go to address the concerns of the villagers.”
Adam barely heard his father. Randor and Marlena looked closely at him. For as long as they could remember, Adam had been a fun-loving, positive person. His reputation as a warm, caring individual earned him both respect and criticism, but that’s who he was. Today, there was no trace of that person. There were shadows in his eyes. Normally he seemed as if he didn’t have a care in the world; now he looked as if he just didn’t care.
Randor reached over and grabbed Adam’s hand. His son looked down at their clasped hands, but made no effort to move or speak.
“Adam? Adam, why aren’t you saying anything?” Randor asked, his voice going from gentle to a bit harsh with his worry.
“Adam please tell us what’s wrong,” Marlena begged, stress showing in her face. Adam’s mouth opened just a little, then closed. He couldn’t even find the energy to respond. He couldn’t explain what was wrong, either. Randor felt a mixture of anger and concern, and wisely kept silent for the moment as he tried to figure out his son.
“He was grumpy before,” Marlena said worriedly, “but he wasn’t like this.”
It’s just hopeless, Adam thought. The fact that his parents were in the room speaking to him wasn’t registering. The depression was beginning to consume him. No one understands. It’s never going to end. It’ll always be this way.
Adam still hadn’t spoken by the time Duncan and Cringer came in. The tiger looked guiltily at Adam and laid down at his feet.
Man-at-Arms was shocked by Adam’s appearance. Yesterday he had looked as if he were exhausted and in pain, but he’d been laughing, talking—he was Adam. Now he looked haunted, as if he’d seen the worst in the world and lived to tell about it. It was as if someone had snuffed out his caring, outgoing, fun personality, and replaced it with a mask.
Duncan pulled up a chair. “Out with it, son. What’s going on with you?”
Adam didn’t respond. Duncan was even more alarmed. The only time he’d ever seen this man stoic was in the persona of He-Man, when some evil villain was trying to get information from him. Adam always had a witty response to everything, no matter how serious. How had he slipped into such a deep depression so quickly?
“Adam, we can’t help you if you won’t talk to us,” Duncan tried again.
The shake of his head was barely perceptible. He looked out his window and saw Zoar, the Sorceress’ falcon form, sitting there. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. Go away, he thought. Leave me alone.
Prince Adam, you have every reason to be down right now. You have been attached physically, mentally, and spiritually during the last several days, she said, speaking telepathically to both him and Duncan. Adam felt a slight stirring in his heart as she reached out to him with Grayskull’s magic; Duncan paid rapt attention to what she said. However, this depression is not normal. The depths of what you are feeling are a result of the remnants of Kaspanya’s spell. Remember that he left some of his magic in you when he retreated to the talisman. That magic was not caught up in the crystal with the rest. It continues to attack you. You must fight it, Adam.
How? Duncan asked her. How can he fight it?
I do not know, the falcon replied, with great sadness. She slowly flew away. Good luck, Prince Adam.
Adam watched her go, knowing he should be angry that this spell still had any kind of hold on him after all he’d been through. But he just couldn’t bring himself to care.
If you won’t talk to me, I know who will, Duncan thought, and went to find his daughter. The king and queen continued to talk to Adam, trying to draw him out.
“Teela, I need to talk to you,” Duncan said urgently when he found her in her room.
“Did you talk to Adam?”
Duncan shook his head. “He won’t talk. He’s in a deep depression. The Sorceress says that it is because part of Kaspanya’s magic is still affecting him, the part not taken away when the crystal absorbed it.“ He stopped short, realizing his mistake.
“I thought He-Man removed that magic from Adam,” Teela said in confusion.
“We thought he did, but ah, apparently it didn’t completely work,” Man-at-Arms fumbled.
“Oh. So what do we need to do?”
“I need to know what Adam told you. You said you promised not to tell his parents if he agreed to talk with someone, and he’s not talking. You’re the only one who knows what’s going on.”
“He’s been having nightmares about what that spell put him through,” Teela said without hesitating. She’d known when her father came in that she was going to have to tell him. “He had four fears that he had to work through, and I don’t think it’s the first two that he’s been having nightmares about. I think it’s the last two. One is about his wife and children being taken hostage, and the other is about…all of us being killed and Skeletor taking over the power of Grayskull, and ruling the universe. He said he felt like it was all his fault.” She grew thoughtful. “Why would he say that, Father?”
“You’ll have to ask him that, Teela,” Duncan said, shaking his head. She was getting closer and closer to figuring it out, he felt sure.
“Man-at-Arms, Captain Teela!” A soldier came running in. “Skeletor is attacking!”
“Young man, I demand you speak to us!” Randor said in his sternest voice. His heart broke as Adam looked up at him, his eyes simply desolate. Randor couldn’t help himself. He reached for his son, pulled him to his feet, and hugged him tightly. Marlena joined in. Adam simply stood there for a moment, then, as if a dam had burst, his arms came up and he clung to his parents as sobs wracked his body.
Duncan returned to the hallway and shut the door quietly. He doubted this would pull Adam out of the depression, but it was a start. He motioned for one of the guards coming down the hall.
“Wait out here for King Randor and apprise him of the situation as soon as he comes out of the prince’s room,” Duncan ordered. “Under no circumstances are you to go in there until either the king or queen comes out. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir!” said the guard, saluting.
Duncan turned and ran to join Teela, Ram Man, Mekaneck, and the soldiers who were already fighting against Skeletor.
After ten minutes of crying, Adam finally calmed down, and he finally felt some emotion—he was mortified to have broken down like that in front of his parents.
“I’m so sorry,” he said hoarsely, starting to pull away. Randor grabbed him by the shoulders, and Adam looked up to see tears streaming down his father’s face. He looked over at Marlena and found the same.
“Did you think I would be upset over a show of emotion?” his father asked him quietly. “Son, after all you’ve been through, it’s natural.”
Adam shook his head. “Not completely natural,” he admitted, his voice almost a monotone. “He-Man wasn’t as successful as we thought in removing the spell. It’s given me nightmares and helped cause this depression.” From the tension radiating from his body and the tightness of his mouth, Randor could see that Adam hated admitting this.
Marlena gasped. “What can we do?”
Adam shrugged. “I don’t know,” he answered. “I-“ A blast outside interrupted him, and the king and queen rushed to the window. Adam followed more slowly.
“Skeletor,” Randor muttered, then, looking further into the sky, he exclaimed, “Thank goodness! She-Ra’s here!”
They watched as the warrior woman swooped down, scooped up Skeletor, and flew him off towards the Tar Swamps. She was back in moments without him. The rest of his gang scattered.
Adam returned to his chair. Adora would come soon, he knew. And deep in his heart, he knew he needed her more than ever.
“May I talk to Adam alone, please?” Adora asked her parents. Duncan had caught her on her way in and explained what had been going on with the prince. She was as prepared as she could be to talk to someone who didn’t really want to talk.
“Of course, Adora,” her mother said. She hugged her daughter and whispered in her ear. “I’m so thankful you’re here.” Adora smiled at them as they left, then sat on her brother’s bed, facing him.
“What’s gotten into you?” she asked in her best Horde Force Captain voice, sensing that gentleness would get her nowhere with him this time. Adam didn’t even look at her. “Adam, I know you’re depressed. I know you’ve suffered terribly during the last few days. And I know the spell has something to do with this depression. But right now, you’re letting it get the better of you. After all you’ve been through, you’re letting it win!”
“What’s the point?” he rasped. Adora stared at him in surprise. Not only did he look horrible, but he sounded…absolutely lost.
“What do you mean?” she countered.
“What’s the point of fighting, if we’re never going to win?” he asked in that same lost monotone. “Why bother fighting evil if it’s always going to exist? That vision I had under the spell might as well be a foretelling of the future. I’m not perfect. I can’t win against Skeletor every time. Eventually, someone will die because of my mistake. Eventually, Skeletor will win, and that one time he wins will be all it takes to claim all of Grayskull’s power, and then it’s over. There’s just no point in fighting it.”
Adora dropped to her knees in front of him and grabbed him by the arms, her fingernails digging into his skin.
“Yes there is,” she said ferociously. “Good is stronger. It will always triumph over evil, no matter how long it takes. In the end, we will have saved lives and changed lives for the better. How dare you be so egotistical that you think it all comes down to you, that if you fail, all is lost. The forces of good are bigger than just you, He-Man.”
Adam cut her off. Out came the things that had occurred to him before, things he always pushed aside and refused to dwell on because it just wasn’t his nature.
“Because so often it does come down to me!” he said, his voice carrying a little more emotion now. “We were given these swords and told that it comes down to us. I didn’t ask for this responsibility any more than you did. What genius came up with the idea of having a highly visible prince and princess having secret identities? We can never let anyone know. There will always be an enemy out there, threatening our families, our lives, our homes—and they will always be after Adam and Adora, if they ever know our secret, because as Adam and Adora, we are vulnerable. And in the meantime, it ruins my life. I’m tired, Adora. I’m tired of being the one everyone turns to, but no one respects or really knows.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I’m not strong enough anymore.” He dropped his head, and she let go of his arms, rolling back onto her heels.
“Yes, you are. But if that’s really the way you feel, then why do it?” Adora goaded him. She was sensing something happening, but she couldn’t define it. Praying for wisdom, she tried to turn the tables, asking him the very question he’d asked her. “Give it up, then, Adam. No one makes you wield the Power Sword. No one forces the destiny of the universe onto your shoulders. You can just not use it. It’s your choice. So if it’s making you so miserable, why do it?”
Adora’s words echoing in his mind, Adam realized just how out of character he was acting. For a split second, he understood that he had just given voice to more of his innermost fears, things he never before seriously believed were even possible, but couldn’t help thinking once in a while. That second was all it took for him to fully comprehend the hold the spell had on him, and it was enough to anger him. He focused every remaining ounce of will power inward. Adora was talking, but he no longer heard her. Adam closed his eyes and searched inside himself for that left over fragment of magic that had wreaked havoc on his life.
“You’ve got to snap out of this…” Adora’s voice faded. Adam wasn’t listening. He looked as if he were concentrating. She hesitated, not sure what to do.
Adam could sense the spell now. By sheer will, he focused on it as the Sorceress had taught him long ago. He forced his love for his family, his concern for all life, his desire to protect to grow, and the spell diminished. Still, it taunted him.
Why bother? Why should you ruin your life? Why should you wield the sword?
“Because I’m the only one who can,” he ground out. Adora frowned, trying to figure out what he was talking about. He suddenly raised his head and stared past her, his blue eyes unfocused. “Because it’s the only way to save my family, my friends, and my people. Because every life is precious, and I’m sworn to protect them all. Because I care.”
Adam suddenly stood, and stumbled over to his bookcase where he kept his sword.
“A-Adam?” Adora said uncertainly.
“Magic’s weakened. I need to-“ he didn’t finish as he grabbed hold of his sword. Adora crossed the room swiftly, afraid of what he might do, then backed off as he raised it with a huge effort.
“BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!” he shouted. A moment later, as He-Man, he walked over to her and gave her a hug.
“Thanks, Sis,” he said in his strong, sure voice. Grayskull’s magic was making it easier for him to control Kaspanya’s spell now, but it wasn’t gone.
“Are you okay now, Adam?” she asked.
“Almost. I think I know what we need to do to get rid of this spell for good,” He-Man said. “But I’ll need your help.”
Adora didn’t ask questions. “Tell me what I need to do.”
“I need you to place your sword on me.” Adora immediately began shaking her head, thinking he was probably suicidal. “Adora, please, just listen to me for a moment.”
She looked into his eyes and saw nothing but her beloved brother. No trace of the depression remained. She nodded slightly and he drew in a breath.
“I need the combined power of our swords to completely wipe out the magic while it’s weakened. This reprieve is only temporary. I can’t hold it off forever.” His eyes begged her to believe him. Nodding slowly, she drew her sword and transformed into She-Ra. Then, hesitantly, she laid the flat of her blade on his shoulder. He-Man crossed his sword with hers and called on the power of Grayskull again, at the same time focusing his own mind on forcing the spell out. A bright light filled the room, along with the sound of an explosion. He-Man could feel the spell disintegrate into nothing. As the light faded, voices sounded in the hallway, and the two of them quickly changed back to Adam and Adora. Within seconds, Duncan burst into the room and locked the door behind him.
“You two had better be more careful with-“ he broke off as he turned around. Adora sat on the floor, holding her brother in her arms. “Adam? Adora, what’s wrong with him now?”
“I’m not sure, Man-at-Arms,” she admitted, “but I think it’s finally over.” She explained, briefly, what had happened, as the two of them hauled him up into the bed.
“He just seemed to know, all of a sudden, what to do?” Duncan asked skeptically. A falcon’s cry interrupted him. Zoar had been on her way to see Adam again when she had sensed what was happening.
In this case, Prince Adam was right. Kaspanya’s magic was designed to be unbeatable. The initial onslaught attacked mind and body. Should the spell be defeated, it would not actually leave the person, but would wait for an opportune time to attack again. The magic of Grayskull pushed it out, but not completely. Had he remained He-Man, he might have been safe. But as Adam, Grayskull’s magic could not protect him, and it began to attack him again. Only Adam’s strength of will and the combined power of the swords could have defeated it, and all three had to be used at the same time. I told you before, Man-at-Arms, that I was unsure if all of Kaspanya’s magic was removed. Now I can tell you for certain that it has been. Adam is free at last.
A pounding came at the door. “Adora? Duncan? What’s going on in there? Open up immediately!” Randor shouted from the hallway.
Adora opened the door and gave her parents the good news as Prince Adam slept peacefully, oblivious to the relieved tears shed on his behalf.
A few days later, Adam and Adora were strolling through the gardens. Adam had made rapid strides in recovering once the spell was completely wiped away. He still had some lingering soreness and little stamina, but his strength and confidence had returned.
"So you return to Etheria tonight?"
Adora nodded. "I need to get back. The Horde is finally starting to crack, I think, and we need to make some plans."
"If you need me, let me know," he offered. She nodded.
"Adam..." She sounded hesitant. "How much of it did you mean?"
Her twin knew she was talking about his outburst the other day. He stopped and sighed, staring up at the sky.
"Most of it has crossed my mind at some time or another," he admitted. Adam continued walking, his steps deliberate. They'd been out there for close to an hour, and he was starting to tire. "I don't believe it's hopeless. I do believe good will triumph...eventually, in some way."
"What do you mean?" Adora asked.
"Most of what I experienced in that dream was conjured by Kaspanya. But there was this light..." Adam paused, trying to find the words to explain it. "Adora, I know had I gone toward it, somehow he would have trapped me before I could pass through to whatever was beyond it. But I'm sure that there was something beyond it. There's something more after we die. I don't know what it is, except that it is peaceful, but it's there."
Adora absorbed his words. "That's a nice idea," she murmured. Adam could tell she didn't quite understand, but then again, neither did he. She peered up at him. "I think we'd better sit down. You're starting to sweat."
Since he couldn't deny it, he obliged her wish, and continued the conversation. "As far as the rest of it, I don't know what I believe, Adora. Eternia can barely stand having a cowardly prince, we certainly can't afford a cowardly king. I can't abandon my people in a battle in order to become He-Man. But if the truth were known, our enemies would never stop. I don't know what the solution to that is."
Adora placed her hand on his. "Maybe we don't need to know. Maybe we just need to follow our hearts, listen to the wisdom granted by Grayskull, do our best, and let it work out on its own."
Adam smiled at her. "You're awfully smart for a little sister, you know that?"
Adora grinned back at him, a twinkle in her eye. After a moment, she decided to change the subject. "I envy you, brother. I think Teela and Father are going to be very interesting to be around during the next few months...maybe even weeks."
Adam shrugged. "We'll see," he said. "I don’t see how they can figure it out. They may see similarities now, but no one has any idea that He-Man and She-Ra have any other identity. I think everyone believes they're just hanging out in the clouds, waiting to rescue people."
Adora giggled at that. "Maybe She-Ra on Swift Wind could handle that, but somehow I can't picture Battle Cat and He-Man flying around up there!" Adam joined in her laughter, his head thrown back, eyes twinkling.
Teela watched the two of them laughing together. The Prince of Eternia truly was back to his normal self. She never let Adam out of her sight anymore, though she didn't think he'd realized it yet. She wasn’t about to tell him, either. When she’d been assigned as his bodyguard years ago, he’d had a fit. It eventually fell to her pulling bodyguard duty only as Duncan or King Randor felt it was needed. But she couldn’t shake the recent images of Adam—dead on the platform, lying helpless in the bed, trembling from weakness, gasping from a nightmare. She’d seen sides of Adam she’d never known existed during the last week. Her respect for him had grown tenfold, and so had other feelings she was reluctant to put a name to.
No, Adam wasn’t going to know she was watching out for him. She didn't hang close enough to hear his conversations, but she'd made a vow to herself that the prince's life would never be in such danger again, and she intended to keep that vow, even if it were in secret. And maybe, at the same time, she’d learn why he was always running from trouble.
Not far away, on a balcony, Marlena and Randor also watched the twins.
“I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see him laughing again,” Randor said with feeling. Marlena nodded. Randor continued on. “I never realized before this week how strong Adam really is. I’ve misjudged him in many ways, Marlena. I hope I can make it up to him.”
“I’m sure you’ll have that chance, dear.” Taking his arm, she laid her head on his shoulder as they watched their children walk back through the gardens.
The story continues in "Discoveries," coming soon...