Hi folks, I'm back with another story. That's two in one year, which is a record for me, in the MOTU fandom anyway. This one is part of the "Trollan Trilogy" continuity (which can be read in Castle Numbskull), but even though it comes soon after Souls, I can't really say it is part of that series, because there's very little Trollan in it. I decided to give Orko and Dree Elle a vacation while I played with snakes. So, no need to go over previous stories to catch up unless you want to.
If you're curious about what a few of the reptiles in this story look like, I've also posted a few pics in the Fan Art forum
I'll post this a few pages at at time so's not to dump too big a chunk of text at once.
Comments are welcome. Comments are appreciated. Comments make me feel loved. So if you love me, or have ever loved me, or ever plan to love me in the future, tell me what you think! (And I'm not afraid of constructive criticism. I want to know what works and what doesn't.)
Rise of The Snake Women
By Kim McFarland
Part 1: Snake Skin
Suffer not a poisoner to live.
-- Robert Heinlein's interpretation of Exodus 22:18
It was a dark and stormy night. Rain fell in torrents, checked at occasional intervals by violent gusts of wind which swept through the valleys (for it is in a mountain range that this story begins), tearing leaves from treetops, and fiercely agitating the bonfires that struggled against the darkness. Flashes of lightning reflected off wet scales, the skins of battling reptiles. The screams of their warring would have been heard for miles if it were not for the booming of the thunder and the howl of the wind.
The storm also drowned out the sound of the beetle-like tanks that crashed almost to the border of the village itself before being halted by the mountainous terrain. Their hatches opened, disgorging people with various extraordinary abilities and one purpose. One, an armored man, pointed his left arm. His armor shifted, reshaping itself into a cannon-like weapon, and he fired a warning shot against the mountainside.
Some of the reptiles whipped around to face their new foes. One, a brown, powerfully-built Snake Man, charged. He was upon Man-at-Arms in seconds. At this range the projectile weapon was useless. He swiped at him with his claws, then struck forward to bite with powerful, sharp-toothed jaws. Man-at-Arms swung a mace, jamming the ball of the weapon into the Snake Man's mouth.
A woman armed with a staff leapt into the fray. Several Snake Men converged on her, expecting her to be an easy mark because of her size. She swatted them away with powerful, well-aimed kicks and blows from her staff. A large man with thick, heavy head and shoulder armor charged at a large green Snake Man. The reptile waited, as if daring the human to do his worst, then suddenly extended long, flexible arms and wrapped them around the human. The Snake Man dodged to the side, then used Ram Man's momentum to swing him around and, with great effort, fling him back at his own people.
Lightning gleamed off the skin of the blond warrior who was battling a hulking, purple Snake Man. The reptile's tongue lashed out at him like a whip, aiming for his eyes, throat, and hands, seeking to disable him. He met each attack with the flat of his sword. Nearby, a bearded, redheaded man wearing a huge metal gauntlet glanced over and thought to himself that He-Man ought to try using the blade of his sword one of these days. He then turned and drove his fist into the face of the Snake Man who had not yet managed to remove the mace from his mouth, its knobs being caught behind long, sharp teeth. The stunned reptile went flying into the rain and gloom.
The bearded man couldn't resist. "It looked like you needed a hand, Duncan."
"I didn't need one. But it helped."
"You're welcome," Fisto grinned, then looked for his next foe. From the tops of the beetle tanks, several royal guardsmen were firing weapons, attempting to hold back the Snake Men, but the rain and darkness made their task a futile one. If they stopped any of their enemies, it was purely by chance. They had to be especially alert not to hit the green, armored tiger who was leaping around the battlefield, flinging Snake Men in all directions. Then one of the guardsmen felt hard, cold hands at his throat. He was pulled over backwards and his helmet was yanked off. A sharp blow to the head robbed him of consciousness.
A relatively small Snake Man was now circling Teela. His mouth was open, baring stiletto-like fangs. She knew from experience that he would spit venom at her eyes to blind her. When he drew back and tilted his head up slightly to aim she swung the head of her staff up sharply against his lower jaw, closing his mouth. His eyes opened wide as his own venom filled his mouth. Coughing and retching, he fended off the blows from her staff, then screeched "Retreat!" and darted off into the rain.
The other Snake Men heard Kobra Khan's scream. They saw that they were now surrounded, most of their number having fled during the battle when it turned out this village wasn't going to be the easy target they expected. The brown Snake Man snarled "Go!" Snake Men broke off and fled into the rain.
Lightning flashed several times, revealing several dozen reptiles still in the village, which was now ringed by the Masters. Man-At-Arms transformed his arm into a cannon again and shouted, "We have you surrounded. Surrender now!"
A large reptile wearing copper armor on its forearms and shins stepped toward him. Man-At-Arms shot the cannon over its head, shattering a chunk of mountainside beyond. "NOW!"
The reptile looked around itself. The humans were waiting, ready to attack if they gave them reason to. The green tiger was crouching, ready to leap, its tail lashing. Moving slowly, the reptile looked back at the others of its kind, all of who were watching, and nodded. The few who were holding weapons dropped them, and all raised their hands above their heads.
In the surveillance center of the Eternian prison, Man-At-Arms took off his helmet. Underneath, his hair was wet, plastered to his head. That wasn't much of an inconvenience, but the rain had also gotten under his armor, and that wasn't going to dry out while he was on duty. Beside him, He-Man was also damp from the storm. At least he would dry out quickly enough. Battle Cat, who looked bedraggled and annoyed and smelled like a giant wet animal, was another matter.
They had brought in over thirty Snake Men and incarcerated them in the maximum security cells, two to a chamber. The Masters who had fought watched while they were shut in, expecting another battle, but none had rebelled. After they had locked up the leader, a large black-and-yellow reptile, the others had submitted with nothing worse than resentful looks. It was strangely anticlimactic.
Now everyone with sense was peeling off their drenched clothing and getting what was left of the night's sleep. Only Man-At-Arms, He-Man, Battle Cat, and two guardsmen were still here. Man-At-Arms was programming the priorities on prisoner surveillance. If they made any sort of disturbance, he wanted to know immediately.
When he was finished He-Man was still there, wearing a thoughtful frown. "What's on your mind?" Duncan asked.
"This doesn't seem right. The Snake Men have never surrendered before."
"I know. None of the ones we know are among the ones we captured. Maybe without their leaders they're not as brave."
"Maybe." But he shook his head. "I don't think that's it. This has me worried."
"Well, sleep on it and we'll find out about them in the morning."
He-Man nodded. He glanced at the screen - both guardsmen were in the prison area - and then drew his sword. He said, "Let the power return," and a flash of light transformed him and Battle Cat back into their normal forms of Prince Adam and Cringer. Adam looked down at himself, then at the tiger. "Rats. We're still wet."
Man-at-Arms smiled faintly. "Go on," he said, nodding toward the door.
He-Man was right, Duncan thought. This was strange behavior for Snake Men. You'd think that with Orko and Dree Elle visiting Trolla to set their affairs in order before their wedding, Eternia would get a break from weirdness.
The guardsmen had been instructed to stay alert for any sign of rebellion from the prisoners. And, Adam saw as he passed through, they had come straight from the battle too. They had to be soaked under that armor. "Hey," he called. They looked over, then snapped to attention. "Go change into some dry armor."
They raised their hands to their chests in salute and answered, "Yes sir."
Adam left. One, whose visor was still lowered, said to the other, "You go change first. I'll keep watch here until you return."
"Right. Keep that eyeshield down if you go near the cells. They can spit venom farther than you'd believe."
"I will." She watched the other leave. Then she went down the line of cells, looking at the inhabitants. They stared back at her silently. When she reached the cell with the leader she stopped. After a moment the black and yellow one spoke. "Yes?"
"Why did you surrender?"
The prisoner's eyes widened. She stood and walked to the bars of the door. The guard removed her helmet, revealing gold, slitted eyes in a scaled face. Pink skin faded to pale green. "Kurokassan, why did you lead us into this?"
Kurokassan looked at the other cells through the bars of her prison. From every door faces were staring at her. She said loudly enough to be heard by all, "At that moment there was no other alternative. We could only fight or surrender; they were ready to kill us. They believed us to be followers of Serpos."
"But now they can slaughter us like cattle!"
"They came to our village to fight Snake Men. Believing us to be Snake Men, they still offered us surrender. If they intended to exterminate us, they would have done so then. Kamil, you should have hidden back in the village."
Kamil's back stiffened with indignation. "I would not abandon you!" she said firmly.
"Yes... now you must use your best judgment. Continue undercover as long as you can, and put yourself at no undue risk. And whatever you do, give them no reason to believe you are hostile to them. Now put your helmet on before the other guard returns."
Kamil looked around at the cells. Most of her village was here. Their lives might depend on her now, and she had no idea what to do next. Her skin changed back to a humanlike pink, and she placed the helmet, its eyeshield still down, back over her head.
She learned little else that night. The other guard was not talkative, and she could not investigate anything without leaving her post and attracting suspicion. That left her with nothing to do but think.
These people were not murderous. They hated Snake Men - and with good reason! - but she saw no desire in them to revenge themselves on their prisoners, no sense of vicious triumph. That gave her hope. By the time she was relieved by another guard early the next morning, she had reached a decision.
She found the entrance to the prison unit and waited there, standing at attention as if still on duty. The uniform was cumbersome and uncomfortable, but she was grateful for it. It covered most of her body and all of her face, so even in a crowd of humans she could pass unrecognized. Or she could watch numerous people come and leave without being noticed.
It was shortly before midday when Man-At-Arms and Adam returned to the prison area. They planned to interrogate the Snake Men they had captured to find out why they had attacked that village. Adam would become He-Man if needed, and in fact Man-At-Arms had expected him to arrive after transforming, but Adam had wanted to try to handle this himself. He was finally coming to grips with the fact that he would have to assume the role of king some day, and was trying to learn the ropes himself as opposed to calling on Grayskull every time. Duncan thought that was a hopeful sign. Several years back he would have thought Adam to be a less-than-ideal choice for a future king, but in the years since he had become He-Man he had grown up a lot.
At the entrance a guard stopped them. Raising an arm to chest height in salute, she said, "Sir, I have something to report to both of you."
"What is it?" Adam asked.
"It's a... confidential matter."
"Okay, come with us." The Prince beckoned, and the guard followed them. They led her through some corridors, down a few levels, and into a room lined with inexplicable metal devices and moving images. Man-At-Arms tapped a button, and the door closed. "Now what is it?"
The guard removed her weapon, placed it on the floor, and pushed it away with her foot. "I am unarmed." She then reached up and took her helmet off. Underneath - was the green, scaly face of a Snake Man!
Adam reached back over his shoulder and drew his sword. Man-At-Arms stiffened, ready to use his arm-mounted weaponry. The imposter guard held her hands, palms outward, in front of herself and said, "Please, listen to me! There have been... misunderstandings. Please, let us explain! Give us an audience with your King!"
"Us who?" Adam snapped.
Man-At-Arms laid a hand on Adam's shoulder. The Prince glanced back. The reptile answered, "We, the ones in your cells. We are at your mercy. Please show it to us! You have our leader in your power. She can speak for us all."
This one didn't talk like the other Snake Men. Duncan said what Adam was thinking: "We'll see. For now, come with us." The arm cannon formed.
Faced with the weapon she had seen punch a crater in a mountainside, Kamil's slitted pupils widened with fear, but she forced herself to maintain an outward calm. She let them guide her down to the prison level. They did not address her, and she did not speak. Soon she found herself in one of the dark, tanklike cells, alone except for a statue of a man with serpents coming out of his head. After the closed the barred door Adam said, "We'll be back to see what you have to say."
They left. She covered her face with her hands. She had made herself defenseless before them, and still they had imprisoned her. She had given up her one advantage, her camouflage as a guardsman, for nothing, she thought despairingly.
"Kamil," she heard.
Kurokassan's voice. Reluctantly she stepped to the bars. She could see several cells from here, but not that of her leader. "Yes."
"Do not despair. These are not cruel people. Instead, think of what you will say when they return."