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Thread: War of Attrition: the Doom of Prince Adam

  1. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saved View Post
    You got me hooked with this story. Reminisent of LOTR.
    Cool. Thanks!
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    War of Attrition: IX - Warmachine (part 3)

    I am a cookcoo, laid in the wrong nest... Fragile shell breaks under my little hands - What have I killed in these moments after birth?... A great bird holds a writhing serpent in its beak... There is a call to me, coiled around the mountain... I miss her, like I miss a part of myself... The circle is joined, the snake eating its tail, lava in the belly, iron at the core... Take up the iron scale-mail, the iron blade, for to let them rest is to let them rust... These are the first and last things: forged in stars, quenched in our blood, eternal spheres of iron at the end of time... The metal of war and of life... The soil is hungry for fertile blood... There at the world's centre, the many-armed Procrustus holds together a world pulling itself apart, his great arms bound by iron, his throne of iron, all drenched in our blood...I am... I am...


    ****

    "Teela!" Man-E pushed past the attentive nurses bending over the wounded on their pallets. Teela lay on a bloodstained cot, but she was sitting up and turned her cut and bruised face from the mug of water in her hands. When she saw Man-E she carefully placed the cup down, her hands shaking as they embraced her beloved. "Manefred!"

    "Teela!" He held her gently and then drew back to scrutinize her. "He-Man rescued you!?"

    She quietly asked the pressing group of people around them to leave. Once her attendants and aides had departed, she nodded. "But he is gone."

    Man-E stared at her. "It is as expected..." he said quietly.

    Teela wanted to speak of Adam, but the current situation was more pressing, so she quickly asked, "How goes the battle?"

    Beyond the walls, distant cries muted by the crashing of arms and a reverberating thudding could be heard, mingling with the closer moans and sobbings of pain in the ward. "We're taking advantage of every error they make. They seem over-confident, swaggering with their numbers. But we're just holding our ground - we can't push them back... I think we will be overwhelmed. This time, there are just too many. I do not know how Skeletor was able to bring so many of the tribes together..."

    "You must return to battle quickly."

    "Aye. But Teela –"

    She began to rise. "I'm coming too."

    "But you - !"

    "It looks worse than it is", she cut in. "Our healers are skilled in numbing pain. I won't be on the front. But I am needed. They've done everything that can be done for me here. These are not serious wounds." She pushed herself up and on to the floor while Man-E supported her. "Let me help you, you still have a limp." Then he said: "I'll carry you – we'll move faster." And with that he picked her up and took long strides out of the infirmary and towards the Palace Wall - where Fist was commanding.

    Behind this Inner Wall, all of the non-combatant subjects of Eternos had, by now, retreated – it was the second and last line of defence should the Outer Wall fall, surrounding the Palace itself. This Wall was the barrier that the defenseless young and old prayed would never be scaled.

    Again Teela was carried close against a loved-ones breast and she momentarily felt a sense of the heart-beat therein. "Man-E..." she spoke softly "...I now understand what you were trying to tell me. About Adam, I mean. I saw him - he held up his sword and said... And then, and then there was an awesome explosion... He changed into..." Teela looked around herself cautiously. "He changed Man-E! Oh, Man-E, how did you know?"

    Man-E looked down at the dirty and tear streaked face of the Captain. "I just guessed." He said tonelessly. "There were clues." Teela looked at him carefully, expecting more, but Man-E just shrugged. "That is all. You saw how such a thing can be yourself. It sounds like great magic." Man-E sighed heavily.

    "Where is he, Man-E?" Teela breathed hard, sobs threatening to shake her bruised chest.

    "Gone. And why not? We did reject him. Even hated him." He hurried down a wide Palace corridor abuzz with a confusion of healers and the wounded.

    "Oh, aye! Oh!" Tears threatened to overwhelm her and she struggled to drive them back.

    "I understand your guilt my beloved, but your treatment of Adam was a result of your duty. The King had you honour-bound to make him a man, a warrior. Adam always fought against you. You cannot blame yourself for that."

    "But I can blame myself for not acknowledging his nobility of spirit! He is indeed a fighter - he fought us all. All of us who said his pacificism was cowardice! His life bookish and weak! We mocked him, derided him - him, our Prince, our future King!"

    "You felt that he had no future."

    "But look at us! I"ve heard Fist's reports - we are losing fast! Has Randor's way saved our day?"

    "We are not defeated yet. Besides, had Adam been King, we would have been conquered long since."

    "Not so Man-E! He-Man came to us - I mean, Adam became He-Man only a year or so after he had preached the way of peace. Adam could have lead with the word and the sword. He-Man has never been a killer, yet he has always driven back our foes. Don't you see? We should have trusted Adam - he knew the truth."

    "We did not know. It was kept a secret."

    "It doesn't matter. We owed our Prince our faith and loyalty unto death. Instead - "

    " - We treated him as our King did. With contempt and dismay, for the Prince is not the King."

    "But Man-E, even up until today you helped him! You remained true." Teela let out an agonised groan of regret. "I am such a fool!"

    "You are no fool. It is past and the present is greatly pressing... I should have tried harder… No, but I did try... But he is determined."

    "Determined to do what? To run away?"

    "Aye, and for the first time too!" whispered Man-E, a little vindictively. "And now he has truly abdicated his destiny."

    Teela's mouth twisted downward with pain. "Oh gods… What have we done to him? What recompense could there be?"

    Man-E glanced back down at Teela in his arms as he chose the fastest route to Fist's postion. "I doubt Adam would wish for recompense for his heroism. Yet it must indeed be terrible for him. We cannot ask him to fight anymore - can we?"

    "He-Man would never leave - there's no need to ask… He will always fight!"

    "But Teela He-Man is Adam - and he has left!" Man-E skirted around a gurney carrying a screaming, burnt man. "Left us to this!"

    "Stop! I don't believe it… I can only think of one other place he'd go to, and there have been good reasons why he has remained there and not helped us before." She clung to his shoulders harder, as if for emphasis – but truly and for the first time she needed his reassurances.

    "Then you believe Greyskull is under attack?"

    Teela look up again to her betrothed. "Skeletor tried to kill Adam, a mere monk, so he surely knows what we know. In believing he has succeeded, and with He-Man no-where in sight, he will surely now march on Greyskull, believing it to be defended by the Sorceress alone!" She paused, flicking her tongue over torn lips. "But if Beastman has found his way through the chaos to a long-range radio, Skeletor will soon know he failed, for Beastman and I both saw Adam become He-Man..."

    "Beastman! But he - ! Oh aye! And that knowledge might lead Skeletor to call off the assault."

    "Aye, and his attack on Greyskull."

    "Then let's just radio Skeletor ourselves! We have the only long-range known amongst the allied tribes."

    "Manefred! You think he'd believe us!? Especially when He-Man is no-where to be seen. No – you have to find Beastman and help him tell Skeletor what he saw in the wood by taking our long-range radio to him."

    Man-E said nothing for a moment as he considered the idea. They were moving closer to Fist's position of command. Then he said "The only way to do that would be to disguise myself."

    "Aye Man-E." Teela's voice was laden with gravity. "But that news might be enough to stop this – so long as we maintain our defences. Skeletor's action seems to spring from the supposed success of the assassination."

    "I hope so."

    "No - not that way - this way."

    Man-E breathed hard as he paused. "But Fist is commanding from the Inner - "

    "Then let him! Here, put me down. Man-E, you have to get ready to infiltrate their ranks and get the radio to Beastman." She stared into his eyes, willing him to be strong. "You know the easiest way to do that."

    Man-E understood. An edge of fear nudged at his nerves. "I understand." His best disguise was his own curse. He had controlled his monstrous aspect in the past to his advantage, but he had never forced that transformation without the Sorceress' medicant to hand so that he could change back without any danger of losing complete control and remaining the Monster or Robot, leaving him vulnerable to Skeletor's control and at the mercy of the Sorceress' aid.

    Teela began to limp away from him. "Good fortune and all of the gods' blessings, my love."

    Man-E looked around the Palace corridor. "But where are you going!?"

    "I will take the last remaining sky-sled. If Adam is riding to Greyskull, I'm going to catch up with him." She moved away, the empty corridor ahead of her strangely silent and devoid of the rush and noise further behind them.

    "You think you can convince him to help us?" Man-E began to walk away, but called after her.

    "Only if leaving us is his choice and not that of the Sorceress." Teela tried to smile. "Have faith. I love you. Fight fearlessly."

    Man-E stopped walking and gazed at her, so uncommon were these tender words. "I love you too, and wish to follow you, my wife-to-be. Yet, I honour you also as my Captain, and I must obey your command. Fare thee well my love." And with that he turned on his heel and hurried to requisition a radio.

    Teela half jumped and limped on, hurrying her own way, holding her bandaged wrist high so as not to jar it. For a moment, she felt a pang at their parting and turned to look back, exepcting to see Man-E watching her - but he was gone.

    If Adam has abandoned us, then will the Sorceress not help? she thought as she entered the hanger. If victory is ours this night, is it not only a temporary measure if Adam will not return?

    Nevertheless, she had to try.


    ****


    Evil-Lyn stared intently at the scrying pool, now as flat and still as a mirror. Upon the surface, a heaving legion of humanoids, undead and chimerical beasts marched to the reverberating beats of large drums, or otherwise they shambled and scuttled in mobs, driven forward by Skeletor's unstoppable will, or the scourges of his slave-masters. The army had reached the City walls. This Night, with He-Man dead, Skeletor would succeed.

    She must maintain her observance - Skeletor had given her the task to look for He-Man or Adam to ensure that they were truly gone. Paranoia had saved Skeletor in the past, and he had good reason to fear Webstor's failure, so his success was not entirely certain. Skeletor had sent every force he could bring to assail Eternos, while he himself was doubtlessly preparing to use all of his own sorcerous might to enter Greyskull. Were He-Man to arrive, he would catch Skeletor at his weakest moment. But Evil-Lyn saw no hint of their enemy.

    Again she looked to Castle Greyskull - a sight that at once frustrated and inspired her. It gave her some comfort to feel that the secret that would free her, hidden deep therein, was not far from her grasp. A thrill of excitement and fear tightened her skin with goose-flesh, sending her insides aflutter. Could it be that she was now close to the end? That she could live her long life free of the pact with the Olden God and free of her servitude to Skeletor or any other? It was now time to make her own move.


    ***

  3. #53
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    Just keeps getting better and better. A real nail biter. = )

  4. #54
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    Great story thus far!
    Snarf...

  5. #55
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    Any chance to get more chapters posted soon?

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    Chapter X - Journey to Greyskull (part 1)

    Chapter X - Journey to Greyskull

    Panthor growled as Skeletor paused, reaching the end of the sorcerous ritual that would assure him maximum magical energy and focus. The warlord gazed up at the dread Castle, set against the backdrop of the Great Moon that had begun to set. This vast, pock-marked disc was now touching the uneven horizon that stretched out behind and below Greyskull, held high as it was on the pedastal of rock that jutted up from some depth of the Abyss. The Moon's edge had met the line of pale pre-dawn fire that snaked over the expanse of horizon, defining the rocky landscape that encompassed Greyskull. The Moon's vast surface reflected those same colours; deep purple at the very bottom through reds and to yellow atop the disc, as if touching the horizon's light had set it aflame. The time had come - it had been measured in the skies.

    As Skeletor watched, both Moon and dawn slowly began to vanish under gathering storm clouds. He looked up at the black walls of the Castle. The Jawbridge was closed fast, denying him any advance, as if it were a vast cliff-face. It was the Door of Denial, the Gate of Keeping and the very First Barrier, beyond which was awesome power. For a few moments, Skeletor stood unmoving before the edge of the Abyss, as if straining to reach the entrance.

    With a slow, tense movement of resolve, the Lord of Destruction drew himself up to his full height, clutching the Havoc Staff before him. His void-deep eyes stared inscrutably at the black craters of the eyes of Greyskull – between both pairs of eye-sockets it was as if two great black-holes vied for supremacy until one consumed the other, only to increase in size. But there was no easy conclusion to this contest, and so Skeletor summoned his terrifying will, absorbing magical energies through the occult conduit that was his staff, concentrating on the pattern of energy flow he could glimpse within his mind's-eye. He then took a firm hold of the staff and drove it into the slice of ground before him. Then, becoming bloated with cosmic energies, Skeletor held up his arms as they began to burn with searing witch-light.

    The dread mage turned his dead face upward as if to address the great skull-faced carving before him. Where this stone skull was a dark, dark green, Skeletor's own corpse-visage was of a polished bone, white and clean with no trace of rot. It gleamed in contrast with his dark blue skin under which living muscles slid effortlessly, as he drew invisible signs in the air that would focalize the magic.

    Then he faced Greyskull again and intoned: "Your defender is dead! I have plundered your depths and entered your sacred chambers before! I now know your weakness! I hold the key: knowledge of the Four Manifest Elements and the Four Hidden Forces. My success is now fated – your Sorceress alone is no match for me... And so it shall be!" He roared and as the very sky itself trembled, a light rain was shook out of the clouds and began to fall. Skeletor then lowered his glowing arms and drew his blade from its sheath. He took hold of the Second Sword and balanced it horizontally between the horns of the ram's head of his Staff. As the point of the blade was directed at Greyskull, the aura around his arms flowed down onto the sword, which itself then hung in place as Skeletor let it go.

    "Commanded!" Skeletor reached together his clawed hands, to form a square between his index fingers and thumbs and held up this sign behind the pommel of the pointing sword, his talon-like fingers splayed outward.

    "The Four Elements are not yours to keep!" He cried at Greyskull, and a sudden jet of water, spouting like a typhoon and black with thick blocks of ice, burst from within the square of Skeletor's digits, flowing up the blade and flying outward from its point to batter the Jawbridge with tidal wave force, causing it to shake.

    "I curse the arrogance of all gods! The Four Elements are of the cosmos – not yours to hide!" A second blast flew from Skeletor's hands and up the blade - whirl-winds twisted and raged against the Jawbridge – it groaned and shuddered against the pressure, an explosive cracking could be heard.

    "I demand knowledge! I demand the sacred and the profane! By the Four Elements – you are not the keeper of secrets, but a bastion of ignorance and tyranny!" A terrible rush of fire raced from Skeletor and up the blade, consuming the Jawbridge in a spiral of a molten conflagration. The magical barrier began to burn.

    "I am the liberator of truth and untruth, the coming Master of all that is written, thought, felt, and spoken, of all words and deeds, known and unknown and not yet conceived. Omnipotence is my claim and my right – you who rob reality of that power, you who jealously guard the Potential of All – you crush the life I have shed, you bring the death I have fled! I, Skeletor, have proven myself – by the Four!" And there, the final blast flew forth, a massive column of lumpen rock and solid, packed earth, shot up the blade and shattered the burning and twisted Jawbridge.

    But it was not enough - Skeletor perceived that the barrier had not yet been completely annihilated - for he knew that the tattered Jawbridge must be completely obliterated, down to the last wooden splinter and metal bolt, down to each and every particle and all the invisible motes of dust. "By the Four Forces! By gravity and electro-magnetism, by weak and strong nuclear force - unbind the substance of the Jawbridge, crush the Barrier, twist and turn the Gate, destroy this Blockade - for this destruction is my creation! Commanded - by the Four Manifest Elements and the Four Hidden Forces!" With the spell complete, the Jawbridge shrunk in upon itself, burning, smoking, spilling water, surrounded by a wind of debris, smoke and fog, twisting, shimmering, warping and collapsing in upon itself until it was reduced to a tiny white point....

    And then it was gone.

    Exhausted, Skeletor leans heavily upon his staff and slides his sword into its scabbard. He would normally never allow himself to be so enfeebled, would never leave any contingency unplanned for - but tonight, this hour, he is more vulnerable than he has been in a thousand years. Yet, the gambit has paid off, for there is no defense, no He-Man, no Sorceress - nothing to stop him now.

    The mouth of Greyskull hangs open, gaping and empty as if abandoned to lunacy. The eyes stare out, hollow and deep, upon the improbable creature of unlife and undeath that has defeated it. The end is here!

    Yet there is still the long barrier of the bottomless drop between the cliff-side and the Castle jaws, into the endless Abyss. Turning, Skeletor's terrible visage affixes on his feline familiar. Upon seeing the empty face, Panthor cowers.

    "You have served your purpose, daemon!" And with that Skeletor turns and grasps hold of the throat and hindquarters of his hell-steed and with sudden, sorcerous violence, tears the creature in half. Quivering, stinking entrails pour out of the spasming beast, bones black with blood hang like shadows from the rended flesh. But no sooner is the blood spilt, Skeletor flings the carnage across the Abyss, his gory hands imitating an arc as they follow the stream of cast innards; the mess of Panthor's corpse is suddenly suspended in its fall, and so it hangs in the space between precipice and Jaw.

    As Skeletor stands on the precipice before the smashed mouth of Greyskull, a long white spine emerges from the corpse of Panthor as it hangs over the Abyss. The emerging spine elongates across the gap, ribs and twitching limbs provide structure, guts and muscle build the bridge up, solid and sturdy. With growing confidence, Skeletor strides down the magical bridge and enters Greyskull to claim the spoils of his terrible victory, while behind him, the improvised bridge collapses.

    Inside Castle Greyskull, the eternal secrets of the gods and all the profound mysteries of the cosmos beyond even their ken are hidden, guarded, and enshrined. Yet, with every step, Skeletor moves closer to laying claim to them all.

    An ominous shudder ripples across the face of the Universe.


    ***

  7. #57
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    Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. #58
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    Thanks!
    Upon re-reading, I don't make it totally clear that Skeletor isn't holding the Havoc Staff, but that it is standing up alone; that the 2nd Sword balanced between the horns and his squared-hands are behind its pommel.

    I should have also emphasised how Panthor's sacrifice enables Skeletor to cross the Abyss & further protects him from Castle Greyskull's defenses (Panthor is, after all, a powerful daemon & the Castle has defenses other than the Jawbridge). Finally, I should have also been clear that Skeletor has smashed the Castles defenses, which is why others are able to follow him in with relative ease.

    Also, I should have placed more emphasis on the Sorceress mysterious absence. Of course, this is partly why Skeletor chooses his assault on this particular night....

    Anyway, the more I post, the more I notice holes in this story (written years ago) & I'm beginning to wish I'd have time to re-write & clarify parts of it.

    But glad y'all enjoying it so far - regardless!
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    Thanks for adding that. It really helps with the overall story.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saved View Post
    Thanks for adding that. It really helps with the overall story.
    Have you noticed anything else confusing or under-explained so far?

  11. #61
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    I'm about to read Warmachine part 2 (my comp was down for awhile), only thing that confuses me is which He-Man is it? Is it based off the Filmation series or the 200x series? I'm guessing 200x since you're calling him Battle Fist and not Fisto.

  12. #62
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    It's my He-Man
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    Funny Fan Fic: Meet the Rea-Por! (Heroic & Villainous Deaths) & The Mighty Spector's FIRST EVER FAN-FIC
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  13. #63
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    Im working on somthing myself. Hopefully I will finish the 1st chapter soon. Been sitting on it for a copuple of years now. I called it "The Fall of Eternia" and it should be the first of 2 novels I have in mind. The second being the sequel. I have a few extra ideas in mind to make it a little different, not just reading.

    But enough about me.

    When's the next installemnt coming out here?

  14. #64
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    I need to do my next chapter of the one I posted too. I've just been too busy to even attempted to do the next chapter.

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    Chapter X - Journey to Greyskull (part 2)

    The Night wind hunted Adam as he fled over the grassy plains beyond the kingdom of Eternos toward the foothills cleft by the Great Abyss. Here the land is cold and silent, yet the Night acts as messenger, carrying the distant shouts and calls of battle in fragments to his ears. He hears the resonant thudding at the gates, explosions of laser cannons, the bellowing of deformed monsters and the beating of drums. He has had to travel far and fast upon Battle Cat to put the wastelands of ravaged farms and fields behind them, and all the sounds of the murder of his countrymen. But finally, Eternos vanishes into the Night – even the lights from the fires fade - until the trees and hills swallow it all whole.

    Nevertheless, the battle raged on in Adam's enervated mind - and it would never stop.

    Under the Night sky he hangs limply in his saddle, Cat's uneven running across the difficult ground keeps him from sleep with jolts and jerks, while simultaneously lulling him - his warn-out body sunk deep and heavy into the padded, ornate seat Cat carries.

    Thoughts crash through his mind. He sees a pair of green eyes, red-rimmed with sadness, stare from the face of his sister... No, his teacher, his bodyguard. Teela was never a sister for long - too soon she became an instructor, a Captain, all devoted to her many duties. But he had resisted her - out of envy and mischief - until that day he had spent wondering through the library, ignoring the crude parchment scrolls of his own people, instead drawn to the nearly illegible tomes of the Ancients, their pages disintegrating with age. She could not find him here, she could not touch his reasoning, his intellect, like she could his limbs. Throw him down, tongue-lash him, criticise and condemn, aye, she could do these, but there was nothing she could say in argument against peace. These arguments she always lost - and then she stopped trying. She hated to lose and hated more to have her code of honour questioned, her duties doubted.

    So – Teela was sorry. But it was too late for that. Was there anything else? Had those snake-green eyes confessed a love more than that between siblings? Adam was not blind to her admiration for He-Man, but she had almost always been subtle enough to never let him be sure what kind of desires her admiration involved - and certainly, Adam had never felt that Teela had loved him more than a brother. Regardless – she would never see He-Man again, at least, not as a part of himself, Adam. Someone else, surely, could take up the Sword of Power? Someone else should endure all of this.

    No feeling grew in his breast – Adam felt cold and dead, emptied of any care. So - he did not love Teela back - or rather, he no longer could. He was exhausted. The world was drained of all meaning. Adam's consciousness began to falter and fall apart.

    Then, for a short time, a sort of hallucinatory sleep claimed him and his mind drifted in and out of memory...

    Duncan paced the broad, sturdy balcony that overlooked the lush Palace gardens, all filled with carefully cultivated rows of vegitation; bright plants and tall trees, medicinal herbs and exotic fruits. This was one of Adam's favourite views and would whet his appetite for the study of what Duncan called 'botony'.

    Behind Duncan, inside the room, Adam sat with his head in his hands upon a plain chair. Like the chair, the other furnishings were serious and unornamented, but were all built with such quality and care that they were leant a simple beauty while avoiding any austerity. This was Adam's study, where much of his recent thinking had been developed into a sophisticated philosophy. The room had none of the garishness and multiple patterns and colours found in the fashions among the court - instead it reflected his clear, tasteful, and orderly mind.

    While Adam remained unmoved and deflated with sadness, Duncan had been deep in thought for sometime, unable to keep still as if the thoughts themselves demanded some sort of expression. Finally, he stood motionless a while with his arms folded and his chin drawn down - as was his habit - giving him that meditative look that always came before a difficult decision. Then he looked up at the bright purple Eternian sky, only to turn his back on the outside, taking a few strides toward his Prince. Then Duncan spoke softly, knowing well that Adam's feelings were still deeply hurt by what had just happened.

    "I believe that you are interpreting the Ancients too strictly. You are seeing things as you want to see them. This is because you wish to make a strong point."

    Adam looked up blinking, his young face vigourous with intellect and health, all flush with passion. "My translations are accurate. The Codex of Harmony is clear - look at the third verse here: 'refuse the use of weaponry' it says - very clearly! And so I refuse! I don't care how much Teela shouts or my father scowls. He can rage like a drunk for all I care. Theirs is not the same wisdom. The Ancients were the Masters of the Universe - how can we question their teaching?"

    Duncan took a long breath through his nose and then said "But the King is also wise nonetheless." He turned to the Codex and the notes laying neatly upon the pages opened on the broad desk. After a moment he said "Look Adam, this word you translated as 'use' could also be interpreted as 'raise'. If you go with a different translation like 'raise' then you are in a more ambiguous situation... What I mean, Adam, is: what do they mean by 'raise'?"

    "Isn't it obvious?"

    "No, it is not. If it were, my question would be pointless and I would not have asked. If by 'raise' they more specifically mean 'attack', then you are not prohibited from
    defending with a weapon." Duncan paused, allowing his point to take shape in Adam's mind, for the implications to begin to unfold. "My Prince - if you insist that a weapon must never be used at all, then you are indeed counselling the abolishion of all arms. You are teaching that defencelessness is the true way to peace."

    "That it seems to be. Peace has greater power and potential that bloodshed does not."

    "Why then, did the Ancients build so many weapons? Did they build them for war? Or did they build them to defend themselves from aggressors?"

    Adam's eyes dropped away from Duncan's. They looked beyond him, out at the piercing purple sky.

    "I do not expect a response from you yet Adam - only for you to recognise that there are many ways to interpret these texts. Neither of us have a proper grasp of the language of the Golden Age and none of these books and scrolls are complete. Even the memories and knowledge of the Ancients stored in my helmet are not easily accessable or understandable. There is much I still have to learn from my communications with it. Simply putting it on and letting it connect to my brain is no good, just as simply sticking to your own interpetation of this forgotten language is no good either. Learning these things is a process for us both."

    Adam said nothing, but looked back to his mentor and momentarily cast his eye over Duncan's fabled helmet, filled with strange circuitry and connected to Duncan's brain via short, laser-thin needles only seen on the inside. There had been no other find like it amid the treasures recovered from the forgotten dungeons beneath Eternos - a vast labyrinth that Duncan had explored in his youth, many years ago. The find had propelled him into a whole new world of knowledge. After years of experimentation and confusion, Duncan had managed to develop an almost symbiotic relationship with the techno-helm and struggled with the messages and images it sent to his mind. When he was able to understand the helm it lent his already forbiddable intellect a wealth of ancient lore accessible only to him, but allowing him to teach others and to fix and tinker with the techno-relics that were found in the dark beneath Eternos. Thus the Master Technomancer, Man-At-Arms, had been born and the tribe of Eternos had grown in great wealth and power.

    Duncan continued. "If you are willing to doubt your own certainty and accuracy, if you are willing to look beyond the text to other evidence, you might compromise on this matter and allow Teela to teach you how to fight with a warrior's weapons. Remember - the Ancients may only be asking us never to attack, never to aggress. Yet you must still learn the way of the sword if you want to defend yourself. Peace can be naked or armoured. In our times though, not being able to defend yourself, to have to rely on others, will be seen as cowardly."

    "Aye..." Adam murmered. "...If I accept your understanding, I can do everything my father demands. I can still be a warrior - but a warrior for peace alone. My sword can be a shield."

    Duncan allowed himself a brief feeling of satisfaction. He could see that the Prince had been keen to find a compromise, but was terribly torn between his deeply held convictions based on the authority of the Ancients, versus the obligations and commands that were pressed upon him by his nobility. Quietly, he left the room, leaving Adam deep in thought...

    ...leaving Adam alone...


    ***

    Forever alone. Adam awoke, but he was far from refreshed and his thoughts fell back into incoherence as he clung tightly to the seat upon Cat.

    Then he remembered his vision. Grief tore tears from his eyes. Duncan! Can you hear me, shade? I was wrong. There is no Peace, it is a mere word, an idea, and such things need not correspond to anything real at all. That is why they built their weapons, weapons still used to this very day... Ah, my friend, I am glad you are not here to see my failure - it is my only consolation. Aye, if I be wrong and there is Peace it can surely only be found in Death.

    But in response to his thoughts there was only the silence of the wasteland undercover of Night. All around him, everything seemed to loom and glower with menace.

    He looked about blearily upon the moons-lit landscape of rocks curved like talons, a hilly landscape dotted with a geology of jaws and claws, as if the very stone of the world was trying to gouge its way through the soft covering of soil that smothered and tamed it.

    Did rocky world beneath mean to rend apart the life that lived precariously above? Would it open up the cracks of its mineral jaws, sending the animals and plants tumbling into the boiling belly deep down below? Would the rock smash everything down with a shrug of its mountainous shoulders, burying living things beneath mounds of solid rubble? At any time the whole of Eternia might heave, might rebel, and fold, collapse and smash everything that clung so desperately, wretchedly, to the paper-thin surface around him. Adam sensed threat clinging to everything, not just the tooth-like rocks, but everything his troubled eye fell upon - the silent, staring trees, the flattened, finger-like grass, the stillness and tension of nocturnal animals, the screaming bats tumbling overhead.

    Perhaps this life he saw, punctuated by the grasping, cutting rocks, was fading away from the rock-skeleton of the world, washed off by rivers of blood and supernatural storms, revealing the organic twists to the ancient rock below, muddling the sense of things, the inorganic a macabre echo of the organic – or the other way around. The landscape was a jumble where one day, perhaps this day, Teela – and everyone else – would be at one with this crumbling soil and then eventually crushed into the very rock itself.

    Time was forever, and this pain, this failure of his, was nothing at all – mere moments, particles of sand in the wind to be strewn across the blank, rock face of the Universe. The Universe – silent, impregnable, indifferent – was not the Castle the perfect place for its' secrets? Castle Greyskull, at the centre of the Universe itself; timeless, immobile, vast – and he – the only defender of this monumentally significance place. The weight of all things rested so heavily upon his shoulders he was terrified it would soon obliterate him.

    Sleep and dreams claimed him again, then released him. They toyed with him as a cat would a poor mouse, batting him this way into wakefulness, then clawing him that way, back into unconsciousness. All the while the liminal horizon stretched out about him, its own world, while harpies of sensation swooped down to jerk his nerves, twist his guts, or jolt him with a burst of fear and disorientation.

    The fatally smashed machine of Adam's body began to break-down, dragging his spirit into the twisted wreckage. He felt that he must be dying, but there was no lethal wound.

    What strange worlds, what fearful places and insane dimensions have I been sent to, been trapped within? And not just by Skeletor, but by the Sorceress too. Was she not – he shuddered to think – was she not just as bad as Skeletor in her own way? Both of them would do anything for Greyskull's secrets. Anything at all. And I, I will give it all nothing, no, nothing more at all.

    He awoke with a painful jolt, smelling bilious vomit. The liquid dribbled down his tattered and dirty monk's robes. Cat had stopped, and his single remaining eye was turned upon him, questioningly. "Keep going" Adam croaked, then spat, his steed continuing, bounding tirelessly up the jagged hills. Adam fell back into delerium and illness, into memory and nightmare.

    Eternia… A hidden world at the cross-roads of time and space, the perfect location for Greyskull, the Secret Castle. Yet the space-faring Horde located Eternia after centuries of searching, and they launched their invasion fleet.

    At that time Skeletor had taken full advantage and mounted a furious attack against Greyskull. It had been a telling test. While the Horde cut down the people, both young and old, where had He-Man been? When Duncan had called, the United Eternian Armies had been in full retreat and the massacres went on, where had He-Man been? Lost inside Greyskull, searching for Skeletor, and unable to leave even if
    she had allowed it.

    But she had not allowed it! And it had not been the last time innocents had died when the Sorceress had kept him to defend Greyskull instead.


    A distorted face flung itself at his eyes – it was about to scream, it was his father's rage, his mother's shame, it was Teela's contempt and Duncan's sadness – No, it was neither man nor woman, it was the face of distant Greyskull – silent and bleak, towering upon the little precipice it claimed from the Abyss' cliff-side - there all the secrets of the Universe teetered upon the edge of the infinite Abyss, ready to fall into utter oblivion. Above it, the Great Moon was sinking down the sky, as if to land upon the Castle's battlements.

    Fingers brushed his face. No, not fingers, but dead twigs. Blocking the path ahead was a tall tree, cut in twain by a fork of lightening and set ablaze to burn black so that all that remained was a split form, empty of life, and without the shelter of claw-like rocks or thick brush - even its' dark roots were exposed. Adam stared at the black, skeletal plant and then he shuddered. He saw no beauty in it - the tree's stark and solitary placing merely reminded him of his own loneliness and bareness, unprotected by anyone, the fruitlessness of it all - the splitting in two of his life. He and the tree were one and the same - caught on a single path that lead to the jaws of mystery and final destruction.

    "It's not long Cat. We can see it now. It will be over soon." Adam wept quietly, for there were so many reasons to weep now. Still sobbing, Adam rested his head, his chin against his wasted chest.

    The Night drew up it's victim again and forced the black cloak of nightmares down his throat... Adam continued his journey in the solitude of sleep, tormented by the memories of all the evil days he had been witness to... and would be witness to once more.


    ***

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    Next! Next please!!!!

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    War of Attrition: XI - The Battle for Eternos (part 1)

    War of Attrition: XI - The Battle for Eternos


    The Outer Wall did not fall, but rather, was swamped and over-run by the heaving masses of invaders. The outnumbered Guards, despite the solid defensive Outer Wall of the Ancients, could not keep every siege ladder or siege tower away from their barrier. Once solid beach-heads were established, the enemy poured into the City from various points around the Wall, an unstoppable stream of vicious warriors that promised to over-run the mightiest human kingdom of all Eternia.

    The fall of Eternos was at hand.


    ***


    Man-E suddenly found himself amidst a swirling melee of fleeing Guardsmen and victorious enemy – the Outer Wall had fallen and Skeletor's creatures now stormed with abandon into the Grand Courtyard, the streets, the squares. He brought his sword up to fend off a blow, but more and more bodies pressed about him, threatening him on all sides.

    "Tropos!" he called into his radio "Where is Beastman now?"

    The young man's voice crackled back: "Directing a wolf pack through the central market-place. Trying to out-flank our - "

    "Wait! That's not far from where I am." But then he heard the Guards sounding a retreat. As they fell back to the Palace Wall, Man-E would be left behind among enemy ranks. Perhaps getting the radio to Beastman no longer mattered, but Man-E did not know what else to do but flee - and this he would never do.

    Around him, the standards of the Guards were falling from sight, swamped by the streaming invaders who continued to pour over the Outer Wall and into the City to rush towards the Inner Wall, hampered here and there by Guards who had formed a sacrificial rearguard to allow the remainder of their comrades to flee to the Inner Gate and the final barrier between them and the Palace. They were fighting well, carefully directed over radio by Fist and the other leaders, using defenses, like trenches and barricades, which had been well prepared.

    But no amount of strategy and tactics would keep the overwhelming enemy back for long. Man-E was already cut off, having pushed towards the enemy, using his knowledge of the City to take short-cuts through dark back-alleys and over walls, over roof-tops and through the shells of buildings. His sword in one hand and lazer in the other, he continued his careful advance in this way, blasting any who might come too close and cutting into those he surprised. Alone, he could quickly hide from the riotous mobs that surged pasted him, oblivious to the stealthy intruder amongst them, all overly keen with bloodlust to reach their goal. Too soon they thought themselves victorious, and those closest to Man-E were felled by him.

    But it was slow progress towards Beastman's reported position and the strain of combat wore at Man-E's soul. It was not the deaths of the enemy that moved him, but the bodies of his fellow subjects found here and there as he stalked through the City. At the mouth of one alley, too slow to hide, lay a young woman, clothes and flesh torn from her body, reduced to a bloody mess - and beneath her, a tiny hand protruded - was the child alive!? But as Man-E moved the body, he found the babe beneath the woman was untouched, yet still dead, suffocated by the heavy corpse that had laid upon the child protectively. As he moved further behind enemy ranks more horrors of this kind met his eye and sickened his soul. Despite them all, he could not rid himself of the vision of the clean, tiny pink hand reaching from beneath the corpse as if for help - help that never came.

    It had been many, many days without the Sorceress' medicant and he could no longer control the shaking of his limbs. The taste of adrenalin stuck in his throat and mouth and deep inside himself he could not be rid of the monstrous roaring, Skeletor's curse of rage and hate that for years he had struggled to keep at bay... it could no longer be silenced. It was now only a matter of time before he transformed, whether he found Beastman or not.


    ***

    Spout blasted jets of water at the humanoids that scaled up the Palace Wall, sending great waves of bodies spilling back down upon the glittering spikes and blades of the thronging army below. They were fighting on a small front now, the Inner Palace Wall being a smaller, concentric circle to the Outer Gate Wall. The Guards had been over-run and Spout was shocked at how few of them were manning posts as they fell back from the Outer Wall to the Palace Wall. There might be less wall to defend, but now there were so fewer defenders - perhaps they were still no better off.

    Fist was still sounding the retreat across all radio frequencies. "Fall back to the Palace Wall! Send the old and young in to hiding! Leaders - or anyone who is left - stay at the final Wall! Do not leave under any circumstances! If they breach our final defence, there will be only rout and massacre! This is our final stand! Fight to the last - FIGHT TO THE LAST I SAY! FOR THE KING AND FOR GREYSKULL!"

    Spout passed his metallic eyes over the scene - brave Guardsman were still fighting, some with horrible wounds, others with broken weapons, but the numbers of the enemy were much greater. Despite the small gains and victories, Skeletor's warband moved with unstoppable force and direction. Down below, he could see that the enemies' numbers were still so great that some units had begun to fight each other, so as to be the first to storm the Inner Wall. Fist's words had now driven home the truth - here was a fight to the death. There would be no quarter from either side, for Skeletor had never been this close to victory.

    Then a shadow passed over him, blocking the multiple beams of moonslight overhead. Spout looked up to see the saurian shape of a wyvern, ropey and tense with bestial strength, descending upon him. Around his position, siege ladders clanked against the walls and shook as Skelcons, Orcs, Snakemen, Torgs, and barbarians clambered up them. Then just before him, a laser shot seared the battlements - it was Trap-Jaw taking aim. Spout turned his monstrous, metal head, looking about himself at the enemies closing in on him from above, around, and afar. He hefted up his axe and - now that his water was exhausted - attached a heavy spiked ball from his belt to the end of his long metal trunk. Then he silently vowed that his own blood would cost Skeletor dearly as he watched the wyvern draw closer, the fingers curing over the top of the battlements, the sound of another laser-shot....


    ***

  18. #68
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    Woa...Its really about to get thick now.

  19. #69
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    War of Attrition: XI - The Battle for Eternos (part 2)

    Beyond the walls, Orko stared from within a skeletal tree-top. It had been too dangerous to try to fly over and back into the City. He had been trapped outside, abandoned, and now forgotten. Reflecting in his child-like stare was the final scene of the tribe of Eternos – their supremacy was at end. Murder, slavery and torture would be the fate of the survivors.

    Orko did not have magic strong enough to affect the inexorable tide of defeat. Nevertheless he finally resolved to help his friends. I've learned my lesson, he wept, Even the smallest can change the history of the greatest! Having thus reassured himself, he drifted as fast as he could toward the walls, determined to do whatever he could and to give everything he had.


    ***

    Man-E pressed his back against the wall of an empty room. Outside he can hear the melee and felt such despair that he could not fight his way through to Beastman. Where was He-Man now? Adam was gone, he already knew this, and yet he kept asking himself where He-Man was, as if he was still ignorant of the truth - as if wishing would make any difference.

    And Teela was gone too. For a moment, an insane thought flashed through his mind: had she gone after He-Man for reasons beyond what was pressing? Could she be capable of that?

    A series of memories flashed through his consciousness, memories he had mulled over before, memories that threatened his belief in their love for each other.

    "I am He-Man" boomed the goliath as he took a humble bow. "Defender of the Secrets of Castle Greyskull. I am honoured to have fought alongside such worthy warriors."

    King Randor observed the bronzed barbarian carefully, a deep frown upon his forehead. Then he said "Rise, He-Man. We know of the legend that tells of you - but only now do we know it to be true. Eternos thanks you for your service."

    Man-E watched the scene unfold within the throne room as the King and He-Man continued to speak before the Court. He glances at the faces of his battle-wearied comrades, wondering what they make of the giant standing before them. His eyes fall upon the beautiful Teela, who he secretly desires. With surprise and dismay he watches her eyes travel along the muscular body of He-Man and he sees the brief blush of red upon her cheeks.

    She did not lose her composure for long, but Man-E had always had a keen sense of others' feelings. A sickening sense of jealousy tangled up and squeezed his viscera and pounded at his mind. This huge warrior, so obvious skilled in combat, had overshadowed him without even looking at the Captain. All of his anonymous love letters and night-time songs beyond Teela's balcony, all of his unsigned poetry and his delicate fantasies... they were nothing compared to this steely flesh, this gargantuan warrior who fought with the grace of a dancer, the skill of a great master and - so he was told - the mercifulness of a Prince.


    Man-E growled, trying to suppress the intensity of his thoughts. But the explosions and screams outside seemed muffled, the past cast a shadow over his mind as the darkness deep inside him arose, gnashing with wrath, roaring with envy...

    Man-E is watching Teela and He-Man together. He-Man has consented to dual with her, for she is curious about his non-lethal style. But unlike Clamp who wishes to learn, she is skeptical and intends to prove a point. The pair do not see Man-E as they exchange and parry blows. Teela quickly learns that He-Man is so strong she cannot block any blow - instead she must dodge, side-step, leap away. Her defence is her speed and small size, her agility. She has already lost her sword to a shattering blow. She fights with her other hand, a smaller weapon, but He-Man turns it out of her hand, disarming her and then locking her arm behind her. Their bodies are close and unarmoured, skin touching, Teela is panting hard. He-Man holds her firmly, but not painfully. She turns to him, her eyes shining - and she laughs.

    Teela never laughs when she is beaten! When He-Man lets her go, she turns standing as close to him as if he still held her. For a moment, they say nothing, then, all serious again, she steps away, congratulating him.

    This time, though, Man-E has suffered the curse and fought He-Man himself, only to be defeated and saved by the Sorceress after being almost torn in two - the pawn in a magical conflict between her and their new enemy Skeletor. This time, the rage and envy held against He-Man boils up. Fuming, he storms away, seeking a drop of medicant, feeling the Monster shifting restlessly beneath his skin...


    "No!" he yells. "This is insane!" Man-E shakes his head, but his mind is rebelling. What is he doing here? Outside he hears, he feels, the flood of violence. The City! It is over-run. Teela gave him an order - what was it!?

    The radio at his hip crackles: "Man-E! Man-E-Faces come in!"

    For a moment, he stares at the speaker then touches the receiver - he remembers. "Tropos!"

    "I've lost sight of you. You were getting close."

    "I - I can't make it to him! He's on the other side of the plaza and there's no cover, nothing but the enemy."

    "Aye. He's on the move. You don't have time to find another way to him. Man-E! The Captain has given me orders to help you. She has told me - "

    "Blast it! I know what I need to do!" Man-E clicks off the radio, his breath coming hard and ragged. There are no choices left. There will be no glorious death on the battlefield like any other Eternian warrior - his end will come at his own hand, through the failure of his soul.

    "Cursed! I am accursed! Then so it must be!" Confusion crashes down into Manefred's mind. His sensitive heart is stricken with the foul emotion the Monster embodies as it rises up from his diseased soul. His mission becomes tangled in a struggle for personal survival. The past and present collide in a storm of contradiction - he must let the Monster win this time, against himself, against the Robot, for it is the only way to send Skeletor the news that He-Man still lives... but to give in is to be lost, is to die... No glorious death awaits, only a half-life as a bestial creature born of Skeletor's evil...


    ***


    Tri-Klops led his countrymen in a headlong charge towards the Palace walls, leaping over debris and trembling, dying bodies, his massive figure carrying the momentum of a juggernaut. Where-ever he looked, a fatal laser-blast shot away the faces of his victims, scattering their brains to the winds as they lurched back, flailing like miserable, beheaded chickens.

    Running to catch the fleeing Guards ahead of him, he sliced into their backs with his blade, killing more like a butcher than the skilled swordsman he really was. Yet Tri-Klops did not enjoy war as Trap-Jaw did, and normally he approached combat with more caution - but the exhilaration of their victory moved him and now guided his every action. He had become less calculating in leading the assault, and besides, he had lost the vantage point that granted him vision over the army. There could now be little centralized direction – each group would have to force its own way to final victory – a final victory he could virtually taste. This was the day he had fought long and hard for - he felt unstoppable!

    Surrounded by the green cloaks and shaggy loins-cloths of his men, there was little else to differentiate him but his fabled tri-helm. No-one at the Palace Wall were aiming for him in particular, but in the chaos of the pitch battle, an arrow tore it's way through his emerald breastplate and into his heart. Suddenly he lurched forward, his breath snatched away as a wave of pain hurtled through his body. This was no flesh wound, the arrow-head had found a lethal mark. The constant sickening pain was a testament to the sudden, unlucky blow against him.

    Tri Klops quickly fell to his knees – he could not breathe! Somehow, the charging warriors around him missed knocking him over and he was left behind, clutching the arrow that stuck so incongruously from above his muscular abdomen. A single eye stared in disbelief at the missile. There was barely any blood, but it was sunk deep, almost up to the flight. Tri-Klops shuddered as an awful weakness pushed his head towards the floor. He could still barely breathe as blackness hovered around his enhanced vision. His helm switched from eye to eye, clicking as it went, as if Tri-Klops were trying to find some use from his three visors, something that could save him from the death that was rushing towards him. But Tri-Klops had devoted no efforts to healing, nor to life.

    Death rested heavily upon him - patient and intimate. He had fallen on the bloodstained dirt with so many other slain humanoids around him. Tri-Klops had, but for a moment, experienced the victory he had suffered and craved for, for so long for. But now it was stolen from him. As he began to die, rasping for breath, he realised he had fallen before a monument. As he stared up towards it, he tore away his helm, his purloined relic from civilized times. He no longer felt fit to wear it as he gazed up with his own two eyes at the stone face of the raised statue before him. The inscription upon the pedestal read:

    "To the Master himself – may your wisdom and our love for you outlast this stone in which your noble form is cast"

    From that stone face above him, the dead eyes of Man-At-Arms stared back. A terrible fear jarred Tri-Klops and a sudden shame crushed his spirit. Who would care to remember him, Tri-Klops?

    Then he fell forward, into the sudden emptiness of death, and was forever gone from this world.


    ***

  20. #70
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    Down goes the first one! Wao. Im stopping in to check if you keep posting while Im writing the 1st chapter in mine. This just keeps getting better. Kudos.

  21. #71
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    Dude! That's all I gotta say!

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    War of Attrition: XI - The Battle for Eternos (part 3)

    It is too late!

    Around Man-E the tragedy of mortal struggle expresses itself in battle-cries and screams of pain. The clash of arms reverberates against the sickness in his soul, goading it into cruel manifestation. He hears the boom of explosions, the whinnying of warhorses, he hears the tramping of heavy boots, charging mailed bodies, the shrieking of the slaughtered. He sees the little pink hand reaching from beneath the dead body. The tiny fingers move - impossible! He feels the battle running over his skin, through his eyes, his ears, poisoning his willpower with its violence. He lets loose the hatred, envy and anger he daily holds at bay. This Night, it is easy to finally stop struggling and let go...

    Where is He-Man!? Why does he let us die!? Man-E lets out a roar of pain and rage, his jaw cracking, teeth painfully splitting through his bubbling gums, sharp as stiletto blades. His whole body trembles as the transformation takes hold - his muscles bulge with brutal power, his face distends into an inhuman snarl, discolouring green in spreading blotches. His swirling thoughts burn with pain. Where is Teela!? Convulsing, Man-E lets out a robotic whine of denial as he panics in the face of the rapid loss of control – No! Don't let go!. But his body continues to ripple with agonizing spasms as claws tear through the empty sheaths of his human hands. "I cannot control... Sorceress help me!... I must not... No! But I must! Ah-ah-argh! Please! Where is my medicaAANT!?" he roars.

    He can not control the curse alone: he has been abandoned by all whom he needs, having now goaded his own devolution into a psychotic beast, the embodiment of Skeletor's murderous curse upon him.

    A maelstrom of despair and anger pours like seething oil through Man-E's being, clinging to every thought and feeling, searing it in destructive energy, clogging it all into a formless morass. Every resentment and fear, every terrible thought and disappointment, all of the hurt and confusion trapped within Manefred's soul bursts upon him as a tumult - he feels himself battered and crushed under an avalanche of his own psychic sickness, his own weaknesses and flaws. His true self appears worthless, contemptible and low.

    The Monster arises from within his poisoned heart and strangles the pathetic man it finds cowering in the dark, spinning out of control. The massacre outside feeds the foreign creature inside Man-E, giving it power and drawing it out to manifest completely upon Manefred's stolen body. "No! I... I... Am... Man-Ma-Aaah! - AaaahhhgGGGRRR!"

    ****

    It pauses, panting in the gloomy room, the sounds of the battle at once distant and close-by, clamouring around it, through its being like a vibration. The change is complete, there is nothing human left upon this face, nor in this mind - nothing but a single impulse. Bellowing with murderous hatred the Monster storms out of the building, its hideous visage gnashing with loathing, to be welcomed by the rushing throng of Skeletor's army...

    ...While deep inside the nightmare of his mind, Manefred screams with despair, for he is now lost...



    ****


    Fist fired Stridor's shoulder mounted laser-cannons at the heaving mass of the enemy - the furious electronic sound of laser fire momentarily obliterating the frantic voice coming through his ear-piece. He was listening to the situation of a Guard unit who were escorting subjects, mostly elders and children who had not fallen back fast enough, towards his current position. The Palace Gate lay open behind Fist, heavily guarded by a rearguard who held the Gate, preventing any intrusion, while the escort Fist was concerned with slowly made its way towards them, delaying the completion of the retreat behind the Palace Wall.

    Fist roared: "Curse it all! They'll be overwhelmed!" The escort were not moving fast enough to reach the Gate, being constantly hampered by enemy attacks and slowed by the people they were protecting. Fist looked to his units still outside the Palace Wall, fighting the rearguard in loose groups between ruined buildings or in more organised rank-formations in the squares and plazas. They were defending desperately on all sides around them, their backs to the Wall or to each other. They would not be able to hold the Gate open for much longer without risking a breakthrough, and that would doom everyone who were already behind the final Wall. Fist listened to his unit leaders as they co-ordinated the retreat - there was no one to spare, nothing else that could be done to aid the lagging people and their escort.

    But Fist could not order the Gates closed, he could not face such a failure when there was so little left to salvage. His pride called to his heart for sacrifice. He looked again to the thick ranks of Goblins, man-beast hybrids, and humans of all tribes unified beneath the banner of Skeletor. The enemy could not be slowed at this point and he doubted that they could be thrown back either. Within moments, the escort will run out of impetus and be overtaken by the enemy, with no escape.

    Not much time, this final defense before the Gates would be costly - there was only one choice. Before Fist's eyes, the retreat - he felt - was the result of his personal failure. There was no plan left, only an all-or-nothing defensive action, and so his own future began to shrink before his eyes until it reached the tip of his sword point as he brought it to bear, pointing before himself.

    "Stridor! Charge!"

    The massive mechanical beast reared up with a deafening robotic cry and lunched itself forward with a mighty bound of pistons and spinning gears. Long, thick legs thudded, rolling thunder across the flagstones, carrying its tank like body over the chaotic battlefield. Fist roared as he met the first wall of bodies clattering towards the Palace Wall, putting himself between them and the faltering escort. Every drop of blood and sweat shed would now buy time for the Guard escort moving toward the Palace Gate. Fist had resolved to die gloriously. "For the King!" he bellowed, his resounding voice heard clearly over the uproar of battle around him.

    Stridor's charge did not slow as Stridor impacted upon the first rank of men and their hobgoblin and half-Orc brothers racing towards Fist. Great metal hooves cleaved their bodies in twain, shattered heads and chests to pulp with single, explosive blows. They were scattered and smashed, seeming fragile and light as they were flung about, torn and broken, unreal echoes of the enemy who, moments before, were animated in full fury by their battle-charge. Fist continued to fire the laser-cannons as they cut through Skeletor's army, blades skittering over Stridor's shining plate-armoured, or from Fist's full-battle armour. Bodies around him were nothing but litter, cast aside behind Stridor's unstoppable mechanical charge. Fist roared with exhilaration and tasted the blood that had matted his thick beard. His eyes shone with elation and he felt a strange sense of harmony with the machine he rode as he felt the pounding body of Stridor carry him along this long, final path of destruction. Left and right the enemy fled or fell before his crushing charge.

    Stridor stopped as they cut through the ranks to reach an impassable mound of blackened rubble - Fist realised this was where the Temple had stood, earlier this Night. He looked back and saw how deep into the enemy's army he had come. The Palace Wall was far behind, but he heard through his radio the escort clearing the gate, and a panicked voice calling his name. "Close the Gate!" he roared back into his microphone, knowing that his doom was now sealed.

    The path of smashed bodies that had fallen under Stridor's hooves was like a carpet tracing their route from the Gate to this point. Fist saw the path vanishing as the enemy turned, closed ranks, stepped upon the dead, aimed their weapons - all around him. It no longer mattered which way to charge now, any direction would do. He set the laser-cannon to auto, allowing it to fire at whatever came close until it over-heated. Stridor leapt forward, crushing the legs of a hulking Ogre as it lunged ahead. Fist brought his sword to bare, swinging the long, heavy blade around to cut deep across the shoulders of the nearest blue-skinned barbarian. Fist guided Stridor is a slow circle as he cleft the enemy left and right with his blade. As Stridor turned clockwise, the lasers blasted away assailants before Fist, while he hacked at the enemy on his flanks and Stridor covered the rear by bringing up its back legs to deliver brutal kicks, pulverising those unlucky enough to be standing behind. As Fist fought, he felt more and more energised and did not tire - this was his final and glorious stand! The blood and cries and the constant motion, all under threat of sudden death, spurred him into a killing-fury - the future no longer mattered, his own pain, his own life, were now merely the means for maximum destruction. Soon Stridor stood atop a small mound of shattered bodies while more of the enemy were forced to clamber over the fallen.

    No missile had found a weak point in Fist's full battle-armour that covered him from head to toe. But as he raised his sword to deliver another killing blow it was thrust from his hand by a well aimed spear jab. Yet Fist was undeterred and without concern, he gripped Stridor's leather reins, and took to leaning over one side of the bionic-horse, sweeping down at the enemy with his metal gauntlet, splattering their faces open, breaking their spears, ripping apart their bodies with lethal blows, tearing heads from their throats with a well-aimed clout, fighting on and on with berserker energy.

    From the Palace Walls, Fist could be seen far back behind the enemy's front, surrounded by bloodthirsty warriors baying for vengeance and their chance to fell the war-frenzied Acting-Captain, prodding at him with spears and pikes. The heaving bodies of the enemy pressed around Stridor, hampering each other, wild with rage. Fighting alone so far out, and certainly doomed, Fist was an inspiring sight to those who saw his worthy self-sacrifice.

    Finally, a heavy mace struck at Fist's leg, smashing the armour painfully inward. He let out a roar and now, sensing the end was near, he redoubled his efforts. A well-aimed blow with a pikestaff then caught him in the chest, puncturing his breast-plate, stabbing his body. "For Greyskull!" he cried, bringing his fist down hard upon the helmeted crown of yet another of Skeletor's soldiers. "For Eternia!" he roared as his armour was gouged open, his leg bludgeoned again. Stridor slowed, hemmed in by the sheer weight of bodies pressed against its legs, laser-cannons burning hot and empty from all of the firing.

    Stridor's huge legs trampled up and down, the warriors around it beaten and battered by the equine vehicle of war. But where Stridor did not tire nor wince with pain, Fist - though mighty - was still only a man. Awash with sweat and blood, his muscles and eyes bulging, he tried to deny his defeat with every nerve and sinew. Yet he nonetheless succumbed with a final roar, dragged down from the saddle with hooks and pikes by the braying masses around him, held and stabbed and torn apart into a bloodied mess by the crowd, his limbs tossed far over the heads of the amassed warriors, his pulped head stuck atop a primitive spear. Stridor fought on, rider less, thick smoke pouring from its metal nostrils, great dents marking its body, until the warriors around it were able to tangle its legs with ropes and weigh it down with chains to be pulled to the ground and smashed and battered by the heavy clubs of Ogres.


    ***

  23. #73
    Heroic Warrior Saved's Avatar
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    NIIIICE!!!!! Going down in a blaze of glory!

  24. #74
    Heroic Warrior Eternian Poet's Avatar
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    War of Attrition: XI - The Battle for Eternos (part 4)

    ***

    The last of the resistance outside the Palace Walls is vanquished. The enemy now holds the City and crowds the Inner Wall that borders the Palace, the tribe of Eternos' final defence.

    Underneath the Palace in hidden tunnels and dungeons, the old and young, wounded and sick, all tremble and pray. A conclusion to the bloodshed will soon be reached.


    ***


    Tropos watched Man-E below, the man who'd written numerous plays, poems and songs about the tribe of Eternos and their enemies and allies. Man-E's works were so well-known that they were enacted almost every holiday or festival, and the names that he had dubbed the Eternian warriors with had proven so popular that even some of Skeletor's creatures knew their enemies by them. This is how, for example, Duncan had become Man-At-Arms, and how the witch Lyn became known as Evil-Lyn, even to her own allies.

    This poetic and sensitive man, who could move people to tears or to joy with his arts, had burst out of a nearby building and was now running amok, now barely human at all, slaying left and right indiscriminately.

    The Monster scuttled amongst the half-human wretches that Skeletor had pressed into battle. In this guise Man-E moved with inhuman speed and agility – it must have been terrifying for the King and Queen when Man-E's curse had first taken hold years ago, for he had tried to slay them both. Now Tropos saw why Man-E was said to be afraid of this dark-side – the Monster was powerful, fast, and Man-E seemed to delight in that power as he barged his way through the seething ranks of the warband as it overwhelmed the Eternos Guard.

    Did he no longer recall the aim of his transformation?

    High above the war-zone, Tropos' flight had been almost peaceful – he was not an easy target and now that his Greek fire bombs had run out and the catapults had been overrun, he only had his bow, lance, and dirk to attack with – he was no longer seen as an important target. Around him the Autumnal wind was blowing hard and dead leaves, all grey in the Night, were spiraling everywhere across the City, crushed under boots or blown high into the air. Silent thunderclouds raced across the sky above him, consuming the wan light of Night, seemingly intent on blanketing the opposite horizon, where the first faint image of dawn had lain a band of dim colour above the land. A light rain began to shower, slanting across the battleground, weighing down the scattered leaves. Around the struggling humanoids, the men and women, the wind whirred louder and louder.

    The Palace walls were now crawling with vicious insects – Tropos soared downward in a graceful curve – the insects became men, goblinoids, Torgs, and foul teratoids climbing ladders. He descended further still, closer to Man-E, enabling the Monster's route towards Beastman with a few well aimed arrows into the press of bodies that slowed him down. There! The red-devil had turned to Man-E who offered his radio. Beastman took it up and yammered into the microphone. Success!

    But wait! Tropos watched the Monster drop away from Beastman, seemingly uninterested in the outcome. The Monster continued to push through the heaving ranks towards the back of the mob where the wounded and dead lay trampled. Man-E forced a way through and headed directly for the smashed gates. Nothing dared to stop him – and out he fled, away from the defeated City.

    Circling aimlessly, his last arrow spent, Tropos pondered raising up his lance to make a final charge at the mass of invaders below. What remained but to kill as many as he could and die a glorious warrior's death? What else could Tropos do to fling back the enemy?

    Far away towards the faint band of dawn-light, Tropos knew Greyskull lay. At top-speed he would be faster than a heavier, fully-equipped jet-sled or any other vehicle or beast. If He-Man lived and was not fighting here, he could only be at Greyskull, where he was known to have been kept before during a crisis - for defending Greyskull was more important than the fortune of any kingdom. And Fist's final order had made it clear - there was no more strategy, just a fight for survival.

    So once more, Tropos flew away from the City, carrying the diminishing hope that he might be able to convince He-Man to come to their aid, as the final hour of the Eternal City drew to a bloody close.

    ***

    Randor remained seated, staring at the vastness of the empty court-room as the muffled sounds of explosions and the clash of arms reverberated from beyond the Palace. His courtiers had fled, rushing to the dead-end dungeons and catacombs beneath the City, or drawing their weapons to face the final onslaught outside. The King's face hung, grave and despairing, eyes dulled and sunken - it was as if he had aged and then turned to stone. Standing beneath him, pacing below the raised twin thrones was Marlena. Again she turned to him, addressing him with entreaty as if she were no longer a Queen.

    "Sire, you have devoted your life to your people, given them the blood of your very soul. You have not failed at this hour - a man does not fail when he is crushed by an avalanche." But this time her firm voice wavered, previously so steady in reassuring and supporting her husband.

    The momentary change in her tone seemed to be enough to make the King stir and he lowered his gaze, ashamed, as he spoke. "I failed in choosing a path that led beneath an unstable cliff. I cannot be absolved... I should have given the allied tribes ancient weapons, technology..."

    "Nay sire, nay! Each and every representative of every king, queen and petty prince fled once the warhost were sighted. None would have stood by you, so armed or otherwise. Indeed, some have turned traitor - their banners have been seen amidst the enemy! Your were wise to not share the power of our artifacts. It would have made the local wars more bloody, the old feuds more lengthy, and this night they would have been used against us!"

    "Aye... Even Ulthric and Aethelred turned tail... But what alliance was left? When the Horde came, He-Man was not here. Then Faker further destroyed the deep bonds I had created... All those years of fighting - but the deepest wounds never healed. No - I have fooled myself. Skeletor has somehow turned the tribes against us - they once more fight in unity, but not with us..."

    "They are cowards!" Marlena swept up her cloak with a gesture of contempt. "They side with the stronger, not the good!"

    "Aye, and the strongest man in the Universe is gone. He-Man was always the Defender of Greyskull first. I lay no blame upon him. We relied too much on him - I should have learned that when the Horde came. And now the ancient treasures I refused to share are nothing but plunder. Eternos is forsaken!"

    "Nay my King - " the Queen said quietly "we are still here."

    An explosion, louder and closer than any heard yet, shook the room, sending debris from the ceiling as it cracked.

    The Queen wiped away a tear, suddenly shed. "Every man, woman and child becomes a corpse. But the Green Goddess sees to it that life will bloom again upon that flesh. Life goes on." She stepped up towards Randor upon his throne on the dais, taking his cold, calloused hand to look upon him tenderly. "Ah! Even in this hour, I love you!"

    Randors eyes softened. "Please be seated by my side, my wife and Queen."

    Beyond the Court room, a commotion could be heard and then an uproar from the Royal Guard - the enemy were within!

    "Our time has come, Marlena." Randor's voice was even, his eyes firmly set upon the barred great doors before them, that opened upon the Court.

    "Then know this" the Queen said, still holding his hand. "I believe that He-Man did not come today because he is dead. I believe he died when our son did on this night. I have long suspected that they are one and the same."

    Randor turned to look at his wife as the doors before them began to thunder, the Royal Guard pushed back against them. Their screams could be heard as they fell. Randor said nothing, his face was ashen, his mouth flinched.

    The Queen spoke "The magic of Greyskull is the explanation you seek my love. I know nothing more, only what a mother's love and knowing can tell. I do believe it."

    "Ah!" Randor groaned with grief, his arm trembling as he gripped the Queen's hand, his face twisted with agony as thoughts rushed through his mind. "Oh...! You have prepared me well for the blows ahead! I will not feel that pain now, not compared to this!"

    Before them the doors were smashed open and the foul legionnaires of Skeletor entered, roaring and barking their triumph, covered in blood and shielded with black armour.

    Randor stood with a bellow of hate and drew his sword from his side "For Greyskull!" he cried. But Marlena gripped his shoulder "Wait! Die with me at your side!" she drew the cermonial sword she used to dub honoured warriors, taking it carefully in her hand. "They will have to drag us from our thrones!"

    "Dear Queen" Randor breathed as he looked at her, his eyes running rivers of tears "It is my honour and blessing to have had you as my wife."

    Together they turned towards the onrushing mob, their blades held ready, and prepared to die.


    ***

  25. #75
    Heroic Warrior
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    I'm at a loss for words. I can't wait til the next one.

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