War of Attrition XII - Journey to Greyskull, part II
Evil-Lyn's face remained mask-like, death-like, and betrayed no sense of triumph as she watched the walls of Eternos over-run. The warband surged over the Guards, just as the storm clouds moved to further deepen the darkness of the Night sky – black, heavy and portending doom, swallowing up the stars and moons, consuming the last of the light of the worlds that all shone their weak photons here upon this planet, the centre of the Universe.
Darkness had fallen upon the tribe of Eternos. The effect would soon be felt throughout all Eternia.
But what does it matter now!? She spun around from the glassy scrying pool and hurried over to stare out at Greyskull from her Aerie. Lo! She could see the flashing of light and arcs of annihilating energy unleashed by the Lord of Destruction. Again he was attacking the Jawbridge and had still met with no resistance. What did Eternos matter if Skeletor entered Greyskull directly!? A rushing fear pummeled her innards – If Skeletor succeeds, I will be nothing to him. He will not allow me to enter after him, neither via the Jawbridge nor Eternos – if indeed Eternos does guard an underground route to Greyskull! No – his success is imminent, I have to strike at him now, to walk the path he has cleared!
The witch jumped when her long-range radio crackled and a brute voice, distorted by the primitive dimensions of its mouth, bellowed through the speaker. "Arh! Evil-Lyn! Urgent news!"
She snatched up the microphone from her ornate escritoire, knocking over a bottle of ink in her haste. She was surprised to hear the voice, knowing that only a very few short-range radios were available to the warhost for battlefield communications - long-range radios were unheard of - except one known to be available to Eternos City, another tool of Randor's technological power.
"Beastman! You have taken their long-range communication already? Then your news is of final victory?"
The distant voice grunted and slavered from the radio-speaker: "He-Man! He-Man lives! I saw Prince Adam change into He-Man in the woods outside the Ci-" a loud noise masked Beastman's voice for a moment, but it returned, insisting: "-rue, it's true! It just took me a time to take the radio."
For a moment, Evil-Lyn calculated her response and said, "Then where is he!?"
"Arh! I don't know - "
Evil-Lyn paused. He-Man must already be on his way to Greyskull, leaving the City - his own City! - to its fate. "I believe you Beastman! But leave it to me to inform Skeletor. This is a crucial moment in his assault! Concentrate on your own task! Victory is at hand!"
"Aye Evil-Lyn!" The speaker went dead with a click. Evil-Lyn placed the microphone back on the desk, next to the radio. The spreading puddle of spilled ink on the surface clinged to the connecting wire, wetting and staining it with a red colour.
Looking beyond her window again, she beheld the dread Castle once more - only this time, the Jawbridge had gone, and so too, Skeletor. She caught her breath at the sight! Only a bridge of bones and flesh remained, spanning the gap between Greyskull's teeth and the precipice before it. Around the strange, bloody bridge, giant claws formed of magic flashed, emanating from the Castle itself - slowly, these shimmering claws tore away the structure Skeletor had employed to gain entry.
The witch threw back her head, bursting into a vicious laugh, an edge of hysteria heightening the sound. Then she wiped the fearful tears of sweat from her brow. So! Skeletor is using all of his power to assail Greyskull, ignorant that Webstor has failed! And he can remain ignorant! She plucked up her Orb wand. I will be there at the mouth of Greyskull to see He-Man defeat the fiend again. With that thought in mind she turned and fled the room, making haste to the dread Castle.
Behind her the ink began to drip from the edge of her escritoire onto the bear-skin rug beneath it, slowly, drop by drop, like so much wasted blood.
Adam stirred upon his steed as he was carried to Greyskull, slumped deep in the high-back saddle. Despite his pains and the terrors that rage through his shattered mind, he does not yet awaken, but dreams of past agonies...
The mighty Ancient Zodac is gone from the Universe, fallen alongside King Hiss. But the ending of the Triumvirate is in vain, for the Cosmic Enforcer & Watcher of Greyskull failed to also fell the remaining two tyrants...
Prince Adam has awoken to a sickening jolt of pain. It is unclear to him what has caused it, as his blood-clotted eyelids struggle to force themselves open against the brown crust of blood matting them together. Multiple sites of pain and discomfort flare up through-out his body as if his sudden waking has set him aflame with a fire of agony. Through the disorientation and numbness of his twisted limbs he realises he is hanging somehow, suspended from his clamped arms, legs, barely able to move. An involuntary cry escapes his lips - and that breath drifts over to the unliving creature watching him in the shadows.
"Prince Adam..." it whispers with mocking invitation, it's voice grating with a metallic timbre. "I finally have you, too."
Adam winces as he moves his stiffened neck, lifting his head in the direction of the hollow voice. As his eyes adjust to the near-darkness, he makes out rough forms and shapes, outlines, and amongst them - a hulking blackness, crowned and heavily armoured. The very presence of the being is an imposition, something about the creature imbues it with a sense of might, of the capability of sudden, lethal force. The tall, broad shadow exudes malice - despite the darkness, the lack of detail, Adam recognises that the being that has caught him is one of the most foul. The Prince gags in reaction to what he perceives, terror shaking his limbs to the marrow, his heart and guts contracting in horror then pulsating violently, as if in struggle. But he strives to drive down his fear and ignore his many pains, employing all of his mental strength and immense will - and then he remembers how he was caught.
The fiend towering beyond him moves slightly into a patch of red light. Its bulbous, horned forehead glints like metal and beneath the heavy brows are two smoldering red eyes, two windows into a burning hell. A snout cut like a grill squats above a broad, jagged mouth completing the monsterous face of Hordak.
The ruthless leader of the Horde steps closer to the defenceless Prince, bringing one of his powerful arms up towards the young man's face. As he does so, the gloved fingers upon his hand begin to melt and bubble like a thick molten metal, little scales rippling across the liquid-like surface, re-shaping the appendage into the form of several small cutting tools and needles. Adam trembles with tension but closes his eyes to draw on his resolve and fights the nausea weakening his lean, wiry body. He no longer sees Hordak, this demented creature, a seeming composite of bone and metal, a creature that has no heart and no human feeling.
"We have your Roboto too, Prince. Rest assured that your torments to come will not be in vain."
Thus began Adam's tribulation of imprisonment and relentless torture.
It was sometime until Adam learned what Hordak had meant. His torment at the hands of the arch-vampire had almost broken him, but he was to finally understand why he had been taken apart, almost piece by piece, by the time "He-Man" had rescued him. On that day, deep in the inter-dimensional Fright-Zone, his rescuer filled Adam with such confusion and the beginnings of a dangerous question - had his missing sword of Power been taken and then given to another? Was he no longer He-Man?
Adam's rescue had followed Hordak's vanquishment at the hands of Faker and the trecherous Skeletor - who had needed Hordak's help in building the fake robot. Faker's body was a hybrid of Roboto and, coincidentally, Adam's own flesh and blood, taken during Hordak's tortures. The daemon that animated the Faker-machine had been taken by Skeletor and Hordak from Greyskull during the time Adam had been imprisoned and He-Man was no-where to be found. The Sorceress had been so exhausted in her fight to expulse the two that she was never to recover her full strength, having used magics that were forbidden even to her. For a while, unbeknownst to Hordak and Skeletor, Greyskull's defenses were dangerously weak: He-Man had seemingly vanished, Zodac was destroyed, and the Sorceress lay enervated - and perhaps even corrupted.
The daemon had been held captive deep within the Castle, for it was the very embodiment of the negative aspect of He-Man - it was the corruption of the Power, it was the violent, murderous potential of He-Man's might that Adam held in check. Long ago, this anti-He-Man had been separated and sloughed off from He-Man, leaving his essence pure and good, but in doing so creating something foul and monstrous that had remained in the deepest oubliette of Greyskull.
The anti-He-Man had been a great prize for Hordak and Skeletor - though the Sorceress had finally driven them out of the Castle, away from yet more terrible secrets. The machine they built to house this daemon was an excellent complement to it, being mostly made from the remains of the Ancient's relic, Roboto. The resultant creation, Faker, had then been released into the most distant lands of Eternia to blacken the legend surrounding He-Man, to create discord and war while Faker seemed to do good. Soon, Hordak and Skeletor realised that He-Man had not been seen, had not even responded to the threat, and so they moved their pawn Faker closer to Eternos and Greyskull, and there the true test of Faker's power had begun.
Faker proved his righteousness to Eternia by finally driving Hordak and his Horde vanguard from the planet, with the secret and treacherous aid of Skeletor, who closed the portals leading to the Fright-Zone and the Horde Empire beyond Eternia. Faker and his hidden ally Skeletor then carefully destroyed so many of the alliances Randor had worked long and hard to forge, bringing constant inter-tribal warfare back to Eternia, warfare made all the worse by the powerful (and stolen) Horde technologies Skeletor provided to the power-hungry Kings and Queens of the barbaric tribes.
For Adam, there had been no knowledge of this time, not until Faker rescued him, to the acclaim and welcome of King Randor and Eternos. Yet Man-At-Arms and his supporters were outcast for their disbelief, outrage and opposition to Randor's acceptance of Faker, swayed by the successful rescue. Ridding Eternia of Hordak and saving Prince Adam had given Faker access to the very Palace itself, placing the whole of Eternos in jeopardy.
But with Adam rescued and aware of the ruse, the true He-Man had prevented the planned massacre and take-over by Skeletor's forces when Man-At-Arms delivered the missing Power Sword at the final moment. The clash between He-Man and Faker had brought the truth of Faker to light, and the robot transformed, revealing its inner daemonism - only then was He-Man joined by his allies to drive Faker and Skeletor back from victory.
And with that victory, Skeletor's suspicions of Adam were proven correct.
Adam is still dreaming of the hideous torments he endured at Hordak's hands - at the hands of a vampiric creature that fed on blood and the suffering of others, hands that could meld into the equipment of torment, into blades, needles, and teeth. It had been a crucial turning point in his life. Hordak had taken something from him, some strength or resolve, and so Adam had been pushed to asked the questions - Can I endure this? Why must it be me?
Since that time, such questions had been thrust aside, only to return in nightmares.
It is the way of all flesh... Your fate is to be born into panic and pain, thrust from the foetid little world of your mother... A maggot writhing from within the excrement... Yes, all flesh is filth, a transient thing from which mindless molds and feasting rats will live upon. Make no mistake, the maggot and rat are much greater than man - they are older and wiser. They have no need for secrets, no lust for power, they merely await their chance to take what is their due. You think that you are special, but you are a mere automaton, subject to your biochemicals, your instincts, your quivering brains filled with the illusion of self-importance - and of course, to the machinations of your Sorceress. You are a Prince for sure, but for how long? Not long, not long at all when measured against the movement of the rock, the burning of a star... No - your place is brief, insignificant, a momentary pawn in a vast galactic plan. ..
This pain you feel, it reaches down to your depths. You are composed of it and shattered by it at the same time. But it is only nerves and brains - all so much water - a mere chemical. You believe in higher things, yet you do not stop your farmers from beating and slaughtering their beasts. You are to me as those beasts are to them. You have no right to exist except as how I define it. I define it thus -
No Prince, your pleas for mercy are more power-play. But I feel no pity and so you have no power.
Laws and morality, all fine ideas masking the brutal fist of power. You think your histories have ever been shaped by anything greater than force? If only you could see the worlds held under my yoke. The endless columns of marching troops. The death camps. The war factories. The torture chambers. All evidence of my victory, and so it must never end for my triumph to continue. Your screams join theirs - it is the only sound that rings true. Words lie.
Does the predator pity its prey? Pity - another human contraption made to make you obey. You couldn't all go around indulging your every impulse as you truly desire - unless you are King or a god - beings you all worship. You worship power, prostrate yourself before it, hoping to be granted its gains and boons. Then worship me, oh pathetic creature, for there is none greater than I, Hordak.
The Prince had been healed, cared for, but his mind had been more deeply scarred than his ravaged body. Even though the disfiguring and debilitating scars all over his body had been blurred away by lengthy healing magics, no-one had been able to truly reach Adam's shattered soul. Hordak had opened a lethal wound that would ultimately led to this Night of questions, of doubts - and his secret forever cut him off from others.
Adam then had to face a world that mistrusted his heroic identity and so soon after, Duncan was killed. His descent into the darkness of this Night had begun in earnest in those black days. Now, his whole existence was now nothing but the faint pulse of misery, the culmination of years of horrors - he was alive, yet damned.
Before his closed eyes, Castle Greyskull loomed.
Last edited by Eternian Poet; May 25, 2011 at 09:58am.
Please post the next installment!!!!! This keeps getting more interesting!!!!
A sense of panic, jaws, hot-breath, a rough rubbing across his nose and mouth - suffocation...!
But it was only the Battle Cat licking at his face. He'd fallen from the saddle – had he lain unconscious? For how long!?
"No!" he murmured angrily to himself, "make haste Cat!" He crawled back into his saddle and took off his belt to lash it around his arm and through a leather-strap that bound the saddle to Cat. This precaution should prevent him falling from the saddle again. His steed ran once more towards the hulking Castle, now not far away, squatting like some half-rotten corpse upon the edge of a fathomless grave.
Of course the Sorceress is right. I cannot blame her, stern and otherworldly though she may be, for any of my suffering – for I was the defender of Castle Greyskull, and only of Eternia by association. I've always known that she would let everyone in the whole world die if it meant that Greyskull would remain secure... But at what point would I ever say no to this? Could I? I have never disobeyed her – is it even possible?
Will she now turn me away?
"Please," he pleaded to her, his eyes closed, his mouth barely moving, "please heed my call. Have I ever asked for anything from you?"
Adam sank into a saddle designed for a colossus. He felt like a child sitting in his father's throne. The belt bound him to his destination, though a few times he had struggled against it in his half-sleep, thinking it a snake or a snare. Almost dreamily, Adam's pains drifted away, distant and numb, and the cold no longer made him shiver. His mind fell into memory again, of the childhood stories he was told - his suken eyes flicker as the visions the old stories evoked drift through his mind...
There was a time when fathers protected their children… A time before the City became more important than familial love. So I was never willing to defend it? Aye, it was never ours to take. Truly I remember the stories of our ancestors, fathers of fathers, leading our sorry tribe over desolate plains. Divine inspiration or human fumblings? In any case my people were lucky that bygone day they found the ruins of Eternos. But unlike other ruins, Eternos was mostly whole, so solidly built, so fortified and tough were the materials of its make. The Ancients built it, like they did all of our scavenged and misunderstood wealth of technology. And we took it, defended it jealously, and studied the spoils of science and engineering while the farmers built their huts of wattle and daub.
We are no great people – we merely took for our own a great place.
From there we conquered and reigned supreme. The other tribes were forced into alliances to bring peace and trade to the scattered kingdoms. The tribe of Eternos tried to be just, but we are only human. Perhaps we did better than others might. But we remained selfish with our gifts and even now my father struggles to maintain his hold over our antique machines, our technoccult knowledge, our stolen "inheritance". He does not admit that this inheritance is not "ours", but for all. The Ancients did not become enlightened by manipulating others. Is this all truly a curse on my tribe?
A sudden blast of wind almost choked Adam – his leaden eyes opened to dusty air and he coughed violently for a few moments. The Great Abyss lay ahead, and upon a disconnected shelf of rock, Castle Greyskull stood astride the fathomless pit, staring straight at any who dared walk beneath the crumbling, boney arch-ways that defined the approach.
It stared at Adam, the skull-face facade deepened & obscured by the blackness of the Night. His confusion and fatigue fled his mind. Now that he was here at the threshold, a desperate energy galvanised him, the hallucinations and flashbacks ceased to plague him. Inside were his answers - and release.
...Beyond the skull-facade were gigantic walls thicker than any defensive wall found in the whole world. The stone was a deep, dark green that appeared black in the Night. Though each massive stone looked worn with age, the blocks themselves seem to have been carved and laid-down by giants, the whole edifice having the appearance of familiarity, but on an alien scale that would be impossible for mere humans to construct. The massive stones of the battlements above the walls had the same quality - and though etched in cracks and pitted with blows, each stone had an aura of indestructibility, of solidity and reality which were so imposing that you almost felt crushed by them if you approached too close, as if they took up your own space.
The Castle itself was an imposition, an intrusion, for it was a powerfully magical barrier - reality flowed around it just as running water would around a stolid rock. The Castle was a bedrock, it was fundamental, and like bone beneath skin it distorted whatever lay around it, shaping it and pushing it away. Adam had wondered if the Castle ever fell, whether the fragile Universe around it would just crumple into the gaping hole it would leave, and drain away into empty eternity.
Further behind the cyclopean walls and imposing turrets, the Castle warped into an organic shape, its walls shaped like ribs, its battlements joining to form a spine - at the back of the Castle the whole structure suddenly seemed to plunge into the ground as if it were frozen solid while being born from out of a subterranean world of volcanic rock and burning blackness, a faceless thing that served as a vault for the most precious & awesome mysteries of the Universe.
Adam shuddered - every inch of Greyskull was a threat, a hulking slab of stone that warned away every living thing. Nothing grew nearby, no birds roosted therein, no animal looked upon it. But he had to go inside. The only way across the bottomless moat around the Castle was the Jawbridge. In the darkness and the rain, Adam could not see the Castle clearly. Darkness pooled within the mouth and eyes of Greyskull.
Cat stood with Adam on the Abyss-edge as Adam pondered the deaths-head faηade of the Castle, heedless of the wet and cold rain.
What is the power of Greyskull? Do I truly remain myself, only augmented by the magic, or am I actually possessed by some force that is not and could never be me, that drives my puppeteered body to the fight? An answer stirred in Adam's memory – Had not the Sorceress told me that Skeletor had entered Greyskull and stolen one of its secrets, before she had given me the Sword, before anyone in Eternia really knew of Skeletor or He-Man – before Greyskull could be properly defended? Aye, Skeletor had taken a secret in the shape of another Sword, and it had changed him too, so the Sorceress said. Was the villain also possessed of some force from the Castle, some force that might be related to the power of He-Man?
Questions, so many questions he had never dared to ask before, questions that lead to the secrets he should not know, only defend. Would she grant him the answers he ached for? Would she release him from the torments of this life? Was he ever destined to know and be free, or be bound to an ignorance she called secrecy?
Cat growled and tossed his head, brown with matted blood, while Adam unbound himself from the saddle, but remained seated. The sight of the dread Castle invigourated him. "There is not much further to go Cat. You will have your rest too." He muttered, pulling himself up and drawing his Sword to open the Jawbridge.
Inside I will have my answers. The Sorceress owes me that much, surely. I have endured for so long, but now, as my soul admits itself spent, I come to return what was given to me, but does not belong to me.
But Cat growled again, his head held aloft. "Adam!" The sudden voice from above snapped him out of his thoughts and he looked up to see an Avion warrior descending from the stormy sky that hung pendulously above. "Prince Adam! I am Tropos, a friend! My eyes are amazed that you still live - and that you ride Battle Cat!"
"It is not common knowledge." Adam murdered in response, wondering why he had been arrested at this point, on the very threshold of release. Then louder and impatiently he snapped, "Why are you here!?"
But Tropos had already begun to speak as his feet touched the ground: "Is He-Man here? Do you know why he does not come to defend Eternos & the King?"
"He is here. But he does not come for he is unworthy!"
Tropos took a step back in surprise. "Sire! I am no villain - I come here seeking his aid - "
"I am no Prince, and no hero."
"I fail to understand you. But there is no time! The fall of Eternos is at hand! The Outer Wall is over-run, Skeletor has sent the greatest battle-host we have ever seen! This night, he seems confident of success. Already his army climbs the Palace Wall. Your people will be massacred and the survivors used for sport and slavery. So tell me, please! - where is He-Man!?"
For a moment, Adam paused while he imagined what Tropos had said. "Eternos is invaded - over-run?"
"Aye! It is the last hour of your tribe, your kingdom! Does the Sorceress detain He-Man? Is there no hope?"
Adam turned to look behind himself for the first time. The storm had raced overhead and nothing could be seen of the City in this darkness, now deeper than the Night.
"Why do you hesitate!?" Tropos yelled above the rising wind. "Do you know the answer to my question!?"
Adam stared up at the raining clouds, a sense of desolation sweeping his soul. At this final moment of submission he had been called back by the ultimate cry for help. He must fight one more time - he could not abandon his people to their doom, in spite of everything - he needn't even be hear, for the Sorceress had not called him, had remained utterly silent...
"I am fated to keep fighting", he murmured, and realised he still held the Sword, having been ready to call the Jawbridge open.
Adam sat upon Cat before the glowering Castle as the wind howled up from the chasm below, tearing at his clothes and freezing his numb body. He turned to Tropos, summoning the will to hold his Sword aloft, to show this man that there was hope, to use the last of his strength to save the King and his subjects - his own people, his friends and family. In his heart he had almost abandoned them, but now they were at the jaws of death he found the strength and wish to save them - He-Man must return!
He stared at the Castle and opened his mouth to speak the magic words, but as he did so, sudden lightening flashed overhead, illumining the dark entrance of Greyskull - revealing to him that the Jawbridge was gone!
As the thunder pounded above their heads, Adam understood in that moment what had happened this Night: Skeletor, believing him dead, had amassed all of his strength and gambled that one mighty push would finally crush the enervated Eternos City, while in the meantime he concentrated every energy on entering the defenceless Castle. Was the Sorceress also his victim? She was as absent as the Jawbridge - and now the dread Castle lay open to any invader - and now Skeletor was therein!
The choice was no longer whether he should turn his back on his own final quest so as to save his kingdom and home - the choice was now between his home and the mystic treasures of the Universe itself. So, it was no choice at all! - even if he could save Eternos, everything else would be forfeit, and his victory short-lived. Today not only would he be a sacrifice, so too the greatest of Eternian tribes and everyone he loved - for it was Greyskull he must always defend - and it was Greyskull for which he tribe now died with each passing moment.
With a roar of agony, Adam dug his heels into Cat's sides. The great beast leapt across the Abyss and into Greyskull, leaving Tropos behind.
Last edited by Eternian Poet; May 26, 2011 at 11:43am.
Nice development of the story.
Chapter XIII - Master of the Universe
"Get me the combat drugs!" Stratos roared for the umpteenth time, grabbing at a passing medic, his frustration at being incapacitated during the battle reaching a point of fury.
"Here it is, here it is!" came the fearful response as another medic rushed to the side of the injured warrior. All around them was bedlam, shouts and clattering, as the infirmary was cleared of screaming wounded while the smoke grew thicker from beyond and the fires came closer. Injured warriors were being carried, some even dragged, out of the area and down towards the dead-end tunnels where the subjects of Eternos had taken flight. There they cowered, praying to their deaf gods.
Stratos held out his shaking, muscular arm as the medic parted the thick hair upon it to jab in the needle. "You know these are dangerous" the medic cried, but Stratos snatched away his thick limb impatiently. "Look around you man!" he bellowed. "We're dying! What does it matter!?"
"Your blood transfusion, it's - "
"Run you fool!" Stratos shoved the stammering man towards the back of the room where a couple of orderlies were still struggling to move a badly wounded man out of his cot. Stratos' head swam momentarily as he stood, but he could already feel the stimulant effects of Duncan's experimental combat drugs as his jaw began to tighten with tension and the muscles over his body twitched and bulged. Frantic energy coursed through him and, having had his wish as an Avion warrior respected, his wings and other weapons had not been removed from him - he was ready for the fight.
Protected by his goggles, his eyes could stand to look through the thickening, acrid smoke to see the dark shadows yelling their war-cries. A moment later, enemy warriors burst screaming into the infirmary and Stratos took flight a half-foot from the ground. He sped vertically towards the enemy with an offensive posture, his pointed teeth bared and grinding, a throaty cry like a bark bursting from him as he moved at speed. Just before he reached the first warrior he suddenly spun around, still hovering in the air, and - with a shot of speed from his flight-pack - brought about a heavy round-house kick at the head of the blue-skinned savage before him, only to be followed by a sudden, brutal stomp as Stratos landed at high speed upon the savage's back as he fell prone. He sprang off his vanquished opponant, taking into the air again by a half-foot, biceps rolling as he brought his arms up for more fighting, waiting for his next opponent to come charging in from outside, where the smoke was pouring. Behind him, the rushed evacuation continued while Stratos ground his teeth in disgust and his hair stood on end, making him appear all the more larger - Skeletor's allies had no honour, no code, and were willing to put the wounded and the young and old to the sword and flame.
Like any Avion warrior, Stratos' martial-art was aided by his flight-pack, while his feet were covered by a fine mesh of armour, like cesti, all studded with little hooks. These helped a warrior to find a grip upon landing on difficult or precarious ground, but they also doubled as a cutting weapon.
Southern barbarians bulldozed their way in, their crude weapons carried high, white teeth flashing in contrast with their black skin. Stratos moved with deadly control and accuracy through the air, each flurry of attacks he unleashed perfectly timed with the control of his hovering flight, smashing them down as they charged in; crushing a throat with a foot-blow, eviscerating another with a deep, long, slash from his dirk, picking another up with a sudden, surprise move, and breaking his back across his knees, falling briefly downwards at high-speed.
Another warrior, a bulky teratoid with the face of a deformed pig, thought herself ready for Stratos and brought her sword around at him with a broad sweep. But hovering in the air, Stratos was much faster and his flight-pack let out a brief shriek as Stratos turned up the power to dodge the blow, his whole body flung outward beyond the sword point and then shooting back towards his enemy. Before the warrior had recovered from the swing, Stratos had already plunged his dirk deep into her neck, spraying a high arc of blood as he yanked it out and ducked, spinning around like a hovering ball of muscle, only to fling out his limbs again at more warriors who had entered around him - his flight-control fist, covered with a small knuckle-duster, smacked on the back of a neck, cracking vertebrae. His mailed foot swept about to catch another assailant across the nose, tearing it off with a sickening snap and an explosion of bright red blood. Stratos screamed a chilling call - in his mind he felt himself to be the Great Bird of Prey - an unstoppable legend of scintillating claws and murderous, blade-like beak.
The Lord of Avion fought on tirelessly, frenzied despite his serious injury and the thickening smoke, on wings of fury. He never touched the ground, distaining the need to connect to the lesser world of earth and soil, using his greater height and speed to lethal advantage, chopping and beating with his armoured fist and feet, slashing with his ornamented dirk. Mostly he dealt painful and debilitating blows, knowing that there was little need to slay the crowd of enemy streaming in, instead fighting a rearguard action to give the wounded behind him time to flee deep into the underground, as the injured piled around him, creating a further obstacle to the enemy.
But Stratos also sought revenge, and he sought honour - his defeat at the hands of Webstor would likely have humiliating consequences back in Avion, should he live to see his city again. Once more he attacked, flying at a large Ogre that stumbled in, his powerful leg held rigid to deliver a flying kick at jet-speed, shattering the head of the creature so that bone fragments shrapnalled outward with such force they embedded themselves in the surrounding wood. By now Stratos' bristling fur was drenched in blood, but he showed no signs of relenting. Instead he roared, bestial and enraged, instinctively knowing he was witness to final defeat, aware that he now had to flee the smoke-choked infirmary.
Stratos could no longer breathe well enough to keep fighting with such energy and power. He suddenly set himself into flight position and shot out of the building, a blur. Then, climbing so steeply that his weakened body protested with shaking and a dizzy spell from the g-force, he was momentarily in a position to see exactly what was happening beyond the burning complex of buildings he had escaped.
High in the sky, above the seething warground, Stratos was witness to a City aflame & brought under the crushing heel of Skeletor - the Outer & Inner Walls were over-run, he did not recognise any friendly banner - though perhaps he could make out a desperate last-stand on the battlements of the central towers of the Palace.
He stared at the burning, heaving, scene of defeat with disbelief as the storm rain lashed down upon him. The heavy waters soaked his blood-drenched fur, carrying a steady stream of blood-reddened water down towards the distant ground, a scarlet ribbon from his lone figure, hanging as if from the gallows, an empty shadow in the blackened sky.
Last edited by Eternian Poet; May 26, 2011 at 01:15pm.
I always though the Avion people were not too distant cousins of the Beast-Men. Too many similarities.
Oh yeah, the Avionians always struck me as bestial! Plus, if you've got a hi-tech jet-pack strapped to you, how can you not combine that with your animal might & fighting skills? I see these people as zipping all over the place & never going toe-to-toe on the low-down, dirty soil!
Beastman, however, I don't see as a member of a wider "race" but a lackey of Skeletor who is possessed by the daemon of the Wild as a result of Skeletor's magics. That doesn't mean I don't think there are races of hybrid beast-men on Eternia though - just that Beastman himself is unique.
Marlena was a warrior Queen, born to a tribe of barbarian warlords and married to Randor as part of a diplomatic agreement to ally her tribe with Eternos. Like her husband, she knew how to fight and kill. Yet her true sphere of power was the life of Eternos City, its art and culture, industry & trade, domestic affairs and, most importantly, it's seasonal fertility rituals. The deaths dealt for the City, as in war and criminal punishment, were Randor's proper domain, along with diplomacy. But she had not often been involved in true battlefield combat, and now as the enemy rushed toward her, she cursed her arrogance, her belief that it would never come to this - that their rule could prevent the bloodshed and slaughters that defined the history of the Eternian tribes of humanoids.
But before the enemy reached the foot of their throne-dais, an awesome crash shattered through the wall to her right, beyond Randor at her side. Through the billowing dust, a heavy, broad figure charged ahead of a group of cloaked Royal Guard. Marlena's heart leapt, their elite corp had not been so easily beaten!
At the head of the charge, having smashed a hole through the wall, was Ram-Man. He carried forward his momentum on Ancient robotic legs, a juggernaut of thick, heavy muscle and cybernetic implants, crushing the enemy, smashing them aside with his helmeted head and armoured shoulders that flashed with destructive energies. Around him, the Royal Guard protected his flanks. Ram-Man fought as he had since the days he was an amnesiac freelancer who took tolls on the trade-routes from all he defeated - he gave no inch, no respite, blugeoning his enemy with unstoppable inhuman strength.
Then he stopped before he mowed his way too far into the enemy ranks, drawing his broad body to its full height, then hefting up to his shoulder one of Randor's Ancient treasures - a multi-laser. No sooner had Ram-Man pointed the weapon, did it burst into lethal life, multiple lines of energy erupting from the barrels, the beams slicing through the onrushing warriors of Skeletor, cutting them down by the dozen as he swept it through the crowd in a wide arc and reducing the victorious crowd into a paniced mob fighting each other to get away, even as the laser beams cut them to pieces.
Randor had grasped her and they fled towards the hole in the wall behind Ram-Man and his flanking Guard. One of the Royal Guards waved them on, but the look in his eye did not lend Marlena reassurance. Beyond the dust, the broad corridor shook with the clamour of war from outside. "Highnesses! This way!" cried another Royal Guard further ahead, waving them towards her. Randor threw a glance at Marlena as they fled and she saw his face burning with shame. Randor had always hated to run, to back down from a mortal struggle, and today he had been forced to flee more than once, allowing death to catch at his heels.
It had been Teela and Fist who had led the Guard Command, not Randor, for he had recently agreed that because of his influence over the tribes, he should not risk his life on the battle-field. If he were killed, the new but tenous and unstable alliances he had brokered over the years since Faker's wars, would fail. The old warrior had become a symbolic figurehead of new Eternian unity, which necessitiated his removal from the danger of battle. Now that more than only his own tribe depended upon him, he had agreed to rise above warfare. But Marlena knew that for Randor, the only true test and validation of his leadership was found there, outside and below them, on the bloody warground. To him, his skills as a negotiator and peace-maker were ephemeral - for he defined peace as the pauses between war. Unlike her, Randor had never believed that the unity of the tribes against Skeletor, or against each other, could exist for very long - it never had, even under his father Miro during the Great Unrest. This night she saw that he had been right - and worse, they had even been betrayed by some of those they thought allies.
Though they had been confined by the rush of events to the well fortified Throne Room, they now had opportunity to escape - if the King and Queen of Eternos lived, then there would be greater support to take back the City. Not far from here was the landing pad where the Wind-Raider was commonly left - surely the Ancients who had built the City intentionally created such a convenient escape route from the Throne Room to the skies? However, that old machine was still not fully combat-operational, not since Duncan's death which had left so much unfinished, and so Marlena wondered why they were running up the steep, spiralling stairs towards what was a dead-end - a launch pad to no-where.
The truth soon became clear as they entered the small hanger. Gathered around the delapidated winder-raider, under a wan beam of lantern-light, was a small swarm of Insect-People. Their leader, a one-time traitor, presented himself.
"Buzov!" Randor exclaimed, throwing an arm protectively before Marlena as they stumbled to a surprise halt.
"King Randor and Queen Marlena!" Buzov trilled, his inhuman face impossible to read, defined as it was by plates of exoskeleton and lipless mandibles "We come as allies in your most desperate hour. There is no time for reassurances - please - you must hurry so that we can get-away. If Eternos is to survive, then so must you and your powerful treasures!"
The Royal Guardsman leading them had stepped aside, but without invitation, she offered her own thoughts. "Highnesses! They came at this final hour, offering to escort you beyond the carnage you see and on to safety. We bade them welcome, having no other means to ensure your flight and survival. Mekanek sighted them first and arranged to have everything we could gathered from the vaults, armory, and the lab to ensure as few Ancient artifacts fell into the enemies hands as possible. They are now stowed here on the Winder-Raider, which is flight-ready."
Randor addressed Buzov directly: "How could I dare to accept an offer from one whose loyalties are still questionable?"
Buzov's multifaceted eyes glittered as he inclined his head with a twitch. "You have but to say the word and we will leave you to your fate. Otherwise, our Great Queen has offered you asylum. As you can see, none of my forces have partaken in this invasion. My people will not benefit from the new order - we made the mistake of trying to remain neutral. Come with us, bring your wealth and reputation, give your kingdom a chance to be reborn!"
Marlena turned to Randor. "It is one last gamble. What choice do we have? Let us take flight and let not the fallen die in vain."
Randor paused but for a moment, then held his wife's hand as they stepped up to flee, in the company of traitors.
EP...you are just full of suprises.. = )
Battle Cat's heavy, iron-clawed paws echoed around the gloomy tunnels inside the baleful walls of Castle Greyskull. The great beast panted underneath Adam - Cat had travelled as fast as he was able to Greyskull, taking no rest nor water. Now that he was in the cool semi-darkness within the Castle, this solid slab of feline muscle seemed more at ease, as his affinity with this sacred and terrible structure had revived him a little - unlike Adam, Cat had no troubled thoughts, existing only to serve the commands of his master.
What was it, then, that caused the great green tiger to pause for a moment, eye flashing in the gloom, to inspect a crude metalwork embossment of a powerfully built man, naked but for a loin-cloth and square-cross talisman around his neck, standing astride a slain dragon? The dragon was so vast it formed the border of the embossment and stretched out to the horizon it depicted, while behind the warrior, a mortally wounded sabre-tooth tiger, lay writhing behind him, almost as an after-thought.
Adam did not notice the pause, instead he was focusing intently ahead, willing the Castle to allow him straight and true passage. But he suspected that, without the guidance of the Sorceress, he might be lead into a trap, or assailed by a group of Sentinels. The Castle had never been his home, only rarely a place in which he was allowed to enter, and even then, he had a sense that it was somehow trying to force him out, feeling a strain on his mind and body that weighed heavily upon him, dense and cold, once he had passed beyond the gothic, wrought-iron portcullis set behind the Jawbridge - a portcullis now destroyed. Anyone entering Greyskull experienced this dread, pressing weight - it was as if the secrets contain herein were so vast and profound in scope that they strained at the walls and barriers that bound them herein and promised to crush any who dared to tread so close. This whole vast edifice was an ominous threat, a heavy and ponderous place where nothing could be comfortable or predictable, not even to He-Man, the Defender of the Secrets, who roamed abroad and beyond, unlike the Guardian Sorceress, who was confined inside forever, only able to leave in the vastly weaker incarnation of Zoar.
The looming passageways that Adam passed through flickered in and out of the darkness according to the whim of burning torches, revealing an interior that was simple and ascetic, the blankness of the walls were reminiscent of a vast, empty desert or the far reaches of deep space. The few decorations that adorned the columns holding up the high, dark ceilings and the buttresses against the walls were primitive some of them repeated the ancient symbol of the Four Elements and Four Forces a square cross overlaid with another square cross inside of the first, of the kind that adorned He-Man's breast-plate. Other, more complex designs twisted and turned in serpentine mazes or circled around to join completely these represented infinity and re-birth, destruction and creation - the twin aspects of reality, a timeless cycle that had been suspended by the petrification of Ouroboros-Serpantos around Snake Mountain.
Adam spurred Cat towards the Sorceress' chambers, passing a number of exquisitely carved caryatids on either side of him. Each of these female figures were melded with a different animal and each one took a part in holding up a vast stone bas-relief, in-laid with precious metals and stones, all set in the high ceiling and lighted by ensconced lanterns, joined with smoking theribals on long, creaking chains. The bas-relief above Adam depicted Eternia in the centre and the wider Universe, in symbolic forms. Each caryatid he knew to be the image of each successive Sorceress throughout the ages here was a statuesque woman wearing a wolfs-head and baring canine fangs, there, a bigger woman bore the winter horns of a reindeer, the last spread her eagle's wings from a slender, bird-like body this was his Sorceress. Beside her, as always, was the empty pedestal that implied a successor. It then struck Adam that there were no further pedestals - was this not something he had questioned before? No, it was not - the Sorceress had always encouraged him not to ask questions, to trust her - and so he had. Were the questions beating in his brain the sign that this trust was over?
The image hanging above him spurred Adam on. "Faster Cat!" he whispered, yet his voice still echoed loudly, intrusively, down the chambers that led away from him. Barely perceptible, there was an response of sorts, a distant rumbling that came from far below in the deepest catacombs, more ancient than the Castle itself. But Adam did not pause to realise it instead he hurried on, deeper into the tenebrific fortress. Waste no time. Hurry! If she still lives, she will be waiting for me, as always, in the Throne Room. She will know I am here. She must answer me. Perhaps she holds Skeletor back from her door!? If so, then now is the time to end this long war!
Having finally arrived at the Castle, the urgent desire to plead with the Sorceress to release him of his oath had been conjoined with the desire to finally vanquish Skeletor, and thus make his life as He-Man no longer necessary - why else should she keep him if their nemesis was gone?
But fear was driven into the gut of his stomach, squeezing his heart, and now, where-ever he looked, the daemonic architecture of the Castle hung over him hungrily, imposing and vast. Alien designs now covered the archways, complex and ornamental, leaving no space bare, a pattern of inchoate shapes and forms, hypnotic and disorienting he had been led, somehow, down an unfamiliar route, covered in strange sigils that seemed to buzz and writhe with hidden life. How could this be? Did Skeletor already command the Castle?
"Sorceress!" He should have been at the Throne Room by now. "Sorceress! I am lost!"
His last word echoed with preternatural speed and increasing, ear-blasting volume "Lossst. Lossst! Lossst!!! LOSSST!!!" Adam clutched at his head, crying out against the blaring voice, Battle Cat writhed and yowled, shaking his head. Then in the sudden silence, his ears ringing, Adam felt sickened by a horrible sense of despair. He had reached his destination, willing to give up the Sword but the Castle was thwarting him in fact, the Castle was accusing him of losing his way!
"I am not lost!" he cried into the dark tunnel ahead of him. "I, Adam, am here - here to defeat the fiend and put an end to this struggle, so that I can finally give back what can no longer be mine!"
"Be mine, be mine, BE MINE" the Castle roared back. But this time a faint light winked on at the end of the tunnel before Adam. He was unsure whether this was a concession or a trap. Nevertheless, with little other choice, he took up the Sword and spurred Cat towards the light, to find himself suddenly entering his destination: the Throne Room, the seat of power - alight with a huge candelabrum that hung from a high, dark ceiling.
He looked about himself the throne high upon the steps before him was empty the Sorceress was not here! But neither was Skeletor.
Adam began to shake uncontrollably, overcome with emotion, and cried out pitifully in frustration and despair. "Sorceress! Sorceress, where are you!?" This time, there was no reply, no echo no sound at all but Battle Cat's panting. He dismounted, stumbling around as he called down the corridors that lead from the great chamber. "Sorceress!" Finally, his voice broke and exhaustion pushed him to his knees. "Sorceress please! Sorceress, come, I beg of you! The Castle is breached! I am here to defend - and to understand!" He clutched at his heart, beating fast and painfully against his thin chest. His breath came in gasps as he waited for an answer...
But there was only the heavy stone, and the silence.
Teela flew high over the rocky, pitted landscape that surrounded Castle Greyskull. As she had flown from Eternos, the radio communications she had been listening to faded out and her worry grew - there had been no good news, indeed, the last that she heard was Fist's command to retreat to the Inner Wall. Top-speed was not fast enough for her, a terrible fear was driven deep down her throat and she felt an awful prescience boding defeat. Flying alone with nothing to do but watch the skies was a torment, for she feared powerlessness and by now an oppressive sense of futility threatened to drain her energies.
Beneath her was difficult ground, impossible for any army to march in speedy and orderly fashion towards Greyskull. Upon the clawing, grasping, rocks and gaping cravasses, few plants survived and those that did were tough and thorny. Closer to Greyskull, she knew that nothing grew at all...
Now she could see signs that Greyskull was very near - the cratered landscape was dominated by huge black megaliths, carved with strange animistic symbols that represented faces, animals, life and death, and other natural forces, hewn from volcanic rock and dragged here from hundreds of miles away. Teela had seen them before upon approaching Greyskull and she did not look to them again this time. Instead, in the silence of her flight, her short-range radio no longer picking up communications, an old memory came to mind.
"Do you trust him Man-At-Arms?" Manefred's handsome face is furrowed with concern. The arrival of the legendary He-Man has caused a great stir at Court. "I mean, if this giant can defeat our new enemy Skeletor, does that not make him an even greater threat?"
Father glances for a moment at the Prince and then says "I believe He-Man. Perhaps all of my reasons are not rational, but I have a good feeling about him. If you want reasons, look to his martial skill - it is merciful. Look to his alliance with the Sorceress, who is not known to be an evil force, despite the times she has been misunderstood. Indeed, some think that on occasion it is she who has thwarted the ambitions of the Witch of Snake Mountain. Aye, we have even made offerings to the Sorceress that she has accepted. Look to the legends about this doughty barbarian. They speak of a wise and controlled warrior - "
"Why are you so sure Duncan? I have looked to those legends only hours ago. They predict the coming of great warriors with mighty steeds in the service of Greyskull, but is he that warrior? The translations you and Adam have made leave room for ambiguity."
Adam looks up, his tone moderate and careful but his face reveals some tension. As usual, I wonder what he is thinking, but I cannot really discern his subtle, carefully guarded thoughts. "How so my friend?"
Manefred stands so that he can address us all. He uses his best voice - considered and forceful - trying to convince us, gesticulating firmly to emphasize his points. "How can your translations not be ambiguous? No-one understand the Ancients' language well. Their legends foretell of warriors who will come during times of dire need, once the Ancients have passed on. Were their predications true? Who can say? The Golden Age is passed and now we continue to live in the Dark Age, uncertain of anything that has since been said or done. Do you know of any records that scholars can agree upon as accurate or reliable? Aye, I know the stories and songs of local tribes that do mention nameless warriors of supreme strength, warriors who made brief appearances in their histories. But perhaps they refer only to their own kings or to fantasies? Nay! What do we truly know!?
"This He-Man, he says he is the Defender of the Secrets of Castle Greyskull. He has asked us to help him with that destiny, for those Secrets are now seriously threatened. But what if we refuse? Why should we help guard treasures that we cannot be privy to? No-one knows what lies inside the Castle. Perhaps it is a domain of evil! How could we know? We will never know - and it seems, must never know!"
"Aye, we do not - cannot - know," replies Father, who remains seated, almost subdued, as if he is uncomfortable. "You are right Manefred, we cannot be too trusting yet. But we have a common enemy, one who almost destroyed our kingdom. One who has certainly shattered the tenuous peace our King has worked so hard to broker between the Eternian tribes of North and South, East and West. Though we are safe for now, there is a new war in the making. Skeletor is not dead, only thrown-back. He will return."
Manefred threw off a casual gesture of scorn, scowling. But momentarily, his eyes glance at mine, his scowl fades, and I sense the great feeling behind them. But again he turns to address us "Having an enemy in common is hardly the basis for a firm alliance. This "He-Man" may have sworn an oath to the King, but it is also clear that the fearsome and eldritch Sorceress is his true master. And where is she? No - if Greyskull comes first for him, he does not share our love and loyalty for Eternos and our Tribe. Aye, we cannot - dare not - make an enemy of him! But rue the day that we have to, for perhaps it is close!"
Teela pondered this scene that faded slowly from her mind. What had brought this memory to light, so rarely reflected upon? Ten years ago, just before he was cursed, before so much had happened, Manefred had a sense of the crisis that on this Night has unfolded. The Sorceress is He-Man's true master. Is it she who, once again, allows Eternos to burn? Yet, surely Adam is torn between Greyskull and the City?
But then, wouldn't we all be worse off if we had not accepted He-Man's aid, even though he does not come now?
Teela shook her head - such thoughts had continued to distract and hound her through-out her long flight. She gritted her teeth against the freezing night-wind - characteristically her mind reflected transparently upon her body. She was torn between her post at the City and her hopes for Adam. Fist is a great tactician she thought again But we just can't hold against such a vast army. We need He-Man Oh Adam! Oh my poor Adam!
Teela's face twisted with misery and a thousand regrets. She was a harsh, unforgiving woman. Adam had received so many unjust attacks, pierced again and again by her judgmental tongue flailed by the torrent of her punishing words! She was surely one of the reasons why he had become so broken. Her constant argument with him, her stern lecturings on duty and valour yet she had been attacking the very man who had saved them, and could save them again! She cursed herself, then she cursed her father.
Any child can lay some blame at the door of their parents dead or alive! And you, father, you never provided me with a mother who could teach me a woman's tenderness and sensitivity. Oh, how I love you father but you were just one man! A wise man no doubt, one who taught his daughter how to fight and kill and how to die but who taught me to nourish and love? No-one! So hard am I, so brutal even my betrothed must be wondering if he is mad to marry me!
Ah, father, did you know the truth about Adam? Is that why you resisted Faker when so many were convinced? You knew more than we, and for that you went into exile, only to bring back Adam & He-Man..! Oh father, could you not trust me!?
Teela groaned - this feeling, this moment, was the truth. She only felt more guilty when blaming her father for her own grievous errors, and guilty again when she thought of her betrothal to Man-E.
As the sky-sled sped her towards Greyskull, she turned to look up at the moon of Phantos, associated in legend with womanhood. What evil fate decided I would never have a mother's love? Would I not have been more forgiving of Adam's apparent failings, just as the Queen is? Even this pain of mine is filled with rage!
Not far ahead now was Greyskull, it's bottomless eyes searching the sky for her form. It saw her and soundlessly provided the answer.
There it is!
Teela sensed a terrible danger as she stared at the deathly face of the Castle, as it rose monumentally before her. The whole structure had an aura of defiance, of brute solidity, like a giant, impassable cliff-face. But for Teela, there was a greater, more profound feeling associated with the Castle - it is as if it belonged to its own space, its very own place, that implied a great depth within it, of the kind one might sense when standing before the black mouth of a large, deep cavern.
It has a presence that draws her to it - a gravitational force that now truly held her in its grip.
It is you to whom I have flown, is it not?
Her mind honed to a point of clarity - an insight crystallized upon the ugly, rough hewn rock of the Castle's visage... here, again, was the truth...
...and then she gasped in shocked realisation as the head-light from her machine swept over Greyskull's leering face. The Jawbridge was gone Castle Greyskull lay wide open to all enemies, while behind her Eternos was embroiled in battle! It could not be worse!
As Teela adjusted her flight to enter the Jaws, a call from above her turned her head. "Captain Teela!" came the salutation of the Avion warrior flying down towards her. She slowed to a stop, hovering not far from the edge of the Abyss. Who was this? Was it a trick?
"Halt!" she stopped and aimed the sky-sled's blaster. "Are you friend or foe?" It was a coded question and Teela's warriors each knew the answer.
Tropos repeated it correctly: "I am a friend of Eternos and a foe of her enemies. My blood is willingly shed! By our victory my soul is fed!"
Teela adjusted the machine, the blasters no longer taking aim. "What are you doing here, winged warrior!?"
"I am Tropos. I came to find He-Man to save Eternos, for it is over-run!"
"Over-run!? It cannot be - !" Her mind raced - who was dead? who was alive? could the City be re-taken? But there was no time, she had left Eternos in the hands of others. Her own fate was now before her.
"But it is Captain! And I arrived here to find Prince Adam upon Battle Cat. He was nothing but vague, and then upon seeing the Castle penetrated, he leapt inside! I - I am ashamed, for I dared not follow. And so I remained as a guard, hoping that He-Man might emerge."
Teela's mind quickly assessed the possibilities - He must have been called here to defend the Castle. "Only the Lord of Destruction could have destroyed the Jawbridge. They must be both inside!"
Now the situation was clear: this was the terrible duty that led Adam to abandon them all, just as He-Man had been forced to do so when the Horde invaded. Grief and guilt tore at her insides as she let out a groan. Then she turned to Tropos as she guided the sky-sled over the Abyss. "Remain out here, you are a worthy guard - defend this threshold to the death! And may the gods rouse from their long sleep to protect you!"
Tropos nodded his assent and took back to the air. Teela looked ahead, hovering upon the sky-sled, readying herself for the mortal struggle to come. Then, for just a moment, she glanced back at the world behind her, a world she suddenly and strongly felt that she would never see again. But she shook off the heavy feeling with a cry of determination and plunged into the mouth of the Castle, weapons primed, ready to prevail and willing to die fighting.
Awesome again. Waiting for the next chapter!
Evil-Lyn had flown upon her wyvern from her Aerie toward Castle Greyskull. Skeletor was gone and so was the Jawbridge - he had succeeded in entering the great Castle once more! For a moment her heart fluttered with terror, her yellow skin crawling with the horrid sense of mortality. But Evil-Lyn's hatred and ambition were more powerful than this fear.
Perhaps she was too late, now that he was inside, nevertheless the thought pummeled at her brains: He must be stopped!
She guided her wyvern closer, but she did so with a pounding heart was He-Man waiting inside, or had he yet to catch up with Skeletor? She reflected bitterly on this reliance upon her enemy who-ever won the struggle between those two, she had to be sure to be close enough to strike down the victor herself. This might only be possible after a long, enervating struggle between them. Of course, circumstances might not afford such an advantage there was no guarantee she would find them inside the labyrinth she knew lay within the Castle. Perhaps she could take what she sought and escape without confronting either of them?
She landed and dismounted not far from Greyskull, brushing away wyvern scales as she did so. Clearly, her opportunity was now, it would be too dangerous to wait to see if He-Man or more of his allies had yet to arrive furthermore, the Castle itself would surely use it's awesome resources to repair the breach, sooner or later? She had seen the Castle defend itself before.
Her leather boots crunched on the gravely rock as she approached the precipice before the empty Jaws, and a light rain fell upon her deceptively smooth skin and her ornate, ritual costume. Then, standing before Greyskull, she stared into the deep, black pit of the mouth before her.
Here I am! On the threshold of the most dreadful and promising place in the Universe the centre of the Universe itself, the Vault of all Secrets! How much have I suffered to reach this mystic entrance? But why, then, does this victory leave me with such a weighty sense of foreboding? The winds from the Abyss howled a warning, but Evil-Lyn ignored its' spectral voice, and turned from the petrifying gaze of the empty eyes of Greyskull. "I am here to defy you!" she cried at the dread face, shaking her fist.
Then the witch turned to her wyvern and tried to mount it. Several times it made the move difficult - the monster seemed edgy and skittish, like a frightened horse, but finally she was in the saddle, holding its reigns.
"Up beast!" Evil-Lyn commanded "Fly me over the Abyss!" and she thumped the monster upon its' muscular flank with her Orb wand.
With that the creature took off, but as she guided it toward the Castle it suddenly gave a shriek of fear, and almost threw her into the bottomless crevasse below, as it twisted and flipped back towards the side opposite the Jaw, terrified by the awesomeness of the ancient fortification - and in that moment she had but a second to make a decision.
Evil-Lyn turned towards the Castle as her mount bent backward and flung herself acrobatically from the saddle - a moment later it let out another ear-splitting shriek from behind her. Her leap was a daring move that had saved her life. As she landed upon the rocky entrance of Greyskull, her eyes caught the wyvern as it plunged downward into the Abyss, leaving a drifting bloom of blood in the air above it.
Instinctively she thrust out her Orb wand - and not a moment too soon - as a winged Avion warrior bearing his jagged dirk was almost upon her. But she, the canny witch, had only to will her attack. The Orb wand flashed but once and Tropos collided at speed with a blast of crushing energy. The consequences to him were dire. Like a broken bird he was thrust back by the lethal shockwave and away from Evil-Lyn, to tumble after the wyvern into the endless drop below.
Evil-Lyn quickly picked herself up and turned towards her fate, a sneer of contempt for the defeated warrior upon her face. There is no mortal hand that can stop my success! Now there will be no turning back. My end may be nigh, but this is my choosing at least. The Abyss now behind her, she stood upon the lower mandible of the entry-way and paused beside a tooth-like stalagmite. Her skin puckered and a sudden shudder shook her old body. Inside were the deepest secrets yet only one of them was necessary for her to learn - and so be free. Would the Castle grant her this one wish? She did not come as a conqueror, but in desperation - a beggar. The Castle held the key to the prison of her divine pact but could it not become yet another prison itself? She had to resist the fell guardians therein and beware of the traps set the consequences of her failure were unknown to her. Truly, there would be no bargaining and no mercy here the ancient stronghold would be as implacable as the Third Olden God she wished to evade. If she had not the strength to force her entry as Skeletor had, what made her think she could continue through further, stronger barriers therein? How could she believe that she had the strength to take what she needed?
The impalpable darkness within offered no insight it was a wall itself, a wall of total ignorance and mystery. No she hesitated out of animal instinct alone. She had determined her course long ago. She may never return, but there was no-where else left to run to, no more time to devote to research, no more allies and no other hope - any day, perhaps even within hours, the Olden God would come to claim her - her divinations had revealed this without ambiguity.
Her whole body hummed with magical energies she had saturated herself with, in preparation for this final offensive. Any moment she expected the Castle to launch its devastating defences, to have to fight it tooth and nail to take this last step beyond the threshold that the Jawbridge had protected. But nothing happened. There was no sense, no sign that the Castle had marshaled any occult force. It was as if the defenses of the Castle were down - surely a temporary situation?
Evil-Lyn mustered her strength - she must make the first move. Had she not laboured and feared every waking hour, for so many centuries, so as to fortify herself for this crucial moment?
And those that must now follow...
Her first step was hesitating, her Orb wand flashing and ready, leaking energy like a slowly spilt thick-liquid. Her second step was more firm, her angular face was set like a jagged rock. Her third step was solid with determined fatalism as the enormous weight of the Castle began to descend upon her, promising doom...
Evil-Lyn entered the deepest shadow through the mouth of Greyskull, and was gone.
Really enjoying this today as it is a slow day at work.
To be inside Castle Greyskull is to be witness to the potential of all things Greyskull contains every microcosm and every macrocosm, everything great and small, all things known and unknown, the very detail and scope of both reality and dreams, of the mundane and magical, of elements and forces - the true and exact essences of materialis and immaterialis.
Castle Greyskull stands upon and surrounds the exact centre of all reality and thus creates a paradox - for it contains itself, and that in turn contains itself, and so on... like two mirrors facing each other. There is no other structure like it in the entire Universe and indeed, what is seen of Greyskull by any Eternian daring to approach is merely the tip of a vast "iceberg" - for that which is hidden is the most important aspect of a Castle designed to defend cosmic secrets of ultimate power.
The interior walls are charged with cryptic clues and lies as to what does and does not lay ahead, behind, and besides the inside. The designs and architecture of the archways and colonnades are part of the puzzle, each leading to another occult clue or dead-end. The whole structure exists to deny, prevent, and obstruct any interloper, any army, any being who dares to defy the order of things, any being that attempts to violate the deepest secrets of the Universe, once long ago entombed here by those greater than the gods. The fortifications ultimate purpose is to entrap and to jail those who have remained within and those who invade from thereout.
Skeletor already understood that one did not simply walk through Greyskull the mind had to attend to its signs and symbols, one had to be guided by one's intuition and understanding or play the sorcerous game of breaking the seals and wards that barred each and every path. Each twist and turn tested his strength and physical prowess, or challenged his intelligence or magical potential. These devious devices were never explicit like the Castle, they came to his mind as insinuations, suggestions, or a noiseless challenge.
The experience of the Castle's interior can not be understood by anyone outside it is a dream-like, non-euclidean experience, where one's strength of will determines one's degree of lucidity - and success.
But Skeletor has the advantage that no other invader had ever possessed he had lain down the foundation stone of the Castle, he who, along with the other god-like Ancients, had agreed to bury and contain the knowledge and power that had brought them to the very brink of divinity and a war of reckoning with the gods themselves!
Before the building of Greyskull, before that time of self-denial and abjuration, the gods had shrank as mere ghosts before the Ancients. The worlds and stars were glinting orbs in their palms they were then the Masters of the Universe, at the height of their power. But when a cataclysmic civil-war among the Ancients threatened the very fabric of reality, it was Skeletor, then known as Vidar, who had wisely counseled a truce.
Vidar knew of a primeval catacomb, older than any burial place on Eternia. Therein were people who were said to have never truly died they would serve as the first guardians of the knowledge the Ancients had agreed to hide and protect - these beings became the Sentinels. Upon their resting place, Vidar proposed that the Ancients then build a mighty and impregnable fortification that would guard the catacombs and serve as a stronghold for all of their terrible power. Each of the Ancients was to help to build the Castle and then to give unto it all of their mystic strength and understanding, and then to reduce themselves to mortality and to quietly allow the Universe to continue... and thus admit their destructive hubris to the gods and prevent the final Ragnorok.
In that aeon there was good reason to trust Vidar, for he had not yet trodden the path that would lead him to a millennia of unlife as a vampire and finally, as a Liche. Once Vidar and the other surviving Ancients had divested their power and immortality into the walls and halls and treasures of Greyskull itself, they then banished each other to the four corners of the cosmos, swearing never to return. And so it was - for a time.
Only Zodac remained close to Eternia, as Cosmic Enforcer, the Watcher of the Castle. Though greatly reduced in power, he had never chosen any side nor partaken in any conflict and so he was allowed to be the strongest surviving Ancient, sworn to neutrality. In weilding this power, it was hoped that Zodac might maintain the balance between any opposing forces intending to reach Greyskull and so prevent any who dared attempt to take the Castle for themselves. He himself then appointed a Guardian, the very first Sorceress, who would forever remain sequestered within the Castle, and only able to influence the outside world through others, or in her animal form. Each successive Sorceress would be empowered to draw upon some of Greyskull's collective pool of power and knowledge - but only some of that power, not all, for even the Sorceress was bound by oaths and duties that promised pitiless consequences for temptation and failure. Even this fey Guardian could never be privy to the powerful knowledge of Greyskull that must forever remain secret if the truce between the Ancients and gods were to be maintained.
Finally, Zodac ensured that any Sorceress could summon a Defender of the Secrets, in times of dire need; a Defender armed with two swords - one for mighty strength, the other for timeless endurance. The Defender was the very essence of the martial power of the Ancients, but one that was pure and merciful, potent and unbreakable.
Then Zodac retired to distant orbit to watch Greyskull and the struggles amongst the worlds from his Cosmic-Dais. And so it was - for a time.
Vidar did not return to Eternia for many thousands of years - as for centuries over this time he had slept, as the other survivors like him had chosen to do, keeping their promise to end their reign. During these long ages, most of the surviving Ancient vanished for good, faded away into death, or - upon wakening - were destroyed by heroes or rivals.
But eventually Vidar awoke and looked upon the Universe anew, being truly and terribly afraid of his return to mortality. A change came upon him and he regretted his decision to strip himself of such vast power and cursed the gods. Vidar then looked to how he might recoup his losses and eventually that quest made him a monster, a vampire. This state of affairs proved to be nothing but a curse and so Vidar's solution was further damnation as the Liche, Skeletor.
Now finally, after so many sunsets, Skeletor has come to lay claim to a venerable inheritance on this Night and that inheritence is the collected power of his allies and foes from long-ago; the prehistoric Ancients, once the Masters of the Universe.
He now moves deeper into the Castle, defeating the Sentinels and eluding its traps, seeing beyond its illusions and casting aside blockades of fire, water, earth, wind. Skeletor moves down deeper, closer to where the Great Mysteries will be revealed amid vast galactic chambers; here, in the perilous interior infinitum, where the very stars are born between the endless corridors within which time was, is and shall be indelibly written.
Skeletor's void eyes drink in the omens of his impending success, voracious blackholes with no end in sight...
And yet, the Castle now draws upon the last defense that had long ago been gifted to it without Skeletor's knowledge...
C'mon man! I've ran out of nails to chew off. = )
Adam, fallen down in a foetal crouch, wept his despair upon the dry, cold stone at the foot of the Sorceress' throne.
His empty soul choked up his throat and his breast beat with stubborn and shameful life. The Sorceress is gone... Yet there is no sign of Skeletor. How now can I leave? There is no-one to give the Sword of Power to, no-one to replace me, and no enemy. I am doomed to go on. Yet I refuse... He turned to look at Cat who had placed a claw upon the abandoned Sword. In a flash of ebbing power, Cat began to shrink, his armour vanishing into smoke, his wounds healing, the torn eye filling the bloody socket like water in a bowl.
"Cringer " Adam sighed, holding and pitying the trembling animal as it crawled towards him. At least he, Adam, could understand some of the reasons for the endless war and the suffering, but this mute, timid beast could never grasp the esoteric reasons for all of their struggles.
Indeed, Adam doubted that any living thing could understand the meaning of so much pain. The world appeared to him as a torture chamber for so many living things animals that were hunted for sport and gobbled up by people, just as an ogre eats the bones of babes - gluttonous and cruel, unnecessary and power-mad. Dearly loved children died of disease, or were never loved and sickened from neglect and violence. The good were obliterated by pointless accidents, the dim-witted were terrorized and exploited. Men and women across all the worlds toiled as chattels beneath warring kings and empires. Life tore apart life, a blood-thirsty spectacle that ravaged the dumb vegetation around it, to leave nothing but torn fibres and ugly fungus living in the corpses left behind.
It was all so repulsive whatever god first launched the Universe into existence must have been blind and insane - Adam cursed whatever name it had and spat upon the obsidian flag-stones of the throne-room, a terrible hatred boiling upon his face, snapping at every sinew, churning his viscera. He sat upon his knees and, raising his white fists, pounded upon the black stone, letting out a terrible scream of frustration, pain, and despair.
But Cringer suddenly let out a loud mewl of alarm - Adam quickly raised his head and whipped it around, alerted to the sound of the heavy foot-fall coming from the main entry-way to the Throne room. Standing beneath the archway, illumined by the burning light of the candelabra, was the taut frame of Skeletor, shrouded in a hooded cape, the iron armour upon his forearms, shins and breast-plate glinting in the dim light; upon it the old Horde bat-sign gleaming dimly in a faded red colour, set above his own crossed-bones heraldry.
"You!?" he hissed. But though his cowled skull face, glinting like white stone, was unmoving, expressionless, it did not hide the surprise in his spectral voice.
Adam stumbled to his feet, instinctively grasping his Sword's hilt as Cringer fled. The Sorceress was inexplicably gone, and in her place, intending to take the Throne, was Skeletor - the instigator of this long war, the overlord of pain and suffering. Adam accepted this final offering of fate - to thwart Skeletor in his moment of triumph. He resolved that he would not be slain by this fiend. "I am Adam," he replied, drawing himself up, "Prince of Eternia, and defender of the Secrets of Castle Greyskull."
"No child... You are a mere puppet manipulated by the Sorceress and hated by your own people." Skeletor paused at the threshold of the room, holding the Havoc Staff erect, his body stiff with tension.
"I swore an oath to protect the Secrets herein. That does not make me a puppet. My word has armed and shielded me while my people only revile me because they are necessarily ignorant."
"Is that really so boy? Your efforts as an unwitting slave to the Sorceress have brought you to this - utter despair. I heard you pleading with her to come. But she will not, for she has used you and sacrificed your countrymen and allies to protect her own power." Skeletor's empty eyes flashed with energy, the only hint of emotion on his dead face.
Adam's face hardened. "The Secrets are not hers to use - she only protects them, as I do. She is a custodian of that power."
"Of course she is privy to the Secrets! How else should she know to give you the Sword? You have been fooled. The Sorceress is part of a conspiracy that connives to keep humanoids ignorant and cowed. You are the sop of a tyrant, all controlled by the vile crowd of gods above us." Skeletor took a step forwards. "She has abandoned you and her throne!"
"It is too late for you to pretend to be a liberator now Skeletor. You would never share what you wish to steal from here!" Adam thrust out an accusing finger and a warning. "Your plans are conquest and self-glorification. The Castle was built to prevent a creature like you from becoming more destructive and self-aggrandising."
"No. I know why it was built - truly, it was designed as a test. Whoever could penetrate it would be deserving of its spoils. It is the only true way for any being to prove himself and become the deserving Master of the Universe... Ah, Adam - I see some glimmer of understanding on your face, some intuition on your part - you know that the Castle's purpose is to hide these Secrets, but you also feel that the Secrets can be sought! You ask questions, the first route to intrusion... Look around you! Remind yourself of how this galactic dungeon really makes you feel - this place invites invasion as much as it repels it. Don't lie to yourself!"
Adam shook his head and bared his teeth, trying to deny the force of Skeletor's terrible conviction.
"Yes, it is omnipotent leadership that the Universe cries out for! I will put an end to chaos and war, an end to disease and death, an end to accident and discord. The Universe is a wild place, a vast torture chamber - and I intend to tame it and pacify it. I understand what living creatures seek and only I can provide peace!" Skeletor was a still as stone as he spoke, his lipless voice echoing through Adam's head, staring blackly at him.
Adam stepped back, his skin freezing as he heard his nemesis utter the same thoughts as his own. Deep inside his soul, he felt that Skeletor had a persuasive argument. Could there by any truth in what he claimed? "You are dead, and a warmonger - what do you know of the living or of peace?"
"Dead? No, I am beyond life and death. There is much more I understand about your kind than the wisest of you do. Of course no-one in Eternia but the Sorceress could understand my aim and method. You think me violent, destructive - but these are only tools. Destruction leads to creation, violence to healing. I have a vision far greater than any of you. You only see the methods I employ, but you do not see the greater goal. You are too small and ignorant to see the greatness of my actions - the possibilities that lay ahead!" Skeletor thumped his staff down upon the black, tiled floor.
"There is nothing you say that can be trusted Skeletor. You are a liar, a mass-murderer - a monster."
"And you are but one human being, hardly in his third decade, who knows much less than he thinks. You expect me to explain the outcome of my success in your animal language - one so limited and primitive that it has no words to describe the destiny before me. You! - You think in such simple terms. You see our struggle as a battle of good and evil, white and black. Yet, you admit to yourself your own evil - your selfish urge of self-preservation, your greedy wish to see your tribe reign supreme, and the sense that you are owed something and that you must even now be freed!
"But you deny this truth I lay before you, and so you fail to see the good that results from my own actions. Your reality is a simple one - you play the role of defender, but you fail to realise what you are defending... We are both here inside a prison - a prison which keeps Enlightenment from humanity and all of the other living things that suffer throughout this star-lit cosmos, so that the gods might be safe from us all! But they are not worth this misery Adam - be sure of it!" As Skeletor spoke, he gained more time to recover his energies. Without a hint of what he had planned, he suddenly leveled the Havoc staff, sending a bolt of lethal energy towards Adam.
But slow and weak though he was, Adam had held himself ready, and he brought up the Power Sword to bear, and deflected the blow. Then he held aloft his magic Sword and said
"By the Power of Greyskull!"
Wavering sheets of pure potency immediately crashed around him, directing flashes of noumenal might down his Sword and across his physical being. He convulsed as if wracked with pain, his frail body shaking to and fro with terrific violence. White lightening ripped through the crashing air towards the edges of his blade, sending whirling sparks cascading out from his figure. Blue arcs of energy flashed over his flesh, forming a nimbus of light around him, forcing it into painful rippling, bones cracking and aching as they grew. A great veil of coruscating beams surrounded his expanding figure and the air boomed with thunderous uproar: "I have the Power!"
After a moment frozen in horror before this spectacle of raw power, power he felt to be an echo of his very own, Skeletor had drawn his own Sword and lunged towards He-Man as he transformed. He-Man had no time to direct the energy blast to Cringer, instead bringing his Sword down and around to meet the killing blow Skeletor aimed at him.
The Power Sword was still seething with blistering energy as the Swords clashed. With an almighty explosion, a vortex of energy radiated from the point of contact and in that moment He-Man understood what Skeletor had stolen from Greyskull - and indeed, from him, the Defender - over ten years ago.
Now THIS is what Ive been waiting for EP!!!!!!
Evil-Lyn raised her Orb wand once more, blasting at the formidable Sentinel that barred her path. The heavily armoured humanoid, it's face concealed by a mechanical visor, held up a magical shield that absorbed the blow. She was by now so tired from the constant battles and magical wardings, her mind wavered - for but a moment - and she could no longer concentrate upon her desire - a desire that was her only guide through the mind-trap that was Castle Greyskull. The Sentinel stepped forward, it's black and gold baroque armour clanking, raising a burning sword of light that seared her eyes. She let out a cry, threw her cloak around herself, her shape collapsing into a burning ball of flame that shot away from her enemy, down a long, dark hall, into retreat...
To retreat in a place of no retreat, no rest, no respite, only struggle... She knew from Skeletor what kind of mental stamina and concentration she would need inside this doom-laden place, and she knew she would be tested until she succeeded or was destroyed - but never did she expect this erosion to happen so quickly...
With the Sentinel behind her, she resumed her human form, as the fireball around her collapsed into heavy smoke, leaving her curled-up body behind, frail as burnt wood. Now weak, her legs buckled, and she fell upon the ground. But the ground was so black, she had a sense that it was insubstantial. With sudden alarm she felt herself twisting, turning, as if she were falling through the black stone beneath her, while being warped out of all proportion. As she fell, she had the sensation that her legs were left behind her, her spine elongated, and - as she reached out in panic - her fingers and arms reaching unnaturally beyond her... The sensation reminded her of inter-dimensional travel but with no sense of direction or control.
The darkness was now all around, the deepest darkness she had seen. No, not seen, it was now a darkness felt.
Evil-Lyn was utterly confounded, unsure of what she could touch upon her hands or beneath her boots. Terrifyingly, she felt herself suddenly flung into a void, far from her chosen path through the Castle. In panic, she clawed at her own skin, the only thing of substance that was at hand, but under her nails she felt only a cold powder like ash... Somehow, the darkness grew even deeper, yet more intense, a substance unto itself, and she felt as if she were sinking into her own body from the centre, as if it were collapsing like sand falling through an hour-glass, an implosion... no longer any falling, it could be floating, soaring - no direction, no space or time... There was nothing... nothing... nothing...
Who am I!?
Who asks the question?
If there is a questioner, isn't there myself?
She thought herself prepared for the devious traps and tombs of Greyskull, but the sheer horror of the darkness that had suddenly consumed her enveloped her whole being.
Once, years ago, she had herself repeatedly exposed to the terrible light of Scareglow, subjecting herself to such fear that she gambled with her own sanity... But the process worked - she overcame that fiercesome, spectral glow and finally learned to control and suppress even her most deepest, primal fear. Then she had felt that nothing could horrify her any more, so long as she exerted her will to the utmost. But she was wrong - what was here, inside the tenebrific Castle, was worse than anything she had ever yet experienced or imaged.
Despite her thaumaturgical might, her utter determination to succeed, the Castle was slowly beating her. A voiceless challenge was issued as Evil-Lyn vanished into the amorphous blackness that had snared her:
WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO SAVE?
Somehow, the unbounded void seemed to deepen, become yet more vast - she felt herself plunged into an icy ocean of fathomless depth, all covered over by the thickest cloud, where not a droplet of light or warmth could be found. Here, in this lightless limbo, the arch-witch could somehow perceive spinning shapes, some sort of dynamic, and was reminded of her memories, shielded and stowed away in her mind, memories she retained of her potted past, memories that - it seemed - were now set free of their alcoves, their cages, and flew about and around her, fallen stars hurtling to some distant, unknown horizon. Slowly, her mind began to disintegrate. She tried to scream, but there was no breath and nothing to breathe with...
Who am I!? The question was her only connection to any sense of reality. That she could pose such a question was the only life-line to her mind. If there were no more questioning, what else could there be?
AND WHO IS LEFT OF YOU AFTER SO MANY CENTURIES?
There, somewhere, she could see herself, the mortal she used to be. How could that girl be here? Aye, there was a beginning, trapped amidst the dangerous, stupid apes called humans, all of them grasping, devouring, defiling, spreading their waste across the land, sea and air, frantically creating excess to spoil themselves with, or toiling as pathetic maggots under some crushing, unquestioned law or authority. They all still existed - how she wished to wipe them all out! It would be blessing to every other living thing...
But where is the young woman? Is she nothing but a memory now? Dead, in essence, somehow remembered by magical means - even her body does not truly remain. Is she then dead? So who exists, screaming for yet more life, at this very moment?
Every hair, every flake of skin, the very face and voice, all the painfully sensitive feelings and depth of emotion, each of these aspects of the young Lyn have proven ephemeral, have vanished, a vapour trail of ashes, scattered behind the old and evil witch - she has become nonsensical... Only the hatred and rage and determination survived, the consequences of a beautiful being twisted by torments, made bitter and black by the foul experience of a world gone mad...
She is dead, yet her revenge lives on - am I only the after-thought of a dead girl who once loved and laughed? What then is to be saved here in Greyskull? It is already gone, dust scattered across the face of the cosmos, burning invisible lines to infinity...
WHAT CHANGES THESE YEARS BRING...
WHAT CHANCES YOU HAD TO EVEN EXIST...
...Those millions of seed-cells of man she had once espied under the old microscope, were they not her own competitors, long ago? What then were her chances of reaching the warm womb of her long dead mother? And what then the chances of success against attempted abortions or the trials her mother lived through when Lyn was still unborn? Nevermind her father's father and his, and his father too - all of their excess seed, sown in whatever way it was, but only one lucky, squirming seed being granted life in a womb, all so many million-to-one chances that reached far back to the Beginning.
What were her chances of life, taking all of that into account, not to mention the very chances that defined each life, each narrow brush with death, each lucky accident and decision to take a woman...? The possibility that she was alive now, after so great an expanse of time from Beginning to present, to the Dark Age and of this night, it was all so vast, incomprehensible, but yet laid out before her, stars set in the pores of her vanished face, and each star a twinkling jewel with a million facets and each and every facet reflecting each grain of sand from the clock of time smashed down upon it all, breaking the face, shattering the image... nothing to keep it all comprehensible, nothing but... but...
- what continues? What is left of an old, old life suspended in time by memory or artifact? It corrodes, but there is still a consequence staring back...
What has sustained me!?
THERE IS NOTHING TO SAVE, NOTHING TO PROLONGUE BUT AN ILLUSION
...Then, the overwhelming force that threatened to deny and consume her somehow parted, and an even greater space beyond it was revealed. There, hanging in that infiniteness blackness, a face the size of a galaxy, one that she had seen only once before - the incredible and terrible visage of the Third Olden God!
It parted it lips, each the size of blazing nebulae, the mouth a darkly flashing vortex of lightlessness....
What has sustained me!!!?
...And then, between her and the colossal image that loomed over her, dangled a thin, silvery thread...
Evil-Lyn knew that much of what occurred in the Castle did not appear in literal form, but as a symbol, a dream... Perhaps here was her thread of hope - what else was left?
Aye, the answer is here, still beating - My HATRED
She took a hold of the silvery thread, her hatred -
Yes! To my success!
No! To any other!
She was the ultimate denier, the negative, she could blast through this image with her negation. No! This vision could not be! An impossibility - the Olden God could not be here! It was only a symptom of her hatred!
She had long ago called the Olden God using the very essence of her hatred - and it was this core of loathing that she was once again reunited with. This insurmountable feeling was the machine of her evil, the very power with which she could destroy without pity or regret and also to continue to exist in spite of all! - once more she gained control over the Castle's hideous trap.
She would not be beaten - never!
Then, she felt herself drifting lightly upward, still clinging to the fragile, silver thread.
After a few moments of wild disorientation, she felt the unforgiving stone floor once more, and heard the echo of the hall-way, then felt the hot-breath upon the nape of her neck, and looked up - to see the jagged, jutting face of Webstor, his six eyes glistening as they stared at her with a predator's fixation.
He opened his vampire's mouth of needles:
"Now we have a bargain" he whispered.
Webstor was about the last character I was expecting there man. Good job.
Yeah same here. Also sadly, it'll be a long while till part two of my story comes out. I'm getting a new place to live this week and the comps staying at my parents house. I will be able to come back here and read though thanks to the net being on my phone.