March 17, 2013, 08:23pm
I used to post here, but didn't feel like people read stories on the boards. Anyway, enjoy if its your thing. I hope you like it.
In this story, Adam has just become He-Man, but it was a bit too much for him.
He woke in a smoking depression, thunder still in his ears. What he could smell, the burnt earth under him, that was all he knew. He stood, his body easy in his mind. All around him trees, rock, sky seemed fragile, ready to rip in his hands, but he felt no urge to break, only to be part of it.
“Who?” a voice feminine and hard, an approach silent as an idea. She was green, her skin somehow more solid than flesh. She wore the skin of a serpent and held a spear like the serpent’s fang. Faster than he knew it, a sword came to his hand, ready for the serpent woman’s strike that never came. “I am called Goddess,” she said. She listened to his voice, strong as oak and gentle as old, sure hands. But empty, ready to be filled. She invited, “Come with me.”
From the blasted lands of Castle Grayskull, abandoned, she saw him and knew him as the greatest of men for she had killed many and learned to judge the quality of flesh.
His mind gave no answer, memory sleeping or dead deep within. Sometimes, he felt like a ghost, a spirit cursed to wander the land lost. Sometimes, he felt like a demon, a thing that usurped another’s body for he remembered nothing of the one he had. His hands turned rock to dust, but his thoughts would not break for him.
Word came from all around. Eternia on fire. But nothing touched the proving ground except less food where already there was little. The emptiness in his stomach was the emptiness in his mind. Fighting brought food, so he would have both.
He poured his fear into Goddess that listened, hardening it into a resolve to serve her. What the flesh? And what the sword? What the man? And what the land? And what the sword?
His sword Goddess took and gave to hands that would know its worth. There was something old and vast in it. She quieted his protest with words and meat. There was a bed, shelter, and men willing to call him friend while planning to see his blood.
Goddess learned nothing of the man for he had nothing to tell. His name and past were lost to him, like the dreams of the dead. But his body remembered what his mind did not. Ax and shield moved like river under branch. She taught him. Faster, the river ran. “Now hold it like this. Now switch it just so. Now watch them fall.” He listened, the spear and the shield a bell that promised but left only its own echo to chase.
Goddess knew of many that could best her strength, but none that could best her skill and her speed. She sought glory in bringing this man to her master’s attention. He would reward her, shower her with praise and gold and favor. Then she would be done with him, but this one would resist, defy death.
For his very breath seemed to inspire life. His muscle spoke the language of creation. He moved like the heart of the land. She thought to take his spirit with her body, make him serve her by serving him. And when he refused, unsure, his body willing to dream but his mind awake, she became afraid. A woman cannot control the stars, perhaps not even a Goddess. And so it was time to see the lava of his veins hot on the master’s ground.
They called him He-Man.
The promise was the promise of blood. Many came to see the red water.
At twilight, he took the ground to cheering, a cheer for the damned, a farewell to life. He-Man heard the roar, the sound of darkness forever. The shadow beast was there, tall and massive as a home for death. Goddess had made the match: triumph or die.
She set on He-Man the armor of another, one slain by the shadow beast’s claw.
So long ago, but within the memory of a man, stood the champion Vykron, under whose hands many had fallen, like unto the number of leaves on a dying tree. With hand. With ax. With the very weapons of his foes, he did smite both the proud and the humble who entered the proving ground to seek his rage. His vestment, a guard over his chest embroidered with checker and cross, protected him from enchantments of piercing light his foes brought against him. Laser and lightning and bolt were smoke against this garb. Like their hope. Then death.
Until the shadow beast. Who brought no weapon. Who knew no fear. Who sought only blood and flesh and the ruin of his victim. No vestment could protect against such a monster, one whose claws did tear the cross from chest and leave lifeless its bearer.
This monster He-Man fought today wearing that same vestment hugging chest though he knew not Goddess cruel purpose, to excite both crowd and monster alike.
He fell. For the monster’s hands were heavy.
He stood again. For his will was hard.
He answered in kind the question of blow. Never had the shadow beast known such strength silencing crowd and shaking earth.
Now the monster put snarl and fang and claw between itself and ruin.
A fist like thunder smote the shadow beast, laying its length along the proving ground floor. It whimpered. It howled. It shook with the fear of an ended life wasted.
Though the crowd roared, though death had been his fate, He-Man left life to monster.
No test had been worthy of his strength until now. In awe, he knew his own strength, and wondered at it.
He would not kill. Not here for game and show. But where else to use this strength? So he stayed, while the world waited without.
Fisto was a man lost to world and self. No one knew of him beyond the ring, including himself. He remembered a battle. Strange visions of a bird and serpent. And pain. A pain that only drink and blood seemed to touch. A pain that became the metal fist at the end of his arm, a gift from the arena’s blacksmith. Even with his fist, he sought an honor he could never find, beating down men he wished he could be.
The blacksmith, cursed by the magic of the lord of destruction for failing at his craft. Now he made weapons for the arena that turned men into *******s of war. Now he fought himself without mercy. Now all who met him lost life or limb against his cruelty. Covered in spike and nail, he was called Spikor who gloated in the gore of his victims.
She came to him, the blacksmith. The witch called Lyn who seduced with words the empty mind that grasped at power like a starving stomach full of sand. There in the sand once ruled by the master before King Miro laid waste the land with war. She sought a master to make a blade like none ever seen, a sword of power her demon master hoped to clone. For weeks he strived. For months iron and steel broke under his blows and the witch’s poisonous magic. A year came.
This blacksmith poured his life into the blade. His soul had become the metal and fire of his craft. But not for the sake of the craft. Not for love of the blade. It was love of power and uncounted coin that drove the arm of the blacksmith. His wife and their daughter, always afraid that the cold muscle and hot temper of the man would turn against him, found themselves in the storm of their fear. They fled while he worked on, their absence unfelt.
The men of the town shook their heads in dismay. The women watched the seed of greed sprout the fruits of corruption.
When the witch’s demon master came, they called him lord of destruction. They locked their doors and were abandoned by sleep for days. He is Skeletor, and his shadow is ruin.
The blacksmith felt no pride in showing his work. The blade seemed to reflect no light. Their eyes were the same. And though the blade had held true to witch’s magic, the touch of this god of death crusted and crumbled its fine edge.
In the dust of his best work, the blacksmith knew the fear of oblivion. What would have been this man? Who would know him now? Not man, but monster. First, his arm severed by icy demon blade. Then an eye. Then the metal itself fused with his body in the lava of magic so hateful it burned all that was left of his soul. He could not even cry at his loss. He is hated animal. He is loathsome monster drinking pain the way men drink water.
And the Beastman. His red rage served the master best of all, drawing the monsters from their homes and into the arena with a thirst for the blood of worthy foes. From the jungles he came and all the creatures of that land of tree and swamp answer his call without will or way. At last, he falls onto foes himself, eating their flesh in reward for their failure.
Goddess holds them all, keeping in check the monsters to maintain the game. Her unbreakable skin laughs off weapon and her spirit scoffs at word and deed. Like the snake she wears, the venom of her desperate hatred leaves corpse and decay. For she loves the master, and he knows nothing of love.
He is the master, Marzo, the ruby-red King of this dirt pit that dooms flesh and soul alike. Time bends around him, equal to service as the slaves he commands. Magic, like gravity and space, warp the world to his whim.
Goddess met Fisto in his barrack, straw and dirt for the champion. She promised him better. “Just get rid of the new man. He is not a friend of ours. He is dangerous. There is not room for both of you here.” Like an emerald glowed her body, its promises as cold, but igniting a man nonetheless. Fisto stared at his hand a long time. Fame at the end of his arm. “What kind of man am I?” he thought aloud. This strange He-Man had woken something deep in him. What was his power? With words, Goddess promised a world greater than straw and dirt. What promises would He-Man make with deed? “Seek a pawn for your treachery elsewhere, Goddess.”
Unsuspecting of her wickedness, He-Man asked her why they fought in the dust. “Isn’t there something greater for us?”
“There is no greater glory. The master is pleased by you. That is all that matters. And I am pleased.” Close she came, her armored skin touching his warm flesh.
“You are pleasing,” he told her. In the dust, they kissed.
The Beastman saw. He too had been promised such rewards as these.
Again He-Man was to fight. This time, Beastman against He-Man. Savagery against hope. Armed with spear, He-Man came unprepared. Forged in Spikor’s fires, the spear was made to fail. Left and right struck Beastman. A roaring crowd fueled his angry blood. He-Man did fall. And spear did fail, snapping against the ground and foot of its enraged enemy. Beastman came again and again, all claw and fang and fury. Blood pooled, its scent spurring the ever-monster on, his fur the red of it in its wash.
Then the wave of his rage broke in the grasp of He-Man. He held and bashed even as Beastman howled with pain.
Marzo watched from the crowd, apart from them but equal in his thrill of battle and blood. His Beastman had never fallen. And few had matched the shadow beast. “What is this? A man?” He held the man’s sword in his lap, felt its power. “If not a man, then what? Sorcerer? God?” He watched He-Man spare his enemy. He recognized the look on the fighter’s face. Many times had Marzo seen the gaze of a man done with the sport, ready to quit all and go his own way. Perhaps Marzo should have let the man leave. Lost without memory or sword, what would become of Eternia without its champion? What but death? Though Marzo could know none of this, still his evil was too great to let a man like this roam a world he thought of as his roam freely. “Though you be a god, so too am I.” The wizard had so fooled himself. “And a goddess I have for you.” His plot matched that of his favored one. He-Man would know her blade.
Fisto found He-Man, warned him of the danger. “I am lost like you, but you are different.”
“We are lost together. I am not different. I will bleed here with you. My blood is not less than yours, Fisto.”
“Not less, but greater by far, perhaps. This you must sense. I hear the heart of the world beating in your breast, He-Man. Maybe you are a king. Maybe a god.”
“I am a man,” He-Man swore.
Then Fisto swung his mighty metal fist without warning or provocation. Many had it felled. Shield had it broken. Sword had it shattered. None had stood against it. But He-Man caught it firm and would not let go. Their eyes met. Fisto said only, “You are not a man like me, He-Man. And this place is not enough for one such as you.”
He-Man told Goddess that he would go. Ready she was on the proving ground, her master above, willing He-Man’s death.
“Not I,” said He-Man. “I am not meant to shed your holy blood, Goddess.”
“Worry for your own blood, He-Man,” she said with spear that pierced his side and sprayed the chosen hero’s blood on to proving ground dust.
He-Man lost ground, struck by two spears where his eyes counted only one. “A serpent has two fangs,” said Goddess, as man wondered. “and ways you will never know.”
He-Man was not without power. Ax flew true, finding meat to cleave but failing to separate skin from skin. Failing again to find passage for blood. A charmed life, led Goddess, whose skin could never be broken. As He-Man struck, so did he bleed, his wounds an army of bloody death. Ax fell. Shield dropped.
Confidence undid Goddess. Pausing to gloat to her master, a punch like a storm washed away her life. Never before had such strength been used on mortal frame. He-Man felt life flee from his arm. Weary of his own strength, he mourned even the traitor whom he had once loved. This lost life he would mourn forever.
Far above, her master raged. His magic spoke for him.
Again, He-Man found himself in an earthly depression. This time, no Goddess to find him broken at his feet. Her master closer than ever. He-Man felt death coming, saw Goddess again. But in his way, a sword. The sword he had known, now Marzo’s mystery. His reached for it, finding it in Marzo’s magic grip. Little did that matter. He-Man snatched sword away, roared a magic of his own: “I have the power.”
And that was all. Marzo’s might shattered against his.
He remembered King and father, mother and Queen. He remembered death and the cold fire it brought. He was Adam, a prince, but Adam no more. Crown had been exchanged for sword.
Here He-Man, his memory restored, might have sought vengeance on fallen foe. But Goddess’ death was enough death for a lifetime.
The proving ground behind him, He-Man went back into the world to find family and home.