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Thread: Gbagok and Iceman present: The Book of Evil part 2 - The Bells of Doom

  1. #26
    Asp'r the Contrarian SnakeMenPriest's Avatar
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    Chicagoland, Illinois; BUSH & sons Inc.
    I never said "Not enough", I said that so far it's not worth the 5 year wait.
    regardless, I planned on doing a full... analysis ... once you finish posting Book II and not post between now and then, so don't worry.

    In Kansas, it is a crime to eat rattlesnake meat in public.
    You are upsetting the blessing of the Snake God. ALL HAIL RATTLOR!!

    Check out 2-bad's Original epic: Origins of The SnakeMen!

  2. #27
    All Era-Warrior Barnster's Avatar
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    Dec 2003
    Snake Mountain, Apartment 4-D
    OMG!!!!! It's here, it is finally here.

    Book of Evil 2 rocks!

    Totally worth the wait.
    Maybe Marzo as an archenemy was the biggest thing to happen to Mekaneck, but as far as Marzo was was Tuesday.

  3. #28
    Heroic Warrior gbagok's Avatar
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    Dec 2003
    Maryland, USA
    Chapter Two: The Once and Future Duke
    Previously: the heroic warriors and Skeletor are in a race to locate the seven mystic BELLS OF DOOM and save or conquer all of Eternia. While He-Man searches in the Sands of Time, Teela leads Fisto, Roboto, Mekaneck, and her old friend Mallek the magician into the Vine Jungle Region.

    “How long has it been,” Mallek asks Teela from the passenger seat of the Attack Track. Fisto and Mekaneck sit in the back engaged in a game of chess which neither of them seem to much like, while Roboto pilots the Attack Track through the thick jungle undergrowth.

    Teela, who has been staring determinedly out of her window looks at Mallek finally and says “Excuse me?”

    Mallek laughs. “I meant since you’ve been to this region. Daved used to bring us here when we were young, don’t you remember?”

    “Oh. Yes, I remember. I haven’t been here since our last year in the Academy.” She looks out her window again. The Vine Jungle lives up to its name as heavy branches of vine and foliage brush against the glass like giant tongues.

    “I understand if you don’t want to talk about it.”

    “I just--” she snaps, then quickly composes herself. “We’re not children anymore. I don’t like thinking about it. My life is different now.”

    “So I’ve heard. Captain of the Royal Guard, eh? Nice. Only a real prodigy earns that title as young as you did.”

    “It was hard work. And don’t think my father helped. I mean he helped, just--oh never mind.”

    “You must think I assume the worst of you, Teela. When you said you didn’t want to have a relationship, I let it go.”

    “I never said I wanted our relationship to end. I just didn’t want it to change. You disappeared, Mallek. After that, we all just....well, we kind of drifted apart. First you left, then Daved had to return home. We all drifted apart. Seeing you, and now potentially seeing Daved again makes me more aware that my Father, Adam, Dakkon, and Maran are all gone.”

    “We’ll save them,” Mallek says softly. Teela thanks him with a nod, but prefers to say no more about it. Mallek looks back at the others. Mekaneck makes a winning move--one too many apparently as Fisto promptly smashes the board.

    “Great, what now, twenty questions?” asks Mekaneck with a shrug.

    Mallek smirks. “I feel a bit out of place,” he says to Teela softly. “All of you are warriors, you’ve gone into battle many times. I’m just a student.”

    “A student with magic skills. Believe me, that’s something we can use right now. All that’s left of our forces are busy protecting the Mystic Wall and Grayskull, so this is good you’re helping.”

    “Thank you for that. Some day, some one is going to have to tell me what’s so special about that old castle.”

    “You wouldn’t believe it,” Teela says.

    “We’re on a quest for the ancient Bells of Doom to summon and use the legendary Book of Evil to restore several cities cast into a magical abyss by the magic of the Diamond of Disappearance. I don’t think there’s much left for me to doubt. Even in wizarding circles, these are unthinkable forces we’re dealing with. Honestly, part of me hopes we’ll find nothing out here.”

    “If we don’t, it means Skeletor got there first,” says Teela darkly.

    Just then, the warriors hear a strange series of crashing sounds over the rumble of the Attak Trak’s engines. Teela tells Roboto to stop the transport so Mekaneck can step outside and scan the surrounding jungle.

    Suddenly from out of the brush a small boy with wild eyes runs into their midst. At first he freezes before the Heroic Warriors, clearly afraid. Mekaneck retracts his neck and smiles down at the boy, who looks askance at him and his strange ability. Then the rumbling from the jungle resumes and the boy starts running again. Despite Teela and Mallek’s attempts to slow him down, he hides beneath the Attack Track. As soon as he is out of sight, his pursuers charge out of the brush. They are big, thuggish men with swords and armor.

    The Heroic Warriors brace themselves for a potential fight. Teela identifies herself and demands the thugs do the same.

    One of them, a large and imposing man, clearly the leader, steps forward. “You have no authority here, outsiders. An escaped prisoner was seen heading this way. If he is here, surrender him now and you will be permitted to go free.”

    “All this for just one kid,” asks Mekaneck indignantly. “You’ve got to be the worst bullies on Eternia!”

    “We’re not giving you anyone until you tell us what’s going on,” Teela says angrily. “Why is he your prisoner?”

    The leader’s eyes narrow. “If you will not cooperate, then you give us no choice.” He unleashes a war cry and charges for Teela. She blocks his attack as more warriors charge into the clearing. The Heroic Warriors repel their attackers, but they are greatly outnumbered. Teela sees Mallek dodging the enemies’ blades and shouts, “Get inside or grab a weapon! That dagger of yours is no use here!”

    “Don’t be so sure,” he says, and as he draws his dagger it transforms into a broad sword. He disarms two warriors, who turn and flee. Together Teela and Mallek fend off another wave of the warriors.

    “Not bad,” she tells Mallek. “But never hold out on me like that again!”

    “Sorry, didn’t count on being in a fight already.”

    Still more warriors come running at them, but suddenly the very grass under their feet grows to the size of trees, trapping the attackers. A wave of foliage carries Mossman into the battle. He had been following the Attack Track but hurried to reach it when he heard the sound of battle. One by one, the attackers start to retreat, finally leaving their leader disarmed and crawling on his belly. Teela pins him under her boot heel and with her sword pointed at him, she demands his name.

    “Zantar, captain of Raigo’s army. The boy is his prisoner. When he learns of your interference, all your lives will be forfeit!”

    “Who is Raigo,” Teela demands.

    Roboto answers for Zantar, “Raigo is a tribal chieftain and outspoken dissident. He most vocally opposed this region’s recognition of Randor’s monarchy.”

    “So now that Randor is gone, he’s staging a coup,” Mallek guesses.

    Zantar grinds his teeth. “This region does not bow to Randor or his kin! Not anymore!”

    “Wrong,” says Teela. “See, I happen to know we’re in the jurisdiction of the Duchy of Al-Baron. I grew up with the Duke, Zantar, and once he knows you’re attacking children--”

    Zantar starts laughing. “You fools! The Duke is no more!”

    Teela and Mallek exchange alarmed looks. “Could Skeletor have used his weapon on Al-Baron,” he asks.

    “No,” says Teela. “We followed the course he took from Targa to Avion before we destroyed it. He never came near Al-Baron. And the Sorceress said he couldn’t have remade the weapon again.” She adds pressure to her heel on Zantar’s chest. “What are you talking about? Where’s the Duke?”

    “Ask the boy,” he growls.

    Afraid, the boy had crawled out from under the Attak Track and started running again, but Mossman sends a vine to catch and hold him. Teela tries to calm him down, but the boy continues to struggle. Suddenly Mallek takes Teela’s arm. “Look at him, Teela. Don’t you see who he is?”

    Teela’s breath catches in her throat when she realizes what Mallek means. “It’s impossible...Daved?” The boy stops but does not seem to completely recognize the name at fist. Then, slowly, he looks up at Teela and Mallek.

    “It’s me, Daved. It’s Teela!”

    The boy searches her face for recognition, then his eyes widen. “T-Teela,” he stammers and tumbles into her arms. She holds him almost like a mother reunited with a child.

    Fisto, Mekaneck, Roboto, and Mossman look at each other in confusion. Finally Mekaneck asks, “I don’t understand, Teela.”

    Teela says, “I don’t either. But somehow, this boy is Daved...the Duke of Al-Baron.”

    Last edited by gbagok; August 6, 2012 at 09:54am.

  4. #29
    Heroic Warrior gbagok's Avatar
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    Maryland, USA

    “So this kid should be your age,” Fisto asks as the Heroes enter the Audience hall of Chief Murlo of the Fantu.

    Mallek nods, “Whatever enchantment has transformed him into a child and stolen his memory, it’s nothing I can undo.”

    Daved stays close to Teela as they approach the war council. Chief Murlo and the leaders of the surrounding tribes discuss their defenses against the opposition from Raigo’s aggressive forces. Murlo, a big and regal man, welcomes the daughter of Man-At-Arms warmly, and asks eagerly for news of Eternos. After Murlo introduces his council and his young daughter Podi, Teela explains the crisis facing Eternia. Very soon Murlo and his council are distressed.

    “The fall of Eternos left a power vacuum in our region,” explains a Qadian chieftess. “Everywhere from Al-Baron to the Berserko Islands is now affected by the shifting forces.”

    “It is not unlike the times just before the Great Unrest when smaller armies vied for dominance after the Elders vanished,” Murlo says finally.

    Daved shivers and stays close to Teela. “Where are my parents, Teela? Are they here?”

    Mallek looks at Teela nervously, but she avoids his eyes. “Does anyone in Al-Baron know what’s happened to Daved,” she asks Murlo.

    “His uncle has taken over Al-Baron and given his support to Raigo. Or rather, Raigo has given support to him. Either way, their alliance is the main reason for our troubles. Your prisoner Zantar isn’t talking to our interrogators, but I suspect Daved’s uncle has bewitched the authorities of Al-Baron as he has Daved.”

    “Who is this uncle?”

    “A man named Marzo.”

    “Count Marzo?” Mekaneck gasps.

    “He can’t be Daved’s uncle,” Teela says urgently, “he was punished by the elders long ago!”

    The Qadian Chieftess purrs, “Marzo was indeed a Count long ago, from one of the oldest families of nobility. But nobility is not always virtue. The Elders understood this when they chose Randor to be King of Eternos and not others of higher rank.”

    “We hope,” Murlo continues, “we can depend on your support in our campaign against the alliance of Raigo and Al-Baron. This coup must be stopped quickly, or it will settle and become harder to uproot.”

    Teela looks at the others, almost hoping they would make her choice for her. Finally with a heavy sigh she says, “Our mission is urgent, Murlo. We have to locate the Bell of Doom in the ruins near Al-Baron. If Skeletor gets to it first--we cannot risk it. I’m sorry, we can’t stop to help you until we have the Bell.”

    Murlo’s council look grave, certain that without the warriors’ help, their campaign is already lost. Quickly Murlo’s daughter turns to him with hope in her eyes. “Father, I know the ruins! Perhaps we can help each other.” She proposes that she and several scouts help the Defenders locate the Bell while they in turn help fight Raigo’s army. Encouraged, Teela agrees, but she can tell that the others are uncertain--most of all Mallek, who looks at her in a way not unlike her father when he was most disapproving.

    Later, in the cabin provided to them by the Fantu and while Daved sleeps from his exhausting ordeal, Mallek confronts Teela. “You haven’t told him that his parents are dead?”

    “It would be too much for him. He’s only a boy. All this in one day has to be traumatic.”

    “So in the morning you’ll tell him?”

    “Eventually,” she says with little conviction.

    “You can’t protect him from the truth, Teela. You were always such a...mother hen.”

    She looks at him askance. “I was hardly protective of any of you! If I remember right, the rest of you were too scared to do half the things you dared me to try. And I did them! Did any of you cross the lake of fire or enter the Tomb of Zilloros? Don’t call me afraid, Mallek.”

    He crosses his arms. “I never said you were, actually.” She turns away and Mallek adds, “I know it’s easy to wonder if Duncan and the others are...not coming back. But magic like this can be unpredictable. If we indulge Daved’s memory loss, he could regress further. He could stay this way.”

    Teela shivers at the thought. She says, “Do you know that for sure? Is it better than him knowing his parents died when he was this age or that he left us to become a Duke before he’d even grown up? There’s so much pain he doesn’t have to know right now, why take that away again so soon? It’s cruel, Mallek. They told me Marzo was evil, I just didn’t think of this...” She stops when she sees Mallek looking over her shoulder. She turns to see Daved standing in the doorway. He’d heard everything.

    “They’re dead,” he asks Teela. “Mom and Dad?” Mortified, she stares at him, but finally nods. He leans against the doorframe, his stare almost vacant. Teela fears the worst, begins to console him, but he looks up with fire and for an instant he seems to be his right age once more. “We have to stop him, Teela. My uncle has to be stopped.”

    Meanwhile, in the Palace of Al-Baron, Marzo sits upon the Ducal throne of his family and receives some unexpected guests.

    “You’ve come a long way to ask for my support, Skeletor,” he laughs. The Lord of Destruction and his new ally, the sorcerer Hexon, do not bow to him as would be the custom of royal guests. Were it anyone else, Marzo would have demonstrated his magical wrath and pressed the issue, but he knows Skeletor’s magic is as mighty as his own. He furthermore knows too little of Hexon to risk a confrontation with both of them. Instead Marzo regards them balefully, his allies framing him: the grim warlord Raigo and the sleek Qadian spy Najira.

    “Tell me, Skeletor,” says Marzo as he turns to caress the Qadian’s arm like a lover, “has your traitorous witch found her way back into your good graces? I hope she is in better health, for she seemed most unwell when I left her near Hordak’s Well of Darkness.”

    Hexon looks alarmed, betraying his fear of Hordak to Marzo. The count smiles at his own cleverness. His ally Raigo looks on passively, clearly too much of a barbarian to appreciate such subtle diplomacy.

    Skeletor remains inscrutable and instead says, “We can spend all day reminiscing, Marzo, but why waste time? We are reforming the Council of Evil. The Army of Eternos is but a remnant, and Randor's alliance is on the verge of collapse without even his pathetic leadership. Eternia is ours for the taking, if we don't spoil it by fighting among ourselves.”

    “Ah, but with our enemies vanquished...what reason have we to cooperate? I have regained my amulet--no thanks to you. I have retaken my throne, and will soon conquer the Fantu. Without the Elders or Randor to block me, what need have I of allies such as you? why should I join you and lessen the power I might have for myself?”

    Hexon scoffs. “Simpleton. He obviously has no concept of the powers we pursue, Skeletor. Why waste our breath on this dish-licker?”

  5. #30
    Heroic Warrior gbagok's Avatar
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    Maryland, USA
    Marzo's warriors tense and snarl their lips at this insult. A shadow falls on Skeletor and Hexon, and the two scatter as something large and powerful strikes at them. The floor splinters under the attacker’s might, while Skeletor and Hexon take defensive positions on either side of it. The massive creature Chimera slowly rises from his attacking lunge, revealing his full height and towering over Skeletor and Hexon. Deadly as he is, Chimera displays no emotion as he moves. He looks at each of his near-victims, and takes one threatening step towards Hexon.

    “Enough, Chimera!” Marzo shouts. The creature stops, then backs away from them. Marzo laughs as Skeletor and Hexon lower their defenses finally. “You must forgive my bodyguard, Skeletor. His loyalty to the master of Al-Baron is absolute, and he does not tolerate rudeness at my expense. No need for further demonstrations, Chimera. I think they remember their manners now.” Chimera bows his head to Marzo and recedes further out of view.

    “Now,” says Marzo, to Skeletor and Hexon, “you spoke of a search for power. Am I right in guessing that you have come for something very old and very magical? You wouldn't be here for the Bell of Doom by any chance?”

    They look dumbfounded. “How did--”

    “I know the old legends, too, Skeletor. And rumors travel fast. Many have searched for it here and never found it. Some doubt it is even here, but of course you must know better. The Heroic Warriors are already on their way to finding it. I could intercept them if I were so inclined.”

    “Name your price then.”

    “Oh, nothing really, just autonomy. I want to rule this land unopposed. Leave me to my own ambition, and ours will be a more amicable relationship than that of the Elders and myself.”

    Hexon and Skeletor converse privately, then finally agree to the terms. Marzo gestures for his guards to escort his guests out. One look from the faceless Skeletor seems to unsettle them however, and they keep their distance as he and
    Hexon depart.

    Once they are gone, Raigo says to Marzo, “You cannot think they will honor such a pact!”

    “Of course not. They already plan to betray me--and each other for that matter. By offering an alliance, they hope to buy themselves time before having to eliminate me later. Their council will be made up of fools or disloyal plotters, so I will be the least of their worries soon enough. Najira, my dear,” he says turning to her at last. She kneels at his side and waits eager for his commands. “You have served me well as my spy among Murlo's allies. But I want more than information now. Murlo will most certainly help the Eternians, for his people know this land too well. Infiltrate their hunting part. Let the Eternians lead you to this Bell everyone seeks and then bring it to me." Najira nods obediently. Raigo only smirks, disgusted with Marzo’s political games. Chimera only watches them all in silence.

    Outside, Skeletor and Hexon approach the Collector and its enchanted skeletal guards. Hexon looks back at Marzo’s palace and scoffs bitterly, saying “I do not care about your past with this actor, Skeletor! The insolent cur must be put in his place before this is done.”

    “Marzo does not concern me,” says Skeletor confidently. “That magic amulet he wears blinds him with overconfidence, or else he would have recognized the traitors in his midst.”

    Hexon is intrigued. “Then you have placed agents here to take the bell for us?”

    “No. But we will recover it easily with time.”

    Hexon grunts doubtfully. “I find your solution very unsatisfactory. Our time is not limitless. The time is drawing near when Worlds Collide according to the old prophecies. Hordak will return and claim the Book for himself. I would prefer to send my daughter to--”

    “Karyn is not your daughter.” He stops and faces a startled Hexon. “Did you think I could not recognize her? A young woman of her age is not spawn of a centuries old sorcerer, even one of your considerable skill. Even were she from Anwat Gar--as I know she is not--she could not have been yours. You must think well ofy our legacy to find such a devoted disciple after thousands of years.”

    Hexon holds his head up high, assuming an air of regal dignity. “My followers are my children, Skeletor. A pity your own father did not want you, or you would understand the nature of such a bond.”

    Skeletor ignores his jab. “You place too much trust in her. Like Marzo, you’ll let your overconfidence become your ruin.”

    “What are you--”

    “Never mind,” he turns quickly and heads up the embarking ramp of the Collector. “We have other matters in need of attention. The Bells are well in hand by now. It’s these other secrets stored in the Tome that I wish to uncover.” He approaches a table on which the Tome of Scrollos sits like a patient pet. Skeletor’s own pet, Panthor lies curled beside it with open watchful eyes. He lifts his head, pleased to see his master, but growls warningly at Hexon. Skeletor activate the Tome and a holographic display of the Preternian battlegrounds rises up into the space above. Large, black machines crawl over the terrain and lay siege to the magnificent towers of the Elders.

    “Hordak’s war machines were a match for his enemies. He nearly conquered Preternia with them. Now, with this, we may bring them into our arsenal as well.”

    “Fool! You trifle with Monstroids? Magic is stronger than science. Hordak’s indulgence in engineering was folly, he was well finished with it by the time of his defeat.”

    Skeletor deactivates the Tome with a wave of his hand. “If you think science is so useless, perhaps you would like to walk home.”

    Hexon smiles. “Gladly. The stench of cat was becoming unbearable.” He casts an enchantment around himself and forms a disc of light beneath his feet. The disc lifts him off the ground and carries him out of the Collector and into the sky. For good measure he sends volleys of magic to knock Marzo’s guards off their feet as he flies over them. Skeletor watches him depart with mute satisfaction.

    From the back of the Collector a voice purrs, “You enjoyed that, didn’t you.” Evil-Lyn slinks in from the ship’s cockpit. “He wastes his energy on such foolish displays of power.”

    “He’s making a statement. He has energy to waste.”

    “But is overconfident, like you said. He trusts the girl and she will be his undoing.”

    “Yes. Imagine my surprise that his problem is so like to my own.” Skeletor moves quickly and seizes her by the forearm. Dark magic crackles around his hand, tightening this grip and sapping Evil-Lyn of her strength. “What am I to do with you, Evil-Lyn? Your treacheries are numerous and I sense that you are not finished with these petulant outbursts. Trying to free Hordak with Marzo was...unwise. Did you think he would reward you better than did King Hsss? Did you think I would forgive.”

    “He lies, Skeletor! You know--”

    “I know that he told me nothing your father did not already confess when he sought my help to save your wretched life from the poisons of Despondos. I chose to pardon you then, but I will not be the fool for you that he has become.”

    She struggles but cannot break free. Keldor...Skeletor was always stronger. The knowledge of that both infuriates and excites her. “It’s...complicated.”

    “Then I will simplify it for you. If you even think of betraying me again, I will not waste time with spells or torture. I will simply end you.” She stares into the eyeless pits of his skull and nods finally that she understands. At once he releases her and she almost crumples to the floor in exhaustion.

    “Good. Be on your way to the rendezvous with Tri-Klops. You have a bell to collect.”

    The next morning...

    Murlo’s daughter Podi and the Fantu scouts lead the Heroic Warriors into the jungles of Al-Baron. The brush, too thick for the Attack Track, hides well the secrets of the old world before Al-Baron. Ruins of an ancient city stick up from the ground like bones from the rotten flesh of a dead animal.

    “Charming,” Mallek notes as they pass a large stone skull.

    “We’re sure Skeletor hasn’t been here already, right,” asks Mekaneck facetiously, but no one laughs.

    “Who is Skeletor,” Daved asks Teela.

    “Not a friend,” Teela answers quietly. The others objected to her bringing Daved along, but she insisted keeping him close. She feels Mallek’s scrutinizing gaze on her. “We owe it to him, Mallek,” she says while Daved walks with Mekaneck. “The more he sees of Al-Baron, the more he might remember. Besides, he’s not senile. If he has to grow up again...he needs to know what he’s up against.”

    Mallek annoys her with a seemingly indifferent shrug. “What will you do when we leave Al-Baron? Will you drag him along to find all the bells?”

    “I’m dragging you along,” she says angrily.

    “I thought my magic skills were invaluable.”

    “You’re pushing it,” she says flatly.

    Up ahead of them the scouts and Roboto signal that they’ve found their destination. In a sunken basin, a large vine-coated mound sits patiently for them. “It appears to be a central structure of the old city,” Roboto reports. “According to my analysis, this was most likely a ceremonial citadel, possibly a place of governance.”

    “How do we get in,” asks Teela.

    A river runs through the basin and under the citadel where the warriors find small openings in the walls. Roboto, having scanned the surrounding walls, reports that all other entrances are long since caved in.

    “Captain Teela,” says one of their guides “I believe I can better maneuver in such small crawl-spaces. I volunteer to retrieve the Bell for you and your people.”

    “We would be in your debt, Najira,” says Teela gratefully.

    “Those passages will be too small even for a Qadian,” says Podi. “I’ve been inside these ruins. I can probably find your Bell and have it back here in half the time.”

    “It’s too dangerous,” says Teela. “I can’t put you in danger. Your father--”

    “Understands what is at stake, Captain Teela,” says Podi insistently. “Did your father shield you from risk rather than let you prove yourself?” Teela is impressed with Podi’s commitment, but not convinced.

    “I’m small enough as well,” says Daved. “If two of us go, we can watch out for each other.”

    Teela is about to object, but Mallek’s earlier rebuke about protecting Daved rattles in her brain. Is this wise, she asks herself. “I’m not letting either of you in there alone. Mekaneck, think you can stretch that neck of yours far enough?”

    “I can try,” he says with mock confidence.

    The passages within are indeed small, but the children clamber through them with relative ease. Twice Mekaneck has to ask them to slow down so that his head can keep pace with them. Deep within the citadel, the passages open into a large rotunda, where the river forces its way through the floor and out to a waterfall on the other end. Fallen support beams form an unstable-looking bridge, at the far end of which is the top of a round platform supporting several short statues. Beyond them is another passage. Mekaneck reports the obstacle.

    “Perhaps we can get someone to the waterfall’s opening” Teela says through his communicator. “Where is Najira? Can we---inside--” The signal breaks up.

    “Oh terrific,” says Mekaneck. “Dark, wet, and now we’ve lost contact. Kids, I think we’d better head back.”

    Podi laughs off his concerns and begins carefully striding the narrow bridge. It creaks with the added weight but doesn’t buckle. Daved, encouraged, follows her. The bridge creaks more and a startled Daved slips. Mekaneck moves fast and is just able to reach in time for Daved to grab hold of his neck and regain his balance. Podi helps Daved cross the rest of the way onto a central platform of the rotunda.

    “I wonder,” Daved says breathlessly, “if I had this much fun as an adult.”

    Mekaneck wrinkles his nose. “Fun?” The children laugh at his response.

    “So how well hidden do you think this Bell is,” Daved asks, looking around at the ornately engraved statues residing on the platform.

    Podi picks up a rock and lightly knocks each statue. All of them make a dull thud, until she finds one that releases a very unnerving clang. The rotunda shakes slightly, small stones and dust tumble from the decayed ceiling. The children inspect the statue and discover it is hollow, and the stone they threw broke a hole in its side. Reaching in, they pull out a strangely textured object.

    “Do you think this is the bell,” Podi asks.

    “Let’s see,” says Daved, and he rings it once. The rotunda quakes around them, as if the bell had unleashed a storm upon it.

    “Do not touch that!” a voice cries out from the darkness.

    Mekaneck turns to see who has spoken, but a dagger spins at him, slicing the wiring along his neck. His head jerks from side to side like a panicking serpent. He screams in pain as sparks fly from the wound. Abruptly, perhaps even reflexively, his neck starts to retract, pulling him away from the children and back down the passage from which they had come. The children see a figure drop from the shadows overhead and onto the platform with them. Najira rises up from her landing crouch.

    “You? But my father trusted you!”

    “Your father is a decent man, young Podi, but he does not understand what is at stake.” The rotunda shakes again, more violently than before. Daved feels as if he’s been inside a sleeping beast that is just starting to wake up. “You should not have sounded the Bell. Its power is destructive, this whole place could collapse. Now stand aside. I am commanded to collect this relic.”

    “No,” says Podi, grabbing up the Bell and backing away from Najira. Daved quickly joins her. Najira leaps over them, cutting off their path back to the bridge. Suddenly, Podi hits the Bell again, causing another eerie clang and rumbling quake. Large chunks of the ceiling break fee and tumble into the river below. Najira stumbles, and in that instant the children make a break for it. They get half way across the bridge when another tremor shakes the rotunda. This time Podi, unbalanced from carrying the Bell, slips and starts to fall. Daved grabs her wrist, but he needs all his strength to hold on to her and the Bell without falling with them. Naja is upon them immediately, and Daved expects the worst. Suddenly she grabs hold of him, steadying him from falling.

    She says to him, “Give me the Bell and I will help you get out of here.”

    “Don’t believe her,” Podi yells.

    Daved looks from one to the other. He feels his grip slipping. Finally, if only to be rid of the burden of the Bell, he gives it to Najira. She takes it with her tail and for a second Daved thinks she is about to leave them behind. Instead she reaches down and grabs Podi’s arm. The two of them pull her to safety. Suddenly the wall of the rotunda shatters, and the river comes gushing in. With one last motion, Najira shoves the children to the safety of the passage. The gushing waters loosen the beam, sending Najira and the Bell into the river where the current sweeps her away and out of sight.

    Dispirited and almost in shock, the children make their way back to the others. Once they reach the opening, they find it partially covered by foliage. Through the leaves, they see soldiers that are not from the Fantu, and the treads of a large tank mark the ground. Then Teela comes into view wearing shackles. Mallek is with her, also shackled and wearing a strange yellow collar--perhaps something to hinder his magic. A big man questions them. He is forceful with Teela, and when Mallek intervenes he strikes him to the ground. When Teela refuses to answer, he strikes her as well.

    “Raigo,” Podi whispers. “He’s followed us!”

    “Najira must have been working for them,” says Daved. Together they listen as Raigo interrogates Teela.

    “I know the boy is here. Make it easy on yourself, woman. I am only cruel if I have to be.”

    “How long has it been since you didn’t have to be,” she asks. He strikes her to the ground. The children see Mekaneck lying beside her alive, but his neck still injured.

    “Have you found the others,” Raigo barks at his officers.

    “Sir, our torches are keeping the Elemental at bay, but the robot and large handed one have escaped.”
    Last edited by gbagok; August 6, 2012 at 09:55am.

  6. #31
    Heroic Warrior gbagok's Avatar
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    “He’ll bring Murlo. Get these prisoners into the transports at once. And keep the fires burning bright in case our elemental friend is hoping to mount a rescue.” He looks at the brush hiding the opening, and the children freeze. His gaze lingers on the spot for a moment, but he turns and boards the Zeagon tank with the others. Soon the massive transport departs, leaving only the stench of smoke and fuel. Slowly the children climb out when they hear a voice from nearby shouting.

    “There! It’s the children! Get them!” Some of Raigo’s troops had not yet left in the other transport, and were now racing towards Podi and Daved. The children run into the blinding smoke. They don’t get far when a large creature appears in their way, as if from nothing. He looks down a them with awesome, magnetic yellow eyes. He seems to look into Daved, seeing past his fear and into his very core. Behind them, the soldiers emerge from the smoke, blocking off any escape. Podi is panicking, but Daved cannot pull himself away from the giant’s powerful gaze.

    “Do you know who you are,” he says.

    Slowly Daved nods. “I am D-d-daved,” he stammers.

    The giant nods and gives him something like a smile. “Get behind me, Daved.” Daved hesitates for a fraction of a second, then grabs Podi by the arm and drags her behind the giant. The soldiers react in surprise, then start closing in again. The giant takes one deep breath, then drives his hands together in a massive clap. A shock-wave of power rushes out from his hands, flinging the soldiers off their feet and far into the distance. Even the smoke parts and the nearby fires dwindle in the force of the blast. The giant turns. “Come with me.”

    The children follow him into the jungle. They walk for several minutes, until the smell of smoke is not so strong and the sting has left their eyes. “I don’t understand,” Podi protests, “who is he?”

    The giant turns and looks down at them. “I am Chimera. I am a Jin, and the ever-loyal servant of Daved, the once and future Duke of Al-Baron.”

    “Let me get this straight,” Podi asks a little time later. She points at Chimera. “If you’re supposed to help Daved, why are you only doing it now?”

    “Because now he remembers who he is.”

    “He didn’t before?”

    “No,” says Daved. “I’d forgotten. It was Teela who made me remember. I...I still don’t know everything. When my parents died and I left my friends to come back here to become the new Duke, that’s when you became my servant?” Chimera nods. “I remember you now. You’ve always been there. I used to be afraid of you. Then I got to know you. You like the first morning song of the ramja bird. You wait for it every morning. You comforted me after my parents died. Did I ever thank you?” Again Chimera nods, this time with an appreciative smile.

    “Your Uncle is a master magician who has learned the powers of Al-Baron all too well. The magic amulet that gives him power was once the rightful property of the Duke. Dark wizards taught Marzo how to abuse its power and corrupt it. He used it to force his way into the castle and stole water from the sacred Font of Ages to take away your adulthood. The Font can grant long life, but one cannot regain youth without losing the experiences and wisdom of age. In taking your memory, Marzo took away your identity as Duke, and my bond to you was lost. As the only other heir to the Duchy, Marzo thus inherited my service. But our bond is old magic, stronger than he fully realized. That is why I hoped for the Eternos woman to help you remember who you are.”

    “Teela! We have to help her!”

    “Raigo will take her and her companions to your uncle. He expects me to apprehend you.”

    “Fisto and Mossman will reach my father,” says Podi anxiously. “They’ll stop Marzo!”

    Chimera shakes his head. “Marzo’s defenses are too advanced. He has Al-Baron’s forces at his command, and a shield generator surrounding his castle.”

    Daved thinks for a moment. “We have an advantage though. He doesn’t know you are loyal to me again. I think there might be a way to stop him.”

    In Marzo’s castle, Teela struggles as the guards pin her and Mallek to the throne room’s cold floor. Mekaneck lies half-conscious beside them. She didn’t see what happened to Fisto or Mossman, and hopes they escaped. Marzo strides across the chamber and forces her to look up at him. Mallek struggles harder, wanting to protect her, but receives a boot-heel in his back for his effort. Later she will both resent and appreciate his protective impulse, but Marzo receives the full force of her ire now.

    “This was Randor’s captain of the guard? Ha! I do not question his taste in women, but in warriors? A poor king, indeed.” Teela spits in his face. He delivers a back-handed slap and her cheek smacks against the floor. “She is not want for spirit however. Did you find the Bell?”

    Raigo reports Najira and the Bell were lost to the river. “Such a pity,” Marzo laments. “Dispatch your best hunters to find it in the morning. What of Daved?”

    “He is here,” says Chimera, who appears in the chamber with the slouching and defeated boy. Marzo welcomes his nephew with a false hospitality that makes Teela sick. He embraces Daved and touches his face in a deceptively gentle, almost loving fashion, as if appraising his own son with pride.

    “You were very naughty to run away, my child. You are precious to me. For you see, I have a surprise for you.” He escorts Daved to a balcony overlooking the courtyard, wherein a crowd of Al-Baron’s nobles have been gathered. “You see our people, Daved? They have been waiting for you! All this time, they have waited, afraid you might never join us.” The crowd reacts to see Daved, but it is a stark and fearful shudder rather than a pleasing cheer. “They look concerned,” says Marzo with artificial sympathy. “Daved, I think they do not understand that I am your new guardian. You should tell them, Daved. Tell them that you belong to me now, that I will watch over you, over them, and all of Al-Baron. Tell them that there is no more need for worry and discord in our fair city. Will you do this for me, Daved?”

    Teela watching wants nothing more than to push Marzo off that balcony and pull Daved safely back inside. Then she hears Chimera stepping over to her. Chimera leans closer, and she prepares herself for whatever assault may follow. Then, to her surprise, he whispers, “Be ready.”

    “People of Al-Baron,” says Daved to the crowd. “I want you all to know something. It’s very important, and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me. Right now, my Uncle, has told me that he will personally watch over me as my new guardian. He wants me to tell you that he is the Duke of Al-Baron.” There are boos from the some of the assembled, but most only watch in silent horror. Then Daved shouts, “But Count Marzo is a liar! He is your enemy! Stand up and fight him! Fight him now, for all Al-Baron!” Suddenly several people in the crowd throw off their robes to reveal the armor of Fantu warriors underneath. A horn sounds from the watch towers, a signal that an enemy has appeared at the perimeter wall.

    “What have you done,” Marzo bellows, and grabs up Daved by his collar.

    “Now!” Daved yells to Chimera. With a wave of his hand, Chimera dissolves Teela and Mallek’s chains and drops their swords in front of them. Then with one of his mighty claps, he sends Marzo’s guards hurtling off their feet.

    “Treason,” Marzo cries. He reaches for his amulet, but Daved grabs it and uses his legs to shove himself free of Marzo’s grasp. He rolls across the floor and then runs out of the chamber. Teela, Mallek, and Chimera fight the remainder of the guards while Marzo races after Daved.

    Outside Raigo and his soldiers defend the castle from the internal uprising. Overhead the defense shield encapsulates the castle from the attacking Fantu. Yet suddenly, the energy dome shimmers and fades before blinking out entirely. “Sabotage,” Raigo gasps, but the word is drowned out by the furious war cry of the Fantu and their allies. The Zeagon tanks try to fire at the invaders, but waves of foliage crash upon the vehicles, knocking them over or ripping them apart as easily as paper. Mossman advances with an army of plant-life rising up at his command. No less effective against them are Roboto with his myriad weapons and Fisto with his powerful strikes sending whole tanks onto their sides!

    “Eternian swine,” Raigo snarls as the odds quickly turn against him. Soon he sees his rival Murlo in the front lines and attacks him. The two long-time foes clash over the battlefield as their armies engage. “You cannot win, Murlo! Al-Baron belongs to Marzo, who has sworn to reward me well!”

    “Al-Baron is neither yours, nor Marzo’s! Today, it too shall be free!” His attack is so strong that it shatters Raigo’s sword, knocking the evil warlord to the ground where he surrenders like the worm he is.

    Last edited by gbagok; August 13, 2012 at 05:35am.

  7. #32
    Heroic Warrior gbagok's Avatar
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    Deep within the castle, Marzo follows Daved down into the sacred chamber of the Font of Ages. There, Daved hides with the amulet while Marzo prowls the room in search of him. “Tell me Daved, did your mother ever share with you the tale of the two brothers? Long ago, the young heirs to the ducal throne were racing through the jungles of Al-Baron. They came to a narrow but deep ravine. The younger brother Avnor wished to turn back, afraid of falling, but Marzo his older brother challenged him. Little Avnor was proud and did not want to be called a coward, so he ran to the edge and jumped. Still fearful of the fall, he closed his eyes, and as he leapt he heard a cry from Marzo. When Avnor felt ground beneath his feet, he looked back to see no sign of Marzo. Avnor search but found no sign of him, and thus ran home in tears to report Marzo had fallen to his death. Yet this was not true. Marzo had been abducted by wizards from the Dunes of Doom. The wizards were toothless old fools, but they were desired a student to whom they might teach their dark trade. Their leader was a hard man, but he taught Marzo much in the years that followed. The wizard hoped that the boy could unlock the power of an ancient talisman, an amulet that had once belonged to Marzo’s ancestors. But when Marzo discovered his birthright, the amulet made him stronger, enough to defeat the wizards and their leader. He returned home, where his brother Avnor rejoiced to find him alive again. But Marzo, the boy playing childish games in the jungle, was dead, Daved. I am what remains. I learned the hardest lessons of this world--that power matters above all.” He looks at the Font and smirks. “These waters have helped me survive much longer than you might think. I chose to be magnanimous, Daved, by restoring your childhood. One never knows what is best until one loses it--and I lost mine much earlier than most. When I killed your parents, I stole yours as well. I was only trying to return it.”

    Daved’s heart leaps into his throat.

    “Yes, Daved. I killed them. I’d hoped to use the Font to restore my youth after the Elders stole it, but their spell was too strong. Your father and mother...meddled. So did what had to be done. I regret losing family, Daved, which is why I wanted to keep you close as the boy who might have been my son. Can we not all be friends again? Or must you continue to hide in fear of your old uncle Marzo?”

    “I’m not afraid now, uncle,” Daved says and he stands up from his hiding place. He holds up the amulet. “Do you fear me?”

    Marzo snarls. “Fool. I can command the amulet from here!” Suddenly the amulet sails into his hand and he strikes a beam of magic at Daved. The boy leaps out of the way at first, then stops and faces his uncle again. Marzo smirks, “at will die like a man.” He fires another beam at Daved, but the result is not what he expects. Suddenly the water in the Font behind David rises up like a massive tentacle and envelopes the boy. The light from the amulet sparkles on the surface of the swirling water, but appears to cause no harm to Daved within. Then slowly, Daved starts to grow taller, and Marzo realizes the water is aging him.

    “Brat! The Font’s power will be your undoing! I’ll let it age you until you are nothing but dust! Let it make you into some misshapen mal-formed geriatric thing to be crush under my boot! You and your kind were weak! All of you did not deserve this power,” he says holding up the amulet. “That’s why it chose me!”

    Daved raises his hand and, as it had for Marzo, the amulet flies in his had.

    “It chose me, too, uncle. I never understood it until now.” Suddenly the amulet’s purple jem changes and becomes green. Marzo gasps, but before he can act, the water of the Font arcs away from Daved and engulfs Marzo. He cries out, but his voice grows higher as his body shrinks.

    Teela, Mallek, and Chimera arrive to see the Font of Ages aglow with the green and blue energies of the amulet. They see Marzo shrink in size while Daved grows taller and stronger. Then a burst of power rises up out of the Font and through the tower above. All the armies outside see the piercing spear of light like a giant beacon announcing Marzo’s final defeat.

    When Daved steps out of the Font’s water, he is again his true age. Teela embraces him, relieved to see her friend finally restored. Marzo’s small form tumbles out of the water as well. He is awkward and confused, and as he stands up the others gasp, for he is a child as young as Daved had been. He looks at them with a distant stare. “Who am I,” he asks.

    Hours later, the last of Raigo’s troops stand defeated and surrounded by the Fantu and the freed loyalists of Al-Baron. Restored to his rightful rank, Daved thanks his friends Teela and Mallek, and assures them that his people will search the ruins for the lost bell. He thanks his true allies in the Fantu as well, especially Podi for her help in the quest. She only smirks and says to Teela, “Now he’s forgetting again! I’m pretty sure he helped me, not the other way around.”

    Teela smiles and says to her “Boys are the same at every age.”

    But despite the celebration, the battle had not been without casualties. The mechanics of Al-Baron set to work repairing Mekaneck’s damage, and Mossman set to work with his healing powers to help the injured warriors, and he promises when finished to seek out the Bell that had been lost in the river. Teela regrets leaving them both in Al-Baron, but she knows time is of the essence.

    “The next Bell is located in the mountains beyond the Eternian Flatlands,” Roboto explains.

    “In that case we may have someone already there who can help,” says Teela eagerly as they continue on the quest for the Bells of Doom.

    Daved advises Teela to wait for his freed warriors to regroup so that they might accompany her, but she encourages him to help Mossman find the Bell still somewhere in Al-Baron.

    “We haven’t time to wait,” she explains, “Skeletor may already be ahead of us.”


    Downriver, Najira drags herself onto the river bank, coughing and gasping for air. A shadow falls over her and she looks up to see Chieftess Zhandrea and her warriors. For a moment the chieftess holds Najira in a penetrating gaze, then commands her warriors to help her to her feet.

    "You have served us well, Najira. Marzo is beaten, thanks in part to your subterfuge."

    "Did the children escape the ruins unharmed," Najira asks.

    "Both are alive and well, and Daved has been restored to adulthood. The others have thought the Bell lost," she says as two of her warriors retrieve it from the river bank.

    Najira lowers her eyes, “I could not prevent them from ringing it, my lady. The magic has begun.”

    “It could not be helped then. We must report this," the chieftess places a crystal on the ground and casts a spell. The ghostly image of a noble woman appears, and Zhandrea lowers her eyes with respect. "My queen, we of the Cabal of Xethos implore your forgiveness. The Bell has been sounded."

    "Troubling news, Zhandrea," the Queen says regretfully. "The magic of the bells has been activated. It cannot be left unguarded. You must bring it here to Gar Qadia at once. Only here will it be safe. You must do all you can to find the next bell and deliver it to us as well. The seven bells must not ring as one. So shall we honor our Goddess."

    Zhandrea and her warriors kneel before the spectral image. In unison they say, "We obey, good Queen, for the Honor of Grayskull!”

    While Teela continues to lead her search, He-Man and his allies in the Sands of Time pursue the sinister villains who have obtained one of the BELLS OF DOOM. Their chase will take them to the evil opposite of the Temple of the Sun, and into the very depths of House of Darkness. Don’t miss Chapter Three: House of Shokoti

  8. #33
    Lightning League Leader kylun flac's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    I loved the second chapter.
    I love that you Marzo was brought in for another episode. Marzo deserved another episode, with the MYP/MVC ending with him still out there with the amulet. I recall the bio telling about him going to reclaim his army.
    Something else I really loved was Chimera, Marzo's bodyguard from the 80s Filmation cartoon.
    This episode had a lot of great surprises.
    The next chapter "House of Shokoti" is going to be huge!!!
    Skeleton-Warriors, Ra-Jar, Spinwit, Rock Golem, General Tartaran, Hawke, Slob-Boar, King Agho, Hunga the Harpy, Sh'gora, Masks of Power Demons, Nocturna, Lizzor, Sagitar, Crimson Fury, Lodar, Vizar, Angast, Negator, King Miro, Melaktha, Crystal-Man, ABC Giants, Stridor, Road Ripper, Land Shark

  9. #34
    Heroic Fan ART Mod! JafariStew's Avatar
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    I really like the Teela "Argument" illustration, nice build up so far guys!
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  10. #35
    Heroic Warrior Angry-Calligar's Avatar
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    Canada eh?
    good artwork. weak writing. the story would really had shined if you collaborated with a better writer.

  11. #36
    Heroic Warrior Cheshire Moon's Avatar
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    I feel this should be said. There are a lot of critical voices here who are passing judgement on something which has received a tremendous amount of dedication, creativity, effort and love from its creators - what Gbagok and Iceman have achieved (IMO) outshines a lot of the subjectmatter it draws inspiration from - people should perhaps put their money where their mouths are before they un-constructively criticise someone elses very impressive body of work which is actually very impressive visually and narratively. That is all. Can't wait for the next bit
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  12. #37
    It says ICEMAN oICEMANo's Avatar
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    Eh, you can't please everyone.
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  13. #38
    Heroic Warrior michaelAschamp's Avatar
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    Dont Worry ICEMAN this has been an EPIC write thus far, definetly worth second I have spent on here reading and seeing the artwork which is totaly Awsome!! So to say it is great is some what an under statement! Wasnt going to post until all was shared, but felt it should be said SSSSSSSssssweeeeeetttttt!!

  14. #39
    Heroic Elder Hoffrod's Avatar
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    I am duly impressed guys! You managed to take characters who had their own stories in Filmation and tweak them into a 200x setting with a continuous arc. That takes some very hard thought. I was not a fan of the 200x story lines, particularly where they were going, but I can still read and enjoy this for what it is. And it is a good MOTU adventure story for the 200x continuity. I would love to see you guys take on a project utilizing the first eight vintage minicomics and going on from there with a Miniternia twist.....
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  15. #40
    Warrior of Evolution 13977's Avatar
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    Totally epic so far!

    "for the Honor of Grayskull!" could this be a group of female Guardians of Grayskull? If so it could mean we'll see Illumina soon.

    Umm who could Zodak's child be? It can't be She-La can it? she was Grayskull's child and given to Zodac to become a Cosmic Enforcer.

    Love that you used Theydon and Doodon for Dragstor's and Extendar's real names, Not sure if I like the change in their origin but it does work well within this story.

    Love the bits with Keldor and Hordak, really feels as if this is building to something big!
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  16. #41
    Heroic Warrior Alleyezon4's Avatar
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    Zodak's child is Prince Dakkon......
    I'm a huge MOTU fan and am learning more and more about the MOTU franchise the more I come to this site.

  17. #42
    Warrior of Evolution 13977's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alleyezon4 View Post
    Zodak's child is Prince Dakkon......
    Oh of course, from The Slave City, its been so long since I've read it I'd forgot.
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  18. #43
    Heroic Warrior harold's Avatar
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    Simply incredible!!!!!!!!!!
    I like it so much. I like all of this draws.
    For sure CHIMERA will be one of the next of my 3D projects. It will be awesome near my Count Marzo custom.
    I need it in my collection.

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  19. #44
    Heroic Warrior maczero's Avatar
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    Good to see this back. I have to admit the first chapter was a little weak. However, chapter 2 was a great read! Can't wait for the next installment!

    Btw, was I the only one that laughed at the return of Marzo's infamous pimp slap? I still remember being shocked when he backhanded Evil Lyn in the series.
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  20. #45
    It says ICEMAN oICEMANo's Avatar
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    Second Interval

    The time portal appears to Keldor like a tunnel of brilliant light with forks of lightning playing around the Nameless One and himself. The two time-travelers are pulled onward as if by an invisible line, unharmed but seemingly helpless in the cosmic corridor. The smell of ashes fills Keldor’s nostrils, but he sees no fire. Very soon the disorientation begins to overwhelm him and Keldor wishes he could stop and find his footing, but the Nameless One seems undaunted by the forces acting upon them. And then just as suddenly as the corridor had appeared, it is gone. Keldor feels ground beneath his feet and steadies himself, relieved to find his stomach settling without emptying itself first. He looks up and is astonished by the large throne room in which they have arrived. It contains statues of giants, beautiful Eternian gold marble, and a throne marked with hieroglyphics set before a vast iris like a great eye.

    Robed strangers fill the room, representatives from across Eternia perhaps. Suddenly fear seizes Keldor as he wonders what they will do when they discover his intrusion.

    “They cannot see us,” the Nameless One explains as if Keldor had given voice to his fears. “We are out of phase with them, a part of the Key’s power.”

    “Who are these people? The Elders?”

    “Of a sort. These were the original Elders, the leaders before the ones you called the Council of Elders.”

    “Then I hate them. Where or when are we?”

    “You are in the Central Tower of Eternia.” Keldor gasps, impressed to be in such an infamous fortress. When he asks what is happening, the Nameless One indicates that he should pay attention to the scene playing out before them. The Elders congregate around something, a book possibly though it would be the largest book Keldor has ever seen.

    “We face a grave decision, my brethren,” says a blue-robed white-bearded man, possibly the oldest of the assembled. “Though the Enemy is now trapped in the Shakkaran Crystal, the ultimate source of his power is now our charge--and perhaps our curse. We must choose the fate of this talisman, the Demonichron.”

    The assembled murmur amongst themselves, a mixture of sounds both eager and afraid. Keldor is not surprised. What he knows of the Demonichron is limited, but its powers were as legendary as those of the Tower itself. “The Enemy is vanquished, Keclar,” says one of the Elders, “but his minions still thrive on Eternia. We should use the Book to rout them out or as bait to trap them.”

    “Unwise,” says another white-bearded man standing closer to Keldor. “The Book’s power is primordial; it will trap anyone who seeks to use it. Attempt to defeat evil will make us even more evil than our Enemy.”

    “Eldor speaks wisely,” says a fair-haired woman on the far side of the throne. “The book will only cause strife among us as a weapon and perhaps as a prize as well.”

    “What then, Sharella,” asks another. “If we cannot use the book, nor keep it, what is our choice?”

    The oldest one called Keclar answers, “You each were summoned and bid to bring the keys the Ancients gave you. With them, we may open the Great Eye of the Universe, and cast the book beyond it.” This remark stirs the assembled into turmoil or arguing and harsh voices, and all the while Keclar watches them with crafty eyes.

    “He’s testing them,” says Keldor to the Nameless One. “He wants to know who agrees with him and who doesn’t.”

    “Clever, Keldor,” says the Nameless One.

    “What of the Sword of the Ancients,” asks one pudgy round-faced man. “The Sword of He defeated the Enemy first, rent him asunder and diminished his power. It is said to share a bond to the Starseed itself! Can we not use it to protect ourselves from the Book’s power?”
    Keclar and some of the others exchange worried looks. “You make a fair point, Mah-Tyn.” He holds out his hand and there, appearing in a shower of light, appears a magnificent blade made of a glowing green metal. He holds the sword up for all to see its wonder. “Is that the wish of this council,” Keclar poses finally. “Do we wish to use the Book with the Sword as our shield?”

    A woman in snake clan vestments and heavy with child speaks, “For the sake of our children and their children to come, we cannot welcome evil into our midst under any circumstances. The Goddess warned her people to not choose the easy path, and the Book as our weapon would be far too easy. Evil begets only more evil. If the Book may be banished beyond the Great Eye, then so it must be.”

    The majority of the council agrees, but a few including the one called Mah-Tyn hold their tongues. The elders then approach the throne, holding up their staves. Suddenly Keldor sees one of them is holding the Staff of Zalecia. He rushes out to grab it, but discovers he can no more seize the staff than he can hold the air.

    “You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you,” asks the Nameless One.

    “This is ridiculous,” Keldor cries. “Why show me this if I cannot take what I need?”

    “Because your ignorance is epic! This staff is no mere weapon or prize to be collected--it is a Key to the Great Eye of the Universe, a part of the greatest powers in existence. And it can be yours!”

    “Mine? How?”

    “You will have to learn that part for yourself, Keldor. Watch.”

    The keys of the Elders in place, the Great Eye begins to open, and while the leader Keclar recites some ancient speech full of alien words, the Book of Evil drifts towards the Eye’s circumference. As it passes in the darkness beyond it picks up speed and radiates a menacing red energy as if it objects to its imposed exile. Soon it is nothing but an angry red star in the cosmos--or beyond the cosmos as the case seemed to be.

    Keclar brings the Sword of the Ancients to a device in front of the throne and drives the blade down into it as if planting a stake in the ground. The device locks around the blade and the iris of the Great Eye begins to close.

    “What is the point of that,” asks Mah-Tyn. “The sword locks the Eye forever. Would you deprive us of its power as well as the Book’s?”

    Keclar nods. “The Sword’s true owner is not here yet, Mah-Tyn. For now, as we once kept watch over the Eye, the Sword will keep watch over the Book. Brethren, our original purpose is fulfilled. Now we must rebuild the Ancients wanted.” Keclar leads the others out of the hall, but Mah-Tyn is the last to follow.

    Left alone in their ghost-like state, Keldor looks around the empty throne room and grunts. “So what now?”

    Nameless One nods. “There is more, Keldor. You will see soon.”

    And indeed, not long after, in what were probably the twilight hours outside, someone enters the room alone and approaches the Sword of the Ancients...

    Chapter Three: House of Darkness
    Previously, while our heroes were in the Sands of Time, the villainous Batros stole the first BELL OF DOOM and delivered it to the sinister allies of Hexon and Skeletor, along with two prisoners: Kira and Stanlan, Melaktha’s young assistants. Now He-Man, Battle Cat, Andra, Melaktha, Orko, and their new ally Extendar follow Batros across the desert to save the hostages before it’s too late!

    Night descends upon the Sands of Time as the heroes approach the menacing lair of Trap Jaw. It’s opening, a cave shaped like a fanged maw, yawns before them like a great beast awaiting its prey. Battle Cat roars defiantly at it as if facing an opponent in battle. Andra watches He-Man, but the powerful warrior says nothing as he studies the exterior of the fort.

    Extendar strides into view beside them, his extended limbs giving him the gate of a giant. Now at their destination, he lowers himself to the height of a man and reports, “I’ve searched the perimeter thoroughly. This appears to be the only entrance.”

    “Stanlan and Kira’s life monitors lead here,” says Melaktha as he and Orko join them in the Wind Raider. “Let us hope their signals stay strong.”

    Inside, Trap Jaw’s lair appears abandoned. The corridors within are cold and dim, and possessing a hungry emptiness that made Andra want to keep the front entrance always in sight for a quick escape. Some ways into the network of chambers and corridors, Orko finds a door ajar. The warriors’ light-crystals reveal a horde of idle Spider Droids, seemingly asleep like pets recently fed.

    Melaktha’s tracking device clicks more rapidly, and they hold up their crystals to see inside the room. On the floor are a pair of wrist modules--the life monitors. A small external battery connected to them has kept them active despite being removed from the hostages. Melaktha lowers the tracker in defeat. “It was just a lure to give them a head start,” he says finally. “They could be miles from here.”

    The heroes hear a sound further down the corridor and find a small pantry wherein someone is hiding. Melaktha shines his crystals inside, and is startled to see a young woman hiding inside--a woman he knows.

    “Karyn!” The others exchange worried looks. When last they saw Karyn, she was wielding powerful magic at the side of Skeletor and Hexon--the strange Gar wizard whom she had called “father.” Yet here, she appears frightened and as helpless as a small child. She shields her eyes from the the light, breathing rapidly and eyes racing. Melaktha speaks softly to calm her, and slowly she seems to recognize him. She dissolves into sobs and leans into him.

    As Karyn calms down she relates her terrible story. “A friend and I returned to one of the old excavation sites to find any history of our families. We had recognized some writing from our archives and thought perhaps it came from our ancestors. I discovered a relic that was full of old magic and--something came out of it--an evil spirit--and it...entered me. It’s been controlling me for so long now.”

    “Why did it leave you here,” asks Andra soberly. He-Man could tell she was suspicious.

    “I don’t know...something happened. When the winged one brought the bell, was still in me. But when it touched the bell, something happened. I felt the spirit leave men, but I don’t know how. The others turned against me, they seemed to know I was myself again. I ran and found a hiding place. They were all in such a hurry to leave, they did not want you to find them here.”

    “What about the other prisoners,” He-Man asks. “Did you see what happened to them?”

    “They took them. I heard them leaving, they were headed West, out of the Sands of Time.”

    “Back to Snake Mountain,” says Melaktha deductively.

    Orko rises a little higher, “Maybe I can cast a spell to get us there before--” He stops when the others suddenly tense up. A red light flickers across Orko’s chest, and in horror they recognize it as one of the Spider Droid’s targeting beam. Another beam joins the first, then another. Everyone follows the path of the beam back to the door to the room containing the droids. The spiders are moving!

    “Run,” says Andra. He-Man raises his shield and steps in from of Orko as the spiders open fire. The heroes race back through the dark corridors towards the entrance as the Spider Droids clamber out after them. Their blaster-fire sparks against the cave walls, each shot narrowly missing the warriors. Finally with the entrance in sight, He-Man tells the others to go on ahead while he stands to face the droids alone. With one punch, he brings the stone walls down upon the first of the droids. Another hit, and the entire corridor collapses, trapping all the droids inside the lair. Relieved, He-Man follows the others outside and stops in surprise. Surrounding them is an army of Reptile Men.

    “Ahhhhh, Eternianssss. Jussst as Lord Masssque predicted,” says the leader, a sinister reptilian atop a hissing, carnivorous steed. “Sssurrender, outsssidersss.”

    He-Man readies himself for a fight. “We don’t have time for this,” he says to the Reptile Men. “Let us go on our way and there won’t be any trouble.”

    The leader laughs. “Too late for that! Tear hisss flesh from hisss bonesss!” With that, the reptile men charge at the heroes. He-Man and Andra fend off several attackers at once, while Extendar rises up to a titanic height, terrifying many of his would-be slaughterers. Even Orko’s magic effectively confuses several Reptile Men with a conjured whirlwind of sand. Melaktha protects Karyn, who is not a fighter.

    The reptile leader orders more of his forces to attack as the first wave falls or retreats in defeat. He-Man does not wait for the reptile warriors to reach him. He runs at them, then leaps over their heads and out of the reach of their spears. He rolls under the leader’s steed, moving too fast for its snapping jaws, and then lifts the monster into the air. The leader leaps off his saddle just before He-Man hurtles the beast into the nearby ranks of reptile men. Andra catches the reptile leader under her sword and coerces him to command his men to stand down.

    “Who is this Lord Masque who hired you,” Andra demands.

    “He came to usss with preciousss jewelsss. A fortune! Only a fool would reject sssuch wealth!”

    “Reptile men live a hard life, Lieutenant Andra,” says Melaktha calmly. “They are nomadic in a land of few resources.”

    He-Man nods. “Perhaps their mercenary nature is understandable, then.”

    Andra scoffs. “Before the Dyperian Guard accepted me, I came from nothing. Desperation is an excuse, not justification.” She says to the reptile leader, “This Masque, where did he go? Which direction?!”

    “I don’t...sssouth, maybe.”

    “Maybe? You’re a desert creature, do not lie!”

    “Agh! It was south! I ssswear it!” Andra stares him down, then lets him go. Quickly he crawls away nearly like a serpent on its belly.

    Andra looks at Karyn. “You said West, before. Are you sure this evil spirit has no more hold over?” Her tone is dangerous, and as Karyn backs away in fear, Melaktha intervenes protectively.

    “There is no cause for such accusations! She was never sure she heard clearly.”

    He-Man agrees. “Do you trust more the word of a Reptile Man who was paid to attack us?”

    Andra is nonplused. “I trust his fear, yes. If you have doubts, then we have a decision to make. West or South?”

    “Uh, guys,” says Orko pointing to a light in the sky. It was too soon to be dawn, but more importantly it was coming from the South.

    Kilometers away, Stanlan feels sand in his mouth. He spits it out and tries to get up. His hands are bound. He feels someone over him and is about to cry out when Kira cups her hand on his mouth. She gestures for him to be silent while she tries to cut his bonds, having already cut her own. Stanlan hears the voices of their kidnappers talking nearby. The Sands of Time surround them, pale as bone in the dimness of twilight. He hears voices. Stanlan looks up at several figures, a massive cyborg and several cloaked strangers.

    “Batros took his payment and left. We’re wasting our time here, Masque. Skeletor wants--”

    “Your master knows the price of my allegiance,” says one of the cloaked figures as he holds an old bell like a precious parchment in his hands. “Skeletor and Hexon will soon learn that theirs is not the only ambition on Eternia.”

    Trap Jaw, sounding confused, asks, “What use is that bell to you without the others?”

    “Fool. Each Bell of Doom contains a unique magic of it’s own. A single ring commands great power. See for yourself!”

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    He holds it up and strikes it. The sound is unnatural, too deep and too loud for such a small bell, and it echoes across the horizon like the roar of a monster. The sand under their feet begins to move. Soon Stanlan sees something like a vast whirlpool forming in the desert before them. Beams of green light rise out of the sand like talons from an eggshell followed by great sharp stone horns rising up from the depths of the world.

    Suddenly Stanlan’s bonds break free and Kira helps him to his feet. A woman stands over them, her cloak white and glistening in the starlight. Her face is hooded, but he sees blue on her face. “Get to safety, children,” she says and runs at the creature called Masque. He turns in time to evade her assault, but she is fast and wields a double-sides spear against him. Kira pulls Stanlan after her and soon the two are running but the ground under them shifts like a wave impeding their escape. Suddenly one of the cloaked figures moves like a flash and blocks their escape. His body glows, and he looks upon them with the face of a menacing skull. Suddenly Stanlan feels nothing but fear gripping him--worse than fear, it is a paralyzing horror. He cannot move, he cannot even think. All the world is falling apart, and a terror seizes him that the ground will simply drop out from under him. He feels someone lashing new bonds on him, and then the fearsome specter turns away. Almost as fast as the fear had come upon Stanlan, it vanishes. It was just a vision, he thinks, and yet the Sands of Time are indeed moving and changing with a terrible purpose.

    He looks to where the woman in white and the masked creature had fought, but he cannot see them. Instead, towering overhead is a great black massive shape climbing higher and higher. Even in the night, it looks as if it had been formed of shadow. Hours go by in seconds as it climbs higher until it become mountainous and overbearing.

    “Behold,” says Masque approaching Trap Jaw and the fearsome one, “the House of Darkness.”

    He commands his servants to bring Kira and Stanlan to him. He regards them through a demon mask with eyes as heartless and dead as the black tower he has summoned. “You two will do. Bring them,” he strides towards the Tower and what looks like a massive stone door. Stanlan seens no sign of the woman in white, although Masque is clearly limping from a new injury. On the door, the likeness of a very different woman cast in precious metal stares down at them. Masque spreads his arms wide in a gesture of grand worship. “My Mistress of Power, your servant returns with an offering. An offering of flesh and blood!”

    Something roars in the distance. Masque and his servants look around, startled by the unexpected sound. Stanlan sees Battle Cat rising over a rocky crest on the horizon and cheers, thinking the villains will now release him and flee. But Masque growls bitterly and knocks Stanlan down with a backhanded strike.

    “Warriors, destroy that Eternian cur!” He grabs Stanlan and Kira and strides toward the door. Stanlan thinks at first that he means to slam them against the stone, but just as he expects to feel it against his face, the rock vanishes like smoke. The Sands of Time vanish, and all that remains is pitch blackness.

    Battle Cat bounds into the mass of warriors, throwing many of them into the air with swipes of his horned helmet. Trap Jaw attempts to use his laser-tron arm, but He-Man cuts it in half. The evil warrior screams angrily, then lunges forward biting and howling with pain and rage.

    “I thought even you were above stealing children, Trap Jaw,” He-Man says as he shoves him away.

    “Masque wanted them for his mistress, but I could care less!”

    Ribbons of green lightning sparkle over the surface of the Tower overhead, and a scream from within rips through the air. He-Man wastes no more time with Trap Jaw. He runs at the tower’s huge doors. Trap Jaw seizes his chance to escape, and the warriors still standing join his retreat while Andra and the heroes follow He-Man to the door of the House of Darkness.

    “How do we get in,” she asks.

    Melaktha is terrified. “This is...impossible! Shokoti!”

    “Sha-who,” Orko asks.

    “An evil sorceress--one who nearly brought about the Night of Living Darkness. This tower was her House. Here she built a portal from which to unleash the Children of Sh’Gora.”

    “Th-that doesn’t sound good,” says Orko fearfully.

    “It was a terrible chapter of Eternian history, but Shokoti’s cult has been dead for centuries.”

    “Skeletor must have revived it,” says Andra. “How do we get in?”

    “Y-y-you want to get in?” says Orko, fearfully.

    Extendar looks up the tower’s staggering height. “I see what may be an opening near the peak where there is light. With my powers, I could reach it in an hour.”

    He-Man shakes his head. “There’s no telling if that will be fast enough.” He raises his sword in both arms, and cleaves the door open down the middle.

    Melaktha distributes light crystals to the others as they enter the deep and utter darkness within Shokoti’s stronghold. Hollow screams echo within, shrieks of madness and despair as if past intruders were trapped and long since gone insane trying to get out. The stench of wet, rotting death saturates the air, enough that Melaktha advises Karyn and Orko to stay outside. Orko, though wanting to be brave, is relieved to stay behind, but Karyn insists on going with the others. Orko shivers, but unwilling to be left behind, he follows. He produces his wand and casts a spell to illuminate the ring at the end.

    “What is that stench,” asks Andra, gasping because of the stale air.

    “Death. And very old blood,” Melaktha answers grimly. The others hold their noses and try to see where they are going in the pitch blackness. Their crystals and Orko’s wand seem to grow fainter the further they tread. Then, very unexpectedly, something glows in the corridor ahead. It is not a bright light, or even the cool glow of starlight, but a sinister green that flows like a luminous mist.

    “Ahh!” Orko cries, dropping his wand, which promptly goes dark. “Wolfbats! Everywhere!” He flails in the air as if trying to avoid something, but the others only look at each other in confusion, neither seeing nor hearing wolfbats.

    Suddenly He-Man realizes what is happening. “Shield your eyes,” he yells as Scare Glow appears in the corridor with them. “Try to hide in the dark, don’t let the light touch you!”

    But it is too late, for the green light shines on all of them and over their own moans comes a wicked laugh.

    “Hide in the dark? The darkness spawns fear, He-Man,” says Scare Glow. “You cannot blind yourself to me here.” Indeed it is so dark that Scare Glow’s evil illumination is visible even through the heroes’ eyelids. He-Man hears Battle Cat groaning as if in pain, while he himself feels the same terror he experienced the last time he encountered Scare Glow. Only this time, it is not his parents’ anger that haunts him, but their despair. They seem to cry out to him from the emptiness--replacing the demonic screams already echoing in the House of Darkness. They are trapped and their son Adam has failed to save them. They are in pain! All this time they have suffered, and because of his failure it will never end!

    Suddenly a burst of light floods the black corridor, eradicating Scare Glow’s spell. The evil warrior throws his cloak over himself like a shield. A woman in white appears, holding up a jewel that glows like a purifying torch as she rests a hand upon the emblem of Extendar’s armor. He-Man remembers that the emblem resembles the Sun Stone and it seems to give light to the stone in the woman’s hand.

    Scare Glow begins to flee, but He-Man blocks his path. The villain hisses at him and strikes with his scythe. He-Man blocks his blow with the Power Sword, and the two clash. Extendar’s light reveals the dark corridor is actually a bridge, one of many over a large chasm. Scare Glow intended to frighten them all into stumbling to their deaths. Now, his power engulfed by the magic of the Sun Stone and the mystery woman’s strange amulet, he tries to force He-Man over the edge with shier might. Yet He-Man’s physical strength is far too great, and in the glow of the Sun Stone’s avatar, Scare Glow’s own power is too greatly diminished.

    “You are too late,” he says, backing away. “The sacrifice has begun. Our ally has come, and soon there will be plenty enough for you to fear without my influence.” With that, he turns and leaps off the bridge, vanishing into the darkness below. Andra steps away from an edge to which she had been uncomfortably close.

    He-Man replaces his sword and turns to the mysterious woman. “Whoever you are, thank you.”

    She lowers her hand from Extendar’s crest, which slowly fads to a dimmer light. “I concur,” he says. “And how did you do that?”

    “You have the Sun Stone’s power in you,” she says, “you only need to learn to use it. My amulet is a light in dark places, but I knew your power would defeat Scare Glow.”

    “You seem to know a lot about us,” says Andra distrustfully, “and our enemies. Who are you?”

    “I am a guardian,” the woman says simply. “You’ve set a great evil loose upon Eternia by unearthing the Bell of Doom. I had hoped to prevent this, but I stopped to free the children and it cost me my opportunity.”

    “Stanlan and Kira,” says Melaktha urgently. “Where are they now?”

    “Scare Glow recaptured them. They’ll be with Masque now.”

    Andra looks down to where Scare Glow had leapt. “Do you think we’ve seen the end of him?”

    “I doubt it,” He-Man sighs. “But we still have to find our way, and I suspect he wasn’t lying about our time being short.”

    Karyn steps ahead of the others. “I...I can feel them. Can none of you sense it? The Beast is coming...”

    “I don’t like this,” says Melaktha. “Karyn has been in contact with an evil spirit. This place can only bring her harm.”

    “I can help you find your friends,” Karyn protests. “Let me do this.” The others agree, but Melaktha is silent as they proceed with Extendar illuminating the path.

    “Will you join us, uh,” He-Man asks the woman in white, realizing he does not know her name.

    “I will,” she says, but volunteers nothing more.


    Stanlan and Kira find themselves in a massive audience chamber adorned with statues of the woman whose likeness was on the tower door. Strange wingless creatures, excited by the presence of outsiders, screech hideously as they inexplicably fly overhead. Looking at them, Stanlan nearly walks into a large gurgling pool of black ichor that fills almost the entire floor of the room. Stanlan is still afraid, but he resists his fear as he looks around for some kind of weapon.

    Masque takes no obvious notice of him, but seems to know what he is doing. “Do not resist your fate, boy,” he says. “Surrender to the darkness, it will be easier on you.”

    “Let him go,” Kira demands. “He’s just a child! I’ll be your hostage. I won’t fight you.”

    “As you wish.” Masque grabs her by the arm and hauls her around the edge of the pool. Stanlan tries to stop him, but the shrieking creatures snare him with their tentacles and hold him in place with grips of iron. Despite the darkness, he can see a sarcophagus standing prominently upon a dais at the other end of the pool. With a wave his hand, Masque commands the lid to move aside and reveal the decayed remains within.

    “By your own words, you will not fight,” Masque says to Kira. “Give yourself willingly to my Mistress, and I shall not harm the boy.” Kira hesitates, but as Stanlan protests, she nods. Masque holds her arm out to the corpse in the sarcophagus, as if she is to shake its hand. Then the skeleton within comes to life and seizes Kira’s hand. Smoke and forks of green lightning sparkle around them. The creatures release Stanlan, but a magical force prevents him from running to Kira and pulling her away. He cries her name, and an evil laughter echoes around the hall. Then, finally, the storm of magic fades. As the smoke clears, Kira is gone, replaced by a woman with black, soulless eyes.

    Masque kneels to her, his head lowered as if in the presence of a queen. Slowly she opens her mouth with a dry hissing gasp. She looks at her hands and then her arms, as if discovering something that had been lost long ago. A slow, cruel smile comes to her mouth. She is alive, and nothing else matters.

    “Kira!” cries Stanlan. The sound angers the woman, and she gestures at him. The shrieking demons descend upon him again, this time wrapping tentacles around his jaw and clamping it shut just as he cries, “Masque promised not to hurt me!”

    “And so he won’t,” says the woman with a voice like a hissing corpse. She crosses over the pool as if it were solid stone with the menacing approach of a vicious predator. She stands over Stanlan, the cruel smile never leaving her face.

    “Yes,” she says greedily. “You will be sufficient.” She turns; her arms open wide, and declares as if the bones are an audience “A sufficient sacrifice for the Sleeping Beast!”

    Still far from Shokoti’s sacrificial chamber, the heroes move from corridor to corridor, never seeming to find an end to the labyrinth of Shokoti’s lair. Even with Karyn’s magic sense leading them, every door leads only to yet another passageway. Finally they come to a hall filled with relics and engravings showing the ancient warriors of Eternia locked in their old struggles of good and evil. Interestingly, the faces of the heroic figures appear chipped and broken, as though the evil lair has hacked at even the likeness of the forces of good. Melaktha studies the old, worn writing on the walls, but finds most of them too damaged to recognize.

    “I don’t suppose there’s a map of this place on that wall,” says Andra.

    “These look like warnings to drive people away, not welcome them in,” Melaktha notes. “Karyn, you made a study of this era, I believe. Can you read these?”

    Karyn clears her throat. “It’s very worn out, but I believe you were right about the warning. There is a seal for the House of Sumana the First, a Preternian queen. It also tells of the war over the Spells of the Living Darkness.”

    “I see,” says Melaktha thoughtfully.

    “Has anyone noticed our mystery friend in white has vanished,” Andra asks slowly as she draws her sword, expecting an ambush.

    “I don’t think she means us harm,” He-Man warns.

    “Do you think she just made a wrong turn,” asks Orko fearfully.

    “I suspect she knows her way around this place better than that,” says He-Man.

    “Perhaps,” Melaktha offers, “she realized Karyn has been leading us into a trap.”

    The others look at Melaktha in surprise. Karyn at first doesn’t move, until suddenly she throws back her head and laughs. Battle Cat growls at her and the others tense up, for the sound is unnatural and menacing.

    In a deeper, more confident voice, Karyn says, “When did you know, Melaktha of Eternia? I assume Karyn cannot read such ancient languages as these.”

    “She can’t. But when you called Stanlan and Kira my friends, I first suspected. Karyn knew them both well.”

    “Did she?” the woman who isn’t Karyn sighs. “She must have resisted my mind probes. I shall do better in the future.”

    “Who are you,” He-Man demands, he and the others now holding up their weapons at her.

    She looks at him askance. “Don’t you recognize me, beloved?”

    He-Man is momentarily stunned, but before he can act, she raises her hand and a magic field appears between them and the others. She approaches him slowly with an alluring look upon her face.

    “It has been so long, but I would know you in any form, Primus of the Gray. Your spirit has always wandered, but the Dream Mistress can never keep you in her realm of the Eversleep for long. You will always answer the call to battle, the needing cry of this world you so love. Do you still not see me for who I am? Or has the giant’s blood robbed you of your wizard’s sight even now?”

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    She touches his forehead and for a brief instant he sees a woman who is not the blue-skinned Karyn, but an Eternian with long reddish brown hair and a beautiful gold crown. He-Man realizes that he and the woman seem to be far away from the House of Darkness, in another place and time, and he takes her in his arms and kisses her. He is different as well, younger and yet older--much older. She is beautiful before him and he wants to have her, and for an instant he almost wishes to forget that he ever wanted anything else. Suddenly a face appears--the face of the Sorceress warning him of danger. He pulls back and he is himself again in the House of Darkness, the gold-crowned sorceress still smiling seductively at him.

    “This is another trick!”

    “Not this time, Primus,” she says. “Don’t you see? I have arranged everything. I nearly removed Skeletor himself from your troubles and replaced him with Hexon. I took the body of one of his descendants that he would believe her to be his faithful disciple. I have arranged everything, and all for your benefit. Soon the Second will come, the Protectress of Power. The other sword will return, and you will need one as strong as me at your side.”

    “ speak in riddles. I don’t know you. I am not this Primus of whom you speak. And innocent people have been harmed because of Skeletor and Hexon working together. If you think you have been helping me then you’re mistaken.”

    She frowns angrily, “Nothing I do is ever good enough for you! I...was angry with you for choosing the Daughter of Swann over me. I acted impulsively, helped Hordak hurt you. I never wanted any of this to happen though. I’ve mourned you for centuries on the Isle of Tears, my immortality a curse. Yet finally, I learned of your return and of the powers plotting against you. Forgive me, Primus, if some have suffered in my efforts to help you. It was not my desire, but it could not be helped. They would have suffered worse if I had done nothing at all.”

    “You say you want to help me...then why are you leading us in circles? Help me find Kira and Stanlan and stop this Masque.”

    She scoffs, “The children are irrelevant, and Masque should be the least of your worries. The Mistress of Living Darkness has taken Kira’s place. She is raising her powers to awaken the Sleeping Beast. The boy is to be her sacrifice.”

    “No! We have to stop her.”

    “We? I thought I only caused more suffering.”

    He-Man shakes his head at her and looks away to the barrier between himself and the others. They were watching, trying unsuccessfully to break through to him. “You seem to think you’ve been acting out of love. But all I can see are the actions of a spoiled child throwing a tantrum. If it’s true that you set these events in motion, then you have caused more danger to Eternia than I have ever seen. Whoever Primus is, if he is anything like me, he cannot love you for this.”

    Anger sizzles around the woman, and she snarls at him as if to unleash her magical fury--then, quite suddenly, she stops and her anger seems to cool. She waves her hand and the barrier in front of the others vanishes. She tilts her head at him in a seemingly detached way and says with a menacing reserve, “Have it your way, Beloved. The chamber of Shokoti is five corridors down on your left. Of course you realize she could have disposed of Skeletor for you as well--but proceed on your own terms, Primus. You always do.”

    In a flash of magic sparks and smoke, she disappears, leaving them behind to wonder. Melaktha beats his fists at the curls of smoke and cries out in anguish. Andra rests a comforting hand on him, but he shakes his head.

    “This is my fault. I put those children in harm’s way.”

    Andra says, “No. All you’ve ever done is tried to keep them safe. And it’s not too late to save them.” She looks at He-Man hopefully. “Do you think she was telling the truth about where to go?”

    “I’m not sure,” He-Man sighs. In his mind he reaches out to the Sorceress. She has never left his thoughts, and yet she seems more distant than ever within this domain of shadows.

    “Your Sorceress cannot help you here,” comes a fell voice at their backs. The others turn to see Masque in the corridor with them. All of them prepare to do battle, but the demon does not attack. Instead he opens his arms to them in a welcoming gesture. “I am not here to fight you. My Mistress wishes all of you to join her as her...guests.”

    “Where is Stanlan,” says He-Man, not lowering his guard.

    “He is waiting for you. Follow me.” He says no more and turns back down the corridor. The others do as he said and follow, all agreeing silently to be on guard.

    Shokoti’s throne room is massive with a ceiling that reaches perhaps all the way to the top of the temple. A pit in the center of it bubbles and slurps like boiling tar. Shokoti sits upon a throne surrounded by statues of herself, a vain and long dead queen reveling in her return from the abyss.

    “How delightful,” she purrs, “we hoped you’d join us, didn’t we, Stanlan?” The boy is beside her, bound by what appear to be squids with many wicked eyes. He shakes his head to the heroes, trying to warn them.

    The Sun Stone glares brightly in Extendar’s chest and reveals more of the evil squids hovering over them. The light frightens the creatures and they scatter like bugs. Shokoti herself shields her eyes and growls angrily. Stanlan, freed when the creatures fled from the light, runs to Melaktha.

    “It’s over, Shokoti,” says He-Man, but the witch only laughs.

    “Over? You cannot come into the House of Darkness and think to win, He-Man. No.” She stands, and as she does she seems to grow to a titan’s height. She raises one hand at Extendar and the air changes around him. The Darkness seems to grow stronger, and Extendar grows dimmer. “Behold the Embrace of Darkness, Sun Warrior!”

    Suddenly the darkness becomes as many tiny insects swirling around Extendar, each growing faster and larger. Soon the others cannot see Extendar at all, only the smallest glints of light spiking out irregularly from the swirling darkness.

    “Release him,” yells He-Man. He leaps at Shokoti and brings his sword to bear. The blade strikes a force field, and purple sorcery sparks back at him. Battle Cat charges to his master’s side, but Masque’s face glows and sparkling beams of light spit from his eyes, knocking Battle Cat against the wall with a bone-crunching crack. Masque then blocks the others from joining He-Man.

    Shokoti returns to her own size, though she does not look weakened. Instead, she looks almost surprised. “Can it be? It has been so long since I looked upon one of you...a Guardian of He?” She casts a holding spell upon him, but the sword pierces the magic as it would a mere blanket. “No, not a Guardian. The Sword obeys you. A true Master! The Sorceress of Grayskull has found the champion of the prophesy--an Heir to King Grayskull himself!”

    He-Man is surprised. “You know of King Grayskull?”

    Shokoti laughs. “Know of him! Mortal god, can you truly be ignorant of me? Know you not of the Overlords who first seeded the worlds of the etherium with their vast powers? The Ancients? The Seed of Stars? How small you people of Eternia have have forgotten such wonders as those this world has seen! Shall I show you, He-Man? Behold--" she casts a vision spell into the pool, and it radiates with the blackest of magical power. It reveals at first nothing but vast emptiness that is finally pierced by single star shining. Soon others expand out from it, scattering millions more stars throughout what appears to be the night sky. Shokoti makes a sound like a hiss at the image, as if something perfect had been ruined by the light.

    She says, "At the birth of Creation, the Ancients emerged--giants to you or even I. All the Universe was their garden, and they roamed it freely with luxury and pleasure. But they were not alone, for in the shadows of their light came another, born of the same energies as they. This was what you have chosen to call Evil, He-Man--not a concept or a description, but Evil as it always was, incarnate, alive, and cunning. It spoke to them in whispers and dreams, and revealed the uselessness of their frivolous existence and proposed a new course. Where they had been created, now they too could create. But this greatly angered the Overlords who created the Ancients and who, stupidly, commanded them to resist Evil. The Ancients were divided, and they began to war upon one another. The Lesser races of the Universe watched in awestruck wonder as their gods made a battlefield of the heavens. The Ancients forged for themselves weapons to hunt down and slay their enemy. Evil itself was rent asunder and trapped in the form of a book.”

    “The Book of Evil.”

    “Very good, He-Man. Yet Evil is eternal, it cannot be destroyed--or even trapped--completely. The servants of Evil retreated and hid from the Ancients, slowly they rebuilt their forces. They reached out to even greater powers, to my love Sh’Gora and others more primal than even the Ancients. The most powerful of these survivors was himself an Ancient who swore to regain the book for himself and his horde. But like evil itself, he was broken and his spirit lived on in many forms. Eventually the book found its way to this pitiable planet and ever since the war has waged over control of it and the force that attracted it here. The Ancient empowered their children to fight the forces of Evil by giving them their weapons, but they themselves have long since passed into an endless sleep.
    “Make no mistake that whatever conflict you think you have fought; the true prize all along has been the Book. No other power, save the first Seed of the Stars, can compare."

    “If weapons were forged to fight this Evil...then it can be defeated.”

    Shokoti seems to glance at his sword, then quickly turns away. “That you did not know such a history only proves you are incapable of challenging the forces at hand. I speak of Evil and Ancients, and you think to answer them with a mere sword and shield?”

    He-Man raises his sword. “I bear no mere sword, Shokoti. You yourself recognized that.”

    “Fool. I have faced foes as well armed as thee.” She gestures again to the pool, in which He-Man sees Shokoti fighting a woman of light. She is fair-haired, and wielding a sword, though it is not He-Man’s. When is this happening, He-Man wonders? Could she be a relative of King Grayskull? The images dissolve like burning film.

    “In the end, who of my past enemies remains to challenge Shokoti? None! For I have survived them all, He-Man.” She smiles wickedly. “And you, oaf, have waited too long...”

    Suddenly something pulls at He-Man’s leg. It is strong, for it pulls him off his balance and even when he strikes it with his sword, it will not release him. Rising up from the pool now is a ferocious animal with many tentacles and a gaping mouth that does not seem to end. Orko levels his wand at the beast, but suddenly one of Shokoti’s shrieking creatures snatches it from him. He chases after it and struggles to pull the wand from the creature’s grip. Masque closes his cloak and stands aside, as if inviting Melaktha and Andra charge to He-Man’s aid.

    They run at the beast’s flailing tendrils, chopping and hacking with all their might. The Beast roars hideously, spewing gobs of its thick saliva upon them. He-Man tries once more to cut himself loose, but the beast lifts him off the ground. His sword spins out of his hand, landing at the far edge of the pool. Stanlan picks it up, but Masque approaches him quickly. Stanlan runs out of the chamber and down stairs into a room full of smaller statues where he hides.

    For a moment Stanlan is alone, his heart pounding too loudly to hear the horrible roars and clashing above.

    “Stanlan...” a voice says to him. The voice is gentle, unlike those of Shokoti and her monstrous servants. There is no one there, yet he heard the voice as if the speaker were right beside him.

    “What? Wh-who’s there?”

    “Stanlan hear me! I am the Sorceress of Grayskull! You must return the Sword to He-Man. He cannot defeat this evil without it!”

    “I...I’m afraid! I can’t do it!”

    “You must, Stanlan. Shokoti’s power, like that of Scare Glow, is the power of fear. You must face it. Use the sword!”

    Stanlan hears Masque’s footsteps approaching. Inwardly, Stanlan gulps, maybe for the last time, and gathers his courage. He steps out into view, but no one is there.

    “You didn’t think the darkness would protect you here, did you,” says Masque at his back. The villain thought to block him in case he tried to run again.

    “I...I am not afraid!”

    “More fool you.” Masque’s face glows, his eyes about to fire an incinerating shot. Stanlan raises the sword, certain it will not be enough to protect him. But as Masque’s eye beams fire, the sword itself opens, revealing a brilliant green ore underneath. Masque’s beams bounce off the radiant mineral and strike him instead. His mask flies off his face and spins down into the corridors below.

    “My mask! Meddling brat, what have you done?!”

    While Masque fumbles blindly for his weapon, Stanlan races back into the throne room above. The beast holds He-Man over its wide gaping mouth about to devour him. Stanlan yells to him and hurtles the sword upward. He-Man seizes his sword and, seeing that it has opened, drives it into the beast’s giant eye. The sword finally pierces the creature’s seemingly invulnerable flesh, and it shrieks in pain. It tries to snatch the sword in its tendrils and crush it, but sparks with magical energies radiating around the blade. He-Man drives it through the tendril, cleaving it in two. He then leaps down the side of the beast’s slimy, muscular hide to rejoin the others.

    Masque returns from the shadows wearing his glowing, evil mask again. It shines as if about to strike Stanlan, when suddenly Battle Cat, recovered from his earlier blow, leaps between Masque and the boy. Masque narrowly avoids being cleaved in half by the cat’s claws.

    “Curse you, boy,” Shokoti screams, her own dark magic sparkling around her. She looks ready to attack, but at the last moment she stops. Regaining her composure even as her pet writhes in agony. Cooly she says to He-Man, “You have won nothing, today. Once we have the book, the Darkness will live again.” She waves her hand and a stone moves up from the floor with the Bell of Doom resting atop. Suddenly there is a flash of white as the mystery woman appears, leaping between Shokoti and the Bell. Shokoti bares her fangs at the woman in disgust.

    “You! Pitiful wench, you’re too late to stop the return of Darkness! There will never be a Protectress of Power, the Shield of Protection will never be restored!” The woman in white attacks with her double-ended spear, but in a flash a gold and horned staff materializes in Shokoti’s hands to block the other’s blow.

    Around them the chamber begins to rumble. Masque returns, but He-Man blocks him from reaching his mistress. The mystery woman and Shokoti seem evenly matched until the evil sorceress uses magic, setting her shrieking darklings upon her opponent. Soon the woman in white is overpowered and Shokoti lifts her horned pike for a killing blow. He-Man sees the woman’s peril and leaps up to her defense. Shokoti backs away from him, a look of alarm and frustration upon seeing He-Man’s sword. Quickly she hurtles herself into a swirling black mist that passed around him easily and regains her form beside the Bell of Doom.

    She holds it up and laughs, “Farewell, He-Man. You have fought so bravely to reach this place, now may it be your tomb!” She rings the bell, and then she and Masque disappear in a shroud of black smoke.

    The sound of the Bell causes the chamber to rumble. Orko finally catches up to the creature that has stolen his wand and casts a spell, turning it into a lifeless balloon that floats away. His wand in hand, he joins the others while the Beast’s menacing arms flail blindly throughout the throne room. Suddenly the dark swarm that had enveloped Extendar begins to thin once more as his light burns its way to the surface. Even blinded, the creature seems to sense the light and retreats from it as if from the sting of a fire.

    “The dark can embrace the light, but not eclipse it,” Extendar says triumphantly as the last of the blackness disintegrates. He-Man urges Extendar to carry the others upward to the openings at the top of Shokoti’s chamber, the same openings they had seen from below.

    “Get everyone out of here as fast you can. I’m going to make sure that nothing else ever climbs out of this pool again.” While the others escape, He-Man breaks every load bearing pillar he can find. He shoves the statues off of their pediments, letting them crash upon the Beast and driving it back into the pool. Its roars turn to gurgling gasps as the black ichor fills the beast’s mouth. For a brief instant, He-Man even pities the monster, but as its menacing tendrils still try to reach out for him, he remembers the creature’s otherworldly nature and evil purpose. He climbs onto Battle Cat and they leap over the groping limbs and bound up the jagged reliefs carved into the temple walls. The Beast lets out a final awful cry as the ceiling of the House of Darkness begins to collapse upon it.

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  23. #48
    It says ICEMAN oICEMANo's Avatar
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    Aug 2003
    Cape Town, South Africa
    Outside Orko’s magic aides Extendar with transporting the heroes down from the tall tower. Everyone looks up to see the top of the tower collapse upon itself. The morning light breaks the night-sky, and as rays strike the House, it seems to crumble faster. The Tower sinks under its own weight until it resembles nothing so much as a pile massive broken shards of glass. Andra is quick to run toward it, calling out for He-Man. The others follow her, but they cannot see how anything might have survived such a collapse. Yet at that moment, Battle Cat lands on a nearby dune, having leapt onto one of the sturdier spires that surrounded the tower. He-Man climbs down, and breaths a sigh of relief at last.

    “That was incredible, He-Man,” Orko cheers. The others congratulate each other on their escape, but Stanlan stares at the temple with haunted and distant eyes. His love of the unknown has never been so greatly tested. Melaktha embraces him as if reunited with his own son.

    He says to him, “We will save them. Karyn. Kira. Somewhere here there must be answers to what evil magic has taken them. And somewhere we’ll find a counter spell.” Melaktha apologizes to He-Man that he will not continue with him on his quest for the Bells.

    “The more we know about our enemies,” says He-Man “the better our chances of stopping them.”

    “That’s great, but what about our mystery friend,” says Andra. “She’s gone again.” Indeed the woman in white is no longer among them.

    Not far away, she climbs down from a rock face overlooking the sagging ruins of the House of Darkness. She ties a bandage over one of her injuries burning at her side as a great white armored battle cat approaches her. She smiles, “Never fear, Sleetah.” she brushes her hands over the cat’s snout affectionately. “All is not lost yet.” She reaches into one of the cat’s saddlebags and withdraws a scrying mirror. Into it she speaks and its face shines with a light of its own.

    “What has happened, Illumina?” says a voice from inside the mirror.

    “Shokoti has returned, Queen Sumana. I failed to stop it. She has one of the bells, but her Sleeping Beast is slain and her fortress destroyed for the moment.”

    “This cannot be permitted. We have already sensed the bell’s power in use. The statue of the Goddess has cracked! We must not let either Skeletor or the Eternians collect all seven bells. Do whatever you must, Illumina. We cannot fail!”

    “Illumina? That’s a pretty name,” He-Man says behind her. Illumina closes the mirror and darts around, shocked to see He-Man standing on the nearby rock face, his sword leveled for battle. Illumina stiffens but she is in no shape to fight. Sleetah growls protectively at her side. He-Man smiles, then puts away his sword. “I think it’s time for you to start giving me some answers.”

    What dangers await the heroic warriors in the quest for the Seven Bells of Doom? Find out in two weeks in the next chapter as Teela and her allies search for the next Bell in the Plains of Perpetua!
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  24. #49
    Warrior of Evolution 13977's Avatar
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    Nov 2002
    Nottinghamshire, UK
    OMG this chapter looks jaw droppingley amazing! I can't wait to read it tomorrow!

    Keclar baby!
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  25. #50
    Heroic Warrior maczero's Avatar
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    Nov 2003
    Good stuff!

    A couple of questions:
    1) What reason did the kids have for wearing life monitors?
    2) I'm not a fan of Extendar having mystical origins. He looks like a cyborg to me. Anyway, is his being transformed into Extendar by the Sun Stone canon?
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