Adam and Sword
By T. F. Cooper (Based on a story by Donald F. Glut)
Under two disinterested moons, the intrigues of Planet Eternia's cities thickened and soured, as merchant cheated peasant and husband cheated wife. The price of silver rose and fell in the Mystic Mountains, and the last ugly, sandstone vestiges of alien tyranny crumbled to dust along the Rakash Sea, but life in the Vine Jungles lumbered along like an old tiger on a worn trail, ..much as it had for billions of years.
Its emerald hills echoed with the devilish, unchecked laughter of youth, as Adam, now fifteen summers old, abandoned his bathing party and returned to the mountainous Valley of Vulnar, where his immortal warrior-tribesmen prepared to feast on python meat and retire from the day's labors.
Though ancient magic had kept sunset from the skies over his homeland for many thousands of years, the flat, hardened bellies of his Vulnarian brothers kept time flawlessly ..and grumbled, when the smell of exotic spices and roasted meat drew their daily tasks to an end. Bare feet carried impossibly strong bodies and weary minds toward the center of their vast country. Men who'd known each other for centuries sported with their comrades. Quarrels were laid to rest before the glint of crystalline jars filled with golden ale, and so had it been here for eons.
While most of Adam's peers, the Vulnarian warrior initiates, washed in a nearby pond, their fathers, tutors and priests moved as one toward the fires of the tribal hearth, barely noticing the smaller, slightly coltish figure slipping between them, ..trying, with great difficulty, not to be noticed.
"Adam!" the old weaponsmith Kibiri called to him, looking up from his anvil, as the youth sprinted past his house. "Back from swim already, eh? Where's that friend of yours, Ogun of Clampes, ..and the rest of the cubs?"
From under a mound of golden hair, Adam looked over his shoulder to see if any cubs had followed him back into the valley, but saw none. With little chance of vanishing into the crowd of raven-haired giants behind him, he would answer the man very carefully. Weaponsmithing was an exact art, and Master Kibiri was a strict tutor - all of the cubs knew that nothing less than studied answers would spare them severe punishment at his hands. "Left them at the pond, sir. Lord Simyran journeys to Myzargard tomorrow - have to get his tiger packed before the evening mess. Orders."
Weaponsmaster Kibiri rose from his anvil and strode out to where Adam was standing. Not the tallest of his tribesmen, he was still a broad, thickly built man, and his shadow had covered Adam's entire frame before he'd even approached. The old man's eyes narrowed, studying Adam's face for any hint of the mischief King Simyran's ward was so renowned for. "Simyran prays in the House of Ishteuray. Go to him. Make no stops on the way, boy, ..and before you enter, finish wringing the water from that pelt - it's a disgrace!"
Draped about Adam's waist, the reddish brown devilbeaver pelt, soaked from washing in the pond, dripped beads of water onto his bare feet. Seemingly unmoved by the old blacksmith's words, the boy stood stoically before him. "I've a much nobler mission to accomplish, my friend. Evil forces all over Eternia seek to conquer us -- not even the legendary wonders of Castle Grayskull are safe! I must go to battle those forces at King Simyran's side, Master Kibiri! Can't keep our king waiting for the wringing of a stupid pelt, eh?"
Nostrils flaring, Kibiri stepped forward, until his breath tossed the flaxen hairs hanging in Adam's face. He waited for the boy's azure eyes to meet his own, but their owner did not dare raise them any higher than the hairs on the smith's massive chest. "Then, I suggest you wring, while you run, boy, ..unless you think a good thrashing'd do a finer job of drying it! Better run fast, little comedian. My hammer-hand's itching."
Adam's devilbeaver pelt was bone-dry long before he reached the gates of the Temple of Ishteuray.
As Kibiri had told him he would, he found Simyran in full armor kneeling inside, amidst a sea of dark red flowers. The lights of the temple's torches flickered in the orange metal of Simyran's armor and, for a moment, his master seemed made of fire.
A god of fire.
What turned him to his presence at the temple doorway, Adam had wondered, cowering at Simyran's armored back. Had it been the smell of his freshly washed devilbeaver pelt? The river lingering in his wet, golden hair? When a red-brown arm, thick as a small tree's trunk, signaled him to approach, Adam joined his master at the altar.
Mighty Simyran did not look at him. A shiny hood of midnight-black hair hung around his face, as it had changed from black to violet and back with the passing seasons. He laid a dozen or so blood-colored flowers in Adam's small hands. The youth had seen like flowers of a rustier color growing in the surrounding jungles, but never this hue. Simyran told him they were sacred to the goddess, and without looking away from the flames before which he kneeled, gently whispered a command, "Burn them, Adam."
Adam could smell the oil Simyran had poured on the flowers, which bewitched his senses like nothing before them had.
"At Bold Vulnar's feet, sits his daughter, Ishteuray," Simyran whispered, "the only woman to ever rule over his brothers. When Ishteuray fought Keldor the Conqueror in the Sands of Time, her own blood fell on the scorched desert, and an oasis of copper-colored flowers rose from where they battled. She slew the tyrant, but died of her wounds, and Vulnar sent Mighty Teela to make Ishteuray immortal."
Adam had heard Simyran's brothers speak of this garden, the Crown of She-Ra, thriving in a faraway desert, but resisted the desire to boast of what he knew. That, in this faraway place, believed to be where the lost kingdom of Etheria is buried, Noble Ishteuray was called by another name. That the copper flowers, sacred to Mighty Teela, are sacred also to Ishteuray, ..but only on one day every year. "The flowers are called 'terrahedrons', master?"
"Aye," Simyran answered, without looking away from the flames. "Every year, they turn red for a single day, and a son of this valley brings a portion of them here ..to be burned. When we burn them on this day, the noble breath of our only fallen sister enters us ..and strengthens us, when the gods call us to war."
Adam looked up from the flowers in his hands to see his master's face. When Simyran turned to him, Adam found he could not hide the dread in his young eyes. "I-is that ..why you're here, milord? Vulnar has called you to war ..again?"
"I am here to rededicate myself to Vulnar's daughter, Adam," his master confided, ignoring the trepidation in the boy's voice, "so that she might dedicate herself to mine - a strong, willful girl that I left in the care of her mother, the Duchess of Myzargard."
"Angella of Myzargard?" Adam asked. "The Warrior Queen?"
"The disciples of Val-Kun, the Infinitian fire god, have taken our daughter," Simyran answered, unable to mask the outrage in his voice. "Two of our tribesmen have already died trying to reclaim her, ..while I've prayed here. I am through with praying, Adam. I must face the fire god alone, ..and you will not ask me why. You will ride with me as far as Myzargard, then, no further."
"Master ..," Young Adam started. Before claiming his devilbeaver pelt at the age of eight, he'd slept at the foot of Simyran's bed with a giant tiger cub. He'd accompanied him on grueling martial campaigns in lands far beyond the Valley of Vulnar ..and sailed with him over the vast Sea of Rakash. He had never known a time apart from Lord Simyran's side before for longer than half a fortnight, and the thought of this unsettled him. "I am eager to test my mettle in the furnace of Val-Kun! I would honor the gods as you do - in battle. Among men!"
Mighty Simyran set a heavy hand upon his adopted son's shoulder. "The Divine Sorceress has decreed that, upon reaching the Whispering Woods of Myzargard, we must take separate paths. We will obey the goddess of destiny, Adam."
"No," Adam protested, his upper lip trembling slightly, as often it did when the boy was angry. "I will go with you ..to fight at your side, as is my place! I've earned this honor, ..and no goddess will deny me! You cannot deny me!"
Seizing Adam's upper arm, Simyran led Adam away from the altar to a small, marble stool nearby. His already dark face seemed to grow darker still, even in the dim light of the temple's torches. "That you think yourself a man at so tender an age is impressive, boy, ..but to give you leave to do so is to court the anger of the gods. It is not our way. We will obey Destiny, Adam, ..and you will be shown the truth of your place. We will speak no more of what Heuay has set before us."
The King of the Vulnarians sat and brought one broad knee before him. There Adam endured his punishment under his lord and father's hand. For as long as he could stand, Adam gave no voice to his suffering, ..but Simyran's hand was firm and wide. When the eighth strike found Adam's backside, Ishteuray's temple echoed with his shameful sobs. Sometime later, under a sun that would never set, they left the temple in silence, and nothing more was said of what dread tasks the gods had given them.
Three days later, on the back of a heavily armored giant tiger, King Simyran and a sullen Adam arrived in mountainous Myzargard, after much rough riding along the Vine Coasts of the Rakash Sea ..and down into the treacherous Evergreens, a forest from which many men had never returned. In a clearing at the edge of the Whispering Woods, King Simyran greeted his estranged wife, the warrior queen Angella, and an eighth of her army. As none of the dark beauty of Vulnar's Valley marked his traveling companion, the queen was curious about the blond, golden-skinned youth in his service, and he told her ...
"Some fourteen years ago," Simyran began, "when last I looked upon your face, I came upon two Horde troopers pursuing an old woman, likely an escaped slave, through these Evergreen Forests. After slaying these alien scum, I found the woman resting against this very tree. As I drew closer, I saw that her journey had taken a far greater toll on her than first I had thought. The poor wretch, dressed in dusty tatters, was dying, ..and with the last broken beats of her heart, she begged me to take the baby at her side. The boy's father, she told me, had been a great warrior and had named his son Adam, after the wild, Vulnarian god of the hunt. With that, the old woman died, and I laid her to rest at the foot of this tree. This is Adam - he will dwell here with you and your sisters, until I return!"
At that moment, amidst a flutter of laughter, a bright, emerald flame burst from the ground before them, so bright that it was painful to look upon it. As all before it shielded their eyes, it flared outward, until none were spared its heat. Then, the flame took the shape of an impossibly tall woman - a good five heads taller than the tallest man any present had ever seen. In her hands, was a falcon-headed staff of what looked to be purest silver. The reddish brown skull and hide of a giant reptile - basilisk, dragon or dinosaur - formed her crown and aegis, under which she was boldly naked ..and bright green from brow to toe. "Nay, noble Simyran! This journey must the boy make alone, ..while you remain here!"
Simyran knew Heuay the Green to be a wild and brutal spirit. In skill, a warrior second only to her sister, Mighty Teela, but unmatched in ferocity. A sorceress second to none! The King of the Vulnarians took care with her that he took with no other. "Divine Sorceress, ..it was given to me in your mountain temple that I should go with my son to the edge of these Whispering Woods, ..and that, thereafter, we would take different paths. I have done as you commanded! Do not punish my fealty by condemning this boy to death in the furnace of the dark gods!"
A bolt of white-green lightning lit the sky and struck the ground between them. The thunder that followed was louder than any young Adam had heard before, and the assembled mortals, Simyran included, stepped back from where Heuay stood.
"Take care, King of the Vulnarians!" Fierce Heauay roared. "You name false, she who is the goddess of truth ..and of destiny! It was given to you that you and the boy would take separate paths from these forests! You will remain at Myzargard ..or suffer the wrath of Heuay!"
With silent dread, Mighty Simyran unsheathed his blade, a golden broadsword half as long, as he stood high. He felt his beloved Queen Angella's hand rush to his upper arm, ..a subtle warning the raven-haired giant ignored.
"Milord," the winged warrior-queen pleaded with her enraged husband, "we will find another way. Do not incur the Divine Sorceress's fury!"
"Your Highness, we are ready!" cried one of Angella's soldiers, as forty-nine behind her drew their weapons. With a wave of her hand, the ruler of Myzargard bade them stand down, and stand down they did.
"This is my husband's fight," their stoic mistress answered, "and by his strength alone, were we made warriors, ..and was our widowed land made free! Let the gods do their worst."
"Aye, woman!" Simyran agreed, assuming a defensive position. "I've lost one child to the will of the gods, Heuay the Green! I'll not yield another!"
The jade-skinned warrior goddess raised her staff, and from it, a bolt of lightning ripped through Mighty Simyran's left shoulder. A hand's breadth from his heart, it forced him backwards and to the ground. "You will obey Destiny, king of the Vulnarians!"
Mighty Simyran unsteadily rose to his feet, and as he brought his golden broadsword before him, a bright burst of green filled the sky, ..and the King of the Vulnarians was sent down upon his back. Setting himself upon his knees, he struggled to push himself up from the ground, when another burst of emerald heat struck his side and sent him down onto his face and belly. "No, Most Fierce One. For the life of this boy, ..I ..defy you."
In wide-eyed horror, Adam rushed to his king's side as Simyran labored to stand, but was restrained by Queen Angella. "No, Adam! Simyran's chosen this! We will honor his will."
Fierce Heuay looked on in masked astonishment, as Simyran's broad hands flattened against the soil beneath him. Dark bronze muscles swelled behind them, and once more did she find her servant rising to make war with her. The green goddess raised her mystic staff to meet Simyran's defiance, and before it had unleashed the last and worst of Heuay's wrath, the Vulnarian's faithful giant tiger threw himself upon his master's back. Electricity crackled over the beast's armored hide, and though the cat howled his torment, he would not be moved.
"Enough, Sorceress!" cried Adam, wrestling against Lady Myzargard's unbreakable hold on him. "I'll journey where you command! I'll yield to you, ..but bear witness, you and all the high gods, that Simyran, King of the Vulnarians, did not!"
In a gesture unseen before by mortal eyes, the Sorceress bowed her crowned head respectfully. "Heed me, Adam of the Vines, ..if you would prove thyself worthy of your master's devotion to you. In a shadow, on the road to Val-Kun's mountain, will you find the strength and knowledge you will need to defeat him. You will find arms. Go in peace, .."
Get thee now, boy, to the furnace of the gods ... Go-ooo
"Sisters, attend your Lord Simyran!" the Queen of Myzargard called to her lieutenants, as Heuay's pale green flame faded. Five heavily armored women, as uncommonly tall, as they were comely, stepped forward from Angella's party and bore Mighy Simyran upon their shoulders. "Take him to Castle Brightmoon. Bring healers from every quarter of our country - hurry!"
"Wait!" cried Adam, running after Angella's warriors. They halted their march ..and lowered Simyran into the wet grasses below, where the boy, stone-faced with determination, kneeled at his master's side. Though his loins still burned from thrashing, Adam picked up the broad hand that had so dutifully punished him ..and held it to his tear-stained cheek. "Simyran. Brother. I'll not fail you - I swear it. Your daughter lives, and I will bring her home ..to you!"
With a groan that bespoke agony unfathomable, Simyran guided Adam's hand to what remained of the ancient scroll pin hooked to his belt. Destroyed in his brief battle with Heuay, what remained of it was a blackened log.
Though the secret location of Val-Kun's forge was now lost to the ages, Adam had not the heart to worry his master with the truth. He unhooked the scroll from Simyran's belt, kissed his king's hand and stood up from where he lay. "I will find her, Mighty Simyran. Endure."
Queen Angella embraced Adam, who stood a head shorter than she, as her army carried King Simyran away. "Eons ago, Morgonymyr, the dragon of Oblivion, cursed your lord that he would be the death of his own children. That, Adam, and that alone, is why he has forbade you call him 'father'. He is more proud of you than you know."
"I've heard my brothers speak of this curse, ..in whispers," confessed Adam shyly. "Many times, in Heuay's temple, have I sworn that I will not call him so, ..and broken my oath more times than I can count. I am Lord Simyran's son in all ways, but one - even if he will not hear of it. Thank you."
"You are your father's son, Adam - though Lord Simyran cannot say it, I will! You've his strength ..and wit, so do not let your anger with Fierce Heuay blind you to the task at hand! In the shadow she spoke of, you will find a guide to Val-Kun's forge, ..and there will you find and liberate our Glimevere. Go in peace, Adam."
A weary figure stood at the edge of the jungle that had, until this day, always been his home. Solemnly, Adam of the Vulnarians waved his farewell to the winged warriors of Myzargard ..and to the father he left in their care. He might have preferred to stay at King Simyran's side, but he had a noble mission to accomplish, and with the simple blessings of father's immortal wife, Adam of the Vulnarians mounted his king's armored cat and rode.
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