Adam and Sword, Part 3
By T. F. Cooper (Based on a story by Donald F. Glut)
From the charcoal clouds over Mount Esivisu, gray-skinned warriors descended.
Armed with photon-pistol, sword, halberd, spear and mace, they plummeted toward the rocky mound in two great columns, cutting, ripping and smashing through a throng of orc guards as they as they went. Shrieking the battle-cries of their storm-tossed homeland, the soldiers of Avion swept into the large cavern-mouth that served as the mountain lair's entrance and devastated the guards therein. Back to back! Side by side, they ran the enemy through with a furor that sent the orcs hurling themselves over Val-Kun's ramparts, preferring death on the rocks below to battle.
Springing from a net, King Simyran's giant tiger shredded the shields and breastplates of his master's enemies. Beheading a few with the swipe of a claw. Disemboweling others with a savage bite. The golden-haired boy at his side proved equally feral, swinging his blade into Val-Kun's orc hordes as they swarmed to their mountain's defense.
Upon finding one of the younger Avions, a youth of some sixteen years, surrounded by the enemy, Adam rushed to his aid. The cadet battered aside four advancing orcs with his spear, Adam spied a big brute, clad in spiked, metal armor, rushing down between them. In one blow, he cleaved the snarling monster's weapon in half, and it hurled past the young warrior's face. Even as another orc charged the winged youth's unprotected back, a large black halberd clutched in its fist, Adam's eyes stretched wide with helpless outrage. "Avion! Behind you!"
Startled, the gray-skinned youth turned to face Adam, just as the devil's jagged weapon ripped into his chest.
"Delocles!" Stratos called to him, turned in the air by the boy's death-cry.
His face was a tableau of mythic rage, as he plummeted toward the boy's fleeing killer, ..even under the visor he wore. In mid-flight and with one, brawny arm, Stratos drew the orc guard to his chest, broke the devil's neck and cast him into the sea.
Only last night, encamped on a nearby island, Stratos's men were merrily celebrating news of the child in their queen's belly. Now, as the big, gray-skinned men bowed their proud, helmeted heads in sorrow, Adam knelt next to their grieving commander, as Stratos prayed over their fallen comrade. "I tried to save him, General Stratos."
"Take this feather from brave Delocles's harness, Lord Adam," Stratos muttered, cradling the dead youth in one of his arms, as he closed Adam's fist around a silvery feather. "Shed no tears at his passing, for he'd sworn to give his life in defense of Eternia's skies and land, when he was little more than your age. Now, go. Honor my son's courage in battle ..with your own."
Adam nodded respectfully, and the crowd of Avionese fighting men parted to admit him entrance into the shadowy cavern-mouth behind them, where Battle Cat waited beside an iron grate. "You are my most courageous friend, good Cat."
"I would lend you this armor," the tiger groaned, lowering his weary head, "even these claws, if the gods permitted it. In Val-Kun's eyes, you'll be an insect. Nothing. Remember that it is his place to think you so, ..and when he shows least concern for you, strike - and strike boldly!"
Young Adam stretched his arms affectionately around the giant tiger's armored head. "Farewell, Cringer."
"I had thought that none, but good Simyran, know me by that name," the cat snorted, with mild surprise. "May the Star of Lions guide and inspire you, Lord Adam, ..until we meet again."
The journey into the bowels of Mount Esivisu was a treacherous one. The lingering musk of his beloved tiger and the frantic echoes of Boa'Na's sighs gave little solace, as young Adam pressed deeper into Val-Kun's rocky lair. As the pin-pricks of torchlight grew scarcer ..and the air, fouler. One by one, did he see the last of the fire god's orc guards, those minding the stone-laden bridges and tunnels throughout the lair, mysteriously and brutally cut down. When finally Adam reached the heart of the mountain, there was no quarter of their small and elusive foe's body that had not been sprayed with their blood.
A red glow painted the ceiling of the cavern, which expanded upwards into a great cone the full height of which even Adam's jungle-trained eyes could not fathom. In his mind's eye, he'd imagined Simyran's daughter a comely creature, with the wings and charms of an angel. More maiden, than maid. His heart sank, even as he cut through her cage's lock with a swing of his blade. "Gods. You're ..a child."
"I am not a child!" Lady Glimevere huffed indignantly, folding her arms across her underdeveloped chest. The poorly concealed disdain in her savior's voice did not escape her ire. "And I have not been rotting away in this pit, hoping to be saved by one as short and foul-smelling as you! Who are you, anyway, ..and where is my father?!"
Adam stopped to look at her, ..this child. The exotic perfumes of Boa'Na's embrace - the warmth of her flesh against his own - bewitched him still. Her soft love-cries still echoed in his ears. In their wake, the unfinished charms of Simyran's daughter, a coltish thing with lavender hair like her father's, could not hope to compare. "I am named Adam, for the Vulnarian god of the hunt! I swore on Mighty Simyran's hand that I would bring you home. Now, out of the cage, Glimmer, ..and quickly, before Val-Kun's underlings come around!"
A coarse, deep voice thundered from the darkness surrounding them.
"Did she give you that sword to put in my belly?" laughed Val-Kun from the shadows. "Cut off my head, perhaps? Did she think I would, at mere sight of it, give you Simyran and Queen Angella's precious daughter ..and beg for my life--a life in this stinking, rotting hole?"
In the light of the torches, Mighty Val-Kun took shape, and the youth's very blood trembled. Sweet, little Glimevere, clinging to his arm, drew closer to and slightly behind him, such that he felt her quickening breath upon his back. "You are Val-Kun, son of Koas, ..weaponsmith of the dark gods of Mount Molpisu. I am Adam of the Vulnarians, ..and if I must, I will destroy you!"
Standing before Adam, Val-Kun was a man of great height and beauty, ..with a skin like golden metal and dressed in a silken, white tunic. Beneath his strange skin, an artful array of muscles rippled and, upon his head, grew a wild crown of black locks draping over his shoulders and forehead. "I had so hoped your gods would send Mighty Simyran to destroy me. He is a hero, whose exploits are the pillars of legend! I had not expected the gods to send one so small and insignificant as you."
"Me either!" little Glimmer grumbled, looking Adam over disapprovingly.
Under his pale blonde hair, a darkness pervaded the lad-something that had always perplexed and unnerved the big, broad fighting men of Vulnar's Valley, all many centuries older than he. Now, in one arm, Adam held the sword Boa'Na'd given him menacingly before his narrow chest. "I won't seem so small with this axe at your throat, evil one. Let us go ..or suffer the fate of your fellow dark gods!"
"Before Evil-Lyn chained me to this forge, I was the strongest and most beautiful of Koas's dark progeny!" Val-Kun boasted, lowering himself onto a rocky throne. The immortal groaned, and a large, long-handled smith's hammer of dull, black metal took shape in his right hand. "I strode across the Shadow Lands, and the mountains of Etheria rose to court my favor. I am a god of fire and light, ..and I have not seen a sunrise in five million years. Now, Evil-Lyn's rival, Heuay, rules the fire in men's hearts! Once you have slain Heuay, and the cosmic secrets she protects, hidden within Castle Grayskull, are mine, ..I will rule the world of men, again!"
Pushing young Lady Glimevere behind him, Adam looked on in horror as Val-Kun, with one blow, smashed his large, black hammer against the ground with sufficient force to crack open the rock beneath their feet. The cavern floor and walls shook, and he felt Glimevere's hand slip from his arm-then, saw her tumble into a dark crevice in the cavern floor! Kneeling over it, he cried out to Simyran's daughter. "Glimevere? Glimevere?! Demon, what have you done?!"
"Glimevere lives, boy,..for now!" laughed mad Val-Kun, hurling his ash-encrusted weapon for Lord Adam's head, as the young Vulnarian tumbled backward, ..barely escaping death. "But, there's very little air down in those catacombs! No telling how long she'll last! You will cut out Fierce Heuay's heart and bring it to me, ..or you will never see Glimevere again!"
"Damn you, devil," the youth snarled, leaping from the hammer-swing's path and easing into an attack stance. Something of youth and hope bled away from Adam's young cheeks, when Glimevere's hand had slipped from his. Though he gave no sound to it, shame sparkled in the sky blue of his disbelieving eyes, and beyond it, ..wild rage flashed. "What makes you think I'll raise arms against the goddess of destiny for you? When I'm done with you, the Iron Mountains will ring with your screams!"
Bathed in the crimson glow of his forge, Val-Kun grunted, and a sound like thunder rumbled from where his hammer struck the cavern wall. There was a deafening crack ..followed by another ..and still another, ..until a cloud of dust and jagged rocks rained onto his teenaged foe's bare back and head. "The Iron Mountains will be as anthills to me, when Heuay is no more, ..and I unleash the terrors of Grayskull on all mortalkind!"
Young sinews, toned as much by play as warfare, bulged and sprung, hurling Adam free of the monster's attack! Breathless-his lungs burning, he struggled to hold onto the silver blade clutched in his fist. "You're mad, ancient one! I won't betray Fierce Heuay for you or Evil-Lyn ..or even all the secrets of damned Grayskull! Even if it would save Glimevere, I won't do it!"
"Do you feel that, little Vulnarian?" Val-Kun smashed his hammer against the cavern wall again, sending another storm of rocks upon his crouching enemy's back. "It is death at your young throat! Death ..in a dark, filthy hole, where no one will ever know or care how you died! Forgotten by all, ..like me! Forsake my son, your King Simyran! Drive your god-killing sword into wild Heuay's heart, ..and I will make you a god!"
The blackened weapon cracked against the cavern's side, again...
But, the angry fire god's tongue had dealt a far greater blow! In the orange glow of Val-Kun's forge, a hurricane of jagged missiles filled the air, and Adam tumbled over the rock beneath onto his back! He lay there, too paralyzed with disbelief to move--the breath smashed from him by the shock of Val-Kun's words. "Liar! Lord Simyran's mother was the most beautiful of the She-Ra, the guardian priestesses of the Crystal Castle! A great light flashed from the caverns beneath the castle and lay with her for one moon, and Lord Simyran was born of that union! You're not his father. You lie!"
A bright, purple blaze engulfed the golden fire god, and from his outstretched hands, waves of searing blue heat rushed forth like a tide, warping the cavern walls around them. "I was the power that erupted from the Crystal Caverns of Garychon to lie with noble Simeyria! I was the god of Etheria, before the spark that calls itself 'Light Hope' turned my disciples against me, ..and I will never be extinguished! It is your king, who lies to you, young Adam! You will never be Simyran's true son ..or a Vulnarian! You are nothing!"
Adam's back struck the ground first, as he dived under the fiery barrage!
For the fire god's small, savage foe, there was nowhere to run! Diving at his giant enemy's exposed chest, young Adam felt the ground leave his feet in a swift, cool rush - the ancient heat of the forge in his hair! Then, just as quickly, he bounded over the giant's shoulder, leaving a hot gash ripped into Val-Kun's golden face! Then, back to the ground, ..like a cat, onto his feet! In battle against men, the youth had enjoyed an advantage. In this, his first war with a god, his Vulnarian martial skills were barely keeping him alive, ..even as Val-Kun's words cut far deeper wounds. "I'm Vulnarian enough that I'll never kneel to you, ..and neither will my king! Or my brothers! Let Glimevere go, or by Teela's holy rod, I'll see what a god looks like on the inside!"
Val-Kun's golden beauty glowed molten red! Then, iron gray!
It cracked apart and fell away from his body and to the ground in large, ashen plates! A terrible being of blazing, crackling heat rose before him, growing more brilliant with every second, ..until no more shadows painted the walls of the cavern! "So, you wish to see behind the masks of the gods, boy?! Then, look upon Val-Kun now, as did your brothers, long eons ago, ..blazing with the magnificence of ten-thousand suns! Such is the power of Grayskull, ..and it will be MINE! You will slay the Divine Sorceress, Heuay, in my name, or I'll send your king's daughter back to him as ashes scattered on the wind! You will kneel to me, as will all Eternia, ..or I will burn this mountain, and Glimevere with it, into the Endless Void! Choose, boy!"
The golden-haired boy of fifteen summers stepped forward. In blazing heat no mortal flesh could endure, only his scorched pelt and boots fell away from him, leaving him naked, but for the gleaming weapon in his hand ..and the arcane magic inside it. With his own disbelieving eyes had Adam watched the sleek, silver serpent, slither out of the young enchantress's throat and onto the ground-then, in a bright burst of emerald fire, shape itself into the blade he now held! He knew the silvery weapon was mysteriously, impossibly alive with power-that in its eerie glow, no deception could stand!
Not even a god's.
Young Adam trembled before the blinding sun that was Val-Kun's true face and, in one hand, poised the enchanted weapon to strike. The muscles in that arm quivered. He choked down his shameful tears ..and the certainty of his own death. "God of lies! I'm a Vulnarian! Burn this mound into the Chaos Seas below ..and me with it! I choose freedom for Eternia, ..and DEATH to you!"
And Adam hurled the sword, agleam with the power of the stars, into Val-Kun's heart!
A flash of fiery energy erupted from the brilliance, ripping open a jagged hole in Esivisu's side, and all that remained of the titan, a giant ball of white flame, plummeted into the Harmony Sea and struck it with such intensity that no water twisted where it fell. A great cloud of steam and debris filled the salty air near Val-Kun's mountain, ..and bare land, a small and craggy isle, crackled in the mists. From a crevice in its black rock, a warm golden glow emanated. As the fires of Val-Kun's forge died, and the cavern grew cold and dark, sparks erupted from the infant island. Beneath the warm gold of the dawn sky, a new forge blazed defiant and violently alive, ..and a single, glaring spark soared skyward into the cosmos.
Purple light exploded from the shadowy crevice in the ground, where Princess Glimevere had disappeared, and she climbed unsteadily to her feet. Around her, the air crackled with violet sparks of electricity, until a dull purple glow enveloped her from head to foot--then, mysteriously faded. In a cloud of pitch dust, she struggled to stand. "Are we still alive? Val-Kun--is he ...?"
When Boa-Na had told Adam that Heauy the Green had murdered her pregnant mother before her eyes, Adam had not believed her. Though wrathful Heuay was, the story of the warrior-goddess's part in Boa-Na's weird origin too horrible and incredible to believe. Boa-Na had told him of how her mother, a virgin of ancient Etheria, had been seduced by Val-Kun and made pregnant with a burning stone. Then, driven out by the Elders of Etheria, she had wandered the world, until falling into the raging Teela River, where Fierce Heuay had ripped Boa-Na from the stone in her womb and left her, weighted with her strange and fiery burden, to drown. There was a time, once and not so long ago, when Adam believed the world held no greater horrors than the barbarism of Fierce Heuay and the other gods.
But Adam had just slain a god.
"Val-Kun is gone," groaned the wild-eyed boy, stretching out his arm to the fiery nest of rocks below, attempting to will the mysterious blade Boa'Na had given him back into his hand. Adam drew her close, and the tears he'd held back in battle washed down his cheeks into her lavender hair. He would not tell poor Glimevere that she was the granddaughter of the demon he'd just destroyed. He could not gather the breath in his burning lungs to tell her, and so, he held her. "The god-slaying blade Boa'Na called Excalibur is gone, ..and the feather Lord Stratos gave me from brave Delocles's harness--it, too, is lost!"
In the cavern, their faces lit by a few dying embers and shaken by the horrific blast, young Lord Adam and his King Simyran's daughter huddled together, navigating an uncertain path out of Val-Kun's lair. When Glimevere looked upon her young champion, she found nothing covering him, but the ash and filth of the ruined forge ..and said nothing of her grief. "Your pelt?"
"Lost in the fight," Adam mumbled, turning from her. Naked and painted in black ash, Adam pressed his forearms against a wall, buried his face between them ..and wept. Amongst the Vulnarians, Ishteuray's temple is the only place a warrior might shed tears and retain his honor, but Adam no longer cared to hide his grief. His narrow shoulders, covered in soot and aching for the firm reassurance of King Simyran's hands, shook, as he sobbed. "When I thought you were dead, I--nothing mattered anymore. Nothing. Val-Kun is your ...he's dead ...just want to go home."
"I'm told that, when I was born, I was betrothed ..to a prince," Glimevere recalled, tearing off a broad strip of pale, blue fabric from her gown with the sharp edge of a jagged rock. "His name was Adam, just like yours, ..but he was lost in a war. Not dead - just ..lost. My mother tells me that I must be betrothed to another, ..but I have refused this. You see, I think he is somewhere out there, ..in the forests or the mountains, ..enduring. For me. So, I must endure for him, ..don't you think?"
Lady Glimevere's words - the blind courage of them - haunted Adam, as he felt her behind him, tying a portion of her gown about his narrow waist. He brushed the golden mane from his eyes and looked off into the light of the cavern's mouth. "We must endure, Lady Glimevere. I think it's all the gods ask of us. That we endure."
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