Burial Of The Spear
From a story by Full Fallen Moon
As He-Man, riding upon Battle Cat, crossed the Caldrua Mountains of Ardacia, he saw two familiar figures waiting for him high upon a rocky peak.
On a cliff, Sir Duncan Agrippa, Man-At-Arms of the Eternian Kingdom, and the handsome Lady Teela, his daughter and Captain of the Royal Guard, sat mounted upon mechanical, titanium horses, looking down into the valley below. Their countrymen gathered behind them. Uncles. Cousins. Priests. Witches. Mercenaries and musicians. Since ancient times, whenever an Ardacian warrior had been ambushed by an enemy, his kinsmen would assemble a party of fighters to avenge him. Honoring the tradition, Man-At-Arms and Captain Teela, armed with sabres, daggers and photon pistols, now prepared to destroy the orc warlords, who tortured and murdered of one their own.
The man, who, mere days ago, recovered their hero's lifeless body from the orcs and returned him to Ardacia, was nowhere to be found among them. Since that night, his behavior had been strange. His grief disproportionate to his relationship to the slain warrior. All, who knew him, said he and Conan had been strangers, who'd known each other only in passing.
Conan, the orphaned son of Duncan's youngest brother, lay in-state in the atrium of the ancestral home of Clan Agrippa. His dark-haired, bronze beauty decaying for all to see. He would not be buried, until his death had been avenged. He-Man had lingered at his side for longer than he knew to be seemly, by Ardacian custom. His grief knew depths that the slain warrior's kinsmen, and even Teela, could not perceive. Even so, it felt to He-Man unequal to the immensity of this loss.
Few knew that this barbarian hero from the perilous Vine Jungles had found the warrior's path through him. His love for him.
Conan Agrippa had been the epitome of the Eternian fighting man.
A warrior and mercenary known throughout the Light Hemisphere for his monstrous strength and fearlessness in battle, the likes of which Ardacia had not seen since ancient times. By his twenty-sixth year, he'd fought in more campaigns abroad than any Ardacian man his age. Like his uncles, he was tall, thickly muscled and, in an almost mechanical sense, handsome - possessed of a broad, square jaw and brow. Beneath it, blazed the fierce, grey eyes his brood had inherited from its Ice Land cousins. What most distinguished Conan among the red-maned lions of the Agrippa pride was the warrior's hood of jet black hair, which he wore draped serenely to his shoulders. The envy of men and the haunting desire of noble and common women alike, Conan Agrippa had looked every bit a god in Prince Adam's young eyes, when Randor had appointed the warrior his seven-year old son's traveling companion.
Since that time, they had shared all that any two blood brothers might share. So had it remained, until the gods themselves dictated otherwise. Until, on a snowy winter's night of Adam's eighteenth year, duty called Prince Adam to Grayskull.
It was the summer of his eighteenth year and many months before that fateful trip to Grayskull, when duties of another sort entirely called Randor's wayward son back to the palace and city of his birth. Many more months before the training that would follow in the Vine Jungle realm of Evermoor. Fresh from a tour of Ardacia's taverns in the company of Conan and the wild warriors of King Tamask, Adam was still outrunning the coltishness of his adolescence, when he presented himself for the last of his manhood rites.
As had been required of Eternian royal heirs since the time of the Towers, he would soon be invested Duke of Ardacia, a large, wild country, integral to defense of the Royal City, whose enchanted woods separated the Fertile Plains from the orcs and barbarian tribes of the Iron Mountains. Though its greatness, the legendary valor of its fighting men, had passed with the end of the Great Plains Wars, Ardacia still cherished its heroic heritage. Its warrior classes honored its past with ritual hunts and tournament, and to maintain the historically unstable alliance between them, Eternos indulged its traditions. Of all the savage country's ancient customs, the one most dreaded by future monarchs had long been the Burial of the Spear.
"When the kingdoms of the Light Hemisphere were unifying, Ardacia did not go quietly into the proposed confederacy," explained Duncan, sitting with King Randor and Prince Adam in one of the king's private studies. "Having driven the land's warlords into the Iron Forests, Eternia's sovereign made his eldest son, frail Prince Romulus, Duke of Ardacia, and my ancient countrymen would not have him. They attacked Eternos and abducted the sickly Prince Romulus. For ten moons he was lost to all - then, returned to his father a tall, strong youth with a glare that cowered the whole court! When the king saw this, he sent thanks to Ardacia. Impressed how well the prince had endured their manhood rites, Ardacia asked to join the confederacy of kings, claiming it'd be honored to be protected by such a fit line as the king's - your line, Prince Adam! Since that time, every Eternian monarch has honored the rite."
"And this house will not be the first proven too weak and cowardly to suffer it, boy!" Randor huffed. "You will endure this Burial of the Spear,..as I did and Miro before me! Conan Agrippa will be your witness and is already enroute to Eternos."
"Aye, Prince Adam," nodded Duncan, standing up from his chair. "My nephew should arrive in a few hours, when night has fallen. All you need do is be ready. I'll alert Queen Marlena and prepare the guards for Conan's attack."
"Attack?!" Turning to the sunset, Prince Adam peered out over the city. Half-thinking he would see Conan galloping toward the palace on his black steed, just as Duncan had left the hall. "What kind of ritual is this, father,..and why isn't Duncan taking me on this stupid trip? He knows me better than any. Even you,..maybe."
"Maybe, he does," Randor said, having removed a small, iron spear from an ornate bronze case. Every passing day seemed to bring some new criticism from his teenaged son - typically, one concerning how little Randor knew or respected of the man Adam thought himself becoming. When he had made truly concerted efforts to involve Adam in his own affairs at the Palace, the boy charged that his father did not trust him to be on his own. Today, the king ignored his son's impotent attempts at rebellion. "Maybe, that is why Duncan gave the duty to Conan. Duncan thinks of you almost a second son,..and the rite is unspeakably brutal. There are aspects of it, in which Duncan has wisely chosen not to involve himself. If Adam, son of Randor and Marlena, grandson of Miro and Diana, progeny of heroes, would refuse this ancient rite and with it, his duties to Ardacia,..bringing even greater shame upon his house and ancestors than already he has,..he must so refuse now! Speak, boy!"
The annoyed sigh of his son had not gone unnoticed. Even under the Prince's heavy, golden bangs. "I, Prince Adam of Eternia, to prove myself Ardacia's Champion in the eyes of my king and before Grayskull, do willfully and dutifully suffer this rite..and all the silly speeches that go with it."
Randor had fought to keep the smirk from his lips, as he'd handed Adam the spear. "Well spoken enough. Now, get thee to arms, Adam - the hour nears that you will defend your honor in battle with good Conan Agrippa. Are you prepared for the rest?"
There it had been again. The mysterious rest that everyone at court had seemed so sheepishly vague about. For weeks, he'd pretended to know exactly what it would entail and saw no reason to stop now. Affecting a knowing look as best he could, Prince Adam headed for the hall. "Of course, I'm ready. How hard could it be?"
Randor smiled wryly. He couldn't help but be surprised that not a soul at court had told Adam what awaited him on this journey. Had he cowered them all into silence? He embraced his son and, with a kiss on the cheek, sent him on his way. "How hard, indeed. Godspeed, my son. Young Teela has been given the task of fortifying your chambers and preparing your costume. Go to her now."
In the hallway, Adam heard what sounded like sobbing coming from behind the closed door of his father's chamber. At first, he thought to look in on him, but just as quickly dismissed it as the worries of a silly, old man and continued to his bedroom suite, where Teela Agrippa waited for him. As he passed her father, Duncan, in the corridor, he might have sworn he'd heard the old man choke back a similar whooping.
Oddly, on Duncan, it looked more like restrained laughter. He dismissed that too.
"No wonder you're all laughing at me!" Adam screeched, as Teela handed him the short, green kilt, snickering uncontrollably. He was ever so slightly annoyed that Duncan had delegated another of his duties to a substitute. Especially, one as determined, as was Teela, to make him look and feel the fool. "Look at this! It barely covers my - my..!"
"From what I've seen of it," laughed Teela, giving Adam her back for privacy's sake, "there's hardly a point to covering it at all!"
Adam glared indignantly, stepping into the kilt. "I was talking about my bum! Well, laugh all you like! Just as wild Tamask of Evermoor trained good Duncan, Conan taught me everything I know about fighting - I know his every move! We'll see who's laughing, when I send him limping back to his horse tonight!"
Teela knew that Conan was well on his way to the Royal Palace. That he would storm its gates, where young, inexperienced soldiers waited to surrender to him, after a mock battle their king had ordered them to lose. In a breastplate of the finest Ardacian silver, she felt him coming. To conquer her sweet prince and carry him into the dark shadows of his manhood. Though she knew Prince Adam had no prayer of resisting Conan, Teela determined to be strong,..and she would make Adam stronger. "The Rite of the Spear is before you. If you'd know my respect,..you will keep our ways, Adam. You'll be ready."
Sitting on the side of his bed, he looked on as Teela knelt before him and finished lacing up his boots. He felt his legs trembling. "Teela,.."
A cautious look from her silenced him.
When she'd finished, Teela went to a chest Adam kept in the corner and lifted from it a gray cloak, upon which she clasped a pin her father had worn many times before,..just as he had instructed her to do. Teela returned to find him standing. And how tall he looked. How kingly. "The Challenge of the Spear has begun, Prince Adam. Conan comes. To arms, Your Highness,..and good luck."
Not long after she'd hung the iron-gray cloak about his shoulders, did Teela leave Adam to his chambers. With a kiss.
Many hours later, the small, iron spear Randor had given his son offered little protection against the most feared warrior of all Ardacia. As the chill of midsummer's night fell upon the city of Eternos, Conan Agrippa of Ardacia carried Prince Adam, bound hand and foot, to a sky-sled and outraced a sextet of windraiders into the depths of the Evergreen Forest.
For ten moons at Loduncan's Mound, after his ritual abduction from the Royal Palace at Eternos, Conan Agrippa had subjected Adam to a seemingly endless battery of physical and psychological challenges, all of which had left him in a constant state of self-doubt, anxiety and rage. For the duration of their time in the forests of the Evergreen Mountains, temperatures had been cold enough to force he and Conan to share the same bed-for them, a few thick, ugly, Ardacian-knit blankets stretched over wet grass. Every shameful attempt to subdue Conan and flee back to Eternos had failed miserably, resulting in brutal defeats and punishments that had made him welcome the rigors of his tests, this damnable Burial of the Spear. Exhausted, Prince Adam huddled against the warm, naked muscles of his sleeping conqueror's body and abandoned his schemes to escape the savage fate before him.
He awoke to the pain of strong fingers entangled in his hair, and knew immediately that the night he had most feared had finally arrived. More than the fishing, hunting, climbing, wrestling or boxing. As the ritual dictated, every night he had buried the spear in a shallow grave beneath his blankets and slept over it. Knowing that at any time, if he was not prepared to defend himself, Conan could come.
With one wondrously muscled arm, Conan pinned the prince beneath his body, pressing the young man's face into the wet grass surrounding the small blanket they shared. Ignoring Adam's useless attempts to wriggle free, he unsheathed the ceremonial dagger at his side. "It is time, Your Highness."
Prince Adam quivered. He felt his heart pounding in his throat. "Do it, damn you! Wound me,..and be done with it."
"I was wrong to take Duncan's place here, Adam," sighed Conan, releasing Adam from his grip and sitting down upon the grass beside him. The warrior rested his back against a tree, drawing one knee up to his broad, bronze chest. "He loves you as your father does-for that reason, he could not subject you to this rite. I believed that I could do my duty without showing mercy or restraint,..as life in the jungle realm of King Tamask prepared me to. I've failed you all."
"I'm unworthy of you, Conan," Adam muttered softly. "Unworthy of most, if you ask Great Randor. In his heart, he would prefer you for an heir..to me. I know that he would. I can see it in his eyes, when he looks at me. The disgust."
"Eyes beguile, Adam-haven't I taught you that much during our sojourn here in these woods?" Conan leaned forward, turning to face Adam. His night-black hair draped across his hard, handsome face. "Wise Tamask once told me a king keeps the contents of his soul and heart secret-an armored mystery to all, who might someday betray his realm. He is so practiced in this that he cannot lay it bare, even to those most loyal to him. How do you know what is in a king's heart, my prince, when you are so blind to what burns in hearts as common as mine?"
His blue eyes tearing ever so slightly, Prince Adam prayed that the golden locks hanging nearly in his eyes would hide his sorrow from Conan. But, he could not look away from the beautiful warrior's face. "There's nothing common about you, Conan-not to me."
"Do you feel that, young sir?" Conan asked, gripping the prince's hand in his own and guided it to his chest. "Your hand rests exactly where I would admit dagger, sword or bolt of fire..to protect you. To call yourself unworthy greatly cheapens that for which I might die a thousand deaths. There's greatness in you, Prince Adam, which you can't yet know,..and as my future lord and commander, you must believe that as I do. Though you've been brother to me in all but blood, you're a prince of the realm, and it is my duty to prepare you..."
"I am a man," Prince Adam corrected him, "on my mother's world, at least! I'm eighteen! War will show me far worse,..or so you've told me. There will be bloodshed..and torture. There will be death. I must go boldly and unafraid into battle, Conan. As a tiger, and not a lamb! As an Ardacian! If you will not prepare me for this.."
"It will be brutal, milord," Conan warned him, his voice darkening. "I will be brutal. Nothing less than the master of your body. Only when you've suffered the horror and shame, will you be made a man in my countrymen's eyes and will your Spear of Weakness be buried! It has been so with every Eternian monarch, since King Romulus! Now, the animal part of man shows its face. In all things, must we recognize this dark energy. Stand up, Adam! Tonight, I will teach you why."
"I am ready, " Prince Adam answered and stood up, as Conan ripped the short, green kilt from his hips, leaving him suddenly very naked and more than a little peeved. The two men glared at one another, before Conan stepped out of his own kilt, a crude challenge from the ancient warrior traditions of the Fertile Plains,..and one that could not be honorably refused.
For a moment, Conor circled his noble friend. Before him, was a face composed by angels and, unlike his own, a physique more conditioned by the sports of rich, lazy noblemen, than warfare. The sinews of Adam's lean, golden torso tapered into a narrow waist, below which two firm mounds, slightly paler than the rest of him, joined the prince's back. Strong, rounded thighs followed, so well developed they made his upper arms appear small, by comparison. Between them, hung wondrous maleness from a fiery nimbus of reddish blond hair. With a grunt, the barbarian seized the naked prince, lifted him high over his head and, ignoring Adam's cry of shock, flung him into the crisp mountain air..and the moonlight.
"I'm going to destroy you, beautiful one,..in every way a man can be destroyed!" Conan roared, as he watched screaming Adam tumble down the stony hillside to his doom. To reclaim the spear, Conan knew Adam would have to fight his way back up the hill, injuring or disabling him to do it, if need be. As he descended the great rock to where the prince lay groaning, Conan prayed that the Ancients harden his young friend's will for what was ahead. "Should you surrender, tradition demands that I conquer you with outrage and claim the spear for Ardacia, ending Eternos's protection and sovereignty over my country, but,..if you survive, I will remake you, stronger than you ever knew you could be!"
And Conan did. More than even he would ever know.
The brutal Burial of the Spear behind them, the men came together many times afterwards as equals, even after Prince Adam had returned to the comforts of the Royal Palace - to his father..and to amorous, young Teela. Each time, did he leave the warrior..
"-- stronger in spirit, than I knew it was my right to be," He-Man confided to Captain Teela, peering down into the clearing, where the orc warlords gathered their foul-smelling, armored hordes. "There was a time, before the Sword of Power, when I was a very different man,..ignorant of that strength. Weak. Conan ripped it from my heart and held it before my face! Without Conan Agrippa, I would not be fit to wield this Sword of Power..or to wage war against the darkness besieging our world. All that I am, I owe him."
"I did not know you were so devoted to him, He-Man," confessed Teela, from her saddle upon Stridor's titanium back. "There is so much you cannot tell me of your kinship to this land..and of your past. I-I didn't understand your grief. Forgive me."
"The golden time I knew with Conan must be buried with him, Teela," He-Man answered, touching his hand to the Captain's shoulder, "The Ancients have willed it so. Let his courage inspire our own. Let the great burden of our grief make us strong."
"I miss my cousin, He-Man," Captain Teela whispered, as wisps of auburn hair caressed her face in the wind. "Think me soft for it, if you like,..but I miss him. A shame these orc scum-hordes will be laid to rest, before him, isn't it? He-Man...?"
For the span of a blink, Captain Teela Agrippa did not recognize the warrior mounted next to her. Golden hair hung before his face like rain. Lips she'd kissed under more moons than she could remember curled over white teeth in a terrifying snarl, and those summer-sky eyes glinted from the narrow windows his eyes had become.
Though compassion was not her strongest suit, Teela pitied the orcs.
He-Man did not turn from the orc hordes arrayed against him in the hills below. "We will make his enemies miss him, when we are done."
The prince had learned much that day near the river with Conan.
He felt the beast raging in his sinews, where Conan had unleashed it,..and he had no intention of restraining it. From over the heads of the assembled warriors - armed with axe, saber, mace and spear - he heard Duncan call the charge, and the hooves of horses and giant, armored boars scattering the ground before them. The Sword of Grayskull gripped tightly in his fist, He-Man rode his flesh-starved Battle Cat into the fray.
And the orcs fell before him like wheat before the scythe.
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