Demonking of Grayskull
By T. F. Cooper (Based On A Story by Donald F. Glut)
When Vulnar the Bold struck down the ice dragon, Frigranamyr, ending Eternia's eight million years-long Ice Age, his victory brought great misfortune to the ancient hero's people.
Frigranamyr's fellow dragons, Meranamyr of the Oceans, Dunamyr of the Deserts, Vulcanamyr of the Mountains and Sheenamyr of the Jungles tore apart Vulnar's Ice Mountain kingdom and set it adrift on the Sea of Blackness, where it would never be seen again. Vulnar's warrior brothers defended their floating country fiercely, but were eventually driven off, by their own people, who tired of battle. Their exile purchased a peaceful passage into oblivion for Vulnar's kingdom, but would forever mark their homeland as the Isle of Shame.
The brothers survived their expulsion and founded another kingdom in their grandfather's native Vine Jungles, near Mount Heuay. In a vast gorge that would come to be called the Valley of Vulnar, did these betrayed heroes finally lay their eldest brother to rest, with the Sword of Power, key to a great fortress of mystery and magic, at his side.
Until their final, fatal battle, many months ago, the descendants of these warriors, who called themselves the Vulnarians, honored their forefathers through arcane rites and tournaments of will and strength. Heuay, their fierce goddess of truth, decreed that the inheritor of Vulnar's weapon must be pure of body and spirit and his back strong enough to shoulder the burden of man's hard destiny. Truth must pass through this He-Man as light through a pane of glass, undiluted by worry for his own welfare or that of those close to him.
For this reason, the way between Lord Adam, the last inheritor of Vulnar's Sword of Power, and his beloved Lady Teela of Eternos had always been hard.
There was a time, before the Sword of Power and Lord Adam's becoming the He-Man, that the warriors were inseparable, and nothing born of man or fashioned by his hand could long stand against them. Many battles had they shared at his good friend Duncan's side, back to back, slashing a broad, crimson path through the enemies of Eternos, the just and enlightened city of King Randor. Rest was elusive, and when time permitted such things, it was all the more elusive, for these young lovers had lusts that were not so easily sated. They ate, drank and loved like hungry lions between kills!
The world was their banquet table. Its bloodstained ruins, their stony bed!
Now, the nightmare so long dreaded by the warriors of Eternos had come to pass.
The Sword of Power, ancient key to the most terrible weapon in the known universe, belonged to the Enemy of Man - the undead lord of the wastelands that called itself Skeletor. Castle Grayskull and all its eons-old, cosmic secrets were the demonking's to command.
From the Shadow Lands of the Dark Hemisphere, did Skeletor send, with mere force of his will, the vile Priests of Infinitias to lay waste the kingdom of Randor. Twenty nine years ago, united by their lust for power in the Shadow Lands, they unleashed a monster from the human brain's most primitive regions ..and incarnated him within the mortal flesh of an ancient Eternian king, ..Keldor the Great. Raised to great power in the Dark Hemisphere, his high priests - savage Beast Man of Gore, the bloodthirsty Mer-Man of undersea Moratain, Trap-Jaw of subterranean Sybronn and three-eyed Prince Tri-Klops of Infinitias - as if possessed of a single will, attacked Eternia and found His Majesty, King Randor, repaired to his warrior ways, armed to the teeth and pitched into battle against them.
Rallying to war, the armies of mountainous Clampes and of Myzargard, of green Lorinth, the Golden Isles and of the nearby Rio Republic, the old king drove back the Shadow Land forces from Eternos, ..while far away, in the forests of Graylot, the golden-maned son Randor thought long dead awoke to find his massive forearms chained above his head.
In a dungeon.
Lord Adam found the weight of the korodite harness he usually wore strangely absent from his broad, naked shoulders, and he looked down at his chest to find it no longer there - that he was entirely naked. His devilbeaver pelt and boots also gone! Now, his eyes searched the darkness around him for the Sword of Power ..and found not even a glimpse of its silvery metal.
Something else stirred him, as he shrugged off the blinding, suffocating dank of his prison.
He-Man was not imprisoned here alone. A gentler scent and breathing rhythm than his own charged his senses. "Have I gone insane? Lady Teela, ..is that really you?"
"Aye, Lord Adam - it is," the shadowed figure chained beside him spoke. When she leaned forward into a faint, dull shaft of flickering light, he could see that the Captain was naked to the waist. Her pale breasts, once bound by an elaborate, golden breastplate, were bared before her. "I don't know where we are, and I dread the knowing it too well, but we must escape! We must be free, before our enemy carries out his plans!"
"Hold on, captain," He-Man grunted, his massive muscles racked with pain. "There is likely no end to the abuses we've endured at our enemies' hands. We're much weakened,..but, we'll know vengeance soon enow."
"I care not how many stand against us!" snarled the brave captain, staring forward into the shadows, "I'll see these shadows made red with Infinitian blood, when finally I slip these bonds! I swear it!"
Bizarrely shaped, pod-like lanterns protruding from the shadows flickered alive, one and all. Weaving in and out of the green-gray, stonework of the walls and between the lanterns, were great, metal consoles, flickering with spectral light and heat. Images from every corner of the Eternian planet played in crystalline orbs, bulging from and half-submerged in the massive face of this ancient machine.
"Eodwar's Schemes!" He-Man exclaimed to himself with disbelief, as he strained against his bonds. His eyes narrowed, adjusting to the dim light. "I know this place. This ..is Castle Grayskull?!"
"You talk in your sleep, He-Man," a familiar voice cracked from the darkness before him. A burst of violet light flared brilliant as a sun - then, dulled to a warm glow, under which the masked and hooded owner of the voice was revealed. His ram-headed Havoc Staff born high in one gauntleted claw, Skeletor laughed. "After your adventure on the banks of the Great Teela River last night and the plasma bolt Lord Mer-Man fired into your brain, ..very little magic was needed to bleed the secrets of Heuay's temple and of your own Sword of Power from your lips."
Sauntering from the darkness to sit at the Lord of Destruction's feet, a perfect mirror of Man-At-Arms' daughter groaned ..and shed her comely guise. The warm, pink of her skin warped to pale lavender. Long, darkly violet tresses fell over her bare shoulders and back. "Did you think your Lady Teela had returned to you, Heuay Man? Love is not the wild, swift tiger you hoped, ..but, a deadly and watchful hawk, stalking its prey."
Leaning forward on his throne, Skeletor stroked the creature's dark violet hair, as though she were a pet, and the events of the past night came flooding back into He-Man's brain.
His capture by Lord Mer-Man and the warriors of undersea Moratain.
The bizarre experiments administered by Skeletor's scientists that had left no portion of his body unknown to their instruments, ..and his seduction and abuse at the hands of a woman - a thing - impersonating Captain Teela. The color of rage reddened He-Man's face. His nostrils flared, and there was no part of his body, upon which her scent did not mock him. "Scircee, ..the changeling-witch of Ban-Shi Island? That was you last night, ..at the river? You're a fool, if you think I won't take your head for what you've done!"
"Fool, Vulnarian?" Lady Scircee sneered, over a shoulder. "At wild, fierce loveplay, you may have no equal, ..but a heartsick boy might've shown my charms more resistance. For a few hours' pleasure, you have betrayed all of mankind ..and his Ancients! Show him, milord - Scircee begs you! Show him the blade!"
The King of Snake Mountain laughed - hellfire flickering in the empty sockets of his Mask of Destruction! The blade in his black gloved claw, the realization of man's worst fears! "Behold, He-Man, ..the Sword of Power, once more rejoined to its darker sister, mine own Sword of Chaos! When you and the gentle lambs of Eternos are all rotting on hooks, know that the destiny of Eternia rests in Skeletor's hands, ..and that Grayskull has a new master!"
"You did this?" Teela asked, glaring in He-Man's direction. "You traded the Sword of Power to lie with that - that witch?! You truly have gone insane, ..and you've betrayed us all."
"I am a man, Teela, .." He-Man answered distractedly, turning to Skeletor, "- as weak for want of woman, as any other, ..but, the Lord of the Wastes sent his Lady Screech to lie with me for other purposes. Purposes more base than even murder."
"Slow, but clever, Vulnarian," Skeletor nodded. "Why would I send fair Scircee to kill you, when I might conjure at will warriors from the jungles and seas ..or even from the zombie hordes of subterranean Sybronn to end your pestilent existence?"
"Slaves," He-Man said with disgust. "The Lady Screech is barren or ruined somehow, ..and our time together yielded no offspring. You wanted to breed us like beasts and enslave my progeny ..to a conquered Grayskull!"
The Enemy of Man cackled. "Though I am far from human, your primitive species interests me greatly. I watched you and Lady Scircee for a time and found your coupling to be fascinating, ..but, sadly unproductive. Perhaps, we'll give one of the lizard-folk a try next!"
"Another chance, Lord Skeletor," the Lady Screech begged, cringing at her hooded and black-robed master's knee. Her white teeth glistening with primal ambitions. "Bid me take him now, by force, and I will yield from these loins a legion of He-Men to command! Raise Scircee above the heads of all your priest-kings of Infinitias, and it is yours!"
The Lord of Destruction pointed his Havoc Staff at Lady Screech, and a large, dark bird flew fearfully from where she had rested at his feet. "Begone, witch! The new age, my age, will not be wrought from the mutant trash of the Shadow Lands, but from the ancient technology in these walls! Those black engines of destruction and creation are still here, and so long as I wield these swords, they are mine to command! For now and forever, ..Grayskull is mine!"
On legs densely woven with muscles, the big, golden-maned warrior hurled himself at the demonking's throne. A sound like the kind wounded animals make echoed along the dungeon walls, as cables of blinding, blue light crackled over He-Man's naked flesh, after which he fell to his knees.
"Demon, ..make you ..p-pay, ..Lord of the Wastes," sputtered He-Man. His otherworldly strength exhausted. "I ..will know ..vengeance."
"Haste, Lord Adam of the barbarians," Skeletor hissed, dismissively. "It is always the mark of the lowly born. For that reason, I have taken great patience in the planning of my ascension, ..as well as a few trophies to discourage your vengeance!"
From his black marble throne, Skeletor gestured, and a large orb of darkly golden crystal spun before him. Inside, as if frozen in time, two familiar faces were visible.
"No!" Captain Teela cried, looking on. She strained against her bonds, shaking her head in disbelief. "It-it cannot be! Father? Ruin-Zo?!"
Their bodies arched and twisted.
Their arms upraised, and their faces stretched in silent screams of terror and shock, He-Man knew the two men submerged in the globe of dark , orange crystal. It was the work of Skeletor's Fright Fighter, a deadly, insect-like, flying machine assembled from the trash of Grayskull's ancient, long-dead scientists. "By the All-father, what have I done?"
"Father!" Teela sobbed, struggling under her chains, as the globe descended toward her, ..and Skeletor looked on. When her bonds, mysteriously disappeared, she collapsed on her knees before it. Inside, Man-At-Arms and Teela's lover, the darkly handsome Sergeant Roberto Ruin-Zo, stared blankly from their crystalline prison. "Father, please! Ruin-Zo! I am here! Teela is here to - oh, gods! No! No-ooo!"
"Like flies in amber," Skeletor cackled to her from across the dimly illumined dungeon and rose to stand. "You may save one, Captain - only one, ..but you may have neither!"
"They're alive?!" He-Man marveled, still bound to the dungeon wall. "For what dread purpose, Skeletor?"
Glaring at the Vulnarian, Lady Teela rose to stand. A suit of gray metal forming over her flesh! "Armor? What sorcery is this? Tell me how, demonking! What must I do to free them?"
The Lord of the Wastes extended a claw, and a pair of silvery blades flew into the captain's hands from the stonework of Grayskull's walls. From the empty sockets of his skull-like mask, crimson light flickered, and He-Man's chains vanished! In the barbarian's hand, a single spear, formed of what looked to be iron, took shape from the empty air.
"So, you will watch one of us murder the other?" He-Man's eyes narrowed, full of mistrust. "Then, what demon? Why have you returned?"
At his most imperious, Skeletor was as mesmerizing as he was grotesque. The King of Snake Mountain lowered himself onto his throne, and the inflexible gold of his Mask of Living Death did appear, however fleetingly, ..to grin. "Skeletor only brings mankind that which the cesspool of his soul begs to taste. Perhaps, I will restage this scenario with His Majesty King Randor and his beloved Marlena. Perhaps, I will put a dagger in the hand of every new mother ..and watch the cradles all over Eternia overrun with infant blood! Hahahahaha! Perhaps, ..I will make you watch!"
"I will watch the filth run from where your soul should be, vile demon," the bronze-skinned giant seethed, aiming his weapon for Skeletor's head, "when I tear you apart!"
The Lady Teela stepped forward, blocking He-Man's cast with her blade. "That is my father encased in that amber! My father ..and, next to him, the only man, I will ever love! I will gladly bring Skeletor your head to save them!"
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