Demonking of Grayskull, Part 2
By T. F. Cooper (Based On A Story by Donald F. Glut)
A shriek split the air, and He-Man grunted at the hot pain freshly ripped into his left shoulder. He saw his red blood running down over the swelling muscles of his arm, but all that remained of his attacker was the faintest trace of her musk on the air. "There is no honor in this, good Teela. This carnage!"
"Do not speak to Titus Duncan's daughter of honor, Lord of Vines," Captain Teela growled, swinging her broadsword for Lord Adam's throat. "Not, when you've spent your last drop so cheaply! Whether my father is saved or not, your life is forfeit to me! I care not how honorably it is given or taken!"
Clutching his Havoc Staff in one gauntleted hand, the King of Snake Mountain cackled - a crimson glow blazing defiant in the blackened, empty sockets, where eyes should have been - and leaned forward from his stolen throne with a dreadful confidence. "Then take his life, woman, ..if you would see your father and lover live! Kill the Vulnarian ..and bring forth the Age of Destruction!"
Before her feet hit the floor, He-Man found Lady Teela's blades in flight against him, again. Though he was as strong, as she was fast - though he deflected her blows as one nursed at the flaming teat of war, He-Man was awe-struck at the ferocity of Teela's assault. An attack this swiftly pressed and skillfully executed was not something he was used to fending off.
Without killing an opponent.
Never had a weapon been so heavy in his hands, even as Lady Teela hurled the twin blades toward He-Man's neck and chest. His love for Duncan's valiant daughter all but crippled him in battle against her and, if only for a moment, something He-Man likened to fear crawled into his brain. Death at her crazed hands was assured and with it, the ensuing subjugation of Eternia by Skeletor's black-hearted priests. He-Man had not the heart to kill her, but knew that he must kill Teela or die, lest all hope die with him.
He-Man turned to find mad Teela in the air, her beautiful body twisting high above his head - the silvery twin blades spread out at her side, like wings. He remembered the lithe and pale, red-haired girl she had been, and how, even in his youth, he had worshipped her fiery beauty at play in the trees of the Vine Jungle. As she descended upon him, her booted heels hammering his chest, he realized that he had stared too long.
He-Man was suddenly pinned beneath her.
The twin blades resting on either side of his throat, he felt Captain Teela's hot breath falling full on him ..and no quarter from her deadly whims. "Weakness for you has brought us to this, Teela. Death for Duncan ..and Ruin-Zo! Grayskull and Eternia in Skeletor's hands! Heuay's temple, destroyed! Death at your hands would be just and honorable. Kill me."
The Lord of Destruction stood up from his throne, mesmerized by the tableau of human suffering before him.
Pride! Rage! Shame! Regret! All so painful! So gloriously torturous! A banquet of despair, upon which any demon might gladly gorge, ..until bloat and senseless with pleasure!
Skeletor wrung his hands with feverous anticipation. "Do it, woman! Kill him! He's dishonored all the gods've made him. He is nothing! A lust-crazed beast with no care for honor ..or love! He has betrayed you and all men. Kill He-Man, ..or Ruin-Zo dies!"
He-Man's steely gaze met hers, and nothing stood between the naked Vulnarian's heart and her vengeance - nothing, but the end of the world. Teela threw down the mystical weapons in her hands. "I won't do it, demon - not even to save them! Better my father and lover die in that amber prison, than see me made one of Snake Mountain's eunuchs!"
From behind his grotesque, golden mask, the Lord of Destruction uttered ancient words, and raised the unified Sword of Power in his gauntleted hands. Merged into one, single weapon, its weird energies bathed the grayish stonework of the dungeon in an eerie, blue glow. "So be it, woman! You feared to follow your father and lover to Oblivion - now, they will follow you! You and all mankind!"
Grayskull, its every stone and mortared crevice, shook! The mysterious machines embedded in its ancient walls glowed, as though an inferno blazed behind them.
Dazed, they did not notice the empty suits of blackened armor stirring alive from the shadows. Dull, crimson light flickered lantern-like through the eyelets of their empty helmets. Weapons of every shape and purpose materializing in their soulless hands, they marched toward Skeletor's enemies - the stonework of the dungeon floor raped under their metal heels.
"We're finished, He-Man!" shouted Captain Teela, assuming a defensive stance. "You saw it with your own eyes! The demonking has merged the Swords of Power and Darkness into one! Grayskull and its secrets are his!"
"Hold, good Teela," He-Man looked down in disbelief, as his devilbeaver pelt, boots and korodite harness solidified around his flesh from thin air! "My harness and pelt, with just a thought, mysteriously returned to me! Something's wrong here. Different. Something's changed! We've got to get to the ramparts!"
Back to back, He-Man and the Captain of the Guard hacked apart the metal shells of Skeletor's lifeless army, forging a treacherous path to a winding column of stone-worked steps. Even as one suit of armor fell under their savage blows, another three moved into its place, wearing down their guard. Drawing them farther and farther apart with each successive attack!
Before He-Man's eyes, a sharp blow cracked against Teela's forehead, nearly decapitating her, and Man-At-Arms' valiant daughter went down under a hail of kicks and spear points. Battering back the metal throngs, He-Man pulled Captain Teela back onto her booted feet. "Within Grayskull's walls, my korodite harness's protective energies are increased a hundred-fold! Stay close, woman, ..if you want to live!"
Awakened into the kind of bloodthirsty fury, for which she was known and feared, the flame-haired vixen attacked the enemy with fist, heel and blade, ..until, mysteriously, the armored drones fell, as one, lifeless to the floor into piles of rusted metal. "This fight was a diversion, Lord Adam! Every second brings Ruin-Zo and my father closer to death! Yet, there's something else, ..something Skeletor doesn't want us to know!"
Under his golden mane of hair, He-Man knelt beside her, studying the stonework at their feet, as Captain Teela looked on. He touched his hand to the rocky floor, and lowered his head to it, such that he resembled a beast tracking its prey. His nostrils flared, as he got back to his feet and led Captain Teela up the steep, rocky stairway. "By the gods, woman - can't you feel it? Grayskull is cold. The entire world ..is dead."
As He-Man and Teela rushed onto the ramparts, Grayskull rumbled. Massive chunks of its mortar and brick crumbled into their path, down the stairs behind them and farther below, into the dank of its dungeon.
"He-Man, what's happening?!" Captain Teela screamed, shielding her face with a silver-gauntleted forearm. Blinding golden light flashed overhead. Dagger-like shards of black mortar took flight for her head, throat and chest.
An explosion of light and heat forced He-Man backwards, and bold Teela followed, as the big Vulnarian pulled her, with one hand, into the protection of his arms. The whine of those ancient death-machines, Grayskull's alien arsenal, echoed along the ramparts, and great chunks of fortress's stonework shattered before its fiery onslaught. "Down, girl! He's controlling Grayskull's cosmic ray cannons!"
The Ancients had enemies.
It is believed that the first of Grayskull's masters were descended from a fierce, bloodthirsty race, the masters of great and deadly machines capable of unleashing their fury on the backs of any, who dared defy Grayskull. The ragtag hordes of primitive Eternia, fearing annihilation, were cowed into caves and the low, forested places that might hide them from Clan Grayskull's flying machines. Terror was the order of the day, and fear of Grayskull's awesome power endured the ages ..and became legend.
Now, hearts raced!
Muscles honed for hot war-making swelled and sprung!
Booted heels and bare hands flattened against stone, barely keeping Skeletor's mortal enemies free of the gruesome end the demonking intended for them. All the while, like some monstrous, ghostly blade, the beam of golden fire cut through metal and rock, until black smoke billowed out from Fortress Grayskull's ramparts!
The dark and vulgar train of a violated bride.
A chilling silence gripped the air, and the whine of the ion cannon ground to a stop. But for the faint crackle of nuclear fire in the rubble scattered across the parapet, nothing appeared to stir. On his belly, He-Man pushed his way out from under a pile of broken rock to his comrade's side. "Teela, are you alright?"
Her back flattened against a large stone block and auburn tresses dangling in her eyes, the battered Captain of the Guard struggled to breathe. Her powerful lungs choked with cosmic ash. "Can you feel it, Adam? He is still here -- everywhere!"
IMPIOUS MONKEYS! INSECTS! AT LAST, GRAYSKULL IS MINE!!
ITS WEAPONS AND POWER ARE MINE, ..AND WITH THEM, I WILL RAZE THIS GODS-FORSAKEN WORLD OF MY ENEMIES!
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, YOU WILL SEE THE GOLDEN SEA RAKASH VAPORIZED!
I WILL LEVEL THE MYSTIC MOUNTAINS WITH A BREATH ..AND SEND THE BACKWARD, COWARDLY PESTILENCE THAT IS MAN SCURRYING BACK TO HIS MUD-HOLES!
Only to senses sharpened in the perilous Vine Jungles of Eternia could the presence of evil be clearly felt. "And who claims the mud-holes now, Lord of the Wastes?! Show yourself!"
Before their eyes, a fiery sphere of golden energy took dread shape. Its wild glow flickering into a grotesque and gargantuan phantasm, a disembodied skull-like mask formed, the brilliance of which filled the night sky!
BUT, YOU! YOU, HE-MAN, WILL I SEE REDUCED TO MEANINGLESS ASH! HERE! NOW! COSMIC SECRETS BEYOND MORTAL COMPREHENSION ARE NOW MINE TO COMMAND ..AND WITH BUT A THOUGHT, I AM A GOD!
"You are nothing, erlking!" raged the savage Vulnarian, meeting the apparition's stare with steely calm. "In every heart, a great power stands between man and Destruction! Grayskull is that power, ..and it is beyond your reach! The soul and mind of man is beyond your reach!"
NOTHING IS BEYOND REACH OF THE GODS, ..AND THOUGH THEY HAVE FORSAKEN YOU, BARBARIAN, I NEVER WILL! I WILL HOUND YOU TO THE SHORES OF DEATH! INTO THE BLACK BOWELS OF OBLIVION!
Fearfully, Captain Teela looked on as stone blocks impossibly cracked apart under He-Man's flying fists. Huge limestone blocks, laced with silver and each as big as a man, were shattered to dust before her eyes. When she peered through the jagged hole he'd made, she trembled at what she saw and held fast to her blade. "Grails of Procrustus! Th-there's nothing out there! Eternia is gone!"
"The Ancients've removed this fortress from Skeletor's influence," the golden-haired warrior answered wearily, "- by pushing it into a dead dimension, where Grayskull is an empty ruin, and its legend means nothing!"
THEN, STONE BY STONE, I WILL DESTROY THIS CASTLE, ..UNTIL THE MEEK ANCIENTS YOU SERVE BETRAY YOU TO SAVE THEMSELVES ..AND SET YOU AND ALL MORTALS TO KNEEL BEFORE ME, THE KING OF CASTLE GRAYSKULL!
Through the empty sockets of his ancient mask, Skeletor looked upon them.
Lightning crackled around his barbarian foe, biting into his flesh, forcing him to his knees, but a glare and a primal roar was all that he gave. Once more, the Vulnarian stood. "The twin Swords of Power in your grasp defy you, King of Snake Mountain, ..as do I!"
FOOL! YOU EVADE ONE TRAP ONLY TO FALL PREY TO OTHERS MORE DEADLY! IT IS MANKIND, WHO WILL PAY FOR YOUR DEFIANCE, AND YOU WILL BE POWERLESS ..TO STOP ..
A blinding, scarlet flashed from behind the fiery, skull-like mask, and it lingered in the air, darkening to a faint, violet haze. Then, the black-robed Lord of the Wastes staggered forth from it ..and collapsed to one armored knee.
I ..AM KING OF CASTLE GRAYSKULL, ..THE MOST TERRIBLE POWER IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE, ..AND OF ETERNIA ...YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR DEFIANCE ..WITH YOUR ..LIFE ...
"We're no longer on Eternia, Lord of Demons!" the half-naked man-god groaned, digging his steel-hard fingers into a massive, stone block. Though it was many times his size, with a grunt, the Vulnarian raised it high above his head. From beneath its pitch shadow, pale, blue eyes glared. "You have no power here! This battle is over!"
Arms thick and cabled with muscle pitched the grayish-green rock forward!
Icy blue eyes, swollen and narrow with rage, saw the would-be king of Castle Grayskull disappear beneath it ..and over the fortress's ramparts. A great flash erupted from beyond Grayskull's walls, and, for a second, space and time seemed to split apart.
Skeletor was gone. The Sword of Ancients lost with him.
At the other end of the parapet, where Point Dread joined Grayskull every twenty years, a solitary figure stirred swiftly toward them.
Over the length of the ramparts, roaring the warrior-woman's name, Sergeant Roberto Ruin-Zo ensnared his beloved Teela between lean, muscled arms, and she kissed him, brushing the dark hair from his eyes. Ambling closely behind him, Man-At-Arms, miraculously restored to life, lumbered wearily over the castle's gray stonework, followed by He-Man's faithful Battle Cat, whose name was known to only him.
From the rocky center of Castle Grayskull's colossal, triangular bailey, a great, golden structure took shape, cracking apart the stonework beneath it. Lightning crackled over its metallic surface, flashing upwards and into the sky like the tentacles of some savage, ocean-born behemoth! An eerie calm pervaded the bailey and the skies over castle Grayskull, ..and the legendary pyramid stood, where the masters of the world once guided Eternia's destiny.
"The Hall of Wisdom, Lord Adam?" marveled the barbarian's large, armored tiger, looking on in amazement. "Not since the death of your Vulnarian kinsmen, have I set eyes upon it. By all that is wild, what've you done?"
Humbly, He-Man knelt before it, and a voice echoed from where the pyramid had risen. Alone, in the terrific, scaled skull and hide of a hooded dragon, the Mighty Teela stepped forward - the silvery Sword of Ancients held out before her.
Into wide and grateful hands, did He-Man reclaim his weapon. "Holy Warrior, Friend of Man, once again you have honored our faith the gods. Though I saw this weapon lost to us with my own eyes, I never believed it beyond your reach, ..even in the fiery maws of Oblivion. On behalf of all mortalkind, you have my thanks."
Skeletor will find a great weapon drifting just beyond that dread realm, and he will set it loose in the world of men, upon his return... Many will die, and Eternia will never be the same... You will dwell here with the gods, in the Hall of Wisdom for a time, Adam, ..to prepare for the destruction to come... The Ancients have spoken!
"No!" Teela protested, rising to stand. She was Man-At-Arms' daughter in spirit, if not blood, and such was her courage that she dared challenge the gods. Though she found both Duncan and Sergeant Ruin-Zo at her sides, she would have gladly stood alone. For this golden-haired Vulnarian, she would have stared down all the devils of Oblivion. "Though, I've chosen another, we are kindred, Adam. You belong with us ..in the world of men."
The bronze giant kissed Teela softly, and a cautious look passed between himself and Sergeant Ruin-Zo. "It is the will of the gods, Teela. Good journey. May the gods bless you and Ruin-Zo with many fit and handsome sons."
The Holy Warrior cast a stern glare down into the faces of her mortal charges ..and raised her golden Rod of Order. An eerie, green radiance flared from her staff, and the heroes of Eternos were turned most fearfully from it.
Come, He-Man of the Vulnarians... Come and prepare for war!
Before the eyes of the assembled warriors and beyond the craggy castle walls, the bleak, barren, but familiar moors of Eternia could be seen once more. Souls soared to find Grayskull returned to Eternia, but, there was also regret. A bright light appeared before them, and followed by his faithful tiger, He-Man of the Vulnarians disappeared into it.
And Captain Teela collapsed sobbing in her father's arms.
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