Tomb of the Magic Stealer: Where Wander The Lost
By T. F. Cooper (Based on a story by Gary Cohn)
For nigh a year, the hallowed places across the face of Planet Eternia fell silent, and the engines of destruction roared in deafening dominion over all mankind.
Point Dread, an ancient weapon given life and intelligence by the gods, fell into the hands of the Enemy of Man, and the battle to wrest it from his hands was hard-won and not without its casualties. Chief among them was Lord Adam, He-Man of the Vulnarians, cast into the maws of Oblivion, during a battle to reclaim the dreaded artifact. In that bleak realm into which the evil dead are commended, the barbarian had known no quarter from attack. Striking at his foes without thought or remorse in his own defense, he often fought without rest for what seemed like many days. Only when the Great Hawk Spirit of his dead tribesmen had taken his lot in that benighted place, had He-Man wrest himself from its grip, ..but was haunted by it for many weeks thereafter. Something terrific - nigh demonic - had been loosed in him that he could not control. However merry the folly or fetching the company, mindless rage was never far from him.
Seeking the healing serenity of divine truth, the Last Son of Vulnar returned to his native Vine Jungles, where the old gods had first entrusted him with the Sword of Power and infused his body with the strength and stamina of his fifty-thousand immortal brothers, the Vulnarians.
For many nights in succession, as had been the Vulnarian way for countless millennia, did Lord Adam lay with Heuay, the green-skinned Sorceress of the Gods, in her cavern temple, high over the Valley of Vulnar. As Truth incarnate, wild Heuay's body was a living totem of cosmic knowledge, and throughout their lovemaking, He-Man experienced many haunting visions ..of ancient secrets and lost civilizations, of future catastrophes and forgotten prophecies and of alien worlds and dark dimensions! Nothing in her savage embrace eased his torment, and when there was no quarter of Lord Adam's mind and body unmarked by the Divine Sorceress's cataclysmic lusts, the golden-haired giant left Mount Heuay in the mists and, on the back of his heavily armored tiger, wandered on.
The Most Powerful Man In The Universe had begun to go slowly and violently mad.
For the safety of his friends and allies, and to insure that the awesome power his gods had entrusted him would not be abused, He-Man abandoned civilization. Though King Randor and Queen Marlena treated him as their own son and accorded him all the favors of a man nobly born, for their own protection, he could not tell Eternia's rulers that he was indeed their long-lost heir, Prince Adam of Eternos. In times past, no distance had been vast enough or foe strong enough to keep Lord Adam from their sides. When finally he feared himself a threat to them, He-Man entrusted his faithful Battle Cat to the kindly monarchs and left Eternos for the solitude of Castle Grayskull.
The fortress was far more ruined than any Eternian knew.
Its turrets whistled with the fierce winds passing between their limestone blocks. At the center of its massive, triangular bailey, stood the legendary Hall of Wisdom, ..a monstrous, sandstone pyramid, where, eons ago, the masters of the world guided Eternia's destiny, ..now, overgrown with moss.
He-Man did not truly understand the forces at work in the castle's bailey.
The skies over them, whether night-dark or sunlit, rarely matched those outside Grayskull's walls, ..and there was more. When the Hall of Wisdom was not found there, another structure rested in its place. Sometimes, it was a many-pillared, white marble temple, of the style erected in ancient Helios and Cirsaly. At other times, a crystalline dome glistened there, and still others, a pile of blackened rubble, ..rank with the stench of death and age. While the Hall of Wisdom was the most familiar to him, the spectral tenants of each had admitted him within, more than once, ..and gifted him with insight or weaponry equal to whatever task his gods required of him.
Preferring the openness of the ramparts, He-Man kept a small, hammock on the fortress's right turret, at the center of which an ancient, bronze, ion canon was mounted. There, with enough fruit and smoked meat to feed him for nine moons, did the wild warrior meditate for many weeks. When the steely calm of his Vulnarian conditioning had returned to him, the falcon Zoar, messenger of the warrior-goddess Teela, sought him out with news that might have turned the marrow in a weaker man's bones to ice.
"Heed me, He-Man," the falcon told him. "The Great Fearamid of Extreia has fallen into Infinitian hands, and soon all of Eternia will be slowly bled of her natural magicks!"
"Where?!" Lord Adam asked warily, seizing his Sword of Ancients and springing from his hammock. When any threat to Grayskull arose, blood covenant with the warrior-gods bound their fortress's mysterious power to his will, and in the flicker of a thought, he was standing before the falcon fully armed. "Such a thing could split the entire world asunder! Send me back to the world of men with due haste!"
"North," answered the Zoar. "The Lord of Destruction and the evil warriors, who serve him, labor somewhere in the Ice Lands to unlock the Fearamid's secrets. When they do, this mystic disturbance will strike at the very fabric of Eternia! You must journey to the Isle of Four Grails -- there, you will learn the Fearamid's true ..!"
"Tell me, Zoar!" He-Man growled, seizing the bird by its throat and forcing it to the stony floor. "Why does Mighty Teela's loyal falcon cock now speak with a woman's voice? Who are you?!"
In a great flash of sky-colored light, a woman, beautiful and dressed in feathers identical to Zoar's own, struggled under the wide, bronze hand of He-Man. "P-please! This ..is not the world ..you know! N-not ..the Eternia ..you know!"
"Another Eternia?!" marveled He-Man, careful not to lower his guard. Teeth bared in animal rage, he drew back his hoary blade in one hand and poised it for Zoar's chest. "How, witch?! How did you do it? Tell me, or I'll ..!"
A blue glow burned where her eyes opened.
From it, the truth of her words flowed like tapped ambrosia into his mind, and his grip upon the woman slackened - but, her would-be conqueror resisted. Suddenly, she felt the wide hand tighten upon her throat ..and her air nearly cut off. "You ..did it, ..barbarian! You willed yourself here! Please ..d-don't make me hurt you."
He-Man's back struck the gray-green stonework of the wall behind him. Several feet away. When he found the strength to raise his head, he saw that he was belly-down upon a black marble floor, ..many paces from where he'd subdued the changeling witch. "What is this place, woman, ..and what are you?!"
The feathered woman was standing. "I am a sorceress, Vulnarian. The Sorceress here ..on this Eternia. There are as many spell-casters here as you see stars in the sky, but I assure you none know a more dreadful purpose than mine. I am Teelana, the Sorceress of Grayskull."
"Grayskull has no mistress!" He-Man fumed, unsheathing his Sword of Power. "It is a place kept by powerful gods and spirits of kings -- a stronghold mortared in the hopes of all men, living and dead, ..that some great power stands between this world and Oblivion!"
"Yes, Vulnarian," the feather-clad woman answered. "The hope that Eternia will endure! I am the keeper of that hope."
"And I am the avenger of man's will," He-Man responded, "the free will of man and the Ancients!"
"Here, it is not so!" Teelana answered, her eyes blazing with otherworldly power. With menacing speed, the feathers of her floor-length cloak arched upwards in the shape of wings. Sky-colored spheres of blue-white electricity crackled around her hands. "Here are the hopes of mankind and the powers of his gods invested in one hand. Mine. Do not make me show them to you all at once!"
The Sorceressís eyes narrowed to slits, and a sound like thunder rumbled from the stonework of the castle wall. Onto her Vulnarian enemy's bare back and head, rained a small mountain of dust and mortar. With a gesture, Teelana sent another storm of rocks upon her crouching enemy's back.
Large sinews, forged in the pitch furnace of war, bulged and released. Big limestone blocks rolled from He-Man's back, and he saw that the wall he had just felt thundering onto his back was once more erect and intact. "False goddess, ..think your damned tricks will keep my blade from your neck?! Think again!"
Like a silvery bird of prey, the axe flew from the barbarian's hand.
The feather-clad sorceress gestured and growled. A wall of blue-white flame rose from the stonework at her feet, and the axe was turned back toward its master. "Can you not see that the Fearamid is poisoning the power your gods have entrusted you -- the darkness growing inside you? You came here seeking the source of your madness, ..and you have found it."
The hulking, lion-maned warrior grunted, ripping his axe from the air in a large, bronze fist. Mere inches from his neck. "Gods, ..I am going mad."
"Sorceress?" a voice called from a stairwell connecting the ramparts to corridors below. A tall and broad-shouldered man, swathed in a blanket of tawny fur, lumbered from the darkness on bare feet, rubbing his eyes as if freshly awakened from sleep. When he swept the shroud of his flaxen hair from his forehead, the proof of Teelana's claims was bared for all to see. "Sorceress, ..I heard shouting. Is everything alright?"
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