Tomb of the Magic Stealer: Voyage Of The Valeria
By T. F. Cooper (Based on a story by Gary Cohn)
With the Iron Mountains at their backs, Prince Adam and his Vulnarian companion looked down, as the wide blue of the Rakash Sea spread out before the jet-sled they shared. Along its dusty coasts, thrived the numerous fishing villages of North Rakastan, where, just as the Sorceress had told him, the Captain of the Royal Guard waited with the heavily armed Royal Storm Raider, Valeria.
Onboard, labored a crew of familiar faces, upon which He-Man had never before laid eyes, ..but one was more familiar to him than the rest. When the tall, broad-shouldered maid dressed in gold and silver armor, beneath which a simple, white, legless suit contoured spellbinding curves, He-Man could do little, but stare in disbelief.
"What kind of name is He-Man, anyway?" Captain Teela asked offhandedly, as she led the golden-haired youth and his half-naked, barbarian companion aboard the Valeria. The intense curiosity with which this He-Man studied her made the captain more than uneasy. His silence was even more daunting. "Well, stranger?"
"The He-Man serves Heuay, goddess of destiny," answered Prince Adam proudly, recalling his long talk with the man, who so eerily resembled him. "He says it's either Heuay or the highway! Remind you of anyone?"
"I resent that remark, Your Highness," growled Teela, over an armored shoulder.
"He-Man is the champion of Heuay's people," the bronze-skinned strongmen corrected Prince Adam, "and must surrender his will to honor hers. Do you believe in destiny, Captain?"
"I believe ..in these!" the flame-haired vixen giggled, curling her arms affectionately around a large gun barrel. "Photon-pulse cannons with korodithium-reinforced barrels and automatic, bio-recharge power cells! We're going to send anything that crosses us limping to the scrap heap!"
"Korodithium is weakened korodite," muttered He-Man contemptuously, running his hand over the cannon's surface. "When it's seen as many centuries of cannon-fire as these have, it rattles and throws off your shots. It's also very hard to cool off, wearing down the bio-regenerative speed of the power cells. We'll be lucky, if we make it over the Rakash."
"Do you want to live forever?" sneered Captain Teela, directing the barbarian's attention to the storm raider's crow's nest ..and a man covered head-to-heel in silvery feathers. His massive arms and shoulders looked as if made of solid steel. "This is Stratos -- his wings make him a master of tracking and aerial combat! He is guardian of the sky kingdom of Avion."
He-Man knew well the man in heavy, blue armor loading the photon-pulse cannons, though the shadow of his large, metal hood fell over his dark eyes like a mask. "Man-E-Faces is known across Eternia as a great actor and his monster form gives him strength of seven. He is a changeling and master of intrigue!"
The short, stocky man helping Man-E-Faces looked to be wearing a steel bucket on his head. Impossibly large fists, each easily as big as a man's head, swung to and fro at his sides. "Ram Man here has cybernetic legs that make him a human missile. Be warned - he's as quick to befriend, as he is to anger!"
"On my world, it is said I'm quick to befriend," grinned He-Man, gently kissing the fair captain's hand, while cutting a devillish glance at Prince Adam, "and that my friends cannot go long without me, once they have known my .. friendship."
"Ho, this wizard casts his spell skillfully," Captain Teela huffed, meeting his flirtation with an imperiously arched eyebrow, "but he could smell better."
A thunderous round of laughter resounded over the Valeria's deck, and for many days thereafter, her flight to the Isle of the Four Grails seemed entirely uneventful. Clear skies stretched as far as the eye could see, and all aboard found themselves in the best of company and spirits. There was ruckus of the sort that grew from bringing a group of strong willed folk into a small place, but it could be ignored easily enough. Teela kept below deck, where Man-E-Faces bewitched her with classic poetry. He-Man prayed to his tribesmen's gods, and Stratos scouted the skies for airborn attacks, while Prince Adam and Ram Man bickered over the Valeria's navigation like two children fighting over a toy boat.
Of the grim warnings Zoar had given them, not a word had been spoken by any. Nor had any speculation been made of their true meanings.
"How can you be so sure this creaky-timbered wreck'll get us to the Isle of the Four Grails, Adam, .." grumbled Ram Man, awakening from an ambrosia-induced slumber, "-- especially with you at the controls?"
"Swim ahead of us, Rammy," Prince Adam shot back, over his navigation instruments, "if you hate this ship so much! Never seen anyone so whale-like, who didn't call the tide his mother!"
"You'll eat those words, ya perfumed imp!" Ram Man snorted back, shoving the haughty prince aside with an arm and squatting on a large crate. "Now, tell us more of this Fearamid, Mr. He-Man! Where's it come from?"
"It was called 'the Magic Stealer' by the elders of my tribe," the barbarian began. "In a time before time, alien conquerors came to Eternia -- my Eternia. They were the ancestors of the half-human Warlords of Grayskull, who subjugated the Evergreen Forests and Fertile Plains, ..but, they were dying. So, they built a machine that could siphon off the living, mystical energies of our planet ..and harness them to raise their dead! That machine is the Fearamid."
"Hey!" Ram Man pointed to the skies overhead. "Maybe, them angels come to lead us ashore! Look!"
He-Man's eyes narrowed toward the sky, and he too saw them. Whatever they were, they had wings like birds and were descending fast toward the ship, as He-Man's broad hand moved for his hoary blade. Then, just as suddenly, they changed the course of their flight ..and headed for a patch of rocks far to the west. "Mayhaps, good Ram Man -- but, the legends spoke nothing of angels inhabiting these skies. Stratos?"
"No friends of mine, He-Man," confessed the bird-man from his perch in the raider's crow's nest.
"The Sorceress called them the Semini, He-Man," Adam whispered, pointing to the skies, "If I told you why, you would laugh 'til your lungs burst, but they're the sons of Procrustus -- guardians of his island. Should we follow?"
He-Man craned his neck upwards to the skies. "The spirits of the land, sea and sky have all been driven mad. If these Semini can offer safe passage to the Isle of Four Grails, we should follow, ..until the gods give us cause to do otherwise."
Hours passed and Prince Adam studied this half-naked barbarian, who shared his name and whose face was a dark mirror of his own. He was like none of the barbar peoples he had ever encountered in his travels with good Man-At-Arms. As the bronze warrior calmly took his turn at the helm, Prince Adam found himself as fascinated as he was uneasy about him. "The Sorceress called you the last of your kind, He-Man -- what did she mean by that?"
"Not long ago," the big, golden-haired man started, looking out over the rolling clouds, "an enemy of my tribesmen used Grayskull's secrets to admit a monster into our world -- a dragon from Oblivion, called Morgonymyr. It massacred nearly every man, woman and child in my country. There were survivors, mostly women and infants, ..but I am the last of its warriors."
"That can't happen to me," insisted Prince Adam, nervously. Turning from He-Man to face the bleak, grey skies surrounding them. "My father has armies! Weapons your tribe never had! We don't need any champions! Turn us around right now and .."
"You can't turn from your destiny," He-Man answered sternly - a broad hand on Adam's shoulder, "anymore than I could've turned from mine! The evil that set Morgonymyr upon my tribesmen still lives. It is my destiny to fight it. Great armies and great weapons mean nothing."
"Then, ..what will?" The prince was ashamed to look him in the face. Something about the uncompromising hardness that distinguished He-Man's from his own made him feel small. Powerless. A privilege that only his father, Randor, was allowed.
"You will, Prince Adam," answered He-Man, casting a steely glance over his shoulder. "You must ..or Eternia dies."
NAY, VULNARIAN . . . I WILL NOT PERMIT ETERNIA TO DIE . . .
The voice rattled the timbers of the Valeria's deck, and He-Man drew his blade. Crewmen rushed from all over the Valeria.
"Look!" the bird-man, Stratos, cried, from the crow's nest. "Many miles off the starboard bow, a nest of green hills showing above the artic waters! Do you see it, He-Man?"
"Tis the land Teelana showed me in her crystals," answered He-Man, distractedly, peering out over the waters to ascertain what he saw. Over and around the Valeria, nothing stirred. "We must be close! The Semini are gone, having lead us safely to these skies. Somewhere ahead, in those mountains, are the four, golden Grails of Procrustus!"
BEYOND THESE ICY WATERS AND FARTHER NORTH, SKELETOR AND HIS WARRIORS LABOR TO UNLOCK THE FEARAMID'S DEADLY SECRETS . . . HURRY, CHILDREN OF ETERNOS . . .
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