Tomb of the Magic Stealer: Stand Fast, Procrustus!
By T. F. Cooper (Based on a story by Gary Cohn)
The Scrolls of Helos say that Eternia's crust used to rest on the back of Procrustus and the feet of his wife, Hyperia, a sun goddess, whose cult predated Mighty Teela's. In those primordial times, the couple was young and very amorous. The titan had devoured his twin brother to lay with her, and when finally he did, the throws of their lovemaking nigh ripped Eternia apart with earthquakes and tidal waves. When the arms of Procrustus's murdered twin burst from his side, Hyperia was so horrified that she fled into the sky, becoming the sun and giving birth to Eternia's two moons, ..leaving Procrustus to bear the weight of Eternia's bulk alone.
The cataclysms ceased, and, for a time, the world knew peace. On every shore, praised in every tongue, were temples erected to the first and most enduring of gods.
WHO SEEKS THE GRAILS OF PROCRUSTUS?
A voice thundered from everywhere at once. The titanium hull of the Storm Raider Valeria shook, ..and the valiant hearts of the warriors of Eternos, each and all -- even He-Man's -- were stopped cold, when they turned toward it. Even the clouds overhead and the winds, which stirred them, were stopped, yielding the wide, gray skies to the God of the Inner World.
"Mighty Procrustus!" He-Man called to its gargantuan owner. "Though I am not of the world you labor to protect -- though I've made no prayers to you, I come before you as a friend ..and ask for your aid."
THE ESSENCE OF THE GODS IS INFINITE AND OMNIPRESENT, HE-MAN OF THE VULNARIANS, .. FLOWING THROUGH ALL THE UNIVERSE AT ONCE . . . THOUGH YOU HAVE MADE NO PRAYERS TO ME, I HAVE HEARD AND ANSWERED THEM MANY TIMES, . . . EVEN AS I DREW YOUR NOBLE BROTHERS INTO THE LAND, MERE DAYS AGO . . .
"M-my brothers?!" He-Man gasped, as he walked to the edge of the Valeria. His voice trembled. "Never dared hope some shadow of my slain brothers might be reflected here, ..and now you tell me -- Lord of the Four Grails, why have you done this?!"
YOUR NOBLE TRIBESMEN SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES TO SPARE ETERNIA APOCALYPSE AT THE DRAGON MORGONYMYR'S HANDS . . . THEIR SACRIFICE ALONE HAS PURCHASED MANKIND THIS CHANCE TO SAVE HIS WORLD . . .
"Not again!" He-Man screamed, drawing the Sword of Power from its scabbard on his back. The horror of finding his tribesmen ripped to pieces by Morgonymyr flooded back into his brain. "By the Nine Fathers! I won't endure their massacre all over again here, ..as if their sacrifice meant nothing! I won't!"
THEIR COLLECTIVE STRENGTH ALONE WAS NOT ENOUGH TO BRING MORGONYMYR LOW, AND THEY CALLED OUT TO THESE FOUR, ANCIENT ARMS TO DELIVER THE KILLING BLOW . . . TO OPEN THE LAND, WHILE THEY HELD HIM FAST, AND TO CRUSH THE DRAGON IN ITS PRIMORDIAL GRIP . . . THOUGH THEY WOULD PERISH WITH IT . . .
"Forgive me, God of the Grails," He-Man confessed, returning the broadsword to his harness, "Though I didn't know the Vulnarians of this mirrored realm, I feel the loss of them, ..as though it were an arm or mine own beating heart ripped from my chest! Lord Procrustus, ..what favor I beg of you today, I beg in their names -- in their ..honor."
ONCE AGAIN, THE SONS OF VULNAR HAVE WREST ETERNIA FROM THE MAWS OF OBLIVION . . . LET ALL, WHO WOULD HONOR THEIR CODE BE THE EQUAL OF IT . . . I WELCOME YOU, HE-MAN, AS A SON AND FRIEND . . . RISE . . AND ASK OF ME, WHAT YOU WILL . . .
"Mighty one," He-Man beseeched him, "Skeletor uses the Great Fearamid of Extreia to corrupt Eternia's natural magic, the magic of its old gods -- the dead gods of which you are the last! I ask thee lend what might is left in your noble limbs to our cause! I ask thee stay here and hold this frail world together, while I end this dire threat. Send me to the source of it ..that I might save our world!"
LOOK INTO THE GOLD OF THE GRAILS . . . THE ARTIFACT YOU SEEK IS . . NO . . . NO-OOO . . .
The great golden-armored man, tall and wide as a mountain, collapsed onto one knee. Eternia, and even the sky, shook. Procrustus groaned, and the nearby mountain peaks split apart, sending tons of jagged rock into the valleys below.
"He-Man ..?" inquired Captain Teela worriedly, searching his broad, bronze face for an answer.
"We don't have much time, woman," He-Man answered grimly. "He doesn't have much time. The Fearamid is poisoning Procrustus, ..and the land with it."
HURRY, MORTALS . . . THOUGH I BE MASTER OF THE INNER WORLD, THE LESSER SPIRITS THAT DWELL BELOW ARE MANY . . . AND THEY CAN RESIST THE FEARAMID'S POWER NO LONGER . . . NOT SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME HAVE WE GODS BEEN SO LURED FROM OUR LABORS . . .
"No, giant!" wild-eyed Prince Adam protested, rushing to He-Man's side. "The Fearamid's power is great, I'm sure, ..but yours is greater! I will not see you give yourself up to it!"
"Take care, brother," He-Man warned the wayward Prince of Eternia, barring his path with a broad hand flattened against Adam's chest. "Though Procrustus is afflicted, Eternia is still held in his four, ancient hands! Though your world has abandoned him to legend, he has not abandoned you. He is still a god."
"I am Prince of Eternia, Vulnarian," Adam answered, ..and with surprising disregard for He-Man's warning. "If I'm not willing to dare all to save this world, my world, ..what kind of king will I make, when Randor's crown is finally passed to me? Stand aside, Lord Adam. Let me speak."
He-Man studied Prince Adam's face and eyes. He saw no fear there. No screwed down courage ..or empty bravado for the impressing of beauteous Teela and the promise of her favors. He-Man lowered his arm and stepped aside. "You are bold, Adam of Eternos. Yes. Bolder than I knew. Speak."
Heeding Lord Adam's advice, the prince kneeled at the edge of the Valeria's deck, in deference to the God of the Inner World, upon whose back, the Kingdom of Eternia thrived. His pale, golden head slightly bowed, he called to the rocky beach, where the golden titan kneeled also. "Should you abandon your duties now, Lord Procrustus, a great catastrophe will surely ensue! You must not permit that! You must endure as we do! Show me what lies in the Four Grails that I might share some portion of your divine burden."
The great golden man rose to his feet and stood high into the clouds, where sea fowl circled. As he strode out into the wild Rakash, his broad chest and head towering above the Valeria's deck, giant grails of purest gold appeared in his hands. As he approached, the heroic crew of the Valeria, each and all, kneeled. Mesmerized by the sheer size and majesty of this golden titan, Prince Adam stared wide-eyed up into the dark bronze of Procrustus's face.
LOWER THINE HEAD, SON OF RANDOR, ..AND OPEN THINE HANDS . . . KNOW THE GIFT OF THE FOUR GRAILS . . .
Prince bowed his head, and, from each golden cup, Mighty Procrustus spilled a drop of their contents onto the kneeling prince's head and back. The youth held up and together his hands, until they were overflowed. Disdaining to lie as wine or water lies, when poured, the perfumed, glowing liquid stirred between his cupped hands, ..where a chilling image quickly took shape. "My friends, ..the artifact we seek is in the artic wastes, in a land beyond the Icer Sea -- a land, where no wind stirs!"
THE UNIVERSE IS GREAT . . . MY GRAILS ARE PASSED BETWEEN MANY HALLS . . THAT ALL, WHO SHARE MY BURDEN, MAY PARTAKE OF THEIR STRENGTH . . . MARK IT TO BE SO WITH ALL THINGS, WHICH LIE BEYOND MAN, PRINCE OF ETERNIA . . AND GO IN PEACE . . . SAVE YOUR WORLD . . .
Prince Adam lifted his head to call to him, but the golden God of the Inner World, whose massive, armored shoulders, mere seconds ago, had eclipsed the very sun, was nowhere to be found. Through the mists, a great rumble was heard from the Isle of the Four Grails, bringing the warriors of the Valeria to their feet once more. When the mists cleared, Prince Adam saw that the island, too, was gone. "You have our thanks, Lord Procrustus! We will prevail -- I promise!"
"Ready the Storm Raider!" shouted He-Man, turning toward Stratos in the crow's nest. "We sail to the Salkinds in due haste!"
"The Salkind Islands are in the Dark Hemisphere, He-Man," called Stratos, from the crow's nest. "They are forbidden, ..even by the high gods of my Avionic forefathers!"
"Stratos is right," Man-E-Faces warned the Vulnarian. Carefully. "The Shadow Lands, Snake Mountain - no one's dared these realms, since the Horde Wars. Though, you are a trusted friend of the Sorceress, you are still a stranger here, He-Man. You needn't understand our ways to respect them."
"I don't care who you are," Ram Man glared up into the big Vulnarian's face, mere inches from his massive chest. "You ain't takin' us to no Salkinds, ..and you ain't takin' Prince Adam!"
"Enough, all of you!" Captain Teela cried. "I-I ..don't know how, ..but I can feel it. The barrier between the light and dark halves of our world will soon fall! War, the likes of which Eternia has never seen, ..will rise on every shore. We must press on - all of us."
"The curse of the Magic Stealer's tomb ends here," roared He-Man, shoving the thickly built, armored man backwards and against a wooden beam. "Fools! Your world is dying! I'll not see mine die with it!"
A pained glare flashed at him from the mirror that was Prince Adam's face. "It's me the Sorceress chose to be Grayskull's champion - not you. Don't I have a say in this?!"
The leonine mane of golden hair hung wildly over He-Man's face. Before Teela or his other friends could remove Prince Adam from the warrior's path, big, bronze hands seized the youth's collar! The cursed influence of the Fearamid stirred the hairs at the nape of the Vulnarian's neck, ..like the hot breath of a demon. He-Man knew the power coursing through his sinews would soon be tainted by it, and a rage would possess him that he could not control. He swung the big youth roughly back to the deck and resisted the impious cue to slaughter him. "What say had my tribesmen, Prince Adam, ..when the Dragon of Oblivion was ripping them apart -- when Procrustus drew them into the ground?! They're all dead!"
"Dead because of me?" Prince Adam shivered from the timbers of the Valeria's deck, shaking with terror. Confusion.
"You should have been there," snarled the Vulnarian. His teeth bared in a predatory rictus. "All of you! You should've been there, fighting at their sides! You should've died with them!"
Captain Teela, Stratos, Man-E-Faces and Ram Man looked on, as Prince Adam composed himself, ..and He-Man moved below deck. The Valeria, sturdy, proud veteran of centuries of war, sailed to the Salkinds.
To 'Tomb of the Magic Stealer'
To Fiction Index