By T. F. Cooper (Based on a story by Gary Cohn)
Half screamed. Half roared.
A horrific, tortured sound tore from the young man, as ribbons of blue-white electricity rippled over his flesh like a tide, leaving the virginal rose of his complexion a deep bronze in its wake. His muscles swelled, barely able to restrain the divine weapon in his hands, as it was pulled magnetically toward the heavens. "He-Man is free, Lord Adam! Free to serve the Ancients ..and mankind! You have my eternal thanks!"
"To arms, then, brother," Adam of the Vulnarians said, slipping the korodite harness onto the new He-Man's massive shoulders. "Take this harness ..with the devilbeaver pelt and boar-hide boots of my immortal tribesmen. You've earned them all."
Swiftly, Grayskull's new champion slipped into the korodite harness and belted a portion of the beaverhide around his waist - then, lumbered off into the icy tempest toward the crater. The air there crackled around him, disrupted by the magic radiating from his body. The veil of mystical energy behind which Skeletor had hidden the Magic Stealer faded away, revealing a monstrous, pyramid of green rock at the crater's center. Slowing his pace, He-Man called to the bronze-skinned man at his back. "Come with me! We'll take the Fearamid together!"
"You must remain here," Lord Adam answered,
slashing a deep gash into the snow with his sword, "until I am called back
to my own world. Leave the Fearamid to me, ..and when all is done, go to the
"I will honor their code always! I swear it," young He-Man vowed, awe-struck by the resemblance between them, ..down to the weaving of the veins in their massive forearms, as he slid his silvery blade from its scabbard. "Go in honor, Lord Adam, ..and good journey."
Through the icy mists, Lord Adam rushed down into the crater towards the dreaded House of Extreia. Powerful legs carried him over the snow and underlying rock at a speed beyond human capabilities, until, with a wild shriek of warrior's rage, he leapt at the Fearamid's ancient stone face ..and vanished into it! When the big Vulnarian had tumbled back onto his feet, he staggered backwards, finding the pale, green tomb was now mysteriously at his back, stretching into a vast gray-white sky, overhead. Without the Harness of Vulnar to bind the collective strength of his dead tribesmen to him, the Sword of Ancients weighed heavier in his broad hands than ever it had. In one fist, he held it before him. "Where is the Fearamid, Skeletor? Show yourself!"
A black mass took shape in the distance, ..near the edge of the crater. "Did you think the Magic Stealer's tomb of your primitive legends was some fortress of dried mud and stone?! It is a mirror of the terror in the hearts of all mankind -- even yours! That is its power, and you are defenseless, Last Son of Vulnar! Here, naked and alone on an alien world, ..you will die."
Confused, Lord Adam shook his head, ..as if to force himself awake from a nightmare! Surrounding him on every front, north, south, east and west, was the massive, jade monolith impossibly replicated. "You think to hide the true Fearamid behind these illusions, demonking? I'll destroy them all ..and you with them!"
Toting the ram-headed, black Havoc Staff at his side, the Lord of Destruction stepped forward, framed by the soullessly pale green of the monstrous Fearamid at his back. "Look around you, barbarian -- we are inside it! Inside the cold emptiness of Terror itself! Here on this world between worlds, fear rules, ..and I am its master! I am a god!"
As if in protest to the Dread One's claim, a fierce wind stirred between the Vulnarian and his foe. Over He-Man's broad chest and back - over the gargantuan muscles of his loins, lower legs and feet, tiny shards of flying ice crashed together! Until each of the crystalline shards there, woven together by unseen forces, turned to silvery metal armor! Upon his breastplate blazed the Eldor Cross of Grayskull, flickering red as if painted in fire.
A red falcon circled overhead, as if from nowhere, and He-Man glanced up to marvel at it. The familiar tingle of the Teelana's magic aroused his senses, just as it had in their soulful coupling at Grayskull. Silently, from the mysteries of his mind, he thanked her for the gift of armor, and, just as swiftly as the bird had appeared, it vanished into the clouds above.
"It seems you have the favor of this world's gods, barbarian," marveled the Lord of the Wastes, as he threw back his ebon cloak and unsheathed his black Sword of Chaos. "It will avail you nothing, ..and this world will be mine. Mine to burn. Mine to drown. Mine to bury under a steaming mound of dragon feces!"
"I've something that you could never understand, demon," He-Man answered, bringing his silvery weapon to a defensive position, "a love for Eternia, even this one, ..and for mankind! That is weapon enough!"
For a silent moment, He-Man and Skeletor circled one another.
Digging his clawed boot-heels into the virgin white of the snow, the ebon-robed Lord of Destruction twirled his fiery, black blade in one hand ..and snarled 'neath his golden skull-mask. The monstrous thews of his Vulnarian foe tensed with the promise of the battle to come, ..until, with one primal roar, they came crashing together.
In a storm of metal and light!
The Enemy of Man swung his sword forward, and He-Man was forced back by a fierce and powerful blow. He rolled backward across the white ground, as his grotesque pursuer advanced, and sprung back to his feet - the Sword of Ancients held firmly before him. "Two worlds lay dying at your hand, Skeletor. This time, you have gone too far."
"And you have lost, barbarian," Skeletor warned through hollow eyes, digging and swinging the fiery blade at his golden-maned enemy's throat. He watched, as He-Man's savage blows impacted against the invisible shield surrounding him, and though none had penetrated, the sheer force of them had battered him back to the edge of the crater. In one, graceful stroke, the Dread One's Sword of Chaos sank through He-man's armor and into his right shoulder. When Skeletor withdrew his weapon, he heard his young foe hiss in agony ..and the hero's hot, red blood sizzling on the fresh snow. "Though you are the champion of the gods on the world of your birth, you are nothing here, .. and I am invincible. When I have choked this Eternia with its own fear and rage -- when its temples are littered with murdered priests, and the Royal Guard is raping young noblemen in the streets -- I will return to your world, ..and I will destroy it!"
"You want to see us cowered in dark caves again, eating each other to stay alive, don't you?" Ignoring the pain in his shoulder, He-Man circled his black-robed foe, pacing his next strike and careful not to lower his defenses. The Sword of Power held before him. "You want us terrified of the monsters grazing in the daylight ..and praying to you to keep them at bay? Those days are over, demon! Man'll not be ruled by his fears ..ever again!"
His flaming, black sword in one hand, the skull-masked demonking drew back his hand and hurled his blade deep into He-Man's right arm. Looking down into the icy blue of his eyes, Skeletor ripped his sword free and saw a thick rain of crimson sprayed across He-Man's silvery breastplate. "Had I a soul, your effort to understand me would be charming. Heartwarming. I want to wipe you from the cosmos, human! I want to see you slide from my heels, like waste ..into Oblivion! Can you understand that?"
That the next sadistic blow would be fatal, He-Man did not doubt. "Then, by Zodac's Black Gun, may I drive thee with one righteous blow, back into realms beyond!"
As He-Man looked on, the Lord of Destruction swept his sword high over his hooded head and swung it downwards. "From world to world, you follow me, like a faithful hound, ..hungering for the battle that will complete you. Concede, Vulnarian. Concede that I am your master."
The world blurred before him, as the Sword of Chaos pressed into his throat. It was only by force of his will that the blade did not cut him. His fingers curled over its edge, resisting the pressure upon his neck. It would take off his head, should his will weaken. "You are nothing, Lord of the Wastes, ..and this battle is over!”
Inside the mile-wide crater, from the monolithic Great Fearamid, a blinding white flared. Before it, the Enemy of Man fell to his knees, surrounded by shadowy figures with strange, alien weapons. "The Lords of Extreia?! No! This cannot be!"
"Oblivion is the tomb of the Magic Stealer, Skeletor," one of them answered, standing over the confounded demonking. "The Fearamid is no more, and you are fading. Soon, you will both fade from this plane, just as we did, ..and be forgotten!"
Skeletor clawed at his ebon robes and the rotting flesh beneath, only to see them turned to so much black dust. He began to fade! "I control the mightiest forces on all Eternia -- of the universe itself! I am a god! I will rule the world of men! I, alone!"
"Like Mighty Procrustus, your power is now divided between many worlds," He-Man grunted, rising to stand, "and you've wasted it all in battle with me. Only one blow need be struck to bring you low, ..and, somewhere out there, the He-Man of this world has just struck that blow! I leave you to the vengeance of the Magic Stealers!"
With that, the Fearamid’s ghostly, alien masters attacked Skeletor, until only the demonking’s screams lingered on the air.
From the north, light flared! Throughout Eternia, ..in the forested paradises, fertile plains and mystic mountains - and even at the lonely, tempest-tossed Castle Grayskull -- joyous spirits, seen and unseen, cheered, ..and all was well once more.
Flat on his back, at the center of a vast, frozen crater in the Salkind Islands, He-Man awoke to see the broad, ruddy face of his friend, the Man-At-Arms, ripple into focus. "Duncan? How did you ..find ..?"
"Zoar guided us here," the old man answered, lifting a flask to the big Vulnarian's lips and signaling Captain Teela to approach. "The falcon told us you lay near death in these icy wastes! Are you ..alright?"
The comely, red-haired woman cast a confused glance over her shoulder, kneeling down to examine Lord Adam. "That flash of light that just lit up the sky -- what was it?"
He-Man grinned proudly, as Captain Teela and Man-At-Arms helped him onto the Royal Storm Raider Valeria, ..the same scarred, old wreck he'd driven into battle so many times before. "A fight, methinks, ..and it's just getting started."
The Four Grails of Procrustus are passed between many halls, that all, who share his burden, may partake of their strength.
Now, the grails are passed to another.
I am Adam ...