By T. F. Stephens with Kirk Trigon
silent, but, swift path through the mountains bordering the Plains of Perpetua, a small band of warriors sped toward the forested
hills behind the
When the Order of Heroic Warriors reached a patch of trees near Lone Pilgrim's Pass, a trail stretching into the southern-most hills of Tahrin, they tethered the boat in high grass and moved stealthily, but quickly, into the woods. Leading the party was the Prince of Eternia, who, like his mother, Queen Adora, was a tall, goldenly handsome creature with pale bronze skin and piercing eyes, as bewitching and blue as the Ocean Gnarl. His father Bowulf’s leather pteryges hung loose and low on a frame as sleek, as it was strong, ..and from beneath a shroud of blond hair that fell upon his shoulders like a loin’s mane, he surveyed the surrounding riverbanks, hillside and trees unfolding before them.
A curved, golden saber clutched tightly in his large, pale bronze fist. The weapon of a dead barbarian.
At his side, was his heavily armored Battle Cat, saddled with some portion of the party's weapons and equipment. He was followed closely by a green-skinned monster that stood upright in black armor, like a man, ..and the monster was followed by a warrior, more heavily armored than he, and nearly as broad and thick, as he was tall. Lastly, the Prince’s imperious cousin and Queen Adora’s Man-At-Arms, never far from her side, kept pace just behind them all.
All the while, did young eyes study them all from the shadows.
The piercing stare of the wild nobleman, whom Queen Adora called the Wolf of Clampesh, was such to chill the marrow in one’s bones. Being of quick wit, their pursuer deduced that the aging Earl remained behind the party for strategic reasons. Should the group be detected or followed by anyone, the Earl would know it, ..and their pursuer did not dare a second glance.
“A quarter mile forward, son of Bow,” Panthibal the Battle Cat growled. “The sounds of revelry fill these wild ears!”
At the foot of the densely forested hill, the Prince called over his shoulder. "We're here, Lord Ogun, ..and the way looks clear. What do you see?"
It was not what the old Earl saw, but, what he smelled, that turned him to a flash of gold moving swiftly behind the wall of bamboo chutes, lining the long trail. Clamp Champ snatched from the jade thickets, a blur of dark rags and flailing white limbs and tumbled his prey roughly onto the ground. "You stink, Falcon the Thief!"
"I am Taran, Prince of Eternia,"
the big, golden-haired man sighed, helping the ragamuffin onto his feet.
"My cousin, Princess Dalas of Targa, tells me you are her nephew—the son, her half-sister,
Xarta, left behind, before accepting
guardianship of the
the tall, raven-haired daughter of King Adam and the Targan
Queen Rana playfully mussed Falcon’s hair. "Meet
the little knave, who stole my pegacorn,
certain that the big, red-haired man standing next to the Lady of Targa was more familiar to her than even the Prince. Even behind his silvery helmet and breastplate
of orange bronzium, the man’s relaxed composure and
the distance he kept between her body and his own betrayed deep affection, ..and Dalas blushed, when their
eyes met. "As a boy,
Under the hood of his black cloak, the face of the tall, green-skinned monster morphed into that of a handsome dark-haired man, with skin of pale bronze! In all the places his black armor did not cover him, his thighs and the powerful arms jutting from his breastplate, was he similarly transformed, until he seemed entirely human ..and affectionately pulled Princess Dalas into his arms. "Menifakles of Heos, more renowned as Man-E-Faces, is a shape-shifter and master of intrigue, whose monster-form gives him strength of ten! His star-faring race built Castle Grayskull, over a million years ago!"
The garnet-hued titan at her back, wore a breastplate of dark korodite metal, ..but his handsome face looked all the harder. "Ogun, Earl of Clampesh, is a master of capture and a manhunter! His preferred weapon is the Jaws of War, a claw-like gauntlet designed to capture, disable and even dismember its victims, ..earning him the moniker Clamp Champ. Like my uncle, King Bow, he is a Vulnarian and continues an ally in whom our confidence is unshakable."
Princess Dalas turned to the short, stocky man, who looked to be wearing a steel bucket on his head. "Like his father before him, Ram-Man of Talos is the sworn enemy of the demon Glorms, and his cybernetic legs make him a human missile! Be warned—he is as quick to befriend, as he is to anger!"
"You didn't say nothin' about bringin' no kid along, Prince Taran!" young Ram-Man snarled in the Prince's direction. "Give me one, good reason this imp isn’t pinchin' bronzium ore in the Prison Mines!"
"Good prince! Son of She-Ra!” Falcon huffed, kneeling before Prince Taran, with a nervous grin. "The gentlelady's steed did fly back to her! Besides, no boy thief’s ever gone to the Prison Mines! If they had, I'd already be there! I’m so small, melord, ..and I’m your cousin! How’d you and the Queen Mum look visitin’ me in such an unclean place?"
Prince Taran yanked the young thief back onto his feet and turned him to the flickering torches of the temple on the hill. "Listen well, then, cousin. As in ancient times, before the Virgin Singers came to Tahrin, the high priest feeds a young boy to something lurking in the belly of that mountain, every seven days, ..and we think it is Yog. Now, he’s used the beast to recover my uncle’s Sword of Ancients from the Stygian Abyss, and we must stop him before he unlocks the blade’s power ..and destroys the world! Will you help us?”
"That’s Yog, up there?" the wide-eyed waif asked, fearfully. "You want me to steal something for you, from Yog? Why shouldn't I steal the sword for meself and sell it to the Archbishop ..or Kobra Khan, even?!"
“Boy doesn’t read his history books, does he?” laughed Man-At-Arms, hanging an arm around Falcon’s narrow shoulders. “This Order of Heroic Warriors destroyed Castle Grayskull. Crossing us isn’t healthy, little thief!”
"Easy way to lose a head," hissed the comely Lady of Targa, leaning on a large rock. “Like the late Kobra Khan!”
the He-Man King, killed the last
Archbishop,” sighed Taran,
coldly. Casually folding his arms over
his broad chest, he fixed the young thief with a hard glare
..that reminded his uncles of an old Vulnarian,
whom they missed very much. “Ran him through with a spear, I’m told. I’m told that’s what happens to all the Enemies of
In a flash
of blinding sapphire light, was the green-skinned giant, Menifakles
transformed into a tall, gaunt, silver-bearded man recognized all over Eternia as the Archbishop of the Celestial Church. “Hidden
beneath the temple, in a cave shrine, guarded by a small army of undead warriors, ..is a secret entrance. The Prince, myself and a
few trusted allies will vanquish the
“So, Man-E-Faces here’s the new Archbishop of Eternos?!” Ram-Man stormed off into the trees, glaring at Prince Taran over his shoulder. “Why’m I always the last to know these things, eh? Never seed his other human face before! Didn’t bloody know he had one!”
Queen Adora and King Bowulf
will dare Hell itself for the people of Eternia, so
must we," Prince Taran said, eying Falcon more
intensely. "We're sacking the
"If it’s big as a crow ..and small enough to hide under a cloak, count me in!" declared Falcon impishly, peeping from behind a large tree. A tinkling sound followed. "Make it big enough to keep me in boar loin and women, 'til the end of me days, ..but don’t call me Adam! Xarta gave me that name, and I hate it! I ain’t no dead hero!"
"Then, we'll proceed," the Prince said, turning to face his allies, "—but take care! Though I’m named for this holy city, Tahrin, and, as Prince of Eternia, am sworn to defend it, ..I’ll burn it to the ground to protect mankind from its evil! There’ll be no legends made here, my friends! When all's done, King Adam’s Sword of Power will be returned to the Abyss, as Queen Adora has commanded, and the Crown will deny all knowledge of this mission!"
"Are you mad, Taran?" asked Princess Dalas. "These soulless, death-dealing vipers have verily bathed these hills in sacrificial blood ..and, with Yog’s might, they will conquer all of Eternia! The Sword of Power must be returned to the hands of a just and noble Freenorn to reign…"
"We will honor the He-Man King’s will, Dalas," Prince Taran insisted more forcefully. Looking over his comrades from a large, gray
rock in the moonlight, Dalas's insistence at the
boy’s inclusion was still an enigma to him. "We'll rest near the river, tonight, ..and at dawn, make haste for the
As the Wolf of Clampesh mounted Panthibal’s heavily armored back, he counted the questioning looks exchanged among his allies, who shared the Prince's curiosity about young Adam, ..but, revealed nothing of what he knew. “We’re not yet followed, Taran, but, Battle Cat and I will survey the area more thoroughly. If we are being watched, the threat will come from the caverns."
As the other members of their party headed for camp, Princess Dalas collected her gear and drifted towards the handsome, silver-haired Clampeshite in heavy korodite armor. “How did you know it wasn’t a panther hiding in those bamboo thickets, old man?”
Clamp Champ laughed, resting a hand on Dalas’s shoulder. “Until my fourteenth year, when I left to succeed my grandfather, as Earl of Clampesh, King Adam and I grew up as brothers in the Valley of the Vulnarians. Every day, we wrestled, hunted and swam together in the hottest jungles on Eternia! Do you think I don’t know a Freenorn, when I smell one? Though you cannot yet hear them, new gods whisper to us from the mountains, seas and even the very air, awaiting a champion to call their power forth against Eternia’s enemies! I will prepare Lord Lenon and Princess Xarta’s son to embrace that destiny, as a Vulnarian, ..and I will protect his secret with my life.”
the Earl of Clampesh turned his giant tiger back
toward the ancient, life-giving