Priests of Infinitias, Part 3
By T. F. Cooper (Based On "He-Man Meets Ram Man" by Gary Cohn)
The underworld kingdom of Sybronn was damned long before an Infinitian became its master.
It is written in the Scrolls of Helos, that Eternia was not the first world engineered by the gods. The many imperfect worlds the gods had created and set adrift in the Void, eons before Eternia's creation, were unknown to humankind, ..until a great 'dead star' fell to Eternia.
Sy'bronn, as it was known to the Haramesh emperors of Kortistan, had struck the young planet with such force that it had buried itself deep into Eternia's crust! From its fiery ruins, a race of warlike, half-alive monsters, given only the semblance of life by the strange chemicals and machines of the gods, laid siege to the ancient world. The forces of Sybronn massacred the primitive peoples of Eternia, enslaving the lifeless bodies of the slain with its unholy machines and swelling its ranks to create the largest army in the Dark Hemisphere!
From that time and long thereafter, was the kingdom of Sybronn so damned.
Like the mysterious Castle Grayskull, sovereignty over Sybronn had passed through many hands, good and evil. Only when the Lord of Destruction and his undead cyborg general, Sijanus Trap-Jaw, conspired with the glorms to unseat Sybronn's alien masters, was the benighted kingdom's fate finally sealed, ..and was all life on Eternia threatened.
No one knew worst the evil of Sijanus Trap-Jaw than the Ceril-Nar, once chief scientist of the Vulnarians.
Abandoning the mortal world, after Trap-Jaw turned his family into soulless half-machines, Ceril-Nar returned to the Vine Jungles of his birth to live among the immortal warriors, who were his brothers. None, save He-Man himself, was more outraged by their slaughter at the hands of Morgonymyr, the Dragon of Oblivion, and no one had dared more to right that great wrong. Condemned by the gods, after an unspeakable attempt to wrest his slain brothers from their eternal rest in the Great Beyond, he now wandered the benighted waterways of the Underworld, ..haunted by the family he could not save.
Under a sky bright with the orange of hellfire clouds, Lord Adam traveled to the Underworld to seek out Ceril-Nar's help in returning the Ram Man's slain son, Orphael, to the world of men. Arriving at the edge of the Underworld, somewhere under Sybronn, upon the river Belmortia, He-Man found himself facedown on the deck of a vast, black-timbered ship, surrounded a small band of beautiful maids, ..and each formed entirely of golden metal. These were Ceril-Nar's golden robot-warriors.
A tall, fierce-looking one with long, dark hair and curvaceous hips studied him and drew her blade. "I am a Heliad of the House of Ceril-Nar. We serve he, who is Master Scientist of the gods! Now, invader, ..you die!"
A hulking figure labored toward them across the Raven's deck.
A white-haired giant of a man, ..carrying a silver staff gleaming with the wonders of the Ancients. Tears ran down the cheeks of his broad, bronze face, and he hurled his rod into Summeris's path! "Enough, Summeris! This is Prince Adam of Eternos, ..lost twenty-three years ago in a brutal attack on the Royal Palace! Randor's half-sister, Princess Mira, pursued by Horde Troopers, escaped into the Evergreen Forests with him in her arms! There, she found good King Simyran of the Vulnarians and, with her dying breath, ..gave our warrior nation a son! Noble Heliads, let us welcome him aboard the Raven!"
The tall, armored woman fell to her knees, and the other Heliads, each identical to Summeris in every way, followed in kind. He-Man knew the face they shared well, and his blood chilled in his veins. "By the gods, brother! They are all Lenore?"
"Aye, brother! The face of each, a golden burial mask of my fair, dark Lenore, ..and each engineered with a semblance of her noblest virtues--fierceness, tempered by fealty ..and love! Come, Adam!" Below deck, Ceril poured wine into two golden goblets and bade He-Man sit with him before a large monitor screen, as Summeris looked on. "I am told it is a child you seek here, at the edge of Hell--one struck down by Tremarixes! A son of the Ram Man of Talos?"
"A brave boy named Orphael, Ceril-Nar," answered He-Man. "The loss of him has driven his father mad and into the service of the Lord of Destruction, ..Skeletor! Such is the Ram Man's power that, if I cannot turn him from his dark path, I may be forced to slay him to save Eternia, ..but, I will save his son! Send me to him, brother, ..before all hope is lost!"
"In Sybronn, Sijanus Trap-Jaw wields the power of a god, my friend," Ceril-Nar reminded with an upraised eyebrow and a sip of ale. "His consciousness is linked to its warriors, its weapons--even its machines! Though he, himself, is as much machine now, as man, he is king here--the glorms and the beasts are all under his control! No science or ritual known to man, even to the gods, can recover souls from there."
He-Man stood before one of the Raven's portholes, as if searching the bleak waters outside for some elusive wisdom. "It was given to me upon the burning altar of Heuay, brother, ..that, in a war yet to come, I will be banished to the Beyond Realms. As I drift closer to black Oblivion, Targa, the Hawk Spirit of the Vine Jungles--the life-force of the Talon Fighter--will seize me in its claws and hurl me back into the world of men! There must be a way that I can do the same for brave Orphael, Ceril!"
Ceril-Nar bowed his head in concentration, ..and before him, ghost-like images of realms beyond took shape in the air. "There is a membrane surrounding Oblivion which claims the souls of the damned. Through it, one might experience much of the horrors of what lie inside Oblivion, without ever truly entering it. It is only from this dread place that the Great Hawk could have recovered your essence, my friend. Beyond that is a force we immortals sometimes think we've mastered, but do not truly understand at all--it is Death. I-I'm sorry, ..but, there is nothing this old tinkerer can do."
He-Man knelt before him, as the vision faded. "You dared the unthinkable to resurrect our people, Ceril-Nar--I didn't come here to punish you for that! Though the gods've condemned you to this place--taken your family--still, are we brothers!"
"I was wrong, Adam," Ceril lamented, gulping down wine from his golden cup. "T-to ..disturb our brothers' eternal rest in the Beyond Realms--turn them into half-alive puppets, with no souls, ..like the ones in Sybronn! Like the soulless machines Trap-Jaw has made of my wife and sons! It was arrogant, Adam--a scientist's arrogance! Though, you gave our brothers back their peace, I must pay for that deed, ..and I must pay for it, here. In hell."
"Then, help me give peace to Hiram of Talos, Ceril," He-Man implored him. "If his son Orphael is not here, in the realms of the Dead, where is he? If I must slay the brute to save Eternia, I owe him that much!"
"Since young Orphael's death, have I tracked his journey beyond," sighed Ceril-Nar, wearily. The silver-haired scientist gestured toward a pedestal on the other side of the room, upon which rested a small orb of silvery chrome. Like a bird to its nest, it took flight through the air and into his waiting hands. "My machines tell me the boy dwells with the sleeping god, Petrepanos--he, who rules the gentlest of realms beyond--the Dream Realm. Many children are drawn to this realm, when they die, and the sleeping god's enchanted breath keeps all there mercifully deluded ..and lost. Tell good Hiram of Talos he must take comfort in that, my son, ..and go."
As Lord Adam studied the hellfire horizon, he saw that an eerie glow of blue-white flickered from a great distance. Like a pestilence, it pervaded the dark bridge of the Raven, and He-Man unsheathed his Sword of Ancients. "Hold, Ceril-Nar! I think we're being scanned!"
On the bleak Belmortia River, a great, dark ship, the sails of which billowed over it like dragon's wings, appeared, and the stench of its unholy crew reached for many miles ahead. On its deck, lit by many crimson torches, stood Sijanus Trap-Jaw, a rotting corpse with metal weapons for fists - unliving god-king of Sybronn.
Behind him were the cyborg armies of Sybronn, and at his side, ..the undead thing Ceril-Nar once called his wife. A laugh like rusted machines and jagged rocks filled the air, as Trap-Jaw's giant lasers searched the Raven's hull for weaknesses. "Ceril-Nar, pretender to the brotherhood of Vulnarians! Men say that machines feel nothing--yet, I remember torturing your sons and your wife, Lenore, to death and enjoying it very much! Have you an answer for that, great scientist?! Call out to your husband, Lenore! It is time he joined his family in the realms of the Damned!"
"Behold, Ceril!" the unliving automaton, Lenore, beckoned. "Look upon what Sybronn has made of me--upon the wife you could not protect! I have a new lord and master now, once-beloved, ..and he is strong and cruel! Today, you will pay for your weakness, when I tear the beating heart from your chest and devour it!"
Sijanus Trap-Jaw gestured to two dark, sad shapes to come forward, ..and they did.
In life, they had been big men, blessed by nature with powerful physiques worthy of a Vulnarian's pride. Now, entangled in cables twisting about their once strong bodies, these gaunt man-machines could only inspire pity. "Coward of the Vulnarians, ..you should've stayed in your lost valley! Behold the sons, who basked in the fire of your warrior's wisdom, ..never knowing what a weak-willed fool we called our father! We have a new father now, ..and it is Hell!"
"Damn you, piteous father!" the other abomination called, covered in wires and metal plates. "What good were your beakers and equations, when the undead legions of Sybronn were burning our village? Where was your Vulnarian mettle? Now, will we burn Eternia together, father, ..as soldiers of Sybronn!"
His helmeted head thrown back, the mechanical horror that was Trap-Jaw laughed. "Beg me, human! Beg me for the right to join your family in the godsforsaken cyborg armies of Sybronn! Beg me for permission to lie again with your wife, fair Lenore, whom I have known well! When I am finished with you, you will beg me to die! What is your answer?!"
Three arrows sliced through the air overhead, striking Lenore and her sons in their throats ..and sending them down upon their knees so swiftly that Sijanus Trap-Jaw staggered back from where they fell! They did not cry out or claw nonsensically at their burning flesh, and in a flash of golden flame, they were wholly consumed ..and reduced to ashes.
In defiance, a solitary figure stood on the black-timbered Raven's deck, across the river Belmortia and far in the distance.
He was a half-naked giant of a man, dressed in only a simple, devilbeaver loincloth and the strange markings of a dead warrior race. Upon his back, hung bow and arrows, and clutched in his bronze fist, ..a sword, this proud and defiant Vulnarian! "I'm Ceril-Nar the Death Sailor, Infinitian! I will beg you for nothing, ..and the souls of my family are now free!"
"Come with me, brother!" He-Man called to the silver-haired scientist glaring into the hellfire horizon from the Raven's deck. "We will face the Lord of Destruction and his godsforsaken priest-kings, together, ..at Grayskull!"
"It is here that Mighty Teela banished me, Lord Adam," Ceril-Nar answered, as the Raven's timbers creaked under him. "It is here that I shall die, as a warrior and as a Vulnarian, ..if not this day, then another! Find and fulfill your destiny, Prince of Eternia."
The weapons that made Sijanus Trap-Jaw the terror of the Underworld whirred and clicked alive. Behind the blue-skinned Lord of Sybronn, roared the infernal legions of the evil Dead, and Trap-Jaw gave the order they hungered to hear...
"Kill them all!"
From every corner of Ceril-Nar's ill-starred Raven, the scientist's Heliads rushed to arms, as Trap-Jaw's ship was steered toward it! In gleaming breastplates and helmets of silver that is anathema to all evil! In leather boots and arrow-tipped pteryges, they marched to the edge of the deck and, with laser-guided eyes, sent their arrows into the armies of the Damned! As if mesmerized, He-Man ignored them ..and turned to the doorway, where a great light flared. Such was its brilliance, that he felt naked before it.
"Skeletor attacks Castle Grayskull, Adam," spoke jade-skinned Boa'Na from within the strange, golden glow. "You must hurry there, before the Ram Man of Talos breaches the gates! There's a powerful field surrounding Trap-Jaw's subterranean realm--a field that decays mortal flesh! As I am already dead, the field cannot harm me, ..but, my weakened power can barely hold it back!"
"Already dead?" He-Man stood, examining the jade hand clasping his own. "Woman, ..what are you saying? That you're a shade? A phantom? You are as alive as I am!"
"When word came to Heuay's temple that Orphael had perished resisting Tremarixes, poor Hiram begged me to resurrect him. Said he would pay any price -- that he would take Orphael's place in the Beyond Realms. I told him the gods would not permit it -- that such things were beyond my power. He flew into a mindless rage, destroying the temple..."
"Killing you?" He-Man finished. He kissed her and, in his strong arms, held her like an emerald treasure, and the tenderness of her aroused him now, as when first he'd loved her, in a cave, just beyond Vulnar's Valley. "No. You're no shade! You're here ..with me! Stay with me, sweet Boa'Na! I command it!"
"Where I go, you cannot follow, beloved!" warned Boa'Na, kissing her Vulnarian one final time. "Once, I showed you your strength--the light of your truth. Now, must you light the way for another! You must carry the ram from his path, as Fierce Heuay commands, ..and you must do it without Orphael. I can hold back Trap Jaw's forces no longer! Now, must I send you to back to Eternia--to Grayskull!"
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