As the small metallic bird sped through the dark, vast emptiness, flickers of light whizzing past, Alexandra gazed through the canopy windows in perpetual awe. Strange, crystalline buttons and switches flashed on the wooden dashboard, labeled with foreign letters. And hovering before her was a small, translucent sphere of swirling stars and galaxies that vanished at her touch. Rain sat beside her silently, listening to and feeling the strange hum and rumble of the engines, as well as sensing the awkwardness of the compressed, artificial air. It had been built by their Ancient ancestors, they knew, from whose godlike knowledge their own technology, though primitive in comparison, stemmed.
Within the ship time seemed strangely passing. And after a short while, though they could not tell how short, whether minutes or centuries, a red fiery ball dominated the window view and the translucent map produced a small, solid sphere and a smaller sphere orbiting the larger.
“What happened?” asked Rain. “I feel different, like we’re moving.”
“I think,” said Alexandra, “that we’ve arrived.”
“I’ve never wished to see more than I do now,” said Rain. “Sights no Eternian has seen, of things we can only dream of. Someone with working eyes should have come, not me! But Alexandra, could you be my eyes? Tell me everything you see?”
“I will, if you tell me all you feel and hear.”
She smiled. “Alright.”
“There is one planet here; it is small and yellow. The sun is like a big ball of fire. Now we’re getting closer to it, and the planet is getting much bigger. It must be Hive. Oh, we’re moving fast!”
“I can feel it in my stomach . . . are we falling!?”
“All I see is the planet. We’re passing through a kind of yellow veil. It’s hazy; I can’t see much . . . wait! It’s clearing up . . . I see mountains, yellow mountains! The land is spreading before us. The ship is leveling off. I think we’re going to land somewhere.”
“Are there rivers, lakes, oceans, cities?”
“No, nothing,” she muttered as the ship rattled, “only mountains and rocky valleys, canyons and craters . . . so strange and wondrous! A whole world passing below, as if it were a playground of anthills, and we were gods.”
Like the bird from which it was shaped, the Talon Fighter swooped down, skimmed over the land, and gradually descended, using its metallic talons to grip a low cluster of boulders before shutting off its roaring engines. Then the blue canopy slowly opened.
Alexandra surveyed her new, alien surroundings, the gold horizon turning to a bright yellow where sat a red circle, as she clutched the burning side of the ship with her gloved hand, climbing out. “To think how vast the universe is, and the number of worlds in it . . . makes conquering Eternia seem foolish, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t think I like this place,” said Rain, cocking her head back. “The air does not speak to me.”
“Yes,” Alexandra agreed, her boots meeting the yellow gravel. “It is a little thin. We must breathe deeper.”
“On my father’s world, there’s nothing but air. This is a world of earth. I can’t even fly here.”
“Strange . . .,” Alexandra murmured, checking her sole, “the ground is sticky.”
As Rain exited the craft, the canopy slowly closed. “We’d better find someone or something quick. We’ll be exhausted soon. Do you see anything?”
“No,” Alexandra replied, “only desert.”
“At least it’s cold. Let’s go.”
The two started to walk, breathing heavily and tearing their feet from the ground with each step.
“I can’t imagine anything living here,” said Alexandra. “It’s too barren.”
“With all the population of the beople, shouldn’t we have found something by now? Or is this the right planet?”
“It must be. The ship brought us here.”
“Wait,” said Rain. “I feel something . . . beneath us . . .”
Suddenly the ground burst open, and out came two green creatures the size of small houses, having lank bodies and numerous, spindly legs. Their arms were folded in half where jagged rows of teeth-like points met, and their heads were flat and saucer shaped with enormous, bulbous eyes black like obsidian, and mouths like hooking pincers.
Alexandra screamed, stumbling back in terror.
“What is it?” Rain cried.
“Insects! Large insects!”
Examining its prey, its pincers snapping, one creature lunged at Alexandra. All she could do is hide her face with her hands. But to her surprise, a large shield formed out of her armor, stopping the tendril from snapping her in half. She then ran towards it with renewed confidence, swinging at the creature’s leg, and as she did so, a sword molded itself from her fingers, chopping its thin front leg like a branch. It collapsed on its face then, and thrusting her newly made blade into its soft, bulbous eye, the creature squirmed and died. Seeing this, the other disappeared beneath the ground as quickly as it had come.
“I-I don’t know what came over me,” said Alexandra, panting. “This armor, it makes me feel invincible!”
“Are they gone?” asked Rain.
“Yes, I killed one. The other left.”
“I hope it wasn’t one of the beople,” said Rain.
“No, beople look somewhat human. But where are they?”
“Wait . . .” The white-haired beauty placed her ear to the ground.
“What is it? What do you hear?”
“I think there’s a reason this planet’s called Hive. And where do you find bees?”
“Are you saying this whole planet is one giant bee hive?”
“I don’t know, but I hear something . . . a low humming.”
“I don’t hear any-”
All of a sudden there was a deafening buzz, and from afar two humanoid beings with deep yellow and brown striped bodies and blurred wings flew towards them. Landing before the two, Alexandra could see their antennas and jade, bulbous eyes, their small indented nostrils and tiny fanged mouths, and in their crab like hands, silver spears like fish hooks.
“Beople!” Alexandra exclaimed.
Then, as the beople’s antennas twitched, a voice they could not hear echoed loudly in their minds; <<Why have you come here!? What do you want!?>>
Rain covered her ears to block it out. “They are speaking . . . telepathically!”
“I am Princess Alexandra of Eternos!” she cried. “We mean you no harm!”
<<We detect war in your thoughts! Intruders! Let us take them to the queen!>>
One of the beople grabbed Alexandra with its three-toed talons as the other took hold of Rain, and together the four ascended into the yellow sky.
“What’s happening!?” cried Rain.
“We’re heading towards a canyon . . .”
Rain felt her stomach thrust into her chest.
“Now we’re falling,” Alexandra continued, “into the canyon! There’s no bottom, just walls on every side. Wait! There is a tunnel, an underground tunnel made of hexagons. We’re going through . . . My God, it’s huge! Castle Grayskull could pass through here . . .”
“There’s a sweet smell-”
“I see more tunnels . . . so many more . . . everywhere! There’s no up or down!”
“I think I am going to be sick!”
“My eyes . . . my eyes cannot believe . . . overwhelming . . . I could never have dreamed the size . . .”
“Alexandra!” Rain cried. “What is it? What do you see?”
“. . . a light up ahead . . .”
“I hear humming all around.”
“. . . entering a sphere. It’s so huge . . . a thousand-thousand cities could fit in here. And the walls have windows. Millions. Now we’re flying to the center . . . walls are too far to see . . . there is a column of sunlight, must be from an opening . . .”
“. . . and a green tower, NO! It’s a . . . a sunflower!”
“Ah! I can smell it! The air’s full of pollen.”
“It must be the biggest sunflower in the universe!”
Dropping the two on the yellow flower petal, the beople landed before a raised dais surrounded by hundreds of snail-like shells. There Alexandra saw another of the beople sitting on a chair of wax, and by her shape could tell this one was female.
Folding his wings so that they vanished behind his back, one of the guards stepped forward, mentally addressing the queen; <<Your Highness, we’ve found these two, hideous aliens prowling about on the surface. They’ve already slain one mantis. What should we do with them?>>
<<How strange,>> the queen replied, <<no wings, small eyes, whole bushels of follicles growing from atop their heads . . .>>
“What’s going on?” said Rain, shaking off the intense feeling of vertigo cursing through her body as she wobbled to her feet.
“I don’t know,” Alexandra moaned, still rolling on her stomach where she’d been dropped. “She must be the queen. They must be talking about us. We must show respect.”
<<Your Majesty, they have no antennae. They communicate from the same orifice they use to ingest food.>>
<<I have accessed their knowledge. I will speak to them.>> “I am Queen Belana of Hive,” she said aloud, her voice fluctuating from high to low. “Who are you?”
“I am Princess Alexandra of Eternos,” she replied, dusting the thick layer of pollen from her clothes as she tread across the flower to bow.
I am Rain of Eternos and
“Be careful, you’ll step on my children!” Belana bellowed.
“Oh!” said Rain, stepping back away from the mound of brown, snail-like shells. “I didn’t notice them. Accept my humblest apology, your Majesty.”
“Your apologies mean little to me, outsider. What are you doing here?”
“How is it that you speak our language?” Alexandra asked.
“Beople learn quickly,” the queen answered. “We know our work the minute we’re born. And you have a very simple way of communicating, easy to mimic.”
“You have great mental powers, your Highness.”
“It befits my duty. How else can one address a trillion citizens?”
“Then if you have such powers,” said Rain, “how can you not know our purpose, that it is good?”
“The concept of deceit was unimaginable to us before recently,” Belana explained. “Beople do what is good for the whole; we do not lie. But we recently learned the meaning of deceit when we were deceived by outsiders such as yourselves. Hence, I have not developed the power to read deceit in you. I can learn nothing you wish to hide.”
“Be assured we hide nothing, your Majesty,” said Alexandra. “The truth is that we’ve come seeking help. Our capitol is under attack by an army of orcs, and my father, the king of Eternia, lacks the numbers to defend it. If you would be so magnanimous as to lend some of your beople to join our fight, you might save our kingdom and thousands of lives.”
“I do not know your world nor your people,” answered Belana. “But you have trespassed on our world and hindered productivity, and the punishment for hindering productivity is death. Guards, use them as fertilizer.”
“Say something, Rain!” Alexandra cried, as the humanoid bee clamped her wrist in his claw.
“Wait!” cried Rain. “You don’t understand! The orcs, they’re . . . they’re savages! If they win, our whole world will be in chaos, thousands of years of progress will be lost! It will be a Dark Age once again!”
“I don’t think they care,” Alexandra murmured.
“What of Buzz Off? He visited our world! Don’t you know him?”
“Yes,” the queen replied, “I know Buzz Off, a fool who wasted his existence exploring the universe when he could have been working.”
“But he was good friends with our king!” Rain protested, “and on our world a brave warrior who fought by Adam, son of Randor!”
“Wait,” said the guard, releasing her. “Did you say Adam, son of Randor?”
“Brother of Queen Adora, daughter of Randor?”
The guard turned to Belana as Alexandra looked on in wonder. <<Your Highness, I am Sting, great-great-great grand cousin of Buzz Off. My lineage was shamed by his abandonment. Allow me to bring honor back to my lineage.>>
<<How would you do this?>> the queen asked.
<<By proving Buzz Off a productive and valued member of our species.>>
<<You may proceed.>>
<<Queen Adora helped us fight off the Horde led by Mosquitor. With her aid, many of us were saved and the war was shortened, allowing for increased productivity. She is of the same lineage as Adam, king of Eternia. If Adam had not known Buzz Off, she may not have helped us, and productivity would have been lessened. Hence, Buzz Off aided productivity.>>
<<Very well,>> Belana replied. <<Though his method was unorthodox and unpredictable, let the record show Buzz Off was productive, and that there is no dishonor in your lineage.>>
<<I thank you, your Highness. But let me also advise not using these two Eternians as fertilizer, for in returning them to their home planet unharmed and in aiding in their war, we may enlist their aid in one of our own wars ensuring future productivity.>>
“Very well,” said the queen aloud. “Send a small group of warriors to their planet.”
Hearing this, Alexandra gasped. “We are so grateful, your Majesty! But . . . since we did aid you once, could you not send more than a small group?”
“Are one hundred thousand warriors not enough?”
“Oh no!” the Eternian princess replied, smiling. “Such a small group is plenty.”
“Good. Now I must go into labor. Sting, offer them something as a token of our alliance.”
“Yes, my Queen.” And Sting scooped up a clawful of pollen, stuffing it into his mouth. And after chewing for a while, he spit out a long strand of golden goop, placing it in Alexandra’s palm.
“Um,” she nervously intoned. “Wh-What is this?”
“Honey,” said Rain. “I’d recognize the smell anywhere.”
“Ingest,” said Sting. And out of respect, they did so.
The iron mouthed pirate readied another missile in his mechanical arm as he watched the burning homes and towers collapse into heaping rubble atop the screaming, fleeing people of Eternos below. The floating galley veered left then to a bridge still intact, and laughing maniacally, Trap Jaw let loose another missile, and only concrete pieces of the bridge remained scattered across the street.
Atop the rim of the outer wall, King Adam, Queen Mari’na, General Hoof, Camilla, and a man-at-arms gaped down at the carnage and the feasting of the orcs, Prince Regan on his dark mare in their midst.
“I told you, Father!” Regan cried with an ecstatic gleam on his half-bloodied face, raising the bloody head of Mekaneck with one arm and his bloodied sword in the other, “the orcs are dangerous and need to be destroyed! Perhaps if you’d listened to me, you could have saved your people!”
“You are responsible for this,” Adam replied wearily, anger and despair cast on his wrinkled brow. “But you’ve proven your point. Go back to the Dark Side where you belong.”
“No! Not until I get what I’ve come for.”
“And what is that?”
“What is owed to me, my birthright, the crown!”
“You are not worthy to wear the crown,” said Adam, “nor shall you ever be. No kingdom born of war lives in peace.”
“Values I do not hold, dear Father. War is good. War is for the strong. Only the weak want peace. Now you have two options, open the gates and let me in, or I shall break it down and kill everyone in Eternos!”
Suddenly, Mari’na surged forward, nearly tumbling over the guard rail, shouting; “Regan! Oh my dear son, Regan, listen to me, your mother. Don’t you feel remorse for what you’ve done? Look around you . . . at the grief you’ve caused and are still . . . These were sons and daughters! Think of their mothers seeing them lying there slain . . . never to return home . . .” And she broke down into sobs.
“No, Mother, I told you I do not have such petty feelings. Remorse is for the weak! They stood in my way and I dealt with them, as I will deal with any man who stands before what is mine, whether it be a brother or my father. Do not weep. You ought to be proud of your strong son.” He glanced at the dead soldiers beneath his horse’s hooves. “They would have done the same to me if they’d been stronger. But if you must blame someone, blame the king who cast me out!”
“Remember when you were a little boy . . .,” she shouted, her tears falling from the high city wall.
Adam clutched her by the arms and pulled her away. “There’s no turning back for him, my love. He is not the man you knew. Our son is dead.”
“No!” she cried, thrashing in his arms. “He is my little boy! He is my . . .” She fell on her knees then, her gray hair shrouding her face, murmuring; “. . . was my little boy.”
He offered his hand. “Come, Mari’na, we must make plans lest more mothers lose their children.”
“We haven’t the power to beat them!” Hyperion the man-at-arms cried, slamming his fist on the table across from which sat the king and queen. “The orcs are too many and their hide is too strong!”
Camilla approached the table, a bandage wrapped tightly round her arm. “We amazons lack the muscle of men and our armor is our skin, and yet we hunt in the Dead Zones and bring back dinosaurs. What we lack in strength and endurance we make up for with speed and cunning.”
“Camilla is right,” said Hoof, “and I have some ideas. When on our planet we fought a race of giants who prided themselves on their seemingly impenetrable suits of armor, we built metal pikes that with the use of a hammer, stabbed through to their flesh.”
“And when hunting dinosaurs,” added Camilla, “we use two weights linked by a rope that when properly hurled, tangles their legs and brings them down, so we can approach and kill them without injury to ourselves. I believe the same tactic could be used on the orcs. They’re big and clumsy enough.”
“Noble plots,” Hyperion replied. “But we simply haven’t the man power. They still outnumber us ten to one!”
“Well we must act!” Camilla protested. “Their ship is bombarding the city. Soon, they’ll break through the gates and there will be no defending the citizens.”
“Fighting is suicide,” the man-at-arms asserted.
“Better death than surrender.”
“Can we wait no longer for Rain and Alexandra?” Adam cut in.
“I don’t believe so, your Highness,” said Hoof. “We’ve waited too long already and knowing the beople, I do not think we’ll see the captain or the princess again.”
The king sighed. “Alright. Hyperion, gather all the craftsman you can find and prepare the new weapons.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Camilla, you will be captain till Rain returns. Work on some strategies with Hoof and be ready when the weapons are made.”
“Yes, Great Father.”
The gray behemoth groaned. “Truly this is Eternia’s darkest hour.”
“If only He-Man was still with us,” said Hyperion. “If the legends are true, where is he now?”
The sound of a wooden cane tapping a hard marble floor echoed in the dim, lamp lit “Hall of Heroes”. Shadows of the past enveloped him, of countless, fierce creatures contorted in the most bizarre shapes and awesome sizes, still as though frozen in time. Against the walls were items strange but to him who was old enough to remember: a pair of red feather wings, an iron glove, a golden helmet orbited by a red ring, a great helm with its chains dangling, and the crimson, horned helmet worn once by a giant tiger. And the old man touched these sacred things, feeling more real to him than the battle that waged on outside. “Where have you gone, my old friends?” he murmured.
“I thought I’d find you here,” Mari’na’s voice echoed. “I could sense it.”
The aged king scratched his long gray beard. “We can’t win,” he sighed.
“I know,” she said, gliding toward him in her solemn gray robe, the candle in her palm illuminating her ghostly, grief-stricken face.
“No,” he replied. “War, greed, evil. It never stops. It will continue long after I’m gone.”
“Did you think you could end it? Destroy evil forever?”
“I could lift mountains, change the course of rivers . . . but destroying evil for good, that is where I failed.”
“No man or god can do such a thing,” she whispered. “You did all one man can hope. That’s what matters.”
He turned to her. “In this light, you look just like my mother. She comforted me at times like these.”
“Adam . . . I don’t blame you for anything that’s happened, please know that.”
“I know,” he said. “But now I must set things right.”
He turned to the center of the room where a beautiful, silver broad sword crafted from a single piece of steel glowed, embedded in a wooden fixture within a glass case. Even from a distance the sword radiated, lifting the hairs on his arms, calling for him to touch it, hold it, wield it. The temptation became irresistible as he moved closer. And as if it were alive, sensing his approach, it hummed and pulsed even more, more than he’d ever known, as if its thirst for blood had grown to unimaginable extremes all these decades, enough for the glass around it to shiver and begin to melt. “Do you know how many battles I’ve won?” he asked, placing his fingers against the warm glass.
“No,” she said.
“I have no idea,” he replied. “That’s how many. But I do know I’ve never lost. I’ve been proud of that for sixty years. But now it seems somehow wrong . . . to have tempted Fate, again and again, to have cheated her of her prize. A true warrior must yield to humility. Who am I to live, while others die?”
“No!” she gasped. “You can’t! You’re too old!”
“You heard what they said. They need me. They need He-Man.”
“But you’ll be killed! I can feel it! And you know how I am with my premonitions!”
“What does that matter now? I still will die. My heart has only so many
beats . . . and I cannot sit idly by, wasting these precious few beats that I have left, when I can be doing something to help others.”
“Others? You’re always thinking of others! What about yourself? Don’t you ever care about yourself?”
“Than what about me? Don’t you care about me? You can’t leave me here by myself. I need you.”
He kissed her, just as a rumbling sounded in the distance and the room shuttered, small debris raining down on them. “If Alexandra returns, give her my love. She must be made queen no matter what happens. She must continue the royal bloodline, not Regan.”
“I will make sure of it.”
He dropped his cane and lifted the case, and clasping the sword handle, raised the sword above his head shouting; “By the power of Grayskull!” Mari’na fell back, shielding her eyes with her sleeve as suddenly a branch of lightning licked the tip of the sword, trickling down its smooth metal shaft to entangle his small frame. The whole room and all around her exploded white with brilliance, and all she could see was the silhouette of the meager, stooping man standing upright and filling out in form to that of a muscle-bound youth. Golden fire gushed from that new body then and time seemed to slow as her hairs stood upright and a wave of energy crashed against her bosom throwing her to the floor. Raw power surged through her veins, exhilarating her awareness, stopping short her breath, lighting the floating dust around her like stars before vaporizing them, and singing the soft palm of her outstretched hand as the other pressed against her breast to keep her heart from bursting. At last, He-Man held the sword on both ends crying; “I HAVE THE POWER!” and all was calm once more.
“By the Ancients!” Mari’na exclaimed, floundering to her feet, “you’re young again!”
He tore the old robe from his torso revealing his massive chest and broad shoulders, perfect in every way as if he’d been sculpted as a god. “The power of Grayskull must have restored me to the prime of my life. Now I can defeat that tyrant and save Eternia!”
“If you’re going, take me with you. Please, there’s nothing left for me here. My children are gone, and now my husband is leaving me.”
“But you’re still old, and the battlefield is dangerous.”
“Life means nothing to me without my loved ones. Please . . .”
“Alright,” he replied. “Grab your old sword and keep behind me.”
On wings of steel, men-at-arms flew over the burning, smoke billowing buildings of Eternos to meet the long, floating galley. Two types of vessels littered the blood red sky, both with screaming thrusters and heads of birds: the wind raider, a green boat with orange wings, and the much more numerous and smaller sky-sled. More agile than the wind raider but with less armor, the blue sky-sled had space enough only for one man to stand.
Swarming round the galley now like a pack of wolves hounding a hump-backed slotu, the wind raiders and sky-sleds unleashed a barrage of fire, punching holes along the galley’s wooden hull. Canons blared in retaliation at Trap Jaw’s command, but could not smite the small speedy vessels, and the searing iron balls merely arched downwards to devastate more of the ruined city. Even the metal mouthed first mate’s missile-launching arm proved useless.
Cruising in his wind raider through gray columns of rising smoke, Hyperion ordered his men to drag the galley safely away from the city. With that, each wind raider let loose from under its belly an anchor fastened to a rope, smashing through the pirate ship’s side like a harpoon gun in a whale. Then they turned towards the barren, rusty plain where the foot battle waged, ship in tow, their thrusters so powerful, Trap Jaw fell on his butt as his men threw their arms up in panic. “Don’t just stand there!” he cried, latching on to a railing with his hook-hand; “Cut us loose!” But his crew was too disoriented, and the next thing he knew, the mast collapsed with its sail ablaze from the gunfire of a sky sled zooming past.
Half consumed in flames now, the magic that made the galley weightless dwindled, and with its tail aimed upwards, it made its final descent into the ground killing dozens of orcs below. Men-at-arms in combat and citizens in hiding rejoiced at the sight, as wind raiders and sky-sleds soared overhead to circle the wreckage.
Leaving a trail of tree-stump-like prints as he marched was the mighty Hoof, his fists feeling heavier with every broken orc’s face and orc’s tooth. Crouched on his armored shoulders was the amazon queen, Camilla, her body a canvas of green, red, and brown from the blood and the dirt. And Hoof surveyed his terrible surroundings, mentally torn by the question of whom now to help.
The nude, green, warrior women hurled their bolo-mats at the orcs ankles with remarkable accuracy, toppling the fleshy giants almost every time. But the men-at-arms were not so skilled, many running away or being crushed by clubs as the rope and metal weights missed their mark. Once fallen, some soldiers managed to leap atop the orcs’ grotesquely corpulent bodies to pound metal stakes into their skulls or through some other vital organs, though most often the wound was minor or the orc impaled remained alive and infuriated and the soldier was torn to pieces. The brave guardians of Eternos did have one advantage, however, in that an orc was just as dim-witted as he was strong, so a single man-at-arms in retreat could fool a whole group of orcs into falling through a covered pit to be skewered by spears at the bottom. Others led orcs to high boulders where an amazon in hiding attacked from above with a dagger in hand. And still others took the offensive, hurling bottles of kerosene corked with burning handkerchiefs, or spraying the orcs with alcohol from a hose and a carriage full of drinking kegs before lighting them on fire. At the high walls of Eternos, the orcs were too fat and ungainly to climb, so they resorted to breaking through, during which time they were showered with arrows, drenched with boiling oil, and bombarded by anything and everything the people could find. Citizens raced from their homes with arms full of pots, sinks, bathtubs, furnaces, and even furniture to throw over the walls. And as the battle endured, new ways were found to beat back the monstrous invaders. But at the front gates, the doors were splintering, as a grunting horde pushed on one side and a terrified populace pushed back on the other.
This is what Hoof witnessed when he paused, after which three more orcs confronted him. Grabbing the two on each side, he smashed their heads together as Camilla somersaulted off his shoulders, and as she flew through the air, she wrapped twelve inches of barbwire round the middle orc’s neck, pulling him down with her weight. On all fours like a spider then, she examined the body making sure it was dead, when suddenly, something caught her eye. Darting to a stand she cried, “Look!” and pointed.
Through patches of clear horizon, Hoof could see Bone Crusher and his little gray, giggling goblin, Tuku, standing over a heap of bodies. Enraged, the towering anthropoid rhino charged. Camilla was quick to follow, steadying her bow. Long before Hoof’s horn could make its impact, however, Bone Crusher let his rusty, spiked iron ball fly. The mighty pachyderm’s head sounded like a thunderclap as it met with half a ton, echoing throughout the battlefield for all to hear. And for the first time since the battle began, Hoof groaned in agony, procuring a sense of despair over the defending warriors hearing and recognizing him. With his shoulder plate dented, a bloody twig where his small, leafy ear used to be, and his mighty horn broken in half, the warrior who seemed once invincible now stumbled back, dizzy. But as Bone Crusher reeled his mace in for another blow, Camilla aimed her arrow at the little goblin laughing maniacally, and shot him off his shoulder. The laughter having stopped, Bone Crusher dropped the chain to lift the slain Tuku in his meaty hands, examining the little gray body as a man would a dying friend, letting out a horrible, inhuman wail. The amazon queen, meanwhile, approached her wounded friend and ally.
“Are you alright? Can you still fight?”
“Let me go!” he replied, pushing her away, and charged again at his nemesis. Seeing this, Bone Crusher continued to gather up his chain, as Camilla seized the spikes of the ball with both hands to stop it. But all the muscle in her body could not hinder the arm of Bone Crusher, and she soon found herself being dragged along face down in the grating dirt. Then like the tail end of a whip, she flew behind the orc high into the air, her fingers slipping from the spikes, and she came crashing down on her back against a pile of rocks. But Hoof was quick to tackle him before the mace came around, and on the crimson, dusty earth the titans rolled one over the other, Hoof gripping his stout throat while drumming his head into the ground, as Bone Crusher clamped his jagged, tusk-like teeth into the pachyderm’s long snout. By the time the amazon queen gathered her senses, she found Bone Crusher pinning Hoof down while twisting his head to its near breaking point. Her quiver and dagger lost, she hailed the orc king with stones, but to her dismay, he did not even seem to notice. Then with a shrill battle cry she leaped on his back with both arms to strangle him. He, however, wrapping all four fingers of his hand round the top of her bald head, sent her tumbling off. Finally, she hurled herself into the air landing both feet against the back of his neck. It was enough to get his attention, but in that instant there was a snap, and the mighty heroic rhino shut his tiny, marble eyes, letting out his last gasp. Bone Crusher turned towards Camilla then to stomp on her head, having yet to get to her feet, but she rolled away just as his foot came down. It was a short lived escape, however, as his massive, murderous hands now tightened round her insignificant waist, lifting her to meet his dark gaze. “I will crush your bones!” he muttered, his spittle trickling over her lips and off her chin, feeling his hot breath reeking like the dead as her ribs pressed deeper into her lungs.
Suddenly, a metal tip poked through the middle of Bone Crusher’s chest, and Camilla fell to the ground bewildered. Breathing heavily, she raised her head to see a handsome man clad in brown boots, a fur loincloth, and a light garment with the scarlet cross of the Ancients binding his rounded chest, and in his hands, a shining sword tainted with black blood. But the orc king was not dead. Turning suddenly, he knocked the man away with the back of his fist with enough force to crumple the helmet of a man-at-arms, though the man still stirred. So Bone Crusher gathered up his ball and chain again, spun it round and let it go. And as half a ton of solid iron sailed across the reddening sky, the muscle-bound youth whacked it with his sword, and with a deafening bang like a church bell, the ball arched back into the face of its owner. Roaring with anguish, Bone Crusher labored to wrench the spikes from his face, when the fat of his belly enclosed round the warrior’s thrusting, bare fist. At last, upon tangling the mightiest of orcs with his own mace’s chain, the brave hero lifted him overhead and with a mighty heave, sent him so great a distance no man could tell where he landed. Then he turned to the astonished amazon. “Are you all right?”
“Wh-Who are you?” she asked.
“I am He-Man.”
“Great Father of old!” she exclaimed, bowing. “You’re young again! How can it be?”
“When Eternia needs He-Man, a He-Man shall arrive,” he replied, leaving her speechless. Unsheathing his sword from the scabbard at his back then, he rushed into battle, and all the people who saw him cried, “Look! Can it be? Why, it is! It’s He-Man! He-Man has come to save us!” With that, they fought their way through the orcs with such ferocity, for a time the tide of battle turned. Though hurrying to certain death, alongside He-Man, they did not seem to care.
With their leader killed and He-Man returned, many orcs retreated to the Dark Side. But many more remained taking the defensive, crushing men-at-arms with boulders. Some boulders reached as far as the city, like great catapult stones chipping away pieces of the wall. One amazon flew to her death having been accidentally thrown with the boulder she’d been hiding on. Even sky-sleds and wind raiders were struck down, spinning out of control before crashing to a fiery, mushrooming cloud. It was an attack from which there was no refuge. Only He-Man with his Sword of Power smashed them to dust while they were still hurtling. But even he was not quick enough to save all his troops.
It was not long, however, before the orcs were at a loss for things to throw. And once the red Eternian sun peered from behind the giant turquoise moon, the men-at-arms donned chrome plated helmets to blind the orcs whose small olive eyes favored the perpetual gloom of the Dark Side. Then He-Man led them onward, and meeting several orcs in his path, he struck them down with but a few strokes of his gleaming blade.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, on the other side of Eternos, two men’s lightning quick swords struck terror in the hearts of all who opposed them. One was the Dark Prince, as he now came to be called, Regan on his black charging mare which thundering hooves signaled the coming of death. The other was a pirate aptly named, Blade, fighting with two rapiers far better than most could with one.
“Another head to add to my collection!” Regan cried upon the whoosh of his blade and the scream of a young soldier falling headless in his horse’s tracks. “Who will oppose me!” he shouted, raising the curved, blood-dripping Sword of Jitsu. “Is no one worthy?”
As in answer to his challenge, a wind raider came swooping down, guns firing. But it managed only to toss Regan’s long dark hair. Then as it banked for another pass, Regan kicked his heels against the snorting mare’s sides to meet the metallic bird head on. And as the wind raider flew overhead, Regan brandished his magic blade, and its wing fell to the earth. Twirling round and round then, it crashed at the base of the city wall, but having dropped only ten feet, the pilot survived, thrown clear of the hulking remains.
“Hyperion, is that you?” said Regan, dismounting, “I remember you.”
The man-at-arms struggled to regain his balance. “H-How . . .,” he muttered. “You didn’t even touch me.”
“Oh, it doesn’t have to,” Regan replied, twirling the sword in his hands. “This blade cuts five feet in front it. And it can cut through anything: wood, stone, steel, but it has a special affinity for flesh!” He stepped closer.
Hyperion secured his face shield, clenching the handle of his mace. “Don’t kill me . . . please . . .”
“And why shouldn’t I? You just tried to kill me!”
“But I-I guarded you when you were a child . . .”
“Then why didn’t you stop those kids who were making fun of me? You could have stopped them, but you didn’t!”
Suddenly, Hyperion lunged forward, and the next thing he knew, his arm lay severed on the ground with the hand still gripping his mace. There he stood, seeing it with terror in his eyes before the pain seized him, and he collapsed. The Dark Prince finished him then with a clean cut through the neck.
With his adversary fallen, Darkness came galloping back to him, when an arrow from a grove of green reeds struck it in the side. The horse now whinnying and bucking, Regan snapped the feathered tail of the projectile meant for him, and turning to the reeds, shouted angrily; “Show yourself!” An amazon appeared then, one with no hair but a single blonde braid falling to her lower back, and in her hands was a bent bow with two more readied arrows. “Would that you were the queen,” he said, thumbing the edge of his sword. “She’d make a fine addition to my collection. But any amazon is a worthy prize.”
“You will never take Eternos!” she cried, pulling her bow’s string back and taking aim. And as her fingers slipped away both arrows raced towards him with miraculous precision, one at his chest and the other at his head. But with a double clang they ricocheted off his whirring steel down to his boots, their bronze points flattened. With that she left her bow, darting forth with her leg extended, her heel hammering his eye and he staggered backward. Then she moved to disarm him, but he caught her by the wrist and held her fast.
“What they say is true,” he said panting, her crystal blue eyes mere inches from his own, “if you stare too long at an amazon, you will be mesmerized by their beauty. It is a mistake I shall not make again!” He plunged his sword into her chest, leaving nothing but the hilt and handle to jut between her nipples.
As her glassy eyes quivered with sudden awareness, she gasped through clenched, bloodstained teeth; “Long live the king!” Sliding off the blade then, her body slumped to the ground.
“Yes my dear, long live the king. Long live King Regan!” And he sheathed his sword.
Not too far away, bodies piled up around the pirate swordsman. Stopping a mace short from crushing his skull with one sword, Blade thrust his other through the small space between the man-at-arm’s helmet and face shield. Then two more men-at-arms rushed him. But he parried them both with his swords, and in the end left them to bleed with missing limbs.
Meanwhile, the innards of orcs gushed from their opened bellies, orc heads rolled in the dust, and often, as He-Man leaped into the air with a mighty downward cleave, heads split in half. But even with the gore surrounding him, the orcs crowded round, slaughtering men-at-arms till few remained.
In the end, there were only two, a man-at-arms barely in his teens who managed to survive by avoiding combat, whose armor and helmet hung on him like clothes on a hanger, and He-Man at his back.
“Everyone’s dead!” the boy cried. “Everyone I know is dead! And they’re everywhere!”
“Stand your ground, son,” He-Man replied, tightening his sweaty grip on the Sword of Power. “Don’t be afraid.”
“But I can’t fight!” he sobbed, his mace shaking. “I just joined the Guard! I’ve never killed anything in my life . . .” With that, he vomited on his oversized boots.
He-Man drew a slashing half-circle, forcing three of the orcs at bay. “Then I’d be proud to have you as my son.”
The boy smiled. But it was short lived as more orcs came near. “We’re gonna die . . . we’re gonna die . . .” he murmured nervously.
“If we die,” said He-Man, “you’ll die with me.”
Suddenly, thunder cracked and an eagle screeching eclipsed the sun with its orange, white, and blue wings. But a streak of lightning in the sky remained like an open wound, as if the heavens themselves frowned on what the earth had wrought, bleeding a torrential, violet anomaly. And from this anomaly came a great steel bird like no other, barrels on its sides discharging beams of light, penetrating and destroying whole clusters of orcs at the very heart of their assemblage, blackening the earth beneath their stomping feet. Those on the outer rim of the blast managing to crawl away were left with bone and wooden clubs incinerated, or remained welded to their smoldering, crude iron weapons. He-Man and the boy soldier, however, were unscathed. But still surrounded, they stared up in awe as a black cloud spread across the sky pitching all Eternos and the battlefields surrounding it under its shade. And the land buzzed with the beating of wings and there was a sonorous humming all around.
“I’ll be damned!” cried Blade, crouching low as his one unpatched eye peered up at the come darkness. “Bees!”
“No you fool!” Regan replied, riding past him. “Beople!”
The canopy of the ship, meanwhile, opened to release a bronze girl who soared higher into the air like a freed butterfly, spreading her arms to embrace the wind. Then she descended upon the heroes like an angel with her snowy all encompassing hair tumbling. And reaching up, He-Man clasped her gloved palm and the boy took hold of him, and together the three escaped from the pressing circle of orcs.
“My Alexandra,” He-Man murmured. “She did it.”
“You really ought to give her more credit,” Rain replied, setting them gently down in an open field. “Now I have some work to do.”
Turning to the city, the goddess of air wheeled her fingers, calling twin-sister whirlwinds to appear from seemingly nowhere. And spiraling round each other, they hopped and danced across the land, avoiding all but orcs who were devoured by their white, churning mouths. Twisting towards the city then with a whisper and the gliding of her slender hand, they swept orcs from the battered, splintering front gates, carrying them off grunting, reaching helplessly in a fit of confusion, to utter oblivion. But when song flowed from Rain’s lips, lightning streamed through her, electrifying her hair into a perfect sphere. And with her pointing toes inches from the ground, she confronted the orcs, letting webs of lightning from her fingertips reduce them to ashes. Finally, the pools of blood on the battlefield were washed away by her summoned rain, and dirt turned to mud, leaving the ungainly orcs to slip, topple, and be overcome by their enemies.
Giant bees, all the while, came crashing like the tide in thousands against the thickest concentration of orcs, overwhelming them with their long, hooked, downward stabbing spears. They lightly fluttered over the angry orcs’ heads avoiding the bludgeoning devices that could easily crush their frail bodies, quick to pull up their spears lest the orcs grab them and draw them into the frenzy. But when an orc did manage to club one from the air, another of the beople would soon take his place, and another, till a spear lodged into the orc’s skull, scraping out pieces of brain with its metal hooks as the humanoid bee wrenched it loose. Even if the bee’s sting was not at first fatal, missing the head for a shoulder, upon breaking the skin the orc would quickly swell to even more grotesque proportions, till popping like a boil. Some beople could even, by spitting large globs of honey, hinder their foes in the sticky substance making them sluggish, easy targets.
Now, with the beople having joined the fight, the other defenders regrouped. And soon the center of the battlefield erupted with slender green women, bulky, orange armored men-at-arms, brown fleshy orcs and golden yellow and black beople, a sight to behold that all the memories of life time could not be made forgot, an orgy of death.
“I’ve been ordered to kill you, Miss,” said Blade, clanging his swords together.
He smiled a crooked smile. “Why, by you’re brother of course!” And he dashed at her.
She flipped away, landing with grace. “Your war is lost. Now he thinks killing me will save him?”
“I don’t know what he thinks, Miss.”
Alexandra planted one foot back, forging a sword from her sleeve. “Well, you’ll have to fight me first!”
Laughing, he sharpened one sword with his other. “That should be easy. Y’know, they don’t call me Blade for nothing. I’m the best swordsman in this here universe next to your brother.”
“Did he give you that scar?” she asked, swinging at him.
He ducked. “That he did.” And sparks flew from their clashing blades.
“He did a nice job,” she panted. “But I must finish it!”
He stumbled back as she advanced. “You’re pretty good for a woman!”
“Well . . .,” she replied, her sword a blur, “I had a good teacher.”
He snapped at her neck, using his swords like a pair of scissors. “And who would that be?”
Slashing his left wrist, she forced the sword from his hand. “Adam son of Randor, the rightful king of Eternia!”
“Gods!” he screamed, cupping his fresh wound to stop the bleeding. “You cut me!” She did not reply, but moved faster, parrying his sword till slipping through his defense and finally, sinking her blade into his soft side. With that, the second sword fell as he clutched himself, and his face turned suddenly pale. “Alas . . . I’m killed!” he gasped, and the last of the pirates collapsed.
“Did I forget to mention,” she added, turning her sword into her sleeve, “when we used to spar, I’d often beat my brother.”
As another day came to a close and the sun crept slowly off to its hiding place behind the moon, men and women roamed the quiet fields looking for anyone living, side stepping a man-at-arms, one of the beople, an orc or sometimes an amazon. Others dared look into the faces of the dead to find a comrade, a friend, a brother or a son, though many were beyond recognition.
“Adam!” Mari’na called, running.
He embraced her. “I’m sorry I had to part with you.”
“It’s alright. At least you’re alive. I was so worried.”
Kneeling down to examine the body of a man missing his head, slowly, He-Man wept. “Alas, poor Hyperion. He wished not to fight this war.”
“Just look around you!” Mari’na murmured. “All are to be mourned.”
But amongst a sea of dead and bitter mourning, one remained standing, still eager, still thirsting for blood. That man was Prince Regan.
Mari’na ran to him with open arms, but He-Man pulled her back.
“Father,” said he, raising his sword to He-Man’s chest. “It’s not finished yet.”
“It is finished, Regan,” He-Man replied, lowering his sword.
“No,” he said, shifting between stances. “If I kill you, I remain the only true heir. And I will be king.”
“You no longer have your limp,” He-Man remarked.
“See what evil has done for me? It is . . . a rewarding philosophy.” The prince smiled.
“Who has profited by what you’ve done!” the king cried angrily. “Have we? Have the amazons?” He pointed to the corpse of a green woman lying flat on her stomach.
“Yes, truly a pity,” Regan replied, “and my half-sister too. What a waste of flesh, I could have enjoyed her so. But no great loss, a few of my half-sisters remain.”
“What of the beople,” He-Man continued, ignoring him, “or your friends, the orcs! You led them to die for your gain.”
“They died of their own weakness!” said he, tightening his fist. “They should have been stronger.”
“Face it, you have done great, great wrong.”
“Wrong? And who decides what is wrong? You and your court magistrates can argue from the moment a mountain is born to the day it crumbles into the sea, but when all is said and done only one thing determines right from wrong, the sword! The power to enforce one’s own beliefs! Without such power, your decrees mean nothing. Even now, the legitimacy of your rule depends upon your armies to defend it.”
“And you would kill me?” He-Man asked, and turned away.
“Fight me, damn you!” Regan cried, thrusting his blade to be blocked by the now lifted Sword of Power.
He-Man now clenched his blade in both hands, lining it between his eyes. “If you would fight me, take this!” And he knocked Regan back, sword against sword. “If this is the only language you understand, know that I speak it well, and have known it long before you!”
Mari’na reached out to him. “Adam . . . stop!”
“No!” he replied. “I’ve no pity for villains!”
“Come, Father!” Regan shouted with glee, magical sparks flying with every word. “Let’s see who truly is the most powerful man in the universe!”
A once civil man now become savage, his face full of rage; He-Man pounded against Regan’s sword as if to break it. Regan’s strength was just enough to keep the weapon in his grasp as his arms flailed this way and that, power sizzling through the shaft to its handle, and through his arm nearly shattering his elbow. But the prince was quicker and more agile, dodging, ducking, and parrying, upon which delivering several attacks of his own before the king could recoil with another.
“You’re still a slow, old man, full of archaic notions of virtue!” Regan scoffed. “Grayskull’s magic gave you only the appearance of youth!”
“Knowledge is power!” He-Man retorted, swinging upwards with such momentum, Regan tumbled backward in the dust. “Knowledge I wished to bestow upon you, if you’d only listened! Do you think your eighteen years can make up for my sum?”
Regan rolled to his feet, fending off another sweep fretted with magic fire. Then the Sword of Power slashed apart his princely gold and black smock, the mere thickness of leather from his bare bosom. So he let the wind carry away his upper garments to reveal his lean, muscular body, much like his father’s, and the fight continued.
The ringing of swords echoed throughout the land as father dueled with son, summoning Alexandra and Rain, Camilla limping with her three surviving sisters, Sting of the beople, and the poor citizens of Eternos. Together with Mari’na they watched, wondering, hoping, and within themselves cheering. As for the queen, it pained her to see, weighing the fate of her husband with that of her son with a piece of her heart on each side of the scale, rejecting both outcomes with despair. Yet curiosity twisted her head and pried open her eyes.
Then all was deathly silent and still save for the rushing air and the panting of the two men with an occasional clash and grinding of steel upon steel. Each drenched with sweat, they orbited round one another like dancers seeing only their sword before their enemy, nothing but malice in their cold, pale eyes. And for a time the warrior hardened with experience and the warrior of youthful ambition was matched in every way. Death came lingering behind every stroke, the line of Life as thin as the space between the cutting edge and the skin of the neck or the flesh of the breast. Sometimes, all but a fraction of steel separated Life from Death.
Seconds now past like days, and as the setting sun stretched their shadows across the crumbling wall of the city, their arms grew weary, and for a moment the mother of one and wife of the other prayed they’d tire enough to agree on a bloodless truce.
“What’s wrong, old man?” Regan scoffed, panting. “Getting tired?”
He-Man lowered his sword to catch his breath. But as his feet stumbled upon another mangled corpse, anger surged through his veins again, and he advanced, pushing Regan back across the barren plain and up a low crop of boulders from which there was no further retreat.
“No!” Mari’na shouted, running towards them. “He’s going to kill my son!”
“Mother!” Alexandra cried. “Leave them be!”
Regan’s face was an icon of dread as he blocked his father’s blows, without the speed or strength to rebound. His sword felt loose in his hands, his arms heavy, and the heel of his boots slid ever so slowly over the rim of the boulder. Kneeling back then, the Sword of Power plummeted towards his face, but he slipped away so that it merely gashed his cheek. But He-Man did not let up, closing the gap between them and breaking through Regan’s circle of defense till there was no room left to escape.
With a storm of emotions now churning in his soul, He-Man hesitated, ready to thrust his steel into his own son’s heart. Then suddenly, Regan surged forward, firmly clutching the Sword of Power as it dived for his naked breast while hurling his own sword in an act of desperation.
Just as Mari’na arrived to push the two apart, the curved Sword of Jitsu punched though He-Man’s lower back, and he stumbled two steps from Regan with his own sword balanced weakly in his hand. Turning to face his wife, she gasped at the sight of the handle protruding from his belly, blood trickling like a brook down his waist to his thigh, and he motioned as if to speak but no words escaped his mournful, drying lips. Regan coldly retrieved his sword then, removing it from his father’s body as he reached for his son’s shoulder, both men exchanging glances. With that, He-Man became ghostly pale and trembling, beads of cold sweat breaking from his brow, and without the strength to stand he fell away from his son and slipped into Mari’na’s arms.
“Adam!” she cried, couching his head in her lap. “Oh gods! What shall I do? What shall I do?”
“I’m . . .”
“What is it?” she sobbed, caressing him. “Tell me!”
“I’m sorry,” he said, lifting his red stained hand to brush the tears from her cheeks. “He is our son, even still. I don’t hate him . . .”
Regan walked up to them breathing heavily, trying in vain to stop the bleeding from his cheek, sword gripped tightly at his waist. “Step-aside, Mother.”
“ . . . But you must,” he continued, straining with each word, his chest rising and falling violently, “not let him be king.” And he handed her the sword. “Do you . . . understand?”
“Mother! I said step-aside.”
But she did not heed her son. “Yes,” she whispered, accepting it with quivering hands. “I understand.”
“Step-aside or I’ll go through you!” he cried, brandishing his blade.
She turned to him. “Run me through if you must! I’ve no heart left in me to live.”
Grabbing her roughly by the arm, he pulled her away, prepared to stab the king again, then cocked his head back with a familiar, high-pitched cackle, as lightning flashed behind them casting him in a strange light. And in that instance, He-Man gazed up with horror and understanding, calling out; “My son . . . Skeletor.” These were the last words of He-Man. Mari’na threw herself over his body, as if to catch his fleeting spirit, and there in her arms he died.
“Old fool,” the prince murmured. “He got in my way. I had to kill him. I had no choice.”
Suddenly, she jumped to her feet, straining with both hands to raise the Sword of Power.
“Are you going to kill me now, Mother?” he asked mockingly.
She remained coldly silent, her face pale and her eyes icy, bankrupt of emotion. “Go ahead,” he added, dropping his weapon. “I won’t even defend myself.”
With all her will she fought to keep the sword steady. But soon her eyes turned watery, and she shuddered.
“Go ahead . . . it’s easy!” he said, guiding the point to his chest. “All you have to do is push.”
“I can’t!” she cried at last, the sword slipping between her hands. And she fell on her knees sobbing, her graying hair masking her face and her arms plopped to her sides as if she hadn’t the strength to lift them.
“As I thought,” he scoffed, “you’re weak!” And he bent down to lift his blade when a long shadow passed over the ground, one not his own. Turning, then, he came face to face with Princess Alexandra. “Sister . . .!”
Without a word, her face like stone, she buried the blade of her mind-metal armor up to the hilt in his chest, leaving the half of it to protrude between his shoulder blades. With that, he threw his arms up and his head skyward, spewing blood from his mouth like a fountain. And sliding from her blade, leaving it red and wet with blood, he slumped to the earth, eyes open as if to conquer sight of the world, the shock of defeat frozen on his face.
Though the war was won and Prince Regan was slain, no man in Eternos rejoiced that day. For their queen never moved from that spot on the battlefield. There she stayed doing all she could think to do. With her daughter, and Rain, and Camilla by her side, she placed the body of her son next to the body of his father, clutched them as a mother would her newborns, and wept bitterly. And all Eternia wept with her.
In the courtyard of Palace Eternos, where the fire flowers wilted and the once green square bushes were now faded brown, two twelve-year-old children, a girl and a boy, laughed and played.
“I am He-Man!” cried the boy, wielding a branch. “You can be the evil Prince Regan.”
“I can’t be the evil Prince Regan!” the girl retorted. “How can I be a prince? Maybe I can be the beautiful, Princess Regan.” And she struck a pose, batting her eyes.
“What!? There’s no such thing!”
“But Adam!” she whined, “why do I always haveto be the evil one?”
“Because I am He-Man!” the boy shouted, lifting his branch. “He-Man has-to fight somebody.”
“Well you could be Prince Regan and I could be Mother.”
“No way! I’m He-Man!” And he poked her with the stick.
“Hey!” she cried, running away.
“Come back here and fight, Prince Regan!” And he chased her around the garden to a marble fountain-pool full of fallen leaves, a cracked, mossy statue rising from its center of a young warrior with a granite sword, now broken, raised overhead.
“Wait!” she said, kneeling down with her hands cupped.
“What is it?”
“Look,” she said. And there between her palms was a little bee, buzzing frantically. “The poor thing’s lost its wings.”
“Be careful, Marlena, it might sting you.”
“No,” she whispered, petting it with her finger. “It’s my friend.”
“Maybe Mom will let us keep it,” said he, dropping his branch, “just until its wings grow back.”
She looked at him and smiled. “Maybe. Let’s go tell her.”
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