By T. F. Cooper with Kirk Trigon (Based on a story by Gary Cohn)
Since before the Great Horde Wars and the Second
Unification of the
Through warring and hard-won peace, had Titus Duncan been Man-At-Arms at
the Court of King Randor, ..and
he knew times of enduring peace to be the most treacherous of the pair. It was
in repose he’d seen fit warriors grow lazy and undisciplined. Soft! It was in
times of peace and prosperity he’d seen strong kingdoms grow fat and weak,
while enemies plotted beyond the gates. From the computer in a bronzium metal gauntlet on his wrist, he commanded a subsergeant to double the drills for the warriors at
If the Royal Guard went soft, it wouldn’t be on Titus Duncan’s watch.
Under moonlight, surveying the surrounding kingdom through the virtual binoculars projected from his silver helmet, man-At-Arms turned to a sound at his back ..and drew his bronzium mace to meet it!
“I must say, good Duncan,” Lord Adam of the Vulnarians groaned lazily, naked and nursing a pitcher of ale, as he strolled onto Freenorn Castle’s ramparts, “—all’s been most peaceful for long weeks, since my arrival here at Eternos, less than a fortnight ago! So peaceful that Ram-Man, Battle Cat and your own daughter, Teela, have gone off seeking adventure in the Golden Isles!”
“Aye, they have,” Duncan replied warily, securing his mace and ignoring the foolish boredom in He-Man’s voice. “Off they went, with Roboto, young Tom-Stone, Rio Blast and Moss Man sailing the Rakash! With my brother, Fisto and Stratos of Avion already a week in the jungles of Targa, hunting with King Gar-Gan and Queen Rana! Surely, the nocturnal conquests of the great He-Man haven’t left him lusting for more!”
“Wouldn't you?” the weary Vulnarian groaned, swilling back his ale. “I’m in love with a very jealous and strong-willed woman, who won’t rest, until I’m belled like a cat, ..no matter what I do or don’t do!”
“Thank the Ancients it hasn’t come to that!” chuckled Man-At-Arms, adjusting his binoculars. “We of Eternos’d never get any sleep from all the ringing, if it did!”
The big, bronze-skinned man threw his golden head back and laughed out loud! “Mock me all you like, old man! I’ve the strength and lust of a fifty-thousand man army coursing through me, and it’s not so easily tamed with parlor games and loveplay! I long for action, excitement—and I will find it!”
“Seems your longings have been answered, my friend,” replied
Lightning flashed in the clouds, ..such that night was turned to day!
Thunder shook the ramparts, and the Goddess Teela,
in copper-scaled dragon’s hide and armor, stood before them. In one of the many
gardens that surrounded the
…Stand fast, heroes of Eternos! Gharycon, the Dragon God of Etheria has gone mad ..and now labors to bring his mistress, Ishteu’Ra, back to life! It now falls to He-Man, Last of the Vulnarians, to stop him at all costs…
In one hand, Mighty Teela held out Lord Adam’s hoary Sword of Ancients, and bid him take it.
The golden-haired giant raised the blade high overhead and, in the tongue of his Vine Jungle tribe, called out to the mysterious masters of Castle Grayskull!
“ZO VUN MONJA DAS GRAYSKULL!"
The whole of his Herculean physique seemed to explode with light and power, and He-Man suddenly stood before her in the korodite harness, devilbeaver pelt and mystical armaments that made him nigh unbeatable in battle. “For eons, the Crystal Castle above the Caverns of Gharycon has been Eternia’s first defense against Infinitian invaders! For ages, have you and the other Warrior Ancients defended mankind from foes of and beyond the world of men! Do you now bid me bring low the Dragon God and his warriors, ..leaving the Benighted Kingdoms free to push into Eternia unchecked?”
“The ways of the gods are truly mysterious, Lord Adam,” Titus Duncan whispered, with a reassuring hand upon his friend’s shoulder. “You’ve only your heart to guide you, ..and a nobler heart than yours, I’ve not known. Trust that the Holy Warrior’s cause is wise and just, as always it’s been, ..and leave Eternia’s protection to me.”
…Go, Avenger of Man! Let your outrage carry you across land and sea ..into the mountains of Etheria! Into the Caverns of the Dragon God! Go, ..lest a great evil thought long vanquished be returned to the world of men! Go…
The Warrior Goddess raised her snake-headed Rod of Order, flaring with
blinding, spectral light, ..and He-Man felt himself
slammed against a stone wall! Shrugging off the impact, he found the gardens of
He saw Gharycon kneel before the tomb and the She-Ra unsheathe their broadswords. “No, daughters of Ishteu’Ra! For the Shame of Norgnaval, don’t do it! Don’t slay him!”
It is too late, He-Man of the Vulnarians!” the wizard replied. “The offering has been made! I will sacrifice my human form, and the Goddess of Honor will live again! Beloved daughters, take up thy swords ..and fulfill your destiny!”
“Friend Gharycon!” called the sword-slinging barbarian, rushing to stand, ..but finding himself trapped behind an invisible barrier. “Release me, Oracle of the Crystal Caverns! For reasons unknown to me, the Holy Warrior has forbid this!”
“My beloved Ishteu’Ra cries out from the Land of the Dead, Lord Adam ..for justice!” cried the sorcerer, as another flash of white lit the shadowy caverns. “Only a dragon’s power—my power—can bring her back to life, ..but, to be a dragon again, first, must I die as a mortal! Now, She-Ishteu’Ra, ..to your blades!”
Golden-haired Temathys, commander of their shadowy sorority, looked down at the sword in her hand and, then, at her sisters. “Resist, sisters! By all that is sacred, resist him! The Great Dragon bewitches us through me ..and the power of this enchanted blade—Ishteu’Ra’s Sword of Protection! He bewitches us ..to slay him! We must ..resist…”
Struggling against his bonds, Lord Adam looked on, as Temathys and her sisters seized King Gharycon.
Pressing him hard against the stonework of the sarcophagus’s edge, ..a violent cry echoed throughout the cavern temple! Thrusting their blades deeply into him, the noble She-Ra cried out in horror at what his magic compelled them to do, even as they saw the wizard’s body going limp under their swords. Leaving only their master’s heart unscathed, the noble She-Ra fell, as one, down upon their knees!
Screaming out the names of the gods, they could barely hear the big Vulnarian’s warning. “It’s Temathys! Stop her! Take her sword!”
The final, ritual strike was left to she, who wielded the Ishteu’Ra’s blade.
Roused from their murder-spell, the poor She-Ra threw themselves at tall, broad-shouldered Captain Temathys in a desperate attempt to save their king. With the wild strength of a demon - with punches and bone-shattering kicks, the mindless amazon hurled the warrior-maids from her path and drove her golden sword through the Gharycon’s heart! Awakened from her trance, fair Temathys staggered backwards and into the arms of her sisters.
Horrified at her dark work.
“Noble Goddess, forgive me,” the golden-haired fury sobbed. “Forgive us all!”
In the shadows, He-Man saw the limp, broken form of the wizard begin to shape itself into something else!
From where Gharycon fell, a great beast with skin like the metal of a golden cup, stood. Upon all four clawed feet and well higher than seven men stacked scalp to heel, the dragon god turned to the open sarcophagus where his beloved warrior-queen, Ishteu’Ra, lie dead for millennia ..and saw the mummy there reduced to dust!
“No! No—it cannot be!” the golden monster protested. “Beloved Ishteu’Ra, ..for long weeks, you’ve called out to me from realms beyond—from the grave! How have I failed you! What have I done?!”
At the center of the chamber, he saw that a piercing violet light flared.
Deep, throaty laughter filled the air, echoing throughout Ishteu’Ra’s cavern, such that tiny cracks formed in its walls, and the skull-faced Lord of the Wastes, of benighted lands beyond the Sands of Time and even Etheria, ..materialized before him.
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