Raiders Of Point Dread: Infinitians At The Gate

By T. F. Cooper with Kirk Trigon (Based On "The Power of Point Dread" by Gary Cohn)

A nigh deafening boom shook the palace, upon Lord Adamís return to the Royal City Eternos.

Abandoning his flying battle-ram on Castle Freenornís limestone ramparts, the big, golden-haired Vulnarian leapt down into the courtyard and bounded toward the Royal Palace on booted feet! Even as his mind raced with concern for King Randor of the Freenorns and wise, gentle Queen Marlena, the exotic colognes of the Far East, which were the King's alone, roused his jungle-trained senses and set him firmly on their owner's trail with all the speed of a leopard. All the while, his other senses told him the thunderous shock he'd heard above was nothing of nature's making.

The night itself bore a strange, scorched scent to him, as if the very fabric of the air had been singed, while He-Man raced over the palace grounds ..and the thunder of war raged all around him. He knew well, fatally well, what a dragon's fiery breath smelled like, ..and this was not it. Something powerful, a machine of some kind, was attacking the Royal Palace from the air once more, even as he ran toward the Royal Palace.

Another blast shook the ramparts, and behind him the Northeast Tower flew apart in a bright flash of flame and broken rock, but He-Man kept running - the Sword of Power gripped tightly in his fist. From the clouds overhead, soulless, red eyes followed him over the bailey of Castle Freenorn, and a black shape hurled downward into the courtyards at Lord Adam's back, forsaking all other prey for pursuit of him.

The Vulnarian's senses flared with awareness of the dreaded Talon Fighter - of its very mechanical essence. Its blackened, metal shell. The heat of its guns, as their ancient mechanisms whirred to life. The terror it left in its wake, as its crimson-tipped wings passed over battle-hardened soldiers, and six bursts of golden, cosmic fire cut through the darkness. Legs that have scaled cliff-sides and outrun lions beat through the air before their prey, ..and the ground before his feet exploded apart.

In a cloud of disintegrated rock, He-Man fell.

As if assured of its conquest, the Talon Fighter raced over its victim.

Rolling into a downward glide, its left wing tilting slightly, the Fighter sped down into the vast courtyard, ..toward its intended victim! Lower and lower it flew, until it was close enough to the ground to shear off the tops of small trees - to behead a man standing upright! Something sharp ripped into its blackened hull, and the metal there was heard to scream, as its undaunted, mortal foe rose from the dust, ..the Sword of Power firmly in hand. "Come ahead again, pigeon-face, ..if you dare!"

He-Man's blue-gray eyes followed the death-machine into the clouds, as the Talon Fighter's ancient engines roared overhead. All around him, he saw the Royal Guard lying dead and injured - their bodies littering the palace grounds, broken and burned like kindling. Gripping the blade of the Ancients with both hands, the Vulnarian searched the sky for shadows, ..but found nothing.

"Where are you, stoneless, murdering devil?!" the Vine Jungle warrior raved, glaring into the dark clouds. "I'm here, winged coward! Heuay's Man is here! I've wounded you, ..and I'll be waiting!"

Closing in on Randor's scent, He-Man bounded through an open window and into the King's study, where he found the aging, warrior-king with Telmat, the Archbishop of Eternos, ..a man, who held all Vulnarians in great contempt. "Thank the gods you're well, milord! We must rally the troops to repulse this attack!"

"Naked savage!" the Archbishop Telmat hissed, rushing toward He-Man with his scarlet and gold cloak. "This is not the sweltering, Vine Jungle brothel from which you crawled! You dare flaunt your pagan ways so boldly, ..even in the presence of your king!"

The priest rushed to throw his cloak around the half-naked intruder, but a broad, bronze hand snapped shut around one of the man's wrists, locking it in an inhumanly tight grip. When he raised his eyes to meet He-Man's, the rage in the Vulnarian's stare and the implied threat of his bared teeth sent shudders through him. "Now, it is you, who dare too much, Telmat."

"Release him, Lord Adam," commanded King Randor, calmly. "This ungrateful bigotís only concern was for me, as is yours. Leave us, Telmat."

"It is a time for prayer, my king!" Loosed from He-Man's hold upon his wrist, the gaunt Archbishop hastily fled the room.

"Nay, priest!" the bronze-skinned giant growled. "It is a time for war! Freenorn Palace is under siege, King Randor. Firebacked orcs advance from the north - I can smell them coming! The Talon Fighter attacks from the air--too high to be easily detected, but .."

"The second assault was from the ground, Lord Adam," Duncan interrupted, storming into Randor's study. "The Northeast Tower's been destroyed. Before it fell, its scanners detected a small fortification less than a mile off the North Wall! I've got two squadrons of wind-raiders in the air, securing a perimeter around and over the Royal City. Two more escorting the Queen to Point Manak in the Ice Lands! Six platoons of soldiers engage firebacked orcs beyond the North Wall, milord."

"Firebacked orcs are desert-dwellers, Duncan," Randor insisted, "--and you saw those giant ants! How could so many could have been moving upon Eternos without meeting some resistance from our allies, along the way? And how is a small mountain brought so close to Eternos without being detected? This must surely be the work of the Infinitians - of Skeletor!"

Duncan answered apprehensively. "The orcs could be a preliminary strike, King Randor--cannon fodder to wear down our defenses! Skeletor's done it before. Even now, they swarm to the offense, ..and their onslaught is fearsome indeed! At the time of the last transmission, our allies in the Mystic Mountains, coastal Harmonia, Vine Jungles and Golden Isles were all engaging fortifications like Dread, each cloaked by some kind of ancient, light refraction technology!"

"Space refraction, Man-At-Arms," said He-Man, glaring into the clouds. "With it, Point Dread can manifest projections of itself in the north, south, east and west--each projection waging war in different regions of the planet, ..and all at the same time! When the sun rises, it will be capable of more."

Titus Duncan sat down upon a limestone bench, his armored back against a cold wall. His typically ruddy face, a lifeless white. "The Royal City is in flames. Men, women and children in the surrounding provinces and throughout the Light Hemisphere are being tortured. Impaled. Burned alive. Worse. The outposts attacking us all over the world--they are all Point Dread."

"There, brothers! Behold!" the wild, golden-haired Vulnarian cried, pointing to the shifting clouds with his silvery blade. The enemy appeared, ..barely visible through the mists. A silent, black shape, winged like a bird. When it passed over the terrace, its shadow fell on Randor's face ..like a death shroud. "The Talon Fighter returns, ..but, what is it doing here? Who is controlling it?!"

A ghostly image, grotesque in its appearance, materialized in King Randor's study. The King drew back from it and unsheathed his sword. "Beast Man of Gorre!"

"See the power we command, Randor of Eternos, ..and tremble!" boasted the holographic image of Beast Man. "Our master has found means to secure Point Dread for his own purposes, once more! He has plucked the artifact from the clutches of Grayskull itself, ..and there is no power known to man that can long withstand it! Soon, he will use its secrets to strike from every corner of Eternia, until House Freenorn and its allies are ground to dust! He has bound the Fighter to his black will and is now its master--God of the Power of the Air! He is your god, humans! We Priest-kings of Infinitias have had enough of defeat! Let all Eternia fear our wrath and...!"

"Let all of Snake Mountain fear mine!" From He-Man's hand, a double-headed battleaxe buried itself in the stone wall, where Beast Man's phantasm vanished. Enraged, the big Vulnarian turned to King Randor. "That hologram proves the Infinitians have tracked us here, and that this study will be the Talon Fighter's next target. Your armory, King Randor--let's go!"

A great portion of the study's sandstone wall rolled aside with an unseen signal from the king, and the three men rushed down a long, dark stairwell, seemingly carved from solid rock. Through the pitch, they found a large, cavernous chamber with a domed ceiling, under which was gathered every weapon known to man! As He-Man and Man-At-Arms looked on, King Randor brushed his palm over a shield mounted at the foot of the stairwell and saw the mysterious chamber blaze alive with light from the lanterns upon its walls!

"So, it is Skeletor up there," King Randor growled, studying a massive, holographic globe of Eternia flickering at the room's center. His eyes wandered over the Fertile Plains and into the Evergreen Forests, fixing on a barren, uncharted area just beyond the Iron Mountains. "Once, the Goddess spirited Dread off to Castle Grayskull, merging it with the mystic stronghold. Now, the Master of Evil has found means to control it! How can this be? How?!"

"The Crystal of Gharycon," He-Man muttered, kneeling before a bust of Vulnar the Bold. "When Targa, the Fighter's hawk spirit, took my place in Oblivion, he left it without a soul ..and vulnerable to the crystalís power! So long as Skeletor holds the Dragon Kingís crystal heart, he controls both the Talon Fighter ..and Evil-Lyn! I must free the Fighter, my friends, ..even if my life is forfeit."

Duncan rested a hand on Lord Adam's shoulder. "Such a debt, even to your Hawk Spirit, cannot be repaid in blood, He-Man. In the Dread One's hands, the Fighter is a soulless, murdering machine--nothing more. You owe it nothing."

The big, golden-haired man stood up and raised the hoary Sword of Ancients before him, beholding it as one would a miracle. "There is more you must consider, my friends! At sunrise, these manifestations of Point Dread will become linked, enabling Skeletor to move his vast armies from east to west in the blink of an eye, ..or to direct forces from different parts of Eternia to any single region he chooses, until it is conquered or destroyed! Eternos will be his first target, and he wonít wait for the dawn! Evil-Lyn will turn nightfall to sunrise, and the Dread fortifications will be linked! We have no time!Ē

King Randor took a laser-pulse rifle from its mount on the wall and held it out before him, studying its metal in the light. He threw another to Man-At-Arms, and a pistol to He-Man. "House Freenorn will avenge its fallen! Duncan, you will continue to hold command of the palace's defenses in your daughter's place! Lord Adam, you and I will deal with the threat of Skeletor and that thing in the clouds! With the Firebacks advancing in such great numbers, we must act swiftly, or lose the Lighted Realms to Skeletor!"

"The Palace's force-field is programmed to perpetually change its deflector array, even as the Fighter attacks," Duncan grumbled distractedly, tapping a few buttons on his wrist-mounted computer, "--but, the Fighter is swiftly adapting its attack to overcome the speed with which the array is modified! When the field can no longer adapt quickly enough, the Palace will be vulnerable. We should go now. Your storm-raider, Valeria, is made for aerial combat in the upper atmosphere over vast distances, ..and it is at the ready, sire."

Surveying the sky from his monitor screen, with his beloved Queen Marlena out of danger, King Randor prayed for the safety of his fighting men and women on the frontlines. Every flash of fire on the horizon, where he did not lead them into battle against the Infinitians, tormented him. "The storm-raider is made for running, Duncan. Freenorns do not run. The Valeria will remain here, as will we, ..until the last fighting Eternian, by death or cowardice, yields his ground! I want a proper wind-raider, Man-at-Arms! He-Man, you are with ..."

The troubled old king turned to face his son, but, He-Man of the Vulnarians was gone.

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