By T. F. Cooper (Based on a story by Gary Cohn)
Before Castle Grayskull, at the edge of the Stygian Mote from which its blackened, moss-laced ramparts jut into the world of men, Man-At-Arms, miraculously restored to good health, cradled the body of his daughter.
Through the mists encircling the
mote, which fanned out over the surrounding moors of Graylot,
he had found Teela lying deathly still, and for the
moment before taking her into his arms again,
The Captain's eyes opened suddenly. She pushed Man-At-Arms backwards and, steadying herself on one knee, brought her sword between them. "You're not my father, changeling! My father is back at Eternos, resting in the Royal Guardhouse! Where is Sergeant Ruinzo?”
Man-At-Arms saw that his daughter's attention was now diverted to something over his armored shoulder. The old man turned to look, already knowing what he would find. His spirit soared to see He-Man alive, but he could not bear to tell Teela that fate had taken the handsome Cirsalian from her again, so soon after she had nearly lost him at Madrigor. After she had taken him into her own house and nursed him back to health. "Teela, ..there was a battle ..at Point Dread. Sergeant Ruinzo made us all proud. He sacrificed his humanity ..to save you."
"No-oo ..," The captain protested again, more faintly, as if the bitter realization of things had been awakened in her. "This isn’t real! We're still inside the small fort we found near the sea, ..where you stoneless cowards ambushed us! Where's Sergeant Ruinzo, demon - tell me or die!"
Man-At-Arms swatted the sword from Captain Teela's hand and seized his daughter's arm. Paternal anger ablaze in his grey eyes. "He's gone from us, Teela! Honor the man with vengeance! Save your pity for the enemy skulls you split in his name, ..but do not shrink from this and suffer the world to think Ruinzo loved a coward! Remember him - always! You owe him that much."
As if to tear his armor from him, the warrior dug her fingers into her father's bronzium-burdened shoulders ..and buried her face in his chest. Rocked in his arms, Teela the Duncan wept.
He-Man looked away.
Though he wielded the Most Powerful Weapon in the Universe - though he was He-Man and Prince of all Eternia - in this benighted moment, the sum of these things were of no import, and Lord Adam could not bear the weight of Teela's eyes upon him, as she collapsed into her father's arms.
He was not valiant, beautiful Ruinzo of Cirsaly. Ruinzo was gone.
When his daughter was all done with
"Blade of My Brothers," cried He-Man, behind them, ..pointing to the clouds. "Look there, friends! On Grayskull's ramparts!"
Man-At-Arms and his daughter raised their eyes skyward, where a foreboding shape cast its shadow over the castle's stone-laden, left turret. Blackened with cosmic ash, the Talon Fighter rested, once more, upon Point Dread.
"And the Talon Fighter's soul-energies, .." He-Man recalled, "- the Hawk Spirit of my dead tribesmen, hurled me back into the world of men, taking my place beyond! Oblivion cannot be trifled with, ..even by the gods."
"What does this mean, Adam?" Teela rushed over to He-Man and brought him before her face. Frantic hope drowning in her green eyes. "Does my Ruinzo live? For Eldor's sake, you must tell me!"
"I don't know, Teela," answered He-Man, grimly. "As Grayskull is eternal, so must be Point Dread ..and brave Ruinzo with it, mayhaps."
"He lives on ..in the stones of the Hall of War," answered the rolling fog, all around them. "I have placed it where Skeletor and his priests can abuse its power no more, ..atop Castle Grayskull. Though the hall's vibrations once threatened to corrupt the gods, battle has renewed our strength. Our vigilance. We will endure."
"Goddess?" called Teela, turning to the fog. "Mother?"
do not grieve alone, Teela." The warrior
goddess looked to stand some three or four heads taller than the tallest man
the Captain had ever seen, as she emerged from the fog. "During your time upon Point Dread, war came to Eternia. The collective will of Eternia's
defenders flagged under the onslaught of the
Teela saw that she carried what seemed to be the pale, green statue of a sleeping youth, barely a man. Of the black, rhino-hide pteryges about his hips, only tatters remained. "Goddess, ..I do not understand."
"This is our brother, Teela the Duncan," the Goddess spoke, her eyes cast down upon Tri-Klops’s victim. “The Cosmic Eye on the Infinitian’s Hyperius helmet has left him near death. Good Eternos once said he would give the heart in his chest to know his sister was safe. Now, I have returned the favor, ..and a clone of your human heart, my heart, beats in Eternos's immortal chest."
"I saw him fall in battle, Mighty Teela!" He-Man rushed forward to unburden Mighty Teela's arms, and Man-At-Arms followed. "From Oblivion, I saw this brave, young titan, having lost his divine powers, defending Eternos as a man! Will he live?"
"Changed forevermore by the secrets of Point Dread, youthful Eternos will live," the Goddess answered. "He is much weakened, and reclaiming his godhood will take time. Give him to Teela, He-Man, ..the great warrior, who has entrusted him with her heart."
As her father looked on, Teela, with tears in her eyes, lifted the unconscious gray-green form of Lord Eternos from the big Vulnarian’s arms ..and was surprised at how light he was in her arms. "He honors that heart, already, with his courage, Mighty Teela, ..but, what of you and I? This has been a great victory, but what is to become of our strange kinship?"
"To be whole again was glorious," the Goddess sighed, as her radiance faded into the fog, "—but, your life is, once more, your own, Teela the Duncan, ..and I will not deprive you of it! Go now, ..and good journey ..."
In an attak-trak abandoned in the fighting at Graylot, the three warriors sped through the Evergreens back to Eternos. The War of Silence, as the royal historians would call it, left a field of dead bodies and burned vehicles throughout the forests and countryside. He-Man and Duncan laughed, and though the god slept soundly, Teela held youthful Eternos’s head to her armored bosom, as if to shield him from the gruesome destruction scattered over the landscape that called him, ‘brother’.
And mayhap, because some small part of her now lived within him.
Behind them, in the mists encircling Castle Grayskull, rested a mystic artifact that appeared on the craggy face of Eternia for a short time every twenty years. When last it appeared, the Enemy of Man tapped its magical energies, ..then lured a goddess into what he thought would be the web of her doom.
His plan had been simple.
He would use his enemy's celestial power to create a child from her body and bind this duplicate of the goddess to his own diabolical will. He would raise this infant girl, as much an abomination as he, to womanhood - then, take her as his bride. Together, they would wrest Castle Grayskull from the hands of the Ancients ..and conquer mankind!
But, then, that meddler Man-At-Arms interfered.
And, with a young warrior-king at his side, ..the fool got lucky. After driving off the enemy's knights, he freed the mighty goddess and, before her unbound wrath, the Lord of Destruction was forced to abandon his plans.
And the little girl with them.
The mirthful uncertainty of how she
felt in his arms, when first he'd held his precious Teela,
And for many, many miles, as they silently passed the wasted machines of Infinitias's armies, under the darkly beautiful gold of the setting Eternian sun and the merciful eye of the Master of the Universe, ..the old fool's smile endured.
Ablaze with a father's brazen and shamelessly mortal pride.
This "Tale of Teela" is dedicated to Robert E. Howard. Remember him.
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