By T. F. Cooper (Based on a story by Gary Cohn)
Silently and without warning, the
gargantuan doorway that, only moments ago, had opened in the
The old man's answer came too slowly and too cryptically to reassure him. "The Goddess once told me that Grayskull is a soldier ..fighting battles on many planes, all at once. Its myriad halls twist through countless dimensions, Adam - we could be anywhere."
"If Skeletor knows we're here, his agents will be out for blood!" grunted He-Man, sliding his korodite battleaxe, over one shoulder and into his free hand. "Best we be fitly armed."
Agreed Man-At-Arms. On each of
The nostrils flared. The icy blue of the jungle warrior's eyes narrowed barely to slits. Like a panther, he crouched. Shoulders the old man had seen turn rivers uphill swelled, and the mighty arms attached to them stretched out to know the secrets of the surrounding shadows. "Can't make any sense of what the air tells me. Something is moving toward us ..swiftly, ..stealthily, along the walls, ..kicking up little bits of mortar as it goes - too slow for a wind ..and too fast for a man! It's almost as though ..!"
The ancient stonework of the corridor came suddenly alive.
Man-At-Arms gasped again. His old, green eyes widened and stared blankly over He-Man's left shoulder. "Adam, ..behind you!"
He-Man turned barely in time to raise an arm in his own defense, when a pair of brown eyes opened in the stonework of the wall behind him. A face of solid, gray rock took shape there, .. and lips parted to speak. “You are too late, old man. You are both too late.”
"Where is Captain Teela, demon!" He-Man asked the monster. "Release her ..or I'll bring this ruin down on your head!"
"I am Ruin, He-Man," answered the stone-thing. "There is nothing left of the merry soldier you once knew, whom the captain adored so freely. He is Destruction's plaything now, ..as is beauteous Teela."
"I see that it is you, Ruinzo," He-Man admitted, lowering his blade. The Vulnarian warrior's other skills - senses honed to sharpness through the shadowy rites of his tribesmen - seized the least, but most distinct, of Sergeant Ruinzo's characteristics, and allowed He-Man to see beyond the horrific state in which Skeletor's magicks had left him. "How did you come ..to this?"
"Mere hours ago, I had only to look into Teela's eyes, with the promise of love we would make, and she followed me to this place, .." the disfigured warrior mused, "where we were ambushed by demons. When I would not yield my beloved to them, ..their master did this to me. Do you think beauteous Teela will follow me anywhere now, Lord Adam?"
treachery had left the soldier in a piteous state, He-Man’s Vulnarian
conditioning did not permit him to pity Sergeant Ruinzo.
“There is nothing
"She is here.” Tears Ruinzo could no longer restrain rolled down his ashen cheeks. “She is ..his bride."
Then, mysteriously, the wretched being heaved one sorrowful breath, a half-groan that bespoke deep shame and regret, and melted into the rock of the wall behind him, until nothing of the sergeant remained.
"The sergeant acquitted himself
to the end, as a warrior, ..and I do not doubt his
love for my daughter,"
He-Man's brow furrowed, as a flickering emerald glow, at the end of the corridor - far more violent than any single torch could produce - drew his attention. "There is something else we must see first, my friend! Follow me!"
The two men ran the length of the rock-laden hall, the sting of heat and smoke filling their lungs, long before they reached the source of the flickering green light. From an empty, octagonal chamber, a woman's laughter rang in their ears.
"Teela's voice!" exclaimed He-Man. "She's here!"
Halting before the empty chamber, Man-At-Arms called to the familiar sound of his daughter's laughter. "Teela?"
It's granite walls were marked with
runes and hieroglyphs carved in tongues older than Grayskull
The old man also saw that each of the seven chairs had been verily smashed to bits, ..except one. "That mystic portal we entered with such haste, back in Eternos ..did not conduct us to Grayskull at all, He-Man! This is where the Ancients assembled to destroy their enemies, ..the Hall of War, known in legend as Point Dread."
Only a modicum of concentration told He-Man the same. Though the runes were not written in his native tongue, merely touching the wall filled his mind with a thousand whispering, ancient voices. "My tribesmen knew Point Dread by another name - Areopaguay. It was said to be the rock upon which the gods must sit to bleed their outrage into the world. If their fury was righteous, a great, golden hawk would eat of it, take to the sky and vomit their outrage down upon their trangressors."
He-Man drew his hand back from the wall abruptly, as if the simple touching of it had threatened him. "Skeletor is using this cosmic outpost to attack Grayskull from the Beyond Realms, Man-At-Arms, ..but he is lost! The Goddess has blinded the Talon Fighter ..and holds Skeletor at bay, by stirring the cosmic winds against him!"
"He thinks to use my daughter's kinship with Mighty Teela to lower the Goddess's defenses ..and conquer Grayskull," concluded Man-At-Arms, woefully. "I'll tear him apart with my bare hands first, but we've got to find Teela before it's ..!"
Man-At-Arms felt his heavily armored body slammed against the corridor wall behind them! Before his Vulnarian ally could remove him from its path, a white-hot bolt of fire had struck the old Berzerker down. Though ink-dark blood trickled onto his chin, Duncan lay in a bronze and olive green heap before the sacred Hall of War, but stirred alive, dusted himself off and climbed cautiously back to his feet.
From an ornate, granite throne, the only one left intact, at the back of the bleak, octagonal chamber, a coarse, vulgar laugh echoed throughout the Hall of War. And in that throne, a black robed and hooded figure materialized from the empty air, his face in shadow ..all but the hideus, yellow teeth, which did appear to grin. "It is already too late! Point Dread will sink its fangs into Grayskull's ancient throat, as it does every twenty years, .. and drink deeply of the castle's mystic energies, but this time, with Teela in my power, ..it will feed them to me!"
"Mercy, old man?" Skeletor sneered. "Her mystic bond with the Goddess will give me Grayskull! It is you, who will beg for mercy, when the Talon Fighter carries my feral, new bride over its ramparts! You and all mankind!"
From behind the demonking, stepped a rigid, expressionless figure - female, beautiful and naked to the waist - her magnificent breasts and body painted with the ancient letters of a dead religion. Her eyes - soulless, white orbs, agleam with otherworldly purpose. With a hiss and a predatory leap over her father's shoulder, Captain Teela dug her nails into the rock-hewn walls of Point Dread and climbed swiftly onto the ceiling of the chamber, where she stood up on two legs, as easily as an insect takes to the belly of a beast. Gleaming in each of Captain Teela's hands, were the legendary golden Fangs of Dunamyr, enchanted weapons of the goddess, who gave her birth, ..as the big Vulnarian struggled against an invisible force, twisting snake-like about his arms, legs and finally strangling him with a chill against his throat.
The unseen inner mechanisms of old
The Lord of the Wastes said nothing,
but raised his Havoc Staff and, with merely the force of his will, smashed the
old warrior into the rocky wall behind him, only to find
Until nothing that resembled life stirred in him.
Point Dread, its every stone and mortared crevice, shook. The runes carved into its ancient walls glowed, as though a jade inferno blazed behind them!
He-Man was unprepared for the overwhelming force of the attack. A howl leapt from his throat, as white-green lightning snaked around He-Man's neck and limbs, tearing into his flesh. He-Man saw that Captain Teela stood again - a wild countenance upon her face. The Fangs of Dunamyr held at her sides. He saw that her eyes were alit by the same green flame that marked Point Dread's walls, and felt the ground fall free from under his heels. Even as the lightning seared He-Man's muscles, a black chill crept through him.
Teela's mind, and not Skeletor's unholy arts, was the well-spring of this awesome, supernatural power. This evil he felt swiftly overtaking him.
Calling through his sinews, the stamina of cursed, four-armed Procrustus and of Heuay, fire goddess of the Vine Jungles, ..the strength of Vulnar, god-king of the his dead tribesmen, and of Granamyr, lord of the dragons, He-Man resisted the power, which seized his limbs. It availed him nothing. Against his indomitable will, he felt his legs stretched and straightened. He felt his mighty arms made rigid, ..and his grip on the Sword of Power slacken.
"In my mind's eye, I see Grayskull defenseless - its halls, barren," spoke mad Teela hazily, as though some portion of her attention was concentrated elsewhere. "The armies of the Priests of Infinitias - Mer-Man, Tri-klops, Beastman and Trap-Jaw - move, as one, to lay waste Eternos. You have lost, Lord Adam. Eternia is lost."
He-Man did not answer. The Sword of Power did not budge from his hand. Lightning crackled around him, biting into his flesh, but a glare and a primal roar was all that he gave.
"Before my dread and loving lord,
Skeletor," the crazed warrior-woman raved,
"lay down your Sword of Ancients ..and swear
eternal loyalty to his Grayskull! Swear your
allegiance to this, ..the
"Never-rrr!" groaned He-Man, through clenched teeth. "I'll never swear fealty to the King of Worms, ..or see you call him 'master'! I'll see Oblivion's insides first!"
"Then, I will delay you no longer," replied mad Teela blankly.
Light and sound erupted beneath He-Man and, struggling against its hold, he descended into it. It yawned wide and swallowed entirely the champion of Grayskull, taking the Sword of Power with it. A blinding, white radiance flashed from within.
The gaping hell-mouth faded, thin as pipe's smoke.
And He-Man was gone.
The Lord of Destruction eased himself down onto the unyielding granite of his throne. Triumphant. "At last, ..all Eternia is mine."
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