Chapter VI: THE JOURNEY BEGINS
The landscape was amazing. The sterile ground was covered with stone, with shapes which made it seem molten, hills of stone filled with bulky stalagmites. Some pointed upwards, erect like spears emerging from the ground, while others arched sideways, as if nature had been an intentional architect of such fine sculptures.
The red sky was almost bare of clouds; rain had fell on the night before, clearing the air, changing the misty atmosphere to scattered magenta spots of cloud. A magnificent, horizon-embracing rainbow crossed the eye view in an arc, beginning beneath large faraway stone mountains and disappearing far into the land. A giant, winged creature soared the skies.
Down below, three figures, mounted on heavy horses, and accompanied by a large green, golden striped tiger, traveled slowly through the rough terrain. The horses were tired from the hard trek on those rocky lands.
Adam commanded Whitemane to a halt. His two companions did the same, and the exiled prince of Eternos dismounted. He did not seem a prince now, but rather a barbarian warrior. His shoulder long blond hair was disheveled, and his blue eyes carried a deep, somber, enigmatic look. His large chest was bare of cloth; his wrists were ornamented with golden bracelets, with small half-spheres encircling them. He was clad only in a brown furry loincloth and boots. His golden belt was made of the same metal and had the same design of his bracelets. In it’s middle, it enlarged downwards, where the half-spheres were substituted by a small skull, with large canine teeth sprouting from the upper jaw. It had no lower jaw. Strapped to the belt by a leather band was his scabbard, holding his sword, it’s golden hilt showing.
Adam was tall, six feet at least, and half-naked, all his worked muscles, now tanned bronze by the blazing sun, exposed, made him seem broader and larger.
He scanned the horizon, searching for his guide, but failed to find him. The idea of the falcon leaving them behind invaded his thoughts for a second, but then he lowered his eyes to ground level and found him, landed on an arched stalagmite, facing him intensely.
He turned to Duncan – “We’ll make a small stop here. He is summoning me. Rest while I go to meet him, and then we will eat something before going on.” With this, he turned around and walked towards his guide.
Teela watched him as he drew farther away. Her feelings for him were as intense, or more, than four years before. This was the fourth day they were traveling together, and the third night the three had slept outdoors in the open. All those nights sleeping next to him made her wish to go to his side, rest her head in his strong shoulder, and spend the night in the safety of his arms and the warmth of his body.
Teela was Adam’s age, a young impressively beautiful woman. Her red, wavy, two feet long hair was like a blazing flame, her shining green eyes like two emeralds. And her tanned skin was hard as leather and yet as smooth as silk. She was tall, five feet six, and slim, yet muscular. Although quite feminine, her muscles were well lined, revealing a well-trained body. Her breasts were medium-sized and firm, and her legs were long and perfect, ending on small, delicate feet.
She was dressed in a white bodice with a golden embroider lozenge, from which two thin gold lines dropped down to her abdomen, and around her waist. In her upper arms she had golden, straight bracelets, and in her hands she wore brown leather mittens, matching her top-boots.
A thin leather sash held her sword scabbard and a small, blue purse.
Adam arrived to the spot where the bird rested, and his eyes met his. The falcon stared at him for about a minute, and then, Adam heard a voice inside his head, seemingly coming from the huge winged creature.
“Adam of Eternos” – a feminine deep voice echoed through his mind.
“Yes?” – he asked in thought, timidly, as if still trying to figure out if the voice was his imagination or not, and wondering if she could hear his mind as well as talking through it.
An answer did come – “I am the sorceress of Grayskull. The bird you have been following is Zoar, my eyes to see the world and wings to fly through it. She is my link to the world outside Grayskull. I have summoned you, and brought you here, for a purpose, which now may be partially revealed. You must keep traveling throughout these lands, but without Zoar’s aid. I need her at Evergreen now.”
“But… what purpose? I need to know about the precognitions I’ve felt all my life. Do you know my fate?”
“I believe to know part of it, for it was destined long ago. However, I am not sure. And until I am, I can only reveal you a small part of the role you’ll probably play in the future events.”
“I cannot say more. You must be patient.”
“…If that’s how it must be…”
“It must. But I do need you to perform a task for me.”
“And what task is that?”
“There’s an object which must be retrieved. And only the ‘He-Man’ can accomplish such feat.”
“Yes. And as far as I know, you may probably be him.”
“But… what’s a ‘He-Man’?”
”Not ‘a’. ‘The’. I can only tell you that long ago, it was determined by a powerful wise man that in a time of need, a ‘Man’, a warrior, would be born to perform certain feats, and that ‘He’ would be helped by and a help to Grayskull. I have reasons to believe you are ‘He’, the ‘He-Man’.”
“And what is my goal, the objective of my quest?”
“A stone. A stone that most men consider precious for it’s trading value, and that I consider precious for it’s ability to reveal the truth.”
"You will understand later. Now you must continue your trek, but South-East instead of South. You’ll soon enter the Grim Woods. It’s a dark and dangerous path, so beware! Dangers may appear on your way.”
The voice kept on in Adam’s head: “After some five days or so of your journey through the woods, you shall see a high, golden obelisk. That is where the stone lies.”
“But… what if I follow the wrong path? What if I don’t find it?”
“Behold Bright Moon and follow south-east. Travel by whatever way you choose, for there are no paths. Once enough inside the woods, you’ll see it, above the tree tops, such is it’s size. You must climb to it’s top and retrieve the mystic stone.”
“Then you must travel northward. It shouldn’t take you more than nine days to reach the borders of evergreen. Once there, Zoar will guide you once again. Is there something else you wish to know?”
“Yes, but I believe this is not the proper occasion. I’ll have other opportunities to ask. On this specific matter, I think I have understood well enough.”
“So, and considering you came so far already, I suppose you accept this mission…?”
“Certainly. It is my fate.”
“And also your choice, I hope.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Zoar must return now. Farewell. Good journey.”
The giant falcon spread her wings, revealing the full splendor and majesty of its shining golden, blue and white feathers, and hurled herself through the air, flying back to where they had came in great speed.
Adam took his right hand to the left side of his chest, then rose it slightly to the skies, towards Zoar, with two fingers a little more upright than the others, and no more in thought, but in a whisper, he said: “Good journey!”.
The young warrior returned next to his traveling mates, and sat on the ground after taking his provision bag from Whitemane. He looked at his friends, as if waiting for them to join him so that he could start his meal. They did not seem concerned with food.
“Adam” – Teela started, after a couple of minutes of silence – “you have been quite a while there, just staring at the bird, then he left. Can we know what happened?”
“Sure. I thought about eating first, but you are obviously intrigued and curious. I owe you two, at least, an explanation.”
Adam stood up and continued: “I have been talking to her, not through my voice, but through my mind. There is a task she wishes me to perform.”
“She? The bird?” – Teela interrupted.
“No. The sorceress. Have you heard about Grayskull?”
“Yes, sure, it’s that old, grim, abandoned castle somewhere in Evergreen. There are many legends telling of it.”
“Well, I guess it is not abandoned, at least not anymore. This woman, the sorceress, who has contacted me through the bird, claims to be a resident of Grayskull. She says she believes I’m the ‘He-Man’ and she wants me to recover a precious stone for her, a stone of great power.”
Adam told the story he heard from the sorceress to his friends. Duncan was listening attentively, but he never made any comment nor asked any question, and neither did he ever seem surprised. When the young man finished, they had their meals and rested for a short while before proceeding.
They arrived to the edge of the Grim Woods some hours later. Bright Moon was already sinking in the horizon, while eastward, Dark Moon was rising. At this time of day, the Eternia sky was a show of colors, ranging from bright red in the West, hitting its apogee of purple in the middle, and then shifting to dark blue in the East. Dark Moon, purely black, was sometimes hard to see in the night sky.
Grim Woods was a large land of twisted shapes. The trees had strange, intertwined shaped, as if melting in each other, so that at their tops, it was impossible to distinguish to which tree any determined branch belonged. The leaves ranged from dark green to gray, which was the color of about half the tree trunks as well. Below, on the ground, all was ever surrounded by shadows, no matter whether it was night or day. Low, dark bushes and a dark brown grass filled the soil, along with the same molten-like rocks of the fields they’ve passed.
Sometimes the wolves howled, followed by the sinister chants of the owls and the rattle of snakes. And then, suddenly, all would turn to silence, becoming even more sinister. Grim Woods had been given the right name.
As they walked into the wood, Adam went to Duncan’s side, whispering to him so that Teela could not hear: “You seem to know more about Grayskull and the sorceress than me, and still, you do not say a word. What is wrong? These matters concern me, and I wish I could count on you to help me on this.”
“I cannot. Do not trouble yourself thinking about what I might know, because I cannot help you with that. I’m sorry.”
“Because I swore not to. You will know everything when the time is right. Just do not be rushy now.”
“…” – Adam shut. He knew, for years, that Duncan knew more than he would tell. What intrigued him, was how much did he knew, and how he acquired that knowledge. These thoughts stuck to his mind until they halted to set camp for a night rest.
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