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Chapter IX: THE DARK POWER SWORD

 

                The forest of Evergreen was a place of magic and mystery. It was a labyrinth of trees and bushes and vines. Colorful flowers sprang between dagger-like rocks, and moss covered most of the place. It was a frightening, evolving place, and yet, beautiful and full of splendor. There was a fresh aroma in the air, and butterflies of vivid colors flew above threatening dracos. The atmosphere was filled with an odd fog, always moving, always twisting and turning, as if it had a life of his own.

                In the heart of the forest, at the top of a hill, there dwelt a castle. A castle of myth and legend, of magic and power. It was a small, yet apparently inexpugnable fortress. Its structure was all made of giant rocks, piled with mastery so that not a breach could be seen between them. It’s twin towers, aiming at the skies, made the castle seem taller than in fact it was, an omnipresent and majestic silhouette in the green scenario.

                But what was most peculiar about the construction was the immense skull carved in stone above the drawbridge in its entrance. It was a skull made of a single block of gray stone, now mostly covered with moss and therefore appearing more green than gray. However, the castle still kept its original name: Grayskull.

                Grayskull was the last memorial of the wise ancient ones of Eternia. It had been built by them more than twelve centuries ago, and yet it was as mighty and proud as it was when it first withheld Hordak and his demon legion, or when it resisted the innumerable attempts of King Hiss to conquer its power.

                But nothing of this seemed to matter to the man standing upright in front of the great, heavy, wooden door. He was staring attentively at the castle for hours, without pronouncing a word. He gazed deep into the skulls eyes, and somehow, the skull seemed to look back into his. The castle appeared to understand who he was, and what power did he hold.

                Besides the proud man, three figures were present. One was a half simian, half lion man, a scarring creature of brown-orange fur. The other was a strange spider-like blue man with four sinister eyes, known as Webstor, the master of stealth and escape. The third one was a large black feline of bright yellow eyes. His name was Panthor.

                Suddenly, the leader of the group broke the surrounding silence. From underneath his hood, his expressionless skull face grinned, and he uncovered an object he had been carrying with him for some days. A sword. A purple sword, forged in a single piece of the toughest metal known, robust, broad, and yet almost delicate. The sword shone and the man screamed with might: “I am Skeletor, your true master! I command you to lower your gates! By the power of the sword I hold, OBEY!”

                The gates shaked, and there was a rumble. The great door seemed to be struggling with itself to be released from the large skull fangs that embraced it. It trembled for some seconds, but then it stopped. Once again, all was silent.

                Skeletor lowered his head. To swallow a defeat was his biggest shame, especially in front of his servants. The castle would bend and break to his will, even if it would be the last thing he would do.

                “Obey me, I say! Lower your gates!” – he pointed the power sword to the skull stone, and flash of red light arose from the blade. As if in response, the skull eyes shined crimson for an instant, and the doors trembled once again. This time, the great skull fangs appeared to give way for the door to move, and it did. Slowly, creaking, it lowered itself to ground level. Inside the huge mouth, nothing could be seen but darkness.

                “My power prevails! Where so many have failed, Skeletor, the overlord, succeeds. Grayskull is mine!”

                However, as soon as he gave a step forward, the gate moved again, this time upwards, closing the entrance. Skeletor tried to use the sword once again and command the gate to lower, but with no success. “Obey me! I hold the power that rules you! Open your pass to your one true master!” None of his words had any effect.

                A short while later, a slim figure appeared in the left tower window. A woman, dressed as a falcon, was staring at the four invaders below. “Who are you, who dare to command this fortress of power to obey your words? Who are you who dares to defy the power of those who have resisted the most dreadful demon that ever existed?”

                “I am Skeletor. I am the power. I am more dreadful than any demon ever conceived, for I was conceived by the lord of demons, and yet I have subdued my creator. Lower the gates, or else you will feel the full extension of my power.”

                “You carry evil intentions and a naive’s knowledge. Your power is of no concern to this site, and nor is your presence. I warn you to leave this place at once and return that sword to the place where you found it. You have no idea of what you hold in your hands or what you’re dealing with.”

                Skeletor became furious with the woman’s words. He clenched his fist, and then he raised his sword up high. From the blade, lightning sprouted, a red lightning that was launched into the woman’s direction. Yet, she simply raised her hand, and gently captured the rays that seemed to be so violent a moment ago, turning them into colorful sparks which were absorbed by her fingertips.

                The beast man roared. Webstor was completely amazed by such display of power. Skeletor became even angrier. “How dare you resist me? You shall suffer for your insolence! You do not know whom you’re dealing with!”

                “You are the one who knows naught. I am the sorceress of Castle Grayskull. I guard powers beyond the understanding of mortal men. Here lies the energy of gods. You are a child playing with deadly toys. Follow my advice, else you wish to bring doom unto yourself!”

                Skeletor knew that part of what the woman had said was true. He hadn’t trained himself enough yet to master the sword’s power. He also did not expect to find someone at the castle. It was a common lore that it was abandoned for centuries. Obviously, he had been wronged. He could see perfectly that the woman at the tower was too powerful for him by now, but he would master the sword one day soon and come back for revenge. He could wait. He had all the eternity ahead of him to return. Yet, what was troubling him was to accept his defeat when two of his servants were watching. Cunning as always, he quickly thought of a plan to leave with his head raised.

                “She hides something.” – He murmured to Webstor. “I have an advantage in waiting and watching. If I do break in now, she will not say a word of the castle’s secrets. I had thought of the chance of a comeback of the order of sorcerers of Grayskull. She is my key into the castle’s secrets.”

                Webstor nodded, pretending that he believed Skeletor really had the upper hand.

                “Rushed actions are unwise. I will study the guardian of the castle for some time, before I take the fortress. My patience will prove itself worthy.”

                Skeletor’s biggest flaw was his lack of confidence. Although he had great power and magic, he did not really believe that power to be enough. He was constantly tormented with the possibility of failure, of finding a power greater than his own, and of the consequent loss of the respect he had gained in the last few years. He knew, the moment he stared at the great skull, he had found a might he could not yet overcome. And he proved Webstor his failure the moment he gave a justification. Skeletor never explained his actions, except when he failed.

                The dark lord, his sinister minion and the beast man left the place. He did not say another single word to the sorceress before leaving. Watching them leave, the sorceress was troubled. She knew he would not give up so easily. She knew he would return. Although she had kept a calm demeanor, she was nervous and concerned about what was to come. “Adam of Eternos, I hope you really are who I believe you to be…”, she thought.

                As the strange trio journeyed back through the woods, Skeletor watched the simian creature following him. The beast man had been a casual found along Skeletor’s way to Grayskull. As he entered Evergreen, he and Webstor were interposed by the bestial creature. He did not attack them, but was nevertheless hostile, as if defending his territory. However, the hunter soon became the prey. Skeletor seized the chance to add one more brutal warrior to his army. He quickly concluded the creature was mighty in physical strength, yet poor in intelligence and willpower. A swift display of the havoc staff’s power was enough to make the surprised primitive being surrender and accept the stranger as a master. Power is the only think to respect for those who think with their muscles.

                The creature hardly spoke, yet one could reckon some words between his grunts and roars. Along the way, they had found a fallen tree, which the dark lord commanded his new servant to remove of the way. The monster obeyed, hauling slowly yet with some ease the big log. Skeletor, seeing how stupid and strong his new servant was, soon realized he was perfect as a bodyguard. Strong enough to dissuade eventual attackers, too stupid to betray his master. The demon man did not even take too long to give him a name, not caring to be creative and choosing the obvious: “Beast-Man, follow me. Any who dares approach without my consent must be kept away, else you wish to feel my power!” – and he showed him his havoc staff once more. The creature grunted and followed submissively.

 

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