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Chapter XIV: HE-MAN AND THE POWER SWORD

 

                "So heavy a task on such young shoulders." - Duncan whispered to his adoptive daughter - "Yet, I know Adam has the will and the capacity to become what is expected of him."

                "He is one of the bravest men I've ever met. And one of the noblest, either." - Teela replied.

                Adam had been taken by the Sorceress to an adjacent room just a few minutes before. His companions were told to wait for their return. What was to happen next was private to the guardian of Grayskull and its champion.

                The room was an armory. There were racks all over the walls filled with swords, axes, spears, lances, spiked clubs, shields of all sizes... the greatest collection of weapons Adam had ever seen. All of them were polished and in great condition, and only their design accused their probable centuries of existence. All were finely crafted of a bright metal alloy and all held in them the symbol of Grayskull.

                In the center of the room a great stone stand held a bright silver sword. Its shape, its symmetry, were perfect. Its design was timeless, impossible to trace when was it crafted. It stood upright by the tip of the blade, but was not set into the stone. It was only the extreme perfection in the blade's crafting, its perfect equilibrium, that held it upright. Adam was amazed and wondered if it was magic that kept the sword from falling.

                At the room's end wall there was a collection of armors. More than thirty metal vests were displayed in armor stands. The Sorceress led Adam there.

                "First of all you will be given an armor for your protection. With it, you will also carry the symbol of the fortress with you. It is a unique armor made specially for you."

                Adam immediately looked upon the plate vests on the stands before him. All were beautiful, finely worked metal suits designed for full chest and shoulder protection. He was awestruck as he watched the Sorceress open a small wooden box and take out of it a small chest shield with leather bands to strap around the torso. In the shield's plate, the Grayskull was engraved, as in any other weaponry in the room, save for the peculiar sword in the center of the room.

                "I see you find the armor's choice somewhat odd." - The Sorceress commented.

                "Er... I confess I expected something... different." - Adam replied.

                "Some things hold in themselves more than meets the eye. This armor was specially designed for the champion of Grayskull, and its unique characteristics make it more remarkable than any of the plate armors you see."

                Adam did not know what to say. How could a small chest shield be of more protection than a plate vest? However, he did not question the guardian of the fortress.

                "Its magic properties will enhance your physical strength and endurance. Always wear it with you, and be sure no other armor could protect you as much without hindering your movements."

                Adam took the armor in his hands and placed it in his chest. The Sorceress helped him strap it around his torso, and immediately, the armor's magic might invaded the young man's body. It was like an energy flux going over and through him, wrapping him up completely, until the armor seemed to be one with himself. He felt as if new life force had been added to his own.

                "It's... incredible! I've never felt anything like this."

                The Sorceress smiled and nodded. "It is a part of you now. As it is a part of Grayskull in itself."

                She walked on, this time towards the curious sword. The weapon appeared to mock gravity, as if it couldn't affect it in any way. The Sorceress grabbed the sword’s hilt, and with amazing ease, she took it out of the stone stand. "Let's go back to the throne room now." - she whispered at Adam.

                They walked back into the room where Duncan, Teela, Stratos and Krygar awaited them, the Sorceress still holding the sword in her hands, close to her lap, as if it was a child she was carrying.

                She stood at the bottom of the stairs which led to the throne, and signed Adam to stand in front of her and kneel. He did so.

                "Adam of Eternos." - she exclaimed - "Take in your hands the greatest of gifts from the wisest of men, for your honor and worth have proved you to be the sacred warrior of the Gods. Hold this sword I offer you, and may Grayskull's power always be a part of yourself, as you will become a part of the fortress forever. With this blade, whenever you battle, Grayskull will battle by your side. With this sword, the gates of the fortress will always open at your will."

                She handed him the sword. He took it and held it with both hands, above his head, still knelt.

                "Do you pledge your allegiance to this fortress and swear to hold its principles throughout your travelings?"

                "I do." - he answered.

                "Do you swear to defend this fortress at all cost, with your life if needed, to prevent it from falling in evil's hands?"

                "By my honor, I do."

                "Will you fight evil wherever it breeds and whichever shape it assumes, for as long as you wield this sword?"

                "Yes."

                "You may at any time cancel this oath if it is your heart's will. Grayskull does not wish you to be its champion out of obligation, but out of belief. If ever you wish to rest from your tremendous duty, just return the sword back to the fortress, and your duty will be returned with it. However, Grayskull will not call you a second time. Do you understand this well?"

                "Yes, honorable one."

                "So be it. Raise yourself and hold your sword aloft, and from now on, whenever you call for Grayskull's power, it will be there for your. Call for it."

                Adam stood up, and, feeling a little confused and odd, held aloft the sword. It was extremely light and easy to handle."

                "Call for the power of the fortress, He-Man." - the Sorceress insisted.

                He gazed at the bright blade held high by his own hand. "By the power of Grayskull!" - he cried loud. Bolts of lightning erupted from the sword, waving through the air and involving him in a magical embrace. Power overwhelmed him, and he drank of it, allowing the energy to enter his body and strengthen him. He felt stronger, strong beyond compare, stronger than he could ever imagine. "I have the power!!!" - he shouted, as he felt his very soul blend with the essence of the fortress and part of its wisdom and knowledge were imbued in him. He felt divine. He was now less than a God, yes, but surely more than just a man. He was the champion of the prophecy of Eldor, and the sacred warrior of the Gods.

                A short conversation between the Sorceress and He-Man followed, a conversation which the young man's companions did not hear. Soon after, Adam went back next to his friends. He did not seem changed, save for his new armor and weapon. In fact, he seemed more the Adam they were used to than after he had overcome the challenge of the obelisk.

                "We will leave now." - he said - "Our presence here is no longer needed at present."

                "Very well." - Duncan replied - "I did not wish to worry you sooner because I knew this task of yours had to be completed first. But in my conversation with Fisto some days ago I was told that the orc armies led by the new lord of Snake Mountain are spreading throughout the lands, and probably heading for Eternos. I believe we better head there quickly and warn your father. They have to be ready."

                "What?! The orc armies are invading our cities? Duncan, why didn't you tell me sooner?"

                "I didn't want it to distract you from your quest. I knew you had to come to Grayskull first. If I were to tell you, you would be divided between two choices, when I knew exactly which had to be your priority. I would be torturing you senselessly."

                Adam looked at Duncan with troubled eyes. "I... I guess you're right. No more time to waste, though. We must leave now."

                The party fare welled the Sorceress, got to their horses waiting in the entrance hall and left the castle. They crossed the drawbridge, which once more closed the fortress' entrance right behind them. As soon as the drawbridge clanged shut, Krygar roared madly, as five sinister figures surrounded the group.

                Two of them were already known to them; The evil skull-face creature riding his ferocious dark feline beast and his orange-brownish furred henchman; the other three were new to the warriors, a strange man with a hook instead of his right hand and a metal lower jaw in his helmet, mounted on a gray horse, a one-eyed bald warrior holding a scimitar in each of his hands, on foot, and a mysterious, dark lady, clad in a black long cloak and mounted on a horse darker than night, whose red eyes burned bright as fire.

                The grim, skull-face man spoke: "So we meet again, Adam of Eternos... Our paths have crossed often recently."

                Adam gazed at the undead creature with a suspicious stare. "You... know me?"

                "Yes, you and the sword you carry. The sword you will deliver to me now."

                "...You are certainly insane!"

                "I am Skeletor, future lord of Eternia! You are the insane one, if you dare defy me! Don't believe that having the power sword in you possession will protect you from me!"

                "So you are the new occupier of Snake Mountain? The one behind the orc armies invading our villages!"

                "I am your doom!" - the dark lord cried - "Blade, get him and take his sword! Warriors, slay them! We've spent enough time and words already!"

                The one-eyed man hurled himself at Adam, his swords swirling in his hands. Beast-Man leaped at Duncan, while the man with the hook hand launched his horse in Teela and Stratos' direction. The dark lady stood still.

                Adam quickly drew his sword before the warrior reached him, and proficiently parried his dual attack. With great strength, he pushed his enemy's blades away, forcing him to step back. Meanwhile, Duncan avoided Beast-Man's leaping rake, the beast's claws passing only an inch away from him. Before the creature could recompose, though, his heavy mace hit him in the chest, making the simian man scream in pain and agony. Duncan raised his mace once more.

                Teela and Stratos had just dodged a trample from Trap-Jaw's horse, when the warrior stopped his horse and prepared to turn and strike once more. He was not quick enough, though. As soon as he stopped, Stratos flew over him, and knocked him off his horse. Both warriors fell to the ground, Trap-Jaw furiously trying to free his hook hand from Stratos' hold and strike his foe.

                Duncan tried to hit Beast-Man again, but the creature blocked his second attack with his bare hands. He grabbed the man-at-arms weapon and stole it from his hold, throwing it away. A grim, yellow smile followed, as the beast launched himself at Duncan once more, grabbing him, and bear-hugging him mightily. The warrior could not set free from the monster's powerful hold.

                Blade was not able to hold Adam's attack. The young warrior's sword was whirled swift as a lightning bolt towards the one-eyed man, who managed to parry the attack in the last moment, yet not even the blocking by both his swords was strong enough to resist the tremendous impact. He was thrust backwards and fell, and before he could even prepare his weapons again, He-Man was already on top of him, the power sword pointed at his throat. Has he saw Duncan's current situation, however, he just kicked the sword master in the stomach and went in his friend's aid.

                Meanwhile, Teela put a stop to Trap-Jaw's struggling. Her sword, allied with Stratos' hold, was convincing enough to make the man surrender. At the same moment, and before Adam could reach Beast-Man, Krygar jumped over the creature, forcing him to let go of Duncan. The simian-man stared at the mighty tiger's ferocious expression, and backed in awe. Seeing this, He-Man turned his way towards Skeletor, his sword in hand, an angry look on his face.

                "You miserable...!" - Skeletor screamed - "Evil-Lyn, deal with them. My warriors will answer me for their fumbled failure later."

                The dark lady removed her hood to reveal her pale, yet beautiful face. Her black air shined, and her black eyes were as penetrating as daggers. She raised her left hand slowly and gently, and with one finger pointed towards Duncan, who was still but a few yards away from Beast-Man. With her right hand, she touched a medallion she was wearing in a necklace and over her vest. A couple of words were whispered, and Duncan suddenly fell an immense wave of cold grasp him. As an unseen ice breeze, it crawled from his feet up to his head, and took hold of him, both from his outside and his inside. In seconds, Duncan was turned to an ice statue. Teela screamed in terror.

                The dark lady did not stop, and once again repeating her grim ritual, she aimed at Teela, then at Stratos. Both were involved by the ice-cold witchery and turned in the same, unliving state of Teela's father. Lyn turned to Adam, smiling.

                But even before she could even start casting her dreadful spell, the young warrior hurled himself at her, knocking her off her horse. She grasped for the black medallion in her chest. Adam was amazed on how someone with such beauty could perform such actions, and for a second he was struck dumb, hypnotized by her deathly charm. She seized the chance to grab her talisman, yet, before she could even say one of her dark words, Adam came off his trance. Disgusted by his own action, even if he knew it was the consciously right one, he punched her on the face. She was knocked out.

                "You!" - he said, turning his head towards Skeletor - "What has she done to my friends? You will undo this evil curse or I'll crack that skull head of yours into thousands of shards!" - he screamed, as he plucked the medallion of the unconscious woman’s neck.

                "You dare defy me?" - the dark lord cried, raising his havoc staff and heading his feline mount towards Adam.

                No words were pronounced by the enraged former prince of Eternos. In but an instant, his sword sliced twice, Skeletor could just barely parry the furious attack. He immediately knew he was no match for the champion of Grayskull.

                He backed up rapidly and screamed at his minions: "Blade! Trap-Jaw! Get Evil-Lyn! We'll deal with the barbarian later on!"

                Meanwhile, Krygar had left Beast-Man and fastened at the dark lord, side to side with his friend and master. Skeletor had already turned his back and started to flee, but as he saw his opponents following, and specially Krygar, without the encumbrance of a rider, drawing nigh, screamed at He-Man: "Yes, fool, follow me, and when you'll get back you will be able to carry your companions in your wineskin. Ahahaha!" He laughed with sadism.

                He-Man stopped. Even though he was being manipulated, Skeletor was right. They had been turned into ice, and they would probably melt in just a blink of an eye. He had to ask for the aid of the Sorceress, quickly. His enemy would feel his vengeance later. "Krygar, come! Let him go for now!"

                They went back next to the castle. Skeletor's minions were already gone, and there stood the cold statues which were once his friends. "Not a second to waste", he thought. Holding aloft his magic sword, he commanded the castle's gate open, as the Sorceress had taught him. The large door lowered, revealing the slim figure of the guardian of Grayskull in the entrance. "Quickly, bring them inside before it's too late!"

 

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