The Horde Empire had swept through the galaxy, plundering planets, toppling governments, destroying any and all armies that dared stand against them. From their home world, DarkWorld, Horde Prime, Emperor of all the Horde, sent one of his top generals to govern a newly acquired, primitive planet, Etheria. There was but one problem . . . a woman named Adora.

Lady Death Vs. She-Ra By Nick Alimonos

It was a hot afternoon on Etheria when Glendar's arms gave out. With his last bit of strength, he plunged his pitchfork into a nearby bale of hay and tipping his straw hat to wipe the sweat from his brow, he made his way down the dusty trail to the small cottage that was his home.
"Hello dear," his wife, Nira, greeted him. "I made you some plumejuice."
He took the bronze mug from her hands and drank quickly. "It's good," he gasped.
"Dad!" a young boy cried, running up to him.
"How's my son?" he asked, placing the mug on the short wooden table to lift the boy, though it pained him.
"Great, Dad! Can I help you on the farm today!?"
"Sure you can," he said, smiling. "But I think it would be better if you stayed here and helped your mother. Should be cold tonight, why don't you go pick some firewood."
"All right," the boy said a bit sadly, jumping from his father's arms, scurrying out the door.
"Why don't you let him help you?" Nira asked. "He looks up to you, you know."
"Farming is nothing but hard, back-breaking work, Nira." He sipped his plumejuice. "Believe me, when he's old enough, he'll learn, the hard way."
"He just wants to be with his father," she said, pressing against him.
"I know," he said, his arm around her waist. "I just want for our son to have a childhood, before he grows up and spends the rest of his life working."
She looked up into his tired eyes. "Things might change, Glendar."
"I don't think so," he said softly. "It looks worse out there than last season. Every year it just keeps getting worse. I don't know how we're going to make it . . ."
Nira screamed, backing away from him, staring over his shoulder. He turned. There in the open doorway stood two towering figures clad in metal from head to foot, with dome shaped helmets, strange, red rods in their hands, and blazing across their plated breasts, red, wing-spread bats.
"I . . . I'm sorry," Glendar said to them. "I have nothing to give you. It's been a terrible year and . . ."
"No excuses," the one on the left said, brandishing his rod. "All citizens of the Horde must pay their taxes on this date."
"Please . . .," Glendar begged. "Give me an extension! One week and I'll find the money, somehow, I swear!"
"No extensions. Pay up or pay the penalty."
"What . . . what is the penalty?" Nira asked quivering.
"Death," he replied.
"No!" Glendar cried. "This is an outrage!"
"Wait," said the one on the right, turning. "Here comes their offspring."
"You can be spared," said the one on the left.
"We can!?" Nira cried, embracing her son, hands full of tree branches.
"Yes," said the one on the right. "We will take your son as payment this once. He will make a proper slave."
"No!" Nira shrieked.
"I won't let you!" Glendar cried, standing in the doorway, but the one on the left knocked him down with his rod, stepping over his body into the house, grabbing the child.
"Please!" Nira begged, falling to her knees in tears.
"Mommy!" the little boy cried as he was pried from his mother's arms.
"Take me instead!" she pleaded.
He hesitated for a moment. "No . . . you're too old." Then he tore the child from the groveling mother.
"Drop him!" another woman's voice boomed.

The two, iron clad soldiers turned to see a stunningly beautiful woman standing behind them. Her blue eyes flashed fiercely like the ocean; a river of golden hair streamed down to the middle of her back between a golden, eagle winged headdress; a gold, metallic brassier covered her breasts; a leather sword scabbard hanged loosely from her waist; a white loin cloth fell between her legs, and violet, knee-high boots fitted her feet.
"Is it . . . could it be . . .," the Horde soldier muttered, dropping the child, who ran back into his mother's arms.
"Yes," she said, lifting them both up by the neck, one in each hand, smashing them together with a resounding CLANG!
Both soldiers fell to the ground stunned, and before they could get up, she sent the one on the left reeling backward, his helmet crumpled by her boot as if it were made of tin foil; then gritting her teeth, she thrust her bare fist into the helmet of the other.

***

Emperor Hordak leaned back on his thirty foot throne, a single piece of solid black obsidian sitting in the middle of a round platform, hanging suspended in the dark depths of a room whose dimensions could only be guessed. Before him was a narrow bridge vanishing in the darkness, flanked on each side by guards. To his left stood a solemn, red robed figure with a somewhat female shape, though the figure's face was obscured in the shadows cast by her hood. To his right was a massive, somewhat man shaped, hulking thing, with dark brown fur, yellow, glowing eyes, and blood stained, saber- teeth.
The Emperor himself was an oddity. His face was hideous, white and scaly, with pointed ears, blood red, snake shaped eyes, slits to breathe from, and teeth both jutting and jagged. And he wore a red cape, a shining, black breast plate with the fiery red bat-symbol of the Horde, and what he was never without, his inky, black gloves.
Hordak was a being of unimaginable wealth and boredom. He could sit for days on his throne unmoving, sometimes rubbing his chin with his black glove, or standing to pace. What dark thoughts his twisted mind developed will forever remain unknown, for none have dared disturb him and lived.
All was silent at the moment, the guards, Hordak, and the red robed figure, ghostly still as always, all but the beast on the right. A violent, snapping sound mixed with heavy breathing could be heard from his direction, though Hordak seemed not to notice. Then there came the echo of metal boots stomping. For ten minutes the echo grew more intense, until, at long last, two soldiers in battle-torn armor approached the throne, kneeling.
"You may speak," Hordak grumbled.
"Your Greatness, we were out collecting taxes when we . . . we . . ."
"Yes!" Hordak shouted.
The other spoke assertively. "There was an unforeseen event."
"Unforeseen event!?"
"Yes . . . it was, it was She-Ra."
"Did you kill her?"
"Well . . ."
"You have failed me, trooper, and you know the punishment for failure is death."
"But your Greatness . . . I implore you! Give us another chance!"
Hordak stood, turning from them. "Grizzlor, kill them."
The monster sitting in the corner stepped into the light. "Yes, master!" he growled, his eyes glowing with delight. The soldiers backed away as Grizzlor approached them. The one on the right turned, finding himself only a few feet from the platform's edge, and jumped. Several seconds of screaming ensued before there was silence. The soldier on the left, meanwhile, stood his ground. Grizzlor, punching his fist through his armored chest, ripped out the soldier's spinal cord. And with the spinal cord in his blood soaked hand, he walked back to his corner, tossing the vertebrae onto a big, heaping pile of bones.

"Damn that woman!" Hordak exclaimed. "Even you, my love," he turned to Grizzlor, "no longer delight me. Alas, what I would give to see you feed on She-Ra's rotting corpse!"
"What would you give, indeed!" a woman's voice echoed.
"What!?" Hordak said, turning quickly. "Who said that!?"
"I did, Hordak dear."
Hordak tightened his fist. "Who dares call me by my name!"
"I do. I dare call you by your name and by any name I wish." Galloping into the light came a jet black horse with red eyes. Hanging from its sides were many human heads knocking together, and with each snort, flames burst from its nostrils. The rider was a figure in a dark cloak and hood blending into the black mare. Nothing else could be seen or known of the strange visitor but her voice.
"How did you get in here?" Hordak cried. "Who are you!"
The figure leaped off the horse, landing in total silence. She then undid her cloak by a golden buckle shaped like a skull, letting it fall to the floor, revealing her milk-white skin, her long, cascading white hair, and a kind of black, necrophilic lingerie hiding little of her ample, bulging breasts, her slender waist, and her long, sleek legs. She wore nothing else but stiletto, thigh-high boots, and as she swayed up to the throne, Hordak could see her blood red lips, a single black mole on her left cheek, and small skulls used as earrings. "I am Lady Death," she said.

So dazed was Hordak by her beauty, that he all but forgot his anger, asking; "What do you want?"
"It's not what I want, but what you want." She smiled.
"Come now, everyone wants something!"
"All right, then, I want to help you."
"How?"
"I can kill She-Ra for you."
"You . . . a woman!?"
She laughed. "See Midnight, my horse? My earrings? I do all my decorating with human heads and skulls. Call it a fetish. And I only hunt the most skilled warriors. All throughout Etheria, I have sought and killed them, mostly men. But this She-Ra . . . if even your Greatness has a problem with her, well, I can't imagine what a delightful challenge it will be for me! Oh, and what a great addition her head will make to my collection! You see, Hordak," she continued, strolling around the platform, "hunting has become dull. You hear this and that about so and so, but after you kill him, it's such a disappointment; there's no challenge . . . no challenge at all! Then again, she's not a he, is she? So perhaps, she will be a challenge. After all, women are the far superior sex, and that's why you fail, Hordak, trusting in foolish men. What you need is a woman to do your dirty work, and I'm your girl!"
"Why come to me? Why not just kill her?"
"Well . . . knowing how much you want her dead, I figured, why not make an extra profit?"
"What do you want?"
"Oh, not much."
"What do you want!"
"Autonomy from the Empire. You don't bother me; I won't bother you. What do you say?"
"Foolish woman!" cried he. "No one makes deals with Hordak! I command and YOU obey! And I have had enough of this! Grizzlor, kill her."
The beast came roaring out of the corner, swinging at her viciously, but she somersaulted from him gracefully, evading his bloody claws. Further and further back she moved, as he advanced towards her, till she landed her stiletto heel inches from the edge of the platform.
Lady Death stood her ground without any look of fear, and when he lunged at her, she dove between his legs. But before he could fall down the dark and seemingly bottomless pit, in the split-second he went over the edge, she grabbed hold of his hair, and was now hanging on to him, who weighed more than a thousand pounds, with her left hand, without even straining herself. She had, with one move, both saved his life and rendered him helpless. But it would not last long, for in her other hand she produced an ornate, golden long-sword, as if from nowhere, and with it, she chopped off his head, leaving the rest of him to fall.
"So," said Lady Death, strolling back to the throne with Grizzlor's head in her hand. "What do you think of me now?"
Hordak stood, crying; "Modulok!" With that, part of the wall behind him opened, and out came the strangest creature. It stood three feet tall, bare and red-skinned, with two heads, four arms, and six legs.
The strange creature turned both its heads to Hordak, replying; "Modu- lok?"
"Make me another Grizzlor," he demanded.
"Modulok!" both heads replied in unison. Then one head turned to the other, saying; "Mo-dulok?"
"Mod-ulok?" the other head asked.
"Modul-ok," the first head replied. And they continued their talk as they scurried back through the opening, the wall closing behind them.
"Let me kill She-Ra for you!" she moaned, with an almost, sexual tone.
He stopped to think for a while, rubbing his scaly chin.
"All right," he snarled at last. "Proof of her death, nothing less, and that will be your tax to me."
"Of course," she laughed. "I live for death!"
Lady Death slid her sword back in its scabbard, snatching her cloak up off the floor to drape it around her neck. Hanging Grizzlor's head from her steed, then, she rode away down a trail of flames lit by the dark mare's blazing hooves, disappearing into the darkness.

***

Adora wandered through the immense, moss covered redwood trees, careful to hop over the little running streams crossing her path lest she muddy her boots, till reaching a quiet little spot, her spot in the Whispering Woods. There the sound of the roaring river falling off the cliff, down to the lake ninety feet below, drowned out the chirping of the birds. And it was here that she sat, resting her eagle-wing headdress at the base of an enormous redwood whose roots burst from the ground, running down the steep, cliff wall. She then unbuckled her belt, letting her sword and its scabbard crash to the earth, slid off her boots, unfastened her gold brassier, and cast away her white loin cloth, letting it go with the breeze.
"Ahh . . .," she sighed, lying down on a bed of soft, wet, many colored leaves, "that's better." And there she laid quietly, her eyes half closed, gazing up at the array of sunlight filtering through the tree branches.
Suddenly, there came a noise like the rustling of bushes. Adora turned, seeing a tall, bare-chested, very muscular, brown bearded man. In his left hand he carried an ax, and with his other hand, a giant, metal hand, he balanced a tree trunk on his shoulder.
"Fisto!" she exclaimed, smiling.
"Yo!" he replied, dropping the trunk and ax. "How goes the rebellion?"
"Well, there were a few villagers I couldn't get to. Tax day is the worst! And I'm just so tired . . ."
"Don't despair," he said, kneeling by her. "You're doing all you can."
"But it's not enough," she said.
He touched her chin with his human hand, gently lifting her head to meet his gaze. "You're giving them hope. That's what matters. In time, they will take up arms and the war will begin."
"Well, no sense discussing what we already know. At least there are some places," she sat up, looking at the trees around her, "still untouched by the Horde."
"Yes," he replied. "Here is more beautiful than anywhere on Eternia. But the most beautiful thing is that which it contains."
"And what might that be?" she asked, grinning.
"You!" he said. And there their lips joined for whole minutes, as Fisto slowly crept his flesh hand up her thigh.
"Oow!" she cooed, swatting his hand away. "Not so fast!"
"Oh Adora, you know I can't wait to make love to you!"
"I knowww," she said, jumping to her feet. "But first, you have to catch me!" Then she tip-toed to the edge of the cliff.
"You and your games!" he muttered.
"Bye-bye," she said, as soon as he was within reach, leaping backward.
"Adora!" he cried, reaching out to her, watching as she plummeted further and further down, falling like a knife head-first into the water. "Adora?"
She poked her head out of the water, her blonde hair sticking to the sides of her face. "Come on!" she called. "If you want me, you'll have to jump!"
"Are you crazy? You know I'm scared of heights!"
"Oh no! Wait! Suddenly, I have this terrible cramp! I think I'm drowning!" and she sank back down under the water.
"Adora!" he shouted, but there was no reply.
"Crazy woman," he grumbled, searching to find her clothes. He then pulled off his boots and his fur underwear, so that he was as naked as she.

He made his way back to the edge of the cliff, when he remembered his metal hand. With a twist to the left, it came off, and tossing it next to their things, he ran, falling feet first into the water, making a tremendous splash.
"Adora?" he said, wading across the lake. "Where are you?" Then he felt a tickling between his legs, as air bubbles popped up to the surface of the water before him. "Oh, Adora!" he suddenly shouted.
Splashing up into his arms she came, saying; "I can hold my breath for a long time. Bet you thought I drowned, huh?"
"Oh, I can arrange that!" he said, pushing her head back under, she, screaming all the while.
A white unicorn with rainbow colored wings swooped overhead, then, landing slowly by the edge of the lake.
"Swift Wind!" she called.
"Just what we need," he groaned, "an audience."
"Oh, he won't bother us."
"I hate it when he watches."
"Come on," she said, swimming up to the hill wall. "He can't see behind the waterfall."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," she said, lifting herself up on a rock, braiding her long, blonde hair.
With the water glistening on her naked body, Fisto could say nothing but; "I'm going to come there!"

The two lovers lay lazily next to one another, Fisto on his side, Adora flat on her back, watching as the clouds drifted by.
"Oh, look, Fisto!" she said all of a sudden.
"What is it, my sweet?"
"A butterfly just landed on my nipple."
"Just swat at it. It'll go away."
"No silly," she giggled. "Butterflies are good things. Oh, now look what you made me do!"
"What?"
"It flew away as soon as I giggled."
"And I suppose it's my fault that you giggled?"
"Never-mind," she said, turning on her side. "Why don't you go get our things."
"All right," he said, walking off.
"Fisto?"
"Yes?"
"Hurry back!" She smiled.

Fisto trekked back up the hill, surprised to find, upon reaching the tree where Adora's and his clothes and weapons were hid, a black cloaked figure on a black, fire-snorting horse adorned with human heads.
"Who are you!?" he said, covering himself with his only hand.
"I am Lady Death," replied she, leaping to the ground.
"What do you want?"
"I want you," she answered, parting her cloak to reveal her long, flowing hair, her milk-white, voluptuous body, and the long, golden sword in her left hand.
"Me . . .?"
"Yes, you, Fisto! Champion from Eternia, member of the Royal Guard, I have heard lots about you."
"What do you want with me?"
"I want to kill you, naturally. My sword here, Death," she said, raising it, "is thirsty for blood, and so am I." She smiled demonically. "But I always give my prey a fighting chance. It's so much more fun to kill that way, don't you think?" And with that, she lifted his long sword with the toe of her boot, kicking it to him.
He uncovered himself, catching the sword.
"Mmm," she intoned, licking her lips, eyeing him from head to foot. "You are quite the male specimen!"
"And you are a sick, twisted wench!" he cried, snatching his metal hand off the ground, reattaching it.
"Oh, in time, you'll learn to love me!" Then with blinding speed, she nicked him across the cheek, drawing blood.
Fisto clenched his teeth with rage, swinging his sword down at her. Sparks flew as both blades clashed.
Stroke after stroke, Lady Death was quick to avoid harm. Fisto, all the while, was in awe at her strength. Though she held her sword in both hands, and he in one, his arms measured thrice the width of hers. How could she parry even a single blow, he thought? Other men would have lost their weapon, but not she, and this reminded him of another woman, his dearest love, Adora. But worst of all, Lady Death was much faster than him.
"You are the best man I've ever fought!" she said. "But you are still just a man." With that, Fisto's sword broke in two, the pointed half flying into a nearby bush.
"I have beaten you!" she wailed, pointing her unscathed sword at his jutting Adam's apple.
"I think not!" he cried, grabbing her sword with his metal hand, pushing it aside. To this she returned with a scream, tossing him over her shoulder, slamming him into the redwood as if he were a plastic doll. She ran after him, then, thrusting the heel of her boot into his crotch.
He groaned in agony as she stood over him, laughing. Then she thrust her sword down, which he caught again with his metal hand.
As he strained to keep the sword from sliding toward his throat, she pushed for it to go further down. Soon, he could resist no more, and with her wedging her heel into his groin, he lost all strength.
"Death!" she hissed with glee.

The last thing he knew was the sound of metal grinding against metal, and the look of ecstasy in her glassy eyes.

The sun was just over the horizon when Adora opened her eyes. Have I slept this long, she thought? Where is Fisto?
With a worried look on her brow, she whistled for Swift Wind to come. Then leaping on his back, she rode him to the top of the hill. There she searched the area at the bottom of the tree, finding all her things, as well as his boots and his underwear. He must have taken his hand and his sword, she thought, but where would he go without his clothes?
She walked aimlessly, calling out; "Fisto! Where are you? This isn't funny, Fisto!" and finally; "All right, I'm sorry about pretending to have drowned. Now would you please come out? It's getting late . . . please . . ."
Returning to the redwood by the edge, she searched again to find many foot prints scattered about, along with patches of scorched earth in the shape of a hoof. "A horse . . .," she whispered to herself. Could he have left on a horse?
A cold gust of wind came and Adora gasped, lifting the hilt of a broken sword from the dirt and leaves under which it had been buried.
"Oh God! No!" She prayed silently to herself, then, that Fisto was still alive, before putting her clothes back on and strapping her sword's scabbard belt around her waist.
"Whoever's done this is going to pay!" she cried, unsheathing her short sword. "Do you hear me!" Her voice trailed off, deep into the woods, but there was no reply other than the neighing of her steed, Swift Wind. He could sense her fear, wrath, and despair.
She-Ra replaced her sword, then, leading Swift Wind by the reigns along the trail of scorched hoof prints, deeper into the Whispering Woods.

***

"My hand, where is my hand?" Fisto cried as he focused on his new surroundings, a cold room dimly lit by dozens of tall burning candles protruding from wax dripping, human skulls.
"Oh, I'm keeping it," said a womanly voice. "Fisto's fist, a far better trophy than your head, don't you think? I have enough heads as you can see."
Fisto realized he was still naked, laying flat on a bed. He tried to sit up, only to fail due to the ropes around his neck, ankles, and wrist. "Why am I still alive? I thought you were going to kill me."
"I am. But I want to have a little fun first. You like fun, don't you, Fisto?"
He looked down at the foot of the bed, seeing her stripping off the little clothing she wore, all but her thigh-high boots. "No!" he cried. "Not with you!"
"Ah, yes, you're in love with She-Ra! But don't worry," she said, prancing to another part of the room. His eyes followed her to a black and gold pentagram on the floor, with a black pillar rising from its center, supporting a small knife in a red, velvet pillow. The knife's blade was gold, and its hilt and handle were carved ivory in the shape of a nude woman kneeling on a red ruby, her arms spread up in worship. "By the time she gets here," Lady Death continued; "I'll be through with you, so you'll never need tell her about us!"
"You've done this to get to her!" he cried, struggling to free himself.
"Oh, that too," she replied, taking the small knife.
"What are you going to do to me?"
"You'll find out. Pleasure and pain, that's what life is all about. Then you die."
"Torture me if you wish, or kill me, I choose either over you!"
She walked up to him seductively, knife in hand. "Come now, Fisto. Look at this body and tell me you don't want it!"
"No," he said, shutting his eyes.
"Don't you want to fuck me?" she whispered, licking his ear. "One last fling before you die?"
"No!" he cried.
"Your lips say 'no' but your body says 'yes!'"

***

The sun was setting on Etheria and She-Ra was getting tired. It was also becoming increasingly more difficult to see the hoof prints. Finally, she and Swift Wind came to a steep, moss covered hill bordering a grassy plain, where the prints vanished entirely from view.
"No!" she cried. "What am I going to do now? I'll never find him!"
"Don't despair," a voice intoned, a voice that could only be described as deep, calm, and soothing.
"Wh-Who said that?" she said, turning around.
"I did," the voice replied.
"Wh-Where are you?" she asked, looking all around.
"I'm right here."
"Where?"
"You're looking right at me."
She-Ra gasped, noticing for the first time a man-shaped outline in the moss covered hill. She backed away from it, then, as the nearly invisible man of moss stepped closer. "Who are you?"
"I am Moss Man," he said, smiling. "I'm sorry if I frightened you. It's just that you looked so sad, and I thought maybe I could help."
"Help? How?"
"I don't know. What's wrong?"
"Well, I lost my boyfriend. I think someone rode off with him."
"What does he look like?" asked Moss Man.
"Well, he's big, and he has a beard. Oh yes, and he only has one hand, one real hand anyway. The other is fake. It's made of iron."
"I'm sorry. I don't recall seeing such a person. But then again, I sleep most of the day, so he may have passed through here."
"Oh drat!" she said, pouting.
"But do not despair. I can still help you. I will ask the other plants if they saw him."
"You're going to ask the other plants?"
"Ah . . . yes . . . they did see him."
"They did!?"
"Yes, he was on the back of a black horse. Oh, and I'm sorry to say, they sensed great evil in the horse and in its rider."
"Well, where did they go?"
"They don't know, but the horse was headed into the Forest of Gloom."

"That's good enough!"
"But be careful. The Forest of Gloom is not safe, and it is getting dark, when it is most dangerous."
"I'll watch out. And thank you, Moss Man, how can I ever repay you?"
"My bones are wood. My blood is water. I am a plant. There is nothing I need that you can give me."
"Well," she said, jumping on Swift Wind. "If you ever need anything, I don't know how, just let me know! Farewell!" With that, She-Ra and Swift Wind rose high into the air and flew away.

***

"Stop this!" Fisto groaned.
"Come now, you know you like it!" Lady Death replied, grinding against him.
"No . . .," he moaned.
"Yes!" she hissed, licking him.
"No!" he cried, biting her lip, drawing blood.
"Oow! You are a man of action!" She grinned, tasting her own blood, her hair tossing about with her rising and falling. "When we fought today, you made me so . . . hot!"
"You are a loathsome whore!" he scoffed.
"Ah," she sighed, digging her nails into his chest, "more resistance . . . that makes it better! Now tell me you like it!"
He screamed with defeat, thrusting his pelvis higher and harder inward.
"Tell me you love it!" she demanded.
"Yes," he whimpered, his heart breaking within.
"This is better than anything you've ever done with her, isn't it?"
"Yes," he replied, panting.
"Now tell me you love me, more than She-Ra!"
"Never!" With that, he quivered, and relaxed.
"Ahh . . . that was good," she sighed, both their bodies drenched with sweat.
"Kill me now," he said quietly. "I no longer want to live."
"Not yet," she replied. "There is still more fun to be had. More fun for me, that is. Your fun is over."

***

The sun had fallen over the land of Etheria, and She-Ra could now see the dark, dead trees, only by the light of the moons and the stars. And as she journeyed further into the Forest of Gloom, strange sounds of hidden, unfamiliar creatures grew more intense, the thorn bushes became more abundant and difficult to side step, and the trees became more densely packed, so that their claw like branches scraped at her skin as she passed between them. Soon, she drew her short sword, hacking at the wretched growth as she went. But it was not long before her arms tired, for the forest seemed endless. Even Swift Wind looked worn.
"It's hopeless!" she said aloud, stopping to sit on a rock.
"Oh, nothing is ever hopeless," a coarse voice replied.
"What! Who said that?"
"I did."
"Where are you? I can't see you."
"If you'd get off me, you just might."
"What!" she exclaimed, jumping up. "Y-You're a rock!?"
"No!" the voice answered. Then, the rock she had been sitting on, folded into the form of a young looking man with granite skin. "I'm Rokkon!"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize . . ."
"It's quite all right. I don't mind people sitting on me . . . when they're as pretty as you."
"Now Rokkon!" another rock next to him said, forming into an older looking humanoid. "Can't you see the girl is in trouble? She hasn't time for your sweet talk."
"Oh, what do you know!" Rokkon protested. "You're just an old geezer. It just could be that she's looking for love."
"Old geezer!" the other cried. "Why, I'm only a thousand and two! Besides, being older doesn't mean you don't know anything. I have more experience; I've come all the way from that tree over there!"
"Please!" She-Ra cut in. "Don't fight over me. I am flattered but I don't have time."
"I'm sorry," said the older of the two. "I am Stonedar of the Rock People, and this young pebble here is my nephew. How may we be of service?"

"Well, my boyfriend was kidnapped. I think he was taken on a black horse. Have you seen anyone pass by here lately?"
"She has a boyfriend, drat!" Rokkon blurted.
"Now now, Rokkon!" Stonedar scolded. "Let's see, recently, hmm . . . I did see a man pass by here two months ago."
"No," said She-Ra. "I mean, today."
"I saw a black horse ride quickly through here today!" Rokkon exclaimed. "Burning all the branches in front of it."
"Yes!" she shouted. "That's the one. Can you tell me where it was headed?"
"Into the Swamp of Servitude, I think."
"Oh, Rokkon, you're a gem!" Then she kissed him on the cheek, which tasted like dirt, but he looked happy.
"Now wait," said Stonedar. "You shouldn't go there. The swamp is dangerous. You may not come out alive."
"It's all right. I'll be careful," she said, trotting off. "Thank you both!"

***

"What do you want with the knife?" Fisto asked, trembling as Lady Death slid off him.
"When I was a baby," she began, "my mother fed me human blood. You see, her skin was white too. Call it a disease; I don't know, but without human blood, we'd die.
"When I was older, she taught me the Way of Death, how to kill. She was a killer. She killed my father, like the black widow does with its mate. And she killed for sport.
"One day, when I was old enough, I killed her and adopted her name, as she did with her mother before me. So now, I must feed myself . . ."
"You killed your own mother!" Fisto gasped.
"Yes! She was so proud of me!" Lady Death lowered herself to his abdomen, then, cutting him with the small knife. Fisto did not cry out in pain, but shook with fear, as she kissed the open wound with her blood red lips.

***

She-Ra stood ankle deep in mud as dragonflies the size of pigeons whizzed by, and man-sized, reptilian birds swooped overhead croaking like bullfrogs. The smell of the place was unbearable, and Swift Wind refused to follow her any more into the Swamp of Servitude.
"All right, Swifty," she said, patting him on the snout. "Fly back to the Whispering Woods and wait for me." The steed left reluctantly, looking back several times to be sure of what she wanted, before spreading his wings and taking off.
She-Ra was saddened by his departure. His company, though mute company, helped keep her spirits high in this lonely, dismal place. But nothing, she knew, would deter her. She kept on, through the mud, as it got deeper.

She-Ra was now laboring to move, waist high through the thick, black bog, with her legs nearly spent on the day's journey, hacking with her short sword at hanging vines.
"I sure hope this doesn't get any deeper," she muttered to herself. Then she spotted a low hanging tree branch, and grabbing hold of it, she lifted herself up and climbed upside-down to a piece of dry land.
She-Ra could think of nothing better at this moment than the refreshing waterfall she had bathed in earlier that day. All she could do now to calm her insatiable itching was to scrape the mud, a long, arduous task, for she hadn't a spot of bare skin from her waist down. But something peculiar was uncovered during the scraping, small, green, egg-shaped things all over her.
"Leeches!" she screamed.
It was almost impossible to pick them off, and the more they clung to her, the more painful they were to remove. Each one left a blood red circle on her skin, and she wondered with dread whether the markings would remain. The larger, more stubborn leeches, she used her sword to remove, sometimes cutting whole layers of her own skin in the process.
After thirty minutes of self torture, most of the leeches were gone. But she could still feel some under her feet. So she sat on the ground, pulling off her left boot, when there came a sloshing sound from behind her. She looked back quickly to see a large, green, man-like creature, which, to her horror, had hands, feet, and a head, all resembling leeches with teeth.
She-Ra screamed, reaching for her sword, when she felt two, cold, slimy hands touch her back. The next thing she knew, she was off her feet, being dragged down into the mud. She tried to push the arms away, but it was no use. All her strength was leaving her. Finally, her vision blurred and her arms and legs went limp. She could feel herself, now, neck deep in mud. Her whole body was cold, numb. She was feeling sleepy. The mud crept over her mouth, her nose. She couldn't breathe. She couldn't see. Mud was in her eyes. She was under the swamp.
The next thing she knew, there was a sharp pain in her back, and She- Ra lurched forward, clinging to the dry shore, gasping for air as mud dripped down her face. Slowly but surely, she crawled back to land, feeling her strength returning. She crashed on her stomach, then, looking back to see; "Swift Wind!"
Standing knee deep in the mud was the monster, and the magnificent, winged animal hovered over it, beating his rainbow wings frantically with his unicorn's horn sticking out of its chest.
"That thing must have been holding me," she muttered, grabbing her sword, "and when Swift Wind impaled it, he must have hit me too."
But the leech monster was still alive, squirming to free itself from the unicorn's horn, as was Swift Wind flapping fervently to fly away. She- Ra, then, with her strength fully returned, ran up to them with her sword raised up, and with a fierce battle cry, she hacked the monster's head off. The creature vanished under the bog whence it came, and Swift Wind flew skyward, around, and down, landing at her feet.
"You came back for me!" She-Ra said, hugging the faithful steed. It neighed in reply.

After removing all the leeches from her body, She-Ra and Swift Wind, together, continued to search through the Swamp of Servitude, coming at last upon a lone hill resembling a skull, whose open mouth was the entrance to a cave. And it was here that She-Ra knew, her quest would end.

Human heads on stakes marked the entrance to the skull cave. She-Ra examined each. Most of them were of rugged looking men with their eyes open, surprised looks on their faces. Other heads had decomposed, or were in various stages of decay, littered with flies.
"Stay here," she said to Swift Wind, entering the cave.
As she explored further, where the light from the night-time sky could no longer reach, and when the lurid candle light beckoned from within, she found more heads. One of them clearly wasn't human. It was of a monster, dome shaped and bloody, with brown fur, yellow eyes, and old ivory, saber-teeth.
"Grizzlor," she whispered. "What could have killed him?" A horrible thought assailed her, then, of what more familiar face she might encounter. She paused, shutting her eyes and taking in a deep breath, before looking at the others, preparing for what she most feared.
But it was not as she thought. What she found, instead, was Fisto's iron hand, stained with blood, hanging on a stake. This gave her more hope and more dread, for she knew he may still be alive, and yet, she knew surely something horrible had happened to him. She touched the hand, then, feeling its cold, smooth lifelessness, and shuddered.
"Looking for someone?" a sharp, woman's voice echoed.
She-Ra searched for the source of the voice, coming upon a large chamber with many lit candles, and a white skinned woman standing with legs apart, her left hand grasping her golden sword's handle, the other hand gripping the opposite, sharp end of the sword.
"What have you done with Fisto?" She-Ra asked.
"Nothing," Lady Death replied, wiping her lips. "He came with me. He doesn't love you anymore. He loves me, now."
"That's a lie!" She-Ra cried.
"All right, I took him for my collection. But it's your head I'm really after. Don't you think it would look good mounted on my wall, your head?"
"I don't know who you are," she said, drawing her sword as she walked up to her, "but you are going to die."
"Oh, good," Lady Death replied with a devious grin. "It looks like you might be just the challenge I've been looking for!"
She-Ra ducked beneath Lady Death's air-splitting blade, returning with an attack of her own. Lady Death leaped back as the sword of She-Ra nearly grazed her stomach.
"You're very good!" Lady Death exclaimed.
She-Ra did not value her comment with a reply, but swung at her again, slicing through the candles behind where Lady Death once stood.

"Even better than I expected!" Lady Death said with relish. Both swords clashed then with a resounding echo, followed by another clash, and another, as each woman moved, seemingly matched in every way, in both speed and agility: slashing, thrusting, parrying, dodging, rolling, spinning on the back of their heels, flipping backwards. In either hand, or both hands, their swords changed from solid steel to arching blurs of deadly chrome, and golden fire rained when they collided. All the while, She-Ra was sweating and panting, exhausted from her lengthy quest. But Lady Death seemed to be enjoying herself.
Never had She-Ra met with such an adversary. It was as if Lady Death was her mirror opposite, moving with perfection to meet her at every point. Hence, She-Ra grew afraid, but persisted even more, pushing herself to her very limit. If I do not win this battle, she thought, I will die trying. I will die for Fisto.
She-Ra was now losing ground, as Lady Death fought her into an enclosed alcove. "No place left to go!" Lady Death declared, hacking at her head. But She-Ra was quick to dive out of the way, so that only a lock of her long, blonde hair was hewn.
"Thanks!" She-Ra remarked. "I needed the trim."
At last, the face of Lady Death donned some other emotion besides pleasure: rage, swinging once more, as She-Ra rolled out of the way and sprung to her feet with her back against the open chamber.
"This no longer fun!" She-Ra grunted, gashing Lady Death across her large, jutting, milk-white breasts, as the bloodied, tattered remains of her black, necrophilic bra fell to the floor. She-Ra skid across the ground on her hands and knees, then, cutting into Lady Death's thigh.
"You bitch!" Lady Death wailed, scarring She-Ra's left cheek, then thrusting downward.
She-Ra stumbled back, followed by a trail of blood spilling down her leg. The cut was deep. She could see her own femur poking through the skin. Lady Death had repaid her equally.
Both their swords were tainted with blood, now, and they paused to lower their arms and catch their breaths. Lady Death, all the while, stared into She-Ra's eyes, panting, as She-Ra, through cords of sweat drenched hair, stared back. Lady Death ran towards her, then, brandishing her golden blade, as She-Ra, who was more wounded, limped to meet her. As Lady Death brought her sword down, She-Ra slipped behind her, cleaving her right arm. Then, infuriated and in pain, Lady Death turned around, swinging her sword madly in a circle. The sword hit nothing but the wall, repelling her, giving She-Ra just enough time to deliver a near lethal blow.
Blood poured down Lady Death's neck, painting half her white, near naked body red. And through bloodied, clenched teeth, she laughed, holding her neck with her left hand. "You've got it all wrong!" she rasped, choking up more blood. "I'm supposed to kill you!" With that, She-Ra blocked her sword, taking the full blunt of it, stunning her for a mere second. Lady Death stepped in and stabbed her, then, as She-Ra screamed and fell to the floor in the fetal position, clutching her side.
"Yes!" Lady Death laughed, stepping over her. "You thought you'd killed me, didn't you?" She laughed again. "Well, Death doesn't die that easily! But I must say; I am pleased. I am very pleased! You've given me the fight of my life! You were definitely worth the effort to bring you here! Now let's see," she said, throwing down her sword. "Where did I put that chopping block? I want to get a clean cut of your head, my new prize possession, so that all Etheria will know that I, Lady Death, defeated the almighty She-Ra!"
"You . . .," She-Ra murmured, rocking.
"What?" Lady Death said, bending down. "What did you say?"
"You," she repeated, pushing herself up, her hair dangling to the floor. "Dropped your sword!" With that, She-Ra dragged her down by the hair, not letting go. Lady Death reached for her sword, bringing it up and around, but She-Ra caught her wrist, holding it back.
The two wrestled on the floor, then, She-Ra still clutching Lady Death by the hair and wrist. But She-Ra's strength was failing, and if she did not do something soon, she knew, Lady Death would triumph. And so, she yanked her by the hair once more, then leaped for her sword, as Lady Death brought her own sword, 'Death,' down crashing against the floor. When She- Ra turned back again, she pinned 'Death' under her knee, and as Lady Death struggled to free it, She-Ra whipped her sword around one last time.

Lady Death's body slumped, chest down, in a puddle of blood, as her head went rolling into the corner.

***

"Please," Fisto moaned, as footsteps grew louder, "no more!"
"Fisto," a soft voice intoned. "It's me."
He opened his eyes groggily, and Adora's face came into focus. "You . . .," he whispered. "Look like an angel."
"You're not dead, thank God!" she said, lifting her eyes up, then, severing his rope bonds. "But you look it." Indeed, Fisto's skin was pale as a corpse. "What did she do to you!?"
"She drank my blood, but not enough to kill me. If you hadn't come in two days, I would've been dried . . . and dead."
"That monster!" she jeered, creases of empathy marking her face.
"Help me up."
"Yes," she said, sitting on the side of the bed, leaning his massive torso against her.
"Where is Lady Death?"
"Dead."
"Are you all right!?" he cried, seeing her body for the first time, bloody, bruised, marred with welts, and caked with dry mud.
"Yes," she grunted, holding her wounded leg, "now that I've found you." She forced a smile.
"Oh, Adora," he sobbed, gently pushing back her headdress. She grasped his hand, rubbing it against her cheek. "There is something I must tell you . . ."
"What is it?" Her voice quivered.
"I've done a terrible terrible thing."
"What? What could you have done?"
"I . . . I have not been faithful to you."
"What!" she cried, jumping to her feet while suppressing the need to shout with pain. "You went with . . . with . . . why!?"
"She forced me!" he screamed, burying his face in his only hand.
Adora sat back alongside him, taking his hand away, to look into his eyes. "Did you ever say that you loved her?"
"No!" he cried. "Never! All I could do is think about you, how much this would break your heart. Damn that wench! Damn her to Hell!"
"You know," she said, sliding her hand up around his broad shoulder. "There was once a time . . .," she bit her lower lip, her eyes cast down, "something similar happened to me." Each syllable pained her. "But you looked past it."
"How can you not care?"
"I do care. It hurts me. But there was nothing you could do. I know how it feels, Fisto. But should it come between us? I still love you . . ."

The two embraced, and there on that bed they slept, holding one another. A shrine of death had become a shrine of love, a love so strong, that they were soon healed of their afflictions. And when they were ready to leave, She-Ra and Fisto gave all the human heads collected over the years, a proper burial, all but one.

***

Deep in the recesses of the Horde fortress, a lone soldier carried a brown, cardboard box, across the bridge to the throne of the Emperor.
"Your Highness," he addressed, falling to one knee. "A black horse with no rider came to the front gates. Tied to its saddle was this box. It may be a bomb; I did not check. I thought it might be personal . . ."

"It is not a bomb," Hordak replied.
"But Sire, how do you . . .?"
"It is not a bomb," he repeated, standing. "Leave it here and go about your duties."
"As you wish, your Highness."
Hordak opened the box and looked inside, pulling out, by the hair, the head of Lady Death. He paused, then burst out laughing. The guards remaining silent in the room, were quite taken aback by this, for he had not laughed for so long, so hard, in a long time. And he continued to laugh, dropping the head on the floor, as he exited the room though his secret exit.
Moments later, part of the wall opened up, and the strange creature with two heads, four arms, and sex legs came out. It walked over to Lady Death's head, picking it up, examining it. Then, one head turned to the other, speaking in its own weird tongue; "Who would throw away such a perfectly good head?"
"We don't know," said the other. "Hey, we can clone this . . ."
And so the two babbled on, walking with the head, back through the secret passage to their laboratory.