Disclaimer: The characters of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe do not belong to me; I believe they belong to Mattel. The character backstories (ie. Marlena's origins and Adora's abduction) are also the property of Mattel. I am receiving no money from this work.
A Mother's Memory
Traditions and Realizations
She was attempting to brush her hair. The wooden brush lay on the vanity, and she'd started to pick it up several times, unsuccessfully. The third time this happened, she stared at her hand in consternation. It looked like the same hand that had navigated a NASA shuttle through two galaxies, a wormhole, and a meteor shower; yet she couldn't make it perform the simple task of grasping a hairbrush.
She closed her eyes, inhaled, exhaled, and opened them again, this time focusing on her reflection. She felt older, and found it odd that her appearance did not mirror this. Her hair was still the same fiery red, her eyes the same intense shade of green. She was, by all appearances, the same woman she'd been three months ago.
Emotionally, however, everything was different. She could change that, though. On the thought, she gazed down at the hairbrush again and sighed. Then she picked it up; but instead of running it through her hair, she turned it around and inspected the back. Embossed in gold script were the letters "HRH"- Her Royal Highness. The brush was an antique, having been passed down from royal mother to royal daughter for almost two hundred years.
She'd first seen the markings the morning after her wedding; and since she'd been crowned Queen of Eternia a mere twelve hours before, the brush and the generations of queens it symbolized had been almost as daunting as the gold crown they'd placed on her head only a half-day ago.
A year later, when it was discovered that one of the twins she carried would be a girl, the brush and the bond it represented had brought tears to her eyes. She'd begun to daydream about the day she would present the item to her own daughter.
That was, of course, one of the memories that would cease to exist if she actually went through with her plan.
She ran the brush through her shoulder-length hair in slow strokes, the soft bristles gently caressing her scalp, but she was only vaguely aware of the pleasant sensation. Her mind was on other matters.
She remembered how delighted she'd been when the royal physician had uttered those three precious syllables: You're pregnant. Embedded in her psyche was the way her husband had laughed and cried and spun her around the room upon hearing the news.
To say she'd loved every moment of her pregnancy would be a slight exaggeration. Two months of morning sickness had certainly not been pleasant, and she'd sometimes been dismayed by the changing shape of her body; but for every unpleasant instance, there were a dozen realizations of profound joy.
She was a scientist, so of course she'd known for a long time where babies came from- but only in the technical sense. The technicality of pregnancy had, however, ceased to exist one night in the beginning of her second trimester, in the days before they'd known there would be two babies. She and her husband were stargazing in the palace gardens. There was a cluster that she couldn't see from where she stood, so she stepped back to where her husband was and leaned into him so that her back was against his chest. He wrapped strong arms around her and allowed his large hands to rest on her swollen belly. She looked down at the hands of her husband- the hands that had lifted her from the wreckage of her spacecraft; the hands that had cupped her face during their first kiss, and stroked her hair, and pulled her closer; the hands that had welcomed her, reassured her, and brought her both emotional and physical pleasure.
And then she looked at where those hands lay, and imagined the life that was nestled safely there. And any remnants of objectivity regarding this pregnancy ceased to exist. She began to weep quietly as the full meaning of her present condition made itself known. They had created a whole new life- their love for one another had created a whole other person.
"Are you alright?" her husband asked, alarmed by her tears.
She turned into his embrace and gazed up into his face.
"We created this," she whispered, and lay her hands on top of his.
Making, Breaking, and Making Vows
Marlena Glenn had once been proud of her emotional indifference. She'd never been a cold or uncaring person, and she was passionate about her career and the advancement of knowledge. She had, however, learned to hold her emotions in regards to other people firmly in check. She'd learned the hard way that to trust someone with her feelings and desires was to make herself vulnerable. She'd only ever had romantic feelings for one person, but the man involved had used his relationship with Marlena to advance his own career within the space program. He'd then made it perfectly- and painfully- clear that the affection he'd shown his colleague had been a cruel farce.
After that, the only people allowed entrance into the psyche of Marlena Glenn were her parents and two childhood friends. She felt she'd learned an important lesson, and vowed to never again make herself emotionally vulnerable. This vow sometimes made for a lonely existence: no boyfriends, no romantic evenings, and no deep and meaningful relationships beyond those she'd had before the betrayal. Yet she filled the void, working hard to show her colleagues how deeply committed she was to seeing her dream of space exploration realized. So successful was she in her endeavors that the next mission was hers…and the next…and then, two years later, the mission that would alter the course of her life.
She'd never expected to fall in love again; and she'd certainly never imagined that the person who would inspire these feelings would be the reigning monarch of an alien planet. But it was only days after her arrival on Eternia that she began to experience a stirring whenever her regal rescuer was near. She tried to quell these feelings by reminding herself of the logical impossibilities of a relationship with King Randor of Eternia.
"He's an alien," Marlena told herself whenever the romantic feelings threatened to surface, "He is the alien king of an entirely different planet. The two of you are literally from two different worlds."
When this brand of logic failed to work, she tried a different approach.
"Why would he want you? There are hundreds of women for him to choose as a potential mate- hundreds of women from his own planet. Why would he even contemplate a relationship with a woman from a whole other galaxy?"
Resistance was futile, however. She didn't need Duncan, the king's man-at-arms, to tell her that returning to earth would be virtually impossible, and as the days and weeks passed, she found herself growing increasingly fond of her new home. She yearned to see and learn more about the planet, and King Randor proved to be a willing guide. They began spending a great deal of time together, much of it alone. She quickly- and unwittingly- drew the ire of Eternia's available princesses. They saw her as competition, though she couldn't imagine why. Even if she had been from Eternia, Marlena certainly was not of noble birth. That logic, however, was thrown completely out the window the day Randor kissed her. She kissed him back, and as they returned to the palace, holding hands, Marlena Glenn understood that she had just embarked on a new passage of her life.
Slowly, cautiously, Marlena allowed herself to love again. As the romance between the earth astronaut and the eternian monarch blossomed, she knew that she was opening herself up for heartache- more so now than ever, because her passion for Randor exceeded anything she'd ever felt before. Yet she also knew that she was bestowing her feelings upon a person who would never intentionally harm her. She began to understand that in the midst of this romance, Randor was just as vulnerable; and she knew that was the difference between him and the man who had almost destroyed her.
On a spring day five months after her crash, standing in front of alien dignitaries and firmly grasping the hands of their king, Marlena exchanged her vow of loneliness for one of love. Despite her earlier misgivings, she knew that her feet were firmly planted on the path of her destiny. She'd opened herself to love, and had found it, and felt that she could never again be hurt.
Devastation and Decision
She hurt now, though. The pain of her daughter's abduction threatened to consume her. The memories of the event refused to leave, invading her days and nights. She had only to close her eyes for the scene to play itself out yet again: the slumber of the innocent infants interrupted by the felling of the door, the babies' cries at the sounds of invasion, the large metal cradle hitting the floor as she tried to shield her children, her own screams and pleas as Skeletor pried her fingers away from the wailing twins, the laughter of the hideous Hordak as he disappeared with her newborn daughter.
The grief and sympathy of the kingdom's citizens did nothing to ease Marlena's pain. If anything, the pity with which she and her husband were regarded made their own heartache almost unbearable. The Sorceress of Grayskull, in an attempt to ease the suffering of both the eternians and their monarchs, erased any memory of a second child from the minds of all save Randor, Marlena, and Duncan. Marlena had told herself that the bewitchment was for the best, and she still believed that. The people she had come to love were able to move on with their lives, blissful in their spell-induced amnesia.
Yet it seemed as if Marlena was unable to break free of her grief. She adored her son, Adam, but looking at him in his cradle reminded her of the baby girl who should have been slumbering beside him. The sight of the items she'd lovingly made or procured for a little girl- the lace gown, the pink blanket, the soft doll- threatened to overwhelm the grieving mother. She worried sometimes that the memories of her daughter would hinder her ability to care for her son- and she envied the general populace their ignorance of the abduction.
Three days ago, this envy had spurred her to action. She'd begged out of a meeting, then gone to Castle Grayskull to seek an audience with the Sorceress. The request she'd uttered, although weeks in the making, had still shocked Marlena. The Sorceress, however, had seemed unfazed, as if she'd been expecting this.
"What you are asking," she murmured gently in the cavernous hall, "is, as you well know, within my power to give."
Marlena, who had known that, nonetheless began shaking.
"But I am not sure you know what the full consequences would be should I fulfill your request," the woman continued, "or the effect this decision will have on the people you love. Have you considered these things?"
"It hurts so much," Marlena whispered, "I only want the pain to go away."
"I know you do," the Sorceress murmured, "and I've seen what this pain has done to you."
"Everything reminds me of that which I want to forget," the queen whispered as the tears began to fall, "I'm afraid I can't be a good mother to my son, or a good wife to my husband, as long as I'm plagued by these memories."
"Do you understand that you would forget every event related to you daughter," the Sorceress asked, "The abduction would be erased from your memory, but so would Adora's birth, her first breath, her first tears…"
She trailed off, and a long moment passed before she spoke again, her voice intense:
"You would forget everything about her, Queen Marlena. There would only be Adam; Adora would cease to exist for you..."
"Adora would cease to exist…" Marlena repeated now.
Her eyes had been closed for a long time, and she opened them slowly. She was still holding the brush in her hand. She placed it back on the vanity and sighed.
She'd known when she woke up this morning that today was the day she'd make her decision to either go to Castle Grayskull and forget, or stay in the palace and remember. The Sorceress had gently commanded that Marlena take a few days to think about the request she'd made.
For three days the words of the Sorceress had played over and over again in her mind, accompanied by the other memories she had of her daughter. She remembered the moment her daughter entered the world, drawing breath and crying immediately, as if she'd anxiously awaited the moment of her birth. Marlena remembered how beautiful that piercing cry had sounded to her ears, and how the child had stopped crying as soon as she was in the arms of her mother. She remembered rocking Adora to sleep on that first night, and the way the newborn had stared intently into Marlena's face- as if trying to memorize it- before finally succumbing to slumber.
She thought about the night before her daughter's abduction. Chaos loomed just outside the city walls, but Randor had found time to visit Marlena and their children. The Eternian army was practically guaranteed victory, and the mood between husband and wife had been light and joyous. That night, before retiring to bed, the couple spent a silent hour watching their children sleep. Marlena remembered how she'd leaned against her husband, and how the beating of his heart had seemed to be in perfect harmony with the infants' breathing. She'd concentrated on these life-sounds and had imagined, for a little while, that the entire world was at peace.
Marlena thought about her husband and remembered that she was not the only one reeling from the loss of their child. They talked about it, sometimes, but mostly drew comfort from each other's presence. Their grief, like their breaths and the beating of their hearts, existed in perfect rhythm. What would it be like for Randor if Marlena went to Grayskull this day? He would be the only one of Adora's parents who remembered her. How would he handle his grief? He could confide in Duncan, who remembered both the princess and her abduction, but Duncan was not Adora's parent. He could never completely empathize with Randor's grief- only Marlena could do that.
She thought of these things, and many others, for a long time; images flashed behind her closed eyes, and the normal palace din was overpowered by the ghost sounds vibrating in her brain. The sun was much lower in the sky when Queen Marlena finally made her decision. She opened her eyes, rose from her chair, and walked out of the room.
Later that night, King Randor found his wife standing at the foot of their son's cradle. He slipped quietly into the room and wrapped his arms around her waist. She looked up at him briefly and smiled before laying her head against his chest. He stroked her hair and listened to the breaths of his small family.
They stayed that way for a long time, and the room was almost completely dark when Randor broke the silence.
"I'll never forget the last time we stood here like this," he said.
There was a silence the length of several breaths before Marlena whispered,
"Neither will I."