Author's Note: This story takes place after the events of "Year One: Prelude." It ties into "Preludes and Beginnings," "The Elfsong of Eternia," "The Crossroads of Destiny," "Prophecy & Change," "Just Another Day," "Liberty and Valor," "Manifest Destiny," "Roots," "The Final Adventure," "A Winter's Heart," and "The Shroud of the Horde." These characters don't belong to me.
HE-MAN: YEAR ONE
"Fear and Kidnapping"
Teela was impressed. As Adam extended his leg a second time, the foot connecting with the dummy. Teela leaned back against the railing. Outside, the early February snow was melting away. A light fog, typical of the season, hung in the chilled air. Soon, it would be time to move their exercises out to the courtyard.
"I have to say, Adam, I'm surprised by this," Teela said as their workout session ended. "I mean, who would have thought that you would go from uncaring to disciplined in just under two weeks."
Adam shrugged. "Guess the attack knocked some sense into me."
It was the truth. After his struggle against Skeletor and the knowledge that he would attack once more, Adam knew that he had to train himself. He needed to know more fighting maneuvers. His last battle was won, by his account, by sheer luck and by the skin of his teeth. To handle Skeletor and his cronies again, he would have to be more aware of what he was doing. That ultimately meant getting serious about training.
As Teela walked out of the training room, Adam toweled himself off. The door then opened and in walked Man-At-Arms, dressed in his usual uniform.
"I saw your training, Adam," Duncan told him. "A good job."
"Thanks, Man-At-Arms," Adam replied, dabbing the last bit of sweat off his forehead.
"Walk with me, will you? I think it's time you and I had a little talk."
Adam nodded and followed Duncan out of the training room. The pair walked along the corridors of the Palace and Adam's eyes occasionally shifted over to the windows looking out upon the city of Eternos. There had been rumors of He-Man and Skeletor's battle, but they were nothing substantial. In fact, King Randor seemed to be going out of his way to keep it all quiet. Adam had wondered why and when he asked his father, he was only told that it was for the good of the kingdom.
Duncan and Adam arrived at a high tower, which overlooked the city and the lands beyond – the forest to the east, the mountains in the southwest, the western plains, and the hills of the northland.
"What did you want to talk about, Duncan?"
"You're being too obvious, Adam."
"What do you mean?"
Duncan sighed and looked out the huge windows. "Your secret identity, Adam. While He-Man may just be a rumor right now, it will only be a matter of time before he becomes plain truth to the people. And pretty soon, people are going to start to notice that the once lazy prince is now chin deep in attack training. Go one step beyond that and word of your training will become known, but not the fact that that you aren't using it in battle."
"I . . . think I understand."
Duncan turned fully to him. "Do you? I wonder . . . my concern is that someone will start to put the pieces together. Someone will figure out that you've gone from lazy to workaholic. Someone may just notice that not only do they never see you use these new skills, but that He-Man seems to show up every time battle erupts – not you. That gives them information and to people like Skeletor, that information becomes valuable."
"Why can't anyone know my secret, Duncan?" asked Adam, feeling uncertain. He was starting to enjoy getting praise from Teela.
"Because they will strike at your weaknesses, Adam. Teela, Orko, Cringer, myself, your parents, your friends . . . all of them will become sudden targets. And while withdrawing yourself from them may just defuse that problem, it'll only make life harder on you."
Adam nodded. "Okay. I'll . . . pull back."
Duncan laid his hand on Adam's shoulder. "You're a smart kid, Adam, and I should tell you that I'm very proud of you. Despite the circumstances, your skills have improved. Combined with the power of He-Man, you should ready for Skeletor."
Adam sighed a little. "Yeah . . . I guess." The prince turned towards the window now, the misty fog growing a little thicker. "You know, you never really told me how you know all this."
Duncan's expression turned a little dark. "The Sorceress and I are old allies, Adam. But you must keep that a secret as well."
Adam dwelled on that, but decided that whatever Duncan was hiding, it was for Adam's own good not to know. Unfortunately, that was the same attitude he had to take when it came to him being He-Man.
Snake Mountain. In its long years of service, this mountain wrapped in a snake has held many of Eternia's greatest enemies to peace. King Hiss, the long vanished leader of the Snake-Men . . . both Hiss and the Snake-Men had met defeat at the hands of the Elders sometime during the Second Age. Then, Hordak and his Horde, the interstellar conquerors who were struck down only a little over a decade and a half ago.
And now, it's current resident, Skeletor and his Evil Warriors.
For the past two weeks, Skeletor mulled over the defeat of what he had hoped to be his greatest achievement – the taking of Castle Grayskull. It had haunted his every thought, his every dream, since his failure by the hands of that bumbling muscled oaf, He-Man.
It was on one day, on February 1st, that Skeletor figured out just how to enact his new plan. He had made many contacts since the end of his association with the Horde. One of which was an exile of the Spider Forest. He was not a bright Spider, really, but he was willing to submit to Skeletor's rule.
Today, as a storm roared around Snake Mountain, Skeletor assembled his Evil Warriors in the throne room. Beast-Man, Evil-Lynn, Tri-Klops, Trap-Jaw, and Mer-Man stood before their leader, curious as to what he was planning.
"What is it?" asked Evil-Lynn impatiently. She had been concocting a new formula when Skeletor had bellowed.
"We have a new guest here at Snake Mountain. An ally to join our crusade against Eternos," Skeletor announced.
"We're not good enough for you anymore?" asked Tri-Klops joked.
"I did not ask for a witty reply, Tri-Klops, and if I did, I surely would not ask it from you," Skeletor sneered.
Tri-Klops slumped back in his chair.
"As I was saying, we have a new member to our Evil Warriors – Webstor!"
Emerging from the shadows came Webstor, the exiled Spider. He was all blue, covered in a thick exo-skeleton. His eyes were red and he had a crest on the top of his head. He wore a deep blue harness, the front of were two crossed orange ovals.
"Good evening," Webstor greeted.
"It's morning," Mer-Man corrected.
Skeletor leaned back in his chair. "We have a mission for you, Webstor. Your first. Consider it . . . an initiation into our group."
Webstor smiled. "And what would that be?"
"Oh, come on, Adam!"
Adam internally groaned. He and Teela were once more in the training room, now the next day. Outside, the sun was trying to break through the clouds, attempting to melt the remaining snow piles that refused to disappear.
At the unfortunate advice of Man-At-Arms, Adam was purposely letting himself screw up.
"What is with you?" Teela asked a little too harshly.
"I . . . I guess I'm just off my game today," Adam sighed.
"Yeah, no kidding," Teela replied. "All right, that's it for today."
Adam nodded in compliance. "Sorry," he attempted.
"Sorry doesn't cover it."
At that moment, the glass next to them exploded. Shards of it scattered throughout the training room. Adam and Teela were tossed back, but when they stood up, Teela was standing right before Adam, staff out.
"Ah, just who I was looking for," came a voice from the shattered window. Webstor appeared, smiling and looking over the two youths like they were prey.
And to Webstor, they were.
He jumped at them, webs firing out, wrapping the pair up instantly. Teela and Adam both struggled against the binds as Webstor drew them closer. Adam realized, then, with intense frustration, that he had left his Power Sword in his bedchamber . . .
Webstor, with the bound Adam and Teela on his back, made from the window. At that moment, however, the doors flew open. Man-At-Arms rushed in, followed by a few Royal Guards. Webstor said nothing and merely jumped out the window, Adam and Teela in tow.
"Follow him! Lock down the city!" roared Man-At-Arms.
"How did he escape?" demanded King Randor an hour later.
"The sewers from what we can tell," Man-At-Arms replied. "They were not as secured as we believed them to be."
Randor rubbed the chin of his beard. "We never planned for an attack like that." Randor glanced to Marlena next to him. Her eyes were on the balcony, but he knew her mind was in the past. They had almost lost Adam before and it may just happen again . . .
"Advice?" asked Randor.
"If it was Skeletor, as I suspect it was, it was probably done to ransom us," Man-At-Arms returned. "I don't see what it would be other than that. And if it is the case, then the kids may be all right." He suddenly wondered how much of what he just said was pure, blind hope.
At that moment, the doors to the throne room were thrown wide open. In bounded Cringer and Orko. Orko held in his hand an envelope.
"Man-At-Arms! King Randor!" Orko exclaimed.
"We found this letter at the door to the Palace!" Cringer exclaimed.
Man-At-Arms snatched it out from Orko's hand and ripped it open. Inside was a note.
'Have He-Man come to Snake Mountain to lay the Sword of Power at my feet and the brats will be released. – Skeletor'
"There's our ransom note," Man-At-Arms stated.
"Do you know how to contact He-Man?" asked Queen Marlena.
"I . . . yes," he lied.
"Then do so," Randor said. "In the meantime, I'll reach Moss Man, Stratos, and Buzz-Off. Hopefully, they'll be able to assist."
"We need to play this carefully, your highness," Man-At-Arms advised.
"Agreed, but how?" Marlena questioned.
Randor rubbed his beard again. "Quiet attack, I think. We get He-Man in there and distract Skeletor. Have Moss Man, Man-At-Arms, and Mekaneck provide back-up for him. Meanwhile, Stratos and Buzz-Off rescue the kids."
"Sounds like a good plan, then," Man-At-Arms added. But just how in the world am I going to get He-Man in there?
Adam awoke, blue eyes focusing in on the form before him. Teela, arms on her knees, hair undone, looked cautiously in the opposite direction.
"Teela? What is . . .?" he trailed off when looked beyond the iron bars. They were in a case, suspended in the air. Teela was staring at the mouth of a massive snake statue. Adam moved to the edge of the cage and looked down. They were hundreds of feet off the ground, the cage held in place by a chain that attached to a bar from the top of the snake head.
"You better hope He-Man shows up," came a frightful voice. The pair watched as Skeletor appeared at the edge of the wide-open mouth. "Because until he does, you two brats are going to be my prisoners."
Skeletor sent an invisible telekinetic shove against the cage, rocking it back and forth. Both Adam and Teela held onto the bars as it swung far above the charred ground. Skeletor laughed mercilessly at the sight.
He then walked off, leaving both Adam and Teela helpless in the cage.
"What now?" asked Adam.
"We just wait, I guess." She dropped her head. "I can't believe this, Adam. I can't believe I let them take us! I'm supposed to be your body guard!"
Adam squeezed her hand. It had been a long time since he had done so. Funny, such a simple thing, but at the same time, such a big deal.
"Hey now," he said to her, "you did fine. Now you'll know how to handle this Webstor guy next time he shows up."
Teela offered him a half-hearted smile. "Thanks."
Now, just how am I going to get outta this? Adam then thought
Back at Eternos, the Talon Fighter was being loaded up. However, as Mekaneck prepared for launch, Man-At-Arms heard a voice in his mind. It was the Sorceress, telling him of a new plan. One that would allow for a smooth rescue of Adam and Teela, as well as handle Skeletor.
"There's been a change," Man-At-Arms said suddenly, the spires of Eternos flying by as the Talon Fighter increased speed.
"What do you mean?" asked Moss Man from behind.
"I'll tell you on the way."
"Still no sign of him," Skeletor snarled.
"This is turning into a bit of a bust," Tri-Klops snapped.
"QUIET!" roared Skeletor. "He-Man will show up. I will be surprised if he doesn't." Skeletor looked to Evil-Lynn, who was studying a monitor nearby. "What is it?"
"A Talon Fighter. It may be He-Man, it may not be," she answered. "Looks like they're coming in for a landing, whatever the case maybe."
Skeletor pointed to the door. "Then meet him head on!"
The Evil Warriors ran out of the monitor room down a number descending corridors and then reached the base of Snake Mountain. Once there, they busted from the door, weapons drawn and powers ready. However, as soon as they arrived, a small series of explosions welcomed them.
"Hey!" grumbled Beast-Man. "You guys ain't He-Man!"
"Thanks for noticing," Man-At-Arms replied, aiming his laser even Beast-Man.
"Who are these guys?" asked Webstor, still feeling a bit like the newbie.
"The best Eternos could send," Moss Man retorted, sending huge vines their way. The Evil Warriors, went to work, striking and slashing each one that came towards them. However, Man-At-Arms and Mekaneck kept busy, blasting back the Evil Warriors as they came through, giving Moss Man the time he needed to grow more vines.
And give Stratos and Buzz-Off time, too . . .
High above the battle, Stratos arrived at the cage. Just as he was about slice open the lock, a dozen Hover Robots came flying out. He blasted two, but the other ten went swarming towards. However, they didn't get too far. Huge spears came flying down from above, slicing through three of them.
Buzz-Off came flying over, a packet of spears on his waist. That, along with his axe, did the Hover Robots in.
"Come on," Stratos said, pulling Teela onto him.
Buzz-Off soon joined him and grabbed hold of Adam. "Let's go, kids," Buzz-Off added.
"Thanks," Adam replied, as they were carried to the ground. Hover Robots were following fast.
As soon as the four of them were on the ground, Stratos and Buzz-Off turned around and were in the air again, heading right into the small flying army.
Prince Adam! came a telepathic voice.
Adam spun around and saw a falcon on a nearby rock. The voice was that of the Sorceress and she was in her falcon form of Zoar, the only way she could leave Castle Grayskull.
You must make it seem as though you are scared of the battle! He-Man is needed! It will show Skeletor that He-Man is indeed his enemy and you will be able to aide Man-At-Arms! she said to him. Follow me! I brought the Sword of Power!
Zoar was in the air, moving down a slope. Adam sprinted after her.
"ADAM! WAIT!" shouted Teela. "ADAM!"
"He's just getting safety, Teela!" Man-At-Arms yelled, shifting over to her position, the Evil Warriors overcoming them.
Teela shook her head and was handed a weapon. As she fired, she could almost feel her respect for Adam dwindling again. That big turnaround he had made in his training, all gone when the time came to use it.
"ENOUGH OF THIS!" roared Skeletor then, rushing to the front of the lines. "WHERE IS HE-MAN?"
"Right here!" He-Man suddenly shouted.
Teela watched as He-Man went into action. She found herself admiring the way he managed to deflect Skeletor's energy beam right in the nick of time. Teela loved the way he leapt right into action, but seemed to also fight in a way that prevented Skeletor from being killed by his attack.
"Get him!" Skeletor yelled, sweeping back.
At that moment, the Evil Warriors were in motion. But as they moved forward, He-Man's allies moved in, attacking full throttle against their enemies.
"I'll take care of He-Man, master!" Webstor volunteered. He-Man smiled. As soon as Webstor unleashed a batch of webbing, He-Man jumped up.
The webbing slammed into Skeletor, sticking him to a huge boulder. "YOU NO GOOD IDIOT!" cursed Skeletor, struggled against the webbing.
"Um, sorry," Webstor managed. He said no more, however, as He-Man's fist collided with his face. He fell.
Huge bamboo stick tore from the ground, then, separating the Evil Warriors from the allies of Eternos.
"Let's move it," Man-At-Arms commanded, heading over to the Talon Fighter.
"What about Adam?" asked Teela.
Man-At-Arms looked to He-Man as he started up the Talon Fighter "Um, well," He-Man started, "I flew a Talon Fighter here and had Adam fly it back for me."
Teela perked an eyebrow. "Since when does Adam know how to fly a Talon Fighter?"
"Uh, um, you see, Teela, I've . . . well, that is . . . I've been teaching him!"
"Yeah. Adam and I are pretty close."
A few hours later, back at the Palace, Adam was back to his regular form. He sat in the courtyard, the snow gone for the day. Orko was busy showing him a new trick when Teela showed up.
"Adam!" she yelped.
"Uh, ah, hey Teela . . ."
"I can't believe you!" she shouted, frustration in his voice. "I can't believe the way you just ran off like that!"
"I'm sorry, Teela. I guess I just got scared."
"Scared? Scared? You don't think I was scared, too? Ancients, Adam, you don 't know how much it hurts me to know that after all the improvements you've made in your training, that you locked up, gave in, and RAN AWAY in the middle of battle!"
"I'm sorry," he said again.
"Good, I'm glad,"
Adam started to say something else. "I . . ."
"What? You what?"
"Nothing," he lied, hoping his eyes would cover the truth.
She sterned up. "Fine. Training starts tomorrow. You know the time. Maybe you'll actually learn something this time around."
Teela walked off. Orko scratched his hat in confusion. Adam felt awful, but knew that he would probably have to feel like this again soon.