Chapter Fifteen

Skeletor was not stupid. No matter what others thought of his leadership abilities, power's, or arrogance, none ever questioned that he was indeed intelligent. It was this intelligence that allowed him to bring together a force that consisted of the most powerful warriors on the planet, and keep them under his control. True, his plans were often flawed because of a rash act, his own pride, or some other event, but when those things were removed, often his plans where almost perfect.

All that aside, Skeletor had been expecting a counter-attack, and was ready for it. What he was not ready for was the full fury of the Sorceress unleashed upon him. He had fought every Master a dozen times over, a dragon once, and a few other oddities that deserved mention, but never the Sorceress of Greyskull herself. It was this new factor that he forgot, and what allowed her red bolts of energy to shatter his shield and cast him down into the black abyss that yawned beneath him.

A split-second later, Teela's blade clanged against Lyn's staff, only to bring her right knee directly into her gut as Lyn tried to recover her balance from the aerial attack. Doubled over as she was, Lyn had little chance of surviving the next strike, thus was released a purple-pink dome of energy that drove back both Trike and Teela.

Back-springing from the assault, Teela had no trouble avoiding the hit, but it still forced her off the edge of the walkway that hung suspended over the pit. In an instant however, a thin blue square of light shot up from the black pit, and the second her feet touched down she once more leapt for Lyn. As sparks shot from each impact, Teela's sword twirling and almost whistling at the speed it moved through the air at, and Lyn's crystal topped staff met her blade at every angle, they fought.

While Skeletor and the Sorceress dueled, and Lyn fought Teela, Trike had brought his yellow lens right on the Sorceress's lithe form. The tight beam tore the air as it raced for her back, only to be deflected by Adora's own blade. A large grin adorned her features, and as she faced him down, her image reflected in his visor, she said cheekily "Hey bastard, having a good time so far?"

Bitch Trike thought as he raced for Adora, his blade low and right, his visor open and tracking every move she made. Mocking me in the middle of combat will do nothing to improve your chances of survival. Trike knew (or so he thought) that Adora had only basic combat training, and no real experience. Of course he didn't know that she had been training for almost nine years, and killed one of the more powerful warriors in recent years.

Slashing and stabbing, leaping and blasting, spells and beams, blood and hair, all shot around the room as the six fighters tore into one another with a fervor of life-long enemies. The usually quiet halls, often filled with only the humming of power or the Sorceress soft voice tilting in a melody, now carried another tune. Clangs of metal, thunder and flame, cries of pain and hate filled the corridors as the shouts carried down the numerous halls.

But these did not to justice to the battle that waged in the very heart of Greyskull at that moment. Trike and Lyn stood back to back as they fought off the duo that circled them. Teela herself was bruised on her left cheek, Lyn's fist having been stronger then she remembered, and the thin burn line right across her back attested to Lyn's aim. Lyn herself look little better, a long gash on her left arm steadily letting blood flow, and the torn cloth on her midriff told of her own reflexes.

Trike and Adora carried only a matching cut across the right and left sides of their faces, a point that neither conceded. Trike frowned as he leaped for Adora, his blade flashing down in a blur, striking Adora's with a force that drove her back a few inches, only to gasp in pain as he brought his helm right down onto her forehead.

Stumbling backwards, Adora once more stepped off the edge, only to have another platform appear beneath her feet. Still going back, another one grew, and another, while the other two vanished. Surprised, Trike simply opened fire with his optic attacks, forcing Adora back. What's she saying? He thought, moments before she flung her left hand at him, and a wave of ice shards barreled for him. She's a Mage! This realization struck him around the same time that the shards did, slicing through his armor and opening wounds all across his face, chest, arms and legs.

Spent from the quick casting, Adora fell to one knee, chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. Damn, creating ice from the air's moisture was a lot harder then I thought it would be! Standing, she saw Trike slowly trying to regain his feet, but finding that hard as the shards lay buried in him. With a quick glance around, she quickly moved to aid Teela, hoping the Sorceress could hold on just a little longer.

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Evil-Lyn and Teela had been enemies for as long as anyone could remember. It really didn't have anything to do with the fact that they were on different sides of a war. No one else knew it, but Teela had apparently done something unforgivable to Lyn. Nighter spoke of it, EVER, but it remained in the forefront of their minds every time that they fought.

After all, getting lost in a two-hundred fifty foot square hedge maze for three hours would leave a bit of a sting to your pride.

Especially when you can fly. Or teleport. Or burn the entire place to the ground. Or any other number of things.

The fact that Teela was the one who lured Lyn in there in the first place, that might have something to do with it too.

It was a moot point in any case, for once Adora joined against Lyn, she went down quickly. A flurry of blows rained down, forcing Lyn back and forth as she desperately strove to find a gap in their teamwork. With a quick uppercut from Teela, it was over, and Skeletor was the last one standing. But as the two girls looked on, they saw that it was a battle beyond them.

Skeletor and Teelina traded blow for blow, Teelina's hundreds of years of combat experience and wiles making her an even match for Skeletor's brute power. Her power was eclipsed by his, no one doubted that, but the Sorceress had been fighting battles before Skeletor's grandfather had been born. With a roar Skeletor twirled his staff in circles, moving from one side to the other, rings of golden eldritch energy rocketing forward with each completed rotation.

Spinning and twisting in the air like the hawk whose image she had claimed, it was more of a dance, the way she evaded the attacks, frustrating Skeletor to new heights as she made his routine look like child's play. Her lips compressed to a thin line of taunt determination as she whipped her own falcon topped staff at him, releasing a thick red arc of magic at his blue body, only to strike air as he back-flipped out of the way easily.

Crossing the staff across her chest, a red ball grew from nothingness before it's center, solidifying and compressing before launching towards him, the air twisting around it was it sped forward. With a blast that resonated throughout the chamber, the ball struck him square in the chest, scorching and burning. The impact sent Skeletor flying back, landing hard on his shoulders and rolling several more feet before at last stopping. As the smoke drifted away Teelina landed with a soft brush of her wings across the blue squares under her, regarding the massive frame before her.

His laughter broke the stillness of the chamber, its eerie waves booming about, drifting deep into the vastness of the abyss, and returning with a coldness that penetrated all three of the Masters, rendering them helpless before the fear that drove into their minds and hearts.

Standing tall once more, Skeletor reached to his belt and slowly drew the Power sword, the gasp of horror from the Sorceress music to his ears.

"Stop him!" Teelina cried, the staff again before her horizontally, energy gathering in a swirl in the center. Sweat dripped down her face as she forced more and more into the attack, precious seconds ticking by as he raised the sword overhead, Teela and Adora racing for him, blades ready to carve chunks from his blue flesh.

Skeletor raised the blade high above his head, and golden energy twined around the blade, and the Sorceress's scream was lost in the flash of blinding white light that shot from the ceiling like a bolt of lightning. His laughter only grew as the girls braced themselves from the swirling winds and flung debris. As the dust set, Skeletor stood there in his new-found glory. His muscles looked harder, thicker, and his x-shaped belts had been replaced by what seemed to be metal bands with the same symbol on the blade. The blade itself had become a darker metal, almost black in color, but with a golden light covering the edges.

With an ease that belied it's heavy weight, Skeletor swished the blade several times, getting a feel for it. Looking at the three arrayed against him, and at his own downed comrades, he smiled. "At long last," He crowed, the power rushing through his veins. "The power of Greyskull is MINE!!" With that, he swept the blade at then, unleashing a wave that towered over then, ripping its way across the ground as it engulfed them. Their cries where drowned out as they fell to the attack, clothes charred and skin burnt.

Wiping away the sweat and hair that broke out on her sunburnt skin, Teela regarded Skeletor. Even I can feel the increase in his power, and I'm not even a Mage! Her eyes narrowed, and her grimaced as she stood, facing Skeletor down without fear. If this keeps going, we're not gonna win. It never crossed her mind that Skeletor had no interest in her anymore. It was Teelina's trembling form that drew his gaze. Following it, Teela was startled to see the Sorceress on the ground, sweating bullets, gasping for breath.

Tearing her eyes away, Teela focused on her enemy again while Adora helped the Sorceress. "Adora," Teela said "What's wrong with her?"

It was Teelina who answered, shuddering and choking the whole time. "He has...forced open the channels of power...between the blade and Greyskull...drawing its power from both the castle...and myself." With that, she fell back, desperately trying to remain conscious.

"Teela," Adora softly spoke "If what she says is true," She looked at Teela, eyes wide and fear filled "Right now, Skeletor is commanding all of the power that Greyskull held."

Anger and hate filled Teela's voice as she still stared down Skeletor's bottomless eyes. "So what? We just run and leave her here to his oh so tender mercy?! Hell no, I say we kick his ass!"

Skeletor, who had been basking in his new power, had been enjoying watching them struggle, but now he simply laughed and said "Oh yes child, your going to beat me now, when I have at my command," His voice dropped to the frigid levels as he continued. "Power beyond your comprehension."

With that, he struck.

Hands braced to his sides, the sword and staff sheathed, he raised them to above his shoulders, and as he did a deep rumbling grew about the room, and with a quick jerk inwards he ripped pieces of the white pillars and flung them right at the trio.

Gasps came from the girls, but only Adora's quick shielding spell saved them, the effort clearly showing on her face as her teeth were grit in determination, holding back the razor shards that pummeled the ground around them, the sound of breaking glass sounding with each impact. At last the shower ended, and the blue dome broke apart with a soft boom. Adora would have fallen had she already not been on her knees. "Teela," She croaked out "We have got to get out of here!"

Teela recovered from the attack, and still stood before the others. "I know, but how do you plan to do that? He's blocking the only path!"

"No." Both looked down at Teelina, who was just barely conscious. "I can get us out of here." A moment later, all three were engulfed in a white light, and instantly transported to the upper chamber. Once they had arrived, Teelina spoke. "We don't have much time, and there is much you two must know." Sitting her up against the steps, she waved her hand, and the sound of multiple doors slamming shut resonated throughout the castle. "There, that should buy us a few more moments." Taking a deep breath, she began "Right now, Skeletor controls all the power that Greyskull once housed, but his is not the correct relationship. He is forcing the power to obey him, and it is his only because he posses's the blade. Remove that, and the power leaves him."

"Yeah, easier said then done." Teela quipped

"Indeed." Teelina replied. "At this moment, he is beyond any of us, and I am only a hindrance. Most of my power also came form Greyskull, and thus I am almost powerless. Soon I will be forced to go into hibernation or die. This place has a chamber used for an emergency, but I must tell you this." she stopped and recovered her breath. "There is another blade akin to the Power sword. It is on another continent by the name of Etheria, possessed by a group known as the Horde. They reside in a country controlled by Hordak, a tyrannical leader, and the General of Horde Prime, a powerful intergalactic organization. You must find the Rebels, for they will be able to aid you in retrieving the blade." Struggling for one last burst of strength, she continued. "Find Talon, for he will be of great aid to you in your quest. Be not afraid of his past or of him, for he carries a greater burden then you or I could ever hope to understand."

With that, she vanished as her body disintegrated into millions of white light particles that dispersed into the air.

Silence hung in the air for a second, the Teela spoke "You know, I really, really hate cryptic statements like that."

Adora stood, and while she was tired, burnt, and almost out of energy, she still got up. "Agreed." She said, mirth infecting her voice. "Now, lets get the hell outta here."

It was right about then that they noticed that the massive doors were still shut.

"Shit." They echoed.

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Talon had left early in the morning, around three. It was a cold night, his breath coming out in large blasts of steam, the bright stars shining against the black velvet of the night sky. The quiet serenity of the early morning was calming to his tired body and soul, lessening the burdens that had been placed on his shoulders since before his birth.

It was with a heavy heart that he had left, a guilt placing itself in chest that refused to leave, no matter how he tried to rationalize it. "Come on!" He argued "If they had continued with me, most likely they would have ended up dead. ...Scratch that, they WOULD have died." This went on for a long time, as the first mile passed beneath his feet.

As the sun peeked over the horizon, its rays warming his body and the lush land around, he heard the world awakening for the new day. The small chirping of the birds sounded across the air, and soft growls stirred the dust as badgers an moles moved into the light, eager to absorb the warmth offered by the sun. It was only a few steps later that Talon felt the brush of Cassie against the barriers of his mind, and with only a moment's hesitation he let her through.

"TALON YOU JACKASS!!!" Her raging thoughts blasted apart the peace that he had garnered, and shattered his concentration. "OW!! Cassie, what's the pro..."

"I'll tell you what the problem is you ungrateful moron! Those two could have been your first real friends in almost three-hundred years! And you go and leave them alone?!"

Rage leaked into his thoughts, echos of long ago battles flickering before his eyes. "You know that I had to leave them, if I didn't they..."

"Oh please!" Cassie shot back, anger tinting her own words. "Your not that stupid, so stop acting like that. You have the experience of more battles then anyone in existence, and you know Nosama better then anyone else! Do you really think he's not going to attack and kill those two when the possibility of you telling his secrets exists? No! He will kill anyone you've been around, thinking that he's saving them from eternal damnation!" Her tone softened considerably, but she still drove the point home. "Go back Talon. You know that I'm right."

"I cannot." He responded, guilt and pain falling on him once again. "I'll just fail again, just like last time. If that happens...I wont survive. Please, just let it go."

"NO." She shot back, stubborn as he, and twice as mean. "If you leave now, and later find out that they died, you'll blame yourself for another thousand years. Think on this Talon: If you go back and save them, what could happen? Happiness, friendship? If you leave, then it's the same as being back in that prison. Cold, alone, the same routine day after day until the End Times. Always running, always fighting, never a moments peace or rest. You know I'm right. Now, the choice is yours."

"Just as it always was."

With that, Cassie left his mind, taking with it the shallow calm that he had made, freeing himself from thinking of the possible futures. "If I went back, they could die. If I leave, they could die. If I went back, I could protect them. If I leave, I cant..."

It was never really a choice at all.

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The amount of time that passed before Teela and Adora had noticed the small problem of the massive door blocking their escape route, Skeletor had managed to blast his way through most of the barriers, reaching the mural chamber in only a few minutes. The ancient pictures held no interest to him, only a scant glance passing before the last door grew large in his vision. With a snarl of triumph, he tore apart the final door.

Standing before him was the last raised gate, the first barrier, and last one before he won. "I think there's a metaphor and a lesson to be learned in that, but hell if I know what it is." It was a moot point in any case, for a second later it was torn to shreds as Skeletor flexed his newfound muscles. The awe-struck "Oohs." and "Ahhs." that came from his minions at the sight of their leader gracefully levitating from the wreckage, Lyn and Trike trailing behind encased in golden light.

But for once, Skeletor was taking no chances "After all, there will be plenty of time for accolades and proper worshiping of myself later." Smugly turning, he lazily raised the Ram-staff, and began vibrating the stone foundation of Greyskull. The roar of cracking stone and rumbling earth grew with each passing moment, shaking the trees, making the other's clutch their ears as the sound grew and grew. It went on for almost thirty seconds, cracks racing up the column that supported its ponderous weight, until at long last, the castle started collapsing down, down into the pit that had once been its defense.

Only moments before its fall, two figures could be seen through the thick dust atop the castle roof, leaping for their only chance. Breathing hard, covered in dust and dirt, burns scorching their forearms. Hands outstretched, Teela grabbed hold of the cliffs lip, the rest of her momentum slamming her into the face so hard she saw spots. Adora, however, missed the lip, and began falling, digging her fingers deep into the loose soil around her, and finally stopping once she grabbed hold of a root jutting from the side.

Both hung in place for a moment, catching their breath. "T," Adora called "Why is it, that everywhere we go lately, bad guys keep on showing up?"

"Hell if I know Adora," Teela said "Maybe you just have reallybad luck."

"Oh, come now," Skeletors voice intoned "If I was to judge, I would say your luck just went from bad," Here he smiled, the death-mask stretching "To worse."

A quick tremor shook the ground beneath his feet, as Skeletor toyed with the girls, enjoying the fear that they tried to hide behind bravado. The rest of the Evil Warriors simply laughed and watched as Skeletor tormented his helpless victims, suspended as they were a few hundred feet in the air, only the loose earth and a root keeping them alive. "Adora," Teela said softly so that Skeletor wouldn't hear "Any ideas?"

"Ummmm...No." Was her reply.

"Yeah, that's what I thought."

"Are you two done?" Standing above them like death itself, Skeletor glowered at them, red leaking into the black pits that hid his eyes. "I am about to end your lives, and the very least you could do is pay attention as I do so."

Feeling the need for one last crack, Teela simply spoke with absolutely feigned innocence "Oh, sorry, did you say something?"

You could almost hear his teeth grinding as Skeletor struggled to rein in his anger.

"Well?" Adora spoke up "What do ya want? We're not gonna hang around all day."

SNAP

That would be the proverbial reins on his anger going out the similarly proverbial window.

With an inarticulate roar of rage, Skeletor prepared to blast them into oblivion. The golden energy gathered at the staff's head, growing brighter and brighter with each passing second. Down it came, like a scythe, cutting the bonds of life that held them in place.

Bonk.

A small, fist sized rock sailed through the air, over the heads of the lower minions, past Lyn and Trike, and smacked squarely in the back of his head. All of them whirled around, weapons and spells coming to the forefront, eager to let loose. Standing at the far tree line, leaves falling gently around him, stood Talon, tossing another small rock back and forth between his hands. "Geez, I was growin old here," He paused, then said "Older, I mean, waiting for you to notice me."

Skeletor was needless to say, startled. "How in the name of the Prince of the Ninth circle of Hell are you still alive?!" The rest of the group, while having been there at his summoning, didn't know that Skeletor had attacked him for his failure. For the moment, the girls, the Sword, and the Castle were forgotten by the Dark Masters, staring at this insolent newcomer.

"Hey," Talon said, his voice carrying across the hundred some-odd feet that separated them. "Don't knock Bill, he's a good friend of mine, and between you and me," Here his voice dropped to a stage whisper "He's got some really good weed."

You know those long, awkward silences?

"..."

That's another one to chalk up to Talon's great conversational skills.

"Anyway," Talon said "I would really appreciate it if you could leave the ladies there alone. They've been pretty cool too me."

"Yeah, and how does he show thanks?" Came Teela's annoyed shout. "He up and leaves for no good reason!" This was an odd thing to say considering that both of them were hanging, quite literally, by their fingertips, and their only chance was Talon.

"Would it help if I said I was sorry?" Talon called, hoping that a yes would be returned.

"NO." Both shouted back

"Damn."

"Although," Adora shouted out "Saving us would be a good start."

With nary a shrug, Talon went into high gear. A second later, an electric glow surrounded his feet, small bolts of lightning flying up. Without a word he charged forward, speeding beyond anything even remotely human, never losing the smirk that dominated his lips, his black glasses reflecting the dawns early light, causing his eyes to look as though they burned with a holy fire. Leaping high into the air, he passed far beyond the lower minions, flew by Lyn and Trike, and landed right on Skeletors head, bouncing off after a second.

Twisting in the air, he landed directly before them and spun around, sweeping his left hand in a grand arc, lightning arcing and slamming into the group like a train, thrusting them all back.

Still standing even after the attack, Skeletor simply sneered at his one time ally before unleashing his own strike, a solid line of energy that twisted and whined as it raced at Talon.

Talon brought up his left hand, sheathed once more in the electrical claw and deflected the golden blast harmlessly to the side. Turning his back on Skeletor's gaping expression, he looked down on the girls and began waving his hand back and forth quickly before his chest, a pained expression on his face. Mouthing the words 'Hot!' he looked down at the charred skin as his regenerative ability came into play, erasing the signs of the burn. Reaching for the girls, he easily brought them up to stand behind as he faced down the Evil Warriors. Talon almost made it to his snappy one-liner, but Adora's angry words caught him cold as her finger poked him.

"You are so dead when this is done."

Teela nodded at that, more then eager to fight as she unsheathed her blade, and imagining the various torture techs she knew that would be used on Talon later that day. Bearing her blade, Teela took a single step forward before Talon had both herself and Adora hanging about three inches off the ground.

Staring them right in the eye, he spoke calmly and quickly, the tone of his voice leaving no room for argument. "You two have already fought them today, your tired and bloody. Leave them to me, or so help me I will knock your heads together and force you to stay out of it." With that, he dropped them to the ground and shot forward, blades springing to life in his hands. Waving the blades back and forth, he sent waves of lightning at the enemies before him.

Skeletor and Trike leapt from the line of fire, while Lyn simply stood her ground, her shields taking the hits with only a moderate strain. Trap-jaw dodged to the side, while Beast-man, Whiplash, and Mer-man took the strikes full on, sending them flying back as the lightning shocked them to the core. The looks on their faces were priceless as the energy ripped through them, leaving a numb, slightly tingly sensation behind.

Lyn launched a series of pink strikes from Talon, who was forced to deflect the hits away from the girls. Leaping high into the air he traded a blow with Skeletor, the clash sounding in the still air. Flipping mid-air he dodged Trikes return fire, a lance of lightning his only reward for his attempts. Rolling as he landed, the lightning gathered around him, the ball jettisoned away as Skeletor landed, its power tearing the ground as it furrowed through the earth.

Skeletor simply let a pulse of power out, easily shattering the balls form, the released energy blasted a gust of wind that ruffled his cape. Smirking as he lowered his Ram-staff, golden energy flowed like water over the ground, seeping into every crack, falling deep beneath the surface. Broadly smiling, he turned the staff skyward, and the earth erupted. Huge chunks lifted, tall spikes shot up, and long roots twisted about.

Talon fell as the stone beneath him took off like a rocket, other large pieces floating about him in a sort of chaotic order. Standing, he saw Skeletor atop a much smaller one, flitting about like a fly, easily alighting to a higher clump. With only a grin, a blue-white bolt tore the air as it passed through where Skeletor had been only a moment before.

"Damn it." Talon bitterly thought, his gaze racing about trying to pinpoint Skeletor's new position. Running for the nearest platform, he vanished, only to reappear atop the chunk of stone, almost twenty feet straight up. With the same flickering move, he continued hopping from stone to stone, never more then about twenty feet at a time.

His next step was the first mistake. Skeletor's energy blasts rained down on him, each blast that he dodged and deflected blowing divots out of the floating earth. Leaping to the side and rolling back to his feet, Talon let loose several beams, only to scowl as they were harmlessly deflected to the side by Skeletor's shields. The same electricity which was whipping around his feet now encompassed his hands, claws of blue-white lightning forming.

With a grin he jumped and flickered, then again and again, until he had reached the same platform as Skeletor rested upon. Smiling as he looked on his enemy, Talon spoke swiftly, knowing that a lull would not last long. "Do you have any idea how long it's been since I've had a fun fight?"

Skeletor was needless to say, a little thrown by that statement. "You think that this is a game?!" He roared, angry punctuating every word "I'll show you what a battle really is like!" With that, he summoned forth his power, golden energy flowing around him like a wave, the aura visible to any who looked upon his powerful frame. Without a second thought for what he was about to unleash, Skeletor slammed his hands into the earth, waves of golden light cascading around him in a beautiful light show that seeped into the cratered earth before disappearing completely.

Silence held all in its cold embrace for a long moment, only to be broken by Teela. "Umm, what was that?"

Skeletor was looking a little put out, but waved her to silence, saying only: "Give it a second, it'll kick in."

A low rumble filled the air, the ground shaking as cracks raced away from where Skeletor's hands had hit, ripples, like that of a stone tossed into a still pond, waved across the now soft stone. From beneath the stone came a tearing, crunching of rock and bone. Hands, free of the muscle and bone that had adorned them in life, burst from the earth, the fallen armies of ages past moving with the unholy power that Skeletor now commanded.

Talon watched, eyes wide as the heads and bodies of the dead rose from the barren dirt all around the small group of the living. Rusted swords and spears, axes and hammer, rotted bows and maggot eaten cloth hung from their frames, a unearthly golden glow emanating from their eyes and mouths. A deep moan, reverberating from their rotting throats, echoed across the glade.

"Oh, Fuck."