"Young man, I demand you speak to us!" Randor said in his sternest voice. His heart broke as Adam looked up at him, his eyes simply desolate. Randor couldn't help himself. He reached for his son, pulled him to his feet, and hugged him tightly. Marlena joined in. Adam simply stood there for a moment, then, as if a dam had burst, his arms came up and he clung to his parents as sobs racked his body.
Duncan returned to the hallway and shut the door quietly. He doubted this would pull Adam out of the depression, but it was a start. He motioned for one of the guards coming down the hall.
"Wait out here for King Randor and apprise him of the situation as soon as he comes out of the prince's room," Duncan ordered. "Under no circumstances are you to go in there until either the king or queen comes out. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir!" said the guard, saluting.
Duncan turned and ran to join Teela, Ram Man, Mekaneck, and the soldiers who were already fighting against Skeletor.
After ten minutes of crying, Adam finally calmed down, and he finally felt some emotion—he was mortified to have broken down like that in front of his parents.
"I'm so sorry," he said hoarsely, starting to pull away. Randor grabbed him by the shoulders, and Adam looked up to see tears streaming down his father's face. He looked over at Marlena and found the same.
"Did you think I would be upset over a show of emotion?" his father asked him quietly. "Son, after all you've been through, it's natural."
Adam shook his head. "Not completely natural," he admitted, his voice almost a monotone. "He-Man wasn't as successful as we thought in removing the spell. It's given me nightmares and helped cause this depression." From the tension radiating from his body and the tightness of his mouth, Randor could see that Adam hated admitting this.
Marlena gasped. "What can we do?"
Adam shrugged. "I don't know," he answered. "I-" A blast outside interrupted him, and the king and queen rushed to the window. Adam followed more slowly.
"Skeletor," Randor muttered, then, looking further into the sky, he exclaimed, "Thank goodness! She-Ra's here!"
They watched as the warrior woman swooped down, scooped up Skeletor, and flew him off towards the Tar Swamps. She was back in moments without him. The rest of his gang scattered.
Adam returned to his chair. Adora would come soon, he knew. And deep in his heart, he knew he needed her more than ever.
"May I talk to Adam alone, please?" Adora asked her parents. Duncan had caught her on her way in and explained what had been going on with the prince. She was as prepared as she could be to talk to someone who didn't really want to talk.
"Of course, Adora," her mother said. She hugged her daughter and whispered in her ear. "I'm so thankful you're here." Adora smiled at them as they left, then sat on her brother's bed, facing him.
"What's gotten into you?" she asked in her best Horde Force Captain voice, sensing that gentleness would get her nowhere with him this time. Adam didn't even look at her. "Adam, I know you're depressed. I know you've suffered terribly during the last few days. And I know the spell has something to do with this depression. But right now, you're letting it get the better of you. After all you've been through, you're letting it win!"
"What's the point?" he rasped. Adora stared at him in surprise. Not only did he look horrible, but he sounded…absolutely lost.
"What do you mean?" she countered.
"What's the point of fighting, if we're never going to win?" he asked in that same lost monotone. "Why bother fighting evil if it's always going to exist? That vision I had under the spell might as well be a foretelling of the future. I'm not perfect. I can't win against Skeletor every time. Eventually, someone will die because of my mistakes. Eventually, Skeletor will win, and that one time he wins will be all it takes to claim all of Grayskull's power, and then it's over. There's just no point in fighting it."
Adora dropped to her knees in front of him and grabbed him by the arms, her fingernails digging into his skin.
"Yes there is," she said ferociously. "Good is stronger. It will always triumph over evil, no matter how long it takes. In the end, we will have saved lives and changed lives for the better. How dare you be so egotistical that you think it all comes down to you, that if you fail, all is lost. The forces of good are bigger than just you, He-Man."
Adam cut her off. Out came the things that had occurred to him before, things he always pushed aside and refused to dwell on because it just wasn't his nature.
"Because so often it does come down to me!" he said, his voice carrying a little more emotion now. "We were given these swords and told that it comes down to us. I didn't ask for this responsibility any more than you did. What genius came up with the idea of having a highly visible prince and princess having secret identities? We can never let anyone know. There will always be an enemy out there, threatening our families, our lives, our homes—and they will always be after Adam and Adora, if they ever know our secret, because as Adam and Adora, we are vulnerable. And in the meantime, it ruins my life. I'm tired, Adora. I'm tired of being the one everyone turns to, but no one respects or really knows," his voice dropped to a whisper. "I'm not strong enough anymore." He dropped his head, and she let go of his arms, rolling back onto her heels.
"Yes, you are. But if that's really the way you feel, then why do it?" Adora goaded him. She was sensing something happening, but she couldn't define it. Praying for wisdom, she tried to turn the tables, asking him the very question he'd asked her. "Give it up, then, Adam. No one makes you wield the Power Sword. No one forces the destiny of the universe onto your shoulders. You can just not use it. It's your choice. So if it's making you so miserable, why do it?"
Adora's words echoing in his mind, Adam realized just how out of character he was acting. For a split second, he understood that he had just given voice to more of his innermost fears, things he never before seriously believed were even possible, but couldn't help thinking once in a while. That second was all it took for him to fully comprehend the hold the spell had on him, and it was enough to anger him. He focused every remaining ounce of will power inward. Adora was talking, but he didn't hear her. Adam closed his eyes and searched inside himself for that left over fragment of magic that had wreaked havoc on his life.
"You've got to snap out of this…" Adora's voice faded. Adam wasn't listening. He looked as if he were concentrating. She hesitated, not sure what to do.
Adam could sense the spell now. By sheer will, he focused on it as the Sorceress had taught him long ago. He forced his love for his family, his concern for all life, his desire to protect to grow, and the spell diminished. Still, it taunted him.Why bother? Why should you ruin your life? Why should you wield the sword?
"Because I'm the only one who can," he ground out. Adora frowned, trying to figure out what he was talking about. He raised his head and stared past her, his blue eyes unfocused. "Because it's the only way to save my family, my friends, and my people. Because every life is precious, and I'm sworn to protect them all. Because I care."
Adam suddenly stood, and stumbled over to his bookcase where he kept his sword.
"A-Adam?" Adora said uncertainly.
"Magic's weakened. I need to-" he didn't finish as he grabbed hold of his sword. Adora crossed the room swiftly, afraid of what he might do, then backed off as he raised it with a huge effort.
"BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!" he shouted. A moment later, as He-Man, he walked over to her and gave her a hug.
"Thanks, Sis," he said in his strong, sure voice. Grayskull's magic was making it easier for him to control Kaspanya's spell now, but it wasn't gone.
"Are you okay now, Adam?" she asked.
"Almost. I think I know what we need to do to get rid of this spell for good," He-Man said. "But I'll need your help."
Adora didn't ask questions. "Tell me what I need to do."
"I need you to place your sword on me." Adora immediately began shaking her head, thinking there was no way she was putting a blade near him after he'd been so depressed. "Adora, please, just listen to me for a moment."
She looked into his eyes and saw nothing but her beloved brother. No trace of the depression remained. She nodded slightly and he drew in a breath.
"I need the combined power of our swords to completely wipe out the magic while it's weakened. This reprieve is only temporary. I can't hold it off forever." His eyes begged her to believe him. She drew her sword and transformed into She-Ra. Then, hesitantly, she laid the flat of her blade on his shoulder. He-Man crossed his sword with hers and called on the power of Grayskull again, at the same time focusing his own mind on forcing the spell out. A bright light filled the room, along with the sound of an explosion. He-Man could feel the spell disintegrate into nothing. As the light faded, voices sounded in the hallway, and the two of them quickly changed back to Adam and Adora. Within seconds, Duncan burst into the room and locked the door behind him.
"You two had better be more careful with-" he broke off as he turned around. Adora sat on the floor, holding her brother in her arms. "Adam? Adora, what's wrong with him now?"
"I'm not sure, Man-at-Arms," she admitted, "but I think it's finally over." She explained, briefly, what had happened, as the two of them hauled him up into the bed.
"He just seemed to know, all of a sudden, what to do?" Duncan asked skeptically. A falcon's cry interrupted him. Zoar had been on her way to see Adam again when she had sensed what was happening.
In this case, Prince Adam was right. Kaspanya's magic was designed to be unbeatable. The initial onslaught attacked mind and body. Should the spell be defeated, it would not actually leave the person, but would wait for an opportune time to attack again. The magic of Grayskull pushed it out, but not completely. Had he remained He-Man, he might have been safe. But as Adam, Grayskull's magic could not protect him, and it began to attack him again. Only Adam's strength of will and the combined power of the swords could have defeated it, and all three had to be used at the same time. I told you before, Man-at-Arms, that I was unsure if all of Kaspanya's magic was removed. Now I can tell you for certain that it has been. Adam is free at last.
A pounding came at the door. "Adora? Duncan? What's going on in there? Open up immediately!" Randor shouted from the hallway.
Adora opened the door and gave her parents the good news as Prince Adam slept peacefully, oblivious to the relieved tears shed on his behalf.
A few days later, Adam and Adora were strolling through the gardens. Adam had made rapid strides in recovering once the spell was completely wiped away. He still had some lingering soreness and very little stamina, but his strength and confidence had returned.
"So you return to Etheria tonight?"
Adora nodded. "I need to get back. The Horde is finally starting to crack, I think, and we need to make some plans."
"If you need me, let me know," he offered. She nodded.
"Adam..." She sounded hesitant. "How much of it did you mean?"
Her twin knew she was talking about his outburst the other day. He stopped and sighed, staring up at the sky.
"Most of it has crossed my mind at some time or another," he admitted. Adam continued walking, his steps deliberate. They'd been out there for an hour, and he was starting to tire. "I don't believe it's hopeless. I do believe good will triumph...eventually, in some way."
"What do you mean?" Adora asked.
"Most of what I experienced in that dream was conjured by Kaspanya. But there was this light..." Adam paused, trying to find the words to explain it. "Adora, I know had I gone toward it, somehow he would have trapped me before I could pass through to whatever was beyond it. But I'm sure that there was something beyond it. There's something more after we die. I don't know what it is, except that it is peaceful, but it's there."
Adora absorbed his words. "That's a nice idea," she murmured. Adam could tell she didn't quite understand, but then again, neither did he. She peered up at him. "I think we'd better sit down. You're starting to sweat."
Since he couldn't deny it, he obliged her wish, and continued the conversation. "As far as the rest of it, I don't know what I believe, Adora. Eternia can barely stand having a cowardly prince, we certainly can't afford a cowardly king. I can't abandon my people in a battle in order to become He-Man. But if the truth were known, our enemies would never stop. I don't know what the solution to that is."
Adora placed her hand on his. "Maybe we don't need to know. Maybe we just need to follow our hearts, listen to the wisdom granted by Grayskull, do our best, and let it work out on its own."
Adam smiled at her. "You're awfully smart for a little sister, you know that?"
Adora grinned back at him, a twinkle in her eye. After a moment, she decided to change the subject. "I envy you, brother. I think Teela and Father are going to be very interesting to be around during the next few months...maybe even weeks."
Adam shrugged. "We'll see," he said. "I don't see how they can figure it out. They may see similarities now, but no one has any idea that He-Man and She-Ra have any other identity. I think everyone believes they're just hanging out in the clouds, waiting to rescue people."
Adora giggled at that. "Maybe She-Ra on Swift Wind could handle that, but somehow I can't picture Battle Cat and He-Man flying around up there!" Adam joined in her laughter, his head thrown back, eyes twinkling.
Teela watched the two of them laughing together. The Prince of Eternia truly was back to his normal self. She never let Adam out of her sight anymore, though she didn't think he'd realized it yet. She wasn't about to tell him, either. When she'd been assigned as his bodyguard years ago, he'd had a fit. It eventually fell to her pulling bodyguard duty only as Duncan or King Randor felt it was needed. But she couldn't shake the recent images of Adam—dead on the platform, lying helpless in the bed, trembling from weakness, gasping from a nightmare. During the last week, she'd seen sides of Adam she'd never known existed. Her respect for him had grown tenfold, and so had other feelings she was reluctant to put a name to.
No, Adam wasn't going to know she was watching out for him. She didn't hang close enough to hear his conversations, but she'd made a vow to herself that the prince's life would never be in such danger again, and she intended to keep that vow, even if it were in secret. And maybe, at the same time, she'd learn why he was always running from trouble.
Not far away, on a balcony, Marlena and Randor also watched the twins.
"I can't tell you how relieved I am to see him laughing again," Randor said with feeling. Marlena nodded. Randor continued on. "I never realized before this week how strong Adam really is. I've misjudged him in many ways, Marlena. I hope I can make it up to him."
"I'm sure you'll have that chance, dear." Taking his arm, she laid her head on his shoulder as they watched their children walk back through the gardens.
And so ends Adam's Strength. I know there's a lot started here that's unresolved, but the next part just begs for its own "book." The first chapter of "Discoveries: The Sequel to Adam's Strength" will be posted soon! Thanks again to all those who have faithfully read and those who have reviewed!