Chapter Six: "The Fate of History"
Security was high and the rain was pouring again. Randor and Marlena sat down on a couch, the lights down low, drinking coffee and tea. The fireplace crackled and creaked. Adam and Teela sat next to each on a love seat. SeaHawk was sitting Adora. Duncan stood and stared out at the window.
"So . . . let's get it all straight," Duncan said. "There's very little doubt that the Ilkorts, Mer-People, Kobloids, Lobsterites, and the Bats have aligned themselves with Skeletor and Snake Mountain. The recent movement of the Orcs and the Goblins have indicated the same. Perhaps even the Reptons."
"Divide and conquer," Teela said. "Just like you said."
Adora nodded. "Yep. He played us. Knew exactly what we were going to do."
"That's what happens when you fight a foe for so long," Randor said grimly, his side still aching. "They begin to understand you. They begin to know you. Predict you."
Adam sighed. "Then we need a way to be unpredictable."
The group went quiet after that, trying to figure out how or what they could do. No one quite had an answer . . . yet.
"What about the Horde? And the Snake-Men?" asked Teela then. "Why would Skeletor want them?"
"Or Hordak or Hiss for that matter," SeaHawk stated. "They all hate each other, right? You'd think Skeletor would want to see Hordak and Hiss in our hands."
"Another question we can't answer," Duncan responded.
Adora shrugged. "At least we got things figured out in space, right?"
"Yeah, although the Cosmic Enforcers are just as much trouble. But we'll deal with that later," Adam sighed. He blinked long and hard, then opened his eyes. "We'll go on the offensive."
"What?" asked Teela.
"With Skeletor. He wants a fight? Fine. We'll give him one. He's building an army, then we'll build an army. We'll take the fight to him before he has a chance to come after us."
Duncan stepped over and leaned on his cane. "It'll take work. We don't have a lot of allies right now."
"We'll reach out, try and get the other kingdoms to care about Eternia again."
"Good luck with that. We tried already," SeaHawk said.
"Then we'll try and try again, until get it to work," Adam responded. "By the way, SeaHawk, great job in the Great Nest."
SeaHawk smiled. "Thank you."
"Told you you'd make a good king."
Hordak awoke with a start. He was in Snake Mountain. Sitting in a chair. In the throne room. His armor was back on; his powers were at least somewhat restored. What happened? How did he end up here? The last thing he remembered was an explosion back at the prison.
He looked in front of him. King Hiss was just starting to come to as well, his armor restored as well. The Snake-Man took in a deep breath and came to his senses.
"What issss going on here?" he asked, eyeing Hordak. "You."
Hordak bit down the urge to attack. "It wasn't me."
Skeletor entered the throne room then, his cloak flowing behind him. He took up the throne at the head of the table. "Gentlemen."
"Skeletor!" shouted Hordak, standing up.
Hiss as well stood up, but not as swiftly.
"The last time I saw you, you were betraying me yet again."
"Please," Hiss interjected. "You two have betrayed each other so many times that you're officially enemies. Nothing left to betray."
"Touché, Hiss," Skeletor commented. "Have a seat, Hordak. You as well, Hiss. I brought you both food. Eternian food is so . . . bland."
Beast-Man came lumbering out with a pair of plates. In front of Hiss was placed three rat-like animals with various bugs as garnish. On Hordak's plate was a massive beetle with some fruits along its side. Beast-Man then brought out a plate of food for Skeletor – just vegetables and fruits.
Finally, a bottle of wine.
The plates rotated once, so that they could each prove to the other that the food was not poisoned. Once this was proved, the plates were given to the original owner and they ate. Hiss and Hordak ate quickly at first, but towards the end, they savored every bite.
Skeletor poured the wine.
"A toast, gentlemen," Skeletor said, lifting his cup. "To Snake Mountain, crossroads of evil."
The three drank and Skeletor eyed both of his enemies. "You know . . . neither of you told me the story as to how Hiss here found out about you, Hordak."
Hiss grimed and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. "Well, now . . ."
Hordak grinned a little bit. "It was during the Second Age, in the midst of the Snake-Men Wars of Old. I was but an apprentice to the Elders at the time, but I had learned much. However, I wanted to put the skills I learned to the test. To use them for evil. So, I sought out an enemy village."
"He inflicted minimal damage, but killed many, including General Gorefoot and the family of Rattlor."
The Second Age:
He-Ro dismounted Battle-Beast and walked into Central Tower. He felt weary, but it wasn't battle that wore him down. Instead, it was news. A village of Snake-Men had been attacked, but no one was taking claim. He had, for a while, suspected it to be one of his own warriors, but he had eventually decided it couldn't have been one of them.
"Great Elders," he addressed, bowing before Eldor and the Council of Elders. "I still have no news on the attack. It has troubled me greatly."
"So I see," Eldor responded. "Fear not, though. This was not the responsibility of you or your companions. The work was done by a very powerful wizard. Either a friend or foe, we can not tell. He has blanketed himself well."
He-Ro nodded. "I . . . understand. Still, it bothers me that these people were killed so mercilessly. Families were killed. Women and children."
"You are very noble to think of the dark side of this event, He-Ro," Ali said. "However, to be honest, I doubt we will ever be able to uncover the true identity of the attacker. As we speak, the Snake-Men continue to move against our southern boarders."
"I will ride out and meet them, then."
Hordak watched as He-Ro left the chamber and suppressed a sigh of relief. Having He-Ro find out that it was him who attacked the village would unravel of Hordak and Horde Prime's plans . . .
At the behest of Rattlor, King Hiss decided to spend more time determining the attacker. Sitting in the center of the village, he began to concentrate. Serpentine energy began to flow out of him slowly, slithering across the ground, trying to reclaim images and energy sources. He could immediately taste the power of the Elders here and there . . .
"Hordak," he realized, eyes snapping violently open.
King Hiss stood up quickly. He had grown to know his enemies rather well. They would do this. The Elders would not have attacked like that. But there was one among them that Hiss just didn't trust. Hordak. He knew that Hordak not Eternian and that he also wasn't from another dimension like some of the other apprentices.
Days later . . .
Hordak stood upon the rock, eyes on the look out for the man who sent the message. He was only a little surprised to find that it was King Hiss himself that approached him.
"Hordak. An apprentice to the Elders, right?"
"That is true."
Hiss eyed him. "A liar, too. It was you that attacked the village, wasn't it?"
Hordak looked him over. "What is your prove?"
"I know the scent of an Elder . . . and a traitor. Who are you working for?"
Hordak smiled. "The Horde Empire, of course. We're young, but growing."
"I ssssee," Hiss said with a smile. "No one would believe their enemy. The knowledge I have about you is usssselesss, you ssssee. But that being said, I will make you pay for what you have done. Someday, I will bring you the kind of pain that has been brought to my people."
"We parted ways after that," Hiss said, completing the story. "Now, where we are. His empire has crumbled due in part to a bunch of peace loving hippies. And mine has decayed with history."
Hordak turned to the mouth of Snake Mountain, looking out across the Valley of the Storms. "You never had your revenge, Hiss."
Hiss smiled. "That's true, Hordak." Then, with a glance at Skeletor, Hiss was on his feet, flesh being ripped away, snakes flying out, mouths open, fangs glistening.
Hordak raised a force field at the last minute, but Hiss was moved ready for that. Serpentine energy went flying from his body and smashed against the force field. His vipers then began to wrap around Hordak, tightening against him.
"Don't you worry, Skeletor," Hiss snarled, with Hordak wrapped up. "Once this one is over with, you're next!"
"Maybe," Skeletor replied and pressed a button on the table.
The floor beneath Hordak and Hiss gave out suddenly. They plummeted straight down, but as they did, they bounced from wall to wall, energy blasting between the two of them. The explosions of energy echoed through the mountain.
The pair crashed into a massive, dark, cold chamber at the very bottom of Snake Mountain. The floor was made up of thousands of skulls. Neither Hordak nor King Hiss seemed to notice this.
As soon as he back up on his feet, Hordak unleashed a massive beam of energy at King Hiss. King Hiss took it, his vipers screeching. Hordak coupled this with lightning blasts now, each one striking hard against Hiss' body. The chamber was lit up by the ferocious intensity of these attacks, their brilliance showing more and more skulls on the ground.
Hiss snarled and tossed up a green force field, deflecting Hordak's attack. They were thrown haphazardly throughout the chamber, striking at walls too far away to be seen. Serpentine energy flowing from him, ripping through any defenses Hordak had conjured up. Hordak roared in pain as the energy struck him at a deeper level that his physical attacks. King Hiss then unleashed his own lightning attack – bolts of lightning blasted all around Hordak's body, ripping up his armor, burning his skin.
Hordak lunged forward. His science went to work, merging with his magic to create alchemy. His stub was suddenly transformed into a laser cannon. It fired huge bursts of plasma, smashing continuously at Hiss. Hiss blocked what he could, but his force fields were failing.
Hiss leapt up, moving faster than Hordak expected. Hordak tried to block him, but all for of Hiss' arm vipers dove for his arms. Armor was rendered and the flesh exposed. Fangs sank deep, delivering poison. Hiss held out as long as he could, despite Hordak calling upon massive lightning bolts upon him.
Hordak chest transformed, a pair of blade appearing there. He pulled Hiss forward, chopping off six of Hiss' chest vipers. King Hiss screeched and went tumbling back, blood pouring out from him. Hordak heaved, transforming his chest back to normal. His arms were burning, but he unleashed a massive series of energy bolts at Hiss. Hiss screeched again, most of his clothing and flesh gone, revealing two normal Snake-Men legs supporting the huge series of snakes and vipers that was his body.
Hiss blocked them and again jumped at Hordak. However, he instead delivered a blast to Hordak chest and moved behind him, all of his vipers ripping away the armor and digging their fangs right in.
"Taste death, Hordak," Hiss said. "Know now that, in the end, the snake is superior."
Hordak roared, his body burning. The amount of pure poison was getting to be too much for both his magic and cybernetic parts. He reached back and placed his hand upon Hiss' head and unleashed a major burst of power.
Hiss released and went staggering back. Hordak transformed his stump into a blade and dove for Hiss. One of Hiss vipers got him in the back of the neck, but Hordak sliced off two more limbs. Hordak then spun around, but was blasted in the face by a serpentine energy blast.
Hordak feel to his knees. Hiss rushed over, poised to strike. Before he did, Hordak fired out great bolts of lightning at Hiss' legs. Hiss collapsed in front of him. Hordak went to swipe King Hiss' head off, but . . .
Hiss prime head leapt forward, mouth wide, engulfing Hordak's face. Two fangs plunged into his forehead, two others into his cheek. The rest of King Hiss' snakes went to work, shoving themselves into Hordak's shoulders.
Hordak could feel everything around him going dizzy and dark. But . . .
He lifted arm, fast as he could, while he still lived . . .
Hordak plunged his arm blade right through King Hiss' head. Hiss made a strangled sound. Hordak plunged it in again and again.
Hiss' fangs released.
Hordak fell back, pulling out his blade. His vision was spinning and he watched as Hiss simply fell over.
The last thought that crossed King Hiss' mind was of the gentle caress of Vipera, Goddess of Venom . . .
King Anaconda Hiss, master of the Snake-Men of the Second Age . . . was dead.
Hordak tried everything in his power to rise to his feet, but they wouldn't respond. He felt tingling in them, like they had fallen asleep. Hordak heard a noise and looked up. Skeletor was standing nearby, above the fallen body King Hiss.
"Keldor . . ."
Skeletor looked to Hordak, ready to chide him. He hesitated and instead just stared at him. "Stand up, old master, my former teacher. Stand up!"
Hordak willed himself to do, but was unsteady on his numb feet.
"My enemies . . . dead . . .?"
"All save me."
Hordak smiled, revealing those vampire-like fangs of his. "Prime . . . Hiss . . . father . . . all dead. Those are the ones . . . that . . ."
Skeletor walked towards Hordak. "What about Adora?"
Hordak coughed. Blood came out, running down his chin and neck, all the way down to the Horde symbol on his armor.
"Adora . . . never an enemy . . ."
"Why didn't you tell her about me, Hordak? Why didn't you tell her about the traitorous Keldor, her uncle?"
Hordak coughed again, more blood spilling out. "Didn't . . . matter . . ."
Skeletor looked his old master. "One more question. One more lesson, Hordak. For a last, fleeting moment, let me be the pupil once more . . ."
"Ask . . ." Hordak gasped.
"Castle Grayskull. I must once more access the power of the Great Eye. The last time, it was because you came in touch with the power of the Elders . . ."
"Elders . . ." Hordak wheezed, becoming unsteady on his feet again.
"Yes. How can I access the Great Eye again? Or perhaps the power of the Elders?"
Hordak stepped over and told Skeletor the secret. The last lesson. Hordak then stepped back, breathed going ragged.
"No . . ." Hordak breathed.
"Yes, Hordak. There's too much poison in your blood. You're dying, just like your empire."
Hordak shook his head and felt like his mind was about to completely fall apart. "No . . . no . . . I do not want to die . . . like this . . ." There was a great fire in his belly, now, though if it was his own will or the poison, he simply didn't know. Hordak stood up. "Not in a . . . c-cave . . . not what I . . . deserve . . ."
"You want a warriors death?" asked Skeletor.
"Yessss . . ." Hordak breathed. "A warriors' death . . . fitting . . . peace . . . peace is for the weak . . ."
Skeletor pulled out his Havoc Staff and stood at the ready. Hordak threw his belly out, cracking his back. He took in a deep breath, prepared himself, arm blade still there. He then threw himself at Skeletor in a vain hope of killing him.
There was a defining crack in the air accompanied by a burst of red energy.
Hordak fell dead to the floor of skulls, his last thought of the cold he felt.
TO BE CONTINUED IN "ENDINGS AND EPILOGUES – BOOK THREE: DARKNESS!" COMING SOON!