A/N: A couple of requests fulfilled in this one. Busard, the timing of this is for you. Hope you see it before leaving for Egypt. Teefana, the wedding scene is for you. Hope you enjoy.
A few days later, Adam was in Duncan's workshop, reportedly helping his mentor, but in truth hiding from wedding preparations. He looked up at his sister's voice. "Adam, do you have a moment?"
Adam grabbed a rag and wiped the grease off of his hands as Duncan nodded his assent. "Sure Adora, what's up?" her brother asked.
"Actually, you should probably both know about this," she said, her brow furrowed in worry. "When we were being held in the Specter's cave, Father had a heart attack."
"What?" Adam asked, going rigid. He had assumed Randor's illness had been caused by Damien.
"She-Ra was able to heal the damage done to his heart as well as clear the blockage," Adora hurried to explain, "but the propensity for another blockage to develop is there. He needs to take better care of himself, and he needs less stress. I might not be around next time it happens."
"It's going to be difficult to lower his stress levels," Duncan observed in a dry tone. "He's the king, and his children are-," he stopped and glanced around, feeling as if they weren't alone. "I don't know how it's possible."
"I thought maybe Adam and I could take on some more responsibilities," Adora admitted.
Adam was still lost in thought. Randor, a heart problem? It didn't seem possible. This was his father, who had loomed larger than life even to He-Man. Nothing could harm him…
"Adam?" Adora prompted him.
"What?" he asked, startled out of his reverie.
"Do you think it would help if we took on some of Father's responsibilities?" Adora repeated, a bit impatiently.
"Maybe," Adam answered noncommittally. "If we can get him to agree to giving some up." He shook his head. "There are a lot of things he's had me do in the past that the guard should do, frankly. He's adjusted that since he learned the truth, and he knows that I'm not the unprepared prince he thought I was. But I still think there's more he could assign to us."
"Well, I'll work on him when I get back from Etheria," Adora said, relieved that she and Adam at least had a plan to help their father, simple as it might be. "I'm leaving to go hand out your wedding invitations."
Adam smiled at her. "Thanks, sis. And do me a favor. Make sure Castaspella knows that it would mean a lot to me if she would come, but I'll understand if she chooses not to."
Adora returned his smile easily. "I'll tell her, my brother."
Adora, Hawk, and Spirit were welcomed back with enthusiastic hugs and laughter. Adora was impressed with how much her friends had accomplished since she had been gone. All of the former slaves had been returned to their hometowns, and the rebels and villagers around Etheria had worked together to rebuild. The Fright Zone, the site of so many of her years growing up, was all but demolished. Most of Hordak's minions were in hiding or had left the planet.
Adam had visited Etheria often, but the wedding invitations were going to only a select few—those with whom he had worked side-by-side during the rebellion: Madam Razz and Broom, Kowl, Bow, Glimmer, Castaspella, Frosta, and Queen Angella.
"I wasn't sure he would feel comfortable inviting me," Castaspella said with a smile, looking at the invitation. "Of course I'll come, if only to spend some time with you, Adora."
The Eternian princess gave her friend a hug. "I'm so glad, Casta."
"Do you have time for a visit while you're on Etheria?" Castaspella inquired.
Adora nodded. "But not right now. There's something I have to do."
Hawk raised his eyebrows curiously as Adora bid the queen good-bye. "What is it we have to do?" he asked under his breath as they left, meeting Spirit just outside. Adora led the way into the woods and raised her sword.
"This," she replied. "For the honor of Grayskull!"
Hawk watched in utter confusion as she and Spirit transformed. "What's going on?" he asked when they were finished. When She-Ra glanced towards the remains of the Fright Zone, he understood. "Oh."
They flew towards it, She-Ra marveling at how much cleaner the air was already. It was going to take years for it to be pure again in this area, she thought as they landed just outside the Fright Zone's boundaries. But at least the chunks of the black soot were no longer floating through the air.
Hawk and Swift Wind waited quietly while she walked over to a lone grave marker—Hordak's. She had brought him back here to bury him, close to where he had spent most of his life. In spite of knowing how much he had been hated, she had been nonetheless had the marker engraved. She re-read it now as she knelt beside it.
"Here lies Hordak, who ruled Etheria in evil but died to save a loved one."
She could finally admit that she had loved him, still loved him, and as she repeated the words again, she knew without a doubt that he had loved her as well. "Wherever you are, I hope you have peace," she whispered. Tears burned at the back of her eyes, then spilled over without warning. Please don't let him be suffering in Blazes forever, she added silently. He saved me. That has to count for something.
She stayed there for a few minutes more. "Good-bye, Hordak," she said quietly as she finally stood. She turned and went back to her friends. Hawk was absently stroking Swifty's neck.
"Where to now, She-Ra?" Swift Wind asked.
"We need to go see Light Hope," she replied, leaping onto his back. Hawk tilted his head. Her voice was choked, as if she were holding back tears. He mounted up behind her, and as they took off, she leaned back into him more than usual, trying to draw strength from his arms. He tightened his grip around her, and she let out a small sigh.
The air grew thinner as they flew higher and higher. Swift Wind landed just inside the entrance of the Crystal Castle, and She-Ra shifted her weight, letting him know to stop.
"Stay here, you two," she said as she dismounted. "I need to talk with Light Hope alone for a moment."
"I'm starting to feel like extra baggage," Hawk muttered to Swift Wind, who neighed in agreement.
She-Ra finished explaining her request to Light Hope. "Can it be done, Light Hope?"
His iridescent rainbow of colors vibrated more brightly as he answered. "Yes, She-Ra. But are you sure?"
Her blue eyes filled with tears again. "Yes," she said hoarsely. She listened carefully as Light Hope explained what she would need to do. "I'll go get him." A few minutes later she returned with Swift Wind and Sea Hawk.
"What's going on Adora?" Hawk asked, eyeing her tear-stained face.
"You'll see in a moment," she replied. She raised her sword, pointing the jewel at Swift Wind. "For the honor of Grayskull, hold your form, but let the power return!" The pegacorn stamped nervously, not understanding what she was doing, then Grayskull's magic hit him. There was a rush of energy and strength, then it left him, and he could barely stand. His legs trembled violently. She-Ra and Hawk were suddenly on either side of him, holding him up.
"What have you done?" he asked roughly. The weak feeling slowly faded.
"I've set you free of Grayskull, Swifty," She-Ra said, large teardrops sliding down her face. "You'll remain a pegacorn, so you can go and be with your family on Unicorn Island."
"But why?" her partner whinnied, despair in his voice.
"Because this is where you belong, Swift Wind," She-Ra told him softly, stroking his face gently. "I love you with all my heart, but you can't be with me like Cringer is with Adam. And the royal stables are no place for you, cooped up all the time with Duncan's metallic horses. You deserve to be free, with your mate and your son."
"But what if you need me?" Swift Wind asked, a tear falling from his own eye even as he trembled in excitement at the thought of seeing his family again.
"I'll come find you," She-Ra promised. "Every time I visit Etheria, I'll visit you."
Swift Wind looked from She-Ra to Hawk and back again. "And you'd better come get me for the wedding," he added with a definitive snort.
She-Ra finally laughed. "That's a promise, my friend."
The palace grounds were filled to overflowing this evening, except for the single aisle that led up to the raised platform. There Prince Adam of Eternia stood before the throng of people, resisting the urge to tug at his collar or adjust the ceremonial crown on his head. A golden medallion, his royal crest, hung heavily around his neck; like the crown, it was a reminder of the responsibilities he bore as prince and those he would take on in the future as king. An unfamiliar robe dropped to his knees, the royal blue lining and white fur trim doing nothing to hide his sculpted muscles. Nor could it hide the goodness in his heart. More than one woman watching was drying her tears for the wrong reason.
Adam didn't notice, though. He had eyes for only one woman: the vision of beauty slowly gliding down the aisle. Teela's red hair was swept up with a few curls caressing her neck gently. Her traditional headband that had marked her as Captain of the Guard was gone, replaced by an elaborate tiara of shimmering diamonds.
Teela's dress was flowingly simplistic. The neckline scooped down in a demure way. Long white sleeves ended in a point on the back of her hands. The gown fit her form perfectly, accenting her figure, while at the same time shimmering with its own sparkle. Diamonds, an early wedding present from Adam, adorned her ears and neck. But the glow on her face did not come from the clothes she wore or even the bouquet of pink sun lilies and midnight blossoms she carried.
"Isn't she lovely?" Lana whispered to King Miro. She had never known such joy as spending the last few months planning this wedding with Teela and Marlena. Even after all the excitement had died down, Adam had been busy with his own responsibilities and tried to avoid being overly involved. As a result, he had easily gone along with almost every decision they made.
"The vision of two people so incredibly in love is a sight to behold," Miro agreed softly, his heart torn with joy for the couple and a keen sense of loss. Keely…I miss you. Keldor. Where are you? Are you married? Do I have other grandchildren I haven't even met yet?
As was Eternian custom, Adam did not wait for Teela at the head of the aisle. Instead, he walked down and met her halfway, bowing deeply to her as a sign of respect. Teela curtseyed to him. Adam turned and bowed to Duncan, who returned the gesture, then walked up the rest of the aisle without his daughter, pride and joy on his face. He felt none of the sorrow of losing a daughter, but only the delight of finally officially gaining a son-in-law.
Teela held out her right hand. Adam took it and kissed it gently, then walked by her side up the rest of the aisle. Marlena wiped at her eyes as Adam and Teela walked past her. She glanced up at Randor and saw him blinking rapidly. Her own eyes filled with tears again, even as she laughed inside at her normally stoic husband.
Adora felt Hawk's hand on her own. Adora was thankful that she and Hawk had decided to wait. Adam and Teela deserved this to be their day alone, rather than sharing it. She smiled at the joy she sensed in her twin.
Randor swallowed hard against the emotions building up in his throat. As king he was expected to perform this ceremony, but he was so overjoyed for these two that he wasn't sure he could get through it. They had been through so much to get to this point. Now it seemed they would finally be allowed to live their lives—albeit in the public eye as king and queen once he stepped down, but even that would be better than the constant danger they had found themselves in last year-and-a-half.
"My people," Randor began as the couple stopped in front of him, "we have all had the pleasure of watching Prince Adam and Lady Teela grow up in our court. We have watched them play, scheme, argue, fight, laugh, learn, and grow. Through it all, they have had each other, and their love for each other blossomed so strongly that everyone could see it. Now they step forward into a new relationship, as husband and wife." He nodded to Adam. Eternian weddings came from the heart; there would be no easy repetition of phrases.
Adam felt no nervousness over speaking in front of thousands of people; he had grown up in the public eye, so it was second nature. However, he had worried over forgetting what it was he wanted to say once he looked into Teela's gorgeous green eyes. And for a few seconds his mind did indeed go blank.
"Teela, I love you with all my heart," Adam finally said, his attention completely on her. There could have been two people or two thousand present, and he wouldn't have noticed now. His voice, like his father's, was magnified by magic so that the crowd gathered could hear, but he didn't notice that either. "I love your smile, your courage, your tenderness…even your temper." Teela smiled tremulously at that. "When I'm with you, I feel as though I am complete. You are as important to me as the air I breathe. I pledge myself completely and totally to you, Teela. I promise, by Good itself, to cherish you and love you forever. Not even death will stop my love for you."
Tears trickled down Teela's face at the love and strength in Adam's tone. She couldn't resist reaching up to touch his face gently as she struggled to find her own voice. "Adam, you are everything I dreamed of as a little girl. I love your sense of honor, justice, and duty…You have a strength and a goodness inside of you that take my breath away. Simply knowing you has made me a better person. I love you completely, Adam. With Good as my witness, I pledge my love and fidelity to you alone, for as long as we live and beyond."
Randor cleared his throat with difficulty. "We have heard the confessions of love between Teela and Adam. Does anyone object to their pairing?" Perfect stillness greeted his question. Not even a child cried out. "Then, as King of Eternia, I now pronounce you husband and wife."
A great cheer rang out, and Orko said a quick prayer. "Please let this work." He waved his hands, and brilliant red, blue, and yellow fireworks sang overhead as Adam and Teela kissed tenderly, each reveling in the sense of completeness formed by their bond of love.
On a hill not far away, Hutch watched his former friend get married, an evil smile on his face. "Enjoy it while you can, Adam," he said cheerily. "It won't last. I'll make sure of that." He turned and fell into step beside Damien, and the two disappeared into the evening air.
A/N: Next up is a different sort of story. It's a cooperative effort between Little Llama Girl and me, entitled "Interludes," containing loosely connected scenes of life on both Eternia and Carina. If you plan to read the story of "Skeletor's" return to Eternia, you really should read "Stumbling into the Light," or you truly will be lost.
I'm happy to say that "Interludes" will give some of those scenes you all have been begging us for…happy, mushy stuff between the star couples and maybe even a Trollan wedding…while also showing what Hutch, Damien, and Devrian are up to. If there's anything you ever wanted to ask us to write about, this would be the time to do it, because explanations could fit in here…but we make no promises. ;-)
We aren't sure how quickly "Interludes" will go up, as the school year has us both running in circles. After "Interludes," watch for "Reunions," where Keldor is reunited with his family (notice I didn't say "happily" reunited… and yes, that's Little Llama Girl you hear snickering in the background). Also FYI, both of these, although co-authored, will be posted on my account, because I'm a control freak—um, I mean, because Little Llama Girl thinks that's where they belong. She's so nice. ;-)
Until then…God bless you all! And thank you for all of your reviews!