Disclaimer: I do not, nor have I ever owned He-Man or any of the characters in the He-Man or She-Ra serial cartoons. Thank you.
At long last I've finished the final chapter. I guess that's what pneumonia will do to you. There is still an epilogue after this that should tie up any ends I've left flying free, if anyone was concerned about that. It may be a little while before I get to it, but I'm not abandoning the story with only one chapter left to go. Please enjoy and drop a line, if you're so inclined. Peace.
"Over there", She-Ra told Duncan, her gaze shifting between the less than scenic panorama and the beeping device in her hands. Duncan steered the wind raider in the direction she'd indicated. She-Ra glanced over at her uncharacteristically silent companion.
"This is important, Duncan", she said, "Besides, we've got the com-link, so we'll know if they attack before we return."
Duncan nodded grimly, unconvinced. She was right, of course, but regardless, he felt uneasy about the whole situation.
This disturbance had Skeletor written all over it, and if Skeletor was planning to join forces with Hordak, it would be easier to take them out separately. And, if he was dead set against Hordak, perhaps they could persuade him into an uneasy truce until Hordak was defeated. And the palace was as well defended as it reasonably could be. Not to mention that the atual attack could be months away. None of these facts sufficed to create in him a sense of peace or well-being about the current state of things.
"Teela's men have engaged Hordak's forces. Hordak and his elites will undoubtedly penetrate the battle and arrive momentarily", Seahawk reported over the borrowed com-link, "We have yet to receive visual confirmation of Hordak, or any of his higher-ups. Just robots and creatures so far. Beastman has been sighted."
Seahawk had been keeping up the castle perimeter with Teela and her men, and had volunteered to inform the other masters of current events; a task that Teela had been more than willing to relinquish.
They'd had no luck this far in raising Man-at-Arms and She-Ra. Apparently that magnetic field they'd been heading for was interfering with communications.
Seahawk, a pirate after all, drew his saber with relish and joined the fray.
"No! That is not an acceptable solution!" Adam exclaimed, outraged. "My father is out there fighting right now! I'm not going to sit in here, arguing with you about every little detail until all danger is past!" Adam was livid. His father's councilors were making disapproving faces at him, and he didn't care. He needed to get out of here before Hordak showed up and caused more harm than was necessary, when all he really wanted was Adam. Of course, no one else knew that he was the real reason for Hordak's attack.
As Adam's hands neared his head, primed to start tearing chunks of it out of his scalp in a fit of desperate frustration, the miracle arrived in the form of battle-ready Marlena. She smiled knowingly at Adam.
"I think I can take over from here, Dear", she told Adam. "I believe you have some other business to attend to, Adam?" Adam smiled gratefully at his mother.
'Adam, Hordak has arrived. He is at the South end of the palace, confronting the masters assembled there. Hurry.'
Adam's smile faded. "I have to go", he said, disregarding expressions of displeasure and outrage as he ran full tilt down the high arching hallway, desperate to arrive before anyone was injured. Marlena's eyes followed him worriedly out of sight before she straightened her face and her spine, and turned to address the assembly of advisors.
In front of the palace, a smoky, lavender haze roiled into being where a few of the masters had congregated as a sort of wall of defense, after the guardsmen under Teela's command.
"What is that?!" Mekanek shouted in a tone registering between fear and bewilderment.
"Let's not lose our heads now", Man-E-Faces cautioned, "Just be ready to fight whatever comes out."
As they grimly watched, the clouds solidified into bodies. It appeared to be a force almost entirely comprised of Skeletor's henchmen, and perhaps a few of his enemies, all headed by Hordak himself.
Evil-Lyn continued to move her hands about in alien patterns, until the haze had completely dissipated, and the bodies had all regained their usual solidarity. Her expression displayed displeasure, but also resignation. Hordak's manner with her was perhaps dissatisfying, even degrading, but he was undoubtedly more ruthless, and therefore more successful in his endeavors than Skeletor; and Evil-Lyn chose to be on the winning side.
She-Ra watched the horizon uneasily, turning her eyes every so often to the device emitting escalating beeping noises the further they went in this direction. Her eyes widened.
"Duncan!" she exclaimed, alarmed.
"I see them", he told her grimly. The wind raider whined as Man-at-Arms applied the brakes, and the scenery slowed from a blur to recognizable objects like trees and rocks, skeletal faces, and scaly bodies. Ugh.
"As if it were not disgraceful enough that I was booted out of my own mountain", a voice grated snidely, "Now I'm to be invaded by the forces of Good."
"Seahawk!" Teela shouted over the din of combat, "Do you see that haze over the palace?!" Seahawk disabled the robot and quickly turned to see what she meant.
"By the waves", he murmured, "That's no natural cloud." He turned back to the melee with determination.
"We have work to do here!" he shouted to Teela. "We just have to hope they're as prepared as they need to be!" Teela looked at him hard and nodded, blocking another blow with her staff.
Adam ran headlong through a deserted corridor and hurtled through the palatial columns marking the entrance of his home, running right into the knot of masters grouped there.
"Let me through! Let me through!" he cried in agitation.
"Prince Adam?" Mekanek asked, bewildered, still holding him back on one side. "What are you doing? We can't let you through, Hordak's here!"
"Der, he's right", Ram-Man added from Adam's left.
"I know!" Adam struggled, trying to get free without hurting his friends. "But I need to talk to him Mek, I'm the reason he's here."
"Just let me through, I need to talk to him. That's an order", he tacked on as an afterthought. Mekanek and Ram-Man looked at each other and, against their better judgment, released him.
Adam came into the open facing Hordak, and murmurings of surprise and confusion echoed through the ranks of both sides.
"My, my, my", a high, cold, unpleasant voice chimed evilly. "If it isn't the brave young prince. So keen to take risks. Your parents evidently forgot to include discretion as a part of your education. Tell me, are you certain you don't care to be more . . . prepared, before you face me?" His voice dripped with innuendo and superiority. Adam felt sick. His fears about just how much Hordak knew were confirmed. He straightened himself up.
"I am prepared", he stated harshly, "What do you want, Hordak?" Hordak laughed incredulously.
"Why, didn't the sorceress tell you by some mystic means? I want you dead, obviously, Prince Adam."
Sounds of outrage erupted behind Adam. He waved his friends back as they tried to stand ahead of him.
"Adam!" Mekanek shouted, alarmed.
"It's okay, Mek", he reassured the older man, waving a hand for silence.
"What do you want him for, anyway?" Ram-Man objected, "He hasn't done anything to you!" Hordak laughed again, shrilly.
"That is a singularly ignorant assumption, young man" he sneered, "It just so happens that he has, or will do. It doesn't make much of a difference. Time really is so predictable. Now surrender or die. The prince is doomed either way."
"Help you with the collective aim of ridding the planet of this 'future Hordak', as you call him." Skeletor mused, holding his jawbone thoughtfully. "I had intended to do as much myself, with the doubtful help of these brainless buffoons." He gestured disgustedly toward the few snakemen to have joined the cause either way.
"Unfortunately", Skeletor continued, "I have since discovered that I am practically more effective without them."
One of the snakemen yelped and clutched his hand in pain, glaring balefully at the piece of equipment that had zapped him when he'd put his fingers on it. Skeletor sighed, rubbing his eyesockets despondently.
Adam's expression was one of puzzlement.
"But we haven't even started fighting yet; Don't you think that's a little arrogant?" he asked quizzically, unused to this sort of behavior. Hordak smiled mirthlessly.
"No", he said. Adam gasped, and his friends at his sides looked at him, puzzled.
"Adam?" Ram-Man whispered worriedly. The knife in Adam's back was given another shove, and stars danced in front of his eyes. He turned his head slowly, by inches, to find the very man who'd told him so forthcomingly only days before that he'd been sent to kill him.
"Mark?" he whispered, his voice drowned out by Hordak's cackle of triumph.
"Prince Adam!" voices suddenly shouted in alarm as Adam collapsed back into the arms of his attacker. Mark's hazel eyes were dull and unaffected.
"Mark", Adam put a little more substance into his attempt, clutching the boy's arm determinedly, "I forgive you", he ground out, allowing his grip to loosen and falling to the ground, whereupon he was immediately hovered over by his friends and allies. Mark gazed upon his friend, whom he'd just killed, and walked away, trailed by the tyrant's laughter, the blade hangin limp from his hand until he dropped it.
Adam gasped for breath, not really feeling pain, but finding breathing to be rather difficult.
'I must be in shock, I suppose', he told himself, hearing his own harsh breathing very loudly. It drowned out the raised voices all around him. 'I wonder if it's a fatal wound. No matter what, good has to prevail. So what now?'.
Ram-Man lifted Adam into his arms in an attempt to remove the prince to the infirmary. Still no one was really sure what had happened. No one had seen Adam's assailant. Adam grunted at the movement. The other masters ranged themselves in front of the prince and his carrier, at which Hordak sneered offensively. If they thought he was going to allow the prince to heal or even leave this site before he was well and truly deceased, then they were sorely mistaken.
"Witch!" he addressed Evil-Lyn, "These buffoons seem to labor under the impression that they have the option of removing the princeling to some healer. Show them the error of their ways."
Evil-Lyn clapped her hands three times and began chanting something foreign. An nearly intangible wall appeared behind Ram-Man, who turned to walk toward the palace, only to be forcefully repelled from his path. He landed on his sizable rear, jolting the nearly unconscious prince, who cried out and resumed his harsh breathing in earnest. Evil-Lyn smirked, satisfied with her handiwork.
"Idiot woman!" Hordak cried scornfully. Evil-Lyn frowned. "Is that the best you can manage?" he asked in a disbelieving tone, "I tell you to attack them, and you have them bouncing off of walls? I don't want to prank them, I want to destroy them!" Evil-Lyn's frown grew more pronounced. Hordak turned away from her in fury, and she saw, as she angrily turned away, something that made her smile, albeit grimly. Well, well, well.
The ruckus faded behind him and stopped altogether as he traveled further into the palace vineyard. He absently trailed his hands along the vibrant green leaves.
"This isn't right, he said, "It was his life or mine", he said. "I suppose it's only natural that I would choose my own good over his. But I was wrong. I had three choices", he murmured quietly. "I could kill Prince Adam, and I did; I could have not killed him, which would have resulted in my own demise, but would not have been a death by my own hand; or I could have trusted the prince's assertions that things would turn out, and I could have fought at his side.
"Neutrality accomplishes nothing, but my hands would have been free of the stain they now bear. Killing Prince Adam was a choice to do evil's bidding; there is always reason to do it. Evil offers consequences if you don't give in, and consequences if you do. Good offers consequences if you don't obey it, but great reward if you do.
"Perhaps though, Prince Adam's assertions are not that in which I should have placed my trust at all. He is, after all, as fallible as any human is. He might lead me as far astray as the monster, although he strives to do good. Perhaps my trust should be in Good itself. That things will be taken care of, and that the world will unfold as it should, whether or not that fact is apparent to me at any given time. He paused, his hand hovering over a vibrant grape leaf.
'So what now?'
"Adam!" She-Ra cried, her previously cheerful demeanor now exuded shock and concern upon catching sight of her brother.
"She-Ra?" Hordak ground out in barely restrained fury. She-Ra ran to Adam's side while Hordak gritted his teeth.
"Witch! Stop her!!" he demanded urgently. Evil-Lyn raised an eyebrow.
"Who, me? The idiot woman? I really can't think of a single thing to stop her. Maybe you'd better give me explicit instructions." Hordak snarled savagely.
"Tri-Klops, kill her! Tri-Klops, are you-" Hordak looked at Tri-Klops, who seemed to be paralyzed in place, surrounded by a greenish aura. He moved on to the next henchman, and the next, and the next.
"That would be me", a harsh, grating voice joined the group in the courtyard as Skeletor stepped out from behind a statuesque Clawful. "After all this time, don't you recognize my signature?" Evil-Lyn smiled into her hand at Hordak's hateful expression.
"Surrender, Hordak", Man-at-Arms' voice boomed from an outcropping where Hordak turned to see the arm cannon trained at none other than himself, the second in command of the Horde itself, the group that had once struck fear into the hearts of it's victims, that had once held occupations across the known universe. He watched with hatred as a small group of snakemen slithered around, retrieving weapons and piling them in front of the masters. He was infuriated to see his once protégée, almost daughter healing that wretched prince. His plans were all going to rot. He'd once been horrified to discover that his tormentor, the one that wreaked havoc on all of his plans, was none other than Adora herself. He growled. He was cornered.
"Adam, can you hear me?" Adam groaned, his body finally registering pain now that it was healing. His torso burning as well, as the violent bruise on his chest shrank little by little.
"Adam, it's She-Ra. You've been stabbed, and I'm trying to close the wound." He felt the wound begin to knit together and sighed, relieved.
"Thanks She-Ra." She-Ra loosed the breath she-d been holding and smiled tearfully at her brother.
Randolph ran with vigor toward the palace. He'd seen that purple voodoo smoke from the tree he'd been sulking in. He shouldn't have gone so far. He didn't care about what they said. He could do some good as Randolph, even if they forbid him to use He-Ro. He was almost there. Randolph burst through the tree line, and through the guardsmen still dismantling rogue robots and the occasional rabid lizard. He was there.
He stopped to catch his breath and his eyes widened with amazement. Skeletor was single-handedly holding all of the henchmen in stasis. Randolph guessed that meant he was on their side for now. Snakemen were dancing around a heap of weaponry; he guessed they were too. The masters were all still standing, except She-Ra was healing someone . . . She-Ra was healing Dad!! What had happened? He looked for Hordak next. Man-at-Arms had a cannon trained on him, and Skeletor was keeping an eye on him as well. He was cornered. Great! He ran down to see how Dad was doing.
Hordak's eyes narrowed. It was him. The little red-haired brat he loathed so well. So the sorceress had meddled. He'd known it was a possibility.
Skeletor allowed himself to be momentarily distracted from Hordak, knowing well that Man-at-Arms would not fail to keep him in his sights.
"So, Evil-Lyn" he addressed the witch with a superior air he knew she hated, "how does it feel to be on the 'winning side', was that how you put it?" Evil-Lyn glared at him balefully.
"No different than usual, I suppose", she retorted, causing Skeletor's eyes to glow red.
"Why you-" His rant was nipped in the bud by Man-at-Arms' desperate cry.
"He's getting away!! He'll regroup, we have to stop him!!
Adam jumped up and ran after the tyrant, gasping at the blinding flash of pain that momentarily caught him before he gained his stride.
"Adam, wait!" She-Ra cried, "You're not fully healed yet!" She ran after him and nearly gave in to the temptation of asking her sword to be a lasso. Randolph ran after the two, determined to be of help, after all, he knew this Hordak better than anyone.
Adam stopped dead. Hordak was standing still in the middle of the garden, facing away from them. He looked over his shoulder at Adam and grinned. She-Ra clattered to a stop behind him.
"Good thing I had the witch set this one up before she turned, hm?" And the world around them blurred. The land around them transformed from vibrant vineyards to parched wasteland.
Hordak turned and peered at the prince, now noticing that She-Ra and Randolph were also present.
"Well, well, I am delighted to see you here Adora, Prince Randolph." He said both names with equal venom. Randolph raised his chin defiantly, and She-Ra gasped in horror.
"Yes, of course I know. I know all about you and your accursed family. The bane of my existence! I regret I ever meddled with the lot of you! But no matter. I'll see you die in pain and torment, and it will ease my pained existence, and I will no longer be this shadow of my true potential." She-Ra frowned and stood straight. She stepped forward.
"No you will not." She said firmly. Hordak seethed and brought a curled hand up, as though to strike her.
"Hordak", she addressed him,"There is still good in you." Hordak snorted. She ignored him and continued.
"When we send you back to your time, you will go to prison, but you have the opportunity to make a change and stop serving evil. You-" Hordak sneered.
"I don't have to listen to this, I have the upper hand here. I know how to invoke the spell and leave you all stranded here to die. And I will." Hordak, as though to illustrate his point, turned and lifted a hand, as though to grab something. But his hand was halted by She-Ra's strong arm. He growled in fury at being thwarted thus.
"Hordak", she said, "I'm telling you this because I care for you. When I was growing up, you had ulterior motives in so much of the way you raised me, and yet you cared for me. I saw it. You must pay for your crimes, but you can still do good with your life if you choose it. Remember that." As she finished speaking, she reached into Hordak's pocket and removed the device she found there, crushing it in her palm. Adam contacted the sorceress.
'Soceress, we're all ready to go home.'
Adam and She-Ra found themselves back in the palace garden. Adam looked around wildly.
"Where's Randolph?! I didn't mean for him to go now! I-" Adam sighed. "I didn't even get to say goodbye. She-Ra laid a hand on his shoulder in sympathy and turned back into Adora.
"Don't worry Adam, it's not like you'll never see him again."
"Man, you guys are gloomy." Adam looked around excitedly.
"Randolph?!" They heard Randolph's laugh float down to them.
"Up here." They looked up and Adam laughed.
"Should have known. Always up a tree. Maybe your true calling in life was really to be a cat." Randolph jumped down to stand next to his father.
"I'll miss you Adam", he said.
"Huh?" asked a confused Adam. Randolph laughed.
"You're so much more gullible now than you are in the future." Adam mock glared at his future progeny.
"At least I don't wear a stupid looking earring", he retorted self-importantly. Randolph grinned.
"You don't like my earring, Dad?" he asked, fingering the little gold hoop. "Uncle Hawk gave me two of them. You said two earrings were girly, and one was at least moderately manly, so I gave you one of them. Mom likes it. She says it gives you bedroom appeal. Thankfully, I'm too naïve to know what that means." Adora giggled into her hand, and Adam flushed beet-red.
"Well", he said, "I guess it really is time I should be going. I'll see you all in the future."
"Randolph, wait." Adam hesitated. "I really am going to miss you Randolph. I love you." He enfolded a surprised Randolph in a bear hug. Randolph patted his back awkwardly.
"I love you too, Dad. And I'll see you soon." They stepped apart, and Randolph addressed the sky at large. "Sorceress! I'm ready to go home!" And then he was gone.
Adam looked at Adora. "Sounds like some life we're all gonna have", he said, and took her delicate hand in his large one, and they walked back to the palace together.
Well, that's that. Some of it I liked, some of it I wasn't crazy about. Still have the epilogue to write. Peace out dudes. -Burp.