Author's Note: After a slight delay the Horde War continues. This story is set in the 200X continuity and is pretty much a direct sequel to Wrath of the Horde. If you haven't read that one yet and find this story confusing I'd advise going back and getting caught up.
SHADOWS AND SECRETS
The planet Eternia is a place of wonder and legend and no place on that world is this more true than Castle Grayskull. Once home to the mighty King Grayskull himself, the mysterious keep now held his power and that of the Council of Elders making it the source of ultimate might. Ever since the king's death, the castle has always had a special guardian to watch over it and the power contained inside, in order to protect and keep it, and all of Eternia, safe from evil.
The first guardian had been Veena, King Grayskull's beloved wife. She had in turn passed the mantle to their son Gray, secretly also known as He-Ro a powerful wizard and cosmic warrior. Grayskull and He-Ro had actually fought side by side many times, but tragically He-Ro had been occupied in a conflict elsewhere and therefore unable to lend assistance during the battle where Grayskull fell. Thus the king perished never knowing that one of his closest friends and allies was in fact his own son.
He-Ro held the position for several years but one day left on a mission, the details of which he shared with no one, and never returned. So the mantle was passed to another and another each one gaining new abilities from the castle and in turn adding their own additional spells of power and protection to the castle, thus further benefiting all future successors. When one considered the power and significance of such a position it could be hard to fathom that the one holding it would still be susceptible to something as trivial as a bad dream.
"By the blood of your foe, you shall live again!"
"Light Spinner, stop!"
"It's too late fools! But take heart in knowing you will not live to see the cost of your failure!"
The Sorceress tossed violently in her sleep as her mind was plagued by memories from years ago. All too quickly these memories dissolved into more recent ones.
"Know that I am Adora, Force Captain of the Horde Army and personal heir and apprentice to Hordak himself."
Suddenly Sorceress' mind was filled with horrible visions of pain suffering and death. The Evergreen Forest burned in a fiery blaze. The Rivers of Life ran red with the blood of the dead. The walls of Castle Grayskull crumbled and fell and through it all Hordak stood watching over the carnage and laughing with sinister delight.
He-Man stepped forward to counter the ruthless warlord but was intercepted by a young woman. The strange girl who was Hordak's protégé. The two locked swords in combat but despite He-Man's strength, he was soon disarmed and knocked to the ground. As He-Man fell he slowly, and for no apparent reason, transformed back into Prince Adam. Before Adam could react, the girl placed her foot upon his chest pinning him down and raised her sword up to deliver the killing strike.
"As you fall so does Eternia,"the girl said. "And with your life, so too ends the Legacy of Grayskull!" With that she brought the blade crashing down.
"NO!" Sorceress awoke and sat up with a start panting for breath and clutching her chest as though her heart might burst through it. Slowly she regained her senses, it was a nightmare. No. More than a mere dream she realized it was a warning. A vision of things to come if the proper steps were not taken to prevent it. She had experienced such a vision before, one of the Snake Men's return, and though she had sent out a warning, they had been unable to prevent it and the vision had come to pass.
Sorceress rose from her bed and walked over to a small cabinet containing several mystical objects. She half cursed herself for not acting sooner, but she had been unsure if this was the right course of action. Opening the cabinet she removed a small pendant that no one had touched in years.
"I should have done this the moment the Horde returned," Sorceress said to herself. "But I was concerned her desire for revenge would lead to disaster as it had with Zodac. I was also not sure if the girl I saw was truly Adora, but these visions leave me with no doubt. I only pray my hesitance has not cost us." Wasting no more time she fired a small bolt of energy into the pendant and it shattered to dust.
As the pendant broke apart a swirling mist appeared before her and within appeared a shadowy form. The figure turned and faced Sorceress speaking in a echoing voice, though this was due to the nature of the spell and not of the speaker.
"Who calls upon me in my solitude?"
"It is I," Sorceress said. "Your former master."
The form was still and silent a moment then spoke again. "I honestly never expected to hear from you again. I wish I could say it was a pleasure, in some way it is, but I trust you would not have violated my departing wishes. That can only mean one thing; Shadow Weaver has returned."
"Yes, some weeks ago actually."
"I had thought I felt her presence in Eternia once more, but when you didn't contact me, I dismissed it. I was not mistaken then?"
"No. Forgive me for not calling you immediately but in all honesty I did not want your past clouding the issue. I realize now I was wrong to keep you away. You deserve to face her, however that is not why I chose to contact you now."
"What is it?"
"Adora," Sorceress said. "It would seem she has returned as well, and I fear she has been tainted by the Horde. If something is not done she and all of Eternia may be lost forever. If we are to prevent this I will need your help."
"I shall make preparations to return at once. And do not worry about me and Weaver. You are right about my wanting to settle the score, but Adora comes first. I failed to save that child once, this time I will succeed or die trying."
"Ready or not, here comes another one." Glimmer grinned throwing a ball of mystical light towards Orko. Just as quickly though the Trollan wizard held up a dome shaped jar and caught the ball inside then sealed the jar containing the magic.
"Nice try," Orko laughed. "But I'm just too fast for you."
"What in Eternia are you two doing?" Man-At-Arms shouted coming over to them quickly accompanied by King Randor. Glimmer gulped hoping Duncan was just being his usual grumpy self and that they weren't really mad at her.
She particularly didn't want to anger Randor or any other member of the royal family. She was stuck on Eternia until a way could be found to send her back to her home world of Etheria and they had been kind enough to take her in letting her stay at the palace. The last thing she wanted was for them to think she was taking advantage of their hospitality or wearing out her welcome.
Most people in Eternos she got along with very well, but she had experienced a few unpleasant conflicts with Man-At-Arms. This, she found though was largely due to the ever present tension between him and Orko, who Glimmer had quickly formed a close friendship with. She felt a kinship with the small magician for several reasons. The most obvious being they were both from other worlds, but also because they were both possessed of a youthful fun loving nature. A direct opposite to Duncan's serious, no nonsense attitude.
Taking a deep breath Glimmer calmed herself, taking solace in the fact that this time they really hadn't been doing anything wrong.
"We're making decorations," Orko said innocently showing him the jar which now glowed with the mystical light inside. He gestured behind him where several more jars, each of various colors, sat already filled.
"We combined out magics to make these festive lanterns," Glimmer explained. "I provide the light source into these jars Orko made. They maintain the spell allowing us to keep the lights on without draining our magic or having to tap into the city's power supply."
"Very clever," Randor nodded, "but I'd appreciate it if you'd show a little more caution in their construction."
"We're just trying to have a little fun," Orko said. "I mean after all we're setting up for a party. Besides, even if I miss one it can't cause any damage. It's just light."
"So are laser beams," Man-At-Arms growled.
Glimmer sighed, "Duncan, I know I've only been on Eternia a short while, but in that time I've only seen you smile maybe once or twice and I've never heard you laugh. You're a smart guy and a great warrior, but you need to relax once in a while. Get a sense of humor. Lighten up, if you'll pardon the expression." She grinned and generated another ball of light which she calmly dropped into a waiting jar.
"Just watch what you're doing please," Duncan sighed as he turned and walked away. "We haven't even finished rebuilding from Serpos' attack yet." Randor watched him go for a moment then started after him, taking a moment to speak low to Glimmer and Orko.
"Try to tone it down a little. They'll be plenty of time for fun at the celebration." Catching up with Duncan he cleared his throat and spoke in what he hoped wasn't an insulting tone. "Our Etherian friend raises a good point Duncan. You've been on edge more than usual as of late."
"I just don't know if this is the right time to be holding a celebration sire."
"Well, it's not like I can hold off Adam's birthday," Randor laughed. "It does come on the same day every year regardless of the circumstances."
"But we can postpone the ceremonies," Man-At-Arms protested. "As I said, the city is still under repair and Eternia is in its highest state of alert since the Great Unrest. Hordak is loose and he has probably healed from his wounds by now."
"I wouldn't be so certain," Randor said. "From what you told me there was barely anything left of him once He-Man was through."
That was partially true but in turn was also part of what worried Duncan. Hordak had been struck with the raw energy from the core of the Power Sword, something that had proved too much for Serpos, and most of his body had been destroyed leaving only his head and part of his torso. Somehow though he had survived and, although he had withdrawn to rest and regenerate, the mere fact that he could live through such an assault did not inspire confidence in those who would stand against him.
"Even if he has fully regenerated," Randor went on, "his forces were severely depleted. Hordak is an evil megalomaniac, but he's no fool. He wouldn't launch a full assault without the resources needed. History has shown this."
"That doesn't mean he can't make a small precision strike with his generals," Duncan countered. "A lack of troops never managed to stop Skeletor, who is an additional threat himself. We know through past experience that we can't let our guard down with him. Now that he's a lich he's more dangerous than ever."
Randor's positive attitude fell at the mention of Skeletor. It had always been troubling that his half brother was an evil overlord. Now that he had allowed himself to be turned into an undead monster, an abomination of nature... it was almost unbearable. It had been hard enough deciding to finally tell Adam the truth (not knowing that he already knew having learned it as He-Man). Randor found it easier to just not concentrate on it. Not that he could totally ignore it either.
"Look Duncan," Randor said, "I'm not a fool. I have patrols out all over Eternia. The city is well guarded and security for the ceremonies will be extra tight. I know we need to be wary of a possible attack, but at the same time we can't let it take over our lives entirely. If we spend every moment living in fear then our enemies have as good as won already."
Man-At-Arms slowly nodded. "I see your point sire."
"And at any rate," Randor added, "It's a bit late to call off the celebration now. The invitations have already been sent out and the guests are already on their way here. Stephen is due to arrive tomorrow.
"And Lord Boreas just arrived with his family," Queen Marlena added as she approached them. "I don't want to have to tell them they came all the way from Morainia for nothing."
"Nor I," Randor grinned. "Come, we mustn't keep them waiting."
"You go on ahead Randor," Marlena said. "I need to have a word with Duncan in private first."
"Of course my queen," Man-At-Arms said slightly surprised. Marlena gestured off to a side hallway indicating she wished to find somewhere more isolated to talk. As they walked off and Randor left to meet with Boreas none of them took notice of a small statue in the buttresses above them.
Slowly, the figure shifted, melted from stone to flesh, sprouted a pair of bat like wings and flew off. With incredible speed the small creature soared on the winds and traversed the long journey across Eternia heading past the Sands of Time deep into the Dark Hemisphere. On and on it went, never stopping, never tiring, until finally it swooped down and entered the sinister foreboding structure nestled in the Dunes of Doom. The sanctuary belonging to the dark warlord Hordak and current base of operations for the Evil Horde.
Within the walls the Horde's newest member Modulock, formerly the evil scientist Galen Nycroft, was fully engrossed with studying a suit of Horde Trooper armor, taking measurements and jotting them down on a set of schematics he was drawing, all at the same time. Thanks to the newfound abilities he had gained from Hordak in exchange for helping him escape Despondos, Modulock was able to work with great speed as he rarely had to stop for anything. He didn't have to set anything down, he didn't need to wait for an assistant's help and he could work on multiple projects at once. All it took was a thought and he simply grew an extra set of hands for the job.
Nevertheless, his brain could only focus on so much and as such he barely managed to duck out of the way as the small creature flew past his head. At first it seemed the being had simply not acknowledged Modulock's presence, but then it turned in midair and emitted a high pitched noise that was unmistakably laughter.
"Blasted creature!" Modulock snarled. "I'm really starting to hate that little vermin."
"For once I agree with you," the Horde sorceress Shadow Weaver said as she floated into the room. "It has that effect on most people though."
"At least I can rely on Imp to actually carry out his duty!" Hordak growled as the small creature landed on his shoulder and began chittering in his ear. No one else could understand anything it was saying but Hordak listened carefully with full attention.
"So the Eternians think they can just forget all about us and hold a party?" Hordak laughed. "And for what? To celebrate that insolent whelp of a prince's birthday?"
"I don't understand master."
Everyone turned at the approach of Force Captain Adora, Hordak's beautiful young protégé. As always she stood out as a sharp contrast to the other Horde members around her. She appeared out of place but everyone for the most part welcomed her presence as she seemed to have a calming affect on Hordak. He was usually more patient and spoke casually when Adora was around, a pleasant change from his usual fear inducing nature.
"What confuses you child?"
"As I understand the prince is no younger than I am yet they only now celebrate his birth?"
Modulock stared at Adora in disbelief before finally saying, "You're joking right? Tell me you're not that ignorant."
"Do not confuse a lack of knowledge with stupidity," Hordak glared at him. "Adora is unfamiliar with the concept of birthdays as she has never celebrated one. You see my child," He said turning back to Adora, "it is a common custom, throughout the universe in fact, to annually celebrate the anniversary of a friend or loved one's birth. Practices vary among worlds but traditionally gifts are given, which is one of the reasons we never bothered with noting birthdays in Despondos. There simply wasn't anything to give."
"Also, it severed as a constant reminder of how many years we were trapped in that abysmal dimension," Shadow Weaver added.
"True," Hordak nodded. "However now that we are free a celebration may well be in order. I do believe your birthday is coming up Adora."
"Obviously," Shadow Weaver muttered.
"What was that?" Adora asked.
"Nothing," Shadow Weaver said, realizing her slip-up. "I simply meant since, as you said, you and the prince are the same age..."
"Be silent Weaver," Hordak snarled. Adora was still clearly confused but before she could inquire any further Hordak went on. "Now that I am able I shall present you with gifts befitting of you my child."
"You honor me master," Adora said humbly, "but I require nothing more than a fine weapon to wield and an opportunity to serve you faithfully."
"And you shall have them," Hordak said. "You've been using old trooper swords and are quite skilled with them, but a warrior of your caliber deserves a personalized blade. So your first gift will be a sword specially forged and crafted for your hand."
"But master, we have no blacksmith of our own. Where shall we find someone on this world with the necessary skill who would be willing to craft for the Horde?"
"I knew of one some years ago," Shadow Weaver said. "A forger of the finest quality, but with a heart as black as coal. He'd make weapons for anyone and didn't care who they'd be used against. Supplied arms of all kinds to both sides during times of war. Had a real taste for bloodshed and flesh rendering. Specialized in extra sharp blades, maces and pole arms. "
"You mean old Spikor?" Modulock asked. "Yeah, I think he's still around. He kinda went underground and has been keeping a low profile, but he's still suppling weapons across the Dark Hemisphere. Got himself a forge up in the Desolate Mountains."
"And the weapons made by this Spikor are of the finest quality?" Hordak mused.
"The guy's got some personality flaws, but his work is top notch."
"Very well then," Hordak said. "I shall seek out this forger and task him with the creation of Adora's new sword. In the mean time dear child, your second request shall be granted."
"A chance to prove myself to you?" Adora asked eagerly.
"You have long since proven yourself," Hordak grinned. "But if you wish to serve me faithfully then I will give you an assignment. It displeases me to have the Eternians in such high spirits. I am infuriated that they would commemorate this youth who they would claim heir to the throne of this world which is rightfully mine to rule. We must send a message to let them know it is I they should honor and serve. It it up to you to deliver that message in the only way appropriate."
"I understand Lord Hordak," Adora said with a sneer. "Prince Adam will not live to see this birthday of his. Before that time he will die by my hand."