Adam sat in silence the whole trip to Castle Grayskull. Every time Man-At-Arms looked like he was going to say something Adam would silently turn and look at the unconscious, still sedated, girl lying in the back of the Wind Raider and Duncan would hold his tongue. Explanations would be coming soon enough so he realized it was best to let Adam have time to take everything in and cool down from his understandable anger at not being told before.
Duncan had already encountered enough trouble convincing Randor and Marlena to let him take Adora to Castle Grayskull before they could speak with her. In the end, much as they longed to be with their long lost daughter, they finally agreed that it would be best for everyone to let The Sorceress examine her and hopefully remove any enchantments or other evil brainwashing effects the Horde had placed her under before attempting a reunion. Adam, of course, was overflowing with questions, but was keeping them in check as he had been promised that everything would be made clear once they reached Grayskull. He understood this to mean a full explanation would include details about his own secrets and kept quiet for now.
It was a great relief when they finally set the Wind Raider down on the roof of the castle. For some reason Sorceress had requested they meet her up here instead of at the jaw bridge. Something about another guest coming and it being more secure.
"Welcome my friends," Sorceress said as she approached and turned her attention to Adora. "Is the princess all right?"
"I thought it best to keep her sedated till we arrived," Duncan said. "She's probably not going to be in a very pleasant or cooperative mood at first."
"You are certain this is indeed Princess Adora though?"
"The blood test proved it without a doubt."
"Then this is a great day for us all," Sorceress said. "Though it would seem our young prince is greatly troubled."
"Troubled? You could put it that way," Adam said finally breaking his silence.
"I would think you'd be happy to have found your long lost twin," Sorceress said. "What is wrong?"
"What's wrong?" Adam snapped. "Let's see, first I find out that Skeletor is my uncle and now you're telling me Hordak's apprentice is my twin sister. Are there any other relatives I should know about before they try to kill me?"
"I am deeply sorry you were never told," Sorceress sighed. "Please believe me, our intention was to spare you grief. We had feared Adora lost forever and it seemed cruel to let you grow up knowing you had a sister you would never meet."
"What exactly happened?" Adam demanded.
"I promise we will tell you everything just as soon as my other guest arrives. She has a deep involvement in this as well."
"Well she'd better get here quick, my patience is wearing thin."
"I believe that is her now," Sorceress said pointing skyward. Adam looked up then drew back in surprise as the large silhouette of a dragon grew near. Man-At-Arms too gasped in shock and made to ready his weapon but Sorceress motioned for him to remain calm. As the dragon got closer it became clear there was a rider seated about its shoulders. The dragon hovered above them a moment, as though wary to approach, but after a reassuring stroke from the rider it landed.
The dragon was different from the ones Adam was used too. It had dull brown scales and, though a large beast, was considerably smaller. Its front legs were thinner and had smaller humanoid like clawed hands. Two thin horns sat atop it's brow with a smaller third on the tip of its nose and its eyes were large and had a soft, nearly human look. The beast appeared nervous and kept a safe distance from them even as its rider slid off and walked near.
She was a beautiful woman, roughly in her thirties. Her long red hair hung past her shoulders and stood out brightly next to her outfit which was mostly blue but with a high collar and trimming of a golden hue. Her skirt and boots were likewise golden as were her gauntlets which held bright yellow crystals very similar to the ones Glimmer wore. This, along with the scepter she carried, led Adam to assume she was a spell caster of some kind.
As she walked over to them Sorceress held up a hand to stop her approach. "Prove yourself," she said. "Speak the oath of Grayskull's guardians."
The woman fell to one knee, placed one hand over her heart, flexed the other into a muscle, and spoke in a soft friendly voice that had a slight foreign accent which Adam couldn't place. "Magic and strength, tempered by heart. I stand for peace."
Sorceress nodded and gestured for her to stand. "Rise and be welcome my friend." Then, dropping the formal nature, the two embraced. "It is so wonderful to see you again."
"It has been far too long Teela'na."
"Teela'na?" Adam asked turning to Man-At-Arms.
"You didn't think her real name was Sorceress did you?"
"Hello Duncan," the woman said coming over to them. "You haven't changed much. The mustache is a nice touch though. Ah but Adam, you certainly have grown into quite the handsome young man."
"I'm sorry," Adam said. "Do I know you?"
"Of course you wouldn't remember me," she said with a smile. "You were just a newborn baby when I last saw you. But I'd know those beautiful eyes of yours anywhere. I am called Castaspella. Or just Casta for short."
"I apologize for testing you Casta," Sorceress said, "but I wanted to be certain it was really you. Under the circumstances and with the Horde on the loose..."
"Perfectly understandable," Castaspella said. "I suppose my method of transport didn't help matters either."
"Is this what you've been up to all these years?" Duncan asked. "Taming dragons?"
Castaspella laughed. "Taming is hardly the word. I've been trying to toughen him up for his own good. Sorrowful there is the most timid, cowardly creature you'll ever meet."
"You haven't met Cringer," Adam muttered.
"Well, as much as I'm pleased to see you all," Casta said turning her attention to Adora, "I believe the reason we're all here is for another reunion."
"So I take it you knew about this secret sister of mine as well," Adam said, his anger returning.
"Yes," she sighed, her happy nature vanishing. "And how I wish you could have known her your whole life as well."
"Yeah, seeing as everyone else did!"
"Only a small number of people knew about Adora's existence, and of those even fewer knew the whole truth behind her disappearance," Duncan explained. "It was decided that secrecy in the matter was best for the safety of everyone, especially you."
Seeing this did not lessen Adam's temper Castapella said, "I don't blame you for being upset, but if you're going to spew your anger then direct it at me. None of this would have been necessary had Adora not been taken in the first place. And what happened to her was my fault."
"No Casta," Sorceress stated firmly. "It was Shadow Weaver's doing. You are not responsible for her actions. You must stop blaming yourself!"
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" Adam said. "I was promised some answers and I think I'm entitled to them."
"Yes," Casta said. "Let us go inside and wake Adora. The story I have to tell is for both of you to hear."
"You left Adora there alone?" Hordak roared.
"You said to let her do the assassination herself," Shadow Weaver said in a nervous tone. "I was just to get her in..."
"I would think it should go without saying that you were to remain nearby in case she required assistance in her departure!" Hordak snarled. "You, even more than the others, were foolish to dare return here without knowing what happened to her!"
He's right! Shadow Weaver thought. I could have escaped blame if I came back with news that she died in her attempt. I should have waited and checked!
Hordak materialized Shadow Weaver's soulstone in his hand. "If anything has happened to her Weaver..."
"I beg you master, be reasonable," Weaver pleaded. "Surly you, in your great wisdom, must have known there was a possibility Adora would fail in her mission. Even as skilled as she is. It was by your order that I left her to her own devices. Even if I had remained nearby, it would have done nothing to change her fate if she was slain while making her attempt."
"I'm beginning to think you protest too much Weaver."
At that moment the spying Imp flew in and chattered to Hordak. Shadow Weaver could not understand what the creature said, but Hordak did not look pleased.
"It appears Adora did fail to slay the prince due to interference from that accursed He-Man. However, she still lives and she has been taken to Castle Grayskull."
"They have no doubt already begun to undo the controls you placed on her," Shadow Weaver said.
"I'm not about to give up my greatest weapon without a fight," Hordak declared.
"If she's in the castle, there is little hope of retrieving her. The Sorceress has undoubtedly cut off any connection I still had there after our last assault."
"That is your problem," Hordak said giving the soulstone a squeeze. "You had better think of something Shadow Weaver, because I hold you responsible for her capture! I want Adora back here before moonrise tomorrow night, or it will be the last one you ever see!"
"Hordak will send after me!" Adora said. She had been brought around and was being about as cooperative as they had been expecting.
"Yes Princess," Castaspella said calmly. "But by then you will be free from his control and know the truth he has hidden from you all your life."
"Spare me your trickery. Do you honestly expect me to believe anything you say?"
"Actually no," Casta said. "Not at the moment with that spell of confusion on you."
"What spell?" Adam asked.
"You are not a sorcerer so you cannot see it," Casta explained, "but I can see the dark mystical aura surrounding Adora's head. Hordak must have been using a spell of confusion to keep her under his control. It keeps her from questioning anything he tells her."
"I am under no confusion!" Adora shouted. "I know Hordak is my leader, I know you all are his enemies. And I know that seemingly scrawny prince there is really He-Man!"
"Uh, yeah she's confused all right," Adam said quickly.
"What happened?" Casta asked him with a smirk. "She see you transform?"
Adam's jaw dropped and he stuttered a moment before confessing, "Yeah exactly. So you know too?"
"Castaspella used to be my apprentice," Sorceress explained. "I taught her all of Grayskull's secrets. If Adora hadn't been taken you both would be calling her Sorceress."
"I don't know what you hope to accomplish," Adora scoffed. "My loyalty to Hordak is unbreakable."
"Only because he has used lies and magic to keep it that way," Castapella sighed. "But I can tell your true nature has been fighting it. The confusion spell is damaged. Clearly he's had to reenforce it many times."
"You're lying. You have no way of knowing what my true nature is."
"Oh but I do. You follow Hordak out of feelings of loyalty. But do you always agree with his actions? Has there never been a time when you do things that, well, aren't evil?"
Adora made to protest but then she began to remember things. How she had saved a child from a fire while the rest of the Horde set them. How she disapproved of attacking the village of innocent peasants. How she was uncomfortable with the thought of wielding Grayskull's soulstone against his descendants.
"Let me clear your mind," Casta said. With a wave of her scepter the mystic aura around Adora's head became visible then was sucked away and vanished like a plume of smoke. With it Adora's mind began to open and think, asking questions she never thought to ask before. The Horde was evil (it was in their name after all) yet was she? Why did she do evil things? Why would she harm people she had never met? But then why had Hordak raised her like a daughter, trained her so well, if he was so heartless?
"You will no doubt have many questions," Casta said. "Please listen to my tale and I will try to answer them."
"I thought you removed the confusion," Adam said.
"The spell confounds the mind to keep her from asking questions," Sorceress explained. "Now that it's lifted her mind is free to consider what it couldn't before."
"Why are you doing this?" Adora asked. "I am your enemy."
"No Adora, you are one of us. You are part of a great legacy, for like your brother here, you are the descendant of King Grayskull."
"Brother? Me an heir of Grayskull? No, it can't be."
"Look into Adam's eyes," Castspella said. "Just look and think."
Adora did look. For a long time she simply stared then finally she said, "I'm not ready to fully trust you, but I will hear what you have to say."
"I'm still waiting to hear this myself," Adam said. "Okay, Adora is my sister. I can believe that. It's actually more believable than Skeletor being my uncle. So why have I never known about her. How did the Horde get ahold of her when they were locked up in Despondos? You said it was your fault, Sorceress said it was Shadow Weaver, which is it?"
"It was Shadow Weaver who stole Adora away," Casta sighed, "but it was because of me that she wasn't stopped in time."
"You and Shadow Weaver were old enemies?" Adora asked.
"They were best friends," Duncan said.
"NO!" Castapella shouted. "Shadow Weaver was not my friend!" Calming down she added, "The woman who later became Shadow Weaver was my friend, but that woman no longer exists. She died the moment Shadow Weaver was born."
"Perhaps you had better start from the very beginning," Sorceress said. "If they are to understand what happened to them and why, it would help to know what led up to it."
Castaspella nodded. "As I said, Shadow Weaver was not always the dark witch she is today. The very name Shadow Weaver is a twisted tainting of what was once her true name. When I first met her, she was known as Lorina Lightspinner." Casta briefly paused and closed her eyes, forcing herself to struggle through the painful memories as she launched into her tale:
It began near the end of the Orc Wars. Randor's armies had emerged victorious and only a few select pockets of the foul creatures remained, launching attacks on select villages. Sadly, my home was one of those attacked. I wish I could have done more to help, but I was only nine at the time. I was no warrior, so I did the only thing I could. I ran.
I wasn't sure how long I was running or how far I had gone. All I knew was I was lost in the woods and there were still orcs following me. Finally, when I could run no further I did the next best thing I could think of and tried to hide. I concealed myself as best I could in the brush, but my red hair and the blue dress I was wearing didn't blend in very well. I had heard, however, that orcs had bad eyes but great noses. Supposedly they could actually smell your fear. As two of the beasts approached sniffing the air I kept as still as I could, praying the eye part was true but the nose part was not.
What happened next went by so fast I still have trouble remembering the exact course of events. The orc shot out his hand grabbed and pulled me toward him. Instinctively, I screamed and threw my hands up in front of me. The next thing I knew I was on the ground again and, when I dared to open my eyes, the orc lay before me, writhing in agony, its body engulfed in flames.
The second orc stared in shock briefly, then turned and sneered at me. Most orcs are not fluent in the human tongue, but this one managed to spit out one word I fully understood.
He slowly lumbered towards me, his face a mask of fury, repeating "witch" over and over. I froze, too confused and terrified to move. I was certain my end had come when another voice rang out.
"Get away from her!"
Emerging out of the woods was a young woman a few years older than me. She was dressed in red robes and had her long blond hair tied back in a braid. She faced the orc as though ready to take it on, but she had no weapon, and it was easily three times her size. The orc studied her a moment then, seeing no threat, turned back to me. It only got one step closer before a glowing bolt struck the ground between us.
"I said, get away!" the girl shouted. Looking back we both saw that her hands were glowing the same as the blast that had just come. The orc let out a savage roar and charged her but, just as quickly, she brought her hands up and with them an enormous fallen tree rose into the air and flew forward into his chest knocking him flat on his back. Before he could recover she brought the tree crashing down on his head with a sickening crack and he moved no more.
"Are you all right?"
I was barely able to find my voice. "How did you do that?'
"Magic. Same as you."
"I don't know magic."
"What are you talking about?" she said in surprise. "I saw you inflame that other orc."
"I don't know how that happened," I said. "I've never done anything like that before. I'm not even sure how I did it then."
"You mean you did a high level spell like that purely on reflex?"
Before I could answer a man emerged from the same place she had. I could tell right away he was another wizard. He wore long golden robes and his hair and beard, which reached down past his waist, were as white as new fallen snow.
"Lorina, what were you thinking running off into danger like that?"
"I handled myself alright," Lorina said with a hint of annoyed defiance. "Besides, I couldn't leave this girl in danger."
"You were extremely lucky," he said. "Orcs should never be taken on alone if at all."
"Instead of giving me another lecture Norwin, why don't we see to our young friend here?"
"What brings you out here alone?" Norwin asked. I did my best to explain everything I had been through. Norwin listened quietly, not interrupting, though he did take noticeable interest when I told him of my unexpected burst of magic.
"I think you'd better come with us," Lorina said once I had finished. "You'll be safer. And maybe Norwin can teach you to harness and control that magic you've got in you."
"Now hold on Lorina," Norwin said. "I've got my hands full training you already. Wizards seldom take on two students at a time. It can lead to... complications."
"She has nowhere else to go," Lorina said. "and don't forget this kid, who has never used magic before, just inflamed an orc by reflex alone. She is destined for greatness. You cannot deny her that."
"Very few are destined for anything, least of all greatness," Norwin said firmly. "However, she may stay with us for a few days, and I suppose I can show her some basic control skills. Now, I suggest we leave before more orcs arrive."
Norwin had said a few days, but those days became weeks and then months. Soon enough it was clear to everyone that I was there to stay. Once Norwin accepted that, my training increased dramatically. Norwin was a good teacher, firm and strict, but also patient and fair.
He took things slowly, which didn't bother me too much, but did annoy Lorina who was anxious to see me get up to her level so that we could continue our training side by side. She would sometimes teach me things herself behind Norwin's back and other times insist Norwin spend time with me instead of her. She took a great interest in seeing me reach my potential and our friendship grew closer as a result.
As skilled as I was becoming, Norwin didn't like me using magic for everything and would frequently assign tasks to be completed without using a single spell. One particular day he went off on some errands and left Lorina and me to chop a huge load of firewood, which he demanded be done manually. Norwin insisted it was just as important to know how to function without magic as it was to control it, but neither I nor Lorina saw the point.
"It's going to take all day to get this done," I said laying down the axe and rubbing my sore shoulders. "We've been at this for hours already and have barely made a dent in the pile."
"I agree," Lorina said, "but you know Norwin will be furious if we disobey him and use magic."
"How is he going to know?" I said. "As long as he doesn't see us doing it."
"You know, you're right," Lorina said. "We've got the power to do things the easy way why shouldn't we? I mean we already know how to do it without magic, so we can if we ever needed to."
"But we don't need to. That's the whole point." My mind made up I set about casting the spells to split and stack the wood all at once. Lorina joined me and within minutes the task was complete. Just to make the illusion more convincing, we stacked some of the wood we actually had chopped by hand on top of the piles and then dirtied ourselves up to make it look like we had been working hard. Suppressing our laughter we settled down and waited for Norwin to return, secure in the knowledge that he would never know.
"You have entirely missed the point of the lesson I was trying to teach you!" Norwin shouted. "Nothing worth having or doing is ever easy. Yes, there may seem to be a better way, but in the end the price is always too great!"
I was about to attempt an apology when Lorina spoke. "Don't blame Casta, It was my idea. She warned me you wouldn't like it, but I went ahead anyway."
Norwin stared at her a minute, as though trying to see through her deception, but finally said, "Somehow I am not surprised by this, Lorina. Come inside. Casta, remain here while I speak to Lorina."
I waited on edge. I kept expecting Norwin to come out having learned the truth and for him to be even more angry with him for not coming clean. I was too shocked by Lorina taking the full blame for my mistake. After what seemed like an eternity Lorina came out of the house. She seemed her normal self, except I noticed both her wrists had strange blue markings on them.
"What did he do?"
"It's a hex," she said. "It keeps me from being able to use magic at all for a whole day."
"I didn't know magic could be so easily blocked."
"Well, it's not a commonly used hex as most fully trained sorcerers can easily counter it. I, of course, haven't leaned how yet."
"All things considered, one day without powers isn't too bad."
"Actually," she said, "I have to get the hex recast every day for the next week."
I was shocked and overcome by guilt. "Why would you do that? It was all my fault. I'm the one who should be punished."
"Forget it. It's not the first time Norwin's done this to me, and it won't be the last. Much as I've learned from him, there are some lessons where I know he's just wrong and this is one of them. We aren't meant to do things the hard pointless way. You and me, we are destined for greatness. So for the next week while I'm stuck powerless, you'll be getting Norwin's full attention and do some catching up to me. One day I'm going to be the most powerful sorceress ever and I want you right there with me. "
From that moment on Lorina was more than just my friend. She was like a sister to me. Perhaps it was that bond that blinded me. If I had realized then just how much she longed for great power, how far she was willing to go to get it... who knows how much pain I could have prevented.