De Author Seez: Another year, another genre invaded. The property of "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" is the property of Mattel (or The Borg of Toymaking, depending on who you talk to). I'm borrowing and expanding on the characters/storyline for my own entertainment...and yours. There is no expectation or hope of material profit or compensation from this. I'm writing because this is all The Muse - who looks suspiciously like Sharon Stone in her prime - is providing right now. Plus this has been in my head for the last eight-plus years; I'll explain in future chapters.
Meanwhile, enjoy. Word of warning: some semi-mature issues will be dealt with here. Nothing explicit (I think), but who knows? Oh, and this is going to seem...vague for a bit. Please bear with me. Things will make sense eventually.
He-Man and The Masters of the Universe:
Songs From A Distant Life
(1/?): What the Guardsman Found...
Roan Galatas, Senior Guardsmen of Eternos Castle, walked his assigned watch and wondered not for the first time how everything could seem so utterly calm within the palace when, in truth, utter chaos reigned.
First there were the idiot rumors swirling about concerning Prince Adam and Captain Teela, whose absence from Court had been noticed for the past three days had quickly been noticed and equally quickly remarked upon. This nonsense alternated between reports of both having taken ill with who-knows-what, and went downwards from there. The King and Queen both attended Court and matters of state with their usual calm and strength, which perversely merely fueled speculation as they refused to answer any inquiry concerning their son or his bodyguard. The current most frequent whispers were that the pair had either been felled by assassins, or they'd secretly married and been exiled by a rightly furious King.
Roan and the rest of the palace detachment knew better, although there was still a running pool as to how much longer the pair would continue their idiot dance and finally and really elope. Neither the King nor Man-at-Arms knew of it – or so all involved hoped – but there were few secrets in the barracks and they all knew the truth. Or at least thought they did. There was certitude enough they'd all sworn to keep the Prince and Captain's confidence.
There were no assassins, but there was the unsettling reality that both the Prince and Captain were indeed bed-ridden these past three days…and no-one could identify the cause. So far as anyone knew there was no kind of fever or illness involved, nor poisons or any other physical malady, and the Guard had been listening very carefully. That left the possibility of magic, but there too everyone was at a loss. Orko, various minor sensitives who were consulted, even the Sorceress of Grayskull herself, all of them reportedly could detect nothing, which was unsettling enough as it left no clear explanation.
Adding to the mystery was the strange commotion of two nights ago. Roan had been asleep with the rest of his division when literally the entire palace shook to its foundations with an almighty crash of lightning. One that originated not in the cloudless night sky above, but apparently from the ground, in or at least near the wing that housed the palace infirmary, where (not coincidentially, Roan was sure) the Prince and Captain were both lying in observation. Nearly the whole of the palace guard had roused and raced towards the crashing noise, only to be stopped by Duncan himself who promptly ordered them all back to either their posts or to bed. The Queen, then the King himself appeared and reiterated their Man-at-Arms' order; granted the latter was looking pale and shaken, but the authority he spoke with was as absolute as ever. He'd even added a solemn vow that neither their son nor his bodyguard were in any endangered by whatever had happened.
Both the Royal couple and Duncan refused to explain either the cause or effect of this mysterious lightning, but the fact Orko was promptly summoned suggested magic was involved. The King and Queen had to that point taken turns – long ones – sitting at the unconscious pair's bedside. After this however they stood watch together, but did so now behind closed doors and issuing orders that absolutely no-one, even healer Himon himself, was to be admitted into the sickroom until they allowed.
Himon, being the ever-gentle bully he was, managed to make it past the guard set by Duncan and even into the pair's assigned room. Whatever he saw there had him immediately backpeddling in shock, a state utterly alien to the old healer's demeanor. He recovered himself quickly and reaffirmed Randor's orders, even offering to take up station himself. Duncan, while grateful for the support, wisely sent the elder on his way with promises he'd be called when needed.
Confusion piled upon confusion as the King emerged shortly after dawn and directed Adam and Teela be carried to their respective quarters. Though it went unremarked, it was clear the night had proved trying upon him; their King looked more rung out with stress and exhaustion than any other time in memory, and the Queen looked even worse. Yet after just a day's rest they both resumed the business of both court and country.
The final piece to this already-confusing puzzle was, oddly, the most disturbing. Roan had been on duty the previous night and seen Duncan escorted into the King's personal study. There was muffled sounds of shouting and thrown objects, which was alarming enough that Roan summoned the rest of the night watch and was prepared to break the study's door in.
They were stopped once again by the Queen, who appeared as if by magic just as they were charging forward. The scene in that hallway must have been positively comedic as he and his comrades were literally tumbling into and atop one another barely a handslength from Her Majesty. Without cracking so much as a light grin, she ordered the lot of them back to their posts, her solemn word given that neither her husband or "the other one" (as she referred to Duncan) were in the slightest danger. Her eyes flashed with dangerous light that struck all objections dead and sent them on a hasty retreat.
No word of this was said beyond the night watch themselves, and even then they kept their voices low. Bad enough that the Crown Prince was struck by parties unknown, but for his bodyguard – who was also the Captain of the Guard and amongst the most formidable warriors on the planet – to be struck as well, and have the whole thing become grist for the rumor mill was doubtless trying enough upon the Royal Couple. The Guardsmen were loathe one and all to add to the trial by adding their own speculation and whispers to it.
Thus it was coming to be dawn of the fourth day since the Prince and Captain fell silent that Roan was completing his assigned shift, his assigned route that night taking him past the Prince's chambers. The Captain was in the adjoining suite and both their doors were cracked open. This was perfectly normal, given Cringer liked to prowl the floors at night, and Teela was normally such a light sleeper anyone who dared intrude on her was sure for a rude surprise.
This didn't mean Roan and his fellows were purely decorative, nor were they pushovers here, and to a one they took their duties seriously. They loved their Prince and their Captain and would be damned before they let anything menace them, especially now that neither was in a position to defend themselves. Hence each of them walking their routes more softly, that much more carefully, and watching the shadows with a closer eye than usual.
As he passed the Prince's door, Roan took a moment to glance through the open threshold, only to frown in worry at the visible absence of Cringer. The poor cat had been nearly inconsolable when Adam was found unconscious in his bedroom, keeping his master in sight at all times and actually growling with his hackles raised at any threats, seen or unseen. It was rather frightening, especially given the intelligence and power he gazed upon everything, and more than one courtier had been dissuaded from invading the Prince's privacy the last three days by it.
But now the cat was out of sight, which was atypical enough to prompt Roan to risk invading the same himself. If Cringer were simply sitting out of sight, he'd know quick enough and could bid them both a good night. Except there was no sign of the great cat as he advanced into the suite, which actually gave Roan a bit of worry, given just how protective that titanic kitten had been acting.
Roan debated whether or not to summon one of the Watch, but quickly decided against it. Better he make sure the Prince was still in his bed before sounding any alarms. For all he knew the cat was simply stalking some mice down the hall and nothing was truly amiss. Well, any more amiss than everything already was, that is.
The door that separated the bedroom and privy from the main room was wide open, which at once relieved and worried Roan. He could make out a reclining form in the bed, the weak light of early morning casting long and obscuring shadows throughout the room and obscuring . Deciding he was merely borrowing trouble, Roan slowly backed away and turned back to the suite's door, comfortable he was worrying for nothing and really just needed a bit of kip.
He was thus completely surprised when a strong hand gripped his neck and propelling him into the wall near the threshold. Roan was sure he felt a couple teeth loosen against the masonry, but had no time to ponder it further as that same hand grasped his collar and literally threw him clear across the room, his feet literally lifted off the ground as he went. Per his training Roan curled himself so he rolled rather than hit the opposite wall, both softening the impact and putting him in better position to confront this intruder.
He let his honed instincts take over then and attempted to activate both his wrist cannon and comm. Fast he was at this, and his reflexes were easily the best in the Guard, the attacker was quicker still. A blurr of a foot arched past him and connected with his right wrist, sending his aim from the horizontal to the vertical with such force his entire arm felt the blow. It was all Roan could do but watch this husky figure execute a near-perfect 'body-spin' move, brining up its other foot and hitting him square in the chest. Roan every bit as battle experienced as the rest of Guard, having even exchanged blows with the Beastman in close quarters, and he had never felt the kind of punishment this attacker was meting out. He was sure he heard both armor and ribs crack from it, as well as the telltale sparking of his comm (which had been build into the collar of this vest) as it too suffered damage.
This was all coming so fast, Roan had no time to so much as raise an arm to block the vicious backhand that contacted his cheek and sent him sprawling once again. But no sooner had this registered than he was pulled up once again by a single hand and literally dragged back across the room, to be lifted and shoved onto the Prince's desk. It was a half-on/half-off position that twisted his spine in uncomfortable ways. Worse, a brawny forearm was pressing hard against throat and keeping him immobilized. He felt the tip of something sharp agasinst his left cheekbone, but whatever alarm
he should have felt was utterly swept away as he stared into the face of his attacker for the first time:
Prince Adam, clearly awake and aware now.
He might as well have been a complete stranger for how his face was twisted with purest rage and violence, his bright eyes aflame with a tempest of dark intent. The voice he spoke, throaty and deep, with was as unfamiliar as his expression.
"Where am I? And where is my wife?"
Ironically, the pressure he applying to the throat kept Roan from answering. The best he could manage was a strangled grunt.
"Answer me or it goes in," hissed his Prince in his strange and frightening voice. Roan was immediately convinced Adam would indeed push home whatever weapon he was holding. It gave all the incentive needed to force enough air to his lungs and get a clear answer out.
"Ah...ah...Adam...?" Alright, perhaps not the clearest answer, but it did get the Prince (or whoever this was) to ease up a hair.
"What was that?" he growled.
"Ah...dahm...your...Your Highness..." was about all Roan could choke out, as his interrogator's grip had eased but remained a very solid weight. Apparently it was enough, as the Prince's face went from burning wrath to something more akin to confused disbelief. He backed away and looked Roan over as if the Guardsman were some newly uncovered relic of a bygone era, then swept that same gaze to the room in general. Roan got the impression that even though the Prince was no longer looking directly at him, it would be a very poor idea to make any sudden moves.
Rather, he watched his Prince with cautious eyes. There was something decidedly off about him, his stance being slightly if oddly hunched over, and he was tottering about unsteadily. He wanted to chalk it up to simply being stiff after several days of inactivity, but was sure that wasn't it entirely.
The Prince's behavior went from strange to utterly frightening when, while turning a slow circle and head upraised towards the ceiling, his right hip bumped against the edge of the desk. His reaction was to practically jump back as if burnt. Whatever cry might've come was strangled as he looked at his right arm. There was now enough light for Roan to make out his expression, one of fascinated horror. He grimaced as he slowly raised the limb and flexed the fingers, both appearing difficult for him to manage.
It was when Adam took to poking those same fingers and hand with the letter-opener that Roan dared move, pausing only long enough to hear the Prince whisper of "Real?" No sooner had did Roan shift to regain his footing than the Prince spun about, wielding the opener as a professional knife-fighter would, eyes once again dark and piercing.
"Adam?" Roan tried, keeping his hands raised and empty. "Your Highn..."
"Is this..." The Prince paused, blinked twice, and tried again. "Is this...Eternia?"
Roan frowned, strangely disturbed by the tone with which he spoke. It was deeper, nearly gutteral, closer to his father's now than the one he remembered well. Seeing Adam was still waiting for an answer, Roan gave a slow nod, completely unprepared for the way the Prince's shoulders sagged and his solid form seemed to sway. The opener dropped from his hand and clattered to the floor, unheard, as he dragged his fingers through his hair.
"Eternia...Goddess, its..." He feared Adam might faint dead away, leaving him without a clue how to explain all this to the King.
The Prince however recovered with a shakey breath then refocused upon the Guardsman before him. He raised his left hand in the same manner Roan had his, his right arm hanging loosely at his side. "Rohm...Rok...Roan, correct?" Unfamiliar as the tone might have been, the earnestness in the Prince's voice kept the Guardsman from feeling slighted that he'd struggled to remember him. Granted they'd known each other since childhood, but with the sheer number of people demanding time from the Royal Family he could hardly be expected to remember everyone.
Especially after waking from a coma, Roan reflected as he confirmed the Prince's question, only to be caught off-guard by the next one.
"I know this will seem a...mad question, but...how long have I...?"
"You've been unconscious for the last three days," Roan answered immediately, feeling panicked by how Adam paled and swayed once more. He was quite sure the Prince was about to topple over, only to gather himself and mutter something Roan could not make out. It didn't sound like Eternan, at least not any dialect Roan recognized. Adam was literally having to hold himself upright, bracing himself with his left arm on the desk, and this was honestly scaring the hell out of Roan.
"Three...days..." the Prince could be heard muttering, voice nearly hoarse with emotion. He suddenly straightened and spun on Roan, causing the Guardsman to stumble back a step in surprise. "Teela," he hissed. "Is she here as well?"
"Of...of course," Roan stumbled, the Prince's sudden shifts in mood leaving him equally off-balance and on edge.
"Her...her quarters..." Before he could continue, Adam was turning on his heel and sprinting out the door. His gait seemed awkward, and Roan didn't think it was from simple joint stiffness. It reminded him, unsettlingly, of how his grandsire would move in his twilight years.
Roan would later kick himself for becoming so distracted by what he'd seen that it took a muffled cry from nearby to pull himself together and try to alert the rest of the palace. He remembered too late that his armor's comms had been damaged in the earlier scuffle, by which time such an alert was naught but a pointless effort.