There were no war drums, but their heartbeats were close enough. Royal Soldiers lined the rocky terrain before Castle Grayskull, lasers primed and blades sharp. Flags baring the royal crest flapped in the air, along with the ancient symbol of Grayskull. There were barely fifty of them – the only soldiers in the area – but they had seen battle, tasted war, and were ready as ever.
Man-At-Arms, Ram-Man, Man-E-Faces, Rio-Blast, and Buzz-Off positioned themselves defensively around the wide open plain. He-Man and Battle-Cat sat on the land bridge, centered just at the thrust of battle.
"Five minutes out," Stratos reported, landing next to Man-At-Arms.
"Understood." Man-At-Arms pressed the side of his helmet, immediately connecting him with all of the soldiers. "Mega-laser battalions, aim for the Rotons and Fright Fighters and don't let up for a second. We want them scattered and disorganized as soon as they get here. Ground troops, support the Heroic Warriors as best you can. Grayskull cannot fall. We will not let it."
Rotons and Fright Fighters shot through the sky suddenly, streaking towards them, engines blaring. Royal Soldiers fired almost immediately, scoring shots against the enemy vessels. Talon Fighters swept in from the south and the battle in the air was joined immediately.
It didn't take long for the battle to break out on the ground after that.
Rio-Blast drew his weapons as Beast-Man rushed at him. He ducked and rolled under the monsters first approach. He rose onto his worn leather boots and narrowly avoided a sharp swipe from Beast-Man's claws. Rio-Blast stepped back and fired. Laser beams crashed against him, sending him to the ground in a furry heap.
Ram-Man barreled past, feet smashing into the ground, propelling him faster into the three in-coming Land-Sharks. They were torn apart as he slammed them together with one huge thrust. Ram-Man stumbled back – and then was blasted three times by Tri-Klops. Ram-Man staggered, grunted, and then was struck three more times. Tri-Klops turned around . . .
Just in time for huge section of the down Land Shark to strike him. Man-E-Faces was in full Monster mode and flung another section of Land Shark at the in-coming Blade. Blade rolled around it and moved to strike. Man-E-Faces grabbed another, smaller section and used it as a shield. The twin blades scrapped along the makeshift shield. Man-E-Faces stepped back and went to slam the shield into Blade. Blade slashed at his armor. Man-E-Faces switched modes, moving into Robot, which allowed him to quickly calculate the next move. He swung back into Monster mode and crashed into Blade, breaking the mercenary's attempt.
Man-At-Arms launched a trio of small missiles that blew out two more Land Sharks, allowing Man-E-Faces to withdraw. Explosions echoed throughout the battlefield. Man-At-Arms whipped out his blaster and fired at the in-coming enemies-for-higher. Skeletor's Evil Warriors were joined by the mercenaries Blade and Saurod, as well as the long-thought-defunct blue-cloaked Fighting Foe Men. He targeted this small number of mercenaries, firing at them with everything he had.
Lightning shot through the air. Electricity surged through the center of the battle. Skeletor floated through the battlefield, encompassed by a rainbow glow.
"Get out of my way, He-Man," Skeletor warned.
He-Man gritted his teeth. "Never."
With his silent command, Battle-Cat rushed away. He-Man lifted his shield and held it against the onslaught of power that came against him. Fireworks splashed aggressive all around him. Electricity vibrated his sword and shield. He could feel body wanting to give up against all this. He felt his strength beginning to wane.
But he did not give up.
"You are nothing to me, He-Man. I am more powerful than you could wish to be."
"I'm as powerful as I need to be."
Skeletor sneered. He raised his hands and blasted energy at Castle Grayskull. Fireworks and electricity crackled against a force field.
"Zodak," Skeletor snarled. "I shall deal with him in due time."
He-Man jumped and crashed into Skeletor. He needed to stall him . . . to give Teela more time . . .
The Sorceress raised her head. "I could feel his power against us."
"Skeletor's attack has halved the strength of my force field. He-Man must be prepared to do what he must to stop Skeletor."
"He-Man will not kill Skeletor, Zodak."
"Foolish. Killing Skeletor will release the power back to Orko and it would end this threat." Zodak looked out towards the battle. "If He-Man continues down this path of mercy, it will kill him. Skeletor will not hesitate to do what He-Man won.t. Castle Grayskull must have a champion to stop Skeletor. If He-Man dies . . ."
"Then another will take his place." The Sorceress rose from her throne. "Teela has arrived."
Aided by Stratos, the Talon Fighter slid through the sky battle and landed heavily near the Abyss. Mekaneck, Fisto and Sy-Clone rushed into the din of battle. Teela, as instructed by the Sorceress, moved into position. In her arms, Orko felt like a malnourished child. He was barely breathing and had hardly moved. She knew the end was near . . .
An explosion rocked the ground. Teela huddled over Orko as rocks and debris sprayed over her.
He-Man was thrown back, his body smoldering. Skeletor floated above him, snickering, eyesockets glowing red. He raised the Havoc Staff. Electricity zipped up and down his body. Rainbow light sharply contrasted Skeletor's darkness. Small fireworks sparked around him.
"The end, He-Man. It has come for you."
He-Man moved to stand up, but a beam of power seared out of the Havoc Staff and slammed He-Man in the chest. The champion of Grayskull felt burning heat rip through his muscles. His hair stood on end as electricity coursed along his skin. Strange, alien power pounded at him.
'He's too powerful,' He-Man realized, feeling his body weaken as Skeletor poured it. He closed his eyes. Orko. For Orko. For Eternia. He had to be strong enough for this. He-Man gripped the hilt of his Sword of Power. The electricity doubled, but He-Man did everything he could to focus on the exotic, alien power being released from Skeletor.
Agony flowed through him with every movement, but slowly and surely, He-Man raised his Sword of Power. He felt his connection with power of Grayskull, but with just a little more focus, he could sense the power that was hitting him . . . the power of the Havoc Staff, of Skeletor, of Negator . . . and Orko.
With a mental command that seemed impossible to understand, he ordered the Sword of Power to harmonize with Orko's magic.
Skeletor gasped as the Sword of Power drew on the magic. He-Man, as though he was changing Cringer into Battle-Cat, spun his Sword of Power towards Orko and Teela.
"WHAT IS THIS?!" Skeletor roared.
Rainbow magic flowed out of him, into He-Man and the sword, and through the air and into Orko.
Orko seemed to explode with power. Teela was knocked back as Orko spun in a tight circle, magic filling him up once more.
He-Man could sense a connection between the three of them – himself, Orko, and Skeletor. He saw then that Orko, in that moment, could use this connection to kill Skeletor. To snuff him out. To focus his power against him and blow him to pieces.
He-Man felt this connection and this unique opportunity . . . and he felt Orko reject it.
"I'm back!" Orko shouted, fireworks exploding behind him.
He-Man wasn't done. He shoved himself onto his uneasy feet. Skeletor was looking just as uneasy; electricity was running all over his body. He-Man felt to the Sword of Power harmonize with that power and He-Man allowed himself to do the same.
He-Man balled his hand into a fist. Skeletor had nearly cost him his best friend. Nearly killed him. Nearly conquered Eternia again. And now Skeletor needed to be separated from the power of Negator.
One thunderpunch would do it.
He-Man struck with strength and fury.
Skeletor went sailing backwards, electricity blasting away from him and striking the clouds above. Lightning jutted across the dark skies.
"RETREAT!" shouted Evil-Lynn.
"TAKE 'EM DOWN!" He-Man roared.
Evil-Lynn grabbed hold of the unconscious Skeletor. Energy swam around the two of them as He-Man approached on a rampage. Darkness slipped over Skeletor and Evil-Lynn and they vanished. He-Man smashed his sword down where they had once been.
He shouted in frustration.
"He-Man . . . it's okay." A small hand touched his arm. He-Man spun and found Orko floating next to him.
He-Man grabbed Orko and hugged him.
All around them, the enemy was pulling back quickly. He-Man let them go. The day was over . . . and he had won.
Some hours later, He-Man found himself standing alongside Orko, Teela, and Man-At-Arms, in the throne room of King Randor and Queen Marlena.
"Many of the mercenaries have left the employ of Skeletor to become freelancers again," Man-At-Arms summed up from the intelligence report. "That includes Blade and Saurod."
"I have a feeling we aren't rid of them yet," Queen Marlena commented.
King Randor stood up. "Good was done today, my friends. Skeletor's mercenaries dispersed, for now. Negator recaptured and depowered. Castle Grayskull defended with no loss of life or limb. And, most importantly, Orko returned us." King Randor smiled. "You are doing well, Orko?"
"The Sorceress says I'm as perfect as I've always been."
Everyone laughed at that.
"Well done, all. You have the blessings of the king. An excellent day indeed!"
The court was dismissed. Man-At-Arms and Teela went off to continue to discuss weapons up-grades and additional training of the Heroic Warriors. King Randor and Queen Marlena had more business to go over. He-Man and Orko made their way to the balcony that overlooked Eternos. The sky was bright blue and the sun poured its light upon the city.
"Orko . . . when we were connected . . . I saw . . . I felt . . . for just a moment, that you had the ability to kill Skeletor. But you didn't – you didn't do it. You just let him go." He-Man squinted. "Why?"
Orko didn't answer all at once. When he did, it was slow to start. "It wasn't right. Killing isn't right. I had all the power, but . . . well . . . it was wrong to do that. On Trolla, we have a saying: 'it's not the amount of power you have, it's how you use it.' And it wasn't how I was supposed to use it."
He-Man grinned. "I've heard that very saying from an old friend."
"What? I've said it before?"
He-Man shook his head. "It's good to have you back, Orko. Good to have you back."
Zodak was nearly done with his work. At Snake Mountain, he initiated a time-lock and moved through frozen time to finish his job. He vaporized the Magic Stealer. He wiped out the schematics of the Quantum Fusion Generator. He returned the Infinite Diamond to the Vaults of Vikor. He telepathically manipulated the minds of Skeletor, Trap-Jaw, Tri-Klops, and Spikor – they would find any memories of how to build the modulated Magic Stealer to be confused and non-sensical.
After releasing the time-lock there, Zodak moved onto Eternos, where he did the same to Negator's mind. Zodak prepared to leave . . . but then decided to check in on Orko.
Frozen in time, he was backstage of a play that was being run again after being cancelled a few days ago. Orko was often clumsy with his magic, but Zodak felt that no one seemed to mind. Based on the thoughts of the audience, Orko was better this time than the first.
"The show much go on," Zodak whispered.
Zodak released the time-lock and indeed, the show did go on. His task complete, Zodak moved into the folds of time and space and into the deep corridors of the universe. Mission accomplished; all was well. For today.