A Price Too Dear

By Red Blaze 16

Disclaimer: I do not own He-Man or any of the Masters of the Universe.

Part 1 - The Choice

Deep inside Snake Mountain, an evil man plots. Too many times recently, He-Man and the Masters have won. Skeletor grows impatient with his desire to rule Eternia. He knows that the key to finally defeating He-Man lies in taking control of Castle Grayskull and the magic that lies within.

"Skeletor."

Looking up from his throne, Skeletor glances at Evil-Lyn.

"What now, woman?" demands the lord of Snake Mountain.

"A stranger seeks an audience with you," she says sneering. "He said he has some useful information."

"Useful?" demands Skeletor. "What is it?"

"He says he will only speak with you," replies the evil witch.

Sliding down into his throne, Skeletor taps his fingers on the arm of the chair.

"Of course, I could loosen his tongue, if you want," continues Evil-Lyn with a grin and her eyes widen and glitter with imagined torture. "Perhaps I could find out what he knows. Everything he knows."

With a sinister chuckle at the mental image her words form in his mind, Skeletor enjoys an almost sexual thrill at the thought of torture. While he rarely desires female companionship in the bedroom, he always seeks one out after a torture session, usually with Evil-Lyn, unless the torture involved rape. Sadly, the stranger is a man, so Skeletor would not be able to enjoy his favorite form of torture.

I will listen to what he has to say. If it's not important enough, I can always entertain myself with his blood and pain later, thinks Skeletor. Waving a hand at Evil-Lyn, the lord of Snake Mountain sits up in the throne and leans forward.

"Send him in," says Skeletor. "If I don't like his answers, we can always torture him after."

Smirking at Skeletor, Evil-Lyn leaves the room. A moment later, a stranger, dressed in a dark gray cloak stands before the throne that Skeletor sits upon. Staring down at the man, Skeletor strains to see under the cloak, but the shadows cover the face of the man.

"Who are you?" demands Skeletor.

"Who I am doesn't matter," replies the other man, his voice soft and cold. "Only the information I can share with you is important."

"I decide what is important," retorts the Skeletor, standing up from his throne and striding toward the smaller, cloaked male.

"You seek a way into Grayskull," whispers the stranger, which stops Skeletor in his tracks.

"What of it?" demands the Dark Lord.

"You have used force and it has not worked. You have used trickery and it has not worked," replies the cloaked male. "I suggest force of a different sort. I suggest to give the Sorceress an ultimatum."

"What sort of 'ultimatum'?" asks Skeletor, his interest peaked.

"The female Master, Teela, is important to the Sorceress," replies the stranger.

"Why?" demands Skeletor.

Laughing quietly, the cloaked man shifts left than right. "Again, it does not matter. What does matter is that she can be used against the Sorceress. You can force the Sorceress into giving you Grayskull."

Pondering the information, Skeletor turns his back to the cloaked stranger and returns to his throne. Sitting down, he glances toward where the man stood, but finds that no one is in the room with him. Standing up quickly, Skeletor glances around his throne room.

"Evil-Lyn!"

Hearing her leader's call, the dark witch enters the throne room.

"Where is he?" demands Skeletor.

"Who?" she demands.

"The cloaked stranger," replies Skeletor, waving a hand at the empty room.

Glancing around the room herself, the witch can plainly see that they are the only two people in the room.

"I don't know," says Evil-Lyn. "But he did not pass me, as I was just outside the throne room."

Frustrated at losing the cloaked man, Skeletor sits on his throne and ponders what the male told him.

…...

Just after the mid-day meal, Teela and Adam walk across the Palace grounds. Adam was scheduled for an early afternoon practice and Teela meant to make sure that the prince did attend that training.

"I don't see why I have to practice every day," whines Adam, as he walks next to the captain of the guard.

"Maybe your father, the King, wants to know that you can defend yourself," suggests the red haired warrior.

"But every day?" asks Adam.

"Practice makes perfect," says Teela, with a laugh.

Noting her easy going nature, Adam can't help but smile. The last battle with Skeletor and his men had been days ago and people were beginning to relax and enjoy the respite, knowing that it could end at any time.

Entering the open dueling courtyard, near the palace, Teela walks over to where the training swords are kept. Grabbing one, she turns to hand it to the prince when she stops. Noting a dark shadow in the sky, Teela stares at it a moment.

"Teela? What's wrong?" asks Adam, as he turns to look into the sky. It takes less than a moment before he also sees the the shadow moving quickly toward the palace.

As the shadow draws nearer to the palace, she realizes it's not one shadow, but multiple.

"We're under attack," says Teela, pointing toward the shadows that, on closer inspection, are Skeletor's men on skysleds. "Adam, sound the alarm and take cover."

Tossing the sword aside, Teela runs for a nearby skysled and gets on it. Starting it, she takes to the skies to defend Eternos.

Dashing to a nearby building, Adam pushes the alarm button. A blaring noise screams through the Palace, letting the guards and Masters know that they are under attack. Satisfied that help would soon arrive to aide Teela, Adam glances around before raising his sword and calling on the power of Grayskull.

"By the power of Grayskull..."

Where once the Prince of Eternia stood, He-Man now stands. Noting a green shadow by the door, he points his sword and shoots magic at his ever faithful and cowardly tiger, Cringer. With a roar, a red plated tiger, Battle Cat, leaves the shadows and rushes to join He-Man.

"Let's help Teela, Cat," booms out He-Man.

"Right, He-Man," growls the cat.

Leaping onto the tiger, He-Man rushes out to join the other Masters.

…...

In the air, above Eternos, Teela locks sight on Mer-Man. Firing her weapon, she hits the villain's skysled and, noting the smoke as it rolls off the back of the skysled where her shot landed, Teela decides that Mer-Man won't be in the air for much longer. Glancing away from aquatic henchman , as he struggles to control his failing skysled, Teela notices two more of Skeletor's men, but this time on the ground, in the trees, near the Palace wall.

Quickly, she scans the area to see if any Masters are nearby. Finding none, Teela spots a small clearing to land the skysled in. Touching down, she powers off her ride and taking a blaster from the skysled's holster and follows the enemy through the woods near the Palace. Sliding through the trees, unnoticed by the men she follows, Teela catches up to the men.

"Hold it right there, Trap Jaw and Tri-Klops," demands the red haired warrior, raising her blaster to cover both men.

Stopping in their forward motion, the two men turn slowly to face the woman behind them. Carefully, they raise their hands. Focused completely on the men in front of her, Teela doesn't notice Beast Man approaching her from behind. Taking a final step toward the woman, Beast Man raises his club. Just as he steps down, a twig cracks under his foot.

Hearing the twig snap, Teela turns around just as Beast Man swings the club down, striking her on the shoulder. Falling to her knees under the blow, Teela raises her blaster to fire on Beast Man. Quickly, he swings the club again, catching Teela on the side of her head. The second blow knocks her to the ground and unconscious.

"Get her to Skeletor," growls Beast Man.

Reaching down, Tri-Klops picks up Teela and slings her over his shoulder. Quickly, the three men turn away from the Palace and the battle.

…...

At Snake Mountain, in the dungeon, Tri-Klops deposits the still unconscious warrior into a cell. Closing the door, he steps aside as Skeletor approaches the cell door. Stepping up to the bone bars, Skeletor's eyes rake over Teela. Laying on her side, in the middle of the floor where Tri-Klops put her, she is unaware of Skeletor's gaze.

"She doesn't seem like much," sneers the lord of Snake Mountain, though his eyes pause a moment on the curve of her hips.

Realizing that Skeletor truly isn't talking to him, Tri-Klops says nothing.

"It doesn't matter if you think she's important," says Evil-Lyn, striding up behind Skeletor and glancing into the cell to look at the woman. "She's just a tool to be used against the Sorceress."

"Used and disposed of," replies Skeletor, with a laugh.

"Of course," replies Evil-Lyn with a grin.

Turning away from the cell, Skeletor points his havoc staff and calls on his magic. Opening a portal, Skeletor steps through it and arrives at Castle Grayskull. Waving his staff at the portal, it closes as Skeletor waits for the Sorceress to notice him. As he waits, he stares longingly toward the castle and the power it contains.

Sensing a dark and evil presence, the Sorceress quickly uses the magic given to her by Grayskull and searches the grounds near the castle. Finding Skeletor through her magic, she sends out a telepathic call to He-Man.

He-Man! Skeletor is at Grayskull!

She waits for his reply, as she approaches the balcony window.

"Sorceress!" shouts Skeletor.

I will come at once.

Stepping up to the window, the Sorceress stares down at the evil man.

"You have no business here, Skeletor," says the Sorceress.

Raising a hand, a glowing magical ball forms in her hand.

"Leave now!" she demands.

Laughing, Skeletor raises his havoc staff and a purplish magic glows around the skull of the staff. Quickly a stream of energy shoots off of the tip and forms a circle of purple in the air. Inside the circle, an image forms. Distorted and wavy at first, the image solidifies quickly into a image of a red haired woman.

"I have a prisoner," says Skeletor.

Staring into the magic circle, Sorceress' heart skips a beat as she realizes that the prisoner Skeletor speaks of is her daughter, Teela. Rapidly, her eyes sweep over the image. While the Sorceress has never been inside Snake Mountain, she can only assume that that is where Teela is located.

"I've been told this one is...important to you," says Skeletor.

Dropping her eyes from the image, Sorceress stares at the evil man. Does he know? By Eternia, let him not know she is my child, thinks the Sorceress.

"All of the Masters are important," she says, forcing her eyes to stay on Skeletor and not stray back to the image of her daughter. Relaxing her will, the ball of magic disappears from her hand.

"But are they equally important to you?" replies Skeletor. While he waits for her to answer, inside Skeletor seethes. Why is she important? Damn the stranger for not telling me!

"Yes," answers the Sorceress, glaring at the man.

Raising his havoc staff, he sends another blast of magic at the image. The circle of purplish magic grows larger and the image gets bigger. Slowly the image moves closer to the Sorceress. Saying nothing, Skeletor waits until the image is within touching distance of the Sorceress.

"Then is shouldn't matter if one dies," says Skeletor. "There are always more Masters."

"You will release her," demands Sorceress, refusing to look at the image of Teela.

"No," replies Skeletor, with a laugh.

Unable to stop herself, Sorceress glances at the image again. Now, so close, she can't help but see a bruise forming on the side of her daughter's face.

"I will give you a chance to let her live," he says, watching Sorceress stare at Teela's image.

Jerking her gaze away from the image, Sorceress glares down at Skeletor.

"I will return at sundown with her," says Skeletor. "When I return, you will either open the drawbridge and welcome me into Grayskull or I will kill the woman. The choice is yours."