Part 3 – Decision
At the Palace of Eternos, He-Man seeks out the Masters who are still searching for Teela. Spotting Man-At-Arms, He-Man joins the older man.
"He-Man," says the older man. "Is everything alright with the Sorceress?"
"Duncan, I need to speak with you," replies the hero, motioning Man-At-Arms to follow him.
Frowning the older man leaves the search party, whom are about to leaving to check the grounds outside the palace walls, and walks away with the hero. Quietly, they walk together for a few minutes before He-Man stops and turns to face Man-At-Arms.
"What is wrong?" asks Man-At-Arms, folding his arms over his chest.
"Sorceress told me that Skeletor has Teela," says He-Man.
"Did the Sorceress see Teela?" asks Man-At-Arms, concerned for his child. "Is she ok?"
"No, she did not," replies the hero, shaking his head.
"Then how do we know he has her?" demands Teela's father.
"I trust the Sorceress," answers He-Man.
"I trust her also," returns Man-At-Arms, pausing, he takes a breath. "If Teela is at Snake Mountain, then we must leave right away."
Turning away from the hero, Man-At-Arms starts to walk back to the other men, already plotting how they will rescue his daughter. Striding after the older man, He-Man reaches out and grabs Man-At-Arms' arm.
"Wait, Duncan," says the hero.
Pivoting on his heel, the older man turns back to He-Man. "We can't waste any time, He-Man."
"I know," replies He-Man. "Skeletor plans to return to Grayskull at sundown."
"Then we attack Snake Mountain at sundown," says Man-At-Arms, nodding his head. "I will lead a group to rescue Teela while you take a group to defend Grayskull."
"Stop and listen to me, Duncan," replies He-Man. "Skeletor is bringing Teela to Grayskull. He has demanded that Sorceress give him the Castle or he will kill Teela."
Saying nothing, Man-At-Arms simply stands and absorbs the words that He-Man is telling him. Fear for his daughter's safety foremost in his mind, Duncan also worries about the secret of who Teela's mother is and if the lord of Snake Mountain knows.
"Sorceress fears she has given away her feelings about Teela," continues the hero gently.
"Do you think he knows?" asks Man-At-Arms, unable to keep the question to himself. "If he knows, Teela will never be safe again. He will continue to try to use her against her mother."
"Hush," replies He-Man, glancing around to make sure no one heard the older man's words. "Sorceress doesn't believe he knows. We are to be at Grayskull and wait for Skeletor to arrive with Teela. We will rescue her."
"But if we have more Masters..."
"No," replies He-Man, shaking his head. "Sorceress is worried that too many people there could cause Skeletor to do something rash."
Nodding head, Man-At-Arms begins to pace. Flexing his hands, open than closed, he shakes his head. Will we be enough to safe her, thinks Man-At-Arms to himself. Waiting and watching, He-Man says nothing for a moment, but knows that time is of the essence.
"Duncan, we must leave," says He-Man, not wanting to push the older man, but also knowing that sundown will be soon.
Stopping, with his back to his friend, the older man takes a deep breath. Straightening his shoulders, he turns and looks at Eternia's hero.
"Let's go," says Man-At-Arms.
At Snake Mountain, Skeletor enters the dungeon room and walks up to the occupied cell. When he had first returned to the Mountain after Grayskull, he had ordered Teela tied up, knowing that she wouldn't stay unconscious forever. Staring at the woman inside the cell, he notes the ropes that are tied tight around her ankles and lower legs. With her body now turned to face the cell door, Skeletor can't see her arms tied behind her back. Placing a hand on the skull near the door, he lowers the jaw and opens the door to the cell.
On her side, Teela slowly opens her eyes. She had been awake for a while now, but was quietly waiting for the right moment. If only I had awoke before they tied me up. Shifting herself on the floor, Teela attempts to glare up at Skeletor.
"Why am I here?" demands Teela.
Secretly amused at her bravo, Skeletor's eyes roam over her body. Pausing on her breasts and hip, Skeletor decides that he is going to enjoy killing her later, after he has Grayskull.
"We will be leaving shortly," says Skeletor.
"Where?" she demands.
"Why?" she asks, feeling uncomfortable with Skeletor staring down at her.
"To spare your life, the Sorceress will give me Grayskull," answers Skeletor.
"Never," replies Teela. "One life isn't more important than Grayskull."
"For your own sake, you better hope that you are wrong," sneers Skeletor, as he reaches down to grab Teela.
Struggling, Teela fights and wiggles as much as possible to make it difficult for Skeletor to grab her. But, with the ropes tied so tightly around her ankles and wrists, she finds that she can't do more than annoy the lord of Snake Mountain with her struggling. Picking her up off the ground, Skeletor attempts to toss her over his shoulder. At the last moment, Teela throws her weight to the side, causing Skeletor to lose his grip.
"You will stop," snarls Skeletor, pointing his havoc staff at the red haired warrior.
"I will do everything in my power to stop you," replies Teela, rolling and wiggling away from Skeletor.
If he wasn't so impatient to be at Grayskull, he would have enjoyed watching her crawl across the floor. Instead, he growls and channels his magic into and through the staff. From the skull, a beam of magic shoots out and strikes Teela in the stomach. Gritting her teeth at the pain, her body tucks in to protect her vulnerable torso. Striding over to the woman, Skeletor grabs her by the arm and jerks her into a sitting position.
"I will not be delayed because of you," says Skeletor.
Swinging the havoc staff in the hand not gripping Teela's arm, he points it down at her. Glancing at the staff only inches from her body, Teela glares at the lord of Snake Mountain.
"I will fight you every chance I get," she retorts.
"Than you will suffer," replies Skeletor.
Channeling more magic into the staff, another purplish beam rushes from the staff and strikes Teela in the chest. Crying out, Teela shudders at the pain the magic causes. Tightening his grip on her arm, Skeletor watches her pain. Ending the attack, Skeletor shakes her by the arm.
"Once I have Grayskull, I will take my time with you," says Skeletor, as he lifts her again and throws her on his shoulder. "You will beg me for your death before I am done."
"No," she says, tensing her muscles.
Realizing she is about to struggle again, Skeletor swings the staff around and places the skull of the havoc against her thighs and buttock. Pouring magic into the staff, Skeletor again shoots the power in Teela's body. Screaming out, Teela shudders against his shoulder.
"Now, it is time," says Skeletor, pointing the staff toward the wall and opening a portal to Grayskull.
Standing at the balcony at Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress watches the sun as it descends toward the western horizon. He-Man and Man-At-Arms had arrived minutes earlier and decided to hide out of sight until after Skeletor and Teela arrive. Taking a deep breath, she calms her body and emotions.
He-Man and Man-At-Arms are waiting. She will be safe and Skeletor will fail, thinks the Sorceress.
Motioning catches her eye, Sorceress turns slightly, glancing out toward the left side and watches as a portal opens. Pushing her shoulders back, she waits. Stepping out of the portal, Skeletor, with his hands holding Teela on his shoulder, glances around. As he walks away from the portal, it closes. Striding to the bridge, that leads to the Castle, Skeletor stops. Taking his hands from her thighs, he grabs her around the waist and drops her to the ground. With a gasp, Teela hits the ground hard. Carefully, she wiggles, turning her body to face Grayskull and the Sorceress.
"It's sundown," states Skeletor, pointing to the dying light.
"I know what time it is," replies the Sorceress.
"What is your decision?" demands Skeletor.
"Do not give him Grayskull, Sorceress," shouts Teela, twisting her head to lock eyes with the older woman.
"Silence," roars Skeletor.
Ignoring him, Teela knows that the Castle is more important than her life and the Sorceress needs to know that she is willing to sacrifice her life to keep Grayskull from Skeletor. "One life isn't worth Grayskull."
Furious, Skeletor points his staff at the red haired warrior and fires a burst of magic into her back. Gritting her teeth, so she wouldn't cry out, Teela breathes through the pain.
Turning, the evil lord of Snake Mountain watches as He-Man and Man-At-Arms approach.
"Stop, hero," demands Skeletor, pointing his staff at He-Man. "You will not deny me."
Not wanting to get too close to the villain, in case he decided to fire on Teela again, He-Man and Man-At-Arms stop a few feet from Skeletor.
"You will not have Grayskull," answers He-Man, taking his sword from the back sheath.
"That is not your decision," sneers Skeletor. Turning, so he can look at the Sorceress while keeping an eye on He-Man, points his staff at the Castle. "I would have my answer, woman!"
All eyes turn to the Sorceress, who has not taken her eyes from Teela, since her daughter spoke to her. You're not just any life, Daughter, thinks the Sorceress.
"Answer me!" shouts Skeletor.
Fear gripping her throat, the Sorceress finds she cannot speak. Knowing her duty as guardian, she must protect the Castle and its secrets at all cost. But she also knows she has a duty as a parent to protect her child. It will not be an easy task. The words of Kuduk Ungol, her predecessor, echo through her mind. She cannot have meant for me to lose my only child, thinks the Sorceress. Almost in answer, more words come back to her from so long ago: see great sadness.
Taking her silence as refusal, Skeletor points the havoc staff at Teela. Pouring his fury into his magic, the skull on the havoc staff glows dark before shooting a powerful beam at Teela. Hitting her in the middle of her back, Teela's world becomes pain.
Jerking under the attack, the evil magic punches through her back and through her body. Agony like she had never felt before rips through her body. Every sense, thought and feeling is pain as every inch of her skin feels like it is on fire. Her blood becomes lava running through her veins. Her organs feels as if an invisible hand is ripping them apart. Not able to contain her suffering, Teela screams.
"No!" shouts the Sorceress, but her shout is drowned out by Teela's screaming.
"Teela!" calls Man-At-Arms, running for his daughter.
Running faster than the older man, He-Man gets to Skeletor and slams into the villain. Thrown off of his feet, Skeletor lands a distance away from where he had been and, while he keeps his havoc staff, the magically assault ends. Turning, He-Man goes after Skeletor, while Man-At-Arms rushes to his daughter's side. Landing on the ground hard next to her, the older man takes Teela into his arms.
Using the staff to block He-Man's blows, Skeletor is forced back by the hero's blows. Not daring to put down his staff to take up his sword, Skeletor can only defend himself. Twisting the havoc staff, Skeletor blocks the hero's blows.
"Damn you!" shouts He-Man.
Knowing he has to do more than defend, if he intends to survive the day, Skeletor uses his staff to shove back at Eternia's hero. Shoving hard against the sword blows, Skeletor waits for a moment to strike. Swinging the sword with fury, rather than skill, He-Man loses his footing on a forceful strike. Realizing this is his moment, Skeletor turns the havoc staff and fires a stream of magic at He-Man. Taking the magical hit to the chest, He-Man is thrown back and away from Skeletor.
Before the hero can hit the ground, Skeletor turns and calls for a portal. Quickly, Skeletor dashes for his escape and slips through the portal. Realizing he is about to lose his enemy, He-Man rushes toward Skeletor, but before he can get to the villain, Skeletor escapes through the portal and it closes behind the lord of Snake Mountain.
Inside Snake Mountain, a portal opens into the throne room. Rushing through the portal, Skeletor enters his lair. The portal closes behind him. Unable to control his fury, Skeletor roars.
"Damn that fool! You can force the Sorceress, he said! She was never going to give me Grayskull!"
Roaring again, Skeletor shakes his staff in the air. Hearing the sound of fury, Evil-Lyn enters the throne room carefully. Turning, the lord of Snake Mountain points his staff at his second-in-command.
"I want pain. I want suffering. Find me someone!"
Quietly, knowing at any moment he could turn on her, Evil-Lyn nods her head and leaves the room.
At Grayskull, angry over losing Skeletor, He-Man turns from the portal and looks at Man-At-Arms on the ground holding his daughter. Striding over to them, He-Man notes that the older man has removed the ropes that tied her.
"How is she?" asks He-Man.
"Unconscious," answers Man-At-Arms, his head down and his shoulders shaking.
Staring down at the woman, He-Man struggles to control his own emotions. In the quiet, a low rumble can be heard. Turning his head at the noise, He-Man watches the drawbridge lower from Grayskull. Standing in the opening, the Sorceress stares at Man-At-Arms and her daughter.
"Please," she calls, holding a hand out.
Nodding his head, He-Man places a hand on Man-At-Arms' should. "Duncan."
Raising his head, the older man stares at the woman standing just inside the Grayskull. Getting to his feet, he picks up Teela in his arms. Walking toward the castle, Man-At-Arms carries his daughter across the drawbridge to her mother. Following behind, He-Man watches.
Stopping in front of the Sorceress, Duncan stares down at his adopted daughter. Raising a hand, the Sorceress kisses her fingertips before brushing the forehead of Teela. Sliding her hand down, the Sorceress cups the cheek of the younger woman.
"My precious child," she whispers.
"She is safe," says He-Man.
Nodding her head, Sorceress shares a quiet moment with her daughter and Man-At-Arms. Blinking, she raises her hand and wipes the tears from her eyes. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, she steps back and looks at Eternia's hero.
"Thank you," she says.
"I don't think Skeletor will try it again," says He-Man.
"I hope not," whispers the Sorceress.
Saying nothing, Man-At-Arms tightens his hold on Teela and listens.
"If you had not been here..." says the Sorceress, staring intently at her daughter before looking at He-Man.
"Sorceress..." says He-Man, but stops when she raises a hand.
"Until you have a child, you cannot imagine," says the Sorceress, shaking her head from side to side. "I was a moment away from opening the gate today."
Not knowing what to say, He-Man says nothing.
"We need to get Teela to Eternos," says Man-At-Arms, his voice shaking with emotion.
Nodding, the Sorceress steps back while keeping her eyes on Teela. "Take care of her."
"We will, Sorceress," replies He-Man, before reaching for Teela.
Hesitating a moment, Man-At-Arms tightens his grip once before passing his daughter to the hero. Whistling, He-Man waits as Battle Cat bounds across the drawbridge. Slipping onto the seat, He-Man cradles Teela against his chest. Using his powerful leg muscles to hold his seat, He-Man keeps his arms around the woman pressed against him.
"Home, Cat," says He-Man.
"Right, He-Man," roars Battle Cat, turning and racing across the drawbridge.
Watching He-Man race away with his daughter, Man-At-Arms turn to face the Sorceress. For a moment, neither says anything to each other. It is almost as if the years between them speak loud enough. Clearing his throat, he raises a hand and brushes the tip of his nose.
"I was blessed the day you gave her to me," says Man-At-Arms quietly. "She is my world and I couldn't love her more if she were my own flesh and blood."
"I knew you would love her," replies the Sorceress.
Nodding his head, Man-At-Arms steps away from her and walks across the drawbridge. Turning, he looks back at the Sorceress.
"Just as I know you love her, Teela Na," says Man-At-Arms.
Saying nothing, the Sorceress raises a hand and the drawbridge begins to close. Walking away from Castle Grayskull, Man-At-Arms goes directly to his skysled. Getting on it, he starts the machine and, rising into the air, heads home.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I hope you enjoyed reading this story. It came to me and it wouldn't let me go until I wrote it. Now, I have another He-Man story racing through my head, so I might be posting a new story soon!