Hordak 4:1

By Kim McFarland


It was a dark and stormy night. Inky clouds swirled dramatically above The Well of Power, hurling bolts of lightning down to strike the jagged, inward-curving spires that surrounded the central dais.

The storm had gathered when Skeletor had spoken the words of the ancient spell that would call forth the magic concentrated here, in one of Hordak's former strongholds of power, power which Skeletor would seize. And once Skeletor commanded the power that had once been Hordak's, Hordak could never again try to claim him!

Skeletor strode between the flashing spires, up to the dais where he had once begun the Spell of Separation. He had expected to find something here, some mysterious, dangerous object or sigil, but the dais was empty. Then the thin mist above it began to congeal into a human shape. His hand tightened on his Ram Staff, readying for battle, but the shape that formed was not that of Hordak. It was thin and red, and looked vaguely like a woman wrapped in an all-concealing cloak. From the depths of her cowl two pupilless eyes gleamed, boring into his empty eye sockets. A raspy voice whispered, "What do you seek?"

Impatiently he answered, "I want power, of course!"

The eyes narrowed. "The power that Hordak once wielded? It is foretold that one will someday claim that power. Ah, but are you the one?" The robed figure lifted into the air and raised thin, green-skinned arms. "First you must prove yourself." She wove her hands in complex gestures. Shadows on either side of the dais began to shift and take shape.

They solidified into monstrous dark beings, one bestial, a huge mane surrounding its head, the other smooth-skinned with a face like a lamprey. Skeletor leveled his Ram Staff at the first. The magical blast passed harmlessly through it.

The robed figure now floating overhead said, "You've proven your magical power by awakening me. Show me your might!"

Both of the monsters charged forward. Skeletor drew his double-bladed sword in one fluid motion. He appeared to begin to pass it from one hand to the other, but it separated so he now held two swords, one in each hand. He met the monsters' charge with both blades.

The smooth-skinned creature grabbed at him. Its webbed hand stuck to his left shoulder as if covered with some form of adhesive. Skeletor felt that arm weaken; it was sucking his life away. He swung his right sword around, gashing its arm, making it pull it back with an angry squeal. Without slowing he looped the sword back to slash at the hairy monster that was wasting time menacing him with its claws and fangs. Much like Beast Man, Skeletor thought, and would have smirked had he been capable.

The hooded figure watched as Skeletor fought off both of his attackers, a sword in each hand, never focusing on one so closely that he left himself vulnerable to attack from the other. He held them back for several minutes, learning their fighting styles, then suddenly stumbled backward. He flung his arms out to the sides, leaving his front open. Both closed in on him - and he brought his swords around and caught them from behind.

As the twin blades struck home his attackers lost form, collapsing back into the shadows from which they had come. The robed figure drifted back down as Skeletor, swords still at the ready, watched warily. "You have proven yourself. Prepare to receive the power of Hordak."

Skeletor reattached and resheathed his double sword. "I'm ready!"

The robed figure raised her hands. The markings on the dais between them suddenly shone orange, like fresh lava. From them rose an eye-burning glow. She gestured, and the cloud of power surrounded Skeletor, then sank into him until the light faded.

He straightened up. Red appeared within his eye sockets. He smirked and said, "Skeletor thought to steal my power, did he? Now his body and memory will serve me.

He laughed to himself as he turned and walked away out of the Well of Power, leaving the Ram Staff behind.


Man-at-Arms and Prince Adam stood outside Man-at-Arms's workshop. The older man was adjusting the setting on a controller deck while some of the other Masters and their friends watched from the courtyard.

"What are they doing?" Dree Elle asked Orko softly.

"Just wait, you'll see," he told her.

She looked down. "Okay."

She was worried, Orko could tell. She always was, these days. Her pregnancy was just beginning to show, and she was concerned about bringing a child into this war-torn world. But this would reassure her, Orko told himself.

Man-at-Arms finished fine-tuning the controls and flipped a switch, then, hands hovering an inch above the board, looked upward. A vague shimmer appeared above the city.

"Seems to be working," Adam commented. "How strong is it?"

Man-at-Arms replied, "Not strong enough. This just proves that I can put a shield over the entire city to defend it in times of emergency. Now that I know it'll work, it's just a matter of strengthening and fine-tuning it."

"See?" Orko told Dree Elle. He flew straight up and touched the shield. It resisted, but he could feel some give to it.

"What'll it take to make it strong enough?" Adam asked.

"The shield is made of energy, so it uses lots of power. I'll need to-"

"All you need is power? That's easy," Orko chimed in. He pushed back his sleeves, then raised his hands so his fingertips were just touching the shield and chanted, "Mystic power, all I wield, power up this city's shield!"

Magic flowed through Orko and into the field, which brightened into a translucent, shimmering dome covering the city. Orko looked down to see Adam staring up, wide-eyed, and Man-at-Arms working madly at his control box. He was shouting something; Orko couldn't hear him over the crackling overhead. Looking back up, he saw with alarm that the shimmers had became chaotic and violent, like heat lightning. Orko darted down, away from the danger.

The control box was sparking. Man-at-Arms was frantically flipping switches and pushing buttons, trying to shut the shield down. Then black smoke lit by thin flickers of dark orange flame gushed from the door of the workshop. Man-at-Arms shouted, "It's the generators! They can't take it!" Orko clutched at his hat. That shouldn't have happened!

Sy-Klone ran to the workshop entrance and blew a gust of air into it, clearing the smoke. Inside, they could see that the generators were completely enveloped by flame, and the fire was racing along the wiring to other systems. Adam and Man-at-Arms grabbed a pair of small tanks from the walls, detached the hoses from their sides, and blew flame-smothering gas at the fire. It was hard to aim because of the wind Sy-Klone was blowing in to keep them from being overwhelmed by smoke, but eventually the fire guttered and went out, leaving the interior of the workshop burnt and smoke-blackened.

When they came out again the shield was gone and all of the city's lights were out.

"What happened?" Adam asked Man-at-Arms while looking at Orko.

"The power grid overloaded and burned out. We can get emergency power to the places that need it, but it'll take time to replace the destroyed equipment," Man-at-Arms replied, sounding tired rather than angry.

Orko cringed mentally. Instead of helping to protect the city, he had wrecked its defenses. In a small voice he asked, "Um... is there anything I can do?"

Adam responded, "Haven't you done enough for today?"

Orko's ears drooped. Sorry..." he murmured as he turned away.

Dree Elle was now alone in the courtyard. Her head was lowered, her eyes closed. She looked mortified. Orko floated over to her, hesitated a moment, then asked softly, "Are you all right?"

"I'm tired," she said in a tight voice. She looked up at him with sad eyes and said, "I need to lie down."

"Okay," he said as she turned away. She flew straight up to the window of their rooms rather than going through the halls, as she normally would. She was so embarrassed she didn't want to face anyone else. And he couldn't blame her for that.

Miserably he floated out the gate of the courtyard.


All of Skeletor's persons of hench were assembled in the throne room of Snake Mountain. His cape billowing around himself, he strode up to his throne without speaking to or even looking at the others. When he whipped around to face them, people exclaimed in surprise. His familiar crossbone chestpiece had been replaced by a stylized red bat. Evil-Lyn's eyes widened for a moment. Then her face hardened into a guardedly neutral expression.

He began, "I have summoned you all because, up until now, you have been failures. You haven't managed to gain a single lasting victory over the light half of Eternia. You have been wasting your time on halfhearted battles and have learned to accept defeat!"

An angry murmur went through the assembled crowd. He was blaming them, as usual, as if it had nothing to do with him. Tri-Klops glanced at Evil-Lyn, then, noting the intensity of her gaze, switched eyes and zoomed in on Skeletor's face. Something... didn't look right. He seemed blurred, as if one image was superimposed on another.

"You are to summon all of your resources. All of Beast Man's creatures, the most powerful of Evil-Lyn's spells, whichever of Tri-Klops's devices haven't already been destroyed in battle. All of the Snake Men! We are going to go forth and crush Eternos this day!" He clenched a fist in the air.

Two-Bad's left head spoke. "You say that before. It never work!"

The other head snapped, "Shut up, you idiot!"

Skeletor stepped down from his throne and walked toward Two-Bad. The assembly parted to give him room. Both of Two-Bad's heads looked suitably alarmed when he approached. "This time it will be different," he said, drawing the double-bladed sword with a metallic scrape. He held it up before Two-Bad. "And the reason will be..." he paused for a moment, then suddenly brought the sword down, throwing all of his strength behind the blow. Two-Bad toppled, howling, in separate directions. He whirled to face the others. "We will show no mercy! We will not fight to defeat our enemies, we will fight to kill them!"

The other minions stared in wide-eyed shock. Only Evil-Lyn remained calm. She stepped forward and, looking him in the eyes, said, "You are right. I'm ready to serve you - Hordak."

The red glow in his eye sockets narrowed. Of course Evil-Lyn, of all these people, would recognize him. And she always allied herself with the most powerful leader. In his hands she would be an utterly dependable ally, as he would never permit another to gain enough power to challenge him the way Skeletor had. He smiled and said, "And you will, Evil-Lyn." He extended a hand toward her as if to grasp her throat. Calmly she held her ground. A flame-red glow burst in the narrow space between her and his hand. It lasted only a second. When he lowered his hand the others could see that the silhouette of a bat, similar to Hordak's, now dominated her costume, its raised wings stretching up to form her collar. She glanced down at it, then, smiling, bowed to him.

He whirled to face the others. "Now go, prepare for battle. We begin at once!"

Everyone hastened to obey, leaving Hordak and his victims behind.


PLACE COMMERCIAL HERE


Orko floated through the Evergreen Forest, the sounds of his passage covered by the rustling of foliage in the wind. Sunlight filtering through green leaves darkened his red robe to a dull brown. He found a high branch to perch on and sat, his elbows on his knees and his face lowered into his hands, alone in the forest where he could do no harm.

Once again he had caused disaster when he only meant to help. Once again he had known just what magic to use, only to have it go berserk because he could not control it in this world. Maybe everyone was right, he ought to give up on magic - but without magic, what would Orko be? A useless court fool. Not that that would be much of a change, he told himself gloomily.

His thoughts were interrupted when he heard his name. He lowered his hands and looked down. Prince Adam was standing at the base of the tree, looking up at him. Orko floated down. Adam asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I guess," Orko said. "I'm sorry I messed things up."

"It's okay. It happens," Adam replied.

"I never get things right! If my magic worked the way it should - but it never does."

Adam patted Orko's shoulder. "Don't worry about it. Everybody understands that you can't control your magic anymore. They're not mad at you. They know you'd do better if you could."

"Yeah," Orko said glumly.

"Anyway, we'll have some of the defenses back in a few days, after we replace everything that got burned out. 'Til then, just relax and stay out of the way."

"Yeah, I'll do that," Orko said. He looked away. Then he saw a flicker of movement in a patch of sky he could see through the canopy. "What was that?"

"What?"

"I thought I saw something. Let me check." It probably wasn't anything important - just a really big bird or wind raider flying overhead - but right now Orko would welcome any excuse to change the subject.

He rose straight up, toward the opening in the foliage. When he burst into the bright sunlight above the trees he saw a large, loose flock of several different kinds of creatures, all flying in the same direction. There were hundreds of them, and although the first ones had shrunk in the distance, still more were passing overhead. They were big animals - gargoyles and large gryphons and long, eellike serpintaurs. And some of the gryphons had riders. And, he saw as he followed the path of the flock with his eyes, they were flying toward Eternos!

Orko darted down, calling out "Adam! It's an invasion! Gryphons and serpintaurs and everything, and they're headed straight for Eternos!"

Adam drew his sword. "We've got to get back!" He started to raise the sword. Then they heard a crashing in the underbrush. Both turned to see a pack of Snake Men coming at them. They were going to Eternos too, and he and Orko were in their way!

A large, purple one opened its mouth, and an unbelievably long tongue struck out and slapped the sword out of Adam's grasp. It flew into the depths of the forest. Orko darted after it.

Several of the onrushing Snake Men converged on Adam. The Prince tried to defend himself, and for a few moments he held out by using some of the acrobatic hand-to-hand techniques Teela had taught him. But then one caught him by the ankle and swung him into a tree, knocking him unconscious. A large, brown one kicked him to roll him over on his back, then said, "No need to waste time on this one. On to Eternos!"

Orko frantically searched though the undergrowth for the sword. How could something that big and shiny hide so well? It wasn't like there was a tar pit here for it to sink into or a swamp hopper big enough to swallow it!

After several minutes he saw, not the glint of sunlight on metal, but the distinctive shape of the crossguard. The sword was tangled blade-down in a bush that was in shadow, and if he hadn't glanced at the patch of sunlight beyond he would not have spotted its silhouette. He flew over and tugged at it, straining to pull the weapon out of the bush. The plant resisted, and at first it seemed to be drawing him in, but then a hard pull freed it and sent Orko tumbling backwards.

Orko dragged the heavy sword, scratching a line in the soil and slicing through undergrowth, back over to Adam. The Prince was bleeding on the trampled ground. He hadn't been able to change into He-Man, so the Snake Men had worked him over. Orko dropped the sword and flew over. "Adam!" he exclaimed, shaking him by the shoulder.

No response but a flinch and a muffled groan. At least he was alive. But he was in no shape to defend Eternos now! Orko dithered, then did the only thing he could think to do and started on a healing spell. He stuck to the simplest spell that would work, and held it under tight control. He couldn't risk a foul-up now! He paused, searching his memory, then said hurriedly, "Magic spells have to rhyme. Heal him while we've got the time."

The ritual completed - badly, but he never had had much talent with poetry - he began finding broken bones and knitting them together again, healing bruised tissues and other damage. It was slow, painstaking work. As he tried to concentrate he heard, in the distance, the sound of a battle at Eternos.


As soon as Eternos appeared on the horizon Evil-Lyn began the assault. She raised her hands and sent a crackling burst of magic up through the low clouds. Briefly, while she continued casting, nothing seemed to happen. Then the cloud cover above the city darkened to a sooty black. A glowing meteor punctured the clouds.


The Masters swarmed out at the sound of the first impact. A rock the size of a wind raider had smashed down on the castle, pulverizing the right side of the facade and spraying egg-sized gobbets of molten stone in all directions. The crater was lit by the ruddy, still-glowing stone that created it. Another, smaller rock crashed into the wall surrounding the city, blasting a hole through it at ground level.

Ram Man was the first to meet the attack. He needed to make no preparations; he charged into the path of the next meteor, intending to knock it back into space. He did not realize in time that the rock, heated to molten temperatures by its passage through the atmosphere, would also melt the armor that protected his head and shoulders.

Another stone hit the side of one of the colossal statues that surrounded the city. It tilted, then slowly tipped to the side. Near the end of its arc it struck the statue beside it, knocking it off balance as well. And when that one fell, it took the next with it.

Man-at-Arms called to the masters who were within shouting distance and led them at a dead run to the vehicle bay. There was no time to warm the machines up and get them into the air, not with stones hailing out of the sky, but the Dragon Walkers and several other machines were armed with lasers and projectile weapons. Man-at-Arms, Mekaneck, Sy-Klone, and Roboto each took a vehicle and began aiming for the incoming meteors, trying to deflect them or blast them into less-harmful rubble before they hit.


Hordak's forces, which had almost reached the city, saw some of the meteors burst in the air like fireworks. Lasers stabbed upward, pinpointing the source of Eternos's defenses. Evil-Lyn smiled and aimed the next swarm of stones there. By the time the lasers disappeared, she was close enough to direct the final meteors in her assault at the palace. Everyone watched in awe as, like a demon-wielded hammer, the stones pounded the embodiment of Eternia's rule into ruin. Everyone except Evil-Lyn, who wore a triumphant smirk.


The pounding of the meteors ceased abruptly. Frightened people hesitantly peered out to see if it was over. The gray clouds were torn and pockmarked by the passage of the stones. But the wall around the city was almost intact, with only a few downed sections.

Then low-flying gryphons swept over the walls. Hordak's minions leapt off their mounts into the city. Beast Man went for one of the gaps in the wall, then roared and cracked his whip. Black, apelike beasts with horns and glowing red eyes swarmed in. Snake Men entered through a different gap. Serpenitaurs and gargoyles flew overhead, tearing buildings apart, looking for prey.

Teela called out to the surviving guards, "Evacuate the city!" They raised arms to their chests in salute and hurried to rescue the citizens that they could find, unaware that the city was now surrounded by a legion of Tri-Klops's bone warriors with orders not to let any escapees survive.


Adam stirred and opened his eyes blearily. Then he startled violently. "What happened?! Last thing I remembered, the Snake Men-"

"They're on their way to Eternos. We've gotta stop 'em! Here's your sword!" Orko set the heavy handle in Adam's hand.

Adam stood, gritting his teeth against the pain of the injuries that Orko hadn't healed, and raised the sword. "By the power of Grayskull," he began. A rush of power from that source, intense enough to look like a bolt of lightning, struck the sword and flowed into the Prince, infusing him with its mystic force and transforming him into He-Man. "I have the power!" he said, completing the incantation. Orko watched with wide-eyed awe. When the lightning faded he saw that He-Man was completely healed. Grayskull's power had done what Orko had failed to finish in time.

They hastened back to the city. When they reached the closest gate they stopped and stared in shock. Where once a brave, fair city had stood, now was a smoking ruin. Buildings were destroyed, the wall breached - and, they saw as they looked to the right, the palace was all but flattened.

They ran into the courtyard. Everything, from the colossal statues to the palace, were utterly destroyed. They looked as if they had been repeatedly smashed by a titanic hammer until only rubble remained. Orko stared, dry-mouthed. Dree Elle had been in there. In his mind's eye he saw her flying up to the window that no longer existed. She couldn't have survived that. Could she have escaped? How?

He-Man looked around. There was no sign of life - but there was plenty of signs of death. Fallen citizens and guards were scattered about, intermingled with the bodies of shadowbeasts and other animals. Orko turned and saw him kneel at the edge of a cairn-like pile of masonry that had once been one of the palace's outbuildings. A ropelike, yellow-striped green tail stuck out from underneath.

Orko floated over to him and asked in a whisper, "Did anyone get away?"

"There were no survivors," He-Man replied in a flat voice.

Orko shivered. He knew He-Man had to be right. And if Dree Elle had perished in the attack along with everyone else, Orko was as guilty as if he had killed her himself.

He-Man stood. "It's too late to do anything for the city now."

At that moment a vision of the Sorceress appeared and spoke in a strained voice, "He-Man! Castle Grayskull is in peril from an ancient evil. Come at once!"

"They attacked the city first and then moved on to Grayskull. I'm on my way!" he answered.

He leapt into Battle Cat's saddle. The huge tiger reared, roaring, and then sprang away, with Orko frantically flying after him.


PLACE COMMERCIAL HERE


Emboldened by their victory over Eternos, Hordak's forces advanced on Castle Grayskull. Gryphons and serpintaurs surrounded it from the air, pounding with their bodies on the Sorceress's mystic shield, which covered the castle like an etherial bell jar.

As Battle Cat carried He-Man through the Evergreen Forest, toward the castle, The Sorceress renewed her plea. "He-Man, hurry! I can barely hold off their aerial assault. You must defend the castle from the ground. They must not enter Grayskull!"

Battle Cat burst out of the woods and onto the path leading up to Castle Grayskull. Flying beasts were battering the magical defenses, and the Evil Warriors were waiting in front of the jawbridge. When Skeletor turned and looked back at He-Man, He-Man's vision seemed to blur, as if he were viewing two images at once. Then he understood what he was seeing. "Hordak!"

"We meet at last. Or, perhaps, we meet again," Hordak replied as he strode forward slowly, unsheathing his sword. Without looking back he called to the others, "This one is mine!"

Orko cringed as He-Man drew his sword. Hordak was the warlord who had killed King Grayskull back when Eternos was first founded. Before his death King Grayskull had banished Hordak from Eternia. Now he had somehow returned through Skeletor and wanted revenge on Grayskull's spirit after all these years! The two paused, sizing each other up. Then Hordak lunged with the speed of a striking snake. Their swords met with a metallic clang as He-Man blocked his attack. The two struggled briefly, each trying to get through the other's defense, before breaking apart.

"There they are! Masters, with me!" Teela called.

Orko spun. Teela had emerged from the woods and was posing with her staff held in one hand before herself. Fisto, Roboto, Buzz-Off, and Ram Man were with her.

"So we get to have some more fun after all," Beast Man said with a feral grin. He roared, then charged.

Orko flew up, out of the way. The battle was an instant free-for-all between Hordak's minions, Snake Men, Masters, and Ophidians. Orko used his magic to hinder his enemies, causing their feet to entangle in the low growth or dazzling them with tiny flickers of light before their eyes. That was the most he could do without risking harm to his friends.

Evil-Lyn had not joined in the fight. The others mindlessly rushed in to battle whenever they saw the Masters; it was practically a reflex. She, however, had not lost sight of their true objective. The Sorceress still had her hands full protecting the castle from Beast Man's pets, she saw. She pointed her staff at arm's length at the jawbridge. A thread of dark light darted into the ancient, hardened wood. Evil-Lyn grimaced with effort. The door remained closed.

Beast Man, who had disposed of his opponent and was now looking around for another, noticed what Evil-Lyn was doing. With a rare flash of insight he loped up to the edge of the chasm surrounding the castle and snarled into its depths. Soon dark, simian shapes began climbing out of the pit. They clawed their way up the sheer, rocky surface until they reached the castle, then began tearing at the wood of the bridge.

Telepathically the Sorceress called, "I cannot hold the jawbridge closed much longer! Hordak must not enter!"

He-Man gritted his teeth. Hordak was using Skeletor's double-sword technique, and was not hampered by any inhibitions against killing his enemy. Unless He-Man struck him down, he could only fight a holding battle. The other Masters couldn't help subdue Hordak; they had battles of their own to fight.

Orko had heard the Sorceress's plea, and also saw that the bridge was beginning to creak. He was the only one free, and he had to find a way to lock the jawbridge so tight they'd never get it open. Then an idea popped into his head. He knew a spell for lockjaw, and it was so simple that he couldn't botch it if he tried! He raised his arms and chanted, "Let this affliction now disperse, freeing us from lockjaw's curse!" then threw his hands forward.

The spell flew from Orko's fingers to the jawbridge. The wooden bridge trembled for a moment, then fell open, sending shadowbeasts tumbling down into the abyss.

Orko gulped in horror. The spell he had cast, he realized too late, was a cure for lockjaw!

Hordak, looking beyond He-Man, saw it too. He began pressing his attack, swinging viciously at He-Man's throat, sword arm, and any other unarmored flesh available. He forced He-Man back, step by step, until both were on the jawbridge. He-Man gritted his teeth and said, "You will go no farther!"

"You, however, will!" Hordak replied.

Their blades rang together as they fought. He-Man would not back up any further, despite the wounds he was accumulating. He had to end this! Hordak brought both swords down, intending to strike both shoulders at once. He-Man jerked his sword upward in both hands, blocking the strike. The blades ground against each other with a singing sound. And He-Man felt his feet knocked out from underneath him.

Hordak shoved over the edge of the jawbridge. Then, without glancing after him, Hordak strode into Castle Grayskull.

Orko yelped and darted down over the abyss. He could not see He-Man - could he have already been swallowed by the darkness below? Then he heard a grunt and a scraping sound. Looking under the jawbridge, he saw that He-Man had caught the edge and was trying to pull himself back up. Frantically Orko grabbed hold of his baldric and lifted with all of his inconsiderable strength. He could float himself, but he was tiny compared to He-Man!

With great effort He-Man, bleeding and exhausted, managed to climb back over the edge of the bridge. Unnecessarily Orko pointed and said "Hordak went inside!"

"I have to stop him," He-Man said as if to himself. Glancing at Orko as he pulled himself to his feet, he said, "Close the bridge if you can."

"Right!" He-Man turned and ran. As his footsteps receded into the castle's gloom Orko thought, he had opened the bridge with a lockjaw cure. So he could uncure it, right? He pointed his hands at the bridge and, making the opposite gestures, shrilled, "I changed my mind, so now reverse my spell before things get much worse!"

To his surprise, the bridge slammed shut again, sealing him in dusty darkness. He'd have to make sure it stayed closed now. From here he could see the heavy chains that raised and lowered it, and the mechanism that worked those chains. They wound around a great metal cylinder. If that cylinder couldn't turn the bridge wouldn't lower. Orko directed a heat spell at the cylinder and chain. Soon the metal was glowing orange hot. That would fuse it solid. No way would the bridge open now! That accomplished, Orko turned and darted into the castle, after He-Man.


He-Man followed Hordak's path by sound. He had come this way once before, years ago. The Sorceress had led him, as Adam, down into the depths below the castle to give him the Sword of Power. The Orb of the Elders, the source of the castle's power, was down there. Hordak must not reach it!

Hordak's path led him to an opening in the floor. Below waited measureless darkness, with columns of bluish crystal stretching down until they vanished from sight. At intervals the columns flared into round platforms. It was on one of those that the Orb was seated. He saw motion - Hordak, and he was already nearing the Orb! - and jumped down to the platform below. Then he sighted on the next platform, and leapt.

Hordak advanced on the final platform. It bore a prickly thicket of giant crystals, in the middle of which a pearly white sphere nested. He could feel its power from here. With this at his command, no force on Eternia could stand against him!

He reached forward. A hand gripped his shoulder and spun him around. "Stop right there!" He-Man ordered.

Hordak drew a sword and plunged forward, the point aimed at He-Man's neck. He-Man deflected it to the side with the Sword of Power. And Hordak brought up his other sword to strike with all his strength at He-Man's unprotected side.

Shocked, He-Man fell to his knees. The wound in his side, below his ribs, was deep and bleeding dangerously. He had been wounded in battle many times before, but this felt lethal. He covered it with his hands; a spurt of arterial blood flowed between his fingers.

Orko stifled a wail. This was impossible! It couldn't be happening. He wouldn't let it happen! He darted forward and, desperately hoping that he could get it right, covered the wound with his bare hands and began casting the strongest healing spell he knew.

Hordak paused and stared at the little magician who had appeared out of nowhere. He had defeated He-Man; he was not about to let this ridiculous little creature interfere with him now! He raised a sword, then brought it down, point first.

Orko screamed as he felt the blade run him through. He could see the point, running with purple blood, sticking through the torn front of his tunic. The pain was paralyzing, unreal. He looked up into the face of his killer. Hordak's eyes locked on his for a moment. Then he jerked the sword violently back, dislodging Orko, who fell to the ground. His vision faded to black as he felt his life draining rapidly away. Something began shaking him, like a predator that had downed its prey.


Something was shaking Orko by the shoulder. His eyes sprang open in the darkness, and he yelped and jerked away.

"Wake up! You nearly scared the life out of me, yelling like that!"

He looked back, and the nightmare scene faded into unreality. In the darkness Dree Elle's green eyes met his. She looked tired and concerned. His heart hammering, he tried to sound calm as he said, "Uh, sorry. Guess I had a bad dream."

"No kidding. I thought I was the one who was supposed to be having strange dreams."

"Yeah, sorry," he said with an embarrassed, forced smile. He lay back down. Dree Elle put an arm across him. She felt his heart pounding, and said softly, "It must have been a terrible dream."

"Yeah, it was. I'm okay." He closed his eyes, then, after a moment, covered her hand with his and said, "I love you, Dree."

She replied with a smile, "Yes, I know. That's why I can't sleep on my stomach any more."

He smiled. She cuddled up to him and closed her eyes. He closed his eyes and thought of her, and the child they would soon have, as the nightmare faded into unreality.


Happy April Fool's Day!


Back to Fan Fiction in Castle Numbskull

All characters copyright Mattel. All copyrighted materials are used without permission but with a lot of affection and respect. The overall story is copyright Kim McFarland (Negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy this story for personal use only.