“Wow, Beast-Guy, that’s rad!” approved He-Ro, not paying a bit of attention. “Just one more tumbler to go...” Blue light from He-Ro’s hand illuminated the lock. Finally, with a satisfying click, the heavy door swung open as if by magic.
A strong gust of air blew out from the cavernous maw now open before us. It stank of decay and sin and malevolence.
“I smell sex and candy!” observed Beast-Man. He and I followed He-Ro into the tunnel.
“So,” mulled He-Ro, “this is where King Randor kept all his good stuff, eh? Anyone wanna stick around after we find the Tome and see if we can find anything for eBay?”
“Not me,” answered Beast-Man as he checked the levels on his laser carbine. “Knowing Randor, we’d prolly find flesh-eating maggot monsters with cherub faces! He was weird that way.”
“We came for the book,” I grunted. “Leave the rest.”
I thought I heard He-Ro say “Blow me,” but it was lost in the wind.
”My Dark Lord, what do you see in your magic chalice?” Trap-Jaw lay prostrate on the floor averting his eyes from his master’s glowing aura.
He chanced to look up when he heard a sharp hiss of breath and a dry laugh.
“They have almost reached the book! Yes, find it my little heroes, and return it to its rightful owner...Trap-Jaw, prepare my horse. I will be with Evil-Lyn.”
A booted foot and tattered robes covered in dust and mold swept by Trap-Jaw’s face as he pressed it against the damp flagstones.
“If on your return, Snake Mountain is a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’.”
“Yes, my lord.”
We were deep into the subterranean tunnels which ran beneath the old palace. Many turnings had collapsed and we followed a glowing orb that He-Ro had enchanted to guide the way to the Tome.
“I would have thought this place would be better defended,” He-Ro commented prematurely.
Just then bright red electric eyes flickered to life in the shadows. There was a whir of machines and all hell broke loose.
“Killer robots!” screamed Beast-Man, firing wildly into the blackness. Beam weapons answered his salvo and buzz-saw blades began to streak through the air. Eight killer robots with electro-whips blocked our way.
“Duck and cover!!!” called He-Ro. He reached into a pouch at his belt and through a handful of small pellets at the robots.
There was a bright flash and a blinding explosion. Servos and circuit boards rained down upon us. Beast-Man kept shooting the melted automatons.
“Get some! Get some!!!”
”Your horse is ready, my lord.”
“Good work.” The dark figure in its tattered robes walked brusquely down the flagstones. He held a lance covered in vile runes up to the sky and his sleeve slipped down to reveal glowing bones.
“Tonight, Eternia, you will drink a bitter draught!”
Given strength by his master’s words, Trap-Jaw added, “Yeah, Eternia, you can suck it!”
The skeletal lord reached his horse, made of living stone, in a few long strides. With a terrible cry he swung himself up into the saddle and, laughing, galloped off into the dusky horizon.
“Here’s a chest!”
We had finally found a large box sealed with Randor’s own insignia and several large locks. The gold bands which held it together and the craftsmanship of the item showed it was used for no mean purpose.
“I bet this is where he put his most valued treasures!” Saliva dripped from Beast-Man’s fangs.
He-Ro chanted a short spell and the lid slowly opened.
“Oh my.....oh, God! That is just...oh, God!!!”
“That’s disgusting! Close it!”
Beast-Man slammed the chest shut with the butt of his rifle. The action must have awoken some depraved device inside, because the chest began to hum and vibrate across the floor.
“I’m gonna hurl.”
The dread creature of bone and evil crossed the broken plains an army of monsters and mercenaries at his back. His pennant of a bass with a hook in its mouth flapped ominously in the wind behind him. As he drove his enchanted steed onward, he gnashed his teeth and tightened a grip on his lance.
He blew down through the mountain passes like a storm living death and blood and fire and heartache behind him...heartache forever linked to the name Scare-Glow.
He-Ro and Beast-Man burst into the courtyard together, laughing drunkenly. Mer-Man and his advisors, Orko included, wandered out to see what the commotion was about.
“He-Ro, you’ve returned! What news?” asked the amazed Prime Minister.
“Well, we found some of these.” He reached into his rucksack and withdrew a large maggot with the face of a two year old.
“They make good eating,” advised Beast-Man.
“And,” He-Ro continued, “this!!!”
He held the Tome of Knowledge above his head.
Great tears of wonderment sprang to Mer-Man’s eyes.
“Now we can finally bring peace to Eternia!” he cried in triumph.
“The peace of the dead!” came a voice from the door. All heads turned to the threshold, where now stood a robed figure, rags blowing about his body in the light breeze. He had no skin on his face or hands and his eyes burned with an unholy light. All around him the air shimmered and power radiated from his person.
“Skele--” began Mer-Man.
“Scare-Glow!” screamed the fiend, froth spitting from his lipless mouth.
The monstrosity raised his bony hand and brought the end of his lance down with a thundering crack onto the marble stones of the courtyard.
Men fell down wailing and writhing in pain. The figure pointed at He-Ro.
“Give me the book.”
“Don’t you have an Alice Cooper concert to go to or something?” growled He-Ro, putting up a strong front. He tossed the book to Mer-Man and raised an eyebrow.
Scare-Glow’s troop of mercenaries rushed into the courtyards shouting great battle cries.
He-Ro held out his hands and, gritting his teeth, bellowed at them. From out his hands grew a translucent bear almost twenty feet tall. It roared at the crowd of scum and, as they broke formation to escape its fury, it began to lay into them, swinging its powerful paws and sending henchman spiraling through the air.
Sweat poured down He-Ro’s face. His eyes lost focus. The bear grew larger and more powerful. All those who stood against it were crushed beneath its gigantic feet or met a sloppy end in its betoothed jaws.
Scare-Glow watched the massacre of his men with a casual ease. He let out a hollow laugh and raised his lance towards He-Ro’s ursine manifestation. From the tip of his evil weapon sprang a great black serpent.
The two magical beasts collided, the serpent wrapping its coils around the bear, striking at the confused creature’s face with its red dripping fans. The bear tried to ward off the poisonous attack and grappled with the serpent about its neck.
Suddenly there was a scream and He-Ro staggered backwards, falling to the ground in exhaustion. The bear disappeared almost immediately.
Mer-Man yelped as the giant magical snake swiftly slithered its coils around his shoulders and began to squeeze. At a nod from Scare-Glow, the nightmaric creature sprouted wings and began to fly off, Mer-Man and the Tome of Knowledge firmly in its clutches.
As he disappeared into the night sky, Mer-Man begged his friends, “Feed my Sea Monkeys while I’m gone!!!”
He-Ro raised himself to his knees and began to whisper to himself. Scare-Glow waved the lance almost imperceptibly in his direction and the superhero was cast violently against the stone wall, the life and air forced out of him.
Scare-Glow turned on his heel and, with a laugh that was like a curse, walked to his waiting horse. Eternia City was in flames.
When he was gone, Orko and Beast-Man ran over to He-Ro. He was unconscious.
“What are we going to do?” asked Beast-Man.
“About He-Ro?” wondered Orko.
“No, about Mer-Man’s Sea Monkeys.”
“Oh, don’t worry about them. They died months ago. I just poured some Parmesan cheese into the bowl. Fools him every time.”
He-Ro let out a groan. Creeping out of my hiding place, I approached them.
“I think it is time you found the owner of this.” I held out the battered and sheathed powersword.
“My cousin had one just like that,” volunteered Beast-Man.
Tomorrow: The Return of He-Man!!!