My father, King Randor, had at his disposal a handful of castles and palaces, but there was one place that was special to him. It had been in our family for generations. In fact, there was some speculation as to whether it was the true seat of our familial line. Whatever its origin, by the time I was born, it was used only seasonally and was referred to simply as 'the summer house'.
The house seemed to enjoy its reclusive nature and huddled into itself broodingly on the small hill upon which it lay. It is a compact house built in the style of a hunting lodge - all dark wood and forest-green shingles. Its hallways and galleries are narrow and cramped. Some have shifted over time to lie at unnatural angles. Though it was a summer residence, the small windows never allowed a ray of summer sun to pass into the house unmolested. The labyrinth of rooms and stairwells and servants' quarters that made up the house would creak and shrink with the approach of morning, the house withering beneath the sun only to bloom like a night orchid as darkness fell. It was an oppressive house that seemed to breathe with a consumptive's wheeze, taking its air often in brief, shuddering gasps.
We arrived at night.
The trees that lined the drive were black and thin, impassive sentinels awaiting nothing except perhaps rot and finally destruction. There was the house, tightly wound upon itself, its doors locked and windows shuttered, like a schizophrenic so intent on deciphering the secrets of his inner demons that he loses sight of the world around him.
The house gave a complete sense of disuse and of the past, but I happened to know that it had been put to a certain purpose, and recently. The summer house was now the last resting place of King Randor, or more exactly his remains...what little the Sorceress had salvaged. She had gathered up the pieces of my father, the man she loved, and before her banishment, she had buried him here, beneath the old oak tree in the backyard of his favorite place.
Beast-Man, Mer-Man and He-Ro got out of the Battlebones while I fished through the extra weapon compartment for shovels. Personally, I had no desire to desecrate my father's grave, but circumstances left me with few alternatives. A killer had begun stalking the streets of Eternia City - a killer whose crimes were somehow tied to my father's past. The latest clue left by the murderer had lead us here to see what secrets Randor 'took with him to his grave'.
The oak was in a clearing 'round the back of the house. A light rain had started to fall. We gathered beneath the tree in a circle, exposed in the moonlight to the curious eyes of the house.
"Once we start this..." Mer-Man began.
"We can't go back," I finished for him and drove my shovel into the soft earth. "Dig."
All while we labored, I felt the energy of the house increase as its interest in our actions grew. It was obviously aware of what we were doing and in some ways became like a fifth silent conspirator.
The more we dug, the more the house came to life, and its voyeuristic delight sickened me. I lay my shovel against the oak, told the others to continue working, and wandered off.
The back door to the servants' kitchen cracked off its hinges when I threw my shoulder against it. The temperature was cooler and dry inside and the house was completely still. I walked through the kitchen and into one of the hallways, feeling my way along in the darkness.
Though I didn't realize it then, I had a destination in mind. At the center of the house, at its heart, was a small bedroom. The room had belonged to my father when he was a child and it had always reminded me of him. It seemed steeped in his smell and essence. It was, as I said, a small room. It had a small fireplace, a child-size cot and a closet, but no windows.
There was a funny story that my father used to tell me about the closet. He would say a monkey baby lived there and would play in the closet all night, and when my father was sad, he would talk to the monkey baby, and after a while, they became friends. As a kid I thought this was very funny, and I thought too that he was lying and crazy.
But I remember one summer when we stayed in the house, my parents decided that I had grown too big for the nursery and Randor suggested I sleep in his old room. I was excited and very proud, but that night, I found I had trouble adjusting to my new surroundings and couldn't get to sleep in the strange room. Finally, just as I was beginning to doze off, I was awakened as the closet door creaked open just a few inches and a rubber ball rolled out. I sat up in bed and stared at the ball and then watched in absolute terror as a little furry hand about the size of a toddler's reached out and silently grabbed the ball and withdrew it into the darkness. I remember praying for the door to close, for anything to add one more barrier between me and the thing in the closet.
The route of my impromptu tour of the house had finally brought me to the small hall, at the end of which was an open door to that room. There was a window in the hallway, but not much light was coming though. I felt a soft breeze from the other end of the hall and a chill passed over me. My body froze. The floorboards behind me groaned as if a sudden weight had come to rest upon them.
I didn't move.
There was a raspy sound, like a person inhaling suddenly after holding their breath for a very long time, and then someone whispered my name.
"Mermista?" I turned around and there she was, standing in the shadows. I could only barely make out her features, but I knew I couldn't be mistaken.
"You've come to be with me, He-Man. I've waited so long."
"But Mermista, you're with Crabby..."
"Shh...I'm here now. We're all here, all those people."
Curlicues of frost began creeping around the window edges.
"I've missed you so much, He-Man. I love you soooo much. Now we can be together again."
Her face became darker as shadows moved across it. I drew closer to her.
"I can't, Mermista."
"I died for you, He-Man. You owe me my life."
"I didn't kill you. I just--"
"You didn't save me. You lied to me and let me die. You said you loved me."
"I did...I do love you, but--"
"I'm so lonely. I'm alone here. I need you. I love you."
"What can I do?" I could only just make out her lips. She seemed to be swallowed by the cold blackness. I was losing her again.
"Love me, He-Man! Promise me, swear that you'll stay with me forever. Promise."
Mermista's ice-black arm reached out to me and I meant to take it.
"Promise. I love you."
"I love you, Mermista."
"He-Man?!" He-Ro called to me from somewhere in the house. I closed my eyes and felt a frigid wind blow past me down the hall, slamming the door to the little room with its metal cot and haunted closet.
I heard the key turn in the door's lock.
"He-Man." He-Ro had reached the end of the hallway. "Come quick - they found something in the grave."
I nodded at him and rubbed my eyes. Before I followed him, I saw that someone had drawn a small heart on the frost on the window, and in a weak feminine hand, they had written H+M Forever at its center.