Standing before the door to the Hall of the Ancestors, Teela felt apprehensive. Never before had she been permitted to enter this sacred chamber of Castle Grayskull, though many times she had wondered what lay past the great panelled door. Set in an archway of stone that bore intricate carvings of vines and leaves, the door had no lock or handle, remaining solidly closed by means of magic. The Sorceress gently touched Teela's arm to reassure her. "You are ready, Teela," she said softly. "Do not be afraid." The Sorceress walked closer to the door, and rested her hand on the wood. The door began to open slowly on its great black hinges, but did so silently. The Sorceress took Teela's hand and entered the chamber.
The hall was lit, but not brightly. Rows of sconces were located along all four walls, holding flaming torches, but the chamber was too large to be illuminated completely. As such, there was a perpetual shadow in the room, but it was not one of sadness. Indeed, the opposite was true, for as Teela had entered the hall, she had felt an overwhelming sense of joy that seemed to float around her. A long banqueting table of highly polished red wood stood in the centre of the chamber. More sculptures could be seen against the walls; statues of such beauty that Teela doubted they were shaped by human hand.
It took her eyes a few moments to adjust to the dimness in the chamber, and gradually she noticed strange forms of diaphanous light drifting around the room. They grew more numerous, and soon the shapeless forms began to appear as human figures; ghostly ethereal beings dressed in robes and gowns of centuries ago. Teela gasped as she realised she was surrounded by hundreds of phantoms, but they all had such warm and welcoming expressions on their faces, that her moment of fear swiftly passed. The joy she had felt before emanated from these people, filling the room with an intense happiness. She watched as they conversed with her, their voices appearing dream-like in her thoughts. Hundreds of voices, a myriad of welcomes and greetings, chaotically tumbled together as the ghosts spoke to her at once, but somehow she heard and understood every word.
"These are your people, Teela," the Sorceress said quietly. "Kings, queens, warriors and guardians of Grayskull from centuries past. There is great wisdom and knowledge here. You may return to the hall whenever you wish. The ancestors will always welcome you."
"They are so beautiful!" Teela replied, tears of joy on her face. "Yet I do not understand why you have brought me here."
"You have a special bond with Grayskull, Teela," the Sorceress answered. "You know intuitively when the fortress is threatened, do you not? You will learn the reasons for this soon, but for now know this: you will inherit responsibility for Castle Grayskull."
"He-Man is the guardian of the castle, Sorceress," said Teela.
"He is, but your role is different," replied the Sorceress. "Sadly, we must accept that He-Man may not return to us. He blames himself for the loss of the Powersword and the return of Skeletor and Hordak. If he does not come back, your duty will be all the greater. Yet fear not, I have faith in He-Man, and you should too."
"I miss him," Teela said sadly, bowing her head.
"And you are always in his thoughts," the Sorceress replied. For a few moments, neither woman spoke, their thoughts turned to He-Man and the burdens he carried. Finally, the Sorceress turned to Teela. "I have other duties to attend, Teela," she said. "Stay a while in the hall. The ancestors have much to teach you. You may leave whenever you wish."
"You have my eternal gratitude for bringing me to this magical place," Teela said quietly.
"Protect it well, Teela," replied the Sorceress. She turned to the door, and silently left Teela alone with the spirits of the past.
She listened to the voices once again, hearing a multitude of sentiments and expressions. Yet there were more than words to absorb in this mystical chamber. Allowing herself to absorb the emotional energy of the room, Teela found her thoughts filled with scenes of great beauty, and she felt as if she were simultaneously drifting through sylvan groves, icy mountain ranges and seascapes by twilight. She could taste exotic fruits and smell meadows full of Summer flowers. She realised she was sensing the past, and all the while the spirit voices floated in and out of her thoughts, speaking of Eternia's beauty, and welcoming her to their number.
She saw their faces, and wondered with delight why so many seemed familiar to her. Gradually they spoke of the mystical fortress, reminding her that she was bound to Grayskull by a spiritual force. The thought troubled her momentarily, and the ghosts sensed her unease. They quickly reassured her, telling her that her destiny was a beautiful one, and that she would learn all she needed to know gradually. She began to question the spirits about the future, but they would reveal little to her. Yet in a brief instant, she saw in her mind's eye a baby boy, and knew with overwhelming pride that this was the son she would one day give birth to. A heartbeat later and the image was gone. Yet the memory stayed with her, and she knew that now was the time to leave her ancestors. Silently thanking the phantoms for their kindness, she slowly walked from the chamber. As she left, she heard them inviting her to return soon, and in her thoughts she promised that she would.
The Sorceress was waiting for her in the corridor outside the Hall of the Ancestors. It had been many years since the Sorceress had first ventured into the chamber, but she remembered that first visit as vividly as she recalled every one since. She embraced Teela warmly, knowing that now the young warrior woman had begun to share the secrets of Castle Grayskull. Yet there was one secret that she desperately longed to tell Teela, yet it was too dangerous to do so. Perhaps one day the time might be right, but while danger existed in Eternia, the knowledge would place Teela in peril.
They walked to the Jawbridge together, and the mystical door opened outwards as they approached. The bright daylight flooded in to the dark interior of the castle entrance, illuminating the stonework. The two women made their farewells, and Teela stepped outside the castle, and walked to the horse that had been waiting patiently for her. Teela swung herself into the saddle with ease. She gently flicked the reins, and guided the horse to the southwest and the Evergreen Forest.
Standing in the jaw of Grayskull, the Sorceress watched Teela ride away, her emotions a mixture of pride and sadness. She continued to watch as Teela reached the edge of the forest, and disappeared into the trees. As she lost sight of her, she reminded herself what a beautiful and strong young woman her daughter had become.
The food that Zodac had left for him satisfied He-Man's hunger, and the fire and blanket warmed him considerably after his exposure to the icy chill of the Great River. The food had been sufficient for a single meal only, but He-Man was certain that he would be able to find food in the forest now that the rain had stopped. He neatly folded the blanket in the knapsack, put out the fire, and walked out of the cave. The pack was the only item he carried, for he had no weapon. He was now on foot, as Attak Trak had been destroyed, but he looked forward to continuing his journey nonetheless.
The riverbanks were still flooded, and the churning waters were still brown with sediment and hurling debris downstream, but the fury of the torrent had lessened, and it was just a matter of time before the floodwater was carried to the sea. The land bore the scars of the storm too, for the hillsides were covered with mud and broken tree branches. Yet the sun was warming the forest once more, restoring the colours and beauty of the magnificent landscape.
He-Man decided to head westwards, following the river upstream. It was too perilous to attempt to walk along the riverbank, so he endeavoured to keep a safe distance and maintain sight of the river through the trees. The few paths that had existed in the Gwylvos Forest had been washed away, so the ground was treacherous underfoot. Pushing away branches and clambering over roots, He-Man pressed on, and gradually made his way to higher ground. The effort fatigued him, and he realised that the experiences of the last few days had left him exhausted. He should have been able to travel for a full day without need of rest, but in his present condition, he found himself stopping every few hours. Fruit was plentiful in the forest, so he was able to regain much needed nourishment, but his muscles ached with the sort of pain he would expect after a full day of weapon training with Man-At-Arms.
It was his intention to find a village or sentry post, where he would be able to rest properly. He hoped he would be able to borrow a horse for the long journey back to the palace, for travelling on foot would take weeks. And yet, he felt that for now the palace was not his true destination. He ventured deeper into the forest, heading instinctively where he felt he was bound to go. The route he took led him away from the river, but he could still see the water in the distance, glinting in the sunlight. He continued until the sun began to set. The shadows grew longer in the forest, and he sensed movement in the forest as the nocturnal creatures began to wake from their slumber. Yet among the sounds known to him, there were some that he did not recognise right away.
As he walked slowly among the trees, he heard the sounds of a large animal moving swiftly through the undergrowth. Whatever it was, it evidently did not feel the need to make its approach discreet. The sound came closer, and He-Man heard branches snapping and the harsh guttural noise of the creature's breathing. He-Man stood motionless, watching and waiting. Noticing movement, He-Man peered into the long evening shadows, and realised with horror that the beast that had followed him was a glorm. The glorm stood upright on two enormous legs, and was seemingly humanoid in appearance with some distinct exceptions. Thick brown fur covered its entire body, and it had two pairs of muscular arms that it used to both catch and subdue its prey. The glorm stopped in its tracks and sniffed the air. It turned and looked directly at He-Man.
He-Man had fought glorms before, but usually with weapons, and never in the weakened state he presently suffered. Watching the creature intently, He-Man slowly reached for a thick branch that lay on the ground nearby. In that instant the glorm charged, baring its fangs as it hurtled towards He-Man. With barely enough time to position his makeshift weapon, He-Man swung the branch with all the strength he could muster. The wood impacted against the glorm's stomach, causing little more than temporary discomfort. The creature grasped at He-Man, who ducked under a low branch of an oak a heartbeat before the glorm tore the limb from the tree and crashed through the forest after him.
Knowing that standing and fighting would be futile, He-Man forced himself to flee. His legs seemed to move agonisingly slowly, and his chest burned as he gasped for air. Out-running the glorm would have been impossible even if he had been fully fit, but he hoped guile might outwit the creature. In an attempt to slow the glorm, He-Man ran through the narrowest gaps he could find. Yet the glorm chased relentlessly, smashing all the obstacles from his path. Any advantage He-Man made for himself was a small one, and this usually vanished moments later as the glorm pursued him on open ground.
The glorm began to roar. He-Man knew instinctively that this was not just a wild expression of anger. The sounds were varied in pitch and tempo, and He-Man soon realised that the glorm was summoning others to join the hunt. Before long, there came the sounds of other glorms crashing through the forest, gradually closing in on He-Man's position. He could not estimate how many glorms were now in pursuit, or how long it would be before he was cornered and at their mercy. He heard the answering calls of the first glorm's companions, the bloodcurdling sounds coming ever nearer.
Stumbling now, He-Man tried to force himself onwards, defying the pain that coursed through his body. Through the trees he saw the other glorms. There were four in all, and two had managed to get ahead of him. He-Man staggered into a clearing, and collapsed to the ground as the last traces of energy left his body. The glorms stopped at the clearing's edge, surrounding their prey, their guttural cries revealing their satisfaction at successfully capturing the target. The four creatures advanced slowly, and He-Man stared up at them helplessly. Reaching out with their clawed hands, the glorms closed in.
Yet in the next instant, their low growls became agonised screams. The creatures lurched back as spears and arrows suddenly plunged through their chests. The dying glorms desperately clawed at the shafts that had punctured their bodies, trying to rid themselves of the instruments of their deaths. A second flight of arrows soared across the clearing with deadly accuracy. More spears were hurled at the beasts, impaling themselves in the creatures' giant limbs. He-Man knew from experience that glorms took a long time to die. Eventually the beasts fell to the ground; their enormous bodies causing the ground to shudder as they landed. Slowly He-Man stood, rising from the haphazard circle created by the glorms' corpses.
He found himself surrounded by dozens of women armed with bows. For the moment they ignored him, studying the glorms intently, ensuring they were dead. He-Man stared with curiosity at the warriors, for he had never seen their kind before. They were of human appearance, but their skin seemed to be of random patches of greens and greys. They wore simple attire of light coloured cloths, but their hair was intricately braided with beads and crystals. The women slowly backed away from the glorms, and rested their weapons against the nearest tree trunks. The weapons seemed to shimmer for an instant before vanishing, as if they were magically absorbed by the trees.
One of the women stepped forwards. Her hair was perfectly blonde, and the braids in her hair were more colourfully decorated than those of her companions. Her stance was that of a warrior, but she was beautiful and elegant in her movements. "Welcome to our home, He-Man," she said warmly. "We have been expecting you." She paused briefly, then added, "Though we were not expecting you to make such a dramatic entrance."
"Rest assured, it was not the entrance I had hoped for," replied He-Man. "I am grateful for your timely arrival."
"You might say we were already here," the warrior woman replied. "My name is Sabina. You will stay with my people until you are ready for the next part of your journey."
"Do you have a village near here, Sabina?" questioned He-Man.
"No," she replied. "Yet the forest is our home."
"So you live among the trees?" He-Man asked.
"In a manner of speaking, He-Man," Sabina answered. "We are the trees."
"Then you are dryads!" exclaimed He-Man. "Spirits of the forest! So the legends are true. I am honoured that you have welcomed me to your home."
"This is no chance meeting, He-Man," Sabina stated. "It is unlikely that we would have revealed ourselves to you had we not been asked to do so. The Oracle asked for our intervention. We will help you regain your strength and your fighting skills. My warriors will enjoy the opportunity to practise against the mighty He-Man!"
"You have my thanks, Sabina," stated He-Man. "How will I repay your kindness?"
"By keeping our existence secret, He-Man," Sabina answered. "Come, we have food for you. Let us leave the glorms for the wolves."
With those words, Sabina led the way into the forest, and He-Man followed, grateful that he had found himself among friends.