The chill of the wintry night air did nothing to lessen the warriors' resolve, and as they headed north, their determination to succeed in their quest grew ever stronger. Modulok's appearance at Man-At-Arms' cabin had actually been of benefit, for now they knew that an encounter with Hordak at Valmorlar was to be expected. The master of the Fright Zone had evidently learned of Skeletor's plot, and with the advantage of magic on his side, it was likely that Hordak had already translocated himself to the underground city. He-Man and Man-At-Arms meanwhile had to content themselves with slower means of transportation.
From the foothills on the northern side of the Mystic Mountains, they flew across the desolate expanses of Giant's Pass and Darkmoor; areas that would be filled with meadow grasses and flowers once the Spring thaws had passed, but for now were featureless drifts of snow that reached further than the eye could see. The clouds ahead of them slowed near the southern border of the Northern Reaches, and the warriors found themselves in turbulent air as they flew into the tail of the snowstorm. Yet despite the worsening weather, He-Man and Man-At-Arms pressed onward, wrapping themselves in their great cloaks and shielding their eyes as best they could against the blinding snowflakes.
Through the night, they had followed the spine of the Ice Mountains in the moonlight to the north. However, the failing visibility made navigation fraught with danger, for the risk of flying into the mountainsides increased as their vision was hindered. It was fortunate that the dawn began to appear over the peaks to the east, for though the light was weak, it served to shape the mountains into faint silhouettes. It occurred to He-Man that he had not slept for two nights, but he was so focused on his mission that this was of little concern to him. There would be time to sleep when Teela was safe.
The snowfall had been heavy and unceasing during the course of the night, but with the onset of morning, it became apparent that the worst of the storm had passed. The cloud remained black and ominous over the mountains and the Northern Reaches, but the snowfall lessened as the warriors neared their destination. Gaps began to appear in the clouds, and bright sunlight angled through, assisting He-Man and Man-At-Arms with their route. They descended over the snow-covered plain, keeping the mountains to the right. They pushed their craft to maximum output, and raced along a short distance clear of the ground. With one hand guiding Battle Ram, He-Man reached over his shoulder and drew the Powersword from its scabbard. Though the entrance doorways to Valmorlar were reputed to be taller than Castle Grayskull itself, searching the entire mountain range would take time that the warriors could ill afford to waste. Holding an image of Teela in his thoughts, He-Man allowed the magic of the fortress to guide him. Through the grip of the sword, he felt Grayskull respond, and knew that soon Man-At-Arms and he would find the subterranean city.
As the sky continued to clear overhead, the morning sun shone brightly in streams of light over different aspects of the ancient landscape. Ahead the warriors saw a vast area of mountainside bathed in golden light, and realised that at the foot of the precipitous pinnacle, two mighty doors of weatherworn but elegant masonry stood proudly in silent contemplation of the once mighty underground kingdom. He-Man felt a surge of mystic energy course through his arm as the Powersword indicated they had arrived at the entranceway to Valmorlar.
Setting down Battle Ram and Wind Raider, He-Man and Man-At-Arms stared for a moment at the magnificent stone doorways, admiring the craftsmanship. There were two doors, each carved with thousands of symbols and sculptures, supported by an immense archway in the mountainside. Generations ago, these doors would have acted as an impassable barrier to intruders, but now they stood partially open, allowing access to any who desired to enter the ghost city below the mountains.
Arming himself with the weapons he had brought from his cabin, Man-At-Arms glanced at He-Man. "I regret we do not have time to admire the masons' work, He-Man. We must find Teela."
He-Man nodded. "The Powersword will guide us to her." He-Man rarely carried additional weapons, but Man-At-Arms frequently armed himself to the teeth, particularly when he had no idea who or what he might face in combat. The veteran warrior scabbarded a long bladed sword on his back, and slid a selection of knives into the armoured leg guard he wore over his left shin. He fastened a morningstar to his breastplate, and hefted his club over his shoulder. With a nod he indicated to He-Man that he was ready, and together the two men strode towards the open doors of Valmorlar.
Despite its eeriness, the long abandoned city of Valmorlar retained much of its majesty and elegance. Even now, centuries after its creation, the city was illuminated by light emanating from crystals in the rock. He-Man and Man-At-Arms passed through cavernous chambers of such enormity that Castle Grayskull or the royal palace could have been accommodated within the rocky walls. Throughout the city, nature's architecture had been left as intact as possible, with dwellings and meeting chambers using the natural shapes of the caves. Where it had been deemed necessary, additional structures had been built by the inhabitants, but these had been created in a style that blended beautifully with the elegance of the subterranean world. The rock here was a pale white, richly laced with quartz. Strains of other crystals could be seen also, and amongst the whiteness, the pinks and blues of amethyst and moonstone glistened with a mysterious radiance.
Venturing through the vastness of the ghostly city, He-Man and Man-At-Arms realised that much of Valmorlar was balanced on the edges of great precipices. Narrow arched bridges of white stone spanned chasms that fell away to unseen depths. Guided by the Powersword, He-Man led the way over bridges and through tunnels, sensing that Man-At-Arms and he were nearing Teela, but heading closer to peril. Determination compelled them ever deeper into Valmorlar.
The companions found themselves in a long, narrow passage. The walls were steep and vertical, and there was barely room for the two men to walk side by side. A sudden movement at the far end of the passage drew their attention. They glanced at each other momentarily, and started running forward, weapons raised. The narrow path led them into a large cavern, and it was there they encountered Tri-Klops. He stood staring as they approached, gazing menacingly at them with one eye, his sword held across his body with one hand on the grip and the other on the blade. Man-At-Arms and He-Man burst into the cavern, and Tri-Klops immediately altered his stance, raising his sword in a two-handed grip. As He-Man lunged at him, Tri-Klops swung his blade with enormous power, deflecting He-Man's strike. He-Man passed him and tried to riposte, but Tri-Klops' three eyes, spaced around the circumference of his head, gave him complete panoramic vision. Without turning, he parried He-Man's strike behind his back. Man-At-Arms rushed forward, and swung his club at Tri-Klops. Ducking below the attack, Tri-Klops dived to the ground, rolling neatly and returning to his feet with sword ready.
"Find Teela, He-Man!" shouted Man-At-Arms. "I shall deal with Tri-Klops!"
Confident that his friend was capable of defeating his adversary, He-Man rushed across the chamber, continuing his search.
Man-At-Arms and Tri-Klops stared at each other, preparing to fight. Their last conflict on the Moor of Doom had been abandoned, and this was the opportunity both had been longing for. Man-At-Arms slowly set his club down with one hand, and drew his sword with the other. Yet before the sword was clear of its scabbard, he released the handle of the club, allowing it to topple forwards. With a swift kick, he sent the club flying at Tri-Klops. The pommel slammed into Tri-Klops' eye, causing him to stagger backwards in surprise and pain. Using the advantage, Man-At-Arms ran forward, slicing his blade through the air at his stunned opponent. Tri-Klops parried weakly, but succeeded in deflecting the strike. The eye band around his head rotated, and a different, uninjured eye stared at Man-At-Arms. After a brief pause, the two warriors hurled themselves into a furious combat; their blades blurring as they parried and attacked. Man-At-Arms was the more skilful combatant, but Tri-Klops was stronger and faster.
Man-At-Arms realised that if this became a test of endurance, Tri-Klops would gain the upper hand. He had to direct this fight, forcing Tri-Klops to react and defend rather than attack. With a rapid series of feints aimed at Tri-Klops' head, Man-At-Arms began to push his opponent towards the wall of the cavern. As he anticipated, Tri-Klops quickly observed the change in his tactics. Tri-Klops responded by taking high parries early in front of his face. Man-At-Arms slowed his next strike slightly, allowing Tri-Klops to make the parry and swing a hammering riposte at his legs. He jumped clear of the blade, his sword point circling Tri-Klops' weapon and engaging the metal as he regained his footing. Binding Tri-Klops' sword with his own, Man-At-Arms forced the opposing blade to continue in its original direction; the increase in momentum surprising his adversary, and overbalancing him slightly. Man-At-Arms shoulder-charged Tri-Klops with his armour-plated arm guard, causing him to stumble over. He slammed his sword's pommel into Tri-Klops' head with as much strength as he could muster. Severely stunned by the blow, Tri-Klops swayed on his feet, trying desperately to focus and regain his balance. Crouching slightly, Man-At-Arms took up a side-on stance, and made a quick step forward to build up momentum before smashing a side kick into his adversary's head. Tri-Klops fell backwards, unconscious. Man-At-Arms observed the motionless body of Tri-Klops for a moment, pausing just long enough to recover from his efforts. He resheathed his sword, picked up his club, and ran from the chamber in pursuit of He-Man.
The younger warrior, meanwhile, had found himself in a cavern filled with haphazard columns of white glistening rock. Stalagmites of various heights and shapes pointed upwards from the floor of the cave, reaching for the stalactites far above He-Man's head. The quiet sound of dripping water could be heard in the cavern, but He-Man thought he noticed other sounds, barely audible, echoing among the columns. Holding the Powersword in defensive posture, He-Man moved silently and slowly, focusing his hearing in the manner that the dryads of the Gwylvos Forest had taught him.
A second after he heard the sound of breathing, he was struck viciously from behind, the impact slamming into his head and back. He lurched forward awkwardly, stunned by the attack. As he fell, he lost his grip on the Powersword, and the weapon slid noisily across the floor of the cavern. Face down on the ground, He-Man pushed himself up, and shook his head quickly, trying to clear his blurred vision. He became aware of a man standing beside him, and an instant later, a kick struck him in the side of the head. He-Man groaned with pain and rolled over, his unfocused eyes vaguely noticing Jitsu nearby. Jitsu reached down and grabbed He-Man's hair. Pulling the shaken warrior to his feet, Jitsu glared at his enemy, pausing just long enough for He-Man to regain his vision, before smashing an elbow strike into his jaw. He-Man fell once more, spinning around as he collapsed. This was not going well. Fight back, you fool, he told himself, refusing to accept the pain that stung his body. You're the defender of Grayskull, not Jitsu's rag doll. Groggily, he stood up, and turned to face his attacker, steeling himself against the next onslaught.
Jitsu walked forward slowly, his confidence in his own fighting talents unshakeable. Few men could defeat Jitsu in hand-to-hand combat, and he knew this. His elegance of movement and snake-like speed were unmatched on Eternia, and he enjoyed expressing his art, delivering kicks and punches of enormous power with grace and fluidity. Yet He-Man knew Jitsu was not invincible, and as his opponent spun rapidly and unleashed a kick aimed at his head, He-Man wondered what Fisto would say if he lost this fight. He-Man blocked the kick with his left arm, and instantly turned into the attack, pushing Jitsu's attacking leg away with both hands, spinning his opponent around. He-Man stamped down on the back of Jitsu's other leg. Jitsu fell to the ground, wincing at the sudden pain.
Yet it would take more than a couple of skilful moves to defeat Jitsu. From his crouching position, he waited, knowing He-Man would step closer. Choosing his moment, Jitsu threw his right arm backwards, the golden metal gauntlet finding its target as it thudded into He-Man's side. He-Man doubled over, clutching his bruised ribs. Stepping back, he saw Jitsu rise, preparing to renew his attack. He had to strike now, before Jitsu could cause further injury. He sent a circular high kick into the side of Jitsu's face, but his side ached and the kick did not have the force it required. Yet He-Man's strikes had succeeded in slowing Jitsu down. The fight was not yet over, but the combat was more balanced. They began to trade punches and kicks, blocking some successfully, and groaning under the impact of others.
Suddenly Jitsu forced an opening in He-Man's defence. He aimed a roundhouse kick at He-Man's head, making him raise his arms to block. Yet the kick was not meant to make contact, and at the last moment, Jitsu bent his leg back. Balancing perfectly, Jitsu struck out again with a side kick into He-Man's stomach. The heroic warrior bent over and staggered backwards at the impact, just as Jitsu's metal-encased hand chopped through the air in an open-handed strike. Barely avoiding the attack, He-Man took temporary refuge behind a stalagmite. Jitsu struck again, demolishing the ancient carbonate with a single impact. Backing away, an idea occurred to He-Man. Jitsu advanced, smashing his way through the columns in pursuit of his adversary.
The next time Jitsu advanced, He-Man stood his ground in front of a stalagmite. Jitsu aimed a side kick at He-Man's head, which He-Man narrowly avoided. Still he stood fast, and ducked under a high reverse kick that struck out at him. Jitsu suddenly turned his body, aiming the metal fingers of his gauntlet at He-Man like a spear. He-Man darted to one side, and Jitsu's metal hand pierced the stalagmite, trapping him in the rock. He-Man hammered a power punch into Jitsu's stomach, expelling the air from his lungs. Jitsu sank to his knees, the weight of his body pulling downwards. His arm remained trapped. With a great punch to his adversary's face, He-Man finally knocked Jitsu unconscious, and the warrior slumped forward, still pinned to the stalagmite.
Locating the Powersword, He-Man picked up the ancient weapon as Man-At-Arms entered the cavern. The older man glanced at Jitsu momentarily, then turned back to He-Man. Without words, they silently acknowledged each other, then resumed their search for Teela in the caves of Valmorlar.