"I have no reason to offer you protection," said Man-At-Arms. "You have much blood on your hands, Evil-Lyn. Furthermore, I have no reason to trust you."
I expect neither your trust nor your forgiveness," replied the enchantress. "I seek your care but I do not propose to offer nothing in return."
"Why now?" questioned Man-At-Arms. "Why come to me? You are a powerful sorceress who has no need of my protection."
"Things have changed drastically in Snake Mountain," replied Evil-Lyn. "I no longer have any influence on events. The wraith Scare Glow has usurped my position at Skeletor's side and watches my every move. Alas, I was the architect of my own downfall, for it was I who used ancient magic to restore Skeletor to life when he fell by He-Man's hand. I knew not that the incantation would bring Skeletor's ghost into physical form."
"So you seek sanctuary simply because you have been displaced!" retorted Man-At-Arms. "You are afraid of the new order because you are unable to practise your witchcraft as you once did."
"I am afraid of the new order because it threatens us all!" responded Evil-Lyn harshly. "Skeletor has always been ambitious, but his plans were always fault-ridden. His failings assured my safety. Now he builds an army and devises strategies which will lead to conquest! Scare Glow's influence has made Skeletor more patient and cunning. As much as I need your help, you need mine, weapons master. You must use my knowledge to weaken him before he rises against your king."
Man-At-Arms paused in thought. He remained unconvinced that Evil-Lyn was revealing her true intentions. "You must give me something I can use before I might be inclined to believe you," he said.
"The attack on Ynys'alar," Evil-Lyn responded. "What do you know of it?"
"I know I lost a brave friend," replied Man-At-Arms angrily. "His neck was broken. Lars was a fine cavalry man in his younger days and a worthy gaoler. What was your part in his death?"
Evil-Lyn did not react to his last remark. "The plan was to free Jitsu. The stronghold was attacked by Mer-Man and a newer ally of Skeletor's named Clawful. The sea creatures under Mer-Man's command swarmed the fortress and slew the guards. Clawful released Jitsu from his cell, but it was Jitsu himself who killed your friend."
"We never learned the truth about the attack," said Man-At-Arms. "Yet we already have Jitsu in custody. He was captured at Valmorlar and has been imprisoned for leading the murderous attack on Talu."
"Well now you have another reason never to release him," said Evil-Lyn. "However, Mer-Man and Clawful are not in your dungeons. I cannot tell you where Mer-Man is; he appears at Snake Mountain occasionally, but usually seeks refuge in his underwater kingdom. I have news of Clawful though. He has been granted a high status by Skeletor and now commands much power among his own kind. He has been raising an army of crustacean warriors which will soon be marching towards Eternos from the south-west."
"How strong is his army?" questioned Man-At-Arms.
"Nearly two thousand," Evil-Lyn replied. "These are fearsome creatures, Man-At-Arms. They are slow-witted but very strong. Their bodies are covered in part by scaly plate, which reduces their vulnerability to bladed weapons."
Man-At-Arms frowned. "If Skeletor has become the tactician you claim, there will be a second army. He would know that even two thousand warriors would not assure him of victory."
"I suspect you are correct," said Evil-Lyn. "I shall endeavour to find out more of his plans, but I am rarely allowed access to his councils of war."
"And for this information you wish to be protected against Skeletor and Scare Glow?" asked Man-At-Arms.
"There is much more I can tell you," replied Evil-Lyn, "but yes, I need your guardianship. If Skeletor discovers I have been speaking to you, he will kill me. I have learned a great and terrifying secret that could lead to his downfall."
The Sorceress of Grayskull, who had remained silent during the meeting so far, chose this moment to break her silence. She stared at Evil-Lyn and held her gaze intently. "Do you truly seek a new path?" she asked softly.
Evil-Lyn found the Sorceress's stare unnerving, but she could not look away. She realised that the guardian of Grayskull was a mighty wielder of magic, and her own power was weak in comparison. Unsettled by the Sorceress's question, Evil-Lyn began to realise her journey to Port Iku this night was deeper in meaning than she had imagined. She had come here hoping for protection from the demons of Snake Mountain, but now she knew she sought something much more profound.
"Sorceress, I seek answers, but I am afraid," she whispered.
"Then you are ready," said the Sorceress.
"You're still thinking about her, aren't you?" asked Teela as she approached the lone figure on the palace battlements.
He-Man nodded but did not look at his companion. He stared at the clouds drifting across the moon and remembered a night two years earlier when he had ventured far to the north on a quest from Castle Grayskull.
Teela stood beside him and folded her arms on the crenellation. "Are you still having the dreams?"
"Yes," replied He-Man. "Sometimes frequently, sometimes not. It shouldn't have happened, Teela. She didn't deserve to die by my hand."
"She didn't deserve to be turned by Skeletor," responded Teela. It was a conversation they had had many times. Ever since He-Man's return from the Bleydek Forest, he had been in an unshakeable dark mood. His guilt about taking Alya's life weighed heavily upon him, and while he continued to fulfil all of his duties as protector of Eternia, he did so without joy and inspiration.
"I am glad that you feel as you do," said Teela. "You are a warrior with a heart."
"Warriors see things with clarity, Teela... right or wrong, good or evil. It is a simplistic view, but it sits well with us. But it is not that straightforward, is it? Sometimes I wish I could return to my tribe and live a simple life once more."
"You left your tribe because you felt compelled to do so," said Teela. "I understand what you mean though. I have learned much from Castle Grayskull recently that challenges everything I thought I knew. I couldn't see beyond my role as Captain of the Royal Guards, but the castle demands more and more of my time and commitment."
"You and I are the pieces in a grand game, Teela," said He-Man.
"I don't know whether you are saying that in defeat or acceptance," remarked Teela. "Remember your losses, but take pride in your achievements, He-Man. You have done so much for the people of Eternia."
"I shall not neglect my duties, Teela," said He-Man. "I do not forget that I was chosen for this task. But do not think of me harshly if at times I feel a little weary." He-Man turned to face his companion and placed his hand on her arm. "I am grateful for your concern." Slowly he turned and walked away along the battlements.
"If you accept my help, the sanctuary you find will be very different from the sanctuary you came here for," the Sorceress of Grayskull stated. "You will be unable to retreat from the world and hide. You will serve, and in doing so, you will restore much of that which you have caused to be lost."
"You wish me to make amends for my past wrongs, Sorceress?" asked Evil-Lyn. "I told you I do not seek forgiveness. I cannot change what has already passed."
"This is not about forgiveness," remarked the Sorceress. "If those who have suffered by your hand choose to forgive, that is for them to decide. I speak of using your magical ability to restore balance."
"You would allow me to practise magic?" questioned Evil-Lyn.
"You were born with the talent," replied the Sorceress. "You were a gifted child..." she continued, deliberately allowing the sentence to remain unfinished.
The words achieved their aim, for Evil-Lyn gasped with shock. In three decades she had never once thought about her childhood. It frightened her that now, as she tried to remember her young life, the memory did not exist. "Who am I?" she asked anxiously. "For all the visionary power I possess, I cannot see my own past!"
"Your memory was blocked," said the Sorceress. "I can unlock the past for you, but you must know that if I do so, you will feel anguish and pain. Thirty years ago, you were taking your first steps on a special path, but that path was stolen from you. Tonight you may rejoin the path, but only if you truly wish to. What is your choice?"
"There is no choice," replied Evil-Lyn. "I must learn the truth."
"Very well," said the Sorceress. She reached across the table and took hold of Evil-Lyn's hands. She looked deeply into her eyes and began to whisper an incantation over and over again. Slowly Evil-Lyn drifted into a trance, her eyes open but no longer seeing the Sorceress before her. Deeper into the trance she fell, and slowly a vision began to emerge in her mind's eye.
There were children. Six of them in total, playing happily in the forest near the settlement. It was summer, and a warm breeze drifted among the trees as the children darted around in a game of chase. Evil-Lyn saw one of the children glance upwards. The girl looked at her directly and would have caught her gaze had she truly been there. The girl was raven-haired, about five years old and wearing a blue patterned dress.
The children's game seemed to come to an end. "Evelyn! Evelyn!" one of the other girls shouted gleefully. "Make the butterflies dance!"
The girl in the blue dress laughed as her companions joined in a chorus of "Yes!" She motioned for her friends to gather round her. She cupped her hands together and whispered. From the forest, hundreds of butterflies appeared, and they flew to her. Fluttering in the sunlight above her hands, the delicate creatures seemingly danced in a beautiful host, much to the delight of the children. The girl named Evelyn giggled as one of the butterflies landed on her nose. She uncupped her hands and the insects floated back into the forest. Crossing her eyes, Evelyn tried to look at the butterfly on the end of her nose, but it was too close to focus on. The butterfly darted away a moment later.
The children ran from the clearing and headed back to their village. The houses were small and homely, timber-framed with thatched roofs. Evelyn saw her parents and ran to them. Her father grabbed her and lifted her to his shoulders. "Did you enjoy yourself with your friends?" he asked, his voice as warm as the sunlight.
"I showed them the butterflies," she replied with a squeal of delight.
"You are a clever girl," Evelyn's mother said, brushing a bracken frond from Evelyn's dress. "By the way, Alise's cat seems to be much better. I think you helped the old fellow."
"I told you I could make him well, mama!" Evelyn replied.
"Yes you did, and Alise is very happy," her mother replied.
Suddenly her father lifted her back down to the ground. "Run inside, Evelyn," he told her, and there was urgency in his voice. At the village boundary, a crowd of strangers had appeared, and they were armed and attired for combat. At there head was a skull-faced being with tainted blue skin. They strode purposefully into the settlement.
The creature with the skeletal visage spoke loudly, so all in the village could hear is demands. "You have been chosen to provide food for the Horde!" he shouted. "Load up your carts with meat and bread! Resist and your putrid village will burn!"
"No!" a voice shouted, and it was Evelyn's father's. "Your warband came here last month and raided us! We could not give them all they demanded, and now you want more? Be gone, demon, and leave us honest citizens in peace! The king shall hear of this outrage!"
"Why do you think I am here, fool?" the skull-faced creature asked. "Because you failed to give enough last time, I have come to ensure there is no such lack of co-operation today!" With one swift movement, the demon drew a dagger and plunged it into the man's heart where he stood. Evelyn screamed as she watched her father collapse to the ground. "Ransack the village!" the demon commanded. "These vermin shall learn the meaning of obedience!"
The monster strode to where Evelyn stood, her arms wrapped tightly around her sobbing mother's leg. "I detect something special about you, little one!" the creature remarked. "I can make use of you. Release her woman! The child belongs to me!"
"Never!" screamed Evelyn's mother, but her protest was utterly in vain. The demon struck her with the back of his clawed hand, knocking her to the ground.
Crouching down, the monster looked at the terrified girl. "Don't worry, little sorceress. Skeletor won't harm you. You are much too valuable."
Suddenly Evil-Lyn saw again the candle-lit interior of The Catfish and the two figures sitting across the table. Her eyes were wide with horror from the vision and she stared at the Sorceress of Grayskull. "Skeletor killed my father!" she cried softly.
The Sorceress nodded. She still had Evil-Lyn's hands in her own. "He changed you into something you were not destined to be. I will help you to reclaim your path."
"I am grateful, Sorceress," replied Evelyn.