The days that followed bore witness to the marching of two great armies, the distance closing between the forces of Randor and Skeletor with every step. By night, the warriors rested, and the landscape was dotted with hundreds of small camp fires; land-bound constellations of flickering light that spoke with silent tongues of the battle to come. The camps remained busy late into the evening, as the attendants prepared food, and the warriors sharpened sword blades and polished armour. Marching all day meant the troops slept well, but each morning they rose before dawn, packed up the campsites, and resumed their journeys.
Randor crossed the Great Wall before engaging Skeletor, as Man-At-Arms had anticipated, and once past the ancient border, he continued north-east towards the Moor of Doom. Skeletor's route had been observed by Zoar, and it seemed that he wished to avoid engaging Randor in battle at Blackmere to the south of the moor. Long ago, the Horde had been defeated, in spite of trapping Randor's forces in that wild, marshy expanse, and Skeletor had no wish to allow history to be repeated. Randor had managed to use the landscape to his advantage at Blackmere by drawing his opponents into the mire. The Moor of Doom would give Randor no such assistance. It was a rugged, harsh landscape, with granite tors and menhirs revealing the only traces of those men and women who had inhabited the region centuries before. It was a beautiful but cruel place, where unseen hollows and clumps of rough grass schemed to unbalance the unwary.
Upon their arrival at the Moor of Doom, Man-At-Arms set to work immediately by establishing his battle lines and tactics with his battalion commanders. Veterans of many conflicts under his leadership, the men obeyed Man-At-Arms without hesitation, and listened intently to all that he required of them. Randor rode energetically along the lines, shouting words of motivation and encouragement to his warriors. He spoke of the glorious victory they would soon be celebrating with joyous voice, but his true feelings were of sadness, for today he would be condemning loyal men to die.
Prepared and ready to fight, the king's warriors waited patiently for the enemy. Hours passed slowly as they anticipated Skeletor's arrival on the moor. Auxiliaries rushed among the troops with buckets of drinking water and bread, bringing much needed refreshment to the armour-clad men. There was no chatter now, just a peculiar quietness that was interrupted only by the sound of horses whinnying, and the clatter of the attendants as they hurried along the lines.
They heard the enemy first; a tumultuous jumble of sounds that echoed ever more loudly across the dreary expanse of moorland. In the distance, Randor's men heard marching boots and hooves, the metallic rustle of weaponry, and the indistinguishable chants of the approaching warriors. The commotion grew louder still as the front ranks of Skeletor's army came into view. Onwards the band of warriors surged, like a black, menacing sea, flooding over the landscape. As they came closer, Randor's Eternians saw their enemies with greater clarity. The peaks and troughs of the deluge became a ragged assortment of spears and swords, swaying in a random but focused fashion, as their wielders saw those with whom they sought conflict for the first time. Unceasingly they came, and at their head was their skeletal leader, riding purposefully on his black stallion. And even from this distance, Randor felt upon him the cold, eyeless stare of his opponent.
The grey-clad, hooded warriors passed quietly among the trees, cautiously following Jitsu as he guided them through the Evergreen Forest. Close by was Thunder Fall, and the cascading torrent of water continually tumbling down the rocky waterfall echoed loudly in their ears. Soon they entered a clearing near to the water's edge, and Jitsu suddenly raised his hand, silently commanding his men to hold their positions at the tree line. With curiosity, he stared at the lone figure sitting in silence by a small camp fire. Jitsu walked into the open.
"I wondered when you were going to pass this way, Jitsu," remarked Fisto, without turning his head. "Alas, you will pass no further. The line has been drawn."
"Remember our last encounter, Fisto?" retorted Jitsu arrogantly. "You should stand aside."
"I am ready for you this time, my old adversary!" replied Fisto, turning slowly and smiling at his opponent.
"You don't look ready," Jitsu remarked, but regretted his words instantly, as scores of Eternian soldiers suddenly appeared from behind the trees with bows drawn. Aiming directly at Jitsu's warriors, Fisto's men were clearly in a position of advantage. Yet to retreat now would be dishonourable, and Jitsu had no intention of avoiding conflict. "Attack!" he screamed suddenly, and his horde of warriors rushed from the edge of the clearing with swords raised. Loosing their arrows as one, the Eternian warriors felled Jitsu's front rank effortlessly, then quickly dropped their bows and slid swords rapidly from their scabbards to engage the remainder. Though they were resolute and able fighters, the grey-robed swordsmen found themselves in a more perilous situation than they had faced at Talu, for their opponents were not unskilled farmers, but highly proficient warriors who received their training from Man-At-Arms.
The battle progressed at a frantic pace, and in the centre of the clearing, stood Fisto and Jitsu. It had become a matter of principle that these fighters fought hand-to-hand, so they disregarded the weapons available to them, and relied on strength and skill. Jitsu attacked with extraordinary speed, and his kicks and punches would have quickly overwhelmed a lesser opponent. Yet Fisto was no ordinary combatant. Furthermore, he was unhindered by fatigue, and he reacted instantly to every assault Jitsu tried to throw at him. He darted out of the way of Jitsu's strikes, and retaliated with stinging blows that caused the martial artist to stagger back, stunned at the severity of Fisto's onslaught. Jitsu tried every move he knew, but he scarcely broke through Fisto's defences. Each kick was avoided or deflected; each punch and open-handed strike was blocked. Jitsu realised he was losing the fight as Fisto started ramming steel-clad punches into his body. Tiring and weakening, Jitsu's tactical approach became ragged and uncoordinated. Soon he ceased fighting altogether, barely managing to stand upright. Half a dozen blows later, and he fell, unconscious, to the forest floor.
Jitsu's men had suffered the same fate as their master, and the royal warriors cheered as the survivors fled into the cover of the forest. At Fisto's direction, they tied up the insensible Jitsu, ready to be transported back to the royal palace as a prisoner of war. Fisto was proud of the men under his command, but he realised that this was but a small victory. A much greater battle needed to be won, and his thoughts turned to his old friends, Randor and Man-At-Arms, and the mighty He-Man, upon whom so much depended.
Flying swiftly over the Great Wall, He-Man surveyed the land ahead. He had chosen to fly Battle Ram at a higher than usual altitude in order to gain a viewpoint over the battlefield, so that an assessment could be made before he joined the combat. He had left Grayskull and the troops there as soon as Zoar the falcon had returned with news of Skeletor's advance. So far, Man-At-Arms' suppositions on Skeletor's tactics had been correct, and the countermeasures he had set in place were working successfully against the threat. However, Skeletor had refrained from demonstrating his new-found power, and that remained an unknown element of danger. The Sorceress had not yet learned of a way to cope with the Orbs of Trath, and when He-Man had left the mystical fortress, she had ceased researching the ancient scrolls that held no answers, and begun to meditate in the Hall of the Ancestors.
Reaching the edge of the Moor of Doom, He-Man saw the opposing forces engaged in a relentless, bloody battle. Numerically, Skeletor and Randor's armies were more or less equal, but the humans were struggling against stronger and larger enemies. Yet their determination to resist the minions of Skeletor was heroic, and it impelled them to marvellous deeds of valour that day. And in the heat of the battle, He-Man saw Man-At-Arms engaged in a furious swordfight with Tri-Klops, and nearby the king was battling Skeletor. Randor was wielding his spear as if it were a staff, and Skeletor was using his Havoc Staff in a similar manner. Repeatedly they clashed, the weapons spinning in a frenzy of attack and parry, riposte and counterattack. It was evident that Randor was struggling, despite his steadfastness, against the stronger Skeletor.
Gliding low over the heads of the warriors, He-Man activated Battle Ram's weapons controls. He acquired his target, and fired a volley of laser blasts at Skeletor. The demon was sent reeling as the energy bolts smashed into him, and He-Man quickly flew over his enemy, banking the craft tightly in preparation for another attack. Yet Skeletor stood with surprising speed, as if Battle Ram's lasers had had little effect. Raising his Havoc Staff, Skeletor sent a bolt of energy at He-Man and his machine. The impact caused He-Man to be thrown clear of Battle Ram, and he fell to the ground with an agonising thud that left him gasping for air. Battle Ram raced downwards, and crashed an instant later into the rocky battlefield.
"He-Man! At last! Your king was beginning to tire!" screamed Skeletor. "Will you prove to be a worthy opponent?"
"I will prove to be your vanquisher, demon!" retorted He-Man, slowly standing to his feet and drawing the Powersword from its scabbard.
"This time I shall not be defeated!" replied Skeletor, his voice filled with malevolence. "You may be strong, He-Man, but you do not have the power of the Orbs of Trath!" The living skeleton advanced on He-Man, extending the Havoc Staff towards the Eternian hero.
"I need only my courage, and my love for Eternia!" exclaimed He-Man, spinning the Powersword in a rapid web of death.
"No, you'll need more than that," Skeletor replied, and blasted his opponent with a bolt of energy from his staff. He-Man was thrown backwards, and Skeletor continued to stalk forwards. Once again, He-Man rose, and faced his enemy.
"You will never conquer Grayskull, Skeletor!" He-Man said, suddenly running forward. He brought the Powersword down rapidly as if to strike Skeletor's head, but Skeletor reacted and blocked the attack swiftly with his staff. Again and again He-Man swung swordstrikes at the Lord of Destruction, but Skeletor blocked them all, and slammed painful ripostes into He-Man's body.
"You have sealed your own fate, He-Man!" screamed Skeletor. "You will die slowly!"
"Not by your hand, demon!" retorted He-Man, and renewed his barrage of attacks.
"Still need convincing?" questioned Skeletor, deflecting his opponent's attacks with apparent ease. "Perhaps it is time to demonstrate the power of the orbs!" With that, Skeletor suddenly vanished, reappearing an instant later behind He-Man, and blasting him with yet another energy bolt. He-Man spun around, but Skeletor had disappeared again. "I control time and space!" Skeletor's sinister voice uttered from nowhere. Then he was there on the battlefield once more, directly in front of He-Man. "I can anticipate your every move, He-Man! I can counter every attack before you strike!" He-Man's view of Skeletor blurred peculiarly, as if the one Skeletor had become many, each one moving in a synchronous indistinctness. The images surrounded him, and suddenly he found himself defending against strikes from all directions at once. A moment later, He-Man was toppled by the Havoc Staff being rammed into his back. Falling to his knees, the weary warrior watched Skeletor reform before him. "Do you yield, He-Man?" Skeletor asked, clasping He-Man's jaw in his clawed hand, and staring intently into his eyes.
"I will continue to fight until I draw my last breath!" retorted He-Man.
Skeletor shrugged. "As you wish. But you will die knowing only defeat."
He-Man grabbed Skeletor's wrist, and pushed the monster's hand from his throat. Standing again, he steadied himself, blanking the pain of his injuries from his mind. As he rose, he cast his eye over the battlefield, and saw the valiant efforts of the royal soldiers fighting tenaciously against Skeletor's army. Drawing inspiration and strength from their performance, He-Man renewed his attack once more. "Look about you, Skeletor! See how the king's men defend their freedom! Your army falls around you!"
Parrying He-Man's swordstrikes with his staff, Skeletor laughed. "So little vision! Behold the true power of the orbs!" With a cacophonous roar, the sky began to split apart in huge tears, and new and terrible landscapes could be seen in the sky's gaping wounds. And then they came, hundreds of malevolent beings of sinister and monstrous appearance, swarming on to the battlefield from their own dimensions. They were demons unlike any creatures seen on Eternia, and they overwhelmed Randor's men swiftly. The tide of the battle had turned suddenly, and He-Man realised with horror that these foul beings would soon be stampeding relentlessly across his homeland. "I have the power to tear down the veils between the dimensions!" Skeletor cackled. "Soon Castle Grayskull will fall before my might!"
With a surge of anger, He-Man flung himself at Skeletor, his attack more bloodthirsty and focused than he had ever mustered before. The rage boiled inside him like a cauldron of hatred, but still he failed to defeat his opponent, who parried and retaliated with equal skill. Again Skeletor used the power of the orbs to deceive He-Man, vanishing and reappearing, then warping reality by seemingly duplicating himself as he crossed unseen dimensions, existing in several places at once.
He-Man's ire was all that prevented him from acquiescing to Skeletor's dominance, but in his heart he realised that the battle must soon reach its fateful end. Then an extraordinary sensation swept over him; a chill more penetrating than the icy waters of Avion's mountain pool. Time slowed dramatically, and he found himself separate from the action of the battle. The moor faded from his view, and he found himself in a quiet sylvan copse, standing before the Sorceress. The rage he had felt moments before was lifted from his heart, and was replaced with a calmness of exquisite beauty.
"Hero of Eternia," the Sorceress began, her voice oddly distant. "It is time to accept the desire of Fate."
"I cannot allow Skeletor to destroy Eternia!" He-Man replied.
"It seems Fate would agree with you, He-Man," said the Sorceress. "I have been granted the answer to the question. Castle Grayskull is safe... for now."
"How do I defeat Skeletor?" questioned the warrior.
"You held the answer in your grasp all along," the Sorceress replied.
He-Man considered her words, and instantly the truth came to him. The Powersword, the ancient weapon of Grayskull, was the key to the riddle. He felt again the energy of the fortress flow through him, linking him with the sword. Grayskull would protect itself, he realised, and the Powersword was the embodiment of Grayskull. A heartbeat later, He-Man was returned to the battle amid its full ferocity.
The spiritual energy flooding his veins, He-Man concentrated on the weapon, trying to draw its strength. But the Powersword was using him, Castle Grayskull was using him, guiding his actions. Submitting himself completely to the castle's will, He-Man watched Skeletor approach him once again, a shifting, blurring form upon which he could not focus. He vaguely saw the Havoc Staff, glowing with energy, as if ready to release its fatal blow. Hefting the Powersword, He-Man understood in that moment exactly what needed to be done. The weapon spun from his hand, the will of Grayskull propelling it. The blade of the weapon found its target, embedding itself deeply into Skeletor's skull. And even He-Man had not expected what happened next.