He-Man rose at first light the next morning, following a night of tempestuous dreams. Had the king not insisted otherwise, He-Man would have headed for Snake Mountain immediately after Teela's abduction, but Randor's observation that this would have been a hasty reaction was correct. There was no certainty that Teela was imprisoned within Skeletor's stronghold, and to undertake such a perilous rescue mission without first seeking the wisdom of the Sorceress was foolish. He-Man had seen the logic in Randor's words, and had forced himself to stay at the palace for the rest of the night. Though his thoughts were with Teela, He-Man had worked alongside the rest of the palace staff clearing the chaotic mess left by the gargorns, and assisting the injured to the palace sanatorium for medical attention. The king had finally ordered He-Man to his chamber in order to rest, and though he had been reluctant to do so, He-Man found himself falling asleep quickly. Yet his dreams were fitful and restless, and when he woke again, he felt exhausted. He had collected some provisions from the kitchens, then left the palace with Battle Cat.
The light was poor, for a snow storm had drifted northwards from the Southern Polar Cap during the night. The worst had passed in the hours before dawn, but it was still snowing heavily. Battle Cat bounded over the whiteness of the landscape enthusiastically, but even the mighty Eternian tiger was hindered by the thick drifts, and progress was not as swift as He-Man would have liked. Huddling under his thick cloak, He-Man tried to keep himself warm, but the air was icy, and his face was exposed to the chill of the snow flakes. Battle Cat seemed untroubled by the cold, but the effort of leaping continually through snow several feet deep began to tire him. Forced to slow the pace of their journey, He-Man reluctantly accepted that they would not arrive at Grayskull until early evening.
Fortunately for He-Man and Battle Cat, the snow stopped falling by the early afternoon, and the sky gradually cleared. This assisted their journey through the Evergreen Forest, and when they passed from the trees into the great plain upon which Grayskull stood, the twilight had drifted into night, and stars decorated the evening sky. Seeing the sinister mystic fortress ahead, they were gladdened that their journey was nearly at an end. Battle Cat increased his speed once again, bounding eagerly towards the castle. As they drew closer, the jawbridge lowered, allowing them access. They entered the castle's dark interior, and at once hundreds of candles burst into life, illuminating the ancient walls.
"I am glad you have come, He-Man," the Sorceress stated, stepping from the shadows. She appeared desperately melancholic, and her stance was weak, as if all her energy had faded. She stumbled, and reached out with her hands to steady herself. Leaning against Battle Cat, she looked at He-Man as he dismounted. "You must save her, He-Man," she said, her eyes filling with tears.
"I will, Sorceress," He-Man stated. He lifted her carefully, and carried her to a cushioned seat. He laid her down and knelt beside her, looking into her eyes. "I could not prevent her capture, Sorceress, but I will find her. Does Skeletor wish to ransom Teela? Is his purpose to force Randor to hand over power?"
"Alas, the truth is more dangerous," replied the Sorceress. "Skeletor has discovered that Teela has a mystical bond with Grayskull, and he seeks to use her power against the castle. He holds her in thrall, trying to steal her energy."
"Send me to her, and I will destroy Skeletor!" said He-Man.
"I cannot; I no longer have enough power! You must take Battle Ram!" she replied. "I must help Teela resist the magic of Skeletor. She has not yet learned how to protect herself. For now I can defend her, but my strength will fail. Skeletor has taken her to the ancient city of Valmorlar in the distant north."
"Valmorlar?" questioned He-Man. "I thought the ice city was a legend!"
"It exists, He-Man," said the Sorceress. "It is located on the border between the Northern Reaches and the Ice Mountains. Few men have gazed upon the great gateway that leads into the underground city, and fewer still have ventured into Valmorlar itself. Once it was a grand, subterranean paradise, far below the mountains. Now it is an empty world, inhabited only by memories and ghosts. Its remoteness suits Skeletor's strategy, but he will be prepared for you."
"I will defeat him, Sorceress," promised He-Man.
"You must not enter Valmorlar alone, He-Man," stated the Sorceress. "Find Man-At-Arms; he will assist you."
"Very well," replied He-Man. "I shall head north at once."
"This is a dangerous quest," said the Sorceress. "Perhaps you have always known that Teela is bound to the service of Grayskull, perhaps not. Teela must survive, and the castle must be protected, He-Man."
"Often have I wondered why Teela has such great intuition in the matters of Grayskull," replied He-Man. "Though I was unaware that her bond was so powerful."
"It has been a secret from Teela herself for most of her life," said the Sorceress. "She has only just begun to learn the significance of her link to the castle. I shall not reveal more to you, He-Man, only that her path is comparable to mine. You must prevail, He-Man, for if you do not, the consequences could be catastrophic."
"Fear not, Sorceress," stated He-Man. "I shall defeat Skeletor, and return Teela to Grayskull. This I vow."
"I will hold you to your promise, He-Man," the Sorceress replied with a weak smile.
He-Man rose slowly, and turned to Battle Cat. He patted the tiger's side and ruffled his fur. "Protect the Sorceress, my friend. I shall return soon," he said. Battle Cat gave a low growl, and padded softly towards the Sorceress. The great animal laid down at her feet, entrusted with a task of enormous importance. He-Man had no doubt that no evil being would reach the Sorceress of Grayskull as long as Battle Cat remained alive.
No more words were spoken as He-Man walked away into the darkness of the castle's corridors. Gradually he made his way up to the battlements, feeling the cold of the air once again as he stepped out on to the ramparts. The snow on the towers and roof of the castle was deep and undisturbed. He-Man waded through the snow towards Battle Ram, which was hidden under a thick, snow-covered tarpaulin. He pulled this away, revealing the craft. Battle Ram still bore damage from encounters with Skeletor, but the controls were fully functional, and the engine started instantly. Soon He-Man was airborne, selecting the route that would take him over the Fields of Evermore and the Dread Sea before reaching the foothills of the Mystic Mountains. As he flew over the forest beyond Grayskull, he wondered what Man-At-Arms' reaction would be when he told him that Skeletor had abducted his daughter.
Intuitively, Beast Man knew that to be this close to the borders of the Fright Zone was a mistake. However, Beast Man was not one to disobey orders, however illogical. In Skeletor's absence from Snake Mountain, he had been tasked with patrolling the Quagmire; a perilous land of desert and marsh that lay between the Fright Zone and the Plain of Perpetua. Whilst Skeletor had mystically taken the prisoner to Valmorlar with Zodac, Jitsu and Tri-Klops, the care of Snake Mountain had fallen to Scare Glow. The phantasmal warrior had ordered the remaining members of Skeletor's horde to both protect the borders and be vigilant of Hordak. Mer-Man and Clawful were currently out of danger on the east coast, Whiplash was somewhere in the Gwylvos Forest, Levyek had returned to Marwoleth, and Evil-Lyn and Trap Jaw were safely within the walls of Snake Mountain itself. Suffice to say, no one else was this close to Hordak's centre of power. Beast Man wondered why the most dangerous missions always seemed to come his way.
Beast Man made a low coughing sound. Reacting to his master's command, the hammerhand he was riding ambled forwards to the ridge of high ground. A huge, ape-like creature, the hammerhand was so named for the massive club-like hands it used to bludgeon its prey to death. Usually electing to walk on all fours, the hammerhand's head was held low, enabling the creature to use its bony forehead as an additional weapon. It had practically no neck, which meant the full weight of its body could be thrown into a headfirst attack like a battering ram. Beast Man noticed that the hammerhand hesitated slightly, sniffing the air as it carried him to the top of the ridge. Beast Man gripped the handle of his whip. He had detected the strange, musty odour also, and he knew that danger was nearby.
As Beast Man and his steed reached the top of the ridge, they suddenly found themselves face to face with a humanoid creature riding an ograsaur. The ograsaur let out a shuddering roar, leaping forwards. Beast Man struck out with his whip, slicing a deep gash across the rider's throat. The rider tumbled from his saddle, desperately trying to stop the flow of blood that pumped from the wound. As the ograsaur charged forwards, the hammerhand swung his left forearm at its attacker, the huge fist smashing into the ograsaur's tusk, causing the creature to be flung sideways. Enraged by the pain of its broken jaw, the ograsaur attacked once more. The hammerhand struck out again; an even more forceful blow this time. Its fist slammed into the side of the ograsaur's head, snapping its neck. The ograsaur collapsed, and never moved again.
However the ograsaur and rider had not been alone. In the moments before the attack, Beast Man had seen that their attackers had moved ahead of a much larger group. The group was now running up the slope, drawn to the commotion of battle. Three mounted ograsaurs led the charge, followed by scores of warriors on foot. All wore the red bat symbol of the Horde. Riding a bizarre insect-like creature was Hordak himself; his steed racing after the ograsaurs. The odds were simply too great to stay and fight. Beast Man commanded the hammerhand to turn and flee.
The pursuit was furious. The hammerhand was the slower animal, but had an advantage of distance. Yet each time Beast Man looked back, the ograsaurs were gaining, the distance to their prey lessening by the heartbeat. The hammerhand continued to run, but soon the ograsaurs were alongside it, snapping their fangs at the hammerhand's fur-covered hide. Finally Beast Man's steed slowed down, and turned on its pursuers. The ograsaurs surrounded the hammerhand, trying to attack and avoid the lethal fists simultaneously. Beast Man struck out with his whip at both riders and steeds, and with one accurate strike, he succeeded in severely damaging the eye of an ograsaur. The creature reacted wildly, and leapt up at Beast Man, exposing its unprotected underside. The hammerhand charged forwards, ramming the ograsaur's belly with its armoured forehead. The ograsaur spun around at the impact; its rider falling from his saddle. The ograsaur fell to the ground, its body spikes impaling the helpless rider.
The hammerhand had defeated a second ograsaur, but now the remaining two renewed their attacks, and this time they found their target. The hammerhand struggled in vain to fend off the ograsaurs, but the intensity of their assault was too great. Seeing that his steed was defeated, Beast Man leapt from the saddle, rolling easily on the sand. The foot soldiers had drawn much closer now, and Beast Man stood his ground, fighting them off with his deadly whip. Yet he had not anticipated the sudden burst of speed that Hordak's bizarre insect creature suddenly displayed. It leapt at him, pinning him to the ground. Beast Man found himself staring into its huge salivating jaws.
"Mantisaur consumes his prey alive, Beast Man," stated Hordak, dismounting from the creature. He leaned over Beast Man, staring intently into his eyes. "I find that fascinating. What do you think of that?"
Beast Man snarled wordlessly, exposing his teeth at Hordak in a defiant expression of anger.
"Foolish of me to have hoped for an intelligent conversation with Skeletor's ape!" commented Hordak, moving his face closer to Beast Man's. "Why do you ally yourself with that incompetent fool, Beast Man? Do you not long for a little glory? Or even some simple acknowledgment for your loyalty?" Hordak paused, studying Beast Man's eyes. He stood once again. "Release him, Mantisaur," he commanded. "Let us show our prisoner some courtesy." The insect moved its thin yet powerful limbs, releasing Beast Man and retreating a short distance. Hordak extended his hand. Beast Man wondered at Hordak's purpose, but accepted the assistance to stand. Face to face with his enemy, Beast Man considered attacking Hordak at that moment, but instinctively knew that to do so would seal his own fate. He allowed Hordak's soldiers to bind his hands behind his back with rope and chain.
"What do you want with me?" questioned Beast Man.
"I seek information," replied Hordak. "I can force it from you, but I would rather you give it freely. More than that, fate will decide."
"Why should I help you?" growled Beast Man.
"To keep yourself alive," responded Hordak. He walked a little way from Beast Man, his hands behind his back, and his head held back as if in thought. "I know of the attack on Randor's palace, Beast Man. I know Teela was abducted. Where has Skeletor taken her?"
Beast Man considered his situation. He had no doubt that Hordak could compel him to give the information by magic or simple torture. Though he had no desire to assist him, he knew it was pure folly to resist. Somehow he knew that Hordak would see through a lie. "Skeletor has taken Teela to Valmorlar," he revealed. "You will be too late to prevent my master's conquest of Castle Grayskull!"
"Intriguing," remarked Hordak. "You reveal too much in your words, Beast Man. So it is the warrior-woman who holds the answers to the greatest of Eternian mysteries!" Hordak clapped his hands loudly. "Warriors! Prepare our guest for the journey back to the Fright Zone! He shall remain there until I decide what shall become of him. Move out as soon as the ograsaurs have fed!"
Hordak mounted Mantisaur and rode away from the group of soldiers, but Beast Man's attention was drawn to the two remaining ograsaurs, ripping huge chunks of warm flesh from the nearly lifeless body of the hammerhand.