He-Man was furious with himself for being captured, even though he knew the outcome of an ambush by six of Skeletor's strongest warriors was all but inevitable. But it was the rage he felt at the loss of his loyal Battle Cat which burned inside him with the greater fire, and his mind became determined to wreak vengeance. The steel shackles which chained his wrists to the wall were strong, but He-Man was tensing his muscles, constantly testing their resistance. Suddenly he felt the slightest hint of movement as one of the bolts holding the plate against the wall to his right shifted a hair's breadth.
He had watched Skeletor with an anguished mixture of curiosity and revulsion as the demon added various items to the liquid in the cauldron, including powdered crystals and hunks of animal fat. The wraith Scare Glow had joined the others in the room to observe the proceedings. He-Man's muscles and wrists were aching painfully, but he continued to pull against his chains.
Skeletor picked up a dagger from a table at the edge of the room and gazed upon it for a while, watching its cold blade reflect the light. He strode towards the captive. "I suppose I should thank you," Skeletor said. "You have struggled so valiantly to prevent my conquest of Eternia for so long, but finally you give me the means to succeed."
He-Man growled with both pain and fury as Skeletor pushed the tip of the blade into his left arm. Blood started to flow from the wound, draining along a groove in the blade towards the hollow handle. Skeletor twisted the point slightly, opening the wound a little to increase the bloodflow. Soon he had collected enough of He-Man's blood to fill the collecting chamber in the weapon, and he withdrew the blade.
"Kobra Khan! Bind He-Man's wound," ordered Skeletor. "I shall make him bleed again soon enough."
Skeletor turned and strode to the cauldron as Kobra Khan wrapped a rag around the cut on He-Man's arm. Skeletor placed the tip of the knife into the liquid in the cauldron and watched as He-Man's blood drained along the blade and mixed with the cauldron's other contents.
The bolts holding the chain that bound He-Man's right arm suddenly snapped as he exerted his great strength in one focussed effort. The plate was torn free from the wall, and He-Man swung it at Skeletor with all his might, his sudden shift in position knocking Kobra Khan to the floor who had been concentrating solely on binding He-Man's left arm. Scare Glow reacted instantly and thrust his scythe into the path of the chain as it arched towards Skeletor, deflecting it away from his master.
He-Man could not free himself at present, but would inflict as much damage as he could. He managed to entangle Scare Glow's scythe in the chain and tugged it free from the ghost's grip. Taking hold of the weapon, He-Man struck out with it in wild, sweeping strikes. One such strike cut a deep gash in Skeletor's forearm. "Restrain him!" ordered Skeletor as he backed away, desperate to regain control.
Mer-Man leapt forward, somehow avoiding the scythe, and struck He-Man viciously on the side of the head with the encrusted pommel of his sword. Kobra Khan had also regained his composure, and stepped up to the dazed He-Man. A rapid burst of mist covered He-Man's face, inducing near-instant unconsciousness. He-Man passed out, and slumped almost to the floor, with only his left hand still secured by the chain to the wall.
With calm restored to the chamber, Skeletor glared at the unconscious He-Man and his lackeys. "Master... your arm..." remarked Kobra Khan. Skeletor turned his head and realised he was leaning on the edge of the cauldron. His arm was bleeding badly, and he saw his tainted blood dripping into the simmering mixture. He quickly moved away, saying nothing.
Hordak was patient. Forty years as a shapeless form in the void, expelled from Eternia by his former pupil, had forced patience upon him. In truth, however, he had always possessed the quality. He had never made hasty decisions based upon incomplete information. Now, once again, his patience had served him well.
"I have news, brother," he said as he sat down to eat.
Zodac glanced up at the remark. "You have been successful?" he asked.
"I have found a formula which will most certainly serve its purpose," Hordak replied. "I have instructed the alchemists to produce sufficient quantities."
"My congratulations!" exclaimed Zodac. "Our plan for domination draws closer."
"How are the eggs?" questioned Hordak.
"They are in good condition and will hatch within weeks," replied Zodac. "We may suffer some early casualties, but our riders should be able to tame most of the guerrasaurs when they hatch."
"Perhaps we will encourage our guest to assist with that process," remarked Hordak.
Zodac nodded in silent agreement.
He-Man watched it grow before his very eyes. At first it was small and shapeless, but as the days passed, the contents of the cauldron began to solidify into a larger humanoid shape. It would rise periodically from the liquid, as if to take a gasp of air, and then sink back into the concoction.
After his failed attempt to fight his Snake Mountain captors, the unconscious He-Man had been bound again, and this time his restraints had been applied by Webstor and strengthened by Skeletor's magic. No longer would Skeletor rely on seemingly secure chains and plates; the old equipment was not reliable, and his captive was too valuable - and too dangerous - to be given any further chances of escape.
He-Man did not know how long he spent in captivity in the cauldron room, for daylight did not reach this far into Skeletor's mountain, and night and day were indistinguishable. All the while he was supervised by one of Skeletor's lackeys, and the demon himself would enter the chamber frequently to observe the development of the being inside the cauldron.
Unable to move in the wretched stronghold of evil, He-Man's thoughts became confused and unclear. His captors forced him to swallow a vile liquid several times each day. He did not know what it was, but it seemed to be supplying him with enough nutrients to keep him alive as well as drugging him and blurring his mind. Thoughts of escape or retaliation faded from his mind, and the vision of the creature reaching out of the cauldron seemed like a nightmare to him, its reality uncertain in his mind.
He heard conversations - Skeletor and the others - but their words made little sense to He-Man in his damaged state. He had no sense of time and no sense of purpose. He no longer knew why they were keeping him alive. The Defender of Grayskull had become a weak and helpless figure.
Skeletor, by contrast, was as focussed as he had ever been. Now he stood waiting for the birth of his creation, surrounded by his followers and ignoring the incapacitated He-Man. In his right hand Skeletor held his Havoc Staff, ready to implant his power and control into the clone.
The surface of the cauldron rippled as a being of powerful stature broke the surface. In physique and facial features it was identical to He-Man, but there the comparison ended, for the creature's skin was a pale blue colour and its hair, wet and untidy from the liquid, was red. It turned its head slowly, gazing at all of the occupants of the room, before focussing on Skeletor.
The demon was muttering a curse on He-Man. The wound he had suffered at his hand had caused his own blood to spill into the mixture; his tainted blood had mixed with He-Man's and created a monster. Skeletor glared at the being standing naked in the cauldron. This was not what he had intended to happen, but there might yet be a way to repair the damage.
"I am Skeletor, your master," Skeletor stated. "You will follow my orders without hesitation or question." Skeletor pointed his staff at the humanoid and released a stream of sizzling power. The magical force rippled over the creature's body. "Step forward," commanded Skeletor. The humanoid obeyed, and clambered from the cauldron. Skeletor muttered an incantation and watched with delight as a transformation took place.
Gradually the creature changed colour, and soon an identical copy of He-Man stood before his master. "Good!" uttered Skeletor, laughing malevolently. "Good! Never mind that the transformation will be temporary! You, my evil duplicate of He-Man, will serve me well. I shall name you Faker."
In his deluded nightmare, He-Man looked through blurry eyes at the man who stood before Skeletor, and wondered what fate had befallen him to cause him to form an allegiance with his sworn enemy.