"What do you mean, you have lost contact with them?" Skeletor hissed.

Kobra Khan drew back nervously. "They are not resssponding to orders... ssso I sssent others to find out why."

"And what did they report?" questioned Skeletor angrily.

"They haven't returned," replied Kobra Khan, unable to hide his anxiety.

"Perhaps I was too trusting in your abilities, Khan," said Skeletor. "I thought you were ready to command my troops, but now I see that I was wrong."

"Give me time, Skeletor," said Kobra Khan. "I will interrogate the sssettlers. If sssomething is happening in the Gwylvos Forest, they will know about it."

"Make sure you fix this, Khan! It is imperative that I hold the garrisons in the forest!" Skeletor spat. Khan was about to reply, but Skeletor held up his hand, commanding silence. He cast his eyeless gaze around the small crowd in the meeting chamber. "Does anyone have any good news?" he asked.

Webstor nodded, his red eyes staring intently at Skeletor. "The prisoners are working in Snake Mountain, producing weapons and armour for your troops. A few tried to escape, but they... failed. They work reluctantly, but most of them value their lives, so they obey."

"Good," said Skeletor. "And Scare Glow! What news from the regions I now command?"

"All is well," the wraith replied. "Nowhere seems to be suffering the setbacks comrade Khan is encountering in the Gwylvos Forest. We hold our ground with little effort. There are indications that the Horde is preparing an offensive against Fossil and Blackshore though."

"Do we have the strength to repel the attacks?" asked Skeletor.

"The towns have been fortified and are well-guarded, but greater support is needed," Scare Glow replied. "I have directed a pack of beastmen to Blackshore to increase our strength there. The ship will arrive within the next two days. Fossil would benefit from extra support. Perhaps Trap Jaw should be sent to command your forces there."

"Very well," said Skeletor. "It is essential that our forces hold their ground." His remarks were now addressed to everyone present. "Randor's grip on the kingdom is weakening rapidly, but Hordak grows stronger. We can keep Hordak at bay as long as we hold Randor's former strongholds."

Skeletor drew breath and decided that it was time to close the meeting. He waved everyone away, but as they dispersed, he called Kobra Khan's name.

"Yesss, massster?" the snake creature asked nervously.

"When you get things in order in the forest," Skeletor began, "I shall be looking to capture some more recruits. Some of my most loyal fighters - once they have been tamed - are from that region. Do not fail me."

Kobra Khan nodded anxiously and backed slowly out of the room.

The discussions - or whatever dragons did when deliberating - had taken much longer than He-Man had hoped. Kor'san'tach and Eldor reminded him that impatience was the one thing dragons grew impatient about, and they urged him to wait calmly. He-Man did as he was told, but it was a frustrating wait. Eventually he had been summoned back to the amphitheatre, and now he stood before the Dragon Council once again. Kor'san'tach and Eldor stood by his side as before. He-Man noticed that, this time, there were thirteen dragons surrounding him, not twelve.

Gorhan'mur'herek bent his neck, looking down at He-Man from his place on the edge of the amphitheatre. "The Council has considered your request, He-Man," he stated. "You have sought to re-establish the ancient alliance forged by your honoured companions. Theirs was a time of great need. Both dragons and men were in grave danger, and it was the alliance of fire and steel which saved us." Gorhan'mur'herek paused for some time, his breath rumbling in his long throat.

"You stood before us and claimed to speak for the people of Eternia," the dragon continued. "Your actions over the years have shown that you truly believe in your duty, and you strive tirelessly to care for your people. It is therefore not without some degree of regret that I must inform you that the Council does not consider now to be the time to resurrect the ancient alliance."

He-Man stared at the dragon, his face unable to hide his shock. "Did you not hear a single word I said?" He-Man asked. "Both Hordak and Skeletor's armies are spreading like a plague over Eternia! King Randor has been a kind and fair ruler for over four decades, and now all he has worked for is in grave peril! How can you refuse to help?"

Gorhan'mur'herek closed his eyes and sighed. "My hope that you would learn patience was clearly misplaced, He-Man. I did not say we would refuse to help. I said now was not the time to reforge the old alliance."

He-Man knotted his brow, wondering what the dragon meant. He remained silent, hoping to persuade Gorhan'mur'herek that he did, in fact, have some patience.

The dragon spoke again. "We understand that, from your point of view, the situation on Eternia seems... different. Yet you must try to understand things from our perspective. The dragons are not in danger, so we are not in need of help. Your people are not in danger... at least their lives are not at risk. Their freedom, perhaps, but neither Hordak nor Skeletor wish to indulge in genocide. You see, He-Man, circumstances are very different to when King Hiss tried to slay us all."

He-Man drew breath. "I understand there is a difference... from your perspective," he remarked, "but freedom is something mankind needs. You do not expect me to stop fighting for it, do you, Gorhan'mur'herek?"

"No, I do not," replied the dragon, "and that is why the Dragon Council will not turn you away empty-handed. For now, the alliance of fire and steel will remain a part of history, but Kor'san'tach mentioned something which convinced us to help."

He-Man was concentrating too hard to remember Kor'san'tach's words, but clearly the Dragon Council had remembered everything. Gorhan'mur'herek continued to speak. "Friendship, He-Man," he said. "You have a battle to fight, and we have a young dragon who longs for adventure." Gorhan'mur'herek turned to the thirteenth dragon. "Ster'torr'awenek!" he summoned.

The dragon responded when he heard his name and jumped from his ledge into the plateau. Ster'torr'awenek sniffed at He-Man, and He-Man stared at him curiously in return. The young dragon was smaller than his companions, but his physique revealed his already great strength. His scales were a dusty brown colour, and there was a glint of red in his eyes.

"This is the human you wish me to mollycoddle?" Ster'torr'awenek asked, directing his question to Gorhan'mur'herek.

"This is the human who will indulge your restlessness, Ster'torr," the elder dragon replied.

"We shall see," Ster'torr'awenek replied. He turned his head towards He-Man. "I am Ster'torr'awenek, He-Man. It would seem we are to be companions."

"I am pleased to make your acquaintance," replied He-Man.

"This session has reached its conclusion," announced Gorhan'mur'herek. "Farewell."

Suddenly the twelve dragons of the Dragon Council launched themselves into the sky and flew away from the amphitheatre, heading to different locations in the mountain range.

Ster'torr'awenek lowered his head. "You had better climb on board, He-Man. Remember, my task is to fly. Yours is to hang on."

"I doubt I shall forget that," He-Man replied as he climbed on to the dragon's neck.

"It is time for us to leave, He-Man," said Eldor. When He-Man looked at the sorcerer, he noticed that he had aged further, and now had the semblance of an old man. He-Man realised that Eldor was not simply talking about leaving the Dragonslair Mountains.

"Thank you for accompanying me," He-Man said. "It has been an honour to know you both."

"Let us fly together," suggested Eldor. He-Man nodded in reply, and Eldor took his place on Kor'san'tach's back.

Soon both Kor'san'tach and Ster'torr'awenek were beating their great wings and gaining altitude. The dragons flew side by side with their riders perched carefully on their shoulders. They headed south and flew together for an hour, enjoying the thrill of the flight.

Eventually Eldor shouted at He-Man. "Our time is nigh, He-Man! Fight hard and good luck!"

"Rest well!" He-Man shouted back.

Eldor and Kor'san'tach adjusted their flight, heading higher into the sunlight. Suddenly their appearance began to change. The sunbeams seemed to reflect off them with ever increasing intensity until the dragon and his rider looked like a million fragments of glass. The glass soon became dust, drifting shapelessly in the sky before vanishing from view completely.

He-Man took one last look and waved his hand. "Farewell Eldor! Farewell Kor'san'tach!" He patted Ster'torr'awenek's neck. "I hope you're ready for excitement, my new comrade!" he shouted. "We have enemies to kill!"