The two armored heroes once known as the Knight and the Squire rushed forward and raised their swords as Jester and Motley separated, and Harley Quinn laughed wildly.
“Wonderful!” she cried. “More heroes to kill, although from the looks of them, time might beat me to it!”
The Huntress fired her crossbow with her normal precision, and the bolt thudded into the display case on which Harley stood. The impact dislodged her, and she plunged backward even as the Huntress rolled out of the path of a stream of liquid that came her way courtesy of the Jester’s palm.
“An acidic glove! Now that’s simply not sporting!” said the older, original Knight as he deflected the burning spray with a shield.
The second armored man nodded and brought a mace down to knock the Jester cold. “Don’t expect chivalry from the likes of them, father!” said the former Squire, who had taken the role of the Knight years ago.
Motley squealed in surprise as her own path of escape was abruptly blocked by the Huntress as she tackled the colorful brunette and bound her with a bat-rope.
“OK, Harley, your little playmates are down! You might as well come out!” yelled the Huntress.
The original Knight gasped as a mist filled the air around them. “Poison gas!” he cried.
The Huntress and the younger Knight dragged him backward along with the fallen villains. Joker toxin, to be exact, thought the Huntress.
As the heroes escaped from the deadly gas, Harley Quinn yelled down at the fallen heroine from above. She had climbed to safety with impressive speed. “Batman may have inspired his Club of Heroes around the world, and his Batmen of All Nations are all really impressive, but the Joker won’t let that flying rat beat him!” she shouted. “That’s why I’ve put together the Jokers of All Nations in his honor! Soon, every nation will have their own clown prince of crime! See ya in France!” Her laughter echoed in the night, and then she was gone.
“Thank you for the help,” said the Huntress. “I know we moved quickly, but I’m surprised you weren’t hurt by the toxin she sprayed into the air. I know the sheer size of the wing will scatter such a small burst of the stuff harmlessly before the museum reopens in a day or so, but you seemed to take a direct hit!”
The old man nodded and said, “When we heard about the clown- or humor-related crimes, we did two things. I came out of retirement to join my son, the original Squire, and help him, although he has been doing just fine as the second Knight ever since I hung up my armor long ago!”
“Correct,” said the current Knight. “We also immunized ourselves with the formula Batman gave us long ago when we first met. He wanted other heroes to have some safeguard against that particular deadly toxin.”
The Huntress nodded and said, “Of course. I should have realized as much. I used the same formula on myself when I was told about a new Joker being at large here.”
The original Knight removed his helmet to reveal handsome but weathered features.
“Are you hurt, father?” asked the current Knight.
The old man placed one hand on his middle-aged son’s shoulder and said, “Stout fellow, never fear! I am a bit breathless, that’s all.”
“Let’s take these two in to the police and talk a bit more,” said the Huntress.
Later, after they had left the stunned couple at Scotland Yard, the two British heroes sat across from the Huntress on an armored motorcycle while she rested against her own motorcycle. They had taken her to their country estate outside of London, where a palatial manor loomed over ancient fields.
“I am Cyril Sheldrake,” said the Knight. “My father Percy is the Earl of Wordenshire. As you know, he was the first Knight while I was his partner, the Squire, much like Robin assisted Batman. When father retired, I took on the role of the Knight, although I have never had a Squire of my own. My beloved wife died before we ever had children, and I could never remarry.”
The Huntress nodded and said, “I’m sorry. Batman and Robin both respected you a great deal.” She then frowned as she noticed Percy’s pale face.
Sir Percy noticed her concern and said, “Angina. I suffer from a blasted heart condition, and yet I could not let Cyril go it alone against the likes of your Joker or his gang!”
Cyril abruptly changed the subject by gesturing at the motorcycle. “When I was a lad, we rigged the bike to look like a horse,” he said. “Fanciful, but I always found it amusing. I gave up on that design when I became the Knight.”
They entered the luxurious manor and led the Huntress to a comfortable study, where tea was served by an elderly butler. As she looked at the two men without their helmets on, the Huntress realized that Cyril was around fifty years old, while his father was close to seventy.
“I appreciate the help,” she said. “From what Harley Quinn, the Joker’s daughter, said in there, Jester and Motley are just local members of what she claims to be an international club of villains patterned after her father.”
“I hate to imagine an entire brigade of grinning killers!” said Sir Percy. “As the Bard wrote, ‘One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.'”
“Don’t forget the quotation about daggers in men’s smiles,” said Cyril.
“All those sentiments certainly apply to Harley,” said the Huntress.
Cyril led her to one side and whispered, “I didn’t want to say this in front of father, but I can help you face her minions in France if you wish. I don’t think he’s up to it. His pride won’t let him admit it, but the truth is he just isn’t well enough for crime-fighting. I could not convince him to remain in retirement when he heard about the Joker thefts.”
“No matter how old one’s children become, they are still precious, and one wants to protect them,” said Percy as he came closer. “I’m not deaf, you know, lad!” he added with a rueful smile.
The Huntress smiled back and said, “Thank you, but you two better stay in London in case her claim to be heading for France was a bluff.”
“Don’t worry,” said Percy. “There’s a good man in France as well. Our old chum, the Musketeer! Batman inspired him as well.”
“I may look him up,” said the Huntress. “If he proves to be as helpful as you two have been, I’ll be glad to meet him.” She frowned as she considered the benefits if any of enlisting another aging former hero.
Sir Percy smiled enigmatically, as if the keen old man knew what she was thinking. “The Musketeer will surprise you,” he said with a wink.
The Huntress frowned as she pondered his words and heard a slight noise from hallway. “Is someone there?” she asked.
“My man Jeeves is as silent as a mouse,” said Sir Percy. “It might be one of the village girls who come in to clean. Never fear, we don’t worry much about our secret identities anymore. Home’s a fortress, and we are ever ready for battle, eh?”
Cyril nodded and said, “True. Very true.”
Outside the door, a young blonde girl listened before moving into the shadows. A thoughtful expression marked her lovely face.
Later, Sir Percy and Cyril watched the Huntress depart on her cycle and returned to their study.
“Father, I am sorry about that comment I made about your health,” said Cyril. “You taught me everything I know. You made me the man I am. I owe all to your example!”
Sir Percy smiled and said, “But…?”
Cyril smiled sadly and replied, “But… I think your heart condition makes it too dangerous for you to join me as another Knight.”
Sir Percy nodded slowly and said, “Yes, my heart condition has ended my heroic career. Always it comes back to the angina.”
Cyril looked into his father’s eyes and shook his head. “No, sir. That’s not what I meant,” he said. “The heart condition I meant was the way you care too deeply for me and for others! You put yourself too much at risk, and England can’t afford to lose a great man like you!”
Sir Percy laughed and slapped his son on the arm. “You should be in the House of Lords!” he said. “You certainly have a way with words. You know I am very content with my life as it is. You are not just my son, but my friend. I’m proud to know you!”
Cyril started to reply when he spotted the pretty blonde girl in the hallway. “Young lady! Come in a moment.”
She entered with a demure grace and waited expectantly.
“What is your name?” he asked her. “I know Jeeves hired you from the village when the last girl Samantha left for the city.”
“My name is Gwyn,” she said.
Sir Percy frowned as he noticed her refined accent and polished demeanor. “You were listening before as well. What do you really want here? You are not a typical village girl. There’s none of that New Romantic noise and wild makeup about you. You are a lady of quality, aren’t you? Breeding tells.”
Gwyn looked at them with crystal blue eyes and smiled winningly. “I crave your pardon, good sir,” she said. “I did come here under false pretences in order to learn the ways of your era and to gain lore about the paladins of the age.”
“When she chooses to do so, she speaks like one out of the cinema,” said Cyril.
“No, son,” said Percy. “She speaks like my own old mentor from your infancy. She speaks like Sir Justin, the Shining Knight of Camelot!”
“’Tis fitting, since ’twas Sir Justin that raised me after the Round Table fell,” said Gwyn. “I was but an infant, and my very existence was known to none save my mother and he who took me to Sir Justin after the troubles became all-encompassing!”
“Justin came from Camelot,” said Sir Percy. “He was one of King Arthur’s knights of the Table Round. He traveled through time to our century, and he stood by my side when I lost my own family in the Blitz. He trained me as I trained you, Cyril. Sir Justin returned to his original era after time travel of one kind or another. He must have taken you to raise at that time.”
“Aye, he did so!” said Gwyn. “He raised me alongside of his true daughter, Brandy, and schooled us both in the ways of both times.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Law’s Legionnaires: Soldiers of Victory, Chapter 2: Knightfire.]
“So you came to our era and decided to pose as a servant to learn more about us?” asked Cyril. “You wanted to learn about your adoptive father’s friends, is that it?”
“I wanted to learn about heroes of this age, since it is my calling to become one and use the skills Sir Justin taught me to defend my homeland, as did my noble sire long ago!” said Gwyn.
“Sir Gareth, one of the Knights of the Round Table, posed as a kitchen knave before revealing himself as the nephew of King Arthur himself,” said Cyril with astonishment. “You emulated his ploy to get to know of us!”
“Sir Gareth died before I was born, but he was my cousin,” she explained.
“By the Round Table!” said Sir Percy. “Are you saying that you are the previously unknown daughter of King Arthur himself? Gwyn is a diminutive of Gwenhwyfar or Guinevere!”
“The ring she wears is the standard of the red dragon, which was one of Arthur’s emblems!” said Cyril.
“I never knew my father or mother,” said Gwyn. “When I was born, my mother was already in seclusion after separating from her lover, Sir Lancelot. My father had met his fate as well. It was Merlin who spirited me from my place of concealment and gave me to Sir Justin after the fall of Camelot.”
“But I thought Merlin had been entombed by that time, or so the legends say,” said Sir Percy.
“Legends are subject to historical revision,” said Cyril. “If you can accept this girl is King Arthur’s daughter, then surely we can accept the idea that Merlin was free when Camelot fell.”
“He was free,” said Gwyn. “Some say he even safeguarded other relics of Camelot with his own servant, who was of supernatural origin. Be that as it may, I am Princess Gwenhwyfar Pendragon, and I would risk all to protect this land until my father’s return!”
“The once and future king!” murmured Cyril.
“Princess Gwenhwyfar, to an Englishman born and bred on the legends of King Arthur, I am deeply honored to meet you,” said Sir Percy. “As one who revered Sir Justin from my early manhood to this day, I am delighted to learn about you.”
“I am honored to meet two noble champions of a realm dear to my heart,” said Gwyn. “I was going to reveal my true nature to you in time, but perhaps this eventuality means destiny has other plans for us all.”
“I know anyone trained by Sir Justin would be worthy to be a new Squire, but I cannot presume to ask a true princess royal to be my junior partner!” said Cyril.
“Do not forget that my father, Arthur the king himself, did serve as squire in part to his foster father Sir Ector before his true origin was known to all,” said Gwyn. “Do not let matters of rank prevent me from learning all you might teach! After all, Sir Percy, your title made you of higher birth than Justin, who was but knighted for his services to the crown, yet you were his squire in your day!
“I came here well-armed and armored,” she continued. “I have magical armor and weapons made by Merlin himself. I would serve well as your Squire should you allow it. My older adoptive sister Brandy oft called me by such terms of endearment when I would watch her with her father on the field of practice.”
“This is wonderful, if a bit overwhelming!” said Sir Percy.
“You know, I rather regret letting the Huntress depart alone,” said Cyril. “Perhaps Princess Gwyn and I could follow her.”
Gwyn nodded eagerly and said, “My right arm and good blade are yours to command! In fact, it was seeing the female paladin you called the Huntress that motivated me to allow you to notice me and my interest in your affairs. I thought that if a lady could fight for justice, then I would not be amiss to seek such a role! Of course, my adoptive mother, Firebrand, was once a heroine in your era as well, as is Brandy, the near sister I spoke of before, who is known as Knightfire of the Law’s Legionnaires!”
“Well, although she doesn’t know it, we could make a case that the Huntress has followed her noble father’s lead in inspiring a new generation of champions!” said Cyril. “This Knight has found a new Squire!”