by Philip-Todd Franklin
King Wingdore silently fluttered into Merlin’s great chamber on the dimensional island of Avalon. A sad smile crossed the fairy king’s face as he made his way over to the great oak table where Merlin sat watching two large crystal balls and two other bowls filled with what looked like water. Within one of the bowls could be seen an image of his granddaughter Mary Merlin — or the granddaughter of his Earth-X counterpart, not that such a distinction mattered much any longer — and her companions actively fighting through two squads of Nazi SS. One of the great crystal balls was floating above the table, and at a distance it seemed to emit a white glow, but to anyone looking within, all that could be seen was a great darkness.
The fairy king waited a moment and then softly cleared his voice before speaking. “Great one, I am afraid that I have not good news to bring at this time.”
Merlin glanced once again at the floating orb before turning to look at King Wingdore, his eyes already streaked and swollen red from tears. “I already know, my friend, and I truly grieve with you and your children. Giggle was more than a handful most of the time but always a joy to have round, and his loss is felt by each of us.”
“Thank you, great one,” said Wingdore. “I truly appreciate your understanding of our loss. I am just as sorry for not being able to do as you have required of us.” Slowly, the fairy king floated over to the oak table and promptly sat down on the edge.
“It was a desperately required action, my friend, and I honestly believed the darkness wouldn’t be complete before he could make his way to the destination,” replied Merlin. “Now I’m afraid that I have but one last active ally, who is truly in the dark as to the complete danger that surrounds him and his charge.”
Wingdore nodded softly as he replied, “Yes, I had heard great things of the human, and his ancestor speaks volumes about him, but what of the one you enlisted as his guard?”
Merlin glanced into one of the bowls for a moment, and after making a few Celtic incantations, shapes began to form. The scene within the bowl showed both Roger Knight and Matthew le Gros — the true descendants, respectively, of Arthur Pendragon and Sir Perceval, knight of the fabled Round Table. “They still seem to be within the chamber that was my trap so many centuries ago.”
“Why haven’t they moved on?” asked Wingdore. “Not all that is needed is in there, is it?”
Merlin gently shook his head as he spoke. “No, it’s not all there. At least some of it is properly protected. However, I would have to guess from the battle that I saw between Matthew and one of Morgana’s black knights that the two of them are exchanging true information.”
Shock flew across Wingdore’s face before he replied, “Is that truly a wise thing, great one?”
“‘Tis not the way I would have wished things to be done, but I am afraid that too many things have changed for such hiding of the truth any longer,” sighed Merlin. “Yonder world finally has need of the blood of its one true king. I just pray that the true king will be properly ready for his responsibilities when the time comes.”
Back at the old country cottage, the sound of knocking at the front door frightened Elainia Knight, making her jump up from between her two very pale children. After gathering her wits about her, she slowly made her way to the door in the darkened home. Listening for a moment, she slowly reached out for the doorknob, speaking moments before opening the door. “Who’s there? I’ve got a weapon, if you’re up to no good!”
A very silken voice, almost musical in nature, seemed to float upon the air as its owner spoke in reply, “Harm ’tis far from my deepest desire, which is helping the whole of the lands and its children. I’ve come here to salvage from despair and the shadows of death those whose destinies are tighter woven to the lands than thine own.”
Elainia started to step back from the door when she could hear her slumbering teenage children moan out as if feeling pain deeply within; it was a sound that nearly broke her heart. The only thing that even resembled the sound was something she remembered hearing of long ago as a child at church on Sunday mornings. It was the sound of a soul in torment. Without a second thought, she quickly opened the door and slowly moved out of the way.
Standing at the entrance of the cottage was a woman dressed in a sheer dress that came down to her feet. She had long blonde hair that cascaded far past her waist, but it was her very eyes that seemed to fill Elainia with a great calm; they were softly glowing white. The woman didn’t say a word as she slowly floated toward the children and came to rest between them.
Elainia closed the cottage door and turned to watch the stranger she had willingly allowed into her home. Nevertheless, a mixture of fear and understanding still seemed to battle within as she watched the other woman’s actions.
The mysterious woman looked first at Arthur and then over at Michael before gently laying a hand upon each of their tummies. For just a moment, both teenagers screamed as if being cut with daggers, and Elainia started to rush toward the other woman. But something held her up short, and she continued to watch as a great darkness seemed to be drawn out of her two children and into the mysterious woman.
After about half an hour, both teens were sleeping very peacefully, their breathing coming in a measured pace and their hearts no longer racing. The mysterious woman was dripping with sweat and looked as if she was herself ready to drop, but instead she slowly began to rise. She reached into the fold of her dress, and with care she withdrew an ancient-looking great sword. With great effort she gently laid it beside Arthur, smiling softly as she reached to her hair and removed the circlet of water flowers that had been resting on her head. Just as gently she laid it down beside Michael before slowly turning to face the children’s mother.
Through the whole ordeal, Elainia continued her internal struggle with what she as a mother should have been doing. When the other woman withdrew the old sword she had drawn in a great breath of air, the sight of the sword was great. As the mysterious woman stood and turned to face her, Elainia said, strangely without fear of the weapon before her, “Who are you, that I may properly thank you for your kind deeds so far?”
Slowly the mysterious woman floated across the floor toward Elainia, a bright smile crossing her face as she replied, “Deep within thine own self, ye have always known truth. I would tell you this not, if in your own soul you did not already know. Tell thy king once he is returned that his time has arisen, and the great king once again is needed.” With those words, the woman walked over to the cottage door. As the door opened, she seemed to disappear and float away as mist upon the wind.
Elainia looked down at her two children for a moment, puzzled as she glanced at the two very precious items beside them and then back at the cottage door, just in time to see it silently close. As if having been struck by a bolt, she knew her visitor’s name. “Nimue — the Lady of the Lake! But why would she come here? And those gifts along with her cryptic words. I don’t have a king. That would have to mean that all those years Roger was right, but that’s not possible — it’s just not possible!”
Slowly she sank between her two children and drifted off to a restless sleep.
“So it would seem I’ve awakened a demon from my ancestors’ past that would have been best left buried,” Roger Knight said as he and Matthew le Gros continued making their way toward the vehicle. They had agreed to report the attack, but Roger wanted to have the location cordoned off until the area could be properly secured. It was never right to leave the possibility of such priceless artefacts falling into anyone’s hands.
“Actually, Dr. Knight, from what I’ve been told before, this trouble would have come sooner or later, even if you hadn’t personally removed the seal that had long ago trapped Merlin,” explained Matthew. “It’s not like your aunt would have let you live once she found the truth and was able to locate you. Each of your family has been a threat to her plans from the beginning, all the way back to Arthur himself.”
Roger softly shook his head as they walked. He then quickly stopped before taking another step and whirled at Matthew, fear and worry clearly plastered upon his face. “My God, Matthew! I’ve been a fool. I’ve most likely informed the most dangerous person in all of England of my own existence, and through me I’ve endangered my precious children. What have I been thinking?”
Matthew looked at his friend and companion. “Calm down! You’re no fool, and the search for truth is only to be applauded in an age where it seems truth is beginning to become flexible.” He placed his hand on Roger’s shoulder and continued to speak. “You would have been found sooner or later, my friend. Not hard to do so in this more modern age. Computers just make it too easy. At least this way you have a warning.”
As they reached their old beat-up lorry, Roger was silently nodding at Matthew’s logic. He’s right; even with all that was done long ago, the truth would have been found, and with my kids not knowing anything, it would have been a disaster.
Matthew made his way to the driver’s side of the lorry in silence as he opened the door and fit the key in the ignition, then tried without success to start it. At the same time, Roger reached for the CB radio system, planning to at least contact the local constable near Tintagel to explain what had happened, along with a report of what they found.
But neither devices responded to their actions, even as they both continued for a moment to try again and fail. Roger’s own feelings of dread began to once again rise as Matthew went to the front of the lorry and raised the bonnet, peeking in at the engine.
After a few moments of fiddling with some wires and checking the plugs, he returned to the cab and tried once more to start the ignition. Roger continued to sit in the cab, and having given up on the CB, he watched his friend work. “What’s wrong with the engine? Why won’t it start?” he asked, his worry displayed on his face as he fought to keep from panicking outright.
“It’s nothing that I’ve ever seen, but if I had to hesitate a guess, I would say that something is messing with technology, at the very least on a local level,” Matthew replied. Reaching and flipping on the torch in the cab, he found that it, too, would not work.
“What do we do now, then?” asked Roger. “How will we reach Elainia and the kids to warn them?”
“I’m afraid we must walk from here, at least to town,” said Matthew. “If we secure some horses, I’ve got something that will help speed us along with our travel — that is, if great-granddad’s notes are to be believed.”
Roger turned to look at his friend and said, “Right now it’s the only hope any of us have. With the truth we’ve uncovered here, I’m afraid there are things we will need, and my ex-wife and children are smack dab in the middle of this mess. So let’s hurry, shall we?”
Matthew wordlessly slipped out of the cab as Roger followed suit, and the two of them picked as quick a pace as possible and headed back toward town.
The crystal ball floated several feet above the floor just out from the throne where Morgana le Fay sat. Over the last few days, she had finally achieved her life’s longtime goal of ruling over all of England. Though her magic had made it impossible for any type of technological devices to function, effectively placing the whole country into a new dark age, she and her sons still had to contend with pockets of resistance.
It was almost as if over the last few hours the resistance had quickly begun to gather form and capacity. It had become such a nuisance that her sons were unable to handle the problem completely alone. She had ranted for over an hour over the complications of her present century and the shortcomings of not being able to rely on the typical mercenaries to create an army with. Out of that came the present idea formed by her third son, Jason Lincoln.
From the local prison at Pentonville had come her makeshift army. The location had, in fact, already been taken over by the surprised prisoners as they found their electronic door locks no longer functioning, leaving their doors open and their guards completely outnumbered. It was a simple matter to offer them freedom and power in exchange for serving as her armed forces, and most eagerly agreed to follow her. Those few who resisted were immediately slaughtered, and the rest with doubts soon fell in line.
Morgana continued to watch the drama playing out within her crystal ball, a small smile creasing her face at the sign of her makeshift army systematically searching each and every building, trying to route out each and every arm of resistance before it could organise more efficiently.
“What?!” she said, a shock quickly running across her face as she saw an impossible sight. What had looked like a quickly routed and destroyed resistance group whose morale was shattered was now not fleeing her large attacking army, but suddenly they seemed to be as well-armed as their opponents and holding their own in battle. Still, it was the strangely dressed figure she saw in her crystal ball who held her attention. He was dressed in what looked like a pre-Victorian-era uniform, but he had pointed ears and glowing eyes, and if her own eyes were not playing tricks on her, it seemed his whole torso was twisted.
With a gentle wave of her hands, she centred her crystal ball on the new figure that seemed to be more complicated-looking than she had thought possible, as the strange figure seemed to be nearly an army unto himself. With another gesture and quickly spoken Egyptian words, what she saw gave her another surprise. “So his whole outer looks are a façade,” she said to the empty chamber.
Within the crystal ball, the British action-hero known as Spring-Heeled Jack was quickly working his way among the attacking army, disarming them whilst knocking out as many opponents as he could.