by Philip-Todd Franklin
Within moments, Piskie had located a desk in a first floor office to hide behind, praying that her ghostly ally would be able to all she had asked of him. I can’t mesmerise him as long has he’s got that infernal helmet over his face, she thought of her black-armoured foe.
Modred le Fay continued to stalk from office to office, looking for the small creature that had seemed to turn his own army against itself. As he began to walk into the large common room full of desks, he gasped as a chill seemed to fill the room and began to engulf him. Although he could hear a voice speak, he couldn’t see anyone in the large room with him.
“Forgive my actions, but I’m afraid that I cannot allow you to harm my lithe companion,” said the spirit called Nightstalker. “And for her to have an honest chance, yon helm has to go.”
As the voice faded, Modred could feel the chill sinking into his very bones, nearly freezing him within his tracks. Modred tried to scream but was unable to utter a sound.
As Piskie slowly fluttered up to land upon the desk she had been hiding behind, she noticed her foe slowly making his way toward her. Yet his movements were ungainly, almost as if his body was having a seizure. She smiled for a moment at the actions, thinking to herself, Nightstalker must be causing this. I just hope I’m ready for my own part.
Slowly, the black-armoured figure reached up and, with hands that shook, grabbed hold of the helm upon his head and quickly threw it across the room. Once removed, it revealed a very fine-looking face framed with short red hair and deep blue eyes, but it was a face of pain and struggle, as Modred screamed within, trying to stop the actions that his body was performing beyond his control.
Nightstalker, using his power of bodily possession, slowly directed the armoured body to remove the belt holding the sword scabbard to the body, letting it fall to the ground before finally stopping before Piskie. “Now, my lady, would be the time for your plan of action,” the spirit said as he slowly began to remove himself from Modred’s body.
Piskie began to speak in a voice that sounded almost like a melody as she began to mesmerise her foe before her, just as she had the men of the army she had fought earlier.
Modred could feel the unnatural chill slowly vacate his body, but for moments he was unable to do anything but stare at the six-inch figure before him. As his own control began to return, he began to wonder why he had sought to harm this tiny damsel before him. Shouldn’t I be helping to do what’s right? How is harming anyone right? he asked himself as some very old thoughts began to finally rise to the surface of his mind, thoughts that his own mother Morgana le Fay had long ago buried with her own dark magicks.
Nightstalker remained a few feet away from the pair, but not too far to jump back into the black-armoured figure’s body if the need arose.
Piskie continued speaking, and after a few more seconds she stopped as the armoured figure before her slowly sat down in the nearest chair before her, a small smile gracing his face and a gentle light now seen within his deep blue eyes.
After a few moments passed, Nightstalker broke the silence and said, “Now, lad, art thou with us or against us?”
Modred slowly turned his head, and to his right he could see the grey-clad form of a young, haunted nobleman. Then he turned back to the six-inch figure before him and said, “I do believe that I am, as you say, with you. If not for your small friend, here, my mind would still not be completely my own,” he said, softly shaking his head.
Piskie looked up at the face of the man before her and then glanced over at Nightstalker as she said, “If your mind was not your own, then truly I am glad that I was able to release it. We honestly need to know who this queen is that you were talking about and her plans for England.”
“Yes,” agreed Nightstalker, “her plans and weaknesses we must know, for all of England and Great Britain is in peril from her evil. But first I know of one who would like to also hear your tale. And please accept my sincere apology for invading yon flesh.”
Modred looked first at Piskie and then over at Nightstalker as he replied, “Again I thank you both. I shall happily help you in any way I am able. Let’s meet this person you speak of, and all of my tale shall I give freely.” Smiling brightly as he experienced freedom, he once again rested his eyes upon Piskie.
Upon the isle of Avalon, Merlin continued to watch the scene taking place at the cottage where Excalibur had been placed. The sight of Morgana le Fay had been nearly enough to make him try to once more strike out himself, but instead he had cast a small enchantment through the sword and placed a barrier round the cottage. Just moments ago he saw that same barrier destroyed, just as the grey creature smashed through the wooden door. “I pray that my actions have been enough, but I must keep vigilant. I’m afraid my daughter shall have to come second at the moment whilst I try to see to Morgana’s defeat once again.”
Matthew le Gros waited only seconds after the large giant had smashed the door, and then, with sword held high, he charged from his hiding place and headed toward the creature, who had begun stepping through the smashed door frame. “Have at thee, vile creature!” he shouted.
The creature quickly turned and screamed at the sight of the white-armoured figure with a glowing white sword. Ignoring anything his mistress screamed at him, the creature quickly charged toward Matthew, its arms flailing wildly.
Morgana le Fay continued screaming at her creature, tossing threats and curses at it as it took off toward the armoured figure. After a few frustrating moments, she relented and began to stalk toward the now-open doorway into the back of the cottage.
Inside, Roger Pendragon still held the fabled Excalibur in his hands, feeling as if he had never felt before the same strength and vitality that had he had known only during his first year as prime minister. Bringing the sword to his side, he slowly made his way toward the back of the cottage, stopping just as he spotted the shattered remains of the wooden back door.
As Morgana reached the back door from the outside, a familiar glow could be seen within, and a man she recognised as the former prime minister of the United Kingdom stood holding the sword, blocking her way through the small kitchen. As she took another step into the cottage, she raised her hands and began to quickly spit out words of ancient Latin, but her foe did not move an inch as black bands of force raced from her hands, streaking toward him.
Roger stood there holding Excalibur within his hands, determined to guard his family to the very end, if need be. Without saying a word, he stared down this woman who threatened his family. As the black shapes came swiftly at him, Roger’s hands seemed to respond with a speed that surprised himself as the sword first blocked them and then began to glow brightly as it absorbed the dark bands.
Morgana screamed in fear, something she had not outwardly displayed in nearly three hundred years, at the sight of Excalibur and how easily her foe was able to defend against one of her most powerful spells. Without giving her creature a second glance, Morgana quickly grasped hold of a black pendant that hung from her neck, and in seconds a wall of darkness engulfed her. As it vanished, she was gone.
Outside, Matthew had been exchanging blows with the giant-sized creature whilst he had spotted his female foe heading toward the cottage, but he knew he could not afford to take his attention from his present foe.
After what seemed like hours, which was in truth only a matter of minutes, Matthew noticed an odd-looking indention upon his giant-sized foe’s right arm. Exchanging more than a dozen blows and having been knocked off his feet at least half as many times, Matthew lined up his glowing sword with the strange indention, and with a grace born from many years of practise, he brought the flat of his blade against the shape.
The creature let out a gut-wrenching scream as the gem that was buried beneath his skin began to first crumble from the blow and then disintegrate, settling upon the ground in a fine sprinkling of dust.
Shortly Modred le Fay, Nightstalker, and Piskie found themselves in Angela Wright’s office at MI-13. She sat there studying the face of the man who only moments ago had been, as it turned out, an unwilling foe of Britain and its action-heroes.
The first thing Modred had done to show that he was no longer a threat to anyone still in the building was to step outside and order the fighting to cease. The released convicts still under his command followed his order without much argument, and the small crowd of citizens who had been following Piskie was easily able to round them up and quickly disarm them.
After he had removed his dark armour, Modred willingly sat in a soft, cushioned chair across from Miss Wright, with Piskie and Nightstalker flanking him on either side.
Miss Wright looked at both of the Union’s operatives, and each of them slightly nodded in agreement as they listened to the young man speak before her. “So, besides what Piskie and Nightstalker have already told me, why do you not fill me in on the gaps of my knowledge?” she asked him.
Modred looked at Miss Wright and thought to himself, I know this is turning against my own mother, but I can’t allow her to complete her own mad schemes, even if in the end it means that I shall surely cease to live. A look of worry crossed his face for only a moment before he felt a gentle hand lay upon his left shoulder. When he glanced that direction, he looked into the face of the woman called Piskie and could see that she truly trusted what he had to say. He softly returned her smile and then turned to face Miss Wright as he resumed speaking.
“My name, as you have been told, is Modred. I am not the first who bore this name, and sadly, neither was I the second, but I shall more than likely be the last.” Angela Wright chose to be silent, simply nodding as he spoke, so Modred continued. “Your foe, sadly, is my own mother, the woman who long ago gave birth to me, and the other dark-armoured foes with her are my brothers. We have lived long in the shadow of the fall of Camelot some fifteen hundred years ago. Mother — or Morgana le Fay, as you might remember her better — was one of the few who fared better in the Dark Ages after Camelot’s fall, and with what dark magicks she was able to steal from Arthur’s friend and advisor Merlin, she has lived all of these centuries.”
Piskie’s mouth just dropped open from the momentary shock, but she quickly closed it, letting Modred continue.
“Her second son, who is now the oldest after the original Modred’s death in battle with our uncle, King Arthur, is named Samuel Davis. And if the stories I have heard from my other brothers are true, his crimes are nearly as dark as her own, including slaying any children whom Morgana either feared or deemed worthless.” This time it was Miss Wright’s turn to close her dropped jaw and keep her silence until Modred had finished.
“The next deemed to be worthy of life is named Percival Sheldon. His own crimes are not anything like Samuel’s, but just as dark, and he has over his centuries of life been a notorious womaniser. He spent a time here in London under certain roles during some of its darkest years a century ago, most of the time playing games, I believe, with the local bobbies by occasionally slaying a woman with a brutality rarely seen and then leaving a note challenging the law to stop him from killing again. He called himself by many names, the most notorious of which was the Ripper, and he was so proud of that monicker that he ensorcelled a demon with the personality of the Ripper and gave it the ability to possess people who have the same initials as he — P.S. — turning them into killers. The last such man was an innocent named Philip Scott, who remains incarcerated to this day for killing two airline stewardesses whilst thus possessed in 1975.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Nightmare Flight,” Beyond the Grave #1 (July, 1975).]
The honest shock that fell upon Nightstalker was as if he had been hit with a ton of bricks and was unable to move. After a few moments he was about to speak but caught Miss Wright’s eye and could see that she wanted him to wait until Modred had fully finished his tale.
“My next older brother is only four hundred years older than me and is named Jason Lincoln, a man whose crimes are much less notable as his brothers. But his toadying loyalty to our mother is unsurpassed by all. I was born not long after Percy’s time as Jack the Ripper and have never completely come to understand her desire for conquest. If not for her growing weariness of waiting, I am very sure that I would have met the same fate as have so many siblings before me. As to her infernal plans, I’ve never been completely trusted with them, or I would not have been ensorcelled as your friends here so found me. Still, I do know some of it, along with how she can be defeated.”
Angela Wright slowly raised her hands, holding them palms up, hoping that he would understand to stop and give her a second to digest all that he had just told her. “Let me see if I understand you properly, shall we? You want me to believe that you and the other three dark-armoured knights have been alive for at least a century, or for over four hundred years, as you said, and that your so-called queen is actually the Morgana le Fay from Arthurian legend? I’m sorry to say, Modred, but that is truly a large load of horse manure to swallow at one time.”
Modred replied, “But, Miss Wright, I’m…”
She interrupted him. “I’m not yet done!” she said, her anger at all that had happened slowly beginning to release. Yet she still kept her voice calm as she continued. “You truly wish for me to believe that a legend has decided to walk upon the earth, and that at least one of England’s worst unsolved crimes was actually perpetrated by one of your own brothers? But the notion that she is using magic, something long since proven to be impossible, at least within this dimension, if my sources are to be believed–”
“Miss Wright, magic does exist,” said Piskie. “Why, half the members of the Union have their powers because of magic. I can turn into a fairy, and Nightstalker, here, is a bloody ghost! I’ve seen–”
Once again, Angela Wright’s words bowled over the person speaking, as if nothing was being said, giving Piskie a look to be quiet as she added, “Still, you are the only source of hope that I’ve yet seen, and I’ve no real choice but to believe what you are telling me if we are to defeat this Morgana and restore English rule to the United Kingdom.”
Modred waited listening to all that Miss Wright said, then looked up at Piskie before once again continuing his tale. “I realise that this is difficult to believe, and I guess I should have skipped the history lesson and just gone straight to the information that you will need.”
Slowly, and with great care, Modred reached beneath his tunic and pulled free a small, blood-red gem hanging from a chain round his neck. Holding it up for all in the room to see, he said, “This very gem is what keeps me as I am and is allowing me to stay alive instead of falling apart into a pile of ancient dust. Morgana has one of another colour round her own neck, and it has been both her source of power and has kept her alive for more than a millennia. I believe that if you were to destroy her gem, you could rob her of that which has kept her alive and has allowed her to control the whole of the British Isles.”
Miss Wright looked at both Piskie and then at Nightstalker, who both refrained from speaking but gave her nods of agreement. “Don’t ask me why, Modred, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and trust what you’ve said. Now, doing so, where can we find this Morgana, and how do we get past her inevitable guards?”
Modred smiled and then gazed over at Piskie as he said, “Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much about her chosen guards, Miss Wright. I’m sure we’ve got the right person here to handle any normal flunkies Morgana chooses to use. Plus, I know just how to get them into the right location.” Piskie just looked at Modred and softly blushed from his words.
“I shall endeavour to be of help where I am able along the way as well,” assured Nightstalker.
And with that, Modred, Piskie, and Nightstalker slowly exited Angela Wright’s office, leaving the petite lovely blonde woman sitting behind her desk with a candle, the only light source in the whole building. “And I pray that your mission is an honest success,” she said under her breath, “for all of our sakes.”