by Philip-Todd Franklin
After having quickly checked on her adoptive mother, Lady Serena Fitzmaurice slowly made her way over to the still-unconscious Brixton Brawler. From what she was able to ascertain, his breathing was even, but he seemed to only be taking shallow breaths. She tried more than once to wake him, but nothing she had done seemed to get a response from her fellow teammate in the Union. I wish I knew what to do, she thought. I can’t let these people here all die, but I can’t afford to show my secret to them, either — I can’t! I just don’t know what to do!
Serena’s thoughts were interrupted as the unconscious bodies of three of her other teammates from the Union — Steel Maiden, Will o’ Wisp, and Spring-Heeled Jack — each fell, almost as if from the sky, and crashed onto the floor below just as the Brixton Brawler had moments ago. One by one, Serena checked each of her friends even as she tried to ignore the disdainful looks from the other nobles who shared her long-forgotten cell beneath the Palace of Westminster with her, almost as if the costumed action-heroes were beneath their stature, though they were all within the same dank prison. Each of her teammates seemed to be showing the same symptoms as the Brawler. After checking each one a second time, she slowly made her way back toward her adoptive parents and softly sat down next to her father, who gently placed his arm round her and lightly whispered in her ear.
“I know we’ve talked about keeping who you are a secret, honey,” he said, “but if you do decide to do something, I want you to know that your mother and I are behind you all the way.”
She smiled softly up at the man she had always known as her only father and said, “Thank you — both of you. Your support means everything to me. I’ll warn you if I feel the need to make a move.” Her adoptive father could only return her smile and gently nod his head. But try as she might, the otherwise powerful girl felt herself frozen by unexplainable, paralyzing fear unlike that she had ever known before.
Back at his ex-wife’s cottage, Roger Pendragon quickly returned into the living room after Morgana le Fay’s disappearance. Laying Excalibur upon the floor, the former prime minister reached down and began to check first his ex-wife and then his two teenage children, making sure that they were both safe and alive. Never truly thought about how important they all are to me — even Elainia, despite our bitter divorce.
Matthew le Gros slowly sheathed his sword as he watched the creature before him begin to shrink, returning to a more recognizable form. “My God! That’s kindly old Dr. Sainsbury — his family is one of the most prominent in London, and he’s more got more influence in British affairs than most. What did that witch do to him?”
As the elderly old man’s transformation was complete, Matthew spoke a few words of Latin, and in a flash of light his armour vanished. Gently he reached down and picked up Dr. Sainsbury and transported him into the cottage, slowly making his way into the living room.
Roger quickly reached the small water closet and, looking round, located the vial of smelling salts that his ex-wife had always kept nearby. Returning to his ex-wife and children, Roger began to wave the unstopped bottle beneath Elainia’s nose just as he glanced up to see Matthew enter the cottage, within his arms an injured old man in tattered remains of clothing.
Matthew made his way over to a large stuffed chair in a corner and gently placed Dr. Sainsbury into the chair, then began to check the elderly man’s vital signs.
Roger looked up from his ex-wife’s side at Matthew. “Is he OK? Where did he come from? What happened to that creature you were fighting outside?”
For a few moments Matthew remained silent, seemingly ignoring his friend’s questions, but once he was sure that Dr. Sainsbury would survive, he turned and looked at Roger and replied, “He was the monster. This old British blue blood was transformed into the grey monster I had been distracting.”
After a few seconds, a soft coughing could be heard from between Roger’s two children as Elainia Knight slowly tried to rise from the floor. “No, no,” Roger said in a tender voice to his ex-wife. “Don’t try to move, precious. You’ve been injured.”
Trying to open her eyes felt akin to moving a hundred-kilogram bar with her toes, but Elainia still fought until she was able to get them open, responding to the sound of her ex-husband’s voice with more warmth than he had heard in several years. “Roger, is it really you?” she said, her voice sounding weak. “I’ve been such a fool. Seems I was wrong all along, and you were right once more.”
Matthew slowly walked over and reached out to take the vial of smelling salts from Roger, then returned to Dr. Sainsbury’s side.
“I’m here. Everything is going to be OK, Elainia,” Roger said, comforting his ex-wife.
“I always knew you would come to our rescue, Roger,” said Elainia. “I never doubted you for a moment. So much to tell you… so very much…” Softly smiling, she slowly slipped back toward the floor.
Roger, slipping his arms beneath Elainia, caught her and gently placed her head upon his lap. “Rest, dear. Everything is going to be OK — I promise you that.” A soft smile lit up her face once more before she sank back into oblivion, unaware of what was going on round her.
Just outside the office building that held England’s MI-13 offices, Modred le Fay, Nightstalker, and Piskie stood looking at the damage and destruction that the battle had done to the area as the trio talked.
Piskie, back in her six-inch size, said, “So where do we locate what will be able to defeat Morgana, and how do we get there?”
“I have to agree,” said Nightstalker. “If we do not know where it is, we will have all of England to search, a task that could take us centuries — time that I’m afraid neither our friend Piskie nor England has.”
Modred looked from one to the other, again in his black armour as he held his helmet in his hands. “From the few stories she ever told us, there is only one weapon able to harm our gems, and it was the fabled sword Excalibur. Even I have no idea where it is, and at one time I wouldn’t have honestly believed the legends of its existence were true. What I do know is that, because of her fear of it, each of my brothers and I can mystically draw ourselves and a couple of others towards the sword’s location like a magnet, but we’ve got to really concentrate, and travelling this way will drain some of the energy from my own gem.”
“That’s too high of a price to ask of you,” said Piskie, honest worry in her soft voice. “I can’t let you do that — the whole trip could kill you.”
Nightstalker looked at his two companions and said, “I’d never wish my fate to anyone, nor anything like it, yet I’m afraid we must find that sword. I’m afraid that all of England is in peril, and our own existences would not be too high a price to free the isles.”
Piskie opened her mouth to speak again, but Modred just gently lifted his hand and smiled at her gently. “I truly appreciate your worries for my own existence, but I must atone for the evil that I have done, and the price is worth the cost,” he said, slowly raising his black helmet and placing it over his head before he continued to speak. “I’m just glad that I’ve had the chance to meet two of the most caring people I’ve ever known and have had the chance to see what friends are truly like. Now if the two of you will gather close, we shall soon be beside the sword we seek, so saith the Black Knight.”
Nightstalker and Piskie drew close to the Black Knight, and seconds passed as he concentrated on the gem hanging round his neck, then tried to picture the sword of legend. At first nothing seemed to happen, but seconds later it was almost as if the world had closed its eye, for when it opened, they were standing within what looked like the living room of a small cottage with two figures standing before them. One was dressed in white armour and held a glowing sword, and the other was dressed in blue jeans and a cotton shirt, but the glowing sword within that man’s hands was what held their attention.
The ghost of the nobleman was the one to speak first as he once again made himself visible. “He does have Excalibur.” With those few words, the two figures began to slowly walk toward the companions, just as Modred slowly began to sink to his knees, now completely drained of energy.
Morgana le Fay reappeared in her throne room to find three of her sons sitting upon the few remaining chairs she had left when she had transformed the room and its furnishings to something more suitable for a queen. Each of them had removed their own black helmets and sat them down beside their chosen chairs. She noticed that one of her sons was absent. “Where is your brother Modred?” she screamed at them. “Why is he not here to enjoy our great and final victory over my hated half-brother Arthur?”
“I do not know, gracious mother,” said Jason Lincoln. “Last I had seen or heard from him, he was planning to assault a portion of the financial district. He left with a well-armed group from the prison, but that was last I saw of him, or any of them, for that matter. I had my own complications with that fool known as Spring-Heeled Jack.”
At the mention of the name, Percy Sheldon smiled whimsically, remembering his actions nearly a century before as the man all of England had known as Jack the Ripper, and decades before that as the original Spring-Heeled Jack, a role he had returned to several times over the years. “It’s almost an honour to know that someone would take the legend I so created and later use it for their own personal desires,” he said, laughing to himself. “And I would almost feel honoured if not for the fact that I’m repulsed knowing he’s used the infamous name of Spring-Heeled Jack to be a so-called action-hero.”
Samuel Davis sat there listening to his two younger brothers and shook his head. He couldn’t believe they were concerned over a simple battle, thinking not of the true price that their own mother had promised with total victory — eternal life and anything their own evil hearts could ever desire. But he merely replied, “Just listen to you two. I fought one of those costumed fools today, also, and did not have nearly as many problems as the two of you put together. Nevertheless, as our mother has said, that does not matter. What does is where our brother had disappeared, and whether he is going to show up anytime soon.”
Morgana listened to her sons for a moment, and with a flick of her hand she summoned her crystal ball, floating it before her. “Thank you, Samuel, for bringing those two children back in line. You are correct. We must locate your brother; of the lot of you, he’s never been one I’ve felt could be totally trusted. But he’s always been such a very useful pawn, something that I’ve always known could be tossed away once we had total victory, if he could not be brought into proper line. Now, to locate my wayward son.” At those words, in the silence of the chamber she began chanting in Latin, and the crystal ball before her began to lightly glow.
At that same moment, a meeting of another kind was taking place — a meeting where well-armed people tried to not hack each other to pieces. At six inches, Piskie was truly the shortest of all there and could easily have mesmerised the two who were cautiously approaching them, but she knew in her heart that most likely it could complicate the already tense situation.
Nightstalker slowly approached the two moving figures, placing himself between them and his two companions as he spoke. “A fight is surely not required of us. I feel that we are each facing the same dreaded foe. Allow us to then double up our forces and together smite the evil facing blessed Albion.”
Matthew le Gros took two steps toward the figure he seemed to be able to see through, and in seconds he could feel an unnatural chill seep through his armour into the deep of his bone. Gasping, he said, “You’re not alive! I had thought you to be using some trick of lights!” And he slowly backed away.
Roger Pendragon, seeing his companion step back, stopped in his own tracks and gave the figure before him the fierce look of a warrior. “I shall never allow another come to harm my family. Leave now, and none shall get hurt.” The determination on the famous face of the former prime minister lent an air of truth to his words.
Piskie looked at Modred, who was still upon his knees, propping himself up by his left arm, and thought, He shouldn’t have done this — it’s drained too much from him. In an moment she began to grow from six inches, her gossamer wings disappearing as she grew. I’ve got to stop this before someone gets hurt!
Matthew looked at the Black Knight and spoke with venom in his voice, remembering the original beating he had taken at Tintagel. “If you are working with that dark despoiler of England, then foes of the White Knight you must be.” Slowly trying to manoeuvre round the ghostly figure before him, he continued to find his way blocked by that bone-numbing chill.
Modred continued to try to just catch his breath, noticing just how truly tired he suddenly felt and how heavy his armour had suddenly become. I’ve got do so something before all is lost, but it’s all I can do to keep from crashing to the ground. How can I be of help? he asked himself.
Piskie took a moment to look at the two figures across from them, and in a flash it struck her. She knew who at least one of the two men before them was, and with that knowledge came a very daring and dangerous possibility. It would only get one chance, and if it failed, the secret of Victoria Bonham, AKA Piskie, England’s cutest action-hero, would be all over before she could ever faint dead away. But she still had to try.
Roger kept watching the group before him whilst Matthew failed to find a way to pass by the spectre before them. In a second, his thoughts were distracted by the words of the petite female who had just seconds ago grown from a size of only six inches tall.
Pointing at Roger, she began speaking. “You are, or, rather, were Prime Minister Roger Knight a few years back. I remember the speech you gave when you resigned and how everyone, including the assorted press, had laughed you out of Parliament. I do not know of your friend in the white armour, but do you, from your high government position in the 1970s, remember a woman named Angela Wright? She’s hard to forget.”
“Yes, I do remember her and who she was working with at the time,” said Roger. “Does this mean that she’s gone rogue, or is she still with the think tank? Oh, and the name’s actually Roger Pendragon now.”
Matthew listened to the exchange, refusing to take his eyes off the group in front of them, of whom none except Piskie had moved.
Nightstalker said, nearly in a whisper, “Can the legends be true? Does the line of Pendragon truly stand before me? Have I been that blessed?”
Modred said, his voice coming out weakly, “You’re the one mother has so long ago feared and sent my brothers out more than once before to find? I can’t believe it.”
Piskie smiled softly as she tried to cover her own shock and disbelief. “Miss Wright is still with the ‘think tank,’ as you call it, only she’s been promoted into a more active desk job.” Roger nodded a reply whilst the petite woman continued to speak and reached slowly behind her head. “I’m sure, sir, that you should also recognise me once you see me.” And with those words, she slowly peeled free the mask concealing her face and graced Roger with one of her winning smiles, which had been seen from many of her clothing commercials and advertisements.
Roger gasped as he recognised the famous celebrity’s face behind the mask. “You’re… Victoria Bonham,” he whispered, and she nodded in reply.
“Now, can we all stop being so daft and try working together?” she added as she returned her mask over her face.
Unsure of what to do, Matthew continued to look at the ghost and the black-armoured foe before him, his sword still in hand, until he heard Roger’s reassuring voice. “This battle is at an end, my friend. I do believe we are in the company of friends.”
Matthew took one last look at the three before him and slowly sheathed his sword, nodding softly before speaking. “If true friends they be, then I shall welcome their help in the struggle against the dark queen to secure the freedom of all England.”