by Philip-Todd Franklin
In the forgotten dungeon beneath the Palace of Westminster, time had begun to lose all meaning for the captives of Morgana le Fay’s successful takeover of England. More and more people were becoming sick each day. Amongst those trapped within the same cell were a couple of England’s most prominent medical practitioners, the young Dr. Benjamin Richards and his retired colleague, Dr. Reed Smith. Less than an hour after the first person began to complain of feeling ill, both doctors tried to comfort them. They had conferred together more than once as more and more people seemed to become sick. They agreed that the sickness was resulting from the food and water that seemed to suddenly appear from nowhere, only to later disappear. However, without the proper medical facilities, there was little they could do for the sick except make them comfortable and pray that someone would find them in time.
For some, the original discovery of the Brixton Brawler amongst them had started to give them new hope, only to have it dashed as other members of the Union began to appear, each in the same bad shape as the Brawler.
Lady Serena Fitzmaurice, who in her identity of Lady Justice was also a member of the Union, had never felt so close to despair. This feeling of utter helplessness, until now foreign to the powerful action-heroine, she could have forever done without. She had earlier spoken with the kindly Dr. Richards about her mother’s condition, and as she recalled it, his words still felt as if someone had pierced her thick skin with a frozen knife.
Serena sat beside her mother and father as the blond young man began checking her mother’s vital signs. After a few moments, Dr. Richards stood up and slowly began to make his way toward the far cell to sit down and confer with his colleague, but he was interrupted.
“I have a right to know, Doctor,” said Serena. “What is her prognosis? Will my mother ever get better?”
Dr. Richards turned and looked her right in the eyes. Gulping, he tried to speak without his voice cracking. “Lady Fitzmaurice, I am afraid that if something is not done soon, there will be nothing anyone can do for her, and her very fate may well be our own, too.” Try as he might, he was just not able to keep sadness from creeping into his eyes, and a single tear leaked free from his eyes before he could turn and quickly walk away.
Serena just stood there as the young doctor walked away, the shock of his words freezing her on that spot, and his words chilling her all the way to her bones.
Now, though the cell was small and crowded, everyone seemed to give the still-comatose Union members a wide berth, leaving them completely alone. Their only company were Serena and the two doctors.
Serena had returned to the company of the action-heroes after having shared the doctor’s words with her father, an action that nearly broke her mighty heart. “I pray that the others are able to do something soon,” she whispered to herself as she slowly sank to the floor beside her teammates. “We haven’t lost a single person here yet. However, at the rate things are going, people will start dying soon, and I’ll be forced to reveal who I am whilst trying to help everyone else. But I cannot do that. I mustn’t. Sure wish each of you was able to give me a hand. Still, I’ve got faith in Piskie and Nightstalker.”
Still at the cottage of Elainia Knight, a council of war was taking place between people who only moments before had been bitter enemies. With great care, Elainia, Michael, and Arthur were carefully placed in their own beds, and the group now conversed in the living room, each taking whatever seat they could find, whilst Nightstalker floated between the meeting and checking in on Elainia and the children from time to time.
After sitting down, Modred had slowly removed his helmet, drawing a sharp gasp from Piskie, who had first seen his looks at the office of Miss Wright. Unable to keep the shock down, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “What has happened to you, Modred? Are you ill?” Both Roger Pendragon and Matthew le Gros looked at the ancient-looking face and its white hair revealed from beneath the black armour, neither saying a word.
Modred sighed softly. “Seems what I told Miss Wright was a lot closer to the truth than even I knew. My bringing us to this location has taken more from me than I had originally expected.” His hands gently reached for the small chain hanging round his neck, which held a dangling gem on it hidden behind his armour’s chest plate.
“You’ll return to normal, won’t you?” asked Piskie. “I mean, this is only temporary, isn’t it?” Modred shrugged his shoulders as best as possible in armour without saying a word in response.
Roger looked at Modred and then at his companion before returning his gaze to the two sitting across from him. “What I don’t understand at the moment is why you suddenly decided to switch sides. If Morgana was offering you all that your heart could desire, why decide to defy her?” Matthew softly nodded in agreement to the wise question.
“Well, I don’t think I’ve actually switched sides, as you say,” explained Modred. “It was more like I never truly believed in her plans or wants. However, going along with it seemed like the safest way to keep from being slain at the hands of one of my older brothers.”
“You honestly believe that Morgana would have had you killed if you didn’t agree with her or follow her orders?” asked Roger, disbelief shining upon his face.
“Believe me when I say that I’ve seen it done before more than once,” said Modred. “The family hasn’t always existed with only my three brothers and myself. Plus, she’s had a morbid desire to keep records of each child and whose job it was to get rid of the undesirable ones.” Softly sighing, he continued. “Honestly, I’ve never understood her, and even when I was out there fighting you, Piskie, I honestly didn’t want to harm you. I’ve just never known when she’s watching me.”
As the group continued to talk over the next couple of hours, Modred slowly began to mystically return to his youthful appearance.
Nodding softly, Matthew looked at each of the people in the room and began to smile. “Think me mad if you will, gang, but I, for one, choose to believe Modred, here. And I think it would even be good having him fight beside us.”
Roger and Piskie nodded in agreement just as Nightstalker returned from making his rounds and checking in on Elainia, Michael, and Arthur. He said as he joined the group, “All ’tis still calm, and your family seem sleeping sound, master Pendragon.”
“Thank you for being so willing to check on them whilst we talked,” said Roger.
“Honoured to help in any way I am able,” said the ghost of the nobleman.
Waves of anger seemed to flow from Morgana le Fay, as if they were physical blows striking Percy Sheldon, Samuel Davis, and Jason Lincoln harder than anything they could ever remember before. It forced them to double up on the floor, and tears flowed freely from their eyes as their stomachs felt like meat being tenderised. Morgana continued staring into the crystal ball before her, listening to the group sitting in the living room of a cottage they had visited not long ago.
“So this is where my little wayward child has gone. Should have destroyed him years ago!” she screamed, striking the crystal ball and sending it flying toward the far wall, where it exploded in a bright shower of sparks and energy. “Samuel, Jason, prepare the castle to repel attackers, then don your armour and join the defenders.”
Sam and Jason nodded and bowed toward their mother before quickly running from her throne room.
Percy watched his two brothers leave the room and then slowly turned and looked at his mother. With a supreme effort, he was able to hide his fear of her possible wrath from showing on his face as she began to address him. “I know what you are thinking, my son. You’re wondering why I had the two of them prepare the castle and left only you here with me alone. Well, I’ve a special job for you, one that I do believe you will truly enjoy. You see, I want you to make sure that your younger brother is a casualty amongst those who will be attacking. He’s your primary target, do you understand me?”
Nodding softly, Percy responded, “Yes, mother. I hear and shall not fail you.”
After having taken the night to both rest and plan the assault on Morgana’s fortress, the gathered group met once more in the living room.
“Something that we haven’t spoken of yet is how we are to reach the castle,” said Matthew. “We can’t afford to give them too long before we try to attack. And we’ve only got the two steeds that Roger and I rode in on before to carry everyone.”
Modred said, “I could just as easily teleport the whole group into her castle, and it would only take seconds…”
Piskie quickly interrupted him. “No! We can’t afford to let you do that. If just getting us here zapped you as hard as it did, then taking us there could just as well bloody kill you.”
“I have to agree,” said Roger. “I can’t let you take that risk. Our numbers are small, and each of us may be more important together then we ever could be alone.”
“I know not about the rest of you, but I can easily make myself appear within yon building without complications,” said Nightstalker.
“Well, that leaves us down to four needing transport to London proper,” said Matthew. “Any cart or wagon round here that you know of, Roger?”
“Not one that I can recall,” said the former prime minister, shrugging. “Despite living here in the countryside, Elainia just never did like to ride in a wagon.”
“Would not my six-inch size make transporting me simple?” suggested Piskie.
“Yes, that would make some of the travel easier,” agreed Matthew.
“Your horses — what are their breeds?” asked Modred, an idea forming behind his eyes.
“They were normally used as farm animals in the village we borrowed them from,” said Matthew, “but I believe they have some thoroughbred in their history. Why?
Modred nodded, taking a look at each of his companions. “With the information we have, I believe we can get there by horse. It may sadly destroy the animal, but in doing so we may yet save the realm.”
Roger nodded his agreement to the idea, already thinking that it would be best to place the two armoured ones on separate horses and that he and Piskie would hitch rides with Matthew and Modred. Piskie also nodded in agreement, even if the thought of the horses being hurt didn’t settle well in her stomach.
Matthew looked round at the group and rested his eyes on Modred. “I’ll have to repay the farmer’s kindness with some new horses, but that should be a small price. Let’s do this.”
In making preparations, both Samuel Davis and Jason Lincoln went to whip the remains of their prison army back into a force prepared for the coming battle. After the two sons of Morgana le Fay had armed and sent their army into staging positions round and within the old castle, they went to armour themselves, each of them wearing a blood-red gem that hung from a gold chain, and they talked about the coming battle.
“Do you think this will be any harder than those last jokers we had to trounce?” Jason asked.
Samuel replied whilst he continued to climb into his armour, “I don’t take any battle lightly, as I’ve had more than any of you can remember.”
“Oh, it’s not that I doubt you’ve had more battle than any of us, brother, and I don’t take it lightly. Just taking what mum said about them, she doesn’t think we shall have too much of a problem.” He smiled as he placed his helmet over his face.
Samuel replied, placing his own helmet on, “Listen to me, good brother. One of our own is now with the very rubbish we shall be expecting. Plus, I’ve also had a duel with the self-styled knight guarding the ex-prime minister. I don’t doubt what mother thinks, but I’ve got my own ideas for a rematch with that white-armoured fool.” As he began to walk away, he turned back to Jason and added, “Look, just go and watch the main door. Warn me once the attack begins. If we work together properly, we shall crush this rabble before they can cause any harm to us.”
Jason nodded softly as he walked away from his brother, keeping his own thoughts and replies to himself. One day, dear brother… oh, yes, one day I shall happily do away with you, and then I shall be mother’s number one son.
Samuel made his way to the main guard station that he and his brothers had established within the old castle, his own thoughts as dark as his brother’s as he took a second to check in with a big, burly man who had been left in charge. “Report?” he said.
The convict commander spoke with a strong London East End accent as he replied, “All is quiet right now, and the others’re in position. D’know ‘ow many of ’em are going to be worth anything, truth be known.”
“Why is that?” Samuel said.
“Beggin’ your pardon, sir, but swingin’ a sword isn’t much different than a knife, pipe, or any other type of bludgeoning weapon,” the commander said. “But bows and arrows are bloody different than any of the guns that we’ve used.”
Samuel nodded softly, ignoring the fact that the commander had compared his many years practising with a sword to swinging a simple club. “Still, we should outnumber our attackers at least two to one. Most of the time that can and will even out the odds.”
Nodding in agreement, the commander smiled. “Yes, it truly does, at times.”