by Philip-Todd Franklin
Without warning, the double doors flew open, striking Piskie and forcing her into the far wall, where she slid down to the ground, whilst Roger Pendragon was barely able to avoid the blow that had taken down his companion. As he started to remove the sword Excalibur from his scabbard, he glanced back at his fallen companion, though his attention was captured by the silken voice coming from the chamber before him.
“Come, progeny of Pendragon. Let us finally finish this dance your ancestor started so long ago. Let me have my final victory over that hated half-brother of mine, just as I long ago destroyed that fool of an advisor, Merlin.”
Roger glanced into the room, having the feeling that he was walking right into a trap; still, he felt no fear. His thoughts were already on those for whom he would willingly sacrifice himself. As he began to enter the chamber, he silently formed prayers for the family he had lost long ago and had only recently regained, the time lost in his personal quest for truth, and the valiant friends he had made during this, his first and only true adventure. Gulping only once, he boldly walked into the centre of the chamber and stood before the floating throne of Morgana le Fay. He glanced up at the foe that had caused so much pain and had brought so much horror to an undeserving world. “I warn you now,” he said. “Things will go easier in the end if you would only surrender peacefully.”
Without saying a word in response, the dark queen raised her arms and began weaving patterns into the air before her. Within seconds, glowing bands of light streaked out toward Roger, who batted them away with a grace beyond his wildest expectation, Excalibur seeming to dispel the bands as they struck them. Spell after spell, Morgana continued from the height of her throne, throwing her mighty magicks at him. Roger managed to use Excalibur to guard himself each time, as if he was able to read her mind.
In the dungeons below, the Brixton Brawler continued to tear the doors off the cells, leaving them up against the wall. As he reached the last cell, his breath caught in his throat at the sight of Lady Serena Fitzmaurice, her face streaked from many shed tears as she cradled her elderly parents, seemingly oblivious to the sounds and actions taking place round her. Rupert Deane quickly removed the bars before him and slowly made his way toward his pretty teammate, the powerful Union member secretly known as Lady Justice. At first he thought that her parents were only resting, but in seconds he knew that the results were darker than expected.
Lady Serena paid no attention to her companion standing before her, seeming to be mumbling to her parents almost in a whisper as she continued to cradle them.
For the first time in his life, Rupert truly felt out of his league. He was unsure how to comfort his hurting companion, only knowing that his mighty strength wasn’t able to end the many tears she continued to cry.
The ringing battle between Matthew Stone and Samuel Davis continued moving up and down the intricate halls of the Palace of Westminster. More than one of the many relics lining the halls had fallen upon the ground, smashed and shattered from swinging swords and crashing bodies. Still, neither combatant seemed aware of the damage they had created. Both were bleeding from multiple lacerations, and their mighty swords seemed to miss each other now as much as their targets. Both men were quickly tiring, yet neither was ready to admit defeat.
In a desperate ploy, Samuel aimed his sword down toward Matthew’s opened left flank, grunting from the pain in his right side as he moved.
Matthew, noticing his opponent’s action, saw an opportunity that he felt unable to refuse and aimed his sword for Samuel’s neck, wishing to remove his foe’s head from his body, even as thoughts of his own pending damage pushed from his mind.
As both men forced their swords toward their targeted vital areas, a great darkness began to swirl up and round Samuel. He began to scream, yet not in fear but anger as he felt his body begin to melt and vanish from his chosen battlefield. Matthew continued his mighty swing, only to see his sword flash through empty darkness. Exhausted, he crashed to his knees, dropping his sword as he fell, gulping in mighty lungs full of air, thankful for the respite.
In the dungeons below, Modred le Fay was glancing at his fallen brother Percy Sheldon, refusing to leave him unguarded, as he knew the supplied powers of the dark gems their mother had given each of them, not to mention the bloodthirsty nature of the man who had been the real Jack the Ripper. Still, he was surprised as a familiar darkness arose and quickly engulfed his brother, removing him from the area. “Aughhh!” he screamed, beating the empty ground before him as the darkness vanished.
After watching his own fallen foe vanish, Spring-Heeled Jack began to once again streak off through the castle, searching for any remaining freed convicts. As he found them, he quickly bound them with anything that was immediately available.
In the hidden dimension of Avalon, the mage known as Merlin continued to watch the battle taking place with the ancestor of his dearest student, companion, and friend. Over the course of the battle he continued to cast enchantments over Roger Pendragon, countering Morgana le Fay’s spells as much as possible, whilst believing it the best he would be able to perform.
After a while, Morgana le Fay screamed in rage at her foe. How an upstart who knew no magicks could be holding her — a master — at bay was boggling to her ancient mind. In a change of tactics, Morgana called her own ancient-looking staff to her hands as she dived from her throne, heading right toward her foe.
Seeing Morgana, staff in hand, suddenly dive from her throne forced Roger Pendragon to quickly backpedal away. It was a desperate act that the former prime minister hadn’t expected.
With a speed that was nearly shocking to see, the dark queen struck out with her staff, barely missing Roger with each blow. “Stand still, you, that I might finish destroying you!” she screamed.
Roger continued backing away, barely dodging each swing of her staff as he tried to work up how to return to the offensive. In a flash of genius, he had his idea. He launched Excalibur toward Morgana’s open flank, only to curve upward as she swung her staff to block. Roger knew all would be lost if this desperate ploy failed, so he pushed his own tired arms, forcing Excalibur up and out, right toward the black gem hanging round his foe’s neck.
At first Morgana was smiling as she twirled her staff to block the swinging sword, but her smile quickly faltered as she noticed the change in direction and true target of her foe. The dark queen tried to move her staff to block Excalibur but was unable to change the direction of her weapon fast enough, as she felt Excalibur cut its way through her mystical barrier and then strike the gem hanging from her neck. She screamed as she could feel the centuries of power she had poured into the gem now leaking out.
Roger smiled at Morgana as he felt something begin to pull at him, not knowing its source. “It’s finally over, and you are banished at last,” he said.
Slowly at first, Morgana le Fay could feel a great darkness surrounding her, and it felt familiar as the pull of a teleport, but even then something felt completely wrong. Worry showed on her face as the darkness continued to grow, surrounding not only herself but also her foe before her. Suddenly, she could feel the same strange pull and could feel her own body begin to lose substance.
Roger’s own smile slowly vanished as he felt the hilt of Excalibur slip from his fingers. Thinking he had just dropped the mighty sword, he tried to retrieve it, only to notice that he was unable to touch it, his hand having passed completely through it and the floor.
Spring-Heeled Jack, having raced through the remaining rooms of the palace, suddenly arrived to witness the last moments of battle between the dark queen and the ex-prime minister. He saw the darkness surround the two foes, only to notice a blinding white light begin to form in the centre as both figures began to become transparent and silently vanish, leaving only an ancient-looking staff and the sword Excalibur lying on the floor mere inches from the fallen form of an ancient nobleman bound on the floor, Piskie lying cradled in his hands as he continued to stare at the emptiness.
In an old cottage on the countryside on the outskirts of London, young Arthur Scott Knight screamed out in fear and pain as his eyes flew open wide.
“No!” the teenager cried. “Dad! Oh, no!”
His mother, who had been lying asleep beside her two precious children, was shocked awake. But her teenage daughter Michael slept on even as tears escaped from her closed eyes.
With Morgana le Fay and her evil sons either missing or fled, the curtain of darkness surrounding England vanished. With the Union now free, it took the gathered action-heroes less than an hour to place the few remaining escaped convicts back into the hands of the police and bring London’s captured aristocratic families to the nearest medical facilities. Even with the speed of Spring-Heeled Jack, the loss of life was sadly in the double digits, and more than half of those remaining were either in critical or extensive care. Less than twenty percent of those captured were able to be quickly released from the medical facilities where they had been taken.
At one particular medical centre not far from the damaged Parliament building, the fallen action-heroes in the Union — Steel Maiden and Will o’ Wisp — were quickly received and sequestered into a room in a corridor that was just as quickly blocked off by guards. Down that hallway were two other action-heroes — Lady Serena Fitzmaurice, alias Lady Justice, and a young and haunted-looking man dressed in the tattered remains of a grey, antique-looking suit at least a couple centuries old. Spring-Heeled Jack had quickly raced off and retrieved Angela Wright from her offices, leaving his remaining companions — Piskie, Matthew le Gros, the Brixton Brawler, and Modred le Fay — to protect his fallen friends.
The doctors who had been allowed to examine the fallen Union members had been sworn to secrecy and had signed oaths to that effect, and they were conferring amongst themselves in another room as Miss Wright arrived. She stood before the two shaken doctors and gave each of them the once over, gauging them before she began to speak with them about confidential matters.
Nearby, Spring-Heeled Jack slowly walked to the room where his uninjured companions were waiting so that each of them would be able to sleep in shifts. Taking liberties with the restroom, he returned to the hall and began to make his way toward Matthew, who was standing at the nurse’s station at the entrance to the wing.
“Anything changed since I’ve been gone?” he asked.
Matthew softly shook his head before looking at the action-hero. “I’m afraid not. From what the doctors have said, both Will o’ Wisp and Steel Maiden should make complete recoveries in a couple of days. However, with both Nightstalker and Lady Justice, they seem to be clueless.”
“So they still haven’t figured out what’s happened to either of them?” he asked. “Such as why our resident ghost is now sporting a pulse?”
Shaking his head, Matthew replied, “No. At least with Serena they figure the loss of her parents has left her in the unresponsive state that Modred and Rupert said they found her in. For her it could be years before she’s ever normal, or it could just be days to hours. Neither is sure what it could take to trigger her response. What nobody’s sure of is what kept her from using her powers to save her parents, but it might have been something similar to the spell that knocked out you and the others.”
The speedster, whose real name was Nigel Barry, nodded his head in thought. “I’m sure Miss Wright will help to make sure that she’s well taken care of. Doesn’t matter that she’s one of the remaining blue bloods from London.”
At that moment, Miss Wright was receiving the same information from the two physicians who had just checked in on the Union members. As she walked away, she thought, Once England’s reconstruction has begun, I don’t envy Mrs. Thatcher for all the responsibilities she’ll have now. The young, attractive woman then made her way toward the resting action-heroes who were in her charge.
In an old cottage outside London, Elainia Knight stirred and awoke once more from her slumber. Rising from the wooden floor and taking a protective glance at her two teenage children, she started to make her way toward the tiny kitchen to make herself a bite to eat, when she heard two noises that caused her to turn round. The first was the light tinkle of a sword suddenly resting on the floor, and the second was the voice of her teenage son Arthur, who had seemed to be asleep for a dozen days. At his side, his sister Michael also began to stir.
“Mum, what’s happened?” Arthur asked. “Where’s Dad, and why do I have his sword with me?”
Michael stretched, and for the first time the teenage girl seemed to notice the odd-looking crown of water lilies lying on her stomach. She glanced at her younger brother and then, rising slowly, looked at her mum as she said, “Something’s happened, hasn’t it? Dad’s gone. I can feel it.” A sad look crossed her young face.
At first Elainia didn’t know how to respond, but after a second of indecision she ran back to her children and, taking each in an arm, hugged both of them close to her as tears began to freely roll from her tired eyes.
After they each had a good, long cry, Elainia began to fill them in on the missing days. Withholding nothing, she told them the tale that their father had long ago desired to tell his children and that she had heretofore prevented out of her own desire for them to have normal lives. At first, both of her children were in total shock that their own mother would withhold important information from them, and for a few moments they were angry with her and had to leave the room. Elainia let them go, knowing that her own desires had brought them to their present situation and that she would have to just wait and let Arthur and Michael to work things out for themselves. Whilst she waited, Elainia began preparing supper for the trio.
Having smelled the cooking dinner, Arthur and Michael both returned from their rooms and entered the kitchen, quickly sitting down at the small table and looking at their mother. After a few moments of silence, Michael spoke first as they began to eat.
“Mum, we can’t completely understand why you kept this from us… but we both agree that sometimes secrets are necessary to keep us safe,” she said. Arthur nodded in agreement, having decided to allow his older sister to do the speaking. He feared that he would be rash and say harsh words to his mother, and even with all that she had done, he still loved her dearly.
Elainia only nodded as Michael continued, “Still, it does look like the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and now we have to decide how to handle this situation. So where is this going to leave us, and more importantly, where is this going to leave you and dad?” she said as a single tear escaped from her eye.
A fresh flow of tears began at the mention of Roger; although Elainia had not yet heard anything from him, somehow she knew — they all knew — that something was wrong, and that he was gone. Catching her breath, she replied, “Love is a precious thing, and honestly we never stopped being in love with each other. Your father was… is a very special man. Just seems destiny has placed a higher calling for him and us than anyone could ever have expected. With all that has been shown, nothing will ever be normal for any of us again.”
At that moment, she was interrupted by the unexpected sound of the single phone in the cottage ringing. Moving quickly, Elainia ran and picked up the receiver, and in seconds she was responding to what seemed like rapid-fire questions. For a moment her face brightened, only to just as quickly drop when she was told of her husband’s disappearance. After a few minutes, she hung up the receiver and returned to join her children at the dinner table.
“Who was it, mum?” said Arthur.
“Yeah, mum, what was that about?” Michael asked.
Gathering herself once more, Elainia answered her children, “That was a friend of your father’s. In a couple of days we’re to be reintroduced to the nation at large. The remaining government officials are presently putting together all the required information. We leave here in the morning for London. I’m afraid that at this time your father is considered missing in action and believed dead, having taken the enemy leader with him.”
With those words, Elainia fell silent, staring at her dinner and no longer feeling hungry. Arthur and Michael continued to slowly eat their dinner, but neither knew what to say to break the silence in the room. Later that night, as each of them retired to their separate rooms, they would sleep a dreamless sleep.