FDC presents "The Magician's Legacy"
A woman clad in gold and purple, her features concealed behind a gold masque with goatlike horns at its peak, paced back and forth, apparently immune to the Antarctic chill. "A great battle ... a battle powerful enough to rend time itself ... happened here." She removed her gloves, to reveal fingertips with the outer dermal surface filed to oversensitivity, until she could feel the very contours of time itself. Finally, she found the rift that had been made in time and long since healed over, and slipped her hands through it. On the other side, the air burned with all the fires of the damned, but she remained undaunted despite the pain. Finally, she found a rough-textured cloth, and with bloody fingertips she pulled it back into her own time and place.
"Jock Kellog," Morgaine le Fey laughed to herself, "you never understood the heritage your bloodline granted you ... but your most powerful talisman is now mine at last." She caressed the green, hooded cloak lovingly. "The cloak of Merlyn. You expected your descendents to protect it, old fool, and they allowed it to be lost. But now, after decades, it has been found."
Elsewhere, a woman also clad in purple lay down the last of a series of cards. She furrowed her brow as she sought to interpret the message which lay concealed. Finally, she groaned. "Oh, my sister," she said softly, and rose to her feet to prepare to leave the comforts of her modest house. Once, Madame Xanadu had called Merlyn lover, but now she remained on Earth to protect it from the terrible heritage the days of Camelot had left behind, from his bloodline and her own.
The Scarlet Hawk looked down over the Soldiers' headquarters on the Orkney islands northwest of Scotland. The refinements he had made to the Hoverer were working like a dream so far. Ascending high, he contemplated the future of his team. They had been short-handed since nearly half their membership had elected to remain in the future to help rebuild the London of the 41st century, although the Hood had been helpful when the team had recently gone up against Jimmy O'Goblins. George Cross had refused formal membership however, feeling it would detract from his environmental activism.
In his contemplation, it took him more than a second to notice when his engine had stopped working.
He furrowed his brow. None of the changes he had made were drastic or experimental, but every control had gone completely dead. He found himself trapped inside a metal box, incapable even of ejecting.
Well, this would be a stupid way to die, he thought. He began working at the seam of the eject hatch, attempting to loosen it enough manually that he could force himself free. Suddenly, a pair of hands appeared on the outside, tearing the hatch away as easily as an orange peel.
He found himself looking at the face of a teenage girl, blonde and wearing a red tunic. "Could you use a hand, mate?" she said.
"I'll take a hand when offered," Scarlet Hawk replied, and felt himself pulled free into a small but powerful pair of arms. As he began a slow but controlled return to earth, he saw the Hoverer itself supported by a grinning teenage boy, who bore an evident family relationship to his rescuer.
Finally, the trio landed on the island, joining the waiting Bowman, Frankenstein, and the Spider. Scarlet Hawk rubbed his shoulders and nodded to his teammates, before turning again to the pair of teens. "I appreciate the help, but ... who are you?"
Terri Gorvett dreamed ...
Once again she walked through the ancient stones of Darkmoor. The man she had met there, who identified himself as Mr. Merlin, stroked his long white beard and adjusted his bifocal glasses as they spoke. He offered her a chance to continue a legacy, albeit one she had never heard of. He had offered her a battlestaff, which he called the Rod of the Stuarts, and a wand, which he said had formerly been possessed by an entity named Deconstructo. On accepting she had found herself clad in a bright blue costume with red stripes, and her brown hair (with new red highlights) tied back in a ponytail ... which just wasn't very sexy but it kept it out of her eyes which were now hidden behind an identity-concealing red masque.
She had been given the name Beefeater, and her career had been unremarkable. In her first week as a superheroine, her encounter with EuroGuard had led to her attacking one of their members by mistake, and then she fell in with the short-lived so-called London's Guardians, which had proven to be nothing more than a millionaire's power fantasy; she had not been welcome in the superhero community since.
In the dream she had accepted the sword and the mace, which had also been offered to her. She saw her career proceeding, instead of with the simple heroism she had sought, rather with nothing but violence and bloodshed. She saw the country she loved in ruins, and her own hands covered in the blood and gore of her enemies, but unable to accomplish anything beyond more destruction.
She awoke with a start, to find herself in complete darkness. Where was the display from her clock? She reached for it in annoyance, but it didn't seem to be operational. With a grunt, she lifted herself to a seated position, and walked over to the door of her bedsit to switch on the light ... only to find it nonoperational, too.
A blackout, she thought, just what I need. Now I'll probably be late for work. She wondered how far the effect ranged, so she walked to the window and drew open the curtains. The landscape she saw resembled that of her dream.
She felt a clutch of panic in her belly. She knelt down and reached under her bed for the case which contained the staff and the wand she had not touched in several months. With shaking hands, she drew them out. Willing the change, she felt the still-familiar sensation of her body's musculature changing. She imagined she could even feel the streaks of red appearing in her hair as she felt it being drawn back.
She opened the outside window and gripped the staff tightly. She had been unable to fly when she had first started; it was a late and accidental discovery that, so long as she was in physical contact, she could will the staff through the air and carry herself along with it.
She chose to presume that her body in its superpowered form would sustain a fall if she let go by accident, but the prospect still terrified her. Inhaling deeply, she allowed the staff to pull her upwards.
Curiously, not even the cars were moving. The city appeared to be in darkness; the only illumination came from oil torches that some pedestrians seemed to be carrying. People were wandering the streets on foot. Where did all those horses come from?
She looked down to see a man in a red hood bearing a bow and arrow, an immense man with green-tinted skin and an antiquated military uniform, a helmeted man also clad in red, a fourth man wearing a black bodysuit with some odd equipment strapped around his torso, and a teenage boy and girl with glowing hands. She realised with gratitude that she was not the only superhuman defending the country at the moment.
How far did the blackout range? She rose higher, and was appalled to see from her heightened perceptions that it had overtaken the entire city, if not the country. This isn't normal, she thought to herself. There must be something I can do ...
She saw there was still the dim glow of lights to the north. Drawn like a moth, she followed it, and only after a time saw the floating woman in green and purple, her features concealed behind both hood and masque. "Enogeb ecneics," the woman chanted nonsensically, "Kcab ot eht emit fo tolemac!" She reached out, making a pinching motion as if extinguishing a candle, and another host of lights went out.
"Hey ... hey you ... " Terri shouted, as she flew closer into the woman's line of vision. "Cut that out!"
The woman's sneer was almost visible through her masque. "Egac fo dael," she said. Terri saw a row of bars appear before her, and then the heavy metallic cage fell prey to gravity, the top of it slamming into her skull as it began to plummet. The surprising impact stunned her, and she lost control of the staff, tumbling down with it.
"I'm shafted," Terri thought to herself as she struggled for cogency, watching the ground rush up to meet her. She managed to find the breath to scream before she hit the ground,
She was all the more surprised when a gust of wind halted the cage's descent just before it hit the ground. The lead box floated upwards, light as a feather, and then descended just as gently. A young woman with raven hair and ancient eyes approached the cage, and as her hand touched the lead bars, they seemed to rust and age, and she shattered them easily. "Are you all right?" she enquired.
Terri felt the bump on the back of her head. "I ... I think so ... did you just save me? Who are you?" She had tried to keep track of the other superheroes operating in the country, to avoid her earlier mistakes, but did not recognise this woman at all.
"My name is Nimue," the woman said. "Or it was, once. You have the look of one of Merlyn's scions, child."
"Mr. Merlin? The funny old bloke who gave me the Beefeater battlestaff and the Deconstructo wand? I was pretty sure he had stolen them anyway ... "
"That would not be beneath him." Madame Xanadu looked almost amused. "But the Rod of Stuart, at least, is his own creation. It was meant as a counterweight to those who would misuse his legacy ... such as my sister," she nodded upwards, "Morgaine le Fey."
"Morgaine le Fey? Like from King Arthur's time? That Morgaine le Fey? Wait ... you're trying to tell me that 'Mr. Merlin' is the real Merlin? King Arthur's Merlin?"
Madame Xanadu nodded.
"I am so shafted," Terri mumbled.
"Perhaps," Madame Xanadu said, "but perhaps together we can defeat my sister, despite her possession of Merlyn's cloak. Take my hand," she said, and Terri felt the wind rise at her back.
Despite the anxiety she knew must have shown on her face, she gripped Madame Xanadu's hand tightly and the two women were swept up into the air. She almost didn't see the man in the trench coat who ran up behind them, calling Madame Xanadu's name, before the sound of the wind drowned out his words.
Terri looked at Madame Xanadu quizzically, but held her words when she saw the tightened expression on the woman's face. She realised that flight, even in this form which seemed to be buttressed by the evocation of natural forces, was not a normal thing for her. She set her will upon her staff once more to alleviate some of the weight, and soon she was borne aloft by her own power as they closed in on Morgaine.
"Sister," Madame Xanadu said as they approached, "you seek to bring back the days of old, but ... "
"Mankind has strayed to far from their old fears since they took the turn from alchemy to science," Morgaine replied. "They were happier and more content, then, when they knew each generation would live exactly as the last. I only wish to return them to their golden age of the days of Camelot. Were you not happier then, sister?"
"It was the happiness of naiveté," Madame Xanadu replied. "Man must rise to the stars in their own way ... "
Morgaine sighed. "I tire of this. Sdniw emoceb enacirruh!"
The zephyr winds which had borne the two women on high, increased in intensity until they found themselves flung wildly out of control. Morgaine flew after them placidly, as they lost control and began to fall, only Terri's desperate will allowing her to clutch onto Madame Xanadu and slow their descent enough that the impact was only bruising. The trenchcoated man, who had followed their path, extended a hand to assist them. "Nimue, now will you ... "
She backed away, her face showing her contempt. "Do not touch me!"
Terri blinked, "Nimue? Who ... ?"
Morgaine watched the trio. "No more speech from the likes of you," she said. "Ecnelis!" His hands rushed to face as he felt his lips zipper themselves shut.
Madame Xanadu began to chant, elemental forces arraying themselves against Morgaine. Terri followed her lead, aiming both of her weapons as well. But the elder woman's powers blocked their efforts easily, and her opponents found themselves torn and bleeding. The trenchcoated man had even tried attacking Morgaine from behind with his fists, but she only laughed and flung him to the side.
Madame Xanadu glanced over at the man and gave a despairing sigh. "Free the prince forever damned," she began to chant. "Free the might from fleshy mire. Boil the blood in heart of fire. Gone, gone the form of man, Arise the demon ... Etrigan!"
Her final words were almost drowned out by a screech from Morgaine, but the man's transformation had completed. He crouched, bent and bestial, bat-winged yet somehow feline, and leapt at the sorceress. "Llaw fo eci!" she cried out, and he smashed against the frozen barrier which had appeared, rebounding in an almost comical manner. He laughed, and opened his maw, a blast of flame emitting from it and melting the wall. Without a pause, he leapt again, the heat continuing and increasing, until the cloak of Merlyn itself began to burn.
Morgaine felt the metal of her armour begin to heat, and backed away in a panic. With a quickly uttered oath, she teleported herself away.
In the midst of the London devastated by her magicks, stood the legacies of Merlyn: his lover, his scion, his demon. Terri looked around. "I ... kind of assumed that when she disappeared everything would go back the way it was ... "
The Demon crooked his finger towards her. "In your hand Deconstructo's wand," A weapon to refashion worlds. Is this task best left to women or girls? Allow a creature, whose word is his bond, To recreate each pleasant park and pond."
Terri blanched, but moved forward to hand him the wand, when she felt Madame Xanadu's grip on her wrist. "Merlyn's scion," she said, "you would allow a demon from hell to refashion Britain in his own image? Do you know what dark perverse strains he would introduce into this nation?"
The Demon grinned widely. "And you, sister of Morgaine, Would create a pacified nation free of pain?"
Madame Xanadu bit her lip, clearly having been tempted by just that urge. "No. The scion is human, and is in in her own image that the Britain that humans built must stand."
"What?" Terri was aghast. "Me? You want me to make the whole country like me?"
"Merlyn chose you to be the guardian of the Isles," Madame Xanadu said. "He did so with good reason. It is your task to recreate what she destroyed. You have the tool to do it."
Terri stared at the wand. "I've ... I've only used it as a weapon before ... " She focused, and the wand began to glow gold, then began to send out waves of energy in concentric circles of gold, red and blue. Madame Xanadu and the Demon felt the intensity of the waves as an almost painful touch, but around her electronic devices began to reactivate, and much of the damage wrought by Morgaine began to undo itself. After a while the strength of the waves began to falter, and she furrowed her brow. "It's too much to ... keep in my head ... I can't ... "
Madame Xanadu reached forward, "You can, I'm here to help you." She held on to Terri's hand, and the process continued again, though the gold became tinted with green and violet. The Demon stepped forward and stroked the wand like a lover, adding streaks of ebony and deeper crimson.
Finally, the nation was restored, though perhaps some if it stranger than before. Terri dropped the wand to the ground, then slumped to her knees in exhaustion. The Demon bowed deeply. "Nimue, as always, a pleasure," he said and then turned to face Terri, "and Merlyn's scion has indeed proven her measure." He leaped skywards, flying south ungracefully.
Madame Xanadu walked over to the place where Morgaine had teleported from, eyes scanning downwards. Finally, she saw a singed piece of tattered green cloth lying on the ground. She leaned down and picked it up, depositing it into a small vial she had taken from the lining of her cloak, and then returning the vial to its hiding place.
"Did I do it right?" Terri asked. She stared at the wand; it looked mottled and dead in her hands. "I think I killed it."
"Etrigan and I arrived at an agreement," she said softly. "The wand was too powerful to allow in lateborn hands. We turned some of its energy inwards. You will find the Rod of the Stuarts to be a sufficient weapon to guard the Isles. And, I suspect, you will soon no longer need to fight alone."
"I don't think EuroGuard or Justice League Europe would have me."
"There are others ... some traveled from other times, some from as close as Germany but settled here ... who will be uniting around you. You will find a family with them, and guidance. The demon and I are relics of Britain's past; look to its future, child, mind its future."
She was on her way home, contemplating Madame Xanadu's prophecy, when she saw a teenage boy and girl rising up through the air to greet her. "Hello Miss," the boy said.
Terri slowed her flight path to look at the pair of them. "Um, hello. Can I help you?"
The girl smiled. "My cousin calls himself TNT Tom, and I go by TNT Tina. We all saw your battle against that witch and what you did after, and our boss wants to have a word with you. Would you mind?"
Terri smiled in return, "Of course not." She followed them downwards, where the red hooded man, and some of the others she had seen earlier, were waiting for her. The man walked up to her. "Welcome to the superhero community; that was quite an auspicious premiere, I must say. I'm the Bowman; aside from Tom and Tina, the rest of my friends here are Scarlet Hawk, the Spider, and the big bloke is Frankenstein. The Seven Soldiers of Victory have been missing a seventh, and we would like to extend an offer of membership. Miss ... ?"
"Beefeater," she said. "Of course, I am familiar with your team from the newspapers ... and ... I'd be honoured."