Queen Gloriana's Councilor of Philosophy, Doctor John Dee, looked out the window at the spires of Troynovante, capital city of the empire of Albion, which stretched from Hindustan and Cathay to the great continent of Virginia and Kansas in a golden age of peace, enlightenment and prosperity. He had served Gloriana's father King Louis the 16th before her, and meant to serve her 'til his death.
He judged that the night was clear, so peered through his telescope, studying the dances of the spheres. The everpresent lanterns of the city made observations less than optimal, but the damp chill in the air penetrated his joints, and he tended increasingly to make do with the less accurate observations from his private room in the palace rather than venturing outside to the hills. When he found his celestial view blocked by a mysterious shadow, he grumbled quietly to himself, withdrawing from the eyepiece and removing his spectacles to polish.
He glanced upwards to the window portal, and saw that the telescope had been blocked by the body of a woman. She sported a uniform similar to that of the queen's musketeers, albeit more form-fitting, and with her identity concealed behind a mask. "Captain Albion," he said with a smile, as she descended into his room, "to what doth the queen's astrologer owe this visit?"
Her smile mirrored his own. "I have seen, thou art preoccupied with the skies this eve. The roofs of Troynovante are quiet. Wouldst thou join me on my nightly rounds?" One gloved hand reached out, stroking through the long gray of his beard.
He took her hand in his, bowing down to press his lips to the back of it. "If I am preoccupied, thou art too coy by half. 'Tis not the wizened councilor thou hast come to visit, else thine other face of Katherine Huggen wouldst have graced my door." He released her hand, and stepped away from her. "El Karim," he pronounced, and his body exploded with a force like lightning, which faded to reveal a clean-shaven younger man clad in red and blue, hair curled and blond. The man's voice no longer cracked with age as he continued, "Captain Miracle is whose face thou wisht to see, unless I know thee not."
"Thou dost know the fairer Captain all too well for her own benefit, and far too intimately." She took him by the hand and drew him with her, to join her in the skies. As they floated higher, her hands running through his familiar golden locks, she noted once more the silver hairs at his temples. They had worried her once, but he assured her that his body's aging was a welcome price to pay for the greater time he had been spending in this form, if the time was spent with her. The twain Captains entwined together, and she thought once more of her bemusement on first meeting Captain UK's lover Young Miracleman, and witnessing Captain Empire's fractious relationship with his universe's Miraclewoman. We in the Corps parallel each other in so many unexpected ways, she thought. And as his lips met hers, she thought to herself ... and why not? They are all so beautiful.
They stood before the throne of Queen Gloriana. Her dress was a glittering gold which matched the golden age she had created in the lands of which she was empress. Her red hair curled flamelike around her face. Towering over most of her subjects at six foot six inches in height, yet for all that both perfectly proportioned and with features of perfect crystalline beauty, she could have been of a kind with her superhuman champions. "Good eve, good Captains," Gloriana said. "Thou hast aided my children in days past, and the realm hath need of thy services once again."
Captain Albion touched her rapier to her forehead in salute. "We are ever at Her Majesty's service."
"Though it contradicted the wise words of my advisors, we had moved our daughter Lissa close to where we keep court, all the better to keep an eye on her." She looked down for a moment, showing a rare moment of appropriate humility, almost shame. "It transpired that her lodgings were violated and Lissa absconded with. The door appeared to be torn apart as if by the claws of some ferocious beast."
Captain Miracle said, "How much time has passed?" Captain Albion noted the personal distress in his tone; the Queen's Councilor ought to have been already consulted on the matter, and doubtless wondered whether their time frolicking in the skies has contributed to this tragedy.
Gloriana's tone was one of reassurance, despite the fact that so far as they knew, his dual identity was still a secret. "'Twas not long since the circumstance came to our attention ... and not long before our merited Captains did hie to our side."
"Worry must gnaw at your heart," Captain Albion said, her emotions strong both with the maternal instinct towards the kidnapped child, and with fierceness towards any who would cause distress to her most beloved of rulers. "What more canst thou reveal in sooth of this kidnapping?"
"We know not a thing for sure," Gloriana said, "we knew only the legends which had long been considered the prattling of servants, and in certainty there looked to have been beasts most horrible."
A young man clad in finery spoke up for the first time. Captain Miracle recognised him as Patch, one of the favored pages of Gloriana's court. "Forsooth, the knowledge of servants is too often dismissed as prattle. But I feel free to speak now as Lissa was my half-sister, and the Queen hath given me leave to join the search. The legends speak of long-distant exiles from the royal court who did take up lodging within the castle's cavernous walls, so old that they comprise layers of construction over construction, being like a much-mined mountain or a fortress Nature herself hath built. And yet ... even the worst of legends only speak of misbegotten mortals and not beasts; we fear this crime represents some devilish transformation."
Gloriana said, "Per the stories which been whispered into my ears from numbered sources, some of merit and some less so, these rooms go down deeper and deeper, to natural caverns inhabited by creatures who were here before true men walked the earth."
"Well met, bravest of pages," Captain Albion nodded at the lad. "As my word is truth, have I sworn to protect the lives of children. How know thee that these perfidations are nae the work of some quite modern and human scoundrel, covering themselves in the guise of wolves so as to set the Queen's hounds off their trail?"
"We know not much, but fear claws at our heart," Gloriana said. "If it is indeed as thou describes, my hounds will hunt them down."
Captain Miracle said, "Patch, stay at the Queen's side and provide her with comfort, and rest thy brow for surely thou must be fatigued."
Patch scowled, one hand roaming to the scabbard at his side. "I shall do naught but accompany thee! I am not the kind to abandon blood of my blood, and the Queen hath given me leave!"
"Do not blame the lad, good Captains," Gloriana said. "Were we not Albion incarnate, no man's words would hold us back from joining in the search ... and we did give him leave."
Captain Albion nodded. "Be sure thy spine is as well-mettled as thy pate is stubbornly hard," she said to Patch with amusement in her voice, "for thou shalt stand by our side. Guide us now to the doorway described by the sooth of servants, from which we may pursue the fair Lissa."
Captain Albion looked around as they entered Lissa's apartment. "Dost this wreckage prove a more open book to wiser eyes?"
Captain Miracle scanned the rooms. "The doors bear the mark of a beast's attack, which lends credence to the Queen's fears." He walked down the hallway. "And here, and here. This is the girl's room?"
Captain Albion nodded. Captain Miracle wrinkled his nose. "There is the scent of a carnivore here. I know it well. It's old blood. I have no further doubt of the page's words."
Patch said, "Hold thy investigations Captains, I hath found one more chapter to inscribe in thy book." As Captains Albion and Miracle turned around, Patch walked into the room accompanied by an elderly man in livery, who peered at the two colorfully garbed adults. "Thou art looking for the exiles in the walls?"
Captain Albion nodded, "We think they may have absconded with a child of the royal court. Dost thou know anything about where they might be found?"
The old man stroked his chin. "'Tis a foolish mission. But at the end of the section of the castle constructed by King Poydras is a suite of rooms called the 'quarter of the damned,' where the old interloper John Gravier met his final end, having lost his reason along with his wealth. There thou wilt find the entrance thou doth seek, if thou art truly so addled as to venture thereupon."
Captain Albion thanked the old man. "Is there aught else we can do for thee, sir? Thou hast been a great help to Her Majesty."
The old man snorted. "Dead men and fools bear gifts of naught for no man," he said as he turned away and shambled back to the hallway.
Patch looked awed. "I went in search of direction and returned with a well-scrawled map, yes?"
"'Tis enough to mark the trail on the maps Captain Miracle hath brought of the castle's interior," Captain Albion said, "follow the map."
Patch nodded. "I shall stand by thee, Captain."
Following their selection of maps and the old man's directions, they investigated rooms which went down deeper and deeper, to halls so ancient they were hewn from living rock, in colors around them an amazing array of greens and browns. They investigated farther to natural caverns and then an outcropping of stone, in which there appeared to be a natural cave, of which they could not easily see to the bottom.
"This fits the stories like sword to scabbard," Patch said. "I think ... yes I think it must lead to the source of all such stories."
They descended, and found themselves in a maze of twisty tunnels, all alike. Captain Miracle looked around. "Albion, canst thine enhanced perceptions find the way? My own eyes fail me 'gainst this gloom that would put stygia to shame."
Captain Albion adjusted her eyes to the light. She looked left and right at the cave walls, trying to pick up the trail. She pointed, "Hasten now this way..."
They found themselves in a maze of twisty tunnels, all alike. The caverns seemed to twist and turn in all directions. Captain Albion continued to lead the group through the maze, unwaveringly. The air became still, almost dead. "I pray to Odin that Lissa did not expire amidst the darkness before reaching her destination, as a flower wilting from lack of light." She silently continued through the hallways, searching out for any traces left by the girl's passing.
Patch frowned, attempting to peer at a compass from his pocket. "I fear that we are as lost as innocents in the labyrinth, on their way to the teeth of the minotaur ..."
Captain Albion said, "I am not unfamiliar with the ways of the maze. This is the way." Patch again attempted to check his compass, nodding to the Captain.
They found themselves in a maze of twisty tunnels, all alike. Captain Miracle followed Albion, trusting in her sense of direction. In its tedium, the journey seemed like it had lasted days. Captain Albion stopped occasionally at forks to get her bearings, then moved on. She looked around. "Say, was not Patch bringing up the tail of our little band?"
Captain Miracle stopped in his tracks. "Mayhap I can retrace my way through the gloom ... stay here."
Captain Albion said, "I think all we can do is travel on ..."
"Then I will stand sentinel here," Captain Miracle said, "should his footsteps come to repeat our own."
Captain Albion shook her head. "I think dividing our forces will lead to our rout."
"There is wisdom too in not sacrificing lesser pieces in a game of chess, even the lowly pawn," Captain Miracle insisted. "Should the lad arrive at our present spot, he would remain ignorant of our later traverses ... I shall stick to the mark and be sentinel for the lad."
"But at present only I am to guide us," Captain Albion said. "Without my eyes, both you and the lad are blind!"
"I am not without resources of my own." Captain Miracle reached out, his hand solely guided by the sound of her voice, and found Captain Albion's heart. "And should the lad appear he shall certainly require aid."
"I think it foolishness to claim that he has simply wandered off the path," Captain Albion said. "He is too wise than to meander like some lost sheep from its flock. Something has befallen him, and I do not care to leave him alone with whatever predators lurk in these shadows. Let us head on ... we are here to rescue a child are we not, and not argue game board strategies?"
"And now 'tis two children we needs must rescue," Captain Miracle said, "the Queen's own court as well as the Queen's own blood."
"Thou needst not entreat me to bring my sword to bear," Captain Albion said. "We must resume our search lest the trail become cold."
They continued to move on down the cave. They found themselves in a maze of twisty tunnels, all alike. Their passage was quiet and uneventful until they heard, off to one side, odd sounds ... vaguely animalistic ...
"Hark," Captain Albion whispered, "What sound now makes itself known?"
"I hear it," Captain Miracle said, "Off that way!"
They found themselves in a dimly lit alcove. The smell of dead flesh assaulted their senses. They heard in the background the odd sounds of things moving, and half-human half-bestial growls. They could barely make out a pile of objects, their whiteness reflecting back at them the small amount of light available: the whiteness is from skulls, and from their size they belonged to children no older than four, some clearly infants. There appeared to be a field of them, going back an indeterminate amount into the caverns.
Captain Albion flinched. "Mithras wept!"
In the far corner was a tall man dressed all in white, the design of his uniform otherwise identical to Captain Miracle's. His skin was also albino white, save for his hair which was close-cropped and black, albeit white at the temples. His eyes gleamed a malicious shade of reddish pink, and he carried with him a sword, black as night. Both of them recognised the man who called himself the Anti-Miracle: Captain Miracle's self-assigned dark counterpart, powered by a mysterious being known only as Thog, who had appeared to be nearly unstoppable when he had bedeviled the Corps himself in times past.
Captain Miracle pointed toward the man, "Our search has brought us to nothing other than Antipathy."
The Anti-Miracle looked at them mockingly, lips spouting ancient obscenities: "Ia! Ia! Nyarlathotep! Ia! Cthulhu p'thangn! Ia! Shub-Niggurath! Ia! F'tang!"
Patch's outfit was ripped in various places, and almost concealed spots of blood from his wounds. He was carrying a small sword in one hand, which he waved defensively before him. Patch gave a swing with his sword at a creature. He looked exhausted and near to fainting. He yelled, half-hysterical, "Captains!" He looked up at the Captains Albion and Miracle from where he stood, guarding a young girl. She was unable to move, chained by her ankles to the interior of a subcave and suspended over a noisome bubbling mass ... some sort of disgusting larder? and she looked as if she was about to be dinner to a bunch of unspeakable things. A mob of creatures noticed the pair's arrival, and turned to them, teeth and claws bloody.
"It appears we have been awkwardly timed visitors," Captain Miracle said, "arriving at the hour to interrupt them as they sit to dine!"
Captain Albion arghed, "That be a beneficent visitation in this eve!" She turned to the Anti-Miracle. "By Od's death, wouldst thou surrender now, or else speak to negotiate terms? The courtly pursuit of gentleness fain would serve thee well, I trow."
The Anti-Miracle brandished his sword. "Ia!" he shouted, as he rose into the air towards her. Captain Albion replied in kind, "En garde!" She bared her rapier and cautiously approached the other.
Captain Miracle started to be bowled over by the creatures as they attacked, but he pressed onward, swinging at the monsters ... "Thus shall the curse of cannibalism be lifted from these Isles, no more children shall fall to thy demonic appetites!" He started to plow a path between him and the children.
One of them opened the larder door and stuffed a hand around Lissa's mouth so that all she could do is moan. Her yell of pain was muffled by the creature's hand over her mouth. She bit the monster's hand. Patch leapt to Lissa's protection, piercing the monster's throat with his sword. Then, taking advantage of the distraction provided by the Captains, he worked on cutting the rope attached to her ankles. Lissa collapsed to her hands and knees, breathing heavily. The pair of them tried to get up and away, out of the fight.
Captain Albion had borne witness to Captain Miracle's marvelous strength, but never engaged him in battle outside lovers' games. The Anti-Miracle was uncannily fast and strong, and it was only her superior technique which kept her alive. She soon found herself at her last ebb, and wondered whether there was some aura about her opponent or his sword which drained her energy.
Captain Miracle struggled against the greater numbers. "Ack!", he said, as he was grabbed from behind. "...umph..."
Patch tried to elbow the freak that had got hold of him as he'd fled, hoping maybe it'd make him go off balance before he bit him. The brute dragging at him was discomfited by his elbow, but started to gnaw on his leg anyway.
Before gaining her powers, Captain Albion was a member of King Louis the 16th's guards, and she had kept her skills and her cunning even with her increased quickness and strength. As if from afar, she heard the Anti-Miracle taunting her, "Ia! Ia! Hastur!" She swung low, and grabbed ahold of the Anti-Miracle's sword arm, using his weapon to impale one of his cannibals. Her foe temporarily bemused, she attacked him with her own sword.
Captain Miracle, his hands streaming red, blazed a trail to Patch and Lissa, tearing away their attacker. Leaderless as the Anti-Miracle fled to lick his wounds, the cannibals started to fall to the concerted attacks, and the remaining disappeared howling into the caves, fleeing from their ferocious opponents. One or two of the stragglers were slain by Captain Albion, rapier in hand.
Captain Miracle swept Patch and Lissa up in his arms. "Come to me Albion, let us make our departure most imminent!"
As Captain Albion led the way, she lay down a hail of stones behind them, trying to take down as many as she could and discourage any potential followers. They eventually made it back towards the light.
Lissa breathed the clean, sweet air, and looked about, "'Tis like waking from a long slumber."
"Mithras, there was much of the tsimmes about that task," Captain Miracle says, "but to my mind the realm is safer thence."
"Indeed," Captain Albion said. "How be the lad?"
Captain Miracle still carried him. "I think he be not long for this world, the wound to his leg may yet take him to the fields of fair Elysium."
Lissa quailed at the words, and clung to Patch's side. "We must needs return him home," Captain Albion said urgently, eyes wide. "We have fought too hard to lose a child on this mission."
"I am not unfamiliar with the ways of the physic," Captain Miracle admonished. "His soul will depart this mortal form anon." He lay the boy's form down on the ground gently, and knelt by his side. "Mayhap by the power of Zeus, another way may be found. Stand away, fair Lissa, this treatment be not safe for the likes of thee ... or any man, as it calls on a mystic formula of the far East as well as the whims of the gods."
"Patch," he said, attempting to rouse the boy, "speak as I do." He pressed his mouth to the boy's, lips and tongue forcing the boy's own to mimic his. "El Karim!" they shouted in tandem.
Lissa shielded her eyes as the two men's bodies exploded with a force like lightning, Captain Miracle channeling the force directly into Patch's form. As the light faded, it revealed Patch whole again, clad in a red and blue garment the colors of which inverted Captain Miracle's own. He opened his eyes and flew to his feet. "Captain, Captain, hast thou sacrificed thyself to save me?"
Captain Miracle's hair now was silver rather than gold, and Captain Albion noted the beginning of laughter lines around the corner of his eyes. "I have lived long enough to need an heir, and thou wouldst be a worthy one. I dub thee 'Miracle Junior,' in recompense for the sacrifice of thy leg and the near sacrifice of thy life in the name of the Queen."
Captain Albion took Lissa in her arms, "Come child, thy mother would wish to see thy face." She looked at her lover and his legacy, her heart proud, her heart breaking.
Captain Albion's universe is based on Michael Moorcock's novel Gloriana; however, in that novel John Dee informs his Queen that on other parallel realities, "there are other Glorianas, other Dees, other Lord Chancellors, no doubt." Consequently, I allowed myself certain liberties: Gloriana's father in this fic, for example, is King Louis the 16th rather than King Hern, following a previous fic by Anthony Crute; I have also made use of Crute's speculations about the character's background. The dwellers in the walls have also been made monstrous rather than pathetic for the purposes of this story. The physical description of the Anti-Miracle is based both on Elric and on Captain Miracle's appearance in Grant Morrison's Zenith, which was of course published in black & white. Further information on Captain Miracle can be found at .