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UNKNOWN AUTHOR
WRITING AS
ALEXANDER BLADE

THE STRANGE ADVENTURE
OF VICTOR MACLIESH

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2018


Ex Libris

First published in Amazing Stories, May 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018
Version Date: 2018-05-11
Produced by Roy Glashan

Only the original raw text of this book is in the public domain.
All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.


Cover Image

Amazing Stories, May 1941, with
"The Strange Adventure of Victor MacLiesh"


Illustration

"Look out, Marsh!" roared MacLiesh. "you're going to crash the klieg lights!"


When Grant Marsh plunged his horse into the klieg lights, he caused a strange electrical energy wave that hurled them into a movie set that was more than authentic—it was real!


"EIGHT days behind on our shooting schedule. Eight days which are costing us roundly one thousand dollars per day. Three weeks we've been on this blistering desert to make a picture millions of fans are eagerly awaiting. Eight days behind in less than a month of shooting. How long do you think we can keep this up, Mister Grant Marsh? How long do you think I can tolerate the fact that you can't keep your handsome nose out of a whisky bottle?"

Director John Galway's usually bland round features creased into an expression of indignant reproach as he breathlessly concluded his angry pronouncement to the tall, blond, cynically handsome young actor standing before him in the well-furnished tent dressing room.

"Keep your shirt on, John," Grant Marsh said with an irritating smirk. "This picture'll be made on time."

"On time like your last two pictures, Marsh?" a husky voice broke in sarcastically.

John Galway and Grant Marsh both turned to face a tall, huge, giant-shouldered actor who, like Marsh, was dressed in a costume of crusade-era chain mail.

Grant Marsh's handsome mouth twisted in a sneer.

"No one asked for your opinion, MacLiesh," he told the new arrival. "You ought to be out on the set yourself."

Victor MacLiesh, veteran, swashbuckling hero of cinema-goers, glared balefully at the younger and more handsome actor.

"Listen, Marsh," he began, "I've been out there on that blazing set for the last hours. I just came back to your tent here to slap you into sobriety if John couldn't get you ready!"

"It's all right, Victor," Galway broke in hastily. "He seems to have sobered up. It won't do any good to have fighting among the two most important actors in the picture."

"There wouldn't be any fight about it," MacLiesh said contemptuously, his big fists clenching.

But John Galway, realizing that there was a scene to be shot and a picture to be made, headed off the approaching storm.

"Look," he said, "supposing we get out onto the set. It does us no good sitting here in Marsh's tent, while outside five hundred dollars worth of klieg lights are being used up every two hours."

The two actors glared balefully at each other for an instant, then MacLiesh shrugged and moved out of the tent. Grant Marsh, casually lighting a cigarette, followed slowly behind him.

Galway sighed deeply and planked his blue beret atop his round skull.

"If I wasn't bald," he muttered, "I'd get gray hair!" Then, moving awkwardly in his shiny riding boots, his plump, wide shoulders slouching beneath his multicolored sports blazer, the little director followed behind his two celluloid sensations.


THREE hours later a merciless California sun beat down searingly on the camera crews, prop men, electricians, and other necessary figures gathered around the shooting set of Epic Pictures' desert location. A great battery of klieg lights had been arranged around the set—for reasons known only to God and Hollywood—and were adding to the perspiration and discomfort of the three figures before the cameras.

Grant Marsh and Victor MacLiesh sat astride huge horses. They were both clad in chain armor, and equipped with heavy swords and lances. Between them, hands on hips, and boots buried deep in the sand, stood an equally perspiring John Galway. His beret was askew, and his sports blazer was draped over his shoulders. His round shiny face wore a look of infinite despair.

"Look," said Manny with desperate patience, "for three hours now we've been trying to shoot this scene right. For three hours I have been telling you, Grant Marsh, that you are supposed to be a knight in the days of the Crusades.

"The name of the picture we are making is 'Crusade Collossal,' remember? You are not a cowboy. You are a knight. So will you please try to act like a knight? Victor, here, has done his end of this perfect, every time. But you, Grant Marsh, have to junk it up, have to ruin each scene!"

"I don't feel well. I can't seem to give my best today," Grant Marsh answered hotly. "And while we're on the subject, I'll do the acting in this scene. You direct!"

"Hangover for a ham!" MacLiesh said disgustedly. "This is the last picture I'll work with you, brother."

"Please," Galway bleated. "I won't tolerate squabbles. We gotta shoot this scene again."

"Why in the hell don't you bounce this pretty punk out of the picture, John?" MacLiesh said disgustedly. "My Korean valet would do a better job on this scene than Marsh."

"Please!" Galway bleated. Then, turning to the camera crew, Manny said: "All right, fellas, we'll shoot it again. Give us a little more light from the kliegs. Grind when I give the signal." He turned back to his two be-armored principles. "Now don't forget. You, Marsh, are a young knight who rides up to MacLiesh. MacLiesh is King Richard of the Lion Heart. You recognize him immediately, understand?"

"He—" MacLiesh began. But he got no further, for suddenly Grant Marsh's mount reared upward, neighing wildly, and bolted toward the large battery of klieg lights on the side of the set!

"Marsh, MacLiesh, looooookout!" Galway shouted.

"Damn!" MacLiesh thundered.

Galloping madly, Marsh's horse crashed headlong into the huge battery sets. And above the awful din that followed, there came a blinding spluttering explosion from all of the kliegs. It was as if the sun itself, had suddenly burst into orange flame, the very dazzling whiteness of the glare obliterating everything.

Galway, thrown face downward in the sand from the force of the blinding explosion, shook his head wildly against the thundering in his ears. One hand was grabbing for his blue beret, and with the other he was pushing himself up from the ground, blinking unseeingly at the thousands of white dots that flashed before his eyes.

"I'm blinded," he muttered dazedly, his hands groping across his eyes. "Oh, God, I'm blinded!" He could hear moaning from somewhere, moaning and a voice. Strong hands were on his shoulders, and above the moaning the voice was saying, "John, John, are you all right?"


THE white dots ceased wheeling before his eyes, and Galway was able to bring things into focus. The sun was shining, was the first thing he realized. But it wasn't beating down in the relentless fashion it had been minutes before. MacLiesh was standing before him, and it was the huge, armored actor's hands that gripped his shoulders.

"John," MacLiesh repeated, "are you all right?"

The moaning in the background still continued. But Galway didn't answer MacLiesh. His jaw had gone slack, and his button brown eyes were staring uncomprehendingly at the rest of his surroundings. For he was standing on a mossy path in a forest glade!

"Are you all right?" MacLiesh repeated urgently. "Come, man, tell me!"

"Victor," Galway said huskily. "My God, are we dead?" The forest was cool, damp, utterly different from the scorched desert they had stood upon moments before.

MacLiesh's jaw was a solid line of muscle. He shook his head.

"Look over there, John." He pointed to the side of the forest path.

Galway turned in the direction he pointed, and saw the horse on which MacLiesh had been mounted. The huge animal stood quivering above the sprawled bulk of the horse Grant Marsh had been riding. Marsh's mount was twitching spasmodically. The animal's legs were torn and bleeding, and it lay in the center of a tangle of klieg lights, wires, and massive batteries. From beneath Marsh's mount the moaning started again.

"Good God, Galway gasped. "He's pinned underneath!"

MacLiesh had left Galway's side, and was clambering over the maze of tangled battery equipment until he stood above Marsh's mount. Then, quickly, using his great strength to its utmost advantage, MacLiesh was pulling Marsh's limp form out from beneath his sprawling steed. MacLiesh threw his fellow actor's inert body over his shoulder and carried it back to the center of the forest path. Gently he laid Marsh down on the moss.

Galway was beside MacLiesh.

"How, how—" he choked.

MacLiesh shook his head, answering the question Galway had tried to phrase.

"No, Marsh isn't dead. He was knocked out from the shock. His mount is through, though."

Grant Marsh opened his eyes momentarily and groaned, MacLiesh looked down at him.

"No bones broken as far as I can see. Just shock. He'll be okay in a while."

Sighing, Galway returned to the immediate problem of these strange surroundings. He spoke slowly, huskily, as if afraid that he and he alone were seeing something other than a desert location set.

"What—what is it, this place we are, MacLiesh?" Galway gulped. "A different set? Or don't you see what I see?" The tone of his voice indicated that he would be pleased if MacLiesh told him he was crazy.

MacLiesh's jaw was still set. He shook his head.

"I see everything that you see, John. You haven't lost your mind. Something quite a bit worse than screwy has happened. We're a helluva long way from where we were a few minutes ago. Beyond that, I don't know any more than you do."

"But the crew, the cameramen, the extras—" Galway choked desperately.

"Do you see them anywhere around here?" MacLiesh asked with softly significant sarcasm. Galway looked wildly around. Somewhere in the tangled forest a bird twittered mockingly as if in answer to his desperate supplication that sanity return.


MACLIESH, frowning thoughtfully, looked down the silent path of the forest. He put his huge paws on his hips, spreading his feet like an engineer sighting over a tripod.

"This ain't the California desert," Galway moaned despairingly.

"Give the gentleman ten dollars for that deduction," MacLiesh said between his teeth. "No, John, this isn't a desert, and it certainly isn't California. I'm beginning to wonder if it's even the good old U.S.A."

"Ouch!" Galway yelped piteously, his manner suggesting the camel who has just been loaded with the last straw. Then, as if he'd suddenly decided to be magnanimous about the whole thing, he added: "Then where is it?"

MacLiesh took a deep breath, smoothing the chain mail over his massive chest. He flexed his great arms, his manner suggesting he was beginning to enjoy this dilemma.

"You take care of Marsh," he directed. "I'm going to go off the path here and have a look around. Maybe we can get our bearings that way."

And before Galway could protest, MacLiesh's powerful figure was striking off through tangled forest that lined the pathway. In less than a minute, the vegetation had swallowed his armor- clad figure completely. And inside of two minutes more, Galway could no longer hear the sounds of his movements.

Everything was deathly silent, and Galway, white-faced but game, was bending over the stirring form of Grant Marsh. "Y'all right boy?" he muttered.

"Where in the hell am I?" Grant demanded truculently, sitting up. He put his hands to his aching head. "I don't even pretend to know—"

Galway began:

"You are in the green glade forests of Sherwood. You are in the realm of Robin Hood!" said a voice directly behind them.

Galway and Grant Marsh turned simultaneously. Turned, to face an array of green-clad, feather-capped stalwarts who had come up unnoticed on them from behind!

"Hey!" Galway screeched in surprise. "This is a climax I didn't order. We have both gone crazy, Marsh, and these people must be delegates from an Orson Welles Convention!"


A TALL, bearded, broad-shouldered fellow, holding a bow pointed directly at Manny's skull, grinned at this.

"A strange knight," he said over his shoulder to the others. "A strange knight and," he looked at Galway's blue beret and multicolored blazer, "his prize jester!"

"What!" Manny was on his feet, his hands waving wildly, voice strident. "I tell you, I am John Galway, of Epic Pictures. Get back to your own set, all of you. I'll have you fired, I'll—"

"Methinks the jester lacks respect," said the leader of the green clad band. "Jester, you speak to Robin Hood, so watch your tongue, else I split it with a gray goose shaft!"

"Robin Hood!" Galway's was worked up to a fever pitch, now, as all his resentment against his eerie situation poured forth. "A comic, eh? A plagarist, eh? A second Errol Flynn, mebbe?"

"Hold!" thundered Robin Hood. "Save your anger, funny man, and thus save your hide." Then, to the astonished Grant Marsh, who was just now becoming aware of his vastly different surroundings: "What province do you hail from, strange knight? Be you of the swine, King John's foul band?"

Grant Marsh, Epic Pictures' greatest screen lover, was no match for the situation he now faced. He blew up, completely.

"What in the hell kind of gag do you think this is?"

Robin Hood drew back the gray goose shaft in his strong yew bow.

"You talk as one from the court of King John, the churlish, and with some outer-province accent. By my troth, methinks I'll split your puny chest with this shaft!"

Grant Marsh turned deathly pale. There was one thing which he could believe, and that was the very real, very deadly anger that blazed from the eyes of Robin Hood. He gulped, retreating a step.

"Methinks you show some fright," said Robin Hood. "I do not waste my arrows on cravens such as you. It might be best that we string you from a strong birch until you are hung as high as a hog in market stalls!"

A roar of approval from the green-clad men behind Robin Hood made Marsh's ghastly gray complexion turn green. He turned, trying stumblingly to run, but his unfamiliar chain-mail caught him up, and he fell as Robin Hood's band seized him. Others had grabbed Galway, who struggled furiously but futilely in their grasps.

In less than two minutes, a hempen noose had been fashioned. And in half that time, it was around Grant Marsh's neck, while green men clambered up into the trees to secure the gallows lift.

"I'll have you fired, all of you," Galway shouted again as someone clapped a gag around his mouth. And then, after he was trussed and pushed to the side, Robin Hood's band grouped beneath a tall birch tree to witness the hanging of Epic Pictures' greatest lover.

"Now, strange knight, have you naught to say before you die?" Robin bellowed.

"Let him be, by thunder!"

All eyes turned to the figure which crashed through the tangled forest growth and out onto the pathway. A tall, powerful, mail-clad figure, swinging a great sword.

"Let him be!" Victor MacLiesh bellowed again, and waved his huge sword.

And then, to the utter astonishment of Marsh and Galway, not to mention MacLiesh, the green clad band dropped to their knees as a man!

It was Robin Hood who rose and advanced toward the scowling MacLiesh. Advanced, while MacLiesh shouted to Marsh and Galway:

"Take it easy, laddies, and accept everything you see from now on in. I've done a bit of foraying, and a bit of finding out. This isn't Hollywood, or anything like it. It's England, plenty of centuries back in time!"

Galway moaned under his breath.

"I was beginning to suspect as much." He started another sentiment, vocally, but his gag ended it abruptly. He confined himself to frowning bewilderedly at the strange panorama before him.

"Release the knight!" MacLiesh bellowed. "Untie the little fellow, too!"

Swiftly, Grant Marsh was untied. Someone cut Galway's bonds and removed the gag from his mouth. Robin Hood was directly before MacLiesh, now, and he dropped to one knee again.

The color was returning to Marsh's cheeks, and the breath to the gasping Galway. Marsh was somewhat less aspenlike now that MacLiesh seemed to have the situation mysteriously in hand.

MacLiesh sheathed his great sword.

"Damn!" he exploded. "If this isn't something to write home about." His words were directed to Galway and Grant Marsh. Then, of Robin, he demanded: "Well?"


THERE was a dead silence, while John Galway's brown eyes widened incredulously in his cherubic face. He stared unbelievingly from MacLiesh's huge mail-clad form to the row upon row of kneeling outlaws.

It was like a scene from one of his own pictures. The only thing out of place was the look of dazed surprise stamped on MacLiesh's bold rugged features. MacLiesh should, Galway realized subconsciously, be smiling with royal kindliness upon his kneeling subjects instead of acting like he was wondering what was going to happen next.

Grant Marsh nudged Galway in the ribs.

"What's the gag?" he whispered, his face pale and somewhat strained.

Galway mopped his damp brow.

"Who knows?" he shrugged despairingly. "I know we are all crazy but farther than that I cannot go."

MacLiesh rested his big fists on his hips as he stared perplexedly over the ranks of the kneeling men in green.

"Okay boys," he rumbled irritatedly, "on your feet. I'd like to know what's up? Come on! Get up and talk up."

Robin Hood sprang to his feet, his handsome face split in a wide smile.

"Welcome home, Mighty Richard," he said feelingly. "For my men and for myself and for England, we rejoice in your safe return. We pledge to you our strength and loyalty; we pledge you our lives, to be used, if need be, in the liberation of England from the tyrants who have seized her in your absence."

MacLiesh's frown deepened. He stared wonderingly at the tall, well-knit outlaw, clad in bright green cotton jerkin and leather leggings.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"Your obedient subject," the outlaw answered. "Men call me Robin Hood. The soldiers of the king call me an outlaw but the poor and weak in the country call me a friend. Whichever name you give me I care not, as long as you but let me fight beside you to regain your kingdom."

"Well I'll be blasted!" MacLiesh boomed.

"So you're Robin Hood, eh? Well by all that's holy I'm glad to run into you." The big movie actor turned to Galway and Marsh, his eyes gleaming with excitement. "D'y'hear that, boys? It's Robin Hood, one of the greatest battlers in history."

"I hear it," Galway said miserably. "I don't like it. Why couldn't we run into some pacifists?"

"Don't worry," MacLiesh said confidently. He strode to Robin Hood, placed his huge hands on the outlaw's shoulders.

"Friends it is, Laddie," he cried "Fighting men like us have got to stick together. I know something about what you've done, Robin Hood and you can consider us part of your band from now on."


ROBIN HOOD dropped to one knee, looked up into MacLiesh's face. "It is not fitting that you should be a part of my band," he said, "but rather that I should be a humble member of yours. My men and I are yours to command, King Richard. For what nobler destiny could a man aspire to, than the honor of serving Richard of the Lion's Heart?" Galway groaned.

"Now they have gone crazy too. Calling him King Richard like they meant it. Next we will all be deep sea fishing from saucers."

"Now wait a minute," MacLiesh protested to Robin Hood. "You've got me all wrong. I'm willing to string along with you but not under false colors. I'm not Richard the Lion-Hearted. You've got to get that straightened out. Tell your men that I'm not the king and tell'm to treat me just like one of the gang."

Robin smiled.

"It shall be as you command. I understand full well the need for secrecy." The smile slipped from his lips as he turned to face his green-clad band. "Men," he cried, "we have been mistaken. Our king is not with us. Remember that well. Our new member resembles the noble Richard, it is true, but we must forget that. For you know well what would follow if the usurper, King John or his men learned that the rightful king of England was once more in the land."

"For Cripe's sake," MacLiesh exploded. "What can I do to convince you I'm not your blasted king? Maybe I look like Richard but as sure as the stars shine at night I'm not. Can't you understand that? I'm not the king. My friends here will tell you who I am."

MacLiesh looked desperately at Galway.

"Tell 'em John. They might believe you."

Galway looked heavenward.

"Don't ask me," he cried helplessly. "I'm not sure myself. I don't want to think about it. My head hurts."

Robin Hood looked at MacLiesh with a puzzled frown.

"I know not what to think," he said bewilderedly. "You must be King Richard but you insist you are not. And your speech is strange and different from ours. Please, I beg you, tell me the truth."

"Laddie," MacLiesh spoke decisively, "I'll give it to you straight. I'm not—"

He broke off, listening. From the distance he could hear a thunderous drumming of hooves approaching.

"What's that?" he asked tensely.

"The king's troops," Robin answered swiftly. "They must be on our trail. A price has been set by King John on the head of each of my men. We shall have to flee into the green shelter of the forest."

"By all that's holy," MacLiesh muttered, "I think you're too late." He pointed through the trees. "Look! Do you see what I see? A company of horsemen, about forty I'd say, heading this way full tilt."

"More extras," Galway wailed. "Isn't anybody thinking about the budget?"

"I'm clearing out," Grant Marsh snapped nervously. "Those boys look like they mean business."

MacLiesh grabbed Robin Hood by the arm.

"Have any of your men got horses?"

Robin shook his head.

"We'll fight on foot. It's too late to escape into the forest. We'd be run through like wild dogs before we could travel a dozen rods."

MacLiesh glanced down the wide trail that was formed by an arched avenue of huge trees and saw that the body of horsemen had sighted them, were spurring their horses onward.

"Tell your men to line the sides of this trail," he shouted. "I'll try and stop them, break up their charge. Then you and your boys can pile onto 'em, drag 'em off their mounts."

"You're mad!" Robin replied heatedly. "It is too great a risk. You can't hope to stop them single-handed."

"I can try," MacLiesh growled grimly. Stooping swiftly, he scooped up the long lance that had been part of his equipment for the picture and vaulted to the saddle of his charger. Astride the magnificent animal, MacLiesh wheeled to face the men of Robin Hood.

"Okay, boys," he boomed, "get ready to take 'em. When I mix with the blackhearted skunks, you pile onto 'em. A little team work now is all we need."


HE wheeled his animal to face the charging company of horsemen and brought his hand down on its rump with a resounding smack. The horse got under way as if it had been launched from a catapult. Its hooves drumming the ground like mighty hammers, the huge animal thundered down the path, muscles straining.

MacLiesh crouched his heavy bulk in the saddle, the long formidable lance levelled in front of him, his wide jaw set like a vise.

"Come on, boy," he growled through clenched teeth, "give me some real speed!"

The distance between the MacLiesh and the king's horsemen dwindled swiftly away. The horsemen of the king had given spurs to their mounts and now, as they saw MacLiesh thundering at them, they dropped their own lances into position, presenting a death- studded front to the huge horse and rider.

MacLiesh felt a savage thrill as he felt the huge muscles of the animal beneath him hurtling him onward. His massive fist tightened about the butt of his lance. His free hand gripped the hilt of the long sword strapped to his wrist.

Then it was twenty feet! The next instant MacLiesh felt a terrible jarring shock in his right arm. He saw a swarthy horseman tumbling from his mount, and then he was crashing into the thick of the band of soldiers. He felt lances splintering against his breast and swords striking against his metal helmet.

But the might and power of his furious charge were not to be stopped by anything less than a stone wall. Horses and men went down before him like tenpins. His lance was useless in close quarters, so he hurled it from him and drew his sword. Like an enraged nemesis, he charged into the thickest group and cut a swath through them with his whistling blade.

The king's men milled uncertainly about, their charge thoroughly disorganized. MacLiesh was enjoying himself hugely, and, it was with a slight feeling of disappointment that he saw Robin Hood's men swarming from trees and bushes and hurling themselves onto the bewildered horsemen.

Some of the king's men were wheeling their steeds and galloping away while others were throwing away their arms in surrender.

MacLiesh, looking anxiously about for more victims, saw three horsemen wheeling to gallop away. With a wild yell he drove his horse into them, knocking two of the men to the ground.

The men crawled to their feet, but before they could draw their swords, MacLiesh knocked them senseless with one terrific blow that almost split their helmets open. He grabbed the bridle of the third horse and jerked the rider about, raising his sword for a finishing blow—but his sword remained poised in mid- air.

For MacLiesh found himself looking into the soft brown eyes of a very terrified but very beautiful young girl.

"I'll be double-damned," he said explosively.


MACLIESH swung down from his horse and assisted the girl to dismount. The skirmish was over, the soldiers of the king racing away in disorganized retreat. MacLiesh found himself looking again into those deep brown eyes.

"I'm sure getting my fill of shocks this day!" he said in awkward inanity.

"Oh how can I thank you?" the girl breathed gratefully. "These men broke into my home this morning and took me away. They were taking me to the court of King John to be questioned."

MacLiesh was not at his best in feminine company but there was something about this girl that made him wish he was. He was thinking desperately for something clever and possibly flattering to say when he was interrupted by the smooth purring voice of Grant Marsh.

"How do you do," Marsh said smilingly. He was looking not at MacLiesh but at the girl. She smiled back at him, rather uncertainly, and Marsh took that opportunity to move in closer, stepping between MacLiesh and the girl.

MacLiesh's great fists clenched, but before he could open his mouth Robin Hood's laughing voice broke in on him.

"Deny you are a Richard for a hundred years," he laughed, "but you can never make me believe it. There is only one man in the world who could wield a sword and lance as thou hast today. And that man is you, Richard the Lion-Hearted."

The girl turned to MacLiesh at the words. "Is it King Richard that I must thank for my delivery?" she asked, breathlessly surprised.

"Well—not exactly," MacLiesh began.

"None other," Robin Hood interrupted. "Our true king and gracious monarch, Richard of the Lion Heart, is back in England to reclaim his throne."

"I thank thee, good Richard," the girl murmured, "although you do not know me by sight, I am sure you have heard of me. My father is your Uncle Geoffrey."

"Uncle?" MacLiesh gasped.

"Yes," the girl answered, "my name is Rowena, eldest daughter of Geoffrey of Mont Mart."

MacLiesh had a sinking feeling of injustice and impotent anger.

Everyone believed him to be Richard the Lion-Hearted. That wasn't so bad, but for the fact that this lovely, adorable girl was some kind of a relation to the real Richard.

Grant Marsh was smiling slyly.

"That makes you cousins, doesn't it?" he asked blandly.

"That's right," Rowena said quickly. She added: "First cousins."

MacLiesh glared murderously at Grant Marsh—and then into Rowena's deep brown eyes.

"Isn't that lovely!" he growled.


MACLIESH would have said more had he not been interrupted at that precise instant by a persistent tug at his sleeve. He turned exasperatedly to find John Galway's anxious face at his elbow. "I think I've got it," Galway said excitedly. "I think I got the secret of how we were brought here. It's got something to do with the Klieg lights—I'm sure of that. I'm goin' to start experimenting with the lights we've got here and see if I can't get us back to our own time."

"That's fine," MacLiesh said unenthusiastically. Looking anxiously about, he saw no sign of Rowena or Grant Marsh. They had slipped away while he was listening to Galway.

"I don't like it here," Galway was saying plaintively. "I want to get back to the twentieth century as soon as possible."

"What's wrong with this century?" MacLiesh asked belligerently. "It's plenty good enough for me. Lot of fine people here."

"Fighting, fighting," Galway groaned, "that's all the people here got on their minds. It makes me sick to my stomach. I tell you I got to get back to my own time or I'll go nuts."

"Well, I'm in no hurry," MacLiesh said. "I'd like to see a little of the country and a little more of the people before I go back. That is, if you do figure out some way of getting us back."

"It's those lights," Galway said excitedly. "I know it. I'm going to work on 'em, first thing in the morning. Somehow, someway, the secret is wrapped up in the lights."

Robin Hood joined them then. On the fearless outlaw's face there was hero-worship as he looked at the man he believed to be Richard the Lion-Hearted.

"My men," he said, "have asked me to tell you of their gratitude for your glorious combat in their behalf. They realize, as I do, that, without you, many of us might have fallen into the hands of the usurper, King John."

MacLiesh waved his hand.

"Forget it. Tell me something about this girl, Rowena. Why was she being taken to King John?"

Robin Hood frowned.

"The reason," he said bitterly, "is as cruel as most of John's actions. Her father was one of the knights who contributed to the ransom paid for your release."

"My release?" MacLiesh asked, puzzled.

"Yes," Robin Hood said eagerly. "We knew you were being held prisoner in Germany and we raised a ransom and sent it there three or four months ago. John was so infuriated with this that he ordered the arrest of all those who had contributed to the ransom. He has managed to arrest all but Geoffrey of Mont Mart, Rowena's father. His purpose in imprisoning Rowena was to force Geoffrey to give himself up rather than allow his daughter to be tortured or killed."

"The dirty swine," MacLiesh ground the words from his rigid jaw.

"His plan would have worked," Robin said, "if it hadn't been for you. Geoffrey of Mont Mart will indeed give thanks to thy name when he hears of your heroism in his daughter's account."

This was slight consolation to MacLiesh. He didn't give two whoops what Rowena's father thought. It was Rowena herself he was interested in. He groaned, thinking about it. Why did it happen that the only girl who had ever attracted him had to be separated from him by a phoney relationship?

Suddenly through the still air, MacLiesh heard a shrill, terror-stricken scream. The next instant it was choked off into silence. There was a quick, thunderous roar of hoof-beats that faded rapidly away before MacLiesh could move a muscle.

"Rowena!" The thought, the name seemed to explode in his brain.

"Come on!" he yelled to Robin Hood.


THEY raced in the direction from which the scream had sounded. The sound had seemed to emanate from a grove somewhat to the left of the main path, but when they reached it there was no one there. Robin Hood's eyes dropped to the ground and he pointed to half dozen prints in the dust.

"The king's soldiers," he said swiftly. "A few of them must have circled and come up on the camp from the side. Rowena and the varlet you call Marsh were walking toward this place a few minutes ago."

MacLiesh gazed about desperately. Every second that flitted by gave the mounted soldiers that much more chance to make their escape.

"Get my horse ready," he snapped suddenly. "And then tell me where King John is right at this minute. It's a cinch that they're taking her to him."

Robin Hood started to demur, but after one look at MacLiesh's hard indomitable jaw, decided not to. He hurried off and returned in less than half a minute leading MacLiesh's horse.

"About twenty miles north from here," he said, "is King John's castle. It's defended so that an army would have trouble taking it; but you know your own mind, Lion-Hearted. One man will have a better chance at success than a hundred."

MacLiesh climbed into the saddle, trotted past Robin's men to where John Galway was seated on the sward, tinkering with two of the wires leading from the storage battery.

"They've kidnapped Rowena," he said tersely, "and Marsh too, from the looks of it. I'm heading after the skunks. If I don't get back in a few days I won't be coming at all. So if you get the right wires hooked up don't wait for me—just clear out yourself."

Galway looked at him sorrowfully.

"Why couldn't they have just kidnapped Marsh?" he asked, with a sigh. "It would serve them right."

MacLiesh smiled fleetingly as he reined his horse and trotted away. He turned and waved once, then he gave his horse his head and continued onward.


THROUGH the Stygian blackness of Sherwood forest, MacLiesh trotted steadily that night, and, in the first gray shafts of morning he saw the walls and towers of King John's castle outlined against the sky. It was a huge rambling place, spread over dozens of acres of grounds, consisting of two main structures which served as living quarters and numerous other buildings for the servants and livestock and grain.

The entire cluster of buildings was encircled by a water- filled moat and a high stone wall. A drawbridge crossed the moat at the main gate in the wall and this was the only entrance to the castle.

MacLiesh reined his horse and stared at the castle. Somewhere within those bleak gray walls was Rowena of Mont Mart, the girl whose deep brown eyes had haunted him through the hard ride of the night. With her was Marsh, probably also held prisoner. MacLiesh couldn't forget that if Marsh had not insisted on Rowena taking a walk with him, the king's horsemen would never have captured them.

MacLiesh slipped from his horse and tethered him to a tree well out of sight from the castle. Then he stripped off his chain mail and his gauntlets and hid them in a nearby bush. Finally he unbuckled his great double-edged sword and hid it in the bole of a rotting tree. Dressed then, in ordinary leather jerkin and cotton hose, he struck off on foot for the castle.

Approaching the road that led to the moat, MacLiesh mingled with peasants who were filing into the castle to procure their farming implements for the day's work in the field.

He slumped his head and bent his knees slightly so that his great size would not stand out too conspicuously among the smaller-sized peasants. There were no guards at the drawbridge, he noticed with a relieved sigh, and he passed through the main gate without difficulty.

Inside the courtyard, MacLiesh separated from the peasants and walked swiftly to the base of a tower where a small door was visible. The door, he discovered was locked, but one jar from his shoulder and it swung inward.

With a last swift glance about to be sure that he was not observed, MacLiesh ducked into the small storage room at the base of the tower, easing the door shut after him. It was dark as pitch in the tiny room, but darkness was what MacLiesh wanted. He stretched out his huge frame on the floor and rested his head on the palms of his hands. It would be a long, tiresome wait, he knew, but it must be endured if he hoped to succeed in his wild plan.


THE moon was casting its lambent glow over the courtyard of King John's castle when the door that led to the small storage at the base of the north tower, opened cautiously and a huge, ominous shadow moved along the wall of the castle.

MacLiesh proceeded slowly, inching along, careful lest he betray his position with some sound or quick movement. At last he reached the great gates that led into the castle itself. He drew one gate open slowly and slipped inside. It was, he knew, after midnight and the chance of finding anyone up at this hour was remote.

He moved slowly across the great banquet hall like the shade of a departed guest until he reached a hallway next to a winding staircase. Here he paused, perplexed. The stairway led up and down. After another second's hesitation, he started down the steps. He was looking for the dungeons and they were more than likely located on the basement level.

He descended for several flights and he soon became aware of an unpleasant dampness in the air. Beads of moisture were gathering on the stone walls and ceiling and every ten or fifteen feet a pool of stagnant green water had collected in the hollowed-out place on the ancient step.

It was dark, dank and dreary; but farther ahead he could see the flickering reflection of some sort of illumination. He increased his caution. If there was a light there might also be a sentry.

The light was streaming at an angle around a curve in the stair well and MacLiesh inched cautiously along until he could peer around the corner of the wall.

Seated on a stool, back against the wall, was an old man. He was nodding fitfully in a semi-slumberous condition. Dangling from his left wrist was an iron ring, to which was attached one long, rusty key.

MacLiesh smiled to himself. Then he stepped forward with the easy grace of a panther and clapped his hand over the old fellow's mouth.

The old man woke with a start and his rheumy eyes popped wide open as they focused on MacLiesh's huge form.

MacLiesh read the mute appeal in the old man's eyes and a swift compassion touched him.

"Don't worry," he said softly. "You're not going to get hurt."

He slipped the iron ring from the old man's arm and dropped it into the pocket of his leather jerkin. Then he looked down indecisively at his prisoner. He couldn't spend the whole night here with his hand over the old man's mouth; and at the same time he had given the old man his promise that he wouldn't harm him. Well—he'd have to break the letter, if not the spirit of that promise.

He lifted his free hand about six inches from the old man's neck and then with a swift chopping stroke, he brought it down sharply at the base of the skull. With a slight sigh, the old man slumped limply against the wall.

MacLiesh eased him down from the chair and stretched him comfortably on the floor before continuing. He rounded the corner, moving more confidently, and proceeded along the corridor until he came to another bend.

Walking swiftly now, he didn't bother to take a precautionary peek around the corner; he merely slowed his pace slightly and stepped around the angle of the corridor—into the arms of two fully armed, but surprised guards.


MACLIESH recovered first. His right fist flashed upward with the speed of a striking cobra. It collided with the slack jaw of the nearest guard and MacLiesh grunted with satisfaction as the soldier somersaulted backward and crashed to the stone floor in a limp sprawling position.

The second guard sprang away and MacLiesh's second punch whistled ineffectually through the air. Before he could recover his balance, the guard had drawn his sword and was springing at him. MacLiesh took the first slash of the sword on his forearm; he could feel the warm sticky blood oozing from the wound.

The guard plunged after him, seeking to send home a vital thrust. His very eagerness was his disadvantage. He slashed furiously at MacLiesh in a wide, decapitating stroke; but MacLiesh ducked swiftly and the blade whistled over his head and smashed into the stone wall. The blade went flying from the guard's hand. He opened his mouth to scream as MacLiesh sprang at him but he was too late. The big fighter's hands closed over his throat an instant before a sound could be uttered. The guard struggled frantically but the hands at his throat were like claws of steel.

MacLiesh held the grip until the fellow's knees suddenly slackened and gave way, then he stretched him out on the floor. He realized that the sounds of the conflict might have been heard above and that speed was essential now.

He plunged down the corridor, which was dropping to a lower level with every step, until he came to an iron door. It wasn't locked and he shoved his way through and paused in the gloomy darkness of a chamber.

Through the dim gloom he could see row upon row of barred doors lining both sides of several corridors.

MacLiesh heard a sound then, a soft, choked sob. He moved instantly in its direction.

"Rowena," he whispered urgently, "it's me. Mac—I mean Richard. Where are you? Make some kind of noise so I can find you."

Through the darkness, from the far end of the dungeon row there came an ecstatic whisper.

"Here, Richard, here. Oh please hurry." MacLiesh hurried through the darkness until he located the voice. He fumbled with his fingers until he found the key-hole, then he pulled the key from his pocket and inserted it. With a rusty creak the tumbler fell, the next instant the door squeaked open.


HE put his big arm around the frightened girl's shoulders. Holding her close to him made him feel like an unconquerable giant.

"Stop crying, now," he whispered gently. "I'll have you out of here in a jiffy."

"Marsh is here too," Rowena whispered. "Down in the last cell in the next corridor. Can't we take him too?"

"I suppose we'll have to," MacLiesh growled. "Don't move. I'll get him and we'll get going."

He moved softly down the corridor to Marsh's cell and opened the door.

"On your feet," he muttered. "This is Bastille Day in the thirteenth century."

Grant Marsh appeared in the small doorway, his eyes rolling in terror.

"How did you get here?" he cried hoarsely "You'll be killed, we'll all be killed. We can't escape; the place is too well guarded."

"We can try," MacLiesh said. He grabbed Marsh by the arm and jerked him through the door. "Stop your blubbering now," he snapped, "or we'll have everybody in the place down on our necks."

Marsh stifled his frightened sobs with an effort. MacLiesh moved along carefully until he felt Rowena's hand in the dark.

With one big fist gripping Grant's arm like a vise and the other hand holding Rowena's fingers, MacLiesh eased carefully through the iron door and began the torturous ascent to the first floor.

"You're only making it worse," Marsh cried frightenedly. "When they catch us they'll torture us for sure. You were a fool to come here, MacLiesh, a stupid fool."

Rowena was silent, but MacLiesh observed the sidelong look of contempt she flashed at Grant Marsh.

"Shut up," MacLiesh told him quietly. "If you keep running at the mouth you'll have more guards here than a beehive has bees."

They proceeded past the two unconscious guards and Marsh choked back a cry of terror as he saw the distended pupils and swollen throat of. the one. Past the old man they crept, but before they had gone ten feet past him they heard a sudden commotion at the head of the stairs. Cries, shouts and a pounding of feet. The sounds were coming nearer. Marsh pressed both hands into his mouth to keep from screaming out. MacLiesh glanced about quickly, noticed a small dark alcove at the turn of the steps. Pulling his two charges along, he herded them into the tiny haven. They pressed against the wall hardly daring to breathe.

The footsteps were coming down the steps. Several soldiers marched past their place of concealment. Others followed them. Marsh was trembling with terror.

"I can't stand it," he whispered, "can't stand it."

"Quiet, you fool," MacLiesh hissed.

"I can't stand it!" Marsh suddenly screamed.

He sprang from their place of concealment, dropped to his knees before the soldiers who had wheeled at the sound. One of the soldiers pointed excitedly over Marsh's head, into the alcove.

"There," he shouted excitedly, "there are the others."

"You yellow dog," MacLiesh shouted at Marsh. "You'd sell us down the river to save your own stinking hide."

The soldiers swarmed up the steps now and MacLiesh charged to meet them. His big fists flailed like clubs and every time they struck a man went down. But there were too many men. They leaped at him from behind and forced him to the ground by sheer weight of numbers.

Even then he struggled until something hard and cold smashed against the back of his head. Then a thousand firecrackers exploded in his brain. He had a foggy memory of a feminine voice crying his name, and then he was lying on a rough stone floor and a door clicked shut with metallic finality. The darkness in the cell and the darkness in his head merged.


FOR two days MacLiesh was left in his damp and stinking little dungeon in the underpasses of King John's castle. Two days in which the huge actor paced back and forth as restlessly as a caged panther, cursing his inability to remedy his situation. Not once during his hours in the dungeon did MacLiesh give the slightest thought to the world he had known such a short time ago, however.

He thought of Galway, of course, and of the little director's frantic hope that they might in some way be able to get back to their own time era. MacLiesh felt sorry for Galway, for this was tougher on the rotund little director than it was on Grant Marsh or himself.

At the thought of Marsh, and of his cowardice, MacLiesh's rage grew unbounded. It was obvious that the young actor— thoroughly terrified by the strange predicament he found himself in—was making the best of what to him was a hopeless situation. That, obviously, was the reason why he had been instrumental in revealing them to the guards.

But what was worse to MacLiesh, was the realization that the beautiful brown-eyed Rowena was at this moment in the hands of King John's brutal guardsmen. MacLiesh, at thirty, with ten years as a swashbuckling screen hero behind him, had never fallen prey to femininity before. With all the damsels in Hollywood to choose from, he'd had to wait until he was hurled centuries back in Time to discover what that oldest emotion meant.

And it was when—two days having passed—King John's guards came to take him from his cell that MacLiesh's growing fury came to a boiling point.

Hands chained behind him, the mighty-statured MacLiesh was led before a large throne where he saw, for the first time, the despot ruler of England, King John.

John Lackland, usurper of the throne, was a middle-sized, thick-set fellow with what was, to MacLiesh, a particularly unpleasant sneer. He looked down from his great seat, and with a wave of a bejewelled hand, ordered the guards to remove MacLiesh's irons.

When this was done, and MacLiesh stood with sword points menacing him on both sides, King John spoke.

"So this is the knave who would pretend to be my poor brother Richard, eh?"

"Where have you put the girl?" MacLiesh thundered angrily.

The slightly sadistic ruler smiled.

"She will be here shortly, varlet, as will be the craven knight who was caught with you."

"If you've so much as touched her," MacLiesh began.

King John's face went dark.

"Threatening the king?" he bellowed. "Hold your tongue, else I feed it and you to the flames!"

There was a sudden commotion at the great side doors to the hall, and MacLiesh turned to see Grant Marsh and the girl Rowena being led into the room by four guards. One look at the deathly white face of Marsh was enough to show MacLiesh the state of emotion through which the young actor was going. But one look into the clear brown eyes of Rowena told him instantly that the girl's courage still was unshaken. He smiled at her as he caught her eye, and her faint answering smile was enough to give him added strength, greater determination, than before.


THE guards had forced MacLiesh back some ten yards from the throne, and Marsh and Rowena now occupied the spot where he had been standing. King John was smiling evilly down on them, his eyes glittering with the satisfaction of a cat that has just dined on canary au jus.

"And you, my dear," purred King John, "are Rowena, daughter of Geoffrey of Mont Mart?"

The girl looked at him haughtily, her refusal to answer made plain by the defiance that blazed in her eyes.

"'At'sa Lassie," cried MacLiesh, and was promptly hedged in closer by sword points for having dared speak.

John Lackland's face grew dark.

"I have issued a proclamation," he snarled, "that your father, Geoffrey of Mont Mart present himself as a prisoner to the King's Court within twelve days, if he wishes to have his daughter left unharmed!"

Then, turning to the trembling, ashen-faced Grant Marsh, King John said:

"And you, young knight, can be of service to me. From what I have seen, and what I have been told of you, you would readily give me certain information rather than risk the horror of my torture chambers in the underpasses below. You have already supplied me with the information as to the location of the outlaw Robin Hood's camp, and for that I am grateful. Come around to my side, young knight, and I will allow you to stand with my guards."

MacLiesh gaped at Grant Marsh in utter astonishment. He had known that Marsh was a coward, he had realized that Marsh unwittingly gave them all away when they'd almost succeeded in escape, but this new information concerning almost definite treachery on Marsh's part was more than MacLiesh could stomach.

"You damned skunk!" MacLiesh bellowed, and heedless of the sword points that hemmed him in, he reached Grant Marsh's side in three gigantic, wrathful strides.

"Damned skunk!" MacLiesh repeated, letting a ripping left hook loose at the point of Marsh's perfectly aquiline nose. There was the satisfying crunch of bone giving way beneath his knuckles, and MacLiesh watched Grant Marsh drop to the floor, face spewing claret.

There was a brief struggle, then, as the guards dragged the infuriated MacLiesh away from the trembling, bleeding Marsh who was rising dazed and shaken to his feet.

"Swine," King John was thundering, "wretched swine! You'll pay for that with pain in my chambers, as well as the death by fire which I had originally planned for you!"

MacLiesh's arms were being twisted behind him by two guards, while a third endeavored to replace the irons on his wrists, and the huge-shouldered swashbuckler was giving them all they could do when, from the far end of the hall, there came a terrific pounding against the huge oak door.

The instant's hesitation on the part of MacLiesh's subduers, an instant's hesitation while they glanced in the direction of the commotion, was all that the burly actor needed to throw them off with a bull-like twist of his back.

MacLiesh grabbed a sword from one of the startled guards and swung lustily once to clear the air around him. Then the doors that had been so furiously pounded, swung open.

The gasp that came from all in the hall made even MacLiesh pause, as he wheeled about. Striding through the open oak doors was a tall, huge-shouldered, superbly muscled giant who—for physical appearances—might have been another Victor MacLiesh!


THE huge-shouldered giant was clad in black chain mail, wearing a black-plumed helmet, and carried an enormous two-handed sword.

"Richard, Richard of the Lion Heart!" The name swept through the Great Hall like a scythe through wheat, and was followed by a sudden, deathly silence.

It was King John who spoke at last, infinite horror and amazement in his voice.

"You! Why, how, what brought you here?"

Richard's voice boomed answer to his treacherous brother, as his eyes riveted on the throne.

"Methinks I might ask you, John, what brought you here, to the throne of England, the title of which is none of yours?"

And MacLiesh was aware now, just as all the others in the hall were, that Richard had entered alone, that there were no knights to follow him or guard him. And looking swiftly at King John, MacLiesh saw from the swift darting of the usurper's dark eyes that he, too, had realized as much. For even now, John shouted to his frozen guards:

"At him, you fools, he is alone!"

But MacLiesh moved and spoke with incredible swiftness. In an instant he was beside the girl, Rowena, clearing a way to her with the sword he had seized. And now he shouted:

"Like hell he's alone. There's at least two of us, so take your chances!"

And in swift strides, MacLiesh swept the girl under one arm and dashed to the side of Richard the Lion-Hearted, his other arm swinging his great blade in a slashing arc that brooked no interference.

"You must be the one Robin spoke of," were Richard's words, as MacLiesh took his place beside him. "Flay wide with your sword, for we've a path to clear to the door. From then on, we've a battle to the drawbridge and the moat!"

"Anything you say, Richard," MacLiesh grunted, slicing down at a guard who had been stupid enough to dash in behind a lance point. "Anything at all!"

And suddenly, as guards pressed in on them from all sides, and the battle took on an exhilarating aspect to MacLiesh, he noticed a sporadic series of white flashes radiating over the windows of the Great Hall.

Something was going on outside the castle.

But then MacLiesh was far too busy with his huge sword, and the life-or-death delicacies of parry and thrust, to be concerned with what was happening elsewhere. Over the heads of the swordsmen hemming Richard, the girl, and himself in, the broad- shouldered MacLiesh could see that John Lackland had left the throne—probably for a more remote and less dangerous spot.

Alternately grunting and gritting his teeth, MacLiesh scythed his sharp, heavy blade this way and that, beating back attack after attack as his little party worked its way toward the still open oak doors at the front of the hall. Once MacLiesh thought he heard a heavy clanging come from outside the castle in the vicinity of the drawbridge, but then he was forced to center his attention once again on hewing a path through the adversaries blocking his way to the door.


RICHARD was matching and exceeding every stroke of MacLiesh's, downing three victims to every two of his comrade in battle. And looking sideward now and then through the sweat and blood that trickled over his eyes, MacLiesh had time to marvel at the masterful swordplay of the giant king. Truly, history hadn't overestimated Richard of the Lion Heart!

As for Rowena, MacLiesh managed to keep between her and the glistening blade thrusts of the Usurper's guards. Once, as he almost slipped face forward in a pool of freshly spilled crimson, MacLiesh offered a silent prayer that the carnage wouldn't sicken the girl to the point of her fainting.

MacLiesh was breathing hard now, and it seemed to him as if the charging forces of John Lacklander's guards would never cease their tireless attack. They were still a good fifteen yards from the door whose refuge they sought, and from the looks of things, weren't any closer to gaining it than they had been at the start. It was all the two embattled warriors—capable though they were—could do to hold their own against the steady, hopelessly outnumbering hordes of the enemy.

But still MacLiesh fought on, inspired to a tremendous degree by the masterful combat of Richard the Lion-Hearted. MacLiesh was scored several times in the thigh, and once in his arm—in addition to the gash that had been opened by a blade which whistled perilously close to his skull.

Then, suddenly, the forces at their rear seemed to melt away. Melt away as a loud shouting grew in volume and green clad men poured into the room. Somehow, Robin Hood's band had gained the drawbridge and entered the castle!

From that moment forward, it was just a question of mopping up the scattered and fleeing members of King John's guard. Robin had put his sword aside now, and was enthusiastically pumping the great paw of Richard.

"We did it," MacLiesh shouted above the turmoil. "Although I don't know how in the blazes Robin and his band were able to take the moat. It should have been an impossible task for them!"

"Methinks you did a lot of the doing," Richard smiled amiably. "Or at least your Jester did."

"Jester?" MacLiesh frowned. Then the light broke on him. "Oh, you mean Galway?" Suddenly he was chortling. "How in the hell did he ever engineer this all-time nick-of-time rescue?"

Richard shook his head in bewildered admiration.

"I know not precisely, but through a powerful knowledge of magic, you may be sure."

"Magic?" MacLiesh frowned. "John Galway was never hot at card tricks. I don't get it?"

Richard put his huge arm around MacLiesh's shoulder.

"Come," he said, "and I'll show you." MacLiesh tightened his arm around Rowena's waist and followed the huge, black-armored king out through the castle to the drawbridge gate. But MacLiesh had no sooner stepped up to the great planked bridge than he realized what Richard meant. For an utterly blinding blaze of light was pouring up at the drawbridge through the darkness on the other side of the moat. And the blinding glare could be caused by one thing, and one thing only—the battery of klieg lights, arranged as an offensive weapon by Galway.

And that voice, shouting up at him from the blinding center of those lights down there, was no one but Galway's.

"Victor, you old son-of-a-gun, you're alive! You have no idea how glad I am to see you, Victor MacLiesh!"

"Come on up here, y'blooming hero!" MacLiesh shouted happily. "Come on up here and explain the magic of your strategy!"


A HALF a minute later, John Galway, still the same but for the lack of his multicolored blazer and the addition of much perspiration, trotted up the drawbridge and into the brilliant pool of light where MacLiesh stood with Rowena and Richard. The little director was almost tearful in his joy at seeing a live and somewhat hale MacLiesh. "I turned the kliegs on just as soon as Robin's men lured King John's guards to the edge of the moat. Then, Robin threatened them with black magic if they didn't lower the drawbridge. I'd already explained it to him," Galway said hastily. "But that isn't half as important as what I've got to tell you now, Victor. I have solved our way out of this crazy world back into our own time period!"

MacLiesh nodded vaguely. Richard and Rowena looked just plain dumb and not interested. Galway hurried on, grabbing MacLiesh's leather sleeve determinedly.

"We can go back, Mac, just think of it. I've got it all doped out. It was time travel, Victor. Maybe you never heard anything about it, but that ain't important. We travelled in time, back to here, that's what matters. We travelled through an accidental combination of electric generation and light waves, get it?"

"Yeah," said MacLiesh, "I get it roughly. Light waves were electrically generated into intense time waves—set off by the accident Marsh had. So what?"

Rowena looked at Richard.

"Strange talk, this. Is it of magic?" Richard of the Lion Heart looked the least little bit afraid. He gulped and nodded.

Galway went on: "I've got the batteries going at the same heat generation there was before. We make another accident, to the same battery, on the same spot—which I carefully marked—and we can go back. Think of it, Victor, we can go back. It's all set and waiting. Say good-bye to your friends, Victor, and find Grant Marsh. Tell him I've got it all fixed and we're going back to where we belong!"

Galway took an excited step down the drawbridge toward his precious klieg batteries, his hand clutching at MacLiesh's sleeve.

"Come on, quick, I don't know how long I can keep the batteries juiced!"

MacLiesh looked at Richard.

"Tell Rowena, here, for once and for all, that you're Richard, and not I, will you?"


ROWENA turned her beautiful brown eyes on MacLiesh. "I have been aware of this since John Lackland recognized the real Richard," she said shyly.

Galway broke in desperately.

"Come, Victor, quick, round up Grant Marsh and hurry!"

MacLiesh looked long into Rowena's eyes.

"So I'm not your first cousin after all, is that clear?"

Rowena blushed prettily, and Richard discreetly looked the other way. Galway's face was purple with anxiety, and his eyes showed that he had an unpleasant premonition of what might happen.

The great battery of kliegs seemed to be sputtering imperceptibly, dimming ever so slightly. Galway trotted down the drawbridge, calling over his shoulder.

"Victor, hurry. Hurry! We'll even have to leave Grant Marsh if you don't hurry. Say goodbye to your nice friends, MacLiesh, please!"

"I am glad you are not my first cousin," Rowena said somewhat to the point. "Methinks I was beginning to feel more than a cousinly affection for thee."

"Was beginning to?" MacLiesh demanded.

"And still am," Rowena confessed redly. Richard looked once over his shoulder and coughed.

"Get on with it," he said.

From the center of the kliegs, which he was now centering onto a small patch of ground, Galway, shouted: "Victor MacLiesh, there isn't much time!"

"No," MacLiesh murmured, "there isn't," and took Rowena in his arms.

"MacLiesh!" Galway wailed, "it's against your contract!"

"Break it!" MacLiesh looked up and shouted. "I've just signed a new one—to live happily as I've always wanted to with the right gal and no scarcity of constant combat"

"Wisely spoken," said Richard. "I'll need a man of your strength and, er," he looked at the very busy MacLiesh, "er, talents!"

A sudden thunderous pounding of hoof-beats was heard racing along the castle side of the moat, and MacLiesh looked up from his pleasant task long enough to see Grant Marsh—the hysteria of flight in his eyes—cut sharply past him on a charging white steed and clatter madly down the drawbridge.

"Zounds," cried Richard, "yon fugitive's steed is blinded by the lights! Look, the animal dashes madly into the center of the Jester's magical equipment!"

Galway's shout came muffled to MacLiesh's ears.

"Look out, Grant, you fool. Your horse will smash into the batt—"

And that was all of the sentence MacLiesh heard, for it was drowned out in the next split second by a familiar, terrifying explosion as all the klieg lights seemed suddenly to burst into flame. Then, in the darkness and ringing silence that followed moments later, Richard's voice, clearly bewildered, said:

"Incredible magician, your Jester. He and the fugitive have vanished, completely!"

MacLiesh sighed and looked down at Rowena. "I don't envy 'em," he remarked....


The Hollywood Reporter, May 10th—

...John Galway has definitely abandoned plans for the completion of the historical epic he has been shooting on location, one "Crusade Collossal." Various reasons have been advanced for the abandonment of this Epic Pictures' million- banana baby. Chief and most logical reasons are two.

First is the mysterious and totally unexpected retirement and disappearance from screen work of Victor MacLiesh. No one can ascertain what caused this well-loved veteran to walk out in the middle of a picture. Since suit is not being brought against his agent, it is presumed that MacLiesh became badly ill.

The accident to the beautiful beak of second male-lead, Grant Marsh, might be advanced as the second reason for the fold-up of "Crusade Collossal." Your columnist has definite information that pretty-boy Marsh will not be able to make another picture for ten months—at the end of which time a new nose will have been constructed for him.

But as for John Galway, the plucky little director of the Epic Pictures' opus has advanced an entirely different, and even more baffling, statement concerning the abandonment of his prize picture—his own retirement from cinema!

"Nothing," Galway told your reporter just the other day, "seems authentic to me any more. Maybe some day I'll make another picture, but nothing historical. Definitely nothing historical!"


THE END