(Ystina / Justina) (part #1)
And everything once was
Not dead but still and ready to be born anew
Looking back now it all
Seems so clear
Like staring so long unseeing for someone to light inside a
Seven Soldiers was an epic Grant Morrison metaseries for DC Comics, in 2005-2006. It features a motley ensemble of minor characters who find themselves in a position to save humanity without quite knowing it. The themes of this series would continue in much of Morrison’s DC work, up to and including Final Crisis .
Not that much is known about this bearer of the Shining Knight “position” at DC’s version of King Arthur’s Round Table. Which in a way is convenient, because this story came with tremendous revelations about the history of humanity on New Earth. We’ll discuss those here, of course.
Like most of our Seven Soldiers- related material, this profile:
- Has ugly S P O I L E R S to a fantastic series.
- Assumes that you are reading multiple Seven Soldiers profiles. The information about the overall plot is *way* less scattered and cryptic than it is in the series. But you’ll still have to follow links to piece out what the Sheeda are, who the Seven Soldiers are and what the Spell of Seven does, who are the subway pirates, etc..
Both spellings (Justin/Ystin or Justina/Ystina) are used interchangeably in this profile.
This profile has lots of explanation about the distant past of Humanity in the DC Universe, which does take room. So it is split into two parts for ease of reading :
- Shining Knight (Justin), part 1 – this here profile.
- Shining Knight (Justina), part 2.
- Real Name: Ystina (often spelled Justina), knighted as Sir Justin (or Sir Ystin) the Shining Knight.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: None.
- Group Affiliation: Former Knight of Camelot (or Knight of the Broken Table), student at the H.S. Johnson School for Heroes.
- Base Of Operations: H.S. Johnson School for Heroes (which looks Californian in architecture).
- Height: 5’8” Weight: 128 lbs.
- Eyes: Blue Hair: Black
Powers and Abilities
“Justin” comes from a mythical age of man. As a result she is stronger, tougher, fiercer and better coordinated than any normal human of her age. Even as a teenager she could snap a pair of modern handcuffs without too much trouble.
The adult men of her time were huge. Thus, she likely will grow well above 6’ and acquire Amazonian proportions.
Ystina learned to use handguns within seconds. Our DC Heroes RPG stats assume she could do the same with other unfamiliar weapons.
Though “he” was but a squire, “Justin” trained in secret for years to be as proficient as a real knight. She demonstrated superior, err, swordsgirlship and meleeing ability. She managed to superbly hold her own against Gloriana Tenebræ herself.
Ystina also seems to be highly intelligent. Before the ghost of Ali Ka-Zoom magically taught her English, she managed to figure out a lot of things from context (the function of policemen, for instance). She generally coped with everything just fine despite being a feverishly idealistic teenager.
The Knight seems to have superior recuperative power. She could withstand, and recover from, a Sheeda poisoned dagger being thrust into her abdomen quickly and without complications. However, it is possible that it didn’t penetrate her armour much.
Ystina came from a time when the rule of Arthur was so absolute the virii and bacteria obeyed royal orders and left people alone. Apparently this pact is still active for whoever survived from that era. Since Justin did not immediately succumb to a host of diseases her body couldn’t possibly have any conventional immunisation against.
I’ve assumed she is also exceptionally long-lived. You know how it is with mythical ages of man.
Coming from an age of glorious myth and humanity at its best, this young woman is both pure of heart and a perfect warrior. As a result, she will likely meet similar mystical requirements under most circumstances (such as, say, wielding the Marvel version of Thor’s Mjolnir).
She also might count as magical. She once touched the ghost of Ali Ka-Zoom, who only ever seemed solid when interacting with magical items and the dead. This last part is thoroughly hypothetical, though.
Lastly, the Shining Knight likely has the potential for truly epic deeds and quests. In DC Heroes RPG terms, one gets the impression she’ll be able to get past the 150 Hero Points level in the Hero Points hierarchy.
Vanguard seems to have been the warhorse of sir Galahad. Since the surviving knights gave their last charge on foot, Galahad left it in care of the newly knighted Sir Justin. Justin asked the horse if she could ride it into the final battle on Castle Revolving. Vanguard agreed, becoming her mount.
These horses are the descendant of the mythical Pegazeus (with a “z” – more about it soon). Their species are one of the few things that survived from the Camelot Ystina knew. They can be found in modern times on the “world’s battlements” (now known as the Himalaya).
The horses live in the ruins of the mythical city of Glorias. Glorias was harrowed by the Sheeda, along with its global empire, 42,000 years ago. It was the Camelot of its time. But having been sired by Pegazeus, the magical winged horses precede even Glorias.
As an apparent homage to Comet the Super-Horse, those horses can shoot laser eyebeams. Vanguard described his kin as being “much swifter than the fastest of your air boats” (which from the stories is an accurate description). Its kicks were powerful enough to affect Neh-Buh-Loh.
Somehow, the horses can protect their rider(s) even when flying at hypersonic speeds. They negate the friction, cold, lack of air, etc.
Human civilizations in the DCU
In the DCU, humanity has been around for a looooong time. I think it was Gaiman who introduced the notion that some great human civilisations predated the dinosaurs. We have known of distant Atlantises for quite a while, with anatomically modern humans populating one Atlantis a million years ago.
Yes, this may seem to clash with what we know about biology. But most of these modern-looking human in impossibly distant ages are the result of time travel, divine intervention, alien intervention or the like.
One such intervention was both alien and divine. It took place when the New Gods of the Fourth World uplifted Neanderthals, 40,000 years before Christ. The champion of that civilisation, Aurakles, was the first super-hero on DC Earth (excluding time travellers, obvs).
The Seven Soldiers series answers the question of why so little is left of the many great civilizations that existed during those millions, if not billions, of years. So it’s kinda like Mass Effect, but for Earth.
Seven imperishable treasures
Seven gifts were given to Aurakles by the New Gods. The Shining Knight interacted with several of them.
The destiny of the items seems controlled in small part by the Seven Unknown Men. Yet, they couldn’t do much about the Queen of Terror owning most of them.
As divine gifts to Earth’s heroes, the Treasures were meant to play an important role, symbolically and practically, in the history of mankind. In practice they were largely confiscated and defaced by the Sheeda. Many — perhaps all — iterations of Camelot through mankind’s history involved using some of the Treasures and attempting to reclaim the rest.
The Imperishable Treasures are:
Gloriana Tenebræ took this sword from Aurakles (though she could not use it, and no Sheeda could). But the Shining Knight took it back and wields it as Caliburn. That’s short for its full title of Caliburn Ex Calibur.
(A.k.a. the Cauldron of Rebirth, the Undry Cauldron, the Crucible of Dagda , etc.) was also looted. It then stayed in Castle Revolving as a key artefact for the Last Kingdom of Man.
The Shining Knight kicked it into the timestream and it landed in Slaughter Swamp at an unclear point in time. Its Waters of Life leaked out and later helped create Solomon Grundy. It was then found by Melmoth who used it to replace his own blood. But it was eventually stolen by Vincenzo Baldi (formerly Kid Scarface), who became the Undying Don.
It is likely that the Cauldron was also the Holy Grail in some or all versions of Camelot.
The steed Pegazeus
Pegazeus was killed by the Sheeda during the Harrowing of 40,000 BC. But some of its descendants survived, finding refuge in the ruins of one of the four great cities of that time. Those horses and/or their descendants became the warhorses of the knights of the Camelot of 8,000 BC.
Vanguard, the steed of the 8,000 BC Galahad and later of the 8,000 BC Shining Knight, is one such descendant.
It is likely that Winged Victory, the horse of the first Shining Knight (of the Camelot of the VIth century in Britain), is a descendant of those horses. Perhaps it was a crossbreed, since Winged Victory was less powerful, not sapient or could not shoot eyebeams.
The Merlin sprite
This creature was made of living language. Merlin was the key to the powerful Spell of Seven. It was conjured and defeated by Zatanna, who later used it to seal the Spell of Seven.
This was the weapon wielded by Aurakles. Its lost name meant both “love” and “vengeance”. It could strike across time and fell a target millennia in the future – because its blow would be carried out by the descendants of Aurakles. As it names implies, the Spear was both a physical weapon and an attribute of Aurakles’ bloodline.
The Spear was thrown in distant prehistory by Aurakles, and the Spell of Seven made it possible for it to strike in 2005. The blow of the Spear was unwittingly carried out by the Bulleteer, a distant descendant of the world’s first super-hero.
The all-knowing Fatherbox
It existed in the form of two dice that form Croatoan, a super-computer that became the god of Limbo Town.
One of the die laid in the subsecret portions of the New York subway network, on the Foundation Stone of the city. It was eventually found by the pirate kings of the subway, but later fell into the possession of Klarion from Limbo Town.
The other ended up in the possession of Misty Kilgore, the amnesiac daughter of the Last King of All Time.
The Fatherbox is presumably related to the motherboxes used by the New Gods of New Genesis.
Nothing is known about it. It may never have appeared in any DC Universe story.
The Round table in the DCU
In the Camelot of 10,000 years ago (8,000 BC), the seven knights who survived Arthur’s assault on Castle Revolving and later manned the last stand against the Sheeda were :
- Gawain the Silent Knight.
- Lancelot of the Long Arm.
- Caradoc the Strong.
- Peredur the Blind.
- Bors the Laughing Knight.
- Galahad the Giant Killer.
- Tristan the Fair. But Tristan died before the last stand could be made.
Since there were only six of them fighting, they could not realize the Spell of Seven. This, in some perverse way, gives weight to the regrets of Justin that she could not save them all. Had a seventh knight fought for Arthur, things may have dramatically changed.
In the DCU, the Silent Knight (accompanied by a falcon) and the Shining Knight (riding a winged horse) seem to be core or near-core figures of the Camelot myth. They presumably have appeared in most iterations of it, just as, say, Lancelot or Gawain do.
This makes the existence of two Shining Knights, both named Justin and riding a winged horse, and embodying fairly similar virtues, unsurprising. It is likely that the Arthurian literature in the DCU, including the best-known tales such as Chrétien de Troyes’s work, include those additional knights.
Camelot is one of the Earth’s key myths, in one form of another. Like most such fundamental myths it occurs over and again.
The last known occurrence, the last known Arthur (ignoring the small echo around Aquaman, the King Arthur of an undersea mini-Camelot), was in the sixth century. Survivors of that era include Jason Blood and the first Shining Knight, Sir Justin. This VIth Century Camelot seems to have been one of the smaller ones, at least in geopolitical terms.
No Camelot is known of between this one and the one 10,000 years ago.
The 8,000 BC iteration of Camelot
The 8,000 BC Camelot was much bigger. King Arthur ruled over all of Avalon, and Avalon encompassed all of Earth. It was a mythical time of men of great power, barrow-men tending their forges under the Earth, and winged horses.
The Sixth Century Camelot seemed to reflect what was described in Le Morte d’Arthur (itself a compilation of French and English texts). It was primarily a Christian myth. By contrast, the Camelot of ten millennia past was much more steeped in the Celtic myths.
Many of the knights seem semi-analogous to Celtic deities. For instance their Lancelot was called Lancelot of the Long Arm, and is quite reminiscent of Lugh Lámhfhada (“of the long hand”).
The Arthur of 10,000 years ago reclaimed several attributes of Aurakles’s kingdom. Guided by Merlin, they climbed up Mount Everest and found the ruins of Glorias. This lost city likely was the iteration of Camelot before their own.
In Glorias they allied with the winged super-horses, bred of Pegazeus. Arthur also found Caliburn Ex Calibur, and drew it from the techno-anvil into which it had been plunged. But he was too callow yet to guess at the riddle of the Spear.
The fall of Camelot
Years later, the King of the World and his Knights of the Broken Table led an expedition to the unwhen. It was a daring attempt to reclaim the Cauldron of Dagda from the Queen of Terror.
But the three assaults of their mightiest forces against Castle Revolving, the flying palace of the Sheeda Queen, failed. The Great King himself found death. Only seven of the Knights survived and retreated to Camelot.
Despite this disaster, this civilisation was mankind at its apex. It was fair, prosperous, unified, ruled by wisdom and courage. Thus the Sheeda chose it for their Harrowing, as they likely had done for other Camelots before. The clash was brutal and truly epic.
But even the bravest and most legendary knights could only fare so well against the likes of Neh-Buh-Loh, and an army wielding weapons of mass destruction and rayguns from the unimaginably distant future.
Assault on Castle Revolving
Ystina, having disguised herself as a boy for years, was the squire of the most perfect of knights. She assisted Galahad the giant-slayer, whom she secretly loved. As Galahad and the other Knights of the Broken Table were readying for their last charge, she asked to be knighted. “Ystin” wanted to fight in the name of King Arthur and not as a mere squire.
Galahad granted this final request. He knighted “him” Justin, the Shining Knight. In the clash that took place minutes later, most of the Knights of the Broken Table were heroically slain.
Meanwhile the Shining Knight, riding Vanguard (Galahad’s flying warhorse), sneaked into Castle Revolving. Making her way through what seemed to be the sewer systems, she encountered a group of undead warriors. Their leader claimed to be Arthur. However, those corpses may have originated during the Harrowing of a *previous* Camelot.
After dispatching the dead men, the young knight stumbled upon one of the Imperishable Treasures, the Undry Cauldron. In the Cauldron she found a young friend, Olwen, seemingly gone mad from torture and abuse. Gloriana Tenebræ, likely alerted by watcher spells, then came to confront the intruder in her sanctum sanctorum.
Nothing went as expected during the ensuing conversation and fight.
Gloriana carried the sheathed Imperishable Sword on her belt. Though its enchantments meant no Sheeda could wield it, it was a trophy. The Queen of Terror hoped that Sheeda science could one day break its spells. That turned out to be a mistake, as Justin unexpectedly lunged and easily drew the sword.
Caliburn Ex Calibur
Leveraging the Queen’s surprise to do whatever damage she could, Ystina pushed the heavy Cauldron into the water. That sent the artefact falling through time and space.
Her brief advantage vanished when “Olwen” was revealed to be a Sheeda changeling. The impostor plunged a poisoned dagger into Justin’s torso.
As Justin staggered off, it was Vanguard who picked her up and dove into the timestream to escape from the Sheeda. However, the brave horse was fatally wounded as he crashed through glass plates to get its rider out.
Meanwhile, on the slain Earth
Meanwhile (in the loosest sense of the word), in ruined Avalon, three of the Knights of the Shattered Table had survived the battle at Camelot. As they escaped Arthur was replaced by Mordredd the Dead, an unliving tyrant without a shred of mercy.
Mordredd would rule for five centuries, until there was nothing left to rule. He turned men into zombies, elves into cannibals. All corpses were unearthed and turned into undead servants. Camelot was replaced by a city of despair bound by reeking iron walls.
The three surviving knights found refuge in the mythical city of Ysse , and underground among the smiths of the Barrow Men. Peredur the Blind, Bors the Laughing Knight, Galahad the Giant-Killer were reduced to the most desperate of measures. Sundering matter itself on the anvils of the dwarves, they resorted to atomic warfare against Mordredd.
This further plunged the land into darkness and invisible death. Peredur and Bors passed on from the perils of the age, one or both men committing suicide in despair. Galahad the perfect knight was either captured, or killed and reanimated, as a thoroughly brainwashed servant.
(In our world, 8,000 BC is roughly the beginning of the Neolithic era and the development of agriculture, as well as the end of the Ice Age. Things were very low-tech, but there were primitive human settlements worldwide. In the DC Universe, this state of affairs likewise corresponds to human civilisations rebuilding after the fall of Mordredd the Dead).
(Agriculture likely was rebuilt after the catastrophe rather than discovered. Stone tools likely were used since metallurgical knowledge was lost along with the dwarves. The great wizard Shazam, allegedly born four centuries after the fall of Camelot and some decades before the defeat of Mordredd, may have been instrumental in humanity eventually regaining its freedom and recovering from the disaster.)
Out of time knight
Sir Justin and Vanguard reappeared high above Los Angeles in the year 2005. In his dying moments the horse managed to control their fall. The equine thus saved Justin’s life again, though he crashed in an uncontrolled manner and broke his neck.
Justin was taken in by a blasé LAPD patrol. Vanguard’s body was taken to a police morgue. But from there cops on the take almost immediately took it to Crazyface, the lieutenant of the Undying Don, L.A.’s chief mob boss.
Identifying the cops as law enforcers, Ystina did not initially resist arrest. But eventually fearing betrayal she escaped from the cruiser, incapacitating two officers and taking back Caliburn.
She fled to the streets. But the lass soon ran into a Sheeda weapon – a Mood 7 Mind Destroyer. This semi-material robot followed her and started destroying her with words. It was constantly whispering horrible truths to her ears.
Her spirit eroding under this assault, Justin stumbled upon a seemingly brain-damaged vagrant on a bench. A pair of hooligans were contemplating burning alive.
Shrugging off her despair, and suddenly speaking English without realising it, Ystina intervened. She chased the chavs away. The lass reaffirmed her knightly vows and duty to protect the weak and to enforce virtue, justice and civilisation. This regained focus and purity dispersed the Mind Destroyer.
The young lady’s own Merlin
Approaching the aged homeless man to make sure he was OK, Justin had her first indications that the vagrant was actually the ghost of Ali Ka-Zoom. He was the one who had magically taught her English. He also transmogorified her armour then created modern, loose clothing for her to wear over her altered chainmail.
Telling her this age of darkness needed a shining knight, he sent her on her way and told her he would help her further.
This is continued in Shining Knight (Ystina) part #2 !
Source of Character: Seven Soldiers metaseries.
Helper(s): Gareth Lewis, Roy Cowan.