The Books of Magic: Orientation Day, Chapter 1: Not a Magic Academy

by CSyphrett, Martin Maenza and Doc Quantum

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Continued from The Night Force: Night Forces

Abby Cable ran her fingers through her long, platinum-blonde hair, a visible black streak dancing in agitation. She stood in a garden of unusual and vibrant flowers, their unique aromas filling the air. Seven statues adorned the small park around its edges, a low hedge isolating this section from the rest of the school grounds.

Those statues reminded her of her own dead Alec Holland. The people he had fought in order to save her after her arrest were considered to be heroes, while Alec himself was reviled by many for turning Gotham City into a giant greenhouse, bringing its usual hustle and bustle to a grinding halt.

A few well-connected politicians had even considered pardoning Lex Luthor, the inventor of the device that seemingly ended the Swamp Thing’s threat. Cooler heads prevailed, though, as they were reminded of Luthor’s history of sociopathic behavior. Still, while the Swamp Thing was hated by many, he was loved by others, including environmentalists, who had thought his transformation of Gotham City to be akin to a paradise on earth. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Natural Consequences,” Swamp Thing v2 #52 (September, 1986) and “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Swamp Thing v2 #53 (October, 1986).]

Now Abby found herself barred from teaching in Louisiana thanks to having been arrested for her relationship with the Swamp Thing, deemed to be illicit under the law; it was this charge that had led to her being brought to Gotham City in the first place. (*) Since then she had subsisted on on whatever work she could find, at least until a rather strange offer arrived, changing her life. Grateful for Boston Brand’s arrival on her doorstep one fateful day last year, Abby now reflected on the peculiar turns her life had taken.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Murder of Crows,” Swamp Thing v2 #48 (May, 1986) and “Home Free,” Swamp Thing v2 #51 (August, 1986).]

“Mrs. Holland?” interrupted a voice as dry as dust and time.

“I still use Cable,” Abby corrected, turning to face a tall figure who seemed to have stepped out of an old monster movie. With a gasp, she suddenly found herself at a loss for words.

“I apologize,” said the speaker, a tall, large figure. As Abby regarded him with surprise, she couldn’t help but notice his mismatched limbs, sallow face, and rheumy eyes. Long, thin dark hair fell below his shoulders, and his ragged, stained clothes hinted at a storied past. Wanting to ease her discomfort, he continued, “I am Adam Frankenstein. Mr. Gallowglass said that your roommate has arrived, and commencement is about to begin.”

“Thank you,” Abby replied, offering a warm smile. Despite his eerie appearance, he strangely put her at ease, reminiscent of two men dear to her. (*) “Would you mind showing me the way?”

[(*) Editor’s note: Abby is referring not only to the Swamp Thing himself, but also to her own father, Gregori Arcane, who became the creature known as the Patchwork Man, looking much like Frankenstein’s monster; see “The Patchwork Man,” Swamp Thing #3 (February-March, 1973).]

“The island can be confusing the first week you are here,” agreed Adam. Frankenstein’s monster started off in a shambling walk toward the compound of buildings at the center of the island, and Abby followed.

Adam strolled along the thin paths branching from the park and other areas that resembled a spider’s web. The thought of it sent a slight chill down Abby’s spine. Odd, she thought.

They passed various buildings, which Adam commented upon as they went. “That’s the Bestiary,” he said. “Don’t let the strange sounds at night bother you too much.” A chime filled the air. “That’s the Clock Tower. It sounds on the hour and half-past. There’s a Map House just to the left of it.” Adam turned to his right. “Those are the natural areas,” he said.

“Yes, I know,” Abby said. “I will be teaching about things there.”

Adam nodded. It made sense that such a pretty woman would know about the beauty of nature. He often wandered the gardens alone; it eased his troubled soul. As they continued, they reached the cluster of buildings constituting the school proper.

Beyond the academic buildings were the four large buildings for student housing. On the other end was housing for instructors and staff. Abby recognized her bungalow, overlooking an empty stone dock that jutted out into the ocean, reminiscent of the bayou.

A blond man stood on the porch steps talking to a dark-haired woman. As Abby would soon learn, they were both teachers as well. She recognized the blond man, having read about his exploits as a paranormal investigator a few years ago. In this setting he seemed easygoing and personable, exuding charm while maintaining an air of mystery.

Adam began, “That man is…”

“Johnny Peril,” said Abby, recalling the unusual name. (*) “But who is it that he’s talking with?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Doorway Into Time,” The Unexpected #106 (April-May, 1968), and other stories.]

“Your roommate,” explained Adam. “Let me introduce you.” They walked up the steps.

Johnny Peril smiled upon seeing Adam and Abby approach. Interested in the new instructor, he had made it a point to know who she was. Before Adam could say a word, Peril with a wide smile said, “Rose Psychic, this is Abby Cable!”

“Psychic?” asked Abby. “What an unusual last name,” she added, acknowledging inwardly that her original surname of Arcane was equally unusual.

“I was named by my adoptive parents,” explained Rose. (*) “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” The two women shook hands in a friendly way.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Secret Origin of Doctor Occult,” Secret Origins v2 #17 (August, 1987).]

“Commencement is about to begin, Johnny,” said Adam in his dusty voice, interrupting the exchanges.

“Is it twelve already?” Peril examined his watch. “Stopped. Must need a new battery.”

“Just nearly,” Adam said. “Cain and Abel brought the students in a little while ago.”

“Well, ladies,” Peril said, thrusting out both his elbows. “Let’s get this first duty out of the way so we can enjoy the rest of the day, hmmm?” The women accepted the offer begrudgingly, and they took each arm. The group strode toward the main buildings, Peril whistling lightly as they went.


“Come on, or we’ll be late!” a young voice cried as they raced across the cobblestones. The voice belonged to a boy with short red hair.

“I’m coming!” said another boy, this one with dark hair and a slight British accent. Timothy Hunter had stopped to wipe off his glasses, still trying to wrap his head around the whole idea. When that peculiar blind man named Mister E had suggested that Tim might thrive in a school like Grimoire Academy, the boy wasn’t sure what to expect. The place was vastly different from any other educational institute he had experienced.

Luckily, someone had noticed Tim’s confusion upon his arrival and offered to help. That someone was Rick Billings, a boy from the United States who spoke like a character from the Hollywood movies Tim’s father had let him watch. Rick was only the third American Tim had ever met, following his meeting the strange Mister E and the beautiful Zatanna last month. Despite their differing backgrounds, Tim and Rick had hit it off splendidly from the moment they met that morning.

“Tim, hurry up!” Rick called out. “We don’t want to miss the opening. The headmaster will give us demerits if we’re tardy.”

“Right,” Tim said. He slid on his spectacles and hurried up the walk. The two boys slipped in the back door of the auditorium just before it was shut.


Abby Cable and Rose Psychic followed Johnny Peril as he led them through the main school building. The hallway was pristine, with glossy floors that shimmered under the sunlight streaming in through the expansive windows.

“Come, ladies,” Peril beckoned, guiding them down a corridor and through a door. The trio found themselves standing at the back of a well-lit assembly hall, joining the other teachers who were already present.

They watched as a man approached the dais on the stage, capturing the attention of the assembled students. Conversations dwindled into hushed whispers, and with one stern look, the middle-aged man commanded silence. His mismatched eyes held an unyielding intensity — a piercing white flame in his blue right eye, and a glinting black diamond in his left. The scars etched across his face bore witness to the battles and losses he had endured.

“Good day,” he began, his voice resonating through the hall as he approached the microphone. “For those of you who I have yet to meet, I am Mr. Gallowglass, the headmaster of this extraordinary school. Today, on this momentous first day of January, 1987, we gather here for the thirty-fifth commencement of the Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge. While I could regale you with a lengthy speech, I will keep it brief, as there is much to do, particularly for our new students and faculty.”

In the audience, Tim Hunter shifted uneasily in his seat, feeling as though Gallowglass was speaking directly to him. It was the way the piercing gaze of the headmaster’s one good eye swept the room, locking eyes with each student, leaving no room for evasion.

Gallowglass pressed on. “First and foremost, let me remind you that the academic year here begins today and concludes on October 31st. Throughout the year, you will have three breaks in which you may return home and reunite with your families. However, beyond those precious weeks, prepare yourselves for a rigorous ten months of study and growth.”

He paused, his words hanging in the air, before continuing, directed toward the newcomers and experienced students alike. “If, for any reason, you have doubts about embarking on this educational journey with us, or if you believe that you may not be up to the challenges that await, know that tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, there will be a boat departing from the beach. It is your last chance to reconsider.”

Mr. Gallowglass held their attention with his imposing presence, his voice carrying a sense of gravity. “But for those of you who possess the fortitude to remain, let me share the structure of our classes. They are divided based on age groups, starting from first-year students all the way to those in their seventh years. And for the exceptionally gifted among you — the chosen few — there are optional post-graduation studies that await. Once classes commence, you will be expected to work diligently and excel in your chosen fields. Responsibility and accountability are the guiding principles within these hallowed halls.”

The returning students listened intently, well aware of the expectations set by Gallowglass. Failure was not taken lightly, but neither were mistakes. Students were permitted to learn from their errors, but they were also expected to come prepared and give their utmost dedication. The presence of slackers would not be tolerated within the walls of Grimoire Academy.

“Listen up, students!” declared the headmaster, his tone brimming with authority. “Certain areas of the school are strictly off-limits unless you are accompanied by a qualified supervisor. I’m not exaggerating when I say that anyone caught sneaking into these areas without permission will face severe consequences. Expulsion is not out of the question. I hope I’ve made myself clear.”

Abby glanced around the room, her eyes scanning the anxious faces of her future pupils. The atmosphere was thick with tension and curiosity. What areas was the headmaster referring to?

Gallowglass continued, his words laced with a sense of urgency. “Two specific areas I want to highlight are the Bestiary, where we house the most extraordinary and dangerous mythical creatures, and the Clock Room. Believe me when I say that the creatures in the Bestiary are not your average pets. The last thing I want is to have a conversation with any of your parents explaining why their child is dead.” His stern scowl pierced through the crowd, daring anyone to challenge his seriousness.

He then focused his attention on a particular third-year student who he caught chatting with a friend instead of paying attention. “Am I understood, Mr. Cantrell?” The headmaster’s voice carried an edge of disappointment.

Josh Cantrell, a brown-haired student with a face flushed in embarrassment, replied in a hushed voice, “Yes, sir!”

The headmaster nodded, as if coming to a decision. “Now, let me address another crucial matter. I feel the need to remind you all, at the beginning of each year, that Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge is not a ‘magic academy,’ a school for witchcraft and wizardry, or any of those oft-repeated phrases. Contrary to what some may believe,” he warned with conviction, “less than fifteen percent of our students possess the ability to practice magic. And the only reason that statistic is that high is because of a number of Homo Magi students here for specialized studies at Nommo Hall.”

Abby leaned in slightly, her interest piqued. She had already heard rumors about some of the students from Nommo Hall during the boat ride there. The curiosity surged within her.

“However,” the headmaster continued, “while we may not exclusively focus on magic, Grimoire Academy doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the existence of the supernatural. Our purpose here is to prepare you for a world teeming with supernatural threats and situations that ordinary society is oblivious to. Yes, we do offer some general instruction in magic for those with the gift, but the majority of our curriculum is designed to equip all students with the knowledge to face these peculiar challenges. Magic is just one piece of the puzzle.”

Abby furrowed her brows, absorbing every word. So they weren’t a traditional magic academy, but their unique approach intrigued her. She felt a newfound sense of purpose wash over her.

“It is absolutely imperative that you refrain from using the term ‘magic academy’ while on school grounds,” the headmaster warned, his intense gaze sweeping over the students. “Your teachers will make sure to remind you of this. We have our reasons, so please respect this rule.”

As silence settled over the assembly hall, Mr. Gallowglass’ one right eye seemed to bore into everyone present, emphasizing the importance of his words. Abby couldn’t help but feel a mix of excitement and trepidation. Grimoire Academy was unlike anything she had ever imagined.

“Mr. Bones, Baron Weirwulf, Miss Eve,” he said, his voice now laced with a sense of ease and familiarity, putting Timothy somewhat at ease. “Please come up front.”

Startled, Timothy’s eyes widened as he watched one of the three teachers rise and begin shuffling to the front. It was Mr. Bones, adorned in an eccentric light-purple suit that seemed to belong to another time, with his fringe of white hair encircling his pale skull. From his forehead extended a long and pointed widow’s peak, almost reaching the edge of the white hair. Scruffy white sideburns completed his peculiar appearance, reminiscent of a character straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. But it wasn’t just his antique appearance that caught Timothy’s attention; it was the fact that Mr. Bones had skin as blue as the midnight sky and eyes as yellow as the flickering flames of a candle, giving him an eerie semblance of a reanimated corpse. Adding to this disturbing image was a thick tie, the center of which bore a small white skull. As the teacher’s wicked grin met Timothy’s gaze, a shiver ran down the young boy’s spine. Mr. Bones, the butler of Ghost Manor, certainly knew how to cultivate an unearthly air about him to captivate his audience with tales of the dead. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: Mr. Bones first appeared in “Who’s Staying in the Secret Room?” Ghost Manor v2 #1 (October, 1971).]

The second male teacher, Baron Weirwulf, appeared rather ordinary in contrast to the enigmatic Mr. Bones. Still, with his wild mane of hair and full beard, paired with his outmoded suit, the Baron resembled a character who could have stepped out of the pages of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. One could almost imagine him devouring a blood pie made from the meat of disobedient children. And that name of his, coupled with his distinct Eastern European accent, only served to deepen the sense of otherworldliness that surrounded him. Timothy couldn’t help but wonder if the Baron would transform into a ferocious wolf under the next full moon. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: Baron Weirwulf first appeared in “Baron Weirwulf’s Library,” Haunted #17 (July, 1974)]

Determined to keep a safe distance from both of these teachers, Timothy decided to tread lightly and avoid doing anything to provoke their ire. However, when it came to Miss Eve, he harbored no such qualms.

Timothy watched as Miss Eve, Mr. Bones, and Baron Weirwulf made their way toward the stage. He couldn’t help but be captivated by Miss Eve’s enchanting beauty, wondering what it was about her that drew him in. It wasn’t just him, either — every other schoolboy seemed to share his fascination with her. However, there was something peculiar about her presence, a mysteriousness that matched the strange ambiance of Grimoire Island. Maybe it was the mischievous smile she wore or the raven perched on her shoulder. Whatever it was, Miss Eve fit right into the peculiar world of the academy. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: Eve first appeared in “When Is Tomorrow Yesterday?” Secrets of Sinister House #6 (August-September, 1972).]

“Mr. Bones will be number one, the Baron two, Miss Eve three,” instructed the headmaster. As the three teachers took their places at three spots along the stage, Mr. Gallowglass turned his attention to the students gathered in the room. His eyes scanned the crowd until they landed on a young boy named Murphy. “Mr. Murphy,” the headmaster called out, his voice carrying authority and expectation.

Timothy glanced over at Gray Murphy, who sat in the front right corner and looked up, his eyes meeting Gallowglass’ gaze. “If you would please start the counting with one, we will divide you up in thirds for the island tour,” the headmaster instructed, his tone leaving no room for negotiations.

Frowning slightly, Timothy realized that he and his newfound friend, Rick, would be separated for the duration of the tour. They had been sitting together in the auditorium, enjoying each other’s company. The thought of being apart dampened Timothy’s spirits. “This stinks,” he muttered softly under his breath.

Rick overheard Timothy’s complaint and whispered, “No worries, pal. We’ll find each other again at the dorms after the tour.”

Timothy managed a small smile, grateful for Rick’s comforting words. As the students began to divide themselves into groups, Timothy couldn’t help but feel a twinge of nervousness at the thought of exploring Grimoire Island without his newfound friend by his side. However, he held onto the hope that they would be reunited soon.

Once the students were assigned to their groups and on their way, Mr. Gallowglass quietly slipped out of the room, leaving Timothy to contemplate the adventures that awaited him on Grimoire Island.

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