The Books of Magic: Curiosity Kills, Chapter 2: A Stranger’s Intervention

by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza

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Days before, Joshua Cantrell had ventured into the magnificent main room of the Clock Tower, his mind set on researching a report on the intricate architecture of ancient Egypt. With stealth and precision, he had gathered all the necessary materials while Mr. Belmont was preoccupied with assisting another student. But Josh’s motives weren’t solely focused on Egypt; he was also on a quest to uncover the hidden secrets of Grimoire Island, specifically its elusive blueprints. As he slipped the blueprints into his bag, neatly hidden among his textbooks, a mischievous smile danced across his face. No one would suspect a thing.

However, something peculiar was happening to Josh. What had started as a simple desire to familiarize himself with the island’s layout had transformed into an inexplicable compulsion, a magnetic pull toward the blueprints. It was as if they were whispering to him, calling him to unravel their secrets. At first, the sensation had jolted the teenager, but after a few years of attending Grimoire, he had grown accustomed to the unexpected twists and turns on the strange island.

Yet, the why of it all remained a mystery, until now. The elusive secret room, unnoticed by others, had caught Josh’s discerning eye. It had been a subconscious observation, a detail that had slipped into his consciousness without conscious effort. The hidden room existed, and Josh knew it now, cloaked in intrigue and waiting to be explored.

When Josh finally decided to keep the blueprints and unlock the enigmatic puzzle, destiny played its hand, revealing a figure shrouded in darkness. It happened on a moonlit evening, shortly after a sumptuous dinner, as Josh made his solitary trek back to the dormitories. The man, wearing a dark suit and a flowing cloak, emerged from the shadows, the golden medal adorning his black attire gleaming ominously. The brim of his hat obscured his features, leaving only two piercing slits of white, ghostly eyes.

“The pursuit of knowledge is indeed commendable, young Joshua Cantrell,” the mysterious stranger began, his voice a haunting echo that sent shivers down Josh’s spine. “Yet, perhaps this time, caution should be your trusted companion.”

Josh’s heartbeat quickened, his curiosity battling against the stranger’s cryptic words. “Who are you?” he inquired, his voice steady but laced with uncertainty. “You’re not any of the teachers, so how do you know my name?”

A wry smile played upon the lips of the man in the cloak, and he replied, “I am but a wanderer passing through, a harbinger of caution in the night. Some secrets are best left undisturbed.” With those enigmatic words, the Phantom Stranger dissolved into the darkness, leaving Josh to ponder the weight of his warning.


Josh had heard the stranger’s advice, but he found himself unswayed by mere words. The allure of the unknown, the irresistible pull of a hidden basement, was too captivating to be deterred. Tonight, he vowed, would be the night he delved into the depths and unraveled the secrets that lay in wait.


In the common area of Zatara Hall, a group of students from different years sat together, diligently working on their homework. The dorm was a unique mix of students from different Earths, a decision made by Mr. Gallowglass to promote learning across different ages and backgrounds. This arrangement allowed for a lively interaction between both boys and girls, as they shared common areas and attended classes together. Among them, Joshua Cantrell finished his assignments swiftly and closed his books with a determined expression.

As he stood up and made his way toward his room, Timothy Hunter had been watching him curiously from behind his spectacles. Something about Joshua’s actions intrigued him, and he decided to follow him discreetly.

In his dormitory, Joshua swiftly changed into dark clothing and climbed into his bunk before anyone noticed his early retreat. The other boys went about their own routines, oblivious to Joshua’s true intentions as he pretended to read his textbook for the next day.

Gradually, the boys finished their nighttime rituals and Kirk Pike flipped off the light as he remarked, “Lights out.”

Conversations soon ceased, and darkness enveloped the dorm. Joshua listened intently, counting the passing minutes by the faint glow of the wall clock barely visible from his bed.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, silence settled over the room as one by one, the boys drifted off to sleep. The sound of Alfred Twitchell’s snores reassured Joshua that the others were indeed fast asleep. This was his chance.

With a glimmer of determination in his eyes, Joshua silently slipped out of his bunk. Moving swiftly, he made his way to the pre-selected window. With a practiced hand, he gently pulled it open, allowing the warm January air from the South Pacific to drift into the room. Aware of the need for stealth, he carefully left the window open just a crack, ensuring he could return unnoticed later.

Taking a deep breath, Joshua braced himself and dropped down the ten-foot distance to the soft ground outside.

Josh turned his gaze back to the imposing wall, his mind contemplating the challenge that lay before him. His fingers twitched with anticipation as he imagined himself scaling the second-floor window with ease. Being a climber had its advantages, after all. But for now, he had a more immediate mission at hand. Time to embark on a thrilling exploration!

With swift steps, he traversed the quad, moonlight filtering through the clouds above. Unbeknownst to Josh, a pair of keen eyes observed his every move from a darkened window on the first floor. The light glinted off a pair of glasses, but Josh’s attention remained elsewhere. Little did he know that someone had witnessed his departure from Zatara Hall.

As Josh’s eyes adjusted to the night’s dimness, he tiptoed along the path he had carefully planned earlier. His movements were swift yet cautious, always mindful of the shadows that embraced him. The Clock Tower chimed in the distance, a reminder that time was running out. It was already half-past eleven. Better hurry! he told himself.

A grin spread across Josh’s face as the grand doors of the administration building emerged before his eyes. To his delight, they were unlocked, a testament to the staff’s assumption that the rules imposed on the students would be enough to maintain order. Josh silently slipped inside, his heart racing with exhilaration, and made his way toward the stairs leading to the basement.

Unbeknownst to the intrepid explorer, he had a companion tracing his steps, mirroring his every move as quietly as a cloud drifting across the night sky. This new shadow glided down the corridor, turning corners with the same stealth as Josh himself, until they both arrived at the designated spot on the blueprint — the blank wall.

“What are you doing down here?” came a voice that shattered the silence, causing Josh to startle.

He spun around, his eyes widening in recognition. “Hunter?” he uttered in surprise. “Why on earth are you following me?”

“Why are you breaking curfew?” Timothy Hunter countered, his tone firm. He looked rather peculiar in his striped pajamas, his school sweater draped over it to ward off the chill of the night. “Couldn’t this have waited until daylight?”

Josh gritted his teeth, feeling his irritation rise. Who was this first-year to question his motives? “Just doing a bit of exploring, Hunter,” he replied, his gaze still fixed on the enigmatic wall. “I’m curious about what lies behind it.”

“I’m certain Miss Eve or Mr. Peril would be more than willing to satisfy your curiosity,” Tim retorted, his voice laced with reason. “There’s no need for a personal inspection, you know.”

Josh’s patience wore thin, his annoyance growing exponentially. “Lower your voice, Hunter,” he hissed irritably. “We don’t want to get caught, do we?”

The younger boy sighed dramatically, his sarcasm evident. “Heavens forbid,” he uttered, his voice dripping with mock concern.

Josh tightened his lips and clenched his fists, struggling to reign in his frustration. Taking a deep breath, he hissed through gritted teeth, “Look, Hunter, I have my reasons for being here. You have yours for following me, I assume. But let’s not make a scene. We can figure this out together, quietly.”

Tim’s expression softened slightly, as he considered Josh’s words. “Fine, but we better not get caught, Josh. I don’t want either of us ending up in detention, or worse.”

Josh nodded eagerly, relieved that Tim seemed to be willing to cooperate. “Agreed, Hunter. Now let’s see if we can unravel the secrets behind this wall without drawing any unwanted attention.”

Josh pulled a crumpled piece of parchment from his back pocket and spread the precious blueprint out on the dusty floor. He furrowed his brow and ran his fingers along the cold stone wall, desperately searching for any sign of a concealed door panel. Tim peered over his shoulder, adjusting his glasses with a thoughtful expression.

“Do you mind?” Josh snapped, his irritation bubbling to the surface after being unable to find a key hole himself. “I could use a little help here, Hunter.”

Tim nodded his head, and Josh gave him an appreciative smirk. With their resolve renewed, Josh and Tim turned their attention to the stone wall. Together, they carefully inspected its surface, searching for any signs of hidden entrances or mechanisms.

As a mischievous glint passed over Tim’s eyes, he pressed several bricks in the wall at random. He wore a sly smile as his actions caused it to swing open, revealing a hidden room beyond. Josh’s eyes widened in awe, his annoyance momentarily forgotten.

“How’d you do that?” he demanded, hastily gathering up the prints and stepping through the mysterious door.

“It’s easy, if you just think about it,” Tim replied nonchalantly, following close behind the older boy.

As they entered the room, Josh’s gaze swept across the space, taking in the scattered books and peculiar objects strewn haphazardly about. Determined to maintain an air of secrecy, he retrieved a small lantern from his pocket and lit it cautiously, reducing the glow to a dim setting so as not to attract any unwanted attention.

The titles on the book spines were foreign to Josh, written in a language he couldn’t decipher beyond a few simple Latin words. Several items in the room were adorned with curious decorations, leaving Josh unsure of their significance. Tim remained strangely quiet, absorbing every detail with wide-eyed fascination.

In the center of the room, a circular cross with intricate engravings was etched into the cold floor, surrounded by a series of cryptic letters.

“Can you make out what these letters mean, Hunter?” Josh inquired, his tone a mixture of anticipation and uncertainty.

A look of concentration crossed Tim’s face as he moved toward the spot, crouching down to examine the symbols closely. “Nothing I’ve ever seen before,” he admitted, his voice laced with both frustration and excitement. “Maybe one of these books can help translate them.”

Without wasting another moment, Josh suggested, “Let’s look for it, then.” The two boys began their quest for the elusive translation, together meticulously sifting through the books, hoping to unravel the secrets hidden within the enigmatic symbols. After countless attempts, Tim’s face lit up with delight as he triumphantly discovered the right book. Handing it over to Josh, he watched intently as the older boy eagerly flipped through its weathered pages.

“Exactly what did you find?” Josh asked, his voice brimming with eager anticipation. After a few moments of searching, while Tim sat back patiently, a smile tugged at Josh’s lips. An English description, neatly printed beside the symbol version of the same word, caught his eye just as it had Tim’s.

“Let’s see,” Josh began, his voice full of intrigue as he read aloud. “The symbols say, ‘Unbind the menace of C’lar, unbind the army of Ken, open the gate of S’pre, open the portal of Mon.'”

Little did they know that these words, once spoken aloud, would set in motion an unfortunate chain of events.

“I don’t think that was a good idea, Josh,” Tim Hunter said, his voice trembling as he cautiously pressed his back against the wall. Every word he spoke seemed to carry a noticeable vibration.

“What do you mean?” Josh retorted, oblivious to the impending danger.

As he spoke, the circle etched into the floor glowed with an ominous red hue. Suddenly, a small hole materialized, steadily expanding like the relentless force of a whirlpool. Bewildered, both students took a step back, their hearts pounding with trepidation at the strange phenomenon unfolding before them.

“Since you seem to know what you’re doing — just what should we do now?” Tim asked, his voice tinged with a hint of desperation.

A flurry of thoughts raced through Josh’s mind as he desperately tried to figure out whom to report this mishap to. Who would be the least punishing authority figure in this situation?

Just then, a monstrous entity erupted from the gaping hole in the floor. The dim light in the room and the glow emanating from the floor barely illuminated the creature. It possessed a multitude of eyes and tentacles too numerous to count. A blood-curdling screech, reminiscent of a bear’s roar but a hundred times louder and a few octaves higher, filled the air.

“We’re in trouble!” Josh exclaimed, his gaze darting around the room in search of a suitable weapon.

“Really? What gave you that idea?!” Tim retorted sarcastically.

“I’ll distract it, while you go find help!” Josh declared, hoping his brave words would serve to disguise the fear that made his knees shake uncontrollably.

“We either both go or neither of us does!” Tim replied determinedly, grasping a conveniently placed staff in a nearby umbrella holder.

Josh couldn’t help but admire the unexpected bravery displayed by the seemingly unassuming first-year. There was more to Tim Hunter than met the eye, something Josh had misjudged due to his youth and frail appearance. If they managed to survive this ordeal, they would certainly need to have a serious conversation.

As the boys stood there, a shadow suddenly loomed over them from behind. Like lightning, a hand clad in a white glove snatched up the book that had fallen from Josh’s trembling hands. The pages of the book flipped rapidly of their own accord.

“Ah, a containment spell,” remarked a familiar voice. “Bind the menace of C’lar, bind the army of Ken, close the gate of S’pre, close the portal of Mon,” the newcomer recited with authority. Josh recognized the voice as belonging to the enigmatic man he had encountered on the path during twilight just a few days earlier.

With the Phantom Stranger’s commanding voice, the expanding whirlpool came to a sudden halt. His will exerted itself in a valiant effort to undo the invading force attempting to breach the barrier into Grimoire Island.

“What’s happening here?” bellowed a harsh voice, causing the vault door to creak open. Josh’s heart skipped a beat as he turned to find Mr. Gallowglass storming in, his one right eye ablaze with fury. The headmaster’s mere presence was enough to send shivers down their spines, bringing their conversation to an abrupt halt.

Before anyone could react, a bizarre creature shot out from the closing portal, hurtling straight toward Josh. Panic flooded his veins as he instinctively ducked, huddling beneath his arms in a feeble attempt to shield himself.

Suddenly, the oncoming attack burst in midair, showering Josh in a disgusting torrent of purple goo. Grimacing, he attempted to wipe the slimy residue from his dark clothes. “Aw, gross!” he cried.

Snatching the staff from Tim’s grasp, Gareth Gallowglass advanced toward the portal. With an intense gaze, he dismantled the writhing tentacle creature with his psionic powers, reducing it to nothing. Gallowglass peered down into the gaping pit in the floor, where the sound of agonizing screams reverberated alongside the sickening sound of tearing flesh.

In an instant, the room reverted to its normal state, as if a heavy door had slammed shut. The intricate circle and cross markings reappeared on the floor, adorned now with a fresh set of symbols along the outer edge.

The headmaster turned to face the trio, his expression so severe that it sent a shiver down Josh’s spine, making him wish for a boulder to hide under. “The book!” Gallowglass demanded from the mysterious man, who promptly relinquished it, allowing it to fly into the headmaster’s awaiting hands. “Now, leave my island at once!”

The Phantom Stranger turned to Tim, a trace of familiarity in his voice. “Zatanna sends her regards,” he revealed before vanishing into thin air with the sound of billowing fabric.

Josh, still struggling to rid himself of the gunky residue, turned to Tim, unable to contain his astonishment. “You mean you actually…?”

“Yes,” Tim said, confirming his earlier story with a nod of his head.

“Return to your dormitory immediately!” Gallowglass’ commanding voice echoed through the vault.

Desperate to avoid punishment, Josh scrambled to explain, searching for a way to shift the blame solely onto the stranger. “But sir, I can explain–”

“Now!” Gallowglass interrupted, his voice leaving no room for argument. In the blink of an eye, the boys found themselves whisked away from the vault, each deposited into their respective dormitories in Zatara Hall.

Josh hastily retrieved his pajamas and made his way to the bathroom for a hasty shower. The memory of Gallowglass’ scathing tone lingered in his ears, serving as a reminder of the consequences that awaited him.

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