by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza
The morning sun peeked over the horizon, casting a warm glow upon Grimoire Island. It was a place like no other, for nestled amidst its rugged landscape stood the Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge, a school that held secrets untold. As the island slowly awakened, preparing for another day of discovery, two figures emerged from the shadows, already immersed in their daily routines.
Adam Frankenstein, the groundskeeper with his haunting jaundiced complexion and scars etched upon his face, treaded along the winding path, a contented smile gracing his lips. In his hands, he carried generous handfuls of grain and treats, his offerings to the creatures of the Bestiary who eagerly awaited his arrival.
“Here you go, little ones,” he chimed, his voice gentle as a lullaby. The air buzzed with excitement as furry creatures scurried and birds fluttered, all vying for their share of breakfast. Adam chuckled, tossing out more grain to appease their competitive spirits. “No need to push, plenty for all!” he reassured them.
Meanwhile, Gareth Gallowglass, the enigmatic headmaster of Grimoire Academy, commenced his customary morning tour. Clad in his signature brown suit, he found solace amidst the stillness of the Memorial Park. Seven statues towered around him, each honoring forgotten heroes of the past. From this somber point, Gareth would embark on his island-wide patrol, ensuring all was secure and prepared for the demanding day ahead.
The island, its denizens, knew better than to disrupt the headmaster during this sacred hour. Gallowglass relished in the tranquility, relishing the quietude that enveloped him as he carried out his duties. However, his peace would invariably be disrupted, as inevitable as the tides of fate, when a rogue student would shatter the hushed ambiance with a blatant disregard for the rules. Gallowglass harbored no illusions; he knew his duty extended far beyond these whispered hours.
Observing the headmaster’s approach from her bedroom window, Rose Psychic held her breath, her heart pounding in her chest like a caged bird desperate for freedom. She watched as Gallowglass’ figure drew closer to her bungalow and then, to her great relief, continued on his path without granting her a moment’s notice. A fleeting sigh escaped her lips, blending seamlessly with the breeze that danced through the open window.
“I hate to have to deal with him so early,” she murmured to herself, her words nearly swallowed by the murmur of the island awakening. “A lady deserves to have her morning coffee first.” Rose understood the sanctity of her morning ritual — the brewing of coffee, the gentle embrace of silence, the respite before the world barged in with all its clamor and chaos.
Determined to reclaim her oasis of tranquility, Rose ventured out of her room and called out to her roommate. “Abby, I’m taking the shower now, if that’s all right with you,” she announced, her voice carrying a note of uncertainty. But only silence greeted her, casting a curious shadow upon the morning and causing a flicker of concern to dance in the depths of her emerald eyes. “Odd. I wonder if she went out for another early run?” Rose pondered aloud, her words trailing off into the ether.
Peeking cautiously around the corner, Rose’s eyes widened as she noticed the slightly ajar door to Abby’s bedroom. Bathed in a warm glow from the sunlight dancing through the open curtains, the room seemed too inviting to still harbor a slumbering occupant. “Abby!” Rose’s voice echoed with concern as she gently rapped her knuckles on the doorframe. She waited anxiously for a response, her heart drumming in her chest, but the only reply was the unsettling silence hanging in the air.
With a mixture of trepidation and curiosity, Rose tentatively pushed the door wider, allowing her gaze to sweep through the room. A frown formed on her face as her eyes landed on Abby’s impeccably made bed. This isn’t like her at all, Rose thought, her brow furrowing thoughtfully. But it was something else that caught her attention, pulling her closer toward the enigma that was unfolding before her eyes.
The closet door, tucked away in the far corner of the room, stood open, revealing its hollow interior. Rose’s heart skipped a beat as her eyes scanned the empty space. Every trace of Abby’s belongings had vanished, leaving behind nothing but a void that mirrored the unease stirring within Rose’s soul. “Gone,” she whispered, her voice laced with a mixture of disbelief and concern.
There was something undeniably peculiar about this turn of events, especially considering Abby’s outburst in the headmaster’s office the previous day. Rose had intended to confront her friend about it, to unravel the tangled threads of frustration and dissatisfaction that had been woven into the very fabric of Abby’s being. But Rose had thought it best to grant Abby a moment of solitude, allowing her the chance to recalibrate her perspective. Little did she know the gravity of the situation, the alarming shift that had occurred in the span of a mere few days.
In retrospect, Rose chastised herself for not intervening sooner. She had observed the transformation in Abby’s demeanor, from hopeful anticipation to a resounding discontent that culminated in wild accusations against the revered institution they called home. Rose had chalked it up to a fleeting bout of insanity, an errant deviation brought on by the ebb and flow of a woman’s inner lunacy. Her own timeless existence had equipped her with firsthand knowledge of the chaos that reigned during her younger years. She had deemed Abby’s plight akin to her own struggles during that timeless week each month. But now, as the truth stood bare, Rose realized the magnitude of her oversight.
Determined to piece together the fragments of this disconcerting puzzle, Rose resolved to seek out answers from her comrades. A steely resolve settled within her as she began scheming, her thoughts meandering toward Johnny, perhaps Emma, and their potential knowledge about Abby’s inexplicable disappearance. If all else failed, there was the forbidding Belmont, brooding in his crusty exterior, or the sharp-tongued and unpredictable Gallowglass. Undeniably, neither option brought her much joy, but the gravity of the situation demanded that she probe these uncertain avenues. Rose sighed softly, preparing herself for the challenges that lay ahead.
Abby Cable lay sprawled in her bed in Houma, Louisiana, the covers tossed aside as if a fierce storm had swept through the room. The silky white nightgown clung to her sleeping form, as she dreamt fitfully. It was her first night back home, and the exhaustion from her hasty departure from the island and the unexpected visit from Adam Strange weighed heavily on her. She had spent hours with her friends, Chester and Liz, their voices echoing in the room until the weariness took over and sleep claimed her.
In her troubled dreams, Abby found herself back in the classroom, teaching her students. The responsibility weighed on her, knowing that they depended on her guidance. But she despised that peculiar place and all the inexplicable events that had unfolded there. The memory of a man with one eye invaded her thoughts, his wicked grin sending chills down her spine. He was the one she hated above all others.
Restlessly, Abby shifted onto her side, succumbing even deeper into her dreams. Unbeknownst to her, when she finally woke, she would possess an unstoppable power that would shatter Houma into pieces.
Gareth Gallowglass paused, his eyes fixated on the wooded area where Abby Cable was meant to conduct her botanical studies classes. Gallowglass had specifically created this small patch of nature for her after his agent Liberty had recruited her to join the school faculty. As he surveyed the various plants and trees, something peculiar caught his attention. What’s this? he wondered.
It was a plant unlike any he had ever seen before, a bizarre species hidden among the grass and foliage. It was unusual that he didn’t recognize the species, since he had taken the time to learn of all the natural plants that had ever grown on Earth since the dinosaur age. But this was unlike any that he had seen before.
Curiosity piqued, Gallowglass leaned closer, inspecting the crimson flowers that adorned the strange plant. Suddenly, a cloud of dust enveloped his face, expelled by the plant as if defending itself. Coughing and stumbling backward, the headmaster felt a searing pain that surged through his throat and nose as the spores invaded his body.
Desperate to steady himself, Gallowglass grasped onto a nearby tree trunk, clutching at the bark for support before he could fall over. No. No. Nooo! Panic surged within him as his eye closed involuntarily amidst the agony.
A moment later his eye opened once more, now white hot with fury, and he willed the spores to burn away, both inside and outside his body. Gradually, he regained his strength, the fiery sensation subsiding.
Turning his attention back to the offending plant, Gallowglass unleashed his anger upon it. “You don’t belong here!” he seethed, a small flame igniting the plant and reducing it to ashes.
As he stood amongst the remnants, his thoughts expanded, reaching out across the island. There are others! the one-eyed man realized in surprise. And with a simple thought, fires erupted across the island, consuming the small trespassers before vanishing into thin air. The morning light slowly dispersed the wisps of smoke, leaving no trace of their existence. Make that were.
Gallowglass had no tolerance for unwanted guests on the island, whether they be man, animal, or plant.
Patricia Ambrose, a wide-eyed second-year girl from Zatara Hall who was commonly called Patsy by her teachers and friends, felt a sudden wave of sickness wash over her as she changed into her gym clothes. Her blonde hair tumbled down to the floor as she gingerly lowered her head between her knees, desperately hoping the feeling would pass.
A concerned voice broke through her dizziness. “Are you okay?” her friend asked, pausing to check on her.
Patsy mustered a weak smile. “I’ll be okay in a minute,” she reassured, still hunched over. “Just go on without me.” Her friend nodded and hurriedly left the locker room, leaving Patsy alone with her churning stomach.
But it wasn’t just physical discomfort that plagued her. As a wave came over her, causing sweat to drip from her brow and splatter onto the floor, Patsy couldn’t shake an overwhelming thought. Everyone hates me! she believed. Everyone is jealous of my looks, even that crone, Mrs. Peel!
Determination sparked within her like a flickering flame. “I’ll show them!” Patsy exclaimed, straightening up suddenly. “I’ll show them what Patsy can do!”
Without uttering another word, she stormed out of the locker room. Sweat trickled down her body, leaving a trail as she walked with unsteady steps toward where the rest of the girls were gathering for their exercises.
In the boy’s locker room, Joshua Cantrell, a confident third-year, experienced a similar plight as Patsy. His face flushed with heat, and his clothes clung to him, soaked in perspiration even before the class had commenced.
Gray Murphy, a loyal friend, stood by his side, concern furrowing his brows. “You’re burning up, Josh,” Murphy noted, placing a hand on Joshua’s forehead. “You need to see the nurse at the infirmary.”
“I’m all right,” Josh insisted, a hint of defiance in his voice. “Nothing to worry about.”
Alfred Twitchell joined the two, his worry lines etched deeper. He observed Joshua’s condition critically. “I think you should listen to Murphy,” Alfred implored. “Your body can’t compensate for the excessive heat you’re producing.”
“I said I’m fine!” Joshua erupted, his agitation seeping through his words. In a fit of anger, he shoved Twitchell, causing the heavier-set boy to stumble against the wall, gasping for breath.
“Twitch!” Murphy cried out, rushing to his friend’s side. “Are you okay?”
“He’s fine! We’re all fine!” Joshua’s voice cracked with strain as he defended his distressed state.
“I don’t think so!” Kirk Pike interjected, his voice laced with concern. “Do we have to carry you to the infirmary?”
Meanwhile, Timothy Hunter, a thoughtful and observant first-year, watched the scene unfold from behind his wireframe glasses, his mind racing with unease. This wasn’t right. A sinking feeling settled in his chest as he observed his friend, Josh Cantrell, who had become closer to him over time, especially after their adventure to the administration building back in January. (*) It just didn’t add up. Josh was typically the epitome of calm, yet now he seemed ready to explode.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Books of Magic: Curiosity Kills.]
The twelve-year-old’s instincts had been sharpened ever since he came to Grimoire Island, and he trusted them now more than ever. Something wasn’t right, and it took all his strength not to run off in alarm.
Patsy Ambrose joined the line of girls in her class, her brow glistening with sweat as she struggled to maintain her composure. Her vision blurred, but she forced herself to stay focused. At the front of the class stood Mrs. Peel, a strong and fit woman with a crisp English accent.
“Stretches and calisthenics, ladies!” Mrs. Peel called out, blowing her whistle. “And begin…”
The entire group followed Mrs. Peel’s lead, following her bouncing up and down on toe touches. Emma Peel glanced up at the class and noticed Patsy’s struggle, her face creasing with concern. “One-two, one-two…” she counted, making her way toward Patsy.
“Miss Ambrose, why are you falling behind?” Mrs. Peel asked, placing a hand on the student’s forehead as she knelt down. “Are you feeling unwell?”
“Get away from me!” Patsy suddenly shouted, her small fist lashing out in blind anger.
Mrs. Peel swiftly moved her head to the side, narrowly avoiding the punch. She looked into Patsy’s eyes and sensed something unsettling. That was no accident! she thought, her heart pounding.
Reacting instinctively, Mrs. Peel twisted her body, causing Patsy to fall over her hip. As Mrs. Peel straightened up, she felt a searing pain in her palms. Surprised, she examined her hands and found redness and burns where she had grabbed Patsy’s arms. “What in the name of…?”
As Patsy regained her balance, the grass around her appeared to smolder. An animalistic growl rose from her throat, reminiscent of a cornered dog protecting its food from predators. Heat emanated from her neck, causing her hair to stand on end. “Kill you!” she screamed, charging forward with light shimmering along her hands. “I’ll kill you all!”
“Everyone, back!” Mrs. Peel waved the other girls away, preparing herself for Patsy’s approach. Not sure what’s happening here, but it doesn’t look good! She held her injured hands close to her body, shielding them from further harm.
“I’m fine! Geez!” Josh Cantrell shoved aside the other boys, stumbling into a locker before shaking his head.
“Go get Mr. Peril, Twitch,” Kirk Pike ordered, taking hold of Josh’s arm.
“No!” Josh shouted, and a powerful spell he’d recently discovered suddenly came to his fevered mind. It had never worked for him before, but he had also never needed it this badly. “Kami Nomi Kai!”
In an instant, the young teenager grew a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier. He wrenched his arm free from Kirk’s grasp and lunged toward Alfred Twitchell. But Kirk anticipated the move and tripped Josh, while Twitch expertly sidestepped the attack.
Tim Hunter, sensing trouble, grabbed the fire extinguisher hanging by the door. Josh regained his footing, his eyes vacant and distant. As if acting purely by instinct, Tim pulled the pin from the extinguisher, preparing to use it.
Mrs. Peel and Patsy Ambrose stood face to face, their gazes locked, while the rest of the girls watched the tense showdown from a safe distance. The teacher hastily pulled her sleeves over her hands, using them as impromptu gloves. This will have to do! thought Emma Peel.
Patsy, in her wild fury, growled like a cornered animal and launched herself at Emma, swinging wildly. The first couple of strikes missed their mark, but with each passing blow, Patsy’s aim seemed to improve. Emma could feel the heat radiating from the girl’s hands as she effortlessly dodged the attacks.
This isn’t natural. This is supernatural! Emma’s mind raced as she searched for an explanation. The only logical answer she could come up with was that this display of strength had to be something out of the ordinary, something otherworldly. The question now was whether she could put an end to it before someone got seriously hurt.
Mrs. Peel patiently waited for an opportunity to strike back. Patsy’s next swing took her off balance, leaving her vulnerable. It was the opening Emma had been waiting for.
Reacting swiftly, she delivered a sweeping blow to Patsy’s legs, forcing her to crumble to the ground. Sorry, honey, Emma thought regretfully, This isn’t exactly fair play, but desperate times call for desperate measures!
She pounced on the girl, grateful that she had chosen to wear sweatpants rather than her usual shorts. Still, the searing heat permeated through the fabric, reminding Emma of a scorching August day at a Mediterranean beach.
Wisps of smoke rose from Patsy’s exercise clothes as she wriggled on the ground. Despite being astounded by Patsy’s newfound strength, Emma did not waver. She quickly regained her defensive stance, hands up in her sleeves, ready for the next move. “I can keep this up all day, Patsy,” she lied confidently, trying to provoke a reaction. “How about you?”
Patsy roared in response, charging at Emma with blind rage. Mrs. Peel gracefully sidestepped, allowing the furious girl to tumble to the ground. That’s right, girl! Emma thought triumphantly, Get good and cross, so you make a mistake!
Unbeknownst to them, Adam Frankenstein had arrived on the scene. One of the girls had managed to run for help before the conflict erupted. “There they are!” the girl called out to the imposing figure of Adam. “Can you help?”
Adam noticed the smoke and caught a whiff of the singed grass. “I think so,” he replied, stepping boldly between the combatants, his scars a testament to his turbulent past. With his scarred arms, he scooped up Patsy, despite the searing pain her touch caused him. I’ve endured worse, he reassured himself as he carried her swiftly to the side of the building that housed the lockers. He knew exactly what needed to be done.
Despite his deliberate movements, Adam’s mind worked at lightning speed. He led Patsy to a faucet affixed to the side of the building and yanked on the chain. Usually used for cleaning equipment or cleats after a messy sporting event, this faucet would serve their purpose.
Adam disregarded the frigid water cascading down, drenching his clothes and shoes in the process. His sole focus was getting Patsy Ambrose under the rushing flow. Patsy wailed as the water hit her, accompanied by the hissing sound of steam rising from her scalding body. As the sound began to fade, Adam knew he had succeeded.