by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza
“Kami Nomi Kai!” Joshua Cantrell bellowed once more, his voice reverberating through the air. As his body grew further in stature, he took a rough swing at the other boys with his enlarged fist. The other boys scattered, fearing the power that pulsed within him.
That’s an effective incantation! Alfred Twitchell thought as he pressed himself against the wall, heart hammering in his chest. He winced at the memory of being flung against the wall earlier; it seemed Josh’s magic had given him an unearthly strength. Who could have predicted this?
“You asked for this!” Kirk Pike declared, adopting a fighting stance. His fists were clenched and his feet planted firmly on the ground. Kirk was known as the best fighter in the school, already skilled enough to rival their instructor, Johnny Peril, who had been teaching them self-defense since the beginning of the semester.
Josh swung a left hook, his movements surprisingly swift given his current size. Kirk gracefully evaded the blow, smoothly pivoting and extending his leg. With exquisite timing, his foot connected with Josh’s leg, but Kirk didn’t stop there. He continued his fluid motion, causing Josh to lose his balance and crash to the ground.
As Josh sprang back up, Kirk retreated a few steps. “Couldn’t make this easy, could you, buddy?” he taunted, sweat forming on his brow.
Josh growled, his animalistic fury evident, and turned around, searching for something to strike in retaliation.
With untamed agility, Kirk launched himself into the air. His right foot connected solidly with Josh’s back, propelling him forward until he collided with a row of lockers. The metal structures crumpled under the immense force, falling atop Josh and trapping him momentarily.
“Way to go!” Gray Murphy cheered, unable to contain his excitement.
Kirk grinned. “Thanks.” Suddenly, a deep rumbling caught their attention, and both boys swiveled their heads to see what was happening.
Josh mustered his inhuman strength, lifting and flinging the lockers aside effortlessly, as if they were mere cardboard boxes. Kirk wasted no time, aiming a kick at Josh’s head as he struggled to rise. Gravity overtook him, and he fell to the ground once more.
“Quick, we gotta silence him!” Gray Murphy exclaimed, hastily pulling off his blue sports jersey and covering Josh Cantrell’s mouth with it, straining and twisting the cloth material so much that the grin on the Fighting Red Dogs logo was the only thing that could be recognized. “Those spells of his are dangerous!”
“No, really, Sherlock?” Kirk retorted sarcastically, trying to ignore the smoke emanating from the soles of his tennis shoes. He couldn’t believe he was doing all the work while Murphy tried to charge. “Josh’s skin is heating up with every passing moment!”
“Then we should douse him!” Timothy Hunter interjected, stepping forward and positioning the fire extinguisher toward his friend. “Sorry about this, Josh,” he whispered, closing his eyes and depressing the activator.
A white cloud of foam shot out from the extinguisher, enveloping the enraged Josh before he could react. He let out a howl of pain and frustration as the foam fought against the searing heat emanating from his body.
Tim, however, had been the only one close enough to witness the foam’s astonishing transformation. Despite its appearance of normalcy from a distance, he sensed something odd about it, causing him to gasp. “What’s happening?”
As the foam began to settle, what only Tim had spotted could now be seen by all — an inexplicable icy shell had formed around Josh, causing the other boys to gasp in disbelief.
“What the–?!” cried Murphy, his voice laced with astonishment. “Is that ice?”
Kirk nodded fervently. “He’s almost frozen solid!” he exclaimed, his eyes wide with wonder.
“Most incredible,” said Twitch, ever the observant one. “I’m going to get help!” At that, he ran off in search of Mr. Peril.
But while the other boys marveled at the inexplicable event unfolding before them, Timothy Hunter harbored a different thought. “It happened again! Magic!” he whispered to himself. Ever since his arrival on the island, strange occurrences had become the norm for young Timothy. Apart from that one peculiar incident involving his yo-yo transforming into an owl, these peculiar events had all been accidental. (*) Yet, this was not the time to dwell on his burgeoning magical abilities; their focus had to be on stopping Josh, ensuring the safety of all the students.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Books of Magic: Rise of the Bloody Moon.]
Then, alarmingly, cracks started forming in the thick ice, steam already shooting out as the ice started to melt. The boys began to realize the urgency of their situation, for once that ice was gone, they would all be in imminent danger again.
“Look at the ice!” yelled Murphy. “It’s already melting!”
“The shower!” Kirk exclaimed suddenly, an idea materializing in his mind. “We need to get him in there!”
Murphy slapped a hand to his forehead in realization. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Kirk, Murphy, and Tim summoned their strength and maneuvered the rapidly dissolving ice block. With united effort, they pushed it toward the shower, striving against the clock. And with one final, desperate surge, the block teetered over the edge and crashed into the spacious, tiled room.
Murphy acted quickly, turning on the cold water, as powerful streams burst forth from the showerheads. They deluged the struggling figure of Josh Cantrell, desperately attempting to extinguish the dangerous heat emitting from him.
Abby Cable jolted awake in her bed in Houma, Louisiana, her heart pounding in her chest. “Whoa!” she exclaimed, her voice echoing in the room. “That was the strangest dream…” She blinked as she felt a dampness in her eye.
Placing a hand to her forehead, she gasped at the intense heat radiating from her skin. “I’m burning up!”
Abby reached for the small pitcher on her nightstand, filling a glass with water. But as she held the glass, she noticed the trembling in her hands, mirroring her inner turmoil. “What’s happening to me?” she wondered, her thoughts scattered. Just as she was about to take a sip, the glass slipped from her grasp, spilling water all over herself and the bed.
“Damn it!” she exploded, frustration taking over. In a fit of anger, she hurled the glass against the wall, shattering it into pieces. Dizzy with confusion, Abby stumbled out of bed just as Liz Tremayne entered the room, her voice filled with concern.
“A-Abby? Are y-you okay?” Liz asked, her timid voice barely above a whisper. Liz had endured great suffering at the hands of her abusive husband, and it had left her broken and cautious. Healing would take time, and trust would have to be earned again.
Abby glanced at Liz, her eyes sharp and focused, but filled with something more sinister. Liz had been her friend, but in that moment, Abby felt an inexplicable surge of hatred toward her. All she could see was simpering weakness in Liz, the constant crying and complaining she’d had to endure. It repulsed her. It was unnatural.
Without warning, Abby lunged forward, grabbing Liz by the arm. With an astonishing strength she had never possessed before, she threw Liz against the wall with a sickening thud.
Bones snapped on impact, and Liz crumbled to the floor in agony. Through tear-filled eyes, Liz struggled to comprehend why Abby had done this, her voice barely audible as she groaned in pain. “Abby… why?” she managed to say, her heart breaking at the betrayal.
Stomping past her injured friend, Abby struck the door with a fierce blow, creating a gaping hole. She stormed out of the room, leaving Liz unable to move, both out of fear and the excruciating pain coursing through her body. Even if she had been able to, reaching the phone for help felt like a distant possibility, as she didn’t dare risk further angering her friend.
Abby stormed out of the house, ripping the front door off its hinge with a tremendous crash. Her platinum-blonde hair swirled around her face as if it had a mind of its own, while steam and smoke billowed from her trembling skin.
Within moments the woman was striding through the downtown city center. The townspeople, many of whom knew her all too well in this close-knit community of Houma, looked on in varying degrees of shock and concern. The locals were honking at her and pointing at her, talking about her and spreading vicious rumors as usual.
“Why, oh why, did I ever return to this wretched town?” Abby muttered under her breath, her thoughts consumed by a newfound and pure hatred that bubbled within her. It was an intensity she had never experienced before, and it almost frightened her. She cast a withering glance at the cars and passerby as she roamed aimlessly, dressed in a disheveled nightgown that revealed more than it concealed. “I’m better than this town! I’m better than everyone!”
Laughter escaped Abby’s lips, tinged with a cruel satisfaction, as she approached a parked pickup truck. With an extraordinary burst of strength, she lunged forward and overturned it onto its side, sending the startled onlookers scrambling out of harm’s way. Chaos ensued, cries of terror filled the air, but one unfortunate soul failed to escape her wrath in time.
Abby seized the man and ruthlessly flung him into the brick wall of the nearby bank. A distinct handprint, etched with burns, marked the circumference of his neck while blood trickled from his broken nose. His gasp for air revealed the consequence of a cracked rib lung-piercing blow.
A woman and her two children looked on in horror, desperation evident in their eyes. “Please, stay back! Don’t hurt us!” the woman pleaded, shielding her vulnerable children from Abby’s menacing presence. But the plea fell on deaf ears as Abby coldly slapped the woman, causing her delicate skin to peel back at the point of contact.
“Momma! Are you okay, Momma?” the frightened boy cried out, his innocent voice filled with confusion and pain. “Lady, why’d you hurt her?” His accusatory eyes locked onto Abby, demanding an explanation.
As Abby locked eyes with the child, a shiver ran down her spine. In that moment, the boy’s features melted away, transforming into the visage of one the students from the school. The face of Timothy Hunter, recognizable and hauntingly familiar, stared back at her.
Enraged by this tormenting vision, Abby let out a primal roar and latched onto the young boy. Twirling around violently, she hurled him through a nearby plate-glass window. The sound of breaking glass pierced through the air, the shards tearing through the boy’s fragile body as he screamed in agony.
Alfred Twitchell burst through the doors of the locker room, accompanied by Johnny Peril. They had arrived just a minute after Josh Cantrell had been subjected to an unexpected cold shower, fully clothed. As Alfred surveyed the chaotic room, the blond teacher exclaimed in disbelief, “What is going on here! Did a hurricane rip through here?”
The boys started speaking all at once, bombarding Mr. Peril with an incoherent mix of explanations. Johnny Peril struggled to piece together the bits of information amidst the cacophony of voices.
Meanwhile, in the shower, the cold water sprayed against Josh’s frozen skin, causing a steaming reaction. He frowned, unable to fully comprehend the conversation due to his icy predicament. Despite being partially encased in ice, a combination of the water and his own tremendous body heat slowly began to chip away at his confinement.
Johnny’s attention shifted to the shower, and he quickly noticed the changes occurring in the ice. The teenager hadn’t yet managed to free his mouth, but Johnny had an inkling that when he did, chaos would undoubtedly ensue. He took charge of the situation, his voice steady and commanding, “Who’s the fastest runner here?”
All eyes turned to Kirk Pike. “I guess I am,” said Kirk, nodding in agreement with the unspoken assessment, his head held high with pride. As the most physically fit among the third-year students, he knew he could still outpace most of the group even after the grueling battle they had just faced.
“Good,” Johnny acknowledged, determination shining in his eyes. “Kirk, head to the Bestiary and fetch a few of those fireproof suits they use for the salamanders. Bring them back here in a flash!”
Kirk nodded briskly, eager to help. “Understood, sir!” With that, he sprinted out of the room, leaving a streak of determination in his wake.
Gray Murphy spoke up anxiously, “And what about the rest of us, sir?”
Johnny assessed the situation, taking in the disarray around them. “Best to clear some of this mess, if you can. But be ready! We may need to clear out at a moment’s notice. Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” the boys chorused in unison, ready to do whatever it took to mitigate the impending crisis.
Mr. Gallowglass had completed his morning rounds as usual by the time the first period was in session. No further signs of those meddlesome spores, he thought to himself, glancing around the empty hallway. Just as well, too, or else we could have had…
His thoughts were interrupted as something caught the corner of his eye. Kirk Pike, one of the third-year students, was running from the Bestiary with bundles in his arms.
What’s all this? the headmaster wondered, his curiosity piqued. The way the boy was moving implied some kind of urgency, rather than mischief. Too far from the boy to call out, Gallowglass decided to follow him instead.
Gallowglass trailed behind Kirk, his footsteps quick but silent, until they reached the gym. Kirk entered the locker room entrance on the side of the building, and the headmaster noticed a large number of girls standing beside the entrance to the girls’ locker room as he walked up.
What’s going on here? he asked himself, perplexed by the odd scene. First things first, though, he reminded himself. He wanted to see what Kirk was up to. With his remaining right eye narrowed, he stepped into the gym, already gathering data with just a touch of thought.
To his dismay, the gym was in shambles. Lockers were damaged and fallen onto the floor, foam and water streamed out in piles, and the students were mulling about in disarray. “Does Peril have no control here?” Gallowglass wondered, his frustration growing. He quickly spotted the physical education instructor, Johnny Peril, attempting to calm the chaos.
“Stand back, boys!” Peril shouted, holding one of the fireproof suits in his hands as he hurriedly tried to put it on. Some of the boys stood around, seemingly helpless, while Gray Murphy held his shirt in one hand. Johnny glanced at the shower as he dressed, noticing that Josh Cantrell was trapped in a melting block of ice under the virtual waterfall.
This situation needs some control! Gallowglass thought urgently, his concern escalating.
Suddenly, he blinked, and everything returned to normal.
Josh Cantrell stood up from the shower, finally freed from his icy confinement. “Whoa…” he groaned unsteadily, before collapsing from exhaustion.
The witnesses around him looked shocked and puzzled. “What just happened here?” asked Alfred Twitchell, bewildered by the sudden turn of events.
Johnny Peril, realizing that the situation was now under control, ceased putting on his fireproof suit and shook his head at the headmaster, a faint trace of annoyance in his expression. “Showoff,” he muttered under his breath.
Gallowglass ignored the comment, focused on the next steps that needed to be taken. “Take Cantrell to the infirmary!” he ordered firmly. “I have other business to attend to!” With that, he walked over to the girls’ locker room, determined to uncover the source of the ongoing mayhem.
As he made his way through the chaotic crowd of girls, all still buzzing with the aftermath of the struggle, they parted to either side of his path, giving him a clear passage. Ignoring their occasional questioning glances, Gallowglass pressed on, intent on reaching the heart of the problem. Finally, he found Adam Frankenstein on the other side of the building, struggling to hold Patsy Ambrose in place under the faucet. Steam filled the air, and Gallowglass spotted serious burns on Adam’s hands.
Here, too? he thought, his worry deepening. This is not good! With a blink of his eye, the girl collapsed, her skin visibly cooling to the touch.
Adam, too, noticed the sudden change, relief apparent on his jaundiced face. His skin looked almost as good as the day he was made. Seeing Gallowglass, he knew the source of the aid. “Thank you, sir,” he said sincerely.
“Take her to the infirmary, Adam!” commanded Gallowglass, his voice carrying authority and urgency. Without hesitation, the lumbering man carefully lifted the injured girl into his arms and made his way toward the infirmary.
As Johnny Peril and the other boys arrived, Gallowglass turned his attention to them. “Peril, Peel, we need a head count on our students,” he instructed. The weight of the situation was clear in his voice.
“We’ll get right on it, sir,” Emma Peel replied, her voice slightly strained from her recent struggle. She proceeded to count the students, determined to fulfill her duty.
“Not just here,” Gallowglass corrected. “The entire school. Spread the word to all the staff!”
Johnny couldn’t help but interject, curiosity lacing his words. “All the staff, sir? Is it that serious?”
Gallowglass nodded solemnly. “I believe it is.”
Within minutes, the headmaster’s mandate had spread throughout the school. Reports came flooding in from all corners of the island, confirming that all students had been accounted for. However, there was one faculty member missing.
Mr. Gallowglass furrowed his brow, concern etching his face. “Has anyone seen Mrs. Cable?” he asked the assembled faculty. The majority shook their heads in response.
Rose Psychic raised her hand, offering the only shred of information. “Sir, I noticed she was missing around dawn,” she explained.
“Why didn’t you report it sooner, Miss Psychic?” Gallowglass questioned, a hint of frustration creeping into his voice.
“At first, I thought she had simply left our quarters early,” Rose defended herself. “I last saw her yesterday around noon. She mentioned something about meeting Mr. Belmont at the Clock Tower. She’s gone now, along with her belongings.”
The frown on Gallowglass’ face deepened. The Clock Room can transport someone anywhere at anytime, he thought. Having a madwoman loose, possibly changing history, is an unacceptable risk. Even though he protected Grimoire from everything that impinged on his senses, Gallowglass could not be everywhere at once. He was nearly all-powerful, but not all-knowing. If Abby Cable is absent from the island, I’ll have to track her down, he thought to himself. But first, I must ensure the safety of Grimoire.
Gallowglass addressed the faculty, his icy blue eye ablaze with unwavering determination. “All staff and students are to report to the infirmary immediately,” the headmaster’s voice rang out, firm and commanding. The urgency in his tone couldn’t be ignored. Gallowglass then turned his gaze toward Mr. Bones and Miss Eve, his voice soft yet resolute. “Mr. Bones and Miss Eve, please guide Miss Psychic’s and Mrs. Cable’s classes there, in addition to your own.” The two teachers nodded in agreement.
Johnny Peril spoke up with a worried frown. “What’s going on, sir?” he questioned, clearly unsettled by the sudden call to gather.
Gallowglass looked at Johnny, his expression grave. “I encountered this morning some kind of plant passing infections along in its spores, Mr. Peril,” he explained, his words laced with a hint of regret. “I thought I had nipped the problem in the bud — pardon the pun — but it seems things had already spread by that point. Some kind of inoculation needs to be administered to ensure we have no further outbreaks.”
As Gallowglass finished speaking, he turned to Rose and said, “Miss Psychic, you will come to the infirmary with me now.” Taking her hand, they disappeared in a burst of blinding light, leaving the room filled with a sense of anticipation and worry.
With the headmaster absent, Johnny took charge. Squaring his shoulders, he faced the students, projecting authority through his steady voice. “You heard him,” he declared, his gaze sweeping across the small crowd. “Let’s gather in an orderly fashion and make our way to the infirmary.”
The students, their faces filled with a mixture of concern and determination, nodded in agreement. They understood the gravity of the situation as they moved as one toward their destination. The air was heavy with a charged silence as thoughts of their injured classmates consumed their minds.
None of them pondered the situation more deeply than Timothy Hunter. In the midst of another crisis, he had performed magic once again, and had thus taken yet another step in his journey toward his apparent destiny.