The Books of Magic: Changeling Unmasked, Chapter 1: Portal into the Past

by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza

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Continued from The Books of Magic: Fever of Death

Two beautiful women, seemingly in their late twenties, strolled along the winding cobblestone path toward the grand Clock Tower at the Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge.

Rose Psychic turned to her companion, her black pageboy hairdo twirling as she asked, “I hope I’m not walking too quickly for you, Abby. Are you managing all right?”

Abby Cable, who leaned on her cane for support, shook her head of luxuriously long platinum blonde hair as a small smile played on her lips. “No, Rose, don’t worry about me. I’m just a bit weak after what happened. Gallowglass said it would take some time for my strength to return, unlike the poor students who recovered quickly.”

Rose nodded empathetically. “Children, always bouncing back faster than we expect. But take your time, Abby. We have no rush.”

Abby’s expression turned slightly concerned. “I’d rather not, actually. Simon asked me to meet him as soon as I was able to.” Both women knew it was unlike the tower keeper to request an audience with anyone, usually preferring his solitude. She furrowed her brows, her mind racing with worry. What if Simon Belmont was angry with her? After all, she had left the school with Simon’s help against Gallowglass’ advice and was now in trouble because of it.

A sudden thought struck her. Could he be calling in the favor so soon? Abby desperately hoped it wasn’t the case. She had barely spent a day at home before being struck down by the spore virus, causing her to rampage. Despite Gallowglass’ insistence that she recover on the island where he could watch over her, it seemed all their efforts had been in vain.

When the two women reached the Clock Tower, they saw Simon Belmont waiting at the top floor. “Please join me up here,” he called down with a warm smile as he saw them approach. Dressed in leather armor, a whip coiled at his hip, and a short sword strapped to his back, Simon hoisted a satchel onto his shoulder.

As the women walked up the spiral staircase to the top of the tower, they exchanged glances, instinctively sensing that something was off. Belmont rarely smiled so genuinely, and it left them with an uneasy feeling.

“Hello, ladies,” greeted Belmont. “Thank you for coming so promptly.”

Abby couldn’t contain her curiosity any longer. “What’s going on, Simon?” she asked, already anticipating the answer.

Belmont took a deep breath, his eyes filled with a mix of determination and a tinge of regret. “I have some unexpected personal matters to attend to, and I’ll be away for a while. I need someone to oversee the room and open a return portal for me when I reach the designated pick-up point.”

A look of surprise washed over both women’s faces. Simon Belmont, leaving his tower? It was unheard of. Abby found herself speaking up before she could consider the consequences. “You want me to do that, don’t you?” she asked, her voice tinged with excitement and apprehension.

Belmont nodded, his smile slightly wistful. “Yes, Abby. I trust you more than anyone else with this task.”


Timothy Hunter sat alone at a table in the common room of Zatara Hall, eyes fixated on a bottle of soda pop in his hand. “Come on,” he muttered under his breath, hoping for something extraordinary to happen. But, disappointingly, nothing did.

Closing his eyes tightly, Tim visualized the bottle filled with ice. He desperately wanted it to be brimming with cold, refreshing ice. It must be full of cold, wonderful ice, he thought.

Suddenly, he heard a faint buzzing sound, followed by a gentle clink and a subtle crackle. Opening his eyes in awe, Tim couldn’t believe what he saw. The bottle was now filled with tiny ice cubes, all the way to the top.

A triumphant smile spread across his face. His experiment had succeeded. He had managed to conjure ice seemingly out of thin air, just as when he trapped his maddened and transformed friend Josh Cantrell in a block of ice using the discharge from a fire extinguisher.

Excitement filled Tim’s mind as he wondered, Can I do that again? Can I do other things besides making ice out of other things? How would the others react if they knew? I don’t know why I still haven’t told anyone how I transformed my yo-yo into an owl a while back, not even Rick. (*) I guess I just figured everyone would think I was lying in order to impress them. These thoughts weighed heavily on the young first-year student from London.

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Books of Magic: Rise of the Bloody Moon.]

As Tim surveyed the common room, he noticed the activities of his classmates. Kirk Pike, always the show-off, was engrossed in a television documentary about Richard Dragon, practicing the martial arts moves he saw on the screen. Gray Murphy and Alfred Twitchell were engrossed in a fierce poker game, each taking turns winning the pot. Josh Cantrell, having recently recovered from a frenzy caused by a strange plant, lay on his bunk reading a history book. He claimed his quick recovery was because his heart was pure, and he had the strength of ten, but the others laughed off the notion.

Mrs. Cable, the botany teacher, was still struggling to walk and needed the aid of a cane and some assistance. Tim felt a fondness for her and was relieved to see her recovering. However, Patsy Ambrose, another victim of the same plant, remained weak and confined to the infirmary.

Taking another sip of his frozen drink, Tim realized he needed some solitude to contemplate his new abilities. He needed a place where he wouldn’t draw attention. Perhaps he could experiment discreetly. The thought of confiding in his best friend, Rick Billings, crossed his mind, but something inside him told him it wasn’t the right time. After all, only a select few students at Grimoire possessed the gift of magic, and first-years were supposed to be completely inept at it. The last thing Tim wanted was for Rick to feel envious of his natural talent.


“Are you sure about this?” Rose Psychic whispered, her eyes narrowed with concern.

Simon Belmont sighed heavily, his fingers tracing the outline of a dusty folder on the shelf in the Clock Room. “A niece of mine has surfaced and is in trouble,” he explained, his voice tinged with urgency. “I’m going to get her and bring her back here. Nothing complicated.”

“Best laid plans,” Rose muttered under her breath, her intuition tingling with a sense of danger lurking nearby. She couldn’t help but smirk, thinking, Richard isn’t the only one who can play detective. Belmont’s decision to arm himself for the journey spoke volumes about the peril he was about to face.

“I know,” Belmont replied nonchalantly, not wanting to dwell on the risks involved. He reached for one of the shelves and retrieved a photograph, displaying it to them. The image depicted a majestic castle standing proudly on the edge of a mystical lake, surrounded by a dense forest through which a path led up to the main gate.

“Place it on the stand, like this,” Belmont demonstrated, carefully positioning the photograph and causing it to shimmer as the clock faces reflected its magic. Abby Cable watched in amazement as a bat soared through the darkened sky, the picture coming alive before their eyes.

“Do this every day at sundown until I get back,” Belmont instructed, his gaze fixed on the two women. “Shouldn’t be more than three days at most. To activate the portal, place your hand on the wall. Whatever you do, don’t step across. The portal will close behind you. Got that?”

Abby and Rose nodded, determination etched into their features. “You can count on us,” Rose assured him, her loyalty to her roommate and her willingness to help outweighing any doubts she harbored.

“All right, then.” Belmont nodded, his expression filled with a mix of determination and hope. He walked over to the screen, offering them a brief wave. “See you soon!” In a blink, he vanished into the enchanting scene.

“I didn’t think Belmont had family,” Abby pondered aloud, gently placing the photograph back into its folder. She carefully arranged the file on the shelf, ensuring it would be easily accessible when needed.

Rose Psychic arched an eyebrow, her mind racing with unsettling possibilities. “This is extremely sudden,” she mused, her voice laced with suspicion. “Almost too sudden.”

“What do you mean?” Abby asked, her curiosity piqued by Rose’s cryptic statement.

“He suddenly discovers he has family right after a plant poisons you,” Rose pointed out, her eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Not to mention that incident with Dracula. Richard told me things would happen when I took this job, but he never mentioned a concerted attack against the staff and students.”

Abby’s heart skipped a beat, her realization mirroring Rose’s concern. “Simon is in real danger, isn’t he?” Abby’s voice held a note of concern, her blue eyes filled with worry as she glanced at Rose.

Rose nodded gravely. “Absolutely. Someone tipped him off about his niece, and I highly doubt it was out of the goodness of their heart. There’s something more to this, something sinister.”

Abby took a deep breath, her determination evident. “We need to wait for him. But if he doesn’t contact us by sundown, I’ll ask Mr. Gallowglass for help. He always knows how to get to the bottom of these things.”

Rose’s eyes softened. “All right, Abby. You wait here then. I have a few things to take care of, but I’ll be back before sundown.”

Abby hobbled over to a nearby bookshelf, her cane tapping against the floor. She ran her finger along the worn spines of the books, her mind racing with possibilities. “I think I’ll do some digging, maybe find some answers,” she said thoughtfully. “Knowledge is power, after all.”

Rose smiled, her voice filled with warmth. “Just make sure to be careful, Abby. We don’t want you getting into any trouble.”

Abby nodded, her determination shining through. “I’ll be cautious, I promise. I have a feeling these files hold more secrets than we realize.”

As Rose left the tower, Abby limped toward the shelves, her curiosity piqued. She began scanning the titles of the files, her fingers trailing over the embossed letters. “This is my chance,” she whispered to herself. “If I’m going to be stuck in this school, I might as well unravel its mysteries.”

After half an hour of searching, frustration creased Abby’s brow. She couldn’t find any files on either Gallowglass or Belmont. “That’s odd,” she muttered, her voice tinged with suspicion. Her gaze landed on a file marked archive, and a spark of hope ignited within her.

Placing the file on a nearby podium, Abby gently opened it, the pages crackling with age. Her eyes widened as she flipped through the document, images of heroic battles and clandestine rescues jumping from the pages. But it was the sight of an island forming within the ocean that truly captured her attention.

Abby’s heart raced. What did this mean? There was more to this school than met the eye, and she was determined to uncover the truth, no matter the cost.


Perched on a stone bench in Memorial Park, Gareth Gallowglass eagerly awaited the arrival of his visitor. As the early morning sun cast its golden glow on the seven statues surrounding him, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of anticipation in the air. This meeting was no small matter — it happened only twice a year and had been a longstanding tradition on Grimoire Island, even though it came somewhat early this year.

A figure emerged from thin air, bathed in a shimmering light. It was none other than Shazam, an elderly man in a long robe with lengthy white hair and an impressive beard. Gallowglass smiled warmly, rising from his seat to greet him. “Hello, Gareth,” Shazam said softly, extending his hand in greeting.

Taking Shazam’s hand, Gallowglass replied, “Hello, Shazam. How’s Billy?”

“He’s doing well,” Shazam responded, slowly making his way toward the stone benches. Once they were both seated, he leaned back and asked, “How has the island been behaving this year thus far?”

With a chuckle, Gallowglass replied, “Nothing too major yet. Just a few minor issues that we managed to handle easily enough. Hell Week is still a month away, after all.” He raised an eyebrow playfully. “You’re early this year.”

A contemplative expression crossed Shazam’s face as his gaze wandered around the Memorial Park. He knew each statue held a deeper meaning thanks to what Billy Batson had told him, and could guess why this was always the chosen location of his meeting with the headmaster. Regaining his focus, he turned to Gallowglass. “I have a favor to ask of you,” Shazam ventured.

Gallowglass nodded, his eyes shining with curiosity. “Go ahead,” he encouraged, genuinely interested in what the Old Wizard had to say.

Shazam observed Gallowglass, noting how the passage of time had softened his bitterness and anger, transforming it into a more compassionate demeanor. Although the island had become his haven, a safe retreat from the outside world, Shazam wondered if Gallowglass would ever find closure and move on from his self-imposed exile, though his guess was probably never.

“I would like for you to take on two new teachers,” Shazam finally revealed, bringing the conversation back to the matter at hand.

Gallowglass raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Are you absolutely sure about that?” he queried. “Hell Week is by far the most trying period of the year. They wouldn’t have much time to adjust to the island’s increasing enmity leading up to the first of May. This job is far from a walk in the park, after all.”

“They deserve a fresh start, a chance to rebuild their lives,” Shazam insisted firmly. “They’ve earned that opportunity.” (*) His gaze held a plea that Gallowglass couldn’t ignore, nudging him to consider the request with a touch of compassion.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Shiva: Representatives.]

Rubbing the edge of his crystallized eye socket, Gallowglass weighed the gravity of the situation. After a moment of thoughtful contemplation, he finally spoke. “Tell me about them,” he prompted, eager to understand the individuals who might soon become part of Grimoire’s extraordinary tapestry.


Abby Cable couldn’t tear her eyes away from the extraordinary scene unfolding upon the walls of the room. As her gaze roamed, the boundless expanse of blue-green ocean transformed slowly into land, revealing a mesmerizing island that appeared to be a plateau, encircled by the crashing waves. Her heart skipped a beat when a group of men materialized out of thin air, just moments before a swirling vortex opened up in the ground.

“Fascinating,” Abby murmured, unable to contain her awe.

It didn’t take long for recognition to strike Abby. Those men, their faces now frozen in statues that adorned the Memorial Park, were now displayed before her in their final moments of life. A shiver cascaded down her spine, both exhilarating and unsettling. “It’s like I’m watching a movie,” she muttered, feeling a slight pang of awkwardness as she continued to observe the unfolding events.

Masked and evidently outnumbered, the men valiantly fought an inexplicable horror emerging from the earth, bloodthirsty demons gnashing their terrifying teeth. In a blinding flash, the gaping hole in the ground abruptly sealed, forming a perfect cross within a circle.

Turning the page, Abby eagerly delved deeper into the story. A sea plane appeared on the horizon, gracefully landing upon the hesitant shore. Stepping onto the solid ground, a boy disembarked from the aircraft, his one eye cleverly concealed beneath a bandage, hinting at a recent injury. Abby couldn’t help but sympathize with the young child. “Poor thing,” she murmured softly.

Driven by an unyielding determination, the boy dashed toward the site where the battle had taken place. Abby winced as the boy’s anguished cry pierced the air, a chilling mix of rage and sorrow.

Suddenly, the boy’s attention was captured by an abandoned book and a peculiar dial discarded amidst the chaos. He clutched them tightly in his tiny fists, refusing to heed the pilot’s pleas for their imminent departure. The pilot tried to seize the boy by the shoulder, his intentions clearly one of protection, but the boy’s anger surged like a fierce river. The ground beneath him erupted violently, a testament to his fiery command. His one remaining eye, blazing with fury, seemed almost white in its intensity. The pilot relented, raising his hands in surrender, before vanishing from the scene. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: The Sentinels of Magic: Times Past, 1948: Sacrifices Must Be Made.]

Lost in the enthralling narrative, Abby turned another page, only to be interrupted by the sound of footsteps ascending the stairs behind her. She swiftly swiveled around, her lips curling into a warm smile for the newcomer. “Hi,” she greeted, her surprise evident in her voice. “I wasn’t expecting to see you.”

The newcomer raised her hand, and a glowing sphere of energy arced toward Abby’s chest, striking her with brutal force. With a thunderous crash, Abby tumbled backward, colliding brutally with the podium before landing heavily in front of the portal interface.

“I suppose I should apologize for this, but I won’t,” the assailant declared coldly, her voice laced with a venomous edge. Another brilliant orb materialized in her hand, propelling Abby through the portal and hurtling her into the realm of the past.

Securing the folder once more on the shelf, the attacker surveyed the tower’s pinnacle, satisfied that no trace of her presence remained. A wicked grin played upon her lips. Now, it’s time to prepare for Rose’s arrival, she thought, her mind determined and focused.

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