The Books of Magic: Changeling Unmasked, Chapter 5: The Castle of Actrisse

by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza

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Patsy Ambrose blinked furiously as her vision adjusted to the blinding flash of light. These boys are causing far too many problems for this human form, she realized. It’s time for a change of identity.

Summoning every ounce of her magical energy, Patsy surrounded herself with a dazzling aura and cast a powerful fear spell on the boys, attempting to keep them at bay. As she did, a breathtaking transformation began to take place. Wings sprouted from her back, her once smooth skin turned scaly and purple, streaks of gray infused her once blonde hair, and she grew several feet taller. To complete her metamorphosis, a third eye opened in the middle of her forehead.

But before she could revel in her newfound power, Patsy was unexpectedly met with a series of forceful kicks. One after another, they landed on her face, chest, and stomach. Dazed but determined, she glared at her attacker, a fierce young boy named Kirk Pike. To her surprise, Kirk showed no fear like the others. Instead, the fourteen-year-old was filled with unyielding anger and seemed determined to fight using every ounce of knowledge he had acquired in his short life.

Growing weary of being nothing more than a punching bag for Kirk’s rage, the demonic form of Patsy retaliated. She unleashed a spray of glowing mist that sent Kirk hurtling backward, crashing into a wall. With her immediate attacker dealt with, Patsy turned her attention to the other boys, who stood shocked and immobilized.

Just as she prepared to make her escape, Patsy heard a voice, Josh Cantrell. She felt the walls around her quake as he muttered something under his breath. Suddenly, thunder boomed, and Patsy found herself crashing through the wall, taking the window frame along with her. But her retreat was short-lived as the rest of the wall collapsed, burying her under a pile of debris.

“Jeez, Murphy!” Josh exclaimed, surveying the wreckage strewn across the lawn. “You did it again!”

Gray Murphy, somewhat resigned to this frequent blame, sighed in response. “Why does everybody blame me for stuff like that?”

Amidst the chaos, Alfred Twitchell helped Tim Hunter to his feet. He chimed in, “You have to admit, Murphy, you do have a knack for being a jinx — at least for people you don’t like.”

“Oh, sure,” said Murphy, rolling his eyes. “One light falls on somebody, and they never let you live it down.”

Joshua Cantrell stood by the hole in the infirmary wall, a smirk forming on his face as he noticed his attire resembling that of his hero, Captain Marvel. However, there was a slight twist — the lightning bolt on his chest pointed in an upward direction. He allowed himself a brief moment to revel in this realization before refocusing on the task at hand.

The false Patsy Ambrose lay buried under the rubble, desperately trying to dig her way out. Seeing her struggle, Josh leaped off the building, repeating his magic words, “Kami Nomi Kai!” The tiny sparks swirled up and down his body as he descended, ready to unleash his power. With a thunderous clap, all of his energy was released in a single blow, causing the debris to be driven forcefully into the ground, creating a deep crater.

With a calm expression, Josh looked down at Patsy and asked, “Give up?” He could hear the feeble shifting of the stones beneath him, indicating the futility of her attempts to escape.

Kirk Pike chimed in, saying, “Let’s join them,” as he effortlessly swung over the edge of the ruined floor, performing a flip to land gracefully on the ground below.

The others readily joined him, their faces etched with a mix of determination and concern. The battle with the being who had taken Patsy’s form had left its mark, but their spirits remained unbroken.

“Nice move, Cantrell!” Kirk called out, giving Josh a grateful nod.

Josh grinned, adjusting his makeshift super-hero outfit. “Just doing my part. We need to make sure she stays down.”


Rose Psychic concentrated, her mind swirling with mental energy as she pushed forward, hurling the spider-women aside. The air crackled with power as a ring of blue fire erupted, a testament to Simon Belmont’s unwavering determination. As the hybrids caught in the fiery display burst into clouds of fluid, Rose rushed to rejoin the seasoned fighter.

Pausing for a moment, Rose realized with a start that despite their apparent similar ages, she and Belmont might not actually be contemporaries as she had always assumed. Her age of eighty-something could pale in comparison to the possible ancient wisdom he possessed. Shaking off her thoughts, she focused on the task at hand, momentarily pondering just how many monsters could constitute a lot. Her contemplation was cut short as Belmont swiftly kicked a spider-woman in the face, creating a path toward the golden door marked with a radiant sun.

With a calm precision, Belmont pressed a red card to the door, causing it to slide open effortlessly. He stepped inside first, ensuring the coast was clear, before reaching out to pull Rose across the threshold. “How are you doing, Rose?” he asked, checking the contents of his travel bag.

“I’m fine,” Rose assured him, taking in the sight of the empty room. The hum of the fans and the slight breeze they produced offered a momentary respite from the ongoing chaos, but the underlying scent tainted the atmosphere.

“We’re under the main part of the castle,” Belmont explained. “From here on, things should become somewhat easier.”

Curiosity permeating her voice, Rose asked, “So, how do you propose we execute this rescue?”

“We’ll take an elevator up to the tower entrance,” Belmont outlined. “Once there, Actrisse will make some sort of proposal. Naturally, we won’t accept it, which will surely anger her. When a fight inevitably erupts, seize the first opportunity you get to teleport my niece to safety, deep into the Forest of Silence where the portal will hopefully be. I’ll join you as soon as I can.”

As Belmont pulled out a pair of cross-like daggers from his bag and released his empty sack onto the floor, he secured the bandoleer across his lean form, ensuring its comfort. “Sound like a plan to you?” he asked.

“Yes,” Rose responded with determination. “Let’s proceed and get this done.”

Belmont nodded, taking the lead once again. Together, they cautiously made their way through the next door. Belmont expertly maneuvered down the dimly lit corridor, skillfully kicking a skeleton on a motorcycle into a nearby wall. Sparks flew as the metal buckled upon impact, igniting the bike in flames. Swiftly turning the corner, Belmont rushed toward a door situated in the middle of the cross hall.

But the perilous journey was far from over. At the end of the cross hall, a second rider charged forward, relentless in its pursuit. However, Rose swiftly erected an invisible wall, leading the rider to meet a catastrophic demise as it exploded upon impact. The path now clear, they continued onward, each step bringing them closer to their daunting mission.

As they made their way through the dimly lit corridors, Rose couldn’t help but feel a mixture of anticipation and nervousness. The plan seemed straightforward, but the unpredictability of Actrisse and the challenges they faced kept her senses heightened.

Belmont turned to Rose with a reassuring smile. “Stay close, Rose. The closer we get to Actrisse, the more chances things could go sideways.”

With a forceful tug, Belmont yanked the door open and hurried inside the expansive white room. He dashed toward a set of stairs leading to a gate, pulling it open and entering the next room. Pausing to let Rose catch up, he noticed a colossal cylinder resting upon a stone and wood trestle on his right. A rectangular column extended into the ceiling, and another set of stairs rose on the opposite side of the room.

Belmont approached the folding gate located on one side of the column and pulled it open. “We’re going upstairs,” he informed Rose.

“Let’s,” Rose replied, stepping into the revealed elevator.

Simon Belmont triggered the elevator, stealing glances outside the cab whenever possible. He couldn’t help but feel trapped inside this contraption, but it was undoubtedly the fastest way to their destination. Actrisse wanted him up there, that much was clear, but she didn’t want to make it too easy. She wanted him to sweat, to struggle. It was unfortunate that slipping Rose into the main tower was now impossible. Actrisse had surely been informed about the woman accompanying him. Rose had become a convenient hostage, a means to up the stakes and ensure Simon continued moving forward. If he left her alone, they would hunt her relentlessly until she was either recaptured or disposed of if deemed unnecessary.

The elevator ascended, clumping to a halt as it reached the top of the column. The gate creaked open, prompting the adventurers to pause briefly. Belmont took this moment to survey the room, searching for the best way to proceed. He disregarded the two bridges, one broken and warped, that extended from massive doors on either side of the elevator shaft. Rose leaned over the edge and spotted a boiling green fluid emitting fumes far below.

“How good are you at climbing?” Belmont asked.

“I am fairly competent, I suppose,” replied Rose, recalling her upbringing in a mountainous region under the guidance of her adoptive mentors.

“You see that skylight up there?” Belmont asked, pointing toward their goal. “That’s where we need to go.”

“How exactly do we get there?” Rose questioned, knowing she could step into the astral plane and travel past the glass and wood that obstructed their path.

“We’ll have to climb the wall and then go hand over hand to reach the sill,” Belmont explained. “Think you can handle it?”

“I believe I can,” Rose replied confidently. “But why can’t we just use the bridge and walk across?”

“That way leads to the werewolf dueling towers and the lava pit beyond,” Belmont clarified. “This way leads us to the outer wall of this tower, allowing us to bypass a lot of trouble with minimal danger.”

Belmont extended a hand toward the outer wall, revealing the intricacies of their plan. “Follow my lead, Rose. We’ll need to navigate carefully, but I’ve done this before. Trust me.”

Rose nodded, her confidence bolstered by Belmont’s assurance. As they approached the outer wall, the echoes of their footsteps mixed with eerie sounds coming from a distance. The tower held secrets, and their climb promised challenges that would test their resilience.


The dusty remnants of the demolished building exploded outward, revealing a fierce and determined Patsy Ambrose. A low growl escaped her lips as she prepared to unleash her powers upon the meddling kids who dared to challenge her. However, before she could strike, a chilling voice pierced through the chaos.

“What’s going on here?” the voice inquired, slicing through the air like an icy wind. Patsy turned her head to find Mr. Gallowglass standing there, his piercing blue eye as cold as an arctic plain. A surge of panic coursed through her veins, but she couldn’t back down now.

Summoning all her strength, Patsy took to the air, twirling gracefully as she prepared to release her power toward the headmaster. Yet, her breath caught in her throat as she watched in disbelief as the fireballs froze in midair, suspended by his force of will.

“I won’t ask again,” Gallowglass warned, his voice laced with authority.

Tim Hunter stepped forward, his gaze fixed upon the hovering fireballs, his mind working to unravel the puzzle. “Kirk and I followed a trail from the Bestiary,” he explained, his tone laced with uncertainty. “Then we discovered this in Patsy’s bed. She went mad on us, and a fight broke out. That’s when the others arrived, and Murphy knocked the wall down on her…”

“Hey!” interrupted Murphy.

“And that’s the truth,” Tim finished.

“Is it?” said Gallowglass mildly.

“Yep, Murphy knocked the wall down on her,” said Kirk Pike.

The headmaster mulled over the details, his chin resting in his hand as he contemplated their words. A mischievous twinkle flickered in his right eye, promising an impending punishment. “I’ll think of a suitable consequence for all five of you later,” he declared. “For now, I am in a meeting. Please attend to your own affairs until I am finished.”

Kirk pointed toward the hovering demon thing, his concern palpable. “But what about her?” he demanded.

“I don’t believe that’s any of your concern,” Gallowglass responded firmly, his tone finalizing the discussion.

“Come on, Kirk,” Josh said, tugging on Kirk’s arm. “Could we talk about this with you later, sir?” he proposed. “I have some questions to ask you about what we can do.”

“Of course, Mr. Cantrell,” Gallowglass replied, folding his arms across his chest. “I will be done with my meeting soon. We can address your inquiries then.”

“Thank you,” Josh acknowledged gratefully. With that, the boys walked away, leaving behind a disgruntled Gray Murphy bemoaning his wrongful accusation for the collapsed wall.

“What have you done with Miss Ambrose?” Gallowglass demanded, his voice laced with urgency and a hint of underlying fury.

“I’ll never tell,” the false Patsy retorted, a smug grin creeping across her face. “She’s in a broom closet down the hall,” she blurted out, then covered her mouth in shock.

“Thank you,” Gallowglass murmured, his voice betraying his relief. And with the merest thought, the demon exploded in a burst of blinding white fire, leaving nothing but lingering traces of smoke.

Gallowglass focused his thoughts on the restoration of the building and the assurance that the genuine Patsy Ambrose would be recovering peacefully in the infirmary. In a blink, both desires came true.

Even as everything was being returned to its original state within the building, the boys were strolling outside, already some distance away. Gray Murphy glanced at his black attire adorned with a white cat’s head on his chest and remarked, “This is pretty cool, Tim. But I can’t wait to get my own clothes back.”

Kirk Pike, his blue-gloved knuckles cracking with a subtle intensity, chimed in with a smirk. “You noticed Twitch didn’t get a costume at all,” he observed.

Tim Hunter, still catching his breath from the recent encounter, acknowledged his own shortcomings. “I definitely need more practice,” he admitted, a hint of gratitude in his voice. “If you guys hadn’t shown up, that thing might’ve killed us.”

Josh Cantrell, his smile wide and genuine, reassured his comrades. “You guys had it under control,” he declared with a tone of admiration. “And by the way, I noticed Twitch ended up with a regular suit instead of a costume.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Alfred Twitchell interjected, tapping the breast of his black suit jacket. A distinct metallic ping resonated through the air, causing the others to exchange intrigued glances. “It may look like an ordinary suit with a tie, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.”

Tim, realizing the toll the recent events had taken, paused in his tracks. “Let me see if I can recall our regular clothes,” he suggested, his voice tinged with exhaustion. “And then, I think I desperately need a nap.”

Kirk, always the strategist, saw an opportunity for a practical advantage. “Try to figure out how we can change back and forth,” he proposed, a determination evident in his voice. “If we have to take detention with Mrs. Peel, I want every advantage I can get.”

Josh, still haunted by his grueling week with the relentless gym teacher, silently nodded in agreement, wishing he had sported a suit of armor during that arduous period.

As the boys strolled out across the quad, Gray Murphy, still clad in his peculiar cat-themed costume, couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of their outfits. “Imagine facing Mrs. Peel in these get-ups,” he chuckled, reaching up to feel one of his metallic cat ears.

Tim Hunter, deep in thought, muttered, “I promise I’ll figure out how to make this transformation thing work for us all, though I might need a nap first. I’m knackered.”

Ever the dreamer, Josh Cantrell added, “Let’s make sure we’re ready for whatever Grimoire throws at us next. Sentinels of Magic, unite!”

His statement was met with nervous laughter from the other boys at first, but somehow, the idea didn’t seem like a joke. Despite their youth, they had worked well together as an effective team. Perhaps Josh’s far-fetched idea wasn’t so crazy after all.

As they kept walking, a discussion about possibilities for the future unfolded. They all knew how chaotic Grimoire Academy could be at times, and it was certain that more thrilling escapades would come, demanding the presence and skills of the Sentinels.


With calculated precision, Simon Belmont led the way up the towering wall, meticulously testing each grip and foothold before proceeding to the next. Rose Psychic followed closely behind, her movements graceful and calm, as she recalled the invaluable lessons she and Doc had learned during her training under the wise guidance of the Seven.

“Wait here,” Belmont instructed, his hand tightly grasping an outcropping on the ceiling.

“Of course,” Rose replied, attempting to relax against the formidable wall they were scaling.

Belmont swung out, utilizing his momentum to effortlessly swing from one handhold to another, until he reached the square frame encircling the skylight that had been their target from the beginning. He braced himself against the frame, then expertly wrapped his whip around his hand and shattered the glass with a single powerful blow. The glass shards fell down into the fiery waters below as Belmont swung out of sight.

Moments later, more glass plummeted from the frame, and Belmont appeared, hanging upside down with his body partially inside the window and partially outside. “I’m going to throw you the end of my whip,” Belmont declared. “Catch it, and I will pull you up.”

Rose’s voice echoed with determination. “Go ahead!”

Ever so gently, Belmont flicked his gleaming silver whip, and on her first attempt, Rose successfully caught hold of it. Swinging away from the protective wall, she couldn’t help but feel a twinge of fear as the whip stretched beneath her weight. Just as she was about to collide with the edge of the elevator, Belmont exerted his unexpected strength and agility, yanking her away from harm’s reach. As he disappeared from the window, Rose was gradually pulled upward, inching closer to safety.

Assisting Rose through the window frame, the seasoned monster-hunter coiled his whip, while his eyes constantly scanned the surrounding buildings. He yearned for better information than what the mysterious Ferryman had provided. Regardless, Belmont had crossed paths with Actrisse before and knew her affinity for high ground. And what better place to obtain such an advantage than the master keep?

Walking purposefully to the edge of the roof, Belmont peered through the shrouding fog at the beckoning tower in the distance. A cavernous gap separated them from their destination, the invisible ground mocking their progress. Frowning, Belmont searched intently for any feasible access to their target. And then, he saw it.

Carefully navigating along the roof’s edge, Belmont’s persistence was ultimately rewarded by the sight of a jutting gargoyle just below the roofline. It was the perfect solution to their predicament.

“What are you thinking, Mr. Belmont?” Rose asked, her voice filled with concern.

“Hush, woman,” Belmont snapped, his mind consumed by the problem at hand. He focused his attention on her presence beside him, barely registering her words. “How much can you carry through that astral plane of yours?” he finally inquired, his voice low and urgent.

Rose paused for a moment, contemplating his question. “Maybe two-hundred pounds,” she replied uncertainly.

“Here’s the plan,” Belmont said, his body flexing as he prepared himself for the upcoming task. He could feel his bones cracking under the strain. “You teleport over to the roof of that tower, the one with the steps leading up to the final one on the end. I’ll take the long way around and climb up that staircase. Once I’m inside, a metal wall is supposed to slide down tp keep people out, so I’ll be alone with whoever is there.”

Rose nodded, a spark of understanding lighting up her eyes. “You want me to come in after you and get your niece out while you’re keeping them busy,” she said, her voice unwavering.

“You catch on quick,” Belmont said, a hint of admiration creeping into his voice. Without hesitation, he leaped onto a nearby gargoyle, disappearing into the thick fog that enveloped them.

Rose, now alone on the designated tower, focused her mind’s eye on the other tower, searching for any weak points. Suddenly, Belmont emerged from the fog, his grizzled figure rising from its depths. He pushed against the heavy door, effortlessly forcing it inward, and vanished inside, the door shutting behind him.

With a determined stride, Rose crossed through the astral plane, reappearing on the roof of the opposing tower. Her mind fixated on the stone surface beneath her, she concentrated all her attention on it. Slowly, the Symbol of the Seven materialized against the dark blocks, practically glowing with mystical energy. Mists began to creep along the lines of the sacred circle, swirling and taking shape. And then, with a powerful burst, the entire roof collapsed inward under the force of Rose’s powers.

Inside the tower, Belmont seized the moment provided by the distraction. With a swift side-kick, he incapacitated a male vampire, driving him back before following up with two well-placed crosses to the chest. Meanwhile, a pale woman in a black dress, crowned with a sinister hat, raised a staff and projected a fog filled with crystals up through the hole in the ceiling. Rose instinctively sensed a dangerous spell being cast and quickly ducked to avoid it.

The silver whip in her hand cracked against the woman’s crystal shields, shattering them into fragments. Belmont seized this opportunity, using the distraction to his advantage. But just as the villainess turned to freeze him in his tracks, pointing her staff with deadly precision, Rose leaned forward, her mind racing through possible solutions. And then, her eureka moment arrived.

Utilizing the power of the Symbol of the Seven, Rose harnessed the mist, trapping it against the villainess’ skin. The mist solidified into a crystal shell, encasing Actrisse, rendering her immobile and vulnerable.

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