by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza
Abby Cable’s heart raced as she was flown through the air toward her destination — the enchanting west cliffs of Grimoire Island. The past few hours had been a whirlwind, and she still struggled to wrap her mind around the fact that she had journeyed back in time to witness the very birth of Grimoire Academy in 1951. Gareth Gallowglass, whom she had once dismissed as a bitter old man, had proven himself to be so much more when he saved her life. She had discovered that beneath his rough exterior, he possessed a deep sense of compassion, perhaps even to a fault. And now, she understood the weight of that burden, the significance of the seven statues that resided in Memorial Park. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: The Books of Magic: Times Past, 1951: Founding Fathers.]
She had been carried through time by none other than the extraordinary Captain Marvel, hailing from the year 1951 of an alternate Earth. As they prepared for their landing, she felt the jarring sensation of deceleration run through her body. Peering down, she spotted five colorfully dressed students making their way toward the Clock Room. Simultaneously, her gaze met that of Mr. Gallowglass, who appeared to be heading toward the park. And there also stood the old man she had seen earlier, patiently awaiting Gallowglass’ return.
“Holy moley!” Captain Marvel’s voice rang in Abby’s ear.
“Something wrong?” Abby asked.
Captain Marvel let out an astonished breath. “That’s the Old Wizard who gave me my incredible powers! I wonder what he’s doing here.”
Curiosity ignited within Abby. “Let’s find out.”
Captain Marvel landed safely in Memorial Park, setting Abby gently on her own two feet. His gaze fell upon the seven statues lined before them, and realization dawned upon him. These were the Sentinels of Magic! Withdrawing his hands only after he made sure Abby could stand unaided, he addressed the figure known as Shazam, the wizard responsible for his extraordinary abilities.
“Hello, wizard,” Captain Marvel said warmly, his smile genuine.
Shazam, looking upon the super-hero with paternal pride, replied, “Greetings, my son. I did not anticipate your presence here.”
Inclining her head, Abby interjected, “He brought me back, sir. I accidentally fell into the past and needed a helping hand to get home, so to speak.”
Just then, Gallowglass arrived in the park. Despite the evident changes in his appearance since their encounter with him as a bitter teenager in 1951, there were still glimpses of familiarity. His one bright blue eye sparkled mischievously, while the shimmering black crystal lodged in the other socket gleamed brilliantly under the sunlight as he laid eyes upon them.
“Hello, Captain, Mrs. Cable,” he greeted them in his gravelly voice, betraying no semblance of surprise. It seemed he had been expecting them. “We were just discussing you, Mrs. Cable. I was contemplating whether you desired an early release from your contract.”
Abby glanced between Gallowglass and Shazam, sensing an undercurrent of tension in the air. “Released from my contract?” she repeated, eyebrows furrowing in confusion.
Gallowglass nodded solemnly. “Indeed. A certain opportunity has arisen, and I thought it wise to offer you a choice. You can return to your home in Louisiana or stay here. The decision is yours.”
Abby considered her options, her mind swirling with the implications of this unexpected proposal. “I… I need some time to think about it,” she replied, uncertainty evident in her voice.
At that moment, the boys burst into the park, their eyes wide with excitement. “I told you it was Captain Marvel!” Josh Cantrell exclaimed, his voice filled with wonder, still wearing a costume patterned after that of this very hero.
Mr. Gallowglass turned to them, smiling. “These are some of my students,” he introduced. “Josh Cantrell, Kirk Pike, Timothy Hunter, Gray Murphy, and Alfred Twitchell.”
Josh extended his hand toward Captain Marvel. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said eagerly. “We’re the new Sentinels of Magic.”
Gareth Gallowglass momentarily flinched, then glanced up at the seven statues of the original Sentinels. These were the brave souls who had made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the world on this very island. Shifting his attention back to the five boys, he saw them clad in their vibrant armor as they stood in front of the statues in similar poses. Suddenly, a different perspective dawned upon him, revealing their hidden potential. It seemed that destiny had a plan for these boys after all. A smile slowly spread across his face as he murmured, “That you are.”
Captain Marvel shook Josh’s hand, returning the smile. “Thank you,” he replied graciously. “And that’s a nice costume you’ve got there.” The boy beamed with delight at the compliment.
Murphy couldn’t resist making a joke. “I thought you liked Mary Marvel for her legs,” he whispered, a mischievous glint in his eyes. But before anything else could be said, Kirk knocked the back of Murphy’s cat helmet with a loud thump. Murphy glared at Kirk, rubbing the back of his head. “What was that for?”
Twitch quickly stepped in to defuse the situation. “Apologies for our friend’s behavior, Captain,” he said. “He’s had a rough day.”
Mr. Gallowglass intervened, redirecting their attention. “We have some business to discuss, boys,” he said firmly. “Let’s move along, please.”
Relieved, disappointed, and having headaches, the five boys nodded in response. “Yes, sir,” they said in unison, their expressions reflecting the varied emotions within them.
Josh couldn’t resist one last request. “Could I get an autograph?” he asked Captain Marvel eagerly.
Abby Cable intervened. “Later, Josh,” she said, her voice filled with assurance. “I’ll make sure you get one.”
As the boys walked away, Josh Cantrell looking over his shoulder at his hero, the four adults in the park exchanged glances.
“I thought you disapproved of teaching magical skills alongside the scientific world,” Shazam said, rubbing his bearded chin thoughtfully.
Gareth Gallowglass chuckled, his scars twitching around the artificial eye. “For most of my students I usually do,” he admitted. “However, this particular group of students has managed to catch my attention. They uncovered an impostor in the student body and were close to exposing it themselves before my intervention. They have each displayed exceptional and unique talents, as evidenced by the customized armor Mr. Hunter crafted for them, utilizing his subconscious abilities. It appears that Mr. Hunter, in particular, possesses a remarkable aptitude for magic, which is quite astonishing for a first-year student. It should have come as no surprise, though, considering the recommendations from both Mister E and Zatanna.”
Abby Cable couldn’t help but ask, still flinching with the memory of being struck by fireballs. “This ‘impostor’ — did it take the shape of Patsy Ambrose?”
Gallowglass nodded solemnly. “Yes,” he confirmed. “The real Patsy is now safe in the infirmary, and aside from a few minor disturbances caused by the Mares of Diomedes, no one else seems to have been affected.”
Abby had her own tale to tell. “That thing sent me through a portal,” she explained. Her eyes widened as she recalled her promise. “Oh! I was supposed to wait for Rose at the Clock Room.”
Gallowglass assured her. “The false Patsy has been taken care of permanently,” he said. “Take a few minutes to freshen up, and then come back here. We’ll have a short meeting and discuss releasing you from your contract, if that’s what you want.”
Feeling a surge of determination, Abby nodded. She gripped her cane tightly and began walking toward the bungalow she shared with Rose Psychic.
Actrisse’s eyes widened, fear coursing through her veins as she desperately tried to free herself from her crystal prison. Before she could escape, Simon Belmont’s heavy boot came crashing through the crystal, propelling her into the wall with a bone-crushing impact. Then, in one swift motion, his hand struck her face like a venomous snake.
In the corner of the tower room, Belmont hurried toward the young girl who was bound to a coffin. He removed her gag and untied the ropes around her arms, his movements urgent and precise. Suddenly, a deep rumble filled the air, causing bits of the ceiling to come crashing down around them.
A figure descended from the hole in the ceiling, landing gracefully on the ground. It was Rose Psychic, her determined expression mirroring the dangerous situation they were in. “I’ll take her and come back,” Rose declared, rushing to Belmont’s side.
“Go!” Belmont commanded, pushing his niece into Rose’s waiting arms.
Rose made her way to the roof, then leaped to the adjacent tower’s top. Together, she and Belmont’s niece watched as the tower crumbled into the eerie fog that enveloped the castle. “Do you see him?” the girl asked in a hushed tone.
Rose shook her head, a heavy sigh escaping her lips. What would she tell Gallowglass about this? Gathering her thoughts, she turned to the girl in her care. “What is your name?” she asked softly, concern etched on her face.
The young girl, still dazed and overwhelmed, strained to clear her mind, her eyes fixed on the dissipating cloud of dust from the fallen tower. “It’s Carrie,” she murmured weakly.
“My name is Rose. Let’s get away from here,” Rose urged her.
Suddenly, a voice broke the silence behind them. “Let’s do that,” it said. “I didn’t go through all this trouble to have my niece become monster chow.”
“Uncle Simon!” Carrie exclaimed, relief washing over her as she embraced her relative tightly.
“Easy there, Half-Pint,” Belmont said, wincing as he returned the embrace. “Rose, take her back to the pick-up point through the astral plane. I’ll follow as fast as I can. Hopefully, I’ll find a way to open the portal again by the time I get there.”
“Right,” Rose replied, determination blazing in her eyes. “We’ll be waiting for you.”
Belmont watched as the two vanished into thin air, his thoughts now focused on finding a way down from the perilous tower. He gazed at the ruddy moon, calculating the direction of the outer wall before cracking his whip into the night. With a firm grip, he leaped off the tower, swinging into the unknown. It was time to make his exit.
Rose and Carrie took short hops through the astral plane, their path punctuated by unexpected encounters with mischievous bats and glowing shades. Rose raised an eyebrow in surprise as she witnessed Carrie throwing a fireball, obliterating one of the bats. She resisted the urge to comment, instead urging her young companion back into the astral plane.
Finally, they arrived unscathed in the Forest of Silence, their intended destination. While patiently awaiting the arrival of Simon Belmont, a man who still seemed as unfamiliar as the day Rose had arrived at Grimoire Academy ages ago, they found themselves in a battle against a horde of skeletons that emerged from the earth. With expert speed and precision, they swiftly defeated each skeletal enemy, staying alert and vigilant throughout the encounter.
As fat raindrops began to fall, accompanied by lightning that split the trees, Rose extended her senses through the storm, perceiving Belmont approaching the outer wall with a series of swings using his whip. He seemed to be cutting through obstacles as he went, carving a nearly straight path toward them.
“Uncle Simon’s quite the showman, isn’t he?” Rose remarked, glancing at Carrie, who nodded with a small smile.
“He’s always been like that,” Carrie said, her voice a mix of admiration and fondness. “But he’s also incredibly brave. I owe him my life.”
The rain intensified, creating a symphony of drumming on the leaves above. Rose watched the stormy sky, her thoughts wandering. “We should be ready to welcome him,” she said, a hint of concern in her eyes.
As the rain poured and the lightning illuminated the forest, they waited for Simon Belmont to emerge.
The boys walked into the Clock Tower, whispering to each other about the events of the day. Oblivious to the fact that the keeper was not present, Tim Hunter sank into a nearby chair, feeling worn out from the immense energy he had expended.
Across the table sat Josh Cantrell, who had put his training to more use in a single day than he had in the entire past year. He rubbed his eyes tiredly, the crackling residue from his lightning manipulation still faintly echoing in his ears.
Meanwhile, Gray Murphy leaned against the door, gazing out at the park. He pondered aloud whether Mrs. Cable would truly leave them.
Without making a sound, Alfred Twitchell quietly ascended the stairs to the third floor. He couldn’t help but think that Mr. Belmont, with his perpetually irritable disposition, should be hounding them right about now.
Standing next to a shelf, Kirk Pike seemed completely unfazed by their recent encounter. His alert eyes darted around the room, scanning the path outside and the staircase with lightning speed.
“I think we have a problem, guys,” Twitch called out from upstairs.
Kirk immediately bounded up the stairs, ready to face any adversary that crossed his path. He paused at the top, taking in the scene before him in the Clock Room. Twitch stood in front of a podium, while Miss Psychic and a girl with gray hair stood on the other side of the clock face. To their sides, a dark forest stretched out, and animated skeletons burst forth from the ground. Some of the skeletal figures wielded bones as weapons.
Not hesitating for a moment, Kirk leaped into the portal, using the kung fu moves he had learned from studying Richard Dragon, among others. To Twitch, it seemed as though the red eagle emblazoned on Kirk’s chest had transformed into a malevolent spirit as the boy unleashed a barrage of powerful punches and kicks, shattering bones in his wake.
“It’s a one-way journey! They’re on the other side, and if we go through, the portal will close,” Twitch informed the other boys as they hurried to the top of the tower.
“We can throw them a lifeline,” Josh suggested calmly, his gaze sweeping across the top of the tower.
“Got it!” Tim exclaimed, dashing down the stairs to fetch a coil of rope from the broom closet. He returned in a flash, holding the rope tightly in his hands.
“Thanks,” Josh said, swiftly tying one end of the rope around his waist. “Who’s going to hold the other end?”
“I will,” Twitch volunteered, securing the other end around his arm and gripping it tightly.
“We will,” Tim chimed in, determinedly joining Twitch in grasping the rope.
“Damn skippy!” Murphy agreed with a mischievous grin, causing the other boys to turn and regard him with amusement.
The trio soared into the midst of the battle, their hearts pounding with adrenaline. Tim swiftly raised his hand and conjured a flickering light, which transformed into a blinding burst that momentarily stunned the skeletons.
Suddenly, the trail shook violently, causing the ground to crumble away and the trees to tumble and fall onto the bony warriors in a stroke of sudden misfortune, ending the battle in one fell swoop. Kirk, Tim, and Twitch turned expectantly to Murphy, dressed in his black cat outfit.
“What? Just get a move on!” Murphy shouted urgently, having put his knack for being a jinx to their advantage. “The meter’s running!”
Taking the hands of Miss Psychic and the girl beside her, the boys quickly tumbled back through the portal, with Josh Cantrell providing the strength to pull the rope, even as the skeletons struggled to regroup for another attack.
“Thank you, boys,” said Rose Psychic, expressing her gratitude.
“Uncle Simon?” Carrie called out, her voice filled with concern as she glanced back toward the portal.
“‘Uncle Simon’?” the five boys echoed in unison, their eyes wide with curiosity.
“This is Carrie Belmont,” explained Rose. “Please take her to my bungalow until we can sort out her situation.”
“I’ll do it,” Murphy volunteered, his determination shining through. “You guys get ready to help ‘Uncle Simon.'”
“I wouldn’t call him that to his face,” Tim warned.
“Don’t worry, Carrie,” Rose reassured her. “Your uncle will be waiting at the portal, and we’ll bring him through.”
Carrie carefully studied the boys’ faces, or at least what she could see of them beneath their masks, searching for any sign of doubt or weakness. But their eyes reflected unwavering resolve and strength. She nodded silently, confident that this team of boys would do whatever it took. She gestured for the boy dressed in a black cat outfit to lead the way.
As Rose kept a vigilant eye on the forest, the boys patiently awaited any new developments. The sound of knuckles cracking betrayed Kirk’s readiness for another round of battle.
Suddenly, Simon Belmont appeared on the trail, demolishing a creature resembling a humanoid frog beneath his feet. Wielding his weapon with effortless skill, he smoothly dispatched three skeletons with his whip, then backhanded a fourth before hurling a dagger at another in his way.
“Grab the rope, everyone!” Josh Cantrell exclaimed, his voice filled with excitement. “It’s my turn at bat!”
Josh dashed toward the screen as the others seized Twitch, their teammate. He muttered words that were drowned out by the chaos, and in an instant, he was back by their side, holding Belmont in his hands.
“What do we have here?” Belmont wondered, his eyes scanning his rescuers while rainwater dripped from his form. “A costume party?” The kids burst into laughter, the tension momentarily forgotten.
Belmont guided the group out of his Clock Tower after learning of Carrie’s whereabouts. The boys made their way back to their dorms at Zatara Hall, Kirk supporting a weary Tim. Rose headed toward her bungalow, relieved to learn that Abby had returned safely from her own adventure. Overhead, Captain Marvel streaked through the skies, returning to the year 1951 to fulfill his own destiny on his own Earth.
Abby Cable stood beneath the steaming water of the shower, washing away the remnants of the horrendous encounter with the impostor Patsy Ambrose and everything that came after. She couldn’t help but feel a glimmer of gratitude that she had managed to return from the past being stranded in a time that was not her own. After freshening up and changing into a new set of clothes to replace the ones that had been burned in the fray, Abby felt ready to face whatever lay ahead.
Returning to the park, Abby found herself once again in the presence of Gallowglass and the Old Wizard, Shazam. They had something important to discuss with her — a decision about her future. Sensing the gravitas of the situation, Abby took a seat as Gallowglass began to speak.
“If you’ll please sit, Mrs. Cable,” Gallowglass said, his voice tinged with a mix of concern and urgency. “This is my predicament. Shazam believes that there are two individuals who are desperately in need of a fresh start, a new lease on life. He wants to bring them here as teachers and give them the time and space to recover from the immense personal stress they’ve endured. Normally, I would dismiss this idea and move on. The Academy is not accustomed to changing teachers mid-year, especially during such a challenging time. The upcoming months will be particularly demanding for any newcomers.”
“I assure you, Gareth,” Shazam interjected, his eyes sparkling with unwavering faith, “that these two individuals possess the strength to handle any crisis that may come their way.”
Gallowglass nodded in agreement with the Old Wizard and continued his explanation. “Out of all the teachers here, you, Mrs. Cable, find yourself in the worst physical shape due to recent events. Furthermore, you are anxiously awaiting the return of your husband, Alec Holland. In light of these circumstances, it is my opinion that you will be ill-prepared to face the impending strife that lies ahead next month. So, here is what we’re offering — we invite you to retire for the remainder of the year. You will receive full pay, allowing you the opportunity to return home and rebuild your life alongside Mr. Holland. You can reestablish your ties and find solace in familiar surroundings.”
Abby’s mind whirled with the weight of this decision. She needed time to process everything that had just been laid before her. “Can I have some time to think about this?” she asked, her voice tinged with a mix of uncertainty and exhaustion. “I’ve only just returned to the academy, and I’m slowly getting back into the routine. This is a lot to absorb.”
“Of course,” replied Gallowglass. “Take all the time you need. Do you have any questions or concerns you’d like to discuss?”
Abby shook her head, feeling overwhelmed. “Not right now,” she replied. “I just need some time alone to process everything. With all the excitement, I almost forgot that Alec is on his way home.”
Gallowglass nodded understandingly. “Would a week be enough time?” he asked.
“More than enough,” Abby confirmed, feeling grateful for the consideration. “Thank you for asking me for input before making a decision. It means a lot.”
“You’re welcome,” Gallowglass said with a soft smile. As Abby rose from her seat and made her way out of the park, her head filled with a flurry of thoughts and emotions, Gallowglass and Shazam watched her departure in silence.
“There’s nothing else to do but wait,” Gallowglass murmured, breaking the silence. “It was a pleasure seeing you again, old friend. I promise to update you as soon as the decision is made.”
Shazam nodded, a kind smile touching his lips as he spoke one last time before fading away into the air. “Do not forget to give young Cantrell his souvenir, Gareth,” he reminded, his voice carrying a hint of mischief. With that he vanished, returning to his home at the Rock of Eternity.