The Books of Magic: Changeling Unmasked, Chapter 2: Facing Death

by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza

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Timothy Hunter found a secluded spot near the river. The water rushed along on one side, providing a gentle, constant stream of sound. Trees blocked the rest of the island from view; one would have to be practically on top of the spot to see what was going on. The boy sipped the rest of his icy drink as he sat down on the grass.

OK, he thought. I can freeze things. Hopefully, I will be able to do more than a bottle of soda and fire-extinguisher spray, with some more practice. He wondered what it would be like to fly like Superman, or as fast as the Flash. Could I do those things with magic? Mister E and Zatanna certainly had impressed him with their skills last Fall. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Night Force: Night Forces.]

Tim wanted to be able to fly more than anything. If he could do that, it would be a real test, better than freezing things. Tim concentrated.


Classes ran a little short, Rose Psychic thought as she arrived at the clock room earlier than she had expected. The sun had only moved a little in the sky as she entered the tower. She climbed up to the top of the stairs, struck by the silence. Where is Abby?

“Abby? Abby?” she called out while she examined the room. Rose frowned when she saw the temporary cane leaning against the wall. “That’s odd.”

Bending down, Rose looked at the floor. A small mark stood out, indicating something had been skidded slightly across the floor toward the blank clock face that marked the portal. Had that been here before?

Rose next turned to the shelves, regarding them with a cautious eye. Abby could have entered any of these files, she thought, assuming the clues indeed meant she had taken one of the portals. Maybe she returned home? She had left the school via the portal once before, with Belmont’s help. Rose shook her head. No, she would have said goodbye this time. The only reason she didn’t last time was because she’d been infected by those spores. And the cane is still here. It had to be an accident!

She considered the files. There were millions upon millions of choices, with a nonexistent chance to find the right one unless you had some kind of special knowledge. I’m not about to take a blind shot. I need an expert!

Pulling out the picture of the spot that Belmont had entered, Rose placed it on the podium. When the other place solidified, she stepped through.

Rose Psychic found herself on the path in a thick forest. The castle should be just ahead, she thought, recalling the picture from the book. Still, she kept her guard up as she went.

There was a rustling in the brush.

Rose turned suddenly but saw nothing. She decided that this might call for something beyond conventional senses.

She continued to walk but still felt something about her, something that might be waiting for some unknown signal. Why is this familiar? she thought. A case she had worked on with Doctor Occult, perhaps. What was it?

The blood red moon crested the horizon. A howl came from the trees to one side at the sight of the ruddy satellite. A werewolf?! A few times she had helped stop similar creatures on her native Earth-Two. And me without any silver.

The castle was just across the moat now. A small yip sounded from her pursuer as it crouched at the edge of the trees. Lambent eyes regarded the agent of the Seven quietly. Perhaps someone just wanted to ensure I got to the castle all right, she thought. The answer soon was revealed.

A werewolf stepped into the light and then crouched down to wait on Rose’s decision. The ground shifted, and skeletons stood at attention on either side of an aisle leading to the moat. Rose nodded, walking down the aisle as the drawbridge lowered to the cliffside. She stepped on the old but solid wood plank and walked across with echoing footsteps. When she stepped under the portcullis, the honor guard descended back into the ground. So nice for a girl to feel welcome!

Following the pathway through the wall to a fenced manor house beyond, Rose walked to the gate, opened it with a squeak, and stepped on through. A pack of three-headed dogs waited to escort her past an ornate fountain.

Rose Psychic paused at the door of the villa. Should I knock or just enter? The dog pack growled at her to proceed inside. Enter it is! She placed her hand on the knob and twisted it. The door swung inward quietly. She stepped into the massive lobby of the house.

The door swung shut behind her firmly. A robed figure appeared on the stairwell that led to the second story of the place. A cowl covered the man’s features in shadow, but not the scythe he held or the tattered wings spread from his back. “To what do I owe this pleasure, my dear?” the robed man said, his voice as dry and cold as the grave.

“I am following a man named Simon Belmont,” Rose said. “Have you seen him?”

“Belmont?” spat the other. “I wish I had. I know him of old and have scores to settle with him.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Rose said, realizing that maybe her association with Belmont might be a liability here. “I only wish to catch up with and talk to him. I will be on my way.” She started for the door.

“I think you will come with me,” said the robed man, stepping forward. Light from the chandelier fell on his face, revealing it to be a fleshless skull.

“I must respectfully decline,” said Rose quietly.


The girl walked among her fellow students with disguised glee. She saw Gallowglass talking to someone in Memorial Park. I wonder… Then she pulled back, recognizing the sudden risk to her identity. Better steer clear of those two before either notices. Recognition would mean a sudden stoppage of life; she knew that well from others trying to duel with the one-eyed man. She had other plans than that.

There were eleven remaining teachers and two-hundred and ninety-nine other students on Grimoire Island now, so she had plenty of targets to exercise her genius against. Too bad about Mrs. Cable. She had actually liked her. Still, it had been an easy win, and she liked that more.

The girl wandered into the bestiary, waving at Adam Frankenstein as he went about his duties. The gentle giant never suspected any problem. She saw that one of the environments held a herd of meat-eating horses. She wondered what would happen if she were to open the cage. A wicked smile crossed her face. Pandemonium!


Tim Hunter’s concentration broke. “Something’s wrong!” he exclaimed, bolting upright. He got up and started to run up the path from the creek area. He barely noticed when he ran into a group of boys from Zatara Hall.

“Hey, watch it!” Kirk Pike said.

“Sorry, sorry,” Tim apologized. “There’s danger!” Tim pointed. “Down there!”

“How do you know?” said Gray Murphy, looking in the same direction.

“I don’t know,” Tim admitted. “I just do!”

“Oh, yeah, sure,” Alfred Twitchell said. “What, you’re psychic now?”

“Lay off guys,” Joshua Cantrell said, coming to the first-year’s defense. “I believe him.”

“You do?” asked Murphy. “How come?”

Josh smiled, remembering how Tim had come to his aid a number of times since the school year started. “I just do.”

“Let’s go,” said Kirk Pike, starting in the direction indicated by Tim’s pointing. His internal compass told him that the bestiary was directly on that line of march. He didn’t think that was a coincidence.

The group of boys took off, ignoring the fact that whatever Tim sensed might be too much for a bunch of kids to handle.

As they got closer, Kirk called out, “Look!”

A herd of wild horses was pursuing some of the students fleeing from the bestiary. Adam Frankenstein took massive strides and overtook one of the beasts. Tackling it with ease, he threw it to the ground. The other horses looked enraged, if that was the right term, by this.

Tim thought of Black, the stallion he had helped not too long ago. He was glad his friend was no longer one of the beasts.

Murphy started to yell. “Hey, prancers, leave those kids alone!” The horses raised their heads and snorted at the newcomers.

Kirk hit him in the chest. “What’d you go and do that for?” The horses started to charge.

Tim raised his hands instinctively. A wall of thick ice flew up between them and the beasts. He was giddy with the thought that he had created something out of thin air. The other guys were rather impressed as well, given that Tim was two years younger that they. But their joy was short-lived.

The lead horse reared, outraged to be balked. It kicked against the wall with tremendous force, and fractures appeared in the blue frozen substance.

“We need to tranq them or something,” shouted Kirk Pike.

“OK, guys,” Josh said, addressing his fellow third-years. “Does anyone have any offensive spells committed to memory?” The three older boys all smiled at the opportunity to put the few magic lessons they’d learned at Nommo Hall to practical use.

The four boys focused their efforts together on Josh’s command. On the count of three, they let fire. Sparks jumped from all their fingers except Alfred’s; he encountered a backfire and stumbled back. Tim caught him.

The concentrated effort nailed the flank of the most determined beast. The horse crashed to the ground, hard and unmoving.

Tim glanced at Alfred curiously. “Petrification spell,” the heavy boy answered. “Not a permanent effect, but enough to buy us some time.”

The three boys took aim again. The second horse went down just as fast as the first. The rest of the herd fled back into the bestiary out of concern.


Rose Psychic stared at the robed skeleton as he hefted his scythe in both hands. She sent part of her mind questing for Simon Belmont as she called on her mystical training. She didn’t enjoy fighting but knew the value of self-defense.

The winged figure of Death hurled his scythe at Rose. It split into a cloud of smaller versions whizzing at the teacher as it flew through the air. Rose held up her hand. A disk seemed to form in front of her for a moment. The weapons shattered as the disk flew forward through the crowd of whirling razors. Death flew above the striking shield. One bony hand snatched his returning scythe out of the air as it circled the room, back to its start.

Rose Psychic stepped to the top of the stairs. The winged skeleton soared into the air, gaining altitude to swoop with devastating speed. Rose turned, her hand raised. The symbol of the Seven filled the air around her. Death’s scythe struck eagerly, slicing a green line through the air. The weapon and shield shattered together in a spray of fragments.

Then she instantly leaped into the air, slashing with her hand. The edge of her hand impacted against Death’s head with a solid thunk. He fell out of the air, crashing into the central staircase that Rose had bypassed. She landed lightly, turning to face her foe.

Death raised a hand, and a portal of lines in a circle appeared to confront Rose. She saw a giant fish coming from the other end of the wormhole with a toothy maw. It looked hungry.

Rose Psychic leaped to her side. The edge of the grisly green fish glanced off one leg, spinning her to the floor in a heap. She tried to get up, but found that the pain shot up her leg in a fiery sheet. She collapsed on the hard wood as the fish slid into another portal.

Death held out his hand, and his scythe formed in his bony grasp. His horrible visage seemed to smile more than a skull normally did. “Game over,” he said, raising the wooden shaft above his cowled head.

“New player,” said a harsh voice from behind the flying skeleton. A silver whip cracked across Death’s head as he tried to turn. The demon flew into the railing for the second-story balcony.

Simon Belmont flew from the staircase, feet smashing his enemy through the railing in an explosion of shattered wood. Belmont bounced to his feet, sword in hand. He pinned Death to the floor with a lightning stab. He pulled out a vial of water and smashed it against the demon. Blue flame lit the landing, causing the winged skeleton to scream until ashes floated up from a sudden vacuum.

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