The Books of Magic: The Mysterious Student, Prologue: Ramphastos

by Christine Nightstar

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Timothy Hunter was glad to be back for his second year at the Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge. As a second-year student, he was a bit more confident in himself, especially now that he knew a bit more of what to expect. Last year’s Hell Week had been rather traumatic at first, but after going through it, he knew he was capable of not only surviving but triumphing in even worse situations.

The bespectacled, brown-haired boy from London, England, had turned thirteen years old during the Christmas holidays, but it had been a fairly lonely birthday for him. None of his friends from the academy were able to visit him, since most of them did not come from Earth-One, which was referred to as Aleph in the academy textbooks. His best friend Rick Billings, for example, was from Earth-Two, called Bet. Nevertheless, Tim had spent an enjoyable two months with his dad, even though Bill Hunter was still under the mystically induced impression that Tim was attending an ordinary boarding school on a scholarship, rather than a so-called school of magic on an island in the South Pacific. That had been Zatanna’s doing; it was the only way that Tim had been allowed to attend this school for selected children from five parallel Earths.

Tim watched from a catwalk that circled the main hall had been created during the break as the new first-year students tentatively walked into the main hall. He found that this was a perfect vantage point to just stand and relax and watch the new kids coming to the school.

Most of the new students looked ordinary, dressed in mandatory school uniforms. But there were a few who looked like they had no idea what the weather on this tropical isle would be like. One of them especially stood out to Tim, dressed in an Old World-style black cloak with the hood pulled up over the head, with the cape down to the feet, not allowing Tim to see what he or she even looked like.

After the students had all finished entering the main hall, a few new teachers walked in. Grimoire Academy normally had twelve teachers, plus the headmaster and a few other staff members. But after a mid-year change last year, when Miss Cable had left, she was replaced by two new teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Martine, bringing the number of teachers up to thirteen. Of course, the Martines taught their elective super-heroics classes together as a team, while they split up the rest of their classes between mathematics and music, so no new classes were added. It looked like there would be thirteen teachers again this year; if Tim had been more superstitious than he was, he would have wondered if that was a bad omen for the year to come.

One of the new teachers was something to see as well, for the simple fact that, although he walked on two legs and was quite tall, he had a large beak and black feathers over his head in place of hair. He looked like nothing less than a toucan.

“Having a look at our new teachers, Mr. Hunter?” came a voice from beside Tim. The teenager looked up to see Headmaster Gallowglass standing along the rail as Tim had been.

Tim wasn’t used to the headmaster speaking to him in such friendly tones; he was usually very stern with his students. It was unnerving to see him be so friendly. “Y-yes,” he replied. “Who — what is he?”

“That is Ramphastos from the city of Feithera on Earth-Bet,” explained Gallowglass. “And he’s one of your new teachers.”

“What does he teach?” asked Tim, perplexed, looking back at the living bird-man.

“You’re going to have to attend his classes and find out, Timothy.”

“But I thought…” Tim began, but as he turned, he found that the headmaster had already vanished. As Tim wondered exactly how the headmaster could teleport like that, his red-haired American friend Rick Billings came running down the hall leading to the catwalk.

“Did you see the bird-man?” cried Rick excitedly. “I can’t believe that we have a Feitheran like Northwind here this year! Can you believe it?”

“I saw him,” said Tim, not understanding Rick’s other-Earthly super-heroic reference as usual. “He’s a teacher.”

“He is?” said Rick, his eyes wide. “That is sooo cool. I wonder what he teaches.”

“I don’t know, but I heard his name is Ramphastos.”

“Ramphastos… that sounds so dangerous, and fitting. I wonder what he’s like.”

“Instead of asking me a lot of questions I don’t know the answers to,” said Tim, “why don’t you go follow the orientation group and find out?”

“I better hurry,” said Rick. “Did you see which group he went with?”

“Baron Weirwulf’s, I think.”

Before Tim could say another word, Rick ran off after the group that Baron Weirwulf was showing around. Tim walked over to one of he benches in the hallway and sat down. Rick hadn’t even asked how he’d been over the break, what he had done, or anything. So far, the New Year of 1988 sucked.

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