by CSyphrett, Martin Maenza and Doc Quantum
Abby Cable ran her fingers through her long, platinum-blonde hair. A black streak of hair danced visibly at her agitation. She stood in a garden of flowers, some of which were unusual and strange. Their colors were vibrant, and the aromas they gave off were unique. Seven statues adorned the park-like area around the edges. (*) A low hedge kept this one part of Grimoire Island isolated from the rest of the facility.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: The Sentinels of Magic: Times Past, 1948: Sacrifices Must Be Made.]
Those statues reminded her of her own dead Alec Holland. The people he had fought in order to save her after her arrest were considered to be heroes, while Alec himself was reviled by many for turning Gotham City into a giant greenhouse. Some politicians on the right had even considered giving Luthor a pardon or a reduction of his sentence for a time for inventing the device that had seemingly put an end to the menace of the Swamp Thing. But cooler heads had prevailed, and a quick review of Luthor’s history of sociopathic behavior had quashed that idea. Still, while the Swamp Thing was hated by many, he was loved by others, including environmentalists, who had thought his transformation of Gotham City to be akin to a paradise on earth. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Natural Consequences,” Swamp Thing v2 #52 (September, 1986) and “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Swamp Thing v2 #53 (October, 1986).]
As for Abigail Arcane Cable herself, she had been barred from teaching in her home state of Louisiana thanks to having been arrested as a sex offender for her relationship with the Swamp Thing, a charge that had led to her being brought to Gotham City in the first place. (*) Since then she had been merely existing on whatever work she could find, at least until she had received this rather strange offer. She was glad that Mr. Brand had arrived on her doorstep that fateful day.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Murder of Crows,” Swamp Thing v2 #48 (May, 1986) and “Home Free,” Swamp Thing v2 #51 (August, 1986).]
“Mrs. Holland?” interrupted a voice that sounded as dry as dust and time.
“I still use Cable,” said Abby. She turned to where the voice had come from and paused, having the distinct feeling that she was looking at someone who had stepped out of an old monster movie.
“I apologize,” said the speaker, a tall, large figure. As Abby looked at him, she saw that he seemed to have mismatched limbs, with a sallow face and rheumy eyes. Long, thin dark hair fell below his shoulders. He wore clothes that were ragged about the edges and stained with dirt. Noticing how she stared at him, he thought to ease her somewhat. “I am Adam Frankenstein. Headmaster Gallowglass said that your roommate has arrived and that commencement was about to begin.”
“Thank you,” said Abby, with a gentle, warm smile at this figure, whose general appearance had the odd effect of putting her at ease; he reminded her of two men very dear to her. (*) “Would you mind showing me the way?”
[(*) Editor’s note: Abby is referring not only to the Swamp Thing himself, but also to her own father, Gregori Arcane, who became the creature known as the Patchwork Man, looking much like Frankenstein’s monster; see “The Patchwork Man,” Swamp Thing #3 (February-March, 1973).]
“The island can be confusing the first week you are here,” agreed Adam. As Frankenstein’s monster started off in a shambling walk toward the compound of buildings at the center of the island, the woman followed.
Adam walked slowly along the paths that branched from the park and the other areas. It reminded Abby of a spider’s web, and she felt a slight chill down her spine. Odd, she thought.
They passed a number of buildings, which Adam explained as they passed. “That’s the bestiary,” he said. “Don’t let the strange sounds at night bother you too much.” A chime filled the air. “That’s the clock tower. It sounds on the hour and half-past. There’s a map house just to the left of it.” Adam turned to his right. “Those are the natural areas,” he said.
“Yes, I know,” Abby said. “I will be teaching about things there.”
Adam nodded. It made sense that a pretty woman such as she would know about the pretty things in nature. He often would wander the gardens alone; it eased his troubled soul. As they continued to move, they soon reached the cluster of buildings that made up the quads of the school proper.
Just beyond the academic buildings were the four large buildings that constituted the student housing. On the other end was the housing for the instructors and staff. She recognized her bungalow, which overlooked an empty stone dock that jutted out into the ocean. It reminded her a bit of the bayou.
One of the other teachers, a blond man named Johnny Peril, stood on the porch steps talking to a dark-haired woman standing by the door. From his first appearance, Peril seemed like an easygoing fellow who was very personable. In fact, the way he was talking to the young lady implied he was rather full of charm. Still, he had an air of mystery about him.
“Your roommate,” said Adam, breaking her focus on the man. “Let me introduce you.” They walked up the steps.
Seeing Adam and Abby approach, Johnny Peril smiled. It seemed he found the new instructor interesting, so he made it a point to know who she was. Before Adam could say a word, Peril said with a wide smile, “Rose Psychic, this is Abby Cable!”
“Psychic?” asked Abby. “What a different last name.”
“I was named by my adoptive parents,” explained the brunette Rose. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” The two women shook hands in a friendly way.
“Commencement is about to begin, Johnny,” said Adam in his dusty voice, interrupting the exchanges.
“Is it twelve already?” Peril examined his watch. “Stopped. Must need a new battery.”
“Just nearly,” Adam said. “Cain and Abel brought the students in a little while ago.”
“Well, ladies,” Peril said, thrusting out both his elbows. “Let’s get this first duty out of the way so we can enjoy the rest of the day, hmmm?” The women accepted the offer begrudgingly, and they took each arm. The group strode toward the main buildings, Peril whistling lightly as they went.
“Come on, or we’ll be late!” a young voice cried as they ran across the cobblestones. It belonged to a young man with short red hair.
“I’m coming!” said another young man, this one with dark hair, in a slight British accent. He had stopped to wipe off his glasses. Timothy Hunter was still trying to get used to the whole idea. When that odd blind man named Mister E had suggested that Tim might be better off enrolled in a school such as Grimoire Academy, the boy was hardly sure what to expect. The place was certainly a lot different than any other educational institute he had been in before.
Luckily, someone had noted Tim’s confusion upon his arrival and had offered to help out. That was young Rick Billings, a boy from the United States who spoke like someone from the Hollywood movies Tim’s father had let him watch. Rick was also only the second American he had ever met, after meeting the strange Mister E last month. Despite their different nationalities, the two had seemed to hit it off smashingly from the moment they met that morning.
“Tim, hurry up!” Rick called out. “We don’t want to miss the opening. Gallowglass will give us demerits if we’re tardy.”
“Right,” Tim said. He slid on his spectacles and hurried up the walk. The two young boys slipped in the back door of the auditorium, right before the doors were to be shut.
Abby and Rose followed Johnny Peril into the main school building. The hall was clean and spot-shined, with high ceilings and large windows. “Come, ladies,” Peril said. They followed him down a corridor, to the right, and through a door. The trio then stood at the back of the well-lit assembly hall.
A man approached the dais on the stage before the assembled students, who were speaking in whispering tones. One glaring look from the middle-aged man was enough to send a hush across them. The man’s one blue right eye seemed to burn like white fire. The other orb, a thing of black diamond, glittered under the harsh lighting. His battered face spoke volumes on the nature of conflict and loss.
“Good day,” he began as he approached the microphone. “For those of you who I have yet to meet, I am Mr. Gallowglass, the headmaster of this school. On this day, January 1st, 1987, we are proud to be holding the thirty-fifth commencement of the Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge. I will keep my opening speech short, since there is a lot to do, especially for those of you who have just joined us.”
In the audience, Tim Hunter leaned back in his seat cautiously. He felt almost as if Gallowglass had been talking directly to him. Maybe it was the way his eyes moved about the room when he spoke, catching hold of the eyes of the students in an unwavering glare.
Gallowglass continued. “First, I remind you that the academic year runs from this day to October 31st. There are three weeks throughout the year where you will be able to go home and visit with your families. Beyond that, you are in for a rigorous ten months of study.
“If, for some reason, you do not wish to start classes with us after all, or you believe that you are not up to the challenges that will be set before you, be at the dock on the beach tomorrow morning at eight o’clock. That is when the last boat will leave for the coast.” Mr. Gallowglass paused. This last bit was for the benefit of all the newcomers, students and teachers alike.
“For those of you with the fortitude to remain with us,” continued Mr. Gallowglass, classes are divided by age groups from first-year students to those in their seventh years, with optional post-graduation studies available to the particularly talented ones amongst you — the chosen few. Once classes begin, you will be expected to work and excel in your studies, whatever they may be. Responsibility and accountability is the order of the day.” The returning students knew that Gallowglass set high standards and did not take failure lightly. True, one learned by their mistakes and mistakes were tolerated, but the students were expected to be prepared and to give it their all. Slackers were not tolerated.
“Certain areas of the school are off-limits to students without qualified supervision. Any students caught messing about in those areas unchaperoned will receive severe punishment, with the possibility of expulsion. The bestiary that is maintained for the advanced studies of mythical creatures, and the clock room, are two such areas. The animals that are kept here are… unique and very dangerous. I do not want to have to call an individual’s parents and explain why their child is dead. Am I understood?” He paused, examining the crowd with his natural scowl.
“Am I understood, Mr. Cantrell?” he said sharply to one of the boys who was sitting three seats down from Tim Hunter. The selected youth, a brown-haired, third-year student, had been talking with another in the row.
Embarrassed, the boy said in a low voice, “Yes, sir!”
Headmaster Gallowglass nodded as if making up his mind about something. “Finally, I find I must always remind our students at the beginning of each year about the nature of our much-hallowed school. The Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge is not a magic academy, a school for witchcraft and wizardry, or any of those oft-repeated phrases. In fact, fewer than fifteen percent of our student body will ever successfully practice magic, and the only reason that statistic is so high is because of a substantial number of Homo Magi students here for specialized studies at Nommo Hall.
“That being said,” continued Mr. Gallowglass, “we make no compunctions about the existence of magic and the supernatural. Part of our role at the academy is to prepare our students to deal with all manner of unusual threats or situations that the ordinary population of our worlds are wholly unprepared to deal with. Yes, that does include some general instruction in magic, but for the most part, those esoteric studies will be reserved for specific students who require special tutelage to control their natural affinity for sorcery. Please keep that in mind before you bandy about the term ‘magic academy,’ will you? Your teachers will remind you to never use the term on school grounds.” The headmaster stared balefully over the student body with his one right eye for several long moments to emphasize his point, before he finally spoke again.
“Mr. Bones, Baron Weirwulf, Miss Eve,” he said in a more relaxed tone. “Please come up front.”
Timothy Hunter was startled when he saw one of the three professors approach the dais. The first man, Mr. Bones, wore an old-fashioned, light-purple suit and had a fringe of white hair around his white skull, with a lengthy black widow’s peak reaching from his forehead nearly back to the fringe of white hair, and scruffy white sideburns like a character straight out of Dickens. But the most startling thing about him was not that he looked like a nineteenth-century butler, but that his skin was blue, and his eyes were yellow, giving him the appearance of a reanimated corpse. This was emphasized by the fact that he wore a thick tie that had a small white skull emblazoned in its center. Tim shuddered as the professor glanced his way and grinned, as the man had a decidedly wicked look to him. But as the butler of Ghost Manor, Mr. Bones had long cultivated his fiendish appearance, the better to regale others with tales of the dead. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Mr. Bones first appeared in “Who’s Staying in the Secret Room?” Ghost Manor v2 #1 (October, 1971).]
The other male professor, Baron Weirwulf, looked fairly normal next to Mr. Bones, though the Baron’s general appearance, with his mane of hair and full beard, as well as his antiquated suit, made him look as if he had just walked out of the pages of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, where he’d possibly just finished eating a blood pie made from the meat of petulant children. And that name of his, accompanied by his Eastern European accent, made him sound like he’d transform into a wolf with the next full moon. (*) Timothy decided that he would do his best to steer clear of both these professors, or at least do nothing to anger them. But he had no such compunctions about Miss Eve.
[(*) Editor’s note: Baron Weirwulf first appeared in “Baron Weirwulf’s Library,” Haunted #17 (July, 1974)]
The female professor was a buxom brunette young woman wearing a plum dress. Miss Eve was a beautiful woman by any standard, and despite his young age, Timothy found himself immediately enraptured by her, though he wasn’t quite sure why. If he had looked around, he would have seen that all the other schoolboys around him felt likewise. But there was something slightly odd about the beautiful woman; strangely enough, she fit into the weird landscape of Grimoire Island as easily as the eerie Mr. Bones and the gruff Baron Weirwulf. Perhaps it was the sly smile she wore that looked like she was hiding a secret, or perhaps it was the ever-present raven on her shoulder, whom she called Edgar Allen. Whatever it was, Miss Eve was as strange and mystifying as any other at the academy. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Eve first appeared, as an old crone, in “When Is Tomorrow Yesterday?” Secrets of Sinister House #6 (August-September, 1972).]
As the three professors walked to the stage from their places around the room, Gallowglass continued. “Mr. Bones is number one, the Baron two, Miss Eve three.” Clearing his throat, the headmaster glared down at the students and said, “Mr. Murphy.” A boy in the front right corner of the seating looked up. “If you would please start the counting with one, we will divide you up in thirds for the island tour.”
Tim frowned slightly. He and Rick had sat next to one another in the auditorium. But as the students began to count off, he quickly realized that the two would be split up for the tour. “This stinks,” he said softly.
“No worries,” Rick said. “We’ll get back together after, at the dorms.” And so the new friends were briefly separated for the first time since they’d met that morning.
Headmaster Gallowglass waited until the students were split up equally and on their way before he left the room as quietly as he had entered.