This is a children's fantasy for 9 - 15 years, It is set in a strange school where there is adventure, magic and mystery - first edition.
An old man had to die before something of major proportions happened in the small seaside town of Calder Cove. Over a long and extended period, a series of weird and rather extraordinary events occur, most of which are hidden from view behind a construction of tall screens. Then, with a very grand and rather bizarre opening, a strange and mysterious castle is revealed, a castle that seemed to have appeared out of the darkness and silence of nowhere.
Was it magic? the townsfolk wondered.
Or was it something more sinister?
In time it is made known that the massive grey ediface is nothing more than a school. But when the exclusively invited children finally step inside, the huge doors are locked securely behind them, creating a strict division between the world of their families and the castle. Everything that was once a part of everyday life becomes a thing of the past and the new students are thrown, without warning, into the unknown. It is with great trepidition they begin to question these changes and ask ... is this place really a school?
An answer to their dilemma begins to show itself after an intriguing visit to an Aztec pyramid that results in the theft of a cursed ring, and the eventual disappearance of the school's bully, Neville Cormac. The teachers' blase response to this matter prompts Bridget Lincoln and her motley crew of friends to investigate. But they get more than they bargain for when they stumble upon magical rooms and hidden passageways, a golden doorway and, most horrifically, their own doom!
'MERLIN'S SCHOOL FOR ORDINARY CHILDREN - THE RING OF CURSES'
CHAPTER ONE - A CURIOUS EVENT
It seemed rather strange that after so many years of not much happening in the tiny seaside village of Calder Cove that something finally did happen. And it wasn't just a little happening either. It was an extremely large and impressive happening - so large and impressive that it took up the whole of the seventeen acre block of brown land once known as Riley's Ranch.
Not surprisingly Riley's Ranch used to be owned by an old codger named Riley and he resided in the rather dilapidated weatherboard house that was thought to be haunted. It didn't matter that the house was surrounded by a wonderful garden full of flowers, vegetables and every type of tree known to man. Or that it was home to some golden chickens, a gaggle of bad-tempered geese, a couple of moth-eaten goats and even a sway-back horse. In fact, none of that mattered at all.
What did matter were the strange sounds and smells that drifted up from the house most nights anywhere between the hours of dusk to dawn. The pops and bangs and extraordinary fizzles, couple with aromas that would make a skunk feel downright ordinary, were not usual events in anybody's mind. It all created an enigma because the people of the Cove didn't know what to make of them.
Then there was the eccentric Mr Riley, of course, a very odd soul indeed. Tall and wiry with a whiskery face he kept very much to his own company, which meant that nobody even had the opportunity to ask him about the other unusual stuff. This most definately did not help things along.
Market day was different though. Market day was the first Monday in every month. Each first Monday old man Riley would drive into the centre of town in his rickety wagon, drawn along by the even ricketier old horse whose name was Nasty Ned on account that he would chew unkindly on anyone who ventured within biting distance. Mr Riley would park the wagon outside the Log Cabin Shoppe then clamber down slowly from the wooden seat like an arthritic spider, checking his backside for splinters as he went. He'd hitch the reins of Ned's faded brown leather harness to the nearest power pole and shuffle quickly through the double sliding automatic doors. He would immediately go in search of an assistant, to help with the purchase of Lucerne hay and twine, new shirts and pellets and any other odds and sundries he felt he needed.
This monthly venture completed, he would tip his battered hat silently to all involved and leave the store with the same speed as he entered. Safely back on his wagon Mr Riley and Ned would mosey on back home. The loaded wagon would be unpacked and unhitched and all the goods would be stored accordingly. Afterward, very little would be seen of the man until the next first Monday.
It was an accepted ritual of everyday life in Calder Cove - strange but never changing.
Once on her way home from primary school one of the local girls, Miss Tilderly Davis, had asked over the wire fence that surrounded Riley's Ranch, 'Why don't ya get yerself a car, Mister Riley?'
'Cars need petrol an' then there's the oil. Then sometimes ya gotta fix 'em,' was his quizzical answer. He took out a small notebook from the pocket on the left hand side of his red shirt and a tiny stub of a pencil, which he licked before writing down a few quick notes.
Fascinated, Tilderly watched him, asking 'What ya wrting, Mister Riley?'
Mr Riley hesitated before answering the inquisitive girl, scratching at his prickly face with the end of the pencil nub. He'd simply replied, 'A book.' No other explanations deemed necessary, he thought.
'Oh,' Tilderly had exclaimed, surprised but at the same time very satisfied. She'd drifted away with her newfound knowledge, feeling rather pleased with herself. Most people didn't give tubby, lisping Tilderly Davis the time of day, though tomorrow would be different. She knew something that nobody else knew and all of a sudden she felt important.
The next day at school, just as she had expected, Tilderly was the centre of attention, but only for the short time it took to disgorge her news onto everyone else. At the end of it she was as unpopular as ever, which set her to crying and snivelling loudly. This was precisely the reason behind her unpopularity in the first place. The schoolyard, however, was abuzz with the gossip as the children of the Cove discussed the news. A writer at Calder Cove! How very, very exciting!
Before you knew it everyone in town was aware that Mr Riley was writing a book.
Then things did change.
Every first Monday of every month thereafter, the townsfolk looked at him with a sense of respect that hadn't existed before. He'd smile a tiny smile - more for his own benefit than anyone else's - and people swore and declared that he was their personal friend, because he lived in their town and he was their neighbour. Now the whole town felt important and the town's folk basked in this importance. They soon forgot all about his haunted house and his funny ways and the fact that he called his chickens his girls or fixed his fence with green twine. Or that nobody really knew the man.
People began bombarding him with invitations to this one's birthday party and that one's dinner, this one's engagement or that one's supper, He would thank everyone politely but decline all the same, writing down some more notes with his gnarly pencil end. Folk would get even more puffed up with grandness, for they assumed that the book was all about them.
Eventually Frederick Henry, editor of the local newsletter 'The Weekly Wailer', demanded an exclusive interview, as if Mr Riley was some kind of celebrity. Mr Riley didn't stop to write notes that day. He got on his wagon in silence, his face grim and thunderous, returning home as soon as possible.
But it didn't stop people though. Mr Riley was a writer as far as they were concerned and they all wanted to be part of his personal glory. They hounded and harrassed him, almost to the point of mobbing him at every move.
Sadly, one day he just up and died. Very inconvenient really! But one would have to wonder ... did he do it to get away from the town's residents?
People were astounded, of course, and went into an uproar. In the three months since Tilderly Davis had leaked her news to the populace of Calder Cove nobody had seen hide or hair of the book she'd bragged about. This put her into a - don't believe a word she says - category, which gave her even more reason to weep and whine.
And once more,Mr Riley became that eccentric old man.
Regardless he was duly buried in the town's cemetery, without ceremony and without mourners, for he did not have any relatives. Or none that anybody knew of.
A few days later a foreign-looking gentleman came into town and the goats were sold, and Nasty Ned was given away to another stranger. The geese magically disappeared and the chickens turned feral, running off to live in the bushes on the outer limits of the Cove. As a result the abandoned house fell silent, then into disrepair, and finally into ruins, leaving a large patch of lush garden and pasture to turn slowly into a dusty, brown bowl full of dirt and twiggy skeletons, which was to be expected.
What wasn't expected, however, was the fact, that after so many years of seeing the man himself with his horse and wagon, pull up outside the Log Cabin Shoppe on the first Monday of the month that he would actually be missed. Book or no book!
Amazingly people had worked around this event. Small children had been bought an ice cream and left to sit quietly on the village triangle, while their mums selected meat and vegetables for their evening meal. Shopkeepers and business men had set their watches by him, for Mr Riley had been very punctual. The postman had never failed to put a bucket of water out for Ned to drink on hot days. And the street-sweeper had left that part of town until last just in case ... Ned left his mark.
Anyway, with the old man's death, a long tradition came to an abrupt halt and people were at a loss for many months, for the expiration of Mr Riley left a hole in everybody's first Monday.
Fortunately, though, with time and the natural way of the world, all thing heal and folk eventually got on with their lives, pretending that Mr Riley never existed, his history slipping slowly into the dust of ages.
After several weeks he was quickly resurrected when out of the blue rumours began to circulate that maybe he'd left his fabled writings under the floorboards of his house. It was a great manuscript that would be found, and this manuscript would bring a fountain of wealth into the lucky finder's life. So for many nights following this rumour, there were some strange sounds coming from the ruins of Mr Riley's place, with large piles of dirt found lying about like abandoned mud-pies the following day. But nothing was ever found.
Once again Mr Riley was consigned to the far corners of everybody's memory.
And then, many, many, many months down the track the 'happening' happened.
Or began to happen!