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THE ADVENTURES OF THE MAGIC DOG - Great Aunt Virginia and the Winged Jackal

Gwen and her brothers have been sent to their Great Aunt Virginia’s house to live after their mother and father decided to separate. Upon meeting their great aunt, they find her to be a cruel and secretive woman, after she enforces a list of rules upon them while they are staying in her house. 

When the children explore the house against their aunt’s wishes, they find a secret and mysterious room where an enormous stained-glass window stands and various other apparatus. After discovering a secret tunnel under the house where a civilisation of strange creatures live, they also find a key that gives them access to a room under the house, where a man is being kept captive by Great Aunt Virginia. The man explains to the children that the stained-glass window they had found is a portal to another world called Alvetoria, where he is from. 

The man convinces the children to plan for his escape and help him get back through the portal. He explains to them that they have been chosen by the Alvetorians as visionaries and they are the only ones who can use the portal, apart from their aunt. The children later find that nothing was as it seemed and they are swept up into a whirlwind of secrets, burdens and adventure.

In Store Price: $AU22.95 
Online Price:   $AU21.95

ISBN: 978-1-921406-73-7   
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 157
Genre: Children's Fiction

 

 

Author: J. I. Cooper
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2009
Language: English

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Author Biography 

The author was born and married in Perth, Western Australia and has lived there all her life. She studied social work at university and has worked caring for older adults and children.
 
J. I. Cooper has a passion for creative writing and enjoys reading, movies and video games. She also enjoys socialising with friends and family and has a love for animals.
 

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Making Tracks

 

G

wen reluctantly packed her belongings into her suitcase. Amongst her clothing and toiletries she carefully placed her journal into the front pocket of the case and zipped it up. The journal included letters she wrote to people but never sent and records of what happened in her life.

Gwen was convinced that if aliens invaded the earth or there was another ice age and humans were wiped out, then any future beings may be able to track the movements of people in the 21st Century. Most importantly, if Gwen and her brothers were abducted by aliens, then some hero may be able to save them if he found the journal.

Gwen heard weird noises coming from outside her room. Aliens? No it was Sam.

“Sam, get lost!”

Gwen pulled the blinds back. This wasn’t the first time Sam had tried to scare her. She couldn’t understand why he kept trying as his tricks never worked. Sam carried on with the noises while his face was pressed against the windowpane. He wore a mask that resembled some sort of wild animal.

“Good one, Sam!” Gwen shouted.

Sam pulled his mask off and a look of disappointment was painted over his face. “Ooh no way! You’re supposed to get scared,” Sam yelled from outside the window.

“Yeah, well you might want to try something new if you intend on scaring me. Haven’t you had that weird mask for, like years?” Gwen replied.

Mrs Taperston was running around the house muttering to herself, swiping items as she passed, her strawberry-blonde waves of hair floating lightly over her green eyes. She wore flared jeans with boots and a leather jacket tied securely around her waist.

Gwen looked similar to Mrs Taperston except her hair was a darker richer red and it was straight. Mrs Taperston picked up a picture of her husband and stared at the picture for awhile. Her eyes watered slightly and her lower lip quivered as she focused on his piercing dark-blue eyes and dark-brown hair cut neatly over his oval-shaped face.

Suddenly her expression changed into one of anger and she quickly dabbed her eyes and tossed the photograph into the bin. “Children hurry up! We are leaving in five minutes.”

“Be there in a minute,” Gwen yelled and she picked up her suitcase and proceeded to drag the heavy case across the floor.

Not all of her things were packed yet. Mrs Taperston had planned to sort it out later. Gwen took one last look around her room. She glanced over the wall that held posters and old photos of friends and leftover tape. There was peeled paintwork where pictures had been pulled off the wall. She glanced out the window. Sam was gone. He had obviously given up trying to scare his sister.

The garden was rich with life. The grass was a deep green and classic roses of pink, red, white and yellow had bloomed outside of Gwen’s window. Their beautiful fresh scent drifted in on the soft cool breeze that blew through the partially-open window.

Sam had thrown his suitcase into the boot and was contentedly sitting in the front seat waiting for Gwen and Mrs Taperston.

Gwen put her things in the back seat next to Brad who sat silently and stunned staring into space. “Are you ok, Brad?” Gwen asked her brother.

After a moment Brad turned to face his sister. “David, at school, says that there’s a scary monster in Great Aunt’s house and that she’s a witch and turns people into trolls forever.”

Gwen thought for a moment. She was afraid of moving into Great Aunt’s spooky old house and she was afraid of what Great Aunt would be like, but she couldn’t really justify being afraid of monsters, ghosts and witches, not at her age. She knew she had to be strong for her little brother.

“Don’t worry, Brad, I’m sure there are no monsters in the old mansion and Great Aunt isn’t a witch. Mum wouldn’t send us to a place like that.”

Brad seemed to take some comfort in what Gwen had said and he pulled a computer game out of his pocket and started to play it.

Mrs Taperston got into the car. “All ready to go?”

“Yeah, when Sam gets out of the front seat,” Gwen whined. “Why does he always just assume that he can sit in the front?

“I’m the oldest so shut up!” Sam yelled.

“Stop fighting!” Mrs Taperston shouted. “You can both sit in the back with Brad.”

“Ohhhh that’s unfair! Now look what you’ve done Gwen,” Sam whined.

“Get in the back, Sam! You two need to learn to act civilly and learn to share! Now move, Sam,” Mrs Taperston yelled.

Brad chuckled to himself as his older brother and sister belted up next to him in the back seat of Mrs Taperston’s canary-yellow old bomb of a car.

“Mum, why do we have to go to Aunt Virginia’s? Isn’t there anywhere else we can go?” Sam asked.

Mrs Taperston’s head swung around. “Aunt Virginia is the only relative I have here and you know that your father’s family don’t want anything to do with us.”

“But why?” Sam asked.

“Because they are selfish, and they are worried that you will tell the truth about your father to your cousins and it will cause the family shame.”

Sam laughed, “That’s stupid, everyone knows he was a drinker and that he ran off with that skank he worked with. Not to mention, he was never here and that he didn’t give a crap about us.”

Mrs Taperston’s eyebrows lowered. “Sam I know you are angry but please don’t use language like that.”

Sam turned his head towards the window and rolled his eyes.

“Well I’m glad we’re leaving. I hated our school and all the nasty kids there. I was so sick of being left out and called names by the cruel girls that were in my class,” Gwen said and then she looked at Sam. “Remember those losers that used to pick on you because you couldn’t play sport because of your asthma?”

Sam grunted, “Yeah, how could I forget? I suppose, in a way, Aunt Virginia’s can’t be much worse than here right?” Sam continued.

With the front seat empty, Mrs Taperston started the engine and reversed out of the driveway and onto the street, leaving the calm and comfortable tranquillity of the known behind them. As the familiar environment faded, a murky unclear and unexplored road lay ahead. Would they be able to see through the darkness? Would they get lost or make a wrong turn? Did they realise how many cracks and potholes they would find on this road?

Great Aunt Virginia’s house sat high upon a hill, just as the children at school had described. This was certainly the middle of nowhere. There was forest all around as far as the naked eye could see. There were no other houses, no shops, no people, nothing. How could she live out here all alone? Gwen wondered, and how do the kids from school know so much about this place?

Mrs Taperston turned the car off the old country road they had been travelling along and continued up a steep winding driveway with potholes, until they reached a flat surface next to the front of the house. Mrs Taperston got out of the car, opened the boot and pulled out any luggage belonging to the children.

Gwen stepped out of the car. The air was cool, crisp and fresh and it smelled like pine wood and wet grass. Gwen grabbed her case from the back seat and looked up at the mansion that towered high above the treetops. It seemed to blend into the dull-grey heavy clouds that hung in the sky. Gwen heard Brad swallow loudly from behind her. Sam was also unusually quiet and pale.

The children followed Mrs Taperston up to the doorway. The entrance was a large wooden double-door that appeared as if it would take two or more people to open it.

 

“Children you need to be good for Great Aunt Virginia, she doesn’t like loud noise as it stirs up Great Uncle Peter,” Mrs Taperston said.

“Mum, why did we have to come here? This place is scary. Why can’t we go to some other person’s house?” Brad asked.

“I’ve already explained this to you and besides, no one else would keep you for so long. At least you’re not staying with a complete stranger,” Mrs Taperston replied.

Gwen started to think about what her mother had just said. No one would keep them for so long? How long did she intend on leaving them here? Also Great Aunt Virginia may as well be a complete stranger; knowing someone is more than merely setting eyes upon them.

Mrs Taperston rang the doorbell. It was so loud it seemed to shake the house and you could almost hear it echo throughout the silence of the forest. Footsteps could be heard coming towards the door. They were light and fast, almost as if whoever was approaching the door, was trying not to disturb someone.

Suddenly the door flung open and she was standing there – Great Aunt Virginia.

Brad’s jaw dropped to the ground and Sam appeared as if he had just seen a ghost. Gwen’s eyes widened with fear and curiosity as they quickly scanned over Great Aunt Virginia.

The woman stood no more than about 5 feet 5 from the ground and appeared skinny and scrawny as if she hadn’t eaten in awhile. Gwen wondered where she got the strength to open the double-doors on her own. Virginia’s grey hair was tied tightly in a bun on the top of her head. Her dark eyes were large and seemed to penetrate from her skull. One eye darted quickly around looking at the children and Mrs Taperston, however the other eye did not move.

Gwen focused on the eye that would not move. It was not a lazy eye, it was made of glass. Gwen swallowed a hard lump that had made its way into her throat and wondered why Great Aunt Virginia had lost an eye. Great Aunt Virginia’s face was covered in wrinkles and she appeared too old to be alive. A giant wart with hairs growing off it grew from her forehead and another wart grew from her chin.

“Welcome children, I am your Great Aunt Virginia. I do not mind you staying here, however there will be rules which I will explain later. You may call me Aunt Virginia, as Great Aunt is too long a title. You may go inside…but be quiet. I don’t like noise.” Aunt Virginia seemed to be in a rush to get the children inside. “Charlotte,” Aunt Virginia turned to Mrs Taperston whose first name was Charlotte, “you need not worry about the children. I will take good care of them. I shall see you when you return.”

Mrs Taperston kissed the children. “Goodbye children. I understand Aunt Virginia doesn’t have a telephone, so I will send letters in the mail to let you know how things are going, and to let you know when I will come and take you to our new home.”

With that, Mrs Taperston got back into her canary-yellow old bomb, started the engine and drove off down the steep driveway and onto the country road. The children stood watching as their mother vanished in the distance.

Suddenly, Aunt Virginia’s head swung around to look at the children. Her real eye squinted as the glass eye stared off in another direction.

“DIDN’T I TELL YOU ALL, TO GO INSIDE?” she yelled.

 

Aunt Virginia’s thin pale lips did not appear to be able to cover her teeth, of which some were missing, others were black, yellow, appeared jagged and grew out in various directions.

“YOU!” Aunt Virginia grabbed Gwen by the shoulder, bent down and stared into her face.

Gwen shook with fear. She realised now that perhaps the stories were true. This woman, her Aunt Virginia, really did resemble a witch and she spoke like one too.

“YOU!” she rasped as she shook Gwen’s shoulder. “Don’t daydream while I am speaking to you,” she screeched.

Aunt Virginia’s voice was high pitched and hoarse. “Gwenivere, you will be the one I will expect to make sure those two boys keep to the rules! I know you will be sensible.”

Gwen shrunk under her aunt’s fierce gaze. “W-What are the rules?” Gwen asked softy.

“SILENCE!” Aunt Virginia spat. Her breath was rancid and stunk like rotten meat and bits of spit and mucus landed on Gwen’s face. “This is exactly the sort of insolence I do not need.” Aunt Virginia spoke in a more controlled tone, “I will tell you the rules now. The first rule is that you will not come looking for me in the house. When you cannot see me, I do not want to be found.

“The second rule is that you will not speak to me unless I speak to you first. You will answer my questions but you will not ask me questions.

“The third rule is that you will stay in your designated area of the house during the day. At night you will stay in your bedrooms. You will be locked in and you will not try to exit your rooms at night – EVER! You will be released again in the morning. There are certain places of the house you are not allowed to go and I will show you those places when we go inside.

“The fourth rule is that you will not touch the cats. You will not go near them and you will not follow them or look for them.

“The fifth rule is that you will remain as quiet as possible at all times, especially at night. Your uncle has dementia and he is unable to do anything for himself. He sleeps most of the time and I do not want him to be disturbed. He can also become very angry if he is woken. These rules are in place for a reason, and you do not want to know what will happen if you disobey the rules.

“Now go inside, children,” Aunt Virginia demanded.

Brad and Sam quickly picked up their things and walked into the house. Gwen followed, as Aunt Virginia pulled the enormous doors shut behind them.

Gwen shuddered with fear. Their mother had left them with a witch; and for how long? There seemed there would be no way out of this fortress. They were locked inside with no telephone. Gwen looked around the mansion.

The windows were high above ground level and they were barred. The ceiling must have been about 30 feet above the polished floorboards beneath. The boards were scratched badly, probably by the cats, Gwen hoped, and not by some other creature that could very well be dwelling in the deep dark depths of this house.

They were standing in the foyer of the mansion. Two stairways weaved their way up to the first, second and third floors. Gwen also noticed that there were two stairways in the foyer that led to underneath the house, to a below-ground level.

At each of the entrances to below-ground level stood a gargoyle of some sort. The gargoyles had what looked like a dragon’s head on a lion’s body. They were at least 6 feet tall and about 4 feet wide. They seemed to be blocking the entrance to the staircases below. Each of the gargoyles held a kerosene lamp that looked like it could be removed and used to light the way down the staircase and under the house.

Gwen started to feel her neck and shoulders tighten and she suddenly felt cold. She was convinced that those stairwells led to dungeons under the house.

 “I feel cold and I am really scared,” Brad whispered to Gwen.

“It’s a cold house, Brad, because the ceilings are high, it’s also very old so it looks creepy. But you don’t need to be afraid, you have Sam and I and we won’t let anything happen to you,” Gwen replied.

Brad smiled softy. It wasn’t a smile of relief but more a smile to console Gwen as Brad did not believe her story about not having to be afraid. He knew her too well and knew that she was afraid too. At least if she thought he was not afraid then she may feel better.

Sam’s pale face seemed to be flushed with colour again. He ran over to the gargoyles and stood in front of them looking up at the dragon heads.

“Ha, these are pretty cool,” Sam laughed. “I am going to have a great time scaring you guys in this house.”

“GET AWAY FROM THERE!” Great Aunt Virginia shouted. “I told you there are certain places in this house you are not allowed to go and those staircases with the gargoyles are one of those places! I don’t want to see you there again!”

Sam’s smile quickly diminished, he hung his head and rapidly made his way over to stand with Gwen and Brad. “I think this crazy woman is for real,” Sam whispered.

 

Gwen didn’t think that there would be much tomfoolery from Sam in this house – not with Aunt Virginia around.

“All of you listen to me. Go up the staircase on your left,” Aunt Virginia ordered.

The children walked up the stairs. There were pictures hung on the walls. They were black and white and faded as if they were centuries old. Most of the pictures were painted. Gwen took a closer look at some of them. There were images of a woman that seemed to look like Aunt Virginia when she was younger and there were some of children. However, there were some spaces on the wall where the paint was cleaner and brighter. The spaces appeared as if frames had once hung there and had then been removed. Gwen could not see any family portraits or pictures of men. It was all women and children.

But where was Uncle Peter’s portrait and why weren’t there any pictures of Aunt Virginia, Uncle Peter and their children, all together? Gwen wondered.

Within moments they reached the first floor.

“The left and right staircases from the foyer lead to the first, second and third floors,” Aunt Virginia advised. “As you can see this staircase leads to a hallway that joins with the other staircase, so you can take either staircase up to this floor. This is your floor. There are three bedrooms, a library and a bathroom. You will share the bathroom and the library. There is no television in this house so you will be expected to read books to occupy yourselves. You may go outside but only out the front of the house. You will not attempt to go into the gardens at the rear of the house. You must also remember not to go into the forest as you may get lost.

“My floor is the second floor. The dining room and kitchen are on my floor. You may come to the second floor at exactly six am sharp for breakfast, twelve pm for lunch and six pm for dinner. You must not be late, and you will not snoop around. You will come straight to the dining room from the first floor and after you have eaten you will return to your floor. You are not to go up to the third floor or go below-ground level of this house. Those areas of the house are strictly off limits and you are forbidden to go to those floors.”

“You may go to your rooms for now. I will see you at six pm. Take whichever room you wish on this floor. Everything you need for the bathroom are in the bedrooms.” With that Aunt Virginia walked over to the stairs and soon disappeared from sight.

“Great,” Sam whined, “this place is like a fortress with all those rules. What a psycho!”

“Yeah, I want to go home,” Brad said.

“Well, I don’t think we can do much about it,” Gwen sighed. “We are in the middle of nowhere, there’s no phone, no people, no civilisation. There’s probably no car or bike, or any mode of transport we can use to get out of here.”

At five-fifty pm Gwen, Sam and Brad made their way up to the dining room. The dining room was positioned exactly in the middle of the hallway between the staircases. A chandelier that shone like priceless crystals hung from the centre of the ceiling and provided a warm light to the cold room.

The children sat at the long table that seemed large enough to seat twenty or more people. At the end of the table there was a grandfather clock which showed the precise time and Gwen focused on the pendulum which moved back and forth in an even rhythm. The boys sat staring at their reflections in the glass tabletop that rested on a marble base.

Suddenly, the grandfather clock chimed six times and before any of the children had time to blink, Aunt Virginia was seated at the end of the table.

The children stared at her in silence and their faces were full of confusion. They wondered how Aunt Virginia had so quietly and effectively snuck up on them.

“Well, I’m glad you arrived on time,” Aunt Virginia said and she picked up a small glass bell and tinkled it in the air.

Sam snorted trying hard not to laugh at this crazy old woman. “Who does she think is going to serve the food? The fairies?” Sam sniggered.

Brad stared with wide eyes at the doorway to the right of the dining room that appeared to be connected to the kitchen. Gwen gawked at the doorway as well.

Moments later an old man appeared. He looked as old as Aunt Virginia. Sam almost fell off his seat. “Ha, look the old girl has a boyfriend and she’s using him as a slave,” Sam whispered, desperately trying to hold his laughter back.

Brad’s cheeks filled with air as he tried not to laugh. Gwen wondered if this man could be Uncle Peter but she doubted it. Uncle Peter would not be able to walk around and prepare and serve meals, he wasn’t a well man.

The man walked quickly around the table removing plates from a trolley and placing them down between the knives and forks in front of everyone. He then placed two large trays in the middle of the table. One tray was filled with a large roasted chicken and the other contained roasted vegetables. Then the old man swiftly left the room closing the door behind him.

“I suppose you’re wondering who that man was,” Aunt Virginia said.

 

Gwen cleared her throat and decided to respond. “Yeah, who was that?” Gwen asked.

“His name is Clifford. He is my new home-help person. He cooks, cleans and does the gardening, and I assure you he is well paid for his services,” Aunt Virginia replied.

“Yeah, I’ll bet the payment for that old man is just to stay alive,” Sam whispered. “Although it’s a wonder he’s still alive after having to do all the work in this huge mansion.”

Gwen didn’t buy Aunt Virginia’s story. There was something not quite right about it. Sam was spot on; there was no way that old man could possibly keep up with all the work that had to be done in this house on his own. Perhaps if the old man was fifty years younger then maybe he could, but even a young person would have trouble doing all the work that has to done in this house.

“Serve yourselves, children. When you’re finished you may leave the table and retire for the night,” Aunt Virginia advised.

“Retire for the night? What, is she from the medieval days or something?” Sam sniggered.

Throughout dinner, Aunt Virginia sat and ate quietly and the children chose not to speak as well, for fear of being yelled at. It seemed Aunt Virginia was afraid to get into a conversation for some reason.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of awkward silence, the children finished eating and quickly retreated from the table, back out into the hallway without any exchange of words with their aunt.

Sam took a deep breath and Brad let out a sigh of relief. “Gees, talk about uncomfortable,” Sam commented.

“Yeah, well we better not waste any time going downstairs to our rooms. I’ll bet she’ll be coming down to make sure we’re not snooping around in no time,” Gwen advised. With Gwen’s words of wisdom the children made their way downstairs to their rooms.

Gwen had taken the room closest to the left staircase, Brad’s was in the middle and Sam’s room was next to the right staircase.

“Goodnight guys. Tonight I will be wide awake thinking about what’s down below the ground level,” Sam said.

“I will be wide awake trying to think of a way to escape,” Brad replied.

“Yeah, well I’m going to be wide awake thinking about where the hell poor Uncle Peter is,” Gwen said.

Gwen waited until the boys had disappeared into their rooms and then she made her way into her room and flicked on the light. The room was cold and Gwen wondered why there was no fire lit in the fireplace that appeared as if it had burned fires years ago. There were pieces of charcoal and old soot in and around the fireplace.

The walls of her room were painted white and it gave the room a cold clinical appearance. A single globe hung from a wire positioned in the middle of the ceiling. The plaster medallion on the ceiling that surrounded the light was an unusual three dimensional structure. It wasn’t just twirls and twists like you see in most old houses, it seemed to depict a story like a cave painting.

There was a unicorn that appeared to be sleeping and he was dreaming. In a bubble that captured the unicorn’s dream were three men whose faces were painted red and they were wearing black cloaks. They appeared as if they were demons. One of the demons was bigger than the others. The largest demon held the world in the palm of his hand – but how strange that demon also held another world in the other hand.  

 

There were other mythical creatures that appeared to be attacking the demons. A woman dressed in armour, a wizard, a small dog with wings, an enormous winged jackal, a giant cat that also had wings and what appeared to be a tribe of little pink people, were all depicted as being part of a great battle. This artistic display on the ceiling sure wouldn’t be helping Gwen go to sleep; it just made her more curious.

Gwen turned off the light and walked over the creaking floorboards and got into the large king-sized bed that had been freshly made. Poor old Clifford, Gwen thought to herself as she snuggled under the covers.

Gwen looked around the dark room and stared at the decorations on the ceiling again. The moonlight that shone in through the window seemed to light up the scary demon faces. Gwen heard footsteps approaching and she saw a silhouette appear in the doorway. An arm reached for the door and flung it shut. Gwen could hear the sound of the key turning in the door. Obviously it had been Aunt Virginia locking her in, as that was part of the extended rules that she had summarised for the children when they arrived.

Gwen felt afraid locked up in the dark room. There could be anything in there. She tried hard to keep her eyes wide and fought the long awaited sleep that hung like lead weights on her eyelids, but it was all in vain. Her eyes gave in and shut, allowing her to enter into a sound and peaceful sleep.

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