Praise for student authors

The Mercury newspaper’s special project for the National Year of Reading has reached its conclusion…

By DAMIAN BESTER

Lian Tanner

Lian Tanner

TASMANIAN students who carried on the Mercury’s never-ending story throughout the National Year of Reading have been congratulated by author Lian Tanner.
“I’ve been so impressed at the way this story has gone, over so many months,” Tanner said after reading the final chapter of the Lovesong of the Crow.
Tanner wrote the introductory chapter and gave the story its title and then set it free for students to continue on a weekly basis throughout the year.
“When I wrote the first chapter, I had my own ideas about what might happen,” she said. “None of them turned out to be true instead, the story careered into far more exciting territory.
“I loved the way the different writers used the title to such good effect. I loved the introduction of Rourke and the shape changers, and Andre.”
Tanner said it had been wonderful how something quite small and seemingly insignificant from a previous chapter would suddenly turn
out to be extremely important.
“As for the ending I feel as if I’ve been holding my breath for the last few weeks, waiting to see how things would turn out.
“Now at last I know! Congratulations to everyone involved it has been
wildly successful and a terrific read.”
Enthusiastic students and supportive teachers around Tasmania ensured the project’s success.
“This was a great project for the Mercury to organise in recognition of the 2012 being the National Year of Reading,” said New Town High School English curriculum leader Daniel Howard.
“It has given so many students from English classes across the state the opportunity to complete an authentic writing task and have their
writing published for a real audience to read and appreciate.”
* The Lovesong of the Crow will be available as an e-book downloadable from www.mercurynie.com.au 

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Part 33b – The Conclusion

New Town High School students Marley Sar’i, Matt Trenham and Josh French present part two of the concluding chapter of the never-ending story…

JOHNNY closed his eyes tightly and saw his mum and dad, smiling proudly at him. He realised two things: that they loved him dearly, and he was never going to see them again.
“Johnny, where are you?” yelled Andre as he climbed down the side of the cliff. When he got to the water, there was no sign of Johnny. The crow’s lifeless frame lay in the shallows, its wings twisted at odd angles and the alpha-crow bone still lodged firmly in its beak.
“Poor Johnny,” said Andre, freeing the bone and pocketing it as Johnny had done just days before. “I will finish what we started!” Andre threw the final bone into the fire. Nothing happened.
Desperately, he undid the flask and held it upside down above the dancing flames. One drop of blood dripped into the fire, which then exploded with a bang into thick black smoke.
Andre was unsure exactly how weakened the crows would be, or for how long. He fished the pocket knife out of Johnny’s bag, snapped a straight branch off the tree next to him and started to sharpen it at both ends.
When Andre was finished, he had a double-ended spear. He took a deep breath and crawled back through the hole in the wall.
The cave was unusually quiet. When he and Johnny had first entered, they heard the birds cawing to each other, but now… nothing.
Andre snuck around and saw some crows asleep on a perch. When he got to Eliza he looked around to make sure the coast was clear. The place was full of crows, but they all appeared to be asleep.
Andre unlatched the cage door and removed Eliza’s gag. As he knelt to untie the knot around her ankles, his spear clanged against the bars of the cage. The siblings looked up and their eyes were met by the piercing glare of hundreds of pairs of beady crow eyes glaring back at them. They were surrounded with no way out… they were goners thought Eliza.
“BANG!” Suddenly a bird fell to the ground. The twins looked around and saw Johnny with a shotgun in his hand. “I thought you were dead?” said Andre. “Me? No. Not yet anyway,” smiled Johnny as he shot down
another crow. “But let’s not push our luck all the same – run!” yelled Johnny and they all escaped out the tunnel. “We will be coming for you soon,” one of the crows cawed, shifting into its human form.
“Where did you get a gun!?” asked Eliza. “After falling off the cliff I woke up, washed up on the beach. I found scrap metal, ruined luggage and then it hit me! I was back at the beach where our plane crashed.
“The gun was in a case washed up on the sand. Most the stuff looked ruined but this gun was one of the useful things left so I picked it up and came looking for you guys. But I don’t get it – I didn’t recover the third bone, so how was the crow weak enough to be killed?”
A smile appeared on Andre’s face. “Johnny, I found the bone at the bottom of the cliff after you went over. I took it back up and put it into the fire. It must’ve worked!”
Eliza was keen to keep moving. “Guys, we have to think up a plan otherwise the crows are going to get us soon. Who knows how much longer they’ll be weakened for; I want to be out of here!”
“I”ve got a plan!” said Rourke, flying in from above. “This might not work but it”s all I’ve got, OK, so here it goes. Johnny can use the gun to shoot down some of those rocks above us. Hopefully, this’ll cause an avalanche of sorts, cave-in the entrance and trap all the crows inside.”
Johnny smiled enthusiastically. “That might just work!” The others stood back as Johnny took aim at the rocks balancing high above the entrance. He spent all the ammunition he had, but only a few pebbles fell.
Then Andre came up with an idea. He told Rourke to take his spear, fly up to the top of the cliff and use the spear as a lever to loosen the rocks. Rourke flew up there and stuck it in so hard that the shaft nearly snapped. With enormous strain, he gave one final almighty effort and the boulder
was nudged loose from its position. It tumbled down, starting the avalanche they needed. When the dust settled, the entrance to the crows’ lair no longer existed.
“We did it!” yelled Eliza as she did something else she never thought she would do and kissed Johnny. “What was that for?” asked Johnny. “Because you saved my life,” replied Eliza happily.
“OK lovebirds, time to go,” said Rourke. “Where?” asked Eliza and Johnny in unison.”To the boat!” “What boat?” asked Andre. “The Lovesong of the Crow, of course!”
“But it was destroyed,” said Eliza. “Who said we were going to use it?” Rourke said in a tone that made him sound smart. “We’re going to use
the flare gun.”
“Won’t it be soaked?” asked Eliza with a face full of confusion. “They always come in waterproof casing just in case you capsize,” said Rourke. “Or if someone gets stranded with mutant crows that are out to eat you,” cracked Johnny.
“Hang on,” interrupted Andre, “why haven’t you used it already?!” “I was never going to leave without my wife. Besides, the crows would’ve stopped me somehow.”
Eliza swam back to shore from the sunken boat, half-dressed and fully soaked. “Got it!” she shouted like she’d just won the Person of the Year award.
“Shh, SHHH,” hissed Rourke. “Can you hear that?” “Hear what?” asked Eliza, wiping her face. Johnny fired the flare and a long red trail of smoke flew into the air and exploded in a bright red flash high in the sky.
The faint sound of helicopter blades became louder and louder. They screamed and waved from the beach below. “Johnny? JOHNNY!”
Johnny screamed at the top of his lungs, “MUM, MUM!” As the rescue chopper landed, Eliza, Johnny and Andre hugged in happiness and relief. But there was no sign of Rourke. He was gone.
As the helicopter headed back towards Hobart, Johnny and Eliza looked back to the shore behind them to the place where this unbelievable adventure that had almost killed them had started.
What appeared to be a large black cloud began to form over the beach.
Their hearts dropped; it was the crows.

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on December 11, 2012

Part 33a

New Town High School students Josh French, Matt Trenham and Marley Sar’i present part one of the concluding chapter of the never-ending story….

AND then they woke up and realised it was all just a bad dream. For just a
moment Johnny let himself think that was how this story would end. But he
knew it wouldn’t be that easy. As Eliza fell to her knees sobbing, Johnny
walked over and comforted her, trying to not show his despair.
“I guess we should give Alice a proper burial,” he said. “Yes, we can’t leave her like this for the crows,” Eliza said. As she wiped the tears off her face, a dash of the little girl’s still-warm blood smeared across her forehead.
Johnny remembered the list from the journal and said “We … we need some of her blood.” Johnny could tell by the change of expression on Eliza’s face how she felt about performing that task. She picked up Alice’s backpack and searched through it, finding an empty drink bottle. As Johnny collected the blood, Eliza and Andre dug a grave for the little girl’s body.
“Okay, so we have the blood, we have the three bones; now we just need the raven’s heart,” Johnny said with a growing confidence. Eliza sat on a log a few metres away staring sadly at the ground. Johnny knew she was strong and was holding her emotions in, so he thought it was best to just to sit quietly next to her.
Andre limped wearily over and also sat next to Eliza, gently resting his head on his twin sister’s shoulder.As the sun fell below the horizon, a cool sea breeze began to blow softly against them. Eliza was still in agony over the death of Alice and it was getting cold so Johnny hugged her tightly and, absolutely exhausted, the three drifted off to sleep.
Johnny woke to the sound of the wind rattling through the trees.His heart skipped a beat when he realised there was no sign of Eliza. “Eliza where are you?” There was no answer. He started to worry.
Looking around, he noticed the indent of crow’s feet in the sand. “The crows have her,” came a voice from seemingly out of nowhere. “Huh?” Johnny spun around, looking for the source of this unwanted news.
“I said the crows have her,” repeated Musta from his perch high above. “I can’t believe I let myself fall asleep! Where is she? What have they done with her?” “She is unharmed – for now. But to save her, you must gather the items from the list,” Musta said. “When you combine these ingredients under dancing flames, the crows will be drained of their strength. They will then be weak enough to kill.”
“Okay,” Johnny said. “The only thing I need is a raven’s heart … but where can I get that?” “Take mine; I said I would do anything to help you.” “Would you really give your life?” “Yes, I will if I must.” “No Musta! There has to be another way.” “There is not. You must kill me.”
“Musta, I’m so sorry. Thank you,” Johnny stroked the proud black feathers of Musta’s wings. “It’s okay Johnny. Good luck.” A tear rolled down Johnny’s cheek as he clenched his fingers around the noble bird’s neck and the quiet snap somehow seemed to echo throughout the entire forest.
With Musta’s lifeless body resting in his hands, Johnny looked towards the horizon; many dark shapes appeared in the sky.
As he heard the crows caw in the distance his fears where confirmed; they were coming for him and fast! Johnny grabbed the ingredients and ran to
cover. “Andre! Andre! Wake up, the crows are coming!” “Huh?” Andre said
sleepily. “Eliza was taken by the crows and Musta sacrificed himself so we
can save her. This is his heart,” Johnny explained quickly. “Now c’mon – we need to find cover, because they are coming!”
Johnny and Andre dived in to some thick foliage for cover. The crows flew straight past them, swooped suddenly to the left and disappeared out of site. The boys cautiously followed the path taken by the crows and discovered a small opening in the rocks.
They squeezed their way through and found themselves in the narrow
mouth of a cave with a faint flicker of light coming from deeper down. Their jaws dropped as they discovered where they were: in the crows’ lair.
In the centre was Eliza, bound and gagged, being held prisoner in a human-sized birdcage.
On every branch, ledge and surface of the cave’s walls were crows:
hundreds, if not thousands of them. “We have to save her!” Andre whispered to Johnny. “First we have to build a fire and burn the ingredients so we can weaken the crows!” Johnny whispered back.
The boys crawled out of the cave, found a secluded spot and, after a few failed attempts, lit a fire. “Do you reckon the flames are big enough?” “It will have to be.”
The items were  all laid on the ground: three alpha-crow bones, blood of a dying soul and heart of a raven. As Andre began to put the ingredients in the fi re, a lone crow swooped down and snatched one of the bones in its beak. “Johnny! Get it!” Andre yelled. Johnny sprang into action.
The bird was slow and barely a metre high; the fire must have already weakened it. Johnny looked up and realised  the crow was heading towards the cliff; this was do or die. He was gaining, his heart was pounding: he could do it.
As the trees on either side of Johnny cleared, he knew the cliff was close.
With the cliff only metres away, Johnny lunged forward and snatched at the crow right in front of him. His hands empty, the crow fell off the precipice and Johnny followed it, both of them flapping helplessly as they plummeted down, waves lapping at the rocks below.

To be concluded next week

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on December 4, 2012

New-Town-part-33-webTHE student-written story Lovesong of the Crow should be turned into a movie, say the last three authors. Three New Town High School students have worked together on the final chapter of the Lovesong of the Crow, which is being presented in two parts. They are Grade 8 students Josh French, Matt Trenham and Marley Sar’i.
They were selected by the school’s head of English, Daniel Howard, because they had all chosen writers’ workshop as an optional subject for next year. “I thought it was an amazing opportunity to be able
to write something that would go in the Mercury,” Josh said.
Matt said his first impression was that this was going to take a long time. “The first thing we did was read through the whole story so far and write down notes about the important events that had happened in the story,” he said.
The group shared their ideas for the story and then picked the best ones to include in the final chapter. Marley said the hardest part had been the re-reading of the previous 32 chapters. “The biggest challenge was probably just bringing all the ideas from past writers together. It was really hard to finish it all off with a satisfying conclusion,” he said.
The boys thanked their teacher Daniel Howard for the opportunity, as well as science teacher Duncan Brain who had followed the story all year and provided some useful insight. “I think that the story should become a movie now,” Matt said. “And I should play the role of Johnny Dance,” said Josh. Mr Howard said he was proud of the way the boys had embraced the challenge and dealt with the pressure of working to a deadline.

Part 32

A favourite character dies in part 32 of the never-ending story, written by St Aloysius Catholic College students Isabel Scanlon and Megwyn Mosenthal…

ELIZA’S heart plummeted. How could the ravens be evil? Rourke stood staring into the distance. Was there any way he could rescue Alice now?
Musta began to talk again. “There is one way we can kill the crows and ravens and escape.”
“What is it? WHAT IS IT?” Eliza demanded of the bird. “I can kill Virginia
… I can become the alpha crow … I can destroy them and take you home.”
“Isn’t that a suicide mission?” asked Rourke. “If you kill the crows and ravens when you are the alpha, won’t you die as well?” “Yes,” replied Musta. “I will die. But I would rather die than live with those evil birds.” Musta was interrupted by a horrendous sound.
“We’re the evil ones now are we?” said Virginia wickedly. She had appeared behind them, holding Alice in her grip. At the sight of Virginia, Musta retreated. He would not give his life to the crows, but he would give anything to the humans – even his heart.
Virginia flew over to Rourke and dropped Alice at his feet. She stared
at Rourke and commanded: “Now it’s your turn… GIVE ME THE BONE!” Rourke slowly shook his head. “You can’t have the bone. You are a cold-hearted, damaged woman who I used to love… but now you will die!” He pulled the bone out of his pocket and plunged it into her heart. A direful screech left her body. She fell to the ground before exploding into a sea of feathers that transformed into a murder of crows. The crows tried to snatch Alice, but she fought them off. They retreated, threatening: “We will get her in the end.”
Eliza turned to see a crow standing over the lifeless human form of Rourke. Having killed Virginia, he was the new alpha crow. Eliza cradled his empty human body and turned it over to find the bone he had used to kill Virginia still in his hand.
A blood chilling scream pierced the air and Eliza instantly recognised who it came from. “Alice!” she called. She ran in the direction of the screams, pushing away the trees that seemed to lock her in their branches, preventing her from reaching her distressed friend.
She called Alice’s name over and again, but the only response was a baneful scream and the caw of a crow. She emerged in a cove where she found Alice menacingly encircled by crows and ravens.
As Eliza shooed the crows away she saw Alice, impaled on a large branch, white as a ghost and covered in blood. Eliza crouched next to Alice and through distorted sobs asked what had happened.
In the moments after Rourke killed Virginia and transformed into a crow, Alice had seen his image walk out of his body and into the scrub.
She was curious and followed him to the cliff high above, where he transformed into a murder of crows and chased her off the edge.
It had been the shapeshifters. They had tricked Alice into believing that Rourke was still alive in human form as well as crow, and then they pushed her over the cliff.
Eliza started reassuring Alice that she would be ok, but they both knew there was nothing they could do. Alice lay there gasping for air, reaching for the last few minutes of her life, grasping Eliza’s hand and staring into her face with big dark eyes.
Eliza’s father had always said that the eyes are a window into one’s
soul, and as Eliza stared into Alice’s soul she saw an innocent girl who had lived a life of heartbreak, loss, and pain. Eliza started to cry.
A crow swooped down from the cliff above and settled next to Alice’s dying body. Eliza lashed out, screaming “keep away from her!” until she noticed a patch of grey feathers on the crow’s head. It was Rourke. He had come to say goodbye to Alice. Alice reached out and gently ran her hands along his feathered back, whispering: “It’s OK, I believe in you.” With her last breath Alice said to Eliza: “You can kill the crows… you can get back home… do it for me.”
With that, her eyes slowly dropped, her gasping stopped and she lay there lifeless. Eliza collapsed to her knees, head in her hands. She heard the crunch of paper, and pulled out the diary she had found a few days earlier and opened it to the last page where a pocket had been stuck.
She opened the pocket to fi nd two bird bones, and a scroll of paper. It was a list with a title: “Requirements for island escape”. The list read: three alpha-crow bones, blood of a dying soul and the heart of a raven.
Eliza stood up and screamed into the sky: “I will kill the crows… for Alice!”

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on November 20, 2012

St-Aloysius---Megwyn-webSt-Aloysius-Isabel-webSTUDENTS from St Aloysius Catholic College at Huntingfield, near Kingston, have provided five of the last 10 chapters of the Lovesong of the Crow. This tremendous level of support has been co-ordinated by English teacher Sally Broadribb who identified a number of talented writers in the school and offered them the opportunity to take part. “It’s been great to have a number of our students recognised for their literary accomplishments,” Mrs Broadribb said.
This week’s student authors are Megwyn Mosenthal and Isabel Scanlon. The Grade 7 girls both enjoy reading and writing as well as
outdoor recreation. Isabel, 13, is interested in horse-riding and equestrian competitions as well as music and technology. Megwyn, 13, likes bushwalking and netball, going to the beach and playing the piano.
The Lovesong of the Crow has been a special project for the National Year of Reading. The story is nearing its conclusion, with New Town High School students now working on the final instalment.

Part 31

A small bone is shaping up as the key to the mystery at the heart of the never-ending story as five girls from Riverside High School present Part 31…

“WHAT’S that, boy?” Rourke asked curiously as Johnny silently slipped the bone from his pocket and thoroughly examined it. “I found it on the beach, ages ago,” Johnny replied. Andre watched the exchange from afar, leaning on his uninjured leg patiently. “Is that the bone they were talking about?”

Rourke reached out one solid arm and snatched the bone from Johnny’s fingers, ignoring the look of outrage on the teenager’s face. A few minutes of silence passed and Rourke finally looked up, acknowledging everyone in the group and trying to be as calm as possible when he answered the question that was on everyone’s mind.

“This is it. This is why Virginia was here; this is what they’re fighting for. This is now the key to our survival.” Andre nodded, accepting this new revelation. “Perhaps we can use it to our advantage; maybe if you, Rourke, are the one to kill the alpha crow, you can reverse the curse on Virginia,” Andre wondered out loud. “You might be able to reverse the transformation on your wife, Rourke,” Johnny agreed.

Rourke felt a surge of hope in his heart, he was scared to dream of the possibility that his wife may be returned to him in the fear of it failing horribly. “There’s a chance it could happen,” he murmured. “We should stick to what we know,” Eliza coughed as Johnny rushed to her side, concerned.

Despite her pain and injuries, she refused to be silent. “Virginia killed Harry and kidnapped Alice, or did you all forget? She won’t ever be your wife again Rourke and I want her dead.” Rourke stepped forward angrily, opening his mouth in protest when Andre interrupted to defuse the heated argument. “What happens to Virginia is not important at the moment; we need to find somewhere safe to rest,” Andre said. “We can think about this later, but right now Eliza is slowly bleeding to death, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

They all looked over to Johnny and Eliza, where he cradled her head in his lap and whispered, “Everything is going to be okay, Eliza, we’ll get you through this. I’ll be right here for you.” Eliza looked no better though, blood stained her top and it dried on her skin in irregular patches. There were scratches crisscrossing her arms and legs, deep and thick, contrasting the pale colour of her skin as she grew fainter.

Time passed and Eliza sat rigidly and silently at the campsite, with Johnny beside her silently. Her breathing had returned to normal and the spare bandage she was carrying was now wrapped tight around her right arm. She was watching Johnny and Andre by the fire and thinking of the events of the past day. “What do you think we should do? With the bone, that is?” Eliza whispered, keeping her eyes on the fire. Andre considered the question. “Maybe we could give it to the ravens? They are on our side,” he suggested. Johnny shrugged. “Well, they would be more capable of killing Virginia. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea?”

Rourke had been listening to the conversation from the other side of the clearing when he heard a sound from the sky. He squinted and watched as a black shadow flew across the sky straight towards them. “It’s a crow! Run!” Andre yelled behind him to the others, and went to grab Rourke to pull the motionless man away. “Wait, no, there’s only one, Andre. If this was an attack they’d bring more,” Rourke said. The black shadow drew closer, its wings open in the air. It settled beside them without a sound and Rourke’s eyes widened in realisation as the shadow transformed into a familiar shape.

“Musta?” Rourke asked and Andre looked at him in surprise. “You know this crow?” “Don’t affiliate me with such scum. I am a black bird of the night, but the crows are only my cousins. My brothers are ravens and I am one with them,” Musta snapped, settling onto the hard ground with a cold authority. “I have terrible news,” Musta continued, “I didn’t want to say this, but the ravens are not what they seem. They are not to be trusted with the bone, or your life and the lives of the ones you love. They are evil as well.”

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on November 13, 2012

CREATIVE writing students at Riverside High School worked together on part 31 of the Mercury’s never-ending story, Lovesong of the Crow. Teacher Jenny O’Shannessey presented the opportunity to her Grade 9/10 creative writing class and it was taken up enthusiastically by a group of five girls.
Ms O’Shannessey said Taniesha Cane-Wickham, Yullee Koesmapahlawan, Jacinta Mancini, Nausheen Mohamed and Michayla Harris had previous experience with collaborative writing. “They have all participated in the national competition Write a Book in a Day,” Ms O’Shannessey said. Four of the group were highly commended in the competition’s ES section covering entries from Queensland, Northern Territory, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.
The Write a Book in a Day judges remarked that Riverside’s entry was so good they wished there could have been two first prizes. The fifth student was part of a team which earned a commendation in the same section. “They just love writing and jumped at the chance to
participate in writing Lovesong of the Crow,” Ms O’Shannessey said.
Riverside High School was the first school from the Launceston area to write for the never-ending story.

Part 30

Five Grade 10 students from Hobart’s Mount  Carmel College took on the task of writing the emotionally charged part 30 of the never-ending story…

BETRAYAL raged through Rourke as he stared into those golden eyes, searching for his beloved wife within the evil stranger before him.
“It’s good to see you again, Rourke,” her laughter was drowned out as the screeching chorus of crows formed an arc around her.
Rourke said nothing. He stood rigid as Alice’s hand slipped into his, only for it to be jerked away again as two dark shapes swooped past, gripping Alice in their sharp talons and throwing her at the alpha’s feet.
Virginia’s head snapped up, eyes scanning the surroundings. “It’s here… I can feel it!” she breathed.
Like a true bird of prey, her sharp eyes darted along the line of ragged survivors until at last they rested on Rourke.
“My dearest Rourke, you have something that belongs to me. Do not deny it. Do not even attempt to deny what I can feel so definitely.”
Her eyes neither blinked nor wavered from her husband as she spoke these words that
rang with chilling accusation. She held his gaze for what seemed like an eternity, until finally Rourke managed to choke out the words.
“That day, when the plane went down, I thought I’d lost you forever, and with you,
almost everything that was dear to me. How, Virginia, could I have anything
left that belongs to you?”
They were the words of a broken man. It was heartbreaking to watch Rourke, such a strong, capable man, crumble before their very eyes.
Virginia, however, looked upon him with cold, unsympathetic calculation. “Love, Rourke, is a weakness. You have grown weak in my absence. No matter. You will tell me. You will tell me where the bone is hidden.”
Her words echoed through the tangible silence. No one moved but Eliza, who shifted
and moaned in pain. “We’ll do this the hard way then,” she said, ominously.
The crows thrust Harry into Virginia’s eager grasp. Gripping his collar, she leaned in and whispered, “Tell. Me. Where. The. Bone. Is.”
Harry shivered as her talons began to slowly pierce his skin. “No.” Rage clouded Virginia’s features as she let out a vicious snarl.
Reaching across, her talons gouged deep across the boy’s pale throat. His screams of agony matched the violent cawing of the crows as they flew at his dying, convulsing
body, smothering it in moments.
Virginia locked her eyes on Rourke as she reached behind her, searching for Alice.
She dragged her in close and let her talons dance across her rosy cheeks. “Shall I… raise the stakes?” Rourke jerked forward out of his shocked silence, “NO! Please! I don’t have the bone. But I …. I can find it.”
Virginia let out an evil laugh. “I thought so. Love always was your weakness.
“We will return in the dark of night, when the sky holds no moon, and when the stars retreat in fear of our wake.
“Fail to bring me what is mine, and I will take what is yours. I will kill your darling
Alice.”
With a vicious smile Virginia’s body contorted back into that of a crow and she swept to the skies with the writhing Alice in her claws; her murder shadowed her flight.
Eliza gasped in agony and Rourke collapsed on the ground, as the crows became mere blemishes against the stark whiteness of the clouds.
Johnny averted his eyes from Harry’s mutilated remains. Finally he uttered, “Why would she want a bone?”
Rourke found his voice. “The only thing that can kill a crow is a crow. The last remaining bone of the first  alpha crow is the key to their immortality, and this is what she wants.
“It can secure their survival and determine their fate. If that bone is used to kill
the alpha, then she and her murder will either perish or take back their original human form.
“She wants the bone only so that she can destroy it. So long as the bone is out of the picture, they live.” Rourke’s voice had regained a hint of his old ferocity.
Slowly, Johnny reached into his pocket, remembering what he had picked up off the beach on his first day on the island.
Beneath his fingers, he felt the pointed edge of a bone – the wing bone of the first alpha crow.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on November 6, 2012

PASSIONATE English students Olivia Fleming,  Chelsea Alderton, Sarah McCarthy, Phoebe McCormack and Jessica Dobbie are the writers of Part 30 of the Mercury’s never-ending story Lovesong of the Crow. All five are Grade 10 student leaders at Mount Carmel College in Hobart. The girls are all enthusiastic writers with their own individual writing style and creative flair. The writing was done in their own time, with a final writing session after school as the deadline approached.
“The opportunity to write a chapter of the story was met with a great sense of anticipation and an awareness of the many possibilities presented by the plot and characterisation thus far,” principal Laurie Wolfe said. Although the
thought of working in a big group seemed difficult, there was no trouble putting
all the ideas together.
The girls worked collaboratively and enjoyed bouncing ideas off each other. “Already great friends, this was another chance for us to further develop our negotiation, communication and leadership skills,” the girls said. “Over all it was a great experience and we thoroughly enjoyed it, although there were times when we wished we had put our names forward to write one of the earlier chapters before the plot became so complicated,” they said.

Part 29

Parklands High School student MATEESHA HOWARD has a shocking reunion in store for Rourke and his wife in part 29 of the never-ending story.

ROURKE gripped onto Alice’s arms as they both neared the edge of the slope. Harry stood before them, his arms outstretched with his hands unfolded. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he assured them.
“Leave us alone!” Alice screamed, her voice piercing through the ears of Rourke and Harry, causing both of them to recoil. “I told you, I’m not going to hurt you,” Harry said.
“That display back there doesn’t really incite trust in you, Harry,” Rourke quipped. After all, Harry had lured them to an ambush and then revealed himself to be a crow.
The sky thundered up above and great raindrops fell splashing to the ground and onto the foreheads of Rourke, Andre, Harry and Alice. Beads of rainwater trickled down Rourke’s hardened forehead.
He allowed the raindrops to make their way from the bridge of his nose, refusing to move from his protective stance around Alice. “You needn’t be worried about the girl, I’m not here for her,” Harry said as he softened his body language, standing coolly with his hands by his sides. “I’m not even here for Eliza, Andre or Johnny, Rourke. I’m here for you.”
The grip on Alice’s shoulders relaxed and she darted out from under Rourke’s hands to the sharp drop of the slope she’d seen Eliza fall from. She dropped to her knees and lay down on the cool earth, her shoulders and head leaning over the edge.
“Eliza! Eliza, can you hear me?!” Alice’s tiny voice echoed down the slope, bouncing off the rocks that circulated at the bottom. No response.
“What do you mean, you”re here for me?” Rourke”s eyes locked onto Harry’s, confusion
swirling in his deep brown eyes as his eyebrows furrowed together in the centre of his forehead. “What do you want from me?”
Harry’s face broke into a devilish grin. “It’s not what I want with you; it’s what Virginia wants with you.”
“Virginia? What does any of this have to do with my wife?”
Harry laughed bitterly. “Are you so blind that you didn”t realise that the only reason you’re still stuck on this island is because of her? The only reason any of you are stuck here is because of her.”
Rourke looked dumbstruck as he tried to process the words that had just come out of Harry’s mouth. How could his wife have anything to do with their predicament? Rourke didn’t even know if she was alive.
A piercing scream broke Rourke’s thoughts as Alice leapt to her feet from her stance at the top of the slope. She dropped to her knees and lay down on the cool earth, her shoulders and head leaning over the edge. “I can see them! They’re alive!” she cried.
Rourke ran to her side and peered down over the edge to see the bloodied faces of Eliza and Johnny at the base of the slope. “Is everything okay down there?” he called down to them.
“Yeah, do you think you could get us up sometime soon… as much fun as it is bleeding to death down here,” Eliza teased, holding her bleeding arm elevated in her other hand.
Harry made his way to the slope and stood beside Rourke. “Don”t worry,” he said, the devilish smile still fixed on his face, “they’re here.”
They looked to the sky to see dozens upon dozens of black-clad crows flying in their direction. The head crow screeched as she landed delicately at the base of the slope.
Her murder followed, with the exception of several crows that retrieved Rourke, Andre and Alice from the top of the slope and dropped them clumsily at the feet of their leader.
Eliza and Johnny were pushed into place beside Rourke as Harry flew down from the top of the slope.
“It’s good to see you again Rourke, it’s been a long time,” the crow said as she morphed into her human form. “I don’t suppose you recognise me now I”m the alpha crow.”
Rourke raised his eyes to the black-clad women and the colour drained from his face.
“Virginia?”

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on October 30, 2012

ADVANCED English student Mateesha Howard is the
writer of part 29 of the Mercury’s never-ending story Lovesong of the Crow. Mateesha is in Grade 10 at Parklands High School in Burnie. Teacher Karen Slade said Mateesha had a strong interest in English and was leaning towards studying
journalism but she also had a fascination with medical science that made her contemplate studying medicine.
The fourth of five children in her family, Mateesha has three older brothers and one younger brother. She has lived in
Burnie all her life and is eager to venture out of the North West Coast to
bigger cities. Mateesha wrote her first story when she was six. It was about
a tiger cub named Stripy who had lost its mother.
She hopes that being part  of Lovesong of the Crow project for the National Year of Reading will help her with her dream of being a novelist. Her two favourite books are by Australian authors – The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak and Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi.