Category Archives: Issue #1

Co’viri & Sera, Joshua Spudic

The gates to Trinawine Cemetery stand before me. It’s surrounded by the townhouses of my home city, Lundinium. The gate squeaks as a gust of wind barrels through the cemetery. The flames flicker on my staff, made of oak with a crystal at the summit. Some of the leaves that litter our path sail through the air as the wind sends a chill down my spine. Sera, who decided to accompany me, snuggles underneath my cloak. She gives me such a warm feeling in my heart. It’s hard to believe that we were just friends for most of our relationship. Now, she is in love with me and I am in love with her.

We were only eleven years old when Sera and I first met. She was sitting right in front of me in our first class of Elemental Magic at the Academia Magus. Our professor, an elderly man in red robes, asked us what we thought of using the elements as a magical weapon. Sera was the first with her hand up. My hand shot up as well, but was hidden behind her hand, also raised. When she spoke, my ears felt like they went to heaven. Her voice was soft yet sharp and clear. Her knowledge was apparent when she answered the question with even more than I knew. When that class was over, I walked up to her.

‘That was a good answer,’ I said. That was when I saw her beautiful smile for the first time.

‘Thanks, um…’ she said.

‘Co’viri.’

‘Sera.’

Ever since that day, the two of us kept each other company. We were considered inseparable by some of our friends, a notion that rang true when we realised our feelings for each other when we were sixteen. Since then, I have never had a thought that wasn’t about Sera.

‘We need to split up, Co’viri,’ Sera says as she breaks my trip to the past. She is right; it would be faster to locate Helmut Grinvolt’s tomb if the two of us cover smaller sections of the cemetery separately.

‘Take the east side, I’ll take the west side,’ I say. She releases her hold on my arm and runs to the right. I walk to the left.

A lot of these gravestones corrode as fungi take over them. Some of them are in such poor shape they are impossible to read. I brush off each one I encounter. Does it read Helmut Grinvolt? No. How about this one? Nope. Is this even the right Trinawine Cemetery? It has to be.

I gaze upon Sera, who is scanning each gravestone on the other side. She isn’t having much luck either. Helmut Grinvolt must have wanted to keep these staffs well hidden. Then again, they are considered the most powerful staves in the world. According to the story, he created the staves for his wife as well as for himself. He spent years in his workshop, carving wood from an elder tree and searching for the perfect pair of crystals. This is where the power comes from, as it is said that the love between two people draws out its power.

She is staring at another gravestone when I squat down next to her.‘Why are you helping me?’

‘That’s an odd question to ask, Co’viri,’ she said.

‘I know, but you could have said no.’

‘True.’ She averts her gaze upon me. ‘I have two reasons. The first is my love for you. Ever since I fell for you, I can’t let go of you. It hurts my heart when we are apart.’

‘I can say the same thing,’ I add.
‘Then there is my family. My baby brother has gotten ill, a rare disease that will eventually kill him, Co’viri. He is so young.’

I grab Sera and wrap her in my arms. Tears flow down her cheeks as she rests her head on my chest. She continues, although her voice is muffled a little. ‘Possessing one of these staves could give me the power to cure him, as everything else has failed. My family and you are the most important people in my life. This staff could protect all of you.’

I smile as Sera finishes talking. This is out of selflessness, better than one of my reasons for the staff. ‘We better keep looking,’ I tell her. We scan the gravestones together. Again, we come up short as we pass most of the gravestones. Where is the gravestone? Why isn’t it here? This is frustrating me.

‘Co’viri, here,’ Sera says. She stares at a rather clean gravestone. I read the name: Helmut Grinvolt. This is it. Sera found it. I smile and kiss Sera on the cheek.

‘Thank you, Sera,’ I say. ‘Now… something on this gravestone must be the key to the location of the staves.’

‘Be careful, Co’viri,’ Sera says as I run my fingers over the gravestone. As I run my fingers over his name, a green light emits from the letters. I take a step back as the whole gravestone is covered by green light. It flashes, forcing Sera and I to cover our eyes. The ground begins to shake. The dirt of the grave starts to sink. Stone stairs begin to appear. Once the dirt disappears, a small corridor reveals itself. This must be the entrance to Grinvolt’s tomb. I quickly glance at Sera. She nods. We must investigate this, so I lead the two of us right into the corridor.

The corridor is tight, small and dark. I lead the both of us further into the abyss of darkness. I sincerely hope I did not lead Sera to any danger. I periodically look back at her. She is always smiling. Is this her way to show there is hope in this situation? At times, I would wonder why I decided to undertake this journey. At first, the power the staves give to their bearers can never be described with mere words. But power isn’t everything to me anymore. It was when I saw Sera’s smile that I found a new reason.
The staves float in the middle of the chamber as we enter it. The circular room is all stone. Our footsteps echo throughout the room. The emptiness feels wrong. Something should be protecting the chamber and its contents. But we encounter no resistance. Was this too easy?

Sera approaches the two staves. She examines the neatly carved wood. A small white crystal sits atop of the staffs, glowing quite brightly. I approach the staffs, holding onto Sera’s shoulders. Sera turns to me. ‘We found them,’ she tells me. ‘We have found them.’
‘Should we grab them?’ I ask her. She simply turns around and hugs me. I felt her lips locking with mine. Her tongue moves around in my mouth. A euphoric sensation.

‘This is what we have been looking for.’

‘I don’t think we should just simply grab them.’ I continue to stare at the glow from the crystal. It’s pulsating a bright white light. My eyes don’t want to turn away at all. I want to reach out for it, but something is stopping me. My gaze returns to Sera.
‘Hmmm…’ I agree. Grinvolt has hidden them, yet getting them was quite a breeze.

Sera is pacing all over the chamber. We are so close, yet so far. I must touch it. I want its power. No, I need its power. I reach out for one of the staves and grab it. The wood is smooth and light. I can feel a stream of energy channelling through my body. I feel more energetic. I just want to cast spells. Doesn’t matter what they are, I just want spells.

‘Co’viri, no!’ I hear Sera shouting. Her footsteps echo as I see her rushing to my side. I raise my hand.

‘Sera, I feel fine. In fact, I feel better than fine.’

‘Really? Should I… reach for the other one?’

I give Sera the go ahead. While one mage holding one of these staves is powerful, two who are close must be unstoppable. Sera slowly approaches the staff. She reaches out with caution. Does she fear some sort of consequence? When I did it, nothing happened. She should be fine. She clenches the staff and pulls it towards her. I could see the astonishment on her face as the energy of the staff flows through her body.
‘Grinvolt should have protected these better,’ she tells me with a smile across her face. She comes to my side once more and embraces me. My world is complete. The love of my life is by my side with the most powerful staff in the world of Gaia. I grab her waist and pull her even closer. I can feel her tender breasts upon my chest. Her soft lips occupy my own. I knew she wanted a powerful me. With this staff, we shall be unstoppable.

A gust of wind interrupts our passionate embrace. The torches surrounding the chamber extinguish. Sera and I hold the staffs tightly. The crystals glow a white light, illuminating our line of sight. I turn my head all over the chamber. It is still empty, except for Sera. She also scans the chamber. This is quite perplexing. Who or what is doing this?

A sinister laugh echoes through the chamber. I take a step back, taking Sera with me. We hold our hands as we search for the source. It rings throughout the chamber again. Where is it coming from? Is it the staves? They say searching for lost treasures can turn you into a psychotic mage. All of the students and professors thought I was crazy when I told them I was going to conduct this journey. I can’t wait to say that they were wrong.
I raise my newly acquired staff. A bright flame emits, further lighting up the chamber. I notice that the door is still open. Relief spreads throughout my body.

‘Sera, through the door,’ I tell Sera. She nods and we make a run for it. As soon as we are about to reach the door, it slams shut on us. This must be the defensive charms placed upon the chamber. As my mind brings in thoughts of defeat, a deep, cold voice echoes through the chamber.

‘So, who has come to take away the great Staves of Grinvolt?’

I turn to Sera. Her head is staring at the ceiling, but a frown paints across her face.
‘I am Sera Vintamosa, daughter of Gregor,’ she shouts. I smile and nod, knowing what I need to do.

‘I am Co’viri Bolzano, son of Ygridi.

A fog fills the chamber. A human figure approaches. It is a man, taller than the both of us and long, bushy facial hair. He wears a green robe with a hood covering his hair. He raises his arm. A staff materialises into his extended right hand. The fog stops as he removes his hood, revealing an elderly man with grey hair.

‘I am Helmut Grinvolt, keeper of this chamber and all that is contained in it,’ he speaks in that cold tone.

As the chamber re-lights itself, I point my staff in his direction. Sera raises her staff and points it to Grinvolt.

‘Grinvolt? Are you not… dead?’ Sera says.

‘I do not possess my original body, rather, my soul lives on through an unwilling volunteer,’ Grinvolt says. ‘You have, in your possession, unworthy ones, the greatest staves Gaia has ever seen. You cannot bear the power it produces.’

‘We shall see,’ Sera adds. Sera lights up her staff with fire and launches a fireball towards Grinvolt. Grinvolt summons a dome of blue light. The fireball strikes the dome, disintegrating. Grinvolt is untouched.

‘A mere fireball? Try to use it properly.’

‘You mean like this?’ Sera launches another fireball. This time, Grinvolt is struck on his chest. He is pushed back quite far. He lands with a thunderous thud. He gets up slowly, clutching his chest.

‘Not bad. Not enough to do anything, but you are catching on,’ Grinvolt teases Sera. ‘Now it is my turn.’ Grinvolt summons lightning from the tip of his staff. It ejects and heads towards Sera. She erects a blue dome of her own. I enter it as the bolt of lightning strikes it.

‘Co’viri, our spells can pass through the dome. Cast something on him,’ Sera informs me while holding the dome. I nod and slam my newly acquired staff into the ground and hold it there. The ground beneath us begins to shake. Grinvolt still casts the bolt of lightning and just stands there. One bolt pierces through Sera’s shield and hits her on her arm. Sera dispels her shield, panting. In an instant, however, two coned spikes of rock, one beneath him and one above him, impale him as I raise my staff in the air. Blood drips down the lower coned spike of rock. Cracks begin to show from above and below, starting from my earth spell. The chamber begins to shake. Rocks tumble down from the ceiling.

‘We need to go,’ I say, grabbing Sera’s hand. We both sprint for the entrance. A big chunk of rock narrowly misses us, forcing a sudden stop of momentum. We make our way around the rock and continue for the door. The stone door is stuck. I try to open it to no avail. Rock continues to fill the chamber.

‘Ready?’ I ask Sera as I point my staff to the door. She nods and does the same thing with her staff. Raw energy exerts from the staves, exploding the stone door. We rush through the opening as the corridor begins to fill with dirt and rock. A light pierces through ahead of us. My legs pump as hard as I can.

I make that final leap with Sera still holding my hand. The corridor that led to the chamber is no more, collapsing in upon itself. In fact, the chamber is now a pile of rubble. I lie on the ground as the shaking stops. I turn to Sera and hold her. My face snuggles up to hers.

‘Are you alright?’ I whisper in her ear. She gives me a smile. I rise to my feet and extend my arm to Sera. She grabs it. I pull her up. As she brushes herself, I take one glance upon the staff in my hand. Our mission is a success. The crystal still flashes white. I turn to Sera once more. I raise my staff in triumph. She does the same thing.

‘We have what we searched for,’ I say to her. ‘What now?’

‘I must return home, Co’viri,’ she tells me. ‘I have a brother to cure. Come with me, will you?’

I nod my head. I hold her hand and we walk out of the cemetery. As we walk, a strange, tingling sensation travels throughout my body. All of a sudden, I feel like I have more energy, similar to the feeling in the chamber. All I want to do is exert the energy, use powerful spells. No, I must not. What is… this sensation?

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Tunnel of Madness, Todd Newton

A glimmer of sunlight shined through the trees of  Marlyvale National Park. Light enveloped the bush land as we ventured deeper into the park. Twigs snapped beneath their feet.  The Calls of galahs could be heard within the trees.

‘I can’t wait to explore,’ Carlos said.

‘We should be there in just seconds,’ Lana replied as she adjusted her glasses upon reading the map guide in her hands.

A clearing appeared behind two green bush ferns that bent slightly into the way of the trail. Carlos shoved the ferns out of the way and Lana and Mark followed. Beyond the ferns, crawling bugs and shrubs permeated along the abandoned platform.

My eyes stretched to a station sign, perched atop two parallel poles. Brown benches were positioned along the platform. Its brown coat of paint had faded.  Benches were mostly engulfed by overgrown bushes. In my mind, I knew the chaos of nature had taken over this  artificial creation of men.

‘Couldn’t we have just googled the place instead?,’ I asked. ‘This place gives me the creeps.’

‘It’s always improves the quality of a school report if you observe what you are writing about,’ Lana replied. ‘Besides, I need a great mark otherwise I won’t qualify for uni. My parents have been pressuring me.’

‘Can’t believe Mrs Greyson put us together in a group, I care about exploring and getting photos for my dad’s scrapbook,’ Carlos replied as he approached the sign and tapped it with his hand.

‘Why couldn’t he come here himself then?,’ Lana questioned as she tied her brown hair into a bun.

‘He’s climbing the Andes Mountains in Chile,’ Carlos replied.

A giant ladybug crawled onto my right shoe. In fright, I jumped and squashed it.

‘So Mark is not only afraid of the dark but he’s afraid of bugs? You’re a wimp. No wonder we locked you in that closet at Destiny’s party!,’ Carlos said as he averted his eyes to a dark cavernous hole in the side of a hill cutting. It laid metres from the end of the platform.

‘Well I did some research and found out that Marlyvale Railway Station closed in 1919. The old line was used to transfer passengers between Sydney and Werrima, until a detour opened in 1912. It ran along the coast with the purpose of sightseeing on the train so they closed the line because of it,’ Lana remarked as she walked, dodging high shrubs.

‘That’s very interesting,’ Carlos replied in a sarcastic tone. He jumped onto the thin rail tracks, pushing aside the shrubs that grew between them, and made his way towards the tunnel.

‘Carlos, stay here!. Mrs Greyson said we only had to write about the station!,’ I yelled.

“Who cares!. I’m exploring this tunnel whether you like it or not,’ Carlos replied.

Lana lowered herself onto the tracks cautiously. She maneuvered her hips around the high weeds as she headed in the direction of the passageway and followed Carlos.

‘Lana, where are you going,? I called to her.

‘Mark, he has a point. If something needs to be investigated, why would I pass up this opportunity. Besides, if we talk about the tunnel, I may get more marks,’ Lana yelled with her back still turned.

Carlos emerged into the depths of the tunnel.

Lana approached the entrance a few seconds later. ‘You’re fine out here by yourself, right? We’ll be back in a few minutes.’

The thought sent shivers down my spine. As a only child, I was never alone. My parents always kept a watchful eye on me. I always felt protected. Many people thought I was being babied  but my parents saw it differently. They saw it as ‘love’. Close friends were not accessible. I was always walled up in the confines of my home outside school hours. School was my only source of social interaction yet no one would befriend me. I was the outcast, the bulled. When Mrs. Greyson assigned the first group project, I ‘was’ excited to have the chance to interact with other students on a personal level.

On the first day of the group project, I had battled my inner demons and asked the group to visit the site together. Why? I was so desperate just to make friends. The next day, Carlos drove us down in his car on the 50 minute journey. We exited the freeway onto a main road. 5 minutes later, we had turned into a dirt road on the outskirts of the town of Marlyvale and headed directly to the tunnel.

I shot quick glances to the swarm of trees surrounding me, hoping their appearance would instill a sense of comfort from within. Not in this case. Looking upon the platform and seeing Lana head into the tunnel, loneliness crept in. I wanted company despite the consequences.

‘Hang on. I’m coming!’ My voice yelled as I aggressively jumped onto the tracks and tore through the weeds en route to entering the depths of the old channel.

‘Lana. Where are you?,’ I shouted.

My eyes failed to adjust to the dull chasm of the tunnel as I crept slightly further into the darkness. My hands reached through the dark as it landed on the slimy concrete walls. A wet, moldy smell floated in the air. My shoes scraped along the wet concrete floor.

‘I’m here,’ a voice rang. A hand swiped at my back and I jumped in response.

‘There you are. Sorry. It’s difficult to see in here. Do you have a flashlight?’ Lana’s voice questioned.

‘Sorry I don’t have one,’ I replied.

Out of the darkness, a hand grasped our shoulders. A scream of terror echoed through the tunnel as we prepared to run from the unseen force

‘It’s me Carlos. You two wimps scare so easily!’. Carlos laughed.

‘You jerk!’ I screamed, turning back towards the entrance. A smidgeon of daylight could now be seen in the shape of a small circle in the distance. A black figure stood in the way of the light as a yellow torchlight shined on Carlos, who grinned evilly at us.

‘Enough!. Let’s explore just this area of the tunnel and go. It’s too dark in here and I can’t find the light from the exit up ahead at all,’ Lana remarked.

‘Hey you can leave but I’m not going until I leave the other end. I set myself a task and I’m going to finish it,’ Carlos replied as the light from the torch moved further into the gloomy chasm.

‘I’m following him. He might get himself in trouble if we leave him,’ Lana retorted.

Lana’s footsteps were then heard running into the distance.

I pondered whether to turn around and wait at the station but then I remembered being alone in the woods,  having to trek back to the car. Besides, I didn’t have my driver’s license. My parents refused to let me learn to drive. In a quick decision, I ran and followed the dim yellow light in the distance.

In what seemed like mere minutes, I had caught up to the flashlight.

‘Nice of you to join us!,’ Carlos said as we continued to walk through the dark.

‘Can we get out of here before the steam train comes.?’

‘Mark, what steam train? This line is abandoned…’ Lana replied.

‘You are wrong, Lana. This railway was not closed down just because of the detour.’

‘That part was just a cover up. The real reason is Steve Greene, a driver of the steam train which ran along this line. Steve returned from the First World War with post-traumatic stress. He was crazy. He thought that because his friends died honorably in the war and yet people lived in vain, he would make things right, so to speak,’ Mark exclaimed.

I paused for a few seconds to hear the silence in the dark.

‘So Steve stole miniature tanks of chlorine gas tubs and smuggled it back on the ship. In the first day back at work, Steve hid the tubs of gas in his backpack. Upon entering Marlyvale tunnel, he released the gas through the engine ducts and it floated into the upper class carriage behind. The smoke and gas billowed through the tunnel, killing everyone in the first carriage.’

‘And you expect me to believe that?’ Lana questioned.

‘You don’t have to. But my Pop told me the legend and says the train driver handed himself in to the police, feeling his duty had been accomplished’ I answered.

‘Mark, that’s why you have no friends, because you believe in the most stupid crap’ Carlos said.

I shot Carlos a brief sneer as a droplet of water fell from the tunnel roof onto my head.

‘A drop of water just fell on me’ I yelped.

‘When there is rain, water seeps through a crack between the soil above and the concrete and drops onto the tunnel floor…. ARGH’ Lana screamed.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.

‘I feel something crawling up my leg’ she shrieked.

Carlos shone the torchlight as a rat was seen scurrying up into Lana’s white dress.

Lana whacked the rat frantically with her forearm until it dropped to the ground and scurried off into a small hole in the side of the wall.

‘Disgusting!’ Lana exclaimed with a vulgar look on her face.

‘It’s gone now. No sense worrying over it’ Carlos replied.

Suddenly a horn could be heard in the distance behind me. A ‘whoosh’ noise of an engine crept closer

‘It’s the ghost train’ I yelled.

Carlos erupted in laughter as he placed his hand on my shoulder from behind.

He held out his phone to my ear which had been playing train noises. ‘I fooled you again, wimp!. I knew this ringtone would come in handy’.

‘You idiot’ I yelled as I lunged at Carlos. I was finally fed up with the constant pranks and bullying. We fell to the ground and began wrestling each other.

Carlos punched me repeatedly in the face in beastly grunts. ‘Stop’ Lana screamed in fits of sobs as she tried to pry us apart. Carlos commenced punching my stomach. That did it. I snapped. I kneed Carlos in his groin, causing him to tumble off me. I then lunged at a weakened Carlos and I pounded my fists into his face. Carlos screamed in terror. In a matter of seconds, I froze my fists as I now stared down at the trickle of blood flowing from his nose.

‘Mark, what have you done? Why?’ Lana questioned.

‘Why? I think it’s pretty obvious’ I replied as I rose to my feet. ‘I have always been alone. No friends. No social life. Just walled up at home. Then when Mrs Greyson put us together for the project, I wanted it to be an opportunity for us to bond and be closer. For me to make new friends. Before I left to meet you guys at school, I made up the  legend of the Marlyvale steam train about this place to give us something to share and create conversation. And what happens? Carlos makes fun of me by scaring me consistently. Well I’ve had it. I’m not going to be the victim anymore’.

“You’re crazy!” Carlos yelled frantically as he made his way onto his feet slowly.

‘Really? Like I care what you think. I told you, I won’t be the victim anymore.

You wanted to try to make my life chaotic by bullying me? Well, I believe in the concept of an eye for an eye’.

I then ran towards Carlos and lunged my knee into his throat as he was on his knees. Carlos collapsed onto the floor, choking in rampant wheezes, as he clutched his throat.

‘Well, it’s been nice chatting but I’m going to go and abandon you both like you two and many others have done to me my whole school life’ I said as I grabbed the flashlight that had fallen next to Lana.

‘Don’t leave me!’ Lana squealed as her hand grasped my ankle.

‘Like you left me at the platform today or how you abandoned me to catch up with Carlos?  A bit hypocritical don’t you think?’

‘Please!’ Lana pleaded as she moved towards me. I pushed her down to the floor.

‘Goodbye!’ I replied. I caught a brief look at Carlos who gripped his cell phone in hand and was typing numbers in slowly. Probably calling the police. I didn’t care. Going to prison would not make a difference.  I would still be alone. I turned my back on the groans of the two. I clicked the flashlight on as I ventured back towards the entrance of the tunnel. I would rather have not walked in the dark channel alone but I needed to face my fear of the dark, just as I had rectified my fear of being alone.

The groans and whimpers faded as I walked further back into the darkness, away from those that had abandoned me.

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