Greetings, friends! Welcome to the second installment of Blog Swap, a collaboration between The Everhart Author and me, your friendly neighborhood fairy. (That begs the question, though, am I actually a fairy, or do I just resemble one? I suppose you’ll just have to find out as the lore of my blog unfolds.)
Two weeks ago, Ashley Everhart and I began Blog Swap. You can check out that blog post of mine if you want a refresher on the rules. In succinct terms, Ashley and I are basically “swapping” short stories every two weeks. Today, I will be continuing the story she started while she continues mine. (If you haven’t already, I’d recommend reading her story before this one so you know what I have to work with.) In two more weeks, we’ll swap stories again to finish them up.
These are the three specifications I must add to the story:
- Bad Thing that happens: crashing into a mountain while riding your dragon
- Object: a small cat toy
- Character: a nimble elf with no social skills
Oh dear. This will be interesting. Very interesting.
Sage Raven feared nothing, but that noise…it scared her. The call of the Void. The orb in her satchel glowed faintly, an electrifying warmth emanating from it. Her hands, previously numb, now trembled violently.
Behind her, Rolf dropped another acorn, but this time out of fright. “Blimey, what was that? Some sort of earthquake?”
“No, you floodlin’ kneeknocker, that was…” Sage swallowed, her voice lowering further. “The Void.”
Rolf scrunched up his nose. “I am once again asking…what is that?”
“It’s the Dark Being that wants to get the Orb of Power to destroy all of civilization.”
“Maybe we can pacify it with like…acorns or something.”
Sage Raven sighed. The quest to destroy the evil, world-shattering orb would be so much easier if they hadn’t made her take this kid along. Speaking of the instrument of destruction, now its glow was brightening.
Rolf tossed an acorn in his hand. “Hey, why is your bag glowing?”
“The orb is,” she answered stiffly. “The Void is calling it.”
A low hum, probably the voice of the orb, grew in volume and set Sage’s teeth on edge. Rolf tilted his head. “What’s that?”
“No, the other sound.”
Sage gazed at him blankly. “What other sound?”
Rolf turned suddenly to face the shadow-filled passageway behind them. At that moment, the eerie hum ceased. In the deafening silence, Sage only heard the ringing in her ears until a little click echoed up the passageway. Acorns?
Slowly, Sage held up her torch and inched forward. After three or four paces, the trail of acorns left by Rolf tapered off and disappeared entirely. “Well, that’s ominous.”
“Someone stole my acorns!” Rolf’s indignant tone almost made Sage laugh. “Now we’ll never find the way back out!”
“I know the way, don’t worry. I keep a map up here.” Sage tapped her head. As she was about to turn back around, a shadow moved in the corridor. “Did you see that?”
“Maybe it’s whoever stole my acorns.” Rolf squinted into the darkness. “Hello?”
“Spidget did not steal thy acorns, wanderers,” a voice called out of the shadows. “Spidget simply gathered them for thee after thou lost them.”
Sage stiffened. Rolf grinned lopsidedly and asked, “Is your name Spidget?”
“Spidget’s name is Spidget.” A tiny figure materialized a few paces away. Sage thought it was a little girl at first, since she barely reached Sage’s elbow, but then the person’s face came into view. Silvery-blond hair framed large, aquamarine eyes. Pointed ears peeked out on either side of her head, quivering slightly as another bone-chilling call echoed through the tunnel. The orb in Sage’s satchel pulsed brighter, and she could feel the warmth of it against her leg.
“Are you an elf?” Rolf inquired.
Spidget didn’t answer at first, approaching Rolf and giving him the acorns she had collected. “Spidget is a helpful elf. Where dost thou need to go?”
Sage glanced in the direction they were supposed to be heading. “Uh, the place in this volcano with all the molten lava, and quickly. The Void is coming.”
“Spidget will show thee the way.” The little elf scampered off. Rolf and Sage trailed behind her. Following a potentially bonkers cave-crawler deeper into the volcano with a high likelihood of certain death? Just another typical day.
Seeing Sage’s wrinkled nose, Rolf said, “She probably doesn’t get out much.”
At that moment, the earth shook. Sage widened her stance as dust and small stones fell from the ceiling. “That’s not good.”
“Just a little earthquake, don’t be so scared, wanderers.” Spidget gave an eerie little laugh, her eyes glinting in the faint light, then scurried off again.
“Oh, skies, this isn’t good.” Sage bit her lip. Not that she was scared at all. Sage Raven feared nothing. Nothing except, perhaps, the endless nothingness that would result if the Void took control of the orb and used it to destroy the world.
The ground pitched. Sage landed roughly. Her satchel slipped off her shoulder and the orb rolled away as though it had a mind of its own. She scrambled after it, but the earthquake made it extremely hard to keep her balance. Strangely, Spidget easily maintained equilibrium. The orb tumbled toward her, and she snatched it up, gazing at it with wide eyes.
“Hey!” Sage shouted. “Give that back, you little thief!” The earth stopped quivering. She jumped up and was about to rush the elf, but Rolf put a hand on her arm.
“Wait,” he mouthed, then slowly approached Spidget.
Spidget’s pupils had shrunk, and her turquoise eyes seemed to glow as she stared, mesmerized, into the swirling vortex beyond the orb’s glassy surface. One of her pointed ears twitched like a cat’s.
Rolf waved his hand. “Spidget, hey, look over here! I have something to trade you for that shiny, how ‘bout it?”
Spidget glanced up for a brief second. “Spidget doesn’t want to trade.”
“I thought you were a helpful elf, though! You helped me find my lost acorns, and now you can help us by giving back that lost shiny. Dost…uh…thou like sparkly things?”
Spidget nodded hesitantly. “S-Spidget likes s-sparkly. Thou givest Spidget s-sparkly?”
“Yes, a very nice sparkly.” Rolf took a little, fish-shaped cat toy out of his pocket. It glimmered with iridescent colors, far more sparkly than even the orb. Where had he gotten an enchanted cat toy?! And for that matter, who in their right mind would want to enchant a cat toy?!
“S-s-sparkly!!” Spidget squeaked and dropped the orb, reaching to snatch the cat toy from Rolf’s hand.
Sage grabbed the orb from the ground and returned it to her bag, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “Where did you get that?” she muttered to Rolf out of the corner of her mouth.
“See, there’s this trader in the market back home who makes cat toys. It’s a surprisingly profitable business.”
“But you don’t even have a cat!”
Rolf blinked. “Nope. But you never know when you might need an enchanted cat toy. Case in point…” He nodded toward Spidget.
Sage didn’t understand him at all. “All right, it came in handy. Good. But now we really have to destroy this thing before the Void comes any closer. Spidget?” But Spidget was gone. Sage blinked. “Where’d she go?”
“Looks to me like she skedaddled,” Rolf observed. “Fortunately, I can track her using the minuscule particles left behind by the sparkly cat toy.”
Sage lifted her eyes to the ceiling. “Of course you can. Lead the way, then, by all means.”
Rolf continued onward. After several confusing turns in the path, a deep red glow illuminated the mouth of the tunnel far ahead. The chamber in the center of the volcano that was filled with molten lava? That had to be it, right?
Rolf hesitated. “I don’t think we should go on.”
“But the volcano room is right there. I don’t see any reason to stop.”
“Well, Spidget’s sparkles don’t go there; they turn down this side passage. If she didn’t want to go there—”
“What do we care what the tiny elf does and doesn’t do?”
“Spidget isn’t tiny,” a voice said, followed by a glint of turquoise eyes in the darkness. “Thou art just too tall.”
“Hmph.” Sage continued toward the red glow, but Rolf didn’t follow. He tried once more to dissuade her from going, but she ignored him. No way was she turning back this close to destroying the world-wrecking orb forever. But as she emerged from the tunnel and gazed upon the chamber filled with shimmering, bubbling, incandescent lava, something didn’t feel right. Far above, the ceiling showed a sliver of azure sky, which was gradually being consumed by an inky black cloud.
The Void was here.
Sage fumbled in her satchel for the orb, but a hulking shadow rose up before her, blocking her path to the lava pit. The Void himself. All Sage had done was carry the orb of power right to him.
“Let’s talk about this,” she blurted out. “Do you really want to destroy life as we know it and plunge civilization into another Dark Age?”
The Void hovered over the lava pit, his shadow robes moving in a nonexistent breeze. “We intend to create the Darkest of Ages, the likes of which this world has never seen. We have done it before, and so we shall again.”
“Not if I have anything to do with it!”
Sage winced. Rolf stood beside her, fists clenched as he glared at the Dark Being. He continued, “I’ll give you one warning, Mr. Void. If you don’t leave this very instant, you’ll regret it!”
“I don’t think I will.”
At that moment, a familiar dragon roar reached Sage’s ears. Hope stirred in her heart. Raiacyn! A blur of blue and yellow scales streaked into the volcano crater, heading straight for Sage. The dragon snatched up Sage and Rolf and beat her wings to gain elevation before the Void could make a move.
But with the extra weight, plus the force of gravity, she could not climb fast enough. The Void sent a spear of shadow after her, which tracked the dragon’s every move and made it impossible to dodge it. As Raiacyn swept into the open sky, the inky projectile struck her wing and sent her into a downward spiral.
Sage gritted her teeth and grabbed the saddle, pulling herself up even as Raiacyn flailed in the sky and almost threw her off. Rolf squeezed his eyes shut and hung onto the dragon’s foreleg for dear life. Once Sage was in the saddle, she could see everything much better. A hail of shadow arrows tracked Raiacyn’s earthbound fall.
“Pull up!” Sage screamed, and Raiacyn finally regained control. The dark patch on her wing trailed smoke. An instant later, two more projectiles struck her armored belly, and she spiraled out of control again.
Dark clouds now loomed threateningly over the volcano. Bolts of shadow crackled on the underside of the billows, and thunder crashed loud enough to make Sage’s eardrums ring. Raiacyn still fell, doomed to crash into the mountainside.
“ACORNS!” Rolf shouted triumphantly.
Sage leaned over Raiacyn’s neck to look at him. “We’re about to die and all you can think about are acorns?!”
“Watch this!” Rolf grabbed a handful of acorns from his pocket. The last bit of light leaking through the void-clouds made them shimmer faintly gold.
“You have enchanted acorns, too!?”
Rolf didn’t answer. He tossed them onto the mountainside where the dirt was dark and loose. When they struck the earth, an explosion of foliage resulted. A twisting mass of oak trees sprouted in mere seconds, directly below Raiacyn. The shimmering leaves and pliable branches cushioned the dragon’s crash. Sage covered her head as leaves and twigs snatched at her. They continued falling for what felt like forever, but Raiacyn finally slowed. The safety net of flexible branches lowered her gently to the ground, and she snorted, shaking her head.
Rolf opened his eyes and looked around. “That actually worked?”
“Don’t get too excited yet, acorn-boy. The Void is still out there and—” An inky apparition that vaguely resembled a hand reached out from among the magical trees and tightened around Sage. Darkness filled her vision. No air to breathe, no light to see.
Truly now she was seeing nothing—the great, vast, empty nothingness she had always feared.
There you have it; another cliffhanger. If you want to see how Sage Raven, Rolf, and Raiacyn get out of their perilous predicament, head on over to The Everhart Author to see how she will wrap up the story. I have it on good authority that there will be some very fun twists.
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