Hello, friends! Welcome to the third and final installment of Blog Swap, a collaboration between me and The Everhart Author. Every other week, she and I have swapped stories, continuing what the other person has written on our blog. This week, we finish our original stories using the prompts that are given to us and post the full story on our respective blogs. If you need a refresher on the rules of Blog Swap, go check out my first post in the series.
The story specifications I received this week were:
- A Good Thing That Happens: eating chocolate
- An object or phrase: a butterfly
- A scenario based on a song: “Miracle” by Caravan Palace
Gavin craned his neck to fully appreciate the grandeur of the sheer rock face he would soon be climbing. Upon deciphering the latest highly enigmatic clue, he had determined that the treasure lay somewhere in a cave within this mountain. It, of course, had to be the tallest, snowiest, most precipitous mountain in the entire region.
“All part of the master plan,” he drawled in a voice so convincing, he actually believed it. He stuffed his adventurer’s hat more firmly over his hair, which was an odd shade of blond that nobody really knew what to call.
Readjusting the strap of his satchel, he began the precarious ascent. Minutes later, he heaved himself over a ledge and stared up at the powdery blue sky, breathing heavily. Who in their right mind would stash a treasure up here, where oxygen was basically nonexistent?
With a muffled groan, he rolled over and stood to shake out his heavy limbs. A jagged crevice slashed through the side of the mountain at a treacherous angle. The midday sun’s glaring shafts barely pierced the gloom hovering just within the cave entrance.
Taking another deep breath, Gavin climbed into the rock fissure and inched his way along, disturbing the delicate balance of several rock shards. They rattled down the steeper part of the crevice, the echo of their fall continuing for several tense seconds. Slipping here would be suboptimal. The passageway grew much more claustrophobic, and Gavin began to sweat. Imagine if, in twenty years, someone found his skeleton wedged between two immovable rock walls. He barely suppressed a shudder.
It’ll be worth it this time, he promised himself. Last month’s adventures had not paid off. They weren’t even worth the thrill he always got with a near-death experience. But this treasure wasn’t your typical artifact. This was the Scroll of Truth. The one the people of Utopolis had been after since the city’s founding.
And I’m gonna find it. Once I get to the end of this rabbit hole, that is. How much farther could it possibly go?
At that moment, a glimmer of light appeared where moments before had been nothing. Gradually, the crevice widened and became more level, allowing Gavin to breathe a little easier. The mysterious light emanated from the pale green crystals that grew along the walls. This looked right. It matched with the clue, at least.
Gavin cautiously advanced into the new tunnel, eyes darting back and forth as he kept watch for traps. There were always traps in places like this. At the end of the passageway, an old wooden chest sat unobtrusively against the wall, haloed by the gentle light of the crystals.
This seemed too easy. His gaze drifted to the tunnel, then to the chest. He knelt down, darted a final glance at the tunnel, and opened the lid. Nothing happened. The floor didn’t drop out from under him. The ceiling didn’t collapse. So far, so good. The chest was mostly empty, except for the rather important-looking scroll in the very bottom. Maybe if he picked it up, the bad things would happen.
He picked it up. Another glance over his shoulder. Again, nothing. He carefully unrolled it. The old parchment crinkled under his fingertips. Gold lettering shone in the faint light, spelling out a few short words:
You are not who you try to be.
He made a little noise of confusion and scratched his head. That couldn’t be all. He unrolled it further, hoping to find a postscript or something. Nothing. The truth part of this Scroll of Truth was probably hidden by invisible ink — if indeed it existed. He stuffed the scroll in his bag and stood up, almost jumping out of his skin when a footstep sounded behind him.
A shadowy figure slowly came into view. Gavin squinted. He would recognize that petite, high ponytail-wearing, purple backpack-carrying silhouette anywhere. “Candy?!”
“That’s Candace the Adventurer to you, bucko! Did ya miss me?” Candy blew a strand of toffee-colored hair out of her eyes and smiled radiantly.
“Well, this is awkward. I actually came here to get away from you.”
She winced, her face falling. “Golly, that’s a bit harsh. I didn’t think I was that annoying.”
Gavin sighed. “You have a sweet voice, but you bring death with you. That’s why I never take you along on adventures.”
Candy rubbed her arm. “I’m not that accident prone. C’mon, just give me another chance. I won’t almost get you killed this time, I promise. What are you doing here, anyway?”
“Nothing much. Isn’t this a prime vacation spot?” He inhaled deeply and blinked rapidly as his eyes watered. “Smell that sweet mountain air. Just lovely. I’ve needed a place away from all the hustle and bustle of the city.”
“You mean away from predictable old Utopolis. There’s not much scope for adventure there. An adventure isn’t an adventure if it’s predictable, as they say.”
“As who says?”
“Me, mostly.” Candy put a hand on her hip and tilted her head sideways. “For real, G, what are you doing here?”
“Looking for the Scroll of Truth and getting pranked, apparently.” He tugged the scroll out of his bag and tossed it to her. “Take a look. It has to be a joke.”
She unrolled the parchment. “’You are not who you try to be, either.’”
“See, it’s…” Gavin stopped. “Wait. Either?”
“Yeah, either. What did it say for you?”
“The same thing, but without the either. It must have changed. Let me see.” He snatched the parchment away.
Candy huffed. “Rude. Did you lose your manners somewhere on the mountainside?”
“No.” He didn’t look up. The scroll still said the same thing for him. Maybe Candy was seeing things. “How’d you even get that backpack up here?”
“I have my ways. I’m an adventurer, after all! Been through much tighter situations than that one back there.”
Gavin wanted to roll his eyes but didn’t.
“This place is cool. I wonder what kind of crystals these—AGH!”
He still didn’t turn around. “What, did they zap you or something? I wouldn’t be surprised if they were magic.” Candy was silent. Gavin squinted at the parchment. The scroll did have a postscript of some kind. He must’ve missed it earlier. He held the parchment a few inches from his face. “ ‘Here’s something a little more accurate.’ Huh. I wonder what that means?”
The ground trembled. Gavin stared as his feet. His vision dimmed, then blacked out. When he opened his eyes next, he lay on the ground with a bump on his head and the contents of his bag strewn everywhere.
Oh, golly, now he’s never going to take me on adventures. Candy’s voice, but weirder. Like she was talking into a water bottle. The moment I enter the picture, everything goes wrong. Why can’t I be a cool and epic adventurer like Gavin?
Gavin’s nose wrinkled. I’m cool and epic?
WAIT, YOU CAN HEAR ME?!
He slowly got to his hands and knees, but everything felt weird. He tried to open his mouth to talk, but nothing came out. He touched his mouth and blinked. Did I suddenly grow a very weird, very fuzzy beard across my whole face? And what’s with my hands?
I’m what? WHY DO I FEEL WEIRD?
Gavin turned around. Sitting on top of Candy’s oversized purple backpack was a little calico cat with blue eyes and a pale pink nose. YOU BROUGHT A CAT?
No, you doofus. I am the cat.
If you’re a cat, then what am I?! He looked down at his hands, which were small and furry.
From the looks of things… Candy turned away for a moment, and a soft purr vibrated through the floor. Or maybe that was the earth shaking again.
Are you laughing at me? What am I?!
You’re a little white bunny rabbit, G.
Gavin’s mouth dropped open. You’ve got to be joking. I can’t be a rabbit!
Well, I don’t particularly like being a cat, either.
At least you have claws! I’m a helpless RABBIT! Why couldn’t it have been something a little more intimidating?
Candy licked her paw, then gagged and put it back down. Don’t you remember what the scroll said? ‘You are not who you try to be.’ Maybe it’s magic and it made us into more accurate representations of our…uh…personalities?
That makes sense. The message I saw just before blacking out was ‘Here’s something a little more accurate.’ But a rabbit?!
Yeah, I thought you were cooler than that.
As I overheard.
Candy’s ears flattened against her head. Let’s forget that happened.
I guess I’m not all that epic and cool after all. Suddenly Gavin felt very embarrassed. I tried too hard to make people like me, and—
I can hear you, Gavin.
Drat. Forgot about that.
We’re in the same boat, if it’s any comfort.
Gavin staggered backward as a crystal fell off the ceiling and shattered in front of him. I think this place is collapsing! We’ve got to get out!
But what about my backpack?
Forget the backpack! Gavin sprang away. At least rabbits were speedy. Candy raced through the tunnel behind him. Both narrowly dodged the falling crystals which tried their very best to impale the rabbit and cat as they ran. Gavin tripped on a loose shard and tumbled into the wall.
GET UP, GAVIN! Candy screamed.
Gavin struggled up to his feet. Oh no. I FORGOT THE SCROLL. IT MIGHT BE ABLE TO TURN US BACK.
THEN GO GET IT!
I really don’t want to but—ARGH, FINE! He raced back in the direction of the chest room.
Ow. That shout hurt my brain.
Now chunks of rock were raining down as cracks spiderwebbed along the tunnel walls. Gavin snatched up the Scroll of Truth in his mouth and sprang away. Please, please, please, please… The passageway narrowed and tilted sideways. Almost out. The crawlspace was tight while I was still human, but now it’s easy-peasy.
At that moment, the walls above and below Gavin started shifting. IT’S TRYING TO SANDWICH US!
That is an excellent analogy for this situation. Oops, that comment was just my mind processing things. I mean—CRAWL FOR YOUR LIFE, GAVIN! IT’S GETTING TIGHT UP HERE!
The walls closed in further. Gavin could barely move without jagged rock scraping his back. His breaths came shallowly. Everything was dark, tight, scary.
I have to get out. I have to GET OUT!
Why are the walls closing in why would it do this I don’t like it stop stop oh no can’t breathe NO NO NO I DON’T WANNA BE SQUISHED
CANDY, SHUT UP, I CAN HEAR YOU
Gavin tucked his ears back, moving as quickly as he possibly could through the tiny tunnel. Small consolation for being zapped into a fluffy little bunny, he was fast. But was he fast enough?
He sure hoped so.
Behind him the gangly calico kitten that was Candy struggled to keep her thoughts to herself as she skidded down the shrinking passage. He could still hear her snatches of the nonsensical panic zooming through her mind, though they were quieter. Geez, was this what it sounded like in her brain all the time?
FOCUS. He needed to focus on not getting crushed. The scroll clenched in his mouth tasted nasty. I SAID FOCUS. Dodge left, dodge right, squeeeeze through, hop over. He could see the exit, but oh it was small. And getting smaller. Candy jumped over him, running so fast she whooshed.
We can make it, Gavin thought, willing his crazy spring-loaded legs to go faster. We can make it, we can, come on —
Gavin had never heard a cat scream before. It was an awful sound. He skidded to a stop just as a massive ball of fire crashed into the rocks in front of him and Candy. Everything exploded.
He didn’t even realize he’d blacked out until he woke up. Ughhh, twice in one day? Really? His ears twitched and he shook his fluffy head.
“Oh, hey there lil guy.”
AAGH WHO IS THAT!? Gavin flinched away from the sound only to find that he was actually being held by the person.
“Calm down, little dude. I’m not gonna hurt you.” The speaker was a boy probably a bit younger than Gavin himself. Fiery orangey-red hair stuck up at odd angles from his head. Gingery freckles dusted over his snub nose. Over one shoulder was slung a weatherbeaten guitar, over the other was an equally well-used satchel. The hands holding him gently round his stomach were big and calloused.
Gavin blinked. What?
“Sorry about that. See I found this staff thing a couple days ago, and apparently it shoots fire, but really it isn’t my fault, like how was I meant to know it shoots fire it didn’t have a label or anythin on that display case. Probably should have been, y’know, if you’re gonna have a floodlin’ flame-throwin’ stick in a museum I should think you’d wanna label it so nobody accidentally burns the place down just takin’ a look at it. Not that anyone did, I’m not sayin’ that, just sayin’ it could happen. Could happen real easy.”
For goodness’ sake does this guy ever breathe? Gavin blinked again. Oh, come on, where’s Candy? Did she die? Nah, she couldn’t die from just an explosion . . . right?
“Candy? That your kitty friend?”
Hold up. You can hear me?
” . . . ah. Yes. Probly should have told you that already.”
“Y’know, I’m not actually sure. Got zapped by somethin’ at some point, probably. I’ve been zapped a lot. Anyway your kitty friend’s in here.” The boy patted his satchel. “And that paper you had. That the Scroll of Truth?”
Gavin squirmed a bit. Why are you holding me?
“Oh you broke your leg. Or, I broke your leg. Or the stick broke your leg. In any case it broke.” He grinned sheepishly.
Why doesn’t it hurt?
“I splinted it up for you, put some, uh, stuff on it. I dunno what stuff, my mum gave it to me a while ago and I guess it works cos you can’t feel your tiny bunny femur snapped in half.” The boy blinked. “Anyway. Scroll of Truth?”
Gavin could feel his heart beating wildly. This was not at all how this adventure was supposed to end up going. Yeah, that’s what it’s supposed to be. How do you know?
“I found it, one time.” He laughed. “You know what it said? ‘Home is where your heart is’. Never heard so much hackneyed nonsense. Told it so. Then it said ‘You are not who you try to be’. Bonkers, huh? Some truth, it’s just nonsense.”
A weird jittery feeling bounced in Gavin’s stomach. That was exactly what it had said before. And . . . it was actually true. He wasn’t the capable, smooth, confident adventurer he wanted people to think he was. I mean look at him, he was a fluffy little bunny shaking in someone’s hands.
Did that mean that this redheaded guy was an imposter too?
The guy narrowed his eyes. “No, it doesn’t. You’re lookin’ pretty sus yourself, little dude. Scroll turned you into a rodent? Pretty harsh.”
A deafening roar drowned out his thought. Both of them looked up.
A towering, lumpy, hulking, grotesque, vaguely-humanoid-but-very-much-not-human shape clawed its way out of the collapsed scroll chamber. The thing was made of oil-slick colored rock and bit of those creepy green crystals from inside the cave.
And it was very much coming for them.
“Right, I’ma head out,” the boy said, stuffing Gavin into his satchel. Candy was, in fact, in there, curled up and purring with the scroll between her paws. She woke with a sleepy mrrow? that quickly turned into a squawk as Gavin flailed about in the bag.
“Name’s Jok, by the way!” the boy yelled as he started running. “I’m gonna try to keep you guys alive, don’t you worry!”
Well that was definitely reassuring.
The rock monster bellowed again. Inside Jok’s satchel, Gavin and Candy were a tangle of ears and tails and limbs.
What’s going on? Candy demanded. Why are we running?
Giant monster, probably wants to eat us, Gavin replied. And we can’t do anything because we’re a RABBIT and a CAT! Stupid scroll…
Hey, don’t insult it! It might be able to hear you! Candy whacked him on the head with a soft paw.
“Cor blimey, this thing runs fast! You think it was the guardian of the Scroll or somethin’?” Jok sounded quite winded.
Gavin wriggled, trying to find which way was up in the suffocating darkness. How should I know?
“Well, maybe we should just give back it to ‘im?”
No way! We need it to turn us back into humans!
“Well, in that case, we’re in quite the pickle. As I see it, the only way to get out of it is to have the Scroll help us out.”
I think it just wants to prank us, honestly. He coughed slightly. Candy, you have too much fur. It’s getting everywhere.
She gave an indignant little growl. Give me a break, will ya? I’ve only been a cat for like an hour!
What? Candy and Gavin asked at the same time.
With a yelp and the sound of rocks clattering, Jok’s bag popped open, spilling out Candy, Gavin, and the Scroll onto the mountainside. The redheaded boy tumbled past them, followed closely by the cave-monster, which probably still thought he had the scroll. Jok’s receding ahhhhhhhh! echoed as he slid down the slope.
We have to save him, Gavin! Candy screamed. That thing’s gonna eat him!
The thing certainly did look hungry. Jok had jumped onto a boulder with the fire staff clutched in both hands, but it didn’t seem to be working. Maybe it needed to recharge or something.
Gavin’s useless bunny paws tugged at his fur in frustration. Argh! Grab the Scroll and throw it at it!
Just do it!
Candy snatched up the old parchment in her mouth and dashed down the hill. Gavin remained where he was. With his broken leg, he had to rely on Candy.
Scroll, if you can hear me, we need you to turn this monster into…into… Gavin’s mind was blanking.
A BUTTERFLY! Candy shrieked, and she leapt. Wide-eyed, Gavin watched as she hurtled through the air toward the rock monster, which had shattered the fire staff and now clutched Jok between two grimy hands, preparing to eat him whole. Candy bounced off its armored back, releasing the scroll at the same moment. In a flash of light, the monster disappeared, replaced by a small, black butterfly.
Candy made a full rotation in the air, descending toward the butterfly with her mouth open in a yowl. She landed on her feet, tail stuck straight in the air and claws out. She made a hacking sound.
“Whoa, little kitty, you okay?” Jok scrambled to Candy’s side.
She gagged again. Not really…
What’s wrong? Gavin was looking for the butterfly.
Candy cringed. I think I ate it by accident. And it tasted absolutely horrific. I might be sick. With that, she coughed up a strange-looking lump of fur and butterfly.
Jok stuck out his tongue. “My thoughts exactly, little dude.”
Candy’s tail thrashed back and forth. So what now?
We ask the Scroll very nicely to change us back. Gavin limped over to where it had fallen, cleared his throat, and said, Excuse me, oh great and powerful magic scroll. Your point has been made. We are not who we try so hard to be. If you change us back, we’ll never bother you again. How’s that?
“Erm, do you want me to unroll it so you can see its reply?” Jok asked, scratching his head.
Oh, that would be helpful. When the scroll lay open, Gavin leaned close to read the letters that had appeared. ‘Show yourself true, by word or by song, and only then will you become who you are.’ What do you suppose that means?
Jok jumped to his feet. “I got it! Where’s my guitar?”
Um, aren’t we the ones who are supposed to be following these instructions? Candy asked.
“Hey, it said ‘by word or by song’ and songs are my forte.” Jok picked up his (surprisingly) undamaged guitar from the mountainside, strumming a few times and tuning it once or twice before singing.
“It started on a day like any other…” He stopped. “No, that’s not right.”
He began a more upbeat song. “Every day is a miracle, connect back with the people…” This time, Jok cut himself off with a sigh. “Other people’s songs are good an’ all, but they don’t really show me true. I think the Scroll would have me sing something I wrote myself.”
You still haven’t explained why you’re singing, Gavin pointed out. Did the Scroll curse you or something?
“Ah, about that…it’s a funny story, really.” Jok chuckled nervously. “See, I went hunting for the Scroll of Truth because I wanted an adventure. I wanted to get away from the humdrum life in my town.”
Sounds familiar, Gavin commented dryly.
“But all the Scroll said was a bunch of hogwash about home being where my heart was.” Jok shrugged. “I think it cursed me to wander across the whole land until I went mad or decided it was time to go back home. But mark my words, I’m never going back home, not after—” He snapped his mouth shut. “D’ya hear that, Scroll? That’s me showing myself true. I can put it in song form, too, if you’d like.”
Gavin peered at the Scroll, but the letters hadn’t changed. He glanced back at Jok. In the other boy, he saw the adventurer he had always wanted to be. But that adventurer wasn’t famous or rich or happy. He was just lost and lonely.
Candy rubbed against Jok’s arm. Maybe you should try going home. I don’t know the situation, but it’s possible there was just a misunderstanding and the Scroll really does have it right.
Jok scoffed. “If you think I’m going to trust some tattered old manuscript—”
Careful! You don’t want to make it angry!
“If it wanted to zap me, it would’ve done it already.”
So, I’ve got a funny story, too, and you might want to hear it, Jok. Gavin flicked one ear. You see, I’ve been trying to be an adventurer like you my whole life, but I’m really not who I try so hard to be. I’m good at sneaking around and deciphering clues and avoiding danger, yeah, but I’ve been doing it just to look cool.
Adventuring makes him popular at school, Candy whispered.
Anyway, Gavin cut in. Adventuring is fun, but I don’t want it to get between me and what’s really important.
“And what’s that, little dude?”
Friends. Family. You know, stuff like that.
“Hmm.” Jok strummed his guitar absently. “I see your point.”
Don’t you miss your family at all, Jok? Candy asked, looking at him intensely.
“Nah, and I’m sure they don’t miss me.”
Candy said nothing. She licked one paw, then turned her gaze to the scroll. All right, Mr. Scroll. I try so hard to be like Gavin, but I’m not. I’m just not cut out for adventuring. So, would you please turn me back into a human? I can think of about four things I’d like to do that I physically can’t while a cat.
Yeah, I’d really like to be human, preferably not with a broken leg, Gavin put in.
The Scroll of Truth was silent. No new letters appeared on the page.
Jok sighed. “Well, it’s getting dark. Let’s set up camp and try petitioning again in the morning.” He picked up Gavin and put him back in the satchel, then marched down to a little ledge that overlooked the valley. Utopolis was a shining city on the far horizon, haloed by the fading light of dusk. Candy still sat beside the scroll, head tilted. After a moment, she picked it up in her mouth and followed them.
That night, Gavin and Candy curled up beside the fire Jok had built while the bard strummed his guitar and gazed up at the moon. Just before sleep overtook Gavin, he heard Jok softly singing.
“Sunrise, with your face to the sky; wind carries a song to your ear. The world, full of light, and your heart running free, the years of your life far from fear. As you wander this road, going on to your home, remember, there’s hope and there’s light. When you trip and you fall, just dust yourself off. Remember, child, there is love.” The same melody repeated for several more stanzas, but Gavin was already lost in his dreams.
When dawn broke, Gavin stirred. He was first aware of the cold, then the pointy rock digging into his back, then Candy’s soft breathing next to his ear. He blinked sleepily and tried to rub his eyes. Fabric brushed his face. He gasped, instinctively ripping off the glove to find an actual human hand beneath. “Yesss,” he whispered under his breath.
Then he realized Candy was still asleep next to him and also very much human. “YAGH!” Gavin tumbled backward, rolling down the slope a short distance.
Candy’s eyes popped open. “What?! OH!” She clapped a hand across her mouth and gave a short giggle. “I’m back!”
Gavin made a retching sound and shuddered. “Ugh, cooties…”
Candy’s gaze drifted down to him, her expression deadpan. “We get turned human again and that’s the first thing out of your mouth? I can’t believe I ever thought you were cool.”
Gavin glared back. “Hey, that’s not nice. I’m still cool, aren’t I?”
“Depends.” She stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Are you gonna go back to adventuring?”
He weighed the implications of his answers, then sighed. “Nope.”
She grinned. “Then you’re a-okay in my book, bucko.”
“How about you? Will you become the next great adventurer of Utopolis?”
Candy shook her head, ponytail swishing. “Candace the Adventurer is going into permanent retirement.” She glanced at the cold fire. “Hey, where’s Jok?”
Gavin climbed up the slope, enjoying using his not-broken and very-much-human legs again. Jok was nowhere in sight. Every trace of the red-headed bard had been swept away, as if he had never even existed. “I hope he didn’t get eaten by a monster or something.”
Candy grimaced. “Yeah, me too. Maybe he finally went home.”
“Maybe. Looks like he took the Scroll with him.” Gavin rubbed his head, then pulled his glove back on and flexed his fingers. “I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s a capable fellow, I think. What say we head back to Utopolis? I’ve had enough adventuring for one day.”
“Too much, if you ask me,” Candy agreed. “You want to know one of the four things I wanted to do while a cat but couldn’t?”
Gavin blinked. “Uh…sure?”
She leaned forward and whispered, “Chocolate.”
His eyebrows shot up. “Chocolate?”
“Chocolate isn’t for bunnies and cats, but it is for humans!”
Gavin returned Candy’s grin. “Then let’s go!”
Oh my goodness, I had so much fun writing this story and these characters! I hope you enjoyed it, as well. Fun fact, the last song the Jok sings by the fire is one that I wrote recently. It’s called “A Wanderer’s Song” and I decided to include part of it because it fit so perfectly.
Thank you all so much for the support on my blog this year! WordPress says I have more than 40 followers, and that’s so crazy to me. Have a wonderful week, everyone!
P.S. In case you haven’t already, be sure to check out Ashley’s finished story over on her blog. It’s absolutely amazing.