It is time.
The finale of Blog Swap.
The time when all of this comes together.
When I finally get my story back.
I’m excited are you excited I hope you’re excited.
But before we get on with it, I must share with you the specifications I have been given for this, the last swap.
- A Good Thing – a hug
- Object or Phrase – “You’re not very good at this are you?”
- A Concept from a Song – Finale by AJR (pretty fitting huh?)
I think it’s gonna be good.
In case you haven’t read the other posts, or if you’d just like a reminder of what’s happened so far, here is the story as of last post.
Part 1 (me)
Uncomfortable warmth radiated from the torch blazing in Sage’s hand. She held it out as far as she could, her arm starting to tire already. It didn’t even cast that much light. It cast more shadows than light, flickery shadows, disconcertingly solid-looking shadows always at the corner of her vision.
Pfft. Sage Raven wasn’t afraid of the dark. Sage Raven feared nothing.
Seeing nothing, she thought with a twinge of humor. I fear seeing nothing.
“Oooh, look at that stalack-thing! It’s like a whole blummin’ tree!”
Ah yes. Him. Sage sighed as she looked over her shoulder at the boy behind her. Fire light reflected in his wide eyes as he gaped at the rock formations. As she watched, he reached his little hand into his pocket and dropped something on the ground. It made a quiet clicking noise against the stone floor. Come to think of it, she’d been hearing that sound for a while . . .
“What are you doing?”
He blinked and focused on her. The stark shadows made him look a bit spooky. “I’m leaving a trail. We are in a cave, y’know. Easy to get lost. See?” He held up one of the small objects.
“Why do you have so many acorns?” Sage’s voice was uncharacteristically quiet. Ridiculous, of course, but something inside her insisted that raising her voice could cause some catastrophe like a cave-in or eruption from the volcano they were currently inside.
“For leaving a trail! Weren’t you listening?”
Sage huffed and faced forward again. The hand that wasn’t carrying the torch slipped into her satchel, caressing the smooth, glassy, cool-to-the-touch orb. It just sat there, acting like it hadn’t recently caused a war, like it really was just a harmless little globe and not an ancient instrument of destruction deserving to be tossed maliciously into a pit of molten volcano juice.
That was the plan, of course.
Another little click as an acorn hit the cold ground. But the next sound Sage heard was much louder, and much more indicative of imminent horrible death.
Part 2 (Ariella)
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.
And now . . . Part 3
Sage was scared. So very, very scared. More than she had ever been in her short but eventful life. So scared she couldn’t even form thoughts to think about how scared she was.
Around her there was nothing. Inside her there was nothing, nothing but fear, nothing but cold. No before, no after, just this. And this didn’t exist.
How long she stayed trapped in the nothingness she didn’t know. Could have been centuries. Could have been seconds. But it did end. Because a shaft of painfully bright blue light speared the Void and without warning it was gone, leaving Sage gasping on the ground.
“You okay?” Rolf shouted at her.
Sage Raven couldn’t answer. She just continued lying still on the blessedly tangible ground, breathing, waiting for her numb, shaking limbs to come back to life. Rolf was standing in front of her, and she dragged her eyes to focus on him.
The boy, previously attired in generic homespun that any young boy running about in the forest might wear, now stood in a battle stance clad in the most incredible armor she’d ever seen. Smooth, pure silver, traced and engraved with lines of shimmering blue-green light. In his small hands was clutched a massive broadsword made of the same material, sheathed in a blue flickering iridescence.
Another snaking limb of darkness reached for him from the shadows. He spun, the sword whipping after him. The shadow screeched as the blade touched it, shrieked as a blinding flash disintegrated it.
“You’re not dead, right?” Rolf looked over his shoulder. “Okay you’re not dead. Good.”
Sage forced her voice to work and her mouth to move. “What . . . where did you . . . get that armor?”
“Oh . . .” he shrugged. “It’s, um, it’s mine.”
Raiacyn shook her head, flapping her wings experimentally. The wound on her wing was stained with shadow, but already shrinking.
“We need to get back there, to toss that thing in the lava,” Rolf said. He rubbed under the dragon’s chin with his gauntleted hand. “You still have it, right?”
Sage sat up with an effort, still just happy to be breathing and very, very concerned and confused. “Yeah, I . . . have it. But the Void is there how are we . . . going to –“
“I’ve got it. Come on–” The boy stuck his sword into the scabbard on his back and pulled Sage to her feet. “We’re gonna have to do some fancy flying to get back up there. Think you can do it?”
Sage clenched her jaw and straightened her shoulders. “Absolutely.”
Raiacyn was a little shaky during takeoff but they made it into the air without crashing. Sage’s grip on the reins tightened, as did Rolf’s on her.
“Arrows incoming,” Rolf warned, his voice loud right behind her head.
Sage nodded, twitching the reins. Raiacyn rolled right, arrows whistling past close enough to feel the chill.
At her side the orb began pulsing again, intense heat she could feel through the thick satchel.
The all-encompassing storm of shadow loomed above the volcano, spreading out from it with oil-dark spider webs. Soon the sky would be replaced entirely. A queasy fear squirmed in Sage Raven’s stomach.
“Right, here’s the plan.” Rolf’s voice was commanding, confident. Nothing like the easily distracted, impulsive little boy of that morning. “You’ll have to get close to the lava to drop it in. If it takes too long to fall he might catch it. I’ll distract him while you fly in. When it’s gone you can circle back and get me.”
“What if it doesn’t work?”
“Well then you won’t need to get me.”
The dragon dove to dodge a spear of shadow, nearly throwing them off.
“Okay,” Sage whispered, taking a deep breath. “Okay. Let’s do this.”
They flew over the lip of the volcano. Down above the boiling center, the Void hovered. Shadows fractured across the magma like some kind of twisted mycelium.
“He’s covering it,” Rolf hissed. “Get it in there before it’s too late.” Without another word he let go of Sage and fell.
“ROLF!” Sage screamed, her eyes going wide.
The boy threw something as he dropped towards the lava and the Void. An acorn. Of course. It exploded against the ledge they’d stood on earlier, mushrooming out in another burst of foliage. He landed in the soft leaves and rolled out, sword drawn.
“I told you,” he said in a loud voice Sage could barely hear. The Void’s attention turned to him. “that you would regret that.”
“Ah . . .” the Void murmured. Chills ran up Sage’s spine as she swooped a bit closer. Quiet, quiet, just get close to the lava. “The little prince. I thought it was you. Do you think that your armor makes any difference?”
“A bit, yeah.” Rolf stepped closer. “I’m gonna ask you one more time. Get out of here.”
“I am the Void. I obey no mortal being, especially not a child.” The chuckle that followed these words made Rolf take a step back. “A child who collects acorns. How cute. How very adorable of you. Your subjects must adore you. The little prince who has saved the world already, before even his thirteenth birthday. Is that why they sent you to defeat me and destroy my Orb? Because they think you can do it again? Did you ever tell them how you defeated the great dragon?”
“It was only luck, wasn’t it? Being in the right place at the right time.” The Void tilted what passed for his head. “And now they expect you to do so much more.”
“They . . . want so much from me . . .” Rolf’s voice broke a little.
“You can’t do it all.”
Above, Sage and Raiacyn circled, waiting for an opportunity. Sage’s mind was reeling. The annoying little boy who had been following her around on her quest . . . was the prince? The prince who killed the great dragon and saved her village? The prince who had tasked her with destroying the orb in the first place?
“I . . . I can’t.” Rolf let his sword droop until the tip rested on the ground. “I can’t save the world. It’s too hard. There’s too much . . . I can’t . . .”
“No,” Sage whispered. He was giving up. He couldn’t give up. Everyone would die if he gave up, everyone would be trapped in that cold dark emptiness forever if he gave up now.
The Void smiled. The fungus-like shadows crept up the ledge, reaching for Rolf’s feet. The lava was almost covered.
“Do it now,” a voice hissed in her ear. She jumped.
“Spidget commands thee. Kill the orb now! It is part of the small prince’s plan! SPIDGET COMMANDS THEE!” the tiny elf screamed.
Sage didn’t even want to know how Spidget had ended up here. She didn’t have time to figure it out. Raiacyn dove straight down into the volcano.
“You will never be overwhelmed again,” the Void purred. “You cannot do this by yourself.”
Rolf let his shoulders slump, but a small smile spread over his face. “You’re right,” he said, just as Sage Raven dropped the orb into the lava.
The Void screamed. The earth shook. The lava bubbled, devouring the shadows. Rolf swung his sword straight into the Void’s chest.
Daylight exploded from the Void, stabbing out like bolts of lightning. An inhuman howl of agony echoed in the volcano, followed by a very human one from Rolf.
And then the Void was gone.
And Rolf was falling.
Sage caught him, nearly falling from Raiacyn’s back with the sudden weight. Residual shadows, viscous and bubbling, were grasping at his arms, eating at his armor.
“Very much volcano juice, thou shouldst escape verymostquickly,” Spidget squeaked as a lava bubble exploded much too close for comfort.
Raiacyn pulled up and out of the mountain. The darkness that had covered the sky retreated, pulling back almost fearfully from the daylight. Sage held Rolf tightly as they drifted to land as far from the volcano as they could.
“Ow . . .” Rolf mumbled as she lowered him to the ground. “Did I get him?”
“Yeah, you got him,” Sage said with a weak laugh.
“Yayyyy . . .” Rolf sat up with a wince and touched his shoulder. His armor vanished with a spattering of blue-green mist, as did his sword.
Sage sat next to him. “You’re . . . you’re Prince Rolf.”
” . . . yeah.”
“That’s . . . um . . . wow.”
Sage looked up. “I think you just saved the world.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You just stabbed the Void.”
“It was teamwork.”
“You’re a hero.”
“No I’m not.”
She put her hands on her hips. “You’re not very good at this, are you?”
Rolf grinned sheepishly. “Guess not.”
Spidget hopped out of Sage’s hood. “Spidget agrees. Thou art a hero, small prince, and thou are not very good at it.”
Rolf laughed, rubbing his forearms. “So . . . now what?”
Sage Raven pushed her hair out of her face, leaning against her dragon. “I think we should go home and tell everyone what you’ve done.”
Rolf blushed. “No . . . we’ll say you did it. I don’t want . . . they’re crazy, you know. All of them. It’s better if they don’t think I’m some great hero.”
The little prince was quiet for a moment. Suddenly he threw his arms around Sage and squeezed tight.
Sage stiffened for a moment, then smiled and squeezed him back.
“Good job, acorn-boy.”
And that, my friends, is the end of Blog Swap.
For now, anyway.
Thank you to all of the people on Instagram, Hangouts, and Discord that offered ideas and made this possible!
So how did you like it? Please do tell me in the comments, or at least leave a like if you would like me to do this again, maybe with Ariella and maybe with someone else.
Speaking of Ariella she’s finishing the other story right now! You should go check it out right here!
Do it now.
Leave her comments and likes too, cos she’s awesome.
Anyhow thank you for reading, I love you all and I’ll see you next week! Bye!