Welcome to my new writing venture, the 100 Theme Challenge. This was originally a drawing prompt that appeared on deviantART but it's taken on a bit of a life of its own, especially since it can be applied to pretty much any creative work. In my case, obviously it's writing.
Part of the reason I'm doing this is to continue building daily writing as a habit, but unlike the course I was doing that's not the only reason. I also need more experience in dealing with characters rather than plots, since I really need to make my characters stand out more as people. So I'm combining the 100 Themes with Tracy Culleton's List of Character Traits and giving each character in the scene three random traits that I need to show through their interactions.
Don't expect any of this to be great literature or anything, it's mostly going to be 1000 word or so drabbles. I think of it as something like a sketchbook, where I doodle around with ideas and see what comes up. Maybe eventually I'll pop out some decent ideas that are worth putting in longer stories, who knows? Even if I don't, it's worth the effort.
Kella froze, not daring to take another step through the dense underbrush. Long habit of following orders had ingrained in her so deeply that despite not knowing where the voice came from or who it was, her body automatically complied. Not that stopping was a bad idea anyhow, given that she was dripping with sweat at the unaccustomed hike.
She looked around, the action knocking a few small items loose from her lumpy backpack. She swore a bit inwardly, momentarily distracted from the mystery of the commanding voice and begin to pick up the various random objects and stuff them haphazardly back into the pack. It had been like this the whole way, which made the trip even more wearing than it might otherwise be and she wondered how proper travellers managed.
As it happened, this pause turned out to be a good thing as when she knelt and turned to pick up her ladle for what seemed like the hundredth time, she spied what could only be the source of the voice. A small, slight figure clad in shades of brown and green that at first glance blended perfectly into the scrub around them.
The creature, which she supposed was a gnome or something, although she always pictured gnomes being a bit more stocky, looked up at her with more than a bit of annoyance.
"Do you mind not blundering about my woods like a blind moose? You almost stepped on me!" She said with a sense of authority that, despite her small stature of only a couple of feet at most, stiffened Kella's spine and brought a immediate response of "Sorry!" to her lips.
Seeing this, the brownie or fairy or whatever it was seemed to relax a bit, her fists relaxing and resting on her well-loaded tool belt with what appeared to be a habitual gesture. She didn't quite smile, but at least she didn't look so angry now.
"All right then," she said after a moment, "apology accepted. But what in the name of Giselda's Tears are you doing blundering around the wood like that? You're obviously no woodsman or tracker."
Kella let herself fall into a graceless sit, more collapse than deliberate movement. The relief at seeing a friendly, or at least not hostile, face and the exertion of travel combined to rob her limbs of any pretense of holding up her body, let alone her pack. A few more stray items went bouncing off in various directions, but she'd have to deal with that later.
After a few breaths, which the small woman seemed patient enough time for, she managed to speak. "My name is Kella, and I'm on...well, it sounds a bit pretentious but I'm on a quest. I need to get an item that my lady Marguerite has requested, and she insisted I be the one to get it although Kaleth knows why."
"You do seem a bit unsuited to the task, for sure. Have you ever even been on a trek like this before?"
"Heavens, no! I'm a scholar, the furthest I usually stray from the library back in Dunhelm is down to the pub for a couple of pints at the end of the week." She sighed. "I'm not really cut out for this adventuring business."
"I should say not," the woman replied, casting an eye at Kella's pack, which looked all the world like she's just stuffed whatever came to hand into it ten minutes before she set out. "Is there any way you could just turn around and head back? No shame in defeat and all that."
Kella looked shocked. "No, I couldn't possibly! I can't disappoint Lady Marguerite, I simply can't!" She shook her head a bit. "Not that she's forcing me or anything, but I just can't bear the thought of letting her down. Not once she's placed her trust in me." She let her shoulder sag a bit. "Not that I deserve that trust or anything. I'm just a worthless scholar who can't even keep her library in order, how do I have any hopes in living up to my Lady's wishes?"
The smaller woman looked thoughtful, then pulled a nearby branch closer and sat on it to have herself a good think. "Well," she said after a bit, "it does seem a bit hopeless if your skills are all we have to rely on. But did your Lady say you had to do this all by your lonesome?"
"Well no," Kella replied, "but who else is there? I'm the only one in the town she approached about...." She trailed off, catching the rather arch expression on her companion's face. "You don't mean?"
The little woman grinned, an expression that suited her a lot more than scowling to be sure. "Too right!" she exclaimed, standing up and marching towards Kella. "You and I can be partners in this little expedition. I've got a few skills of my own that would make your life a bit easier and besides, I've lived in these woods all me life and I know the lay of the land a lot better than you ever will. Save you a lot of wrong turns for sure."
Kella didn't know what to say. That she would find a friendly soul this far out was unlikely enough, but to find a companion willing to help was something she hadn't even considered. "But...but why put yourself out like that? I mean, I don't even know your name."
The woman looked a bit surprised at this, then laughed heartily. "I can't believe I didn't even tell you that, my girl. Well you're talking to Bran-Til Jii, and I'm proud to be the greatest tinkerer in these whole wide woods. But you can call me Bran, as we're going to be good companions from here forward."
Bran offered a tiny hand to Kella, who took it in return, noting she had quite the grip for such a small person. "Pleased to meet you Bran. I'm grateful for your help."
Bran waved her off. "Think nothing of it, my girl. Don't think I'm not getting anything out of the deal myself. I get the feeling if I stick with you, I'll have the chance to work out solutions to a lot of problems you can't, and vice versa. And there's nothing I like more than building a way to crack even the toughest nut. So I'll leave the brain bits to you and your book learning, while you leave the physical to me. Deal?"
Kella smile for what seemed like the first time in ages. "Deal."
“Now let’s start with that backpack of yours, I just thought of a fantastic way to put your stuff in order without any effort on your part…”
2 time segments