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A Warrior in a Garden

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

Warrior in a Garden

Writing Prompt: Your character has entered a competition at a Hobbit festival.

Keatoph stumbles through the forest, bloody and bruised. His backpack sticks to his chest piece. His sweat serves as glue. He heads south east through the Old King’s forest, searching for a village he knows of in these parts.

In a half hour's time, the forest thins out, hills knit together, and a sign appears. “Welcome to Lobaton,” it reads. The young warrior cannot help but smile at it. He has heard of this place before and feels excitement for the comforts he anticipates finding.

He passes over hills and finds a path, which he hopes will lead to where life can be found. He walks slowly, feeling his wounds as he steps. Every couple of minutes he is passed by a hobbit driving sheep, or carrying wheelbarrows of fruit, vegetables, and even once a basket full of little baby chicks.

Each one who passes waves and smiles, or greets, “See you soon!” Keatoph both appreciates their friendliness and is a little thrown off by it.

By the time another thirty minutes passes, our protagonist is rejoined with all of his passerbys and finds himself at a festival of the hobbits. Tents create pathways across fields. Stages are placed beside them. Music is playing. Children are laughing. The smell of pumpkin and ginger perfumes the air.

“Excuse me,” Keatoph says, grabbing the attention of an elder hobbit, rocking slowly in a creaky chair. “I don’t have very much money on me. Is there a place where I can get some cheap food?”

“Oh,” the old man answers back, smiling and nodding. “I’m afraid you’ve come the wrong month if you’re looking for something cheap. Everyone here has been growing the best and the finest for the festival.”

“I see,” the warrior answers, tucking his arms deeper behind his poncho, hoping to keep the ribbons of his shirt discreet. “Sorry for bothering you.”

“It’s no bother,” the elder answers. “You’ll get some free food if you enter into the competition. The sign up booth is just over there.” He points to a wooden table, where a pair of lady hobbits sit with a stack of papers.

“Thank you,” Keatoph smiles. He heads over to the booth and reads the sign up sheet.

It reads: Enter into the Annual Loboton Hobbit Festival Contest! Great Prizes for the top three contenders.

The young warrior gives his signature, and then, by the direction of the ladies, heads to the center of the celebration, where the event is about to begin.

He takes a seat between two hobbits. One is large in every direction for his kind. He stares with horrified eyes at the bruises and blood on the warrior, and tries as nonchalantly as a fat hobbit is able, to scoot down the bench they share. It bends as he moves.

The other hobbit beside Keatoph is gangly for his kind, his belly being the size of a melon beneath his shirt and vest.

“The name’s Tom,” He cheers, handing him a cloth napkin. “You’ll be needing one of these.”

“Thank you, Tom. My name is Keatoph.”

All of the other contenders around the picnic table take their turn smiling and nodding their heads at him.

“What happened to you?” The large gentleman beside him asks after a minute.

“Oh this?” Keatoph asks, lifting his arms up from the counter they rest on. “I’m kind of in the middle of an orc hunt right now. You understand.”

“Indeed,” the large folk answers with an air of confusion.

The stands around them are now greatly crowded with hobbitkind. The women wear sundresses, and the men are garnished in vests and flat caps. Some of the little one’s wear bonnets. Together, the crowd creates a symphony of joyous discussion and laughter.

The noise goes on until an announcer presents himself.

“Greetings ladies and gentlemen!” He calls to the crowd.

“Greetings!” They cheer back.

“We gather here for a most wonderful occasion, the Annual Loboton Hobbit Festival!” At this the crowd goes wild. “Yes, yes! Of course, it wouldn’t be the Loboton Hobbit Festival, without our annual competition!” Clamoring shines forth again, a regular response to anything the announcer says. “Let us begin! Bring out the stew!”

At the announcer’s call, bowls, the size of a hobbit’s belly, are brought out and set before each participant.

“Wow,” Keatoph gasps. “This is great.”

“The rules are simple!” Calls the announcer. “The participant with the least amount left will be given first place which is ten points. The second lowest, will be given second, which is worth 9. So on and so forth. There will be two events in total. We will begin at the whistle.”

Our protagonist looks at his bowl. He is awfully hungry. Still, he’s not so sure that he actually wants to participate in an eating contest with these folk. On the other hand, he does not wish to mock their festivities by eating at a reasonable pace. He looks to the gangly man sitting next to him.

“Would you mind telling me what the prize is for winning the competition?”

“Not at all. The prize is your choice of stead from the horse house of Farhill.”

“Oh. Thank you.” That settles it. Keatoph could use a horse for his present campaign. He is going to attempt to out eat these hobbits.

The competition is fun at first. He eats quickly, hoping to out pace his stomach’s cries for peace. His strength returns to him, his mind clears, and his spirits lift. However, as he progresses, he slows, and is surprised to find that his opponents do not slow with him. It is a fine battle to the finish, and when it is over, he has won his tablemates respect (as well as several trips to the outhouse between the next event). He had earned himself fifth place of ten.

Next, is the sneaking competition. The picnic table is removed and in its place, rows of hay bales are placed, making towers and walls intersecting each other. The rules are these. Two points are given for every participant one can sneak up on. If you are snuck up on, however, you are out of the competition and your points are void.You will simply be awarded the placement you earn. If someone notices you sneaking up on them and says “turn away,” before you touch them, you must do so.

Keatoph is surprised to find that Tom is even more excited for the event than he is. The young warrior has heard that hobbits are exceptionally light on their feet and good at blending into the background. Still, Keatoph’s life has all but made him for games like this.

“I’ll tell you what, Keatoph,” Tom grins brightly. “You look like the kind of person that could become a shadow at a moment’s notice. If you beat me, I’ll give you an elixir from my shop. It'll clean those wounds up in no time.”

“I won’t say no to that,” Keatoph answers. They shake hands and depart from each other, searching for a good location to begin the games.

“On your marks, get set, sneak!” The announcer calls, and off they go into the hay maze.

Some of the hobbits remain still, crouching and laying on the ground. Keatoph, on the other hand, is out to get points while points are available.

He paces a few yards into the maze and turns left. No one. He reaches for the hail bales next to him and begins pulling from them. Some stab him as he yanks. They loosen a little. He creates for himself a nearly invisible pocket in the wall, something for him to step into. From here, he climbs.

At the top of the wall, Keatoph can see three to four rows away, depending on the direction. Little one’s point at him front the stands as he traverses along top of the hay, keeping low to the ground. Quickly he finds his first victim. A hobbit in a button down and suspenders, with curly blonde hair galavants between the rows. Excitement riddles his composure. Our protagonist steps off the ledge with a gentle hop in his foot, making sure to touch the man before allowing his feet to brace the earth.

The poor gentlefolk shudders with fright as Keatoph ousts him from the game. He had never seen it coming. He smiles at the warrior somewhat sadly, somewhat scared, and begins working his way out of the maze. All the while he shouts, “I’m out!” at any hobbits which may be lurking nearby.

Keatoph is able to employ this strategy two more times before it loses its efficacy. He spots Tom attempting to sneak up on him once, but to his fortune, is able to tell him to turn away before it is too late.

The competition narrows as the sun sinks to the horizon, until it is only he and Tom left. This news is given to them by the announcer’s shouting. Keatoph has only seen Tom once the entire competition, and at that point, it had nearly been too late. Still, the hero had prepared for this kind of thing early on.

He returns to the hidden hole he had placed in the hay wall at the beginning of the event. He buries himself behind its straw thistles. Then he waits. Hobbits, though they may be light of foot, are not necessarily keen of eye.

Twenty minutes pass and a sound is heard. The pattering of feet comes so lightly it may have been a mouse. In fact, the sound is only noticeable because Keatoph can feel the presence of another person nearby. Whereas his five senses would have failed him, the young warrior knew well how to employ another sense; one which we all have. This sense is immaterial, perhaps a sense of the soul. And when we use it, we can often feel when we are not alone or when we are being watched. Keatoph has made good friends with this ability in recent months, and it does not betray him now. He fixes his stance and waits.

Soon, the gangly hobbit passes him, rolling his feet from heel to toe, heel to toe. His head stays so level, one would have thought him to be riding on a bicycle instead of walking. Keatoph reaches for him quickly, grabbing his shoulder. Again, his prey gasps with horror and then, after a second, calms himself.

“You really got me there,” Tom chuckles, placing his hands on his knees and bending over. “Good work.”

“You as well,” Keatoph answers, patting his back. “Had I been hunting you, things may have ended differently.”

“Maybe,” Tom smiles. “Come by next year and we will see.”

The sun sets, the competition ends, and Keatoph wins himself a new horse and a new friend. His wounds are cared for and his belly is filled.

Read chapter one here.

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