Monday, March 17, 2014

Tournament Journal Round 1

Happy St. Patricks Day to anyone who celebrates it/teaches children and feels obligated to fill their day with green and rainbow-themed activities!

I probably should have been doing this all along, but I'm going to start posting the writing tournament pieces I have done. First, I'll start with the prompt. Then I'll add the actual writing piece so you can read it. At the bottom of the page, I'll post whether I won the round (my story became canon), passed the round, or lost the round. In each round I competed with two or three people, writing the same prompt to see who could do it better. In addition to that, we all made character sheets, and whoever we were paired up with in a given round, we had to add their character into our stories as well. For round 1, for example, my character Lucy Finch was paired up with the character Rebecca Hoth. Also, fair warning, these submissions are only minutely edited. I usually didn't have time to scour them for mistakes, but I'm keeping my edit-happy self away from them so you can read them the way I actually submitted them!

If you want to see other contestant's submissions, feel free to check out The Tournament of Secrets and read them.

Round 1 Prompt

You are walking down a crowded street when you notice an almost imperceptible bump different from the typical bustle of the crowd. Suspecting a pickpocket, your hand flashes to your side to discover what was taken. To your surprise, you find nothing missing but rather a cream colored business card.

You look around, but realize that there’s no telling who put it there.

You flip the card over in your fingers. On what you assume is the front is printed the letters DLG in shiny green, printed ink and a graphic of a Celtic trefoil knot. On the backside, also printed in the same green shade is the following:

Have you read the Prose Edda, specifically the Skáldskaparmál section? Find any possible real-world candidates for Idunn’s unique produce. I would like the name of the fruits, where they typically grow, and any potential uses. Your efforts are being monitored. Failure to comply with my wishes would be…unhealthy.

Round 1 Submission--3000 word limit.

Lucy kicked a booted toe against the stone steps of Skoger Church. Nothing. The oldest building in Drammen, Norway had no clues, and she was starting to lose hope. Tilting her head back, she stared at the ancient, white-washed walls of the small, steepled church. In the afternoon sun, it burned her eyes with a glare like a field of freshly fallen snow.
            With a growl of frustration, Lucy turned on her heel and returned to her moped, shoving the white helmet onto her head and kicking the bike to life with a little more force than was necessary. Four days, she thought bitterly. I've been stranded here for four days, seen every old building in the city, and still nothing.
            As she bounced down the dirt road leading away from the secluded, medieval church and back to the quaint city of Drammen, Lucy rubbed an absent hand over the fading bruise on her upper arm. “Stupid,” she muttered. “So flippin stupid.” To think that she thought someone honestly wanted to pay her money to be a body guard. Her, Lucy Finch with the body of a 12-year-old boy and all the experience of one too. No, come to think of it, 12-year-old boys were probably boy scouts or something. She was a Dollar Tree cashier.
            But she had gotten in that car anyway, and as soon as the doors closed, someone had shoved a needle in her arm. In retrospect, if she hadn't fought them, digging the needle around in her flesh, she would at least have woken up without a giant bruise to show for her efforts.
            She returned to her Clarion Hotel room, slamming the door shut with the heel of her foot and striding to the table littered with printed papers from the lobby computer. Propped up against the lamp, the white business card with acid green writing served as a bleak reminder of her position. Lucy picked it up, angling it so the light shimmered across the glimmering ink. “Have you read the Prose Edda, specifically the Skáldskaparmál section? Find any possible real-world candidates for Idunn’s unique produce. I would like the name of the fruits, where they typically grow, and any potential uses. Your efforts are being monitored. Failure to comply with my wishes would be…unhealthy.”
            Along with the card, Lucy had woken in the hotel room and found surveillance photos of her family in her pocket. Nothing outwardly menacing, but she caught the threat nonetheless. Lucy threw down the card. “Nothing to lose, I said,” she muttered. “Such an idiot.”
            The card fluttered on top of the papers of research she had done on the Skáldskaparmál. It didn't make any sense. The fruit the card referred to was just a legend; a Norwegian myth about a goddess, Idunn, who possessed eleven golden apples that had something to do with eternal life. At first she thought it might have been a code, but if they wanted her to be that clever, they should have chosen someone who had graduated with a GPA a littler higher than 3.1. So she had taken it literally, starting with the markets of Drammen. After countless confused looks and head shakes, she moved on to a more symbolic approach, looking through the oldest buildings in the city for some kind of painting or sculpture—anything to do with fruit.
            And now, nothing. They had dropped her in Drammen, Norway for a reason. It had to be here. With a sigh, Lucy gathered a few papers, checked to make sure the credit card they had left her with was still in her purse, and decided to do some more research at the lobby computer.
            As she crossed the plush carpet of the lobby, made to look like a giant living room with brown suede chairs and sofas, and gleaming glass tables, Lucy chewed on the inside of her cheek. Maybe the apples were something more modern, like a wrinkle cream...
            Suddenly she felt a tug, and in a flash someone had jerked her purse off her shoulder and darted to the entrance. Lucy gaped for just a moment before her brain caught up and called for action. The thief was fast, already halfway to the lobby door as she just stood there staring. Lucy took out her pocket knife, and keeping the blade safely sheathed, she took aim at the back of the thief's neck. Without hesitation or even a moment to take aim, Lucy launched the hunk of metal at the person who was nearly at the door with her purse.
            The folded knife found its mark, as it always would, smacking hard into the girl's neck and catapulting her forward. Lucy sprinted to catch up, and as the lithe, tall girl stood from the ground, rubbing her neck, Lucy snatched her purse back.
            The girl, just a kid really, winced as she rubbed the back of her neck. She straightened, and ran assessing eyes over Lucy. Her short, choppy brown hair stuck out at wild angles, and she was covered from head to bare toes in dirt smudges.
            “Jeez,” Lucy muttered, glaring at the girl. “You've got some nerve, doing that in a hotel lobby.”
            The receptionist had grabbed the phone, and spoke quickly into the receiver in nervous-sounding Norwegian.
            The girl handed the pocket knife back to Lucy. “Good shot.” Her accent was like a charming mix between British and something else European...German maybe.
            Lucy snatched it out of the girl's grubby hand.
            Golden brown eyes stared at her hard, narrowed slightly under the girl's frowning brows. “Did you get a card?”
            Lucy straightened, surprised. “What was that?”
            “A card.” She produced a cream-colored card with green writing across it. “Like this.”
            Her mouth fell open as she stared at the paper between the wild child's two fingers.
            “How did you know about-?”
            “I thought so. You must come with me now.” Her hand shot out suddenly, grabbing Lucy's wrist and hauling her with surprising strength out of the sliding doors of the hotel and to the busy street outside.
            “Wait, wait, hold on a second.” Lucy wrenched her wrist from the girl's fingers. “Who are you?”
            “Rebecca,” she girl said, as if it were obvious. “You must come with me.”
            “Why would I do that? You just tried to rob me.”
            Rebecca scowled at her like she was a few gadgets short of a Swiss Army Knife. “You have the card, yes? The apples are in my forest.”
            Lucy's blue eyes bulged. “Are you for real?”
            Rebecca looked confused. “Of course I am real.”
            Lucy rolled her eyes. “I mean how did you find them? Who are you? And how did you find me?”
            “You talk too much.” Rebecca started walking down the street.
            At a loss, Lucy adjusted the shoulder strap of her brown leather purse and followed the girl down the sidewalk of the charming street lined with old stone buildings nestled between newer construction, like the apex of old and new world. “Yo, what do you mean you know where the apples are?”
          “What else could I mean?” She asked over her shoulder. “They are in my forest. It will take time to get there.”
            “How did you find me?”
            “I stole purses from tourists.”
            Lucy gave her an incredulous look. “Seriously?”
            “I waited for the one who could stop me. That was you. It worked, yes?”
            Lucy shook her head. “Yikes.”
            “Stop for supplies,” the girl suggested. “You will hike.”

            Hike wasn't really the word for it. Backpacking? But the term didn't quite cover the blisters, the unreasonable pace, the inhumane nights with a companion about as charismatic as the stones wedged in her shoes. Rebecca meant it when she said they would be walking to their destination. She agreed to take the moped to the edge of Rollagsfjell forest, but after that it was entirely on foot. They covered several miles a day, weaving through the serene temple of preserved nature that was Norway's most ancient forest. Rebecca seemed to know exactly where she was going.
            Lucy couldn't get much out of her, but from what she understood, something odd was going on in this girl's forest. And she kept calling it her forest, like it belonged to her. It didn't completely shock her—the kid looked like the lost boys' older sister. She was taller than Lucy, definitely a teenager, and definitely used to being on her own in these woods. She went to town occasionally for necessities, and divulged the information that someone had slipped her that card as she walked down the street—a card identical to Lucy's.
            “I know what they want,” she explained. “But I need help to get it. So I looked for you.”
            “Why do you need my help?” Lucy huffed as they clambered up a steep hill.
            “You will see.”
            So they walked for three days. The longest three days of Lucy's life, although she did have to admit, there was something incredibly calming about the secluded forest. As they weaved through the tangle of tall, thin trees, all of them blanketed with patches of moss at their base like Christmas tree skirts, Lucy tried to keep her eye on the darting figure of Rebecca several yards ahead of her. She was like a forest sprite, hopping nimbly from rock to rock.
            The spring air felt cool and thin, but beads of sweat trickled down Lucy's back as she forced her sore legs onward. Every step was like walking on hot coals, her blisters burned so much. But if this girl was for real—and she certainly didn't seem capable of deceiving anyone older than three—Lucy could be done with this mad scheme she had fallen into.
            Rebecca suddenly made a hard right, and Lucy scrambled to catch up with her. She skidded down a short hill, scattering pebbles and sticks in her wake, and then came around a large boulder. She stopped, her breath catching in her throat. Before her stretched a glorious expanse of vivid green. Soft grass padded the forest floor, and forming a natural tunnel of sorts, lush evergreens bowed and arced over the grass to a glen just barely visible beyond.
            Rebecca had started to walk through the opening, her steps suddenly slow and reverent. She turned, eyes alight with something Lucy had never seen. An adoration maybe, or deep respect for something Lucy might never understand. “It is through here. Leave your bag.”
            Lucy obeyed, sliding her black backpack off her shoulders, and followed her with eyes wandering around the organic cathedral. Even the animal and insect chatter around her died, as if they really had entered some kind of sacred temple. When they emerged from the green tunnel, Lucy realized that the glen ended abruptly only a few steps from them. They had reached the edge of a canyon, too wide to jump, but narrow enough that she could easily see the other side. Directly across from them, a boulder jutted out at the precipice of the opposite cliff.
            “It is the hand of Idunn,” Rebecca said as Lucy came to stand next to her near the edge of the cliff.
            Lucy looked down first, seeing a thin river gushing below them. Looking up once more, she realized that the boulder really did look like a closed fist, with thumb and swirl of closed fingers facing them.
            Rebecca turned to face Lucy, her wide, brown eyes earnest. “The apples are here.”
            Lucy glanced at the stone fist. “You're going to have to elaborate on that.”
            The pixie girl pointed to the fist. “Where the first finger curls around, do you see the opening?”
            Lucy squinted at it. “Kind of. Like if she were holding a string, that spot?”
            “Yes. There is a small notch there. Just big enough for the head of an arrow to fit in.”
            Realization dawned. “You need me to sink an arrow into that tiny hole I can barely see.”
            Rebecca nodded. “I am a very good shot. But not that good.”
            “And then what?”
            Rebecca shrugged. “I only know that is the hand of Idunn. That there is something there mere mortals cannot have.”
            “Hence the impossible task.”
            Another nod.
            Lucy turned to her suddenly, frowning. “How did you get involved in all this anyway?”
            Her gaze fell, and she sniffed. “Sharp.”
            “What's that?”
            “They took a friend.” She rubbed her chapped, bottom lip. “They found him.”
            Lucy suddenly felt a wrench in her heart for this girl. She was in the same situation as Lucy, and probably unwillingly dragged into the machinations of a society she had long since left behind.
            Hardening her face suddenly, the girl turned, went to a fallen log, and dragged out a bow and quiver of arrows. As she strung the hand-made bow, Lucy shook her head. She really was like a Lost Girl in her own magical Neverland. Rebecca handed her the bow, expression devoid of emotion.
            Lucy took the bow, tested the string, and grabbed a smooth arrow. Notching it in the string, she brought the bow up experimentally. It was a solid weapon, and surprisingly well-made. Well, maybe not that surprising, she smiled to herself. This kid has the whole survival thing pegged. She blew out a stabilizing breath, inhaled, and brought the bow up to take aim. Eyes on the miniscule target, and heart praying she could hit something she couldn't even accurately see, she loosed the arrow.
            It whistled through the air, and Lucy held her breath as she watched for the microsecond it sailed toward its target.
            The arrow sank neatly into the stone, shaft quivering from the impact.
            Rebecca unsheathed a knife. “Get ready.”
            Lucy turned to her, expression panicked. “For what?”
            “Not sure yet.”
            The ground rumbled beneath their feet, and Lucy shuffled her feet nervously. What the heck? Suddenly the dirt shifted, and like a landslide, the ground began to crumble away. Lucy backed up a step, but the cliff broke off suddenly, and before she could escape, she found herself sliding uncontrollably down an avalanche of dirt and rocks. She lost her balance, and tumbled and bounced, losing her sense of up and down.
            When she splashed into the water, she only just kept herself from inhaling in surprise. And the ride wasn't over. As soon as she was fully submerged, a strong current sucked her down, and once more completely at the mercy of nature, she was dragged through the water.
            She surfaced suddenly, coughing and spluttering in darkness. She heard splashing to her left, and hoped it was Rebecca coming up for air as well. Lucy swished her hands around in the water around her, treading with her head just above the waterline. “Rebecca?”
            “Here,” the girl panted.
            Lucy wiped water from her eyes, squinting. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, and she noticed a faint light glowing not far from them. “Do you see that?”
            “I see it,” Rebecca said. “Come on.”
            They swam forward, and suddenly Lucy came up against a rock ledge. She hoisted herself out, and with trembling limbs already fatigued from the journey, she staggered into a standing position. The light was coming from something just ahead of them.
            She could make out Rebecca standing, wet, but otherwise apparently unaffected by their rude transportation. “This is it,” she said.
            As they neared, Lucy saw eleven small golden balls lined up on a low stone pedestal. They each glowed with a dull golden light, and gleamed like they were actually made of the precious metal. They were each no bigger than a ping pong ball. Lucy crouched down to get a closer look at the balls. They looked innocuous enough. Reaching out a finger, she lightly tapped one of them.
            It rose off the pedestal, making her jump. Levitating only a few inches from the stone, the light increased, and rotating slowly, the ball suddenly expanded. Swirling golden strands, like the helix of DNA, stretched outward until the ball was the size of an apple. Lucy leaned down to peer at it in awe. It turned innocently in the air, dozens of strands criss-crossed and interwoven in a distinctly biological pattern, although Lucy wasn't sure why or what they meant.
            When she touched it again, it shrunk, returning to it's place on the stone. Lucy turned to look at Rebecca. “Holy crap.”
            Rebecca tilted her head. “There is strong power here.”
            “Uh, you think? Are we okay with these to the crooks who are holding our loved ones hostage?”
            Rebecca didn't answer, scowling at the balls.
            Lucy rubbed her forehead. Whatever this was, it wasn't just a fruit. It was something important.
            “We have little choice,” Rebeccas said finally. “I will take six. You take five.”
            Lucy wrapped her arms around her knees as she crouched down before the mythical apples. “I don't know Rebecca. This seems wrong.”
            “It's not a debate.” The girl suddenly scooped up six of the objects, all of them inflating into their helix apple shapes before quickly solidifying back into their solid forms as she shoved them into the large pockets of her cargo pants.
            “H-hey wait!” Lucy quickly unbuttoned her plaid shirt so she was down to the white tank underneath, and scooped the heavy orbs into her shirt. She ran after Rebecca as she tied the balls into the shirt safely.
            When they surfaced outside of the cave, they drifted down the river until they could finally take hold of the shore. Lucy dragged herself onto dry land, panting and sapped of energy. Rebecca paid her no mind as she skipped lithely out of the water and down the bank.
            “Rebecca wait!” Lucy called. But before she could scramble after the Lost Girl, she felt a sudden prick in her neck. Her vision swam, and with a heavy blink of her eyes, she felt herself fall into darkness.

Round 1 Story is Canon. I moved on to round 2! I'll post that one tomorrow. 

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