First Prize: Quill

This one was a lot of fun. I haven’t brought Quill out in a very long time, but he seemed to fit quite well with the requested prompt for this story.  I hope to do more stories about his shenanigans in the future. Let me know if there is any interest!

The first prize for my Food Day Contest, as requested by . They requested a story like the lion and the mouse: in which the little guy is afraid of the bigger guy, but in the end comes to their aid. Hope I did it justice! 

Not Good. Very not good.

Quill leapt over a book on the floor, the pages crumpled and spine facing up. His hand brushed the embossed title as he slipped less than an inch over it and stumbled on the other side of the tome. Something crashed as he regained his momentum and ran. There had to be a place in the study that he could hide.

It looked like a study, anyway. Bookshelves from floor to faraway ceiling, thick carpet worn with age, an enormous work desk cluttered with papers.

His pen was still up on that desk, but he didn’t see himself having a chance to retrieve it. Considering how alarmed his current adversary had been to see him, he doubted the guy would allow him to just stroll back onto the desk like he owned the place.

It wasn’t his fault he’d fallen into existence right there and then. Quill had no control over that sort of thing.

He couldn’t exactly explain that he was merely a living embodiment of knowledge, a being that could travel through the written word. That wouldn’t sit well with someone scholarly enough to have such a packed study.

So he ran along the base of the shelves without looking back as the human stumbled after him. A shadow, huge and looming, dashed across the sheer cliff of books alongside him as the human closed in at last. Quill had briefly taken the upper hand when he leapt right off the desk. Without looking back, Quill assumed the much larger person had tripped first on his chair, then on the lamp.

In a perfect world, the wide bay window would be cracked open. Quill could probably find his way to the back garden that way, and get out of the human’s hair until he could find a better book to emerge from.

The window was closed, as was the solid wood door on the far side of the room. Quill didn’t have many avenues for escape, especially without his pen. He might as well be a living doll like the human undoubtedly thought he was.

The pen, a shabby feather with some of the barbs rumpled and discolored from age, was the real source of whatever made him “work.” Quill had absorbed the knowledge available in many many books over his lifetime, but he’d yet to figure out the full story on his own origin. Whoever owned that knowledge kept it under strict guard, and no amount of book hopping had led him to the answer.

Usually it led him to stuffy, quiet libraries, and not much happened as he explored. Usually.

Sometimes, his traveling dropped him on a desk in front of a human who was otherwise minding his own business. Quill would be embarrassed about his interruption if the reaction wasn’t always to try and grab him.

It wasn’t his fault he was barely over five inches tall. He couldn’t always control which copy of a book he might hop out of, either. That was something the pen decided.

The pen that now sat useless on the desk while Quill sprinted away from it as fast as his tiny legs could carry him.

“Come back!” the human commanded, even as he swept a hand after Quill’s frantic steps. His voice inspired a fluttering of Quill’s heart. He barely had time to dive to the floor, the hand swooping just over his head. Already the huge fingers curled inward, snaring air where they meant to close around him.

No time, Quill thought as he lurched back to his feet and darted the way he’d come. His chest hurt from the dive, and from falling off the desk. He could withstand a lot, but this would push his limits.

Luck took pity on him as the human stumbled; instead of another grab, he was treated to a minor earthquake through the carpet as he dashed away, the desk looming higher in his view.

“Aha!” Quill laughed, his voice shriller than he would like, as he noticed a tiny gap between two bookshelves nearer to the desk. He’d missed that earlier. It wasn’t perfect, but when there was someone several times his size ready to snatch him off the floor … he wasn’t about to be picky.

He dove into the small space as soon as another stomp shook the ground inches behind him. The human growled out some kind of swear, or maybe tried to; Quill didn’t listen as he sidled further back from the opening.

A hand, definitely big enough to close him in a harsh fist and never let him go, tried to follow. Quill’s breath hitched as the fingers slipped past the opening behind him and tried to stretch after him. He reached the wall and watched out of the opening darkened by a human’s shadow. Quill had to hold his breath as the giant tried to fit his hand into the space.

He couldn’t. No matter how he tried, the human couldn’t fit his hand far enough to snare Quill in his grasp.

The one eye he could see, far above at the human’s stooped height, narrowed at him. “Get out of there,” a deep voice commanded.

“Uh. No?” Quill replied. Did the guy really think that would work?!

He’d spent time in jars, boxes, pockets. Humans had wanted to take him apart before. In general, someone catching him meant a lot of trouble and pain before he could escape. The best way to avoid that was to stay out of this human’s grasp, no matter that he’d been the one to disrupt the quiet study.

The human swore again and yanked his hand free. “Fine, stupid thing,” he pouted, to Quill’s surprise. Most people wouldn’t give up on catching him so easily. The man stood, allowing meager light into the cramped space, and set about picking up the things he’d knocked over in the excitement.

Quill’s stomach clenched when the human returned to the desk and picked up the pen. He turned it over once, frowning, before setting it aside in a cup of other normal pens. Quill sighed; at least he hadn’t tried to write with it. That never ended well.

The human flipped through the pages of the book Quill had hopped out of, but found no clues. He wouldn’t find the answer in a shabby old book about medicine, not that Quill would come out and tell him after their rough introduction.

He didn’t expect the guy to sink into a chair and heave a sigh. The hands that had tried to grab Quill before lifted up to cover the man’s face. Quill crept forward and frowned deeper at the dejected slump in those shoulders. This was new. Most people wouldn’t move on so soon, but to this man he might as well be a passing fancy. It was interesting and confusing and Quill found himself at the front of the opening to watch closer.

The door all but flew open. Quill drowned a yelp and lurched backwards as another human stomped across the room to stand menacingly across the desk from the first. “Colin, did you find it yet?” the man demanded. He planted a hand on the various papers scattered on the desk and shoved them around.

Colin remained seated but shoo’d the bigger man’s hand away. “I will, if you leave me to work. The old man was one of the best secret keepers in the world, you can’t expect me to suss this out that fast.”

The other man bristled. “Don’t be cheeky with me. Just get it done and quit stomping around in here!” The man didn’t heed his own advice, stalking heavily out the door once again.

Colin slumped again as all the bluster exited with his apparent taskmaster. He reordered some of the papers, then scanned the many bookshelves surrounding him. He looked as forlorn as a bird in a cage.

He needed to find something, some bit of knowledge. That drew Quill’s curiosity. Best secret-keeper in the world, huh?

Before he could stop himself, Quill squeezed free of the space between the bookshelves. He marched around the side of the clifflike desk with as much authority as someone smaller than a pocketbook could manage.

“What are you looking for?” he called up, thinking at the last second to put his hands on his hips.

Colin flinched in exaggerated alarm and his gaze whipped downward. Tension bristled in his whole body, and one hand twitched. Quill shifted to a defensive stance with his fists raised.

Colin ended their silent standoff with a dismissive huff. “What’s it to a…”

Quill smirked. “Don’t worry about that. Now, I don’t owe you any help, but that guy got me curious, so maybe I’ll offer anyway.”

He got a side-eye in response. “Think you can?” He wasn’t as skeptical as expected.

Quill shrugged. “You didn’t make progress chasing me around. Could I make things much worse?

Colin opened his mouth to retort, then stopped. His expression flattened and he shook his head.

“Great, so I’ll try something,” Quill said, rubbing his hands together. Then he winced. “I’ll … need a lift to the desk so I can work with something this secret-keeper left.”

It was Colin’s turn to smirk. He leaned over, one hand reaching out. Quill had no time to offer any instruction before two fingers pinched the back of his shirt and hauled him up. In seconds the floor was far below.

Then Colin let him down on the desk, gentle despite his quick grab. “Alright, then. Show me whatcha got.”

Quill scowled and fixed his shirt while he stalked over to the pens to retrieve his feather. “Just watch, Colin,” he assured. “What are you after? Did the guy who wrote these know where it was?” He tapped a shoe on one of the papers on the desk.

Colin stared, looming and nonplussed, and nodded. “I … need his will. It’s hidden.”

Quill felt the thrill of a challenge. “Fun! Time to work my magic!”

Colin scoffed yet again, but he couldn’t hide the way he leaned in curiously as Quill knelt over the papers. He held the feather near its base, pointing the tip at some of the scrawled words before him, and let the connection open.

Knowledge connected to knowledge. With his pen, Quill could use those connections or forge new ones, and it gave him the ability to travel long distances instantly. For this case, he’d need to create a connection between the written word and the knowledge that may have stayed in a man’s head until he died.

Tricky, but possible, with Quill and his feather.

Images flashed in his mind, murky at first. Quill had to shake his head to keep the clutter out of the way while he searched. Above him, Colin watched in skeptical awe. By now, the feather’s barbs were probably shifting colors; if the sight of a tiny man on the desk didn’t convince the human of magic existing, the miniature light show might do the trick.

“Oh, interesting,” Quill muttered at last, sitting back from the paper. He absently propped the feather on his shoulder and mulled over what he’d found. “This guy was paranoid about mind-readers.”

Colin looked annoyed. “I mean, yeah? That’s why no one figured out where his will is.”

“Until now,” Quill pointed out smugly. “You can make yourself blank for a time, but knowledge held is knowledge earned. You should check the secret compartment on the bottom of this desk.”

Colin stared for a beat, and then all but threw himself out of the chair. Quill wobbled as the human practically dropped to the floor and started scrabbling around for a secret compartment somewhere below.

There came another earthquake when he found it, and Quill nearly tipped over where he sat. Something below slid out of place, and then Colin emerged with a yellowed envelope in hand and a grin on his face.

“You helped me after all, whatever-you-are,” he announced.

Quill grinned. “Sure did. You can call me Quill.”

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