The low murmuring sound rising from the packed hall made cold shudders run down Elliott’s spine.
“I can’t do this.” He stated for the fifth time that morning, his hands shaking uncontrollably.
“Yes you can.” His wife refuted him for the fifth time, lightly tapping his shoulder with her fist. “All they want you to do is talk about your books. If you can do that for three hours with me over dinner, you can give a twenty minute panel.” He fidgeted, running a hand through his hair.
“Dear heart, you know that’s different. You’re my inspiration and sounding board, you’re used to sorting through all of my nonsense to get to the heart of it. I’m going to start babbling. I know I am.” She smoothed his hair where he had mussed it.
“No you’re not.”
“I’m going to-“
“Nope!” She silenced him with a kiss- after nearly a year of courting and several happy months of marriage, that was still enough to leave him silent and blinking for a moment.
“Now, look at me.” She cupped his face in her calloused hands and forced him to meet her eyes. “Everyone there is a fan of your writing. You could tell them the backstory of the tavern maid and they’d gobble it up. All they want to do is hear you talk, and heaven knows you can do that, love.” She grinned, bright and buoyant, and he couldn’t resist hugging her close. “You’re going to do great.” He sighed.
“What would I do without you?” She giggled, and he startled as he swore something moved in her backpack. “What in the world-“
“Mister Elliott? It’s time.”
He instantly forgot about his wife’s moving backpack as he followed the convention staff member up to the curtain, his pounding heart almost drowning out his introduction.
He managed to get through the first half of his presentation, the speech about the future plans for his series, mostly because he had practiced it so often he found himself mumbling it in his sleep. The audience oohed and ahhed and applauded politely, and he found himself smiling at the pure joy he saw in some of the faces as they listened.
Then the question and answer section started, and just as he feared, the words wouldn’t come out right. For all his skills with pen and paper and as much as he could talk one-on-one, he’d always gotten tongue-tied in front of big crowds. Reading parts of his novel to the people of Pelican Town had been bad enough, but now this… He saw laughter and scorn in faces where there had previously been appreciation, and his heart plummeted towards his feet. He called upon one last person out of pure desperation, sweaty hands clinging to the podium like a lifeline.
“Mister Elliott, Krane from The Battle of Arturgian pulled some really random pranks when off duty. Where in the world did you get the inspiration for that?” Just as Elliott opened his mouth to reply, a faint uproar rose up from the back of the crowd- along with a faint, familiar jingling. Elliott blinked, shocked. She couldn’t have…
The surprise and jingling wove through the crowd- and finally, the source appeared as a small white rabbit wearing a belled collar dove to the open space in front of the chairs, grey ears perked happily at this new game. Elliott laughed helplessly and put his hand to his face, then dug into his trouser pocket- and sure enough, there were some dried banana chips there. He knew his wife’s smile had been devious when she teasingly put one hand into his pocket this morning. He stepped towards the rabbit and knelt with a chip in his outstretched hand.
“Ollie, you little harebrain, get over here.” He called good-naturedly, and his wife’s favorite rabbit bounded over to him and snatched the chip before allowing himself to be picked up. Elliott set the rabbit on the podium and petted him, much to the amusement and clapping of the crowd.
“Where do I get my character’s pranks? Why, from my biggest source of inspiration- my wife.” He said dryly, finally spotting his dear spouse fighting not to laugh her head off in the back of the room. He blew her a kiss, just to watch her blush bright red at the resulting wolf-whistles and appreciative shouting from the crowd. From the way she narrowed her eyes at him he knew he would be inviting payback, but that was okay.
His fans loved characters with a little mischief in them.