Dragontide's Daughter by Strewnpapers | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

Chapter 26: The Bird's Nest

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Ellie stirred as the first light of dawn seeped through the small window of the hut. She stretched, feeling the lingering aches from yesterday’s journey, and turned her head to see Pipwhistle munching on bread that looked like the bread that Bram had given her.

“Pip, did you take that bread from my pack?” She sat up quickly, causing the blanket to slip off her shoulders.

Pipwhistle looked up, crumbs falling from his mouth, and gave her a cheeky grin. “Good morning to you too, my dear Ellie. Yes, I did. Thought it best to keep it safe, away from the bog water and all.”

Ellie frowned, her stomach rumbling. “You’re a thief, Pip.”

“Now, now,” Pip replied, waving a piece of bread in the air. “Let’s not get all worked up. I was only looking out for you. This bread would have been a soggy mess if it had stayed with you through that bog. Here, have some.” He extended the remaining bread toward her.

Ellie snatched the bread from his hand, her hunger overriding her irritation. She took a bite, the stale bread hard but filling. “You could have asked, you know.”

“Ah, but where’s the fun in that?” Pip said. “Besides, I have something better to offer. There’s a waterfall nearby with the clearest, sweetest water you’ll ever taste. Perfect for quenching our thirst.”

Ellie, still chewing on the bread, nodded. “Fine. But next time, ask before you take anything from me.”

“Agreed,” Pipwhistle said with a dramatic bow. “Now, let’s get moving before the villagers wake up. We don’t want to overstay our welcome.”

They quietly slipped out of the hut. The village was eerily silent, the only sounds being the distant calls of morning birds.

“Just over this ridge,” Pipwhistle said. “The waterfall is just beyond.”

They crested the hill, and Ellie gasped. Before them, a cascade of water tumbled down a moss-covered cliff face, its silvery stream shimmering in the dawn light. The air was filled with the roar of the falls and the sweet scent of wet earth and wildflowers. “It's beautiful.”

“Isn't it?” Pipwhistle said. “The perfect place to quench our thirst and wash off some of that bog grime.”

They made their way to the base of the falls, where the water pooled into a crystal-clear basin. Ellie knelt down, cupping her hands and scooping up the cool liquid. She drank deeply, the refreshing water washing away the last vestiges of sleep.

After they had both had their fill, Pipwhistle led Ellie away from the falls and back into the dense undergrowth. The path wound through a maze of towering trees and tangled vines, the air growing warmer and more humid with each step.

Ellie pulled out the Seafarer's Sigil. The compass had recalibrated, now pointing firmly in the direction they were heading. “Looks like we're back on track.”

“Excellent,” Pip replied. “But first, there’s something I need to retrieve. It’s a bit of a detour, but it won’t take long.”

“Where are we going now?” Ellie asked, wiping a bead of sweat from her brow.

“To a place of great wonder and untold riches,” he said dramatically. “A place where dreams are made and fortunes are lost.”

Ellie rolled her eyes.

They continued on, the path growing steeper and more treacherous. Ellie's legs ached. She was about to suggest they stop for a rest when Pipwhistle suddenly came to a halt.

“There it is!” he exclaimed, pointing towards a towering cliff face that rose up before them like a natural fortress.

Ellie squinted, trying to make out what he was pointing at. High above, nestled in a crevice in the rock, she could just make out a large, woven nest.

“What's up there?”

“Ah, just a little pouch I lost on my last journey through these parts,” Pipwhistle replied, a sheepish grin on his face. “It was stolen from me and landed in that nest. It's a bit of a climb, but with your agility and those new boots, I'm sure you can reach it.”

Ellie eyed the cliff with trepidation. It was a sheer drop, and the rocks looked slippery with moss. “It looks dangerous, Pip,” she said hesitantly. “And we're already behind schedule.”

Pipwhistle's grin widened. “Danger is just a spice to make the adventure more flavorful, my dear. And as for being behind schedule, well, a little delay is a small price to pay for a key that could open untold riches, wouldn't you agree?”

Ellie wasn't convinced. “A key? What kind of key?” she asked skeptically. “And how did it end up in a bird's nest?”

Pipwhistle leaned closer, his voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper. “A key to a hidden door, perhaps. Or a chest overflowing with treasures. Who knows what wonders it might unlock?” He paused, then added with a sly wink, “It could even be the key to finding the Dragonscale Moss you seek. Legend has it that the nest belongs to a rare breed of bird, the Skyjewel Falcon. They adorn their nests with precious gems and trinkets they find scattered throughout the Wilds. Who knows what treasures we might uncover?”

“You´re saying that bird stole it from you and took it back to its nest?”

“I am indeed.” It´s in a small pouch no bigger than my hand. But do feel free to fill the pouch with other sparkling baubles you might find.”

The mention of her grandpa's illness was a powerful motivator. If there was even a chance that the nest held something that could help him, she had to take it. “Alright, Pip. I'll do it. But if I fall and break my neck, I'm going to haunt you for the rest of your days.”

Pipwhistle launched into a jig, his bells jingling merrily.

Pipwhistle boosted Ellie up to the first ledge, and she began her ascent. Her hands gripped the rough stone, and she carefully placed her feet on the small outcroppings, inching her way upward. She could hear Pip’s encouraging words from below.

“Careful now, Ellie. That ledge is a bit tricky.”

Halfway up the cliff face, Ellie paused to catch her breath. Her muscles ached, and her fingers were raw from clinging to the rough rock. But the view was worth it. Below her, the Thornveil Wilds stretched out like a gnarled hand, its twisted branches reaching out to grasp at the edges of the world. The morning sun cast long shadows across the forest floor, painting the landscape in hues of deathly gray and sickly green. In the distance, she could just make out the shimmering surface of Lake Dragontide, its waters dark and foreboding.

And then she saw it. The Heartwood Tree.

It rose from the center of the forest like a beacon, its massive trunk dwarfing the surrounding trees. Its branches reached towards the sky, its leaves shimmering. Even from this distance, Ellie could feel the tree's power, a palpable energy that seemed to pulse through the very air.

The sight filled her with awe, but also a sense of vertigo. The sheer height of the cliff face made her head spin, and she clung to the rock for dear life.

“Almost there, Ellie-belly!” Pipwhistle's voice called up from below. “Just a little further!”

As she neared the nest, Ellie spotted a large bird—a majestic creature with iridescent feathers—circling above. The bird screeched, its sharp eyes locking onto Ellie.

“Pip, there’s a big bird up here!” she called down, her voice edged with concern.

Pipwhistle looked up, shading his eyes with his hand. “Ah, yes. That’s the nest’s guardian. You’ll have to be quick, Ellie!”

Ellie reached the nest, her fingers brushing against a soft, downy warmth. She gasped, realizing the nest was filled with large, speckled eggs. Nestled amongst them, a small leather pouch. This must be what Pipwhistle was after!

With a final, mighty effort, Ellie snatched the pouch and a handful of glittering trinkets—a ruby pendant, a silver coin, and a shimmering pearl—and stuffed them all inside. The bird screeched in fury, its wings beating like thunder as it dove towards her. Ellie clung to the cliffside as the bird's shadow engulfed her.

“Ellie, jump! I’ll catch you!” Pip shouted from below.

Skyjewel Falcon Nest. They adorn their nests with precious gems and trinkets they find scattered throughout the Wilds.
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