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

Chapter 2: Of Clay and Petals

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The swirling clouds subsided, allowing the afternoon sun to cast a warm glow through the dusty window, illuminating the back room where Ellie and her mother spent countless hours giving life to their imaginations through crafts. Today, however, the room had been commandeered for a singular purpose. A table, once cluttered with fabrics and threads, now lay bare except for the mound of clay at its center and the various sculpting tools meticulously arranged beside it.

With Tyler across the table, Ellie's hands moved with the precision of an artist, shaping the soft earth into the intricate form of a Moon Flower. Her gaze was focused on the unfolding petals. Strands of hair occasionally fell across her face as she leaned in to perfect a detail.

"The Moon Flower," she began, her fingers tracing the outline of what would be one of the flower's iconic luminescent petals, "is more than just a plant; it's a piece of night sky trapped in bloom."

"Right you are," Tyler said from behind a thick tome he had pulled from the shelf. The book, its spine cracked from age and pages yellowed, was open to a chapter dedicated to the flora of their world, specifically the forbidden blooms of the Wilds.

"Listen to this," he said. "The Moon Flower, native only to Thornveil Wilds, possesses petals that glow with a soft light under the moon's gaze. It is said that whoever holds a petal of the Moon Flower will be granted visions of truth beyond mortal sight." He glanced up at Ellie. "Can you imagine? Visions of truth."

Ellie paused, the clay cool beneath her fingertips. She knew the lore well— too well, perhaps. "That's not all it grants. The Moon Flower is also believed to protect those who carry it from dark enchantments and ill fates. But to pluck it from the earth is to invite the wrath of the forest spirits. They say misfortune befalls anyone foolish enough to disturb its rest."

"Which is why you’re making one out of clay instead." Tyler grinned, but the gravity of Ellie's expression sobered him. "You're not actually considering—?"

"Of course not. I don’t need it for my project."

"Good."

Ellie's clay Moon Flower was a marvel to behold. Its intricate petals were as delicate as lace, molded with gentle curves and subtle details that mimicked the real flower perfectly. A thin layer of pearlescent paint made each petal seem to glow with a faint luminosity. It was a masterpiece of craftmanship, capturing the ethereal beauty of the flower in a medium of earth and clay.

Tyler's eyes widened in wonder at the sight of the Moon Flower taking shape in Ellie's skilled hands. His fingers twitched with a desire to touch it. "It's incredible; it looks so real. Do you think we can get it to the competition without breaking it?"

"I'll pack it carefully," she said as her fingers shaped another petal. "Actually, it needs to be dried and fired but that can take a few days; and we don't have that luxury."

"We only have a few hours." Tyler glanced at his watch. "We really need to get going, Ellie. The competition will be closing soon for entries, and we can't risk missing out on submitting your project."

Ellie nodded in understanding. She carefully packed the fragile Moon Flower into a box with layers of protective wrapping.

Ellie and Tyler made their way into the living room, where Grandpa Joe lay on the couch. She gently placed the box holding her precious Moon Flower creation on the table next to her grandfather. She turned to face him as he watched her with pride shining in his eyes.

"I'll make sure to bring back the grand prize, Grandpa. Just you wait and see," Ellie said, trying to sound more confident than she felt.

Grandpa Joe chuckled softly and took Ellie's hand in his. "I have no doubt about that, my dear Ellie. Remember, success is not just about winning prizes but about the journey you take to get there."

Ellie gave him a hug before turning to her mother, who was folding a basket of laundry while keeping one eye on the simmering soup on the stove.

"Be careful out there, Ellie. And make sure Tyler keeps you safe," her mother said with a teasing smile.

Ellie rolled her eyes playfully at Tyler, who grinned in response. "Don't worry, Mrs. Harper. I'll make sure Ellie doesn't get into too much trouble."

As they stepped out of the house, the storm clouds had parted, revealing the warm glow of the sun. The village streets were adorned with colorful lanterns and fairy lights for the Iceberg Festival. Laughter and music filled the air, blending with the tantalizing scent of sweet treats and savory dishes being prepared for the festivities.

In the distance, Lake Dragontide glistened under the rays of sunlight, its surface dotted with majestic icebergs that sparkled like diamonds in the late afternoon light. The sight was breathtaking, a reminder of the beauty and magic that surrounded them.

"You sure you don't want me to carry that for you?" Tyler gestured toward the box. "It looks pretty heavy."

"I've got it, Ty. It's not that heavy." She adjusted her grip on the box, feeling a surge of pride at her creation.

But just as Ellie took a step forward, her foot caught on a protruding cobblestone. With a yelp, she stumbled forward, unable to regain her balance. The box slipped from her grasp, tumbling to the ground with a resounding crash.

"Oh no!" Ellie winced at the crunch of shattered clay from within the box. She knelt quickly, assessing the damage with a sinking feeling in her chest.

Tyler crouched beside her; his expression filled with concern. "Ellie, are you okay?"

Eloise swallowed hard, carefully moving the shattered fragments that had spilled out of the box and spread across the cobblestones. Tears welled up in her eyes as she realized the extent of the damage.

"It's . . . it's ruined." Ellie said, noticing the crestfallen look on Tyler's face. She knew he understood just how much effort she had poured into creating the Moon Flower sculpture, and witnessing it shattered into pieces was a blow to them both. Without a word, he knelt down beside her and began carefully gathering the scattered shards, gently placing each broken fragment back into the box.

"I'm sorry, Ellie," Tyler said, his voice filled with regret as they tidied up the mess.

"How much time do we have left before the competition begins?"

Tyler hesitated for a moment before replying, "Just a few hours."

Ellie took a deep breath, steadying herself as she made a decision. "There's still time."

Tyler's forehead creased as he regarded Ellie with a faintly skeptical look. "Time for what?"

"To get a real Moon Flower." Ellie rose to her feet, dusting off her hands as she looked toward the Thornveil Wilds in the distance.

"Ellie, you can't be serious. The Moon Flower is too dangerous to go after."

However, Ellie was determined. She grabbed the box containing her ruined project and headed toward the old bridge spanning the river between the village and the forbidden forest, with Tyler trailing behind her.

As Ellie and Tyler approached the edge of Wildsedge River the joyful revelry of the festival faded into the distance behind them.

A swift, darkly currented river separated the village from the looming treeline of the Thornveil Wilds. An ancient stone bridge arched over the rushing waters, its weathered blocks of granite grown mossy and mottled over countless seasons. Creeping vines snaked along the bridge's sides, as if nature itself was slowly reclaiming the man-made structure linking the two realms.

Tyler reached out a hand to stop her. "Ellie, are you sure about this? We can’t just go in there; it’s forbidden for a reason."

Ellie turned to face him. "I know it's risky, but this is my only chance to salvage my project for the competition. Besides, the Moon Flower is said to have powerful properties that could help me win and save Grandpa."

"Your grandpa wouldn’t want you going in there, and you know that."

"If it's really as dangerous as they say, why isn't the bridge barricaded? I don’t think anyone even mans the guard tower anymore. It can't be that bad on the other side."

 "Everyone, except you, apparently, knows enough to not cross the bridge to the other side," Tyler said. "Even if nothing happens to us and we're fine, they'll know you picked a real Moon Flower. I mean, it’s obviously not the clay one you made earlier. And that could get us both in trouble."

"The clay in the box isn’t dry." Ellie shook the box. "I’ll apply the clay over the flower—hopefully that works."

Tyler shook his head. "If you’re going to do that, just make the flower yourself, why pick one?"

"I don’t have my tools," Ellie said. "I’ll wet the clay down by the river and apply a really thin layer over the flower. It’ll look realistic."

"It is realistic," Tyler said, running a hand through his tousled hair. "I don’t think it’ll work; the flower will fall apart."

"We’ll find out," Ellie said cautiously stepping onto the bridge. "You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to."

Tyler grumbled and followed Ellie over the bridge and into the forbidden forest.

Moon Flower
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