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

Chapter 19: Trusting the Trickster's Hand

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Ellie's grip tightened on the knife as the strange creature, half her height, emerged from the shadows. It was unlike anything she had ever seen before—a diminutive, plump figure with a vibrant, patchwork cloak and a mop of wiry hair peeking out from under a colorful hat.

"Who are you?" Ellie demanded, her voice wavering slightly despite her best efforts to sound confident.

The creature paused, a mischievous glint in its twinkling eyes. "Ah, my dear, I am Pipwhistle, a humble Quibnocket at your service." It gave a sweeping bow, the bells on its cloak jingling merrily.

Ellie stared at Pipwhistle, unsure what to make of it. "A Quibnocket? What is that?"

"Why, my dear child, a Quibnocket is a most curious and delightful creature! We are the keepers of ancient secrets, the guides of the lost, and the bringers of unexpected joy . . . or mischief, depending on our whims." He chuckled, the bells on his cloak jingling merrily.

Ellie frowned as she tried to make sense of this strange encounter. "And what are you doing here, Pipwhistle?"

"Ah, my dear child, that is a question with many answers, for the paths of a Quibnocket are as winding and unpredictable as the Thornveil Wilds themselves." Pipwhistle paused, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Perhaps I am here to lend a hand . . . or perhaps I am merely here to observe the unfolding of a most intriguing tale."

Ellie couldn't help but feel a sense of unease at the Quibnocket's cryptic words, but there was also a part of her that was intrigued by this strange creature. "And what do you know of the Thornveil Wilds?"

Pipwhistle took a step closer.

Ellie instinctively raised the hunting knife. "Stay back! I don't know you."

Pipwhistle paused, his expression softening. "I am merely a guide to those who dare to venture into the Thornveil Wilds." He tilted his head. "Though I must admit, I do have a penchant for the occasional bit of harmless mischief."

Ellie eyed him warily, unsure of how to respond. "Speak plainly, then. What do you want from me?"

The Quibnocket chuckled again. "Want? Why, nothing more than to offer my assistance, of course. The Thornveil Wilds can be a treacherous place, and I sense you are in need of a guiding hand." He spread his arms wide. "After all, what is a journey without a touch of whimsy and wonder?"

Ellie hesitated, her grip on the knife's hilt loosening slightly. "And what sort of 'assistance' did you have in mind?"

Pipwhistle's eyes twinkled with mischief. "Why, my dear child, the kind that only a Quibnocket can provide. I know these woods better than any mortal, and I can help you navigate the winding paths and treacherous hollows that lie ahead." He paused, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Of course, my services do not come without a price . . . but I assure you, the rewards will be well worth it."

Ellie sighed at the thought of making another sacrifice. "A price? What kind of price?"

Pipwhistle's grin widened, revealing a mouthful of crooked, yellowed teeth. "Oh, nothing too steep, I assure you. Perhaps a trinket or two, a bit of coin . . . or maybe just the occasional bit of fun and mischief along the way." He winked.

Ellie hesitated; could she trust this odd being? And what sort of ‘mischief’ did he have in mind? But the thought of navigating the Thornveil Wilds alone, without any guidance, seemed increasingly unwise.

"I'll accept your . . . assistance. But I'll be keeping a close eye on you, Pipwhistle."

The Quibnocket's face lit up with delight. "Splendid! I knew you were a clever one, child." He clapped his hands together, the bells on his cloak ringing out. "Now, let us be off!”

Without waiting for Ellie's response, Pipwhistle turned and began to skip down the path, his vibrant cloak billowing behind him. Ellie placed the knife back in its sheath, grabbed the empty pack, and hurried to catch up.

Ellie called out, "Pipwhistle, wait!"

The Quibnocket stopped and turned around, a mischievous grin spreading across his face. "Why, my dear child, what seems to be the matter?" he asked, his voice lilting with a playful cadence.

Ellie took a deep breath. "You don't know where I'm going, or even what my name is."

"Well then, dear child, what is your name and where are you going?"

"Well, Pipwhistle, my name is Eloise Harper, but you can call me Ellie." She paused, then said, "And I'm searching for something very important—Dragonscale Moss. Do you know anything about it?"

Pipwhistle's expression shifted, a hint of seriousness creeping into his features. "Ah, the Dragonscale Moss, you say?" He stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Now, that is a rare and precious ingredient, guarded by the mighty Aurathorn himself."

"Then you can help me find it?" Ellie asked, her eyes widening with hope.

"Help you, my dear Ellie? Why, that is precisely what I intend to do!" He clapped his hands together, the bells ringing out in a merry chorus. "After all, what kind of Quibnocket would I be if I didn't lend a hand to those in need?"

“Thank you.”

Pipwhistle gestured grandly toward the path ahead. "Now, let us continue! The Dragonscale Moss awaits, and I have a feeling this will be an adventure for the ages."

Without waiting for Ellie's response, Pipwhistle turned and continued down the winding trail.

Ellie walked beside him, noticing the items he had hanging from his cloak were things a traveler would be carrying: a small waterskin, a leather pouch that likely contained dried provisions, and a coil of sturdy rope.

"Pipwhistle, where did you get all those things?"

"Why, my dear Ellie, these are but the spoils of my many adventures in the Thornveil Wilds. Perhaps they were given to me in payment, or perhaps I simply acquired them through my own unique means."

"Are you saying you're a pickpocket, Pipwhistle?"

"A pickpocket? Perish the thought, my dear child! I am merely a humble collector of curious trinkets, gathered from the many travelers who have passed through these enchanted woods."

Ellie's gaze drifted to the bulge under Pipwhistle's cape, and she couldn't help but wonder if he had taken something that belonged to her. "Pipwhistle, did you happen to take my bread from my pack?"

The Quibnocket's expression grew coy, and he replied in a sing-song voice, "Ah, but my dear Ellie, the ways of a Quibnocket are as winding and unpredictable as the Thornveil Wilds themselves. Perhaps the bread was simply misplaced, or perhaps it found a new home with a hungry traveler in need."

Ellie frowned at Pipwhistle's evasive response. "Why can't you just answer a simple question directly? I have enough trouble understanding the proverbs of the Shorlings as it is."

The Quibnocket merely winked, as if delighting in her frustration.

Ellie let out a frustrated sigh. "Pipwhistle, if that bread is mine, I want it back. I don't have any other food as it is, and I'll need every morsel to sustain me on this treacherous journey."

Pipwhistle's expression shifted, and he waved a dismissive hand, the bells on his cloak chiming softly. "Ah, but my dear Ellie, the Dragonspine War rages on, and the very fate of all Dragontide hangs in the balance. Surely a mere morsel of bread pales in comparison to such momentous events unfolding across the sea?"

Ellie's thoughts immediately turned to Tyler. "The Dragonspine War? What do you know of it, Pipwhistle?"

The Quibnocket's usually mischievous and playful demeanor sobered, a rare glimpse of gravity crossing his features. "It is a terrible thing, child—death and destruction on a scale that would chill even the bravest of souls. The Oceanriders fight valiantly, but the dragonkin hordes are relentless in their advance, driven by an insatiable hunger for conquest and the subjugation of all who stand in their way." He shook his head solemnly. "Perhaps soon, the echoes of that distant conflict will reach even the peaceful shores of Dragontide, and the tranquility of your home will be shattered by the drums of war."

Ellie grew increasingly troubled at Pipwhistle's words, the gravity of the situation sinking in. The thought of the war reaching her home, and Tyler fighting in battle, filled her with a deep sense of dread and worry. The looming specter of the Dragonspine War cast a dark shadow over her journey.

Quibnocket aka Pipwhistle
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