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

Chapter 7: Tides of Fate

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The morning sun streamed through Ellie’s bedroom window, casting a warm glow over her bed. She lay there for a moment, gathering her thoughts before the day’s events unfolded. She extended her arm toward the desk chair beside her bed, fingers closing around the worn denim jacket draped over its back. Inside the jacket pocket, Ellie felt the solid shape of the Seafarer’s Sigil tucked safely inside.

Rolling out of bed, she winced as a dull ache spread across her ribs—a lingering reminder of the Dryads’ savage blows in the Forbidden Forest. She sat on the edge of the bed, savoring the familiar aroma of her mother’s cooking wafting from the kitchen. The scent of frying bacon and fresh bread made her mouth water. Normally she would have bounded down the stairs, but today she was not looking forward to the conversation—no, confession—she would have to make to her mom. She dressed, combed her hair, and put on her jacket; the weight of the sigil apparent.

Out in the living room, Grandpa Joe was propped up on the couch, his face brightening as she appeared. He gave her a conspiratorial wink, the gesture somehow easing her nerves.

With tentative steps, Ellie entered the sunny kitchen, the buttery scent of toast causing her mouth to water even through her apprehension. “Morning, Mom.”

An uncharacteristic silence met her greeting. Mrs. Harper stood at the stove, her back turned as she tended to a pan of sizzling eggs and potatoes. “Breakfast is ready,” she said flatly, dishing the hot food onto waiting plates.

Ellie’s appetite fled as dread gripped her anew. “I’m . . . not really hungry,” she said, snatching up a slice of toast and smearing it with butter.

Her mother’s rigid posture and clipped demeanor made it clear—she knew. The events from yesterday at the competition must have already become town gossip. Ellie opened her mouth to begin explaining, to apologize, when her mother cut her off without turning around.

“No need,” Mrs. Harper said. “I’ve heard all about your . . . adventure in the forest.”

Ellie’s face burned with shame. She stared at the half-eaten toast in her hands, crumbs scattering across the counter. “I’m sorry.” The simple words utterly inadequate.

Finally, her mother turned, her expression softening as she met Ellie’s downcast gaze. “The path you walk is a winding one, Eloise,” she said, echoing one of Grandpa’s frequent sayings. “All you can do is learn from its twists and turns.”

Ellie met her mother’s gaze. “I love you, Mom.” The words came out thick with remorse. “I did take the Moon Flower back to the Wilds last night. I . . . I replaced it where I found it, so everything should be okay now.”

She turned toward the door, her boots scuffing against the floor. “I should get going.”

“Eloise.” Her mother’s voice stopped her. “At least eat something before you leave.”

“I’m not really hungry. The toast is fine.” She lifted the half-eaten slice. “I’m meeting Tyler; we’re going to . . .” She trailed off, not wanting to reveal her plans regarding the strange artifact in her pocket.

Snatching a battered cap from the hook by the door, Ellie tugged it low over her brow. The last thing she needed was someone recognizing her out on the streets after her stunt at the competition.

Her mother’s expression softened further. “Just be careful out there. And tell Mayor Wright what you did—that you returned the flower. Let her know Crystal Shores won’t suffer any flooding or misfortune because of your . . . mistake.” She exhaled slowly. “That should keep you out of any further trouble.”

Ellie nodded, relief loosening the knot in her belly somewhat. “I will. Thanks, Mom. I love you.” She stepped out onto the porch, the warm spring air caressing her face.

The village of Crystal Shores lay peaceful in the morning light of Thawtidelap, the fourth month when winter's icy grip begins to thaw. Ellie kept her head down as she hurried along the well-trodden path, avoiding the few early risers already tending to their gardens or opening shop doors. 

Just as she neared the center of town, a familiar voice called out her name.

“Ellie! Hey, Ellie!”

She turned to see Tobias Underhill trotting up the road. The young man offered her a lopsided smile as he drew near, tucking a stray lock of black hair beneath his cap. “Morning.”

“Hi, Tobias.”

He fell into step beside her, slowing his gait to match her pace. “Listen, I just wanted to say I’m sorry about what happened yesterday at the competition.” Tobias shook his head, his expression one of dismay. “The way some of those folks treated you . . . it wasn’t right.”

Ellie shrugged, unable to meet his gaze. “I deserved it. What I did was wrong.”

Tobias was silent for a moment. When he spoke again, his voice was gentle. “Still, they shouldn’t have been so harsh. Especially not after you returned the Moon Flower to the forest.”

Ellie’s step faltered at his words. She shot him a sidelong glance. “How’d you know about that?”

“You know word travels fast in Crystal Shores. Especially when it involves the forbidden forest and ancient magic.” He reached into the pocket of his worn trousers, fingers closing around something within. “Which is why I wanted to give you this.”

Tobias withdrew his hand, uncurling his fingers to reveal two gleaming silver Thornveil pieces nestled in his palm. The coins seemed to wink in the morning sunlight. “I know your grandpa’s been sick,” he said, holding out the money. “And I want to help, if I can.”

Ellie stared at the proffered coins, surprise widening her eyes. “Tobias, I can’t take your winnings.”

He pressed the silver pieces into her palm and curled her fingers around them. “It’s not much, but please, take it. My parents are making me save most of the prize for scholaring anyway.” Tobias smirked, using the local term for higher education. “Maybe this will help get your grandpa the care he needs.”

Ellie’s throat tightened with a surge of gratitude. She clutched the coins tightly, blinking against the sudden sting of tears. “Thank you. You didn’t have to do this.”

Tobias’s smile widened. “That’s what friends are for, right?” With a nod he turned to head back down the road.

Ellie watched him go for a moment before slipping the silver pieces into her pants pocket and continue on her way.

Tobias’s kind gesture had caught her off guard, a bright spot amidst the lingering shame over her actions. While the coins were a generous gift, she knew they wouldn’t be enough to purchase the rare Elixiron needed to heal Grandpa Joe. But the thought warmed her heart, nonetheless.

Soon Ellie reached the familiar faded fence surrounding the Green family homestead. She swung open the creaking gate and walked up to the small cottage. Mrs. Green stood on the porch with a watering can tending to new sprouts in the hanging baskets. She glanced up at Ellie’s approach, shading her eyes against the morning sun with one calloused hand. “Well, if it isn’t Miss Harper herself. Tyler mentioned you might be stopping by. Best go on inside and find him.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The moment she stepped inside the cozy cottage, a chorus of high-pitched shrieks and giggles assaulted her ears. Tyler’s younger siblings, twin terrors Caleb and Cora, came barreling around the corner in a whirlwind of tousled hair and bare feet.

“Ellie! Ellie!” Cora squealed, her pigtails bouncing as she flung herself at Ellie’s legs. Caleb was hot on her heels, wrapping his arms around Ellie’s knees with a mischievous grin.

“Hey, you two!” Ellie laughed, ruffling Caleb’s unruly mop of hair. “Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

“We’re playing dragons!” Cora said. “I’m the good dragon protecting the village!”

Caleb puffed out his chest. “And I’m the scary dragon who breathes fire!”

A deep, rumbling growl rolled through the room, causing the twins to shriek with delight. Mr. Green emerged from the kitchen, his broad shoulders stooped as he lumbered toward them on all fours. With a roar, he snatched Cora, eliciting a fresh peal of giggles.

“Dad! You’re supposed to be the brave knight!” Caleb protested with a huff.

Mr. Green greeted Ellie as he put Cora back on her feet. “My apologies, young dragon slayers. Where is Sir Tyler to aid me in this quest?”

“I’m here, I’m here.” Tyler’s said, entering the room. “What did I miss?”

Ellie felt her face warm at the sight of him, her earlier worries melting away.

“You’re just in time,” Mr. Green said, straightening with an exaggerated groan. “These foul beasts were about to overtake the village!”

Tyler rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “You two terrors better not be giving Ellie any trouble,” he said, crossing the room to stand at her side.

“We’re not!” Cora said, already scampering off after her brother.

Mrs. Green’s muffled voice drifted in from outside. “Don’t be chasing those two all around the place, Liam! I need you to finish turning the compost pile!”

With a hearty chuckle, Mr. Green cast one last look at Tyler and Ellie. “Duty calls,” he said before walking outside.

An expectant silence fell over the pair.

“You, uh . . . you want to take this outside?” he asked at last, jerking his thumb toward the door.

“Lead the way.”

She followed Tyler out into the small yard, the warm spring breeze instantly enveloping them. Ellie’s gaze swept over the neatly tended garden plots and the ramshackle shed overflowing with gardening tools.

Despite its modest size, the Green family homestead had always felt more alive than most. She supposed that’s what happened when you crammed several people and a menagerie of well-loved pets under one roof.

“So . . .” Tyler began, his hands shoved into his pockets. “Let’s walk to Eldengrove, I’ve got some news to tell you.”

Ellie could tell by the somber expression on Tyler’s face that the news he had to share was not good. They made their way across the quiet village street. “What is it?”

Tyler didn’t respond until they reached the grassy expanse of Eldengrove. The meadow stretched out before them, a tapestry woven with emerald blades and wildflowers in every warm hue imaginable. Nearby, ancient willows trailed their leafy tendrils in the soft zephyrs, dappling the ground with ever-shifting patterns of light and shadow.

Tyler came to an abrupt halt. “I was drafted into the Oceanriders.”

Ellie suddenly felt chilled. The Oceanriders—that was the name the Shorelings used for their navy. “Drafted? But . . . why? I don’t know of any battles going on.”

Tyler’s gaze dropped to the ground, his expression pained. “There’s a war brewing out in the Dragonspine Reaches. The Oceanriders are calling up every able-bodied recruit to supplement their ranks before shipping out.”

The Dragonspine Reaches—a vast, uncharted chain of islands rumored to be the ancestral home of dragonkin itself—the Drakken Lords. But they lay half a world away across the churning expanse of the Undertow Sea, past Lake Dragontide. Ellie’s head swam at the thought of Tyler being sent to fight in such a distant, perilous place.

“But you’re not old enough. It has to be a mistake. Can’t you get out of it?”

Tyler shook his head, his jaw set in a tight line. “Doesn’t matter anyway, I want to fight. They say the Dragonkin Marauders have raised a fell banner, signaling their savage, destructive intentions as they unite the tribes under one dreadful symbol before marching to war against the Oceanriders island outposts one by one, eventually making their way here to Crystal Shores.” He lifted his gaze to meet hers. “The tides of war wait for no one.”

“This can’t be happening. When do you leave?”

“I ship out with the next moon’s high tide.”

Ellie’s hand trembled as she brought it to her forehead. “That’s tomorrow.”

 

Thornveil Pieces
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