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

Chapter 6: The Icy Artifact

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The ground beneath their feet settled at last, the tremors subsiding into an eerie stillness. Ellie exhaled slowly, her gaze sweeping the shadowed forest around them.

"It stopped." Ellie closed her eyes briefly, savoring the feeling of relief.

Tyler gave a nod, his face cautious as he held his breath in anticipation, the gnarled shapes of the Dryads did not emerge from the dense foliage. An eerie silence draped over the forest, the only sound the muffled strains of fiddle and pipe music wafting faintly from the festival revelries back in Crystal Shores, carried on the breeze through the trees.

After several tense moments with no further disturbances, Ellie turned toward the path leading out of the Wilds. “Let's go.”

They hurried along the narrow trail, Ellie stealing glances over her shoulder until they emerged from beneath the gnarled canopy. The aged bridge arched before them, vines and moss weaving along its weathered stones and timber. Ellie's boots thudded hollowly against the planks as they crossed the swiftly flowing river separating the village from the Wilds.  

Ahead, the glittering expanse of Lake Dragontide stretched out before them, its waters shimmering like molten silver beneath the moonlight. Towering icebergs drifted lazily offshore, their hulking forms cutting pale swaths through the mirrored surface. Ellie paused at the shoreline where they stood alone, drawing in a deep breath of the crisp night air, she looked along the abandoned stretch of beach surrounding them.

“I guess we're back where we started,” Tyler said, looking further down the shore, pinprick figures could be seen holding torches, the Shorlings undoubtedly there to marvel at the seasonal icebergs.

“Not really. I'm actually worse off because now everyone hates me.” Ellie turned her attention back to the lake itself, and the ghostly shapes of icebergs drifting across its surface. The floating masses of ice seemed to almost glow in the moonlight, tinged with hues of pale blue and ghostly green that danced across their sculpted forms.

“They'll get over it.” Tyler looked toward the distant figures on the shore. “At least we're still alive; it could've been worse.”

“I suppose. But it could've been better, too.”

“You'll figure out another way to help your grandpa. Maybe he'll just get better on his own.”

“That's not what the doctor said.”

The two of them stood on the shore beside the waves' tranquil ebb and flow against the beach. Then Ellie noticed an anomaly among the icebergs. A faint, pulsing radiance emanated from one of the icy masses bobbing gently near the end of the long pier extending out into the lake's depths.

“What's that?” Ellie pointed toward the iceberg.

“You seeing more glowing things?” Tyler's voice held a teasing lilt, but his eyes had already locked onto the same strange phenomenon.

Rather than rise to the bait, Ellie started down the wooden slats of the pier, her boots ringing out over the gentle lapping of waves against the pylons below. Tyler fell into step beside her, the two teenagers making their way toward the source of the mysterious light.

As they neared the end of the pier, Ellie could make out the throbbing blue luminescence trapped within the ice more clearly. It seemed to be emanating from some object frozen just inside the massive berg.

“What could that be?” Emily squinted toward the strange glow. “It’s really odd.”

Tyler leaned over the edge to look at the peculiar sight. “There's definitely something in there.”

“Hold me,” Ellie said, glancing back at Tyler.

He stepped up behind her, his arms looped securely around her waist as he anchored her in place. Ellie dug her hands into the surprisingly soft ice, packing it away in chunks to gradually reveal more of the entrapped artifact. She cleared away the icy layers until her probing fingers brushed against something hard and metallic.

With a final heave, she gripped the object fully and pulled it free, dislodging it from its frozen casing. She rocked back, settling onto the pier as Tyler released his hold.

Brushing away the lingering clumps of ice and frost, Ellie's eyes widened as the relic was revealed in all its intricate glory.

“It's a compass,” Ellie said, trailing her fingertips over the burnished surface.

“Let me see.”

Emily handed Tyler the exquisitely crafted artifact, with the appearance of tarnished bronze or brass worked in sinuous, looping designs. A stylized dragon's form had been molded into the casing itself, its body coiling around the piece with a look of sinewy power. Delicate etchings covered every inch, forming symbols and markings of indecipherable meaning. 

At its center, a capsule of blue liquid glowed with that same warm, pulsating light—the guiding light that had led them to this incredible find.

“I've never seen anything like this, El.” Tyler handed it back. “And how did it get inside an iceberg?”

“I have no idea, but here it is, an old compass that must've been dredged up from the floor of the lake.” Ellie slowly turned the relic over in her hands, marveling at the way its centerpiece spun lazily, the delicate needle quivering as if magnetized and seeking true north. Intricate dials along the rim rotated in response, their etchings aligning and realigning with each subtle shift as the compass oriented itself.

Ellie studied the winding, looping patterns etched into the metalwork of the mysterious compass. “What do you think it's for? It's not like the compass in grandpa's trunk.”

“I'd assume a captain had used it to guide his ship and somehow it went overboard.” Tyler leaned in closer. “But I have no idea how to read it.”

“And that liquid inside the bubble is like the liquid in my necklace, except this is blue and mine is red.” After a thoughtful pause, Ellie tucked it into a pocket inside her jacket. “Whatever it was used for, I'm keeping it.”

Shadows stretched long across the empty beach as the moon began its descent toward the horizon. Ellie sighed, brushing back windswept strands of hair from her face as she glanced up toward the dim glow of lamplight spilling from a window of the Harper home overlooking the shoreline.

“I should head back. Mom and Grandpa are going to want an explanation.” She couldn't meet Tyler's gaze, regretting having shattered her sculpture and venturing into the Thornveil Wilds against their wishes. “You want me to come with . . . For moral support?”

“Thanks, Ty, but they're probably sleeping anyway. I'll tell them what happened in the morning.” Ellie managed a tight smile as she made her way toward the modest bungalow tucked against the rise of the shoreline. The cozy facade was softly illuminated from within, gilding the leaded glass windows with a welcoming glow.

Reaching the kitchen door, Tyler pulled her into a warm embrace, planting a tender kiss against her forehead. “I'll see you in the morning.”

She nodded, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze before he turned and started up the winding path leading back to the village cottages, leaving Ellie alone on the doorstep.

The living room was deserted—grandpa Joe had moved from the couch to his bedroom. Every surface tidy and in its orderly place. Moonlight spilled through the parted curtains, casting a pale wash across the furnishings and glinting off the cheerful array of seashells and maritime memorabilia adorning the shelves. Ellie moved quietly through the silent space, extinguishing lights as she moved toward the hallway leading to the bedrooms.

From behind a closed door, she could hear the muffled, rasping sound of pained coughing. Ellie wished she could somehow make it all better as her fingers settled on grandpa's doorknob.

Grandpa Joe stirred in the dimly lit bedroom as she eased inside. Ellie perched on the edge of his bed, the old sailor catching her wrist in a surprisingly firm grip as his rheumy eyes studied her face. “How'd it go, little waverunner?”

Ellie swallowed hard, guilt tempering her voice. “I didn't win.” She kept her explanation brief, certain her grandfather would see any attempt at deception.

Grandpa sighed, giving her hand a gentle pat. “Fair winds favor only the bold, Ellie girl.”

She held his gaze for a long moment. Grandpa knew. Of course he did—he always saw right through to the truth of any matter. Silent tears spilled down Ellie's cheeks as her composure crumbled. “I'm so sorry, Grandpa. I messed everything up.” She poured out the entire tale in a remorseful stream, laying bare every misstep from her careless destruction of the sculpture to her disobedient foray into the Wilds “They almost gave me first prize—two hundred and fifty Thornveil pieces—but the judges realized I'd picked a real Moon Flower instead of making one.”  She cringed inwardly, bracing herself for the lecture she deserved. “But I did put it back to stop the floods.”

To her surprise, Grandpa's weathered palm found her cheek, his touch both fond and solemn. “A wise sea dog knows every squall brings with it a chance to chart a new course. The waves of lies may seem calm, but the undertow drags us toward darker depths.” He met her eyes with a searching look. “Best to brave the storm of truth lest we drown beneath falsehoods of our own making.”

Ellie fell against his shoulder, holding him tightly. After several trembling breaths, she pulled back, determined to face whatever consequences lay ahead.

Grandpa's eyes settled on the dimly glowing shape now visible through the pocket of her jacket. “What've you got there, my girl?”

Ellie retrieved the strange compass, its elaborate curves and markings catching the low light and gleaming with beauty. As she offered it to him, Grandpa's eyes widened with shock. “Great tides!” His hand trembled faintly as he cradled the artifact with utmost care. “The Seafarer's Sigil. I thought it lost to the ages.”

Ellie watched his expression, utterly bewildered. “You know what this is?”

“Aye.” Grandpa turned the relic over to examine every facet as if reacquainting himself with an old friend. “They say it was fashioned by the Drakken Lords themselves, a mystical compass intertwined with the ancient elements.” He looked up at her, something undefinable kindling behind his moist eyes. “We best mind where its path may lead . . .”

Seafarer's Sigil
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