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

Chapter 14: Farewells and Forbidden Paths

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Ellie watched helplessly as Tyler disappeared aboard the Wavecrest, swallowed by the bustling activity of the docks. Her heart felt like a heavy anchor weighing her down, the reality of his departure sinking in.

With leaden steps, she made her way through the village streets toward the Green family home. Ellie did not want to deliver the news to Tyler’s parents. She paused on their doorstep, before rapping her knuckles against the wooden door.

Mrs. Green answered, her face brightening briefly until she registered Ellie’s somber expression. “Eloise? What’s happened?”

“It’s Tyler,” Ellie said, her voice catching. “The Drillmaster came and . . . they made him leave right away with the other recruits. He didn’t even have time to come say goodbye.”

Mrs. Green’s hand flew to her mouth as the color drained from her face. “Oh no . . . my boy . . .”

From somewhere within the house, the sound of small footsteps approached. Tyler’s younger siblings, Caleb and Cora, appeared in the hallway behind their mother.

“Where’s Tyler going?” Caleb asked innocently.

Mrs. Green gathered the children close, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “Your brother had to leave sooner than we thought. But he’ll be just fine, you’ll see.”

Ellie felt detached from her body, as if she were in a dream. “He wanted me to tell you he’s sorry he couldn’t say goodbye in person.”

After a few more hushed reassurances, Ellie politely excused herself, not wanting to intrude on the family’s private grief any longer. She wandered aimlessly through the village unsure of her next move.

Ellie knew she had to find the Dragonscale Moss. The image of the Seafarer’s Sigil pointing unflinchingly toward the Thornveil Wilds replayed in her mind as if the journey was meant to be. With barely any more thought, she had made her final decision—she would brave the forbidden forest to find the moss, no matter the risk.

But first, she would have to decide whether to inform her mom and grandfather of her intentions. A part of her knew they would vehemently object and try to stop her from such a perilous undertaking. Yet if she departed without a word, they would undoubtedly be frantic with worry over her absence.

Ellie anxiously approached her family’s cottage. Through the window, she could see her mother tending to her grandfather, gently adjusting his pillows and speaking softly to him. A pang of guilt lanced through Ellie’s chest. She knew her quest could potentially put them through more turmoil, but she felt she had no choice if she wanted to save her grandfather’s life.

Ellie stepped inside, the familiar scent of her mother’s baking filling the cozy cottage. Ellie’s mom glanced up from the hamper of soiled linens she was carrying and gave her daughter a warm smile. “There you are, dear. I was wondering when you’d be home.”

“Mom, I . . .” Ellie’s voice faltered as she struggled to find the words. “Tyler’s gone to war. They made him leave right away to join the other recruits.”

“Oh, Ellie. I’m so sorry.” Sarah crossed the room and pulled her daughter into a comforting embrace.

A soft cough came from the corner where Grandpa Joe lay propped up on the couch. “Come here, Ellie-girl,” he rasped, beckoning her over with a wave of his arthritic hand.

Ellie settled on the edge of the couch as grandpa said, “The sea may rise and the tides may turn, but a sailor’s heart will always find its way home.”

“Don’t you worry about Tyler,” Sarah said, wringing out a damp cloth as she prepared to scrub the laundry. “He’s a strong, capable lad. He’ll make it through this and come back before you know it.”

But Ellie knew the truth her mother couldn’t bear to voice—not everyone made it home from war. She gave a somber nod, not wanting to argue the point.

“We’ll just have to keep him in our prayers,” Sarah continued. “Along with all the other brave souls fighting for our safety.”

“I will,” Ellie promised, her gaze drifting to the large, weathered trunk tucked against the far wall.

Rising from the couch, she crossed the room and knelt before the ancient chest, lifting the heavy lid. The musty aroma of aged papers and keepsakes wafted out as she began sifting through the contents.

“What are you looking for, lass?” Grandpa Joe asked.

“I’m not sure,” Ellie said distractedly. “Maybe a map . . . of the Thornveil Wilds?”

Sarah’s head whipped around, eyes widening in alarm. “Eloise Harper, don’t you dare get any ideas about going into those woods!”

“She’s right, Ellie,” Grandpa cautioned, his tone grave. “The Dragonscale Moss isn’t worth risking your life over . . . if that’s what you’re looking for.”

But Ellie continued rifling undeterred, finally extracting a folded, yellowed parchment. She carefully unfurled it, revealing a faded, intricately drawn map. The Thornveil Wilds sprawled across the aged vellum, every twist and turn of the forest paths meticulously rendered. A large ‘X’ marked a location deep within the tangled treeline.

“Ellie, I forbid you from going in there!” Sarah’s voice took on a sharp edge as she hurried over. “It’s far too dangerous!”

Ellie looked to her grandpa, silently pleading for his guidance.

“Bring the map here.” After a coughing spell subsided, the old sailor studied the map, tracing the paths with a wizened finger. “This here’s the route to the Thornveil Wilds, marked by the ancient Drakken runes.” He tapped a series of etched symbols winding through the forests. “But getting in is the easy part, the true trial lies in finding your way back out again.”

His bloodshot eyes met Ellie’s gaze, deadly serious. “The Wilds are a bewitched realm, lass. The trees themselves can shift and deceive, leading even the most experienced woodsman astray into treacherous hollows.” He leaned closer, his voice lowering. “Stick to the runes at all costs. They’re your lifeline, laid down by the Drakken Lords to safely guide those brave or foolish enough to venture inside.”

Grandpa Joe’s finger moved to a series of jagged etchings near the heart of the Wilds. “And this here . . . this be where the dragon’s lair lies. The protector of the elixir’s most guarded ingredient.” He fixed her with an intense stare. “If you do go, lass, remember—the brightest light casts the darkest shadow. Keep your wits about you at all times within those accursed woods. One misstep could prove your undoing.”

Ellie turned to face her mother’s disapproving glare. “I have to try, Mom. It might be Grandpa’s only chance.” She took the glowing compass from her pocket. “ Besides, I’ve learned how to use the sigil and it works; it will keep me safe.”

Sarah’s expression crumpled, and she sank onto the edge of a chair, burying her face in her hands. “The tides of life are ever-changing,” she said in a tremulous voice. “But a mother’s love remains a constant shore.”

Confused as usual by her mother’s Shorling proverb, Ellie carefully folded the delicate map. “No one’s going to talk me out of this.”

Map of Dragontide
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